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survival is a talent

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Abigail is wrapped around his waist and draped across his shoulder as he works, and he’s a little worried about the fumes from the potions. Their dungeon isn’t exactly well ventilated, but Narcissa doesn’t want him brewing in any of the main rooms just in case he blows something up. Maybe he can get his parents to let him add a potions lab outside? They have a couple rooms that clearly used to be used for potions making, but those are also the same rooms that have scorch marks on the ceiling, so maybe his mother has a point about the explosions.

He’d tried getting Abigail to wait outside, but she’s been sticking close ever since this morning with Nagini. She doesn’t seem angry at the large snake anymore, which is a relief, but after breakfast she’d seemed equally uninterested in letting him out of her sight.

Winky silently passes him a bowl of freshly mashed flesh eating slugs, and he adds it into the scar softening salve he’s brewing. It’s exactly the right amount and consistency. She really is picking this up quickly. At this rate, she’s not even going to need his help to make potions.

He hears the sound of an explosion first, the deafening crash that has Winky folding down her ears and covering them with her hands. Draco’s first thought is that he’s just proven his mother right, and the explosion is his fault. But he feels it next, the ground shaking beneath his feet, and it’s like an aftershock hitting them. His potion is still intact, so there’s no way it’s him, and it’s not where it came from anyway. It seems like it came from the other side of the house. “Stay here and finish this up,” he says, summoning a stool for Winky to stand on.

“Master should not go alone!” Winky insists.

He picks her up under the armpits and plops her on top of it, forcing the ladle into her hand. She’s scowling something awful at him, and he’d be impressed if he wasn’t so worried about whatever is going on upstairs. “I’m not, Abigail is coming with me. Keep stirring this, then add the eucalyptus once you bring it to a boil, but not for more than four minutes.”

“Master Draco!” she calls out, but he ignores her, moving quickly up the stairs towards the strange sound. He’s pretty sure she won’t disobey and come after him, but if she did it would hardly surprise him.

He hears his father’s screams as he gets closer, and he wants to run in, he wants to help. But he knows he can’t, that throwing himself in the middle of whatever’s going on will only make it worse for his parents. So he casts a silencing and disillusionment charm on himself, then sneaks closer. He peaks around the corner into the dining room, and what he sees isn’t what he was expecting.

It’s not just Voldemort and his parents in the room. It’s lined with too-thin, sunken cheeked figures wrapped in rags. His father is convulsing on the floor, screaming himself raw as Voldemort looms over him. His mother stands with her hands clasped in front of her and her head lowered. Draco wouldn’t know anything was wrong if it weren’t for the line of tension across her shoulders.

“You dare and try and keep my loyal followers from me?” Voldemort says, his silky voice deadly. “When your own loyalty fled you as soon as you’d heard rumors of my death?”

Lucius tries to form words, but can’t choke anything out past the screaming sobs. Draco glances around the room again, slower this time, and a sort of cold, horrible realization settles in his gut.

These are all former prisoners of Azkaban. It doesn’t take him long to pick his Aunt Bellatrix and Uncle Rodolphus out from the emaciated strangers. He doesn’t remember them, of course, but he’s seen pictures, and Bellatrix was once just as lovely as his own mother. Now, of course, she’s far from lovely.

Lucius tries to gasp out a response, but Voldemort’s crucio is still leaving him breathless and unable to speak. Draco hates this, he hates that he can’t do anything but stand here and watch this. But even if he was stupid enough to try and cross wands with Voldemort, he knows he wouldn’t last a minute in a room full of Death Eaters.

“My lord,” Narcissa says respectfully, “the wards do not allow unannounced intruders onto the grounds. It’s why you graciously chose our home. Of course, we will key all your loyal supporters into the wards.”

“Did I ask you?” Draco can already tell what’s going to happen. Voldemort stops cursing his father, so he goes limp on the floor, and turns his wand onto Narcissa. “Crucio!”

The curse hits his mother directly in the chest, and she falls to her knees. Draco braces himself to hear his mother’s screams, but they don’t come. Narcissa sits on her knees, skirts flung out around her and with her head bowed submissively and her hands still clasped together in front of her, but she doesn’t make a sound. If he looks closely, he can see her shaking, but that’s the only sign of the unforgivable curse piercing her body.

“Crucio!” Voldemort casts again, as if he thinks the first time didn’t have enough power behind it. It hits her once more in the chest, and she rocks back at the force of it, but all she does is tremble, as if she's stayed out too long in the cold. Voldemort stalks forward, grabbing Narcissa’s chin and forcing her to look up at him and for her curtain of pale hair to fall back from her face. She’s not even biting her lip, showing no signs of strain. “Won’t you scream for me, Narcissa?”

She lowers her eyes back to the floor. She does not scream.

“Pretty Cissy,” Bellatrix sneers. “She won’t ever do something so unrefined, she’s too delicate.”

Delicate? Delicate? There are lots of words that can be used to describe his mother, but he doesn’t think delicate is among them.

“I suppose pride is a valuable trait,” Voldemort muses before ending the curse. Narcissa barely reacts, just taking in one big breath before slowly rising to her feet.

There’s a crack of someone apparating into the room, and Draco’s almost surprised to see his Aunt Sophia in the middle of all this. She’s an auror and had never been on great terms with his father. He’d always assumed that was because of Lucius’s involvement in the war, but apparently he was wrong.

His proud, powerful, accomplished aunt drops to her knees, and Draco wants to go in there and shake her, wants to pull her to her feet and remind her she’s a Malfoy! They don’t bow to anyone. “My lord, I have unfortunate news.”

“I’m listening,” he says. Lucius has pushed himself to his knees, but seems dubious about his ability to stand. Narcissa glances at Voldemort, sees he’s not looking at her, and then quickly moves over to Lucius, subtly offering him a hand to pull him to his feet. Draco’s pretty sure he’s the only one that can tell how heavily his father is leaning on his mother.

Sophia continues, “The attack on Diagon Alley was … unsuccessful, my lord. The dementors were overwhelmed and defeated.”

“No matter,” he says. “The main purpose of sending the dementors away from the island was to provide a means of escape for my loyal followers. Were any killed? How many aurors did it take to subdue them?”

She swallows, and her eyes are too wide. She’s scared – no, she’s terrified. “I – all of them, my lord.”

Voldemort goes deathly still. Everyone lowers their heads, like a bunch of kids in class who are hoping the professor won’t pick them as long as they look away. “All the dementors?”

“Yes,” she whispers, cringing away.

“How is that possible?” he snaps. “Did they have a hundred aurors on the scene within moments? I instructed you to delay them! How have you managed to so thoroughly fail me already?”

She says, “I – I did delay them, my lord. But by the time we arrived, the situation was – um, handled.”

“My darling Sophia,” Voldemort hisses, red eyes flashing, “I suggest you become more forthcoming with the details before I do something to help jog your memory.”

“It was Harry Potter,” she blurts. Draco’s mouth falls open. Why is it always Harry? “When we arrived, he’d managed to summon an unrestrained patronus, and it was just finishing destroying the dementors. There were attacks in other sections of Diagon Alley, of course, and they managed to do some damage. But then Potter’s patronus took them all out. They tried to fly away, but, um, his patronus wouldn’t let them.”

Voldemort hand is a fist around his wand. “How large was the patronus?” Sophia doesn’t answer, and he roars, “HOW LARGE?”

“It was taller than the buildings, my lord,” she whispers.

Oh, bloody hell, of course it was. Draco doesn’t know what he expected.

“Crucio!” Voldemort snaps, and Sophia cries out, collapsing like a puppet whose strings have been cut as she writhes under the effects of the curse.

Draco’s eyes narrow. Considering he’s staying at the Malfoy Manor, Voldemort’s being a bit too liberal with his abuse of the Malfoy family, in his opinion.

Voldemort eventually gets bored of torturing his aunt, and they move on with the meeting. Apparently all these filthy convicts are going to be staying in the manor with them, which is just lovely. They’re not like Sirius, thin and angry but still people. There’s something empty and hungry in all their faces. But maybe they were like that before they were thrown in Azkaban. Maybe following Voldemort, maybe being willing to go to Azkaban for Voldemort, requires a certain amount of emptiness, a certain amount of hunger.

He stays peeking around the corner into his dining room until the meeting is over, hidden with nothing more than a silencing and disillusionment charm. Which is incredibly stupid, but not as stupid as fighting all the dementor’s of Azkaban on his own, so he’s still pretty sure he’s winning here. Then again, if he compares his idiotic actions next to Harry’s, he can justify almost anything, so he probably shouldn’t do that too much.

When the meeting’s over, he goes back to the dungeon first. It’s sparkling clean, and the scar softening salve has been finished and put into an airtight jar. Winky is sitting on the table with one of his old curtains in her lap, a needle in her hand and moving almost too fast for him to follow. Whenever he sees her like this, she reminds him of Pansy. There are sewing spells, of course, and Pansy knows them, but insists that if she can’t do it by hand, it won’t turn out as well when she tries to do it by magic. “Winky, what are you still doing here?”

“Master Draco is saying to stay here,” she says, not looking up at him, her voice tight with anger. “So Winky is being a good elf and doing as she’s told. I is staying here in the dungeons, while Master Draco goes and is sneaky around the bad people.”

Merlin, she really does remind him of Pansy. “You know I didn’t mean you had to stay here until I told you not to.” That’s not how giving elves orders work. They’re not bound by the letter of a command, and they’re barely even bound by the spirit of it. If Winky had chosen to go after him, she would have been able to.

“That is not being the point!” she says, pushing her sewing to the side to get to her feet. “Master Draco should not be being so reckless with his own life! If he is being gone, where will I be? Where will Winky go without Master Draco?”

“Harry would take you,” he says immediately, because he would, and he has more than enough magic to support a whole army of house elves, never mind just one.

Winky stomps her foot. “That is not the point! I do not want to serve Mister Harry! I will serve Master Draco, or I will serve no one at all,” she says firmly. “So if you will not be careful for your own sake, you should be being careful for mine!”

He blinks, mouth falling open for the instant before he remembers to close it. Oh. “I am being careful,” he says, softer this time. “It’s dangerous, but it’s important. I don’t want to die either. Harry would kill me if I did.” And considering his boyfriend’s recent unplanned dabbling in necromancy, it’s entirely possible that Harry could bring him back just to kill him all over again.

Winky narrows her eyes and crosses her arms. “Master Draco needs to be more careful.”

“I’ll do my best,” he says, which doesn’t seem to placate her in the slightest. “Can you gather the nerve regeneration potion and a calming potion and meet me in my parents’ rooms?”

“Which calming potion?” she asks. “The Calming Draught will be making the mind slow.”

She’s right. There’s no way his parents will take anything that will impair their thinking, not now. “Bring up Dreamless Sleep and the Relaxer Tonic.”

Winky nods and disappears with a crack. He doesn’t want to take the hallways, doesn’t want to risk getting caught. Luckily, he doesn’t have to. The manor was constructed with several secret passageways, ones he’s hoping Voldemort and his followers don’t know about, or if they do, then they won’t bother to take them. There’s a winding staircase in the corner of the basement that leads to a narrow passage that then leads to the East Wing of the house, which is where the family bedrooms are.

He’s halfway through the narrow passage when he sees someone moving ahead of him, and freezes. Fuck, he should have just taken the main hallways. This is a crap place to get in a fight, and he can’t even run. Maybe he can transfigure the floor into something gelatinous, and sink through? The house is spelled against that kind of modification, but he might be able to do it, since he’s part of the main family.

“Who are you?” a familiar voice snaps, “These areas are off limits!”

Draco lets out a deep breath. “It’s okay. Aunt Sophia, it’s just me.”

A lumos charm illuminates the corridor, and she’s pale and shaking as she glares at him. “What are you doing skulking about? You should be in your room!”

“Well, it’s my house,” he snarks. “I’ll go where I please. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be helping rehabilitate our new guests?”

“How do you know about that?” she asks. He only raises an eyebrow. He’s not going to admit to hiding outside of the dining room door and peeking through the cracks like a kid, but she should know better than to think he would let something that major go on in his home without sticking his nose in it. “Fine, never mind.” She holds up her shaking hands and says, rueful, “I was hoping there were some healing potions in storage.”

“I’m way ahead of you,” he returns, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back the way she came. “I assume our lord sent my parents back to their rooms, so he can pretend this is his manor and not ours?”

“Draco!” she snaps, appalled. “You shouldn’t speak like that!”

He curses internally, because she’s right. Just because she’s his aunt doesn’t mean she’s on his side. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I just hate being forced to hide in my own house.”

She sighs, “Well, that’s understandable enough. But yes, you’re right, he did send Lucius and Narcissa away. Is that where we’re going?”

“Obviously,” he says, frowning as he reaches the end of the corridor. He taps his wand against the wall in a particular pattern, and the wall shimmers like a heatwave. He steps through it, and Sophia is only a half step behind him, but then he freezes.

She walks into him, and he almost stumbles forward, but pushes back against her. “Ow! Draco, what are you–”

“Be quiet,” he snaps. Abigail raises her head from his shoulders and lets out a low, angry hiss. Sophia freezes, then slowly shifts to look over his shoulder, and he knows that she understands when she tenses against his back.

Nagini is curled in front of his parents’ room, all twenty feet of her coiled and ready to attack. Oddly, she’s facing the hallway, which doesn’t make much sense. If she’s there to keep his parents in, she should be facing the door. Or maybe she just assumes her presence is enough of a deterrent that it really doesn’t matter where she is in relation to their door, which is correct. Her lost few seconds from facing the wrong direction don’t mean much when no one would be stupid enough to harm Voldemort’s pet snake.

“Let’s go,” Sophia says softly, tugging him backward.

Yeah, right.

He takes a step forward. Sophia grabs onto his elbow, but he shakes her off. He glances at Abigail, who hasn’t relaxed, but doesn’t seem any more upset than she had before he’d walked forward. He does it again, and Nagini lifts her head and bares her fangs. Sophia makes a strangled, terrified sound, but Draco’s pretty sure the massive snake is just yawning.

“Are you going to be a brat, or are you going to let me see my parents?” he asks.

“Draco!” Sophia whispers.

He ignores her. He walks forward, and Nagini’s black eyes blink up at him, and she’s still not attacking him. But she’s not getting out of his way either. Abigail doesn’t seem concerned, so he won’t be either. “Come on, don’t be like this,” he tries. He gets on his knees to start pushing her out of the way. “I’ll use a levitation charm on you, don’t think I won’t.” Nagini takes the opportunity to start slithering around him, and by the time he manages to push himself to his feet, it’s too late. She’s curled as much of her massive body around him as she can reach, which has caused Abigail to move down and wind around his arm to keep from the getting squished under the much heavier snake. “I really don’t understand why you insist on doing this.”

The door opens, and he turns just in time to watch his mother’s mouth drop open. “It’s okay,” he says before she can reach for her wand. “Is Winky here?” Narcissa pushes the door open a little wider, revealing his father sitting upright in bed with Winky in front of him, a tray of potions in her hands. Nagini reaches out her head towards Narcissa, but before she can get close, Draco knocks it back, pushing the flat of his hand against her nose. She tightens around him a little too tightly at that, but doesn’t try and reach for his mother again. “Winky, get a dose of each of the same for Aunt Sophia. Give her the Dreamless Sleep to go.”

“Yes, Master Draco,” she answers.

He’d wanted to cast diagnostic and general healing spells on his father, just in case, but he doesn’t particularly want to do either with Nagini keeping watch. He assumes whatever she sees she’ll report back to Voldemort, and while there’s nothing wrong with him knowing that Draco can heal, really, his knack for healing spells doesn’t mesh well with the obedient little follower façade he’s supposed to be projecting. Not that he’s been doing a great job at that, honestly.

Draco tries and gets Nagini to let him go, but she only winds even more of herself around him. “Okay, okay! I get the idea, but can you let go of me, please? I can’t walk with you like this, you’re too heavy.” She doesn’t budge, so he just does the same thing as he did this morning. He leans over and pushes her off of him, pushing her heavy body aside so he can jump away. It only works because she lets it work, which he’s pretty sure means she’s just being a pain for the fun of it. He really needs Harry to tell him what’s going on here. “Can’t you use this restless energy for something useful? Like catching deer? What do you even eat, anyway, because keep in mind that eating the house elves is strictly prohibited.”

She loosens her jaw and extends it, so he has a prime view down her throat. Sophia whimpers.

He’s not impressed. “I’m too big for you to swallow whole, I’d just give you indigestion. How about some nice juicy rabbits? Little bite sized snacks, and the grounds has a ton of them.”

Nagini nudges the back of his shins, pushing him forward. He lets her, because it’s not like he can stop her. “If you’re saying you want to go now, you’re going to have to wait. It’s dark out, and anything you could find would be scared away by my lumos. If you insist on being annoying, you can hang out with me while I study charms.”

He walks towards his room, and after a moment of silence he hears the sound of her slithering after him. He turns around and waves, “Bye Aunt Sophia!”

She raises a hand, but doesn’t say anything, just watches him and Nagini disapear down the hall. He doesn’t understand the big deal. Clearly he’s just Nagini’s recent plaything, and bothering him is more interesting than roaming the halls of the manor on her own.

Abigail finally lets go of his arm when they enter his room, instead crawling up the side of his bed. Nagini curls in the center of his room, waiting. Well, it’s not like he has anything better to do. He snags his most recent charms text off his bookshelf, then sits on his desk, so he’s facing Nagini. “I hope you find this interesting, because reading aloud while I study is about as exciting as the rest of tonight is going to get.”

She blinks at him.

He takes that as agreement, opens to where he left off, and starts reading. He doesn’t bother putting a silencing charm on his door because, honestly? He’d love for someone to catch him doing this.


It’s still dark when Draco wakes up, which is what he was expecting. He’d asked Winky to wake him up before dawn so he could write his letter to Harry. But he feels – heavy. Or something feels heavy on top of him, actually, he doesn’t feel heavy. He pushes himself up, which takes a lot more effort than it should, and he understands why.

All twenty feet of Nagini is lying in his bed. She still seems asleep, but is most definitely there, in his bed. Unbelievable. It doesn’t take him long to find Abigail, who’s curled into the far corner of the bed, one that’s safe from Nagini’s girth. She doesn’t like sleeping with him, but clearly she likes sharing even less. He looks over, and Winky is at his bedside. She looks at the large snake, scowling, and he shrugs, holding up his hands. What’s he supposed to do, kick her out? She’s a giant venomous snake. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t get a whole lot of say in the matter.

He silently moves out of bed and over to his desk, taking out a parchment and quill. He glances over his shoulder, but Nagini is still asleep, and even if she wasn’t, it’s not like she can see what he’s writing. He doesn’t think snakes can read English, but he’s just guessing. That’s definitely something he should ask Harry about.

He sends Winky away a half hour later with a letter and Abigail wound around her shoulders like a ridiculous shawl.

She returns two minutes later with both Abigail and the letter. “Mister Potter is in a sleep. He is having magic exhaustion from casting his patronus. Should Winky leave the letter and Miss Abigail for Mister Harry?”

Draco blinks, taken aback. He didn’t think there was any spell powerful enough to leave Harry knocked out for so long. This hadn’t even happened when he’d faced Voldemort and summoned a graveyard of undead, for Merlin’s sake! “No, that’s okay. We’ll try again tomorrow. Thank you.” He doesn’t want his letter getting into anyone’s hands but Harry’s. Well, okay, Ron, Hermione, Neville, George, Fred, or Ginny would be okay, but it’s not like he can guarantee that any of them would be the one who opened it.

He’d planned to go back to bed, but Nagini has shifted in his absence to curl in the warm spot where he was sleeping, and he’s not sure if it’s worth the effort to push her aside so that there’s enough room for him to fit into his own bed.

Well, he might as well get to start on another day of sharing his house with Voldemort and convicted, half-mad Death Eaters.

He wonders how all his friends are doing in Italy. Blaise has to make an appearance in Rome, of course, so they’re probably still there. It would be so easy to hop right over and spend the rest of the summer with his friends and talking to Harry, and not watching his family get tortured or being harassed by Voldemort’s pet.

Well, nothing for it. He’s not a Gryffindor, but he’s not a coward, so he’ll just have to stick it out, or die trying.

Hopefully he won’t die trying.


The first thing Harry is aware of is that he’s uncomfortably warm. The second is that he’s starving.

He pushes his heavy comforter off of him and breathes deeply, like he’s breaking the surface of the great lake all over again. He feels hot and sticky, and he’s conflicted if he should shower or eat first, because both seem like equally important concerns.

Just kidding, the first thing he has to do is use the toilet. He’s never been happier to have his own bathroom attached to his room than he is right now.

Once he’s in there, the shower’s right there, and it seems silly to go downstairs and then have to come back up to shower. Plus he has an insane urge to scrub his skin off, so the sooner he takes care of that, the better.

He still feels too warm, so he takes a quick, cool shower, washing his hair and using the rough cloth Draco had told him to use. He doesn’t get it, something about exfoliating, but whatever. Draco had given one to Ron too and practically begged him to use it. He wraps a towel around his waist and steps back into his room, then freezes.

He was too preoccupied to notice before, but Sirius is sleeping in a chair at his bedside, twisted into a position that can’t be comfortable, with his legs folded underneath him and his head resting on his folded arm. There are dark circles under his eyes, and he must be in a deep sleep if all of Harry’s moving around hasn’t woken him up.

Harry makes an effort to be quiet as he gets dressed, throwing on the Chudley Cannon sweatpants that Ron had given him for Christmas last year and white long sleeve shirt. The oppressive warmness is gone, and he’s starting to think that taking a cold shower wasn’t the best of ideas. He’s still hungry though, so he glances at Sirius one more time before going downstairs to the kitchens.

It’s still the sober grey of early morning, light barely streaming through the windows, and it’s strange to be in the house while it’s so quiet. Unlike when he was at the Dursley’s, he’s rarely the first person up and moving around. He crams half a banana in his mouth even as he pulls out the eggs, milk, and bread. Scrambled eggs on toast sounds perfect. After a second thought, he goes back for some bacon, because chewy bacon and scrambled eggs cooked in bacon fat sounds even better than perfect.

The food’s almost done, and he’d eaten two bananas and a large glass of milk while he was waiting, so now he doesn’t quite feel like his stomach is about to start eating itself. There’s a tell tale crack, and he’s half expecting it to be Kreacher, but when he turns around it’s Winky. Not just Winky, actually, because Draco’s snake is curled around her.

Winky! What’s going on?” he asks, reaching forward to take Abigail form her, and only realizes after he’s said it that he was speaking Parseltongue.

“You are awake!” she cries, delighted. “I was being worried that you would still be in the sleep, like you was yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” he repeats, confused, and taking the time to make sure he’s speaking English. He reaches for his wand and casts tempus, then pales.


He’s been out for two days. No wonder Sirius looks so exhausted. Last night was the full moon, which meant he spent the whole night awake with Remus, and then came home to sit by him. He feels his cheeks flush, a little bit because he’s pleased but mostly because he’s embarrassed. Sirius didn’t need to do that! He was just tired out from summoning such a large patronus.

Winky pushes two letters into his hands. “Master Draco is having very important information for you. Also he requests that you be asking Miss Abigail what is going on with Nagini.”

Nagini, as in Voldemort’s snake? What the hell.

“She’s a presumptuous bitch,” Abigail hisses, curling around his arms and settling around his shoulders. “She thinks just because she is big she can barge in and take what she pleases, thinks my human is nice and that we should share. Ha! Why should I share? She has her own human, if he isn’t nice to her then that’s her problem.”

This is an awful lot to handle this early in the morning, and he still hasn’t eaten.

Wait, no! His breakfast!

It’s too late. Everything is burning, and the smell of burned eggs is one of the worst smells in the world, and he’s including freshly awoken corpses in that assessment. He groans and goes to toss it and start over, but Winky snaps her fingers and his ruined breakfast disappears, along with the horrible smell.

“Winky is fixing,” she says impatiently, pushing Harry towards the small table in the kitchen. “Mister Harry is talking to Miss Abigail.”

She’s so bossy. She definitely got that from Draco. Well, it’s easier to do what she says than argue with her, and he’s dying to find out what he’s missed anyway. “Start from the beginning.”

Abigail slithers from his shoulders onto the table, curling in front of him so she can look at him while she speaks. “She came in his room that first nigh she was there, threatening and baring her fangs at him, but not lunging. Her human had told her to scare him to see what he would do. I was telling her to go away when my human woke up, and then his elf pushed her away, and then she lunged for the elf. But my human grabbed her head and pushed her jaw open so she couldn’t bite, and then he talked to her in his human language! He told her not to eat the elves and spoke nicely and didn’t attack her when she lunged for him, and now she’s decided she likes him and that he should be her human too, but he’s my human! Mine! You tell him in your human tongue that he’s mine and if he must have another snake, it won’t be her! She doesn’t listen, and she’s too big.”

That is so much information to proess all at once. “Voldemort’s murderous snake wants to be friends with Draco?”

“She’s no more murderous than the rest of us,” Abigail says, and it sounds like it pains her to defend Nagini. “Her human is busy and doesn’t spend time with her, doesn’t speak to her or consult with her. She doesn’t like it. When her human first found her, he spoke to her all the time, and asked for her help, and so she gave it, she liked not being alone. But now she’s alone again and wants to have my human, but she can’t! I don’t want to share with her!”

“She’s killed a lot of people,” he feels the need to point out, still stuck on that bit and not Abigail’s territorialism.

Snakes don’t have the necessary biology to shrug, but Abigail somehow manages to convey the same sentiment anyway. “Her human told her to. If my human told me to squeeze someone to death, I would. What do I care if a human who doesn’t belong to me dies? There are so many of you.”

Okay, well, that’s fair, if a little concerning. But he supposes it’s a little unfair to expect creatures to prioritize human lives above, or even equal, to their own. “I think you should share Draco with Nagini.”

Abigail rears back and hisses at him, furious. “Why! I don’t want to!”

“Voldemort and those who follow him are dangerous. If Draco’s going to be in the same house as them, it wouldn’t hurt for him to be known as friendly with Voldemort’s snake. They might be less likely to mess with him.”

She drops back down at the table, considering this. “Fine. But once the bad people are gone, she goes too!”

“Okay,"  he answers, because he’s not sure what else to say. “Is there anything else going on with Voldemort?”

She points her head towards the letters. “Yes, but my human wrote it all down. Can I have some bacon?”

“Abigail wants bacon,” Harry says, twisting in his chair to face Winky. But his eyes catch on the entrance to the kitchen. Sirius is leaning against the door frame, arms crossed and a grin stretched across his face. “How long have you been standing there?” It’s a good thing Sirius doesn’t speak Parseltongue, otherwise he would have totally just spilled all his soulmate’s secrets.

“Not that long,” he says. “Your father would be so proud of you.”

Harry’s face feels like it’s on fire. “Oh, um. What?”

“He was always so upset that his aunt hid her Parseltongue abilities, and was always urging her to tell people, to stop hiding it. But she never did. He’d be so proud that you use your abilities,” Sirius finishes. He crosses over to him and cups Harry’s face in his hands, leaning over to press a kiss to his forehead. “What you did in Diagon Alley was very impressive, but you scared the crap out of me, kid.”

“Sorry,” he winces. “I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to help.”

“You did a little more than help,” he says dryly. He takes the seat next to Harry and nods to the snake on their kitchen table. “Who’s this?”

He briefly considers lying, but he doesn’t want to lie to Sirius. He has to, a little, but he’d rather tell him as much truth as he can. “She’s Draco’s. She came to tell me to tell him that he’s not allowed to be friends with any snakes but her.”

Sirius looks like he’s not sure what to do with that, but Winky comes over with a plate in each hand before he can question him further. She places one in front of each of them, and then snaps her fingers so a small plate of bacon appears in front of Abigail. “I will be taking a plate to Mister Remus.”

She turns around, but there’s another crack, and Kreacher appears in front of her. Harry thinks this might be the most surprising thing that’s happened this morning. Usually Kreacher doesn’t make an appearance unless it’s to wail at Sirius and Remus cleaning something he doesn’t want cleaned. “Interloper!” he screeches, hunched over and eyes wide as he points an accusing finger. “Get out of the noble house!”

Winky is unimpressed. “I is wondering when you would be coming. Kreacher is a bad elf.”

Kreacher snarls. Sirius half rises from his chair, but Harry puts a hand on his arm and shakes his head. He’s not exactly sure what’s going on, but he trusts Winky not to do anything truly horrible.

“You do not belong to the ancient house of Black! You should not be here!” Kreacher hisses.

“I am belonging to Draco Malfoy, who is the son of Narcissa Black,” she counters. “I is the elf of a Black, and I am having a right to cook and clean in this house. I should clean it all, and be teaching you a lesson. Had you nothing to be doing for twelve years? It is a mess!”

“My mistress is dead,” Kreacher says, “and only her traitorous son is left behind. I have no true master.”

Winky rolls her eyes. “You is having a house. Is this house not your new forests? Is it not being a thing you wish to protect?”

“What’s the point?” he sniffs. “My mistress is gone.”

“Humans die,” Winky says bluntly, “that isn’t meaning our work is done. You is surviving off the magic of the house, so you should be taking care of the house.” She snaps her fingers, and Remus’s plate floats in the air behind her. She grabs the back of Kreacher’s dirty pillowcase and drags him out of the kitchen. He tries to dig in his heels to stop her, but she barely pauses at his resistance. “Winky is a nice, helpful elf. We will feed Mister Remus, and then I will be helping you to start the cleaning!”

Kreacher wails, but doesn’t magic himself out of her grip, so Harry assumes he’s not that upset about it.

“Should I stop her?” Sirius asks as the two house elves disappear around the corner.

Harry shrugs, “It’s not like she can make it any worse, right? Might as well let her do what she wants. How was the full moon? Is Remus okay?” They’re eating breakfast, so they should be speaking in Tamil, but he wants to find out everything he’s missed first.

Sirius rubs the back of his neck. “It was fine. These days the transformation just leaves him tired. Remus is a bit mad at me right now, actually. He told me to stay with you and that he’d spend this full moon alone, but I didn’t listen.”

“Good,” Harry says, surprised. “I was just sleeping, that’s boring. Remus has spent too many full moons alone. You made the right decision. I would be mad at you if you hadn’t spent last night with Remus.”

“Maybe tell him that?” He sighs, “He’s refused to speak to me ever since he turned back into a human. I was planning to go keep an eye on you anyway, but he locked me out of our bedroom, so I assume he’s still not too pleased.”

Harry’s still laughing at him when a sharp eyed eagle knocks against the window. Sirius magics the window open, and it lands in front Harry. “What’s the point of a magical, secret base if all the messenger birds know where we are? Voldemort could just right me a cheerful little letter and then follow his owl here.”

“The Fidelius is an impressive bit of magic because it does things like allowing us to remain completely hidden while still getting the mail,” he points out.

Harry opens the scroll, absently petting the head of bird with the back of his index finger. He reads quickly, and at first he’s filled with disbelief, but that quickly fades. This is just about what he should expect to happen to him, really. His life always goes like this, and he should probably start getting used to it. “Know any good lawyers?”

Sirius pauses in shoveling eggs into his mouth. “Obviously not, otherwise I wouldn’t have been stuck in Azkaban for twelve years. Why?”

“I’m being brought to trial over using underage magic,” he answers, and Sirius chokes. “And considering the giant patronus I summoned in front of all of Diagon Alley, I’d say the evidence is pretty damning.”


Winky’s been gone for hours, and Draco’s more than a little worried. Surely Abigail and Harry don’t have this much to talk about? Or maybe they do. He hopes they do, because any other explanation makes his stomach turn.

He’s out in the forest with Nagini, riding his broom low to the ground so he doesn’t lose sight of her. He made the mistake of coming out and trying to keep up with her on foot yesterday, which had been an obvious failure. He can’t say this for certain, because how would he know, really, but he’s pretty sure that Nagini was laughing at him.

 There’s a crack, and Winky appears in the forest below him, Abigail wrapped around her. He comes to a halt, letting Nagini get a head start so she’s hopefully out of ear shot. “Is everything okay? What took you so long?” He holds out his hands, and Abigail eagerly moves from Winky onto him.

“I is sorry, Master Draco,” Winky says. “Some of it is my fault. Winky is helping Kreacher be a good elf.”

He has no idea what that means, but Harry had complained about the grouchy old elf before, so it only seems like it can help. “That’s fine. Is Harry okay? What did he say about Abigail?”

“Mister Harry is awake, and he’s fine. He is saying that Nagini likes you and wants you to like her too.”

Draco wrinkles his nose, because it makes no sense and too much sense at the same time. Nagini claiming him for her own is the only explanation that makes any sense, but it still leaves him with more questions than answers. “Did he say why?”

Winky shakes her head.

“Anything else?” he asks, sighing. It’s not like he minds. Nagini is a brat, but so is Abigail, and it’s nice to have someone in the manor who likes him besides his parents.

“Mister Harry also told me to tell you that he’s to appear in front of the Wizengamot for breaking the underage magic law,” she says.

He stares. Harry had performed underage magic, obviously, but who was dumb enough to try and put him on trial for it?

As soon as he finishes the thought, he knows the answer.


“Fudge is asking to be impeached,” Remus says in wonder, looking over Harry’s summons. He’s still in bed, and Sirius has used his distraction to lean against Remus’s side. “People are going to be very upset about this.”

Harry is sitting cross legged on the edge of Sirius and Remus’s bed. He tilts his head to the side. “Why? The Prophet’s been calling me a crazy liar for saying that Voldemort is back for weeks. They didn’t care about that.” All the articles about him probably would have been more upsetting if he wasn’t constantly surrounded by people who believed him.

“Yes, well that was before you very publicly saved the lives of several hundred people from a deadly attack with a single spell,” Remus says dryly. “Tonight’s Order meeting will be interesting.”

Harry wrinkles his nose. “Everyone else helped too. And I fell asleep after I cast it, so it’s not that impressive.”

“Not that impressive, he says,” Sirius ruffles his hair. “Never mind that the only people I can think of that can make an unrestrained patronus are all stuffy old masters, and no one’s ever made a patronus quite that large.”

“On the official record,” Remus amends. “Needless to say, your display has historians wondering if some of the stories they’d dismissed as legends might actually be true.”

Harry’s saved from having to respond to that by Kreacher appearing in front of them with a crack. “Filthy blood traitors are here to see you,” he says, scowling.

“Uh, thank you,” Remus says, startled, but Kreacher is gone before he finishes speaking. “Since when does he leave his nest under the boiler?”

“Winky came by earlier and lectured him about being a bad house elf,” Harry answers. “Should we head down?”

Sirius waves his hand, “Go on ahead, it’s probably for you. I’ll stay here. That is, unless Moony kicks me out again,”

Remus’s eyes narrow. “Maybe I will. What are you going to do about it?”

Sirius grins in a way that means Harry wants to get out of here right now, immediately. Gross. Like, he’s glad they’re not having a serious fight or anything, but still gross. The best thing about magic is silencing charms. He doesn’t know anything about their sex life, and he never wants to.

The ocean of bright red hair tips him off before anything else, and he’s grinning as he slides down the banister into the group of Weasley kids, plus Hermione. “Hi!”

Ron catches him in a bear hug, then bends him over to give a noogie. Harry tries to pull away, but fails. “Harry! You’re finally awake. We were getting worried.”

“It’s hard to be this pretty,” he answers, giving up on trying to get away and instead going limp. Ron yelps and lets him drop, so he’s able to roll to his feet and duck behind Ginny. “Not that I don’t love seeing you guys, but what are you all doing here?”

“Mum and Dad are having a row,” George says, rolling his eyes. Hermione winces. “They don’t want to argue in front of us, so Mum sent us here.”

Harry blinks. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Arthur and Molly have an actual argument. “About what?”

Ginny sighs. “Dad thinks that, in light of our little adventure, we should be allowed to attend the Order meetings.”

“Merlin,” Harry breathes. “Does he have a death wish?”

Molly didn’t like that her three eldest sons were in the Order, never mind the rest of her children. Besides, Arthur knows that Harry’s telling them everything anyway, so what’s the point? Why does he think it’s worth getting into an argument with his wife?

There’s another crack, and Kreacher appears next to them. Everyone jumps. “Young Mister Longbottom is here,” he announces gloomily. “Will horrid, disgusting guests be wanting snacks?”

“Er, that’s okay Kreacher. Thank you,” Harry says.

He’s gone almost before he’s finished speaking.

“Um,” Fred says, “what was that? I thought he was on strike, or something.”

“I have no idea. It’s actually a little disconcerting,” he admits.

Neville comes running from the sitting room into the main entrance way. He nearly barrels into Harry, but in the last second he grabs him by his shoulders and shakes him. He hopes nothing’s gone wrong in the greenhouse. “YOU’RE BEING TRIED BEFORE THE WIZENGAMOT FOR UNDERAGE MAGIC?”

The twins and Hermione are scandalized, while Ginny is furious. Ron, for some reason, looks delighted.

“Oh, yeah,” Harry says. “I got the notice this morning. How do you even know about that? It’s not for another month.”

“My cousin has a seat in the Wizengamot, and he came over this morning to tell Gran about it. Why aren’t you more upset?” Neville demands.

He shrugs. “At least it’s not fighting Voldemort and his supporters alone at night while tied to a tombstone?” That’s his new metric for how upsetting something is. “Look, so what? They find me guilty, they snap my wand, I’m kicked out of Hogwarts. Which sucks, because I’m rather fond of the place and all, but then I move to France, get a new wand, enroll in Beauxbatons, and join the gliding team.”

The prospect of being on a gliding team almost makes getting kicked out worth it. But he doubts that’s going to happen, because considering the massive amounts of underage magic that’s going on all the time, he finds it a little unlikely that his punishment will be that bad.

“You don’t speak French,” Ginny says. “Which is what they speak in, you know, France.”

Shit, that’s a good point. “It’s possible this plan has a few minor flaws.”

“What about the rest of us? We were all using magic!” Hermione snaps. “We should all be brought up on the same charges!”

“Yeah, but we’re not the one Fudge has a personal vendetta against,” Fred says.

Ron claps his hands together to get everyone’s attention. Because they all know him, they’re all instantly wary at the grin stretching across his face. “Harry, this is fantastic. It couldn’t be better if we’d planned it ourselves.”

“What part of this is fantastic?” Hermione demands. “This is a nightmare!”

“This, my friends, my siblings, my accomplices, is an opportunity. We need Zaira Zabini and Rita Skeeter,” he turns to Harry, “Blaise’s place in Italy is hooked up to the floo network, right?”

“One way to find out,” he answers. “But what on earth are you planning to do with Zaira and Skeeter?”

“You’re right, we should get Luna too,” Ron says. Harry has no idea how Ron got that from what he asked.

Ginny pinches her brother’s waist, and he squirms away from her, batting her hands away. “What are you planning, Ronald?”

“Nothing major. Just some public unrest, maybe a riot or two. A coup would be nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he muses.

“We’re in,” the twins say in unison. Harry’s pretty sure they don’t know what their brother is planning. They just relish the opportunity to cause chaos.

“Can we continue this in my room?” he asks. “I have two letters from Draco I’ve been dying to read, and I haven’t been able to.”

George frowns. “Why is he sending you letters? Isn’t the whole point of the mirrors that he doesn’t have to? I’d wish Cassius and had thought to make some for ourselves”

“No thanks,” Fred gags. “Watching you read his letters while grinning like an idiot is bad enough.”

George’s whole face goes red, and Ginny elbows Fred in the side. “You’re one to talk. How many letters have you an Angelina exchanged?”

“Shut up,” he says, which is answer enough.

“Let’s continue this in my room,” Harry repeats. He hasn’t told any of them about Voldemort staying at Malfoy Manor, but maybe it’s time to. However, he doesn’t want to discuss anything in front of the portraits. That’s just asking for trouble.

They all go upstairs and into his room, piling onto his bed and spilling onto the floor when it becomes clear that it’s impossible for all seven of them to fit on it comfortably. Harry fills them in on everything and is gratified when they’re just as upset as he is.

“He’s just using a silencing and disillusionment charm on himself?” Fred asks, horrified. “Is he suicidal? There are so many better ways to go.”

“Here,” George says, and casts a summoning spell. In the next moment he’s holding something that looks like a thin red rope. “Fred and I came up with these before we knew that you would be attending the Order meetings. They’re called extendable ears, and with a few glamour charms they’ll at least be less likely to be noticed than Draco peeking through cracked doors, for merlin’s sake.”

“We’ll have to work on something to replace his eyes,” Fred muses.

Harry takes the extendable ears, and the wave or relief that comes over him is probably a little embarrassing. “Thank you. I don’t suppose you’ll let me pay you for these?”

“Shut up,” the twins say at the same time.

He rolls his eyes. “You can’t bankroll your whole life by gambling and making bets. Besides, if your mum ever finds out, she’ll kill you.”

“What Mum doesn’t know can’t hurt us,” Fred says. “Also, our gambling habit has been incredibly profitable so far, so stuff it, maybe we can survive on it, you don’t know.”

Harry drops it, because this is an argument they’ve had a dozen times. Harry’s more than happy to just give them the money for their inventions and shop. He has enough of it, it’s not like he has anything else he’s going to spend it on. All the Slytherins in their group had offered to invest, since they all had investment portfolios that they’d been managing since they were eleven, because that’s what rich parents did with their kids to teach them responsibility, apparently. Blaise’s is the most profitable, but Draco’s is more stable, or so they say.

Pansy’s isn’t either, but apparently she’d carefully selected her investments to maximize social capita rather than cashflow. She has a hand in a dozen up and coming designer in the fashion world, which Harry thinks is pretty impressive, even if Blaise insists she’s just throwing money away.

Millicent, thank merlin, has a trust fund and that’s it, and thinks the rest of them are insane. If nothing else, he likes having Millicent around because she’s a great barometer for when something’s a pureblood Slytherin thing, and for when their friends are just strange, but haven’t figured it out yet because they’re too busy being strange together.

“Can we focus please?” Ron asks. “Timing is very important here.” Harry still has no idea what he’s talking about.

While the rest of them work on drafting a letter to Skeeter, he reads the letters from Draco, and he doesn’t like what he reads. Excepting Draco’s rant on Voldemort’s choice in breakfast foods, because that’s hilarious.

“Harry?” Hermione asks, nudging him with her knee. “What’s wrong?”

“All of it,” he says. “But a lot of this doesn’t make any sense to me. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are making things miserable at Malfoy Manor, which is only to be expected I suppose. But Voldemort keeps going on about getting his hands on some sort of prophecy? Which, okay, if I was trying to take over a country that wouldn’t be my first priority, but whatever. There’s talk recruiting from our age group, which no thanks, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff about politics that just goes over my head.”

“Give it here,” Ron says, and Harry hands it over.

Hermione scowls. “This is ridiculous, we know where Voldemort and a good portion of his supporters are staying. Shouldn’t we tell someone? So that we can go in and fight them?”

Neville snorts, “Yeah, like that would work. They’re at Malfoy Manor. Trying to storm that is a suicide mission.”

“There’s no point,” Ginny agrees. “We could tell the Order where everyone is, but it wouldn’t change anything. That place is so well warded that anyone who tries to force their way in will probably just end up dead. Or worse.”

“Well, this sucks,” Ron announces, looking up from Draco’s letter. “Looks like Voldemort is planning to destabilize the government. Or, well, watch as the government destabilizes itself under Fudge, with a couple little nudges from key people.”

“Give me that,” Hermione snatches the letter from Ron’s hands. He rolls his eyes. A moment later her shoulders slump. “Maybe a coup wouldn’t be such a bad idea. There’s no way Fudge can run the government while Voldemort is around attempting to undermine him.”

“Fudge can’t run the government now,” Ginny says dryly. “Every time I see Percy he’s juggling about ten different things that should be the minister’s problem, but are somehow his.”

Ron shakes his head, “A coup might just make everything worse. Maybe Percy should just keep trying to keep Fudge in line until the war is over. I feel like an election will just give Voldemort something to rig.”

“No election if we kill him,” Neville says.

Everyone freezes and turns to looks at him.

“What? I’m right! If he dies in office it’ll just go to the … maybe we shouldn’t kill him,” he finishes, grimacing.

“Supreme Mugwump,” Ron sighs. “I agree. Making Dumbledore the Minister of Magic would only make things worse. The man can barely keep Voldemort from infiltrating Hogwarts, never mind the whole government. But one problem at a time. Let’s go talk to Blaise and see if his mum’s around.”

“You still haven’t explained what you want Zaira for,” Harry complains, pushing himself to his feet.

“To represent you in court, of course,” he answers. “You don’t need a lawyer. According to the law, you’re guilty, and everyone knows it. You need a performer.”

That doesn’t answer any of his questions, but Ron’s already left his room in search of the fireplace, so he has no choice but to follow him.

Ron throws some floo powder into the fireplace, then frowns. “What’s the place they’re staying again?”

“Rome Severan House,” Ginny answers, and the flames shift to green. There’s a long moment, and then a man Harry doesn’t know sticks his head through the fireplace and says something in Italian.

Harry only has a moment to panic before Neville responds in kind, the foreign language easily falling off his tongue. The man disappears, then Blaise’s head appears in the fireplace. “What’s up? How’s Draco?”

“Alive,” Harry answers. “He made friends with Nagini.”

Blaise stares. He’s knocked to the side, and then Pansy’s head appears next to Blaise’s. “What’s going on? Did something happen? Besides Harry killing a bunch of dementors, of course.”

“How do you know about that? You’re in Italy!”

“We have newspapers in Italy,” Blaise says dryly. “You made the front page.”

Uhg, gross.

“Is your mum around?” Ron asks. “I want for her to represent Harry in front of the Wizengamot.”

Pany’s and Blaise’s heads are pushed to opposite sides of the fireplace, and Millicent’s head appears between them. “Why?”

“My mother isn’t a practicing attorney, I feel like you all forget that,” Blaise says.

“Who cares about an attorney? I want her to stand there and make the Wizengamot feel like a bunch of idiots who are in danger of losing their seats in the next election,” he says.

Blaise sighs. Pansy and Millicent are delighted. “She’ll do it.”

“Shouldn’t you ask her first?” George says.

“No, trust me, she’ll do it, and thank you for the privilege.” All three of the Slytherins tilt their head to the side, listening to something that the rest of them can’t hear. “We have to go. Try not to cause any more trouble.”

Harry sputters, offended, but they’re gone before he can answer. He doesn’t cause trouble! Or go looking for it! Trouble happens to him independently of his own actions, and anything to the contrary is lies.

“Come on,” Neville says, “you can all help me in the greenhouse until the meeting starts.”

“I didn’t come here to do chores,” Fred complains, but he’s already following Neville out of the room.


By the time they all leave the greenhouse several hours later, they’re filthy and starving. A few quick scourgify charms take care of the former, but they swarm the kitchen for the later. Remus and Sirius are sitting at the table, and Remus is looking better, the dark circles under his eyes not quite so pronounced.

“Have fun?” Sirius asks as seven teenagers go about tearing his kitchen apart. The twins are putting together a small mountain of sandwiches while Harry pulls out a giant jug of pumpkin juice, and Ron grabs the plates.

“I’m going to eat all of this,” Hermione says, holding a lemon loaf that’s definitely at least meant to feed four. She jumps onto the counter and takes a bite out of it, not even bothering to cut it into proper slices.

Ginny is neck deep in their fridge. “You guys have pickles, right? What kind of people don’t have pickles? I’m going to drink all the juice.”

Neville wrinkles his nose, pulling down cups for Harry to pour the pumpkin juice into. “That’s disgusting.”

“Your face is disgusting,” she says, emerging triumphantly from the fridge with a jar of pickles. She pauses, “I didn’t mean that, I like your face.”

He coughs and his ears turn red. “I know. Drink your disgusting pickle juice.”

The twins start levitating plates of sandwiches onto the table, including one each for Remus and Sirius. “Thanks,” Remus says, “You guys now people are going to start arriving for the Order meeting in about five minutes, right?”

Hermione takes the last bite of her lemon loaf and summons one of the plates back over to her. George snatches it out of midair. “Sit at the table!” She scowls, but hops down from the counter.

“We’ll finish before then,” Ron says, voice muffled through his mouthful of food.

“It’s like watching a swarm of piranhas,” Sirius mutters, but he’s grinning.

They don’t quite finish in five minutes, so Sirius and Remus head out to greet people while they finish eating and clean everything up. “That’s my cue to leave,” Neville sighs. “I’ll be over tomorrow to continue working on the greenhouse?”

“I assumed,” Harry grins. He waves goodbye to everyone else and heads upstairs to use the fireplace in Remus and Sirius’s room, since the main one is currently in use from the Order members.

As soon as they leave the kitchen and enter the dining room, people are staring at them. Well, mostly Harry, but the rest of them aren’t exactly invisible. “Well, this is awkward,” Fred mutters.

“Welcome to my life,” Harry says under his breath. Ginny snorts.

“Harry!” Molly comes out of the crowd and makes a beeline for them. She grabs Harry in a smothering hug that he doesn’t mind at all. “I’m so glad you’re okay, that was a very foolish thing you did! You could have died!”

She’d said as much when she’d caught up with them, but she’d sounded a lot angrier before, so he’ll take it as an improvement. “Someone had to do something, Mrs. Weasley.”

She doesn’t respond to that at all, instead rounding on her children and Hermione. “Go upstairs right now, the lot of you, this isn’t a place for children.”

There’s a beat where they stare at each other, and Harry’s certain he’s about to find himself at the center of a Weasley family fight. But Ron shrugs and says, “Okay. We’ll be in the greenhouse.” Hermione is obviously disappointed, but she’s staying with the Weasley’s. She’s under Molly’s roof, so she’ll stick to Molly’s rules.

“Don’t do any work up there without Neville. He’ll kill you,” Harry says.

They’ve all taken a couple steps towards the door when Arthur walks forward, his eldest sons trailing behind him. Fleur and Tonks are behind them, and they’ve got a look on their face like they want to get involved too, but are holding back. For now. Harry’s pretty sure that Fleur is dying to jump in. “Kids, hold on. Molly, we talked about this.”

Her eyes narrow. Charlie winces, and Bill looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. “Yes, we did, and I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Mum, please,” Percy says, rubbing at his forehead. “Harry tells them everything anyway. They led a defense against a swarm of dementors. Just let them sit at the table. George and Fred are seventeen anyway.”

“And Ginny is fourteen!” Molly hisses. “Much too young to be involved in any of this!”

Ginny raises her hand. “I’m not invested one way or another, but, for the record, Voldemort possessed me when I was eleven, so we can just assume going forward that I’m a little involved. If I don’t get to hex that asshole at least once before this war is over, I’ll be cross.”

It’s fairly obvious that everyone else has gone silent so they can watch them. Quite a few people are looking at Ginny as if she’s mad, but those people don’t know her.

“Let’s not fight,” Ron says, holding up his hands. “Dad, thanks, but it’s really okay. We’ll go wait upstairs, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s not a big deal because you’ll find everything out anyway,” Arthur says dryly. “We might as well cut out the middle man.”

“Why are you so determined to thrust our children in the middle of this war?” Molly asks, not shouting but not far off.

“They kind of already are, Mum,” Charlie says, cringing even as he says it. “Look, Voldemort is going to keep coming after Harry, and he’s one of ours.” Harry’s whole face flushes a bright red. “What’s Ron supposed to do if Harry’s attacked? Run away? Should Ginny lie over and play dead? Perhaps the twins can apparate away and leave Harry to be tortured or killed or both? Is that what you want?”

“Charlie!” Molly says, appalled, “Of course not!”

Bill places a hand on his mother’s arm. “Would you prefer if Harry died rather than one of us?”

She’s steps away, face an ashen white, and it’s clear that’s the worst thing he’s ever asked her. “No! No one is dying! Not you or Harry! Not any of my children!”

“Can we please stop arguing about this?” Percy asks, exasperated. “I have to get back to the office tonight so I can look over the legislature they want Fudge to sign tomorrow. Mum, please, just let them sit in. It’s just information.”

“Terribly sorry, I don’t mean to intrude,” Perenelle says, and they’d all been so focused on the discussion that they hadn’t even noticed her walk up beside them. “But the meetings about to start, so perhaps you should save this discussion for a later date?”

“Oh, let them stay!” Mad Eye Moody growls. “They did just as good in that fight as any of my aurors. They’ve done more to earn a seat at the table than some of the people here.”

To Harry’s surprise, Molly turns and finds Sirius in the crowd. He meets her gaze and shrugs. “You know what I think. But it’s not unreasonable of you to want to protect them, Molly.”

For the first time, Harry is burning with curiosity over whatever their conversation behind closed doors was about. Neither her husband nor children had done much to sway her, but she’s still looking at Sirius as her shoulders slump. “Fine.”

“Mum, we can go upstairs,” Ron says, wrapping an arm around Molly’s shoulders. “It’s really okay.”

She looks up at Ron and manages a weak smile. “It wouldn’t change anything, would it? Harry tells you everything.”

“Well,” Ron says, floundering for a moment, “You can’t really expect him to lie to me, right? He’s my best friend.”

“Sorry,” Harry adds, rubbing the back of his neck, because Ron’s right. He’s going to tell him the truth no matter what, even if it makes Molly angry or upset. Maybe that’s not the right thing to do, he should probably respect Molly’s wishes about her children, but – they’re his friends. He doesn’t want to lie to them.

Molly softens just the tiniest amount. She reaches out to smooth his hair back, just like she does with her children, “It’s alright, dear, I’m glad you can all talk to each other, at least.”

They all find their seats after that, and Ginny sits next to Fleur, Fred sits next to his mum, George is next to Percy, and Ron and Hermione sit on either side of him, which is more comforting than he can say. Somehow, this long table full of adults isn’t nearly so intimidating when he has his best friends next to him.

Harry’s ready to fade into the background, to just sit and listen, which is why he’s so surprised when Dumbledore clears his throat and says, “In regard to Mr. Potter’s upcoming court date–”

“Does everyone know about that?” he exclaims. There’s a ripple of laughter down the table.

“Most of us know someone who knows someone in the Wizengamot,” says a young woman. “Your trial is an open secret. I’m sure it’ll be appearing in the gossip rags soon enough.”

Oh, it will, Ron is making sure of that. But he’s pretty sure he’s not supposed to say that. So he just goes, “Oh.”

“It’s completely ridiculous,” Tonks says. “Underage magic happens all the time! No one goes to jail over it!”

“You try telling Fudge that,” Percy mutters. “The man’s absurd, and a walking public relations nightmare to boot. We’ve already gotten a handful of letters complaining about it, and I’m sure more will start rolling in.”

Dumbledore sighs. “Regardless, allowing Fudge to make a spectacle out of Harry will only make him more vulnerable. If Fudge gets his way, Harry will be expelled, and his wand snapped, then we’ll have a whole other mess on our hands.”

Okay, he gets he’s central to the war and everything, but he doesn’t appreciate a group full of strangers talking about his personal affairs like they all have a say in it. “I was planning to go to Beauxbatons, actually, and join the gliding team. There’s the small issue of me not speaking French, but one problem at a time.”

“Something tells me they would make an exception for you,” Fleur says, grinning. “France would be very happy to claim Harry Potter as our own.”

“I could write a very compelling recommendation letter,” Nicolas adds, “considering I’m one of their oldest alumni. You’re a smart boy, I’m sure you’ll pick the language up quickly enough.”

“The Blacks have a summer home in Paris,” Sirius says, looking down the table to wink at Harry. “You’d like it. We can be escaped convicted felons together, won’t that be fun?”

“Except Harry would actually be guilty of his crimes,” Remus says, elbow on the table and chin in his hand. Harry glares at him, but he just shrugs.

Dumbledore clears his throat. “Well, it’s nice to have a backup plan. But, ideally, no one would be convicted of anything. I’ll represent Harry in court, which should be more than enough of a deterrent to the majority of Wizengamot.”

He feels a flash of irritation that he quickly pushes back down. Dumbledore could have asked, or talked to him about it first. “Thanks, but I already have an attorney.”

Seeing Dumbledore be genuinely surprised is rare enough that it pretty much makes up for the rest of it. “Excuse me?”

“Thanks for the offer,” even though he didn’t offer, he just decided, “but Zaira Zabini is going to be representing me.”

Kingsley lets out a bark of laughter that startles everyone else at the table. “That’s a brilliant idea.”

“It was Ron’s,” he says, nudging his friend in the side. “So I’m good. And worst case scenario, I learn French.”

“Harry, I really think it’s better if you allow me to handle this,” Dumbledore says.

“He said Zaira was representing him, so Zaira is representing him,” Remus says firmly. “That’s the end of the discussion.”

Sirius, Remus, all the Weasleys, and Fleur are glaring at Dumbledore, daring him to cause a fuss about it. He raises an eyebrow. “Very well. On to other matters.”

He lets out of the breath he’d been holding, relieved. Thankfully the rest of meeting has nothing to do with him. He just sits there and listens for the next hour, and the meeting’s beginning to wind down. But then they start talking about the dementor attack, and Percy mentions something about how they still haven’t pinned down the cause the of the delay in the reports of a dementor attack reaching the aurors, and he freezes.

They don’t know why the aurors didn’t arrive in time to help.

Harry does.

He knows because Draco told him.

His soulmate is risking everything to get him information, to tell him all the things he’d listed in his letters. Surely he’s meant to do something with that, right? Because if it’s just Harry and their friends who know, it’s useless, they can’t do anything. If they’re the only ones who know, then there’s no reason for Draco to be there in the first place, because they can’t really do anything with this information.

But the Order can.

He has to tell them. Draco’s information has to get to the Order if it’s going to do anyone any good. 

“It was Sophia Malfoy,” he says, heart in his throat. He hopes that he’s doing the right thing.

 Everyone’s eyes are on him, and he swallows. “Excuse me?” McGonagall says.

“Sophia Malfoy purposely jammed the reports so that the aurors would be too late,” he says. “She was waiting to intercept them, because she knew they would be coming, because she knew about the attack.” He turns to Kingsley, “She was the one who told you about the attack, right? She sounded the alarm.”

“How do you know – yes,” Kingsley answers. “But Sophia wouldn’t do that. Harry, I know you have a bit of a strained relationship with the Malfoy family, but she’s not like that.”

“Yes, she is,” Harry says. “Just because she doesn’t have a Dark Mark doesn’t mean she’s not a Death Eater. If all of Voldemort’s followers were marked, the man wouldn’t be able to have any spies. I know Sophia Malfoy supports Voldemort and is taking orders from him.”

There’s some upset mutterings around the table, but it’s Dumbledore who looks at him over his half moon glasses with those piercing blue eyes and asks, “How could you possibly know that, Harry?”

He flounders. What can he say? He can’t mention Draco, but they need to believe him, he needs them to believe him otherwise everything Draco is doing is for nothing –

“He has visions of what Voldemort is doing,” Hermione blurts out. “They share a mental connection, and Harry can see what he’s doing sometimes.”

Thank merlin for Hermione! It’s perfect!

“Yes,” he says. “It’s not all the time. But I saw the aftermath of the attack. Voldemort tortured her for failing. She’s working for him.”

“It’s not just that,” Ron adds. “Harry’s seen other things. Some of Voldemort’s plans for the government, and that he’s obsessed with getting something. Some prophecy.”

Harry wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t looking right at him, but there’s a minute movement on Dumbledore’s face that Harry would describe as a flinch if it were anyone else.

The quiet is broken after that, everyone shouting at and over one another. It lasts for another fifteen minutes before Fleur sets the table on fire just to shut everyone up. She puts it out a second later, but it’s still very cool. “Silence,” she snaps. “If Harry says he sees what Voldemort is doing, then I believe him.”

“He had similar visions last summer,” Remus says quietly. “They all ended up checking out. You know that, Albus.”

Dumbledore glances at Nicolas, who raises an eyebrow. “Tell us what you saw, Harry,” he says. There’s another outbreak of angry voices, but Dumbledore raises a hand, and they all fall silent. “We’ll double check everything we’re told. We won’t act irrationally. But to dismiss this significant an advantage out of hand would be shortsighted, which isn’t something we can afford to be.” He waits, but no one says anything further. “Harry, please. What do you know?”

He tells them everything, every scrap of information Draco had given him in his letters. The meeting runs long by over an hour, but no one moves to leave, everyone listening as it all spills out of him. Dumbledore hadn’t been taking notes or anything, but as soon as Harry’s done speaking, he’s giving orders. He tells different people to double check different things, and he seems to know exactly what everyone at the table does and everyone they know, all just in his head. Harry understands why some people get angry at Dumbledore for using them all like chess pieces, he knows he gets upset about it too, but watching him now – well, this is the man’s third war, and it’s easy to understand why he is the way he is. He’s good at this, he’s smart and calculating and good at weighing people and their abilities against each other. It doesn’t seem like the type of skill one can easily turn off, even when it’s existence is to everyone’s detriment.

He’s finished, and he looks around the table with his piercing blue eyes, and asks, “Any questions?”

Everyone shakes their heads, except Nicolas, who leans on the table and sighs dreamily. “You're so attractive when you take control like this.”

There’s a moment where everyone freezes and processes that, as if not quite believing it’s just happened.

“Nicholas!” Dumbledore exclaims, with the faintest red across his cheeks. “This is hardly the time or the place.”

Harry sneaks a glance at Perenelle, but she looks more amused than anything else. McGonagall has her hand over her mouth, but he’s pretty sure it’s to hold in a laugh. He’s reminded of her hitting Dumbledore upside the head for being dramatic, and he knows professors are people, obviously, but it always throws him when he sees them acting that way.

“I’m pretty sure it’s time for us to go to your place,” Nicolas says. Dumbledore just stares, unmoving, like he can’t think of any sort of acceptable way to respond to that.

Perenelle snorts. “Honey, stop embarrassing our young man.”

Our young man? Forget all the stuff about Voldemort, this is the most important thing he’s ever heard.

“You’ve been saying that for eighty years,” he complains.

“That’s because you’ve been embarrassing him for eighty years,” she returns.

Ginny tilts her head to the side. “So you guys met when Dumbledore was thirty?” It’s incredibly strange to him to imagine Dumbledore as anything but an old man.

“Oh, no, we met when he joined my wife’s alchemy class,” Nicholas answers. “But it wasn’t until his thirty fourth birthday that we–”

Dumbledore doesn’t so much as blink, but there’s a fission of magic in the air, and Nicholas’s mouth is still moving, but no sound is coming out. He realizes it after a moment and pouts, crossing his arms.

“I think that’s quite enough of that,” Dumbledore says mildly, once more back behind his familiar mask of headmaster. Harry can’t help but be a little disappointed. He likes Dumbledore best when he forgets to act like he knows what he’s doing. “If that’s all, this meeting is adjourned.”

Dumbledore sweeps out of the room. Harry’s pretty sure he’s not the only one who notices Nicolas trailing after him. Perenelle stays behind, gravitating towards Fleur and striking up a conversation in French. Bill awkwardly hovers nearby, and for a moment Harry thinks he’s going to be in need of a rescue, but Fleur turns around, loops her arm through Bill’s, and literally yanks him into the conversation. He seems delighted to be there, and starts responding in kind, which Harry hadn’t expected. “I didn’t know Bill spoke French.”

“What?” Ron says, then shifts to look over where Harry is. “Oh, he doesn’t. He can read it well enough, but his pronunciation is crap. You should hear his German accent, it sounds terrible to me, and I don’t even speak the language. But at least his German is understandable.”

“Why would he just learn to read a language?” Hermione asks.

He shrugs. “He needed it to get his curse breaker certification in Egypt. A lot of the original literature on Ancient Egypt is written in French and German, so to take the exam he had to be semi-fluent in one of them. But he chose to just mostly learn both instead of becoming totally fluent in one, which Mum told him was a bad idea. Granted, she thought it would be because of his career, and not because his soulmate would end up being a French witch who’s language he messes up whenever he tries to speak it.”

Harry thinks it’s about time they got out of here, because there are still way too many curious eyes on him, and Sirius and Remus are huddled together and whispering with Arthur and Molly, which just can’t mean anything good for any of them, so escape seems like the most reasonable course of action. He’s about to suggest they sneak back in through the kitchen when someone claps him on the back and says, “Harry Potter, James Potter’s son! You’re your father’s spitting image.”

He turns and finds himself looking down at a middle aged Indian woman. He’s pretty sure he can name all the Indian witches he’s ever met on one hand, so he’s certain he’s never met her before. However, she hasn’t mentioned anything about his scar or being the Boy Who Lived, so she’s doing a lot better than most of the strangers who randomly accost him. “Hi?”

“My grandmother and your great aunt were good friends,” she says, and Harry doesn’t even know who his great aunt was, never mind who her friends might have been. “She adored James, and would have loved you too, I’m sure.” This whole conversation kind of makes him feel like he’s about to break out in hives and it’s only been thirty seconds. But she still has her hand on his back, and she’s being nice, so he intends to say thank you, but she steamrolls over him, continuing to speak before he gets the chance. “I heard you talking about languages, your father so loved his languages. How many do you speak?”

“Uh,” he says, taken aback. There’s something rancid squirming at the bottom of his stomach, but he doesn’t want to be rude, not when so far she’s only been nice to him. “Just two.”

“Oh,” she says, disappointment flashing across her face before she gets ahold of it. “Well, we all have to start somewhere! Which is it, Hindi? Bengali? Oh, no, of course it’s Tamil, that’s were your family is from, of course.”

Of course. It’s not like he knew that until Sirius told him, but complete strangers know.

“We’re all learning Tamil,” Ron says, and Harry blinks. Ron is tall, but he very rarely uses that height, slouching so as to not draw attention to it. But he’s currently standing straight and looming beside him, his arms crossed and an uncharacteristic scowl twisting his lips. Harry looks to Hermione for an explanation, but she looks just as irritated as Ron does.

“How nice of you to learn Tamil for your friend,” she says, still friendly, but she’s totally misunderstood what Ron said. Again, Harry means to correct her, but he doesn’t get the chance. She continues talking, but it’s not in English, instead speaking to him in rapid fire Tamil that he can’t even hope to follow.

She finishes and looks at him expectantly, waiting for a reply, but he doesn’t know what to say. He barely caught a word of anything she just said, and it’s not his fault, the Dursley’s were a one language household, but shame still makes his face hot.

Draco, he thinks, what would Draco do? Not stand there silent and embarrassed, that’s for sure.

"I was talking about Parseltongue, actually," he hisses, holding the image of Abigail in his mind to make sure all his words come out properly. She pales, and her mouth drops open, and for the first time he actually gets a chance to speak. "I’m still learning Tamil, along with my friends."

There had been a comforting lull of background conversations around him, but all that has come to a halt. He can feel the weight of everyone’s eyes on him, and he really needs to start speaking Parseltongue more so people don’t stop and stare at him every time he does it.

He doesn’t know if it’s the expression on his face or hers, but the silence has barely turned awkward when Remus appears beside him, smile on his face. “Kashvi, it’s so good to see you, it’s been too long.” She closes her mouth and nods, still staring at Harry. Remus begins talking to her in Hindi, which Harry only knows enough to recognize.

Somehow Ron and Hermione get shuffled over to the center of the room, and someone loudly asks a question about the dementor attack. It takes a beat, but then Hermione begins to answer. At the same time, Percy and Tonks materialize seemingly out of nowhere and guide him back through to the kitchen while everyone’s focused on hearing about the fight in Diagon Alley.

The kitchen is empty except for Kreacher morosely mopping the floor. He doesn’t realize how tense he was until he relaxes, and now he’s embarrassed for a whole different reason, but it’s a softer kind of embarrassment, it’s one he can handle. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Percy says, ruffling his hair. “She works in the trades department. You’re neither the first nor the last person who will have to be saved by her well meaning, minefield filled conversations.”

“She was nice,” he says, because she was, it’s not her fault Harry’s all messed up about his father’s heritage. “It was just – I mean – I don’t know, do you ever feel like you don’t quite fit like you’re supposed to?”

He looks up, and he’d forgotten Tonks was there, and now he feels like an idiot. He doesn’t mind saying that in front of Percy because he knows Percy’s felt that way, that for all he loves and is loved by his family there are moments when he feels separated from them. But Tonks is a metamorphmagus, and he feels extra silly for asking her that question.

“Sorry,” he squeaks, “never mind, I was just thinking out loud.”

Percy and Tonks share a long look, and it’s like the ones that Remus and Sirius share, like the ones between Cho and Cedric. It’s a whole conversation in less than a second. “Go,” Tonks says, “I’ve got this. I know you have a pile of work to do.”

“I miss when you were always just down the hall,” he sighs, then leans forward to press a quick kiss against her cheek. “I’ll probably be there all night. Stop by and say hi if you’ve got the time tomorrow morning?”

“Always,” she says, then grabs his shirt to drag him forward and kiss him on the tip of his nose. Harry’s pretty sure they’re not actually kissing because he’s there, and Percy is protective of his privacy. “Good luck with keeping our government from collapsing from mismanagement.”

She says it like it’s a joke, but Harry’s pretty sure it’s not. After Percy’s gone, she turns to him and says, “Come on, take me to the roof, I’m going to need the stars for this conversation.”

Harry has no idea what that means. “Really, everything’s fine, we don’t have to have a conversation.”

She gets in his space and looks him in the eye, and that would make him uncomfortable if it was just anyone, but it’s Tonks, and he likes her, so he doesn’t mind if she gets too close. “I’ll go away faster if you just give in.”

“I don’t want you to go away!” he protests. He just doesn’t want to look dumb in front of her. “Okay, okay, we can go the roof.”

They’re still trying to avoid everyone still lingering in the dining room, so Harry shoves open the kitchen window and transfigures a bunch of the vines into a ladder. He goes up first, but Tonks follows right behind him, scaling up the side of the house in a few minutes. He gets to the top and then lowers a hand to help pull Tonks up, even though it doesn’t seem like she needs it, and cancels the spell on the vines. Tonks summons a blanket and spreads it out on the rooftop, and there must be some other spellwork going on, because when Harry sits on it it’s firm and comfortable, and not like a thin blanket laid over roof shingles.

Tonks sits next to him and tilts her head back, looking up at the sky. He copies her, unsure what it is he’s supposed to be looking for. “Burned tapestry or no burned tapestry, my mum is still a Black, and so am I. We have a history of taking our names from the stars. So she gave me a traditional Black name, one that I would have gotten if she was still speaking with her parents.” She pauses, and Harry can’t see her as well in the darkness, but it seems like she’s hesitating. He doesn’t want any secrets she doesn’t want to give, and he’s opened his mouth to tell her that when she says, “That’s why she named me Orion.”

He blinks, taken aback. “But – Orion’s a boy’s name! And your name is Nymphadora!”

“Don’t remind me,” she groans. “I let Mum pick it when I was ten, because choosing her kid’s name was important to her and I mostly went by my last name anyway, and so of course she chose the worst name possible.”

“I like your name,” he says, mind still stuck on the first bit, but not sure if it’s be rude of him to ask further.

Tonks knocks their shoulder together. “Thanks. My mum loves it, and I don’t mind Dora so much, so it’s fine.” She’s silent for a long moment, and he wants to know more, but if this is the end of the conversation, then that’s fine too. “By the time I’d figured out I wasn’t a boy, I’d also gotten a pretty firm handle on my metamorphmagus powers, which seemed like a perfect solution to me. I was lucky, and grateful, because I could change anything about myself that I wanted. My parents didn’t care, they were buying me dresses while I was going by Orion, and they just wanted me to be happy.”

Harry scrunches his nose. “Is it weird that I can’t imagine you in a dress?”

She snorts, “No, eventually I figured out I hated the things, but – girls wore dresses, and I knew I was a girl, so I thought I had to wear them too. But by the time Hogwarts started, I was presenting as a girl, and I didn’t use my powers to change anything, really, because I wore skirts and everyone called me Miss and I was staying in the girls’ dorms, and that was good enough for me. My abilities are natural, I was born with them, but they still use my own magic and energy to maintain the changes. Not a lot, and as an adult the strain is hardly noticeable, but it was a big deal as kid. It was just like how kids aren’t supposed to use magic outside of school to give their magic some time to rest, so I didn’t use it much, and it was fine. But then when I was in my second year, things changed. I changed, and I hated it. My voice started cracking, and I started getting hair everywhere, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. So I used my metamorphmagus abilities to change it.”

“All the time?” he interrupts, wincing internally, because he knows that his magical capacity is abnormal, but even he wouldn’t want to keep a low level spell going constantly, and definitely not in second year.

“All the time,” she confirms. “Which was fine, for a little bit. But I was tired all the time, and cranky, and I didn’t want to be, but I was just so exhausted. My grades dropped, because I didn’t have enough spare magic to do my work properly in class, and about six months in, I was at the end of my rope. It all came to head in potions class when I was too tired to pay attention. I put the wrong ingredient in at the wrong time, and caused a small explosion. Which wouldn’t have been so horrible, but the force of it knocked me backward, and I hit my head pretty hard on the way down. I was too disoriented to focus, and everything slipped, I dropped my transformation for the first time in months. I was so embarrassed, because I felt like I looked so different, and everyone was yelling and crowding in around me. It was because they were worried I was hurt, but I didn’t know that, I didn’t understand that. I just knew they were seeing me in a way I didn’t want to be seen, and in my panic and exhaustion I couldn’t even manage to change myself back. So I freaked out, pushed everyone aside, and ran. Severus went after me and grabbed me before I could get too far, and merlin, I’ve never seen him so furious.”

Harry scowls. “It was an accident! Obviously you didn’t blow up your potion on purpose.”

She grins, shifting from looking up at the stars to face him. “He wasn’t mad about the potion. He didn’t care about that. He was mad at me because I’d been using in my abilities in a way that hurt me. He’d thought I was taking hormonal replacement potions, and that’s how I was changing my body, and was angry that I wasn’t. I hadn’t even thought about it. I didn’t think I’d need them. I thought that I shouldn’t need them, because I was a metamorphmagus, what kind of shitty metamorphmagus needed potions to change their appearance? But it doesn’t work like that, obviously. So he marched me to Madam Pomfrey and demanded a potions regiment be set up for me, and that I be prohibited from using my abilities until my magic had recovered from the strain.”

Harry is so surprised that he can’t help from asking, “Really?”

She nods. “I was so mad at him, but looking back, it was absolutely the right thing to do. My potions are paid for by my work now, but Severus made my potions for me for the rest of my Hogwarts years. He was a huge jerk about it,” she says, but she sounds fond, “Always grumbling, and calling me a trouble maker. He gave me more detentions than all the other professors combined. But he always made sure I had what I needed.”

“Do you use your metamorphmagus abilities a lot now?” he asks, and regrets asking as soon as it’s out of his mouth, because it’s none of his business. “Sorry, don’t answer that.”

Tonks smiles, so at least she doesn’t seem offended. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll show you what I look like without my abilities if I can touch your scar.”

He grins and sticks out his hand. “Deal. But if you want, you can touch it without showing me, I don’t mind.”

“Nah, a deal’s a deal,” she shakes his hand, and then goes a bit cross eyed. Her short pink hair turns a mousy brown and goes down to her shoulders, and the skin beneath her eyes becomes dark and purple.

“You need to get more sleep,” he says automatically, and he looks her over, searching for any other differences, but if there are any, he can’t see them. “It’s just your hair?”

“You sound like Percy,” she grumbles. “But yes, just my hair, and my skin if I’ve got a spot or bags under my eyes.” She bops him on the nose, and now he’s the one going cross eyed, trying to follow her finger. “I like myself the way I am. I fit just the way I am. And so do you. Even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.”

His whole face goes hot, and he ducks his head down. “Thanks. I just – I just wish I knew more. About my dad, about his family, about how he grew up and all the things he knew.”

“You’re still Indian no matter what,” Tonks says firmly. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language or know your whole family tree off the top of your head. You’re a Potter. You can learn all those things if you want, but not knowing doesn’t change who you are.”

“Thanks,” he says again, but it’s warmer this time, and he manages to actually look at her. He takes off his glasses and pushes his hair back. “A deal’s a deal.”

She slowly reaches forward, lightly pressing a finger against the top of his scar and slowly following its path down his face. It’s barely raised and pale against the rest of his skin. “Does it hurt?”

“Not unless Voldemort is touching it,” he says. “So, no, not like on its own or anything.”

She’s silent for a long moment, still tracing his scar, and then she asks, “Does it bother you to have it?”

“No,” he answers, surprised. Maybe it should. But, well, in the magical world the closest anyone’s every come to making fun of it was Draco calling him Scarhead, and that isn’t exactly an insult that he’s going to be upset over, even if he’d meant it. Dudley and the kids had school had made fun of him for it sometimes, but, well, they made fun of him for a lot of things. “It’s just … part of my face. It always has been. Maybe if I’d gotten it later? But I think it looks kind of cool, actually,” he admits, a little embarrassed, because as far as scars go, he thinks a lightning bolt is a pretty neat one to have.

“It’s very cool,” she says, pulling her hand away. He sticks his glasses back on his face and grins at her.

There’s a loud crack and George apparates between them. “There you are! Everyone’s gone, are you done hiding on the roof?” He blinks at Tonks. “Nice hair.”

She rolls her eyes and shifts so it’s purple and curly. “We weren’t hiding.”

“Could have fooled me,” George answers. “Can we go now? How did you even get up here?”

“I’ll meet you downstairs,” Harry says, then stands and jumps off the roof. George screams, but Harry’s laughing all the way down, casting a cushioning charm so he easily bounces back on his feet.

He looks up and Tonks gives him a thumbs up. George calls down, “Harry, I’m going to kill you.”

“You have to catch me first,” he answers cheekily, then disappears into the house.


The next morning, Harry’s sitting up in bed and reading another of Draco’s letters. He’d given the extendable ears to Winky, who’d hugged him around the knees before going back. It’s still not quite dawn, light just beginning to filter through his window, which is why he’s surprised by a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he says, putting the letter on his bedside table. Remus pushes open the door, and Sirius is behind him, holding a mug in his hands. “You guys are up early.”

“We couldn’t sleep,” Remus says. They both sit on either side of his bed, and Sirius pushes the warm mug into Harry’s hands. It’s chai, and he should learn to make this for himself before he goes back to Hogwarts, but he really likes that Sirius takes the time to make it for him, and he doesn’t want him to stop. “We want to talk to you about something.”

“Okay,” he says warily.

Sirius runs his hand through Harry’s hair, then starts fiddling with his bed spread, apparently needing something to do with his hands. “About your visions. With Voldemort. I know they’re helpful to the war effort, and all.”

“But they’re dangerous too,” Remus says, “and we don’t want – he could – we want you to learn occlumency. It may help.”

“I can teach you,” Sirius says, and he’s not smiling, his face is pinched, and they both look so tired, like they really didn’t get any sleep. “I’m sorry, I should have thought of it earlier, and now he’s in your head, and,” Sirius’s voice cracks, and he has to pause to clear his throat.

Protecting Draco is important. It’s the most important thing. But he can’t do this, not to them, not when they love him so much. He feels terrible that he’s put them through this, and he didn’t think, he should have known that this wasn’t a lie he could tell without consequences. “I’m not getting any visions from Voldemort,” he blurts out. “I lied. Neville and Blaise taught us Occlumency last year. I haven’t had any dreams since then. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

The both freeze, blinking.

“But, then how did you know all those things?” Sirius asks, frowning even as his shoulders slump in relief. “They were accurate, everything you said was right.”

He hesitates, then swallows. “It’s a secret. I can tell you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else. Not Dumbledore, not Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. No one.”

Remus pales and says, “Oh, merlin above, it’s Draco.”

Harry flinches, and Remus is staring at the letter on his bedside table. Sirius’s face goes slack. “No.”

“You can’t tell,” he says, holding his chai in one hand so he can grab onto Sirius’s forearm. “It’s important. He’s already risking so much. If you tell, I don’t know what will happen to him. Please.”

Sirius covers Harry’s hand with his own, nodding. Remus asks, “How does he know any of this? I can’t imagine his father would tell him.”

They already know about Draco. There’s no point in holding anything else back. “Voldemort and his followers are staying at Malfoy Manor. Draco’s been spying on their meetings, and then he writes everything up and sends it to me in his letters. You can’t tell anyone that they’re staying at the manor either. I’ll mention it at the next meeting if you want, say I saw Voldemort talking to Mr. Malfoy about it.”

“No, it’s fine, Severus has been summoned to a Death Eater meeting in a couple of days anyway,” Remus says. “Harry, this is so dangerous, he could be killed, or worse. Why is he doing this? Does he need a rescue? We’ll go get him.”

“No,” Sirius says quietly. “He doesn’t need a rescue. He’s there because he wants to be, right? Narcissa wouldn’t make him stay.”

Harry nods. “His mum was really mad, actually, and he made sure the rest of our friends went to Italy with Blaise. But he stayed behind. I told him not to,” he admits, frustrated all over again, “We got in a fight over it. But he won’t listen!”

“Of course not,” Sirius says, and he’s smiling, but he still seems sad. “We Blacks are a stubborn breed. If this is what he feels he has to do, then he’s going to do it, damn the consequences.”

“That’s an infuriating trait,” Harry informs him.

A bit of actual humor cracks through, and Sirius squeezes his hand. “I’m glad you’re okay, and that Voldemort isn’t rummaging around in your head. But I am worried about Draco.”

“Me too,” he admits. “But you understand, don’t you? You won’t tell?”

“We won’t tell,” Remus confirms. “We’ll keep this a secret for as long as you need us to. Okay?”

“Okay,” he says, and he leans over to carefully place his chai next to Draco’s letter. Then he pushes himself up and grabs them both in hug, an arm around each of their necks. “Thank you.”

If they squeeze him a little too tightly, he doesn’t complain. He knows exactly how they feel.


Nagini spends most of her nights curled up on his bed, and Abigail does too, but he’s pretty sure that’s just because she hates sharing only slightly more than sleeping on his bed. He has to sneak away in the morning to write his letters and give them to Winky, but that’s not so bad. What’s annoying is that Nagini almost always spreads out and moves to the warm spot he left behind, and the first two times he let her take over his bed, but on the third he just shoves her over and climbs back in. She hisses at him, but doesn’t kill him, so he figures he’s fine.

If Voldemort has any opinions on his snake deciding Draco is her new best friend, he doesn’t share them. It is, however, a little nice that the Death Eaters are reluctant to get too close to him when Nagini is crawling all over him. If anyone’s going to murder him in his sleep, it’ll be Nagini, and not one of the mean Death Eaters milling about their home, because they’re all so scared of her that not even his parents will enter his room in the morning, instead waiting for him to get up and leave himself, lest they aggravate Nagini.

He’s walking the halls on his way to the basement and reading a book on healing potions when he knocks into someone and falls backwards. He’d have managed to right himself and save himself the embarrassment of falling, except that Nagini is right behind him, so he trips and falls half on top of her, sending the book flying. She hisses angrily, but he ignores her. “Ow.” He looks up, and Snape is staring down at him, wide eyed and pale with his wand out and pointed at him.

He’s confused about what he could have done to get Snape to curse him in his own home until he realizes Nagini’s head is raised to strike. He whacks her in the side as he pulls himself to his feet, “Stop that, he’s too big for you to eat, so you’d just be wasting food.” She swings around to hiss at him instead, but he ignores her, which he’s figured out she hates. He’s proven right when she abandons seeming angry for crawling all over him. “Hi professor. You can put your wand away, it’s fine, she won’t attack you.”

Snape slowly puts his wand away. “Mr. Malfoy. What the hell is going on?”

That’s a really good question. “What are you doing here?” he asks, glancing around the halls. “It’s not safe for you to be here!” Did his dad ask him here? But why? Is Voldemort planning to torture or kill him? Draco hopes not, because as much as he doesn’t like his head of house, it’s not like he can stand by and do nothing while he’s murdered.

“I’m here for the meeting,” he says.

That was so not the answer Draco was expecting. “You’re a Death Eater?” he demands, then realizes he sounds way too derisive, and amends, “Right, of course you are.” He’d known Snape served Voldemort before, but he was employed by Dumbledore, Draco thought there was no way he could still be a supporter now.

Then again, Dumbledore also employed a man possessed by Voldemort and a man who was serving him, so his track record isn’t great.

“Of course I am,” Snape echoes, but now they’re just standing there looking at each other suspiciously, which is pretty strange, even by his standards.

“Right,” he says, and starts the long process of trying to get Nagini to let go of him, “well, uh, it’s by the kitchens if you’re lost.”

“Thank you,” Snape says slowly, still staring at him, and Draco doesn’t know what he wants from him, and it’s not like he can walk away while Nagini is crawling all over him. She’s huge, and heavy, and if she doesn’t want him to move, then he’s not going anywhere. He summons Draco’s book from across the hall and raises an eyebrow at the cover. Crap, a book on healing potions definitely isn’t Death Eater like enough. Maybe he should charm the cover to just be one hundred ways to torture muggles. Or, at least a book on curses, and not healing. He hands it back to him, “Good evening, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Good evening,” he repeats, and waits until Snape has rounded the corner to begin the extremely undignified wiggle dance that it takes to get out of Nagini’s grasp. Voldemort always wants her at the meetings to looks menacing and lie at his feet, so it’s not like she has the time to harass him anyway.

Besides, the sooner Nagini goes to the meeting, the sooner he can sneak over and do some eavesdropping.

Thank merlin for the Weasley twins’ extendable ears. Maybe he’ll manage to make it through his summer without being killed in his own home.