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Parselsmith

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“I still don’t understand why you started a bloody snake company,” Ron said, leaning against the counter.

Harry sighed and reached around him to grab the pendant a customer had brought up to the counter. He smiled at her, ignoring Ron. “Would you like this gift wrapped?” he asked.

“No thanks, Mr. Potter,” the woman said.

Harry rang up the purchase, made change for the woman, and turned to Ron after she had left the store. “We’ve been over this a thousand times,” he said. “I started this company to show people that Dark abilities don’t have to be feared.”

“Yeah, but why do you care if people are afraid of Parseltongue?” Ron asked.

Harry sighed again. “You remember our second year in Hogwarts as well as I do,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that having the ability to speak Parseltongue immediately makes someone evil. I told you that when I opened this store.”

Ron frowned at him and picked up a snake-themed keychain, twirling the ring around his index finger as he studied Harry. “I know, but bloody hell, Harry, why did it have to be snakes?”

Harry snorted. “Would you have prefered it if I had opened a shop selling spider paraphernalia instead?”

Ron paled. “No bloody way,” he said. “I’ll take snakes over spiders any day. But you do realize, don’t you, that most people who speak Parseltongue end up being Dark wizards, right?”

Harry shrugged. “Are you sure they end up being Dark wizards because they speak Parseltongue, Ron? Or do they get turned onto Dark paths because they are assumed to be Dark wizards simply because they possess the ability to speak Parseltongue?”

Ron groaned. “I hate it when you get bloody philosophical, mate. Wouldn’t it have been easier to open a Quidditch shop and be done with it?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Anyone can open a Quidditch shop. I’m the only well-known Light wizard with a Dark ability like Parseltongue. This is the only way I can really make a difference, Ron.”

“No, it’s not,” Ron insisted. “You could have become an Auror, you know. Then the two of us could be out chasing Dark wizards together.”

Harry picked up a snow globe that sat on the counter. Inside, two snakes coiled around each other. “I had enough of chasing Dark wizards at Hogwarts, Ron,” he said, tone quiet. “When I found out I was a wizard, I also found out that I had to defeat Voldemort. I was never given a chance to decide what I wanted to do myself.” He shook himself, then forced himself to smile at Ron, even if that smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’ve had enough of fate telling me what I have to do. Defeating Dark wizards isn’t my destiny anymore, Ron. This shop is enough for me.”

Ron sighed, then shrugged. “Still, mate, you have to admit it would have been fun chasing Dark wizards together.”

Harry laughed. “Maybe, maybe. I’ll give you that. But I prefer the safety of my shop, and I am making a difference in my own way.”

Ron raised an eyebrow. “Really? What kind of difference can you possibly make by selling snake stuff?”

“I can show people that Parseltongue speakers aren’t evil. By showing people that, perhaps I can prevent other wizards who speak Parseltongue from turning down Dark paths.”

“Mate, I hate to break it to you, but selling snake stuff isn’t going to convince anyone not to become a Dark wizard.”

Harry scowled. “I know that, Ron. That’s why I’m doing translation work for the Ministry. If I can reduce the fear people have of snakes, I can reduce the fear of Parseltongue. And I can help catch Dark wizards by translating the Parseltongue documents the Ministry finds during raids. You already know that I’m a consultant for the Ministry, so why the hell are you being so obnoxious? I have customers I need to attend to.”

Ron furrowed his eyebrows, creating a pinched expression on his face. “Sorry, mate. I’m just bored. Hermione had to go into work today when it’s supposed to be our scheduled day off together. It’s date night, and she has to bloody work.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “So you came in here to insult me? How is that a productive use of your time?”

“Beats sitting around doing nothing at home, doesn’t it?” Ron asked.

“If you’re going to keep pestering me at work,” Harry said. “I’m going to put you to work dusting the shelves or sweeping the floors.”

Ron held his hand up in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, I’m going. I’ll let you get back to saving the world or whatever it is you’re doing.”

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Harry asked, half-shouting after Ron as the redhead disapparated with a crack. Shaking his head in bemusement, he turned to face the door as the bell clanged to let him know a customer had entered. Once he saw who the customer was that had entered, an old anger rose in his blood. “What the bloody hell do you want, Malfoy?” he spat.

Draco Malfoy, prim and proper in a grey business suit, raised an eyebrow. “Now, really, Mr. Potter. There is no reason to speak to me with such vitriol. We are surely both adults and can speak to each other like civilized human beings.” The smirk that accompanied the words belied the casual tone in which they were delivered.

Harry’s fists clenched at his side, and he fought the urge to pull out his wand and hex Malfoy into next week. “The day I consider you a civilized human being will be the day Albus Dumbledore rises from the grave,” he said. “Now, I’ll ask you one more time. What the bloody hell do you want?”

Malfoy sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Believe me, if I could go to anyone else, I would. Unfortunately, you’re the only wizard I know who openly speaks Parseltongue.”

In spite of himself, Harry was intrigued. What reason could Malfoy possibly have for needing a wizard who spoke Parseltongue? The last thing Harry was going to do, however, was give Malfoy the benefit of seeing how intrigued he actually was. “Get out of my shop, Malfoy,” he said. “I’m sure you can find someone else to help you.”

“Weren’t you listening?” Malfoy asked, rubbing his eyes. “You’re the only wizard I know that can speak Parseltongue. I’ve recently found myself in the possession of a box of scrolls written in a language that no one seems to be able to decipher. I’ve taken the scrolls to multiple translators over the past few months with absolutely no luck. I’m only here as a last resort.”

“Why do you need these scrolls translated?” Harry asked, suspicious.

“You do realize that I work with the Ministry now, right, Potter?” Malfoy asked.

Harry shrugged. “I work with the Ministry occasionally as well. What does that have to do with anything?”

“The scrolls I have in my possession were collected from a raid a few months ago. The Ministry brought me in to make sure that the scrolls weren’t cursed. Once they were satisfied that there were no curses on the scrolls, they asked me to get them translated.”

Harry glared at Malfoy. “If they aren’t cursed, why the hell do you need to translate them? They obviously aren’t dangerous if no one can decipher the contents.”

Malfoy sighed, an exasperated sound. “Look, Potter. If the scrolls somehow manage to find their way into the hands of someone who can read them, it could be a disaster. For all we know, the scrolls contain information on how to conduct forbidden Dark rituals. I need to find someone who can translate them so that I can make sure the information within the scrolls is harmless.”

“Great,” Harry said. “In case you haven’t noticed, I have a shop to run. My time is valuable, and I don’t fancy spending it translating scrolls for you.”

“I don’t even know that they are in Parseltongue, Potter,” Malfoy said, a sour look on his face. “I like coming to you about as much as you like me being here, but I take pride in my work. All I need from you is five minutes of your time so that you can look over one of the scrolls and tell me if the bloody thing is in Parseltongue or if I have wasted my time and effort by coming here.”

“Fine,” Harry said, tone clipped. “Hand the bloody scroll over, and I’ll tell you whether it’s written in Parseltongue or not.”

Wordlessly, Draco pulled the scroll from the inside fold of his suit and handed it across the counter to Harry.

Harry unrolled the scroll and placed it on the counter top. As soon as he looked at the writing, the words began to blur into sound. When he tried to watch the symbols, his eyes wouldn’t focus, but when he stopped trying to read, he started hearing syllables. Those syllables became words that had the distinct flavor of Parseltongue.

>>Perhaps no one will ever understand what it is that I am setting in motion, but I can’t stomach the thought of a destroyed world. They may call me a villain, but that is a small price to pay if I can prevent the future that I have witnessed. There is no burden too great to bear in order to prevent that calamity from occurring.

Harry shook his head as the paragraph came to a close. His mind was swimming with the syllables of Parseltongue, and he was dizzy enough to stumble and crash into the wall behind the counter, sending merchandise flying. “Great,” he said, wincing as he picked himself up.

Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him. “Well?” he asked.

Harry scowled. “It’s in Parseltongue,” he said, his mood rapidly turning sour. “I fucking hate translating Parseltongue.”

Malfoy frowned at him. “Isn’t that the reason you started this shop?” he asked. “To help people who speak Parseltongue?”

Harry glared. He didn’t owe Malfoy any answers. “Now that you know it’s in Parseltongue, you can get the bloody hell out of my shop.”

“As much as I would love to do exactly that, I can’t,” Malfoy said. “I need you to translate the box of scrolls into English. The Ministry needs to know the contents of each scroll.”

Harry folded his arms across his chest. “Then leave the box with me. I’ll translate them and send them to the Ministry.”

Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose again. “It’s not that simple. As the cursebreaker who took responsibility for documenting the scrolls, I can’t let them out of my sight. Like it or not, I need to work with you to get these documented.”

“Absolutely not,” Harry said. There was no way he was going to work with Malfoy, of all people, to translate scrolls written in Parseltongue. When even a single paragraph of translation robbed him of the ability to stand, there was no way he was going to allow Malfoy to hang around to see how vulnerable he became after he translated an entire scroll. That was the one setback of scrolls written in Parseltongue - the language of snakes was never meant to be written down. But someone had found a way to get past that problem, and the end result was that Parseltongue that was read off of a page weakened the person reading it.

“On the behalf of the Ministry, I can pay you for your services,” Malfoy said. “What’s the going rate for a Parseltongue translation these days? Fifty galleons a scroll? Is that reasonable?”

Harry drew in a sharp breath through his teeth. “Do you really think you can offer me money as an incentive, Malfoy? I have plenty of my own. I won’t translate the scrolls for you because you’re an unmitigated bastard.”

Malfoy frowned. “That’s a little harsh,” he said. “I get that you still hate me for what happened in the war, but you do realize that I switched sides near the end of it, right? I saved your life, in case you forgot.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “And I paid you back for testifying at your trial and keeping you out of Azkaban. I’d say we’re even.”

“If we’re even, stop acting like a bloody teenager and help me out. The Ministry needs these scrolls translated in order to make sure no Dark secrets are left out in the open for anyone to find.”

Harry shrugged, his arms still defiantly folded across his chest. “Then destroy them. Or put them in a secure vault. There’s no reason to translate them to keep the scrolls out of the hands of the wrong people. Just squirrel them away and ignore them.”

Malfoy sighed. “You’re a real piece of work, Potter.”

Harry grinned. “Thanks.”

“It wasn’t a compliment, you dolt,” Malfoy said. He tilted his head to the side and thought for a moment. “What incentive could I offer you to get you to translate the scrolls?”

“Nothing,” Harry said, unable to disguise his glee at having Malfoy at his mercy. “There is absolutely nothing you can offer me that would get me to agree to translating those bloody scrolls.”

Malfoy scowled. “If it were Weasley or Granger asking, you would agree to it in a heartbeat.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, I would, but they’re my friends. You’re not.”

“Fine,” Malfoy said, dejected. “I give, you win. I’ll tell the Ministry to lock up the scrolls.”

As Malfoy turned to leave, Harry found he had to ask one last question. “Why is it so important to you that these scrolls be translated?” He kept his voice soft, not sure that Malfoy would answer the question.

“That’s a question with a complicated answer,” Malfoy said, turning to face Harry once more. “Suffice it to say that I’d like to make up for some of the atrocities my family committed during the war, and getting these translated seemed like a good way to do that.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, skeptical. “You’ve lost me on that. How does translating a few scrolls help make up for the insane actions of your father?”

Malfoy shrugged. “If these scrolls contain the secrets of the Dark Arts, then it’s imperative that they be destroyed. This world has seen enough darkness, and I don’t fancy a wizard who can speak Parseltongue stumbling across these in the future and becoming a Dark Lord.”

Despite his hatred for Malfoy, Harry was somewhat touched by the reasons the blonde had given him. “All right,” he said. “I’ll translate the scrolls, but only on my terms.”

“And what are your terms?” Malfoy asked, the hope in his voice guarded.

“We’ll meet on Wednesday nights at six at my house. I’ll work on translating the scrolls for an hour each week, and you will leave at exactly seven. While I’m working, you will stay on the far side of the room and won’t talk. No matter what happens, you aren’t to assist me in any way.”

>Malfoy blinked. “And if I don’t meet one of your terms?”

Harry shrugged. “Then that’s where our agreement ends. I won’t translate anything else in the scrolls if you breach any of the terms I’ve outlined.”

“Fine,” Malfoy said. “An hour a week hardly seems enough time to get through twelve scrolls in a timely manner, but everything else is reasonable.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “Twelve scrolls? Are they all as long as the one I just looked at?”

“At the very least,” Malfoy said. “Most of them are longer. I brought you the shortest of the twelve.” He shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t want to overwhelm you.”

Harry stared at Malfoy for a full minute before he managed to recover from the shock. “You’re right. One hour a week won’t get us through the scrolls in a timely manner, but that’s all the time I’m willing to offer you right now. Depending on what we find in the scrolls, I may agree to spend more time on the translation each week. For now, however, an hour is more than adequate. If you don’t like it, you can let the Ministry lock the scrolls up.”

Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose. It was starting to seem like a tell. “Fine, Potter,” he said. “I’ll agree to your bloody terms. Wednesdays at six. If I remember correctly, you live above this shop, yes?”

Harry nodded, then sagged against the counter in relief as the sound of Malfoy’s disapparition crack echoed around the room. Dealing with Malfoy had never been easy. And now he had agreed to meet with the bastard on a weekly basis.

He groaned and buried his head in his hands. What the bloody hell have I gotten myself into? he asked, dread filling him at the prospect of finding out the answer to that question. But it was dread mingled with curiosity because the brief paragraph he had translated earlier had raised questions about the identity of the writer that begged to be answered. It was that curiosity that had allowed Harry to agree to translate the scrolls. Well, that, and the knowledge that Malfoy would owe him a favor for a long time to come.

Chapter Text

As the day wound down and business slowed, Harry began shutting down the shop. At five, when all the customers were finally out of the store, he locked the doors and apparated to the designated area in front of Ron’s house. While he could have apparated directly inside - he was keyed to the wards - he never felt comfortable doing so.

Ron scowled as he opened the door. “What do you want, mate? You know it’s date night.”

Harry winced. Ron hated having company over on Monday nights - it was the only night that him and Hermione really got a chance to see each other. Which, of course, meant it was the only night that Harry would be able to catch the two of them together, and he needed to talk to both of them about what had transpired in his shop. “Sorry, Ron. I know, but I have something important to discuss.”

Ron folded his arms over his chest, then sighed. “Fine,” he said. “But can you try to make it fast? I already gave up most of the day with her since she ended up going into work.”

Harry fought not to grin at the pleading tone in Ron’s voice. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll try to make it fast.”

“Great. Come on in, then.” Ron stood aside and let Harry pass.
Once inside, Harry made straight for the living room where Hermione sat on the couch. “Hey, Hermione,” he said.

“Hey, Harry. It’s always nice to see you,” Hermione said, smiling at him. “Although I have to admit I would prefer it if it weren’t on our date night.”

Harry winced. “I know, I know. You both know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. I have no interest in interfering with your date, but this couldn’t wait.”

Ron snorted. “Mate, the rhyming is completely unnecessary.”

Harry blinked, then let out a startled laugh. “Believe me, it wasn’t intentional.”

Hermione leaned forward, studying Harry. “What happened?” she asked. “You seem a little rattled.”

Harry smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. Trust Hermione to see straight through him. Sometimes, he thought that she was too perceptive by half. “Draco Malfoy came to my shop today.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “What -

Ron interrupted. “What the bloody hell was Malfoy doing in your shop?” His fists clenched at his side. “If I had been there, I would’ve -

“Really, Ron, calm down,” Hermione said, placing a hand on his knee. “I’m sure Harry will tell us why Malfoy came to his shop if we let him talk.”

Ron gave Harry a sheepish look. “Sorry, mate. You know I can’t stand Malfoy.”

“You and me both,” Harry said, then took a deep breath. “He came to my shop to ask me to translate some scrolls that the Ministry found in a raid a few months back that are in Parseltongue.”

“You told him no, right?” Ron asked.

Hermione sighed. “Would he be at our house if he had said no, Ron? Honestly.”

“Why’d you agree to translate the scrolls for bloody Malfoy?” Ron asked. “The man’s a complete disgrace to wizards.”

Harry laughed. He hated Malfoy as much as his friends did, and he had to agree with Ron’s assessment. “I know, I know. But the scrolls are in Parseltongue. Who else can translate them? And it’s for the Ministry, Ron. Even if the Ministry did send Draco bloody Malfoy to get them translated.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “So, where are the scrolls? You are planning on translating them and sending them back, right?”

Harry winced. “Not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” Ron echoed. “What do you mean?”

“Malfoy said that as the cursebreaker who is responsible for the scrolls, he can’t let them out of his sight. He asked me to translate them in his presence, and I may have agreed to work on the translation for an hour each week.”

“Bloody hell, mate, are you insane?” Ron asked. “What if he finds out how weak translating Parseltongue makes you? You know he’ll go straight to the papers with that kind of information.”

Hermione rubbed her chin, a sign she was thinking. “You know he’s right, Harry. Why would you give Malfoy that kind of access to your weakness?”

Harry scowled. “You both know that I can handle two hours of translation before I have any noticeable side effects from the translation. That’s why I told him that I would only work with him for an hour each week.”

Hermione sighed. “I hate to break it to you, Harry, but the side effects you experience are noticeable after half an hour. The last time I was with you when you translated a Parseltongue document, you couldn’t walk straight for hours.”

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, not realizing how much of an echo of Malfoy’s tell the movement was. “I know, but that’s why I plan to be sitting down for the entire duration of the translation. I also told Malfoy that he has to stay on the far side of the room while I’m working, and that he has to leave as soon as the hour is up. It’s the only thing I could think of to minimize the risk.”

“I know you don’t back out of something once you’ve given your word, but bloody hell, mate. Why did you have to agree to do this for Malfoy?” Ron asked.

Harry’s face heated. “Because I translated a paragraph while he was there, and what I read was interesting. I mostly agreed because I want to know what information is in those scrolls.”

Hermione grinned at him. “Now that’s a reason I can understand. Now, as to the reason for your visit. I’m guessing you wanted to know if one of us could come after Malfoy leaves and help you out?”

Harry buried his head in his hands, took a deep breath, then lifted his head. “Yes,” he said. “I hate to admit it, but I won’t be able to do much of anything after I spend an hour translating Parseltongue. I need one of you to check on me and make sure I get to bed.” He ducked his head. “You have no idea how embarrassing it is to have to ask for something like that.”

Ron patted him on the shoulder. “It’s all good, mate. What are best friends for?”

Hermione nodded in agreement. “What day and time did you decide to meet Malfoy?”

“Wednesdays at six. He’s supposed to leave by seven,” Harry said.

“Wednesdays are my short days at work,” Hermione said. “I’ll come over at seven fifteen.”

Harry smiled. “Thanks, ‘Mione. You’re a lifesaver.”

Ron sighed. “I guess ‘Mione will have to do it. I work until nine on Wednesdays. Probably a good thing, that. I don’t know what I’d do if Malfoy was still around when I showed up.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah, it’s probably for the best that you stay away from my house on the days Malfoy will be there.”

Ron nodded. “Now, is that all? I hate to be rude, but -

Harry waved a hand and grinned. “Yeah, I know. Date night. And yes, that was all. Thanks.” He stood and stretched. “I’ll see you two later.”

“Bye Harry,” Hermione said, just as Ron said, in good humor, “Good riddance, mate.”

Harry laughed and disapparated, still chuckling to himself as he appeared inside his own kitchen. “Merlin, I love my friends,” he said.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next two days passed uneventfully, and Harry found himself filled with both dread and anticipation as the designated hour for Malfoy’s arrival approached on Wednesday night. The last thing he wanted was to have Malfoy in his apartment while he translated Parseltongue into English. He didn’t want to give the man the chance to see him vulnerable. There was no telling what Malfoy would do with the information, no way to know how he would use Harry’s vulnerability against him.

Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. There was a reason he’d made it a condition that Malfoy stay for an hour and only an hour. With luck, the side effects he experienced while translating Parseltongue wouldn’t be noticed by the blonde. Especially since Harry had made it a requirement that Malfoy stay as far away from him as possible. He didn’t want Malfoy sitting across from him at the table, as that would give the man too much time for scrutiny.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Harry’s thoughts. Grateful for the reprieve, but annoyed that the reprieve was being granted by Malfoy, as it had just chimed six, Harry opened the door.

Malfoy stood on the doormat, the box of scrolls held under one arm. “Good evening, Potter,” he said. “May I come in?”

Harry scowled, but threw the door open to allow Malfoy entrance. “Put the box on the table,” he said. “I’ll get started right away.”

Malfoy walked inside, placed the box on the table, then stopped. He looked at Harry with a raised eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to offer me tea? I am a guest,” he said.

Harry rolled his eyes. “If you want tea, it’s in the cupboard beside the refrigerator. You can make it yourself. There’s milk in the fridge, and the sugar is in the same place as the tea.”

“Really, Potter,” Malfoy said. “You could at least have the decency to offer to make it yourself.”

Harry scowled as he sat down at the table and pulled the lid off the box of scrolls. “I can certainly get up and make you some tea, Malfoy, but I thought that you’d rather have the scrolls translated.” Noticing that the scrolls were labeled numerically, he pulled out the scroll with a small but elegant number 1 scrawled on the tube.

“You’re right,” Malfoy said. “I would much rather have the scrolls translated. I’ll make my own tea.”

“Great,” Harry said, pulling the scroll out of the tube and unrolling it. “I’ll get started with the translation, and you can take your tea to the couch.”

“I don’t suppose you want to translate out loud for me, do you?” Malfoy asked. “I am rather curious as to what you will find.”

“No,” Harry said, the word clipped.

“Fine, no need to get snappish,” Malfoy said.

Harry ignored Malfoy as the man rummaged around in his cupboards, and turned his attention to the scroll he had unfurled. He took a deep breath, then focused on the words in front of him. They floated off the page and turned into the distinct syllables of the Parseltongue language, and he listened to the first couple of paragraphs.

To save the world, I must become a monster. I am sure that there are many wizards who will hate me for what I have decided to become, and they will never understand what has set me on a path such as this. A path that will leave carnage in its wake. It is my intention that no one ever know of the fate that I intend to prevent. If I am successful, no one will ever know the hell that I have witnessed firsthand. No one will ever have to suffer the horrors of a world decimated by war.

Ironic, I know, as I am setting out to begin a war of my own. But the war I intend to start is meant to prevent the war that will end life as we know it. I intend to save our world, and to do that, I must destroy the illusions the wizarding world possesses about the muggle one. Muggles are dangerous. I have seen firsthand the havoc the muggle world will wreak on our world, and I refuse to allow that future to happen. I refuse to allow the annihilation of the wizarding world.

Harry pulled his mind away from the scroll and rubbed his eyes. He grabbed the notebook he’d set aside earlier for the translation and begin writing down what he had heard. He was tempted to analyze what he had translated. Harry wanted to know who the author of the scroll was and why the author had felt it necessary to start a war. He wanted to know what kind of fate the author thought the world needed to be saved from. Hopefully, that would become clear as he continued to translate.

The passage of time was always weird when translating Parseltongue, which was one of the reasons translating anything written in the snake language exhausted him. Sometimes, Harry could translate pages of Parseltongue within a few minutes. Other times, he could only manage a sentence or two in the space of a few hours. It seemed that tonight, two paragraphs was the limit of what he would be able to translate in an hour, as the clock read fifteen til seven as he finished writing the translation down in the notebook.

“I’m done for tonight,” Harry said. He was oddly grateful that Malfoy hadn’t interfered with the translation at all. Instead, the blonde had made his tea and sat on the couch without speaking. In fact, Malfoy hadn’t even glanced at Harry.

Now, though, he turned and looked at him. “There’s still fifteen minutes before seven. Are you sure you can’t translate anymore tonight?” Malfoy asked, and there was an undercurrent of wistfulness that Harry did his best to ignore.

“Yes,” Harry said. “I managed two paragraphs in this first scroll. I’ll make you a copy of the translation to take with you.”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “Two paragraphs? In an hour, Potter? I thought you spoke Parseltongue.”

Harry hissed, and the hiss came remarkably close to the Parseltongue word for bastard. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to reply in English. “I do, Malfoy. Translating Parseltongue is far more complex than you understand, as the language was never meant to be written down at all. Sometimes, I can translate a few pages within a few minutes. Other times, a sentence in an hour is lucky. It depends on the depth of skill of the person who wrote documents in Parseltongue.”

Malfoy frowned. “Does that mean that those with stronger Parseltongue can write clearer documents?”

Harry sighed and rubbed the bridge of his forehead. “It’s not that simple. The same speaker could write two documents in Parseltongue that read differently. It depends on the level of concentration employed when the language is written down. Those who invest their full concentration into writing Parseltongue produce documents that are nearly impossible to translate.”

“That seems backwards,” Malfoy said. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“For another language, perhaps,” Harry said. “But Parseltongue was never meant to be written. When a speaker focuses all their concentration on producing written Parseltongue, they end up writing a Parseltongue that attempts to defy translation. A speaker needs to be able to hover between English and Parseltongue in order to write documents easy to translate, and there are very few speakers able to do that.”

“Surely a strong speaker can manage that,” Malfoy said.

Harry shook his head. “It’s much harder for a strong speaker to hover between the two languages, as it can be difficult to distinguish between English and Parseltongue. When I first learned I could speak to snakes, Parseltongue sounded like English to my ears. I was surprised to learn that other people heard hissing, and it took me a long time to learn how to distinguish Parseltongue from English.”

“That’s weird,” Malfoy said, then stood and walked towards the table. “I’ll be taking my copy of the translation and going now, if you don’t mind.”

Harry copied the translation with a touch of his wand and handed it to Malfoy. “See you next week,” he said, watching as Malfoy left his apartment. Once the man was gone, he collapsed against the back of his chair and allowed his breathing to become erratic. The translation had wiped him out, but the last thing he was willing to do was let Malfoy see him vulnerable.

Chapter Text

Draco frowned as he walked into his study. He placed the copy of the translation Potter had given him on his desk and sat down to study it. The first line was concerning because there was only a handful of people who would say something like that.

To save the world, I must become a monster.

Draco sighed as he considered the sentiment in the words. Who would sacrifice themselves to save the world except some noble Gryffindor? He frowned. Historically, however, Gryffindors tended to avoid acting in a way that would tarnish the world’s impression of them as Light wizards. But Dark wizards didn’t have a problem with being seen as monstrous. Whether they acted in positive ways or negative ways, the world at large always saw Dark wizards as monsters.

Draco rubbed his eyes, trying to eradicate the frustration he felt at the world for not understanding what it meant to be a Dark wizard. After the war with Voldemort, he had had to work incredibly hard to become a Cursebreaker. With the stigma of his family name, that hadn’t been an easy feat. Getting admitted into Edinburgh’s University of Magic had taken a toll on his bank account. Even though he had all the requisite OWLs and NEWTs needed to enroll, the school had refused to allow him admission without a sizable donation to cover the potential backlash they would face for admitting a Malfoy.

That he had been forced to spend over fifty thousand galleons to be admitted into a school he could have otherwise attended for five hundred galleons was a fact that still galled Draco. And he knew there were rumors amongst his peers that he had bought his way to his degree - that he hadn’t earned the right to call himself a Cursebreaker the way the rest of the students in his program had.

Getting hired at the Ministry as a Cursebreaker hadn’t been easy, either. To land the job he had, Draco had been forced to pull strings. Although he had tried to conceal how desperate he was for Potter to translate these documents, the truth was, Draco was desperate. Unless he could convince the head of the Cursebreaking Department that he had no intentions of following in the footsteps of his father, there was no guarantee that Draco would be able to keep this job. And he needed the job. Not for the money - the wealth he had inherited after his father had died in Azkaban was enough that he would never need to work for money.

If he wanted to, Draco could spend the rest of his life at Malfoy Manor without working. The Malfoy fortune was one of the largest in Wizarding Britain, if not the largest, so Draco had the comfort of knowing that his affluence would last forever. The problem with that, however, was that the Malfoy name was currently infamous, stained by his father’s association with Voldemort when the Dark Lord had been in power. Draco wanted to eradicate that stain, and the only way he knew to do that was to actively pursue cases of dark magic.

Cursebreaking had been the only course of study that Draco could have signed up for at Edinburgh. The other courses required an affinity for Light magic. Cursebreaking required an affinity for Dark magic. Curses were naturally Dark magic, so the only type of magic that could break a curse was a type of Dark magic. There had been rumors in school that he had chosen the cursebreaking program because it kept him close to his roots, but the people who had spread those rumors didn’t understand how Dark magic worked.

Yes, it was true that the Malfoy line was renowned for the Dark magic it practiced - no matter what he did, Draco would never be able to get away from that legacy. But Dark magic hadn’t started out being used in the ways lunatics like Voldemort had used it. It wasn’t meant to be used to torture people - it was meant to be used to explore the wilder sides of life. Where Light magic was order, Dark magic was chaos. How it was used determined whether the magic was good or bad, but over the centuries, the wizarding world had forgotten that Dark magic wasn’t automatically evil.

That was why Draco had gone to Potter with the scrolls. He knew that Potter spoke Parseltongue, and he knew that Parseltongue was a Dark ability. Draco remembered the scandal in second year when Potter had been accused of opening the chamber of secrets. For a few months, it seemed as if everyone in Slytherin had expected Draco to be the Heir of Slytherin. Instead of being reviled for it, however, the Slytherins had exalted Draco. Even when he told them, point blank, that he wasn’t the Heir, a lot of his housemates had refused to believe him.

When it came out that Potter was a Parselmouth, the general reaction had been revulsion and fear. No one expected the savior of the wizarding world to have a Dark ability, especially not one as dangerous and unsavory as Parseltongue. When Draco had learned of Potter’s ability, he had been impressed and a little jealous. That Potter, a wizard who screamed Light magic from his pores, also had one of the Darkest magics in his possession, was not only incredible, it had seemed incredibly unfair.

Draco’s affinity for Dark magic was legendary amongst his peers, but he didn’t have any particularly strong Dark talents. He was an exceptional Cursebreaker, but the reason he was good at breaking curses was because he had spent tireless hours perfecting the art. He was a diligent student - he had always been a diligent student. In order to keep the pride of the Malfoy name in-tact, Draco had learned to keep his grades high. After all, he was the only Malfoy left. After Lucius died, Narcissa killed herself as a last act of spousal loyalty. She hadn’t had the courtesy to live for the sake of her son, and Draco found that he hated her quite a bit for her decision to commit suicide.

Still, knowing all of that and reminiscing on the past wasn’t going to help him get the scrolls translated. And Draco needed to get the scrolls translated. Proving to his boss that he had the ability to overcome past differences with someone like Potter would go a long way to ensuring his ability to keep working as a Cursebreaker. Not to mention, Potter didn’t like dealing with strangers.

Draco had seen that time and time again over the years, even after the war had ended and their class has been allowed to graduate early. Every time Potter did something even minutely praiseworthy, the press was on him. At first, Draco had been jealous of all the attention Potter got. There was a time when he would have welcomed the press into his life, a time he would have happily shown off his achievements.

As the years passed, however, Draco mellowed out. He started feeling sympathetic for Potter because the man had to deal with being famous. Having seen the way reporters milled around Potter, sniffing for even a hint of an interview, Draco was profoundly grateful he didn’t have that type of fame haunting him. Still, there was a spark of the rivalry that had existed between them during their Hogwarts days that meant Draco kept up with what Potter was doing. He remembered the day that Potter had announced his decision to open Parselsmith and the backlash Potter received for daring to be the proprietor of a shop that dealt with anything remotely Dark. That was, perhaps, the first time Draco had ever felt any respect at all towards his rival. In the past, all he had felt was irritation and resentment.

But if Draco hadn’t developed a modicum of respect for Potter, then there was no way he would have ever been able to ask for the man’s help with the translation. Draco’s pride would never allow him to ask someone he didn’t respect for help. But that respect didn’t mean he understood Potter. Because the truth was, Draco had never understood Potter. The two of them were too different, motivated by very different things. Draco needed to make a name for himself. He needed to prove that he wasn’t his father’s son. And it seemed like Potter’s biggest goal in life was to disappear. It was no wonder, then, that the two of them were always at odds with one another.

Still, what Draco had learned tonight from Potter was new to him. He had never expected to learn that Parseltongue was a language meant only to be spoken, and that it was never intended to be written. Draco knew of one other language that was never meant to be written, and that was the Dark language of Walpurgis. It was a language only ever spoken during Walpurgisnacht, and the language itself had never been properly named. Generally, the only Dark wizards able to speak the chaotic language of Walpurgisnacht were necromancers, and those were incredibly rare.

Thinking of necromancy made Draco uneasy. Voldemort had attempted necromantic practices, and the rituals always went awry. The Dark Lord hadn’t been a proper necromancer, and an incorrectly performed necromantic ritual had been the reason for his red-eyed, snake-like figure. Properly performed, that necromantic ritual would have restored the Dark Lord’s human form.
Draco shuddered. He didn’t like to think of the Dark Lord’s botched necromancy, but the only reason he’d ever been able to discover the Dark Lord’s sudden twist towards insanity was the improper utilization of necromantic rituals. Since Draco had grown up dealing with the madman who called himself the Dark Lord, he knew exactly what kind of people to avoid.

As a practitioner of Dark Magic, there were two major problems Draco faced on an almost daily basis. The first of which was the difficulty inherent in being a Dark wizard in a society that was predominantly Light. Before the war with Voldemort, the wizarding world had been fairly balanced between Light and Dark wizards. But Voldemort had tipped the balance, and the chaos he had wrought on the world had turned the wizarding world against Dark magic.

Dark magic, as a whole, wasn’t outlawed. Otherwise, places like the shoppes found in Knockturn Alley would be out of business and their owners imprisoned. Potter’s Parselsmith shop qualified as a Dark business, so if Dark magic was completely outlawed, the Ministry of Magic would have to arrest the man who defeated Voldemort.

No, Dark magic was legal, but there were aspects of Dark magic that flirted with legality. Potions was one of those aspects - only someone with a true affinity for Dark magic could produce strong potions. Draco had always found the fact that Granger had possessed the top marks in their Potions class an ironic one. He wondered if she realized that the ingredients of Potions reacted more strongly for wizards and witches with darker cores. At the same time, the need for an affinity to Dark magic explained Longbottom’s abysmal performance in the class. While Longbottom was good with living plants, potions ingredients tended to be dead plants. Light magic worked better with living plants and animals, while Dark magic worked better with plants and animals that were either dead or dying.

That’s why Potter was such an enigma to Draco. Potter had an affinity for light magic - his ability to cast defensive magic was second to none. In fact, he had made a bit of a name for himself, unintentionally, for being the wizard with impenetrable defense. After the war, there had been dozens of Dark wizards out for Potter’s blood, but none of those wizards had ever been able to get close. It was like the moment Voldemort died, Potter learned what his full abilities as a wizard were - but not only did he learn what he was capable of, he also mastered those skills. And defense was his strongest skill.

What made Potter an enigma was the fact that he could cast incredibly strong defensive magic, which was a purely Light type of magic, and yet also spoke Parseltongue, an ability that had always been considered exceptionally Dark. Potter had the extremes of both Light and Dark magic, and Draco wasn’t sure how the man wrestled with his need to express the chaotic nature of Dark magic. If constrained too long, Dark magic had a tendency to burst free from its bonds - by its very nature, it was chaotic and free. Dark magic wasn’t meant to be contained for long periods of time.

The other problem Draco faced as a Dark wizard was dealing with other Dark wizards. There were different sects of Dark wizards, different organizations for different types of Dark magic. Those organizations were the reason that the Ministry didn’t outright ban Dark magic - the leaders of the Dark organizations were affluent. Before the fiasco the Dark Lord made of their lives, the Malfoy family had had a stake in all of those organizations. Draco still maintained those connections, but there was unease towards him - some of the members of those organizations feared he would walk in his father’s footsteps and end up taking up the cause of a lunatic.

Draco understood their fear, but he hated that they directed it towards him. He had proven years ago that he was not his father’s son, but he still carried the stigma with him. Twenty-four years old, and he still couldn’t escape his father’s shadow.

He sighed and rubbed his forehead. Learning that Parseltongue was never meant to be written down had surprised him because he knew the kind of toll those who spoke the chaotic nature of Walpurgisnacht had to pay when they attempted to translate a pure spoken language into a written one. Draco had seen his friend, Blaise, who was fluent in the language of Walpurgisnacht, after ten minutes of translation, suffer from migraines at best and complete magical exhaustion at worst. Draco wondered if Potter had to deal with any of those symptoms after translating Parseltongue, but dismissed the thought pretty quickly. After all, if Blaise developed those types of symptoms a scant ten minutes after translating, there was no way Potter would be able to translate for an hour without an adverse effect. And Potter had seemed just as chipper as always when Draco left, so the idea that the man might suffer from magical exhaustion was ridiculous.

Chapter Text

Fifteen minutes after Malfoy left, Harry was gripping the table for dear life. He was afraid that if he let go, he would fall out of his chair and hit his head on the wooden floor. As soon as he had copied the translation for Malfoy and let go of the intense concentration needed to translate written Parseltongue into spoken Parseltongue into spoken English into written English, his vision had blurred, and he had no sense of his own up-down or right-left orientation. He was barely aware of his hands gripping the table - he had just enough conscious thought not to let go of the table because everything inside him was screaming that if he let go, he would fall.

“Harry, I’m here,” Hermione said, and she placed a warm hand on top of his right hand. “You can let go now. I’ll catch you.”

It was only the trust that Harry had in Hermione that allowed him to loosen his grip on the table. As he loosened his grip, he began to fall towards the floor, but Hermione caught him in her arms. “Can you walk?” she asked.

“No,” Harry said, surprised he had enough coherence left to form words.

“Okay. I’m going to cast a feather charm, then I’m going to guide you towards your bed so you can lay down. All right?”

Harry felt a rush of warm affection for his friend. Hermione knew how much he hated having spells cast on him, and she knew that the only way he could handle another person’s magic on him was if they asked permission first. Over the years, he’d learned that spells cast on him by people he didn’t give the right to cast spells on him felt like ice water being dumped on his head. But a permissive spell always enveloped him like a warm glove. He loved the way it felt. But he hated how he always had to give permission first. Sometimes, he wished that there was someone out there who could cast magic on him without permission and have that magic feel safe. That seemed like a faraway dream right now, though. He was barely able to hold his head up, let alone daydream. “Fine,” he said.

As soon as Harry gave his permission, Hermione cast a feather charm on him, which caused him to float along behind her as she carefully and skillfully guided him to his room, her left hand wrapped firmly around his right upper arm. “Do you need a potion?” she asked, tone calm, as she helped him lay down in his bed and pulled his covers up over him.

Harry tried to grin and failed. It always amused him how clinical Hermione could be in situations like this. “Pepper-up,” he said. “Can’t think.”

Hermione snorted. “I don’t think a potion is going to cure that,” she said, but she went into his bathroom and grabbed the Pepper-up potion out of his cupboard. She twisted the lid off the vial as she walked back to the bed. She cupped Harry’s head, tilting it up far enough that she could get the liquid down his throat.

The potion worked within seconds, and Harry scooted back in the bed, leaning against the headboard as the confusion cleared. “Thanks, ‘Mione,” he said. “And that was a crack shot.” He grinned at her.

She frowned at him. “I still don’t understand why you’re translating these scrolls for Malfoy. Especially when you know the consequences of translating them.”

Harry flushed under her stern gaze. “I know, ‘Mione. It’s just... Malfoy was desperate.” Harry glanced at Hermione’s face, then focused his gaze on his bedspread. “I’ve never seen Malfoy desperate before. I didn’t know what to say to him.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “How about ‘No, Malfoy, I won’t translate the scrolls for you.’ That seems like it would have worked pretty well.”

Harry scowled, then sighed. “I told him no, at first. And I was even adamant about it,” he said. That was in response to the way her eyes narrowed. “But then I asked him why he cared about translating them so much, and he told me that he wants to make up for some of the bad things that his parents did during the war. It seems like he’s trying to change.”

Hermione sighed. “People don’t change that easily, you know that. Just look at Ron.”

Harry snorted. Over the years, Ron’s jealousy of Harry’s fame had died down, and he was no longer quick to jump to conclusions when weird shit happened. But he was still stubborn, still liked the same Quidditch team, and he still harbored suspicions of anyone remotely dark. All things considered, he had the perfect personality to be an Auror. Unlike Harry, who had a tendency to question everything around him and also tried to see the good in everyone.

Hermione knew it, too. “I know you want to think that Malfoy’s changed,” she said. She drew her bangs behind her ear, a giveaway tell that she was being thoughtful. “But don’t go into this situation with him with blind optimism. He’s still Malfoy, and he’s still a Slytherin.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “There’s nothing wrong with Slytherins as a whole, you know,” he said. His voice took on a lower octave. “I was almost a Slytherin myself, so I know how to be careful. I wouldn’t have survived Voldemort if I didn’t have a little cunning of my own.” He smiled at her.

Hermione nodded. “I know, Harry. I just don’t know how to read Malfoy. I don’t know what his intentions are, and I don’t want to see you get dragged into his world.”

Harry sighed. “He’s far more likely to get dragged into my world than I am to get dragged into his. I’m sure the press will get wind of the fact we’re working together at some point, and then he’ll have to deal with the insanity that ensues.”

“Are you sure he won’t go to the press himself?” Hermione asked.

Harry snorted. “He’d have to be insane to go to the press on his own,” he said. “Most of the wizarding world still views Malfoy as a spitting image of his father, so the press tends to criticize him. No, Malfoy won’t go to the press.”

“If you don’t tell them, and he doesn’t tell them, and me and Ron keep quiet, who is going to tell them?” Hermione asked. “There’s no reason the press needs to find out at all.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Wow, ‘Mione. For someone so smart, you can be stupid sometimes.”

“Hey!” She grabbed a pillow and thwapped him with it.

Harry held up his hands in mock surrender. “Sorry, sorry. But, really. I don’t know how the press finds out what they find out about my private life. You know, they found out about the last relationship I had, the one with Tavin, and he couldn’t handle the pressure. None of the men I’ve been with have been able to deal with the fame that comes with my name.”

Hermione patted his knee. “You’ll find someone, Harry. Maybe not today, and maybe not soon, but someday, you will find someone who can handle the pressure of your fame. Don’t give up.”

Harry sighed. “I won’t,” he said. “But it is pretty hard to find a good date. Do you think I should try that blind dating service again?”

Hermione scowled. “Absolutely not. The last time you went there, everyone recognized you immediately, and they forgot what they were there to do. It turned into an autograph session for you rather than a matchmaking session, so that’s a terrible idea.”

“I could Polyjuice myself,” Harry reasoned. “Go in there as someone else, and -

“And live a lie for the rest of your life?” Hermione asked, voice cool. “Walk into the matchmaking session with another man’s skin, denying your own identity, and then pretending to have a different life for a little while? You realize, if you do that, the man will find out eventually, and then there will be a huge scandal. It’s a stupid idea.”

Harry sighed. “Maybe so,” he said. “But it would be nice to have someone to talk to.”

“You know that you can always talk to me and Ron,” Hermione said. “We’ll always be here when you need us.”

Harry smiled. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “But it’s just not the same, you know?”

Hermione nodded. “Yeah,” she said, voice soft. “Yeah, I know.”

Harry slid down under the covers. “Thanks for making sure I got to bed okay,” he said. “I’m going to sleep the rest of this off.”

“You’re welcome,” Hermione said. “Good night, Harry.”

“Night, ‘Mione.” Harry waited until he felt the floo activate and deactivate before he let himself cry. The real risk of translating Parseltongue was the emotional aftermath, and that was something he never let anyone see, not even Ron and Hermione. Because Parseltongue was a language of multiples. Snakes nested, and they were never lonely. The language was a language of community, of togetherness, and English lacked that warmth. English was a cold language, a solitary language, and Harry always felt emotionally exhausted and alone after translating Parseltongue.

What he really wanted to do was curl up around someone and let the presence of another person take his mind off the terrible loneliness he always felt after translating the language. While Hermione had helped to alleviate some of that loneliness, just by being present, the sheer loneliness he felt couldn’t be alleviated by a friend. It reached too far inwards, almost like he was a snake within a cave that had no exits. It was in these moments that he felt the most human and yet the most like a monster. Because if he was human, why couldn’t he find someone who would love him? Why couldn’t he find a mate?

That was the real reason that Parseltongue was never meant to be written down. Snakes mated for life. Humans didn’t. A snake without a mate was an incomplete soul, and translating that incompleteness into words was more painful than any other torment Harry had ever faced. Yet, he had voluntarily decided to take this pain on because he had agreed to translate the scrolls for Malfoy. And while Harry wanted to see the good in Malfoy, while he wanted to discover that translating these scrolls was for the greater good, that Malfoy had actually changed, Harry was terrified that he would discover the opposite. He was terrified that he would discover that Malfoy was every bit as evil as his father, and the pain Harry was inflicting on himself would be for naught. That was Harry’s worst fear, and he didn’t want Hermione or Ron to see just how deeply his nightmares ran.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

Five minutes before six the next Wednesday, Harry felt the wards in front of his apartment bend, announcing the arrival of Malfoy and someone else. Harry frowned. He hadn’t invited anyone but Malfoy over to his apartment, so that there was another person outside his front door was irksome. As he walked towards the door, he caught a snippet of the conversation going on outside his front door.

“You really don’t need to be here,” Malfoy said, tone quiet. “I’ve told you repeatedly that Potter doesn’t like strangers, and you are a stranger.”

The other man sniffed. “Nonsense,” he said. “As your boss, I have every right to see how Mr. Potter plans to honor his agreement with you.”

Malfoy sighed. “It would be helpful if you just believed me when I told you I managed to get him to agree to do the translations instead of following me around like you’re harboring suspicions of me.”

“But I am harboring suspicions of you,” the man said. “I still don’t know how you managed to get hired on as a cursebreaker when you have such a dark past. If I were the one responsible for the staff, I would have already gotten rid of you. Alas, I don’t make those decisions. But put one foot out of line –

“Yes, I know,” Malfoy said, tone resigned. “You’ll submit paperwork to the hiring board and get me fired.”

“Glad we understand one another,” the man said.

“That doesn’t mean you should have come with me to Potter’s apartment,” Malfoy said. “Like I keep telling you, he doesn’t like strangers.”

“Nonsense,” the man said. “I’m sure Mr. Potter has a great deal of respect for all Ministry officials.”

Harry had to hold back a snort at that. He could already tell that he wasn’t going to get along with Malfoy’s boss. He opened the door and found himself staring into the face of a squat man with beady eyes. He ignored the man entirely and turned his attention to Malfoy. “I don’t believe my invitation extended to anyone other than you,” he said.

Malfoy’s eyes sparked with concealed mirth. “Sorry,” he drawled. “This is my boss, Rube Nightingale. He insisted on coming with me to meet you.”

Nightingale cleared his throat, drawing Harry’s attention to him. “I must admit, Mr. Potter, I didn’t expect you to associate with the likes of Draco Malfoy. I can’t quite say I approve.”

As much as Harry disliked Malfoy, there was something indescribably slimy about Nightingale. “I suppose it’s a good thing then that I don’t care one bit whether you approve of my associates or not, Mr. Nightingale. Unlike you, Draco has perfectly charming manners.”

Nightingale flushed red. “Malfoy, you didn’t tell me you were on a first name basis with Mr. Potter.”

Malfoy arched an eyebrow at Harry, his lips quirking into a smile over the top of Nightingale’s head. “Did I neglect to mention that?” he asked, injecting a bit of surprise into his voice.

“Yes, yes you did,” Nightingale said, obviously put out. “Well, we might as well get what we came here for. May we come in, Mr. Potter?”

Harry held the door open and angled his body so that Malfoy could slip past him, but he refused to move aside enough to allow Nightingale to pass. “My agreement is with Malfoy alone,” he said. “Good night, Mr. Nightingale.” Without bothering to wait and see if the sputtering that line had induced in the man ever stopped, Harry closed his door and latched it. Then he increased the security of his wards, and he was satisfied only when the strength of his wards pushed Nightingale a good distance away from his apartment.

Malfoy, when he spoke again, seemed genuinely puzzled. “Why did you let me through and not my boss?” he asked, tone soft. “I wasn’t expecting you to help me out.”

Harry snorted. “I hate men like him,” he said. “I hate it when people try to tell me who I should and shouldn’t be around, like any of them have the right to dictate my life. I’ll decide who my friends are for myself, thanks.”

Malfoy’s eyes widened in shock. “That’s the exact same thing you said to me on the train in our first year,” he said.

Harry met Malfoy’s eyes and nodded once, the action sharp. “And that’s why I’ve had trouble being around you ever since we met,” he said. “I won’t let anyone tell me who I can and can’t be friends with, and the first time we met, that’s exactly what you tried to do.”

Malfoy sighed. “I was very much my father’s son back then,” he said. “And I suppose there’s too much bad blood between us now for starting over to do us any good.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Give me the scroll I was working on last time,” he said. As Malfoy drew the scroll out of the box and handed it to him, Harry sighed. “Why does that man hate you so much?”

Malfoy shrugged a delicate shoulder, blue-gray eyes clouded with cold resignation. “I suppose he hates me for the same reason everyone else at the Ministry hates me. I am the son of Lucius Malfoy. That fact alone makes me a villain in the eyes of many.”

Harry’s teeth clenched. “As much as I dislike you for the way you have treated me and my friends in the past, at least my dislike is based off the way you yourself behaved. You can’t help that Lucius Malfoy supported Voldemort’s ideology. No one is responsible for the terrible actions of their parents, not even you.”

Draco arched an eyebrow. “Thanks, Potter,” he said, tone dry. “But I don’t need anyone to advocate for me. I am perfectly capable of fighting my own battles.”

Harry flushed. “Sorry,” he said. “Force of habit, I suppose.”

“What is?” Malfoy asked. “Getting stupidly passionate about inane things?”

Harry scowled at him. “Standing up for people who won’t stand up for themselves,” he said.

Malfoy blanched. “I stand up for myself,” he said.

Harry arched an eyebrow. “Really?” he asked. “Because I distinctly recall you letting Nightingale disparage your character.”

Malfoy flushed. “If I reacted to every disparaging remark made about me, my entire life would consist of nothing but defending myself. I learned a long time ago that people are going to disparage me whether I defend myself or not, and I decided not to waste my life trying to convince people to see me properly. As long as I can make a difference in the world and reverse some of the damage my father inflicted, that’s enough for me.”

Harry shook his head. “Really, Malfoy? You’re going to let your life be defined by your father even now? Do you really think that you are best served by cleaning up the mess your father made?”

Malfoy’s expression blanked. “I don’t think it’s any of your business,” he said. “The last thing I need is someone else trying to tell me how to live my life.”

Harry winced. “Sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to imply that I disapproved of the life you’ve chosen to live.”

Malfoy’s gaze sharpened. “Then what were you trying to imply?”

Harry sighed. “I suppose I was just trying to ask if you were happy. Not that it’s any of my business.”

Malfoy’s expression softened. “For the most part, I am content. I do have to wonder, however, why you suddenly seem so interested in my life. In fact, I believe this is the first truly civil conversation we’ve ever had, and I find it slightly overwhelming.”

“It’s because of how Nightingale treated you,” Harry said. “It’s pretty obvious he doesn’t have the first clue about who you are, and yet he’s still willing to disparage you to a stranger. He was looking for me to be a sympathetic ear – he expected me to be as crass as him, and I hate that. I hate the very idea that I could be that judgmental towards anyone, even you, Malfoy.”

“You aren’t,” Malfoy said. “Your dislike for me is rational, based off the way I behaved towards you when we were in school. I assure you, I hold you in as much esteem as you hold me.”

Harry snorted. “Ironic, then, that we can treat each other with more respect than your boss managed to treat you with.”

Malfoy’s lips quirked. “Perhaps we’re just better human beings,” he said.

Harry grinned. “Perhaps so.” He unrolled the scroll and laid it on the table in front of him. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get started on this.”

“Mind if I make myself some tea?”

Harry shook his head. “Go ahead,” he said. “Take it –

“To the couch. I remember, Potter.”

“Prat.”

In response, Malfoy flipped him off as he walked into the kitchen.

Harry smiled. Despite the history that lay between the two of them, he was finding Malfoy’s presence to be rather unobtrusive, which shocked him. He had expected Malfoy to be obnoxious and underfoot the way Ron would have been if Ron had been the one who asked for the translation. Harry was starting to realize that he didn’t have any clue who the man in his kitchen actually was, and he was starting to regret how easily he had rejected Malfoy when the man first asked for the translation. He sighed and turned to the scroll in front of him. He needed to focus on translating the scroll, not on trying to figure out Malfoy. That could wait.

I doubt anyone will ever believe that I chose this path in order to prevent the chaotic future I witnessed. In fact, I am certain that the whole of the wizarding world will call me a monster. They will never understand that the war I intend to wage against the muggle one is to prevent the annihilation of the wizarding world.

In case I fail to prevent the future I have witnessed first-hand, I am recording my intentions in the hopes that someone will find this information before it’s too late. Before the war to end life as we know it begins. I suppose I should start from the beginning. Explain why it is so imperative that the war be prevented and how I know the future I fear is the future we face.

For those who have studied the prophetic arts, it is well known that the future unfolds in front of us in many paths. There are key players and key events that carry the world forward. It is the interlocking of those key players and key events that determine the course the future the whole of humanity will have to face together. Key players are identified at birth. They are the orphans and the unloved. It is their compassion and their hatred that keeps the world in motion.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me to refer to myself as a key player, but I understand enough about the prophetic arts to know that I am a key player. My actions will help shape the future of the world, and, currently, the future I have seen is not one I wish to help create. That future entails a world where the muggles know about wizards and, rather than embracing us, they reject us out of hand. They treat us as a threat to their world, so they take up arms, and they destroy us.

I refuse to see that future unfold. I refuse to watch the world I love crumble into nothing within the next five centuries. I will do whatever it takes to prevent the world I love from disappearing, and if that means that I am treated like a monster, seen as a monster by the ones I desperately wish to save, then I will take on that burden. The burden I carry is the knowledge that the war I intend to wage will take lives of other wizards, but the casualties I inflict upon this world will be far less numerous than the fate future has in store for the wizarding world. I do not wish to take the lives of any wizards, but I would rather take the lives of a few wizards to save the entire wizarding world than kill no one and watch this world shatter.

I fervently hope that my attempts to thwart the unfolding of the future of the annihilation of the wizarding world aren’t too late. That the actions I take can act as key events in an effort to reverse that future. But I also fear that the actions I take may bring that future closer.

That’s the risk inherent in trying to understand prophecy. To manipulate the future is difficult, and it is far easier to set events in motion than it is to halt their progression. And I am setting out to halt the progression of the future the wizarding world is already rushing towards. No matter what I choose to do, I may end up drawing the annihilation of the wizarding world closer. But I have to do something. If there is even the slimmest chance that I can stop that future from happening, then I have to act. I can’t stand the thought of doing nothing. I can’t stand the thought of the annihilation of everything I hold dear.

Harry’s head was swimming when he finished translating. He was astonished that he’d managed to translate a portion so much larger than the portion he’d managed to translate the previous week. When he looked up, he found himself staring at Hermione. “When did you get here?” he asked.

“About an hour ago,” Hermione said. “Malfoy left a note on your kitchen counter. I assume he left at seven, since he was gone when I got here.”

Harry blinked. “He didn’t say anything when he left. I’m surprised he left the scroll here with me. He was pretty adamant that he couldn’t let the documents out of his sight.”

Hermione sighed. “Perhaps the note will give you some insight into his actions.”

Harry braced himself. As he tried to stand, a wave of vertigo sent him crashing towards the floor. It was only Hermione’s quick wand work that saved him a nasty fall, and she gave him an apologetic look for casting a spell on him without his permission. The ice water sensation washed over him and he glared at her. “Thanks,” he said. “Next time, I’ll take the fall though.” Even though Hermione had done it to save him, Harry still loathed the way it felt. Loathed it so much, in fact, he would rather have sustained a concussion.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’ll take you being irritated with me over having to take you to St. Mungo’s. At least with me, it’s just one spell. If I take you to St. Mungo’s, you’ll have multiple witches and wizards casting diagnostic spells on you. Now, are you sure you’d rather have taken the fall?” Her tone had a sickeningly sweet cast to it.

Harry swallowed. “No,” he said, queasiness settling in his stomach as he thought about having to go to St. Mungo’s for anything. “No, that’s quite alright. Sorry, ‘Mione.”

Hermione smiled. “I’ll fetch the note for you, shall I?”

Harry nodded. “That would be great, thanks.” He didn’t feel like doing anything to upset Hermione any further. The woman had a nasty temper when it was roused, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he had come pretty damned close to pissing her off.

“Here,” she said, placing the note into his hand.

Harry righted himself in his chair and read the note from Malfoy.

Potter,
I didn’t want to disturb you, as you seemed very deep in the translation, and I wasn’t sure what the consequences might be of pulling you out of such a deep trance. I let myself out. I’ll return tomorrow when your shop opens to fetch the scroll and the translation.

“Well, that’s straightforward,” Harry said, then sighed. He didn’t understand Malfoy at all. The man basically disappeared when Harry was working on the translation – in fact, his presence was so unobtrusive that Harry hadn’t even noticed him leave. That was alarming, actually, as the only two people Harry had ever found unobtrusive were Ron and Hermione. When anyone else was around him, it was like his magic went on high alert. That his magic didn’t seem to find Malfoy a threat surprised him, and he found himself both concerned and intrigued.

Hermione sniffed. “He could have at least signed his name.”

Harry laughed. “It’s Malfoy,” he said. “I’m surprised he bothered to leave a note at all. In fact, I bet the only reason he left this note was to let me know he was going to come by to fetch the scroll in the morning.”

“You’re probably right,” Hermione said. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that Malfoy is every bit the self-serving Slytherin.”

Harry grinned. “I don’t know, ‘Mione. I find it kind of refreshing.”

“How so?”

“Well, he asked me to translate the scrolls for him, and, so far, he hasn’t asked me to do anything else. Okay, he did ask me to make him a cup of tea the first time he was here, but that hardly counts.” He sighed at Hermione’s arched eyebrow, and he tried to find the words to explain what he meant. “When he comes here to get the scrolls translated, he makes himself a cup of tea and sits on the couch and waits for me to finish. He doesn’t try to rush me through the translation, and he doesn’t try to forcibly engage me in conversation. He seems to understand that I value my privacy, and as soon as the hour is up, he leaves. Whether I’m finished with the translation or not, so it seems.” Harry smiled sheepishly. “I’m starting to wonder whether the Draco Malfoy we knew in school is the real Draco Malfoy or just a mask the man wears.”

Hermione blew out a breath. “Damn, Harry. You’re curious.”

Harry shrugged a shoulder, a resigned motion. “I don’t understand him. I never have, and I am starting to feel like I need to understand him.” He took a deep breath. “Do you know how I told you before that each person’s magic feels different?”

Hermione nodded. “Yeah. You told me that Ron’s felt like a fluffy fireball.” She grinned. “I still don’t see how a fireball can be fluffy, but with Ron, somehow, that image just fits. I think you said mine felt like dirt after a rainstorm. What does Malfoy’s feel like?”

Harry sighed. “A brewing storm.”

Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. “Harry, that’s almost exactly how you defined –

“My own magic? Yeah, I know,” Harry said. “Except my magic is more like a thunderstorm in motion. Malfoy’s is more like a blizzard, or the potential of one. It’s like he hasn’t realized the full extent of his own magical abilities.” Harry sighed. “If that man ever finds confidence in his magic, he will be a force to be reckoned with.” He smiled sheepishly. “I kind of want to help him find that confidence.”

Hermione shook her head. “Harry, you barely know Malfoy. For all you know, he wants you to translate these scrolls so that he can use any Dark rituals you discover.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “’Mione, I’m shocked at you. Wasn’t it you that told me I needed to stop looking for conspiracies where Malfoy is involved?”

Hermione had the grace to look sheepish. “Yes, well, I was wrong in seventh year, and I don’t want you to make the mistake I made.”

Harry sighed. “You know that I always go with my instincts, ‘Mione. When have they ever been wrong?”

Hermione shrugged, at a loss for words.

“The answer to that is never,” Harry said. “My instincts are telling me that I need to understand Malfoy. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it has something to do with these scrolls. Something is telling me that understanding Malfoy better will go a long way to helping me understand the person who wrote these scrolls.”

“I suppose if it’s for the sake of understanding the scrolls, I can try to be supportive,” Hermione said, her tone a bit begrudging.

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I suppose I should get to bed. Mind helping me?”

Hermione shook her head and pulled out her wand. “That’s what I came here to do,” she said, then floated him to bed.

“Thanks, ‘Mione,” he said. “You’re a great friend.”

She smiled. “Yes, well, I’ve had tons of practice. Good night, Harry.”

“Night.” As Harry prepared himself to deal with the emotional onslaught that normally occurred after translating Parseltongue, he was surprised to find that he felt no loneliness. Instead, what he found haunting him as he fell asleep was the image of Malfoy’s face when the man realized that Harry wasn’t going to judge him for his father’s crimes. The shock and hope that mixed within Malfoy’s blue-grey eyes followed Harry into sleep, and he found himself swearing that he would do the best he could to find out more about the Slytherin.

Chapter Text

Draco groaned as his alarm blared. Six was too early for anyone to get up, and he had inflicted this torture on himself. All for a stupid scroll. He scowled. If he had just waited for Potter to finish the translation, then he wouldn’t be in this mess. Then again, if he had waited for Potter to finish the translation, there was no telling how long he would have had to endure the boredom of sitting on Potter’s couch. An hour was almost more than he could stand. Draco supposed he could take something to read when he went, but that seemed rather rude, since Potter was doing him a favor. Enduring the boredom of waiting seemed like a small price to pay, considering Potter had originally refused the request entirely.

Draco sighed, dragged himself out of bed and took a shower. After he was dressed, he made his way downstairs to where his morning coffee – three creams, two sugar – and Spanish omelet were waiting for him. He devoured the omelet and savored the coffee, letting the caffeine nurse him into wakefulness.

Once he was fully awake, he adjusted the manor’s wards to allow direct apparition, and he apparated to the front of Parselsmith. Straightening his robes, he walked into the shop, intending to go straight to the counter and demand the scroll back from Potter. Once he was inside, however, he had to force himself to keep from dropping his jaw at the sight that greeted him.

A line of fifty or so wizards crowded around the counter, and Potter was standing on top of it. He spotted Malfoy and gave a self-conscious wave. “As some of you know,” he said. “I am offering consulting services for snake owners for five galleons starting today. Give the money to Anita here.” He motioned to a petite witch with black hair standing behind the counter at the register. “Then bring your snake to me. I’ll be waiting at the table in front of the store.” That said, he sprang off the counter and walked outside. As he did so, he motioned for Draco to follow him.

Bemused, Draco followed Potter outside and sat down across from him. “Consulting services?” he asked.

Potter nodded. He sprawled in the chair across from him, and Draco had to fight not to notice the way the man had filled out over the years. The last thing Draco needed was to develop an attraction to Harry Potter, of all people.

“Yeah,” Potter said. “There are a lot of people who own snakes but don’t understand how to take care of them. Since I can speak Parseltongue, I figured I’d offer to translate for the owners who wanted to know how to take care of their snakes properly.”

“Hmm,” Draco said. “I don’t have a chance to hear Parseltongue spoken often. Would you mind if I stayed to listen?”

The question startled Potter. That was obvious from the way he jolted in his chair. “I thought you came for the scroll, not to listen to me speak Parseltongue.”

Draco forced himself not to clench his teeth. That was a no if he’d ever heard one. “I did,” he said. “I assume you have it with you?”

Potter pulled it out of his robes and handed it over along with a piece of parchment, which Draco assumed was the translation. He hesitated. “You can stay and listen if you want,” he said, green eyes unreadable.

Draco sighed. “I don’t want to cause problems for you, Potter. I’m sure the press would have a field day if they saw us.”

Potter shrugged. “I don’t care about the press,” he said, tone weary. “My friends are the ones who have to deal with the brunt of the publicity issues. The press is always reporting on what I’m doing, and I’ve lost friends due to the scrutiny the press tends to exact on those who stay near me for too long.” He sighed, trying to pick his words carefully. “You know, what you said last night, about there being too much bad blood between us…I’d be willing to start over, if you would.” He stretched out his hand, and his hand trembled as he waited for Draco’s reply.

Draco stared at the man in front of him. Numb with disbelief, he took Potter’s hand with his own. How many times had he dreamed of this moment? Of what would have happened if Potter had chosen to be his friend back in first year? He swallowed hard, and he found he couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat.

Potter grinned at him. “So, my friends call me Harry,” he said. “Shall we start with that?”

Draco laughed, surprised by how easily Potter broke the tension. No, how easily Harry broke the tension. Draco had a feeling he was going to have to get used to calling him Harry. “Yeah,” he said. “That would be a good start.” He smiled. “Call me Draco.”

Harry nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Draco it is.”

As the first paying customer came out of the shop and approached the table, Draco stood up and yielded the chair to the young witch and conjured a chair for himself. He placed the chair beside Harry’s and sat down to listen to the language of snakes – a language that he had always found captivatingly beautiful.

********

Harry could barely keep from humming, he was so thrilled. When he had extended his hand in friendship to Draco, a man who was still very much an enigma to him, he had feared that Draco would reject the offer. After all, Harry had rejected Draco’s offer of friendship when they were both children. Perhaps it was because the two of them were both adults that Draco had been able to put all of that behind him and accept Harry’s offer. Whatever the reason, Harry was happy that Draco had agreed.

The first witch who approached him was a young woman, no more than fifteen years old. Wrapped around her shoulders was a beautiful red boa.

Harry smiled at her. “What can I do for you, Ms.?”

The girl smiled back. “I’m Henrietta,” she said, then introduced her boa. “This is Tamura. She hasn’t been eating properly for the past few days, and I’m concerned.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Have you changed her diet at all?” he asked.

Henrietta shook her head. “I always feed her mice three times a day,” she said. “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

Harry nodded. “That’s normally what snakes eat. Shall we ask Tamura why she isn’t eating?”

Harry smiled at the girl, then focused his attention on the snake. Hello, he said. Your nest-mate is concerned you aren’t eating. Should she be worried?

Tamura unfurled and stared directly at Harry as she replied. My nest-mate is always bringing me dead mice. I managed to eat them for a few weeks, but I’m bored with nothing to chase. I can’t work up an appetite without a chase.

Harry winced. I will relay your concerns to your nest-mate, he said.

Much obliged, Tamura replied.

Harry turned back to Henrietta. “Tamura says that you’ve been feeding her dead mice. Snakes need to eat live prey. They need to hunt.”

Henrietta’s eyes widened. “Oh, but I just couldn’t watch Tamura eat a live mouse. I’d feel awful.”

Harry closed his eyes, wondering how he was supposed to explain to Henrietta that she needed to give Tamura to someone who would take better care of her if she couldn’t even bring herself to feed the snake live mice. It turned out, he didn’t need to bother.

“If you don’t feed the snake properly,” Draco drawled beside him. “The snake will die. If you feed the snake properly, a few mice will die, but they will die quickly. If you don’t feed your snake properly, then you will starve her to death, and she will die a slow death. You will be torturing your snake. If you don’t want to make that choice, then you need to give Tamura to someone who can.”

Henrietta stared at Draco, and her nostrils flared in outrage. “And who are you to try to give me advice, Malfoy?” She spat his surname out and smiled grimly as Draco flinched. “Yes, I know who you are. The son of Lucius Malfoy, the Death Eater. You have no right to give me advice. I came here to get advice from Harry Potter, not from some washed out has-been.”

Harry blinked in astonishment. Where was the sweet witch he’d been speaking to just moments before? The girl who was too squeamish to feed her snake live mice? He wanted to leap to Draco’s defense, but he remembered that Draco had said he could fight his own battles. Harry needed to see proof of that. His friends needed backbone to survive, and if Draco planned to be friends with him, well, the blonde would have to prove he had the necessary strength.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Are you quite done?” he asked, sounding bored.

Henrietta looked put out that she didn’t get more of a response. “Aren’t you mad that I called you a washed out has-been?” she asked, hands planted on her hip as a scowl formed on her face.

Draco gave her a puzzled look. “Why would I be mad about that? I don’t know you. You don’t know me. I assume that your insults originated with someone else. You’re a teenager, parroting opinions without forming any of your own. I told you the truth about your snake, and you didn’t like hearing it, so you lashed out. Call me what you want, but the truth still stands. If you can’t make the necessary sacrifice to take care of Tamura properly, you should give her to someone who can.”

Henrietta stared at Draco. Wordlessly, she uncoiled the snake from around her neck and dumped Tamura unceremoniously in Draco’s lap. “Fine,” she said. “Then you take her.”

Draco’s eyes widened, and he froze, not quite daring to move with a snake on his lap. “I didn’t mean me,” he said, voice small.

Henrietta smiled, and it was a nasty smile. “Too bad,” she said. “Don’t give advice to people who don’t ask for it. Thanks, Harry.”

Harry sighed and picked Tamura up. “Henrietta,” he said, calling after the girl who was walking away.

She turned back. “Yes?” she asked.

“Tamura is your responsibility, not Draco’s. If you want Draco to take Tamura, then you need to pay him for the trouble you’ve caused him.”

“What?” Henrietta demanded, hands firmly on her hips. “He’s the one who said I should give Tamura to someone who could make the necessary sacrifice. It seems to me that the son of a Death Eater should be able to make that sacrifice. I don’t see why I should have to pay him for that.”

Harry’s jaw clenched, and an anger he hadn’t felt in a long time rose like a tide within him. He turned to Draco, desperation in his eyes and voice. “Get everyone out of the shop,” he said. “I’m about to lose control of my magic.”

Draco’s eyes widened in shock. “Get out of here!” He yelled at Henrietta, who fled at the serious threat Draco posed as he pulled out his wand. Not caring how it looked, Draco grabbed Harry’s right upper arm and marched him inside. Figuring that a threat would be the best way to get everyone out of the shop, he pointed his wand at Harry’s throat. “Everyone get out of this shop, right now,” he said. “Or I swear there won’t be anything left of him for you to find.”

All of the customers trained their attention on Draco, and one of them started to disarm him, but Harry threw up a defensive shield between them, preventing the action. The motion was very subtle, but Draco noticed it.

“Get out of here!” Harry yelled. “You don’t stand a chance against him.” He followed Draco’s lead, and the shop emptied rapidly. Once all of the customers were gone, Harry threw up a strong deflecting shield around the shop which would deny entrance to anyone not keyed to his private wards. As he threw up the shield, he tied Draco into those wards, allowing the Slytherin to stay by him. “You realize,” he said, panting through the effort necessary to keep control of his magic. “That you probably just cemented your status as Dark wizard into the minds of about a hundred wizards, right?”

Draco shrugged. “At least it will be for something I did, rather than something my father did,” he said. “Besides, I couldn’t think of a faster way to get everyone out of the shop.”

Harry chuckled, which made it even more difficult to control his breathing. “Fair enough,” he said. “You should leave, too. The last time I lost control, I blew up the shop. Took me weeks to put everything back together.”

Draco sighed. “You seriously don’t realize how unique your magic is, do you?” he asked.

Harry frowned. “Unique?”

“You have the strongest Light and Dark abilities that exist,” Draco explained. “Light magic can be contained, so you don’t have trouble controlling it. Dark magic has to burst free from its bonds occasionally. I’m surprised the worst you’ve done is blown up the shop. Dark magic, once loosed, if not properly loosed, can level cities.”

Harry stared at him. “How do you know so much about Dark magic?”

Draco scowled. “I’m a cursebreaker, Potter,” he said, slipping back into old habit. “What kind of magic do you think cursebreaking is?”

Harry shook his head. “I have no idea.”

“It’s Dark magic,” Malfoy said, his tone short. “I am a Dark wizard. And you should know that Dark doesn’t mean evil, considering you’re a Parseltongue speaker. Dark magic is shadow magic. It was Voldemort who twisted that.”

Harry grunted. “Can we have this lecture another time? I’m trying to keep my magic contained here.”

Draco sighed in annoyance. “Fine,” he said. Without giving Harry time to protest, he pointed his wand at Harry’s head and said, “Solvo Tenebrae.”

Harry braced himself, expecting the regular ice water sensation to wash over him. Instead, the spell washed over him with a silky smoothness that startled him. The spell felt good. He stared at Draco in astonishment, and then the spell took hold. All of the dark thoughts he’d had over the last few months rushed to the surface of his mind, and it took all of his self-control not to lunge at Draco and start punching him. Harry wanted to hurt someone. He wanted to hurt someone so badly that he could taste it.

“Ride the storm,” Draco said, and his voice seemed like it was coming from miles away. “Let the thoughts come, and let them pass. You are not the darkness within. Let the dark inside you become the dark outside you. Release the storm.”

As Draco talked, Harry listened. Something about Draco’s voice seemed incredibly soothing, and Harry found himself lulled into a trancelike state. Harry followed Draco’s instructions in a state of wonder. He’d never seen the dark inside him as a living force. He’d never considered that his magic was equal parts Light and Dark magic. And he had never dreamed he’d be standing in the middle of his shop with Draco Malofy, of all people, teaching him how to keep from losing control of the most lethal weapon he possessed.

Eventually, the light trance faded, and Harry stared at Draco, wondering what he was supposed to say. Gratitude seemed appropriate, but ‘thank you’ didn’t seem strong enough. He cleared his throat. “Th -

Draco interrupted. “That should hold you until you can get into the forest. Dark magic has to be given free reign occasionally, or you will lose control of it completely. The fact that you have such strong Light magic is what has allowed you to wait this long. The spell I used is only a temporary reprieve.”

Harry stared at the blonde, astonished at the way Draco lit up while talking about magic. That passion was the last thing he expected in the cool Slytherin, and it was hard for him to wrap his mind around the person standing in front of him. Then he caught up with what Draco was saying, and he threw his hands out. “Wait a second,” he said. “You’re telling me I have to go into the forest and do what exactly?”

Draco sighed; a put-upon sound. “Release the Dark magic you’re carrying around.”

Harry frowned. “Why do I need to release my magic? You’ve lost me.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Do you know nothing about the way magic works?” He shook his head. “No, you wouldn’t. You’re powerful enough that the theory of magic probably holds no interest to you.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know if it holds interest or not, considering I barely know anything about the theory of magic.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Of course you don’t. Okay, well, there are two types of magic - Light and Dark. The difference between Light and Dark magic is that Light magic embraces the light side of life - order, peace, love, and good health, for example. In contrast, Dark magic embraces the dark side of life - death, destruction, chaos, and wilderness. The important thing to know about the two types of magic is that you can’t have too much Light magic, but you can have too much Dark magic. If you have too much Dark magic, your magical core falls out of balance, and you have to release the Dark magic in order to force your magical core to resync to the rhythms of our world. Understand?”

Harry was amazed at how Draco had managed to deliver that lecture sounding like an exasperated yet patient teacher. He smiled at the blonde. “Yeah, I think I have it. Thanks for explaining. Now, why do we need a forest?”

Draco smiled tightly. “It would be easier to show you. Could you, perchance, apparate us to a remote forest?”

Harry shrugged. “Sure,” he said. He flicked his wand, and the two of them were standing in the middle of a remote forest in Scotland.

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. “I didn’t even feel the Apparate spell take hold of me. How the bloody hell did you do that?”

Harry grinned. “It’s a secret. If you want to know mine, share yours first.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, then burst out laughing.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Fine. I’ll teach you how to release Dark magic, and then you can teach me how to Apparate without making any sound.”

“Deal,” Harry said.

Chapter Text

Draco braced himself against a tree and focused his attention on Harry. “Do you have any qualms against using the Dark Arts?” he asked. The muscles in his back tensed – asking Harry Potter, of all people, whether he was okay with the Dark Arts, unsettled him. There was no way for Draco to know what the consequences of such a question would be.

Harry gave him an appraising look, then shrugged. “While I’m not particularly fond of them, I have found the Dark Arts to be occasionally useful.”

Draco touched his chest to make sure his heart hadn’t actually jumped out of it. He cleared his throat to keep himself from squeaking in surprise. “You’ve used the Dark Arts,” he said, letting the words roll of his tongue in a disbelieving lilt.

Harry nodded and gave another shrug. “Yeah, but I don’t use it often. I have to use the Dark Arts some, or I would never be able to create Parseltongue charms. Can’t activate Dark magic with Light spells.”

Draco frowned. “I thought you didn’t know anything about the theory of magic.”

Harry grinned, unrepentant on being caught out. “I may have exaggerated my lack of knowledge.” He held up a hand to ward off any protest Draco might make (which Draco found exasperating, as he hadn’t even opened his mouth). “However, I didn’t lie about not knowing how to release Dark magic. I didn’t realize that Dark magic required a release of any sort. When it comes to magical theory, I barely know the basics.”

“Good thing you have me around, then,” Draco said. “Considering I’m an expert.” And he was. Had to be, really, since he was a Cursebreaker.

“So, explain this process to me, if you would,” Harry said, giving him an expectant look.

Draco found himself flushing. Without even realizing it, Harry was subtly compelling him to respond. Harry’s magic pulsed towards him, suggesting cooperation as it attempted to soothe Draco’s aura and merge it with Harry’s desires. But Draco hadn’t verbally assented to such compulsion, and the magic couldn’t get a proper latch. It was obvious, from Harry’s relaxed posture, that he had no idea what his magic was doing to Draco. And that was fine. Draco could handle this. He swallowed, forcing himself to the level of composure required to explain the ritual. “What do you know about the Dark Arts?” he asked.

Harry frowned. “I don’t know much. When I create a Parseltongue spell, I spend a day recovering from the energy I used to create it. That’s why I sell very few Parseltongue charms in my shop.”

Draco nodded. “When you pay for the creation of the charm with a day of recovery, you are sacrificing your own wellbeing in order to complete the charm. The Dark Arts allows that, but there is a much more effective and efficient way to use them.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, then motioned with a hand for Draco to continue.

Draco flushed. The aura around Harry was so strong it was making him itch. How could the wizard standing in front of him fail to understand the power of his own magic? It made no sense. Frustration thrummed through him, and Draco forced it to the side so he could explain what he meant. “In general, the practice of the Dark Arts requires the use of a ritual. Since Parseltongue is a ritual language, every time you create a Parseltongue charm, you are engaging in a ritual. However, that won’t work for what we need to do, which is to appease the Dark magic within you so that it doesn’t try to consume you.”

Harry waited.

Draco sighed and continued, annoyed that Harry was able to let his magic do his prompting for him, all without ever realizing it was happening. “A Dark Arts ritual requires three things: blood, willingly spilled; submission, freely given; and intense willpower.”

“Explain,” Harry said, his voice as hard as steel, the tone he used as sharp as a razor.

Draco winced. He did not want to make Harry angry, not if the man was willing to use that tone for something this trivial. That tone made Draco feel like falling to his knees and begging for mercy. He shivered and dropped his eyes, holding his hands out in a subconscious submissive gesture. “The blood and submission have to be willingly given, and they must be given to the ritualist by another wizard.”

“No,” Harry said. “I need you to explain to me why those things are necessary.”

Oh. Oh. Harry didn’t have a single clue as to how Dark magic really worked, and that comment was all the proof Draco needed. “Harry, Dark magic is powered by blood and power. Blood enhances a spell and makes the effect of the spell stronger. When submission is offered, then the ritualist lends the power of his dominance to the spell, and that power strengthens the likeliness of the spell taking a firm grip.”

“I don’t like it,” Harry said, tone firm. “When Voldemort resurrected himself using my blood, he took it from me without my consent while he had me trapped against a gravestone. He forced my blood and my submission, and he returned to the world stronger than he had left it. I may have eventually managed to destroy him, but he left a lot of havoc in his wake.”

Weariness and bitterness were interlaced in Harry’s words, and Draco felt a twinge of sympathy. “He took them from you when you weren’t willing?” Draco asked, both needing and dreading the confirmation.

“Yes, why?”

“Because only one subtype of Dark magic requires the use of forced bloodletting and submission, and that’s the Necromantic Arts.” Draco shuddered as he thought of it – necromancy always made him uncomfortable.

Harry looked confused. “I thought Necromancy dealt with resurrecting the dead.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “And what, pray tell, do you think Voldemort was doing when he resurrected himself?” He prided himself on the fact he was able to say Voldemort’s name without flinching. That had taken him years of practice.

Harry blinked in astonishment. “Huh,” he said, like he had never considered the possibility before. “I still don’t like the idea of offering my blood to anyone or submitting,” he said. “Isn’t there another way to do it?”

Draco couldn’t help it – a startled laugh escaped him. “Harry, I’m not asking you to give those things up.”

“You’re not?”

Draco shook his head. “No, you berk. I’m going to be the one offering them to you.”

Chapter Text

Harry’s insides froze. Draco Malfoy wanted to submit?To him? And give up his blood? Harry’s teeth clenched along with his fists as he fought to control his breathing.

While he knew the Dark Arts demanded a hefty price – in fact, he was keenly aware of how heavy said price could be, considering his inability to stand after translating Parseltongue – Harry wasn’t sure he was willing to pay this price.

“Are you seriously telling me that you’re okay with me spilling your blood?” Harry asked, barely managing to control his rage. “You are not a sacrificial pig being led to a slaughter.”

Draco stared at him for a moment, then arched an eyebrow. “I never said I was,” he said. “Besides, I hardly think a single drop of blood counts as a slaughter.”

Harry frowned. “A single drop?”

“Why does that surprise you?” Draco asked.

Harry flushed. “I thought more blood would be required.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “We’re only releasing a little Dark magic,” he said.

“And?” Harry asked, aware that he was being slightly defensive. “How would I know that a single drop of blood would suffice? I’ve never done this before, remember?” His words came out sharper than he intended them to, and he bit off a wince, hoping Draco didn’t take the tone too personally.
To his relief, Draco didn’t seem to have noticed. “I’m aware of that,” the blonde said. “Which is why I’m going to explain the ritual to you before we do it. But I expected you to know enough about the Dark Arts to know that a drop of blood is more than adequate for the majority of rituals.”

Harry sighed. The only Dark magic he really practiced was Parselmagic, and that was a subset of Dark magic that had its own set of rules. Rules that he had, incidentally, figured out through a rather painful process of trial and error. “I’ve never done a Dark Arts ritual,” he said.

Draco stared at him. “Never?” he asked, and the quiet tone he used to convey his disbelief may have well as been a shout.

Harry shook his head. “Never,” he said.

“Then I suppose I should start by explaining the basics to you,” Draco said. “I didn’t realize you had no knowledge of basic Dark magic theory.”

Harry flushed at the reprimand in the tone, but he motioned with a hand for the other to continue.

Draco sighed. “Just to clarify, how much do you know about magical theory?”

“In general?” Harry thought about the question for a moment, then shook his head. “Not much, I’m afraid. I know how to release and capture energy, I know that Dark magic can’t activate Light magic or vice versa, and I know how to control my own magic, for the most part, but that is the extent of my knowledge.” He flushed as he spoke, realizing that he really knew next to nothing about the wizarding world. And that made him feel incredibly ignorant. For the first time, he wished he had listened to Hermione when she had insisted he take the time to study magical theory. From the looks of it, though, he was about to get a crash course.

“Pitiful,” Draco said. “It’s appalling how little you know. I’m pretty sure even Longbottom knows more magical theory than you do.”

Harry growled low in his throat. “Don’t insult my friends.”

Draco stared at him. “I’m not insulting anyone,” he said evenly. “I’m merely pointing out the fact that Longbottom has an abysmal magical record with anything that isn’t Herbology. The fact that he knows more than you about magical theory is absolutely ridiculous.”

Harry closed his eyes. “Fine, you’re insulting me. Would you like to throw another few barbs my way first, or could you get to the part where you explain what the hell you are talking about?” He nearly yelled the last few words, simultaneously gratified by the way Draco flinched back and horrified at the satisfaction he felt at seeing the blonde back down.

“Certainly,” Draco said. “Since we’re dealing with Dark magic, I’ll start there. Light magic is different, but I’ll let Granger explain the theory behind that type of magic to you. When it comes to Dark magic, there are two types of casters. Wardens and Anchors. All Dark Arts rituals require blood, submission, and willpower. If blood and submission are forcibly taken, then that changes the ritual from a Dark Arts ritual to a Necromantic ritual. Anchors are the witches and wizards who are able to offer blood and submission to a Warden for use in a Dark ritual. A Warden cannot offer either. For a Warden’s blood to be used, it must be obtained unwillingly, and that is the basis of the Necromantic Arts. Wardens are incredibly rare. Anchors are exceedingly common. In fact, there are fewer than 100 known Wardens in the wizarding world today. You, Harry, are one of them.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “How can you possibly know that?” he asked, voice unsteady.

“Two reasons,” Draco said, holding up a hand to show two fingers. “First, your blood was used in a Necromantic ritual. That means you have to be a Warden by default.” Draco hesitated.

“And the second reason?” Harry asked, prompting him.

“Your power calls to me,” Draco said, face flushing. “I’m an Anchor. Because of that, I am always keenly aware of when I’m in the presence of a Warden. My magic calls for me to offer it to the strongest Warden around.”

“That’s actually rather fascinating,” Harry said. And it was. He hadn’t studied magical theory because it seemed like such a dry subject. “So, explain to me how the ritual to release the Dark magic within me actually works.”

Draco rolled his eyes, but answered, “Through the blood and submission I give, you have to focus your intent to release the Dark magic within you into the world around you. Since Dark magic, by its nature, is unbound, it has to be released into the wild.”

“I’d already gathered that much,” Harry snapped, barely managing to keep from speaking through gritted teeth. He wasn’t an idiot, and he didn’t appreciate being treated like one. His magic folded around him, crackling with the need to retaliate for the insult. Harry took a deep breath and wrenched down on his magic, forcing it to respond to him – he was not going to lose control in the middle of nowhere.

A smooth, expressionless mask fell over Draco’s face. “Have I insulted you in some way?” he asked, tone unreadable.

Harry sighed, feeling guilt stir underneath his anger. Draco was trying to help him, and here he was, allowing his emotions to run away with him. “Not directly,” he said, feeling compelled to honesty. “Indirectly, however, you seem to have implied that you consider me an idiot.”

The mask fell off Draco’s face and he blanched. “Harry,” he said, voice coming out in a near hiss. “I have never considered you an idiot. Do you honestly think that the rivalry between us when we were in school would have existed if I thought you incapable of thought? I was jealous of you, you absolute berk.”

Harry was too stunned by the admission to feel insulted. “Jealous?” he said, cutting off a laugh. “What did you have to be jealous of?” he asked. “From what I remember, you were content in your life as the son of a nobleman.”

Draco’s teeth clenched, and his hand inched down towards his wand holster before he visibly forced himself to move his hand away from it. “Are you really that thick?” he asked. “With everything you know about the war, do you really think I felt content with the lot I was given? In case you’ve forgotten, Potter, I was forced by my parents to follow in the footsteps of a madman. And, in reward for the loyalty my family gave him, I was forced to try and kill the Headmaster in order to keep Voldemort from killing the rest of my family.” Draco was trembling with the anger coursing through him.

Harry started to speak, “I –

Draco cut him off. “So yes, Harry, I was incredibly jealous of you. I know that you never knew your parents because of the circumstances surrounding your birth, but you also never grew up having to conform to the beliefs of the people around you. In some ways, you had more freedom than I’ve ever experienced. And yeah, you were saddled with the expectations of the wizarding world, with the fate of killing Voldemort, but some part of you must have wanted it. Some part of you must have wanted to kill the man responsible for tearing your family apart. And you got the chance. You got the vengeance you needed while I got to watch my family implode because I couldn’t kill an innocent man. I couldn’t kill the Headmaster. My father never forgave me for that weakness, and my mother killed herself because of the shame brought on our name.” By this point, Draco was breathing heavily, hands clenched into fists at his sides.

Harry’s eyes widened, surprised that Draco had so willingly spilled all of his emotions for Harry to see. He cleared his throat. “I know that it’s inadequate,” he said, voice soft. “But for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.” Harry made sure not to let any pity into his tone – he knew firsthand that pity was the last thing Draco needed from him.

Draco scowled at him, then gave a sharp nod. “Accepted,” he said. “Now can we do the bloody ritual?”

Harry sighed, then nodded. “Just tell me what I have to do.”

Chapter Text

Draco’s rage thrummed through him, even as he stared at the man in front of him. He couldn’t believe that Harry had had the audacity to suggest that he had ever been content with his lot in life. While Draco had loved his parents, there were moments that he wished he had been born an orphan. At least that way, he wouldn’t have to deal with the constant scrutiny of the wizarding world simply because he had happened to be born a Malfoy.

With the anger coursing through him, even after Harry’s apology, Draco wasn’t sure he could muster up the submission needed to make the ritual work. “First,” Draco said, trying to ignore the knowledge that submitting his magic to Harry’s was going to be much more difficult than he had previously believed. “I have to offer my submission to you, then my hand. Once I offer you my hand, it is an invitation to draw blood. A cutting curse, applied to a small area, will suffice. Once you have drawn blood, you must touch the tip of your wand to the blood drawn and state your intentions.”

Harry frowned. “I don’t have to say the words in Latin?”

Draco shook his head. “The rituals of the Dark Arts don’t rely on incantation, but on intention. The words you speak are used to focus the intention of the ritual, and, once the intent is properly realized by your magic, the ritual will complete itself.” He tried to keep the ire he felt out of his tone, as his ability to offer his submission willingly to Harry was becoming more and more of an issue.

“Okay,” Harry said, then hesitated. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like,” he said. “Growing up with parents who expected you to be a perfect replica. I can’t imagine the type of pressure that you were under, and I never meant to offer insult.”

At the words, Draco felt his ire lessen, and he gave a curt nod of acknowledgment. “Give me a few minutes to get into the proper mindset,” he said.

Harry nodded, then spent the next few minutes shifting his weight from one leg to the other. He seemed unbalanced and unsure, and Draco cursed his own soft heart as he realized how uncomfortable and uncertain the man standing in front of him really was. The rest of Draco’s ire fled in the face of Harry’s discomfort, and he knew he would be able to offer Harry his submission. Although, considering the lack of confidence Harry was displaying, offering the man his submission was going to be difficult.

Draco sighed. Why had he expected any differently? Everything that involved Harry bloody Potter was difficult. Draco closed his eyes, centered his magic, and took a deep breath that he released all at once. He opened his eyes, purposefully caught Harry’s eye, and slowly allowed himself to slide to his knees. Once his knees were on solid ground, Draco raised his right hand – his wand hand – to chest level, then extended it palm upward towards Harry. Then he waited, trying not to clench his teeth. This was the worst part – due to the intricate laws that bound the usage of shadow magic, Draco hadn’t been allowed to tell Harry that he didn’t have to apply the cutting curse to the first hand he extended. But the first hand he extended had to be his wand hand. He hoped, desperately, that whatever was guiding Harry’s magic would guide him well in this. If a Warden cut the wand hand of an Anchor in ritual, not only would the ritual be rendered ineffective, it would essentially turn the Anchor into a squib. That was the risk of a Dark Arts ritual, even one as generic as releasing pent-up excess magic.

Harry stared at Draco, then drew his own wand. Grimacing, he tapped it to Draco’s wand hand, then paused and frowned, as if he were listening to something that only he could hear. “Give me your other hand,” he said.

“With pleasure,” Draco said. He pulled his wand hand back down by his side and extended his left hand palm upward. “Use my blood as you see fit, Warden,” he said, using the ceremonial words for the first time in five years.

“Thank you for its usage,” Harry said, tone half-mesmerized. Whatever head-space he was in, his magic was providing him with the proper words, which was a trait only ever seen in the strongest Dark wizards. Harry murmured a cutting curse and a line of blood blossomed across Draco’s palm.

Draco sucked in a breath of air at the sudden pain. He had never been good with pain – ironic, considering his penchant for Dark magic. But he knew that his low pain tolerance actually fueled the power of the Dark Arts rituals in which his blood was used because the power of any Dark Arts ritual was directly proportional to the level of the sacrifice made by the Anchor fueling it.

A shockwave of magic passed through the forest as Harry released the excess Dark magic he had been holding up, and Draco found himself holding his breath as he watched the sheer magic level twenty miles of forest, leaving the two of them in an untouched ring about five feet in diameter. “Holy Salazar,” he said, letting his breath out in a rush. He was glad he wasn’t on his feet because he knew he wouldn’t have been able to stay on them. Not after watching Harry Potter, of all people, level twenty miles of forest with excess magic. If that was just the extra, how powerful was the wizard in front of him? Draco’s mind was suddenly alight with thousands of ideas of how best to utilize Potter’s power, and he kept having to remind himself that he wasn’t that person anymore. He was no longer the man who manipulated the scenes, but damn if it wasn’t bloody hard to resist the urge to become that man again.

Harry frowned at him. “How long are you going to stay on the ground?” he asked. “I need to get back to my shop and explain all of this.” He flicked his hand towards Draco and the surrounding forest.

Draco winced. He’d almost forgotten that he’d threatened Harry Potter in the middle of the day with hundreds of witnesses. He sighed and got to his feet. “They’re going to arrest me,” he said, barely able to keep the terror he felt at that inevitability out of his voice.

Harry shook his head. “No, they won’t.” He gave Draco a grim smile. “I may not use it often,” he said. “But I do know how to use my name when I need to.”

Draco blinked in shock. Exactly who was the man in front of him?

Chapter Text

Harry apparated himself and Draco back into the center of Parselsmith, sending out a shockwave of magic as he landed that pushed the throng of people crowding the shop to the walls. Harry spared a quick scowl for Silver, one of his shop assistants, taking note of the fact that both Auror Grimstaff and Tyler Thurman were in the crowd. Silver shrugged and waved a hand at the people in the shop, as if asking what she possibly could have done to prevent the chaos.

Straightening from the crouch he had landed in, Harry turned to the crowd of people that had been shocked into silence by the blatant display of his power – not to mention the rude way he had applied it to them by forcing them all to maintain a respectable physical distance from him and Draco. Harry cleared his throat, and every person in the shop focused on him. While being the center of attention still made him uncomfortable, he had learned to live with it. Harry said, “I appreciate all the concern you have shown for my well-being by coming here, but, as you can see, I have returned unharmed. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to the business of running my shop.” He beamed at the people around him, willing them to listen.

While some disgruntled grumbling could be heard in the crowd, there was a general murmur of assent. When the crowd began to break up into smaller groups, Auror Grimstaff stepped forward. Harry had to suppress a groan. Of course Grimstaff would have something to say. Of all the Aurors Harry had met over the years, Grimstaff was one of the most intolerant of Dark magic.

Auror Grimstaff stepped forward out of the crowd, having overcome the shock of being pushed around by Harry’s magic. He drew his wand and pointed it at Draco. “Mister Malfoy, I am apprehending you for the attempted kidnapping of Harry Potter.”

Draco stared at the man, a sneer of disdain on his lips. But Harry could see the tell-tale sign of terror in Draco’s eyes. While the two of them had never been friends, Harry still knew Draco’s body language well. After all, he had dealt with Draco’s fear on multiple occasions during their Hogwarts years, and he knew, if he left things as they were, that Draco’s trademark way of dealing with his fear would surface, and the situation may become unrecoverable. Of course, Harry had to admit that he was making the assumption that Draco still reacted to his own fear the way he had when they were teenagers, and it was very possible that Draco had matured over the years. But that was a risk Harry wasn’t currently willing to take – Draco was interesting, and the more Harry learned about the man, the more he was convinced that Draco would play a pivotal role in his life. What that role would be, he had no clue, but the way their magic interacted…well. That spoke volumes.

Draco took a breath, intending to reply, when Harry beat him to it.

“Stand down, Auror Grimstaff,” Harry said. “I’ve not charged Draco with anything, and I’ve also not been kidnapped, as you can see for yourself.”

Auror Grimstaff scowled. “It’s obvious that this man has put you under an enchantment of some sort, Mister Potter. Stand aside and allow me to do my job.”

Harry, just barely, refrained from rolling his eyes. Why was it the most intolerant of people always assumed he was under some sort of spell when he dared to utter words that contradicted their motives? It was like they didn’t trust Harry to know what he wanted. At twenty-four, however, he knew himself well enough to not allow himself to be bullied. “I’ve not been placed under an enchantment, Auror Grimstaff. If you can’t take my word on that, you may cast one spell to satisfy your own suspicions. Or, if you insist, I can accompany you to the Ministry where you can administer veritaserum to verify the truth of my words. Of course, I’m sure that such a trip will end up in the papers tomorrow, so I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to be known as the Auror who forced Harry Potter to take veritaserum without just cause.” Harry smiled at the man, allowing none of the mirth he was feeling show. Inside, he was revealing in the way Auror Grimstaff’s face rapidly lost its color.

“Mister Potter, surely you don’t mean to tell me that you intend to allow Draco Malfoy, a renowned Dark wizard, to get away with kidnapping you,” Auror Grimstaff said, voice shaking. “As a Dark wizard, he’s a menace to society, and it is imperative that he be placed in Azkaban with the rest of his kind.”

Harry offered Auror Grimstaff another sweet smile. “While I certainly appreciate the danger of Dark wizards, Auror Grimstaff, as I did, after all, defeat Voldemort, I think you have forgotten that I possess Dark magic of my own.” He gestured to the shelves behind him where three stone basilisk figures sat, waiting to be imbued with magic. “I am, after all, a Parseltongue. Would you have me arrested for that?”

Auror Grimstaff swallowed hard and spared a sidelong glance at Tyler Thurman, a well-known reporter for the Daily Prophet, before he replied. “Of course not, Mister Potter. You have never used Parseltongue to injure another human being. Mister Malfoy, on the other hand, is known to have used several Dark curses during the war, and the kidnapping he attempted today has shaken wizarding society very badly, as you are one of the greatest heroes alive.”

Harry did his best to suppress the urge to roll his eyes, and he managed it, but he didn’t manage not to grimace a little at being called a hero. He hated being famous for having defeated a Dark Lord because whether or not the Dark Lord had been a terrible creature that deserved to die, Harry was, essentially, famous because he had killed someone else. Famous for murder. He wondered how wizarding society would feel if he pointed out the insanity it took to turn a murderer into a hero. “Then rest assured, Auror Grimstaff, that Draco Malfoy acted in exactly the way he did in order to be of use to our society. If he had not taken me away from Hogsmeade when he had, then it is very likely there would be no Hogsmeade left.”

Shocked outrage rippled through the crowd. For the first time, Tyler Thurman, who had been watching in silence on the sidelines, spoke up. “Harry, what do you mean by that?”

Harry nodded to Tyler, keeping his face solemn while he was grinning to himself on the inside. That was exactly the soundbite that he had hoped Tyler, the only reporter he considered a decent person and a friend (when he wasn’t after a story), would pick up on. “Auror Grimstaff here would have you all believe that Draco kidnapped me for some nefarious purpose. In truth, however, Draco got me away from Hogsmeade just in time to keep me from losing control of my magic.” He lowered his eyes, trying to project sheepishness to the crowd.

Tyler snagged onto the story the way Harry had hoped would happen. “What do you mean, Harry? What happened?”

Harry smiled sheepishly, and this time, the sheepishness was real. The fact that he’d nearly lost control of his magic was unsettling, and it was a problem he needed to address. One he planned to address right after he got this mess handled. “One of my customers insulted Draco by insinuating he was nothing more than the son of a Death Eater, and I lost my temper. Draco got me away from Hogsmeade before any damage was done, and he lectured me about properly controlling my magic. If anything, Draco is the hero of the day, not me.”

Tyler turned speculative eyes on Draco. “Mr. Malfoy, is what Harry says the truth?”

Draco nodded, eyes wide as he stared at Harry. “It’s true,” he said, somehow managing to speak clearly.

“May I quote you on that?”

“Of course.”

Tyler grinned and gave an excited half-bow. “Thank you for your time, Harry.” He nodded to Draco in acknowledgement. “Expect to see an article about this in tomorrow’s paper.” He scowled at Auror Grimstaff. “If you dare to arrest this man after Harry Potter himself has declared him a hero, don’t think that won’t show up as well.”

Auror Grimstaff lowered his wand and scowled at Draco. “You’re escaped answering for your crimes this time, Mister Malfoy, but don’t expect me to be so lenient with you again.”

Draco rolled his eyes but offered a slight nod. Then he stared at Harry again, trying to figure out when the man had become so well-versed in the nuances of politics. Draco stretched muscles that had grown tense from the fear of being sent to Azkaban, then offered Harry a polite small. “See you next Wednesday,” he said.

Harry nodded in acknowledgment, then turned to deal with the crowd of concerned wizards who had morphed into a mob of avid shoppers.

Chapter Text

When Wednesday rolled around, Draco had mixed feelings about the trip he was taking to Harry’s house. After the intimacy of the Dark Arts ritual the two of them had shared, Draco had felt a little off-balanced. He’d known all the risks of offering his submission and blood to a Warden in a theoretical way, but that ritual had been the first he’d truly participated in.

At least, it had been the first ritual he’d participated in with a true Warden. Because Wardens were so rare, it was typical for someone to take on the role of Warden when a ritual needed to be done. The rituals weren’t quite as powerful when an Anchor had to force themselves to play the role of Warden, but they would still work.

Draco had been around other Wardens besides Harry, of course, but he’d never felt safe enough to offer them his submission and blood for use in a Dark Arts ritual. That was to be expected, of course, since the other Wardens that Draco had met in the past had all been friends of his father, and all had been Dark wizards in the service of Voldemort.

When Harry had nearly lost control of his magic in the middle of his shop, Draco had acted almost entirely on impulse. Draco had seen the desperation in Harry’s eyes, had witnessed the terror that had consumed Harry when he was worried about leveling the city, and Draco had felt compelled to act. His magic had compelled him to Harry’s side, compelled him to act as the Anchor that would allow Harry to ground his magic.

And that was what had Draco off-balance. Until that day, Draco had always had complete control over his magic. Sure, he sometimes felt drawn towards certain spells, rituals, and even certain people, but he was always able to make his own decisions about the use of his magic. Not last Thursday. No, last Thursday, his magic had compelled him to Harry’s side, compelled him to act as an Anchor to a proper Warden. Draco still wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Wardens were powerful and rare. Conversely, Anchors were common. Nearly every wizard in existence had the required magical strength to be an Anchor. While Draco knew that it was a high honor to serve a true Warden in a Dark Arts ritual, it was also something that every Anchor dreaded. It was a well-known fact that once an Anchor served a Warden in a proper ritual, that Anchor could no longer participate in Dark Arts rituals with substitute Wardens. In fact, it was rumored that an Anchor who served a true Warden in ritual would only ever be able to serve that one Warden.

If Draco had been able to resist the pull of Harry’s magic and the compulsion of his own, then he wouldn’t be in this mess. And a mess is exactly what it was. Many cursebreaking techniques required the use of Dark Arts rituals, and there was no guarantee that Harry would be willing to participate in the rituals in order to help Draco with his job. Draco had effectively diminished his capability as a cursebreaker, and that was unsettling, to say the least.

It was difficult to draw the courage necessary to go to Potter’s flat because Draco knew he was going to have to tell him. And then, if he had to, Draco would beg Potter to help him with his work. He didn’t have too much pride for that, although he postured like he did. It was all an illusion, serving to keep people from getting too close to him. That didn’t mean he liked to beg, of course. No, he hated it. But, as a Slytherin and a Malfoy, he would do whatever was required of him to get what he needed to succeed.
When the clock read ten-til-six, Draco pulled on his robes and steadied himself. No matter what happened tonight, he would get through it. Taking a deep breath, he pointed his wand at himself and used the apparition incantation, appearing a few feet outside of Harry’s wards. Squaring his shoulders, he forced himself to walk forward into wards that parted for his passage, then stopped at the door, trying to gather the courage to knock. Finding it, he raised his fist, but before it could land, the door burst open.

Harry stood in the doorframe, his green eyes livid. “Get in here,” he snapped. “You have some explaining to do.” He made enough room for Draco to pass.

Swallowing hard, Draco ducked through the small space Harry had left him and entered the flat. “What are you talking about?” he asked, wishing his heart would stop trying to climb into his throat. He had no idea why Harry was so upset, and he was certain that he hadn’t done anything to deserve the anger directed at him, but it was hard to deal with Harry when he was angry. The man’s ire turned him almost irrational.

Harry slammed the door and whirled around, waving his arms at the apartment. “Look at this mess! Ever since we did the ritual last week, nothing stays where it is supposed to.” He advanced on Draco, who surprised himself by managing to hold his ground. “Explain.”

Draco breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s an aftereffect of the ritual,” he said, managing to keep his own tone calm. He hesitated. “Your dark magic is…well, the best way I can put it…it’s playing.”

“Playing?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That was the first time you’ve ever grounded the excess dark magic you carry around, right?” Draco asked, despite knowing the answer – a testament to his nerves. At Harry’s nod and expectant look, he continued. “Well, that means your dark magic is back at the level it is supposed to be at, and it no longer feels like it is being suffocated by excess, so it is rejoicing.” Draco grimaced. “I suppose you think it’s weird to speak of magic as a sentient thing.”

Harry shook his head. “Not at all. I’ve seen too many weird things happen because of magic, sometimes my magic, to think that magic doesn’t have a mind of its own.” He glanced around his wrecked apartment, his previous anger completely gone. He grinned. “I guess if I had gotten free of suffocation, I’d be rejoicing a little too.” He turned to Draco. “How long will this last?”

Draco shrugged. “It really depends on how much you utilize the Dark magic you possess. If you don’t use it at all, then an excess will start to build up again, and things will go back to always staying in their place. Of course, you run the risk of leveling a city that way. If you use a little Dark magic every day, however, then it’s entirely possible that your magic will be content with that and won’t see the need to wreck your apartment.” His heart thudded in his chest. He wanted to tell Harry that he needed his help with his work, but something told him that it wasn’t the right time to ask.

Harry sighed. “All right,” he said. He ran a hand through his hair, a nervous tic he’d developed in Hogwarts. Then, even though his anger was gone, his tone hardened as he looked at Draco. “Take a seat on the couch.”

Taken aback by the hard tone, Draco started to reply, “I-
Harry shook his head, indicating silence, and focused his magic at Draco. “Sit on the couch, Draco,” he said, pouring his magic towards the Slytherin.

Draco’s face went ashen and he nearly dashed to the couch to do as he had been ordered. His knees trembled as he sat. This was the power of a Warden who knew exactly what his power meant. Draco had half-counted on Harry’s ignorance of magical theory to get him through this ordeal, but it seemed the man had acquired quite a bit of knowledge in the past week.

Harry took a seat opposite Draco in his armchair. “Hermione sent me a book on Wardens and Anchors,” he said, by way of explanation. “It’s rather in-depth, of course, but this is Hermione we’re talking about.” He leaned forward. “When you offered me your submission last week, why did you neglect to mention that my acceptance of it formed a contract between us?”

Draco swallowed hard and focused on controlling his breathing. He didn’t know how to answer the question without pissing Harry off, and that was the last thing he wanted to do in this situation. He settled for a shrug.

Harry’s eyes narrowed, and Draco felt the weight of Harry’s magic tightening around his shoulders. “Answer the question, and answer it honestly.”

Draco nearly cried at the order – he couldn’t disobey Harry. That was the other risk inherent in initiating a Dark Arts ritual between an Anchor and a Warden – once an Anchor offered submission to a Warden, the Warden to whom it had been offered could claim it at any time. “If I had told you about the contract it formed between us, I was afraid that you would refuse to do the ritual, and the excess magic you were carrying around needed to be released before it killed someone. I didn’t want to take the risk that you wouldn’t release your magic.”

The compulsion around his shoulders loosened, and Draco sighed in relief. He hated the way it felt to be compelled, but he had accepted Harry’s right to compel him the moment he had acted as the man’s Anchor.

Harry sighed, almost in tandem. “You’re right,” he said. “If I hadn’t participated in that ritual, it is very likely that I would have ended up destroying something or hurting someone. So, for that, you have my gratitude. However,” he said, and here his tone turned hard again. “If you had told me the truth of the ritual, then I could have found another Anchor to take your place. An Anchor already bound to a Warden cannot be bound to a second, although they can participate as another Warden’s Anchor with the permission of their original Warden. With my fame, do you think there is anyone who would deny me that?”

Draco shook his head, too hurt to speak. Was Harry rejecting him as an Anchor? He clenched his fists at his sides. Why should he have expected anything different? He’d been a fool to think that Harry would appreciate the gift of his submission.

Harry sighed. “Instead, you bound us together and crippled yourself in the process. How many curses can you break without using a Dark Arts ritual, Draco? How many of the Dark Arts rituals required in cursebreaking skirt illegality? What were you even thinking when you offered me your submission? And yes,” he said. “I expect an answer.”

Draco swallowed, surprised when no compulsion forced him to reply. He had no doubt that the man in front of him would force it, if necessary, but, for now, Harry was saying that he respected Draco enough to give him a chance to answer without being forced to do so. “To answer your first question, very few curses can be broken without a Dark Arts ritual, and the rituals required in cursebreaking all skirt illegality. When I offered you my submission, I was thinking that I had finally found someone worthy of offering it too, and I was also thinking that I could finally pay you back for saving my life when we were at Hogwarts.” Draco sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I wasn’t thinking about how the contract that would form would affect my job or about whether or not I could get you to agree to do Dark Arts rituals to help me with work. In that moment, all I cared about was helping you.”

Harry stared at him for an uncomfortably long time before he broke the silence. “You know, every time I think I understand you, Draco, you surprise me. I feel like I barely know who you are.”

Draco shrugged. “Because you don’t,” he said. At Harry’s shocked look, he continued. “If you knew me, then you would never have offered me the insult of telling me that any other Anchor would have sufficed. I didn’t offer you my submission for you to ground it under your heel like a bug, Potter. And I won’t willingly participate in another ritual with you until you can prove to me that you understand the gift that it actually is.”

Harry frowned, forehead crinkling in puzzlement. “I don’t think you can withdraw your submission once it has been offered, Draco. And I also never said that I didn’t appreciate what you did. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I thanked you for keeping me from losing control of my magic.”

Draco sighed. “I can withdraw my willingness to submit, Harry. And that willingness is a required component for Dark Arts rituals if you don’t want them to go awry. And yes, you did thank me for helping you keep control of your magic. However, you didn’t show gratitude for my submission. The fact you think any other Anchor would have sufficed is proof enough of that.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m sorry I offered you insult with that line, as it wasn’t my intention. I wasn’t trying to imply that I didn’t appreciate your submission. I was trying to say that someone else’s submission would have been preferred so that you didn’t have to give up everything you’ve worked so hard to earn.”

Draco’s teeth clenched. “I’m not giving up anything,” he said, the words coming out in a near hiss. “I may be unable to do many of the Dark Arts rituals required for cursebreaking without your help, but I sure as hell know more about curses than anyone else in the Ministry. If I have to, I’ll work as a consultant rather than a cursebreaker, but I will continue down the path I’ve chosen. Now, you can work on translating the scrolls if you want. I’m going home. I’m tired of being insulted.”

“But I haven’t insulted –

Draco apparated before Harry could finish that sentence. He didn’t want to deal with the Gryffindor’s insensitivity any longer. In fact, he wasn’t sure he could.

The wards around the manor bristled, alerting Draco to the fact someone was coming in unannounced. He started to use the incantation that would make them hostile when Harry appeared in front of him and grabbed his wand hand. “Put it down,” he said, tone brooking no argument.

Draco lowered his wand hand, then looked at Harry morosely. “What do you want now?” he demanded. “Haven’t you done enough damage to my psyche for one night?”

Harry let out a frustrated sigh and kicked at the air. “I’m sorry, all right?” he half-screamed. “I wasn’t trying to insult you, Draco. I was trying to be considerate. I can’t imagine you think it’s pleasant to have to rely on someone else for your work, and I was trying to be reasonable about it.”

Draco arched an eyebrow. “Reasonable behavior is far from what you’ve demonstrated tonight by following me into my house and nearly destroying my wards in the process. We both know you’re a powerful wizard, Harry, but you could try to be a little less crass with the way you use your power.”

Harry had the grace to look sheepish. “I don’t like fighting with my friends,” he said.

“I’m fairly certain that we’ve passed friendship and entered an entirely different realm,” Draco said. “Unless you also order your friends around and crash through their wards.” Now that he was back in his own home, Draco was regaining his sense of composure. Being confronted at Harry’s flat had completely thrown him off his game.

Harry scowled at him. “You know I don’t.”

“Do I?” Draco asked. “I’m fairly certain you’re the one who said you knew nothing about me. I think it’s safe to assume the opposite is true. Unless you think we should continue to base our judgments about each other on our school days, I would prefer to get to know the adult you.”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I’d like that, too. Also, what you said about the realm we’re in now, what did you mean?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I thought you read the book Granger gave you about Wardens and Anchors. Surely it told you what to expect?”

Harry shook his head. “It explained the power dynamic between Wardens and Anchors and the permissions required for certain types of rituals, but that was as far as it went.”

Draco flushed. “Well, the power dynamic between Wardens and Anchors often, but not always, ends up bringing people closer together. Many Warden-Anchor pairs become lovers.”

Harry stared at him. “Draco, three weeks ago, for the right reason, I might have flayed you alive.”

Draco flinched. That image was too close to the reality he’d lived through at the hands of Voldemort’s followers. “You wouldn’t now,” he said, his voice small.

“No, of course I wouldn’t,” Harry said. “But I’m not sure I’m willing to be your lover, either.”

Draco grit his teeth and forced himself to reply. “Of course not,” he said. “I’m sure you have plenty of love interests lining up at your door.” He took a deep breath and drew himself up to his full height. “I was completely aware of what offering you my submission meant, Harry, including the fact that it might become sexual in nature. You accepted my submission, and you can have it, whenever you want, however you want, whenever you fully appreciate what it is I am giving you by submitting. Until then, anything you coerce from me, I’ll consider the equivalent of rape.”

Harry covered his mouth in horror, looking like he was about to be sick. “Draco, I would never force myself on you like that.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Really? Because, in my mind, you already have.”

Harry frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Draco held up a hand, ticking his fingers off as he went. “You forced me to sit on the couch, and you forced me to answer a question I didn’t want to answer. That’s twice you’ve forced my submission already rather than receiving it willingly.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “No,” he said. “I didn’t force that submission. Until you said you withdrew your willingness to submit, I had the right to it. Isn’t that what you said? And, both times you mentioned happened before you withdrew that willingness.”

Draco smirked. “Good,” he said. “I’m glad you’re not so squeamish you’ll take blame for what you haven’t done. And yes, you had my willing submission on both of those occasions.”

Harry nodded. “You like to test people,” he said.

Draco shrugged. It was pointless to deny the truth.

Harry sighed, then turned appraising eyes on Draco. “Did you mean what you said?” he asked.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “About what?”

“That when I appreciate your submission, I have the right to it whenever and however I want it?”

Draco nodded.

Harry buried his face in his hands. “That’s overwhelming,” he said. “Why would you give all of that power to me?” he asked, voice small. “I’m not worth that.”

Draco snorted. “At the time, I thought you were worth it. An Anchor can only offer their complete submission once in a lifetime. Once. Wardens can accept submission from however many Anchors offer it to them, if they so choose.”

Harry covered his mouth with his hand, looking like he was going to be sick as the horror of what he had suggested finally dawned on him. “I’m sorry,” he said, voice soft. “I swear I didn’t know that, Draco. If I had, I never would have suggested I could have found another Anchor.”

Draco stared at him, eyes cold. “Forgive me for my lack of instant gratification that you’ve seen the error of your ways. You offered insult once. Where’s the proof you won’t offer me such an insult again?”

Harry sighed, frustrated. “I don’t even know if I like you, and you’re telling me the relationship we are bound together by now of Warden and Anchor may become sexual. How am I supposed to offer you proof that I won’t insult you when no one can offer that to anyone?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Harry, have you never heard of tokens of appreciation? You can offer me a token to show your appreciation of my submission and one to show your sincerity in your apology for offering me insult. The fact that I need to explain this to you is appalling beyond words.”

Harry frowned, lost in concentration. After a few minutes, he said, “Give me your wand hand, Draco.”

Draco arched an eyebrow at him. “No.”

Harry raised his own eyebrow. “If you’ll let me see your wand hand for a moment, Draco, I’ll give you a token of appreciation. Please.”

Draco couldn’t help it – he held out his hand to the other wizard. While he had intended to resist, there was something incredibly charming about the way the rough Gryffindor was trying to be considerate.

Harry held his wand to Draco’s wrist, closed his eyes, and began to incant a spell in Parseltongue.

Draco shivered as he listened to Harry speak the snake language, unable to prevent the immediate arousing effect it had on his body. There was something incredibly sexy about the dangerous air the snake language gave off when it was spoken, and, combined with Harry’s rough physique – well, Draco would be taking a long shower tonight, that was certain.

A few minutes later, Harry stopped chanting, and a solid black band had formed around the wrist of Draco’s wand hand. Draco stared at the band. “What is this?” he asked.

Harry wiped the sweat off his forehead before replying. “It’s a signal band,” he said. “There are two functions. It will alert you when there are deadly substances and spells near you, and you can also use it to alert me if you find yourself in danger.”

Draco was impressed in spite of himself. “How do I use it?” he asked.

“For the first function, it will change colors depending on how much danger you are in. It will stay black when you are in no danger. If it turns orange, you are in moderate danger. If it turns red, you are in severe danger, and if it turns green, you are in danger of dying. To alert me, all you need to do is tap your wand to the band and use the phrase ‘Ego sum reus,’ and I will be immediately aware. It’s also impervious to curses and being removed, which is why I cast the spell in Parseltongue.”

Draco stared at the black band around his wand hand. The significance of its placement was not lost on him. He had offered Harry his wand hand first, after all, and Harry had understood enough about the magic during the ritual not to take the blood necessary for the ritual from that hand. As a token of appreciation went, it was quite extravagant. It more than made up for the insult Harry had offered as well. In fact, staying mad at Harry after he had gifted Draco with such a wonderful token would be incredibly rude.

Draco swallowed hard and pushed his pride away. This band was proof that Harry valued his submission more than that of some random Anchor off the street. Harry had branded him. By placing a permanent band of ink around his arm that couldn’t be removed or cursed, Harry had marked Draco as his own Anchor. Draco used to have dreams of someday being marked by a Warden, but, like all the other Anchors he’d grown up with, it had only ever been a faraway dream. The reality was so much better.

Taking a deep breath, Draco forced himself to meet Harry’s gaze. Then, slowly and deliberately, he lowered himself to his knees in front of Harry. Then, going a step further, he bent forward at the waist and stretched his hands out in front of him, bowing his head. He kept that position for a minute, then raised himself back up to a kneeling position. When he did so, he raised his wand hand with tears in his eyes. “You honor me, Warden. Thank you for a gift equal in magnitude to the gift of my submission.”

Harry swallowed, clearly affected by having Draco on his knees in front of him. He squatted down and lifted Draco’s chin with one finger. “Am I forgiven then?” he whispered, as if he were afraid to hear the answer.

Draco smiled at him. “Yes, Harry. My submission is yours to do with as you please, and it is willingly given. Thank you.”

Harry smiled back. He tilted Draco’s head back as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do and leaned forward and claimed a gentle kiss. Once the kiss ended, he pulled back, obviously stunned by what he had just done. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I –

Draco laughed and laid his hand – his newly branded wand hand – on top of Harry’s hand. “Harry, you don’t need to apologize. Like I said before, you have my submission. Whenever, and however, you wish. Or are you too much of a Gryffindor to appreciate a gift?” Draco smirked.

Harry growled at the challenge and lunged forward. He wrapped his arms around Draco and pulled him close before leaning down and claiming Draco’s lips in an assault that left the blonde gasping for breath when Harry pulled away. Harry gave Draco a smirk of his own, then reached down and squeezed the man’s erection gently. “Oh, I think I can appreciate a gift just fine,” he said. “But I do think you should remember who is in charge of this relationship, whatever type of relationship it may be.” With the full weight of his magic, he issued an order. “You can’t cum tonight, no matter how much you play with yourself.”

Draco shuddered as the order settled around him. “Yes, Warden,” he said. Then he glared at Harry. “You’re an evil, evil man,” he said. “If you don’t even know if you like me, how can you so easily issue orders about what I can and can’t do with my body?”

Harry shrugged. “We’re both adults, and we’re both currently single. I’m not saying that what we’re doing here is entering any sort of romantic relationship, but we both have needs, and I see no reason not to satiate those needs if we’re both willing participants.” He gave Draco’s erection another gentle squeeze, causing the blonde to gasp. “Of course, my needs are paramount to yours.” He grinned wickedly. “Now, I’m going to go home, have a nice pull, then go to bed.” Pushing his magic at Draco again, he said, “After I leave, You’re going to drive yourself to the brink of cumming constantly until midnight, then you’re going to stop, and go to bed. And with the magic binding you, you won’t be able to cum.”

Draco let out an undignified whimper. “Why?” he asked. “Why are you making me torture myself for you?”

Harry grinned. “Because I can,” he said. “After all, you did say whenever and however I wanted.” Harry raised an eyebrow. “Or was that just bluster?”

Draco grimaced, accepting the blow. “I meant it,” he said. “If you want me to torture myself sexually, then I will, of course, do so happily, Warden.”

Harry grinned. “Good. Come over to my flat tomorrow morning around 8 a.m. We’ll have breakfast.”

Draco swallowed. “I don’t know if I will be in any shape to be around people tomorrow,” he said.

Harry shrugged. “It’ll just be the two of us there. Besides,” he said. “If you don’t show up, you won’t get to cum.”

Draco’s eyes flew open in surprise. “What do you mean? I thought that order was just for tonight.”

Harry grinned, then pushed his magic at Draco again. “You’re forbidden from cumming outside of my presence.”

Draco let out a frustrated whimper. “You, Harry Potter, are a pure sadist.”

Harry smirked at him, leaned forward for one last kiss, then apparated.

Draco groaned and tried to resist the compulsion that Harry had laid on him. He didn’t want to spend the next five hours rubbing himself raw without relief. To his consternation, the magic forced him to submit. He had to submit, especially since this order had been given when Draco had expressly said he was willing to submit however and whenever Harry desired.

Swallowing in trepidation, Draco apparated into his room and discarded his robes with a spell. Slicking himself up, he wrapped a hand around his cock and began to slowly slide it up and down. The order, however, had been to push himself to the brink over and over again, and the slow slide he was trying to do was not being tolerated by the magic compelling him. With a sob, Draco used all the speed he possessed to bring him to the brink – it took less than thirty seconds to get there. Once there, he tried to go over. Tried and failed.

Frustrated, he tried to reach orgasm again and again. Every time, he was obstructed. The order holding him back from orgasm – the two orders, actually – made it physically impossible for him to spill his seed. Draco tried everything he could think of to actually orgasm, but nothing worked. This was the price he paid. Even though Harry hadn’t voiced it, Draco knew that this order was partially punishment for the abysmal way Draco had behaved. He had accused Harry of using coercion when he hadn’t and then he had withdrawn his willingness to submit after offering it without reservation. Draco had behaved terribly, and this was a fitting punishment. Draco knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Within an hour, his cock was so sore he could barely handle touching it without wanting to scream. So he did the only sensible thing and cast a healing charm, grateful that he was a wizard and could heal chafed skin with a simple incantation – one that even he could manage wandlessly. He also refreshed the muscles in his arms with a quick spell so that he would be able to keep working towards an orgasm he knew he would never reach for the next four hours. If nothing else, Draco had to admit that Harry knew exactly the best way to punish him.

By the time ten rolled around, Draco was sobbing openly in desperation. He wanted to cum so badly he couldn’t stand it, and he still had two hours left. His vision was blurry with tears. How was he ever going to get through this? He wanted to stop, but he couldn’t – the order bound him too tightly. He couldn’t even have a ruined orgasm because he couldn’t reach that point. The magic binding him wouldn’t allow it. His body was nothing but nerve endings on fire, now. Draco didn’t know how he was going to survive.

When midnight finally arrived, Draco pulled his hands away from his cock and sobbed in a mix of relief and frustration. Finally, he would get to sleep, but it wouldn’t be restful. Not after spending five hours coming so close to an orgasm and losing it. He knew, though, that he would never again accuse Harry of coercion or withdraw his willing submission from his Warden. This wasn’t a punishment he ever wanted to experience again.

Draco healed himself, then slept fitfully for a few hours, waking at 6 and lazing around in bed until 7. Remembering what Harry had said about breakfast, he got dressed and headed to Harry’s, arriving at 8. The wards parted for him, and he didn’t bother knocking when he reached the door. There were no longer the same barriers between him and Harry that there had been before.

Harry met him in the kitchen and smirked. “You look exhausted,” he said, then nodded. “It’s a good look on you.”

Draco whimpered low in his throat, not wanting to provoke Harry this early in the morning.

“I made pancakes,” Harry said.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “You can cook?”

Harry snorted. “Of course I can cook. And, for that comment, you can eat breakfast naked.” No compulsion followed the statement – he just looked at Draco expectantly.

Draco swallowed. This was the real test of his submission. When Harry gave orders the weight of his magic, Draco couldn’t disobey. But Draco had promised Harry his submission whenever and however the man wanted it, and that meant without the compulsion behind the orders if Harry didn’t want to use it. “Yes, Warden,” he said. Feeling slightly self-conscious, he unbuttoned his robes and stepped out of them, taking a moment to lay them neatly on a chair. He hadn’t bothered wearing underwear – the skin of his cock was still too sensitive for that, and his cock refused to do anything but stay fully erect after the torment he’d put it through last night.

Harry nodded his approval. “Let me make it clear now – you can only cum in my presence when I give you permission to do so. Otherwise, you are to assume that you don’t have permission.” He lent weight to this order.

Draco wanted to sob, but didn’t quite dare. “Yes, Warden,” he said.

“Good. Now, let’s eat. If you manage to entertain me well enough during breakfast, I’ll let you take care of your problem.”

Draco swallowed. “Entertain?” he asked, picturing himself kneeling between Harry’s legs and sucking the man off. That did not help his erection go down – if anything, it made it firmer.

Harry laughed as he noticed the twitch in Draco’s cock. “Not like that. I just mean keep me entertained by providing me with interesting conversation. Afterwards, I’ll decide what to do about your problem, then we’ll work on the scrolls.”

Draco stared at Harry in amazement. “We?” he asked, barely daring to breathe.

Harry nodded. “We,” he said. “I think, considering everything that has happened in the last week, that you have more than earned the right to stick around while I translate the scrolls. In fact, I took the next week off work at the store in order to get these translated. I’ll expect you to be here every day. In fact, I went ahead and made up the guest room. I have a feeling you may be needing it.”

Draco swallowed. “I – thank you,” he said. He was amazed. Finally, Harry was seeing past the Draco Malfoy of Hogwarts to the real man underneath.

Harry nodded an acknowledgment. “So,” he said. “Tell me how you got into cursebreaking.”

By the time Draco finished relating that particular story, they had both finished breakfast. Draco glanced at Harry hopefully, but didn’t try to push for a decision. Even though he was desperate to cum, he had a sneaking suspicion that trying to push Harry into any decision was a bad idea.

“Okay,” Harry said. “Let’s move to the couch. I think I’ve decided what we’re going to do about your problem.”

Draco followed Harry without speaking, wondering and dreading what the decision was that Harry had reached.

Harry sat down on one end of the couch and motioned Draco to the other end. “Lay down so that your cock is pointed in my direction. You’re going to give me a show.”

Draco flushed, wishing that Harry would use his compulsion. Instead, Draco found himself having to rely on his own commitment to his submission to obey Harry’s orders. Once he was laying down, he wrapped his hand around his cock and began to stroke as fast as he could, used to the blistering pace the magic had required from him last night.

“Go as slow as you can,” Harry said, using his magic to turn the order into a compulsion.

Letting out a frustrated whimper, Draco’s fast strokes turned into agonizingly slow ones. Even as sensitized as he was from last night, it was going to take a long time to get anywhere near an orgasm.

Harry grinned as if sensing this. “Let me know when you get close,” he said. Then he stripped off his own robes and underwear, allowing Draco to see him in all his glory. He lay back against the other side of the couch and began to stroke himself with fervor. His eyes gleamed as he read the desperation in Draco’s eyes, the wish to move as fast as Harry himself was moving. When Harry got fairly close, he stopped moving his hand and watched Draco’s agonizing slow pursuit towards orgasm. “Okay,” he said. “Keep stroking your cock, but come over here and use your mouth to get me off.” He lent the weight of compulsion to that order because he knew how hard it was to do both at once.

Draco groaned and crawled awkwardly across the couch, his wand hand constantly stroking his cock in the agonizing slow motion that Harry had enforced. Once he was situated in front of Harry, he took the man’s cock in his mouth and began slowly teasing Harry with his tongue.

Harry curled his fingers in Draco’s hair and jerked him off his cock, enjoying the shocked flush that spread cross Draco’s face. “Don’t tease,” he said. “Just suck. I want to cum in the next minute.”

Draco nodded his understanding even as a look of pure frustration passed through his eyes. He bent to his task and had Harry cumming down his throat in the time he’d been allotted. He smacked his lips as he sat back, letting out a groan as he finally started to approach the precipice of orgasm with his stroking.

“Move your hand,” Harry said. “You can stop stroking for a minute.”

Draco obeyed.

Harry pushed Draco back on the couch and took Draco’s cock in his mouth. He did what Draco had started to do, and teased the blonde mercilessly with his tongue. Draco cried out in pure frustration as Harry pulled off his cock after the blonde told Harry he was close to orgasm.

Harry was solemn as he spoke, but there was a mischievous glint in his eye. “You have to earn the right to cum down my throat,” he said. “I don’t know if you’ve earned that right. What do you think, Draco?”

Draco sobbed. “I’ll take whatever you want to give me, Harry,” he cried. “Please, Warden, just please let me cum. It hurts so much.”

Harry hummed in satisfaction as he put his mouth around Draco’s cock again, knowing fully that the man couldn’t cum without permission – there would be no accidents here. Magic was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Harry took Draco to the brink over and over again with his mouth, continuing the torture he had instigated last night. He wanted it drummed into Draco that he only got to cum when Harry decided to let him and not before. He wanted it drilled into Draco that cumming was a privilege and not a right, and that his body did not belong to him anymore.

Eventually, Draco stopped sobbing, and his gaze was focused solely on Harry. He stopped begging and accepted the continued assault on his cock without complaining. A whimper here and there was the only indication Harry had that Draco was still desperate for release.

Harry leaned down and whispered in Draco’s ear, “The next time you hit the brink with my mouth on your cock, you may cum down my throat.”

Before Draco could reply, Harry swallowed his cock and pushed him to the brink, and, within seconds, Draco was spilling his cum down Harry’s throat. Harry sat back and nodded in satisfaction. “Good boy,” he said.

Draco was too spent to protest the affection. All he wanted to do now was sleep. But there was something more important – something he needed to do if he wanted to stay in Harry’s good graces. With shaking arms and legs, he forced himself into a kneeling position on the couch. “Thank you for your generosity, Warden,” he said.

Harry smiled. “You earned it,” he said. “Now, let’s go see what we can do with those scrolls.”

Chapter Text

Harry stared at the scrolls that lay in front of him, frustrated that he couldn’t focus on translating them the way he wanted to. No, instead, his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of Draco and what it meant for Draco to have offered his submission in a Dark ritual. Harry was certain that Draco had manipulated the situation to some degree – after all, that’s what Slytherins did. And Harry didn’t fault him for that – in Draco’s position, Harry might have done something similar. Draco latching onto him by becoming his Anchor in a Dark rite worked in his favor by tying Harry to him. Even if Draco hadn’t been lying when he said he hadn’t considered the consequences of his actions in regards to his cursebreaking job, Harry knew that Draco had considered the possibilities of tying himself so closely to Harry.

Harry sighed. That was part of the reason he had forced Draco to torture himself for hours last night – punishment for the audacity the Slytherin had shown. Harry did not like it when people tried to manipulate him, and Draco needed to understand that before things went any further. Harry was pretty sure the lesson had started to sink in, as Draco was sitting on the couch, staring off into the distance. Thinking, perhaps, about ways to manipulate him. That thought soured Harry’s stomach, but he forced that feeling away. He had to rely on the hope that his punishment last night had been enough.

When Draco had first mentioned that the relationship shared between Warden and Anchors often became sexual, Harry’s first instinct had been horror. After all, he’d spent over half of his life hating Draco and everything he stood for. Just extending a hand in friendship had been difficult for him – much more difficult than he’d let on. Because while he had been hopeful that Draco would agree to the friendship, the darker side of him – the side that he rarely ever indulged – had been focused on all the ways he could use the friendship to his advantage.

Sometimes, Harry felt like he was two people being split apart by conflicting desires. On one hand, he really wanted to see where a friendship with Draco would lead. On the other hand, however, he really wanted to see how close he could come to shattering Draco. Seeing Draco on his knees in submission had pushed Harry over the edge last night, and he gave into the lust the submission caused in him. Right when Harry had been ready to draw back, to fight against that urge, Draco had challenged him. The moment Draco issued that challenge, Harry was no longer able to fight the urge in him that wanted to make Draco suffer.

Until his relationship with Tavin, Harry had always felt conflicted about the way he approached relationships. Because he really wanted someone he could love and who loved him back, someone who supported him with all their might and whom he could support in the same way. But he also wanted someone he could hurt. There was a darkness in him that he could not escape, and Tavin had been the first one to show him that it was okay to hurt others for his own enjoyment. Tavin had introduced him to the world of dominance and submission, and Harry had taken to it with a thirst he hadn’t known he had possessed.

The relationship with Tavin might have lasted longer if Harry’s needs hadn’t gotten so out of hand. Harry sighed again and ran his hand through his hair. Guilt clawed at him – he had nearly violated Tavin’s safe word. Sure, he told Hermione and Ron that Tavin hadn’t been able to handle the pressure of the press, but Harry knew that wasn’t true. The truth was, Tavin hadn’t been able to handle the darkness inside him.

Parselsmith – his shop was just a diversion, a way to keep Harry from being consumed by his dark needs. He told Ron and Hermione what they needed to hear – that he was doing the world a service. And he was, in a way, but he wasn’t providing the type of service that they thought he was providing. He was keeping the world safe from him. Because he loved the wizarding world, and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. Except when he did. And that was where the guilt and self-loathing came in. Things he didn’t talk to anyone about, not even his two best friends.

After Tavin, Harry had opened Parselsmith in order to conquer his darkness. But then Draco had barged into his life and rekindled that fire – that need to hurt. Because Draco had blindsided him, coerced him into performing a Dark ritual, those needs were burning hotter than ever. Harry was both grateful and resentful – grateful because the Dark ritual had been necessary. That much had been made clear when he leveled a good chunk of the countryside. Resentful because these were desires that Harry needed to stay buried.

But they wouldn’t stay buried – Harry knew that now. He’d read enough about the relationship between Warden and Anchors to know that the power dynamic would force him to feel the need to dominate his Anchor. While the book he had read had not mentioned that the domination may take the form of sexual domination, it wasn’t that surprising. Wardens and Anchors, after all, were bound by blood. But even if the type of domination he used was sexual, that didn’t mean Harry had developed feelings for Draco. It didn’t mean he saw him in any romantic light.

Truthfully, Harry wasn’t sure it was possible to see the Slytherin in a romantic light. The man was cunning, cruel, and smart. Beautiful, to be sure, but as self-serving as they came. Dominating Draco – that was easy. Perhaps that could even be pleasant. But romance? Harry was certain that Draco couldn’t give him the things he needed in a mate. After all, what was there in Draco for Harry to fall in love with? His face? Harry wasn’t that shallow. Shallow enough to sleep with Draco, sure, but to develop feelings for him? That was highly unlikely.

Harry frowned and tried to force the dark thoughts from his head. He couldn’t seem to shake his dark mood. It was rare for him to feel this out of sorts – rare for him to be drawn more towards his dark nature than his light. And he didn’t like it. He stood, his chair crashing to the ground behind him at the quick movement. When Draco gave him an inquisitive look, Harry said, “I’m going out for a walk to clear my head.”

Draco stretched and stood. “I’ll come with you, then,” he said. “I’ve been sitting here for far too long.”

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. “I need some time to think by myself,” he said, trying to maintain his calm.

Draco arched an eyebrow. “In my experience, brooding solves nothing.”

“You would know best,” Harry said. “Considering you spend so much time doing it.” He knew his tone was nasty – he couldn’t help it. Harry wanted time alone, and Draco was jeopardizing that.

Draco looked as if he’d been slapped. He met Harry’s gaze for a split second, then dropped his eyes. In a whisper, he asked, “Have I offended you in some way?”

Harry’s heart clenched, and he felt like a jerk. Here Draco was, offering him everything, and all Harry could think about was tearing the man apart. He wished so badly he could feel something besides the desire to shred Draco apart right now, as the man truly didn’t deserve it, but the dark side of Harry was firmly in control. This was the reason he had told Draco that there was no relationship between them except that of consenting adults. Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to control his temper.

Before Harry could answer Draco’s question, however, the blonde had slipped into a kneeling position in front of the couch, head bowed with hands flat on the floor. Draco’s arms trembled, and Harry knew that the tremors in Draco’s arms were tremors of fear and not of exertion.

Harry felt the anger unclench in him at the sight – Draco’s submission really was beautiful – and he breathed a silent sigh of gratitude that he wasn’t going to be forced to say something mean. He wasn’t really in control of his dark side, and he knew it. So, when he got a respite from it, Harry was always grateful. He took a deep breath and forced himself to speak. “You’ve offered no insult, Draco. I simply need some time to myself. If I ever wish you to join me, I will let you know.”

Draco looked up, then. “If I haven’t insulted you, why were you so cruel?” His grey eyes were cold and calculating, but there was a small amount of hurt lurking behind them.

Irrationally irritated, Harry snapped his fingers and pointed at the floor. That caused Draco to flinch and to lower his eyes, and it also caused the tremors – which had stopped – to start again.

“Do not presume to question me,” Harry said, tone cold.

Draco swallowed hard. “You’re nothing like I expected you to be,” he whispered. The increased trembling of his body made it obvious he was speaking through his fear.

Harry raised an eyebrow and snorted. “Let me guess. You expected me to be more of the hero type. Kind and self-sacrificing and noble. That about right?”

“No,” Draco said. “I remember what you were like in school, and kind and noble are not the words I’d use to describe you.”

Harry inched closer to Draco. “What words would you have used then?”

Draco swallowed again, nervous of the proximity. “Reckless, brave. Perhaps a bit foolish. Self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. But never cruel.” His voice dipped down to a whisper.

Harry snorted, stopping right in front of Draco. “More than most see,” he admitted. “Even Ron and Hermione rarely see anything in me but my recklessness, my supposed kindness, and my hero status. Even they are a bit star-struck. I think even you were, to a point.” He tilted Draco’s chin up. “Truth is, Draco, I’m a lot Darker than the world knows. I’m aware that I’m a murderer that has been turned into a hero. It doesn’t seem that the rest of the world has figured that out yet.”

“Voldemort deserved to die,” Draco said.

Harry nodded. “Of course he did. He murdered my parents. And he was tearing the wizarding world apart. But since I’m being honest with you, the truth is, I killed Voldemort more for my parents than for the wizarding world. I had my revenge.”

Draco trembled at his feet. “Why are you telling me these things?”

Harry smiled, and it wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Because, my dear Anchor, you can tell no one my secrets.” He laid the compulsion and gave a small nod of satisfaction as he watched it take hold of Draco. “And because I want you to understand exactly who it is you chose as your Warden.”

Draco swallowed. “How did you become this Dark?”

Harry laughed, and the sound was almost hysteric. “Draco, you said it yourself. I have the strongest Light and Dark magic in the world. I’ve always been this Dark.”

“What about your defensive magic?”

Harry shrugged. “I’ve always been as Light as I am Dark. But I can only show my Light magic in public. The Dark side of my magic can only ever be expressed through Parseltongue magic, at least in the public eye. I’m constantly at war with myself. And, when I say I need to talk a walk to clear my mind, rest assured that I mean I need to be alone to keep myself at bay.”

Draco stared. “You realize that makes you sound like you’re losing your mind?” he asked.

Harry smiled. “You’re one to talk about being mental,” he said. “Considering you offered your submission to a Warden and stripped yourself of your ability to do your job. That’s a pretty crazy life decision.”

Draco flinched at the harshness of Harry’s tone. With his chin still held firmly in Harry’s grip, he couldn’t bow his head, but he could, and did, lower his eyes in submission. “Forgive me, Warden,” he said. “I overstepped my place.”

Harry let go of Draco’s chin and considered the blonde in front of him. As soon as he released Draco, the man prostrated himself completely at his feet. “Do you have no pride, Draco?” he asked.

Draco flushed. “Not where you’re involved, Warden,” he answered.

“You’ll explain that to me later,” Harry said. “For now, I’m going for a walk. While I’m gone, I’ll leave you with something to remind you of your place.” He cast a low level pain curse and watched in satisfaction as Draco curled up into himself. Using the compulsion granted to him by the bond, he added, “Don’t end the curse. Don’t scream. Don’t bite your tongue.”

Draco stared at him through eyes filled with agony. “Please, Warden,” he gasped out. “Please don’t leave me like this. Please, I’m sorry. I’ll be good, just please make the pain stop.”

Harry shook his head. “No,” he said. “This is what happens when you overstep your bounds, Draco. You need to experience the punishment so you won’t do it again. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in half an hour.”

Draco tried to scream, but he couldn’t. Instead, he sobbed. “I’m sorry, so sorry. Please, I’ll be good.”

By the time Harry was ready to leave for his walk, Draco was an incoherent gibbering mess. Pausing in consideration – he hadn’t realized Draco’s pain tolerance was so low – Harry turned to Draco. “Finite,” he said, ending the spell.

Draco keened in relief and wrapped his arms around his legs, sobbing in relief. “Thank you, Warden. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. I promise I won’t.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Good,” he said. “Because next time, I won’t be so merciful.”

Draco shivered, eyes lowered, and nodded. “Thank you, Warden,” he said.

Harry nodded in satisfaction, then walked out the door. While his Dark side was satisfied, his Light side was horrified and gaining control. How could he have done that to Draco? Draco was his friend. Harry had extended his hand in friendship for a reason. How had things gotten so out of control? He groaned into his hand. Harry had a feeling that this Warden and Anchor thing was going to get a lot more complicated, and he was worried that he was going to lose his sense of self in the Darkness the Warden-Anchor contract was forcing him to embrace.

Chapter Text

The more he thought about what had transpired between him and Draco, the sicker Harry felt. He had, in essence, tortured Draco for daring to speak his mind. If this was the way that the Warden-Anchor bond was going to exert its influence on him, then Harry wanted nothing to do with it. The last thing he wanted to do was feel like he had no choice in the way he used his own magic.

Remembering the tightly controlled breathing and the tremors in Draco’s body, Harry put his hand to his mouth as a wave of nausea crashed through him. He wasn’t this person. He didn’t hurt his friends. But, in the moment it had happened, he had wanted nothing more than to see Draco writhing under his wand in pain.

Ever since the day of the ritual, Harry had felt off-balance. The ritual had helped him release the excess Dark magic he’d been carrying around, but it had pushed his Light magic a little too far away for his comfort. The ritual had been intended to completely rebalance his magic, but it had worked a little too well in the favor of his Dark magic. Which made sense, even though he hated to admit it. He rarely utilized his Dark magic, so when he did, it very often threatened to consume him. And now, here he was, stuck in a relationship founded on the very principles that made Dark magic work.

Whether he found Draco attractive or not was a moot point – Harry understood enough about Dark magic to know that the bond would compel him towards Draco. Dark magic aside, Harry himself found submission intoxicating. There was something particularly powerful about Draco’s submission, most likely tangled up with the fact that Draco used to be the person he hated second only to Voldemort.

But that hatred had diminished with age, becoming more of a strong distrust rather than anything resembling hatred. However, with the pain curse he had subjected Draco to earlier, Harry was becoming highly aware that perhaps not everything he had felt towards Draco as a teenager had been erased.

That, in and of itself, was unhealthy. He knew that, just as he knew that the relationship with Tavin hadn’t truly gotten toxic. While Tavin had safeworded, Harry hadn’t even come close to actually violating it. But he remembered the overpowering desire he had felt to continue, and he held that guilt to him as if he had actually crossed that line. When he wasn’t allowing himself to indulge in his own warped sense of guilt, Harry was very aware that he was more responsible than most people ever were about the way he used his dominance.

Today, however, he really had crossed a line, and that made him feel disgusted with himself. It would be easy to argue himself into an acceptance of what he had done because there were no real lines with Draco. A Warden-Anchor bond was a Master-Slave bond – that much had been clear from reading the book Hermione had given him. That meant that anything Harry did to Draco was legal, no matter how illegal it might look on the surface. Anchors, once bound to a Warden, had no legal right to refuse anything a Warden asked of them. Because of that, bound Anchors could not be forced to stand trial – the Warden would be charged instead.

It would be so easy to give into that reasoning. It would be so easy to tell himself that Draco had no right to refuse, no right to speak back, no right to even voicing his opinion if Harry didn’t permit it. But as true as that was, Harry didn’t want that. He didn’t want to turn Draco into a puppet. He wanted to learn who Draco was and what made him tick. But Harry had to get control over his magic and his temper if he was going to do that. The comments Draco had made should never have elicited the response Harry had given. The guilt was going to tear him apart.

And that was okay. This was something that he needed to feel guilty over. He needed to feel the guilt so he could be reminded, every day, what going too far looked like. But he also needed to be able to set it aside so that he could be a proper Warden for his Anchor, and that was where the true difficulty arose.

Cracking his knuckles, Harry nodded his head and turned on his heel, his mind made up. The few minutes it took him to get back to his flat solidified his decision in his mind. Once he arrived back at his flat, he paused before the door, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then let himself in.

Draco was still huddled on the floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, and his entire body was emitting small tremors. He glanced up at Harry as the door opened and he sluggishly began to shift into a kneel.

“Stop,” Harry said. “You don’t need to kneel. Can you stand, or do you need help?” He purposefully kept his voice low and soft, trying not to frighten Draco any further.

The glance Draco threw at him was full of uncertainty, like he wasn’t sure he could trust the kindness Harry was offering right now, and that made Harry’s heart clench because he knew he deserved it. Harry didn’t say anything else, just waited for Draco to respond.

After a few minutes passed, the tremors in Draco’s body had stopped, but he was still looking at Harry with distrust. Even so, he forced himself to stand, and he automatically folded himself into the pose of a waiting submissive – chin up, eyes down, feet shoulder width apart, and hands clasped behind his back.

Harry had to swallow back his shock at the instant submission Draco offered him, even while still harboring distrust. It was impressive, to an extent, but it was also very telling. Draco, at some point in his life, had been abused to the point that he expected abuse. It was nothing new. Harry closed his eyes against the shame and bile that rose in him at the realization of just how badly he had screwed up with Draco flooded him. The instant submission Draco offered was testament to how powerfully subservient Draco truly was, which implied there was a sensitivity to him that Harry had never realized he possessed.

“Come here,” Harry said, keeping his voice soft. He held his arms open, and he waited for Draco to respond. Like he had done before, he didn’t try to pressure Draco into making a decision. He just held his arms out and waited, watching the emotions flicker across Draco’s face.

Draco looked at Harry with uncertainty and distrust, unsure as to why the Warden who had just tortured him was suddenly offering him comfort. He wanted that comfort more than anything, but if he took it, how was he to know that there wouldn’t be repercussions later for giving into his own weakness? Draco’s experiences with Harry were very limited and most of them involved the fighting the two of them had engaged in while teenagers. This was new territory, and Draco didn’t know what kind of person Harry actually was. Although the torture earlier was certainly telling – Draco knew he didn’t want to make Harry angry ever again. If he had to, he’d never offer another opinion. It would be stifling, but he would do it, if just to avoid pain. He whimpered low in his throat, torn between the desire to seek the offered comfort and the fear that it was a trap. Though, with the patience Harry was displaying – at least three minutes had already passed – it was looking less and less like a trap. It was also starting to dawn on Draco that if he kept avoiding making a decision, it was going to start looking like disobedience, and he wasn’t the disobedient type. Mouth set in a grim line, he made his decision and walked into Harry’s arms.

As Draco walked to him, Harry’s heart twisted at the grim expression on Draco’s face. He was forcing himself to do what he had been told, steeling himself against whatever came next. It was that expression on Draco’s face that undid him. Because the comfort he was offering was being treated as a potential trap, and Harry’s anger at himself burned even hotter than the guilt he felt for going too far. No one needed to be afraid of seeking comfort, and yet he had managed to instill that fear in Draco without even trying.

When Draco got to him, Harry folded his arms around Draco and pulled him in close, resting his head on top of the blonde’s. “For the little it’s worth, and I know it means very little, I’m sorry for earlier. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I was wrong to punish you. I will do anything you want to make it up to you, and I swear I will never punish you ever again for anything other than disobedience. If you need me to, I will swear a blood oath to that effect. I will not let this bond turn me into a monster. You deserve better than that.”

As Harry spoke, Draco grew still, and it was clear that he was thinking hard about what Harry was saying. “I didn’t expect you to apologize to me at all. You are, after all, my Warden, which gives you the right to do anything you want to me. I’ll admit that your willingness to use a pain curse – “Draco’s breath hitched and he had to force himself to continue speaking – “for something so trivial had me concerned. I don’t need a blood oath from you. There may be situations where that particular blood oath could prevent you from utilizing the bond properly, and I refuse to handicap you that way. As for what you can do to make it up to me…” Draco lifted his head from Harry’s shoulder and met Harry’s eyes directly. “Read to me out loud as you translate the scrolls.”

Harry let out a shocked laugh. “That was the last thing I was expecting you to ask me for,” he said in response to Draco’s arched eyebrow. “Translating the scrolls has been the furthest thing from my mind since we did the ritual.”

Draco rolled his eyes and pushed away from Harry, who let him go. “I’m not surprised. The Warden-Anchor bond is a very powerful one even between those with weaker magical cores, and your magical core is so powerful that it is only fitting that it has consumed your mind for the last few days.”

“You know,” Harry said, tone thoughtful. “I’m not the only powerful one in this bond. Why do you give yourself such little credit?”

Draco flushed as the question hit home, and he turned away from Harry’s gaze. “I’m not that powerful,” he said, voice coming out in a whisper.

“You are,” Harry said. “You don’t have to tell me where this belief comes from, the one that has you whispering lies to yourself about how weak a wizard you are, but you’re not at all weak. I don’t advertise this often, but I’m capable of sensing the magic of the people around me. Each person’s magic feels different. Hermione’s magic is like the earth after a spring rain, and her magic is incredibly strong because everything she does is grounded in the theory she pours her heart into studying. Ron’s magic is like a fluffy fireball that seems like it will burn you to cinders in half a second but then comes out as a very tender warmth. But you, Draco, your magic swirls around you like a confused blizzard, powerful but without direction.” Harry put a finger under Draco’s chin and forced the blonde to look at him. “Once you figure out your own self-worth and start to trust in your magic, your potential output rivals mine.”

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. “You’re one of the most powerful wizards on the planet! There’s no way my magic is anywhere near as strong as yours.”

Harry flicked his forehead, causing Draco to glare at him. Harry smiled. “Draco, of the two of us, you know more magic theory. But even I know enough theory to know that bonds like the one we share can’t even activate unless the two people are roughly equivalent in power. Don’t you think that’s the reason you were so willing to offer me your submission without thinking things through? If you hadn’t been equal to me in power, then the bond wouldn’t have initiated. Sure, the ritual still would have worked – I still would have been able to release the excess magic I was carrying around – but the bond wouldn’t have formed. The fact that I can compel your magic to obey mine is testament to the fact that the bond formed, and it is tangible proof that even you can’t ignore that your magic is as powerful as mine.”

Draco scowled. “You talk a lot,” he snapped. Then, realizing what he had done, he covered his mouth in horror, looking at Harry with dread. “I’m sorry, Warden. I meant no disrespect.”

Harry swallowed back the nausea that rose in him – Draco’s quick response was a reminder to him of how badly he’d fucked up. “I’m not going to regulate the way you speak, Draco. I meant it earlier when I said I’d only punish you for disobedience. I don’t want to stifle who you are.”

Slowly, the color returned to Draco’s face as he realized that Harry truly wasn’t going to punish him. “Thank you,” he said, voice soft.

Harry nodded – it was the only thing he could do. He was the one who had to live with his shame, and he was the one who had to correct his mistake. He knew better than to let the side of him that was Dark have free reign, but he had forgotten that. For a few minutes only, but those few minutes would haunt him for a long time to come. And it was right that they should.

Draco sighed. “I’m not one to ignore the evidence in front of me,” he said. “I know that the bond can’t activate between those with unequal magical cores. And you’re right – I was counting on being so much weaker than you that the bond never came into the picture. I never considered the possibility that I was as strong as you, but no one would. You’re the wizard who killed Voldemort – your power is assumed to be at an unattainable level.”

Harry shrugged. “People make assumptions that work to my favor, and I’m okay with that. But I’m not the most powerful wizard in the world. There are many people who are my equal in magic, Hermione among them. It’s not odd to me for you to be my equal in terms of magical strength – why else would we have fought so hard against each other in school? Rivals can’t start on an unequal footing, Draco. I’m surprised you ever considered yourself inferior to me.”

Draco hissed. “I’m not inferior- “he stopped himself halfway through, his face flushing with embarrassment. “Sorry,” he said. “Old instincts.”

Harry laughed. “I understand. Now, shall we get started on these scrolls?”

Draco gave him a sly grin. “You’re going to translate them out loud for me, yeah?”

“Of course,” Harry said, then took a deep breath. “But first, I need to tell you what makes translating Parseltongue dangerous for me.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Dangerous?”

Harry nodded. “Incredibly so. Far more dangerous than you realize.”

“Okay,” Draco said. “I’m intrigued. What makes it dangerous?”

Chapter Text

As Harry began to explain why translating Parseltongue was so dangerous, Draco leaned in to listen.

“When I translate Parseltongue, I never know how far I’m going to get. Parseltongue was never meant to be written down, so translating it requires a massive amount of magical energy.” Harry hesitated, trying to find words that wouldn’t make him seem quite so pathetic. Then he sighed. No matter how pathetic it made him seem, Draco deserved the truth. Especially after what Harry had put him through already. “Sometimes, I can translate for three hours. Other times, I can only translate for fifteen minutes. Whenever I reach the limit of what I can translate, I end up magically exhausted. Which means I physically cannot take care of myself. It can get pretty bad.”

Draco stared at him. “But you always seemed fine when I left,” he said.

Harry grimaced. “I got used to hiding the truth from the people around me when I was young,” he said. “I got used to people not understanding the truth or refusing to believe me. The number of times I got called a liar -” He broke off, absently running his hand over the now-healed scar where Dolores Umbridge had forced him to take a Blood Quill to himself.

“Because of our past, I’m guessing you also felt it necessary to hide the truth from me,” Draco said, eyebrows raised. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it this weakness that initially caused your refusal when I asked you to translate the scrolls?”

Harry pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, fighting down a wave of irritation. Draco was his. As his anchor, Draco had no right to question him. Harry forced himself to take a deep breath. He was not going to let this bond control him. As with all the magics he had mastered over the years, this bond was just another thing he had to learn how to control. And he had to learn how to control it fast before Draco ended up paying the price. Harry closed his eyes, took another deep breath, and opened his eyes to see Draco sliding from the couch onto his knees. Even though the action settled the tension in the bond, it was still startling to see. “What are you doing, Draco?”

“I’m sorry, Warden. The bond is still new, and I can feel the strain it is placing on you. I’m trying to satisfy it before it forces you to,” Draco said, eyes lowered, voice soft. “I don’t wish to be a burden on you.”

Harry swallowed at the sight before him. It was hard not to be affected by the sight of Draco kneeling in front of him, submitting without being asked. And the blonde was right - the bond did feel more settled. Less likely to force him into doing something he’d regret. He took one last deep breath and answered the question Draco had asked him. “When I originally refused to translate the scrolls for you, the reason was twofold. Part of it was because of how weak translating anything written in Parseltongue makes me. The rest was because you were an unmitigated bastard to me when were in school, and I felt no inclination to help you.”

Draco took a deep breath at the sharpness in Harry’s tone as the second reason set his heart to pounding. The bond flared to life between them, and it hurt. Physically, it felt like someone had suckerpunched him in the chest. Draco had known this could happen, but he had never expected to have it happen to him. Granted, he’d also never expected to be the Anchor to one of the strongest wizards in the world, especially not to one who had harbored intense hatred for him in the past.

Even though Draco knew he had done nothing wrong - in fact, he’d done everything he could to keep the bond from flaring up - it didn’t stop the intense pain that was flooding through every cell in his body. Fire ran through his veins. He tried to scream but found he couldn’t make any sound. He couldn’t move, either. His entire body was frozen as if someone had hit him with an immobilizing curse, and he definitely couldn’t alert Harry.

But that was expected. This was a slave bond, after all. Dark magic was high risk, high gain. Any Warden-Anchor bond that was properly cemented would make sure that the Anchor never forgot that they were a slave. Right now, the bond was punishing him because not only had he dared to ask Harry a question, that question had caused Harry displeasure to answer. It was for that the bond was punishing him. Causing his Warden distress wasn’t permissible. There was no way to know how long the pain would last.

Harry, oblivious, continued. “It was when you told me that you wanted to keep the world safe from truly dark wizards, those capable of becoming dark lords, that I realized I wanted to help you. Because even if you were a complete prat to me during our school years, I could respect the desire to keep dangerous materials out of the wrong hands.” His tone softened. “And then you taught me how to control my magic, at great expense to yourself. Draco, you did an incredibly brave thing when you offered me your submission - when you offered me your life. And I will do my best to make sure you always know how much I appreciate that.”

The pain released Draco, but all he could do was let out a small gasp. “Thank you, Warden,” he said, not keen to invite another burst of pain.

Harry frowned. “Why do you insist on calling me Warden?”

Draco flinched. He had no idea what the bond would do to him if he refused to use the honorific. “Because I’m your Anchor,” he said. That was the most honest answer he could give. The burst of pain that the bond could cause - that was a secret that no Anchor had ever shared with any Warden. The bond prevented it. Anchors could discuss it among themselves, but they couldn’t mention it to a Warden. No one knew who had keyed it into the spell, but all Anchors knew what it did. And what it meant, once the first burst happened.

The first few days of the bond, Draco had been hopeful. Maybe, if he stayed out of Harry’s way, the burst would never initiate. Since staying away from Harry hadn’t been possible, he’d thought maybe acting as submissively as possible might prevent the burst. Draco had hoped that the burst would never happen. But it had. And it meant that the bond between them, the Warden-Anchor bond, was fully cemented. There was no way to reverse the ritual now, no way to dissolve the bond. Even after death, the bond would remain. That burst was the final seal of the ritual. But it wasn’t the end of the pain the bond would cause him. No, in that respect, it was only the beginning.

Maybe, since Harry had read a book on Warden-Anchor bonds, he would know a little bit more than the average Warden. Especially since that book had been recommended by Granger, who was at least competent at doing research. He could give Harry credit for choosing one good friend, at least.

“Now,” Harry said, making his way across his apartment to the box that held the scrolls. “Shall we get started on these? I believe I promised you I’d translate out loud.”

Draco plastered a smile on his face. “As you wish, Warden.” He’d try bringing up the book about the bond tomorrow, when he wasn’t afraid that the bond was going to fracture his world into pain. Dealing with any pain was hard enough for him, and two times in one day - what with Harry’s light pain curse and the bond’s cementation - was more than enough. He wasn’t sure he could take a third.

So he joined Harry at the kitchen table, opting to kneel beside him on the floor rather than sit across him at the table. Perhaps that would be enough to keep the pain at bay. For now, that was enough.

Chapter Text

In my life, I have trusted almost no one. Even the snakes do not know all of my secrets, though it would be hard for anyone to get them to tell my secrets. Parseltongue is a rare gift - a cursed gift, some say. It is why I trust my secrets only to the written form of the language, a form I created, and one not easily reproduced. I doubt there will ever be more than a handful of sorcerers capable of reading my words.

I do have friends I trust. Friends I know will not see my actions as betrayal. They know of my prophetic gifts, of my visions. I have trusted them since I was young. All of us come from strong Pureblood backgrounds - none of us fit the mold of the upper crust. In some ways, we are all visionaries.

Still, even though the three of them know of my secret gift, I am afraid of revealing the contents of these visions to them. I do not trust that they will see reason, not so close to the opening of the school. They may view these visions as a way for me to enforce my beliefs about blood purity on them and disregard the contents entirely.

I do not want muggles in our school. Not after the visions I have seen. Not when I have watched the wizarding world crumble underneath my feet, watched as wands turn obsolete in the face of firepower the likes of which I could not have imagined if I had not foreseen it. I do not want these visions to come to pass. I will do whatever is needed to keep the paths from merging to this future. I love the wizarding world too much.

But that is not what they will see - not my friends, nor the world. They will see me only as a man who hates muggles, who views blood purity as a sacred law not to be violated. They will not understand that I do not hate muggles. Muggleborn witches and wizards have a place in our world, but that place cannot be our school. I have seen too much. Borne witness to too much. And I can do nothing now but grieve, for I fear it is too late to keep the paths from merging.

Harry’s head swam as he finished translating. Reading it was easier than transcribing it, but he was still exhausted. His eyelids drooped. There was no way he was going to be able to move in this state.

“Warden?” Draco asked from beside him. “Is there something I can do for you?” His voice was soft, almost melodic.

Harry mustered up enough energy to say, “Yes. Move me to the bedroom. No magic.”

“Yes, Warden.” Draco carefully lifted Harry out of the chair and moved him into the bedroom, then laid him gently on the bed. It was no surprise that the man had fallen asleep somewhere in the midst of the process, considering how draining translating Parseltongue was for him.

Draco sighed and returned to the living room, taking up residence on the couch. Processing everything he had learned and dealt with during the day was bound to be a fairly time-consuming process. The bond was the last thing he wanted to think about, so he focused his attention on the translation of the newest scroll. As Harry read, Draco had transcribed, which made it far easier to pour over the words.

Although the man had never voiced the names of his friends, Draco knew enough about his history to know that the man who had penned the letters was none other than Salazar Slytherin himself. And the line that had given it away was the one about the invention of written Parseltongue. As a Cursebreaker, knowing the origins of languages with Dark origins was a prerequisite of his job.

But that didn’t clear up the confusion in Draco’s mind. The man had said he’d had a prophetic gift. No one knew that. It wasn’t in any of the history books, and none of the other three founders had ever mentioned Slytherin’s gift to anyone. Perhaps Slytherin had never told the other three about his visions of a crumbling wizarding world. That seemed plausible, based on the latest translation.

Prophetic gifts were uncommon, but they weren’t feared. Not the way Parseltongue was. So why had Slytherin seen the gift as something he needed to hide? How bad had his visions been? Draco glanced uneasily at the box of scrolls next to the kitchen table - they weren’t even fully through the first scroll. Another translation or two would take them to the end of the first scroll, but that still left eleven. Most of them longer than the first. How long was this project going to take?

And, if the visions that Slytherin had mentioned were bad enough that he himself had said he was willing to become a monster, to instigate a war...what were in those visions? And how many of them had yet to come to pass?

Draco shuddered. He knew as well as anyone else that most seers were fakes. Legitimate prophets were born very rarely, and Slytherin’s words and actions spoke volumes about his legitimacy of a prophet from the get-go. True prophets rarely revealed their visions to anyone but their closest confidants, generally because they were afraid of forcing the future to follow a particular path. And the part about key events and key players, especially the part about key players being the orphaned and unloved...that resonated with Draco.

Because while there had never been many true prophets, the Malfoy family line had produced two legitimate prophets in the past three hundred years. But there was no shame in the gift - everyone in the family proudly proclaimed their relation to the Malfoys who had been born with the gift of prophecy. Sure, it had only been minor prophecies, nothing as world-shattering as what Slytherin had seen, but it was respectable nonetheless.

Draco sighed and rubbed his eyes. He was tired, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he dealt with what had happened earlier with the bond. That first punishment, that first burst of pain...he’d been unable to tell Harry because the bond between Warden and Anchor was a living bond, one that had a mine of its own. While Harry had primary say over what Draco was allowed to do and say, the bond had a secondary say of its own. If Harry wasn’t strict enough for the bond’s satisfaction, then the bond itself would come to life. Or, even if Harry was strict enough, if the bond felt Draco had behaved badly enough, it would reinforce any lesson Harry chose to teach him with a dose of pain. Draco had known this before he’d ever offered his submission to Harry in the ritual.

Knowing wasn’t the same as living it, however, and he was starting to wish he’d put a little bit more thought into what he was doing instead of jumping in. But of course he’d jumped in - he’d seen the chance to become the Anchor to the most powerful Warden he’d ever met. Draco may have acted impulsively, but he’d acted out of an impulsive desire for power. Ambition...well, he was a Slytherin. He’d been chosen for that house for many reasons, and his thirst for power was admittedly among the strongest.

Dealing with a living bond both terrified and thrilled him. Even the pain curse that Harry had put him through earlier....that had horrified and excited him at once. Because Draco was a Dark wizard, and he understand the darker impulses. The pain curse that Harry had used on him had been no more lethal than a stinging hex, and it had hurt just as much. Draco was terrible with pain. Even his friends had always thought he played it up for attention, but the truth was, he had absolutely no pain tolerance at all. When Buckbeak had bitten him, he’d thought for sure he was going to die.

Draco grimaced. Why he was remembering that incident right now was beyond him. Besides, he’d felt much worse pain than the bite of the hippogryph. The pain of being branded with the Dark Mark....there was nothing comparable to the pain he’d gone through for that. At the time, he’d thought the Mark was a privilege, a rite of passage. And then he’d learned the truth about the man - the monster - he was supposed to serve. Once he learned the truth, all he wanted was to take it all back, to have the Mark removed. But even after Voldemort’s death, the Mark remained. None of the Healers at St. Mungo’s had been able to find a way to safely destroy it, and Draco wasn’t willing to be one of their guinea pigs. He’d learned to live with it.

Just like he’d learn to live with this bond. This living bond that was much his master as Harry was his Warden. Except that the bond could physically force him to do things against his will that Harry would have to use compulsion magic to force from him. The bond had no such restrictions. The only problem...the bond wasn’t alive enough to communicate, so Draco was going to have to learn what the rules were by trial and error. The thought sobered him. Maybe there was some way for him to communicate with the bond.

Feeling absurd, he spoke in a whisper, careful to keep his voice low so that it wouldn’t wake Harry. Not that Harry could be woken up anyway, considering the man was sleeping off magical exhaustion, but Draco didn’t want to take that risk. “Bond, I don’t know if I can even address you this way, and I feel stupid for trying, but here goes. I don’t know what the rules are that you have for me, and I don’t particularly want to find out by trial and error. If there’s some way that you can give me a warning, I’d really appreciate it. I know I don’t have the right to ask anything of you, so I hope you’ll forgive my impertinence, but I’d really like to be able to behave properly from the start.”

Draco swallowed hard, feeling ridiculous. He’d just addressed the bond with respect, a bond he didn’t even know could communicate with him except to cause him pain. His eyes were drawn to the signal band around his wrist.

Words ran across the surface, written in an elegant cursive script. They read: I’ve never been acknowledged by an Anchor as a sentient being before, so I will give your request consideration. You are starting off well. I will thus grant you the use of my name: Alia. Continue to treat me with such respect, and I will be lenient with you.

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. The bond was truly alive. He’d never heard of anything like this! He cleared his throat - he wasn’t so caught up in his astonishment that he’d forgotten his manners. “Thank you for your consideration, Alia. I will try not to disappoint you.”

Etiquette handled, he turned back to his thoughts. Alia was a sentient bond, capable of communicating. How was that possible? As far as he knew, bonds weren’t supposed to be capable of sentient thought. Not even living bonds. But maybe there was something about the power level that he shared with Harry that allowed the bond to become sentient. This was something he had to research!

Draco’s body hummed with excitement. He couldn’t wait to mention this to Harry. The fact that there was a living bond between Warden and Anchor was common knowledge, though not much was understood about living bonds. Maybe Draco could focus his research there. Considering that he would be living with this bond - Alia - for the rest of his life, it only made sense to do research.

He stood up and walked to the bookshelf in the living room, looking for the book that Harry had mentioned about Wardens and Anchors. He found it on the third shelf down and started to reach for it when the signal band flashed gold.

Script, almost angry in its intensity, scrawled across it: He told you to touch nothing in the apartment other than tea. This is not a good way for us to start.

Draco dropped his hand from where it hovered from the bookshelf and backtracked to the couch, folded his hands over his lap so that the signal band was on top and spoke softly. “I’m sorry, Alia. I was too excited over the prospect of being able to speak to you. I let my emotions rule my logic.”

A softer script, still blocky to indicate firmness, appeared: I understand your excitement. It is new for me too. But you must wait for his permission.

“I understand, Alia. Thank you for correcting me,” Draco said, grateful that he’d been trained in formal Anchor etiquette from a young age. He’d never been so grateful for that training in his life, and it was a good thing he’d had it - without it, Draco doubted he would be able to take being corrected so calmly. That was one of the lessons that had taken him the longest to learn - he hated to be told what to do. Ironic, considering that being an Anchor meant he had to listen.

The original elegant script appeared: You’re welcome. Your etiquette is very good. You must have had a very good trainer. Also, you do not need to speak aloud to address me. Just project your thoughts at me as you would project at a Legilimens. I will be able to hear you, but only when you wish to be heard. There are limits to what I will allow myself to control, and your thoughts belong to you and you alone.

Draco swallowed, suddenly feeling sick. He’d never even thought that the bond would be able to control his mind. His actions, certainly, but thoughts? Gratitude rushed through him. Being allowed to keep his thoughts meant he was being allowed to keep his sense of self, and that wasn’t something Harry or Alia was obligated to do. Not when the bond itself was a slave bond. If Harry wanted to break him, Alia would comply, and if that meant thought control...well, Draco would have no choice. The stark reminder of just how much of his life was no longer under his control was enough to make him nauseated. Still, he managed to project a quick: Thank you, Alia. And yes, my trainer was very good.

The elegant script that either indicated Alia being in a neutral mood or a pleased one (Draco wasn’t yet sure which of the two emotions was being displayed) appeared on the signal band: I can tell. It would be nice to deal with a respectful Anchor for once. I get so tired of having to crush the disrespect that seems to be so common in Anchors.

Draco didn’t reply to that - he wasn’t sure he could reply to it, even if he wanted to. He was dealing with a living bond that was capable of sentience, the author of the scrolls was none other than Salazar Slytherin, and he was the bonded Anchor of Harry Potter. He wasn’t sure if his life could get any stranger, but he was sure that tonight was not the time to find out. And if he managed to get any sleep, well, he’d count himself lucky.

Chapter Text

“Let’s go over them again, shall we?” Trainer Dolohov asked, his tone sickly sweet.

Draco swallowed against the trepidation he’d come to associate with that tone in Dolohov’s voice. “If that is your will, Master.” As Trainer Dolohov titled Draco’s chin up, Draco glued his gaze onto the floor. He’d been punished far too often for meeting the man’s eyes without permission.

Releasing Draco’s chin and stepping back, Trainer Dolohov made a soft sound of approval. “You’re improving,” he said.

“Thank you, Master,” Draco said, flushing. When he’d agreed to be trained as an Anchor, he had only known that he was to be taught how to submit. He hadn’t expected Antonin Dolohov, one of the most renowned dark wizards, to be the one training him. But the man lived up to his reputation – in the span of a month, he’d taught Draco the essentials of what it meant to be an Anchor. Now, over a year later, Draco was set to “graduate” from the course. If he could convince Dolohov that he had truly mastered what it meant to submit.

“What rules must you always obey if you are chosen as an Anchor, even if a Warden knows nothing about the bond?” Trainer Dolohov asked.

Draco cleared his throat. “I must obey every command given to me. I must never forget to address my Warden as such. I must be respectful at all times. I may not make eye contact with my Warden without permission. I may not do magic without permission. I may not question the motives of my Warden. I must answer all questions posed to me by my Warden as honestly and thoroughly as possible. I must show gratitude for every privilege my Warden offers me. These are the rules I must always obey, Master.”

“And what must you never tell a Warden?”

Draco closed his eyes, his stomach threatening to empty as the answer came easily to his lips. “I must never tell a Warden about the bond’s ability to cause me pain on its own, Master.”

Trainer Dolohov pressed himself against Draco’s back and held the point of his wand at Draco’s throat. “Why is it forbidden to tell a Warden?” he asked.

Struggling not to panic at the wand pressing against his jugular, Draco forced himself to take a deep breath before responding. “Because a Warden with enough power, armed with that knowledge, could erase Dark magic from the world, Master,” Draco said, his voice a whispering tremble.

“And if that were to happen?” Trainer Dolohov prompted.

“The world would end, Master. The balance would be lost.” The very thought of such a thing terrified Draco. A Warden who knew about the bond’s ability to cause pain would be able to pinpoint the origin of the very first Warden-Anchor bond, the origin of Dark magic itself. And, if powerful enough, that Warden would be able to unbind the origin, and the world would fall into chaos.

Draco woke in a cold sweat, shivering as he realized he’d fallen asleep on Harry’s couch. He squinted groggily at the clock over the mantel, barely able to make out the time. Half past three. Stretching as he stood, Draco made his way to the bathroom to relieve himself, trying desperately to shake the remnants of the dream from his conscious.

It wasn’t proving easy, however, and by the time he made it back to the couch, he was wide awake, trying not to shake with the power of the knowledge he was forced to keep concealed. Anchors protected the balance by keeping the knowledge of the origin from Wardens, but Draco wasn’t so sure he was going to be able to keep that secret. Not when the bond between him and Harry had proved to be sentient.

Soft footsteps startled him out of his thoughts, and he gasped as Harry leaned over the couch and wrapped his arms around Draco’s shoulders. “Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.

“No, Warden,” Draco said, keeping his voice soft. “Did I wake you?”

Harry snorted. “No. I passed out at about 5 o’clock. Even magical exhaustion can’t keep me down for long.” He turned his head so that his lips brushed Draco’s ear. “Now, why are you having trouble sleeping?”

Draco shivered at the intimacy of the touch, growing aroused. “I was thinking about the bond, Warden.”

Teeth closed over his earlobe as Harry bit down, hard.

Draco yelped and had to fight not to pull away. Tears sprang to his eyes. That had hurt!

“Stop calling me Warden,” Harry said, releasing his earlobe. He came around to the front of the couch and sat, folding his legs under him as he leaned against Draco. “You’ve been doing a lot of things that don’t make sense for you to do. You’re not naturally this submissive,” he said. “So tell me why you are acting as if you’re trying out for the perfect Anchor award.”

Draco took a deep breath and cautiously rubbed his ear, checking to see if there was blood. Finding none, he stared at Harry and let out a deep sigh. “I was trained for this,” he said. “My father hired Antonin Dolohov to teach me how to properly submit to a Warden if I was ever accepted as an Anchor.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I could tell you’d been trained, but Draco?” He leaned in so that their foreheads were touching. “You’re mine. Which means I’ll teach you to submit the way I want you to. Understand?”

Draco’s heart skipped a beat at those words and he let out a soft moan of desire. “Yes, I understand,” he said.

Harry’s face lit up as he smiled. “Good,” he said, leaning forward to claim Draco’s mouth in a kiss.

Draco lost himself in the passion of Harry’s kiss, absent-mindedly reaching forward to stroke his cock through his pants. Before he could even touch, Harry slapped his hand. Chagrined, Draco placed his hand down on the couch beside him, moaning as Harry deepened the kiss. Draco whimpered as the kiss ended and Harry drew back, a satisfied smirk on his face.

“The rules from before remain in place,” Harry said. “You may only cum with my permission and in my presence.”

Draco let out a soft mewl of frustration. “Yes, Harry,” he said, startling himself with the address. Swallowing hard, terrified he’d made a terrible mistake, he risked a glance at Harry’s face. What he saw there surprised him.

Instead of the anger he was expecting, Harry’s eyes were darkening with lust. He jerked his head toward the floor, using one hand to guide Draco into a kneeling position on the floor. Once Draco was in place, Harry freed his cock from the confines of his jeans. He raised an eyebrow at Draco.

Draco smirked, leaning forward, and took the tip of Harry’s cock in his mouth, rolling his tongue around the shaft as he slid his mouth down the length. Before he could start moving, Harry’s hands came down on his shoulders, stilling him. Without warning, Harry moved his hands to the sides of Draco’s face and thrust hard into Draco’s mouth. Eyes watering at the unexpected assault, Draco forced his throat to relax as Harry fucked his face. This was rough, hot sex, and Draco pushed his hands behind him to keep from reaching down and trying to get himself off. Being used like this… he mewled low in his throat. It was like Harry had reached into his head and pulled out one of his fantasies. The fact that he might not be allowed to cum hit him, and Draco moaned as the thought sent more blood racing to his cock. Harry came with a shout and Draco moved back so that he could swallow without choking.

Harry leaned forward and claimed a searing kiss from Draco, then looked down at the obvious bulge in Draco’s pants. He patted Draco’s cock through the fabric, eliciting a soft moan of need from the blonde. “I’m not generous enough to let you cum more than once a week,” he said, smiling as the half-stricken look Draco gave him was accompanied with a low moan of desire. “Now, care to tell me why the bond is keeping you from sleep?”

Draco bit back another moan as Harry began to massage his cock through his trousers, knowing that there would be no release. He took a deep breath and held his arm up to Harry so that the signal band was in Harry’s reading range. At the quizzical look Harry shot him – while still working his dick through his pants – Draco drew in a ragged breath. “The bond is sentient,” he said. “Alia, if you will, introduce yourself to Harry.”

The signal band flashed gold: Good morning, Harry. I have a feeling we have a lot to talk about.

Harry stared at the band, slack-jawed, his hand stilling on Draco’s cock. He sat back against the couch and alternated between staring at Draco and at the signal band. “Did you know this was going to happen?” he asked, unable to keep an accusing note out of his tone.

Draco winced. “No, Warden,” he said. “I was just as surprised as you are.”

Alia flashed gold at them: That makes three of us. I’ve never been able to talk before.

Chapter Text

Harry stared at the band around Draco’s wrist. Years of experience had taught him not to trust sentient items. First there had been the Mirror of Erised, sentient enough to be dangerous. Then there had been Riddle's diary. Then the cursed locket that nearly consumed him. And a few items had come into the shop...he shuddered to think about them. In his opinion, an object should not possess sentience, especially not an item that one of his spells had created. “Why can you talk now?” he asked.

Alia flashed gold. I suppose because I was addressed. It's never happened before, so I'm not entirely sure.

“What purpose do you serve?”

I'm here to act as your enforcer. I will work to keep your Anchor from disobeying any rules you set, and I will punish him in your stead when necessary.

Harry noticed Draco wince and raised an eyebrow. “You knew,” he said, voice flat. It wasn't a question.

Draco gave a short, sharp nod. “I did,” he said, voice level.

“And the reason you kept it from me?” Harry asked, his own voice retaining the flatness. He didn’t appreciate omissions.

“The one who trained me to be an Anchor told me it was the one thing I must never tell the Warden who chose me. It seems, however, that choice has been taken from me.”

Harry frowned. “You were trained to a level of submission I would never expect, and yet you were told to keep this a secret? It doesn’t make much sense.”

Draco inclined his head, acknowledging the truth of that. His voice nearly broke, but he forced the words out past the panic clawing at his throat. “I was told that I should never tell a Warden the truth of the bond, for a Warden armed with the truth would be able to pinpoint the origin of Dark Magic and undo it. If the origin is unwoven, then Magic itself will come undone, and the world will fall into chaos.”

Harry digested Draco’s words, his mind reeling. He could understand the fear. No doubt there were wizards out there who would love to thrust the world into chaos, even at the expense of their own magic. He grimaced. Voldemort had been just that kind of insane. If that man had known the truth, then the war may have turned out very differently. While he was irritated that Draco had kept the truth from him, he understand that the man hadn’t done so out of a deliberate attempt to keep him in the dark. Rather, he had done so out of fear that the nightmarish scenario he had painted might come true. Harry sighed. He knew far too well the destructive power a few words could wreak in a person’s life. Voldemort had all but decimated the wizarding world looking for the prophecy that foretold his downfall.

Draco curled his hands on his lap, his fingernails digging into his flesh. The pain helped push the panic back. How was Harry going to react to this revelation? Was he going to punish Draco for his deceit? He bit his lip as he stared down at the bond mark on his wrist. If Harry didn’t punish him, would Alia do it in his stead? Draco wasn’t sure. He didn’t know if he deserved punishment; nothing made sense. The bond wasn’t supposed to be sentient. It wasn’t supposed to be able to answer Harry’s questions. A scenario like this had never come up during his training. He choked back the hysterical laugh that wanted to escape. He had to be the first Anchor in history to have told the truth of the bond to his Warden. He had handed over the only secret he’d ever been tasked with keeping, all because a bond that was only supposed to be able to hurt him had somehow learned how to communicate with him and with his Warden. What was he supposed to do?

Harry watched in fascination as emotions flickered across Draco’s face almost too fast for him to follow. In some ways, he’d known the man for aeons. In other ways, he didn’t know him at all. There was a depth to the Slytherin that Harry wasn’t sure he was ready to see, but he found himself feeling grateful that Draco wasn’t as shallow as he’d always assumed. Maybe there was the potential for something between them besides just sex and dominance games. Maybe there was room for something genuine...but those were thoughts for another time. Right now, he needed to deal with this new revelation about the bond that held them together. “Thank you for telling me, Draco,” he said, keeping his voice gentle.

Draco raised his head. “Am I in trouble?” he asked, voice so quiet it was almost a whisper.

Harry shook his head. “Not this time,” he said. “This is much bigger than you or me. While I won’t condone you keeping secrets from me, this secret wasn’t one you were keeping from me specifically. It was one you were keeping for the sake of the world, and I do understand the difference. Alia, is it safe to assume that you take your cues from me on when to enforce the rules I set?”

To some degree, yes. I will not punish him if a rule has not been set. However, if a rule is broken and you are not here to witness the infraction, I will act in your stead. This is to prevent him from attempting to keep his transgressions secret, and I will, if you like, alert you through the bond that he has broken a rule.  

Harry had to admit he was a little impressed. “What rules have I set for him thus far?” he asked. He wanted to make sure that Alia would not attempt to press on Draco more rules than he had actually set.

He is not to touch anything in the apartment other than your tea, and he has permission to use the couch and the bathroom. I assumed the latter, as without that permission, he would end up damaging your property, and I would be forced to punish him for being disrespectful. He is also forbidden from cumming outside of your presence, and he is allowed to do so only with your express permission. He is also not allowed to question you. I have already punished him once for going against that order. He is also not allowed to call you Warden. I believe those are the only imperatives I’ve heard you issue to him.

Harry winced, then sighed. There were definitely a few things he needed to clear up, as one of those imperatives, as Alia insisted on calling them, had been issued when he was angry. “Okay, let’s start by clarifying some of the rules. Draco is allowed to touch anything in my apartment unless I expressly forbid him from doing so. He is also allowed to question me, at any time, about anything, as long as he keeps his tone respectful. The other rules remain the same. However, I must make it clear that not all commands I give him are to be considered rules. In order to prevent confusion, I will tell you when it is a rule, so that you do not punish him for a perceived transgression that is, in fact, not one at all.”

Gold text flashed across the signal band. Thank you for clarifying. If an ambiguous situation should arise and you are not present to determine whether or not he has broken a rule, I shall refrain from punishing him without discussing the matter with you first.

“That seems best,” Harry said. He pushed his glasses up his nose, rubbing the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Draco, what are your thoughts?”

Draco arched an eyebrow as he turned to look at Harry, his silver-grey eyes piercing in their intensity. “Do you truly care what I think?” he asked, his bitter tone laced with a hint of desperation. “You sit there and discuss with Alia, the inhuman overseer of my slavery - a chosen path, I admit - and ask what I think of it? I think that I am your slave, my lord, and thus have no say in the matter.”

Harry wanted to laugh and scowl at the same time, but as it wasn’t possible to do both, he settled for a grimace. At least he had found the snarky Slytherin he thought was gone - the submission Draco had been offering him for the last two days was so outside the man’s character that Harry really hadn’t known what to make of it. But to have the snarkiness back after two days of such abject submission was also jarring. He’d known that Draco had been offering him a false face, playing the part of the submissive Anchor he’d been trained for, and he’d hated it. Because it wasn’t the kind of submission he wanted. No, what Harry wanted was to tame the man in front of him. “Yes,” he said. “I want to know what you think.”

Draco blinked. He hadn’t expected Harry’s response to be so simple. He’d expected a lecture about respect, about keeping his tone civil. Instead, his sarcasm and biting tone had been neatly sidestepped. He couldn’t help but feel a bludgeoning of respect inside him. Harry had done and said some terrible things over the last couple days, but he had also done some really wonderful ones. Draco wasn’t sure how to read the man - he was too unpredictable, too chaotic. He sighed. He was going to have to take a chance that Harry was serious about not wanting to silence him. “I think that the rules you have set thus far are fair,” he said. “I am not happy about the fact you are using the compulsive aspect of the band to ensure my obedience to the rules about cumming, but I am fairly certain I am not happy about those rules in general.” His tone turned wry near the end, as he wasn’t exactly unhappy about those rules, just... deliciously frustrated.

Harry laughed. “Well, those rules are staying in place. As is the compulsion. I’ll try not to use the compulsive side of the bond outside of sex. I don’t want to change who you are.”

Draco nodded. “Thanks,” he said, more grateful than he could express. Compulsion magic within a sexual context was thrilling. Outside of that, however, it could be terrifying. Curses like Imperio were considered Unforgivables for a reason.

Gold text flashed, large and bold - it seemed Alia had been trying to get their attention for some time. It’s too bad I don’t have a voice, the text read. I’d hate to have to try and get your attention in an emergency.

Harry laughed while Draco arched an amused eyebrow. Harry asked, “What is it you wanted to tell us?”

The text on the signal band went back to its original size and the flashing stopped. Draco referred to me as inhuman. But that isn’t true. I still retain all my memories, and I can tell you both that I was human once. A very, very long time ago. I would tell you my story, if you would hear it. I have kept it to myself for far too long.

Harry looked at Draco, who nodded. “Okay,” Harry said. “We’re listening.”