“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
To Lady Narcissa Hera Malfoy ne Black,
Well, mother dear, it’s been nearly 6 months now, can you believe it? It was February when I rescued Ginevra Weasley from two of the Dark Lord’s less intelligent goons and here we are packing up for the summer holidays and trying not to panic over mock exams. How time flies.
I believe I will do tolerably well in my mock NEWTs, especially as I have had some new friends tutoring me in my weaker subjects. With the aid of Hermione Granger in Ancient Runes and Ginny Weasley in Offensive Magics I believe I shall exceed my previous results. Though Miss Weasley is a year below me, she has demonstrated such an ability in the field of Hexes and Curses that the teachers allow her to study spells that most would consider far beyond the capabilities of a mere OWL year student. She manages them all with barely any effort and is in great demand for tutoring. Of course one must also balance this help against the distractions that new friendships and certain new... past-times I have also discovered inevitably bring, but I believe these too have helped me to work hard.
I’m afraid I will not be seeing you this summer. Harry Potter has offered me his kindest hospitality and I’m sure you’ll understand that I felt it expedient to accept. This especially as we are engaged in a relationship of sorts. It may be a little unconventional (and between two members of the same sex of course) but we both take it seriously. Of course I would never presume to enter into any formal betrothal contract without yours and father’s express approval, but I am happy with him nonetheless. Staying with him will also make it easier for me to fulfil the promise I have made to myself that I will be with him, when the time comes. When the storm breaks.
I did not intend to change sides. That choice was made for me by my conscience, something I thought father had beaten out of me long ago. But when it came down to it, I could not stand by and watch a happy, beautiful, innocent girl die, not even to save my own skin. I was as shocked as anyone to discover that there is good still in me, but now I know I cannot turn my back on it. I am sorry for any pain and worry I have caused you, and doubly sorry to anyone father chose to take his anger out on. I’m afraid some things are simply too important to be squandered on something like family honour, and integrity is one of them. “All we have is an inch, but within that inch we are free” as a very fine Muggle once said.
If you would, I would ask you to be so good as to pass on a message for me. I would do it myself but I’m afraid my owls no longer receive a welcome at many of the old Wizarding homes. If you would, please tell the Parkinsons that I am sorry that I will not be able to marry Pansy and fulfil the contract between our families. It was something we both desired, Pansy and I, but unfortunately it is not to be. I am sorry that I have wasted their time. ‘Though they seem to have wasted little time in finding a new fiancé for Pansy. It will be interesting to see whether a man in his 60s and in poor health is any more capable of performing his martial responsibilities than I would have been. ‘Though at least if I had managed it our children would have been attractive. Thank the ancestors my conscience has prevented me from having to attempt to perform with a woman.
Oh, did you know I’m gay? That means homosexual, by the way. It’s a Muggle term that’s in common usage at school and I think it’s rather charming, especially when compared the words father uses for it. I seem to remember that I never mentioned it, and I was never sure how much you’d worked out by yourself. I would like to say that I can be sure that it was nothing you or father did that made me this way, but frankly given some of the things you’ve made me I really can’t be sure. I’m pretty sure my unusual sexual proclivities are your fault, so blaming the fact that I indulge them with men is hardly much of a stretch is it? Still I don’t mind at all, and Granger says that Muggle research is beginning to show that homosexuality is an inherited trait, so perhaps it’s nothing to do with the abuse. Though that opens up the amusing and intriguing question of which one of you I get it from.
I know it is futile to attempt to dissuade you from the path both the Blacks and the Malfoys have followed for centuries, but I cannot rest easy with myself unless I at least try. The Dark Lord’s cause is doomed, has been doomed right from the very start. How many will remain loyal to him beyond the inner circle once the storm comes? His followers will notice his habit of killing those loyal to him sooner or later. They will remember all the purebloods he has maimed and tortured. They will notice his blatant disregard for Wizarding law and custom. He will lose mother, it’s only a matter of time. And of course that time will be all the shorter once people begin to remember that Tom Marvolo Riddle (his real name) is himself a half blood.
You will find some of my possessions which remained in my room while I have been at school have been removed. I felt it best to instruct the house-elves to bring me everything of mine now, rather than bother you for them at some later date. You will also find that the small portrait of Grandfather Abraxus which hung in Great Aunt Miriam’s sitting room is gone (it really is time you redecorated in there, mother, the colour is hideous. Didn’t anyone ever tell you Miriam Malfoy was colour-blind?). I hope you will not mind my taking it, not that there’s anything you can do about it if you do, but I wanted some link to my old life, if only to remind me that I am free of it, and Grandfather Abraxus was always my favourite relative. A shame about his politics, but he was always a ready man with a dirty song and a barley sugar or three, which is important to a child.
It seems unlikely that we will ever meet again, at least in peacetime. This is also the last time we will be able to communicate in writing before the storm breaks, as the house in which I am staying is protected appropriately. I therefore wish to say a few things which are not easily said on a battlefield, especially to one who stands against you. Thank you mother, for all you have given me – a good education, cultured tastes, good looks and a wonderful metabolism. But curse you, you and father both, for the great wrong you have done me. I will see death before my 18th birthday, of that I am sure, and that is thanks to you. I leave for the holidays knowing that the next time I meet many of my classmates; it will be their life or mine.
I hope we never meet in battle, but if we do, know that however much I have loved you, do love you, my loyalty now is to Harry and to the light, and I will fight all the harder for them because they are not forcing me.
I know that whatever you and father decide to do I will always be a Malfoy in my heart, but I will be me too, and that is more important than either of you ever understood.
Yours in sorrow and parting,
* * * * * * * * * *
Harry’s palm was sweaty against Draco’s as they ascended the moving staircase that lead to the headmaster’s office. Dumbledore already knew about the catastrophic change which Harry had undergone the previous summer, but now they had to explain about their personal arrangement so that the Headmaster, as the secret keeper, could give Draco permission to use Harry’s house for the summer.
Draco was nervous, understandably so, but Harry was terrified. Despite the fact that the headmaster had not always treated him as well as he might have, he loved him as though he were his own flesh and blood and he was haunted by the idea that the old man might not approve of his relationship with Draco. A relationship which was becoming less an arrangement and more real by the day.
Draco squeezed Harry’s hand comfortingly. “It’ll be fine, Harry,” he said quietly. “Knowing Dumbledore he probably already knows. This is just a courtesy call. If he disapproved he would have said so by now. Besides, what is there to disapprove of?” He blushed slightly, then leant over and pressed a gentle kiss on Harry’s cheek. “It’ll be fine. I’ll do all the talking.”
At last the staircase came to an abrupt halt. Before them was the arched door that led to the Headmaster’s study. Harry knocked nervously.
“Come in,” came the reply from within.
Harry pushed open the door. Draco looked around him with interest. He’d never seen the inside of the Headmaster’s study before. It was a light airy room but it was nearly overflowing with trinkets and ornaments and curios. Every available bit of wall space has been covered in paintings, mostly portraits of previous headmasters. There were a few photographs, mostly of previous Quidditch champions. There were even one or two Muggle style paintings, their staring unmoving eyes oddly disturbing. The headmaster was sitting in a large throne-like carved chair pulled up to his desk, intent on some papers before him; probably writing school reports from the look of it.
“Hello my boys,” he said, looking surprised. Perhaps he hadn’t known after all. Then again, perhaps it was all an act because as his sharp eyes took in their clasped hands a faint smile twitched his lips. “What can I do for you?”
Harry cleared his throat, then blushed and looked at his shoes when the others turned to look at him. Draco sighed. It looked as though he would have to do the explaining after all.
“I need your permission to enter 12 Grimmauld Place, sir,” he said calmly. “I will be living there this summer. And all summers until the war is concluded.”
“I see,” Dumbledore said, sounding grave. “And why will you be doing this, may I ask?”
“Because I intend to survive the war,” said Draco bluntly and the Headmaster’s lips twitched again with ill-concealed amusement. “And because Harry has offered me protection.”
The headmaster nodded gravely, his blue eyes twinkling with secret mirth. “But in such matters you are the consummate politian Mr Malfoy. You would not have accepted if you did not feel you could repay the debt in some way.”
Draco fought the urge to roll his eyes at the man’s unsubtle attempt to fish for more information, but he told the man what he wanted to know. “Of course not, sir. It is not a good idea to be in any man’s debt. You never know when and how he may call for repayment. In return Harry gets my blood. He will no longer be requiring blood potions. That should please Professor Snape no end. I know he feels brewing them is not a useful use of his time.”
“Surely you cannot supply Harry with all the blood he needs? Not without endangering your own health? He is a healthy young man with an appetite to match.”
“I can!” Draco cried, suddenly unaccountably angry. “He won’t drink anyone else’s blood if I have any say in it.”
Harry looked amazed at this uncharacteristic outburst, but Dumbledore merely smiled knowingly. “Very well, Mr Malfoy, I understand. I will of course make arrangements for you to be allowed entry to Grimmauld Place. But you understand that that will not be possible until you have undergone a brief questioning under Veritaserum. To confirm you are indeed the admirable young man you appear to be.”
Harry started to protest, but Draco put a restraining hand on his arm and said quietly, “Of course, Sir, I would expect nothing less of you. But I feel I should tell you now, to avoid any embarrassments later on, that Harry and I are involved.”
The headmaster smiled beatifically and said “My dear Draco, I may old but I am not blind. It would take a fool not to see that you two charming young people are, as we called it in my day, ‘stepping out together’. I am very happy for you both and you have my assurance that I will ask no questions of a personal nature unless I believe them to be of direct importance.”
Draco sighed with relief. “Thank you, sir. When would you like me to return?”
“Oh I think we may as well get it over with now, don’t you, Mister Malfoy? I wouldn’t want to waste any more of your valuable time. After all, I’m sure you have important things to be getting on with, like terrorising the first years, and providing Professor Snape with an adequate supply of shampoo. But I must ask you to leave poor Trelawney alone, I really fear she’s going to have a breakdown.”
“Yes sir.” Draco said, carefully hiding his pleased smirk under the familiar Malfoy mask of blankness.
“Would you like me to leave now sir?” Harry asked, glancing nervously at Draco.
“I think that would be for the best, don’t you?” Dumbledore replied. “I will not keep him long.”
Harry nodded mutely and gave Draco’s hand a squeeze. “I’ll wait for you by the gryphon,” he said, and slipped noiselessly out of the room.
When he was gone the Headmaster went to a portrait in the far right hand corner of the room and rapped on the frame. “Hippoclaus, would you kindly inform Severus Snape that I require his presence and a bottle of Veritaserum. He should be alone in his chambers at this time. If you would also be as good as to inform Minerva that I am not to be disturbed for the next 30 minutes, I would be grateful.”
“Of course headmaster,” said the painting. Draco leant forward and just caught sight of a shock of platinum hair, so like his own, disappearing behind the frame. Of course he realised. Hippoclaus must be great-great-great granduncle Claus, the only Malfoy ever to be headmaster of Hogwarts. He was sorry he couldn’t have had a word; he would have liked to have spoken to the old man. He liked getting to know his ancestors, especially the ones his father didn’t approve of. He was never sure what it was Hippoclaus had done that could outweigh the honour of his Headmastership but when he had questioned his father about him he’d simply said that he “wasn’t our sort.”
Draco and the Headmaster sat in silence for several minutes, broken only by Dumbledore offering Draco Sherbet Lemons, Acid Drops, Barley Sugars and even a sugar mouse while they waited. At last Snape appeared from the fireplace, carrying a small crystal bottle containing a clear liquid which could only have been the Veritaserum Dumbledore had requested. He looked shocked when he saw Draco.
“Good morning, Professor,” Draco said politely. “Surely you knew I was defecting to the side of the light?”
“I did indeed Draco. I was merely surprised to find you submitting so willingly to Veritaserum. You are normally an intensively secretive person.”
“I know when to make prudent sacrifices. And I trust both you and the Headmaster to keep anything said in this room to yourselves and away from my father,” he replied stiffly. “Even now he can still make things difficult for me.”
Snape merely nodded in understanding and agreement.
Dumbledore beamed at them both. “Shall we get on with this?” he said. “No sense in taking too long over the thing.”
Draco nodded and held out his hand for the little bottle of potion. Snape handed it to him and said quietly, “Just a sip should suffice, Draco.”
Draco nodded and put the neck of the tiny bottle to his lips. The potion had a strange, fragrant taste, a little like cough drops. Any Muggleborn would straight away have identified it as the taste of Cola Cubes but to Draco it simply tasted a little like his mothers coughs and colds potion. Draco was surprised to find he didn’t feel any different. He had heard stories of course of people being questioned under Veritaserum and they were always described as being in a trance.
Dumbledore seemed to read his thoughts. “The more you resist, the more like Imperius it becomes. One who takes it willingly, like yourself, will feel no affects until they attempt to lie.”
Draco tried it. He attempted to say “All bananas are purple.” It seemed a safe and non-controversial thing to say, and it was on his mind as changing the colour of fruit had been part of that morning’s transfiguration lesson. McGonagall would never let them off a lesson, even when they’d finished exams for the term. As soon as he opened his mouth to speak, however, he found he could not. His mind felt sluggish and numb, as though he’d had a high dosage of painkilling drugs, and his tongue could not form the words. He shut his mouth again and shook his head to clear the fog.
Snape nodded. “It has worked then,” he said in his clipped dry way. “Would you like to begin the questioning Headmaster?”
Dumbledore nodded and picked up a sheaf of paper from his desk. He consulted the first page. “Do you truly intend to leave Voldemort’s side, Mr Malfoy?” He asked calmly.
“Yes,” said Draco simply.
“Do you still support his cause, in your heart if not with your actions?” asked Snape.
“I never supported his cause,” said Draco with a vehemence he hadn’t known he felt. “But it would not have been prudent to defy him and my father without some sort of surety for my safety.”
Snape looked amazed, but he obviously trusted his potion-making skills because he did not question this statement.
“Will you stay loyal to the cause of the light, even if you face danger?” Snape asked, his voice still the calm tone he used when explaining potion making, belying the seriousness of the subjects under discussion.
“If I had a choice, perhaps not,” Draco replied, blushing slightly at the candour of his own words. “But even if I were to take them vital information, Voldemort’s side would still kill me for my treachery. And I haven’t the skills or the experience to hide from either side. So yes, I will remain true because what other option do I have?” He gave Snape a small, taunt, smile. “It’s Harry or Nott, sir. Which one would you take?”
It was impossible to tell whether Dumbledore had understood that last or not, his expression remained one of twinkly eyed benevolence. Snape on the other hand looked shocked for a moment then nodded his understanding.
“A very Slytherin answer Mr Malfoy. Not that I would expect any less from one of your upbringing, which I’m afraid leads me to ask the question, will you truly be content being subservient in your relationship with Mr Potter? Being his victim?”
Finally, Draco thought. A question I can answer. “Sir, I appreciate that you will not want any kind of details, so I will simply say that Harry is as close to my perfect lover as I’m going to find. He suits me just fine.”
“Excellent,” Dumbledore said, interrupting whatever it was Snape had been about to say, probably something both scathing and offensive, “in that case Mr Malfoy I will meet you at the house tomorrow to allow you to enter.
“Now I’m sure Harry is waiting for you. It wouldn’t do to keep him waiting.”
Recognising a dismissal when he heard it, Draco nodded to the two professors and let himself out, aware of ebony eyes boring into the back of his skull as he left.
* * * * * *
Draco stared at his case in despair. He had a reputation for being organised and tidy, and certainly his wardrobe was organised with military efficiency, but he just couldn’t get the hang of packing. He knew his clothes would go back into this case – they’d all come out after all, but no matter what he tried he just couldn’t make it work. He just thought he’d got it all in and had shut the lid of his trunk, when he discovered that he hadn’t yet emptied his underwear draw.
He mentioned his inability to pack to Granger when they’d been studying together last week and she’d laughed and said something about it being like ‘Tetris’ which according to her was a Muggle game. Draco felt this was probably reasonable evidence that Muggles really were as insane as his father insisted. What kind of sick people would make a game out of this torture!
The dorm was a tip. Crabbe and Goyle never packed until it was almost too late and they seemed to be allergic to tidying, so their possessions were strewn across the room. Nott junior had done his usual trick of going through his cupboard, finding all the things his mother wouldn’t allow his to take back into the house – like his Muggle porn collection – and abandoned them for the house elves to clean up, so the floor was covered in a thin layer of magazines that slipped and slid whenever you tried to walk. Blaize and Draco were usually both fairly tidy but when he’d discovered his omission in packing Draco had thrown all his socks and boxers on the floor in a fit of pique.
He was just beginning to seriously contemplate casting an Incendio on the whole lot and going commando for the summer when he heard a smart rap on the door frame. Rat-tatta-tat-tat-tatta-tat. Pansy’s code for ‘I’m here to see if your okay’.
He turned and smiled at her wanly. “’Lo Pans. Come to laugh at my complete lack of packing skills?”
They both knew that this might well be the last time they saw one another – the war was coming sooner rather than later and they were both going to be on the front lines – but by unspoken agreement they never mentioned it. It was enough that they both knew.
She did her best to smile at him. “Honestly, husband of mine,” she said with nearly her usual amount of cutting disbelief, “Have you really not got the hang of it yet?”
Draco managed a real smile then, for the nick-name if nothing else. Pansy had been calling him that of and on since they were three. She’d heard her mother use it and copied her as children do. Of course she’d been too young then to know that even before she was born her parents had had understandings with the parents of other pure blood children. She would marry the Malfoy boy is she was female or the Bulstrode’s youngest if she was a boy. She was constantly grateful she was a girl.
Draco held out his hands to her and she took them and led him to sit of the edge of his bed. They just sat, holding hands tightly, for long moments before Draco finally spoke.
“I’m so sorry I can’t marry you, Pansy. So very sorry. I’m sorry I’m abandoning you and I’m sorry you’re marrying Alastair Turnwise and I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do to help you.”
He managed to keep his voice from catching but Pansy knew him well enough to see the emotion hidden beneath the Malfoy mask. She pulled him close and wrapped her arms around him and he clung to her, all too aware that this might be the last time he ever got to hold the most important person in his life. He could cope without mother. He definitely wouldn’t miss father. But the thought that he might lose Pansy was unbearable.
He was aware that his shirt was wet with her tears, and that his own face was damp with them, but he had the good grace not to mention it.
At last they pulled apart and offered one another identical weak smiles, full of pain and sorrow.
“I’ve got something for you,” he told her, suddenly remembering the precious package tucked away in his robe pocket.
He pulled out a long thin dark wooden pencil box, decorated with delicately hand painted pansies in shades of soft purple. The box rattled when she took it from him so Pansy opened it, revealing a single HB pencil. Along its length words had been inscribed gold lettering reading, “I am a Portkey. No not use me unless you really really mean it.”
She stared at it for a long time, her expression unreadable. At last she said, very quietly, “Thank you.”
Draco shook his head. “It was all Harry. As soon as I told him what had happened he made this. Didn’t even wait for me to suggest it. He picked out the box too. He said to tell you he hopes you don’t think the box is too twee, he’s not good at knowing what girls like and that he’s sorry but it’s a one way key. Use it in emergencies only because he doesn’t think he’d be able to get you back once you’ve used it.”
Pansy nodded, her breathing slow her face calm. Only the slight tremor of her hands betrayed the emotions she was feeling. “Where will it take me?”
“To what Harry described as the slightly mouldy drawing room of his house. I think he was joking. I hope so anyway.” Pansy half smiled at him then and he put his arm round her shoulders. “Makes it all more real somehow doesn’t it?
“We’ll get through this, Pans, you and me. We always do. We’re Slytherins. Not what those pompous do-gooders on the side of the light think Slytherins are, but real ones. Resourceful, cunning, diplomatic and good at surviving. We can do this.”
Pansy’s hand stroked the soft locks of hair tucked behind her friend’s ear. “I hope so Dray. I really hope so.”
Neither of them broke the silence that followed until the other Slytherin boys descended with the news that the carriages left in one hour.
Draco was not especially happy about making the long journey from the highlands down to London with Ron Weasley, but as he was categorically not going to let Harry out of his sight, he really had no choice. Not that he’d admit it, but he was terrified something might go wrong somehow, that he would get separated from Harry, or Harry might change his mind, and he knew there would be enough Death Eaters at the station to give his concerns some justification.
That was why he, Harry, Weasley and Granger were sitting in a carriage, doing their best to make small talk. Just as they heard the engine start, the door to their carriage flew open and Ginny and Looney Lovegood almost fell through the door. They took their seats just as the train began to move.
Ginny heaved a sigh of relief. “We nearly missed the train. People had been hiding Luna’s things again so I helped her find them. I was sure the train wouldn’t leave without us.”
Luna smiled beatifically around the carriage until her eyes lighted on Draco. She examined me hard for a moment and then said, “You’re Draco Malfoy. You used to be quite unpleasant you know.”
There seemed nothing Draco could say to that except, “I know.”
This answer seemed to satisfy her because she nodded calmly and produced a battered copy of the Quibbler from her bag and settled down to read.
The first half an hour of the journey was awkward but after that they managed to find an arrangement that suited them. Ginny and Luna read magazines, occasionally swapping them and remarking caustically on the idiocy of the others reading material. Luna had no interest in either Quidditch or make-up and Ginny refused to believe that bumblebees had any magical powers and especially not ones that had lead directly to the fall of Grindlewald. Harry and Ron withdrew to a corner to talk nineteen to the dozen about quidditch, leaving Draco and Hermione to bemoan their exam performances and speculate widely about how badly they’d failed.
After they’d finished utterly despairing of their ever passing any exams ever again they started on books they’d read recently. Which lead to Hermione plucking up the courage to ask something she’d been wondering about for a long time.
“I’ve been reading up on vampires a bit,” she began, her tone uncertain, “And according to all the books they’re practically brain dead and they’re all killers. I’ve found nothing about any vampires like Harry. One’s that have kept their humanity I mean.”
“There’s one or two if you know where to look,” was all Draco said in response.
“Well I was wondering whether you knew why that is,” she asked, leaning forward in her seat eagerly. “I mean I assume you did some research into vampires before you offered yourself to Harry and being... well coming from an old magical family, I assume you’ve probably got access to books that aren’t in the school library.”
“I didn’t need to do any research before I offered myself to him,” Draco replied with a small smile, “It’s been an obsession of mine since before I started at Hogwarts.
“No one’s ever come up with an adequate explanation as to why vampire become the dark creatures most people know them as, or why you get some who are like Harry, who maintain their... well lets call it humanity. But I have a theory of my own. I may publish it one day.”
Hermione leant even further forward in her seat, her expression eager. “What is it?” she asked expectantly.
“Have you read ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matthis?” he asked.
“Not since I was about 12,” she replied. “I stole it from an older cousin without permission because I’d finished all the books in the house that my parents would let me read. It gave me nightmares for months but it’s a great book. I’m amazed you read it though. It’s not just muggle, it’s American. Surely not your parent’s idea of suitable reading material for their only child?”
He grinned at her. “I stole my copy too. From Quentin Bulstrode, Millie’s oldest brother. I didn’t know what it was, just that pretty much every book and magazine he owned were ones my parents would hate, which when you’re 14 is an excellent reason to read things.
“But my theory is that vampires are like the living vampires in ‘I am Legend’.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “You mean it’s the Pygmalion effect? Vampiric behaviour is psychosomatic?” She nodded slowly. “That makes perfect sense. Are most of the vampires like Harry muggle-borns then?”
“Exactly. And yes most of them have been. Not all. But of course upbringing and character have a part to play. I mean if Theo Nott were to become a vampire, even if he hadn’t grown up hearing about vampire hunts on the news, he would probably still turn into your stereotypical monster. But that’s what he’s like now more or less, just without the blood sucking.
“You on the other hand, even if you had grown up hearing about vampires the way I did, would probably remain very much as you are now. But stupid people and dark wizards are the most likely people to become vampires, hence the bad press they get.”
“Maybe if one day Harry reveals that he’s a vampire that will change.”
Draco grinned. “Maybe. Good news for all the masochists like me out there if they did.”
At that point the others in the carriage gave up pretending not to listen, all except Luna who was holding Ginny’s Quidditch magazine upside-down to see if she could find any hidden messages.
“You really think there are more people like you?” Ginny asked, amazed. “People who want to be bitten?”
Draco grinned even more widely. “Just because you’re a wimp, Ginny darling,” he teased.
She crossed her arms and pouted at him.
“So you really think there’s more people who’d be willing to let a vampire drink from them?” Ron asked in horrified fascination.
“Of course.” Luna’s dreamy voice floated from behind the inverted photo of Ducan Teague, beater for the Magpies and youngest person ever to be signed to a league team. “The bite of the vampire is the only known cure for the Quadge.”
There was a long silence after that extraordinary comment, eventually broken by Draco saying cheerfully, “Well I don’t know what the Quadge is, but after this many months with Harry I’m probably immune.”
That raised a smile from everyone, even Ron, who was still unsure about having to actually spend time with Malfoy.
The rest of the journey passed pleasantly enough. Ginny found a pack of cards and they spent the journey exchanging muggle games for wizard.
When they’d exhausted all the games they knew, including a few that they only half remembered and half made up, Ginny showed them ways to cheat at cards. She had taught herself from books when she was a child because, being the youngest of seven, she very rarely won at anything. She’d also made quite a good living betting sweets, comics and toys with the muggle children from the village. That had come to an end when her mother decided that she must be using magic to cheat and had ignored her, for once truthful, protestations of innocence.
She also knew some of what muggles called magic tricks, sleight of hand mostly. The others were fascinated and begged her to show how they were done but she simply smiled mysteriously and refused to discuss it.
Finally the train began to slow, the lady with the trolley made her last journey and they began to gather bags and trunks. As well as his school trunk Draco had a large bag which contained many more bags, shrunk to 1/8th size and with weightlessness charms on them. He suspected he’d overdone the weightlessness charms a little as unless he hung on tight to the bag it tended to float up into the air and bob along like a balloon.
Draco’s heart was fluttering in his chest. In truth the change in his life had been set in stone, an immovable point in history, ever since the moment he had a taken a curse for Ginny, but he couldn’t help feeling that it was really only changing now. That stepping of the train meant stepping away from everything he knew into a life that was wholly strange to him. Stepping of the train felt like the point of no return, despite all that had happened in the last few weeks.
When he got off this train he would never see his parents again, except in battle or in chains. He would never again sneak downstairs in his pyjamas to beg cream cakes from the house-elves. He would never again play exploding snap with Vince and Greg. He’d never tease Blaise about his sexuality or hand out unfair punishments to frightened first years without worrying about how much of a bastard it made him look.
He’d never again be a child.
Outside the doors of the carriage lay a war. Perhaps the declarations had not yet been officially made, the first blood was yet to be drawn, but stepping out of the doors would bring all that one step closer.
He examined the inhabitants of the carriage. Did any of them truly understand what was coming? He didn’t. Slytherin students liked to pretend that they were far worldlier than the students of the other houses, but he had never experienced anything like what was to come. But he thought he had a better idea than his companions. He knew, much as he wished he didn’t, just what the enemy was capable of. He had been trained as a politician in a new age but all around him had been the memories of the last war, small reminders that had wormed their way into his consciousness. The way the house-elves would cringe from him, even when he was a small child. The fact that his father practised duelling everyday, using spells that were banned from competition duels. The fact that Voldemort and the last war were never spoken about, when he knew other children were shown mementos, taken to graves, told the story. He had acquired his knowledge from other children, and when he was older, from text books.
And then Voldemort had been restored and overnight he had been expected to become a soldier. A killer. Suddenly the victories of the last war were the favoured topic of discussion and he had seen, so clearly that it terrified him, how all this hate and devotion to this monster had been there all along, hidden just beneath the surface.
The light thought Voldemort had been gone for 15 years he knew better. He’d been there all along in the hearts of men like his father. Men who had lived respectable lives, been in the public eye, and all the time had been biding their time until they could wreak havoc and destruction again.
All that was just outside the door and in a moment he had to step out into it.
A warm hand rested gently on his shoulder and Harry came to stand beside him.
“Feels a bit like going over the top, doesn’t it?” he asked quietly. Draco had never heard the expression but he understood the sentiment well enough. He nodded.
“It’s going to be hell, Draco,” Harry continued, his voice low, but not so low that the others couldn’t hear. “I won’t lie to you. People are going to die and we’re probably going to have to be the ones to kill them. But I can promise that I’ll be there for you.”
He took Draco’s hand and turned to face the rest of the carriage. The others were trying to pretend they hadn’t been listening and failing miserably.
“Out there, there is a war and whoever they are and whatever they believe every single student on this train is stepping out into the middle of it. There’s nothing we can do to keep ourselves safe except use our common sense. So if we’re in danger anyway we might as well risk our lives fighting as hiding.
“From the moment we step out of that door we are all fighting for what we believe in and I can’t promise you that you won’t be hurt. But I promise that I’ll do all I can to keep you safe. Whatever happens in the war, I love you. All of you.”
Hermione wiped a tear from her eye. “We love you too Harry. And we know what’s out there and we know what we have to do. Whatever happens Harry, we’re with you.”
Her words reminded Draco strongly of a long forgotten memory. A wet afternoon spent slowly deciphering ancient books of etiquette from the library. The duties of a knight.
“We’re your vassals,” he said. And then feeling silly but also needing to do it he emulated the woodcut that had stuck in his mind to long. He knelt, gripping his wand tightly and said, “Harry James Potter, I pledge my fealty to you. I will follow you even into the fire. From now on I am yours to command.”
Once it was said he felt silly, kneeling on the floor of a train compartment, his luggage bobbing above him, surrounded by standing people. Then to his amazement Ron Weasley also knelt and repeated his sentiment, though the words were different. Older sounding, more arcane. The traditional formula used by his family Draco assumed.
Weasley was followed by Granger, then Ginny and finally Luna. Each used their own formula of words, but the sentiment was the same, echoed by different voices.
At last when Luna had finished speaking, Ginny broke the deathly silence with a small giggle which quickly became an explosion of mirth. The others joined her and the serious mood was gone, though they all of them felt the weight of the responsibility they had just undertaken.
At last they rose, gathered their possessions and stepped from the train and together stepped from the safety of school and childhood into the reality that waited for them, feeling a new determination and a new hope.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At first Draco didn’t see the welcoming committee waiting for them. He looked in vain for those faces among the light which were familiar to him and for long moments couldn’t find any. But then he spotted the Weasley parents, with their distinctive red hair and home made clothes.
The others were already making their way over, waving and shouting. He felt a hand tug at his sleeve and looked round to see Loony Lovegood staring intently at him.
“Harry’s never felt entirely comfortable amongst the Wealseys,” she said calmly, her usually dreamy voice suddenly clear and even, “especially since he split up with Ginny. He loves them like family but he thinks that they don’t feel the same way about him, and he’s always worried that if he does something wrong they’ll reject him and he’ll loose the closest thing he’s ever had to parents.” She looked hard at him. “He’s especially worried now because he thinks they won’t approve of you, or the relationship you have with him.”
She gave him and bright smile. “Have a nice holiday Draco. You’re not nearly as unpleasant as you used to be.” And with that she floated away, leaving Draco’s mind buzzing.
He was so distracted in fact that he failed to notice Mrs Weasly bearing down on him until it was too late. Before he could react he found himself gathered up into a warm embrace so tight it nearly crushed the breath out of him. When it became clear he wasn’t going to escape quickly, he hesitantly and awkwardly hugged back. That seemed to be the right thing to do. The plump figure holding him gave him one last squeeze then let go and stepped back, allowing him to catch his breath.
The elder male Weasley approached and held out a hand to be shaken. Draco took it and returned it with a grip that was both friendly and manly. His father had spent many hours drilling him on how to give the perfect handshake.
“I’m Arthur Weasley,” the man said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr Malfoy. Do forgive my wife. We can never repay you for what you did for Ginny and she’s a little overcome.
“Allow me to say thank you, no behalf of both of us. I never thought I’d one day shake the hand of a Malfoy in friendship, but after what you have done no one can doubt that you are a better man than your father.”
Mrs Weasley tutted, clearly disapproving for this slight against his family, but Draco didn’t mind. It had taken him a long time to realise it, but a better man than his father was exactly what he was aiming to be.
He smiled slightly and assured Mr Weasley that it was nothing.
Harry came and stood beside him and said clearly, “Mr and Mrs Weasley,” and then in an undertone, “and everyone else, I know you’re all here.” Draco looked round him but failed to spot anyone else listening in. Harry continued at a normal pitch, “May I introduce my... boyfriend, Draco Malfoy.”
Only Draco noticed Harry’s slight pause before he said the word boyfriend. Neither of them has ever said it aloud before, though the unspoken understanding had been there. He ducked his head slightly, unsure how to react. To his relief no one screamed or tried to hug him again.
Mrs Weasley looked slightly shell-shocked. Mr Weasley widened him eyes in surprise but quickly recovered.
“I can’t say it’s not a shock Harry my boy,” he said, “but you couldn’t have chosen a better young man.”
Harry smiled and thanked him and then turned to Mrs Weasley. There was a long awkward moment when Draco thought she wasn’t going to say anything at all, and then at last she spoke. “Well really. That’s two of my boys now, and I’ve got my suspicions about some of the others. Ron and Bill had better have lots of children to make up for it, that’s all I can say.” And she gave Harry a weak smile.
It wasn’t exactly wholesale acceptance, but Draco could see that that throw away comment about her sons had meant more to Harry than any supportive speech could have.
Finally the Weasleys turned their attention from him and Harry and set about embracing and thoroughly embarrassing Ginny, Granger and the Weasel. Ginny especially had to fight to get out of her parents embrace as they sought to reassure themselves that she truly was alright.
At last though they were ready to move out. They gathered up bags, boxes and trunks and headed for the barrier. As they began to move Draco finally spotted their entourage. A tall stately black man in embroidered robes who had seemed to be connected to Dean Thomas’ family followed them casually. A little old lady in a badly fitting homemade cardigan suddenly became fascinated with getting the barrier before them, and Draco was sure he saw the tell tale silent breeze brushing peoples robes that marked the passing of someone invisible.
The old lady headed through the barrier first, suddenly alert and quick moving, her wand clutched tightly. Mr and Mrs Wealsey went next, taking Ginny with them. Granger and the Weasel went next and he couldn’t help but notice that as they moved off the tall black man suddenly moved much closer. He assumed the invisible person, whoever they were, had also moved closer.
They went through as close together as they could, first Harry then Draco, the Black man and his invisible companion close behind.
The others were heading towards a very battered blue car, which couldn’t possibly be big enough to hold all of them. He felt slightly reassured however when he went to put his trunk in the boot and discovered that there was still room, despite holding everyone else’s luggage. Wizard space was a jolly useful thing.
He slid onto the back seat, and found that while it was rather crowded, there was just enough room so long as he and Harry snuggled together, which neither of them minded doing.
“Don’t worry,” Mr Weasley said cheerfully, “it’s not far now. Us Weasleys, and Hermione of course, are all flooing home from Grimmauld Place. I think Molly wanted to be sure you got settled in okay before she left you alone.”
“Why alone?” Harry asked. “Where’s Remus?”
“He’ll be back later this evening, Harry dear,” Mrs Weasley called from the front. She seemed to be in the passenger seat. Draco craned to see who was driving and realised with a start it was the little old lady. “He’s got all his tests at the ministry today,” she continued, “so he wont be finished till late. I’ll cook something and leave it for you, I don’t like to think of you boys having a cold supper after the day you’ve had.”
Personally Draco thought a cold supper sounded fine – after a childhood of formal nursery teas and being taught which forks to use he had a soft spot for informal eating. When his parents were away he would persuade the elves to let him make his own tea and raid the larder for cakes, homemade bread, cold meats, leftovers and salad. There was no one to tell him to use his knife and fork and no one to stop him inventing new dishes, like cold beef with prawn cocktail.
Harry came to his rescue. “That’s very kind of you Mrs Weasley, but I think Draco would like to spend some time just the two of us, getting to know the house and unpacking his stuff. We’ll see you soon though.”
Mrs Weasley didn’t look convinced but she agreed.
Technically of course Harry didn’t need to eat – so long as the people whose blood he drank ate a healthy diet his body extracted all the vitamins and nutrients he needed from blood. However one thing people forget when considering a vampire’s diet is that while they don’t technically need to eat their stomachs have been used to three square meals a day. Most vampires eat small amounts of human food to stave off hunger pangs. It also helps to protect their victims, as a vampire with a full stomach is less likely to drink too much blood.
They didn’t have far to go but the journey seemed to Draco to take a lifetime. It wasn’t that the people in the car with him were being in anyway unpleasant, far from it, they were making him far more welcome than he felt he deserved, but being in such close confines with people who knew each other but to whom he was a stranger was awkward. Not to mention that they were now more or less his in-laws.
He and Harry managed to get by pretty well without ever talking out their relationship or their feelings, but both of them knew that they were unlikely to find someone else as well suited to them. Never mind that there was a damn good chance that one or both of them would be killed in the next few months.
Eventually they arrived at their destination. It was a small nondescript sort of square with houses around it, a little away from most of the traffic. The houses around it had once been large and grand but most were now divided into several flats. One was a doctor’s surgery and another seemed to be the base for a charity of some sort. On the left hand side of the square was a space where another house had once stood. All that remained now was a few bits of wall. Draco wondered what had happened to it, the walls either side didn’t look damaged, so not a fire. Then it occurred to him. He turned to Harry.
“Bet you the right to decide what we do tonight that I can point to your house,” he whispered.
Harry stared at him. “That’s impossible,” he said. “You’re on.”
Draco grinned and pointed at the space.
Harry shook his head. “How did you do that?” he asked.
“Oh come on Harry. It’s a mouldering ruin surrounded by expensive flats and private doctors. What’s not suspicious about that? Get whoever’s in charge of the illusion to add signs saying some charity are turning the space into a playground for disabled kids or something. Then no one will think anything of it. But at the moment it just looks damn suspicious.
Harry scowled at him and just said, “Get out of the car Draco.”
Draco did as he was told and collected his luggage. When they had unloaded the car, Mr Weasley handed Draco a folded piece of paper bearing the Hogwarts seal. Cracking it open Draco fond a note in that familiar spidery handwriting. “The building before you is Number 12 Grimmauld Place, Harry Potter’s home.”
Draco read it through twice then handed the paper back to Mr Weasley who incendio’d it.
When he looked again at the space he saw not a mouldering ruin, but a large house, identical to the others around the square. It was a similar design to the iconic W1 buildings of Portland stone, but built of dark brick, made darker by a century of pollution. Its large windows were shrouded in thick curtains, giving the house a deserted closed off look. The railings outside were starting to peel, the black paint chipping away revealing the rust underneath. Even the dormer windows, a feature which usually make a house look friendly and inviting, looked decrepit and a touch menacing. All in all it was not much more appealing than it had been when it was a ruin.
Mr Weasley led the way in, accompanied by the black man, who he referred to as Kingsley. As he put the key in the door he turned and said, “Just remember everyone, keep quiet in the hall. We don’t want to wake her.”
Draco was intrigued by this cryptic instruction, and even more intrigued by the way everyone lugged the bags through the door silently, not even speaking when Ginny dropped her trunk on Ron’s foot.
The others led the way down the hall and into the second door on the left, a small, unpleasantly musty sitting room, which was dominated by the large fireplace. Once upon a time this must have been the reception room.
They abandoned their bags there, and Mrs Weasley shepherded everyone into the kitchen.
“Sorry about the Hall,” Hermione said to Draco. “There’s a portrait of old Mrs Black in the hall and she’s not very keen on the Order using her house. It’s best not to wake her at all.”
“Not old Mrs Black as in Aunty Dreen,” Draco asked, “My grandfather’s sister in law?”
“Ummm.. possibly,” Hermione admitted, worried that shed just insulted one of his ancestors.
“Yeah I can understand that,” he said thoughtfully. “She was my least favourite Aunt. Always gave me rubbish Christmas presents. Although I ‘spose Aunt Bella was worse as she never gave me anything.”
Mrs Weasley had put the kettle on and was busy dishing out cups of tea and plates of biscuits. Where she had produced biscuits from no one seemed to know, but after the long journey they were all glad for a rest.
While they were drinking introductions were made. The tall black man was Kingsley Shacklebolt, who was high up in the aurors. The invisible figure emerged from under his cloak and revealed himself to be Alastor ‘Mad Eye’ Moody. The third person was the most surprising. The little old lady revealed herself to be a young pretty metamorphmagus, and in fact his cousin. She was the daughter of his mother’s elder sister Andromeda, who had disgraced the family by marrying a muggle. Her name was Nymphadora but she insisted on being called Tonks. Draco could see why. The Black sisters seemed to have a taste for flamboyant names.
After two cups of tea the others left, but not before Tonks had floated their trunks up to the third floor, where his and Harry’s rooms were.
When the other’s had finally gone, leaving biscuits and promises to visit soon, Harry and Draco headed upstairs to unpack and explore their new rooms.
During the last term the order had worked hard at adding new protection to the Burrow, making it nearly as secure as Grimmauld Place so the Weasleys and Hermione would be remaining their, meaning that Harry and Draco would get their own rooms. Lupin had written to tell Harry that he and his guest had been assigned the entire third floor.
“So Harry,” Draco asked as they climbed, “Does Lupin actually know I’m staying here?”
Harry shook his head. “He knows that one of my Slytherin classmates has switched sides and will be staying here, but I never said who. There’s too much to tell, I wanted to do it in person. Though no doubt he knows it’s you, Mrs Weasley will probably have talked, and he’ll know about what you did for Ginny.”
They’d reached the third floor landing. Their luggage sat in a head in the centre of the landing. To the left hand side were two doors, one sporting a wooden pokerwork plaque with Harry’s name, surrounded by little flowers, on it. Harry blushed. “Ginny gave it to me,” he mumbled.
On the opposite wall were another two doors. While Harry began moving his trunk Draco opened the other doors. The door next to Harry’s room led to a small sitting room with a day bed against one wall. It was as shabby as the rest of the house, but at least someone had cleaned in there.
The first door on the left was a decent sized bathroom, with a large free standing enamel bath with clawed feet. The third door lead to Draco’s bedroom.
It was a good sized room, with whitewashed walls, lumpy with age, and dark oak floorboards. Against the wall with the door on it stood two large floor to ceiling bookcases, empty of any books or ornaments. Next to them in the corner of the room there was a small nursing chair upholstered in sky blue velvet. The bed stood in the centre of the back wall. It was a large double four poster, without any curtains or drapes. At the foot of the bed was an ancient looking blanket chest, and on the right of the bed, ready for his bare feet in the morning was a sheepskin rug. On the wall opposite him was the only window, which was rather small with old leaded glass, each pane a different thickness and none of the smooth. Under the window was a small desk and chair and beside it a tall, narrow wardrobe. Opposite the bed was a large chest of drawers with brass handles and a white cloth on top. Next to it stood a full length mirror on a little stand.
It was simple compared to what he was used to. There was no decoration at all, and the furniture, while all good quality antiques, were not valuable, or especially decorative. For all that though, he loved it at once. A lot of thought had gone into making it nice for him, and unlike the rest of the house everything gleamed, even the floor boards.
He dragged in his trunk and bags and began unpacking. He unpacked the trunk first, feeling a thrill of domesticity as he carefully folded his things into drawers and ordered his robes in the wardrobe. The spells on the shrunken bags and boxes were ones that he could release using a trigger word. In less than a month, he thought to himself, I’ll be able to simply cast finite incantatem.
He spent a long time unpacking his remaining luggage, determined that everything would go in the perfect place, and he wouldn’t rearrange anything once he’d unpacked.
The portrait of his grandfather he hung over the chest of drawers, while a photo of his mother as a young woman, dancing in the rain, went in the book case, along with his few precious ornaments and the huge chunk of uncut amethyst Pansy had given him when they were six. She had helped her mother to charm it so that it glowed softly, and he couldn’t sleep without it in the room.
He was on the last but one box when Harry knocked tentatively on the door. He pushed it open without waiting to be invited and grinned when he saw Draco still unpacking.
“I thought you’d take forever,” he said. “I’m going to have a look at the rest of the house and try and find my house-elf. Just give me a yell if you need anything. Oh, and I got you this,” he added, blushing bright red. He threw the roll of paper onto Draco’s bed and made a run for it, not replying when Draco called him back.
Curious, Draco unrolled it and was ecstatic to discover it was a Falmouth Falcons poster. In the background a team dressed in dark grey and white robes, zoomed around the pitch, obviously performing a victory lap. In the corner of the large poster was their logo of a falcon’s head. But the best thing was in the foreground – the close up of the team’s handsome beater and captain, Jason Broadmoor (grandson of the legendary Karl Broadmoor), smiling broadly and flashing impossibly white teeth. And better still it was signed “To Draco”.
Grinning broadly Draco stuck it up next to Grandfather Abraxus, who made a rude gesture at the young man and disappeared out of the edge of his frame.
* * * * * * * * * *
Draco eventually located Harry in the kitchen. He was sitting at the huge table writing a shopping list. As the cupboards were more or less completely bare it was quite a long list.
“I thought you had a house-elf?” Draco remarked as he came into the room.
Harry looked up from his list, blinking owlishly in surprise. He hadn’t heard Draco come downstairs. “I do. Actually, I should introduce you. Kreacher!”
There was a loud crack which made Harry jump, and the oldest, filthiest, grumpiest house-elf Draco had ever seen appeared at the end of the table.
“Master is calling me, filthy half-blood that he is?” the house-elf enquired. The last bit was delivered in a low muter, but it was obvious he intended everyone to hear.
Harry scowled. He obviously wasn’t fond of the ancient creature. Draco could see why.
“Kreacher, this is Draco Mafoy. He’ll be living here. You’re to be polite to him and not steal any of his stuff.”
The house-elf stared hard at him. “A Malfoy is it? What’s one of the them doing here, in my mistresses house. Draco eh? That’s being young Miss Narcissa’s boy I’m thinking. But what’s he doing here, eh Master?”
Draco stared at the horrid creature. He remembered his Great Aunt’s elves. He’d never known a house-elf to have a political opinion – usually they didn’t bother themselves with the affairs of wizards except on a cleaning and tea making level. But somehow Aunt Dreen had manage to indoctrinate hers with her poisonous views.
“I’m here because I’ve rejected my family’s politics,” he told the elf. “I’m here to help destroy everything your beloved mistress believed in!”
There was a long silence and then the little elf reacted in the most extraordinary way. He began shaking violently, so violently he fell to the floor, as though he were having a fit. Then he began tugging hard at his ears and screaming “Traitor Malfoy, Traitor Malfoy,” at the top of his voice. After about five minutes of his he disappeared with another loud crack.
Harry and Draco looked at each other for a long moment and then began laughing. The creature had been in distress but it still had been hilarious.
“He’s been in the family forever,” Harry explained when he’d calmed down a little. “He lives in the attic and waits for the day when he can have his head stuffed and mounted on the wall in the entrance hall.”
Draco just nodded, not terribly interested. He was more occupied with examining the kitchen in detail. He walked slowly round the room, gently touching various objects and staring hard at every thing. Harry pulled his chair in out of his way as he got close, and let him continue his careful examination. Eventually he felt compelled to ask, “Draco, what are you doing?”
“Just looking,” Draco replied without turning round. “I’ve never seen a family kitchen before. I wasn’t supposed to go in the kitchen at the manor, and anyway, it was intended for making meals for the family, not as a room to spend time in. I was just interested.”
“Oh.” Harry was a little non-plussed. He couldn’t imagine growing up in a world where the kitchen was foreign territory. He’d spent most of his childhood in the kitchen, either catering to Dudley’s huge appetites or engaged in the endless task of cleaning up after everyone else. “You can’t cook then?”
Draco looked completely amazed. “Of course not! What are house-elves for?”
Harry laughed softly. “Well I don’t think eating anything cooked by Kreacher is a good idea. There’s a pretty good chance he’d poison us all. I’m afraid you’re going to have to learn to cook – we take all the chores in turn here.”
To Harry’s amazement Draco looked at him and grinned. “I’d like that,” he said.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lupin was exhausted. He’d spent nearly 10 hours being interrogated by various members of Magical Law Enforcement and the Department for the Regulation and Control of Dangerous Magical Creatures (Beings sub division). He’d been subjected to a rigorous physical examination (more he felt to embarrass him than for any good legal reason), he’d had his wand examined using Priori Incantatem (which was horrible. No wizard would willing touch another’s wand without a very good reason or a high level of intimacy. So while a wife might borrow her husband’s wand, touching a strangers wand was like groping someone on a train. It was a total violation of privacy and it felt horrible.) He’d been extensively questioned under veritaserum. He’d spent two hours with a Mind Healer while she ‘assessed his mental state’ which was ministry speak for ‘raped his mind with legilimency’. The psychologist had tutted a lot and made a lot of fuss over some memories from his early twenties which he felt were frankly none of her business. It was all her could do not to smack the silly woman. He completely failed to see what relevance his wild and somewhat misspent youth had to whether he was likely to attack anyone. And to top it off he’d had a lovely meeting with Snape who had to be called as a witness (as though he were on trial for having been nearly killed as a child) to say that Lupin was taking his wolf’s bane potion.
He didn’t floo directly home. He was too angry and anyway the ministry didn’t know of the existence of Grimmauld Place. As far as they were concerned he was living with the Weasleys. He was annoyed, exhausted and frustrated and was looking forward to an early night with a book and a mug of herbal tea. This close to the full moon he tended to avoid stimulants – he was on edge enough as it was. But first he needed a stiff drink. He flooed from the ministry to ‘The Virgin’s Pyre’, a grotty old fashioned little pub on the outskirts of Wizarding London. It wasn’t especially salubrious but it had the advantage that no one there would recognise him, or want to talk to him. After a couple of pints of ‘Herbert’s Old and Quite Unpleasant’ in the smoky atmosphere he felt fortified enough to face the maternal concern of Molly Weasley. He paid his tab and left.
He had been right to worry about Molly’s concern. Despite still not quite approving of him (he had his mysterious past and close association with Sirius to thank for that) she had accepted him for Harry’s sake and treated him as one of her large extended family. He forced himself to sit still and listen to Molly’s gentle chatter about Charlie’s approaching leave, arrangements for Bill and Fleur’s wedding and how she disapproved of Ginny’s new hair cut. She also kept trying to persuade him to actually come and stay – “I don’t like thinking of you all cooped up in that horrible old house. It can’t be good for you. You never even see anyone except that horrible Kreacher!”
Remus shrugged off her concern. In truth he quite liked having the big house to himself. He could roam about as he liked, and live to his own timescale. If he wanted to get up at 4 in the afternoon and the read solidly for 48 hours there was no one to stop him. This freedom and seclusion suited his private and withdrawn personality.
Eventually he was able to get away (after refusing offers of a bed for the night, supper, a third cup of tea and a hair cut). Harry was waiting for him and he’d said in his last letter that he had something important to discuss with Remus. He’d also warned him that he might be in for a bit of a shock. Remus had no idea what it could be, but Harry had certainly sounded more cheerful and in control than he had at the start of term. Remus had been seriously worried about Harry after he split up with Ginny. He’d withdrawn from all company, spending days locked away, seeing no one and refusing to eat. He hadn’t written for several weeks, but Ron and Hermione had written to him in Harry’s stead, warning him not to expect any letters for a while. Harry was still as upset and withdrawn.
He’d written to Harry, whenever he had anything to write about, but he hadn’t been surprised or especially upset when he received no reply. Then out of the blue about 6 months ago Harry had started writing regularly. At first he had still seemed upset and withdrawn but Remus was glad of any communication from his proxy Godson.
Then suddenly, seemingly almost overnight, according to Ron and Hermione’s letters, he cheered up. He started talking to his friends again, and his grades improved. He was even able to spend time with Ginny. Remus was desperate to find out what had prompted this sudden change.
He was also keen to finally meet his other houseguest. Everyone knew it was Draco Malfoy, but for some reason no one would talk about it. When he asked Molly about it she just shook her head and told him that that was for Harry to tell him.
Thanking Molly again for her generosity, he rolled his shoulders to relieve some of the tension, took a pinch of floo powder, threw it into the flames and headed home.
He heard them before he arrived. His first instinct was to reach for his wand but as he got closer to his destination it became clear that whoever was waiting for him did not have ambush in mind. Perhaps Ginny had come back with Harry. But then he remembered Harry’s insistence that he and Ginny had no future together. His second thought was that perhaps this was the shock Harry had written to him about. The third thought (which arrived a bit late) was that he was sure both the voices her could hear were male.
He stepped out of the large stone fireplace to find Harry sprawled on the hearth rug, thoroughly engaged in the important task of kissing a slender, platinum blonde who could only be Draco Malfoy. He was giving it all the attention so vital a task deserved, if the noises of appreciation from the other boy were any indication.
Lupin was torn between leaving again to allow the boys time to finish what they were doing and wolf-whistling. He settled for clearing his throat loudly.
Malfoy sat up immediately, pushing Harry off him and groping about for his shirt. This just made it all the harder for Lupin to ignore the fact that there was a dishevelled, good-looking, shirtless 18 year old on what had, for the past 6 months, been his sitting room floor. He stared at the ceiling while said attractive male fumbled his clothes back on, then asked mildly, “So which one of you’d like to attempt an explanation?”
Harry stood up, blushing furiously and tugging his clothes straight. Malfoy had dressed himself and collapsed into an armchair with the air of one settling to watch a good show.
Face bright red and eyes fixed firmly on his feet, Harry mumbled, “Remus, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Draco Malfoy.”
Lupin’s eyebrows rose so much with shock they nearly disappeared into his hair.
He’d been playing worst case scenarios in his mind for weeks, trying to work out what on earth it was Harry wanted to speak to him about. This wasn’t something he’d considered.
Acting on social autopilot, his mind still reeling, he held out a hand to the pale young man. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Draco rose from his seat and took the proffered hand, shaking it firmly. “The pleasure is all mine, Mr Lupin,” he replied politely.
“Oh do please call me Remus,” he murmured.
Harry was shifting from foot to foot impatiently. “Why don’t we all sit down,” he suggested.
Draco and Lupin did as he suggested, and Lupin, trying to make small talk, said cheerfully, “Well that wasn’t what I expected when you said you had something to talk to me about. I was beginning to worry that you’d got Ginny pregnant!”
Draco snorted in a most ungentlemanly fashion. Harry just smiled weakly.
“So how did you two get together?” Lupin continued.
Harry took a deep breath. “First I’d better tell you what it was I wanted to tell you,” Harry said. “The two are linked anyway.”
He took a deep breath, opened his mouth, and then failed to say anything. He smiled ruefully. “I’ve only told one person, so I’m not sure how to do this. How do you tell people you’re a werewolf?”
“Well generally I just say it. There isn’t really anyway to do it tactfully.”
Harry nodded. “Okay then, here goes. Remus, I’m a vampire.”
Remus stared at him. Then he glanced quickly at Malfoy, who looked like he was enjoying watching their discomfort. Then he looked back at Harry.
“You’re not joking are you,” he asked, resignedly. “How did it happen? And how long ago?”
“It’s been nearly a year now,” Harry admitted. “I should have told you earlier, I should have told everyone, but I was still getting used to it myself. And I wanted to do it in person – I wasn’t sure you’d believe it if I put it in a letter.”
Remus smiled weakly. “I probably wouldn’t have. I’m still not entirely sure I do. It doesn’t seem real somehow!”
Harry smiled. “I know how you feel. It doesn’t always feel real to me and I’m the one it’s happened too!”
“But how did it happen?!”
Harry blushed slightly. “I hate telling people,” he mumbled. “I feel so stupid! It was only two weeks into the summer holidays. I was restless. Being at the Dursley’s makes me feel like a caged animal. I can see freedom, so close I can almost touch it, but still too far. I started going for walks at night. I wasn’t allowed out in the daytime but my family are heavy sleepers so none of them noticed the noise of me leaving. At first I didn’t go far, but I soon got bored of walking up and down Privet Drive. It was a Thursday I think. I don’t know how far I’d gone. I don’t even know where I was when it happened. But I was still in Little Whingeing. I’d been walking for about two hours when I became aware that there was someone following me. I turned round to confront them, but there was no one there. This happened about three times, when I got so cross I just yelled at the darkness “Show yourself.”
This figure appeared out of the darkness. It was a man, tall and very pale with silver hair. He said something smarmy like “You only had to ask” and started towards me. I was terrifed. My first thought was that this guy was going to rape me. There’d been stories on the muggle news that day about a series of brutal rapes and murders of young men in the area.
I legged it but he chased me. No matter how fast I ran he kept pace easily. He was laughing I remember. Laughing all the time. Eventually I had to stop. I hadn’t been looking where I was going and I’d run into a dead end.
He pinned me against the wall. He took my wand too. That’s when I really knew I was in trouble. It was so stupid, I just didn’t think to use it. It never once occurred to me until that point that I could do magic.
“I told him to get on with it. I still thought he was going to rape me and I just wanted it over with and him gone as soon as possible. He laughed at me, said something about me being awfully eager to become his lunch. But I didn’t realise what was really going on until he bit me.” Harry smiled shyly at Draco. “How you can just let me do it I’ll never know. I was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. The vampire was obviously very sadistic. He did all he could to make the experience unpleasant. I just stood there. There was nothing I could do. He was too strong for me to break away and anyway he’d taken enough blood that I wouldn’t have been able to run away. When he’d drunk his fill he flung me to the ground. He dropped my wand by me, just out of reach. He intended to leave me to bleed to death. He got a knife and he was going to cut my throat, to disguise the bite marks I suppose, but when he grabbed my hair to pull my head back he noticed the scar.” Harry rubbed his head in an unconscious gesture of remembrance. “He said something then, I don’t really remember what, but I think it was something to do with it being amusing if the saviour was turned. He cut his wrist and forced me to drink from him. I didn’t want to at first but he convinced me that this would save me. I didn’t really know what I was doing, just that I didn’t want to die. And once I’d started drinking I couldn’t stop. Drinking vampire’s blood… I imagine taking heroin is similar. It produces a kind of high. Eventually he stopped and just walked off. Left me there in the street, covered in blood and bruises. I passed out soon after from the pain. The transformation is painful. I imagine it’s something like your own,” he added, addressing Lupin. “At least I only had to do it once. When I came too it was in the hospital. I must have grabbed my wand before I passed out and fortunately it was still in my pocket. Someone getting up early to open up the corner shop found me and called police and the ambulance. I told the police that it had been the rapist guy. I think that was probably true. The boys they found had had their throats cut and the vampire was obviously interested. Maybe my being a wizard put him off. Whatever it was that did I’m grateful. I contacted Dumbledore the next day and he had me sent to St Mungo’s. Thank god he did. I didn’t know what had happened but I was burning up with thirst. I would have just kept on ignoring it until I attacked someone.”
Remus gave him a look full of sympathy and understanding. Normally Harry reacted badly to pity but he obviously realised that Remus understood better than anyone else. “Is that why you said you had no future with Ginny?” he asked.
Harry nodded. “I tried to make things work – tried to pretend that everything was ok. I didn’t even tell her at first. She found out pretty quickly though. I discovered that it’s impossible for a fledgling vampire to keep control when you’re in an intimate situation with someone you’re attracted too.”
“You bit her,” Lupin stated quietly.
Harry nodded. “She was fine but after that she just didn’t feel the same about me. That was when it really hit me I think – what had happened.” He smiled at his mentor. “I’m sorry I just vanished, I had a lot on my mind and I didn’t really feel like talking about them.”
Lupin smiled at him. “Don’t worry Harry. I know how it feels, to wake up and find you’re a different person than you were the day before.”
They shared tired smiles, both remembering their own traumatic experiences and acknowledging the others’.
Harry turned slightly and took Draco’s hand, grasping it tightly. “I really didn’t accept it until Draco came along.” He smiled at his boyfriend. “I don’t know where I would have been without him.”
Lupin watched the two young men silently, his eyes sad. He was glad that Harry was happy, but he couldn’t help but compare his own situation to Harry’s. He too had had his life utterly transformed when he became a dark creature. He also found a young man who had changed his life. But unlike Draco, Sirius had never felt the same way about him. And although his friendship had transformed his life, he’d always wanted more. What he wouldn’t have given to be in Harry’s situation now, with a lover who accepted and was happy with his species.
He shook himself out of his melancholy mood and rose, intent on finding something to eat. At the door he paused and looked back at the two figures huddled together on the sofa, dark head leaning against blonde.
He knew Harry was waiting for him to say something but he didn’t know how to articulate the mixture of pride, jealousy, melancholy and happiness that churned in his chest, so instead he said simply, “your parents would have been so proud of you, Harry. And I know they would have been thrilled to find someone who cared for you.”
He met Harry’s smiling eyes for a moment, then turned away, unable to hide all his emotions.
“Remus,” Harry said at breakfast the next morning, “I want to call an order meeting soon, this evening if possible. How do I do it?”
Remus looked up from his weetabix in surprise. “Well generally Dumbledore is the only one who can call meetings. I suggest you contact him. It’s very short notice though.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “We’re at war. Surely people will understand that order business is a bit more important than staying in to wash their hair. The order can’t begin proper strategising or planning until they know about Harry. If no-one else, Moody and Snape need to know, and I know Harry wants to tell the Weasleys. If we’re telling them, we might as well tell everyone.”
Remus acknowledged this with an inclination of his head. “Well we can at least try,” he said. “I suggest you try firecalling Dumbledore after breakfast.”
It took Harry three tries to catch Dumbledore in his office, but when he did the old man listened solemnly to him and agreed to summon the order that evening.
Harry and Draco passed the rest of the day rather listlessly, resting after a hard term, playing a game of exploding snap and getting to know the house. Harry made bacon sandwiches for them all for lunch, while Draco stood by and stared, taking in this new activity. Mrs Weasley fire-called at three and she and Harry spent a long time discussing supper arrangements, while Draco tried to persuade them both to cook all his favourites. In the end he got his way, as usual. Harry agreed to make Chicken Casserole with baked potatoes and Mrs Weasley promised to bring a selection of puddings. When it came to pudding Draco wasn’t fussy.
Harry examined the cupboards and he and Draco compiled a shopping list which he gave to Remus, along with some money. They wandered about, doing little, until he returned, when they put away his purchases and Harry began giving Draco his first cookery lesson.
He was amazed at how much Draco didn’t know. He had to show him how to brown the chicken and how to sweat onions. Once Harry’d explained something however, Draco generally found he had a parallel skill borne of potions making. The only thing he couldn’t do better than Harry almost straight away was chop onions. He had never experienced their pungent fumes before and halfway through chopping the first one he was crying too much to see what he was doing. Harry took over, secretly pleased that he was better than Draco at something, even if only at something as mundane as chopping onions.
Harry’s rummaging in the cupboards had produced an enormous casserole dish, made of solid iron. Harry and Draco managed to lift it onto the hob between them, but once it contained two jointed chickens, ten onions, fifteen carrots and three Swedes they had to call Remus to cast lightening charms on it to get it into the oven. Fortunately the kitchen had been designed for feeding hordes of people and the range had two huge ovens, large enough to roast a Christmas turkey and all the trimmings at once. There was also a bottom oven large enough to warm plates for the entire order plus all the younger generation who would inevitably attend.
Once it was in the oven there was nothing to do until the meeting began. They retired to the little sitting room that was part of Harry’s rooms and read, Harry a muggle adventure story Dean had leant him and Draco one of his beloved Mills and Boon vampire romances. This one had a very pale young woman, wearing a nightdress that couldn’t possibly be comfy, based of the way it pushed her breasts up, being embraced by a stereotypical vampire, complete with widows peak and cloak, on the cover. Harry commented on its tackiness (and the unlikeliness of Draco reading a book with that much cleavage on the cover) but Draco just stuck his tongue out at him.
The afternoon passed pleasantly enough, though they were both two twitchy and nervous about that nights meeting to really concentrate on their books. Harry wished desperately that he had a television. He was in the mood to lose himself in one of the rubbish films channel five shows on Saturday afternoons. He’d have to talk to someone about getting one that would work within the powerful magical aura that surrounded any wizarding dwellings more than a few years old.
They didn’t see Remus much after he’d bought in the shopping. He had retreated to the top floor, where neither of them felt comfortable going – it was all obviously his space, his presence marked on it as clearly as if he’d sprayed it with urine. Which, Draco pointed out, he might well have done. Harry pointed out that the joke was in very poor taste.
At last they heard the thumps and bumps that marked the arrival of the first order members by floo, quickly followed by a knock on the door. The first to arrive was the Weasley clan and Hermione, quickly followed by McGonnagal. The Weasley children were all carrying dishes, presumably the puddings, which Draco directed to the cold store. Wizarding houses do not have fridges, simply cupboards charmed to be cold. On the whole this is an excellent system as it means different food stuffs can be kept at their separate optimum temperatures.
Harry set about making cup after cup of tea as more and more people trickled in, in ones and twos. Draco’s eyes widened as they all squashed into the kitchen – he had no idea the order were so big, or so well connected.
“Is everyone here?” a voice asked from the doorway, and they all turned to see Dumbledore, dressed in flowing silver robes, standing at the entrance to the room, surveying them all with his customary twinkle.
“Just waiting for Bill,” Mrs Weasley said from by the stove.
The twins groaned theatrically. “But there’s no room mum!” they cried. “We’re packed in like sardines as it is!”
Mrs Weasley scowled at them. “There’ll be a lot more room once you youngsters leave,” she said crossly.
From the way the ‘youngsters’ in the room squared their shoulders Draco guessed this was an ongoing argument.
To his surprise it was Harry who spoke up.
“We’re not going anywhere Mrs Weasley. If I’m old enough to kill a man, then I’m certainly old enough to know how the war’s progressing. Besides I called today’s meeting.”
That caused much consternation among the order, who had assumed it was Dumbledore who demanded the emergency meeting.
Harry raised his voice to be heard over the hubbub. “Yes I called today’s meeting. There are various things we need to discuss. And If I’m staying then so are they.” His eyes hardened and his stance became more aggressive. “How many times have any of you faced Voldemort? Because Ron, Hermione, Ginny, even Draco, have faced him multiple times and lived to tell the tale. They’ve helped to save all of your lives so many times. And if they are capable of that, then they are certainly old enough, mature enough and powerful enough to be involved in this war.”
He smiled at Mrs Weasley. “You can’t protect us. This is civil war. Nowhere is safe. The best thing you can do for them, for us, is allow us to fight and make sure we know what’s happening.”
Mrs Weasley looked rebellious, but Dumbledore quickly stepped in. “Well said my boy, well said.” He turned to Mrs Weasley. “Were these any other teenagers Molly, then I would share your concern. But they are all exceptional. They have fought the Voldemort nearly as often as we have and they have every right to be here.”
Silence fell as Dumbledore finished speaking, broken almost immediately by the door opening to admit three people.
Draco, standing to one side of Harry and trying to remain unobtrusive, whistled low under his breath, a habit which always amused Harry; it was just so plebeian.
“The shorter one with the scars is Charlie,” Harry muttered over his shoulder to where Draco had stepped behind him to avoid the crush of people. “He works with Dragons in Romania. He wasn’t expected home for another week or so. The taller one with the ponytail is Bill.”
“I bagsy Bill then,” said Draco with feeling. Harry laughed softly and leant back against his lover’s slim chest.
“I’m afraid he’s straight and engaged to Fleur, the woman with him. A pity I know. I have heard rumours that Charlie swings our way though, and after fighting Dragons I bet his pain threshold is high enough even to please you!”
Draco grinned his amusement and slid his arms around Harry’s waist, pulling him closer. Bending his head slightly he pressed a gentle kiss to Harry’s neck, just behind his ear.
Never had so simple an act been the focus of so much careful attention or the cause of such total chaos. Only Dumbledore, Remus, Harry’s friends and the Weasley parents didn’t join in the shouting. Mad Eye was being physically restrained by Tonks, Snape was scowling harder than anyone had ever seen him (even though he already knew) and several of the order were brandishing wands, and yelling about imperius and confundus.
Harry and Draco remained remarkably calm. They had both known that the order would react like that when the time came for them to be told. Draco was concerned though; if this was how they reacted to Harry being kissed by the son of a Death Eater, how on earth would they behave when Harry told them the real reason for his calling today’s meeting?
It was Hestia Jones who summed up the feelings of the order, yelling, “What the hell is that little Death Eater wannabe doing here and what is he doing with Harry?”
If Harry hadn’t been so angry, Draco would have laughed.
It was Remus who finally calmed things down. He stood up and banged his fist on the table until things quietened down then said loudly and calmly, “Draco is here because he has switched sides. Most of you knew this already, or have you forgotten that he saved Ginny Weasley’s life? As for what he’s doing with Harry, I really think that’s their own business, don’t you?”
Harry looked ready to kiss the man. The people who had been shouting looked shame faced and shuffled a little, not meeting one another’s eyes.
Draco felt he really ought to speak. “As Remus said, Harry and I will both be of age in a matter of weeks. Our relationship is our own business. But do bear in mind that I have been vetted using veritaserum by Professors Snape and Dumbeldore. They trust that I pose no threat whatsoever to any of you, especially not Harry, and though I know it will take you a long time to trust me, I hope you at least trust them.”
The murmuring died down to an ignorable level and Dumbledore rose to speak.
“My friends, my comrades, it is good to see you all together again, and even better to see that rather than losing any of our number, we have gained new allies in the form of these excellent young people.” He gestured at the younger contingent. “We are indeed, as was stated a few moments ago, here at Harry’s request. He has something to tell you which is vitally important. It will also come as a great shock to many of you. But please bear in mind that Harry does not have to tell you – he is choosing to do so out of generosity and concern for the war effort. Please also bear in mind that I trust Harry absolutely, as do his friends here, most of whom have known what he is about to tell you for some time.”
He sat again, nodding in Harry’s direction and conceding the floor to him.
Harry flushed with nerves but he moved forward a little so that he could see everyone and they could see him. He stared round at the expectant sea of faces and knew that Remus had been right. There was no easy way of breaking the news.
“When I told Remus last night what I am about to tell you,” he began nervously, “I asked him what he found was the best method for telling people that he’s a werewolf. He said he found that there was no easier way than simply coming out with it, so I will take his advice. I am a vampire. I have been a vampire for most of a year now. Professor Dumbledore has known for nearly as long as have my friends.
“I will not go into the details of how it happened, suffice to say I didn’t choose it.
“I know many of you will feel I should have trusted you with this information sooner, especially you Mr and Mrs Weasley, but I needed time to adjust, to understand what has happened to me and to rebuild my life. It’s taken time but I feel now I’ve done all those things and now I’m ready to turn my full attention to the war.”
There was absolute silence for several moments and then everyone started talking at once. Despite Harry, Lupin and Dumbledore’s warning many people were panicking. Wands were drawn and voices raised. Mrs Weasley was crying and clutching Ginny to her, seemingly trying to keep her as far away from Harry as possible. The only people not making a fuss (apart from those who already knew) were the twins who, despite having drawn their wands, were watching the scene calmly and with interest.
Ginny Weasley tugged herself from her mother’s grip and went to stand beside Harry. Ron and Hermione joined them, both gripping their wands tightly, ready to defend Harry if needed. ‘His vassals,’ Draco mused. ‘However much they laughed they all meant it as much as I did.’ That thought reassured him immensely. It had been a long time since he’d had allies.
Ginny waved at the twins, mouthing something Draco couldn’t catch. They obviously did though because a moment later there was an ear-splitting bang which silenced even Mrs Weasley. Ginny nodded her satisfaction and turned to face the room.
“Call yourselves adults?” she demanded scornfully. “Harry gives you information vital to the war effort and you respond by threatening him? Are you really all so petty and stupid? Did you not hear Dumbledore say that he already knew? Or that we four had known for most of a year? Do you really think we would be here supporting him today if we didn’t trust him absolutely?
“Look at you, clutching your wands in fear, shouting threats at someone who isn’t even of age yet, and yet you expect this self-same vampire to save you all from the most evil man who ever lived!
“Harry hasn’t changed, not really. He’s more mature now and not so interested in girls, but that’s hardly a big problem is it? He’s still the same Harry he always was, except for his newfound attraction to ex Death Eaters.”
That raised a nervous smile on a few faces so Harry turned to Snape and said clearly, “only Draco. I’m afraid I have no interest in you in that way Professor,” and gave his least favourite teacher a little bow.
This last, foolhardy comment earned him a black glare from Snape and made Tonks laugh so much she fell of her stool, breaking the silence and three of Harry’s best cups which she knocked from the table as she fell.
After that the atmosphere lightened considerably though a few members still glared blackly and distrustfully at Harry.
Despite the hostile stares the meeting progressed calmly enough from that point onwards. Various members gave reports on their individual projects and areas. The aurors and Mr Weasley together reported on the attitude of the ministry toward the threat of Voldemort. (As far as Draco could tell the attitude was that of an ostrich. Ignore it and it might just go away).
When the individual reports were given, Dumbledore raised the question of how Harry’s species could be used to their advantage and the problems it might cause.
Mundungus Fletcher asked darkly whether Harry would be expecting blood donations from the order. Ginny managed to get a restraining hand on Draco’s arm before he could say something rash, as he did every time anyone suggested that Harry might drink someone else’s blood.
Harry answered the question far more calmly than any of his friends had expected. “That won’t be necessary Mundungus, but that you for your consideration. Professor Snape will supply me with blood potions and appetite suppressants as he has been doing during my time at Hogwarts.”
The Professor was just about to object and point out that it had been several months since Harry had last taken one of those potions but Harry’s pleading expression stopped him. He couldn’t care less about the brat, except that if they though he might be dangerous many of the order would dessert him there and then and they needed all the help they could get to defeat that monster. Better that they think him safe and tame than to let them know that he had a taste for human blood. And he definitely wasn’t wondering what it felt like to be bitten by a vampire. Not at all.
Distracted by this new train of though he nodded absently and barely heard the sigh of relief that ran around the room.
The order meeting went a little more smoothly after that, with Moody and Lupin agreeing to take on the training together. Moody hadn’t been happy about it but he’d acquiesced with more grace than usual. Harry hadn’t understood why until Draco, seeing his confusion, whispered in his ear. “If something goes wrong you’re less likely to attack Lupin,” he explained.
Harry frowned, thinking about it and realised Draco was right. He’d been too caught up in his own thoughts to notice it but Lupin didn’t smell quite right. It wasn’t that his scent was unpleasant exactly, but that he didn’t smell... well there really was no other way to put it. He didn’t smell like prey.
Moody though... “To be fair,” Harry whispered in his lovers ear, “Moody smells even less appetising that Remus.”
Draco laughed and had to cover his mouth to muffle the sound and stop the whole order staring at him.
The meeting wound up pretty quickly after that. Harry and Dumbledore between them persuaded Mrs Weasley that Harry should allow those of his friends who wished to, to train with him once a week. Hermione had squeaked happily at that. “It’ll be just like the DA!” she exclaimed.
Draco managed not to scowl when he remembered the dance the DA had led him in his fourth year. Instead he concentrated on the fact that he’d have a legitimate reason to curse Ronald Bilius Weasley. That soon restored his equilibrium.
Draco sat alone at the end of the table, observing its other occupants while Harry and Mrs Weasley busied themselves with supper.
Things were finally calm again after the unpleasantness of earlier on and it gave him a chance to really study the order. Overall he was impressed, though far more so by the younger generation than the older. They had remained reasonably calm despite the momentous news they had received, and while he knew Harry was hurt by their lack of trust he knew his own family, and the Dark Lord’s inner circle, would have reacted far worse.
Of course their lack of recriminations was partly due to the fact that they had all been led to believe that Harry had never tasted human blood, except in the form of those preservative laden blood pouches or the magic ridden potions Severus so hated making. If they knew the truth they might be less inclined to kindness.
He couldn’t help but smile when he glanced over to the object of his reverie and saw that Mrs Weasley was helping him to carefully lift the huge casserole out of the oven, seemingly uncaring, now she had been reassured, that she was brushing hands with a dark creature.
She lifted the lid from the great dish and sniffed its contents, giving Harry a congratulatory kiss on the cheek when it reached her own exacting standards. The look of joy on Harry’s face made Draco’s insides glow with happiness for his lover.
Trying to distract himself from these unbecoming sentiments, he eyed the variety of puddings laid out on the dresser. He didn’t want to get fat, but really he felt, as tonight was a special night, he really ought to keep his strength up. Who knew what Harry might want to do to him...
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Umm, twins, why is there a big pile of suitcases and WWW boxes in the slightly mouldy sitting room?” Harry asked, returning from seeing out the last of the Order.
“Our shop isn’t safe enough,” Fred explained.
“Because the protection charms muck up our work,” George added.
“And mum said we were to move home where we were safe,” Fred continued.
“But we figured that this place is safer, plus there’s more space,” George concluded.
Harry rubbed his head. “You could have asked me,” he complained. “I haven’t got a room ready for you.”
“We’ll do it,” the twins chorused.
“We’ll take the Green bedroom,” George said.
“We know were the linen lives,” Fred added.
The Green bedroom. Draco had explored the house that morning and there was only one room that one could possibly describe as the Green bedroom. It had a double bed in it. Not that that had to mean anything of course.
He was sure he hadn’t made a sound, but George turned to him and asked belligerently, “Got a problem with that Malfoy?”
Ah, so it did mean something.
He gave them a weak smile. “Not me. I’m a traditional pureblood remember? My family all marry their relatives.”
He thought for a moment that he’d gone too far, or somehow terribly misjudged the situation, but then the twins both burst out laughing.
“Fair enough,” said Fred. “Hey Harry put the kettle on.”
Harry rolled his eyes, apparently guessing, as Draco had, that this was a poor ruse to get Draco alone.
“While he’s busy,” George said with a grin, “you can tell us all about yourself.”
“And more specifically, all the sordid details of your relationship with Harry,” Fred added.
Draco laughed. Their cat and mouse way of talking made him dizzy, but he’d rather taken to the twins. They had been the only ones at the meeting who hadn’t condemned Harry as a monster or himself as a death eater. They’d simply sat quietly, watching the chaos and grinning. Enjoying the mayhem, but also waiting to size up a situation before they reacted. Nice to meet someone who acted like a normal person amongst all these impetuous Gryffindors.
“What sordid details did you want to know,” he asked, unsure whether they were joking or not.
He decided they definitely hadn’t been based on the twin expressions of glee as they leant forward in anticipation.
Their initial questions however were predictable. “So how did you and Harry get together then?” Fred asked.
“Because we didn’t think you were the vampire-loving type,” George added.
Draco smiled at them. “Wrong boys,” he said. “But I didn’t know what Harry was when I first set my sights on him. To begin with it was pure lust on my part. We were in the showers in the Prefects bathroom together once. I happened to glance over and discovered that Harry is bloody gorgeous!”
They grinned at him. “You’re a little slow on the uptake aren’t you Malfoy?”
“After all our baby sisters known that since she was ten!”
Draco shrugged. “Then he happened to run into me in the shower and decided the feeling was mutual. We didn’t actually act on it though until after your sister was attacked. Not long after, while she was visiting me in the hospital wing, I confessed that I fancied Harry and she realised, clever girl that she is, that I might be willing to live with Harry’s, err, condition.”
“So you jumped him and rest is history?” asked George.
Draco laughed. “I invited him to visit me in the hospital wing and suggested a mutually beneficial arrangement. In exchange for his protection and somewhere to live, he gets me.”
The twins sat up a little straighter and lent forward, the wands clutched aggressively. “So you don’t care for Harry?” they asked in unison, disapproval clear in their voices.
Draco held up his hands in a gesture of innocence. “I didn’t to start with, no. Now... well things have progressed a little since we first got together.”
The twins apparently took this as it was meant and leant back in their chairs, wands clutched close.
“Hey Harry,” George called, making Harry look up from where he was making tea.
“We hear you’ve been spying on Draco in the showers,” Fred said slyly.
“Lusting after his body,” George added.
Harry shook his head with mock disapproval. “Is that what he’s been telling you? Well it is partly true. But it’s his fault. Has he told you what he was doing at the time?”
The twin’s attention snapped back to Draco, as Harry had intended. “Why Draco you naughty boy,” they chorused.
He shook his head. “Not that. If you must know I was simply showering. I wasn’t doing anything provocative. Harry just has a dirty mind!”
Harry snorted with indignation. “Me?! You were the one showering in boiling water in front of a newly fledged vampire! And you say that’s not provocative?”
The twins stared at him so hard that Draco blushed. “I didn’t know he was there,” he said weakly. “And I wasn’t doing it for his benefit!”
They only stared harder. “You know I really didn’t expect Draco Malfoy to be into self harming,” Fred mused.
Is it my imagination, Draco wondered, or is George looking a little too interested? Out loud he said, “It’s hardly self harming, I always heal myself afterwards. It helps me relax.”
Fred grinned. “That really only makes it sound worse you know,” he pointed out. “But don’t worry, George and I aren’t easily shockable.”
Draco allowed his eyes to rest on their joined hands for a moment and smirked. “I should hope not or you’d never get through a day.”
The twins grinned unrepentantly at him. “So then Draco was what Harry said true? Is he really living on blood potions and appetite suppressants?”
“Because we’ve seen people on appetite suppressants,” Fred chimed in.
“And they rarely look so happy and well-fed,” George finished.
Draco grinned at them. “Now I know you where two years ahead of me, and you left a little prematurely, but you strike me as the sort who always follow the latest gossip. And though I do say so myself I am fairly notorious at school, was even back in fifth year.”
The twins looked at one another and then back at him. “We heard,” they chorused.
“Thing is,” George explained, “We only ever heard rumours about you indulging your sadistic tendencies.”
“With women,” Fred added.
Draco shook his head sadly. “That was a pretty bad time in my life. Trying to please your pureblood, homophobic, dark wizard father when you’re a gay masochist with tendencies to left wing politics is not easy. Not that I didn’t have some fun, but the fact that I was with girls rather spoiled things.”
“So when you say masochist you mean switch?” Fred asked, watching him a little too closely.
“I enjoy sadism. I crave masochism,” Draco told him a little shortly. He enjoyed talking about his own sex life nearly as much as he enjoyed speculating about other peoples, but there was something about the way they kept staring at him that unnerved him slightly. He soon found the reason though.
George sat back in his seat and sighed deeply. “You mean to tell me that while we were still at school the prettiest boy in 5th year was discovering his sexuality, looking for someone to indulge his dark fantasies with and desperate to be shown the ropes of gay sex (pun entirely intended) and yet not once did you approach us?!” His tone was both scandalised and disappointed and suddenly the intense scrutiny made sense.
Draco grinned at them. “Fairs fair you didn’t approach me either. Shame that.” The three of them sighed deeply, considering what could have been.
“You know Draco, you still haven’t answered our question,” Fred pointed out calmly.
Draco nodded. “Well I imagine you know the answer, but if you need it spelt out for you then yes, Harry drinks my blood.”
The twins smirked at him. “We just wanted to hear you say that,” George said through his grin.
Fred leant forward and asked, his interest obvious in his voice, “what’s it like?”
Draco sat back and examined the two of them thoughtfully, playing over the conversation in his mind, analysing the twins. The conclusion he came to made him raise his eyebrows in surprise. “Not content with mere incest then boys?” he asked casually. And then before either of then could protest or agree he went on, “Well Fred, it’s like a cross between knife play and crucio. The bite itself hurts, and goes on hurting. But the feeling of Harry feeding,” he trailed of, his eyes glazing. “It like all my bones are filled with fire and its so pleasurable its almost painful.”
He looked up to meet Fred’s eyes. “It’s the single best thing I’ve ever felt in my life and that’s saying something.”
Fred sat back in his chair looking a little shell-shocked. George mock-scowled at Draco. “Now you’ve done it. Ruined him for human men you have. You might have a fight on your hands now if it wasn’t for the fact that we do everything together and that freaks the hell out of Harry.”
Draco eyebrow shot up of its own accord. “He knows about you two?” Somehow he couldn’t imagine his sweet rather conventional lover knowing about the twin’s unusual relationship and still being able to joke with them.
“Most people in Gryffindor tower knew, except our siblings,” Fed said. “Plenty outside the tower too. We never made any effort to be secretive and if anyone commented we made sure they didn’t do it again. Harry’s always been a lot more accepting than most, probably because he knew from only a couple of weeks into the term. Walked in on us in an empty classroom. He’s always made a big effort to be accepting and kind to us but he nearly ran a mile when George teased him about joining us. He’s never been very good at knowing when people are teasing him.”
“Or at recognising an offer too good to refuse,” Draco added, making the twins grin madly at him.
Harry brought over the tea and took the chair next to Draco, draping his arm round his lover in a way that was a little too overly casual to be believable. Draco grinned. He rather liked it when Harry got possessive and he suspected the twins knew it.
Sure enough identical hazel eyes slid from the arm clutching Draco’s shoulder, to Harry’s face and down to Draco’s unrepentant grin.
“Were you always this possessive Harry,” Fred asked.
“Or is it just Draco that brings out this side of you?” George added.
Harry gave them a toothy smile, flashing his fangs. Draco thought he heard Fred give a little whimper. “No, Draco just brings out my vampire side.”
George shook his head in mock disapproval while Fred said, “you are a lucky lucky man Draco Malfoy. If you ever fancy some redheaded company for the night, I think I have a vial of polyjuice somewhere...”
Draco and the twins laughed and Harry gave a nervous smile, as though unsure whether they were joking.
“So Harry,” George said when he’d calmed down, “we were just asking Draco how someone from a background like his discovered masochism.”
They hadn’t been asking that but Draco was quite happy to answer anyway. “By my background I take it you mean being raised by a family famed for their use of unforgivable and other horrible dark spells?” he asked, only half teasing. “Actually it was nothing to do with father and his propensity for cursing anyone who annoyed him, even family. It’s all thanks to Pansy.”
“As in Pansy ‘pug-face’ Parkinson?” Fred asked casually. Before anyone else had a chance to speak he found himself pushed back in his chair, the tip of Draco’s wand pressed against his forehead.
Before he could actually use any of the spells his father taught him, he felt Harry’s restraining hand on him back and he took a deep shuddering breath. He pulled back his wand and after a moment, pocketed it.
“I’ll let it go this time seeing as you didn’t know,” he snarled, “but if I ever hear you saying anything like that again about the person I love most in the world I will curse you, war or no war.”
The twins looked taken aback. They’d got so used to the laughing, joking Draco they’d been chatting too, they’d almost forgotten that their new friend was a Slytherin, and a trainee Dark Wizard.
George ran a hand possessively down his brother’s arm, searching his face for any sign of hurt. At last, satisfied that all Draco had given Fred was a scare he said, “bloody hell Malfoy, it was only a joke. We’ve been called much worse believe me. By you in fact.”
“I know. And your brother put me in the hospital wing for three days last time he heard me using any of your more colourful nicknames. You don’t insult people in front of their families, it’s not on. And Pansy’s family to me in a way that matters a lot more than blood.”
They sat in awkward silence for a long time after that and in the end it was Draco who broke it.
“She wanted to learn to give blowjobs,” he said. “Pansy that is. After spending an instructive weekend with Constantina Zabini she decided it was a necessary life skill. Naturally she chose me as her test subject. She knew she could trust me not to laugh at her or spread rumours if she was rubbish.
“She wasn’t terribly good to be honest, not that mattered to me hugely given that I was 14 and up to that point I’d been kissed twice and groped once. I was enjoying myself hugely but it wasn’t actually getting me off. The fact that she kept stopping to refer to her copy of TeenWitch didn’t help. But then she bit me, entirely by accident, and I suddenly found I was enjoying myself a lot more. A LOT more. I had to dissuade her from writing to TeenWitch to correct them.”
The twins laughed and even Harry joined in, though from the possessive way he kept staring at Draco, Draco knew he hadn’t liked the mention of anyone else touching him. He shivered. Possessive Harry was his absolute favourite.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was late when Harry and Draco finally headed upstairs. The twins had produced a few bottles of butterbeer and the four of them had sat and talked for what felt like hours, picking at the cold remains of Mrs Weasley’s puddings. It felt good to sit and just be teenagers, even if the company was a little odd, and both Harry and Draco enjoyed themselves. At last though Draco decided he couldn’t wait any longer and nudged Harry into excusing them and they went upstairs to bed together for the first time.
There was a moment when they paused on the landing, deciding which bedroom to use. Although they knew they would probably spend most of their nights together, it had never occurred to either of them to share a room. Things were still too early in the relationship and they both felt a little young for such a grand step. There was also a third reason which neither ever articulated but which floated unsaid between them. One of them might die and the idea of either of them returning alone to a shared room just seemed too painful. Better if they had their own space.
After a moment’s pause they reached a silent decision and headed towards Harry’s room.
Once inside Draco headed over and sat on the bed, looking around him in interest, while Harry shut the door and hastily tidied away yesterday’s boxers, a heap of Quidditch magazines and half the contents of his school trunk which he hadn’t got round to unpacking yet. Harry’s and Lupin’s rooms were the only ones he hadn’t explored during the day, preferring to wait until he had the owners permission.
The room was similar in many ways to Draco’s, except for the large sash window which looked out onto the garden. Once upon a time it had obviously been beautiful, but decades of neglect had turned it into a jungle, the grass long and patchy and the flowerbeds running into one another. Most of the plants were dead or dying, and those few that had survived the neglect had flourished and were slowly covering the entire garden.
The furniture in Harry’s room was similar to that in his own – decent quality antiques but not valuable, thought those in this room were largely Victorian mahogany and the theme here was red, the bedspread, curtains and armchair all the same deep ruby. Appropriate, Draco couldn’t help but think.
Harry stood by the dresser, looking uncomfortable while Draco surveyed the room. “What do you think?” he asked, when no opinion was forthcoming.
Draco smiled at him. “Very nice,” he complimented him. “Not nearly as Gryffindorish as I expecting, despite all the red.”
Harry laughed a little self consciously. They sat in awkward silence for a moment, neither quite knowing how to initiate things. Then Draco sighed and rolled his shoulders, stretching the stiff muscles. “I’m just going to brush my teeth,” he told Harry and disappeared from the room.
Harry followed his example, also taking the opportunity to tidy away a few more remnants.
When Draco returned he had changed into midnight blue satin pyjamas. They were just a touch too big for him and Harry couldn’t help but grin. He’d never seen his lover in his pyjamas before and really he thought, despite the pointed features and poise, the only word to describe him was cute.
Seeing Draco ready for bed made Harry feel even more self conscious about his own clothes, but he didn’t want to change now with Draco in the room, and locking himself in the bathroom to do it seemed a little pointed, given that they had been a sort of couple since January.
He just stood watching Draco, unsure of what to say and how to act. They could usually find things to talk about and they were getting increasingly relaxed in one another’s company, and their love life Harry could only describe as mind-blowing, but he was still unsure and nervous about actually initiating anything between them. Usually it was Draco who started anything, patiently accepting of Harry’s lack of confidence, but tonight Harry had something special in mind. Something which, if he was perfectly honest with himself, he had no idea if Draco would like. Unconsciously he rubbed his sweaty palms on his jeans, hoping his nervousness didn’t show to much.
Draco seated himself cross legged in the middle of the bed, facing Harry. He could see his lover was nervous, though he didn’t know what about. Well he suspected. Jealous Harry followed by nervous Harry meant a Harry who wanted something sexual but didn’t know how to ask for it.
He patted the duvet in front of him and Harry took the hint, coming and kneeling awkwardly on the bed facing him.
There was another long moment while Harry tried to screw up his courage and Draco waited for his to make a move. Eventually Draco sighed deeply and shuffled forwards. He reached out one long fingered hand to tangle in Harry’s hair and used to steer his head forwards until their lips were almost touching.
“Just do it you fool,” he whispered and pressed their lips together in a chaste kiss.
Harry growled softly under his breath, frustrate with himself for needing Draco prompting. Gathering all his nerve, he grabbed his blond lover’s shoulders and shoved him back onto the bed, covering the slight body with his own.
Draco arched into Harry’s embrace, his long legs uncrossing themselves and spreading to accommodate Harry. Both boys gasped his pleasure as Draco’s writhing brought their clothed erections into contact.
Harry swooped down his head, catching Draco’s open mouth and swallowing his gasps of pleasure. He didn’t wait for permission; he slid his tongue into his lover’s mouth, tasting the familiar addictive taste that was Draco, mingled with toothpaste and just a hint of sugar from all the desserts he’d eaten.
Harry kissed like he did everything – with a passion and urgency and sheer determination that took Draco’s breath away.
After long moments in which their kissing grew increasingly forceful, Harry tore his mouth away from Draco’s and began to kiss his way down to Draco neck. He paused there for long moments, placing soft open mouthed kisses to the alluring flesh, running his tongue over the rapid thud of his lovers pulse, loud and teasing as it fluttered just out of reach. He nipped gently, allowing his fangs to graze the skin, just enough to make Draco give a desperate mewl of desire and arch his neck even further, offering himself to Harry. Harry took the proffered flesh into his mouth, sucking hard and desperately until Draco’s rich blood was close enough beneath the skin to drive him nearly wild with need, but he restrained himself, only teasing until Draco was writhing and incoherent with desire.
“Please Harry,” he begged, “bite me please!”
Harry chuckled darkly, the sound sending shivers up Draco’s spine. “I will, don’t worry,” he whispered, his hot breath ghosting against pale skin, “but not here.” And he ran hot tongue over the abused flesh.
He placed one last gentle kiss over the livid bruise that decorated Draco’s pale throat. Draco’s conversation with the twins earlier had reminded him of a half forgotten fantasy. He knew Draco’s love for Pansy wasn’t at all sexual, but after being reminded that she had had Draco first, he had felt a burning need to remind Draco just who he, and particularly certain parts of his anatomy, belonged too.
He began to kiss and lick his way down Draco’s angular body, unbuttoning the shirt of his pyjamas as he went, pausing to lick teasingly at his lovers nipples, eventually giving in to his desperate whimpers and biting down, hard enough that he could taste that familiar blood just beneath the surface, but not hard enough to break the skin. Draco cried out and Harry’s cock pulsed with anticipation.
He placed a line of kisses down Draco’s rib cage and then, because he liked the sharp lines of his ribs, retraced the line with his tongue. Draco writhed beneath him and Harry had to lean his weight a little on his ribs to hold him still.
He paused again to kiss Draco’s stomach, fascinated by the way his muscles jumped and fluttered as though surprised by each gentle contact.
By the time Harry’s pushed down the waist band of Draco’s pyjama bottoms so his questing kisses could reach the wiry curls of Draco’s pubic hair, both boys were hard and panting. Draco shucked of the satin garments that still covered his pale body, leaving himself exposed to Harry’s hungry gaze.
Draco’s hips jerked when Harry began pressing gentle kisses to his sharply defined hip bones and jerked again when he accidentally-on-purpose brushed his cheek against his partner’s straining erection. He moaned when Harry began to place gentle kisses to the insides of his firm thighs and gasped when Harry delicately scraped his fangs over the flesh. When Harry repeated the action, this time allowing his fangs to graze the skin, enough to raise a few drops of blood Draco wailed with desperation.
Harry decided Draco was a ready as he was ever going to be. He kissed his way across Draco’s thigh, sucking first one ball and then the other briefly into his mouth, lapping at the delicate flesh, tasting the uniquely musky scent on his tongue. He released the tender flesh and placed one kiss to the very base of Draco’s cock.
Draco moaned his pleasure, his hips snapping up only to be held in place by one of Harry’s large hands, as his lover finally took his hard flesh into his mouth. They both moaned as Harry sunk his head down a little and sucked back up to the tip, swirling his tongue around the slit, tasting Draco’s desperation. Harry bobbed his head, taking a little more of the smooth satiny flesh into his mouth each time.
Draco was circumcised (a family tradition he had once told Harry) and he gasped every time Harry swiped his tongue over the unprotected ridge.
They taste and smell of his lover surrounded Harry and the feel of his hot hard flesh in his mouth was making his shiver with pleasure, every moan and whimper from Draco increasing his own pleasure. He sucked his way up one more time, the flat of his tongue sliding against Draco’s cock, until it was half in his mouth. He wrapped his fingers around the base, while his other hand took a tighter grip on Draco’s hips, preparing to hold him still. And then Draco screamed as Harry sunk his fangs into the hot tender flesh that filled his mouth.
Harry moaned quietly, the pleasure of biting filling him with warmth and then moaned in earnest as he pulled back slightly and his mouth filled with hot blood, the combined taste of Draco blood and his precome burning itself onto his mind.
Draco was making a low keening, wining sound that Harry was pretty sure was pleasure. Not that he could have stopped himself now, even if he’d wanted too. He ran his tongue over the tiny pinprick wound, smiling to himself when Draco mumbled, “oh Merlin Harry, oh please, oh...”
His voice trailed off as Harry, satisfied he wasn’t hurting Draco too much, began once more to suck Draco’s cock with renewed enthusiasm.
It didn’t take long for Draco to come. The dull ache of the shallow wound, still trickling blood, the hot, wet suction of Harry’s mouth, the tingling fire that always filled his bones when Harry fed on his blood, not to mention the noises of appreciation Harry was making, all served to tip him over the edge in a matter of moments.
His vision blurred as the pleasure of his release roared through him, leaving his gasping and boneless. He was only half aware of Harry moaning his own release, one hand rubbing at the crotch of his jeans.
They collapsed together, both panting with exertion and enjoy the aftershocks of their pleasure.
After a moment Harry groped for his wand and cast a quick healing spell on the still bleeding pinpricks that marked his lovers cock. Draco shuddered slightly at the feel of the healing magic washing over him, but for once he was grateful for it. He usually liked to carry his wounds as badges of honour, for the night at least, but these were a little to worrying.
Harry began to move and then grimaced. He shucked of his coldly sticky jeans, pulling a face at his boxers which were in no better state. He threw those on the floor as well, followed by his t-shirt. Draco rolled over sleepily to watch him.
“Wow,” he said after a moment. “I’m good. No one’s ever made me come without being touched.”
Harry laughed to cover his embarrassment. “That sounds like a challenge,” he teased.
Draco grinned at him. “Some other time. I think another go like that might kill me.”
He reached over and snatched Harry’s wand of him, putting it on the bedside table and pulling his lover down onto the bed with him.
They lay there in one another’s arms, tired but not yet ready to sleep.
“Wow,” Draco said at last.
“Yeah,” Harry replied drowsily. “I’ve been wanting to do that for aaaages.”
“So it wasn’t just me talking about Pansy that made you think of it?” Draco teased.
“No, just reminded me. I’m glad it did. That was... wow.”
Draco smiled at his lover and spoke the word that would extinguish the lights in the room.
A moment later a voice spoke in the darkness. “Harry, did you just use underage magic?!”
Warning: this chapter contains horror themes and character death. Please read it ‘cos it’s full of plot, but be warned – it’s not pretty
Draco had hoped that, after their drama filled first day and their subsequent late night, they might at least get sleep in the next day, and maybe even have a lazy day, just wondering around the house, spending time together and getting used to the dynamic of living with another couple. His hopes were dashed however when a knock on the door roused him at eight o’clock.
“Boys, its Remus,” called the werewolf’s soft voice from the landing. “Sorry to wake you, I know you’ve had a hard couple of days, but there’s some important business to discuss. Breakfast’s ready when you are.”
Draco groaned his assent and understanding and listened to the retreating footsteps. Then he woke Harry.
It took some doing. After five years in a dormitory full of teenage boys, Harry could sleep through pretty much anything. Some people could sleep through judgement day; his mother was fond of saying. He smiled as that brought back almost-but-not-quite painful memories of having Pansy and Blaise to stay at the manor in simpler days and he and Pansy rousing the comatose Blaise with a bucket of iced water from the kitchens. When they’d run laughing to tell his mother what they’d done she just smiled indulgently and repeated her much quoted adage, no matter how often they did it.
Eventually a combination of shaking him, calling his name and groping him woke Harry enough that he opened one bleary eye and stared accusingly at Draco.
“Oh God,” he groaned, “You’re not a morning person are you? I won’t let you sleep here if you’re a morning person!”
Draco treated him to his most blinding grin, carefully calculated to be as annoying as possible, especially first thing in the morning. In truth he didn’t care all that much. He could get up if he wanted but he was equally happy to stay in bed ‘till noon, especially if said bed contained something as tempting as a naked Harry Potter.
All he said though was, “Lupin says sorry, but there’s important stuff to see too, and breakfast’s ready.”
Harry groaned piteously, but he did at least make some effort to rouse himself.
Seeing that he was at least beginning to wake up, Draco gave him a quick peck on the lips and slid out of bed, padding over to the window to draw the heavy curtains and led a flood of early morning sunshine fill the room, making Potter blink and shield his eyes.
Grinning at how dreadful Harry’s hair looked in the morning he headed back to his own room, his own clothes and, hopefully, a bathroom all too himself.
He took a quick shower, finding the controls for the shower enough like the manor that he didn’t freeze or scald himself, then dressed in casual robes.
He met Potter emerging from his room, still looking half asleep, as he headed down to breakfast. On his way past he knocked on the twins’ bedroom door, not seeing why they should be allowed to stay in bed when he had to be up.
True to his word, Lupin had set four plates of scrambled eggs under warming charms on the dresser. Draco helped himself to one, found the cutlery and tucked in. After a moment Lupin emerged from the cellar door and put the kettle on.
Draco smiled his acknowledgement when a mug of steaming tea was set in front of him and nodded to Harry when he entered the room, still in his pyjamas.
He slumped down at the table opposite Draco and sat staring at nothing until Lupin passed him eggs, tea and post. By the time he’d drunk half the tea he was awake enough to tackle the eggs and once those were polished off, he finally looked awake.
Pushing his plate aside he opened his post. The first letter was in a distinctive red envelope that Draco couldn’t place until Harry opened it, and a booming voice that Draco thought belonged to Kingsley Shacklebolt filled the room.
“At 16 you should know better than to perform underage Magic when you’re trying to keep a low profile!!! As though we don’t have enough to do without keeping you from appearing before the Wizengamot! I hope you were really bloody badly injured, or I am going to give you the bollocking of your life next time I see you. Or even better, I’ll tell Snape all about it. I hope this howler ruins your morning as much as your bloody little healing charm ruined mine!”
“All in all that was pretty mild,” Draco said eventually, as he watched the howler tear itself into little shreds.
Lupin frowned at Harry. “A healing charm Harry? Was it really so urgent that you couldn’t have asked me, or the twins, to do it for you?”
Harry and Draco exchanged looks, both imagining trying to explain to Lupin exactly what and why they had healed.
Harry hung his head and said quietly, “Sorry Remus.”
“I infer from your reluctance to answer that this is something personal between the two of you so I won’t pry, but I do need to check... Draco won’t need healing every time you feed will he Harry?”
Draco shook his head. “As far as we can tell Harry’s saliva seems to have some mild healing properties. The wounds still take time to heal, but they stop bleeding remarkably quickly. This was... well, it was something different. And we just didn’t think – we’ve got used to Hogwarts.”
Remus nodded in understanding and went back to his tea and paper without reprimanding them, though he still looked concerned.
The only other letter for Harry was a small parchment envelope with his name written on it in a hand he knew well.
He tore it open and read the contents.
“My dear Harry,
I trust you remember the conversation we had in my office last term concerning the methods by which Voldemort has made himself immortal and certain memories we viewed pertaining to it?
I believe I have discovered one of the accursed items which we seek. If you will be so good as to join me at the castle steps at seven this evening, we will go together to find and hopefully destroy it.
Come alone and bring your cloak.
His stomach plummeted. Back from school only two days and already he was going up against Voldemort. At least it was some progress he comforted himself, though he found he didn’t feel like his breakfast any more.
At five to seven, his cloak under one arm and his wand tucked safely in his pocket Harry kissed Draco goodbye (he had not told him were he was going except to tell him it was with Dumbledore), made sure Hedwig knew where to find the letters she was to take to Ron and Hermione in the event of his not returning, and flooed from the slightly mouldy sitting room into Dumbeldore’s office which had been left open for him.
Dumbledore was waiting beside the oaken front doors, looking out over the lake. He turned as Harry came skidding up to the topmost stone step, panting hard.
“Before we go Harry, there is something I need you to promise me. I want you to swear, on your honour, that you will do everything I say, even if I command you to abandon me to my death. Do you understand?”
Mutely Harry nodded, hating what he was agreeing too, but not prepared to allow Dumbledore to go alone.
“I would like you to wear your cloak, please,” said Dumbledore, and he waited silently until Harry had thrown it on before saying, “Very good. Shall we go?”
Dumbledore set off at once down the stone steps, his own cloak barely stirring in the warm summer air. Harry hurried alongside him under the invisibility cloak, still panting.
They made their way down the drive in the gathering twilight. The air was full of the smells of warm grass, lake water and wood smoke from Hagrid’s cabin. It was difficult to believe that they were heading for anything dangerous or frightening.
“Professor,” Harry said quietly, as the gates at the bottom of the drive came into view, “will we be Apparating?”
“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “You can Apparate now I believe?”
“Yes,” said Harry, “but I haven’t got a licence.”
He felt it best to be honest; what if he spoiled everything by turning up a hundred miles from where he was supposed to go?
“No matter,” said Dumbledore. “I can assist you again.”
They turned out of the gates into the twilight, deserted lane to Hogsmeade. Darkness descended fast as they walked and by the time they reached the High Street night was falling in earnest. Lights twinkled from windows over shops and as they neared the three broomsticks they heard raucous shouting.
“- and stay out!” shouted Madam Rosmerta, forcibly ejecting a grubby-looking wizard. “Oh hello, Albus, you’re out late.”
“Good evening, Rosmerta. Forgive me but I’m off to the Hog’s Head. No offence meant I assure you, but I feel like a quieter atmosphere tonight.”
A minute later they had turned the corner into the side street where the Hog’s Head sign creaked a little, though there was no breeze. In contrast to the Three Broomstick, the pub appeared to be completely empty.
“It will not be necessary for us to enter,” muttered Dumbledore, glancing around. “As long as nobody sees us go. Now place your hand upon my arm Harry. There is no need to grip too hard, I am merely guiding you. On the count of three – one... two... three...”
Harry turned. At once, there was that horrible sensation that he was being squeezed through a thick rubber tube; he could not draw breath, every part of him was being compressed almost past endurance and then, just when he thought he must suffocate, the invisible bands seemed to burst open, and he was standing in cool darkness, breathing in lungfulls of fresh, salty air.
Harry could smell salt and hear rushing waves; a light, chilly breeze ruffled his hair as he looked out at moonlit sea and star-strewn sky. He was standing on a high outcrop of dark rock, water foaming and churning bellow him. He glanced over his shoulder. A towering cliff stood behind, a sheer drop, black and faceless. A few large chunks of rock, such as the one upon which Harry and Dumbledore were standing, looked as though they had broken away from the cliff face at some point in the past. It was a bleak, harsh view; the sea and the rock unrelieved by any tree or sweep of grass or sand.
“What do you think?” asked Dumbledore. He might have been asking Harry’s opinion on whether it was a good site for a picnic.
“They brought the kids from the orphanage here?” asked Harry, who could not imagine a less cosy spot for a daytrip.
“Not here, precisely,” said Dumbledore. “There is a village of sorts about halfway along the cliffs behind us. I believe the orphans were taken there for a little sea air and a view of the waves. No, I think it was only ever Tom Riddle and his youthful victims who visited this spot. No Muggle could reach this rock unless they were uncommonly good mountaineers, and boats cannot approach the cliff; the waters around them are too dangerous. I imagine Riddle climbed down; magic would have served better than ropes. And he brought two small children with him, probably for the pleasure of terrorising them. I think the journey alone would have done it, don’t you?”
Harry looked up at the cliff again and felt goosebumps.
“But his final destination – and ours – lies a little further on. Come”
Dumbledore beckoned Harry to the very edge of the rock, where a series of jagged niches that made footholds led down to boulders that lay half submerged in water and closer to the cliff. It was a treacherous descent and Dumbledore, hampered slightly by his withered hand, moved slowly. The lower rocks were slippery with sea water. Harry could feel flecks of cold salt spray hitting his face.
“Lumos,” said Dumbledore, as he reached the boulder closest to the cliff face. A thousand flecks of golden light sparkled upon the dark surface of the water a few feet below where he crouched; the black wall of rock beside him was illuminated too.
“You see?” said Dumbledore quietly, holding his wand a little higher. Harry saw a fissure in the cliff into which dark water was swirling.
“You do not object to getting a little wet?”
“No,” said Harry.
“Then take off your invisibility cloak – there is no need for it now – and let us take the plunge.”
And with the sudden agility of a much younger man, Dumbledore slid from the boulder, landed in the sea and began to swim, with perfect breaststroke, towards the dark slit in the rock face, his lit wand held in his teeth. Harry pulled off his cloak, stuffed it into his pocket and followed.
The water was icy; Harry’s waterlogged clothes billowed around him and weighed him down. Taking deep breaths that filled his nostrils with the tang of salt and seaweed, he struck out for the shimmering, shrinking light now moving deeper into the cliff.
The fissure soon opened into a dark tunnel that Harry could tell would be filled with water at high tide. The slimy walls were barely three feet apart and glimmered like wet tar in the passing light of Dumbledore’s wand. A little way in, the passageway curved to the left and Harry saw that it extended far into the cliff. He continued to swim in Dumbledore’s wake, the tips of his benumbed fingers brushing the rough wet rock.
Then he saw Dumbledore rising out of the water ahead, his silver hair and dark robes gleaming. When Harry reached the spot he found steps that led into a large cave. He clambered up them, water streaming from his soaking clothes, and emerged, shivering uncontrollably, into the still and freezing air.
Dumbledore was standing in the middle of the cave, his wand held high as he turned slowly on the spot, examining the walls and ceiling.
“Yes this is the place,” said Dumbledore.
“How can you tell?” Harry spoke in a whisper.
“It has known magic,” said Dumbledore simply.
Harry could not tell whether the shivers he was experiencing were due to his spine-deep coldness or to the same awareness of enchantments. He was watching as Dumbledore continued to revolve of the spot, evidently concentrating on things Harry could not see.
“This is merely the ante-chamber, the entrance hall,” said Dumbledore after a moment or two. “We need to penetrate the inner place ... now it is Lord Voldemort’s obstacles that stand in our way, rather than those nature made ...”
Dumbledore approached the wall of the cave and caressed it with his blackened fingertips, murmuring words in a strange tongue that Harry could not understand. Twice Dumbledore walked right around the cave, touching as much of the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backwards and forwards over a particular spot, until finally he stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall.
“Here,” he said. “We go on through here. The entrance is concealed.”
Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching; but Harry had long since learned that bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than expertise.
Dumbledore stepped back from the cave wall and pointed his wand at the rock. For a moment, an arched outline appeared there, blazing white as though there was a powerful light behind the crack.
“You’ve d-done it!” said Harry through chattering teeth, but before the words had left his lips the outline had gone, leaving the rock as bare and solid as ever. Dumbledore looked round.
“Harry, I’m so sorry, I forgot,” he said; he pointed his wand at Harry and at once Harry’s clothes were as warm and dry as if they had been hanging in front on a blazing fire.
“Thank you,” said Harry gratefully, but Dumbledore had already turned his attention back to the solid cave wall. He did not try any more magic, but simply stood there staring at it intently, as though something extreme interesting was written on it. Harry stayed quite still; he did not want to break Dumbledore’s concentration.
Then, after two solid minutes, Dumbledore said quietly, “Oh, surely not. So crude.”
“What is it, Professor?”
“I rather think,” said Dumbledore, putting his uninjured hand inside his robes and drawing out a short silver knife of the kind Harry used to chop potions ingredients, “that we are required to make a payment to pass.”
“Payment?” said Harry. “You’ve got to give the door something?”
“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “Blood, if I am not much mistaken.”
“I said it was crude,” said Dumbledore, who sounded disdainful, even disappointed, as though Voldemort had fallen short of the standards Dumbledore expected. “The idea, as I am sure you will have gathered, is that your enemy must weaken him or herself to enter. Once again, Lord Voldemort fails to grasp that there are much more terrible things than physical injury.”
“Yeah, but still, if you can avoid it ...” said Harry, who had experienced enough pain not to be keen for any more.
“Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable,” said Dumbledore, shaking back the sleeve of his robes and exposing the forearm of his injured hand.
“Professor!” protested Harry, hurrying forwards as Dumbledore raised his knife. “I’ll do it, I’m –“
He did not know what he was going to say – younger, fitter? But Dumbledore merely smiled. There was a flash of silver, and a spurt of scarlet, the rock face was peppered with dark, glistening drops.
“You are very kind, Harry,” said Dumbledore, now passing the tip of his wand over the deep cut he had made in his own arm, so that it healed instantly. “But your blood is worth more than mine. Ah, that seems to have done the trick doesn’t it?”
The blazing silver outline of an arch had appeared in the wall once more, and this time it did not fade away; the blood-spattered rock within it simply vanished, leaving an opening into what seemed total darkness.
“Is it... that is, will I get into trouble if I cast a lumos?” Harry asked. “From the look of it, the more lights we have in there the better.”
“Of course, dear boy; good thinking. While you are with me you are as free to use magic as if you were still within Hogwarts. And now, after me, I think,” said Dumbledore, and he walked through the archway with Harry on his heels, lighting his own wand hastily as he went.
An eerie sight met their eyes: they were standing on the edge of a great black lake, so vast that Harry could not make out the distant banks, in a cavern so high that the ceiling, too, was out of sight. A misty greenish light shone far away in what looked like the middle of the lake; it was reflected in the completely still water below. The greenish glow and the light from the two wands were the only things that broke the otherwise velvety blackness, though their rays did not penetrate as far as Harry would have expected. The darkness was somehow denser than normal darkness.
“Let us walk,” said Dumbledore quietly. “Be very careful not to step into the water. Stay close to me.”
He set off around the edge of the lake and Harry followed close behind him. Their footsteps made echoing, slapping sounds on the narrow rim of rock that surrounded the water. On and on they walked, but the view did not vary: on one side of them, the rough cavern wall; on the other, the boundless expanse of smooth glassy blackness, in the very middle of which was the mysterious greenish glow. Harry found the place and the silence oppressive, unnerving.
“Professor?” he said finally. “Do you think the Horcrux is here?”
“Oh yes,” said Dumbledore. “Yes, I’m sure it is. The question is, how do we get to it?”
“We couldn’t ... we couldn’t just try a summoning charm?” Harry said, sure that it was a stupid suggestion, but much keener than he was prepared to admit of getting out of this place as soon as possible.
“Certainly we could,” said Dumbledore, stopping so suddenly that Harry almost walked into him. “Why don’t you do it?”
“Me? Oh ... ok ...”
Harry had not expected this, but cleared his throat and said loudly, wand aloft, “Accio Horcrux!”
With a noise like an explosion, something very large and pale erupted out of the dark water some twenty feet away; before Harry could see what it was, it had vanished again with a crashing slash that made great, deep ripples on the mirrored surface. Harry leapt backwards in shock and hit the wall; his heart was still thundering as he turned to Dumbledore.
“What was that?”
“Something, I think, that is ready to respond should we attempt to seize the Horcrux.”
Harry looked back at the water. The surface of the lack was once more shining black glass: the ripples had vanished unnaturally fast; Harry’s heart, however, was still pounding.
“Did you think that would happen, sir?”
“I thought something would happen if we made an obvious attempt to get our hands on the Horcrux. That was a very good idea, Harry; much the simplest way of finding out what we are facing.”
“But we don’t know what that thing was,” said Harry, looking at the sinisterly smooth water.
“What the things are, you mean,” said Dumbledore. “I doubt very much that there is only one of them. Shall we walk on?”
“Do you think we’re going to have to go into the lake?”
“Into it? Only if we are very unfortunate.”
“You don’t think the Horcrux is at the bottom?”
“Oh no ... I think the Horcrux is in the middle.”
And Dumbledore pointed towards the misty green light at the centre of the lake.
“So we’re going to have to cross the lake to get it?”
“Yes, I think so.”
Harry did not say anything. His thought were all of water-monsters, of giant serpents, of demons, kelpies and sprites ...
“Aha,” said Dumbledore and he stopped again; this time, Harry really did walk into him; for a moment he toppled on the edge of the dark water and Dumbledore’s uninjured hand closed tightly around his upper arm, pulling him back. “So sorry, Harry, I should have given warning. Stand back against the wall please; I think I have found the place.”
Harry had no idea what Dumbledore meant; this patch of dark bank looked exactly like every other bit as far as he could tell, but Dumbledore seemed to have detected something special about it. This time he was running his hand not over the rocky wall, but through the thin air, as though expecting to find and grip something invisible.
“Oho,” said Dumbledore happily, seconds later. His hand had closed in midair upon something Harry could not see. Dumbledore moved closer to the water; Harry watched nervously as the tips of Dumbledore’s buckled shoes found the utmost edge of the rock rim. Keeping his hand clenched in midair, Dumbledore raised his wand with the other and tapped his fist with the point.
Immediately a thick coppery green chain appeared out of thin air, extending from the depths the depths of the water into Dumbledore’s clenched hand. Dumbledore tapped the chain, which began to slide through his fist like a snake, coiling itself on the ground with a clinking sound that echoed noisily off the rocky walls, pulling something from the depths of the black water. Harry gasped as the ghostly prow of a tiny boat broke the surface, glowing green as the chain, and floated, with barely a ripple, towards the place on the bank where Harry and Dumbledore stood.
“How did you know that was there?” Harry asked in astonishment.
“Magic always leaves traces,” said Dumbledore, as the boat hit the bank with a gentle bump, “sometimes very distinctive traces. I taught Tom Riddle. I know his style.”
“Is ... is this boat safe?”
“Oh yes, I think so. Voldemort needed to create a means to cross the lake without attracting the wrath of those creatures he had placed within it, in case he ever wanted to visit or remove his Horcrux.”
“So the things in the water won’t do anything to us if we cross in Voldemort’s boat?”
“I think we resign ourselves to the fact that they will, at some point, realise that we are not Lord Voldemort. Thus far, however, we have done well. They have allowed us to raise the boat.”
“But why have they let us?” asked Harry, who could not shake off the vision of tentacles rising out of the dark water the moment they were out of sight of the bank.
“Voldemort would have been reasonably confident that none but a very great wizard would have been able to find the boat,” said Dumbledore. “I think he would have been prepared to risk what was, to his mind, the most unlikely possibility that someone else would find it, knowing that he had set other obstacles ahead that only he would be able to penetrate. We shall see whether he is right.”
Harry looked down into the boat. It really was very small.
“It doesn’t look like it was built for two people. Will it hold both of us? Will we be too heavy together?”
“Voldemort would not have cared about the weight, but about the amount of magical power that crossed his lake. I rather think an enchantment will have been placed upon this boat so that only one wizard at a time will be able to sail in it.”
“But then -?”
“I do not think you will count, Harry: you are under age and unqualified. Voldemort would never have expected a sixteen year old to reach this place; I think it unlikely that your powers will register compared to mine.”
These words did nothing to raise Harry’s morale; perhaps Dumbledore knew it, for he added, “Voldemort’s mistake Harry, Voldemort’s mistake ... age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth ... now, you first this time, and careful not to touch the water.”
Dumbledore stood aside and Harry climbed carefully into the boat. Dumbledore stepped in too, coiling the chain onto the floor. They were crammed in together; Harry could not comfortably sit, but crouched, his knees jutting over the edge of the boat, which began to move at once. There was no sound other than the silken rustle of the boat’s prow cleaving the water; it moved without their help, as though an invisible rope were pulling it onwards towards the light in the centre. Soon they could no longer see the walls of the cavern; they might have been at sea except there were no waves.
Harry looked up and saw the reflected gold of his wand-light, sparkling and glittering on the black water as they passed. The boat was carving deep ripple upon the glassy surface, grooves in the dark mirror...
And then Harry saw it, marble white, floating inches below the surface.
“Professor!” he said, and his startled voice echoed loudly over the silent water.
“I think I saw a hand in the water – a human hand!”
“Yes, I am sure you did,” said Dumbledore calmly.
Harry stared down into the water, looking for the vanished hand, and a sick feeling rose in his throat.
“So that thing that jumped out of the water - ?”
But Harry had his answer before Dumbledore could reply; the wand-light had slid over a fresh patch of water and showed him, this time, a dead man lying face up inches beneath the surface: his open eyes misted as though with cobwebs, his hair and his robes swirling around him like smoke.
“There are bodies in here!” said Harry, and his voice sounded much higher than usual and most unlike his own.
“Yes,” said Dumbledore placidly, “Inferi, in fact, but we do not need to worry about them at the moment.”
“At the moment?” Harry repeated, tearing his gaze away from the water to look at Dumbledore.
“Not while they are merely drifting peacefully bellow us,” said Dumbledore. “There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from darkness. Lord Voldemort, who secretly fears both, of course disagrees. But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
Harry said nothing; he did not want to argue, but he found the idea that there were bodies floating around them and beneath them horrible, and what was more, he did not believe that they were not dangerous.
“But one of them jumped,” he said, trying to make his voice as level and calm as Dumbledore’s. “When I tried to summon the Hocrux, a body leapt out of the lake.”
“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “I am sure that once we take the Horcrux, we shall find them less peaceable. However, like many creatures that dwell in cold and darkness, they fear light and warmth, which we shall therefore call to our aid should the need arise. Fire, Harry,” Dumbledore added with a smile, in response to Harry’s bewildered expression.
“Oh ... right...” said Harry quickly. He turned his head to look at the greenish glow toward which the boat was still inexorably sailing. He could not pretend, now, that he was not scared. The great black lake, teeming with the dead... he suddenly wished he had said a better goodbye to his friends and to Draco ...
“Nearly there,” said Dumbledore cheerfully.
Sure enough, the greenish light seemed to be growing larger at last, and within minutes, the boat had come to a halt, bumping gently into something that Harry could not see at first, but when he raised his illuminated wand he saw that they had reached a small island of smooth rock in the centre of the lake.
“Careful not to touch the water,” said Dumbledore again as Harry climbed out of the boat.
The island was no larger than Dumbledore’s office: an expanse of flat dark stone on which stood nothing but the source of the greenish light, which looked much brighter when viewed close too. Harry squinted at it; at first he thought it was a lamp of some kind, but the he saw that the light was coming from a stone basin rather like the Pensive, which was set on top of a pedestal.
Dumbledore approached the basin and Harry followed. Side by side they looked down into it. The basin was full of an emerald liquid emitting that phosphorescent glow.
“What is it?” asked Harry quietly.
“I am not sure,” said Dumbledore. “Something more worrisome than blood and bodies, however.”
Dumbledore pushed back the sleeve of his robe over his blackened hand, and stretched out the tips of his burned fingers towards the surface of the potion.
“Sir, no, don’t touch - !”
“I cannot touch,” said Dumbledore, smiling faintly. “See? I cannot approach nearer than this. You try.”
Staring, Harry put his hand into the basin and attempted to touch the potion. He met an invisible barrier that prevented him coming within an inch of it. No matter how hard he pushed, his fingers encountered nothing but what seemed to be solid and inflexible air.
“Out of the way please, Harry,” said Dumbledore.
He raised his wand and made complicated movements over the surface of the potion, murmuring soundlessly. Nothing happened, except perhaps the potion glowed a little brighter. Harry remained silent while Dumbledore worked, but after a while Dumbledore withdrew his wand and Harry felt it was safe to talk again.
“You think the Horcrux is in there sir?”
“Oh yes.” Dumbledore peered more closely into the basin. Harry saw his face reflected, upside down, in the smooth surface of the green potion. “But how do you reach it? This potion cannot be penetrated by hand, Vanished, parted, scooped up or siphoned away, nor can it be Transfigured, Charmed or otherwise made to change its nature.”
Almost absent-mindedly, Dumbledore raised his wand again, twirled it once in midair and then caught the crystal goblet that he had conjured out of nowhere.
“I can only conclude that this potion is supposed to be drunk.”
“What?” exclaimed Harry. “No!”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” said Dumbledore. “Only by drinking the potion can I see what lies in its depths.”
“But what if it’s poison?!”
“It may well be, Harry. But I very much doubt that Lord Voldemort would want to kill the person who reached this Island.”
Harry couldn’t believe it. Was this more of Dumbledore’s insane determination to see the best in everyone?
“Sir,” Harry said, trying to keep his voice level, “sir, this is Voldemort we’re...”
“I’m sorry, Harry; I should have said, he would not want to kill the person who reached this island immediately,” Dumbledore corrected himself. “He would want to keep them alive until he had learned how they penetrated his defences, and most importantly, why they were so intent on getting to the basin in the first place. Do not forget, Harry, the he believes that he is the only one who knows of the Horcruxes.”
Harry tried to respond, but Dumbledore raised a hand, gesturing for silence as he stared thoughtfully at the emerald surface.
“It is probable,” he said at last, “indeed I am certain, that this potion is designed to prevent me, in some way, from reaching the Horcrux. It might paralyse me, or cause me to forget why I am here, or simply cause me so much agony that I do not want to go on. Or it may do a variety of other unpleasant things. If I am right, Harry, and I pride myself that I nearly always am, then it will be your job to ensure that I keep drinking the potion, even if you have to sit on my chest and pour the potion into my protesting mouth. Do you understand?”
Their eyes met over the basin, their faces lit by the weird green light that emanated from it. Was this after all why he had been allowed to come along? So that he could feed his mentor a deadly poison? Whatever Dumbledore said, Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that the green liquid was lethal.
“You remember of course,” Dumbledore said in a light conversational tone, “the condition on which you joined me here?”
Harry hesitated, staring up into the pale blue eyes, undimmed by age, dyed green by the ghost-light. He did not speak, knowing Dumbledore saw the fear in his eyes. Fear not for himself, but for the man who had been like a father to him since he was eleven.
“You swore to follow any command I gave you,” Dumbledore reminded him gently. “And now you have your orders.”
“Why can’t I drink the poison?” asked Harry desperately.
“Because I am much older, much cleverer and because your life is so much more valuable than mine.”
Harry looked down, fearing Dumbledore could see his doubt in his eyes.
“Harry,” Dumbledore said gently, making Harry look up and meet his eyes, “The lives of the young are always more valuable than the lives of the old, especially those as old as me. And your life is even more precious still, you know that. What that monster did to you all those months ago doesn’t change that.”
Reluctantly Harry nodded. Though he was sceptical, he had seen enough not to doubt Trelawny’s prophesy. Much as he hated it, his life was more valuable than Dumbledore’s.
“I want your word Harry,” Dumbledore continued, as though their discussion had not happened, “that whatever happens, you will do all within your considerable power to make me drink?”
Again Harry nodded, not wanting the finality of words, but meaning it all the same. He had not known, before he met Dumbledore, that there was anyone who still put so high an emphasis on a person’s word, but he knew he would not break it once given.
Dumbledore gave him a small smile of encouragement and lowered the goblet into the green liquid. This time he was able to reach it without any problem and he lifted out the goblet full to the brim.
The headmaster raised the goblet to Harry in a toast and said cheerfully, “Your very good health, Harry,” before draining it in two gulps.
“How do you feel?” Harry asked anxiously, as Dumbledore lowered the goblet.
Dumbledore simply shook his head, his eyes tight closed as though in pain. He plunged the goblet back into the liquid and refilled it without opening his eyes, and drank once more.
It seemed like forever to Harry as he stood there, watching Dumbledore drink again and again, watched his hand grow shakier, so that he was almost spilling more than he managed to drink. After six or seven gulps, Dumbledore dropped the goblet, sinking to his knees beside the stone plinth, clutching at his throat almost as though he were choking.
“Professor?” Harry asked anxiously, coming closer.
Dumbledore sat very still for long moments, so still that Harry began to fear he might be dead. At last though he raised his head. His eyes were clouded, like those of an ancient who is loosing his wits.
“No more,” he rasped. “Please no more.”
Harry, hating himself for what he was about to do, refilled the goblet and knelt at the old man’s side. “No more,” he agreed. “Just drink this, it’ll make it all better.”
He felt like a monster as Dumbledore, his misty eyes trusting, drank another goblet of the poison.
He let out a sort of choking scream as he swallowed the last drops, a horrible noise that chilled Harry to his marrow. “Water,” the professor begged. “Please, water, it burns...”
“Of course Professor, I’ll get you water,” Harry said, rushing back to the plinth and refilling the goblet with yet more lime green potion.
Back and forth he went between the plinth and the place where Dumbledore sprawled on the ground, seemingly unable to move. Again and again he poured the potion down Dumbledore’s throat, threatening, cajoling and lying until the old man opened his mouth. Tears were streaming down Harry’s face but he forced himself to keep going, trying to take comfort in the slowly sinking level of the potion.
At last, at long long last, just when Harry was beginning to think that he’d have to break his word, that he couldn’t continue to torture that good man any more, there were only a few drops on the potion left.
Hoping desperately and praying to any god who would listen, Harry stuck his hand into the bowl. All resistance seemed to have vanished, and he was able to touch the object that had been revealed at the bottom – a small gold locket, with the initial S picked out on the front in emeralds.
Harry was about to pick it up, oblivious to the fact that simply touching it made his skin crawl with horror, desperate to get Dumbledore away from this place, when a weak voice came from the ground behind him, croaking out, “water, please, water.”
His chest burning with shame, that he had tricked Dumbledore into drinking poison so many times that night and yet still the man trusted him to help, he took the goblet and went to the very edge of the Island. He crouched, one hand clutching the slippery rock to anchor himself while with his other hand he filled the goblet with lake water.
Remembering Dumbledore’s assurance that he needn’t worry about the statute of secrecy out here, he pulled out his wand and cast a purifying spell Mrs Weasley had taught him on the water in the goblet, removing anything which might harm the old man further. The vampire part of his brain, which recognised the smell of doom, told him that there was no point, that nothing could hurt Dumbledore now, but he refused to listen.
He moved to kneel beside Dumbledore, slipping and sliding on the wet rock. As gently as he could, he lifted the old man’s head and put the goblet to his lips, making encouraging noises when, half unconscious though he was, Dumbledore took first one, then another gulp of water.
When he had drunk his fill, Dumbledore once again went limp in his arms, his head flopping back, only saved from hitting the rock but Harry’s gentle hands. He was just beginning to wonder how he would get himself and an unconscious Professor back to Hogwarts when the heard a noise behind him.
He didn’t know what the noise was, though later one he would describe it as something like someone clicking their knuckles but a hundred times more horrible and sickening, but he knew instantly that it was the noise of something dreadful.
Ice cold fear filled his bones, but he forced himself the lay the Professor’s head down as gently as he could before he turned to look behind him.
There on the edge of the rock, just beginning to drag itself out of the water was what had once been a child. It tilted its head up at his gasp of horror and stared at him with sightless eye sockets. As he watched a maggot wriggled from beneath one tattered eyelid and landed on the stone. Unthinking with horror, Harry screamed, and horrible parody of a little girl before him grinned, her lips cracking and oozing puss, revealing a handful of black rotting teeth.
Harry gasped, about to scream again, and then the stench hit him like a physical force. The stink of death and the sick-sweet smell of rotting flesh, the musk of decay, and beneath it the sharp odour of urine, a left-over from whatever horrors this child had endured before she became the monster now lying before him, dragging herself along the rock.
She pulled herself closer and closer to him, her claw-like fingernails scrabbling for purchase on the sharp rocks. She seemed unconcerned that she was leaving a trail of her own rotting flesh behind her, caught on the stone of the island, so intend was she on reaching her prey.
Harry looked up, around, desperate for any escape, inching away from the monstrosity until his back was pressed against the stone basin. As he peered around into the gloom, eyes straining for a way of escape, his stomach plummeted. All around them were the slick wet noises of things, dead, silent, slimy things, inching their way towards him. The air was full of the mix of death and rotting flesh that he now knew all to well as the unique scent of an inferi.
Everywhere he looked now there were corpses, slowly, slowly crawling towards him. Some, like the little girl who he had first seen, dragging themselves, their bodies too tattered to stand upright, their crawling making them seen even more horrible, some, worse almost, walked upright, eyes still intact and bright with hideous longings, all of them grinning. Even those whose faces had long ago been erased by maggots and water seemed to be grinning.
Something touched his leg and he looked down the to see the little girl, the tattered remains of a ribbon caught in the mat of hair and dried blood that covered the left side of her head. She was close enough now to touch him, her hands stretching out the grab at his leg.
Sick with fear and horror, Harry kicked out, catching the thing in the face and knocking it back a little. It looked up at him, shock and hurt on it’s battered face and for moment Harry thought he’d hurt it, that perhaps it wasn’t a thing but really a child, hurt and needing help. He went to move forward, horrified with himself for lashing out at a child, and then the creature grinned at him again and he saw that one of its own teeth had become lodged in it’s lower lip and blood and puss were oozing out around it and still the horrible creature grinned as it’s brothers and sisters came closer and closer and closer...
There were hands all over him now, cold clammy hands, hands which where little more than bone, hands which crumbled into a seething mass of maggots as they touched him. He screamed and screamed, his head swimming with fear as he struggled to break their grip. They weren’t strong, they were the rotting dead after all, but there were so many of them, all crowding round him, pawing at him, pushing and pulling and barging him closer and closer to the water and through it all the little girl watched him and smiled her bleeding smile.
And then just when Harry thought he might faint from the horror of it all and the stench of the creatures there was heat and warmth and the horrid crowd began to fall back. Some tried to scream, though their tongues and vocal chord had long since rotted away, as a rope of fire encircled Harry, blasts of heat emanating from it to force the dead things away.
Safe, for a moment at least, within the circle of flame, Harry bent over and threw up everything he’d eaten in the last day, the nauseating smell of vomit as least covering the stick of the rotting corpses all around him. At last he wiped his mouth and looked up, just in time to see the rope of fire dissolve as the last of the inferi splashed back into its watery grave.
He turned to see Dumbledore, his wand still out, leaning heavily on the opposite edge of the stone pedestal.
“Heat and light my boy,” he croaked.
“I forgot...” Harry said, too glad to be alive to be ashamed of his weakness.
“And no wonder dear boy. But now perhaps it is time we collected what we came for and left this evil place.”
Harry nodded reverently, reaching out once more for the half forgotten locket. Just as he was about to touch it Dumbledore stopped him. “Not with your bare skin Harry. Have you a handkerchief?”
Shaking his head at his own foolishness, and trying to disguise the shivers of horror, fear and sickness that still racked his slim frame, he pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and picked up the locket, carefully wrapping it up and then slipping it into his pocket. He didn’t like the idea of Dumbledore having the evil thing in his weakened state.
Harry took Dumbledore’s arm and together they picked their way over to where the boat still bobbed, Harry wincing at the squish and crunch of dead flesh and live maggots beneath his shoes.
At last they reached the boat. Harry helped Professor Dumbledore to half climb, half fall over the edge and jumped in after him. Somehow the boat knew what he wanted and it set of across the now calm waters.
He fell out on the other side, twisting just enough to avoid his head hitting the rock, but jarring his shoulder. He stood braced while Dumbledore rested his weight on him as he struggled out and then wrapped one arm around the old man’s waist as they edged slowly towards the spot where Harry hoped he remembered the door appearing.
He had no knife to hand, but he was still covered in the gore of the inferi and he was bleeding for several small scratches. Hoping it would be enough he scraped his hand against the rock, glad to wipe away some of the filth.
There was a long tense moment, during which Harry was sure that every sound was the clicking of a corpse’s bones as it edged closer, but at last the doorway opened, it’s glowing outline suddenly bright in the dank gloom.
He dragged the limp Professor through it and sighed with relief as it closed behind him. Then hoping against hope that he had enough strength left, he Disapparated them both, the warmth and light of Hogsmeade on a warm summer evening fixed firmly in his mind.
“MADAM POMFREY,” Harry screamed as he approached the castle, “SNAPE, MCGONAGALL, someone...”
He was shaking hard with shock and cold and horror and the clamminess that comes from being sick. His stomach was cramping, sending spasms of sickness and pain through his body and his arms felt like they were being wrenched from their sockets as he dragged Dumbledore towards the great oak doors which signified safety and warmth and an end to the fear and horror he has just witnessed.
Snape pushed open the huge front doors as he approached, standing frozen for a second as he looked down on Potter, half supporting, half carrying his headmaster. Fear galvanised him and he rushed down to join Potter, taking Dumbledore’s other side and helping the boy lift the old man up the steps.
“The hospital wing,” he gasped out, and Potter nodded.
Between them, somehow, they managed to get Dumbledore’s limp form through seemingly endless corridors to the hospital wing. At the sound of the door banging open, Madam Pomfrey came hurrying from the little room where she slept, pulling a soft blue dressing gown on over her nightie.
She gasped when she saw Harry and Dumbledore, but years of professionalism stood her in good stead and she worked calmly and efficiently, getting Dumbledore into bed and comfortable. While she worked, running diagnostic spells and summoning painkilling and purifying potions, Snape attended to Harry.
More gently than any of his students had known he could be he lead Harry to the bathroom at the end of the long room and undressed him, banishing his ruined clothes and their stench with them and guided a white and shaking Harry into the shower. He stood with him under the spray, uncaring that his robes where getting soaked, and gently but efficiently washed him, wiping away the last remains of the inferi and cleaning blood and slime from his hair. At last when Harry had stopped shivering and there was no trace of the smell of that evil place on him, he helped him out and wrapped a thick fluffy towel round him. Harry moved as if in a trance, seemingly unaware of the world around him, as Snape helped him to brushed his teeth and then gargle away the last of the vomit taste with mouth wash and dry himself. At last, dressed in the warmest, softest cotton pyjamas he’d ever felt Snape tucked him into a bed one down from the one whose drawn curtains hid Dumbledore.
When Harry wouldn’t let go his hand, Snape stayed, summoning chocolate and calming potions and requesting a bowl of vegetable soup from the house elf who answered his summons. He fed Harry the chocolate and persuaded him to drink the potions all without speaking but he never once moved from the boy’s side. He seemed to understand instinctively that Harry couldn’t bear to be left alone.
Dobby bought the soup, his usual exuberant self, desperate to do anything to help Harry Potter, but when he saw the thin pale shape dressed in too big pyjamas that lay in the hospital bed his ears drooped and he left the soup without saying a word, his lip quivering with worry.
Snape managed to get Harry to eat half the soup before he began to drift off to sleep. Carefully he extricated himself from Harry gasped and settled himself in the armchair beside his bed, prepared to keep watch throughout that sleepless night over the most important and the most powerful wizards of his age.