Harry finds, in the next several hours, that it is possible to be both very important and entirely useless at the same time.
He sits in the bed, holding Draco, watching Nott pace around the room casting the same diagnostic spells every ten minutes while the rest—Hermione, Ron, Blaise, Pansy, Luna, and Ginny—are gone.
And he trusts them, he really does. He knows that they’re some of the most capable witches and wizards in their age group. Perhaps even outside of their age group.
But Harry is used to being the hero.
He’s used to being the one that risks everything and—somehow, inexplicably, both saves what needs saving and remains alive himself.
He doesn’t know how to be the one that gets left behind.
He should probably talk to his therapist about it.
But Draco’s breathing is getting shallower and shallower and Nott has no reassurances to give and Harry is afraid that, for once, perhaps he will not be the victor in this particular fight. Perhaps he’s run out of happy endings.
When everyone reappears, Harry has become so used to the anxious silence of waiting that it’s nearly a shock for so many people to suddenly crowd into the room—nearly all of them talking at once.
“Did it work?” he says, more frantic than he’d like, but also beyond caring; Draco is very still in his arms.
They’re all there. All looking more or less the same as when they left.
That means it worked, right?
“Well, we followed the instructions and it didn’t blow up,” Luna says cheerfully. “Or turn us into slugs.”
“Hate it when that happens,” Ginny agrees.
“But we won’t actually know if it works until—” Hermione doesn’t finish but she doesn’t need to.
“I brought Lyra,” Pansy says. “I think she’s rather furious you left her behind.”
She’s wearing Lyra like a necklace, and while snake facial expressions aren’t exactly mobile, Harry is pretty sure Pansy’s assessment is correct.
“Could you turn me around, please,” someone says and Harry realises that Blaise is carrying Fleamont’s portrait under his arm.
“Sorry about that, old boy,” Blaise says, righting him. He considers the room for a moment and then hangs Fleamont with a sticking spell above the window where he’ll have a good view of things.
“Er,” Harry says. “Hello, Fleamont. You wanted to join us?”
“Of course. You think I’d let them leave me behind for this? Most excitement I’ve seen in years. And I’ve certainly never seen magic like this performed before.” He squints down at Draco, leaning forward in his armchair. “I must say, your young man isn’t looking well.”
Harry doesn’t look down at Draco.
He doesn’t need to––he already knows that Fleamont is correct.
“Right,” Harry agrees. “So. Magic. What do we do?”
“He has to drink the potion,” Luna says, setting the two jars she’s carrying on the bedside table.
“And then,” Hermione says, “within ten minutes of consuming the potion, he needs to be inside a set of runes drawn with a one-to-one mixture of the potion and salt water, and then three magical beings have to repeat this incantation while doing specific wand movements,” Hermione says, holding up the battered book.
“Should we start with the runes?” Ginny asks.
“You’re doing this here?” Nott says.
“Is there somewhere else you’d suggest?” Hermione asks.
Nott doesn’t have a response for that.
“Actually, mate,” Ron says. “You might want to go to the loo for a bit. Just so you’re not caught up in the…er. Legal ramifications. And all.”
Nott considers this for a moment and then straightens the collar of his robe. “I’m going to the canteen for some dinner, do send a patronus if you need anything.”
“What do I do?” Harry asks.
“Perhaps,” Blaise says, “you should lie there and keep Draco alive while we sort everything out.”
He somehow manages to convey both judgement and fondness.
“Yes,” Hermione says. “That’s probably best. Who has the steadiest hand. Pansy?”
“Of course I’ll do the runes,” she agrees. “Did anyone think to get a paintbrush?”
“Oh, there’s one in my bag; you’ll have to dig for it, though,” Hermione says, tossing Pansy her small clutch purse.
A moment later Pansy is elbow deep into the tiny bag, complaining darkly about organisation and something sticky just touched my hand, Granger.
Blaise and Fleamont are talking lowly about the spell while Hermione copies it onto two other pieces of parchment—Harry assumes for the other two readers.
Luna is stirring a black, black potion with bits of gold in it that looks like the bottled night sky.
Ron and Ginny are standing at the door peering suspiciously out the little window into the hallway.
Harry holds Draco.
“Alright,” Pansy says an interminable amount of time later. “What do you think?”
Blaise and Hermione consider the rune taking up most of the room and beginning to encroach on the bed, then nod in sequence.
“Perfect. Shall we?” Blaise asks.
“No time to waste,” Hermione agrees. “Luna?”
“Potion is ready.”
She carries the jar, now smoking slightly, to the bedside.
Draco doesn’t wake up, but with her wand to his throat she slowly coaxes him into swallowing it.
She sets the empty jar on the bedside table.
“Alright, quickly, now. Can you carry Draco to the centre, Harry?”
Harry does, nearly lightheaded with anxiety and fear and hope and—he doesn’t even know.
“Who’s reading the spell?” Hermione asks. “We’re all accessories to a crime at this point, but whoever casts the actual removal spell will no doubt —
“Me,” Harry says.
“Me,” Blaise says.
“Pass,” Ginny says. “Respectfully.”
“I’ll do it,” Hermione says. “Luna and Pansy have already used a fair bit of magic today and Ron, as powerful as you are, your pronunciation—”
“Totally fair,” he says.
“Alright,” she passes pieces of parchment to Blaise and Harry, keeping the book for herself.
“Any questions?” She asks.
Harry considers the spell:
Malum consilium quod mutari non potest
Spiritus liberate et liberabo magicae
corpore et anima una
Alea iacta est
“We just say this together?”
“Yes. But there’s a different wand movement that accompanies each line. We’ll practice those first, alright?”
Harry summons his wand and focuses, perhaps for the first time ever, his entire attention on what the wrist and arm movements should look like. Sloppiness has never been prohibitive for him before—both in school and in Auror training he failed woefully at copying instructors, but pulled off spells will full marks nonetheless. He’s not willing to risk Draco’s life on the assumption that the trend will continue, though.
Several minutes later, when Hermione has declared their movement acceptable, Harry carefully shifts Draco out of his lap and onto the floor.
“Quickly,” Hermione says, “we don’t know how long he’ll keep breathing without you touching him. Harry, stand just there. Blaise—yes, well done. Alright. Are we ready?”
Harry glances first at Blaise, looking grim but confident, then Hermione, equally grim and possibly less confident.
“Ready,” he says.
“Ready,” Blaise says.
“Good.” Hermione says. “Wands on Draco, now. Let’s begin.”
There aren’t any flashing lights.
No swirls of magic or sparkles or…anything, really.
They say the incantation.
They do the wand movements.
Harry can feel his magic surging forward.
But nothing visible happens.
Draco doesn’t move.
He stays white and still, his chest barely moving, his thin frame striped with light coming in the half-open window blinds.
“Did it work?” he asks.
“How are we meant to tell?” Ron asks.
Hermione and Blaise both look stymied.
“Perhaps,” Luna says, “we should just—”
She casts a diagnostic spell, the same one Nott had been using, and Harry exhales his relief so fast he goes momentarily dizzy.
Because Draco’s magical core—while still dim—sits very clearly unfettered in his chest.
Luna hops once, clapping her hands, and then throws herself delightedly into Ginny’s arms.
Ginny looks equally delighted by this development.
“Is that—does that mean it worked?” Blaise asks.
“Yes,” Hermione says, one hand over her mouth. “Yes, I think we did it. Though, Harry, if you still have a transference bond with Draco it may speed up his recovery if you continue to touch him.”
Harry doesn’t have to be told twice.
He scoops Draco back up and returns to the bed with him—returns to their prior position with both hands splayed, palms down, on his chest and belly.
Hermione sits down abruptly and Ron folds himself around her.
Blaise similarly drapes himself over Pansy and doesn’t appear interested in letting go.
Pansy doesn’t appear to mind.
Harry feels like he can breathe for the first time in hours.
Once they gather themselves a few minutes later, they clean the room and send a patronus to Nott who confirms, upon his arrival, that the curse has been removed and, while still very weak, Draco should recover fully within a matter of months.
“Why isn’t he waking up then?” Harry asks, possibly more aggressively than is warranted.
“Because he isn’t ready to wake up,” Nott says patiently. “Give the man a moment. He’s been through a significant trauma.”
Harry, guiltily, goes silent.
However, it’s only a few minutes later that Draco starts to shift in his arms.
Harry slides Draco out of his lap and retreats to the chair beside the bed so Nott can do another round of diagnostics. He keeps one hand wrapped firmly around Draco’s wrist, feeling strangely possessive as the core spell develops and he can see his magic intermingling with Draco’s at the point of contact. He moves his hand up to Draco’s bicep and watches the colours twist together faster, merge and flex and brighten as they move down to Draco’s chest.
The wolf likes it—seeing them mixed together like that.
Harry likes it too.
It’s only a few minutes later that Draco opens his eyes.
“Oh,” he says, sounding painfully, shockingly, normal. “I’m not dead. Am I? I don’t feel dead.”
Harry finds he’s incapable of responding.
Instead, he just sort of…collapses onto Draco: face to neck, one hand in his hair and the other still clutching desperately at his arm.
He might be crying; he’s not certain.
Draco pets at Harry’s back.
“Oh no,” Draco says. “No, please don’t. Am I dying?”
“No, you’ve avoided that,” Blaise says. “At least for the time being. How do you feel?”
“Tired. Sore. But…rather better than before. And I’m—”
His arms, absently circled around Harry, go tight.
“My magic. I can feel it, I think? Did you—”
“Removed the curse, yeah,” Pansy says. “Because you were an idiot and didn’t tell anyone when Harry’s absence made you sick and by the time we realised you were already too far gone.”
“How did you convince them to give me an injunction and remove the curse?”
“We didn’t. We had to remove it ourselves.”
“And it worked?”
“Try not to sound so surprised,” Blaise says. “We’re very capable people. And, frankly, if Harry wanted to start breeding exotic Pygmy Puffs tomorrow I’d volunteer to fund the endeavour because it seems the Boy Who Lived is generally incapable of failure.”
Draco pushes at Harry.
“You removed the curse?” he asks, eyes wide and grey and fantastically bright.
“He had help,” Hermione points out.
“Luna made the potion,” Harry says. “Pansy did the runes. Blaise, Hermione, and I did the spell work.”
“Ron and Ginny were also there,” Ron says.
“Yes,” Blaise agrees, “you were very useful, old boy.”
“Excuse me. Uh. Good afternoon?” a man says, and it takes a moment for Harry to compute who, exactly, is standing in the doorway.
“I knew it,” Draco mutters.
“Lavon?!” Harry says again.
“Yes,” he agrees. “Hi.”
“I—what are you doing here?” Harry says.
“He’s a wizard, Harry,” Draco says. “Do keep up.”
“Is Billy a witch as well?” Harry asks.
It doesn’t seem likely, he’s never once smelled magic on her, but then he hadn’t suspected Lavon either and—
“No,” Lavon says, “just me. As for why I’m here, I’d hoped to speak with you earlier but I’m afraid we’re running out of time about now.”
“Time for what?”
Lavon doesn’t have a chance to respond because several Aurors appear in the doorway, pushing him aside with a general air of authority.
The first one in the door is Francis Mills. He’d had the office across from Harry at the Ministry and he is, in Harry’s humble opinion, a massive wanker.
“Draco Malfoy,” Mills says, smiling in a way that likely speaks to personal retaliation rather than joy-of-the-job, “you’re under arrest.”
“Ah,” Lavon says, “I believe you’re mistaken, son. You can’t, actually, arrest Mr. Malfoy.”
“Who are you?”
“Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy’s legal counsel,” Lavon says, producing a scroll from his jacket. “You’ll find my paperwork is in order.”
Harry opens his mouth.
He closes it.
He nods in agreement when Mills looks to him for confirmation.
Mills scowls down at the scroll which apparently is in order.
“Alright, Malfoy’s legal counsel. Why can’t I arrest Malfoy?”
“Because he hasn’t broken any laws. Wizarding or muggle.”
“He removed a level-three binding spell—punishment as decreed by the Wizengamot—without permission before the tenure of the punishment was complete.”
“Ah, but he didn’t,” Lavon says. “He’s was, in fact, entirely incapacitated, as his medical records will reflect, and, I’m sure, Healer Nott can attest to. He didn’t even consent to having the spell removed.”
“Right,” Harry says. “Right. So if you’re going to arrest someone, it should be me.”
“No, no,” Lavon says. “In the United States, magical binding is illegal, therefore removing magical binding spells is not a crime. I think you’ll find that both Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy are currently registered as residents of the United States’ magical community, and they’ve both been residents for more than the three months required for diplomatic jurisdiction laws to apply.”
He hands over additional paperwork.
That Harry has never seen in his life.
“Being that they were, of course, British citizens first, it does muddle things, but according to the 1967 Treaty of the United Wizarding Nations, any citizen of a participating nation cannot be indicted for a criminal offense in a country they are visiting if the infraction is a non-criminal offense in their current country of citizenship, without the involvement of that residential country’s magical law enforcement. So. Technically, unless you have a warrant that has been approved by both the UK and US MLE, you can’t arrest Mr. Potter, either.”
“Right,” Harry agrees.
Mills blinks. His eyes narrow.
“Well. I’ve got orders to bring in Malfoy.”
Nott steps forward. “I’m afraid I must protest. Mr—”
He glances at Lavon.
“Lavon is fine,” Lavon says, rocking back on his heels.
“Mr. Lavon is correct. Mr. Malfoy was not involved in the removal of the curse, nor conscious and made aware of its removal until moments ago. There really is no evidence he’s done anything wrong.”
There is a faint flush starting to rise above Mills’ collar.
“Potter,” he says, “you were the one to remove the curse?”
“Don’t answer that,” Lavon says.
“Yeah,” Harry says. “I did.”
“Alright then,” Mills says. “Alright. Fine. Harry Potter, you’re under arrest.”
“Now,” Lavon says. “I believe I’ve just explained—”
“You,” Mills says, pointing at Lavon, “Shut up. And you—” he gestures to the Junior Auror behind him. “Cuff him.”
“Uh,” the Junior Auror says. “Cuff…Harry Potter?”
“Yes, Wiggins, cuff Harry Potter.”
“But, uh,” the Junior Auror, apparently Wiggins, says, “He’s…Harry Potter?”
“Is that...I mean, is that allowed?”
“I’m telling you to, aren’t I?”
“But sir,” Wiggins says. “He’s Harry Potter.”
“And I’m your superior offi––you know what? Fine,” Mills says. “I’ll do it myself.”
He withdraws a pair of handcuffs from his robes and his wand from his thigh holster.
“Harry Potter,” he says, “you’re under arrest.”
Being arrested is actually quite boring.
The wolf isn’t particularly pleased about being taken away from Draco—the little Auror would be very easy to kill, his wolf suggests hopefully, we wouldn’t even leave a mess––but Harry doesn’t want to prompt any kind of violence when nearly all of the people he loves most are clustered into one, very small, room.
So he offers his wrists with a raised eyebrow and maybe lets his canines lengthen just a bit when Mills moves forward to clasp the cuffs around his wrists. And then he maybe smiles, sharp and disarming and Mills drops the cuffs, scrambles to retrieve them, and then fastens them with a flush and an expletive. And Harry looks innocently at him, still smiling, with perfectly normal teeth, once Mills has secured the cuffs and glances back up at him, eyes wide.
“Something wrong?” Harry asks.
Ron muffles a laugh behind him.
To say that their exit from the building causes a hubbub would be, perhaps, the understatement of the century.
As soon as the crowd outside realises that Harry Potter is being led in handcuffs to the apparition point, the world turns into a roar of sound and a barrage of mobile phone camera flashes and photography spells.
Harry wonders why Mills didn’t take him to the private apparition point but then Mills has always desperately wanted glory and desperately hated Harry for the attention that followed him, unwilling as Harry was to receive it. Apparently, Mills has decided that this is his chance for fame.
Harry hopes Hermione and Blaise are prepared with a statement because this moment will likely be plastered across every magical newspaper the next day.
When they apparate into the Auror headquarters, Robards and Kingsley are already there.
They both immediately start shouting and it takes a few moments for Harry to sort out that they aren’t shouting at him, they’re shouting at Mills.
“—an election!” Kingsley is saying, more to himself than anyone else. “Why does this all have to happen right before an election?”
“—the devil were you thinking,” Robards is saying, “with all the press there? I told you to bring in Malfoy. Does that look like Malfoy to you?”
“But sir,” Mills says. “Malfoy didn’t remove the curse—he wasn’t even conscious. Potter removed it.”
“Of course he did,” Kingsley says darkly.
“Do you have evidence of that, at least? Certainly you didn’t just arrest the closest person you could find to Malfoy’s hospital bed without confirmation.”
“He confessed to it!”
“I thought removing that spell required three people?” Kingsley murmurs.
“Usually,” Harry says. “But I managed just fine. It wasn’t even that hard?”
He shrugs, smiling.
Kingsley makes a noise that Harry has never heard a human being make before.
“See?” Mills says, voice going high and whiny, “he admits it!”
Lavon enters through the main doors accompanied by one of the Ministry’s security guards. He takes a moment to orient himself and then approaches.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he says.
“Who the hell are you? Kingsley asks.
“Mr. Potter’s legal counsel,” he says, proffering the same paperwork from before. “Are you aware that, in arresting Mr. Potter without first conferring with the United States MLE, your officer has broken the 1967 Treaty of the United Wizarding Nations? I’ve spoken to the head of the US branch and she’ll be arriving shortly. She is, I think I should warn you, very angry.”
Kingsley and Robards both turn to glower at Mills.
“You.” Robards says to Mills, “Put Potter in a cell.”
Lavon clears his throat.
“A nice cell,”
“That likely won’t help you avoid a diplomatic incident,” Lavon notes.
“Merlin’s sake,” Kingsley says. “Put him in your office.”
“Fine,” Robards says. “My office.”
“I’ll be joining my client, of course,” Lavon says.
“Fine,” Robards says again, snapping his fingers at two gaping Aurors who have been watching the situation unfold from over the tops of their cubicles.
“You two, go with them and make sure Mills doesn’t fuck things up any further. Kingsley, come with me.”
They’re hustled off down the corridor and Harry finds himself pressed shoulder-to-shoulder with Lavon.
“I haven’t had this much fun in years,” Lavon says. “Makes me wish I’d never retired. Oh, Billy says hello.”
“I have so many questions,” Harry murmurs.
“Of course you do, son. But don’t worry, everything turns out alright in the end.”
“You can’t know that,” Harry says darkly.
“Oh, but I can,” Lavon says. “Or at least I can be reasonably sure. I’m a seer. I’ve been having visions about this day for years. Who do you think spent all that time growing the Black Foxglove for you?”