Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many, many thanks to Bookgirl (my treasure!) who is graciously helping to pull this together into something readable!
Warnings: Slash (definite Harry/Draco, hints of Severus/Remus) NC-17 (graphic smut -- eventually) AU (as I'm not JKR) IC or OCC (depends on interpretation, but mostly IC) Cross-Dressing (only one chapter -- and I'll warn you) Minor Character Death (no one close to Harry, otherwise it would depress me) Post-HBP (major spoilers)
Harry sat, staring out his window. It had become his habit over the previous two weeks. Sleep was elusive and when he did sleep, he was often plagued by nightmares. His mind simply did not want to shut down.
It was only the middle of June, and he should’ve still been at Hogwarts. Yet he’d already been at the Dursleys for two weeks, spending his required time for the blood protection. He’d done nothing but think during that time. He had far too many questions and too few answers. He constantly worked through every piece of information that he did have, hoping to make some sense out of everything. So far, he wasn’t having much luck and it was frustrating beyond belief.
Staring into the dark night, he suddenly froze. He stared harder at the shadows at the end of the street. Seconds later, he was sure of what he’d seen. Someone had just Apparated onto Privet Drive. Watching closely, he tried to determine if it was friend or foe. It was difficult to tell because, whoever it was, they were extremely adept at sticking to the shadows.
They may have been good at keeping to the shadows, but Harry quickly realized that they weren’t being overly cautious. They seemed to be in a great hurry. Moments later, they were highlighted by the soft lights coming from one of the houses as they crept closer to check the house number.
Harry stiffened in shock, recognizing Death Eater robes. Judging from what little he’d seen, there was only one person and he’d bet anything they were looking for him. As they turned away from the light, Harry caught a glimpse of platinum-blonde hair. There was only one person it could be.
After a split-second of indecision, Harry was out of his bedroom and down the stairs. He opened the front door quietly and just enough for him to slip through.
“Malfoy,” Harry spat. “What are you doing?” He was spitting out the words even as his eyes searched for the figure he’d seen from his window. He quickly spotted Malfoy in the shadows at the edge of the property.
“Potter? Oh, thank Merlin,” Malfoy murmured.
Harry frowned, not understanding why Malfoy should be thankful to see him. “How’d you find me?” he demanded.
“Anyone can find you, but that’s not important right now,” Malfoy snapped. “I need your help.”
“You need my help?” Harry asked incredulously. “You’re my enemy, Malfoy!”
“I know that,” Malfoy spat. “But I need you to take her.”
He stepped out of the deeper shadows so that Harry could see him better, and Harry’s eyes widened, not realizing the horror he was projecting. What Harry could see was a figure in Death Eater robes, holding something small, and moving, wrapped in robes. It was too eerily similar to what Harry had witnessed in the graveyard. Suddenly, Malfoy seemed far more dangerous and Harry began backing away.
“Stay away, Malfoy!” Harry shouted as forcefully as he could.
“Keep your voice down,” Malfoy hissed.
Harry swallowed hard. They may have been in a Muggle neighbourhood, in the middle of the night, but he was beyond caring.
Malfoy frowned, glancing down at the bundle he was holding before looking back at Harry in confusion. “What’s your problem now, Potter?”
“What is that?” Harry asked, cursing himself as he heard the fear bleeding into his voice.
“It’s a baby, Potter,” Malfoy retorted. “You’ve faced the Dark Lord. I never expected you to be scared of a helpless baby.”
“Prove it,” Harry whispered, staring at the bundle of robes.
Malfoy’s frown deepened, but he obliged by pulling the robes aside to show the baby he was holding.
Harry exhaled heavily, closing his eyes briefly before snapping them open again. “What are you playing at, Malfoy? Why do you have a baby? And why are you here?” he added.
Malfoy seemed to snap back into reality himself and glanced around fearfully. “I don’t have time to explain everything,” he said hurriedly. “I need you to take her and keep her safe. They’ve probably already killed the rest of her family. I managed to get her out of there, but they’ll notice if I don’t get back soon.”
Harry finally registered the fact that Malfoy was more jittery than he’d ever seen him. The calm, collected Slytherin Harry knew appeared to be falling apart before his eyes.
“Come, take her, Potter,” Malfoy said, his tone sounding anxious rather than demanding. “I can’t pass the wards.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Harry asked warily.
Malfoy looked down at the little girl in his arms. “I had to put a Silencing Charm on her so she wouldn’t alert everyone. Otherwise, I think she’s all right. I hope so, anyway,” he added softly.
Harry shook his head, trying to decide if he had fallen asleep after all and this was just a strange dream. He watched warily as Malfoy moved to take out his wand, keeping his own wand trained on the boy behaving so strangely.
Malfoy simply cast the spell to lift the Silencing Charm before quickly stuffing his wand back in his pocket and trying to quiet the screaming baby. The screams were loud in the quiet of the night. “Potter, help,” he said pleadingly.
“I don’t know how to take care of a baby,” Harry said nervously.
“I don’t either, but you have to take her,” Malfoy begged. “I don’t have anywhere else to take her. Potter, I have to go.”
With a growing sense of detachment from reality, Harry walked to the edge of the property and took the crying baby from Malfoy’s arms.
Malfoy looked at him in relief. “I’ll try to come back in the morning. It should be safe then. Don’t tell anyone anything or she’ll likely be killed.”
With that, he disappeared with a distinct “pop”. Harry stared in disbelief at the spot where Malfoy had been just moments before. What the bloody hell had just happened?
A louder wail disrupted his thoughts and Harry hurried back to the house with a baby in his arms.
“Boy! What is the meaning of this?” Vernon bellowed, stomping down the stairs even as Harry stepped back into the house.
“I don’t know,” Harry snapped. He was not in the mood to deal with his relatives. Hearing a creaking sound, he glanced up and saw Petunia and Dudley staring down at him in amazement.
“You don’t know?” Vernon said dangerously. His eyes narrowed in on the baby Harry was holding. “Do not tell me they’ve dropped off another one of you freaks on our doorstep. We are not taking in another one.”
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t let that happen even if you were willing,” Harry shouted angrily, causing the baby to cry harder.
“Shut that thing up!” Vernon shouted furiously.
“I don’t know how!” Harry said helplessly.
Harry held the baby to his shoulder and bounced her gently. He’d seen people doing it before, so it must work to help calm babies down. At least, that was his hope.
He continued to stand there listening to his uncle berate him and the baby crying. He watched Aunt Petunia disappear into the kitchen, only wishing that he could disappear as well. His mind was swirling with questions, and he couldn’t seem to grasp what had just happened.
He was further shocked when his aunt returned with a bottle for the baby and shooed her husband and son back to bed. They didn’t go willingly, but she pointed out that if they wanted quiet, then she was going to do something about it. She didn’t take the baby from Harry, and in fact looked at the baby with distaste, but she did show Harry how to correctly hold and feed her.
Harry relaxed slightly into the chair as blessed silence fell over the house again. The only sounds were the slurping of the baby drinking.
“Where did she come from?”
Harry glanced over to his aunt sitting primly on the couch. “I think she’s another victim of this war,” he stated grimly, not exactly answering the question.
She pursed her lips tightly. “This is a war amongst your kind, isn’t it?” she asked. “All of these catastrophes and murders. They’re your kind’s doing.”
“Yes,” Harry admitted, not wanting to get into the fact that Voldemort and his followers weren’t his kind. He knew what she meant. “Although, Voldemort will gladly kill all of you as well if he’s given the opportunity.”
“You can help stop this?” she questioned hesitantly.
Harry looked at her curiously, but answered her truthfully. “I am the only one who can stop this,” he said flatly.
She startled and looked at him in horrified astonishment. “You are only a boy!” she exclaimed.
He snorted. “Have I ever been only a boy?” he retorted bitterly. “It doesn’t particularly matter to Voldemort anyway,” he said dismissively.
“Where is your Headmaster?” Petunia asked, sounding almost hopeful.
“Dead,” he answered flatly.
She stared at him in disbelief. “Is there no hope?”
Harry finally realized that his aunt was scared. The woman was deathly afraid of what was happening, and unlike so many Muggles, she had a slight inkling of what was really occurring in their world. She had always tried blocking out any knowledge or recognition of the Wizarding world, but she did know it existed. She knew her sister and husband had been killed by a Dark wizard. She understood enough of the circumstances surrounding the event of Harry’s arrival into their home almost sixteen years before to be scared now.
His aunt was actually scared enough by the recent events to risk talking to him about the Wizarding world. Harry shook his head, seriously wondering about his sanity. Malfoy was dropping babies off at his doorstep and Aunt Petunia was recognizing that the Wizarding world existed. He knew things were falling apart in the world, but these two occurrences were hitting him harder than news of the latest murders.
He met the eyes of his aunt again. “I believe there’s hope,” he answered finally. He looked down at the baby that was almost asleep in his arms. “There has to be hope,” he whispered.
“Where did she come from?” Aunt Petunia asked again.
Harry looked up to realize she’d also been watching the baby. He sighed heavily. “I believe all of her family was killed tonight. I don’t know much. I really don’t know anything at all. The person who brought her to me is supposed to return in the morning to explain.”
Aunt Petunia pursed her lips again, and Harry was sure that her instincts were to argue with that. She didn’t want any more freaks in her house. She remained quiet, though.
“I don’t know what this is about, but if the person comes back, it’s important that I talk with them,” Harry said.
She closed her eyes as her face twisted into a grimace. “I believe Dudley and I will be running several errands tomorrow morning. I doubt we’ll return until after lunch.”
Harry nodded in acceptance, understanding what she was telling him. Uncle Vernon would be at work and she would make sure she and Dudley weren’t around when Harry’s “guest” arrived. She didn’t like it, but she seemed to accept it enough that she wasn’t going to tell her husband or son.
They were both startled when there was a tapping at the window. Baby in his lap or not, Harry’s wand was out and pointing almost instantly. Then he felt like a fool as he realized it was only an owl. He glanced at his aunt, wincing a little at her terrified expression and wondering if she was more scared of the noise or his reaction.
He awkwardly stood and handed the baby to her, which she took without a word. He moved to let the owl in, wondering if it could somehow be from Malfoy. The owl left again as soon as Harry had untied the scroll from its leg and he frowned at its swift departure.
His eyes widened as he recognized the Ministry seal. “Oh, fuck,” he cursed softly, hurriedly breaking the seal. Malfoy had performed the counter to the Silencing Charm and yet Harry was about to receive the punishment for it. His eyes grew round as he read the contents of the letter.
“Harry?” Petunia questioned him hesitantly.
Harry blinked at her, wondering if he should admit what the letter said. Before the events of the past hour, he would’ve said that she’d hate the news, but now . . . now she might actually be reassured by it.
“Um, the person who was here performed a little bit of magic,” he admitted, watching his aunt closely for her reaction. She simply sucked in a breath and held it, waiting for Harry to drop the other shoe.
“The Ministry detects magic here, as you know, and I’m normally not allowed to do any,” he continued. “This letter actually gives me permission, even though I’m technically not legal until my birthday in another month and a half.” He bitterly added the reminder of when his birthday was, honestly not sure his aunt truly remembered. There was some sense of satisfaction as his aunt finally exhaled the breath she’d been holding as she eyed the wand currently sticking out of his back pocket again.
“They’re allowing you, because of this war?” she asked, still eying his wand. He pulled the wand out of his pocket and her eyes followed the movement.
Harry looked from his wand to the letter still in his left hand. “Yeah,” he finally answered. “I have special permission from the Minister himself ‘due to extenuating circumstances’. I’m betting it’s because it wouldn’t look good for the Ministry to be persecuting me right now,” he added, a sour taste in his mouth. He was happy that he was now allowed to use his magic, but didn’t like the fact that Scrimgeour only granted it to him because he was the Chosen One.
Petunia didn’t say anything and Harry could see the conflicting expressions on her face. He felt that he’d been right in a way—she was both angered and relieved by the news.
He eyed her warily, changing the subject. “Aunt Petunia? Um, what do I do with her for now?” he asked, gesturing to the baby in her arms.
His aunt grudgingly gave him a crash course in very basic baby care at two o’clock in the morning. She helped Harry fashion a makeshift bed out of one of his wardrobe drawers and showed him how to fix a bottle. She also instructed him on how to change the baby’s nappies. When he questioned her on why she had a few baby items, she glared and pursed her lips in her habitual way, but then finally admitted that one of the neighbour women had a young child. She kept the extras on hand just in case, for when the woman would periodically come to tea.
Harry thought he shouldn’t have been too surprised. His aunt always preferred to be seen as the perfect hostess, catering to her guests’ every need. The woman also had a habit of stocking up on anything and everything imaginable.
Eventually, the baby was sleeping soundly and Aunt Petunia went back to her own room, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts.
Moving back to the window, he stared out onto the empty street. Had Malfoy really appeared and dropped a baby off in his arms just a couple hours before? A quick glance over his shoulder at the sleeping child gave him the answer, but it still seemed unbelievable.
Harry didn’t have a clue as to what he should do. He’d stepped outside prepared to duel Malfoy, not face the other boy pleading with him. Malfoy was the enemy. He’d let all those Death Eaters into Hogwarts. He’d tried to kill Dumbledore. Harry’s thoughts stalled again.
He’d gone around this countless times in the two weeks he’d been sitting at the Dursley’s house. Malfoy had tried to kill Dumbledore. He hadn’t been able to do it. He’d wavered at the end. Harry had seen the tip of Malfoy’s wand drop.
Staring unseeingly into the night, Harry once again let his mind picture those crucial minutes. Dumbledore had been attempting to coax Malfoy over to the other side. He’d offered sanctuary for Malfoy and his family, and Malfoy had seemed to be tempted.
What did it mean?
He just couldn’t see Dumbledore saying all that to save his own life. Which brought Harry’s thoughts circling back to Snape. Harry tensed, but didn’t feel the upsurge of extreme anger.
Once away from Hogwarts, he’d had a chance to calm down and try to think rationally. When he did, he realized that Dumbledore was simply not the type to plead for his life. Harry had tried placing himself into that type of situation. It wasn’t really that hard to imagine. He remembered the graveyard and he remembered the events at the Ministry. He himself hadn’t pleaded for his life either time. He’d been sure that he was going to die, especially at the graveyard, but he’d refused to give in.
Harry just couldn’t understand Dumbledore pleading for his life. It didn’t fit. He knew Dumbledore was a strong and powerful wizard. The old man was tenacious in his beliefs and would never give up. Harry had seen him give up, though. Hadn’t he?
Harry pressed his fingertips to his temples, trying to ease the pressure in his pounding head.
Dumbledore just wasn’t one to give in and admit defeat. It seemed dishonourable to even think such a thing. So, what did it all mean? Harry remembered Dumbledore pleading to Snape. He remembered Dumbledore talking to Malfoy.
What did it all mean?
That question continued to cycle through Harry’s brain, over and over. He tried forcing his mind back to Malfoy. That was volatile enough without adding Snape into the mix.
The last time he’d seen Malfoy, the boy had been running away from Hogwarts. Judging from the Death Eater robes he’d just been wearing, he’d run straight back to Voldemort. Harry wanted to know if he’d run willingly or not. Dumbledore’s conversation with Malfoy left doubts in his mind.
Harry sighed. There were too many doubts and too many questions, and still no answers. He turned to gaze at the baby. There were simply more questions.
* * * * *
Harry settled himself in front of the sitting room window where he could watch for Malfoy. There was something horribly odd and wrong about that, but he was doing it regardless.
The whole night and the entire morning so far had felt significantly surreal. He’d managed to stay in his room until he heard his uncle leaving, as he wasn’t about to get into another confrontation with him if he could help it. For once he was thankful that it was a Monday.
He felt like he should be feeling angrier than he was, but rather he was feeling mostly numb. His aunt was as much to blame for his lack of feeling as Malfoy’s odd behaviour.
When Harry had made an appearance downstairs, Aunt Petunia had handed him a baby blanket and some clean clothes to dress the baby in. She’d also quietly informed him that she would bring him back a few baby supplies when she returned. Right after that she’d hollered for Dudley and they’d left.
It wasn’t until after they’d left that the true shock hit Harry, not that her behaviour hadn’t been shocking enough as it was. He’d gone to change the baby, though, and realized the blanket had to have been his.
The soft, fluffy blanket was red with golden snitches patterned on the material. Aunt Petunia wouldn’t have anything like that. She likely didn’t even know what the small winged balls were. She certainly wouldn’t know that the blanket was Gryffindor colours. She must have washed it, though, because it smelled like it had just come from the dryer.
Harry stared at it uncomprehendingly for a long time. He was unaware of just how long he did sit there, lost in thoughts about his mum and dad. He realized what it meant. He had surely been brought to the Dursleys wrapped in the blanket. He fingered the small clothing. It was a simple blue sleeper that he must have been wearing the night his parents were killed.
He glanced at the doorway where he’d last seen Aunt Petunia. She had to have saved them all this time. He had no idea why, and had trouble believing that she had, but he was thankful anyway. She’d never been kind to him in anyway, but he realized she must feel something for him. Or for her sister.
The baby started crying again, breaking Harry free from his thoughts.
“How do I do this?” he muttered, knowing he wasn’t going to get an answer.
Alternately grumbling and making shushing noises, he managed to fumble his way through getting the baby changed and in the fresh sleeper. He didn’t think she’d particularly care that she was being dressed in pyjamas again, despite it being morning. It was all he had for her.
He fixed her a bottle and settled in front of the window to feed her, watching for Malfoy. He still couldn’t believe he was watching for Malfoy, and looked at the baby instead. He didn’t have a clue as to where she came from, or even what her name was. He did understand that she’d just lost her family, though.
That fact alone made his chest hurt. The ache was simple compounded at seeing her in his blue sleeper.
Watching her drink her bottle as he held it for her, he decided she was pretty cute. He gave a half-smile, looking at the short black hair that was tufted on her head. He wondered if that’s what his hair had looked like at her age, whatever age that was. She wasn’t very old, but she didn’t seem real little, either. Harry really had no idea with his limited experience with babies.
She was staring back at him with huge grey eyes. Her features were all delicate and . . . rounded, Harry decided. She seemed so fragile and Harry couldn’t comprehend how it was that he was the one holding her. She really needed to go to someone who could care for her properly.
He still didn’t know where she’d come from in the first place, though. He sighed and took the bottle away as she finished and carefully lifted her to his shoulder to burp her the way his aunt had taught him.
Lifting his gaze to the window again, he blinked in amazement as he realized Malfoy was watching him intently from the sidewalk. He blinked again, surprised to see Malfoy dressed in grey trousers and green shirt. Harry rolled his eyes. Even dressed to be around Muggles, Malfoy was dressed like a Slytherin.
He was also standing there in broad daylight. Harry could feel his headache trying to pound to the surface again. Shouldn’t he be trying to kill Malfoy, not be inviting him in for tea?
Closing his eyes, he pictured again Malfoy’s shaking hand and the wand tip dropping. He could hear Dumbledore telling Malfoy that they would protect him if only he came to the right side.
Opening his eyes, he stared back at the Slytherin. He would invite him in. He frowned. Assuming he could invite Malfoy in. He’d said he couldn’t cross the wards.
Somehow feeling safer while still holding the baby, Harry held her in one arm and his wand in the other as he stepped outside to face his nemesis.
“Is she all right?” Malfoy asked immediately.
“She appears to be fine,” Harry said evenly.
Harry frowned at seeing Malfoy breathe a sigh of relief before the cool mask was back in place.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in, Potter?” Malfoy sneered.
Harry’s frown turned to a scowl. “Aren’t you afraid I’ve got people waiting to capture you inside?” he shot back.
Malfoy glanced warily at the house. “You could,” he admitted coolly.
Harry still wasn’t sure why he didn’t have people waiting to capture Malfoy. He’d considered it, but had decided against it. He arched his eyebrows in surprise that Malfoy seemed to recognize he could be captured at any moment.
“Do you want to be captured?” Harry questioned in disbelief.
“No,” Malfoy snapped back immediately. “But I’m hoping your damned Gryffindor curiosity kept you from notifying anyone about my appearance last night. At least, not yet.”
Harry uncomfortably realized that Malfoy was exactly right. He wanted answers and he wasn’t as likely to get them if he had turned Malfoy over immediately.
Malfoy sneered, seeming to realize from Harry’s silence that he was right. “Invite me in, Potter, and I’ll explain.”
“You better have some damned good answers, Malfoy,” Harry ground out.
“I’m not explaining out here,” Malfoy snapped at Harry.
Harry glanced around the neighbourhood, and his eyes landed on Mrs. Figg’s house down the way. He didn’t think he had anyone technically watching him all hours of the day, but he couldn’t guarantee it. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to stand out here for long.
“How do I get you past the wards?” he asked.
“Don’t you know anything, Potter?” Malfoy smirked.
“I’ve never invited a Death Eater here before,” Harry retorted.
Malfoy’s eyes shot to his forearm. The long sleeves of his shirt in the warm weather were a bit of a giveaway. He was exceptionally quiet and much more subdued as he quietly explained to Harry how to get him past the wards.
Harry hesitated before taking that final step. “How do I know you won’t hurt me or my relatives as soon as I let you in?”
“You don’t,” Malfoy said flatly, his gaze travelling to the baby again.
Harry frowned. Not understanding why, he said the final words that would allow Malfoy to enter the property.
Malfoy looked at him in surprise, and Harry realized that Malfoy hadn’t actually expected to be allowed in. Malfoy regained his composure quickly. “You are far too trusting, Potter,” he sneered, sauntering down the path to the front door.
Harry’s frown only deepened as he stared after him. He didn’t trust Malfoy, but there was something going on. Harry relied on his instincts a lot, and his instincts were telling him that he needed to hear Malfoy out.
He shook his head and followed Malfoy to the house, hoping he wasn’t making a huge mistake.
* * * * *
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