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Secrets

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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)

 

Chapter One

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.

“Potter?”

“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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Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Two

“Let me hold her,” Malfoy said the second they were inside and the door was shut.

Harry eyed him distrustfully, but handed the little girl over. Malfoy didn’t look any more comfortable than Harry with a baby in his arms. He held her as if she was the most precious and fragile thing in the world and she could break at any moment. His eyes were roaming over her face, taking in every detail with something akin to awe.

“Malfoy, who is she?” Harry asked.

Malfoy took a deep breath and looked at Harry. “My daughter,” he answered.

Harry’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. “Your daughter?!”

“Yes, my daughter,” Malfoy sneered. “Are you unable to hear properly?”

Harry felt like he could hear just fine, but it was becoming increasingly clear to him that his brain was incapable of functioning correctly.

“She’s not an orphan?” he asked dumbly.

“Not yet,” Malfoy muttered, turning away from Harry. He moved into the sitting room and, despite his look of distaste, he sat down on the couch with the little girl cradled in his arms.

Harry followed him and fell into the armchair. “How? When?”

Malfoy exhaled heavily and handed her gingerly back to Harry. Harry took her automatically, then watched as Malfoy started pacing the floor.

“I hate you, Potter,” Malfoy said.

“I already know that,” Harry said in exasperation. “Do you need a proclamation in return? If so, I can happily tell you that I hate you as well.”

Malfoy quirked an eyebrow at him, and Harry was pretty certain Malfoy was amused. “That’s good to know,” he drawled.

He stopped his pacing suddenly and stared at Harry. “Why did you let me in here? Why didn’t you attack last night? Why didn’t you have Aurors waiting here for my return since I said I would be back? For that matter, why aren’t you screaming and yelling at me at least?”

Harry dropped his gaze to the baby he was holding. To the baby he had believed was an orphan. He met Malfoy’s gaze again. “Because I want answers,” he responded coldly. “Because I don’t think you’d actually kill me,” he said knowingly, and watched as Malfoy flinched slightly. Harry paused. “Because somehow, holding a baby tends to slow me down when it comes to screaming and yelling.”

He had to wonder how he was actually keeping himself under control. The urge to yell and curse Malfoy was there, but it was overpowered by the small baby and the need for answers. He hadn’t actually lied to Malfoy, but he had to admit, it did sound a little unbelievable considering their history—and considering the events just a few weeks previous.

Malfoy seemed to be the one acting even more bizarre. It was actually a little difficult bringing out his anger when Malfoy wasn’t even acting like himself.

Malfoy resumed his pacing.

“Why did you bring your daughter to me?” Harry asked.

“I didn’t know where else to take her,” Malfoy muttered.

“Malfoy, you do realize most people wouldn’t take their child to their enemy,” Harry said slowly.

“I know that,” Malfoy sniped. “But no one knows about her.”

Harry blinked. “No one?”

“No, there’s no one alive but me, and now you, that knows she’s my daughter,” Malfoy replied evenly.

“So, why would you bring her to me?” Harry asked again.

“Who should I take her to?” Malfoy snapped. His shifting moods were going to drive Harry mental. “I could take her to my mother. Mum would love the baby. Although, I’m not sure she’ll be overly pleased to learn she’s a grandmother,” he added thoughtfully. “But it wouldn’t matter for long anyway.”

“Why?” Harry asked, but Malfoy ignored him.

“I could always take her to my dear Aunt Bella,” he sneered.

“No,” Harry growled, tightening his grip on the baby.

Malfoy paused and glanced over at him, but didn’t comment before resuming his pacing.

“Let’s see,” he mused. “Father is in Azkaban. I don’t think that’s a good place for a baby. I think Wormtail would likely damage her and himself if he tried taking care of her.”

“You know where Wormtail is?” Harry exclaimed loudly, startling the baby who began crying. “Fuck!”

“Potter! What’d you do to her?” Malfoy asked. “Don’t hurt her!”

“I didn’t hurt her!” Harry snapped. “I think I just scared her.”

“Well, do something!” Malfoy said worriedly. “Fix it!”

Harry paused in his baby bouncing to glare at Malfoy. “You can’t just fix a baby, Malfoy. Even I know that. And she’s not an it,” he added.

He stood and resumed his bouncing, rocking motion, hoping to calm the baby down while Malfoy stared at them worriedly. “You know where Wormtail is?” Harry asked again, quietly, his tone intense.

Malfoy dragged his gaze from the baby to Harry. “Yes, I know where he is. Or I did anyway,” he amended.

“You don’t know where he’s at now?” Harry asked, disappointment lacing his tone.

Malfoy shrugged, but looked at him sharply. “Why is Wormtail so important to you?”

“He’s an evil, traitorous bastard,” Harry spat angrily.

Malfoy studied him contemplatively, eyes narrowed. “You don’t think too highly of people you see as traitors, do you? You seem to think about as highly of them as the Dark Lord.”

Harry froze momentarily, but then resumed his bouncing yet again. “It wouldn’t be the first thing we have in common,” he muttered.

Malfoy’s eyes widened incredulously. “You think you have more in common with the Dark Lord?”

“I know we have a lot in common. He told me so himself,” Harry retorted.

“Sit down and have a friendly chat, did you?” Malfoy said sarcastically.

Harry tilted his head thoughtfully. “No, I believe we were standing at the time, but at first I did mistakenly believe he was friendly.”

He chuckled darkly at the look of astonishment that crossed Malfoy’s features, before the grimace of disgust replaced it. “How could you ever think him friendly? He’s many things, but I don’t think friendly makes the list,” Malfoy said, his voice reflecting the disgust on his features.

“Let’s just say he wasn’t quite himself at the time,” Harry said. “Besides, that’s been several years ago now,” he added dismissively.

“Several years?” Malfoy said in confusion.

“Look, Malfoy,” Harry said, growing impatient with his own taunting. “There’s obviously a lot you don’t know about me, but we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about what the hell you are up to.”

Malfoy glared at him. “I don’t have to tell you anything, Potter.”

“Why don’t you at least tell me this poor little girl’s name?” Harry said crossly. “I don’t even know what to call her!”

“Victoria Analissa Malfoy,” Malfoy said stiffly. “She’s nine and a half months old. Her birthday is the first of September.”

“She really is a Malfoy? Your daughter?” Harry asked, cradling the baby so he could look at her.

“Yes, although no one has actually known her as one. You didn’t believe it?” Malfoy said defensively.

“I still don’t know what to believe,” Harry mumbled, staring at the baby and trying to see Malfoy in her features. “I reckon she has your eyes, though.”

“The grey eyes come from both sides of my family,” Malfoy said, sounding stiff again.

Harry glanced up at Malfoy quickly before his gaze went unfocused, staring at something only he could see. Suddenly, he could picture Sirius’ grey eyes laughing and sparkling with amusement, or alternatively, when they took on that haunted appearance.

“Potter?”

This baby, Victoria, was part of Sirius’ family. He remembered that Narcissa was Sirius’ cousin. He didn’t know what that made Malfoy and Victoria, but he knew it meant they were related as well.

Family.

Harry remembered Malfoy’s words.

“I haven’t got any options!” said Malfoy, and he was suddenly white as Dumbledore. “I’ve got to do it! He’ll kill me! He’ll kill my whole family!”

Malfoy was trying to protect himself and his family, but no one even knew about this tiny member. She’d be the easiest for Malfoy to protect and keep alive, as Voldemort couldn’t kill her if he didn’t know about her—if no one knew about her parentage.

“Potter!”

Harry blinked, focusing on Malfoy briefly before staring at the baby again. “Why’d you bring her to me?” Harry asked, yet again.

Malfoy stared at him in exasperated disbelief along with a touch of irritated anger. “I’ve answered this already. Who else was I supposed to take her to? It wasn’t like I could take her to Snape or something.”

Harry looked up sharply. “Why couldn’t you take her to Snape?” he asked harshly. Not that he wanted the little girl in Snape’s hands, but he wanted to know why Malfoy suddenly didn’t trust the man.

“Potter, have you lost your bloody mind? Snape is a Death Eater!” Malfoy shouted.

“So are you!” Harry shot back.

“It’s different!” Malfoy shouted.

Their shouting started the baby crying again and Harry groaned in frustration while Malfoy gazed on worriedly.

“Why don’t you take her?” Harry suggested, trying to hand over the crying baby.

Malfoy shook his head vehemently. “I don’t know how to make her stop.”

“You’re worthless, you know that,” Harry spat.

Malfoy bristled in defence, but Harry spun and marched with the baby up the stairs, leaving Malfoy behind.

“Potter! Where are you going?” Malfoy demanded.

Harry didn’t bother to answer, taking the baby up to his room where what few baby supplies he had were stored. He ignored Malfoy, who stood in the doorway watching as Harry laid Victoria on the bed and changed her nappy. That seemed to make her happy enough for the moment and Harry settled onto the bed with her.

Malfoy cautiously came inside and sat down in the desk chair. “This is your room?” he questioned.

Harry was surprised not to hear the sneering tones. “Yes,” he answered simply, looking around himself. The room was small and had very little that said it was Harry’s room, the only obvious things being Hedwig’s cage and his trunk.

“You really live like this?” Malfoy asked, sounding bemused.

Harry snorted. “What? Is this fucking with your idea of me living like royalty?”

Malfoy looked at him sharply. “This isn’t what I expected,” he admitted slowly.

Harry shook his head. “Doesn’t matter anyway, I’m almost out of here and I won’t ever be coming back.”

“Where are you going?” Malfoy asked.

Harry stared at him incredulously. “You actually think I’m going to tell you?”

Malfoy glared at him. “If you have my daughter, I want to have a clue as to where you’re at.”

“Malfoy, have you lost your bloody mind?” Harry repeated Malfoy’s words back to him. “You are a Death Eater!”

Malfoy dropped his gaze to his forearm, then the floor.

They were silent for several long minutes, and Harry eventually realized that little Victoria had actually fallen asleep.

“She’s asleep,” he murmured quietly. He got up carefully and moved to his favourite spot at the window. Watching warily, he saw Malfoy get out his wand and cast a Silencing Charm around the bed so she wouldn’t be able to hear them. He put his wand away again, and Harry figured they were free to yell at each other now.

“Where’d you get that baby blanket and the clothes?” Malfoy asked.

That was definitely not the direction Harry wanted the conversation to go. "They were mine," he said shortly. “It’s all I had for her.”

Malfoy’s gaze flicked between Harry and Victoria, who was lying on the Quidditch themed blanket on Harry’s bed. “I’ll try to bring some more things for her,” was all he said.

“You’ve told me why you didn’t take her to other people, but you’ve yet to explain why you actually brought her to me,” Harry said, changing the subject and proud of his even tones.

Malfoy was back to gazing at the floor. “Because your side won’t kill her,” he said flatly.

“True,” Harry said slowly. “But wouldn’t she be better with someone besides me? Someone who actually has a clue about babies would be a good start,” he said ruefully.

“You were there that night,” Malfoy said, his voice barely a whisper. “You’re the only one I have even a chance of convincing that I didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to protect myself and my family, and that was before I even knew I had a daughter.”

Harry started at that piece of information. Victoria was over nine months old and Malfoy hadn’t known about her? Harry wasn’t that surprised at the other information Malfoy was revealing. He was just surprised at the fact that Malfoy was actually admitting it.

“I know family is important to you,” Malfoy continued in a monotone. “Its how I’m always guaranteed to get a rise out of you. My hope is that you will help at least protect a baby.”

“Dumbledore offered you protection,” Harry said slowly.

Malfoy lifted his gaze. “He’s dead,” he said flatly.

Harry closed his eyes briefly. “Yes, but he offered you protection. Would you even want that protection?” he asked, opening his eyes again.

Malfoy stared at him. “Are you offering me protection?”

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. He had no clue where he was going with this exactly. He was simply winging it all based on his instincts. Not the best method maybe, he had to admit, but overall it seemed to serve him all right. “Maybe,” he answered finally.

Malfoy snorted in disgust. “You’re an idiot, Potter. I haven’t got any options for myself. I know it and you know it. I’m a bloody Death Eater. My fellow companions,” he spat viciously, “killed my daughter’s mother and the rest of her family last night. It’s only by chance that she’d even filled me in on the fact that I had a daughter a few days ago. It’s only by chance that I learned about the raid that was going to take place in their neighbourhood. It’s only by chance that I managed to sneak away with my daughter actually alive. I wasn’t able to save her mother. They were still busy torturing her when I got back there. They hadn’t even noticed me leaving. I wasn’t able to do anything! If I’d tried, I would’ve been dead, too!”

Harry stared in horrified silence. Malfoy was breathing heavily, chest heaving as if he’d been running for an hour instead of just shouting at Harry. The blond dropped his head into his hands. “I couldn’t help her at all,” he mumbled. “I could only stand there, pretending that none of it meant anything.”

“You did save Victoria,” Harry said quietly. “You did do something. It sounds like you took a major risk to do so,” he admitted.

Malfoy lifted his head enough to look at the little one sleeping on Harry’s bed. “I want out, Potter,” he whispered. “I can’t be a part of that. I never wanted to be a part of something like this. It wasn't supposed to be like this."

Harry thought about making some sarcastic remark, but kept silent at the look of torment on Malfoy’s face.

“You know I still can’t trust you,” Harry said finally.

Malfoy turned to look at him, his gaze grim but steady. “You are the only one I can trust, Potter.”

* * * * *

Malfoy had disappeared shortly after that, saying that he would return the next day, but he would be missed if he wasn’t back soon.

Harry was left alone to ponder the odd events. He didn’t understand Malfoy. He certainly didn’t understand what the other boy had meant when he said Harry was the only one he could trust. It was hard not to believe him, though, when there was living proof.

A few hours later, he was feeling like reality had taken another nose dive when his aunt came back alone, after dropping Dudley off with his friends, and had a variety of baby things for Harry.

Harry couldn’t figure out why he had Victoria. He didn’t understand why his aunt was suddenly helping him. When Aunt Petunia told him she would watch Victoria while he went up to take a nap, he meekly went.

His brain seemed to have shut down about the time he’d spotted Malfoy the night before. He lay down and was asleep almost instantly.

* * * * *

He felt it was a good thing he’d taken a chance to sleep while he could, because he was up most of the night walking a very upset baby. Harry couldn’t really blame her. He was sure she was missing her mum. They fell into an exhausted sleep in the early hours of the morning.

He woke to the sound of voices, but it took him several moments to register just whose voices they were.

“You can’t just come into my home and go wherever you please,” Petunia said waspishly.

“I can go wherever I want,” Malfoy sneered.

“I’m not going to let you hurt them,” Petunia snapped.

Harry turned and blinked owlishly at the two occupants invading his room. “Aunt Petunia? Were you just trying to protect me?” he asked before he could think about what he was saying.

He fumbled for his glasses and put them on in time to see her pursing her lips at him. “Do you know him?” she asked, instead of answering Harry’s question.

Harry glanced at the scowling Malfoy. “Yeah, you could say that. He was the one who was here yesterday.”

She looked warily at Malfoy, but addressed her question to Harry. “Do you want me to take Victoria downstairs while you talk with your . . . guest?”

Harry really wanted to know who had taken possession of his aunt. He wasn’t given time to ponder that situation when Malfoy spoke up.

“You are not letting some Muggle watch her,” he ground out.

Harry rolled his eyes. At least Malfoy didn’t seem to be possessed by some strange being today. “Well, if you’d rather change Victoria’s nappy, then be my guest.”

Malfoy’s eyes widened and he sniffed in disgust. “I will not!”

“Fine, then Aunt Petunia will take her downstairs for a bit,” Harry said calmly.

Malfoy still didn’t look pleased, but he didn’t protest any further as Harry handed Victoria over to his nervous aunt. She quickly left the room, shutting the door behind her.

Harry fell back onto his bed, groaning. “Why are you here so early, Malfoy?”

“It’s almost ten o’clock,” Malfoy snorted, sounding irritated. “Why isn’t your lazy arse out of bed yet?”

“Because my lazy arse didn’t get to bed until a few short hours ago,” Harry retorted. “I spent most of the night trying to console your upset daughter.”

Malfoy’s attitude changed immediately. “Is she all right?”

Harry sighed heavily. “I expect she misses her mum,” he said quietly. He watched as Malfoy sat down heavily in the desk chair, a pinched look on his face. In fact, Harry realized the boy looked quite ill. He looked even worse than he had when they were at Hogwarts, and he was pretty sure he looked even worse than he had the day before.

Harry could almost understand why Malfoy wasn’t fighting him too much. He didn't appear to have the energy to fight, particularly if he was still having to do his best to keep up appearances elsewhere.

Harry was still scared of looking too deeply at his own reasons for not fighting so much. Hermione and Ron would be going mental on him if they knew what was going on. Not that Harry really knew what was going on. He did know his interactions with the Slytherin were far more peaceful than they should be, though.

“I need answers, Malfoy,” Harry demanded suddenly.

Malfoy flinched slightly. “About what, Potter?” he asked wearily.

“Your daughter, your loyalties, Snape,” Harry spat. “Those would be some good things to start with.”

Whatever else was going on, Malfoy seemed to expect the questioning and seemed to have come prepared to answer this time.

“For Christmas a year and a half ago, my father gave me a girl,” he began tonelessly.

“He gave you a girl?!” Harry exclaimed incredulously.

Malfoy glared at him. “Do you want to hear this or not? If you do, then I suggest you don’t interrupt.”

Harry stared at him in disbelief, but waved him on without speaking. Malfoy turned his gaze back to the floor.

“I was fifteen and a Malfoy. My father deemed that it was time for me to become a man,” he said, sneering slightly in disgust, before it took on that monotone quality again. “The family was invited to the Manor for Christmas dinner. They were purebloods, but not well-known. She was sent to Beauxbatons to go to school.”

He took a deep breath, seeming to need to build up strength for what he wanted to say. “She knew her duty as well as I knew mine. At least, I thought she did. A Malfoy should be sophisticated and experienced, even in bed, and I was to get that experience with her. I suppose I got that experience,” he said bitterly.

“You don’t sound too happy about it,” Harry risked inserting quietly.

“I don’t even like girls!” Malfoy shouted before taking a deep breath to calm himself again.

Harry’s eyes widened. “You’re a pouf?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes,” Malfoy snapped maliciously. “Which makes it all the more unbelievable that I have a baby.”

“How? Why?” Harry asked.

Malfoy sneered. “She got pregnant, Potter. Surely even you could figure that much out.”

Harry’s eyes flashed. “I understand that part,” he retorted angrily. “But why didn’t you take precautions and why didn’t you know until recently and why doesn’t anyone else know?”

“She got pregnant because we didn’t know what the bloody hell we were doing. I didn’t know because she never bothered to tell me. The baby was born a couple of weeks early and she lied to her parents and said she’d been with some other boy. They seemed to accept her word. Why? I have no bloody idea,” Malfoy spat. “Likely her parents were simply ashamed that she was having a baby so young and without being married, so they didn’t dig too deeply and they kept it as quiet as they could.”

He was up and pacing the small room as he became more and more agitated. “She knew I didn’t want to have anything to do with her and so she kept it from me. I’d like to say she was a spiteful bitch, but I think she believed she was respecting my wishes. But then she sent me an owl a few days ago saying she needed to talk to me. I don’t know why, but I didn’t tell anyone about it and went to meet her in private.”

He paused and sneered in disgust. Harry wasn’t sure who or what he was disgusted with, though. “I got the whole bloody story from her. She was contacting me because she was afraid,” Malfoy continued. “She’d seen everything happening. She knew I was connected with the Death Eaters. She was hoping that if I knew the truth, that I’d be able to help protect her. She did have a Malfoy child, after all.”

Malfoy ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I didn’t even have time to figure out what to do. She was right to be scared. The Dark Lord was targeting their area for another attack. I didn’t learn about the attack until too late, though. I normally don’t go along on the raids. I’ve been at Hogwarts most of the year and been able to avoid it. They were pleased when I actually volunteered to go. All I could do was go along and hope that I’d be able to do something.”

“You did do something,” Harry interjected softly.

“I watched her die, Potter!” Malfoy shouted. “I couldn’t do a damned thing to save her.”

“You saved Victoria,” Harry said.

“But I couldn’t save her mother! I couldn’t save her grandparents!” Malfoy yelled in frustration. “All I could do was stand there!”

“I know how that feels,” Harry said. His voice was quiet, but the mournful tone effectively caught Malfoy’s attention.

Malfoy froze, staring wide-eyed at Harry.

“I’ve watched people die, and it hurts like hell when there’s absolutely nothing you can do,” Harry said, his voice catching.

Malfoy collapsed into the chair again and dropped his head into his hands. “I didn’t really want to kill him. I didn’t really want to hurt anyone else, either,” he mumbled.

Harry watched as Malfoy seemed to torture himself with his thoughts, and wondered if that’s what he himself often looked like when he was berating himself for the deaths that he hadn’t been able to prevent. He was feeling a certain detachment, but he was learning that it was the only way he was able to deal with things.

“I think you’re on the wrong side, Malfoy,” he said quietly after several minutes had passed.

Malfoy slowly looked up at him with bloodshot eyes. “I know,” he said simply. “But I can’t get out. Not alive.”

“If we could get your mother away, would you leave the Death Eaters?” Harry asked.

“I don’t know,” Malfoy muttered. “There’s still my father, too.”

Harry desperately wanted to spit out some scathing insult about Lucius Malfoy, but managed to refrain. He didn’t know why he felt it was so important to convince Malfoy, but he didn’t want to mess it up now that he seemed to be making some progress.

Actually, he did know one of the major reasons. It was one of the last things that Dumbledore was trying to do before he died. Harry was trying, in his own way, to follow through with the old man’s wishes.

Then there was Victoria to consider. Harry had spent almost his entire life without his parents. He really didn’t want to see that happen to the little girl if he could help it.

Malfoy could still be trying to play him, but Harry didn’t think so. He’d been watching Malfoy for far too long. He’d known the boy had been up to something the previous year, but he wasn’t getting the same feeling now.

There was also Malfoy’s appearance to consider. The boy looked so unhealthy and didn’t look like he was even up to playing any tricks. He wasn’t even up to arguing properly. The only time he’d pulled his wand was in regards to Victoria. He certainly hadn’t tried to attack Harry in any way. He could be trying to lure Harry in and this could all be some elaborate lie, but it didn’t feel like that.

He knew he didn’t trust Malfoy. The question was more whether he could trust his own instincts or not.

“Potter?”

Harry focused and looked over at Malfoy. “What?”

Malfoy frowned. “Do you really think you could provide someplace safe for me and my family?”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “Dumbledore would’ve just casually gotten everyone to go along with his wishes. I don’t know that anyone would believe anything I say.”

Malfoy’s shoulders slumped in defeat, but he looked at Harry curiously. “You do know that you are the leader of the Light side now, don’t you?”

Harry looked at him in surprise. "I'm not anyone's leader."

“I’m afraid it’s extremely sad but true,” Malfoy mocked.

“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry scowled. “I’m not even seventeen yet. I’m not sure I can get anyone to listen to me.” Which was true enough. He couldn’t even get Ron and Hermione to believe anything he said half the time, reminded of all the times during the past year that he’d tried to convince them Malfoy was up to something. He still didn’t want to think about what they would have to say about this if or when they found out.

“You can’t even legally use magic yet,” Malfoy said in realization.

“I can still defend myself if necessary,” Harry said warningly.

Malfoy held his hands up. “I know that,” he retorted. “My point being, you can’t do much else.”

Harry grimaced, thinking that over. Things had probably changed now that he was granted permission to use his magic. He’d originally decided to stick around at the Dursleys until his birthday. Once he could use magic freely, then he had planned to leave. He’d also originally planned to go to Godric’s Hollow first, but he’d since decided that he needed to stop in at Grimmauld Place.

He sat up suddenly. “I may have a place for you to go,” he breathed.

Malfoy looked at him with wary hope. “Are you certain?”

“No, I’m not certain of anything at the moment,” Harry snapped. “But I’ve got a possibility.”

“But you also can’t check it out yet,” Malfoy said in resignation.

Harry softened, despite himself. “I can check it out soon. I just don’t know who has access to the place.”

“I didn’t expect you to be able to do anything,” Malfoy sighed.

“Malfoy, I can’t even really take care of Victoria,” Harry pointed out.

“You have to!” Malfoy said wildly, coming to life again.

“I have a war to fight, Malfoy! How do you expect me to be able to do that while taking care of a baby?” he asked.

“There’s no one else!” Malfoy yelled.

“I could take her to the Weasleys or something,” Harry suggested. “I’m sure I could find someone who would be better able to take care of her.”

“No!” Malfoy said forcefully. “She’s not going to the Weasels or to any Mudbloods. Or to some bloody werewolf, either,” he added.

“You shut your mouth!” Harry shouted.

“I don’t want them taking care of my daughter!” Malfoy shouted furiously. “I don’t like them!”

“You don’t like me, either!” Harry snapped back.

“No, I don’t, but I at least trust you!” Malfoy shouted.

“Why?!” Harry questioned in frustrated anger, running his hands through his hair so he didn’t punch the bloody git.

“Because you don’t want my daughter to end up a bloody orphan like you!”

That cut right to the core of things, Harry thought. This new . . . truce was grounded in one little baby.

Thinking about it, he truly doubted that the others would have quite the same motivation as Harry regarding Malfoy’s welfare. They didn't really understand what it was like to grow up with no parents. They would consider it good riddance if Malfoy disappeared out of the little girl’s life, but Harry wasn’t so sure it was that simple. Malfoy was still her father, whether anyone liked it or not.

“You trust people, Potter,” Malfoy said quietly. “You trust more than anyone else I know.” He hesitated before adding, “You trust almost like Dumbledore trusted people.”

Harry felt the flash of pain in his chest and closed his eyes to ward against it. He still heard Malfoy’s words as he continued.

“I hate you and you hate me. Yet, you are still likely to be the only one who will even give me a chance,” he whispered.

“I don’t want to give you a chance,” Harry said petulantly.

Malfoy seemed to recognize that Harry didn’t truly mean it and smirked. “No, I’m sure you don’t, but you’ll do it anyway.”

“I don’t know that you even deserve a chance,” Harry said. “Just a few short weeks ago I would have gladly done anything I could to hurt you. You almost killed Katie and Ron and that doesn’t even count Dumbledore.”

Malfoy looked pained. “You’re right. I’m not sure I deserve a chance, either. But I want one,” he whispered.

They lapsed into a long silence, both of them caught up in their own grief and regrets.

“Hey, Malfoy?”

“What?”

“Did you actually say I was right about something?” Harry asked.

“Don’t get used to it, Potter,” Malfoy said wryly.

Harry grinned suddenly. “Wouldn’t expect it from you,” he admitted.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Three

“Why haven’t you gone to Snape?” Harry asked warily. They hadn’t gotten to that topic before Draco had had to leave the previous day.

“He’s a bloody Death Eater, Potter!” Draco exclaimed. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“But hasn’t he been helping you all year?” Harry questioned.

Draco snorted. “No. He’s been on my bloody back all year. I reckon he was trying to make sure I was getting the job done right,” he said bitterly. “I was under strict orders to do it myself. You don’t break orders unless you want to be killed.”

Harry’s eyes widened at what Draco was unintentionally revealing to him and he ducked his head to hide his surprise. Harry felt his heart beating faster in hope. Maybe there was a chance that his suspicions were correct.

“The man killed Dumbledore for you and saved your arse,” Harry forced himself to spit out, feeling sick at the memory, but refusing to dwell on it. He needed to gather this information.

Draco exhaled heavily. “I know he saved my arse,” he said wearily. “Honestly? He’s been a huge support. Unfortunately, it’s been support for the Dark side.”

His gaze grew distant as he continued. “He was forced into an Unbreakable Vow last summer. My mother went to him, pleading with him to help me. Aunt Bella has never quite trusted him and made him actually take a vow that he would help protect me. I didn’t learn about it until after . . . after all that happened. When I was able to go home again, my mother told me about it.”

Harry was listening intently and tensed at the mention of Bellatrix. His mind was swirling, trying to figure out what this meant regarding Snape’s loyalties. Draco seemed to firmly believe Snape was on the Dark side. Bellatrix doubted that, though.

As Harry listened to Draco describe the terms of the Unbreakable Vow, he realized that Snape was magically bound to kill Dumbledore under those circumstances. Would Dumbledore have known about the vow?

Dumbledore said he had known about Draco’s attempts to murder him. The old man had known about the task that Draco had been assigned by Voldemort. How else would he have known unless Snape told him? Dumbledore always seemed to know everything. Well, not everything. He hadn’t known about the Vanishing Cabinets.

“Did Snape know what you were doing with the Vanishing Cabinets?” Harry asked suddenly.

Draco blinked in surprise at Harry’s outburst, before shaking his head. “I refused to tell him what I was doing. I needed to prove to the Dark Lord that I was worthy.”

“So he wouldn’t kill you,” Harry said absently.

“Yes,” Draco admitted, but he frowned at Harry’s attitude. “What’s with you all of a sudden?”

Harry looked at him and realized Draco was getting suspicious. “I’m just trying to make sense of everything you’re telling me.”

Draco’s features relaxed and Harry breathed an inward sigh of relief. He didn’t think it was a smart idea to let Draco in on his suspicions. Because he was coming to believe that Snape really was still on the Light side, despite outward appearances.

Harry was the only one who knew what had happened to Dumbledore that night. He’d known, whether he wanted to admit it or not at the time, that Dumbledore had been dying. As much as it pained him, he was fairly certain the old man would’ve died, even if Snape hadn’t killed him. He was forced to wonder if that was why Dumbledore had said Snape was the only one who could actually help him at that point.

“I know you don’t like Snape, and with good reason,” Draco said quietly. “But he does have a good side. He may be on the wrong side, but he’s been doing his best to take care of me.”

“And that means a lot to you,” Harry said, but it came out sounding like a question.

“Yes,” Draco admitted. “Especially since my father got locked up in Azkaban. My mother could only help me so much. Snape has helped.”

Harry winced, waiting for Draco to lay into him regarding his father’s imprisonment. They had avoided that little topic so far.

Draco’s face twisted into a grimace. “I still don’t like it, but I do know he deserved it,” he admitted.

Harry looked at him in shock.

Draco didn’t look pleased with Harry’s reaction and looked away. “I love my father. I’m just not so . . . blind anymore,” he said quietly.

Harry knew there wasn’t anything he could say, so he showed what respect he could by remaining silent. He’d felt bad when it had been shown to him that his own father was a bully. It didn’t stop him from loving the man he didn’t even remember. He couldn’t imagine how Draco was feeling. He knew his father and loved him, but learned that his father had been doing far worse than bullying schoolmates.

They were quiet for several minutes until Harry spoke up hesitantly. “Do you blame me for all of this?”

“For all of what?” Draco asked warily.

Harry closed his eyes. “For getting your father put in Azkaban. For his imprisonment causing Voldemort to focus on you.”

Draco sighed heavily. “I did,” he admitted. “Until I started seeing what the Dark Lord was really like and started seeing what kinds of things his followers do to people. I slowly came to realize that it didn’t really have anything to do with you. It was the Dark Lord’s fault for leading you there in the first place.”

“I was trying to protect what family I had,” Harry said.

“Like me, you did what you had to do,” Draco said softly.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. He was coming to realize that maybe he and Draco weren’t quite so different after all. They had both grown up with a bunch of expectations dumped on their shoulders, and both really just wanted to live in peace with their families.

He sighed, realizing he didn’t have much of a family anymore. But if he could, maybe he’d be able to help Draco keep his intact.

* * * * *

The next day, Harry was sitting in front of his window again, watching Draco interact with his daughter. Draco didn’t seem to know quite what to do with her, but he did seem to enjoy the time spent with her. Harry had no doubts that he loved the little girl.

He was startled when Hedwig suddenly flew past him through the open window.

“Hey, girl,” he said softly, taking the letter from her. He gave her some owl treats before sitting back down to read the letter. He ignored Draco’s curious, wary gaze.

Harry,

We haven’t heard from you for a few days now and we’re worried about you. Write back so we know you’re safe. I do hope you haven’t tried taking off on your own.

You know you can come here to the Burrow at any time. I don’t think you have to actually stay there until your birthday. I know you said you wanted this time alone, but I still don’t think it’s very healthy for you.

The wedding is set for the third of August still. You will be coming here on your birthday, won’t you? I suppose we’ll need to take you shopping that day. We can’t have you attending the wedding wearing your usual scruffy clothes.

I’m afraid I still haven’t been able to find any more information. I had hoped to be able to get into Snuffles’ house and look through the library there, but we’ve found out that no one can get into it. I know what you were told, but it seems that maybe others have taken it over after all. I know you don’t want to hear that and I’m sorry to be telling you the news in a letter, but I felt it best you should know. I didn’t want you to risk trying to go there by yourself.

I’ll still keep searching for any information, but there doesn’t seem to be much useful so far. Don’t lose hope, Harry. We’ll find something soon that’ll help.

Everyone’s thinking about you and asking about you. Ron’s worried, not that he’d ever admit that. Ginny’s worried as well, but she keeps saying you’ll be all right. Remus stopped by here today and he’s concerned about you being all alone, too. I do hope you’ll reconsider.

Write soon,
Hermione

Harry sighed and closed his eyes. Most of it wasn’t really news to him, but it was definitely news to him about Grimmauld Place. He knew it was upsetting him for more reasons that what Hermione would have been expecting, though. He was counting on the old house being a safe place to take Victoria and Draco.

Frowning, he tried to remember what Dumbledore had told him just a couple months before. It was something to the effect that Grimmauld Place would only be accessible to those who would need it most. At the time, he had thought that meant himself along with Ron and Hermione. But if they hadn’t been able to get in . . . and no one else from the Order had been able to . . .

“Malfoy!”

Draco startled. He’d been watching Harry warily, but hadn’t expected the sudden outburst. “What?”

“Has there been any mention of Voldemort or his followers taking over property belonging to the Light side?” Harry asked.

Draco frowned. “Potter, the Dark Lord is taking over property left and right.”

“I know that,” Harry said impatiently. “I mean important property. Like important to the war effort.”

Draco shook his head slowly. “I don’t think so.”

“I can Apparate without the Ministry coming down on me, right?” Harry asked quickly.

He’d given in and shown Draco the message from the Ministry. Draco had been irritated that he’d inadvertently helped Harry again. There’d been some tense moments as they both remembered the Remembrall incident from first year, but Draco knew about Harry being allowed to use magic now. Harry just wasn’t entirely sure being allowed to use magic also applied to Apparition since you were supposed to get a special license for that. But he was sure that Draco remembered and understood the formal wording better than he did.

“Yes,” Draco answered. “Are you planning on going somewhere?”

Harry stilled for a moment. Hermione had just finished warning him not to go to Grimmauld Place by himself. He didn’t really believe it had been taken over by the Dark side, though, and he had a little more information to go on than she did.

Possibly he’d find one member of the Dark side there, though.

“Can you stay with Victoria for awhile?” Harry asked, in a hurry now that he’d made a decision.

“I can stay for a couple hours, but where are you going?” Draco asked.

“Then I’ll be back by then,” Harry said decisively.

He ignored Draco’s shouts to wait and hurried down the stairs and out of the house. He ran to the alley behind the house where he could Apparate safely and screwed up his courage. He hadn’t had much opportunity to practice Apparating for a bit, but he was sure he could do it. He needed to do it.

"Destination, Determination, Deliberation!"

Focusing, Harry closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was in the alley near Grimmauld Place. Grinning at his success, he hurried to the house down the way.

Taking a deep breath, the door opened at his touch and he slipped inside. He shivered in the dark, gloomy silence as he carefully shut the door behind him. Wand tightly in hand, he stood for at least a couple of minutes, listening intently and trying to determine if he was alone or not.

Not hearing anything, he slowly made his way down to the kitchen in the basement. He slipped into the room, almost expecting to be ambushed at any moment. Hermione believed this place to have been taken over. Just because he’d been able to get in, didn’t exactly render it safe.

He blinked in the brighter light of the kitchen, allowing his vision to adjust. Glancing quickly around the room, he realized two things. He was alone, and this room definitely didn’t look as if anyone had been living there for months. Thick layers of dust coated everything, but in many places it had been disturbed. But even where it had been noticeably disturbed, there was still an extra layer of dust.

Suddenly he remembered Mundungus and the silver he’d obviously stolen from here. It had only been a couple months since Dumbledore had mentioned the wards being changed.

Frowning, he wondered if Kreacher had even been there at all. He had ordered Kreacher to work at Hogwarts, but the damned house elf was known for sneaking around. He didn’t want to think of the creepy house elf or Mundungus, and pushed those thoughts aside.

Looking around, nothing seemed to be out of place. Until he noticed the book on the table. The dust-free book. Harry inched forward until he could read the title. Occlumency: Defence of the Mind.

Snatching up the battered book, Harry quickly flipped it over. And there at the bottom—Property of the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry grinned widely. He was right! The greasy, sadistic bastard was on the right side!

He flopped down on one of the dusty chairs, not realizing or caring how filthy he was getting. The brief euphoria he felt faded away as all his doubts and questions flooded his mind again.

Technically he could still be wrong. Snape could be playing some kind of trick or laying down a trap. Even Draco had said repeatedly that Snape was a true Death Eater and only loyal to Voldemort. He’d flat out stated that Snape was Voldemort’s most loyal follower and was the evil creature’s right hand man.

Harry shuddered as he saw the vision of Snape killing Dumbledore again. The man had looked so full of rage and hatred.

Crossing his arms and dropping his head to the table, Harry could feel the grief and anger trying to rise again. He reminded himself that Dumbledore would not want him to waste time grieving. He’d grieved all he could allow himself while he was still at Hogwarts.

The anger wasn’t nearly as easy to force aside, but he pictured Dumbledore in his mind, frowning at him with gentle reproach. He only had his memories of the man to help him now.

And the old man had trusted Snape.

Harry sighed. He didn’t know how many times Dumbledore had repeated that to him. More than Harry cared to count. He still didn’t like Dumbledore’s methods, but he didn’t truly believe the old man had ever lied to him. Withheld information, yes, outright lied, no. Which meant Snape could be trusted.

He groaned in frustration. Logic had never been his strong point. This was Hermione’s and, ironically, Snape’s area of expertise. He could easily remember the logic problem of potions that was Snape’s defence against the Philosopher’s Stone.

Those thoughts led him back into the memories of all the times Snape had saved Harry in one way or another. Harry still didn’t like Snape’s methods, though, either.

He couldn’t help but wonder for what seemed the thousandth time, why hadn’t Snape captured him when he’d been fleeing Hogwarts? Harry had tried, but he knew he’d been extremely ineffective when trying to duel Snape. Forcing himself to go back and think about it, he knew Snape could’ve easily taken him.

Instead, Snape had left and essentially sent Harry back to Hogwarts to deal with Dumbledore’s death. If he really was more loyal to Voldemort, why hadn’t he taken Harry?

Harry shook his head, unwittingly coating his hair with dust. He didn’t notice, too lost in his thoughts. Lifting his head, he stared at the book.

He knew it was Snape’s. The man had obviously set it there recently, considering the lack of dust. Snape would know that there was no one else to teach Harry Occlumency. He also knew Harry hadn’t learned it yet.

Sighing, Harry randomly flipped through the pages of the book. Considering he hadn’t seen it before, it felt familiar. Just like the potions book, it had notations written throughout all the pages.

Harry had never been able to grasp Occlumency and had given up. Snape had given up on him before he’d even started. Even Dumbledore seemed to have given it up the past year. What made him think he could grasp the concept now?

Frowning, Harry realized he’d never been able to learn potions from Snape, but he’d been learning the subject decently enough from the Half-Blood Prince. He actually liked the Half-Blood Prince and considered him almost a friend.

He’d been shocked and . . . hurt when he realized who it really was. He still had trouble recognizing that the two people were one and the same.

But if he’d been able to learn potions, did that mean he could also learn Occlumency from the Half-Blood Prince?

Harry’s frown deepened. He knew what Hermione would say. She’d definitely vote against it. She’d never liked the Half-Blood Prince. She also didn’t believe Harry was actually learning anything. Maybe it was a little unorthodox and maybe he hadn’t learned it quite as well as his potion-brewing and his grades would indicate, but he had been learning. Far more than he’d ever learned from Snape.

Snape was the Half-Blood Prince, though. Harry groaned in frustration. He was just going in circles again.

He snatched up the book. If Snape was giving him a different method of learning it, then he would take the opportunity. He stuffed the book in the waistband of his jeans and pulled his shirt over the top to hide it.

He had to get back to Privet Drive. Still lost in his thoughts, he made his way back to the alley and, concentrating briefly, he Apparated back. Dazedly, he made his way back up to his room.

“Merlin! Where have you been, Potter?” Draco exclaimed, his nose wrinkled in disgust.

Harry blinked in surprise before looking down at himself, finally noticing that he was filthy. He didn’t notice the look of relief that briefly crossed Draco’s features.

“Um, I had someplace that I had to check out,” Harry mumbled distractedly. If Snape could get into Grimmauld Place, maybe it wouldn’t be a safe place to take Draco and his family. But if Snape really was on the right side . . .

“Potter!”

“What?” Harry snapped, lifting his head.

“You have to quit disappearing in your head,” Draco snapped. “Do you have the ability to stay focused on anything?”

Harry scowled. “I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment.”

“Well, it’s certainly not on your appearance,” Draco retorted. “Even Granger doesn’t have any faith in you being able to dress yourself.”

“What are you doing reading my mail?” Harry said angrily.

“You left it lying out, so I didn’t think you’d mind,” Draco drawled, suddenly going casual.

“It was my mail, Malfoy. But I reckon I shouldn’t have expected you to respect anyone’s privacy,” Harry said, still scowling.

“You risked going by yourself to wherever it is that Granger said you shouldn’t, didn’t you?” Draco asked slowly, studying Harry contemplatively.

Harry sighed heavily. “Er, yeah, I did.”

Draco’s eyes raked over Harry’s dusty body. “And judging by your appearance, it’s deserted, but you were able to get in.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “I can’t tell you anything about it.”

Draco heaved a sigh of frustration. “Potter, I’ve been passing on a lot of information to you.”

“I don’t trust you, Malfoy,” Harry said coldly. “You keep telling me how I trust too much, but even I have my limits. At the moment there’s nothing I can tell you about it, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.”

Draco eyed him coolly for several long moments. “Fine,” he said finally. “I understand.”

Harry raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “Do you?”

“If I were in your position, I would never have allowed me to even get this close. I certainly wouldn’t be revealing information that could be important,” Draco admitted slowly. “I don’t like it, but yes, I do understand.”

Harry stared at him. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“What?” Draco asked warily.

“I was wondering what the hell you did with Draco bloody Malfoy,” Harry said conversationally.

Draco laughed harshly. “I’ve been wondering that myself,” he muttered. He shook his head and glared at Harry. “Go clean up, Potter. I’m not letting you touch Victoria when you’re looking like that.”

Harry rolled his eyes, but had to agree. He was a filthy mess. He scrounged up some clean clothes and stepped out to shower. He stuffed the book underneath a huge stack of towels, intending to retrieve it after Draco left.

Once he was cleaned up and still dripping water from his wet hair, he made his way back to the bedroom. He still didn’t know what he was doing trusting Draco in the Dursley’s house. Opening the bedroom door and hearing the giggles coming from the little girl, he had the feeling he was hearing the answer to his question.

“I’ve got to go,” Draco said, looking up as soon as Harry entered the room.

Harry simply nodded. They’d already established the fact that Draco was taking a huge risk coming here at all, and he couldn’t take even more of a risk by being gone too long. Harry still hadn’t established where Draco was at when he wasn’t at the Dursley’s house, though. Harry wasn’t sure he really wanted the answer to that. It didn’t seem as big of a priority at the moment.

“I’ll try to come back again in the morning,” Draco said, and Harry could hear the question in his tone.

Harry nodded again. “That’s fine,” he said. “You can come back tomorrow, but you can’t come the next two days.”

“Why not?” Draco asked, sounding both wary and irritated.

“Because it’ll be the weekend,” Harry said with a shrug. “I don’t know where Dudley’s been hiding out these days, but Uncle Vernon at least will be here. There’s not a chance in hell he’d stay quiet if he knew you were coming here. With the Silencing Charms up on my room, he hasn’t had any cause to complain about Victoria, and I’m not even sure he realizes that she’s still here,” he said, glancing at the little girl.

It was easy enough to keep a jug of water to make bottles in his room and do any washing while Vernon was at work. Harry always bathed the little girl during the day. He rarely ventured out of his room when his uncle was home and Victoria didn’t go out at all.

Draco was staring at Harry, frowning. “I reckon it’s good that less people know I’m around here,” he said slowly. Harry was sure that Draco wanted to ask him more questions about his uncle, but he refrained.

“I’ve got to go,” Draco repeated. He paused briefly in the doorway. “I believe she needs changed again,” he added, before he was gone.

“Damn you, Malfoy!”

He could hear the laughter in the hallway, but knew it was useless trying to say anything else. Draco wouldn’t even hear him now that the door was shut, what with the one way Silencing Charm on the room.

He continued to curse Draco under his breath as he changed Victoria. He still fumbled a little, but was a little amazed at how proficient he was feeling overall. She hadn’t been in his care long, but he was beginning to get a handle on this baby care. He still didn’t think he was the best one for the job, but wasn’t sure what else to do.

Draco didn’t want him to take her to the Weasleys or any of his other friends, and Harry didn’t directly agree with that, but he had to admit it would bring about a lot of unanswerable questions.

He had no idea what he was doing with Draco himself. There was no way he could adequately explain the situation to his friends. They were already too concerned about his mental health as it was.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Four

By the time Monday arrived, Harry himself was concerned about his mental health. He was willing to admit he didn’t have any clue about babies, Occlumency, Draco, Snape, Horcruxes, Voldemort, his friends—none of it. He’d thought he’d been exhausted before. He’d been so incredibly wrong.

Aunt Petunia was only so much help. Once she’d decided Draco was safe, a risky conclusion on her part, she’d refused to offer any more help when he was around. This hadn’t been so bad during the week, even though she offered very little help at any other time, either, retreating back to her typical treatment of Harry. There was nothing remotely resembling help when Uncle Vernon was around.

Harry had tried reading the Occlumency book, but wasn’t getting very far. He didn’t have many opportunities when he wasn’t tending to Victoria, and when he did have time, the words just swam on the page because he was too exhausted to read. Draco had been surly and unapproachable and hadn’t remained long on Friday. Simply long enough to check in.

Harry frowned, realizing that “checking in” sounded fairly accurate. It was like he was checking in with Harry, making sure Harry knew he was still there and somewhat willing to go along with Harry. Did that mean Draco really was switching sides?

He shook his head, not having a clue. He had no idea what made him start associating with Draco in the first place. He certainly had no clue as to why he was continuing to do so.

Thinking about Snape gave him the same sense of helpless confusion. He simply couldn’t think clearly and rationally at the moment.

He’d barely had a chance to try to work on the Horcrux problem. His mind shied away when the word first tried to make an appearance. Thinking about Voldemort at all just gave him a pounding headache. Needing a break, he’d actually gone downstairs for breakfast and there’d been a simple exchanged glance with his aunt when Uncle Vernon reported the latest catastrophe in the paper.

Something had to change. He felt for the little girl, but he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t take care of her and try to save the world at the same time.

Harry was pacing his room with the crying baby when Draco showed up again. The second he stepped into the room, Harry handed Victoria to him. He startled Draco, but he didn’t care in the slightest. After handing the baby off, he collapsed on the bed, burying his head under his pillow.

“Potter! What’s wrong with her?” Draco exclaimed anxiously.

Harry mumbled something, but realized Draco wouldn’t be able to understand him. He flung the pillow off his head. “Aunt Petunia said she’s probably just teething. That’s why she’s drooling all over herself, and everything else,” he added. “I’ve given her some medicine, but it only lasts so long before she’s crying again,” he said helplessly.

“Can’t you do anything else?” Draco asked worriedly.

“I don’t know!” Harry exclaimed. “Aunt Petunia told me to give her a wet flannel to chew on and that seems to help a little. But Victoria’s mouth is hurting her and her mum’s gone and she’s stuck here with me. I’d be crying my head off, too!”

He turned bloodshot, pleading eyes on Draco. “I’m tired,” he whinged. “I’m not helping her. It feels like all I’ve done is hold her for the last two days straight. It’s the only real way I can get her to quiet down at all.”

“Is she always this loud?” Draco questioned.

Harry frowned, looking at the baby. “Actually, no,” he admitted. Heaving a sigh, he pushed himself off the bed and reached for her again. She didn’t stop crying, but she quieted a little.

“She’s used to you,” Draco said softly.

“But I can’t do this!” Harry said beseechingly. “I’m slowly going mad!”

Draco quirked a half-smile. “You were already mad, Potter.”

Harry growled at the blond, and Draco took a step back, the smile wiped off his face. “What do you want me to do?” Draco asked.

“I don’t know!” Harry snapped irritably. He continued to pace for the next twenty minutes, the baby’s cries slowly dwindling into the occasional hiccupping sob. He cautiously lay down on the bed with her and she settled down with him, falling into an exhausted sleep.

Harry closed his eyes, grateful for the respite. He startled when Draco spoke quietly. “Have you fallen asleep as well?”

Blearily, Harry cracked open his eyes. “Almost,” he said irritably. “Until you opened your fat mouth.”

Draco quirked that half-smile again, before he sobered. “I wish I could give you one of the house-elves,” he said. “That’s who helped take care of me as a baby.”

“That explains a lot,” Harry muttered.

Draco glared, but didn’t retaliate. “I can’t give you one, because people would notice.”

Harry carefully extracted Victoria from his arms and slowly sat up, frowning. “House-elves really help with the babies?”

“Of course they do,” Draco snapped.

Harry scowled. “How am I supposed to know that? I was raised here, remember?”

Draco scowled, but then looked around the room curiously. “How come it doesn’t look like you’ve ever lived here?” he asked.

Harry closed his eyes. He wasn’t about to explain to the blond that until he started Hogwarts, this hadn’t even been his room. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “What I was asking about was house-elves.”

When he opened his eyes again, he realized Draco was frowning at him, but Draco did drop it and go back to the house-elf issue. “House-elves are meant to be useful and if you had one, they’d help with Victoria so you could get some sleep, if nothing else,” he explained.

Harry scowled, hearing Draco’s low opinion of house-elves in his tone, but like Draco, he managed to refrain from comment. He was so exhausted that he was willing to consider the house-elf idea, firmly pushing Hermione’s outraged nagging from his mind.

He actually owned a house-elf, but he shuddered at the thought of allowing Kreacher anywhere near Victoria. Although, he had to admit, Kreacher himself might actually consider it an honour with how highly he praised Draco. He scowled to himself. There was no way he was letting Kreacher near her.

Dobby sang Harry’s praises and he knew Dobby would do anything he asked. But the thought of Dobby around constantly didn’t really bode well for Harry’s safety or Victoria’s. He wasn’t certain that he’d actually get any more rest than he was now.

Suddenly, Winky popped into his head. Didn’t she take care of Crouch since he was a baby? Merlin knew she was loyal. Harry frowned. She had originally been bound to that family and she’d since fallen apart, though. Even with the job at Hogwarts, she hadn’t been able to pull herself together. She wanted a family to bind to.

“How do you bind a house-elf?” Harry asked suddenly. “Can you bind a house-elf just to a baby?”

Draco looked at him like he’d grown two heads. “First off, you can’t just find a house-elf anywhere. They belong to the oldest, wealthiest families. And second, because they belong to families, you couldn’t bind one to a baby. Who would they take orders from?”

Harry had been afraid of that. He still didn’t like Draco’s take on house-elves, but he understood the point that he was making about being bound to a baby.

“But this is only temporary,” Harry said absently. “I can’t bind myself to another house-elf. And Hermione would kill me if I did.”

Another house-elf?” Draco questioned.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’ve got one that sings your praises any chance he gets,” he said in disgust.

Draco raised a brow in surprise. “It likes me?”

“I wouldn’t feel too privileged,” Harry said. “He’s a foul creature. There’s no way in hell I’d trust Victoria to his care.”

Draco opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again. Harry didn’t even notice.

“I need help, though. There’s just no way I can do this,” Harry murmured his thoughts aloud. “I couldn’t sleep before and now it’s almost impossible. I’ve got so much to do, and I just can’t do it with a baby. But I can’t leave her alone.”

He blinked and looked over to Draco. “Are you sure I can’t take Victoria to the Weasleys? They would surely take wonderful care of her.”

Draco’s sneer of disgust was enough to answer Harry’s question, but his words added to it. “What do you think would happen if they found out she was mine?” he snapped.

“They’re not going to harm a defenceless baby,” Harry said, horrified that Draco would think such a thing.

Draco rolled his eyes. “No, but they’d make damned sure that I never got to see her again,” he said.

“Oh,” Harry said. So, Draco didn’t think that.

Draco snorted in disgust. “I don’t believe them to be baby-killers, but I don’t doubt for a second that they would do everything in their power to take her away from me,” he said.

Harry rubbed his hands down his face, trying to wipe away his weariness and frustration. “I can’t do this alone, Malfoy,” he said tiredly. “You’re expecting too much from me.”

“Potter, if I take her back, the Dark Lord will find out and likely kill her,” Draco said, his voice pleading. “I can’t take her back, but I can’t lose her, either.”

Harry’s shoulders slumped further as he dropped his head into his hands. They were in the middle of a bloody war. Strange and crazy things were going to happen.

Coming to a decision, he straightened. “You never answered me. Do you know how to bind a house-elf? I don’t think I can risk not having her bound if she’s willing. There’s too many secrets that need to be kept.”

Draco nodded slowly.

“I don’t think you want to be recognized here, so I suggest you hide in that cupboard for now,” Harry said, pointing to the cupboard on the other side of his wardrobe.

Draco grimaced, but did as Harry suggested, stuffing himself into the cupboard along with all of Dudley’s old things still stored in there.

“Kreacher!”

With a loud crack, Kreacher appeared.

“Master called me?” he questioned, doing his typical low bow as he gave Harry a nasty look.

“Yeah, I need you to get Dobby for me,” Harry said evenly. It was hard not to curse the creature, but he was trying to heed Dumbledore’s words about being nicer to it.

“The one who followed the beautiful Malfoy boy also,” Kreacher mumbled. “I would rather call the Malfoy boy master.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry interrupted, very conscious of Draco just a few feet away in his cupboard. “I don’t feel like listening to you praise the merits of Malfoy again.” He took a deep breath. “Just get Dobby for me, please, and then you can go back to your duties at Hogwarts.”

“Kreacher must obey Master,” he muttered before he disappeared again. Seconds later, Dobby appeared in his place.

“Harry Potter is calling for Dobby?” Dobby asked, his eyes filling with joyous tears.

“Yeah, Dobby, just control yourself for me, all right?” Harry begged. “There’s no need to get over-excited.”

“Harry Potter is asking for me,” Dobby sighed in pleasure.

Harry ran a hand through his hair in agitation. It seemed to him that house-elves really were an awful lot of trouble. He must be mad to even be considering this. “Dobby, how is Winky doing?” he asked carefully.

Dobby’s expression fell. “Winky is not well, Harry Potter. Winky is still wishing for a family.”

That was actually what Harry was hoping, but he still felt a little nauseated over what he was about to ask, and he wasn’t sure how Dobby would take this. “Do you think Winky would appreciate being bound to me?” he asked warily.

Dobby broke out into hysterical sobs. “Oh, Harry Potter knows so well,” he cried. “He would even help Winky. Harry Potter is a great wizard.”

“Dobby!” Harry said sharply. Dobby quieted some, but he continued to sniffle and gaze at Harry adoringly.

Harry took a deep breath. “Dobby, I thought you wanted to be free. I’m a little confused as to why you would be happy about me wanting to bind Winky.”

“Every house-elf is different,” Dobby said earnestly. “Dobby likes being free, but it makes Winky sad. She would be honoured to have a family again.”

“Would you ask Winky here, please?” Harry asked.

“Oh, Harry Potter is saying please to Dobby!” Dobby cried, eyes filling with tears again. “Harry Potter is too kind!”

Dobby disappeared and Harry breathed a sigh of relief even as he heard the amused snort from his cupboard.

He didn’t get a chance to say anything before Dobby appeared again with Winky in tow. Winky was looking even more bedraggled and sad than the last time Harry had seen her.

“Thanks, Dobby,” Harry said.

“Anything for Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby said happily.

Harry was grateful when Dobby disappeared with a loud crack again. He was thankful for the Silencing Charms on the room or surely Aunt Petunia would be wondering what he was doing up here with all the noise.

“Um, Winky? I know you’ve kinda been upset since you lost your last Master,” he began hesitantly.

She simply stared at him sadly with tears leaking from her huge eyes.

Harry sighed. “I know you kind of think it was my fault.” He paused, trying to decide if he really wanted to do this or not. “But I was wondering if you would be willing to bind yourself to me,” he said in a rush.

Her eyes grew impossibly wider. “Harry Potter would grant Winky a family again?” she asked.

“Er, well, sort of,” Harry stumbled over the words. “Um, actually it’s just me,” he admitted awkwardly. “But I always need help,” he added hurriedly, and could’ve swore he heard another amused snort from the cupboard.

She studied him warily but with a touch of hope shining in her eyes and her ears perked up in interest. “Winky likes to help,” she said quietly. “And Dobby thinks very highly of Harry Potter, sir.”

“Do you, um, know how to take care of babies?” Harry asked.

“Winky loves babies,” she answered with the most animation Harry had ever seen in her. “Harry Potter knows Winky took great care of her last Master.”

“Yeah, too good,” Harry muttered.

Winky’s face drooped again. “Master was bad, but Winky did what she could,” she said, sadly yet proudly.

Harry offered her a sad smile. “I don’t doubt your loyalty, Winky,” he said.

She smiled at him tentatively, and Harry was thankful she didn’t have the over-exuberance of Dobby.

“I don’t know for how long, but for now I have a baby in my care,” Harry explained. “I could use your help. Someone who I could trust implicitly.”

“And Harry Potter is offering Winky a binding in return?” she asked, tears shimmering as they fell down her cheeks. She sniffled her large tomato-like nose. “Permanently? Even when Harry Potter doesn’t need Winky to watch the baby anymore?”

Harry took a deep breath. He didn’t claim to understand it, but he knew this was important to Winky. He also knew Hermione was absolutely going to kill him when she found out. “Yes,” he said.

Winky actually squealed with joy, startling Harry. He was thankful Draco had thought to put a Silencing Charm around the bed before all this had started or surely Victoria would’ve woken again long before now.

“Winky is so very happy!” she squeaked excitedly. Her excitement was still a far cry from Dobby’s, though.

“Er, we’re going to be here for now, but I do have a house that, um, kind of needs a lot of work,” he said.

“Winky will take care of it all!” she said.

“Well, then, if you’re sure?” Harry asked, feeling incredibly awkward. This was way out of his realm of experience.

“Yes, Winky is very sure,” she stated primly.

“Malfoy,” Harry called.

Draco stepped out of the cupboard, staring at the house-elf curiously. Winky, was staring back at him fearfully.

Harry sighed. “It’s all right, Winky. I don’t know how to do the binding, and he’s going to help with it.”

She turned her wide, fearful eyes towards Harry, but didn’t respond.

Draco rolled his eyes. “You sure know how to pick them, don’t you, Potter?”

“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry said, but without heat. “Let’s just get this done.”

“It’s really quite simple,” Draco drawled. “You initiate the bonding and then the house-elf will use their magic to do the rest. Remember, most of them want this.”

Harry nodded reluctantly. This was one more thing he was having trouble believing he was doing. Draco walked Harry through the incantations and Winky took over and performed the rest of the binding. A few minutes later and a flash of light, it was done.

“You’ve got yourself another house-elf, Potter,” Draco drawled pleasantly. “You’re moving up in the world.”

“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry said irritably. He was really hoping that he didn’t come to regret this.

“Winky, this is Victoria,” Harry said, finally bringing the house-elf’s attention to the baby sleeping on the bed. “She’s your main, er, duty at the moment. When you’re not busy with her, I reckon you can help at Hogwarts for now. There’s really nothing else here for you to do. Things will be different later when we sort out the house.”

Winky nodded happily, her ears perked up and flopping. Harry had no doubts that when she showed up again, her appearance would be cleaned up and neat.

“Um, don’t tell anyone that you’re bound to me or that I’ve got a baby here,” Harry said. “It has to remain secret for now. If anyone asks, you can just tell them you’re still working at Hogwarts.”

Harry looked at Draco. “And especially don’t mention to anyone that you’ve seen Malfoy with me, or that you’ve seen him at all,” he added.

“Yes, Master,” she said agreeably.

Harry winced. Somehow it sounded different when Kreacher called him master, because he knew Kreacher didn’t really believe it. “I don’t suppose I could get you to call me Harry instead of Master?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, no! That is impossible! But Winky could call you Master Harry,” she suggested.

“That’ll do,” he sighed. He was fairly certain that was the best he was going to get, and he knew how useless it was trying to argue with a house-elf. And strangely, he knew this was making Winky happy, so he let it be.

“I reckon you can go back to Hogwarts for the moment,” Harry said. “I’ll call you when Victoria wakes up or something.”

“Winky will be waiting and ready, Master Harry,” she said before she disappeared.

“Whose house-elf was she?” Draco asked, dropping into the desk chair.

“I can’t tell you,” Harry sighed wearily.

Draco didn’t seem to take offence. “You do have a habit of picking up strays, don’t you?” he said.

“I’ve somehow picked up you,” Harry agreed.

Draco sat up straight and glared at Harry. “I didn’t mean me,” he said indignantly.

Harry gave a careless shrug. “Fits, though.”

“I am not one of your strays, Potter,” Draco sneered.

“Fine, Malfoy, whatever you say,” Harry said wearily. “My mistake thinking you’d shown up on my doorstep needing help.”

Draco continued to glare indignantly, but Harry ignored him. He didn’t feel like arguing. Draco also seemed to realize that Harry had a point, whether he liked it or not.

“Now what?” Draco asked finally, breaking the silence they’d lapsed into.

“I don’t know,” Harry said slowly. “I’ve got us some help with Victoria, at least. Maybe if I can get some sleep, I’ll be able to think again.”

* * * * *

The next couple of days went much smoother for Harry. Not perfect, but better. He was still tired, but he wasn’t on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion any longer. There were still moments where he wondered if he was on the verge of a mental breakdown, though.

He questioned his sanity regularly.

He was currently wondering if he was really stupid enough to ask Draco for help with learning Occlumency. It was crazy to ask Draco for help. He remembered all the times Snape had broken into his memories and there were plenty of memories that he didn’t wish to share with Draco. He snorted softly to himself. Then again, he didn’t want to share them with Snape, either, and he appeared to be the only other person Harry could go to for help with this particular problem.

The book was helping dramatically. Harry found himself cursing Snape anew for how difficult he’d made it in the past. Harry had been brutally shoved off the deep end and expected to swim. Instead, Harry had sunk to the bottom like a rock. He was hesitant to think about it, but he was fairly certain he was simply more prepared for Occlumency now. He hadn’t even believed it necessary before and hadn’t truly put much effort into it.

The book, along with all its helpful notes, actually made the process understandable. Not necessarily easier, but it made sense now. Harry understood now that he needed to compartmentalize his brain. Shove pieces of his memories, thoughts and emotions into different slots and then close them off, erecting shields to ward off any intrusions. Easier said than done, but the process made sense now. It was a lot simpler when Harry related it to all the defence spells that he knew. Shields were shields. There were plenty of different types, but they were still shields.

Judging from what the book said, it was easier the more it was practiced, until it became an almost unconscious defence. Harry felt like he was better able to understand how Draco and Snape could be so unfeeling and cold much of the time. Frowning, he realized that Draco hadn’t really been that way lately, and realized that the boy had been letting down his defences around Harry. Victoria had a way of helping Draco to relax those shields a little. He was fairly certain Draco had them fully in place the rest of the time.

A lot of the exercises in the book centred around types of meditation. There were plenty of helpful tips and suggestions written in the margins and Harry was studying them closely and trying to put them into practice. With Winky now helping with Victoria, Harry spent every spare minute he had, for three days straight, studying the material. He snorted in amusement. Hermione would be proud of him for that, at least.

The problem was, he needed practical help now. And Draco was the only one around who could possibly give the help he needed. Taking a deep breath, sucking in all the courage he could, he turned towards Draco.

“Do you know Occlumency?” he tumbled the words out as he exhaled. Technically he already knew the answer, but it probably wasn’t wise to let on that he knew. It didn’t make him any more comfortable knowing that Bellatrix had taught Draco, but it was probably a point in Snape’s favour, as Snape hadn’t been happy with Draco hiding information from him.

“Of course I do,” Draco sneered in disdain. “How do you think I’ve managed to survive so far?”

Harry snorted. “I’m sure Snape’s asking much the same question, wondering how I’ve managed to survive all these years without knowing it.”

Draco nodded in agreement. “I have to agree with that,” he drawled.

Harry didn’t bother responding to the comment, instead asking the next important question. “Can you help me learn it?”

Draco sat up and studied Harry calculatingly. “You’d trust me to help you?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“Not really,” Harry admitted. “But I prefer you over my other options.”

Draco chuckled darkly. “It’s not fun when the Dark Lord starts probing at your mind,” he said.

“At least you don’t have him probing at your mind when you’re not near him,” Harry retorted.

Draco’s eyes widened fractionally and an eyebrow shot up. “That’s true?” he questioned. “The Dark Lord really can reach your mind over distance?”

“Yes,” Harry said simply, not elaborating at all.

Draco frowned and turned thoughtful. “It’s not really that hard to learn,” he said slowly. “It’s just not a skill that most people have a use for. It does, however, require a lot of concentration in the beginning until you become used to it,” he added.

“I’ve tried learning it before,” Harry admitted quietly. “I was lousy at it, though.” It appeared that Snape hadn’t actually told Draco about Harry’s previous lessons, which was probably another point in Snape’s favour. But Harry felt the man lost points because he hadn’t taught Harry properly before. Harry was still trying to sort through all the information he knew, but he hadn’t come up with any kind of logical explanation as to why Snape hadn’t taught Harry Occlumency if he was on the right side.

“You have to learn to concentrate and be able to clear your mind,” Draco said.

Harry groaned, hating that phrase. “Lovely,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, it’s not so bad, Potter,” Draco drawled in amusement. “I’m sure you can learn Occlumency. It’s much easier than learning Legilimency.”

“And you know Legilimency?” Harry questioned.

“Of course,” Draco smirked.

Harry rolled his eyes, positive Draco was enjoying having a skill that Harry didn’t. “You have to help teach me exactly how to clear my mind before you go casting Legilimens on me,” Harry said firmly.

Draco sobered and nodded in agreement. Harry was surprised once again, but grateful Draco seemed to respect the fact that Harry had secrets that needed to be kept. This . . . whatever it was between them, was a whole lot different than the relationship between Harry and his friends. He was used to people demanding that he spill his secrets, even when he didn’t have any to spill.

So, Draco started teaching him meditation techniques, and Harry integrated Draco’s suggestions with what he had learned from the book of the Half-Blood Prince. He still found it easier to think of them as two separate people. For the next two days, Harry’s main focus was meditation, learning to clear his mind. He worked on specifics when Draco was around and practiced when he wasn’t. The only other thing he allowed time for was Victoria.

The only real problem of the week was on Friday morning when Draco and Vernon almost crossed paths. Aunt Petunia was not at all happy about it and she seemed to reach her limit of accommodation.

“Vernon would not be pleased to see you,” Aunt Petunia hissed, glaring at Draco.

“You can’t bring him back here anymore,” she said, turning her glare on Harry. “I don’t want you disrupting this house.”

“Aunt Petunia, I need him here,” Harry said wearily. “I need his help, and this is the only place we can meet safely at the moment.”

“You think you will be safe when your uncle finds out?” she asked. “If he finds out about any of this, you will be gone immediately.”

Harry sighed heavily. “I just need a little more time. I’m working on a place, but . . . well, I can’t get Victoria or Malfoy in there yet.”

“Why not?” Petunia demanded.

“Wards?” Draco asked.

Harry nodded to Draco. The wards were part of it. He just had a small problem named Snape as well. He didn’t even know where the man was at the moment, and the message had been pretty clear—he had to learn Occlumency before Snape would likely even speak to him.

“There’s complications,” Harry tried to explain to his aunt. “Before he died, the Headmaster created a safe place for me.” And Snape, he added silently. “I just can’t bring anyone else into this safe place yet. It’s kind of like I have to get the right codes first, but I can’t just outright ask for them at the moment because I don’t really want anyone knowing about Victoria or Malfoy. So, it’s just taking me a little longer.”

Petunia glanced nervously at Draco, before addressing Harry. “He’s dangerous, isn’t he?”

Harry looked at Draco, thankful the blond was keeping a calm, expressionless face. “Um, kind of,” he admitted to his aunt. Thinking about it, Harry decided that just might be the way to play this.

“Malfoy,” he said suddenly. “Show her your mark.”

“Potter,” Draco hissed.

“Just show her your mark,” Harry demanded.

Draco stared at him for several seconds before slowly unbuttoning the cuff of his sleeve and pushing it up to reveal the Dark Mark on his forearm. Harry looked at it for a second and shrugged. It was still an ugly thing.

Draco raised an incredulous eyebrow at Harry’s calm reaction. Harry shrugged again. Petunia, however, had paled dramatically and taken a step backwards by the time Harry turned to her again.

“That’s . . . that’s . . .,” she couldn’t seem to get the words out, but Harry knew what she wanted to say.

“Yes, that’s the symbol that floats above the area where an attack occurs,” Harry said calmly. “That’s the Dark Mark that Voldemort uses to summon his followers.”

“But that means he is . . .,” Petunia said, trailing off as she stared in horror at Draco.

“Yes, he’s a Death Eater,” Harry said. “He’s extremely dangerous and not someone that you, Uncle Vernon, or Dudley want to make angry. He’s here because he needs my help. In return, he’s helping me.”

“Victoria,” she whispered.

Harry nodded and waited a moment as she tried to process what Harry had been saying so far. Petunia darted fearful looks between the two of them, before settling on Harry.

“Who are you, Harry?” she asked.

Good question, Harry thought ruefully.

“I’m simply someone who is trying to protect both of the worlds that I live in,” he said slowly, thoughtfully. “I’m trying to protect everyone who is important to me. To do that, I’m using every possible resource I have.”

He paused as he looked at his aunt. “That includes you. There are many who would consider you a worthless Muggle. To me, you have an important role. I need you at the moment. I had Malfoy show you his mark, because I need you to know just how real this actually is.”

Harry glanced at Draco, who looked up from staring at the mark on his arm to meet Harry’s gaze. “Malfoy had to figure out the hard way just how real this war is,” he said quietly.

He turned back to his aunt. “I know you don’t like me. Uncle Vernon and Dudley hate me even more. I’m not sure I really care anymore that I’ve never been a part of your family. But if you want to keep the little world you live in, then I need your help.”

“What exactly do you need from me?” Petunia whispered.

“I just need you to continue what you’ve been doing. I appreciate what help you’ve given me with Victoria. I need you to continue to ignore Malfoy’s visits, just as you ignore me being here most of the time,” Harry said. “I need you to continue to keep Uncle Vernon and Dudley off my back, especially about Victoria.”

“Your uncle is unaware that the child is still here,” Petunia admitted, confirming Harry’s suspicions.

“I am doing my best to stay out of the way,” Harry said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his tone. “I’ve Silenced my room so he can’t hear anything and I’ve even stopped coming down for meals. That should be making both Uncle Vernon and Dudley happy.”

“Have you been eating?” she asked hesitantly, her tone indicating that she had actually been worried about him, at least a little.

“Yeah, I’ve been eating,” he muttered, thinking about all the times in the past when she hadn’t been especially worried if he ate or not. With Winky bringing him meals from Hogwarts, he was actually eating quite well now.

Petunia winced as if she could hear Harry’s thoughts and Harry looked away, only to meet Draco’s gaze. Draco arched a brow questioningly, but Harry simply shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about it, especially not with Draco and especially not in front of his aunt.

Harry exhaled heavily. “Look, I know you’ve only brought it up now because Uncle Vernon almost caught Malfoy coming here, but I don’t intend to stay here past my birthday.” He narrowed his eyes at his aunt. “I assume you do remember when that actually is,” he said, the bitterness creeping back into his tone.

Petunia flinched, but answered. “July thirty-first,” she said.

“It’s not that far away—only a month. Maybe over the next few weeks it would be good for you to plan outings with your family over the weekends,” Harry snapped.

He took a deep breath. Yelling at his aunt wasn’t going to get him what he wanted from her. “Uncle Vernon has no idea that Malfoy has been coming here, and I’d like to keep it that way as much as you do. Do this for me and I’ll try to stay out of your way as much as possible,” he said.

Petunia’s gaze flicked between Harry and Draco several times before she finally nodded. “I’ll do what I can,” she said stiffly.

“Thank you,” Harry said, turning on his heel and marching back upstairs to his room, Draco following.

Victoria was still in her cot, happily playing with some of the toys Draco had been bringing for her. She pulled herself up when she saw them enter the room, however, and Draco moved to retrieve her from the cot and sit down on the floor with her. Harry flopped onto his back on the bed, frustrated and angry.

“Would you care to explain any of that?” Draco asked.

“No,” Harry said shortly, resentful that Draco had heard everything.

Draco had been meeting with him at the Dursleys every morning for the last two weeks, not counting the weekend. With the common interest of Victoria’s welfare, they were behaving mostly civil around each other. It didn’t mean that they liked each other or that they talked about anything other than the little girl and slightly less volatile war related topics. They’d somehow reached an unspoken agreement that they didn’t pry into each other’s lives at all, knowing that they needed to keep some kind of peace between them.

Harry knew their agreement had somehow just shifted a little, though. Draco had sounded almost concerned regarding what he’d heard downstairs.

“I’m still living at Malfoy Manor,” Draco said abruptly.

“Good for you,” Harry said sarcastically, despite the fact that he was actually interested in knowing that information.

“Because of the Dark Lord and everything that happened, my mum had wards added so that the Ministry can’t reach the property,” Draco said, ignoring Harry’s attitude.

Harry turned on his side and propped himself up on his elbow, staring at Draco curiously and wondering why the other boy was suddenly volunteering the information.

Draco’s eyes were on Victoria rather than Harry. Winky had quietly popped out and back in, handing Draco a bottle. Draco was simply holding his daughter as she ate, as she’d become accustomed to drinking a morning bottle during the time he was usually there.

“She added the wards to help protect us,” Draco continued. “It only protects us from the Ministry, though. I spend most of my time in my room because I never know who will be at our house.”

Harry slowly realized that Draco was offering him information for information. He’d learned a little about Harry and was now telling Harry a little about his home life, such as it was.

“The Dark Lord rather considers the Manor as a safe place for his followers to stay or for him to meet up with them,” Draco said. “He doesn’t even have to summon everyone most of the time because he can find enough followers at our house for whatever task he currently wants done.”

Harry wanted to ask questions, but didn’t dare interrupt. It was irritating having Draco learn about his crappy home life, but Draco’s home life, the information he was offering, actually involved important information for the war. He had no idea how he could actually utilize the information at the moment, but it was still good to know.

“It’s safer to stay in my room and out of sight,” Draco said quietly, glancing at Harry briefly. “He doesn’t fully trust my abilities. I wasn’t killed because I . . .,” he trailed off, swallowing heavily before he went on. “Because I helped make it possible for my assigned task to be completed.”

Harry’s jaw tightened and he squeezed his eyes shut. It helped knowing that Draco seemed genuinely remorseful, but it was definitely still a very painful topic for both of them.

Draco was silent for long moments before speaking again. “After punishing me for everything that happened at Hogwarts, the Dark Lord has pretty much left me alone for a little while,” he said, his voice barely audible. “I had to try to prove myself and he seemed pleased that I volunteered to go on the attack at Victoria’s family’s house, but he told me that he didn’t expect me to get so involved until the next major attack.”

He took a deep breath. “He needs experienced followers on these small attacks so that they can get in and out without being caught,” he explained. “I rarely even learn anything about the smaller raids until after they’ve happened. The Dark Lord is extremely wary of letting his followers know any information beforehand.”

Harry had been listening intently, but opened his eyes again when he heard movement. Victoria had fallen asleep and Draco was lying her down in her cot for a short morning nap. This would normally mean they would begin working on Harry’s Occlumency, but the tension was extremely thick in the room.

Draco glanced around the room, looking a little lost after he’d laid Victoria down to sleep.

Harry cleared his throat. “Well, my room is surely a lot smaller than yours, but at least you’re the only Death Eater around,” he said. “And my aunt thinks you’re quite dangerous,” he added teasingly, hoping to lighten the mood.

Draco visibly relaxed a little. “Your aunt seems to think you’re dangerous,” he drawled sardonically.

Harry shrugged, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “She always has,” he admitted.

Draco somehow managed to sprawl elegantly on the desk chair. “It’s a very sad day when you’re considered dangerous,” he said mockingly, smirking in obvious amusement.

“I don’t know about that,” Harry said thoughtfully. “Over the years, a lot of people have thought I was dangerous. For a while people thought I was the heir of Slytherin which made people afraid of me. Then there were all those articles you helped provide information for. Those certainly didn’t help my reputation at all and made people consider me as unbalanced and dangerous.”

“True,” Draco conceded, still smirking and unapologetic. “But anyone with any brains at all knew that you weren’t the heir of Slytherin. I certainly didn’t believe it.”

Harry smirked wickedly. “I know,” he said smugly. “By the way, I was using Polyjuice long before you.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “When?” he demanded.

Somehow they managed to have an almost friendly discussion about their exploits with Polyjuice, as neither of them wanted to go back to the tension from earlier—and their relationship shifted a little more.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Five

“I think you’re ready,” Draco said on Sunday.

Harry swallowed heavily. “I hope so,” he muttered. He was incredibly nervous, despite knowing that he was far ahead of where he’d ever been in the past in regards to learning Occlumency. Snape had completely skipped the step Harry had just been working on almost non-stop for five days.

“Are you ready for this?” Draco asked, getting his wand out and contradicting his last statement.

Harry eyed Draco’s wand apprehensively. “No,” he said, but nodded his head anyway.

“Clear your mind,” Draco demanded.

Harry closed his eyes, appreciating the fact that he was actually given a chance to clear his mind first. Picturing the image of a shimmering defensive shield, he mentally placed it at the forefront of his mind, imagining all of his memories, thoughts and emotions being firmly tucked behind the shield. His mind was left clear and calm in front of that shimmering shield, no matter how much things were twisting behind it. Slowly he opened his eyes and nodded, trying to keep the shimmering shield in place.

Legilimens,” Draco said firmly.

Harry stared hard and concentrated on his shield, but after just a couple seconds he could feel it fall and Draco slipped into his mind.

Malfoy pushing him up against the wall outside the Potions classroom . . . In Snape’s office with the man towering over him and yelling . . . Feeling of rage when meeting Dumbledore’s eyes briefly before disappearing with the Portkey . . . the door at the end of the hallway . . . the veil inside the maze of rooms . . . Sirius falling . . .

Harry shoved at the presence in his mind, and returned to reality, gasping for breath. His head was already throbbing unmercifully. Draco watched him with cool detachment, not helping, not hindering.

After a couple of minutes, Harry concentrated on erecting his shield again, clearing his mind. He looked at Draco and gave a slight nod. He was able to keep it in place for a few seconds before it fell, allowing Draco access again.

Flashes of the two books of the Half-Blood Prince . . . Working in the Potions classroom . . . Drinking with Slughorn and Hagrid in Hagrid’s hut . . .

Harry shoved hard, and landed on his hands and knees as if he’d been pushing his whole body forward, not just trying to push Draco out of his mind. Again he was left gasping for breath and his head was pounding, but now he also felt physically ill. He swallowed heavily, tasting the bile that was threatening to rise.

He heard Draco sit down on the edge of the bed and knew that they were done for the moment.

“Is there a pattern to the images?” Draco asked evenly.

“Yes,” Harry choked out, slowly sitting back on his heels.

Draco gazed at him steadily and Harry didn’t have a clue what was going on behind that calm mask.

“Why do I always feel so sick afterwards?” Harry moaned.

“Because it’s invasive,” Draco answered. “Mind and body are rejecting the presence that doesn’t belong there.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “Makes sense, I suppose.”

“It also has a lot to do with the fact that you are consciously trying to reject the presence,” Draco went on in lecture mode.

Harry gave him an odd look. He recognized lecture mode because of Hermione, but he wasn’t used to hearing it from Draco. At least, not until the last few days.

“If you weren’t trying to actually fight it, your body wouldn’t be protesting so vehemently,” Draco added.

“Lovely,” Harry said sarcastically. “So the sicker I am, the more successful I was at fighting it?”

“Something like that,” Draco smirked. “You actually aren’t doing half bad. Plenty of room for improvement, though.” He hesitated. “Are you ready to go again? It’ll only get easier and better with practice.”

Determined to finally learn Occlumency, Harry pushed aside his feelings of being ill and closed his eyes, beginning to erect his shield again.

* * * * *

Over the course of another week, Harry was actually in much better shape than he’d been in for a long while. With the meditation techniques, he was finding it easier to get to sleep and get away from his constantly revolving thoughts. He still had nightmares, but the insomnia had eased dramatically, so overall he was sleeping more.

He was improving. He could hold the shield in place for longer and longer periods of time. Then Draco started pushing harder, applying more force to try to break through. Harry began working on building up the strength of his shield as well as its duration. He was also learning to erect it faster. It wasn’t automatic yet, but he was beginning to believe that he would reach that point. He practised constantly, with the single-minded attention he usually only applied to things like Quidditch.

Draco commented very little on the flashes of images he saw in Harry’s mind and Harry was continually grateful that Draco didn’t question him. He wasn’t sure what exactly was holding Draco in restraint, considering that normally he would’ve been taunting Harry with all the little pieces of information he’d learned.

They were getting along far better than they ever had in the past, though, Harry was forced to admit. He didn’t completely trust Draco, but he knew that for whatever reason, he wasn’t concerned about the other boy revealing anything he might’ve learned.

Friendly banter was mixed in with their arguments more than ever. Time was spent with Victoria and with Harry’s Occlumency lessons, but they also spent time just talking. Harry had to wonder about his sanity, but he found himself beginning to look forward to Draco’s visits.

Mid-week, Harry finally decided to broach a topic he’d been wondering about. “How are you getting out of the house every day to come here?” he asked.

Draco tensed. “My mum thinks I’m off visiting my friends. She doesn’t like it, but she allows it because it at least gets me out of my room for awhile,” he said.

“Malfoy, who are your friends?” Harry asked warily.

Draco was quiet for a long time, and Harry had about given up on the idea that he would answer. “Crabbe and Goyle were lackeys,” he said abruptly. “Pansy was about image. Millicent was an attachment to Pansy. I used them. They weren’t friends.”

“What about Zabini?” Harry asked hesitantly, knowing Draco was angry, but not quite sure who or what Draco was angry about.

Draco’s eyes closed for a few moments. “Blaise used to be my friend,” he said, his voice tight.

“He’s not now?” Harry asked.

“Potter, I don’t want to talk about this,” Draco snapped.

“Why isn’t he your friend any more?” Harry persisted. “Is it because of you being here now? Or did something happen before?”

“Blaise isn’t politically-inclined,” Draco said angrily. “I had a task to complete, extremely politically-oriented. I got rid of him.”

Harry blinked, trying to understand. “You got rid of him,” he said flatly.

“I pushed him away, Potter,” Draco said impatiently. “He was my friend and I didn’t want him getting involved and I didn’t want him interfering.”

“Would he have interfered?” Harry asked.

Draco seemed to deflate a little. “I don’t know,” he admitted.

“You miss him,” Harry stated.

Draco looked away, not answering.

Harry spent far more time than he probably should have over the next couple days thinking about that conversation. He knew he needed to be getting back to the Horcrux issue, especially now that he was finally becoming much more proficient in Occlumency.

He still found himself wondering about Draco and Blaise, though. He found it a little disturbing when he wondered if Draco wanted to consider Blaise as more than a friend, and he tried hard not to think about that. Instead, he focused on the fact that Draco didn’t seem to have any friends.

He hadn’t missed the fact that Draco seemed happier when he arrived at the Dursleys than we he left. He didn’t think it was all because of Victoria, either. Harry was simply the only company Draco had besides his mother most of the time and that bothered Harry’s Gryffindor sensibilities.

Of course, he ignored the fact that other than Victoria and Winky, a baby and a house-elf, Draco was pretty much his only company. He knew he had friends waiting for him who would welcome him with open arms. Draco appeared to be awfully alone.

So, when Harry found himself writing to his friends Friday afternoon, in a response to another one of Hermione’s letters, he ended up painstakingly writing a letter to Blaise Zabini as well.

He hesitated before sending it, wondering if he was being an idiot. Technically he didn’t even know where Draco’s loyalties lay. It didn’t exactly make sense to be trying to sort out another Slytherin’s loyalties. For what purpose? Because he felt sorry for Draco? Because talking to Blaise might give him more information about Draco?

Telling himself it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up some more information and try to feel out another possible ally, Harry went ahead and sent the letter.

* * * * *

“Where’s Snape?” Harry asked.

Draco gave him a sharp look. “Why?”

“Because I want to know,” Harry retorted.

“Potter, I can’t tell you that,” Draco snapped. “And I think you know that and that’s why you haven’t asked me until now.”

“You’re living with him,” Harry said. “Or he’s living with you,” he amended.

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “He’s the one helping to keep me and my mother alive.”

Harry nodded. He’d pretty much come to that conclusion, even though he didn’t understand it all. “Why is Snape so interested in protecting you and your mother?”

Draco dropped his gaze to the baby he was holding, and appeared to be debating his answer. “He’s my godfather,” he finally admitted.

Harry blinked in surprise. He hadn’t been expecting that, but now he realized it made a lot of sense. Snape was doing what he could to protect his own family, even if said family were on the wrong side of the war.

Groaning, Harry realized that he and Snape were likely both on the Light side while trying to protect a family on the Dark side—the same family. Then he thought of something else and looked at Draco sharply.

“I know you haven’t switched sides because you’re trying to protect your family,” he said, watching Draco closely. “Does this mean you won’t switch sides because of Snape—because he’s actually a part of your family?”

Draco sighed heavily, looking like he really didn’t want to answer, but he did anyway. “I don’t have any hope that he’ll ever switch sides,” he said flatly. “I think my mother may be willing to go into hiding, but there are just so many things to take into consideration.”

Harry was reminded of the fact that Draco needed options and Harry had yet to actually present him with a viable option. They’d been existing in limbo while Harry had learned Occlumency, but now it was time for things to change.

Draco didn’t look at all comfortable with the way the conversation was going and Harry let it drop. With renewed determination, though, Harry silently vowed that he would somehow come up with a viable option for Draco—he would figure out a safe place for Draco and his family to get away from Voldemort.

It would be up to Draco then to make the choice.

* * * * *

When Draco arrived the next morning, Harry was ready to go.

“How long can you stay today?” Harry asked.

“Until lunchtime, the same as I’ve been doing all week,” Draco said pointedly. “Why?”

“Because I’ve got things to do this morning, and I’m going to need Winky,” Harry answered. “You’ll be on your own here with Victoria most of the morning. It’s Sunday, so even my relatives are out of town. It’ll be just you two here. Can you handle that?”

Draco looked a little nervous, and maybe even a little disappointed. “Where are you going?” he asked.

Harry shook his head. “I can’t tell you,” he said. “I just need to start getting things done. I’ve been here for a little over a month already, but I can’t stay here forever. I’ve got leads that I have to start following up on.”

Draco was staring at Victoria, looking a little lost and nervous still. This would be the first time he’d ever truly be by himself with his daughter. Harry hastened to reassure him by instructing Winky to respond if Draco called at all that morning for help.

Harry left for Grimmauld Place, feeling nervous himself. He wasn’t worried about Draco, but he was worried about what he’d find at the old house.

Harry slipped into the dreary house, hating the fact that this was where he planned on living. He planned on summoning Winky and seeing what she could do to help make the place at least halfway liveable for him and Victoria—and hopefully Draco. But first he wanted to check if there were any more odd messages left for him in the kitchen. The room always had been the main meeting place in the house.

Expelliarmus!”

As soon as he pushed open the door to the kitchen, his wand went flying from his pocket. Eyes darting about wildly, Harry spotted Snape glaring at him with his wand aimed directly at Harry’s chest.

“Bloody hell!” Harry yelled. “What was that for?”

“You are no more cautious than you have ever been, Potter,” Snape said coldly.

“Yeah, well, this place is safe,” Harry muttered, moving towards the table and flopping down in one of the dusty chairs. He was trying to be casual, but he still watched Snape warily. He was very conscious of the fact that if he was wrong about Snape’s loyalties, then he was already in a world of trouble.

Snape’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “And what makes you believe this place is safe?”

“Well, from what I can determine, only you and I even have access to this house at the moment,” Harry answered.

Snape snorted disparagingly. “You believe you are safe with me?” he asked, not denying that they were the only two able to cross the wards on the residence.

Harry took a deep breath but then lifted his head to meet Snape’s gaze steadily. “I think so,” he said, proud of keeping his tone calm and even.

He was extremely satisfied with his efforts when a flash of surprise crossed Snape’s features. Of course, Snape was immediately back to sneering at him, but Harry expected that.

“You didn’t believe yourself so safe with me the last time we met,” Snape said.

“Of course not! You’d just killed Dumbledore!” Harry shouted, his anger getting the best of him. “What was I supposed to believe?”

“And what has so drastically changed your opinion?” Snape sneered, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Harry snapped his mouth shut on the retort that sprung to his lips. He turned away from Snape. That was a damned good question. He was still feeling conflicted regarding that situation, but here he was, seemingly willing to put his trust in Snape.

Harry believed what Draco had told him regarding Snape. Draco hadn’t been trying to convince him that Snape was a good guy. In fact, just the opposite. The information from Draco, combined with what Harry knew, led to Snape still being a spy for the Light side. Not that he could tell Snape any of that, though.

He heaved a shuddering breath. “Dumbledore said you could be trusted,” Harry said.

“As you’ve already stated, I killed him, Potter,” Snape said stiffly. “Clearly Dumbledore placed his trust where he shouldn’t have.”

Harry stared at the man blankly, trying to process what he’d just heard. “He would’ve died anyway,” he said slowly. “Dumbledore was helping to save all of us when he pleaded with you to kill him. He certainly wasn’t pleading with you to spare his life.”

He shook his head absently, continuing to voice his thoughts and his reasoning out loud. “He trusted you to protect us. I think he might have actually been making a final plea for you to help me. I think he was helping to protect you and your spy status.”

He met Snape’s gaze. “He was dying anyway, but you would still be able to help in the war if your cover wasn’t broken—which meant he pleaded with you to kill him under the circumstances.”

Snape returned Harry’s gaze with a steady expression but his eyes were glittering with some emotion Harry couldn’t interpret.

Harry looked away again. “I contributed to his death as much as you did,” he stated, his voice only catching slightly. “I don’t think either of us wanted to do it, but we both did exactly as he wanted,” he said, the bitterness leaking into his voice, replacing the pain. “The irony is that you wouldn’t have likely been placed in that position if Dumbledore and I hadn’t been doing what we did that night.”

“Potter, you do not know the entire story of the events that night,” Snape said harshly.

“Neither do you,” Harry retorted. “And I know enough,” he added. He knew that both of them were avoiding mention of Draco and his involvement.

“You know nothing,” Snape sneered.

“I know you’re a bastard, no matter which side you’re on,” Harry snapped irritably.

He was startled when Snape chuckled darkly. “Then I stand corrected. You do know one thing.”

Harry dropped his head into his hands and laughed, a little hysterically, but he laughed. He was surprised when Snape cast a spell to clean off one of the other chairs before sitting down across from him.

“You believe we are on the same side,” Snape said contemptuously.

“Yes,” Harry answered warily, aware that it hadn’t actually been a question.

Snape nodded curtly. “Then that will make this a little easier.” His grimace belied how easy he thought it was. “I need you as a liaison.”

“What?!” Harry exclaimed incredulously.

“A liaison, Potter,” Snape sneered in contempt. “I need you as a means to pass information to the Order.”

Harry stared at him blankly.

Snape snorted impatiently. “I am unable to connect with the Order myself. You can pass on necessary information that will help the Order to fight this war.”

Harry understood what Snape was saying, but was having trouble comprehending that Snape was actually going to pass on the Death Eater plans to him. “You don’t really think the Order is going to believe me if I try to pass on information, do you?”

“Potter,” Snape said coldly. “You are able to pass off information as visions. There are those who know that will believe you without question.”

Harry nodded slowly, working through that in his mind. “Who all knows I’ve had visions?” He was pretty sure Snape would know the answer, when ironically he himself had no idea.

“McGonagall and Lupin primarily,” Snape said curtly. “The other members of the Order are aware there is some type of connection, but do not understand precisely how you are linked with the Dark Lord. Dumbledore did not believe they needed to know any more than that.”

“Why don’t you go to either of them yourself?” Harry asked.

“I killed their leader,” Snape said, his voice harsh. “I am believed to be a traitor. I was not trusted before. None would believe me now.”

“But you thought I’d believe you?” Harry asked incredulously.

Snape eyed him contemplatively. “You appear to,” he said simply.

Harry blinked. He couldn’t really argue with that. “Well, there surely has to be others who would believe you are still on the right side,” Harry argued a different point. “Why not McGonagall or Lupin?”

“You are privy to more information,” Snape explained, sounding more like Harry’s professor at the moment. “I am aware that Dumbledore presented information to you that he presented to no one else. You may not know as much as I would prefer you to, but I believe you are aware of what it will actually take to end this war,” he admitted.

Harry stared in astonishment as Snape continued. “The Order does not understand the internal workings of this war. The crux of the matter is that you are central to ending it.”

Harry flinched at Snape’s choice of wording and the man looked at him sharply. “Surely you know that you are at the heart of this war,” he sneered.

Harry swallowed heavily. “Yes, I know,” he muttered.

“Do you have any understanding of what you have to do?” Snape asked sharply.

“I know what I have to do, I’ve just got to figure out how to bloody do it,” Harry answered bitterly.

“I suggest you figure it out soon,” Snape said curtly.

“Of course,” Harry said sarcastically, but thankful Snape wasn’t actually questioning what he knew. Instead, Snape switched his line of questioning.

“Have you been practising?” he asked.

Harry groaned, knowing Snape was referring to his Occlumency and immediately closed his eyes and worked to erect his mental shield. “Yes,” he answered. He wasn’t surprised when a second later he felt Snape’s probing presence.

Keeping his eyes squeezed tightly shut, Harry focused all his energy on keeping his shield in place. Snape let up after twenty seconds and Harry warily opened his eyes.

“Not acceptable yet,” Snape said, but he was glaring at Harry suspiciously.

“I’m working on it!” Harry exclaimed.

Snape only nodded curtly before abruptly rising to his feet. “You will meet me here at eleven o’clock on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, I have other plans tomorrow.”

Harry heaved a sigh, not sure he wanted to know what other types of plans Snape had. “Yes, sir,” he said bleakly. He had no idea how he was going to work things out with Victoria. “Sir?” he suddenly burst out.

Snape lifted a brow in question.

“Is it possible to bring other people in here with me?” Harry asked. “Will the wards allow that?”

“Dumbledore adjusted the wards to allow only you and myself, obviously predicting the need for a safe meeting place,” Snape said harshly.

“I’ve figured that out,” Harry snapped. “But I need to know how others could be brought in here.”

“I’m not dealing with your little friends,” Snape sneered contemptuously.

“Don’t worry! I wasn’t planning on subjecting them to have to deal with you,” Harry sneered back.

Snape’s nostrils flared even as his eyes narrowed dangerously. “Then who are you wanting to bring here?” he questioned.

Harry looked away, biting his lip. He wasn’t sure how to explain Victoria and he didn’t think it was a good idea to mention Draco yet.

“Hermione was wanting to check through the library here,” Harry said, not technically answering the question, but making a truthful statement.

“I’ve already told you, Potter,” Snape said coldly. “You will not be bringing them into this residence. I had thought you understood the risks for once.”

“I do understand,” Harry snapped. “Fine, I got the message.”

“You will not be able to bring anyone else into this residence,” Snape said, his voice low and dangerously threatening.

Harry narrowed his eyes. “If I ever chose to bring anyone here, I would make damned sure that it was someone that we could both trust.”

“Just who do you want to bring here?” Snape asked. “I know there is someone.”

Harry glared at him defiantly. “A baby! An innocent little baby that’s just a victim of this war. She doesn’t have a clue who I am, let alone who you are. I think she can be trusted,” he said sarcastically.

Snape blinked once in surprise. “Where did you get a baby, and why isn’t she with someone who could care for her properly?”

“It doesn’t matter!” Harry shouted angrily. “She’s just a victim and I don’t want anyone knowing or they’ll take her away from me!”

“You can’t just claim a baby and you are too ignorant to know how to take care of one properly,” Snape said disparagingly.

“It’s none of your business and I wasn’t asking for your permission!” Harry yelled. “I just wanted to know how to bring her in here so I could keep her safe!”

“Bloody idiot Gryffindors saving the damsel in distress,” Snape sneered in disgust.

“If that’s the way you want to see it, then yes,” Harry snapped.

Snape leaned over, glaring. “Take her to the proper authorities, Potter.” Then he stood straight, tossed Harry’s wand onto the table and swept from the room. Seconds later Harry heard the front door close.

Harry groaned in frustration. He wanted to laugh hysterically at the irony that Snape would be doing what he could to protect Victoria if he understood just whose child she was.

“Winky,” he said wearily.

She popped into the room almost instantly. He knew she’d been waiting for him to call for her. “Yes, Master Harry?”

Then she caught sight of the room and shrieked in horror. “Master Harry, this is not fitting for you or Mistress Victoria.”

“I know,” Harry sighed. He hated doing this, because it seemed awful to place all this work on anyone, but he would do it anyway. “Winky, I need you to try to make the kitchen and one of the bedrooms habitable for us. You’ll need to clean someplace for yourself as well.” He looked around the filthy kitchen. “I reckon the basement here is the best place to start.”

Her head was bobbing furiously. “Yes, Master Harry. Winky will start right away.”

“I’m sorry I’ve had to ask this of you, but we need this,” he said.

“Winky will take care of everything,” she said firmly. “Would Master Harry like Winky to get food as well?”

Harry frowned. “You can do that?” he asked. He’d never put much thought into it. He knew house-elves did all the cooking, but had no idea who did the shopping.

Winky was nodding enthusiastically. To Harry’s amazement, she explained to him about the markets that were designed especially for house-elves. Many house-elves were expected to do the mundane shopping for a household. When he questioned her about the money, she described a process that reminded Harry a little of a credit card exchange. He didn’t quite understand it, but somehow her magical signature was linked with his own, and anytime she purchased anything, some paperwork would be sent to Gringott’s and the money taken from his account.

It seemed a little dodgy to Harry, but she politely informed him that all families with house-elves were used to this type of transaction. Being bound to him, she couldn’t make purchases for anyone else and she would never purchase anything unnecessary.

“Well, how do we get the goblins to take the money from my Black vault and not my Potter vault?” Harry asked curiously.

“Master Harry will have to tell the goblins,” Winky said primly.

Harry groaned. “Lovely,” he muttered. It seemed Winky could take care of a lot of the shopping for necessities for the household, but he had to initially inform the goblins of the binding. She assured him that it was a quick and easy process, but somehow Harry had to wonder. Nothing ever seemed to be quick and easy.

Harry took Winky and they snuck into Gringott’s. Or rather, Harry snuck into Gringott’s and Winky popped up beside him again, right inside the main doors. He was thankful that there weren’t the extremely long lines like the summer before.

He was pleasantly surprised when it was as simple as Winky had said. A little bit of paperwork, a couple of magical signature checks on both of them and they were pretty much set. Harry was even more thankful when he didn’t see anyone he recognized. He sent Winky back to Grimmauld Place to work on making it liveable for them, while he Apparated back to Privet Drive.

* * * * *

A/N: It was pointed out to me that in the last chapter I stated that Snape had taught Draco Occlumency. I had completely forgotten that we learned in HBP that Bellatrix was the one to teach Draco. It’s not a major change, but I did go back and fix that detail.

Many thanks to all those who have been reading and to all those who have reviewed. It’s much appreciated! Thanks! ~~Biza

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Six

Tuesday morning, Harry left Victoria in Draco and Winky’s care at the Dursleys and Apparated to Grimmauld Place. He was a little amused at how thankful Draco was to have Winky’s help this time. Draco had done all right by himself with Victoria, but he wasn’t nearly as comfortable as Harry with the baby care.

Harry was a touch early and fully expected Snape to already be there. He was surprised when he wasn’t, but was even more amazed at the appearance of the kitchen. He stared dazedly at the room that just two days before had looked like a dust bin. Now, it looked downright pristine. The transformation was astounding.

Curiously, Harry walked over to check the cupboards. Everything inside seemed to be clean and stocked as well. Feeling much better about eventually moving into this place, he set about making some tea. He was oddly proud, considering he hadn’t done any of the work to make this room presentable.

Pouring a cup of tea, he heard when Snape entered the house. The man came to a sudden standstill immediately inside the kitchen.

“Potter,” he said sternly. “How did this bloody room acquire this level of cleanliness?”

Harry shot him a look. “Would you like a cup of tea?” he asked.

Snape exhaled heavily, glanced around the room again and then, to Harry’s surprise, nodded gratefully. Snape sat down at the table as Harry poured another cup of tea and set all the essentials on the table.

Harry sat down with his own cup of tea and watched as Snape meticulously prepared his before taking a sip.

“Potter,” he said wearily. “Would you care to explain how you managed this?”

Harry noticed the man looked especially haggard, and he didn’t look like he had the energy to argue with Harry. He reminded Harry of Draco when he’d first started coming to the Dursleys, and Harry found himself feeling a twinge of worry for both.

“I, uh, kind of acquired a house-elf,” Harry admitted.

“In addition to Kreacher?” Snape asked.

Harry’s nose automatically wrinkled in disgust at the sound of Kreacher’s name. “Yes, Kreacher probably hadn’t cleaned this house since Sirius’ mum actually died years ago. I’ve got one that can obviously be much more useful.”

“Potter, we can’t have house-elves here that aren’t bound,” Snape said, his tone harsh again.

“I figured that as well,” Harry said, ignoring Snape’s tone. “So, um, I bound one to me.”

Snape looked at him appraisingly. “Do tell me that you did not bind that Dobby creature to yourself.”

“Merlin, no!” Harry exclaimed in horror. “I’d never survive!”

He could’ve sworn he saw Snape’s lips quirking in amusement.

“Then who?” Snape questioned.

Harry glanced at the man warily. “Winky,” he admitted quietly.

“Ah,” Snape said in understanding. “I’m impressed, Potter. She is probably a wise choice, particularly considering that you know some of her history.”

“I wasn’t real concerned about her loyalty,” Harry said wryly. “Not once she was bound, anyway.”

“Indeed,” Snape said before sipping at his tea.

Harry was finding the situation a little surreal, especially after the hostilities from the last time they’d met. He’d have to offer the man tea more often, he decided.

“Is it presumptuous to believe this baby you mentioned has something to do with your sudden acquisition of another house-elf?” Snape asked smoothly.

Harry stiffened. He did not want to fight about Victoria again, and he tried to answer without sounding too defensive. “I needed the help, because I couldn’t take care of a baby and fight a war at the same time,” he explained.

Snape was staring at him intently, making Harry want to squirm, even after he lowered his gaze to the tabletop.

“Potter, is this an illegitimate child?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Harry answered truthfully. She just wasn’t his illegitimate child. “I only found out about Victoria after I went back to the Dursleys at the beginning of the summer. Her mother was scared about everything that has been happening. I acquired her and unfortunately her mother and her mother’s family were all killed recently in one of the attacks,” he said quietly. “I am the only one she can rely on at the moment.”

“I gather your friends do not know about these recent developments,” Snape said, and Harry realized it wasn’t a question.

Harry simply shook his head. His friends didn’t know and if they found out, he wasn’t sure if Ron would kill him first for his association with Draco, or if Hermione would claim the honours for binding Winky. Aside from any political and safety concerns, he altogether thought it wiser not to inform his friends for the time being.

“The Weasleys think that I’m planning to move into the Burrow after my birthday at the end of the month,” he said, quietly explaining. “I’m hoping to move in here instead. If Winky can do this,” he said, gesturing to the pristine kitchen, “then surely she’ll be able to make the house liveable again over the next few weeks.”

“It would be far more convenient if you were living here,” Snape said in agreement. “For today, we will work on your Occlumency. We will have Winky clear a room so that we can get started on your Defence training later.”

Harry looked at him in surprise. “You’re going to train me?” he asked.

“Potter, that last night at Hogwarts, you would have been dead if you’d been facing off anyone other than myself,” Snape said evenly. For once, he wasn’t accusing, simply stating a fact.

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “I’d already figured that out,” he admitted. “Its part of the reason I realized which side you were really on still, although it took me awhile to calm down and understand that.”

He looked at Snape nervously. “I want you to train me. I just didn’t really expect you to do it willingly,” he said. “I’ve been working on my Occlumency constantly the last couple of weeks, and I’m sure I can improve more, but I’m ready to move on.”

It happened quickly, but Harry wasn’t surprised when Snape suddenly produced his wand and cast Legilimens. Harry hadn’t been prepared for it, but he still managed to put up his shield quickly enough that Snape didn’t break through. Draco had taken to casting the spell at odd moments over the last few days and Harry was actually becoming fairly proficient at warding off the attacks.

Snape ended the spell and raised a brow in surprise. “Indeed,” he said. “Perhaps you are ready to move on.”

“I’m prepared to work hard,” Harry said quietly. “I need to train so that I can fight better and I need to work on the task that Dumbledore gave me. I need your help and I understood that you wouldn’t really be able to help me until I learned to shield my thoughts.”

“We have difficult times ahead of us,” Snape warned.

“I know,” Harry said, raising his chin in determination, “but I’m ready to do whatever I have to.”

Snape rolled his eyes. “Don’t get cocky again now,” he said dryly.

“I’m not,” Harry protested. He tilted his head curiously. “Why are you being so . . . calm today?” he asked bemusedly. Nice hadn’t been quite the right word, but it had almost slipped past Harry’s lips.

“That is none of your concern, Mr. Potter,” Snape said stiffly.

Harry eyed him contemplatively. “You look tired, as if you’ve been up all night,” he risked making the observation.

“I am often up all hours of the night, but yes, it was more difficult than normal,” Snape said evenly.

“And I reckon you can’t tell me what you were actually doing,” Harry said, his tone slightly bitter. Ironically, Harry already knew about the raid Snape had been on and he knew Snape had been assigned more potions to brew. It was irritating that Snape wouldn’t actually tell him any of that, though.

“When I have information that you need to know, I will tell you,” Snape said calmly. “There is nothing you need to know regarding the events of yesterday.”

His eyes narrowed. “Potter, you will not be able to save everyone,” he said. “The Dark Lord only presents his followers with so much information before any attacks and I also need to be able to protect my position.”

Harry exhaled heavily, rubbing absently at his temples. He actually knew that already from Draco. Draco had taken to bringing the Daily Prophet with him, and telling Harry any information he could regarding what wasn’t in the paper. None of it had been anything that Harry could actually do anything about, but it was still good to know.

“So, how do you get information to me when you are able to pass on something useful?” he asked.

“Your house-elf will do to pass on messages for the time being,” Snape said.

Harry called for Winky and gave her the order that she was to listen to Snape and then they looked over one of the drawing rooms. Snape instructed her on how he wanted the room set up as a training room. She got to work on that, then Harry went through a more intensive testing of his Occlumency.

He was proud because he did so well, but he felt horribly ill afterwards. It had been difficult enough keeping Draco out of his mind. Keeping Snape out of his mind seemed to require twice as much effort. Snape sent him home with the order to be back at Grimmauld Place the next afternoon, and Harry left quickly before Snape could decide to torture him any further.

* * * * *

“Where are you going now?” Draco asked irritably.

“I’ve got things to do,” Harry answered absently, pulling on his trainers. His mind wasn’t really in the room. He was already thinking about where he was going.

“Are you going to be disappearing like this all the time now?” Draco sneered.

“Probably,” Harry said, glancing at Draco and wondering why exactly he was irritated.

“Off to see the Weasel and the Mudblood, then?” Draco said maliciously.

Actually, no, Harry thought. He was off to see Draco’s friend. He’d received an owl from Blaise on Monday agreeing to meet with Harry and now, two days later, Harry was again wondering about his sanity.

“Don’t call them that,” Harry said flatly.

Draco’s forehead creased as he frowned. Harry felt satisfied that he’d not reacted in the way that Draco had expected him to. He wondered if Draco was feeling like Harry was deserting him and that’s what this was all about. Even if that wasn’t how Draco was feeling, Harry had to admit to himself that that was somewhat how he was feeling personally. He’d become quite accustomed to these morning visits.

“I haven’t seen my friends since I left Hogwarts,” Harry said. “I do need to meet up with them soon, but I’ve been a little busy trying to sort out things for you and Victoria so far this summer,” he said pointedly.

Draco was still frowning, and he winced a little at Harry’s comments. “Have you . . . are you working on a safe place for us to go?” he asked hesitantly.

Harry nodded. “Amongst other things,” he admitted. It wasn’t what he was actually working on at the moment, but he’d gotten things started at Grimmauld Place finally. “I’m hoping to have things worked out by the end of the month,” he added. He was sure the house would be ready and hopefully by then he could have things worked out with Snape—one way or another.

Draco didn’t make any further comment, but he visibly relaxed a little. Harry kissed Victoria on the forehead, telling her he’d be back, gave Draco a final glance and then was out the door.

Harry was far from relaxed as he Apparated to Diagon Alley then slipped into the Leaky Cauldron. He spotted Blaise almost immediately and was grateful that he at least appeared to be alone.

Unfortunately, Tom spotted Harry almost immediately as well. “Harry! Glad to see you! What can I get for you?” he asked.

“Nothing today, thanks,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I’m just passing through as I have some things to do in Muggle London today.”

“You watch yourself,” Tom warned. “There’s nowhere safe these days.”

“I will,” Harry assured him, slipping out the door. He walked quickly, putting some distance between him and the Leaky Cauldron. Eventually he arrived at the small park that they had agreed to meet at and he leaned up against one of the benches while he waited for Blaise.

Blaise arrived a minute later, casually resting against one of the nearby trees. To anyone watching, they’d simply be a couple of friends meeting up to talk. Neither of them were nearly as relaxed as they appeared to be, though.

“Zabini,” Harry said evenly, watching the other boy closely.

“What do you want, Potter?” Blaise asked.

Getting straight to the point worked for Harry. “I want to know if you and your family really are neutral in this war,” he said.

Blaise’s eyes widened marginally. “What makes you think we’re neutral?” he asked.

Harry shrugged. “I know that you’re not marked, and neither is your mother, but you haven’t been actively on my side either,” he said.

“How could you possibly know that we’re not marked?” Blaise asked, frowning.

“I asked Voldemort the last time we had tea,” Harry said sarcastically.

Blaise flinched at the name, scowling at Harry. “You’re no friendlier with the Dark Lord than I am,” he said.

“Why do you call him the Dark Lord?” Harry asked, jumping on that immediately. The fact that Blaise said he wasn’t friendly with Voldemort didn’t tell him anything, as no one was friends with the bastard.

“Because I happen to value my life,” Blaise sneered. “Yes, my mother and I are attempting to stay neutral, but I know he wants to mark me after I’m out of Hogwarts.” His frown returned. “And if Hogwarts doesn’t even open again next year . . . ,” he trailed off.

“Then Voldemort will probably want to mark you soon,” Harry said flatly, finishing the sentence for him.

Blaise simply nodded once. Harry eyed him speculatively. “This would be why you actually agreed to meet with me, isn’t it?” he stated more than asked. He’d taken a risk deciding to write Blaise, but had still been shocked to actually get a response.

“If something doesn’t happen soon to change things, then I’m fucked,” Blaise said bluntly. “I can claim to be neutral all I want, but it’s not practical.”

Harry chuckled darkly. “You’re stuck between me and Voldemort. Lousy choices for someone like yourself, but if you have to choose one, then you might as well choose the one that’s not going to kill you first thing,” he said. “You saw what happened to Malfoy this last year, and don’t really want it happening to you.”

Blaise’s eyes narrowed. “Potter, why exactly did you contact me?” he asked. “You’re obviously aware of my limited choices, but I would think that you considered me an enemy.”

Harry pointedly put his wand back in his pocket, before running his hand through his hair as he debated how to answer him. He couldn’t tell Blaise about being in contact with Draco. He didn’t trust either of the Slytherins enough for that. It was also one thing to risk himself, quite another to reveal someone else’s secrets.

“I’ve never had a problem with you,” he said slowly. He cast a sidelong glance at Blaise. “You haven’t really seemed to have a direct problem with me, either.”

Blaise remained silent but Harry clearly had his full attention.

“I need all the allies I can get,” Harry said, and Blaise’s eyebrows shot up.

“You’re actually looking for help from me? A Slytherin?” Blaise asked.

“Well, who else am I supposed to ask?” Harry said irritably. “Do you think I should’ve tried going to Malfoy instead?” he asked sarcastically.

Blaise’s eyes narrowed again. “Is that what this is about?” he asked. “You’re trying to get information about Draco from me?”

Harry rubbed at his temples. “I already know about Malfoy,” he said flatly, which was far more true than Blaise would realize.

“You don’t know shite about him,” Blaise sneered.

“Are you actually going to try to defend him after what he did?” Harry asked, scowling darkly. He couldn’t believe he was in this position, only pretending to act in a manner that would’ve been completely real not long before.

“That wasn’t him,” Blaise said angrily, defending his friend.

“I hate the bastard. He brought the Death Eaters into Hogwarts and tried to kill Dumbledore,” Harry said coldly. “Don’t try to tell me he was under Imperius.”

“I’m not,” Blaise snapped. “Fuck, Potter! I know Draco fucked up, but he just got caught up in something bigger than him. He didn’t really want to do all that.”

“But he did do it,” Harry said. “You know it and I know it.”

“Fucking everybody knows it,” Blaise muttered.

“He’s your friend, isn’t he?” Harry asked.

Blaise turned his head to look out over the park. “I haven’t seen him, Potter, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said.

“If you had, would you even tell me?” Harry asked.

Blaise shot Harry a sidelong glance. “Probably not,” he admitted. “I agreed to meet you today because it would be foolish for me to pass up an opportunity to get some kind of protection. It doesn’t mean that I’m willing to sell out my friends to get that protection, though.”

“What do you think I can actually do for you?” Harry asked, frowning. “Why don’t you go to . . . ,” he trailed off. He had no idea who Blaise could contact that would actually help him in any way.

“You just figured out that there is no one for me to go to, didn’t you?” Blaise sneered. “The Ministry is worthless and if I tried going to them for protection they’d likely just lock me up. None of the professors at Hogwarts are likely to trust me after what Draco did. Sad as it is, you’re the fucking leader of the Light side now. You were completely right when you said I’m stuck between you and the Dark Lord,” he said bitterly.

“Has Voldemort tried recruiting you yet?” Harry asked.

Blaise flinched again, but shook his head. “Not yet,” he answered, “but I’m certain he will before the end of the summer.” He gazed at Harry solemnly. “I’m not a killer and I don’t intend to become one.”

Harry rubbed at his temples, trying to will away the headache that was forming. This meeting with Blaise was turning out more complicated than he’d expected. He’d gotten the information he’d come for. He knew where Blaise’s loyalties essentially were and he was still loyal to Draco, even though he didn’t agree with what his friend had done.

He hadn’t really expected Blaise to be looking to him for help, though, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do. “I reckon there are more Slytherins stuck in your position as well,” he muttered.

“Some,” Blaise agreed, “but not many in our year. Most have been sucked in by their families to believe the shite that the Dark Lord tells them. Most of my so-called friends didn’t really see what was happening to Draco this past year, but I did and I don’t want to be a part of it.”

“What about Parkinson?” Harry spat. “You’re trying to tell me she didn’t even see anything with the way she always hung off of Malfoy?”

“Pansy’s a blind, ignorant bitch,” Blaise said, a malicious smirk gracing his features. “It should make you happy to know you’ve been right about her all along.”

“I was right about Malfoy as well,” Harry said, scowling darkly and keeping up appearances. His thoughts were on the Pansy-bitch rather than Draco, though. It was good to know that there were at least some Slytherins that he was still allowed to hate freely.

“We’re not going to agree about Draco,” Blaise said flatly.

Harry understood that they did agree, though. Blaise missed his friend and was worried about him, just as Draco was missing Blaise. Harry had to wonder how he’d feel if he was suddenly on opposites sides of the war from Ron. Not that that would ever happen, but if it did, Harry would definitely be upset about it.

He wasn’t as thrilled as he thought he should be that Blaise and Draco would likely be able to hook back up again. He reckoned it was good that neither of them wanted to be Death Eaters, at least, and that’s what he needed to be focusing on.

“I’m not sure what I can do for you,” he said slowly, trying to think things through. “I gather you’re safe enough for the moment. Are you willing to go into hiding if Voldemort does decide to recruit you?”

Blaise grimaced, but nodded.

“Hopefully it won’t even come down to that,” Harry said grimly. “I fully intend to take down Voldemort as soon as I possibly can. I could use information, though.” He eyed Blaise calculatingly. “Are you willing to pass on any information you can come up with?”

“I don’t know much, Potter,” Blaise said irritably. “At the moment, I’m still technically neutral so people don’t tell me much about what’s going on.”

“I think you know far more than you’re letting on,” Harry sneered. “But have it your way. Here’s the deal. You fill me in on what you can and whatever you feel comfortable telling me. However, I especially want the names of anyone else who is at risk of being recruited that doesn’t want to be. If Voldemort contacts you, you let me know immediately. Get prepared to go into hiding if it becomes necessary, and if it does, then I’ll provide a safe place for you to go to,” he said.

Blaise reluctantly agreed and said that he would owl Harry soon. They went their separate ways soon after, and Harry made his way to Grimmauld Place for training with Snape, lost in thought about Slytherins and loyalties.

* * * * *

“Concentrate, Potter!”

“I am!” Harry shouted, picking himself up off the floor for at least the tenth time in the last twenty minutes.

He fervently wished that Winky had padded the floor with much thicker mats. As it was, that’s all there was in the large drawing room. Snape had warded the room so that it was safe for them to practice duelling, but Harry already hated the room with a passion.

Snape had been running him through defensive spells that he supposedly should’ve already learned his last six years at Hogwarts. The problem lay in the fact that only Remus and Snape had ever actually taught them anything useful, and maybe the fake Moody. Snape had worked them all hard this last year, but he’d still been dealing with a classroom full of students at once. Now, Harry was his sole focus and neither of them were happy.

“Potter, how do you expect to defeat the Dark Lord if you can’t even defend basic spells?” Snape asked nastily.

“Basic spells?!” Harry shouted incredulously. “I can defend basic spells. I just don’t have a clue as to what you’re even casting at me, let alone how to defend myself from them.”

“Your defence training has been worthless,” Snape said contemptuously.

You were my last Defence teacher,” Harry retorted.

Snape’s eyes narrowed dangerously and Harry cursed the fact that he hadn’t kept his mouth shut.

“You are clearly lacking in your first five years of training,” Snape said coldly. “Therefore, we will start back at the beginning.”

By Friday evening, Harry was almost positive that Snape had drilled him on every single spell that had ever been mentioned in his textbooks for the first five years at Hogwarts. If he hadn’t known it beforehand, he was quickly and efficiently taught it. He was extremely thankful that he was a quick learner in practical defence.

Even so, Harry gratefully sank his bruised body into the bath that night. The Dursleys had left for some weekend retreat as soon as Uncle Vernon had arrived home from work so he actually had the house to himself. Unfortunately, they were supposed to be back earlier on Sunday this time, but for the moment, he didn’t care.

He wasn’t at all looking forward to having to meet Snape first thing in the morning to start all over again. He told himself that his reluctance had nothing to do with missing the time that he’d normally spend with Draco in the morning. He probably wouldn’t see him again until Monday. Snape had made Harry miss his time with Draco that morning as well. He’d left a note for Draco, but realized that he probably wasn’t very happy with Harry at the moment.

Resigned, Harry went to bed early that night and spent all day Saturday reviewing every spell he’d ever been taught, or should’ve been taught, in Defence.

* * * * *

It wasn’t until Sunday morning that everything fell apart. He found Snape waiting for him in the kitchen, as usual, but he was ordered unceremoniously to sit instead of heading for the training room.

“The Dark Lord called his followers again,” Snape said. “He has assigned tasks for many of us.”

That got Harry’s full attention. “What are you and Malfoy supposed to do?” he burst out.

Snape glared at him sharply. “Mr. Malfoy is no concern of yours, Potter.”

Cursing himself, Harry floundered for a way to cover his slip. “Malfoy’s last task was to kill off Dumbledore. Forgive me for being concerned about my own life,” he spat sarcastically.

He breathed an inward sigh of relief when Snape bought it. He didn’t want to question the swirl of emotions in his chest too deeply.

“The Dark Lord is unaware of your location at the moment,” Snape sneered. “I believe you are safe from Mr. Malfoy for the time being.”

Harry wanted to laugh hysterically, considering that Mr. Malfoy had been disrupting his life for a few weeks already.

“Potter,” Snape said impatiently. “Revenge on Malfoy should not be your primary concern.”

“Why not?” Harry asked, knowing he was stepping into very risky territory. “He’s a bastard Death Eater just like I’ve always suspected. His actions caused so many people to be hurt this past year. Obviously he’s a threat!”

“He’s far less of a threat to you than the Dark Lord,” Snape shouted furiously. “You will desist with your concerns about Malfoy and focus on the real problem!”

“Oh, was poor little Malfoy not given one of Voldemort’s precious tasks last night?” Harry taunted. “Is he all upset now? I’m sure you know where he is since he always seems to be hanging on in your shadows.”

“Malfoy has locked himself into his room for the last two days,” Severus said viciously. “He is not a threat! I’m tired of repeating myself, Potter!”

Harry blinked in astonishment. “Why?” It wasn’t for Snape to know that Harry was astonished because he knew that it coincided with Harry not being there in the mornings at the Dursley’s house. “Is he pouting because of not getting a task this time?” he taunted, trying to keep up the pretence.

“His pouting started long before the meeting with the Dark Lord,” Snape ground out between clenched teeth. “Whatever his current issues are, it has nothing to do with you or this war.”

So much for what Snape knew, Harry thought. Harry recognized the guilt that was flowing through him.

He ran his hands through his hair agitatedly. “What’s the latest from dear old Voldemort then?”

Snape frowned at Harry’s sudden calm attitude, despite the agitation still obviously flowing through him. Snape took a deep breath before addressing Harry with his cool, professorial tones. “The Dark Lord is planning an attack on a small town tonight. It is near Little Whinging,” he said.

He paused, registering the gasp and look of horror crossing Harry’s face before continuing. “I know that there will be forty followers sent there sometime after dark, but I cannot give you any specific time. It is not often that I have even this much information in advance.”

“Which town?” Harry whispered.

Snape shook his head. “As I said, the Dark Lord does not often give out too much of his plans in advance. He was quite pleased, however, to gloat about the fact that he was coming so close to your home,” he said with a grimace.

“He’s attacking an entire town full of people because they live close to me,” Harry said flatly.

Snape nodded curtly.

“You don’t know anything else?” Harry asked.

“I know that I will be there,” Snape said evenly.

“So you can feel special about hitting me literally close to home,” Harry said bitterly.

Snape’s lips twisted into a smirk, faint surprise that Harry had understood. “Yes, I believe that is why I have been informed of this information.”

Harry shot him a glare. “Will Malfoy be there also to take part in hurting me?” he asked bitterly.

Considering their argument from a short time ago, Snape hesitated before answering. “I believe so,” he said slowly. “But I do not want you there to exact revenge on Malfoy,” he added sharply. “I do not want you there at all.”

“What?!” Harry exclaimed incredulously.

“You are not to be lost in one of the minor battles when you are meant to win the war,” Snape said.

Harry stared at him. “I’m supposed to just sit in my room when I could be out there fighting and helping?”

“Yes,” Snape answered. “Your job is to get this information to the Order so that they can do what they can to help prevent too much damage.”

Harry continued to stare at Snape, letting his words and the reality sink in. “Fine,” he said finally. “I’ve got work ahead of me today,” he said, his voice hard and cold. “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Snape gave him an odd look, considering Harry’s sudden change of attitude, but he spent the next fifteen minutes explaining his suggestions for a plan of counter-attack while Harry listened intently.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Seven

First things first, Harry Apparated back to the Dursley’s house. His Invisibility Cloak would likely come in handy.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

Harry glanced up in shock, seeing Draco on the stairs and glaring at him. After a second, he realized that Draco looked a combination of relieved and agitated, but he didn’t actually look angry.

“Potter, where the fuck are you when people need you?” Draco shouted, rephrasing his question.

Harry winced, deciding that Draco was maybe a little angry after all. He didn’t really have time to deal with Draco, though, and pushed past him on his way up the stairs.

“What do you want, Malfoy?” he asked impatiently.

“There’s going to be an attack,” Draco burst out.

Harry stiffened before grabbing Draco’s arm and yanking him into his room. He knew there was going to be an attack, but he’d been under the impression that Draco didn’t know.

“What are you on about?” Harry asked harshly.

He didn’t realize his fingers were biting into Draco’s biceps until Draco wrenched his arm free. “Sorry,” Harry muttered automatically, earning him an odd look.

Harry ignored the look and asked directly, “What kind of attack and where?”

He listened intently as Draco rattled off the information Snape had told him not long before. The difference being that Draco named the small village.

“How do you know the attack will happen there?” Harry asked quickly. “Where’d you get this information?”

“I’m a Death Eater, Potter!” Draco exclaimed, and Harry was worried that he was sounding a little hysterical. “It tends to make me privy to inside information!”

Harry rolled his eyes impatiently. “Did you hear this from Voldemort himself?”

Draco shifted. “Well, no,” he admitted, although he still sounded agitated. “But I know it’s going to happen!”

“How do you know?” Harry asked, glaring intently.

Draco didn’t look like he wanted to answer, but then he suddenly blurted it out. “Snape, all right! He warned me to be careful because I’m going to get called on this bloody attack!”

“Do you know for sure it’s this town?” Harry asked in a rush. That was the information he needed and he needed to know if it was reliable. He knew damned well that that little piece of information hadn’t come from Snape.

“Yes, I’m bloody sure!” Draco shouted.

“Fuck it all!” Harry shouted back. “How are you so sure?”

Draco started shifting nervously again. “I got the name of the village from Wormtail,” he blurted out. “So, all right, I got my information from two of your least favourite Death Eaters, but I know it’s accurate.”

Harry bit his lip, debating whether information from Wormtail could be trusted or not. “Malfoy, if you’re wrong . . . ,” he trailed off.

“I’m not wrong, Potter!” Draco snapped. “I’m not risking my bloody life to bring you inaccurate information. I got my information from Snape and double checked it. Wormtail’s a scummy creature but he’s always under the Dark Lord’s nose. He was able to confirm Snape’s information for me and . . . with a little persuasion . . . he was stupid enough to give me a little more information.”

Now, that Harry could believe. He could easily picture Wormtail spluttering out whatever he could so that he wouldn’t be punished. “Did you hurt him?” Harry asked, maybe a little too hopefully considering Draco responded with a gleeful smirk.

“Not bad enough to raise questions, but he’ll be feeling a might uncomfortable the rest of the day,” Draco answered.

“Good,” Harry said with a returning smirk, before he focused again on the situation at hand. He noticed Draco’s face quickly fell into anxiety again.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked.

“No, I’m not bloody all right!” Draco exclaimed. “I’m supposed to go out tonight and do my best to take down anybody in my path for the sole purpose that it hopefully crushes you! I don’t want to do this!”

His voice was rising to a worrying pitch. “Malfoy, calm down!” Harry commanded firmly.

To his surprise, Draco stopped his ranting immediately and attempted to catch his breath. Harry unceremoniously pushed him back to sit on the desk chair and crouched in front of him. Draco’s eyes were shut tight and he seriously looked like he was falling apart at the seams.

“I don’t want to do this,” Draco choked out. “I didn’t have to do the raids before. This will be the first time I’ve been expected to actually . . . do this. Even when I went on the attack of Victoria’s home, I didn’t have to do anything. I was there to watch and learn,” he said, sounding ill.

Harry took a deep breath. “Look, calm down,” he said firmly, but keeping his voice as calm and soothing as he could at the same time. “You can do this.”

Draco’s eyes snapped open. “You want me to hurt people?” he asked incredulously.

“No!” Harry said impatiently. “But you’re going to do what you have to do. You’re a fucking Slytherin, Malfoy! For Merlin’s sake, you can figure out how to do this without actually doing real damage. You’ve just got to be sneaky about it.”

He ignored Draco’s stunned expression and continued. “It’s a Death Eater attack and with this type of situation you’ll be spread out everywhere trying to cause the most damage to the town. The others won’t likely be watching you too closely.”

“Snape’ll be watching,” Draco interjected. “He’s always watching out for me.”

“Fine,” Harry said. “Then make it look like you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing while making it difficult for anyone watching to tell.”

Draco frowned in confusion. He was still highly agitated and it seemed to be taking him longer to comprehend.

“Malfoy, think!” Harry snapped. “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you defensive strategies?”

“No, I’m taught offence,” Draco retorted.

“Merlin,” Harry muttered. “I could’ve sworn you were in Snape’s class this past year.”

“I’ve never been as good at Defence as you,” Draco sulked.

Harry really wanted to just scream out his frustration, but he didn’t have time for that. He also didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that he was trying to soothe Draco’s fears about participating in a Death Eater attack. He cursed the fact that Draco really didn’t seem to be any good in a crisis.

Taking a deep breath, Harry started again. “Malfoy, you’re lean and swift. Keep moving! Don’t give anyone watching you time to really focus on you. Keep firing spells! But use less damaging spells. Stupefy should help because it will down people in your path, but not actually hurt them badly. The other Death Eaters aren’t likely to stop at a downed victim and check what damage has actually been done to them. They’ll keep moving, just like you need to keep moving.”

Harry closed his eyes, cursing the fact that Snape would be a far better choice at helping Draco deflect attention while doing the least amount of damage. “Stick to your shadows, and make damned sure you keep your hood up,” he added, opening his eyes to glare at Draco again. “If anyone recognizes you, there are a lot of people that’ll target you immediately.”

“Oh, gods,” Draco moaned. “I can’t do this.”

“You have to for the moment,” Harry said firmly.

“Potter, do you realize what you’re saying?” Draco asked plaintively.

Harry ran a hand through his hair. “Yes, I do,” he snapped.

“Why?” Draco asked in a small voice. “Why are you helping me with . . . this?”

“Because I don’t really want to see you dead!” Harry exclaimed.

Draco blinked at him in astonishment. “You don’t?”

Harry was flustered for a moment. “No, I don’t. But, um,” he paused and took a deep breath, hoping to ward off any more floundering. “Look, you’re Victoria’s father. She needs you. You’ve said yourself that you can’t leave the Death Eaters. I know Voldemort would track you down and have you killed, not to mention your mother. I know you have to do this right now, whether I like it or not.”

He gave Draco a speculative glance. “Whether you like it or not.”

Draco looked down to the floor, sighing heavily. “I got myself into this, I have to deal with it,” he said in resignation.

“You are not going to just sit down and admit defeat,” Harry snapped. “Already you’re trying to do something to change the situation. That’s a good thing, Malfoy.”

“I’m not cut out for this, Potter! I can’t do it!” Draco exclaimed.

“You will do it until we can figure out a way to get you and your family out of it alive!” Harry shouted. “You’re going to put your damnable Malfoy mask back in place and you’re going to get your aristocratic arse out there tonight. You’re going to ignore everything that you can’t do anything about. You’re going to do the best that you can, and you’re going to do what Slytherins do best and save your own arse!”

Harry only paused for breath as he continued his rant, shouting at the gobsmacked blond. “On top of all that, you’re going to hope like hell that I can get things worked out so that this will all get thwarted and you won’t actually have to do anything anyway! You’ll hope like hell that Voldemort doesn’t decide you’re one of the ones deserving the Cruciatus Curse tonight for a failed mission! And if you are one of the unfortunates that does get the lovely privilege of that curse tonight, then you’re going to deal with it and be thankful you’ve got Snape protecting you because he’ll help make sure you get healed up properly with all his damned potions!”

Harry heaved in another breath. “You’re right that you got yourself into this mess, now you’re going to have to fucking deal with it until we can figure out how to get you out of it safely. Now, pull yourself fucking together!”

Draco gazed at him dazedly for several long seconds before he visibly began pulling himself together as Harry ordered. Harry breathed a sigh of relief, watching Draco’s spine straighten and his expression morph into his trademark smirk. The bloodshot eyes, the dark smudges under them and the gaunt cheeks were still there and not exactly encouraging, but overall Draco didn’t look as if he was going to fall apart any longer.

“I didn’t know you had it in you, Potter,” Draco drawled.

Harry rolled his eyes and stood finally. With that mini-breakdown apparently dealt with, he still had a lot to do. Glancing across the small room, he finally registered Winky staring back at them with her impossibly wide eyes.

“Winky, I need you to stay here with Victoria,” Harry said commandingly. He didn’t have time for niceties. “I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Does Master Harry need Winky for anything else?” she asked.

Harry’s brow furrowed, thinking hard about all the things that needed to be taken care of before nightfall. “No,” he said, shaking his head decisively. He was already digging through his trunk and slammed the lid closed after he’d pulled out his Invisibility Cloak.

“Is that an Invisibility Cloak?” Draco asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Harry said shortly, already stuffing it into a rucksack which he promptly threw over his shoulder. He wasn’t wearing robes and it wasn’t exactly going to be hidden if he tried stuffing it under his shirt. This would keep it out of sight and safe for the moment. His eyes swept his room again, trying to determine if there was anything else he needed. Not seeing anything, he strode to the door.

“Potter, wait!”

“What, Malfoy?” Harry questioned, continuing his way down the stairs.

“What are you planning on doing?” Draco asked.

“I’m going to set up a counter-attack,” Harry said calmly.

“That’s not what I meant, Potter,” Draco snapped. “I meant, where are you planning on being tonight?”

Harry rounded on Draco. “I plan on doing what I can to save as many bloody people as possible,” he ground out. “You tell me where I’ll be tonight.”

“Potter, you can’t be there!” Draco exclaimed.

“Why not?” Harry asked incredulously.

“You can’t get hurt!” Draco snapped.

Harry blinked at him in amazement.

“Well, what am I supposed to do if you end up dead?” Draco said, flushing a little.

Harry shook his head. “I don’t plan on dying tonight, Malfoy,” he said coldly.

“Potter!”

“No, this isn’t up for debate,” Harry said, his eyes flashing dangerously. “You have your job to do tonight and I have my job.”

“Why do you have to be a bloody Gryffindor?” Draco muttered even as he backed off.

Harry rolled his eyes before spinning on his heel and heading for the back door, Draco still following him.

Harry made it to the narrow alleyway behind the house and turned to face Draco. He realized Draco was again looking nervous. “Malfoy, just do the best you can,” he said softly.

Draco shook his head, indicating that wasn’t what he was worried about now. “Can I come back tomorrow?” he asked quietly. “Will you be here?”

Harry quirked a lopsided grin. “Sure, Malfoy. I’ll be here.”

Draco offered Harry a small smile. Harry took the smile with him as he Apparated to the Burrow.

* * * * *

Harry pushed open the back door and didn’t even have a chance to register who all was there before he was engulfed in a huge hug.

“Harry, we were so worried about you!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. She pushed him back so she could get a good look at him. “Hmmm, you actually look like you’ve been eating more this summer.”

He grinned. “I’ve been eating fine, Mrs. Weasley.”

“Harry!”

Harry turned in time to be slammed by Hermione. He hugged her back, then wrapped Ginny in a warm embrace. A round of back-slapping with Ron and the twins and Harry was allowed to step back and breathe again.

“Harry, we didn’t expect you yet,” Hermione said excitedly. “I thought you said you weren’t coming until your birthday.”

Harry immediately sobered. “I’m not here to stay,” he said flatly before turning to Mrs. Weasley. “I need to call an Order meeting, but, um, I don’t know how,” he admitted.

He rubbed his temples at the chorus of exclamations. This was turning into a bloody long day, with no end in sight.

“Stop!” he shouted, bringing blessed silence down upon the room.

Harry gazed calmly at Mrs. Weasley. “Do you know how to contact the Order?”

“Is it urgent?” she questioned nervously.

Frowning, Harry debated what urgent actually meant. “We’ve got until nightfall,” he answered with a shrug. It wasn’t like the Death Eaters were invading the town in ten minutes or something.

Her eyes widened, but she nodded decisively. “Then that’ll be time enough to set the Floo network in motion,” Mrs. Weasley said, already moving to the fireplace. Harry stepped forward as she contacted McGonagall.

“Minerva, Harry is here and wishes to call an Order meeting immediately,” Mrs. Weasley said.

Harry wondered if his professor looked as alarmed at the news as everyone else had. Her voice sounded as stern as it usually did as she requested to speak to Harry directly. Mrs. Weasley eased back out of the fire and gestured Harry into it with her. Harry knelt down before the fireplace and stuck his head into the green flames.

“Mr. Potter?” McGonagall questioned.

“Professor, there will be an attack in one of the small towns near Little Whinging tonight,” he said bluntly, and wasn’t surprised to be surrounded by a chorus of gasps. “I need to get the Order gathered and prepare for the counter-attack.”

“How do you know? Are you certain?”

“Yes, I’m certain,” Harry said firmly, nodding to her. “I had a vision where I overheard this information,” he lied smoothly. He’d prepared himself for this. He snorted inwardly. Or rather, Snape had prepared him for this.

McGonagall stared at him for a few seconds longer, before facing Mrs. Weasley. “Molly, you know who to call. I’ll start on my end,” she said, waiting for the affirmative response from Mrs. Weasley. “One hour,” she said firmly before she disappeared.

Harry backed away from the fireplace so Mrs. Weasley could start making her Floo calls. He quickly learned that the Order had some kind of network in place so that everyone could be contacted as quickly as possible. After listening to her inform Tonks and Mrs. Figg, Harry turned back towards his friends who were all watching with worried expressions.

“Oh, Harry!” Hermione exclaimed softly. “You’re having visions again?”

“Yeah,” Harry answered wearily, flopping down in one of the chairs at the table.

“How do you know it’s true?” Ron blurted out.

Harry flinched, despite having known this issue would come up. “Can we afford to take the risk of it not being true?” he snapped.

“But Harry,” Hermione began warily. “You know the history.”

Harry glared at her. “Yes, I do know,” he said sharply. “This felt different, though, and you’re just going to have to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” Hermione said. “But, Harry, you can’t just know it’s different.”

Harry’s nostrils flared. “When Voldemort starts invading your head, then we’ll get into a discussion about how it feels. Then you can lecture me about the subtle differences a person learns to notice regarding visions that help determine whether it’s planted or whether Voldemort even knows you’re seeing anything. Until that time, you’re just going to have to trust that I’ve learned the bloody difference myself,” he said angrily.

Hermione was pale and looked incredibly hurt by Harry’s outburst, but Harry refused to feel too guilty about it. She was just going to have to believe that this was a vision about Voldemort’s plans, because he knew that she’d never believe him if he actually told the truth.

“All right, Harry,” Hermione said quietly.

Harry nodded his acknowledgement.

They all started when Mrs. Weasley rounded on them. “All right,” she said sternly. “We‘ll be having have an Order meeting in a short time. I need tables and chairs set up on the back lawn immediately. Fred and George, you know the routine.”

Trooping out to the backyard, everyone remained sober as they quickly got the backyard arranged to accommodate the influx of people that would be there soon. In fact, as they worked, people began arriving. Harry wasn’t a whole lot of help as he was soon being greeted by half the members of the Order. He was thankful when no one questioned him, though.

It finally hit him that no one probably knew why exactly they were being called there. He looked around and recognized the confused and wary expressions. Professor McGonagall led him to the sitting room when she arrived, casting Privacy wards on the room before speaking.

“Mr. Potter, everyone is particularly concerned and a little . . . nervous because this is the first Order meeting that has been called since,” she swallowed hard. “Since the Headmaster passed away.”

Harry blinked at her in amazement. “Why haven’t there been any Order meetings?” he demanded. “There’s still a war going on!”

She pursed her lips in disapproval. “I know you are aware that we lost our connection to You Know Who,” she said. “In the past month, we have had no information to work with.”

“Surely there are things the Order could still be doing!” Harry exclaimed.

“Mr. Potter, we have lost our leader in these dark times,” McGonagall said sternly. “People are grieving. People have lost their sense of direction.”

“Well, they had best get it back,” Harry retorted. “We don’t bloody have time for people to get lost now.”

Her eyes widened marginally. “Perhaps you are correct,” she said slowly. “But you should be aware that people are understandably not trusting at the moment.”

“They had best get over it,” Harry said grimly, speaking more to himself than her as his gaze went to the window. “I’ve got enough to deal with. I don’t need a bunch of squabbling adults as well.”

McGonagall’s lips twitched as she studied him. “I think perhaps it is time for this meeting to start.” With a flick of her wand she dropped the Privacy wards and briskly left the room, Harry trailing along in her wake.

Harry hadn’t even stepped outside before he heard the yelling.

“You are not old enough to be attending these meetings,” Mrs. Weasley screeched at her children and Hermione. “Now, I will hear no more of this.”

Ignoring them, Harry watched in amazement as Professor McGonagall took a seat just to the left of the head of the long table, and gestured for Harry to take that spot. Remus was sitting across from her and smiled at Harry in welcome, although it was a bit strained under the circumstances.

Dazedly, Harry made his way over and stared down the length of the makeshift conference table that had been created from several smaller tables being pushed together.

McGonagall gave him a sharp look of approval, and Harry took a deep breath before tuning back in to the argument amongst the Weasleys.

“Mrs. Weasley,” he said firmly, gaining her attention. “I know you don’t want to have them listen in on this meeting, but it would save me a lot of time if I could tell them at the same time as I tell everyone else.”

Harry met her stern gaze steadily, not backing down. “You know that the second this meeting is over that I will just have to start all over with explaining to them.”

Harry’s friends wisely remained silent, but were wide-eyed at the battle of wills taking place before them.

Finally, Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips in disapproval, but nodded. Without another word, they all quickly found seats at the table.

The entire table had gone quiet and everyone was staring at Harry. He glanced at McGonagall again, but she simply nodded for him to go ahead. He hadn’t been prepared for this. He’d expected her to be in charge now that Dumbledore was gone.

“Go ahead, Harry,” Remus said quietly, giving him a reassuring smile.

Harry returned the smile gratefully, finding his confidence returning. “Okay, I called this Order meeting because there’s going to be an attack tonight.”

He felt unprepared again as chaos immediately broke out around the table. Some people looked panicked, some looked disbelieving, some looked angry, and some simply looked sad.

You called this Order meeting?” Shacklebolt asked in amazement, his deep voice carrying over the cacophony surrounding him.

“Yes,” Harry answered simply. “We have a job that needs to be done tonight.”

“But you can’t be in charge,” someone shouted out that Harry didn’t recognize.

Harry shrugged. “Someone has to.”

“You are not even seventeen yet,” someone else exclaimed. “You cannot possibly presume to take Dumbledore’s place.”

Harry’s face hardened. “You’re right,” he said coldly. “I’m not going to take Dumbledore’s place. He was an amazing man, deeply respected, and looked up to by many. All of us here grieve his absence, but what you seem to be forgetting is that he has never truly left us alone.”

Harry was just as shocked as everyone else when a sudden trilling filled the air. “Fawkes,” he breathed.

Looking up into the blue sky he saw the flash of red and gold circling towards them. He went cross-eyed as the beautiful bird landed heavily on his shoulder. Blinking and refocusing, he reached up to pet the phoenix, filled with awe at the sight. “Hello, Fawkes,” Harry whispered.

Fawkes trilled a cheerful greeting, warming Harry’s soul.

“He will always be here for those of us who believe,” Harry breathed in wonder. Taking courage from the phoenix, he gazed back to the group of Order members. He realized all of them were looking as awed as he felt.

“Professor Dumbledore will always be here with us in our hearts,” Harry said softly. “He will remain with us as we heed his words and advice. I don’t believe he will ever truly be gone,” he said, pausing and gazing at Fawkes again briefly. “I do not presume to take his place.”

Taking a deep breath, his tone was stronger when he spoke again. “However, I will not do him a disservice by ignoring the tasks that need to be done. He would consider it a great dishonour for us to be sitting here grieving while he’s off on his next great adventure, anyway.”

McGonagall caught his eye and gave him an understanding smile. Harry smiled back, willing to bet she’d heard Dumbledore talk about it many times. He watched as she retrieved her wand from her pocket and conjured a perch for Fawkes. With another trill, the phoenix left Harry’s shoulder and settled in comfortably, looking for all the world like he was overseeing the meeting alongside Harry.

“So, are we ready to try this again?” Harry asked with a cheeky grin. He received some dazed laughter in response.

Harry sobered and gazed solemnly at the gathered Order members. “I’m here and called this meeting because there is a job that needs to be done tonight.”

Everyone was listening to him intently, and Harry could feel the pressure bearing down on him. His connection to Voldemort was not something he freely talked about, and wasn’t so sure he should be talking about it now. He needed these people to believe in him, though. He decided to try just skipping over that part, fairly certain that’s what Dumbledore would have done.

“Voldemort will be attacking a small town near Little Whinging where my relatives live,” Harry said. “I don’t believe he can attack the town directly, probably because of something Dumbledore has done in the past. I’m not really sure,” he admitted. “But I am sure that he’s planning on this attack so that it hits literally close to home for me.”

“My, uh, method of obtaining information isn’t perfect, and I only know so much,” he said and went on to explain what he did know, including the town, number of Death Eaters and the fact that it was supposed to happen sometime during the night, although he couldn’t say precisely when.

“How do you know all this?” Moody asked suspiciously.

Harry drew in a deep breath before responding. “It’s a method that you’ve all acted on before that Dumbledore knew about,” he answered truthfully. It was just the spy method rather than the scar method that some of them knew about.

“And what method would this be?” Shacklebolt questioned.

Harry floundered, not wanting to answer directly. He didn’t believe people would react well to knowing he had a direct connection to Voldemort’s mind.

“It’s a complex skill based on the history between Harry and Voldemort,” Hermione spoke up, laying her lecture tones on thick. “It relies heavily on the magical phenomena from when Harry survived the Killing Curse as a baby, which means that it is not a skill that just anyone can master. Professor Dumbledore was a wise man learned in the art of the Old Magic and was able to help Harry develop his skills to a manageable level. It’s an imprecise magic, unfortunately, but can be very useful,” she added briskly.

Harry stared at her in amazement as she continued spouting off utter nonsense. With her no-nonsense voice and her reputation as a brainy bookworm, she was making her explanation sound amazingly complex and completely believable. Since he was pretty sure even Dumbledore hadn’t precisely understood Harry’s connection to Voldemort, he had to wonder what Hermione was actually explaining so in-depth.

His gaze landed on Ron sitting beside her and had to repress his snicker as he recognized the dazed expression Ron always got when he automatically tuned out Hermione’s lectures. He risked a glance at Professor McGonagall who knew it was a load of nonsense. She kept her stern mask in place, but her eyes were sparkling with amusement.

Checking out everyone else, he recognized several more people who were looking as dazed as Ron. Tonks looked about ready to fall asleep, while Remus was gazing at Hermione as if he was gleaning valuable knowledge. He wondered if Remus actually knew what Hermione was describing. Many were just staring at her in fascination as she continued to rattle off facts. No one seemed to be disbelieving, though, which Harry was thankful for. He was going to owe Hermione for this one. He didn’t think anyone would dare to question how he was coming up with this knowledge anymore.

“So, as I’m sure you can all clearly understand,” Hermione said, winding down. “It’s an incredible and unique method Harry has that allows us to gain access to such important information.”

She sat back primly and turned her gaze back to Harry expectantly.

“Um, yeah,” Harry said. “So, I believe we can discuss what our plan of attack will actually be for tonight.”

Those that had become lost in a stupor with Hermione’s explanation became more animated again as Harry spoke.

“Do you have any suggestions, Harry?” Remus asked.

Harry darted a small, grateful smile at him. People were already having enough trouble adjusting to a teenager running the meeting. Support from some of the adult members was both reassuring and helpful. Oddly enough, the majority of the group seemed to appreciate the direction, even coming from someone so young. He had to wonder how much of it was due to the fact that he was Harry Potter, the Chosen One.

Pushing those thoughts aside, Harry began laying out the basic strategies that Snape had gone over that morning. The main difference being the fact that Harry narrowed the counter-attack mostly down to one town. He hesitated briefly before suggesting that lookouts be posted in the two neighbouring towns, pointing out that Voldemort had considered them and could always change his mind. Someone should be on the lookout for Death Eater activity who could Apparate and alert others if need be.

Harry sighed in relief as the others began cooperating and working out who would be where. Moody and Shacklebolt seemed to take charge and Harry listened intently as everyone was assigned their posts and duties. These people had done this before.

Sinking back into his chair, Harry realized that everyone had just needed someone to get them started. Once they had some information and a little direction, like McGonagall had pointed out, the group seemed to pull together into a cohesive unit.

Things were finally flowing smoothly until it came to the question of the youngest members of the group. Fred, George, Ron, Ginny and Hermione were arguing over being left out, stating they wanted to help. Mrs. Weasley actually had backup this time from other members of the Order who didn’t want the “children” involved. Harry stayed out of it as long as possible, but it wasn’t really that long before he was dragged into the argument.

“Harry wants to fight as well,” Ron exclaimed. “Right, Harry?”

Harry found himself suddenly in the spotlight again. “I will be where the fighting is,” he admitted quietly.

“See!” Ron exclaimed triumphantly.

“That wasn’t a question out of your mouth, Harry,” Remus said sharply, catching what Ron hadn’t. Attention quickly shifted to their end of the table. Remus didn’t often take that tone of voice.

“No, it wasn’t,” Harry agreed calmly.

“Harry,” Remus said warningly.

Harry didn’t flinch under Remus’ penetrating gaze. “I know my importance in this war better than any single person here,” he said, ignoring the sharp looks he knew he received from Ron and Hermione, let alone everyone else. “I know and understand the risks that I am taking, and I assure you that I don’t intend to be in the direct line of fire.”

“However, I will be where the fighting is,” Harry continued, his voice hard and filled with determination. “If there is an opportunity that I can help, then I will do so. I will not be sitting at home doing nothing when there is a war to fight.”

“This is one battle, not the war,” Remus said firmly.

Remus was a little surprised when Harry nodded his head in agreement. “You’re right. The war will not be won by fighting these battles, but it will not stop me from doing whatever I can to thwart Voldemort in his efforts.”

“Harry you’ve done your part by bringing this to our attention,” Remus said. “Now let us do our part.”

“You will be,” Harry said evenly. “But this is a group effort tonight. It is foolish not to accept as much help as possible. The larger the numbers, the more likely the Death Eaters will not even stick around to fight. Placing us children as lookouts in the places needed frees up others with more experience and skills in fighting the Death Eaters.”

Harry gestured to his friends. “Ron, Hermione, Ginny and myself do have some experience fighting the Death Eaters. We’re not new to this and I see no point in trying to shelter us from it.”

Remus sighed in defeat. “When you turn into this intelligent young man preparing for war, you make far too much sense for me to argue with you.”

After that, Mrs. Weasley grudgingly allowed the others to be the lookouts in the other towns. Harry knew she was still only allowing it because Harry had said there was only a slim chance that Death Eaters would even show up there. His friends didn’t look overly pleased at not being where things would likely be taking place, but they accepted the fact that they were being allowed to go at all. Ron and Hermione would be together and the twins would be in the other town keeping watch. Ginny didn’t know how to Apparate yet and would be going with the twins who were capable of doing a Side-Along Apparition.

Harry refused to be anywhere else aside from where the battle was likely to take place, but readily agreed that he would be utilizing his Invisibility Cloak.

The meeting was breaking up and the majority of the people that didn’t normally hang around the Weasleys had left before Madam Pomfrey spoke up. “We have a slightly different problem,” she said hesitantly, not seeming to know who to direct her concerns to at first. Finally she focused on Professor McGonagall. “The hospital wing is stocked well enough for any injuries that will hopefully not be occurring tonight, but if this type of occasion occurs again, I will quickly run low on certain potions.”

McGonagall’s lips thinned to a tightly pressed line. “That does raise a concern,” she agreed.

“What happened to Slughorn?” Harry interjected curiously.

“Mr. Potter, I believe you were there when Professor Dumbledore asked him to come teach,” McGonagall said sharply.

“He went back into hiding again, didn’t he?” Harry asked.

McGonagall nodded curtly. “Unfortunately, it is not just a matter of losing him,” she stated.

Harry narrowed his eyes in suspicion and she nodded again. “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed.

“Mr. Potter! Control your language!” McGonagall snapped.

Harry just rolled his eyes, thinking about the problem this presented. “I gather Snape was the one who continued to make certain potions,” he said bitterly.

There were a lot of gasps as Harry dared to say Snape’s name. He wondered if it was going to be as bad as saying Voldemort’s name. Pushing that thought out of his head, he focused again on potions.

“I’m not exactly sure what our solution is,” McGonagall was saying. “Potion making is not a talent held by all. I believe we could purchase some of the more difficult-to-brew potions.”

“It can be difficult to find high quality potions on the market, and if you can find them, they are very expensive,” Remus said quietly.

Harry stared at Remus, comprehension dawning on him. “You haven’t had your Wolfsbane.”

Remus simply shook his head.

Harry wanted to curse and scream that it bloody wasn’t fair. He knew where the Potions Master was and knew he was still on the Light side.

His eyes slowly widened. He supposedly didn’t have access to the Potions Master, but he did have access to the Potions Master’s notes. He could fake his way through an entire year of Potions and brew them better than even Hermione. He could use it as a cover to fake his way through this now—with a little help from the Potions Master himself if he was lucky. Plus, he had access to Draco as well.

Harry glanced down the table and met Hermione’s gaze. She was glaring at him and he realized that she understood at least part of what he was thinking.

“No, Harry,” she said. “It’s dangerous.”

“It is not!” Harry retorted.

The discussion that had continued amongst the adults while Harry’s thoughts turned inward, now halted as they listened to Harry and Hermione.

“How can you say that?” Hermione snapped angrily.

“Because it could help,” Harry said. “And we need all the help we can get.”

“Not from him,” she said, sounding even more furious.

“Hermione, it’s a book,” Harry said evenly. “No more, no less.”

“You know that’s not true,” Hermione said, pursing her lips.

Harry was growing impatient with this conversation fast, especially since they’d been having this argument for months. “This isn’t about grades this time, Hermione. This is about being able to help save people’s lives.”

“Exactly,” she snapped, acting like Harry had proved her point for her. “And we’re not going to risk any lives that way.”

“I can’t believe you’d even suggest it!” Ron yelled, looking both angry and confused as he found his voice.

“It’s just a bloody book!” Harry shouted.

“It’s not and you know it, Harry!” Hermione’s voice rising as well.

“Enough!” McGonagall interjected into the fray. She turned her piercing gaze on Harry. “What is this about, Mr. Potter?”

“I have a way that I could probably get some of the potions that Madam Pomfrey will be needing,” Harry said, his voice firm but much calmer.

“But it’s dangerous!” Hermione said. “It was Snape’s book.”

Harry shot her a dangerous glare, evil thoughts about tattle-tales going through his head.

“Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said in a warning tone.

Harry sighed heavily and briefly explained the book, mainly just mentioning the fact that it had Snape’s extra notes about the different potions within.

He wasn’t pleased when Hermione quickly pointed out that it also had dangerous spells that Harry had been learning from it, but at least she didn’t mention the one Harry had actually used on Draco.

McGonagall looked grim as she mulled over everything that had been said. “Professor Snape knew his potions,” she said finally. “Harry, do you believe you could successfully brew some of the potions Madam Pomfrey will need?”

“Yes,” Harry said quickly, thankful some of the healing potions had been on the curriculum for sixth year. “And what I can’t brew, I will find and buy,” he added.

“That is not necessary, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said stiffly. “In this instance, it is the Order’s responsibility, or that of Hogwarts.”

“I am a part of the Order,” Harry said firmly. “I’ve also got the means to brew or purchase the potions needed.” He didn’t dare look over at Hermione and Ron, knowing that neither would be happy with him.

“This should not be your responsibility,” Professor McGonagall said, not looking happy with the situation either.

Harry shrugged. “It’s got to be somebody’s and I’m somebody that can do something about it.”

She studied him for several long moments before she sighed heavily. It was a reaction Harry was getting used to. “Very well, then,” she said.

“Um, I’ll need to stop by Hogwarts,” Harry said.

She gave him another sharp look. “I don’t think I want to know.”

Harry finally grinned. “No, I don’t think you do.”

McGonagall smiled slightly in return. “Hogwarts is always open,” she said, rising to leave. “I expect I will see you tomorrow.”

Harry nodded, but her words had given him new questions. He didn’t voice them as she walked away, though. He was curious as to how Hogwarts was protected when everyone was obviously away. He figured Filch and Mrs. Norris were likely the only ones who had actually been there that afternoon, but maybe there were a few others. The wards probably were a big protection, even without anyone around, he figured.

The bigger question, was whether anyone had decided if Hogwarts would be open the next year, and Harry wasn’t sure if he actually wanted to know the answer or not yet. If Hogwarts wasn’t going to be open, then he would have a different set of problems to deal with, and at the moment, he didn’t have the will to think about it.

All of the adults disappeared and Harry was left with his friends moving to sit closer to him. He knew he was about to be pelted with questions and wasn’t looking forward to it.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Eight

“Harry, why are you acting so different?” Ron burst out suddenly.

Harry startled at the question. Of all the questions he’d expected to be asked, that wasn’t one of them. “What do you mean?” he asked warily. “I’m not different.”

“Yes, you are!” Ron exclaimed.

“You’re just imagining things, Ron,” Harry said dismissively.

Ron turned pleadingly to Hermione for help, and she took up the challenge. “Harry,” she said slowly. “You just called an Order meeting, ran said meeting, laid out the basics for the counter-attack tonight, and you stood your ground with both Lupin and Mrs. Weasley. This is not to mention you standing up to Professor McGonagall, not just once, but probably twice,” she said knowingly.

Harry briefly considered the short, private chat he’d had with McGonagall before the Order meeting, and realized Hermione had known about it, if not what was actually said. She’d seen McGonagall come away from that talk and hand over control of the Order meeting to Harry.

Before Harry could figure out how to respond, Ron was speaking again. “And you volunteered to make potions!” he shouted, making it sound as if it was the most horrific thing Harry had ever done in his life.

Harry snorted in wry amusement. “Madam Pomfrey said she would need the potions, and like I said, I have a way to help. As for the meeting, it may have looked like I was taking charge, but it was only with McGonagall’s permission. The only reason anybody listened was because Fawkes made his sudden appearance, and then I was lucky enough to have Hermione’s help to deflect attention.”

He gave her a huge grin. “By the way, that was bloody brilliant!”

Hermione was unable to resist grinning in return. “I thought it was quite good myself,” she said primly.

Ron and Ginny laughed, and they all relaxed a little. If Harry had hoped it would help deflect attention, though, he was wrong.

“I think what my idiot brother was trying to say,” Ginny said with a pointed glance at Ron, “is that we didn’t quite expect to see you so take charge and in control. Help or not, you came here today with a plan and nothing was going to stop you. Even the adults . . . even Mum . . . seemed to respect that,” she said in awe.

“We’re used to you in a crisis, but this was all a bit more . . . involved,” Hermione said, floundering a little for an appropriate word. “When we last saw you, you were extremely angry and grieving. We didn’t expect to see you so . . . calm, especially considering the circumstances.”

Harry shrugged carelessly, gazing at his friends. Hermione looked like she thought Harry was going to explode just from what she’d said. He supposed that he might have in the past.

“There are things that needed to be done. We don’t have time to sit around grieving. It’s not to say I’m not angry. I’m furious that we have to deal with any of this, but it has to be done. I’m scared as all fuck that people will get hurt tonight,” he admitted quietly.

It wasn’t going to do for him to admit that he was also scared about Malfoy and Snape getting hurt, too. He was still struggling admitting that to himself and he had a clue as to what was going on.

“We know you’re scared as well,” Hermione said softly. “But something’s changed you over the last month.”

“I thought you were determined before, but this new you is amazing,” Ginny said.

Harry shook his head in exasperation. “I haven’t changed all that much,” he protested. “All three of you know I’ve been determined all along – especially since Dumbledore’s death – to win this war, whatever it takes.”

“You didn’t sound so grown up about it before, though,” Hermione said knowingly but sadly. “I reckon I just didn’t quite realize how much Dumbledore’s death would affect you.”

Harry thought about that. He didn’t exactly feel any more grown up than before. He just felt like he was taking his responsibilities more seriously. Is that what made him grown up, he wondered.

In the past, Dumbledore had always been there. He’d been there to take the lead. He’d been there to protect and guide. He’d been a tremendous safety net for Harry.

Harry didn’t want to try to take Dumbledore’s place and he’d meant every word he’d said to the Order. He wasn’t trying to take his place, but he was admittedly taking on some of the tasks that Dumbledore had been trying to complete. This included everything from calling an Order meeting in an emergency to trying to help Malfoy and bring him over to the right side.

He frowned, trying to figure out if he was taking on more responsibilities that he should be. Were there people better suited than him to take on Dumbledore’s unfinished tasks? It wasn’t like he was actually trying to do it all himself.

For the meeting, he’d been helped by numerous people—and a phoenix. Snape, McGonagall, Hermione, and Remus had all helped in one way or another.

He probably sounded a bit odd regarding the potions, but that was because no one knew about Snape. He was hoping like crazy that Snape would actually help him in that regard, realizing there was no guarantee the man would be willing, but he’d also been right that he had the monetary resources to help if need be.

Regarding Snape, Harry sure didn’t have much control there. Snape was the one in charge. It had required a lot of searching through known facts and trying to sort through his own emotions, but they’d come to some kind of understanding. Harry had to give credit to Dumbledore himself for helping with that.

Regarding Malfoy, Harry realized that he still didn’t have a clue as to what was really going on there. Dumbledore had made the initial effort to coax Malfoy to the other side, but Harry knew there was a lot more going on there. Most, but not all, was centred on a small child called Victoria.

Yes, Harry was dealing with certain things that Dumbledore would have been if he were alive, but it wasn’t like Harry was fulfilling the roles in exactly the same way. Harry felt like he was still floundering, and it was taking everything he had to stay afloat.

“Harry!”

“What?” Harry asked, startled out of his thoughts.

“Well, at least some things haven’t changed,” Ron grumbled.

“You were lost in thought again,” Ginny stated the obvious with a huge grin.

Harry gave her a slight smile before facing Hermione. “I’ve got a lot on my mind and a lot to do. And I plan on succeeding. If trying to deal with all these responsibilities makes me grown up, then I reckon you’re right,” he said.

“You don’t have to do it alone,” Hermione said sternly.

Harry shrugged. “I’m not doing it alone. Oddly enough, I think I’ve got more support for getting things done than I ever have before.” He gestured to the length of joined tables. “I believe I’ve even got the entire Order behind me.”

Hermione blinked in the sudden realization that he was right. He wasn’t about to tell her about Snape, Malfoy and Winky who were also helping him. Of course, Malfoy came with his own set of problems, but Harry wasn’t about to mention that, either.

“I’ve also still got you three,” Harry said quietly. He glanced at Fawkes who still sat on the perch beside him. “It seems I have Fawkes as well,” he said bemusedly.

“Phoenixes choose their owner,” Hermione said excitedly. “But I think Dumbledore likely had a big influence. Either way, it would appear that Fawkes has chosen you to be his owner now.

“Um, does this mean he’ll be living with me?” Harry asked curiously.

Fawkes trilled a couple notes, which seemed to be an affirmative answer.

Hermione was beaming while Ron and Ginny stared on in wonder. “I believe so,” Hermione said happily.

Harry sighed. It was great, he reckoned, but it meant he also needed to figure out how to care for a phoenix. He hoped Fawkes was as easy as Hedwig, because she pretty much took care of herself. His main job in terms of care was to give her some love and attention now and then.

“Hermione?” Harry questioned. He didn’t even have to ask before she was already answering.

“I’ll get right on it,” she said briskly. “I’ll find out everything you need to know about phoenixes, so that you’ll be able to care for him properly.”

“Plus everything you don’t need to know,” Ron muttered, receiving an elbow in the ribs from Hermione.

“This is quite an honour,” Hermione said.

“It is,” Harry said softly in agreement, reaching up to stroke Fawkes’ feathers and feeling closer to Dumbledore than he had since the man’s death.

“Come on, Ron,” Hermione said suddenly, standing up and dragging Ron up with her. “You can help me see what I can find about phoenixes in the books I’ve got here.”

“Why do I want to do that?” Ron asked incredulously.

“Because Harry needs to know,” Hermione said impatiently, tugging on his arm and getting him to follow her.

Harry watched them walk away and listened to their continued bickering in bemusement. There was a soft sigh behind him, and he turned to face Ginny.

“I believe Hermione was giving us a chance to be alone,” Ginny said.

“Oh,” Harry said, looking at Ginny warily.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I know we’re not together anymore and they know it as well. They just seem to be a little more hopeful that we’ll be a couple again.”

“Ginny,” Harry said, before stopping. What was he supposed to say, he wondered. He didn’t actually want to get back together with her, but he didn’t want to hurt her, either.

“It’s all right, Harry,” she said gently. “I understand, even if they don’t, that it’s not just because of Dumbledore’s death, the war, and you needing to focus on all of that.”

“It’s not?” Harry asked stupidly.

Ginny chuckled. “Oh Harry, you know as well as I do that we weren’t really as suited to each other as we thought we’d be.”

Well, that was true enough, Harry thought. Their relationship hadn’t been quite what he’d expected it to be. It was nice enough, but he’d never truly been comfortable. Rather, he’d discovered that he was far more comfortable with her in a sister role than a girlfriend role. He just hadn’t realized that Ginny had come to the same conclusions.

He continued to stare at her blankly and she chuckled again, laughing at him. “Harry, I know you didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and I’m sure you honestly believed it was because of the war at the time you broke up with me. You don’t see Ron and Hermione breaking up because of the war, though, do you?” she questioned.

Harry’s brow furrowed as he frowned. “Well, no, but they don’t actually have the same responsibility, either.”

“True,” she conceded. “However, if we’d actually been as in love as Ron and Hermione are, you would have done anything to stay together and make it work despite the circumstances. When something is important to you, you put your all into it.”

“You’re important to me!” Harry protested. “I’d do anything I could to protect you!”

Ginny smiled. “Glad to hear that,” she said, confusing Harry more. She took his hand and squeezed it gently. “Harry, I used to have a tremendous crush on you. Even after I started dating, I still had a bit of a crush on you and I jumped at the chance of finally getting to be with you. Once I got there, though, I had a good time with you, but I slowly figured out that you’d become much more like one of my big brothers, rather than a boyfriend.”

“Are you trying to say I’m a bad boyfriend?” he asked, sounding a little defensive.

“No,” she said, with a wide grin. “That’s not what I’m saying at all. Amongst other qualities, you’re quite an excellent kisser . . . and more,” she said slyly.

“Shut it,” Harry hissed, glancing around them nervously. “I don’t need every one of your bloody brothers after me, let alone your mum.” He scowled at Ginny as she started laughing again.

“That’s one of the things that makes you a good boyfriend,” she said.

“What?” Harry asked, confused yet again.

“You show respect,” Ginny answered. “I know very well how boys like to brag. You know my brothers, though, and you’ve respected that I don’t want the hassle of them knowing things like that.”

“It’s not respect, it’s fear,” Harry said flatly.

She grinned widely. “You, Harry Potter, are not the least bit afraid of my brothers.”

“Am, too,” Harry pouted.

Ginny went on as if she hadn’t heard him. “It’s just too bad I’m not the one for you,” she mused. “It’s tough to find someone who is willing to take on all my brothers.”

“Was I good for anything else?” Harry asked sarcastically.

“Sure, you were good for the sex,” Ginny said cheekily.

Harry couldn’t decide whether to groan or laugh. “I do like you, you know,” he retorted.

Ginny’s gentle smile returned. “Yeah, I know, and I like you, too. It’s just not anything more than that, for either one of us. We’re just better as friends. I think we were both trying to make something work between us because we thought there should be something between us.”

“Yeah,” Harry said softly in agreement, understanding what she meant.

“Joking aside, the sex was good, but it wasn’t spectacular anyway,” Ginny said blithely.

Slack-jawed, Harry stared at her incredulously. “Excuse me, but you’re the one who’s been talking about how good it was, and now you’re going to accuse me of . . . of . . .,” he trailed off, trying to figure out exactly what it was she was accusing him of. He just knew it didn’t sound good.

“Oh, come on, Harry, it was all fun and good and relaxing, but there wasn’t really any amazing spark between us,” Ginny said.

Staring at her, Harry realized that she had far more experience than he did. He’d known that since long before they’d started going together. Hell, she’d been the one to introduce him to everything he did know about sex. He just hadn’t known that he’d been on some comparison scale and came up lacking.

“I’m sorry for not being good enough for you,” he said stiffly.

Ginny finally seemed to realize how Harry was taking what she was saying. “I’m not insulting you,” she said, sounding more affectionate than irritated. “It’s not like I’ve been with a ton of boys, but I know that there isn’t that something extra between us. We were more experimenting and learning.”

Harry was frowning again. He didn’t think he’d ever understand all this relationship stuff.

“I didn’t say we weren’t good together,” Ginny said. “I just don’t think we’re right together.”

Thinking about it, Harry realized that was pretty much the conclusion he’d come to, but he’d obviously come to the same point in a far different manner than Ginny had. He still felt a little insulted, but then he got to thinking about the fact that if he saw her as his sister, then sex probably shouldn’t be the best with her. He simply didn’t have any other experience to compare it to.

“There’s something a little odd about our relationship, isn’t there?” Harry said.

Ginny relaxed and laughed again. “Yes. I don’t think about how good the snogging is with my other brothers.” Her words hit her and they both shuddered. “There was something horribly wrong with that statement,” she muttered.

“Friends,” Harry said firmly.

“Friends,” Ginny agreed.

“So, who can we set you up with?” she asked, grinning mischievously. “I know an awful lot of girls who would love to go out with you.”

Harry groaned, not wanting to be set up with anyone. He had enough to handle with Draco at the moment. He couldn’t imagine trying to sort out a romantic relationship with some girl while everything else was going on.

It wasn’t long after their talk, that Ginny was called into the house to help Mrs. Weasley finish up dinner. Alone for a few minutes, finally, Harry laid his head on the table. It had already been a long day, and it was far from over yet. So much had happened, and he wasn’t getting much time to process any of it.

Upon a little more reflection, Harry decided maybe he didn’t want the time to process everything right now. There was too much going on and he didn’t bloody understand half of it, but he’d keep going forward. Things still needed to get done.

Everyone was tense during the meal. Mrs. Weasley was still not happy with any of them being involved in any way. She continued to dart irritated looks in Harry’s direction, alternated with looks of worry. To everyone at the table she was darting fearful looks, which was making everyone even more uncomfortable.

No one was looking forward to the events later that night and the tension was high. By the end of the meal, Harry was feeling extremely uncomfortable. Coming to a decision after the table had been cleared again, Harry grabbed up his rucksack.

“I’ve got some things to take care of, but I’ll be back before dark,” he declared to the group in general and disappeared with a pop before anyone could argue with him.

Taking a chance, Harry Apparated to Grimmauld Place first. If Snape had found out any additional information, he may have left a note or something for Harry. Malfoy knew the information, and Harry figured he likely would’ve shared it with Snape once they were both back at the Manor. He stepped into the house and made his way to the kitchen and was surprised to actually find Snape there.

“Potter,” Snape said coolly. “I have more information for you.”

Harry simply nodded expectantly in response. He listened intently as Snape filled him in on what Malfoy had already told him. The only thing it affected in the plans that had already been generated with the Order was that the lookouts weren’t needed in the other towns. Harry wasn’t going to bother telling his friends or anyone else that, though.

“Potter, why are you here at the moment?” Snape asked suspiciously.

“Well, um,” Harry said nervously. He really didn’t feel like getting Snape all worked up again.

“Spit it out, Potter,” Snape said.

“Madam Pomfrey is fine on potions for tonight, but will likely be running low shortly on several of them,” Harry said in a rush.

“And what am I to do about that?” Snape asked, brow arched.

“You could help,” Harry said irritably.

“Potter, they will not trust potions brewed by a Death Eater,” Snape sneered angrily.

“No, but McGonagall trusts your knowledge,” Harry mumbled.

“Potter, what are you suggesting?” Snape said coldly.

Harry groaned inwardly. When he’d volunteered, he hadn’t thought about how hard it would be to bring this up to Snape, let alone convince him to help.

“I told McGonagall I would make any of the potions that are taught in sixth year,” Harry admitted. “And I told her I’d find and purchase any of the others.”

“And she went along with this?” Snape asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Harry said. “I, um, had to explain to her about the book. Hermione was arguing with me about it again,” he muttered.

“You were arguing with Ms. Granger, about my book, and then described the book to McGonagall,” Snape repeated flatly.

Harry winced. “Yes.”

“After describing the book with all my notes, McGonagall agreed to put you, notorious for failing miserably in potions, in charge of brewing and supplying the hospital wing and the Order with all necessary potions,” Snape continued in that same flat tone that Harry considered to be very dangerous.

“Yes,” Harry answered again.

“And you think you can successfully brew the potions,” Snape said.

“I can do the potions from this last year,” Harry said. “With the book,” he admitted quietly.

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes shut, and Harry was unsure of what to expect. He was positive there should have been an explosion by now, and figured there was likely to be one still.

When Snape remained silent, Harry nervously continued, knowing he was likely damning himself, but seemingly unable to stop. “I’ve always had trouble learning potions from you, and we both know that, but I was able to follow the directions of the Half-Blood Prince. I learned a lot this year,” he said, not realizing how earnest he was sounding. “I’m positive I can brew those potions, at least, even though I’m still not that great at potions in general. I’m sure you hate it, but I don’t even have to understand it to be able to follow those directions. Right now, I couldn’t give a fuck about my NEWTs, which I’m not even sure I’ll be able to take. What I care about is being able to get potions to Madam Pomfrey who will need them.”

Harry sucked in a breath before continuing, as Snape was still standing there with eyes closed and pinching the bridge of his nose in silence. “When I talked to Professor McGonagall, I had hoped that you would help with the other potions that Madam Pomfrey needs. I could just pass them off as ones that I’d bought. I mean, I’ll have to buy the ingredients at least. And actually, I reckon I could actually pay you for making them,” he said, brow furrowing as he realized that Snape wouldn’t actually be getting any compensation for his work and his time like he surely must have at Hogwarts. Snape wasn’t likely to do things with nothing in return. He wasn’t the do-it-out-of-the-goodness-of-his-heart type.

Harry shook his head and continued. “I just know you’re the best and the Order could really use your help. If you’d rather, I can brew them myself, but even then I couldn’t do it without your help. I, um, well, I’d have to have your notes. And I reckon even then I’d have to go to Hermione to help me, because she actually understands potions. But if they weren’t too hard, then I could probably do it, because I’m not so sure she’d help me anyway. She hates the Half-Blood Prince because he’s been corrupting me all year. I don’t know how many times we’ve argued over it.”

Harry realized that he was continuing to ramble his thoughts as he was thinking through some of the many different complications with this not-well thought-out plan of his, but he couldn’t seem to stop. He’d never volunteered this much information to Snape, but this was extremely important.

“Look, I probably owe you an apology for using your book all year. I had no idea it was yours. And I know I owe you an apology for not giving it back when you asked for it,” he admitted. “I panicked. That book was like one of my best friends and I didn’t want to give it to you.”

Snape finally opened his eyes and looked at Harry in surprise, but he still didn’t comment.

Harry found it much more difficult to speak now that Snape was actually looking at him again. He stared at the man, finally feeling horrified that he’d revealed so much.

“So eloquent,” Snape sneered. “Do you ramble always so much information off to others?” he asked coolly.

Harry winced. “No,” he muttered. “But I wasn’t actually giving you any information that would hurt anyone—besides myself.”

“Indeed,” Snape smirked, sounding amused.

“I just need your help,” Harry said. “Rather, the Order needs your help. I just seem to be the only means to pass on that help.”

“How did the Order meeting go?” Snape asked. “I presume since you haven’t said anything that you were able to persuade them well enough and set things in motion for the counter-attack tonight.”

“Yes,” Harry said wearily. “And it seems I used up any eloquence I might have had at the meeting since I’ve lost it again now.”

Harry explained the events from the Order meeting, including Fawkes’ appearance. He was much more careful to make sure he left out the part about already focusing on the one town. He knew how to keep secrets and he had no idea what had possessed him to ramble like that.

Snape cast him an odd look when Harry was finished. “Indeed, it sounds like you were much more successful with your speech earlier.”

Harry sighed. “It’s just been a long day. I think, oddly enough, my brain seems to know I don’t have to keep my guard up quite as much with you.” He rubbed his temples, trying to stave off the headache that kept threatening. “There’s just been one thing after another today, and the day is nowhere near over. I had to get away from Mrs. Weasley for a bit, though, so I decided to stop here and leave you a note, then I was going to run to Hogwarts to get the potions book.”

“It’s still at Hogwarts?” Snape asked, tone sharp.

“Um, yeah,” Harry answered. “It’s still where I hid it when you wanted me to bring it to you,” he admitted.

“I see,” Snape said.

Harry wondered what the hell the man was seeing. He knew that he himself was acting a bit oddly around Snape, but then Snape was also acting oddly around him. He wondered if they were just too tired to keep fighting when they had so many other battles they had to deal with.

Snape had sat down and seemed to be lost in thought. Not sure what else to do, Harry set about making some tea. Snape didn’t say anything when Harry set a cup of tea in front of him, but he did pick it up and drink. Harry sat down, unwilling to break the silence since Snape had been fairly amicable.

“Potter, you have means for accessing the castle and manoeuvring within, without being detected,” Snape said finally.

Harry looked at him warily. That hadn’t been a question, but if it had been, they both knew the answer. “Yes,” he answered anyway.

Snape’s face was that expressionless mask that Harry didn’t particularly like, but it was better than the furious anger that often graced his features when he was looking at Harry. Harry had no idea what was going through the man’s mind. Not that he ever did, he thought wryly.

“You will meet me at the Shrieking Shack at two o’clock sharp tonight,” Snape said.

Harry stared at him incredulously. “You’re going to sneak into Hogwarts with me—tonight?”

“I need access to my rooms,” Snape sneered, eyes narrowed. “I doubt that McGonagall has had the time or the will to attempt to break my wards. She will likely be busy tonight after this battle.”

“Yeah, with the victims you’re going to help send to the bloody hospital wing!” Harry exclaimed.

“Precisely,” Snape said sharply, throwing Harry’s thoughts off-kilter.

“That’s a good thing?” Harry asked in confusion.

“There will likely be many more in attendance at the castle tonight and McGonagall will be distracted. She will be less likely to notice any other visitors to the castle,” Snape said smoothly. “Therefore, we go tonight.”

Harry swallowed heavily, unable to believe what he was hearing. “I . . . I . . .,” he tried to speak, but couldn’t seem to come up with any words.

“Yes, you will be helping Severus Snape, evil Death Eater, back into Hogwarts for the first time since he killed Albus Dumbledore, leader of the Light,” Snape said coldly.

“Oh gods,” Harry moaned. “That’s exactly how everyone else would see it.”

Snape’s eyes widened marginally. “And you do not?”

“No,” Harry said slowly, meeting Snape’s gaze. “This is all just a little fucked up.”

Snape’s lips curled into a smirk, appearing amused rather than mocking. “Language, Potter,” he said evenly.

Harry’s eyes widened incredulously. Snape was going to worry about his language? Blinking, he realized that was all Snape was commenting on. “Well, this is fucked up,” he retorted.

“Indeed,” Snape said in acknowledgement.

Harry laughed a little, trying to ignore the fact that it came out sounding slightly hysterical. “Two o’clock?” he said to verify.

Snape gave him a curt nod. “The battle will certainly take place before midnight.”

Harry closed his eyes at the reminder that they still had a battle to face first. He pushed those thoughts aside for the moment, and thought again about sneaking him and Snape into Hogwarts. “We should meet closer to Honeydukes,” he said.

“Why?” Snape asked sharply.

“Because we want to get into Hogwarts, not just on the grounds,” Harry answered, cringing inwardly and sending a mental apology to the Marauders.

“This should prove to be an informative night,” Snape said.

Harry dropped his head into his hands and tried to remind himself that his secrets were a small price to pay for the healing potions that people would need.

* * * * *

Apparating back to the Weasley’s yard about forty-five minutes before sunset, he was instantly spotted by everyone there. It seemed most of the Order members had already returned.

“Harry!” Hermione shouted, running up to meet him and looking him over critically.

“Where’d you go, mate?” Ron asked worriedly.

“I had things to do,” Harry said, striding over to the table, leaving them staring after him with hurt expressions.

“Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said sternly, rising from her seat and meeting him halfway. “Would you care to explain where you have been this evening?”

“No,” Harry answered.

She blinked at him in surprise. Harry thought it was pretty clear that she hadn’t expected him to defy her by not answering.

“Mr. Potter,” she said warningly.

“Professor McGonagall,” he said politely.

Her lips thinned dangerously, and Harry realized that it wasn’t that long ago that he would have been terribly worried about his fate when she looked at him that way. Now, he had far bigger dangers to deal with.

He’d mentally prepared himself before returning, and had resolutely declared to himself that he was going to be calm, firm, and ready to do what was necessary to prepare himself and everyone else for this battle. He was determined to be strong and not weak in any way. Disconcertingly, he’d wondered if Snape, and especially Draco, went through the same kind of mental process to face the rest of the world.

“Mr. Potter, there are many who are concerned about you, particularly when you see fit to take off to unexplained destinations on your own,” McGonagall said.

“I appreciate the concern, ma’am, but there are things that I must do,” Harry said evenly.

“Not alone,” she said sharply.

Harry’s expression hardened. “Dumbledore left me with certain tasks that I need to take care of. He did not see fit to inform you of them while he was alive; I do not see fit to inform you of them after his death. I will respect his judgment of what must be kept secret for the time being, and I expect the same from you,” he said firmly.

McGonagall’s narrowed eyes stared at him for several long moments. “Very well, then,” she said, giving him a curt nod. She turned sharply on her heel and walked briskly over to the table to resume her seat.

Harry finally took notice of all the others gathered in the Weasley’s backyard. Some were staring at him with disapproval, some with acceptance, and some with awe. Glancing back at his friends, their gobsmacked expressions made him want to laugh at the same time that they made him realize just how significant his conversation with McGonagall was.

Striding to the table with an air of confidence that was only half forced, he sat in the chair at the head of the table again. The table remained quiet as everybody stared at him. He wasn’t sure what they were expecting from him, though. He glanced at McGonagall questioningly.

“I believe, Mr. Potter, that you should perhaps say a few words about this evening’s task,” she said sternly.

Why me, he wondered, but didn’t ask it out loud. Surely there had to be someone better suited to give a pep talk. This wasn’t remotely like being the Quidditch captain and giving the pep talk before a game.

Remus leaned over to whisper in his ear. “It’s not about age, knowledge or experience. They are looking to you for hope, Harry.”

Staring blankly at Remus, who offered him a sad smile, Harry finally began to understand a little better what Scrimgeour had wanted. But whereas Scrimgeour was mainly looking for that hopeful icon for the masses, the Order members were about to go out and risk their lives, based on information that Harry had given them.

Harry felt that weight settle more firmly on his shoulders, but he straightened them regardless and stood to address the group. First he looked to Moody. “How long do we have?”

“Thirty minutes,” Moody said gruffly.

Harry nodded. “All right, then.” He took a deep breath. “We don’t have long before everyone will need to take up their positions. I can’t say for sure, but I believe that the attack will happen sometime before midnight, and probably not long after full dark sets in.”

He thought about his Quidditch speeches. “No matter how long the wait might be, keep to your positions, and don’t let your attention waver. Each person’s role tonight is very important. We have the element of surprise and we will use it to our advantage. The Death Eaters don’t know what our strategies are. The tactics we’ve chosen to use will help us win.”

Ron was frowning at him, and Harry realized that Ron probably knew it sounded familiar but couldn’t recognize why. Ginny was trying to hide her grin behind her hand.

Harry smiled, startling several people, considering the gravity of the situation. “This is a battle and, yes, this is extremely serious with lives at stake, but I have great confidence that we will win. And we’ll win, because we can work together to make it happen for us.”

He paused for a thoughtful moment before speaking again. “It was suggested this afternoon that we would be going over the battle strategies one more time tonight. I don’t think we will.”

Moody spoke up immediately. “It’s necessary,” he growled.

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head at Moody. “Everything was gone over quite thoroughly this afternoon. The matter is too serious for anyone to have forgotten in just a few short hours. The only purpose it would serve is to make everyone even more nervous than they already are.” He addressed the group as a whole again. “We’ve done our planning, and now it’s time for action.”

“This is a little unorthodox, Potter,” McGonagall declared.

Harry shrugged. “Probably, but I’m confident we’re as ready as we can be for this. This is not a time to second guess our strategies. This is the time when we go out there and get the job done.” He didn’t dare look over towards Ron and Ginny. Surely even Ron had figured out by now where he’d heard Harry say half this before.

In fact, McGonagall was now giving Harry a suspicious look. “It is beneficial that the Order members are used to working together as a team, isn’t it, Potter?” she said.

“It is,” he answered simply, grinning widely and knowing she’d finally caught on to his modified Quidditch speech.

Her lips twitched in amusement, but she nodded her acceptance. Harry turned back to face the others. “Are we ready to do this, then?”

He received a lot of nods and even a few smiles. “Then let’s get going.”

Harry went to retrieve his Invisibility Cloak, but Remus stopped him and folded him in a tight hug. “You be careful out there,” Remus whispered.

“You, too,” Harry said, his voice muffled in Remus’ chest.

Remus let him go with a worried smile, not making any further comment.

Ron, Ginny and Hermione caught up to him. “I’m suddenly very glad McLaggen isn’t in the Order,” Ginny said with a wide grin.

Ron’s grin was just as broad. “I do love Quidditch,” he said cheerfully.

Harry shrugged, but smiled in return. “I couldn’t think of anything else.”

Hermione was giving all three of them an odd look. “Why are you talking about Quidditch now?” she asked.

“Life lessons,” Harry said flippantly.

“Harry,” Hermione said warningly.

“I’ll explain it to you when we go,” Ron said, his tone indicating he was happy that he had something to explain to Hermione for a change.

Hermione didn’t look overly pleased, but Harry was grateful for the bit of levity as they left to take up their posts.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Nine

Harry Apparated to the small town where the Death Eaters were supposed to attack. He lost any bit of tiredness he’d been feeling as his body geared up to fight, and he had to remind himself that he wasn’t supposed to be fighting this time unless absolutely necessary. Plenty of people didn’t even want him there at all.

He looked around him at the town. It was small enough that Voldemort seemed to believe that with forty Death Eaters he could wipe out the entire town. Harry knew that twenty masked Death Eaters were going to be popping into existence at either end of the town sometime soon.

They wouldn’t be able to enter any of the buildings now, though. McGonagall had taken a group to the town earlier and the team had spent a few hours casting wards surreptitiously that would refuse entrance to the Death Eaters. Harry didn’t understand the wards at all, but he was pretty sure it was something similar to the Dursley’s house that wouldn’t allow anyone with the Dark Mark to enter the property.

While many in the Order had been at this last meeting, a group had been going through the town and “encouraging” any stragglers to go to their homes. Harry knew the Order wasn’t using Imperius, but they were modifying memories if need be. He remembered the Ministry official altering Mr. Roberts’ memory at the Quidditch World Cup. The team would have no qualms about doing what they could as long as it didn’t permanently harm the Muggles and it helped to protect them.

Now, the town was quiet. Too quiet. Considering that Voldemort was trying to wipe this town out of existence, it was downright creepy seeing it with no signs of life at the moment. Harry knew the people were there, but it still didn’t feel right.

With nothing to do but wait, Harry let his thoughts wander. He was anxious, and he knew it wasn’t just because of the members of the Order. The Weasleys, Tonks, Remus, McGonagall—he was anxious about all of them. He knew that people were likely to get hurt.

Half of his anxiety seemed to centre around Draco and Snape, though. There was something extremely strange to be worried about them, but he was feeling it regardless. Well, he wasn’t overly concerned about Snape, but he was very nervous for Draco.

One wrong move and Draco could bring down the wrath of both sides down upon his head.

Under the protection of his Invisibility Cloak, Harry stepped out from his hiding spot and looked to both ends of the main street. He didn’t know which direction Draco would be coming from. He knew the Death Eaters planned to sweep through either end of the town and meet in the middle.

Harry himself was stationed in the middle of the town at the moment, while the majority of the Order members were lying in wait at either end. They would attack immediately when the Death Eaters popped into existence.

As Harry watched, that was exactly what happened. He heard the loud cracks, even from where he was at, and almost immediately after he saw the flashes of wand light as the Order members began their counter-attack.

After a moment of indecision, Harry ran, keeping to the shadows as much as possible in case the Invisibility Cloak slipped as he moved. Knowing where the Order members were, he went in the opposite direction of Moody. Moody was the only one who could locate him while he was under the Cloak. Coming nearer to the battle, he slowed and crept closer.

Several bodies were down already, and Harry only hoped that they were stunned Death Eaters. Duels were taking place over a wide area, and in the darkness Harry was having trouble determining who was who.

Creeping around the outskirts of the battle, Harry spotted Remus in a duel. As he watched closely, Remus was caught by some curse, causing him to stumble. Harry’s breath caught in his throat, but Remus quickly recovered and shot off his own spell.

There were very few spells that Harry had mastered being able to do wordlessly, but one of them he could do surreptitiously that wouldn’t fire a flash of light to give away his location. Pointing his wand at the Death Eater, Harry thought Levicorpus! The Death Eater was immediately strung up by his heels.

Remus was startled for a moment, but then quickly stunned the Death Eater, and Harry dropped him back to the ground. He didn’t know who it was, but it wasn’t Snape or Draco.

Remus whipped his head around, unable to spot Harry, but clearly knowing it had been him. “Get out of here!” he shouted into the darkness. Harry suddenly wished anew that he hadn’t had to tell McGonagall about Snape’s book. Remus obviously recognized the spell.

As Remus moved to assist someone else, Harry moved on. Circling the battle, he searched, eyes scanning constantly. It was eerie, all the curses and flashes of light lighting up the darkness. He still couldn’t spot Draco or Snape amongst all the black-robed figures, though. He was anxious, not wanting either to be amongst the stunned Death Eaters.

“Malfoy!”

Harry heard the angry shout and turned. He still couldn’t spot Draco, but someone obviously had. He moved in the direction of the shout, and finally saw Draco caught up in a duel with Charlie. Harry cursed inwardly. Charlie had damned good reason to be angry with Draco, and Harry didn’t know what to do.

Where the hell was Snape when Draco needed him?

Suddenly, Charlie was caught by another curse and Harry darted his gaze to the side, realizing that Snape had heard the shout, too. Unfortunately, so had others, and more people were getting involved.

Harry watched as Draco was caught by a curse and fell. Darting forward between curses, he fell to Draco’s side. Grabbing his arm and hoping for the best, Harry Apparated them.

He only went back to his hidden location at the centre of the town, not trusting himself to go any further with his Apparition skills. They landed, both of them cursing, but unfortunately Draco was struggling to get away.

“Stop fighting me,” Harry hissed. “And be quiet.”

Draco stilled. “Potter?”

Harry pulled back his cloak enough for Draco to see his face. “You were supposed to stay out of trouble,” he snapped.

“The damned Weasley figured out who I was,” Draco said crossly. “I had no choice.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Harry said angrily. “I’ve got to get back there. I assume you’ve got some kind of meeting spot arranged?”

Draco nodded.

“Then go,” Harry commanded. “Hopefully it looked like you Apparated out yourself. The other Death Eaters are all Apparating out now,” he said, looking towards the battle at the end of the town.

Draco’s eyes widened, and he disappeared with a pop. Harry shook his head and hurried back. As he ran, he realized he hadn’t even figured out how badly Draco was injured. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now. He needed to figure out if everyone else was all right.

Everyone looked a little worse for wear. Harry quickly found Charlie, who was cursing Draco angrily. Harry breathed a sigh of relief that he seemed to be okay. He didn’t think either Draco or Snape would hurt him too severely, but then, there had also been a lot of other Death Eaters around.

“Where’s Harry?”

Harry heard Remus’ anxious voice and slipped his cloak off as he walked over to the man. He was quickly enveloped in a crushing hug, even as he was being berated for getting involved at all.

“I know that was you, Harry,” Remus said sternly. “I know where that curse came from, and not many people know it nowadays.”

“You looked like you could use some help,” Harry mumbled into Remus’ chest.

Remus’ arms tightened around him for a moment, before relaxing. “Come on, we’re going back to Hogwarts,” Remus said quietly. “Tonks and her crew will deal with things here.”

“What about Ron and Hermione and the others?” Harry asked.

“Molly and Arthur have already gone to fetch them,” Remus answered.

With one last look around, Harry Apparated to Hogwarts, Remus right behind him. Reaching the hospital wing, they found it in chaos. Although, upon closer inspection, it did appear to be organized chaos. Madam Pomfrey was bustling from patient to patient and calling out commands.

From what Harry could see, no one had been injured too severely, mostly cuts and bruises. Harry sucked in a breath to fortify himself and made his way to the corner where all the red heads seemed to be congregating. Madam Pomfrey had just finished seeing to Charlie before she bustled away again.

“Are you all right?” Mrs. Weasley asked worriedly.

“I’m fine, Mum,” Charlie said, rolling his eyes. “I’m going to be sore for a bit, but I’ll be good as new tomorrow.”

“What happened?” Ron demanded anxiously.

“I caught sight of that damned Malfoy’s hair,” Charlie spat angrily, his attitude changing drastically from pacifying his mother just a few seconds before.

“Malfoy!” Ron said furiously, his anger immediately ignited.

Charlie nodded and went into an explanation of the duel. “We were shooting curses at each other and I’d just landed a Cutting Curse –”

“You were shooting Cutting Curses?” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed.

“They’re Death Eaters, Mum,” Charlie said in exasperation. “What do you expect me to use against them? Especially ones like Snape and Malfoy.”

“Snape!” Ron exclaimed angrily.

Harry wanted to roll his eyes, but refrained as Charlie nodded. He tried forcing his own face into an angry expression, realizing that he should be as outraged as Ron. Luckily, everyone was focused on Charlie.

“I got Malfoy down, but things got really crazy after that. I was duelling with Snape when all of a sudden he shouted for them all to leave and he Apparated, just like that,” Charlie said, with a snap of his fingers. “Malfoy must have Apparated, too, because he was gone.”

Harry leaned up against the wall as he listened to Charlie give a blow by blow account of the duel. He felt like he should be feeling angry on the behalf of . . . somebody, but more than anything he just felt relieved. And exhausted.

“Are you all right?” Hermione asked quietly, also stepping back from the Weasleys a little.

“I’m just knackered,” Harry said with a small smile.

Hermione nodded in understanding. “At least everyone seems to be mostly okay. And all of the people who live in the town are safe.”

Harry could only stare for a moment. He’d almost forgotten about all the people that they’d actually been working to save. He’d been so busy focusing on the Order members and two of the Death Eaters.

“Do you know if any of the Death Eaters were actually captured?” Harry asked suddenly.

Hermione grimaced. “I overheard someone saying that a few were captured, but no one seemed to recognize who they were. Most of them Apparated away and took their stunned and injured with them.”

“Damn,” Harry exclaimed softly. “That means we didn’t catch any of the major players.”

“Probably not,” Hermione agreed. “So who knows how much information we’ll likely get off of them.”

Harry dropped his chin to his chest and rubbed at his scar absently. He wasn’t overly concerned about the information they could glean, considering he had access to two major players, but he’d be a lot happier if they had more Death Eaters locked up and out of commission.

Dobby suddenly appeared next to him with a loud crack. “Harry Potter, sir, Dobby has a message.”

Glancing warily at their audience, Harry quickly grabbed Dobby and pulled him to the side. “What is it, Dobby?” he whispered.

“Winky said Harry Potter has a guest at his home,” Dobby said anxiously. “Dobby was asked to fetch Harry Potter and say it’s urgent.”

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed quietly, knowing that it had to be Draco. He wondered what the hell could have gone wrong now.

“Not a word to anyone, Dobby,” Harry commanded.

Dobby nodded, eyes wide, before he disappeared.

“Harry, what was that all about?” Hermione demanded.

“What did you hear?” Harry asked, giving her a sharp look.

Her eyes narrowed. “We didn’t hear anything, what with you practically dragging Dobby off to the corner. Now, what was that all about?”

“I’ve got to go,” Harry said. Ignoring his friend’s anxious pleas to wait, he stalked to the hospital wing door and took off at a run once he was in the corridor. He didn’t even have to think much about Apparition as he automatically paused and Apparated once he reached the main gates. He rushed into the Dursley’s house, not even trying to be quiet. Taking the steps two at a time, he was breathing heavily by the time he finally reached his bedroom.

“What’s wrong?” he panted, trying to catch his breath. Then his eyes landed on Draco. “Fuck, Malfoy! What the bloody hell happened?”

Draco glared at him weakly, from his position lying on Harry’s bed. “Bloody Weasley caught me with a Cutting Curse,” he said.

“I knew that,” Harry snapped absently, moving to the bed and trying to get a closer look. Draco had taken off his robes, but he was still wearing his shirt. “Why didn’t Snape heal you, though? And why are you here?”

Harry started unbuttoning Draco’s shirt and pulled it aside so it was clear of the wound. He didn’t notice the odd look Draco was giving him. He was too busy studying the injury.

“I don’t think it’s really too deep, but you’ve obviously been bleeding pretty badly,” Harry murmured. It was a long gash along Draco’s side, but it seemed like a fairly straight cut. He snagged Draco’s robes from the floor and pressed them against the wound, applying pressure in hopes of stopping the bleeding.

He was wishing he knew the spell that Snape had used on Draco before. Or better yet, that Snape had just healed Draco again this time. Harry looked up to Draco’s face, realizing the other boy hadn’t answered him.

Draco’s face was turned away and looking awfully pale with a greyish cast to his skin. “Malfoy, are you all right?” Harry asked worriedly.

Draco swallowed heavily. “What are you doing to me?”

Harry frowned. “I’m just applying some pressure to try to stop the bleeding. You seem to have lost enough blood already.”

“I knew it hurt like hell, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Draco said weakly.

“Well, it’s pretty nasty,” Harry admitted. “But I don’t think it’s really too bad. I mean, it didn’t cut any vital organs or anything. It’s just a flesh wound.”

Draco moaned pitifully. “Potter, make it better,” he pleaded.

Harry had a brief flashback to the incident with Buckbeak, and had to wonder how much it had really been faked. Draco seemed like a real wimp when it came to pain. He realized that Draco refused to even look anywhere near the wound. “Why didn’t Snape heal you?” he asked again.

“He said he had to meet with the Dark Lord, and then he had to go do something with potions,” Draco explained. “And at the time, I didn’t realize quite how bad it was.”

Harry’s eyes darted to the clock, and he cursed inwardly. He was supposed to be meeting Snape in thirty minutes.

Harry lifted the robes gently and checked the wound. The bleeding was slowing at least. Putting pressure on the wound again, he looked back at Draco. “Why’d you come here? Wouldn’t your mum have helped you?”

“She would’ve,” Draco said irritably. “But the bitch went and stopped her. Wittle Dwaco needs to learn to take it like a man,” he said mockingly.

“Bellatrix,” Harry growled.

“Yeah, my wonderful aunt,” Draco said sarcastically. “I got into a big fight with her and ended up storming out.”

“And came here,” Harry concluded.

“Yeah,” Draco said quietly.

Harry sighed wearily. “Malfoy, I don’t have any potions and I don’t know any damned healing spells. Do you?”

Draco shook his head. “Can’t you do anything?” he asked.

Harry turned and his eyes searched out Winky sitting in the chair by Victoria’s cot. “Winky, could you get me some water, towels and some bandages?” With a pop, she disappeared. “Malfoy, hold this in place. We need to get you cleaned up. I don’t think you’re going to be going anywhere else tonight.”

Draco nodded weakly. Harry took his hand and placed it over the bundled robes. Draco kept his eyes closed, but he did put pressure on the wound.

Harry moved to start unlacing the boots Draco was wearing. Hesitating only briefly, he then moved to remove Draco’s trousers.

“Potter!”

“Your trousers are soaked in blood,” Harry said evenly. “But fine, we’ll leave them for the moment,” he said, as Winky popped back into the room. She had obviously thought ahead because she also came back bearing fresh bedding.

Harry carefully took the bowl of water from the precarious stack and, removing the bloody robes, he began cleaning the wound and the surrounding area.

Draco groaned and bit his lip. Glancing at him worriedly, Harry wondered if he was going to pass out. He hadn’t been looking too healthy earlier in the day, let alone now.

“I’m going to have to bandage this the Muggle way for the time being,” Harry said.

Draco gave a slight nod of understanding, gritting his teeth.

Working quickly, Harry found some butterfly bandages in the pile Winky had brought and pulled the wound closed as best he could after applying some healing ointment. Applying some wider gauze bandages to cover the wound completely, he’d done all that he could for the moment.

Checking the clock, he realized that he did not have time to spare and set about removing the rest of Draco’s bloody clothing. Draco kept his eyes squeezed shut and Harry tried very hard not to think too much about what he was doing as he sponged the worst of the blood away.

Winky had brought clean pyjama pants from Harry’s wardrobe. They were one of Harry’s longer pairs, so they wouldn’t be too horribly short on Draco. Harry helped Draco to stand and dress while Winky swiftly changed the bedding. Draco’s complexion was a waxy grey by now, but with two high spots of colour on his cheeks.

Harry knew he was mortified by the situation, but was too weak and in too much pain to do a damned thing about it. Draco remained completely silent throughout the entire process.

Harry helped Draco to lie back on the clean bed and pulled the blankets up. “Try to sleep for awhile if you can,” he said quietly. “I know you’re hurting. I’d give you some Muggle pain killers, but they aren’t nearly as effective, and I don’t know how they’ll interact with Pain-Relieving Potions. I’m going to go try to see if I can get at least some of those for you.”

Draco stared at Harry anxiously. “You’re leaving?”

Harry nodded. “I’ve got to see if I can get the potions you need and try to come up with some healing spells so I can heal you properly.”

“Oh,” Draco said, wincing as he tried to shift on the bed.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can and Winky will be here if you need anything.” Harry looked over to Winky. “You did perfect to send Dobby for me before. Do it again if you need me.”

Winky nodded.

“Sleep, Malfoy,” Harry said softly.

Draco nodded and closed his eyes. Glancing at the clock, Harry realized he was going to be late, and with a final glance at Draco, he turned to leave. He retrieved the Marauder’s Map from his trunk and snagged his Invisibility Cloak on his way out.

He Apparated from one alleyway to another and stumbled as he landed.

“You’re late,” Snape sneered.

Harry looked up at him wearily. “I know. Sorry. I’ve been a little busy.”

Snape eyed him closely, looking him over. Harry looked down at himself and realized he was covered in Draco’s blood. “Are you injured?” Snape asked sharply.

“Um, no,” Harry answered. “But a lot of the others had minor injuries. Thankfully nothing too serious, though.”

“You are covered in a lot of blood,” Snape observed.

“Cutting Curse,” Harry said, giving no further details. “Let’s get this over with,” he said, not wanting to talk about it. “I assume you can break us into Honeydukes.”

“That is necessary?” Snape asked.

“Yes,” Harry said, shrugging. “I’ve just never had to do it before. I’ve always come through during the day when the store is open.”

“Cloak on,” Snape said curtly, before casting a Disillusionment Charm on himself.

Harry threw his cloak over himself and walked to the front door of Honeydukes. The street appeared to be completely abandoned at this hour, but they could never be sure. He heard the quietly muttered spells, and quickly stepped inside as soon as the door opened.

He made his way to the cellar, hearing the footsteps following him. He took his cloak off once he was out of sight of the front windows of the store and, lighting his wand, he quickly found the trap door in the cellar. He was grateful when Snape said nothing, following Harry down into the tunnel that would lead them to Hogwarts.

They’d been silent for several minutes before Harry decided to try asking about the healing spell Snape had used to heal Draco before. “Would you teach me the healing spell you used?” he asked. “You know, the one you used to heal Malfoy when I, um, hurt him.”

Snape snorted disdainfully. “Just like you, Potter, to inflict damage you have no idea how to repair.”

“I didn’t know what that spell would do,” Harry said defensively. “I wasn’t trying to kill him.”

Harry kept his eyes forward, following the dim trail in his wand light, but he could feel Snape’s eyes trying to bore through his head. “That was the first time you used that curse?”

“Yes, and the only time,” Harry answered. “I’d only read it in your book and it said it was for enemies. That’s all I knew about it. I was suddenly in a duel with someone who was about to cast Crucio on me, so I tried it.”

Snape was quiet for more than a minute and Harry wondered what he was thinking. “That curse is Dark Magic, Potter. I find it disconcerting that you were able to cast the spell so successfully, particularly the first time casting it.”

Harry’s step faltered, but he kept going. What the hell did it mean if he could cast it successfully the first time? Snape had said at the time that it was Dark Magic, but Harry certainly wasn’t versed in the Dark Arts. He hadn’t considered the fact that he’d been able to cast it with no other knowledge than the name of the spell.

Harry hadn’t considered it before and he really didn’t want to think about this now, either. “Sir, I don’t know what it means,” he said tiredly. “And to be honest, right this second, I just don’t really care. Right now, I just need to learn some healing spells. Knowing some healing spells would have been right useful tonight.”

Snape was quiet again and Harry wondered if the man was going to push the Dark Magic issue. “We will talk more of this later,” Snape said finally.

Harry nodded in agreement, grateful for the reprieve.

Snape’s voice took on his professorial tone as he began explaining the spell he had used to heal Draco back in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Harry listened closely, needing to get this one right. Snape taught him a couple of other healing spells as well by the time the tunnel started rising again.

Harry paused and sent another mental apology to the Marauders as he got out the map. Snape held his wand over it so that they could both see as Harry touched his own wand to the parchment. Closing his eyes, Harry muttered, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

He opened his eyes to see Snape glaring at him, but Harry dropped his gaze to the map. He felt like he’d just given the man a huge victory and it wasn’t sitting well in his stomach.

They both watched as the castle spread out on the parchment. Looking at it closely, Harry could see Filch and Mrs. Norris in what he assumed was their rooms. Everyone else seemed to be ensconced in the hospital wing still.

“The corridor is clear,” Harry said softly. “All the corridors are clear at the moment,” he added.

“Very clever,” Snape sneered.

Harry glared at him, but remained silent. They didn’t have time to argue right now. Snape seemed to realize this, too. “Book first,” Snape said firmly.

Harry took a deep breath and pulled his cloak around him as Snape Disillusioned himself again. Checking once more that the corridor was clear, Harry stepped out of the tunnel and into Hogwarts. He felt Snape grip his shoulder so that he wouldn’t lose him, and Harry found it oddly comforting rather than irritating as they slipped through the silent corridors.

He made it to the Room of Requirement and checked the map again, making sure all was clear. “Wait here,” he hissed quietly. He took off his cloak and handed the map to Snape.

Snape watched warily as Harry began to walk.

I need to retrieve my book. . . . I need to retrieve my book. . . . I need to retrieve my book. . . .

Relieved when the door appeared, Harry opened it carefully and was further relieved when he saw the huge room with all the objects hidden over the years. He knew Snape had followed him into the room when the door shut.

He heard Snape lift the Disillusionment Charm as he slowly started walking the alleyways created by all the varied items stacked about the large room.

“What the fuck?!” Harry exclaimed upon seeing the Vanishing Cabinet.

“What’s the problem, Potter?” Snape said snidely, coming up behind Harry.

“No one’s taken out this bloody Vanishing Cabinet!” Harry exclaimed, outraged. “Gods, I could kill Malfoy for fixing this fucking thing!”

Snape stepped closer, inspecting the cabinet. “This was what he used?”

“Yes!” Harry snapped furiously. “I’m sure he’s told you all about the bloody thing!”

“I did not know about it until after the fact,” Snape said coldly.

“Argh! Why hasn’t anyone destroyed this damned thing? The Death Eaters could just waltz back through at any time!” Harry shouted.

“Keep your voice down, Potter,” Snape hissed.

“Oh, we can’t be discovered in here,” Harry said dismissively. “This room won’t even show up on the bloody map.” He glared at the Vanishing Cabinet. “The only way anyone could find us is through this bloody cabinet,” he said, with a vicious kick to the cabinet in question.

“Control yourself, Potter,” Snape said dangerously.

“This is bloody ridiculous,” Harry said, ignoring Snape. “I mean, how could everyone be so stupid as to just leave this thing here?” He began to pace the narrow alleyway.

“Why did you not do anything about it?” Snape asked, eyes narrowed.

“I should have,” Harry said furiously, angry at himself along with everyone else. “Obviously I’ve made a serious mistake.”

Harry kicked at a trunk on the opposite side. “It’s my own fault for listening to the bloody adults.”

“Oh, we’ve got everything under control, Harry,” he mocked. “Leave everything to the adults, Potter. You’re too young to be worrying yourself about any of this, Potter.” He continued to pace as he mocked all the adults who’d been trying to pacify him for years. “We can’t tell you anything because you might get hurt, Harry. You just worry about your studies, Harry.”

He took on an impression of Hermione’s higher pitched voice. “Harry, you know the adults are just trying to protect you. You don’t know what you’re talking about, Harry. Oh no, you’re just being ridiculous, Harry. Malfoy’s not up to no good. You’re just being too suspicious, Harry.”

“Argh!” Harry yelled again. “I fucking tried to tell Dumbledore that Malfoy was up to something. Would he listen to me? Hell, no! Of course, I find out as he’s bloody dying that he knew a lot of it. But if the old man had actually listened to me instead of cutting me off every time, he could’ve looked into whatever Malfoy was doing in this room. I knew he was doing something in here!” Harry yelled out his frustration. “Will anyone listen to me? Fuck no! Harry’s too bloody stupid to be able to sense danger!”

“I’ve been able to sense danger since I was a fucking year old!” Harry shouted. “It’s a handy tool for trying to survive! Bloody hell! If everyone would quit trying to fucking shelter me, and tell me what the hell is actually going on, maybe then I’d be able to do something besides just survive. It’d be bound to make things a whole lot simpler, anyway.”

Harry stopped ranting and stood with chest heaving as he glared at the Vanishing Cabinet. “Why did I fucking listen to the adults?” he muttered.

“Are you quite finished?” Snape asked.

Harry shifted his glare to Snape. “We need to destroy this thing,” he said.

“Indeed,” Snape said. “Particularly as the other one has mysteriously disappeared.”

Harry blinked in surprise. “What? The other one is gone?”

Snape gave him a curt nod. “The Dark Lord is quite displeased that his easy access to Hogwarts has disappeared. The proprietors at Borgin & Burkes have had their memories modified and no one has been able to determine the location of the cabinet.”

Harry frowned, looking back at the cabinet. The cabinet was one of those topics that he and Draco had been avoiding talking about in-depth. Had Draco done something with the other cabinet? He had been the one to secure it in the first place. Harry remembered that day in Knockturn Alley as they’d followed Draco.

If Draco did have the other cabinet, was it possible that they could use them somehow? Was it really best to destroy the cabinet?

“If the cabinet was shrunk, it would be rendered useless at that size, wouldn’t it?” Harry asked.

Snape frowned at him. “It would, but why would you wish to keep it rather than destroy it?”

“Well, what if I came across the other one,” Harry said, thinking fast. “Maybe they could be used somehow against Voldemort at some point.” He went on, warming up to his idea. “I mean, the Death Eaters got into Hogwarts this way successfully. Wouldn’t it be possible to get Order members to where Voldemort’s at, at some point?”

Snape’s frown deepened. “That would require you to find the other cabinet,” he said slowly.

Harry didn’t think that was actually going to be a problem, but didn’t say so. “Well, as long as I kept at least this one safe and rendered useless for the time being, I’d at least have it if we came across the other one. Certainly you could keep an eye out for the other.”

“Very well, then,” Snape said, and proceeded to shrink the cabinet. Harry picked up the small box that now fit in the palm of his hand. It seemed a little unbelievable that this tiny thing had such potential.

“Keep it safe, Potter,” Snape commanded.

Harry quickly pocketed it, surprised that Snape was actually allowing this.

“Now, where is the book?” Snape asked.

Shaking his head, remembering why they’d actually come, Harry turned and began searching for a cabinet with a bust of a warlock on top. Spotting the wig and tiara, Harry hurried forward and jerked open the cabinet door. He reached behind the cage and pulled out the potions book in triumph.

Snape sneered in disgust. “Interesting hiding place, Potter,” he sneered.

Harry glared at him. “I was in a bit of a hurry at the time,” he said irritably. He handed over the book anyway and watched as Snape silently flipped through it.

Snape snapped the book shut. “Come, we have much to do still,” he said.

Groaning inwardly, Harry followed Snape back to the door. Again, Snape cast the Disillusionment Charm as Harry pulled his cloak over himself. Since Snape had kept his old office in the dungeons the previous year, they both knew where they were going. Regardless, Snape again kept his hand on Harry’s shoulder, keeping them together in the silent corridors.

They made it to the dungeons without incident, and Snape swiftly dismantled the wards that allowed them access to his office. Snape looked around in satisfaction, and Harry realized that Snape had been right that no one had disturbed the room.

Harry stood awkwardly in the centre of the room. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do, and he wasn’t particularly fond of this room. All he really wanted to do was crawl into bed. And that thought just reminded him that he had an injured Draco still in his bed. He was surprised when Snape first snagged two potion vials off a shelf and handed one to Harry.

“Pepper-Up. It’ll help revive you,” Snape said, sounding as exhausted as Harry felt.

They downed the potions and Harry felt like he could function again. He watched as Snape conjured a few boxes and passed one of them to him.

“Make yourself useful, Potter,” Snape sneered. “Pack that shelf there,” he ordered, pointing to one of the nearby bookshelves.

Sighing, Harry grabbed the box and set to work, quickly packing books away. He wasn’t sure what he thought they’d be doing, but somehow he’d been under the impression they were retrieving just a couple of books. They quickly generated a couple dozen boxes of books and supplies.

Harry found himself a bit of a bonus, though, when Snape conjured special racks and set him to work packing away a cabinet full of potion vials. With Snape working on the other side of the room, he was easily able to pocket a few needed potions. He had thought he’d have to sneak the potions from the hospital wing.

Snape swiftly shrank all of the boxes of books and most of the other boxes. Only the finished potions and ingredients he didn’t shrink. Harry groaned when he realized he was going to be lugging boxes all the way back to Hogsmeade, because shrinking them would alter the properties too much. Snape just sneered at him, though, and conjured a couple of trolleys like the ones used at the train station. Harry scowled and started stacking the remaining boxes.

They’d emptied the office of everything Snape wanted before Snape moved to a doorway Harry hadn’t even noticed. Stepping through, Harry realized they were now in Snape’s private chambers. Groaning, he watched as Snape conjured yet more boxes and simply pointed at the nearest bookshelf. Harry dragged himself over and started packing the many, many books.

How could one man have so many books, Harry grumbled to himself. Snape disappeared through another doorway which Harry assumed led to his bedroom. It took them another hour to pack everything Snape wanted from his chambers. They both ended up with pockets full of shrunken boxes and two trolleys fully loaded with boxes.

Even with the books shrunken in size, Harry was carrying so many that he still felt weighed down. He watched as Snape cast some type of Levitation spell on the trolleys. They would be able to guide them through the hallways without them rattling on the stone floors.

Harry looked over the map as Snape made a final check of his rooms. McGonagall was in the Headmaster’s office, and Harry started as he realized that the room was probably hers now. The hospital wing seemed to have less people and less activity than it had earlier. Harry assumed that most of the people there were asleep. Filch and Mrs. Norris were up wandering now, though. Harry didn’t know what the hell the man expected to find at this hour. Then again, it was already after five o’clock. Maybe the man had to let the stupid cat out in the early morning or something.

Harry informed Snape about Filch and they detoured slightly to get back to the third floor and the statue of the humpbacked witch. The rest of the trip back was blessedly silent and uneventful, but Harry was dragging his heels again long before they made it to Grimmauld Place. He was surprised, but grateful, when Snape slowed his pace without a word.

They unloaded everything in the kitchen, Snape ordered Harry to get some sleep then meet him the next day, and finally Harry was allowed to go back to the Dursleys.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Ten

Having heard the front door opening, Aunt Petunia met him in the hallway and gasped in shock when she saw him.

“Do I look that bad?” Harry grumbled.

“Are you all right?” Petunia asked worriedly.

Harry looked at her oddly, still surprised when she showed concern on the rare occasion. Now and then he’d thought about trying to talk to her, but he kept putting it off. It was enough trouble trying to figure out Draco and Snape, and his aunt was just too far down on his importance scale at the moment.

“I’m bloody exhausted, but otherwise fine,” he mumbled.

Petunia glanced up the stairs. “I saw your guest,” she said.

Harry gave her a sharp glance, which she saw when she turned to look at him again. “There was a blood trail,” she said stiffly.

“Ah,” Harry said, looking at the floor, which she’d obviously already cleaned. Or else, Winky had. Harry had missed it completely the night before, but he’d been a little preoccupied.

“Will he be all right?” Petunia asked.

Harry nodded. “I’ve brought back some potions that will help him,” he said, starting for the stairs. “I’ll probably sleep most of the day,” he added.

“Harry,” Petunia said. He turned back. “Is . . . everything all right?” she asked nervously.

Harry realized that she had no idea what had actually happened the night before, but clearly guessed that something major had occurred. He nodded wearily. “Everyone’s alive,” he said, and made his way upstairs. As far as he was concerned, she didn’t need any more explanation than that.

He wasn’t expecting to be accosted by Victoria upon opening his bedroom door. His mind kept insisting it was night time, but he realized that it was actually early morning now. Petunia was downstairs making breakfast, and Victoria was obviously fresh for a new day.

Glancing over to the bed, he saw Draco watching him, face lined with pain. Crouching down, he looked at Victoria, who had crawled over to him and was currently trying to climb up his grimy trouser leg. He picked her up gingerly and set her in her cot. “Not now, Victoria,” he pleaded. “I’m tired and your daddy needs the potions I’ve brought for him.”

She cooed at him and held her arms out for him to pick her up again. Harry passed her a couple of toys and she was distracted for the moment at least. Winky gently pushed Harry away and towards the bed.

Harry started pulling potion vials out of his trouser pockets and lining them up on the nightstand. When he found one of the Pain-Relieving Potions, he pulled the stopper and passed it to Draco, who accepted it gratefully. He wasn’t so sure Draco still needed it, but passed him one of the Blood-Replenishing Potions as well. Draco didn’t argue and downed that one as well.

“Better?” Harry asked.

“Now,” Draco said tiredly.

“Then let’s get you healed up,” Harry said, sighing heavily.

Draco looked at him sharply. “Suddenly learned some healing spells?”

“Yes,” Harry said wearily. “It’s been a productive night.”

“Where’ve you been, anyway?” Draco asked. “You’ve been gone for hours.”

“Hogwarts,” Harry said shortly. He pulled the blankets back and began removing the bandages that had become soaked with blood again. He was suddenly thankful he’d given Draco that second potion.

Draco didn’t question him any further and only lay there quietly, watching Harry as he worked. Once all the bandages were removed, Harry pulled out his wand. Closing his eyes, he went over again exactly what Snape had taught him.

Opening his eyes, he focused on the wound. He placed the tip of his wand at one end and trailed it along the gash as he said the incantation. Especially as he was doing it, he again thought it sounded like a song. The wound slowly began closing, and Harry watched in morbid fascination for a moment before turning back to the potion vials to find the one with dittany. He had thought dittany was a plant, but Snape seemed to have some liquefied form. He had no idea what the man had added to it, but he had said that it would help prevent permanent scarring if taken immediately.

Harry hoped that meant immediately after the wound was healed, rather than immediately after receiving the injury in the first place. He pulled the stopper and passed it to Draco. Draco gave him an odd look, but downed the contents of the vial.

Harry set the empty vial back on the nightstand before looking at the wound again. It was healing up quite nicely now and very quickly. He startled slightly as Winky popped up beside him with a bowl of warm water for Harry to wash the blood away. Careful not to get too close to the edge of the wound that was still healing, Harry sponged Draco’s abdomen and side, leaving the skin clean.

He eyed Draco’s chest, and was grateful when he saw no scarring. He hadn’t meant to curse Draco like that in the first place, and would’ve felt even worse now if he’d left the other boy with permanent scars. Checking the fresh wound, he was pretty sure there wasn’t going to be a scar left behind this time, either. He didn’t think it would be much longer before it was healed completely.

“How do you feel now?” he asked, looking back to Draco’s face.

Draco’s gaze flicked to his side then back to Harry. “I’m feeling much better,” he said quietly. “Although, tired and weak still,” he admitted.

“Yeah, tired,” Harry agreed, closing his eyes briefly. He snapped his eyes open again, feeling like he could fall asleep standing up by this time. “I’m going to go take a quick shower. I’m hoping that’ll be healed completely in just a bit.”

Draco nodded, watching Harry carefully. Not that Harry noticed. Knowing that he was going to finally be able to rest was simply making the exhaustion seem to hit even harder. He snagged some pyjamas from his wardrobe and disappeared to the bathroom.

Harry stepped back into his room wearing only his pyjama bottoms and still towelling his hair from his shower, just ten minutes after he’d left. He still felt exhausted, but at least a little refreshed now. He knew it wouldn’t last long, though.

“Da,” Victoria said, holding her arms out to Harry.

“Da to you, too,” Harry said with a small smile, picking her up and holding her close this time. “You missed me yesterday, didn’t you?”

She cooed and giggled as Harry’s wet hair dripped water on her. He shook his head, spraying more water on her. Chuckling, he carried her over to Draco.

Draco took her, but he was staring at Harry. “You were injured tonight, too,” he said.

Frowning, Harry looked down at himself. He hadn’t thought much about the bruising from training with Snape. “No, this is just from some duelling practice I’ve been doing,” he said dismissively. “You’re the one who was actually injured tonight.”

“Wow,” he breathed, staring at Draco’s abdomen. Now all he could see was pale, smooth skin, stretching from his abdomen and around his side. There was no sign of any wound and all the blood had been washed away.

Draco gave him a slight smirk, but he still looked incredibly weary. “Good as new,” he said.

Harry frowned. “You still need rest,” he said. “You’re not planning on trying to Apparate yet, are you?”

“I should go back,” Draco said. “My mum’ll be worried. So will Snape.”

Harry closed his eyes. Snape would not appreciate having to search for Draco after all he’d already been doing, but Harry still wasn’t so sure it was a good idea for Draco to try Apparating yet. Sure, the wound was healed now, but he had lost a lot of blood, and he’d had no rest. Blood. Draco’s clothes were still covered in blood.

Harry opened his eyes and spotted the pile of bloody clothes.

“Winky, could you please take Malfoy’s clothes and . . . well, try to get them halfway clean and presentable again?” Harry asked.

“Yes, Master Harry,” Winky said. “And Winky will bring back breakfast.”

Harry nodded and she disappeared. He sat down at the foot of the bed. “Well, you can’t leave until you’re clothes are in better shape,” he said.

“That’s a sneaky way of keeping me here,” Draco complained.

Harry snorted. “It’s not my fault your clothes are a mess. And it probably won’t take Winky that long anyway,” he added.

Draco didn’t comment, and Harry had to wonder if Draco was intentionally avoiding Harry by playing with Victoria.

“Won’t they just think you’ve gone to stay with one of your friends or something?” Harry asked, opening his eyes again. They kept trying to close without his permission.

“Probably . . . maybe,” Draco said, shrugging awkwardly. He glanced at Harry. “There’s no where really safe at the moment, and you just never know what could happen.”

Harry sighed, knowing Draco was right. He didn’t know Draco’s mum, but he knew Snape. The man would not be happy with Draco’s disappearance. “Well, it’s not like I’m forcing you to stay here, so do whatever you need to do,” Harry said finally, letting his eyes fall closed again.

Harry fell asleep propped up at the end of the bed. He never noticed Winky returning with clean clothes for Draco and taking over Victoria’s care again. He also never noticed Draco Levitating him and settling him into the bed next to the blond.

The next time Harry registered anything, it was dark again. Facing the clock, he realized he must have slept the whole day away, and most of the night as well. He didn’t know the last time he’d slept decently at all, let alone ever sleeping that many hours at once. Well, except for when he was injured.

Injured. Harry stiffened as he realized that he likely had an injured Draco Malfoy cuddling . . . cuddling . . . up behind him. Actually, he hoped that was Draco, because it sure wasn’t Victoria in bed with him, and he didn’t want to know who else could’ve been in his bed.

Slowly, Harry extracted himself from the arm thrown over his side and edged his way off of the bed. He stood and stared back at the bed, where indeed, Draco was still sleeping.

“Master Harry is feeling better now?”

Startled, Harry whirled to face Winky. At Hogwarts he was used to sharing a dorm with several other people. It wasn’t the norm at the Dursley’s, though, and he was still struggling with the fact that he was sharing the small room with a house-elf, a baby, and . . . Draco. He glanced back at the bed before nodding at Winky.

“Yeah, I’m feeling much better,” he whispered, feeling the truth of that even as he spoke the words.

Winky went to the desk and picked up a piece of paper which she then handed to Harry.

Harry looked at it and groaned softly. Hermione had been there looking for him and from the note Aunt Petunia had left for him, he gathered his aunt had very rudely sent Hermione packing. At least she’d thought to warn him. Harry cursed himself for forgetting to at least dash off a note to Hermione letting her know he was fine before he fell asleep.

Not sure of how long it would take for Hedwig to deliver a message, Harry decided it might just be his best solution to simply pop into the Weasley’s house for breakfast that morning. In fact, he was starved, and a hearty Weasley breakfast sounded like a really good idea.

“Does Master Harry wish for Winky to do anything?” Winky asked quietly.

Harry stared at her. “Don’t you need to sleep?” he asked curiously.

“Winky rested earlier when Mistress Victoria went to sleep,” Winky answered. “Winky is ready for whatever Master Harry wishes.”

Frowning, Harry tried to think about what even needed to be done at the moment. The recent crisis was currently over. For the most part, he thought, with a glance to the bed. It was still several hours before he had to meet Snape, and even a couple hours before he’d be going to the Weasleys.

“Um, if you don’t mind, you could work for a couple of hours on the house,” Harry suggested quietly. “I’m afraid I’m going to need you here for Victoria again soon. I have to go to the Weasleys this morning for breakfast to deal with this,” he said, holding up the note from his aunt. “Then later I’ve got things to do at the house myself. Um, don’t touch anything in the kitchen. I’ll be dealing with that mess later,” he said with a grimace.

He looked at Winky apologetically. “I’m sorry I created such a disaster, but I had to get it dropped off and I was just too tired to care at the time. Plus, I still had to hurry to get back here to help Malfoy.”

“It is all right, Master Harry,” Winky said with a smile. “Winky is happy to be useful.”

Harry gave her a twisted smile. “I don’t know what I’d be doing without you at the moment,” he admitted.

He frowned, turning thoughtful. “I’m going to need a place to brew potions, but I don’t know what would be the most appropriate room. I reckon I need to talk to Madam Pomfrey again today to see how she’s doing on supplies. I’m not sure how urgent that situation is yet.”

He let out a frustrated sigh. “Well, for now, I reckon you can work on whatever you think best, except ignore the kitchen, and be back here in a couple hours. Oh, and could you, um, please bring some breakfast for Malfoy and Victoria when you come back?” he asked, wincing at all the responsibilities he was placing on Winky.

She just gave him a wide smile, though, nodded, and then disappeared with a pop. Sighing, Harry went to use the loo, then came back trying to decide what to do next.

“Potions, Potter?”

Harry focused on Draco, who was now propped up in the bed. “How are you feeling?” Harry asked, ignoring the question he’d been asked. He eyed Draco critically. “You’re looking a lot better,” he said.

“Aside from the fact that I desperately need to use the loo, I actually feel better than I have in a long, long time,” Draco said softly.

Harry chuckled and gestured to the door. “You know the way,” he said.

Grimacing, Draco got out of bed and disappeared down the hall. Harry took his place on the bed and sprawled out, feeling halfway relaxed for the moment. While Draco was gone, he tried to figure out how to respond to the question about potions. Anything relating Harry to potions was up for suspicion and he knew it.

Draco came back and shoved at Harry’s feet so he could sit at the end of the bed. Harry willingly shifted, feeling generous.

“I think we need to talk,” Draco said firmly.

Harry groaned, feeling his relaxed, generous mood flying out the window. “Those words never mean anything good,” he grumbled.

Draco smirked at him and nodded. “I have to say that I actually agree with you on that,” he said.

“Then why do we have to talk?” Harry whinged. “I was feeling halfway peaceful for once.”

Draco was silent for a couple minutes and Harry grudgingly sat up and propped himself against the headboard.

“You’re a mystery, Harry Potter,” Draco said quietly. “I don’t understand you at all.”

“I’m not a mystery,” Harry scoffed. “Ask anyone, yourself included, I’m regarded as an open book.”

Draco eyed him contemplatively. “And that’s precisely how you’ve got everyone fooled and constantly underestimating you,” he said.

Harry blinked in surprise, not sure how to respond to that statement.

Draco didn’t seem to expect a response as he continued. “Everyone seems to think they know you, you react in the ways they expect you to, and then you go about doing your own thing without anyone being the wiser.”

Draco waved his hand expansively. “Take this situation. On the surface, your friends don’t have a clue as to what you’re doing. You’re doing all the right things and saving this town, but then you’re going behind the scenes and doing whatever works for you, regardless of what everyone thinks.”

Harry shrugged. “I suppose,” he said.

Draco snorted in amusement. “I’ve always pegged you as the ultimate Gryffindor, trying to save the world. And you are that,” he admitted. “But what no one seems to realize, is that there’s this Slytherin side of you that hides behind that Gryffindor exterior.”

Harry’s eyes widened. With the exception of Dumbledore, he’d never told anyone that the Sorting Hat had wanted to put him in Slytherin. He’d never been told, by anyone, that he had Slytherin qualities. And now, here was the Slytherin Ice Prince himself, talking about Harry’s Slytherin side.

Draco was still eying him contemplatively which was making Harry squirm. “You know, I’d always thought you were a ridiculous Gryffindor, always getting himself caught. But now, I’d be willing to bet that there’s far more times that you’ve been sneaky enough not to get caught. I’d be willing to bet that there’s a whole lot to Harry Potter that most people don’t know.”

Draco eyed the room they were sitting in. “How many people actually know your relatives have always treated you like dirt and that you live like this? Hiding an upbringing like this sounds like something a Slytherin would do. It doesn’t sound like something an attention-seeking Gryffindor would do.”

“I’m not an attention seeker,” Harry said hotly, Draco pushing one of his many buttons.

“That’s my point,” Draco said calmly. “I always thought you were, but,” he glanced around the mostly bare room again. “Obviously you’re not.”

Harry frowned, trying to figure out exactly what Draco’s point was in all this, because he wasn’t seeing it.

“I came to you with Victoria, relying on your Gryffindor qualities, but in hindsight, I think I saw something more there,” Draco said. “What would have happened if I’d taken Victoria to Weasley or Granger, or any other Gryffindor?” he asked.

“They would’ve helped,” Harry said, frowning doubtfully.

“They would’ve helped Victoria,” Draco agreed. “They would’ve kept her safe, and then they would’ve had me locked up to keep everyone else safe from me.”

Harry couldn’t really deny that, so he didn’t say anything.

“But you, Harry Potter,” Draco said. “You kept your mouth shut and didn’t turn me in right away. You waited to determine if there was anything you could get out of the situation. Just like a Slytherin would do.”

“That wasn’t what I was thinking at the time,” Harry muttered.

Draco shrugged. “Maybe that wasn’t your conscious thoughts, but it showed in your actions,” he said.

“I’m still not trying to take advantage of you like a Slytherin would,” Harry said. “And you’ve been around for almost a month.”

“I know that,” Draco said. “That’s part of the reason why you’re a mystery. I don’t quite understand how you can be such a mix of both Gryffindor and Slytherin qualities. A Gryffindor would’ve turned me in immediately. A Slytherin would’ve held me captive and tried to use me to any advantage. You’ve somehow used Slytherin methods with a Gryffindor attitude.”

Harry shrugged, feeling like they were going in circles and it was making him feel exhausted again. His mind seemed to be a constant swirl of thoughts and emotions, but he wasn’t used to this cool, analytical style. This was usually when he tuned out and let Hermione have at it.

“Is there a point to all this?” he asked irritably. He couldn’t quite decide if he was being insulted or complimented, and it wasn’t improving his mood.

Draco held out his bare forearm, Dark Mark on display. Harry glanced at it, but his eyes didn’t linger as he met Draco’s gaze again. “Yeah, what about it?”

Draco shook his head, but he was now smiling slightly. “Most people would see that and run screaming, yet you seem to barely notice it.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t see much point in being afraid of a tattoo,” he said.

Draco shook his head again in exasperation. “It’s not just a tattoo and we both know it,” he said. “But that’s not even really my point.”

“Well, what is your point then?” Harry asked.

“You’ve just slept in the same bed as a known Death Eater,” Draco said.

“Not by choice,” Harry mumbled, flushing slightly.

“Maybe not, but you did,” Draco said, smirking at Harry’s reaction. “And it’s the best sleep either one of us have had for ages.”

“Malfoy,” Harry whinged. “Surely you must have some point in all this?”

Draco seemed to ignore him as he continued. “You know I’m a Death Eater. You gave me this pep talk to get me out there to do what I needed to do. In the middle of a battle, you risked yourself to get me out of there when I was injured. You provided me a safe place to go. You patched me up the best you could. You went out and somehow learned a way to heal me magically and came up with the potions I needed, then fell asleep with me, providing me the best rest I’ve had for months.”

Harry shrugged, feeling incredibly uncomfortable. “Um, I had a bad day?” he suggested, turning it into a question.

Draco snorted in amusement. “I’m sure most people would consider it a very bad day for Harry Potter when he helps out Draco Malfoy like you have.”

He shook his head, sobering again. “But I saw you off and on that whole long day. I don’t know the half of what you did, but I know you were busy the entire time. I saw you drive yourself into complete exhaustion. Yet, you still made time for me, a Death Eater, your supposed enemy, your real enemy until a month ago. You helped me when I needed it. You helped me even when you clearly had far more important things to be doing,” he added softly.

Harry stared, again left feeling speechless.

“Over the last month, I’ve seen many signs of you being the goody-goody Gryffindor I thought you were, but I’ve also seen many signs of you being the cunning Slytherin,” Draco said. “Gryffindors are supposed to be brave and Slytherins are supposed to be driven and ambitious. I’m seeing both in you.”

He paused for a moment, seeming to gather his thoughts. “What I’m seeing tells me that I’ve been so incredibly wrong in the past—about you and about this war.”

Draco’s words felt heavy in the air. Harry knew that was a monumental admission on Draco’s part.

Draco swallowed heavily before speaking again. “I came to you because I needed help, and really no other reason than that. I’ve offered tidbits of information in exchange for that help. But my main goal has always been to save my family and my own arse. You’ve known I couldn’t be trusted completely. You’ve known that it was beneficial to me at the moment, but it didn’t go much beyond that. You’ve taken advantage of what I’m dealing with, and used it while you can.”

“What is your point, Malfoy?” Harry asked quietly.

Draco sucked in a deep breath and exhaled heavily before answering. “I want to switch sides. I don’t just mean I want protection for me and my family. I want to try to help.”

“Why?” Harry asked warily.

“You, Harry Potter, will win this war, with or without my help. I’ve seen it in all your actions. Unlike me, you’re not being driven by fear, but you are driven. You will do everything you can to win this, and you’ll help anyone along the way that you can. Even stray Death Eaters,” Draco added wryly.

He quirked a rueful smile. “You may be able to win without my help, but I’d like to be able to do whatever I can to make things easier.” He glanced over to Victoria’s cot. “Not harder,” he added with a sigh.

“Malfoys are good at saying the right things people want to hear,” Harry said thoughtfully.

Draco nodded solemnly. “But not even Malfoys are immune to Veritaserum,” he said.

Harry stared at him in shock. “You’re willing to subject yourself to Veritaserum?” he exclaimed. The thought had never even crossed Harry’s mind. Not once in the entire month Draco had been coming to the house. Truth serum was definitely not something to be taken lightly.

“It’s the only way I can think of to prove myself to you,” Draco said evenly.

Harry leaned his head back and rubbed his eyes. This was just too much.

Draco was still talking. “You can’t tell me anything at the moment because you can’t trust me. I can’t be very much help this way.”

“You’re useful as a spy,” Harry muttered.

Draco snorted in self-contempt. “Yes, and I’m such a successful Death Eater,” he said sarcastically. “I need Harry bloody Potter coaching me through my first real raid and had to have him rescue me then patch me back up again afterwards.”

Harry dropped his hands away from his eyes and grinned, seeing the humour in that situation. “You might have a point there,” he admitted.

“Shut it, Potter,” Draco said irritably, but his lips turned up in a small smile.

“Okay, so you’re not the best Death Eater in the world,” Harry said. “But I didn’t think you wanted to just disappear. You wanted to protect your mum.”

Draco grimaced and turned away. “I don’t know what to do,” he admitted. “I’ve, well, I’ve thought about just coming out and asking her if she’d be willing to switch sides, but I’m not sure I could Obliviate her if she doesn’t react well.”

“You’d Obliviate your own mum?” Harry asked in horror.

“If it protected both her and myself, yes,” Draco muttered, not exactly sounding proud of that at least.

“This is fucked up,” Harry said.

Draco shot him a glare, but didn’t comment. They lapsed into silence for several minutes. Harry’s mind was whirling. Draco Malfoy wanted to completely switch sides and was even willing to subject himself to Veritaserum. Harry was pretty sure he was being sincere, and he didn’t want to use Veritaserum on Draco. The ultimate problem still lay in the fact that he wanted to protect his mother as well.

Harry knew very little about Narcissa Malfoy. She seemed like a stuck up snobby bitch to him, but he’d only seen her a couple of times. He remembered that Narcissa had wanted Draco at Hogwarts because he’d be closer to home. He knew she was always sending him care packages at school.

Suddenly, he also remembered that she had gone to Snape in hopes that he could help protect Draco. Snape had ended up in an Unbreakable Vow because of it. Harry really needed Snape’s help with this.

But why hadn’t Snape tried to bring them over to the other side before? What did Snape know that Harry didn’t when it came to the Malfoys? Draco did keep insisting that Snape was a full Death Eater. Were they simply that good at keeping up the masks that kept them safe?

Harry had to admit that it was little Victoria that seemed to have been the final push for Draco. Up to that point, he’d been willing to be a Death Eater. Albeit, a bit grudgingly as he was given such a difficult task.

Snape had no idea Victoria existed. Well, he knew Harry was taking care of her, but didn’t know she was a Malfoy. Perhaps she could be the swaying point for Narcissa as well as Draco. What little Harry knew about her, she seemed willing to do almost anything for her precious Draco. That thought made Harry ill. It reminded him too much of Petunia with her precious Dudley.

“You need help with potions,” Draco said suddenly.

“Yeah,” Harry answered absently. “With both Potions professors gone, Madam Pomfrey is going to run low on potions soon.”

“I can help with potions,” Draco offered.

“I was going to ask if you’d help,” Harry admitted, focusing on him again. “I’m just not quite sure what I’m doing yet.”

“You went to Hogwarts to get stuff to set up a lab,” Draco said. “From what you said to Winky earlier.”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted. He just didn’t admit that he’d been with Snape and it was actually all his things. Harry wasn’t even positive Snape planned to set up a lab at Grimmauld Place. He was pretty sure, but he never quite knew anything when it came to Snape.

Harry looked at the clock and sighed. He was going to have to get ready soon if he still intended to go to the Weasleys for breakfast.

“I’m not sure what to tell you, Malfoy,” he said, sounding tired again. “You overheard me talking to Winky and you know we’re making progress on setting up a safe place. Right now, it’s still not really fit for anyone to live in, and I’m honestly not sure when I could take you there. I don’t like the idea of subjecting you to Veritaserum, and I won’t do it unless I absolutely have to. Maybe it’ll seem more necessary before we can move into the safe house.”

No matter how Harry felt about it, he was fairly certain that Snape would require Draco to be questioned under Veritaserum before he’d ever allow him into Grimmauld Place. There didn’t seem much point in subjecting Draco to it twice.

“You know I’d much rather you be on my side and away from Voldemort. You’re highly intelligent, you’re excellent at potions, and you know a lot of things I don’t that you could help me with. That doesn’t even take Victoria into account. For both her sake and mine, I’d prefer you on my side and out of harm’s way. As much as it’s possible to get,” he clarified. “We’ve both known this for weeks now. The question is still your family.”

He looked over at Victoria’s cot where she was starting to stir. “You came to me because of Victoria. Maybe it’s time to tell your mum about her,” he said softly.

He rose and went to pick up Victoria, cuddling the warm, still sleepy baby close to his chest. He looked over and met Draco’s gaze. “I’m not sure there’s much I can do until you decide where you stand with your mum.”

Draco nodded reluctantly and Harry shifted his attention back to the baby. “Good morning,” he said softly.

“Da,” she said, smiling happily.

Harry chuckled. “You’re going to have to learn some actual words,” he said. “Come on, I bet you need to be changed.”

He laid her on a blanket on the floor and got her cleaned up and dressed for the day, then turned her loose. He watched her as she crawled to the chair and worked to pull herself up. “Good job!” he exclaimed softly once she was standing. “You’re a mite wobbly, but it won’t be long before you’re walking all over the place.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he frowned and looked around the small room that seemed to keep shrinking. There wasn’t much space in there at all, and the poor thing had already been cooped up for a month. If things worked the way Harry wanted, she’d have a little more space at Grimmauld Place, but she’d still be cooped up.

“I’m not being fair to her, am I?” Draco asked quietly.

Harry looked up at Draco and slowly shook his head, before turning to watch Victoria again. “It’s not right to keep a child locked away,” he said softly.

“And you would know,” Draco said knowingly.

Harry exhaled heavily and simply nodded.

“What would happen if you took her with you to the Weasleys this morning?” Draco asked neutrally.

Harry glanced at him sharply, but was met with the damned expressionless mask he hated. “I’d be bombarded with about a million questions that I couldn’t answer, Victoria would be fussed over beyond all belief, and hopefully she’d have fun getting out of here for awhile.”

“And then?” Draco questioned.

Harry frowned in confusion, but answered anyway. “And then we’d come back here, I’d feel guilty for handing her back off to Winky again, and then I’d go do what I need to do at the house,” he said.

“You’d bring her back?” Draco asked, still with that same neutral tone.

“Of course I’d bring her back!” Harry said hotly. “I’m not letting anyone take her away from me!”

Harry’s eyes widened along with Draco’s. “Fuck!” Harry exclaimed softly before pulling his knees up to his chest and burying his face.

He lifted his head to look at Draco when the room remained quiet for a couple minutes, except for Victoria’s chatter. “Look, I know she’s not mine and I’m not trying to take her away from you or anything. I was just . . .,” he said, trailing off uncertainly.

“You were just pointing out that it would be over your dead body before you let anyone try to take Victoria away from you,” Draco said, tone still suspiciously even.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed miserably.

“Then take her with you for awhile,” Draco said.

“What?” Harry asked, unbelieving he’d heard right.

“Take her to the Weasleys with you. Surely it must be safe enough there for her, and she shouldn’t be stuck in here all the time,” Draco said, although he was grimacing in distaste. He gazed steadily at Harry. “I trust you to bring her back,” he said.

“How the bloody hell would I explain having a baby?” Harry asked incredulously.

Draco grimaced again. “You could tell everyone that it’s someone your aunt knew. Someone that’s been killed in one of the attacks and your aunt is now taking care of the child,” he said, obviously not liking the fabricated story.

“But since Aunt Petunia can’t stand babies being dumped on her doorstep,” Harry added bitterly, “Victoria is now pretty much in my care for the time being.”

“Exactly,” Draco agreed.

Harry dropped his head to his knees again, thinking about that scenario. He could probably make it work, especially since everyone knew very little about the Dursleys, but just enough to make the story sound believable.

“I’m guessing you could get your aunt to go along with the story,” Draco added. “Just in case anyone did decide to check.”

“Like Hermione,” Harry muttered. He looked up at Draco thoughtfully. “You’ve been thinking about this, haven’t you?” he asked.

Draco gave him a rueful half smile, but nodded. “It’s taken me awhile to come up with a plausible sounding lie for this situation,” he admitted.

Harry laughed. “Well, I have to admit, it’s going to be easier now to explain why I had to leave in such a hurry the other night,” he said. “Well, not exactly easier, but I’ve got a valid excuse now. Even if I told them, I don’t think they’d believe that I had to hurry back because I had an injured Malfoy in my bed,” he said with a grin.

“True,” Draco said, smirking at him.

Harry stood to get dressed and thought of a new problem. “Um, can I Apparate with her?” he asked. “I’ve gotten better at Apparating myself, but is it even safe for a baby?”

“I Apparated with her to get her here, didn’t I?” Draco pointed out.

“I wouldn’t want to splinch her or anything,” Harry said nervously.

“You’ll be fine,” Draco said, dismissing Harry’s worries.

“Easy for you to say,” Harry muttered, snagging jeans and a t-shirt from his wardrobe. He changed quickly, but noticed Draco watching him as he pulled the shirt over his head.

“What?” Harry asked warily.

“Nothing,” Draco said quickly. “Just wondering who the hell does your shopping for you.”

Harry scowled, discomfort easily forgotten. “At least these clothes fit me,” he grumbled.

Draco shook his head despairingly before turning to get dressed himself. Harry caught himself watching for a moment before forcibly looking away and gathering up Victoria. “What do you say, Vicki, feel like going to visit the Weasleys this morning?” he asked.

“Vicki?!” Draco exclaimed in outrage. “Her name is Victoria.”

“But it’s such a big name for such a little girl,” Harry explained.

“I don’t care!” Draco snapped. “She’s not a Vicki!”

“Well, how about Tori?” Harry suggested.

“No,” Draco growled, glaring fiercely at Harry.

Harry blinked at the extreme reaction. “Ana or Lissa?” he asked hopefully.

“No, Potter, you can’t call her any of those names,” Draco replied angrily.

Harry started laughing, watching as Draco tried to yell at Harry and button up his shirt at the same time.

“What are you laughing at?” Draco sneered.

“You complain about my clothes, but at least I can get them on myself properly,” Harry said, still sniggering.

Draco looked down and realized his shirt buttons weren’t matched up with the proper buttonholes. He shot a glare at Harry before concentrating on his buttons. Finishing, he went back to ranting at Harry.

“It’s bad enough that you’re taking her to the Weasley’s,” Draco sneered in disgust. “I’ve been nice and haven’t said anything about that. But then you add insult to injury by trying to change her name. It’s just not proper.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “All right, all right, calm down,” he said, placating.

Draco scowled. “Her name is Victoria Analissa Malfoy,” he said firmly. “Use Victoria or Analissa, that’s it.”

“Fine,” Harry grumbled. He knew Draco could be far worse when it came to any mention of the Weasleys and he was actually allowing Harry to take Victoria there. Harry wasn’t willing to push the issue any further, especially not at the moment.

He left Draco to play with his daughter for a bit while he packed a bag for her. He was nervous as hell about taking her out anywhere, and that didn’t even take into consideration all the questions and lies. He also went downstairs and managed to talk to his aunt before Uncle Vernon or Dudley showed up. He explained what the lie was regarding Victoria and she grudgingly agreed to cover if any of Harry’s friends showed up again.

Winky came back with breakfast, and Harry explained the situation to her, before leaving with Victoria—Draco giving him about a dozen final warnings ranging from her name to bringing her back safely. Harry left Draco with only one warning—to talk to his mother.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Eleven

Determined not to do anything to harm Victoria, Harry concentrated extra hard on his Apparition, while holding onto her tightly. Opening his eyes, he was grateful to see the Weasley’s backyard, and that they had both arrived safely with no body parts missing.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked once before entering the Weasley’s kitchen.

“Harry! We’ve been so worried,” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed upon seeing him. She went to squeeze him in a hug until she registered the baby he was holding. She paused and stared in disbelief. It gave Harry that extra moment to realize they were the only ones in the kitchen so far.

“Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said slowly. “Where did you get a baby?” she asked.

“Mrs. Weasley, this is Victoria,” Harry said cheerfully.

Just then, the door to the hallway flew open and Hermione came rushing in. “Harry! I thought I heard Mrs. Weasley call your name.” She screeched to a halt in front of him, much like Mrs. Weasley had.

“That’s a baby,” Hermione said, blinking in amazement at Victoria.

“Very observant,” Harry said, sniggering at his friend.

She glared at him. “Where’d you get a baby?” she demanded.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly.

“Her name is Victoria,” Harry said again for Hermione’s benefit. “And I’m watching her for the time being. You know how my aunt feels about babies being dumped on her doorstep,” he said with a grimace.

“She was dumped at the Dursley’s house?” Hermione asked, outraged. Mrs. Weasley looked like she would explode at any moment.

Harry shrugged helplessly. “Her family are victims of the war,” he said quietly. Which, he reckoned, was true enough. Her mother and maternal grandparents had been killed, and her father and paternal grandparents were Death Eaters. That qualified as making them all victims of Voldemort in Harry’s book.

“Victoria was brought to my aunt’s house for now, until there is somewhere safe for her to go,” he added.

Harry was quite pleased with himself. So far, he technically hadn’t lied at all. He’d been seriously misleading, but he hadn’t outright lied.

“Oh, the poor thing,” Mrs. Weasley said, reaching for the baby now. Victoria didn’t want to go, though, and started crying.

Harry shushed her. “Shhh, its okay, Victoria. This is Mrs. Weasley and she knows all about babies,” he said reassuringly. He hoped his tone helped, because he knew she didn’t understand the words. She quieted down, but still clung tightly to Harry.

Mrs. Weasley backed off, but gave Harry an odd look. “How long have you been taking care of her, Harry?” she asked.

“Um, about a month,” Harry admitted.

“A month?!” Hermione shrieked in astonishment. “Why didn’t you tell us before?!”

Victoria started crying again and Harry glared at Hermione as he bounced Victoria, trying to calm her again. “Could that be a reason?” he asked sarcastically.

Hermione looked chagrined at causing the baby to cry. “I didn’t mean to upset her,” she said quietly. Then she glared at Harry. “But you should have told us,” she snapped. “No wonder you’ve wanted to stay at the Dursleys longer.”

“I didn’t know how long this was going to last,” Harry said, still bouncing. “I still don’t know how long, but while she needs care, I don’t intend to just abandon her with the Dursleys.”

“She’s quite attached to you already,” Mrs. Weasley said. “It’s common when they’re this age to be a little more fearful of strangers.”

“Lovely,” Harry muttered. “And I thought this would be a nice outing for her.”

“She’s been cooped up with the Dursleys?” Mrs. Weasley verified.

“Yeah,” Harry mumbled.

“Then this will be a good thing for her,” Mrs. Weasley said firmly. “She needs to get out and meet people and be exposed to lots of different things. Are you hungry?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah, I’m starved actually,” Harry answered. “I’ve been up since about four, but I’d been asleep since yesterday morning.” He looked at Hermione. “My aunt left me a note saying you’d stopped by,” he said. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you, but was too tired to think to send you a note telling you everything was fine.”

He paused, glancing at the baby for effect. “I just had to hurry to get back to the Dursleys, and I hadn’t known exactly what was wrong at the time.”

“Was Victoria okay?” Hermione asked worriedly, making the assumption Harry wanted her to.

“Yeah, but I didn’t get to sleep until after seven o’clock,” he admitted, still trying to stick with the truth as much as he could. He was feeling guilty enough as it was.

“Is she teething?” Mrs. Weasley asked, back in her position in front of the stove.

“Yes,” Harry said with a grimace. “I don’t reckon you know how I could help her with that, do you? The Muggle methods just aren’t cutting it.” Harry and Mrs. Weasley both winced at his choice of words.

“Cutting teeth is no fun,” Mrs. Weasley said in sympathy. “After breakfast, I’ll see if I can’t dig up my old books about baby care for you,” she said.

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I’d appreciate it.”

Harry sat down with Victoria, while Hermione started setting the table. He found it amazingly easy to deflect questions, for the most part saying he didn’t know. They were surprisingly easy to convince, but then, they knew about Harry’s history with the Dursleys. Of course the Dursleys wouldn’t fill Harry in on anything important.

It also helped that Harry could easily talk about how he didn’t want Victoria growing up without her family or someone who cared for her. Mrs. Weasley and Hermione had just looked at Harry sympathetically.

Harry was pleased that he was pulling this off, but he could feel the guilt stirring in his gut. What would the Weasleys and Hermione say if they knew Victoria was actually a Malfoy? What would they say if they knew that he’d left Draco Malfoy in his room? That he’d slept with Draco?

Harry himself shied away from that little topic. He was thankful when more Weasleys trooped into the room for breakfast, and even more grateful when Mrs. Weasley and Hermione helped field the barrage of questions.

Mr. Weasley managed to pull out a baby’s feeding chair from somewhere, and Harry managed to coax Victoria into it. She was happy enough as long as she was remained next to Harry, although she kept watching everything going on around her. Harry concentrated on trying to stuff his own mouth while feeding Victoria. He fed her bites of porridge and gave her a piece of toast to mangle and gnaw on.

“You’re quite good at that,” Hermione said in amazement.

“Good at what?” Harry asked in confusion, feeling like he’d missed something.

“Well, taking care of a baby,” Hermione said, frowning a little. “I mean, you just seem so natural feeding her without even thinking about it.”

Harry started laughing. “You should have seen me before,” he said. “I’m definitely not a natural at this. I just had to learn fast so she didn’t suffer.”

“What are you going to do when you leave the Dursleys?” Ron asked. “It’s not like you can take the baby with you.”

Harry frowned. He didn’t have a clue as to what he was really doing, but he knew he was taking Victoria with him to Grimmauld Place. He’d told them Aunt Petunia had watched her while he’d been involved with all the battle stuff and Order meetings. He wasn’t about to tell them he had Winky’s help. In fact, the Weasleys still thought Harry was coming to move in with them on his birthday.

“I don’t know,” Harry said quietly. “I might just stay at the Dursleys a little longer.”

“You can’t do that!” Ron exclaimed, outraged on Harry’s behalf.

“We can’t even get in to see you when you’re there,” Hermione muttered, sounding frustrated and seemingly in agreement with Ron.

“It’s not been so bad this summer,” Harry said.

“Not so bad! They treat you something awful!” Ron shouted.

“Ronald! Quiet down!” Mrs. Weasley commanded, but it was too late and Victoria was crying again.

Harry glared at Ron before he turned to pick up Victoria.

“Sorry, mate,” Ron mumbled apologetically.

“She’s just not used to this,” Harry said. “I have no idea what it was like for her before, but it’s actually been pretty quiet at the Dursleys.”

It had been real quiet, considering the Silencing Charms on Harry’s room and often around Victoria’s cot or Harry’s bed. It got interesting with so many of them essentially living in that one small room.

Harry grabbed some more toast, handing half a piece to Victoria before taking a bite out of the other half himself.

“You know she’s getting that mushy toast all over you, don’t you?” Ron asked, grimacing in disgust.

Harry shrugged. “Yeah, she tends to drool on me a lot, too,” he said. “We both wash.”

He noticed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley both smiling. “Let me go find you those books, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said, standing up from the table. “I believe you’ll also find the cleaning charms quite helpful.”

Harry nodded gratefully. Anything would be helpful at this point.

They ended up migrating from the kitchen to the backyard with a large blanket that Mrs. Weasley gave Harry. The girls spread it out for him, and he plopped Victoria down on it. Harry thought it was funny when Ron, Hermione, and Ginny all sat down on different edges of the blanket. Victoria wouldn’t get too far without someone there to stop her.

He watched her crawl around happily in the sunshine. She tended to stay close to Harry, and he let her check out the grass on the side, but she didn’t seem to trust the prickly stuff.

“With that hair, she looks almost like she could be yours,” Ginny said, grinning at Harry.

“I know,” Harry said ruefully. “I’m hoping when the poor girl’s hair grows out that it’ll lie flat for her.”

“She definitely doesn’t have your eyes, though,” Hermione pointed out.

Harry sighed, knowing whose eyes she did have. He didn’t think even Hermione could have made the connection to Draco, but he knew how to deflect this one, just in case. “She’s got the same colour eyes as Sirius did,” he said quietly.

“Oh,” Hermione said, wide-eyed. “I’m sorry, Harry. I forgot.”

“It’s okay,” Harry said, shaking his head.

“I didn’t think grey eyes were that common, but it’s an especially interesting combination with her dark hair and then such light coloured eyes,” Hermione said, resorting to rattling off pointless knowledge. Harry wouldn’t be surprised if Hermione was soon looking up eye colours, simply because she didn’t seem to have all the answers about it.

“How come she’s so pale?” Ron asked.

“She’s been stuck inside, Ron,” Hermione said with a roll of her eyes.

Harry had to wonder if that’s all it was, considering how pale Draco always was. Surely Draco got out into the sun once in a while, but he still always seemed awfully pale.

“Anyway, now that you’re here, Harry, I can fill you in about Fawkes,” Hermione said briskly.

Harry startled. “I don’t even know where Fawkes is,” he said. He’d been so busy and then he’d been asleep for so long. He was ashamed to realize Fawkes had been out of sight, out of mind. A low trilling above them had them all turning their gazes skyward. Moments later, Fawkes landed heavily on Harry’s shoulder.

Harry petted the brilliant plumage. “I’m sorry, Fawkes,” he said. “I’ve been a little busy.”

Fawkes trilled a couple of notes, and Harry wondered if that meant he was forgiven. He suddenly had a lap full of Victoria as she tried to get closer to the colourful bird that had captured her attention along with everyone else’s.

“No, Victoria,” Harry said. “I can’t let you grab hold of Fawkes, but I’ll help you pet him.” He carefully lifted Victoria in his arms and held her wrist and hand so that he could guide her hand gently across Fawkes’ feathers. “Soft,” he said, watching her smile in delight.

He set her back down on his knee, opposite from the shoulder Fawkes was currently resting on. Harry then looked to Hermione who’d been quietly watching. “So, what do I need to know?” he asked.

Hermione shook her head, still looking a little awed by the interaction between Harry, phoenix and baby. “For one thing, it would seem that Fawkes is attuned to you now,” she said. “He came when you needed him at the meeting, and he came when you mentioned him now.”

“I think he came to the Order meeting because of what I had said regarding Dumbledore,” Harry said.

Hermione was shaking her head, though. “That might have been part of it, but I’d be willing to bet you were thinking about Fawkes at the time,” she said.

Harry frowned as he thought about it. He didn’t remember thinking about Fawkes, but he had to admit that was the type of thing he’d said in the Chamber of Secrets when Fawkes appeared. “Not really, but I suppose so,” he said doubtfully.

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh at Harry’s waffling answer. “Just trust me on this, Harry,” she said. “Fawkes will now come to you when you call for him. He’s his own creature, but for all intents and purposes, he’s yours now.”

“Why? How?” Harry asked bemusedly.

“Phoenixes choose their owners and he’s chosen you as his new owner,” Hermione said. “He’s likely gone through a mourning period, and now he’s yours. Provide him with a space of his own wherever you are at, and he will likely stay there close by.”

Harry listened as she went on describing more about phoenixes in general. Most of it wasn’t really stuff he actually needed to know, and Harry was again amazed at how much sheer knowledge Hermione could rattle off.

He wondered if it was a little immature of him that he was most fascinated with the fact that he could get Fawkes to deliver messages at a moment’s notice, provide warnings, and carry several people with his tail feathers—all things he’d seen Fawkes do in the past. He could care less about the history of phoenixes. The burning information would likely prove useful, but it wasn’t like that happened often.

Really, it sounded like all he had to do was provide a home, as such, and attention. Harry received all the benefits. He did feel a bit awed that Fawkes had chosen him, but he wasn’t likely to dwell on it much. He gave a mental shrug. He was kind of used to bizarre things happening to him. He was pretty sure Hermione was much more fascinated with all of it than he was.

He understood the important part—home and attention. He could do that. Harry continued to absently stroke Fawkes’ feathers, while Hermione droned on. Victoria had given up on trying to reach the bird and had ventured out again. Harry grinned, watching Ginny scoop the little girl up.

“Harry! Are you even listening to me?” Hermione asked suddenly.

Harry, and Ron, startled at the tone in Hermione’s voice, causing Ginny to laugh and Hermione to glare. “This is important, Harry,” Hermione said.

“It’s unique and intriguing,” Harry said, nodding at her.

“You haven’t heard anything beyond those words, have you?” Hermione asked wearily.

Harry wasn’t about to say that those words out of Hermione’s mouth usually meant she was likely the only one to be fascinated by whatever it was she was talking about. Certainly, Harry and Ron weren’t usually as fascinated. “Home and attention,” he said, in a hopeful tone.

“Yes, I reckon that’s what you need to know,” Hermione said, giving up.

“I’m sorry, Hermione,” Harry said, actually feeling a bit bad. “It’s just that I’ve got so much going on in my mind lately, and there just doesn’t seem to be room for more.”

“No room for useless facts,” Ron muttered. Obviously he hadn’t meant it to be overheard because he appeared startled when Hermione transferred her attention to him.

“Ron! They’re not useless facts,” Hermione said sharply. “You never know when we might need the information.”

Harry grinned, happy she was yelling at Ron now instead of him. He could almost pretend they were on the Hogwarts grounds arguing over assignments. Of course, he had a phoenix still resting on his shoulder and a baby in his care that somewhat ruined the effect.

His grin dropped into a sigh. He really didn’t have time to daydream. If they would ever have a chance to just be students at Hogwarts again, he had a war to win first. Checking his watch, he realized he’d better be leaving. He had to drop Victoria, and maybe Fawkes, off at the Dursleys before running to Hogwarts to talk with Madam Pomfrey about potions. Then he still had to meet Snape at Grimmauld Place and sort out more potions.

That didn’t even take into account his Draco problems or anything remotely to do with the Horcruxes. Harry was taking on tasks as fast as he delegated. He knew he surely must have been accomplishing something so far this summer, but right at the moment he was having trouble figuring out exactly what that was.

He wasn’t exactly joking when he told Hermione he didn’t have room in his head for anything else at the moment.

“You all right, Harry?” Hermione asked quietly.

Harry looked up and realized all three of his friends were watching him worriedly. He gave them a small smile. “I’m fine. Just have a lot on my mind.”

“Have you made any progress?” Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head. “No, not really,” he said. Which wasn’t exactly true. He had had some quiet time at the beginning of the summer and thought of a few possibilities, but he certainly hadn’t had a chance to check anything out. It wasn’t like they could really talk about it in front of Ginny anyway.

“We haven’t been able to come up with much, either,” Hermione admitted. “We didn’t quite have the same access to information as you did.”

Harry was grateful she didn’t sound accusing. He’d told them absolutely everything he knew regarding the Horcruxes, but she was right. They hadn’t had the actual conversations with Dumbledore or seen the memories themselves. He wasn’t sure it really made much difference, though. The problem seemed to lie in being able to think like Voldemort. Or rather, think like Tom Riddle.

“We’ll talk more later,” Harry said. “I’ve got to be getting Victoria back.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You still need to make a trip to Hogwarts as well, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Harry said evenly, moving to stand up, an interesting thing to do while trying not to dislodge a phoenix. He wasn’t about to mention that he’d already retrieved the book. But he needed to keep up appearances, and he needed to talk to Madam Pomfrey anyway.

Hermione pursed her lips in disapproval, but didn’t comment. She wouldn’t override McGonagall’s decision. Harry fleetingly thought he was going to have to get McGonagall on his side more often.

Harry left the Weasleys with the shrunken perch for Fawkes that McGonagall had conjured and a set of child care books. He wasn’t at the Dursleys long. He got Fawkes settled, who appeared after Harry got the perch set up for him. Harry stared in wonder at the sight of the large phoenix in his room for a couple of minutes. Finally, though, he settled Victoria in with Winky, then left again.

A quick trip to Hogwarts where he got a list of needed potions from Madam Pomfrey and he was headed for Grimmauld Place, not quite knowing what to expect once he got there. He dragged his heels down to the kitchen, expecting, and finding, Snape rifling through boxes once he got there.

Snape looked up and sneered at him as he stepped into the room. Harry groaned inwardly. He had the feeling he was the one who was going to be punished for Draco’s disappearance.

“We need to set up a lab here, Potter,” Snape said curtly.

Harry nodded, actually grateful. “I just don’t know where would be the best place, otherwise I would’ve had Winky cleaning up an area this morning,” he said.

Snape paused and gave Harry an odd look. “Your house elf has taken whatever instructions you apparently gave her and decided to scrub down the entire basement floor of this house,” he said.

Harry frowned at him in confusion.

“This kitchen is large, but surely you did not think it was the only room in the basement?” Snape questioned.

“This is one place I explored as little as possible,” Harry said with a grimace.

Snape led him to a door off to the side of the pantry that Harry had never paid attention to before. “Why don’t I remember this door?” Harry asked.

“There was a cabinet in front of it previously,” Snape said curtly.

They stepped through into a short hallway with one door on the left and one at the end. Snape opened the first door and Harry was faced with one huge mess of junk. Piles of stuff everywhere, broken furniture, and many things Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to know what it was. He looked to Snape for an explanation.

“This was probably a storage room to start with, but it also appears to be where your house-elf has chosen to place anything questionable at the moment,” Snape explained. “This room has not been cleaned, merely added to recently.”

Harry quickly shut the door. He didn’t remotely want to have to deal with anything in that room. He followed Snape to the last door. Snape opened it and stood to the side while Harry walked in.

Harry stared in amazement. “What is this room?” he asked.

“Often in the past, potions were questionable when bought. Over time, the Ministry enforced stricter guidelines on potions that could be sold to the general public,” Snape said, clearly the professor at the moment. “Many of the rich, pureblood families would hire someone to brew potions for them, someone they could trust not to poison them. The room being used for storage would be their living quarters and this room, their potions lab.”

Snape gazed at Harry. “It would appear that you mentioned to your house-elf that you needed a place to brew potions. She is far more knowledgeable of the old customs than you are,” he said disdainfully.

Harry scowled. “Then it’s a good thing I’ve got her helping me,” he snapped.

“Indeed,” Snape said evenly. “I believe she took anything that was being stored in this room and added it to the other.”

Harry ignored the glare he was receiving and looked around the room again. Half the room looked ready for a potions lab to be set up. There were several storage cupboards for ingredients and supplies and shelves with glass doors ready for finished potions. Two long workbenches were in place.

On the opposite side of the room, it looked similar to a sitting room. It probably had been in the past, Harry realized. Their new storage room had most likely just been a bedroom. Here, there was a large fireplace and some comfortable seating. Off to the side was a large desk. There were many bookshelves around the room and Harry had to wonder if Winky had arranged all this throughout the morning, particularly after seeing everything Harry and Snape had left in the kitchen. When he’d decided to take Victoria with him, he’d sent Winky back to work on “whatever” she felt was necessary.

Harry glanced warily at Snape. “So, are you okay with setting up your things here?” he asked.

“Do I have any choice, Potter?” Snape asked coldly.

“Yes, you have a choice,” Harry snapped. “I asked you for the help with the potions because you are the best, but I do have other resources to help me with them. We both know that this is my house now, whether I wanted it or not, and I’m sure you absolutely hate the fact that you are here at all,” he said, trying to stay calm. “But you belong here as much as I do. That’s why Dumbledore set it up that way.”

He gestured around the room. “This looks like it was designed practically with you in mind, but if you truly wish not to be here, then by all means, make that choice.”

Harry took a deep breath, trying to ignore the glare he was receiving. “You’re not a servant here. Voldemort may treat you as such, and unfortunately, I know Dumbledore likely often made you feel that way,” he said bitterly. “Always doing what he wanted because he gave you little choice.”

“But you’re not a servant here,” he said firmly. “I’m not ordering you to help me with the potions. As if I even could order you to do anything,” he said, snorting at the ridiculousness of that idea. “I’m just looking for a sort of . . . partnership?” he said, unsure of what to call it.

Snape stared at him for so long that Harry had to force himself to stand still instead of squirming nervously.

“Does Pomfrey need potions immediately?” Snape asked suddenly.

Harry started after the long silence and quickly fumbled in his pocket for the parchment with the list she’d given him. He handed it over to Snape once he’d found it. “I told her it would probably be a few days before I could get any to her and she said that she’d be fine until then,” Harry said quietly.

“Very well, then,” Snape said. “Let’s get everything in here,” he ordered.

Harry breathed a soft sigh of relief as he went to start bringing all the boxes into the room. He quietly followed the orders Snape snapped at him. Mostly he worked on putting books onto shelves where Snape directed him to, while Snape worked on putting away the potions ingredients and supplies.

Harry was only half finished when Winky popped in beside him.

“Master Harry,” she said, glancing nervously at Snape who was glaring at her for interrupting.

“What is it, Winky?” Harry demanded.

“A message for you, Master Harry,” she said anxiously, handing him a small slip of parchment.

Harry took the note from her, grateful that Snape didn’t know that there was only one possible person it could be from. He read the note quickly, paling as he did so. “I’m going to kill him,” he muttered. He glanced up at Winky. “Bring me my cloak,” he ordered. “Then tell him I’ll be there shortly.”

Winky nodded as she popped out.

“What is the problem, Potter?” Snape demanded, as Harry took out his wand and burned the note.

“I’ve got to go,” Harry said shortly, ignoring the question. “I’m sorry I’m not finished, but if you put the boxes in front of the shelves where you want them, I’ll come back and finish later.”

Winky popped back with his Invisibility Cloak before disappearing yet again.

“Potter!” Snape commanded, halting Harry in his progress to the door.

“What?” Harry snapped angrily, whirling to face Snape. “I don’t have time for you to interrogate me right now.”

“What kind of trouble are you into now, Potter?” Snape asked coldly.

Harry laughed harshly. “You mean other than the trouble of working with a man the entire Light side wants to find and capture, if not kill?” he asked. “You mean other than the trouble of trying to take care of a baby while trying to fight a war? Yes, I’ve got lots of troubles and Merlin knows how many secrets, one of which I need to deal with right now.”

He turned and ran out, ignoring Snape’s shouting. Harry Apparated a little further away from the house than he would normally, threw on his Invisibility Cloak and snuck around to the spot him and Draco usually used as an Apparition point. It was more convenient as they could sneak around to the back of the house without being quite as visible to outsiders.

“Mum, he’ll be here,” Draco whispered.

“Draco, how can you be sure he won’t be bringing the Aurors with him?” Narcissa asked.

“He just won’t,” Draco snapped irritably. “I’ve told you, I trust him.”

“I’ve told you to trust no one,” Narcissa said coldly.

“And I don’t,” Draco said. “Except him,” he added.

“Draco, I’ve never known you to be so foolish,” Narcissa said, her tone turning anxious.

“I’m not being foolish,” Draco said angrily. “I feel like I’m making the smartest decision I’ve ever made.”

“Where is he?” Narcissa asked, sounding like it wasn’t the first time she’d asked.

Harry drew back his cloak, glaring at Draco. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” he hissed angrily.

Draco instantly looked relieved. “I brought my mum to see Victoria,” he said.

“You brought your mum for a bloody social call?” Harry asked incredulously.

“You told me to talk to her and so I did,” Draco retorted.

“You weren’t supposed to bring her here,” Harry said furiously.

“She insisted on it,” Draco said defensively. “What was I supposed to do?”

Harry knew Narcissa was watching them both with ever-rising interest, but he continued to ignore her.

“Amongst what I would have thought all the obvious reasons for not bringing her here,” Harry said, glaring dangerously, “this was a really bad time for a fucking social call.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Do you need to leave again?” he asked, and Harry detected the hint of worry.

“No,” Harry admitted. “It’s too late now, and already I’ve got to make up another story when I go back,” he said resentfully.

“Then bring us inside,” Draco said. “You know how dangerous it is to be out here.”

Harry finally turned to actually look at Narcissa. It was due to this woman and her sister that Sirius was dead. It didn’t encourage fond feelings for her, but he’d known that he’d likely meet up with her at some point if Draco could convince her to switch sides.

“I mean no harm to one who has protected both my son and my granddaughter,” Narcissa said softly. “I only wish to see her.”

“And then what?” Harry asked coldly.

“Then, I do believe we will need to talk,” Narcissa said.

Harry groaned and smacked Draco’s arm when the other boy began sniggering. Narcissa looked at them in confusion.

“This day started out so good,” Harry grumbled.

“Your day started out with me in your bed,” Draco smirked.

Harry flushed and glared at Draco. “That’s not what I meant and you know it,” he said.

Draco shrugged, unrepentant.

“Fine,” Harry said huffily, handing his cloak to Narcissa. He stalked out of the small alley and to the edge of the Dursley’s property.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twelve

Harry muttered the incantations that would allow Narcissa to enter the property, then stalked up to the Dursley’s house with Draco and an invisible Narcissa following him. He continued to mutter and curse under his breath, trying to figure out how he’d gotten himself into this situation.

Narcissa took the cloak off as soon as she was inside the house, which was unfortunate as Petunia stepped out of the kitchen to see who was entering.

“Harry?” Petunia questioned.

“This is Malfoy’s mum,” Harry said shortly. The situation was far too bizarre to even contemplate normal introductions. He snorted in bitter amusement as he watched the two women glaring distastefully at each other.

“You two have something in common,” he said maliciously. “You both raised spoiled sons who took great pleasure in tormenting me my entire childhood. You should be congratulating each other on a job well done.”

“Potter!” Draco hissed, as both women stared at him in shock.

Harry closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath, thinking he might have spent too long around Snape that afternoon. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Your uncle will be home soon,” Petunia said stiffly.

“Lovely,” Harry muttered, turning and heading up the stairs. He entered his room and dropped down on his bed with the intention of leaving Draco to introduce Victoria to her grandmother.

It didn’t quite work out that way as Draco and Narcissa froze just inside the room, Fawkes capturing their attention. Harry had to admit, Fawkes was an impressive bird, but he looked completely out of place in Harry’s room. Winky quietly shut the door and brought Victoria to Harry before moving back to sit on her small cot in the corner.

Draco finally tore his gaze from Fawkes to stare at Harry. “Where the fucking hell did you get a phoenix?” he asked.

“He was Dumbledore’s,” Harry answered. “He seems to be mine now.”

“There appears to be more to you than I realized,” Narcissa said, looking at Harry in amazement.

Harry shrugged off her words, but she didn’t seem willing to accept that.

“Mr. Potter, phoenixes will only bond to a very powerful wizard,” Narcissa said.

Harry shrugged again. He was pretty sure Hermione had said something to that effect. He’d been told he was powerful before, but he wasn’t sure how much that really meant. He was not quite seventeen yet and still had another year of schooling. It wasn’t like he was real spectacular or something. Besides, it wasn’t something he felt like talking to Narcissa Malfoy about.

“Don’t you care, Potter?” Draco asked incredulously as Harry remained silent.

“Care about what?” Harry asked. “Fawkes is only with me because Dumbledore left him to me, or however that works. He’s with me because I’m the icon of the Light,” he said sarcastically. “It has very little to do with my abilities as a wizard.”

Fawkes let out a trill that sounded like a reprimand, and Harry wondered how the phoenix managed that, or if he was just hearing things. “Sorry, Fawkes,” he said anyway.

Draco let out a laugh that sounded a touch hysterical. He turned to his mum. “See what I mean?” he asked.

Narcissa nodded slowly. “He is not what I expected,” she said.

“I don’t know what you two are talking about, but I am right here,” Harry said irritably.

“Having another bad day, Potter?” Draco asked, smirking at Harry in amusement.

“You could say that,” Harry muttered.

“You know, your manners leave much to be desired,” Draco said, pulling out the desk chair, the only chair in the room, for his mum.

Harry snorted. “Forgive me for having trouble grasping the reality of entertaining Death Eaters in my room at the Dursley’s house,” he said sarcastically. “I’m afraid it’s not within my realm of experience. I’ve got no less than three Malfoys in my room,” he said, shaking his head at that realization.

“Here,” he said, holding up Victoria for Draco to take her. “Introduce Victoria to her grandmother.”

Narcissa hadn’t exactly been as cold as Harry remembered her, but he watched as she visibly softened as Draco handed Victoria to her. Victoria didn’t seem too sure of the stranger, so Draco held her but stayed close to his mum’s side. Harry watched wistfully for a few minutes as Narcissa cooed at the baby, Draco animatedly telling his mum all about her.

Feeling like he was intruding, Harry lay back on his bed and closed his eyes, trying to tune them out. He had to forcefully remind himself that Victoria wasn’t his. They were the ones who were a family. He was just someone trying to provide care and protection for awhile.

Harry stood suddenly and kept his gaze averted as he left the room. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, realizing from the voices he heard in the kitchen that his uncle and cousin were home. He could hear them telling Petunia all about their day as they ate dinner.

Harry hadn’t felt so alone in a long, long time. As if in a trance, he walked around the side of the staircase and silently opened the cupboard door. He stared inside the small space, realizing his old cot was still shoved in the corner. Stepping inside, he tugged at a small section of the wall. It pulled away, and Harry shoved his hand in, pulling out a stack of paper.

“Potter?”

Harry whirled, banging his head hard on one of the overhead steps in the process. Wincing, he glared at Draco.

“What are you doing in here?” Draco asked, glancing around the small cupboard, eyes lingering on the cot and the hole in the wall.

“Nothing,” Harry hissed angrily. “Get out of here before my uncle catches us.”

Harry pushed Draco out of the way, stepped out and quietly shut the door before heading back upstairs, extremely thankful they hadn’t attracted his uncle’s attention.

Draco was right behind him when he entered his room. “What are those papers?” Draco demanded.

“They’re nothing,” Harry snapped, opening his trunk and stuffing them inside.

“They’re obviously something,” Draco retorted.

“No, they’re exactly that. They’re nothing,” Harry said bitterly.

“Potter, what are they?” Draco demanded.

“Just shut up, Malfoy!” Harry shouted angrily. “Maybe those damned papers are the reason I’m fucking doing everything I can to fucking help you! Now, if you want me to help you, then just leave it!”

“That used to be your room, wasn’t it?” Draco asked, ignoring Harry’s warning.

Harry glared furiously. “It’s none of your fucking business,” he said coldly.

Draco was glaring back at him and it was eerily similar to their old standoffs. Only normally there weren’t any babies crying in the background. Harry suddenly whirled and realized Narcissa was holding an extremely upset Victoria. Draco stalked over and took her from his mother, then handed her abruptly to Harry.

Harry took Victoria automatically and started bouncing her, even as he looked at Draco questioningly. “You can always calm her down,” Draco said, shrugging.

Harry sighed, feeling some of the anger drain away as he started talking soothingly to Victoria, getting her to quiet down again. He sat down on the bed, leaning against the headboard, Victoria cradled on his chest.

Between the knock on his head and the stress, his head was aching and he was sure it was only going to get worse. He realized that he wasn’t exactly leaving Narcissa with a very good impression. Insulting her by comparing her to a Muggle, fighting with her son, and making her granddaughter cry couldn’t be helping to convince her to switch sides.

“Potter, you’re dripping blood,” Draco said.

“Am I?” Harry asked, uncaring. “Then that would explain why my head hurts.”

“You slammed it pretty hard,” Draco said, sounding concerned.

Harry snorted. “It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last,” he said.

“Let me look at it,” Narcissa said softly.

Harry looked at her warily, but sat up and turned slightly. He felt her hands gently probing the edges of the wound. “I don’t believe it’s too serious. May I heal it for you?” she asked.

Harry closed his eyes. Did he trust this woman pointing a wand at his head? “If you would,” he said.

He felt an odd tingling around the wound as she cast the same spell that Snape had taught Harry.

“I can cast a cleaning spell in a few minutes when it’s healed completely,” Narcissa said.

“Thanks,” Harry muttered. He glanced at Draco and realized the other boy was giving him a strange look. “What?” he asked defensively.

“How can you sit there so calmly and just let my mum heal you like that?” Draco asked.

“I’m not calm,” Harry retorted. “I’ve just got enough trouble trying to make sense out of everything without dealing with a massive headache as well. Since your mum healed me instead of trying to kill me, I gain two things. One, I can hopefully think again soon without my head trying to explode. Two, I’ve learned I’ve at least got a shot at trusting her since she managed to restrain herself from cursing me.”

“That’s a fucked up way of trying to figure things out,” Draco said.

“Agreed,” Harry said. “It’s not a method I’d use with just anyone, though. There’s no way I’m letting your aunt anywhere near me with a wand if I have any say in the matter.”

“Probably a wise decision,” Draco admitted.

“Mr. Potter, you have nothing to fear from me,” Narcissa said quietly. “And you seem to realize that already.”

She stepped forward again, checking Harry’s head before casting a couple of spells to clean up the blood from his hair. She ran her fingers through Harry’s hair one more time, checking that he was healed completely and all the blood was gone. “You’re healed, but a Pain-Relieving Potion for the actual headache would help tremendously,” Narcissa said.

“I’m out of them,” Harry mumbled. “Still feels better, though.”

Draco reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple vials, passing one of them to Harry. “Here. I snagged a few potions earlier,” he admitted, glancing warily at his mum. “You didn’t seem to have any more than what you used for me.”

Figuring Draco had snagged from Snape like he himself had, Harry pulled the stopper and drank down the contents gratefully, immediately feeling the potion starting to work its magic, literally.

“Draco explained to me how you healed him,” Narcissa said.

Harry shrugged. “Yeah, it wasn’t really a big deal,” he said uncomfortably. “It was just a flesh wound.”

Narcissa glanced knowingly at her son, before looking back at Harry. “After what I just witnessed, I do believe that you and Draco have different ideas of what constitutes a ‘big deal’,” she said.

Harry quirked a grin at Draco. “Maybe,” Harry agreed, enjoying seeing Draco scowl at his mother.

“I find it interesting that you say it was a simple wound, yet in the middle of the night, sought out healing spells and potions,” Narcissa added, effectively wiping the grin from Harry’s face.

“Look, I had to be out anyway,” Harry said. “I just picked up what I needed from Hogwarts to be able to help him when I got back.”

“From what I understand, you’ve been helping Draco regularly for the last month,” Narcissa said.

“Mrs. Malfoy, I’m really not in the mood to go through another Malfoy talk,” Harry said wearily. “If you could just try getting to the point for me, I’d appreciate it. It’s already been a long day, and I still have a lot to do.”

Narcissa’s brows arched in surprise and she smiled slightly. “You are not exactly the type to woo others over to your side, are you?”

“No, I’m not,” Harry said seriously. “What you do, is up to you. I’m not about to try to take that choice away from you, much as I’d like to,” he admitted. “What I will do, is offer you whatever protection I possibly can if you do decide to switch sides.”

Narcissa glanced at her granddaughter, then her son. “You have helped Draco, even without him switching sides,” she said quietly.

Harry hugged the now sleeping Victoria tighter to his chest. “Victoria needs her father,” he said softly. “I’d rather not let this war take any more children from their parents if I can do anything to prevent it.”

His eyes strayed to his trunk of their own accord. He lifted his gaze hurriedly only to be caught by Draco. Harry’s chest hurt, and it had nothing to do with Victoria resting on him. Draco slowly moved towards Harry’s trunk, and Harry felt powerless to stop him. He knew that technically he could, but he just seemed to have lost his will to fight.

Narcissa lifted Victoria from his arms and laid her down in her cot, and Harry just let it happen. Draco lifted the stack of papers and handed them to Harry.

Harry accepted them with shaking hands and began flipping through them. He hadn’t lied to Draco. They were nothing. They were simply a child’s drawings, drawn with colour crayons. Mostly stick figures, none of them at all good in an artistic sense.

But once upon a time, they were Harry’s pictures of his family. He spent a lot of time with those drawings, because he had no real family to spend time with. He’d grown up and long ago had forgotten about them, as they were just childish fantasy.

Most of the pictures were bright and colourful. Harry and his parents. A few even that Harry knew were supposed to represent him and the Dursleys. Pictures with happy smiles and bright yellow suns. The last picture was the same as the others, but Harry had taken a black crayon and scribbled out all of the other people. He’d drawn a slashing frown on his own stick figure face. He was left standing alone, surrounded by darkness.

It obviously hadn’t been one of his better days.

Harry’s expression hardened and he tossed the stack at Draco. “You wanted to see what they were so bad,” he said harshly. “Take a look. That was my little fantasy family that I kept hidden away for me alone. I’d forgotten about those drawings. Long before I moved out of my cupboard, I’d given up on the idea that I’d ever belong to a real family.”

Harry glared at Narcissa. “I honestly meant what I said. It’s your choice what you do. I just hope you make the right fucking choice for your family.”

“Believe me when I say there’ve been moments in the last six years since I found out about the Wizarding world, when I’ve wondered if my parents made the right choice. If they’d been supporters of Voldemort, would they have been alive today? Would I have grown up in a real family being spoiled rotten like your son?” Harry asked, his voice harsh with barely suppressed anger.

Narcissa and Draco were staring at him in shock. “Oh, believe me,” Harry said. “This isn’t something I’ve ever mentioned to anyone else. It’s not something I’m proud of thinking, and I admit, it’s not actually something I’ve thought about long. Ultimately, I’m proud of the choice my parents made. But that doesn’t stop the longing.”

He heaved in a shuddering breath. “My point is this. Think damned hard about what you really want. I can’t make you any promises. I know damned good and well that I’m only a sixteen-year-old boy. Voldemort’s far older and far more experienced. He’s got a hell of a lot going for him at the moment. Your family has been able to survive so far and at the moment you are still on Voldemort’s good side. If you feel your chances of survival are better by staying with him, then do it.”

Harry finally stood and walked to the door, before turning to glare at them both coldly. “But I’ll tell you this. I don’t intend to fucking lose this war.”

He stormed out of the house, not knowing or caring where he was going. He was angry and confused. And he knew he’d handled that incredibly badly. Finding himself at a good place to Apparate, he went to Grimmauld Place, hoping like hell that Snape was gone by now.

He slammed the door on his way in, forgetting about Sirius’ mum hanging on the wall until she started her shrieking. Instead of trying to shut her up, Harry matched her insult for insult, shouting at the portrait. When that failed to satisfy him, he drew his wand and started firing every curse he could think of at her. She simply shrieked louder.

Harry’s rage at the unfairness of the world simply seemed to build. The fact that nothing harmed the portrait made him even angrier. He wanted to do damage.

“You filthy, evil creature! Vile scum!” Mrs. Black screeched.

“Evil?!” Harry shouted. “I’m not the one trying to destroy the world!” And he fired another curse at the portrait.

“Desist filthy half-breed!”

“Fuck you!” Harry yelled. “And your bloody idiotic prejudices!”

“You dare befoul the house of my fathers!”

“Your fathers?!” Harry spat. “Are fathers only good in pureblood families?”

Levicorpus!

“I gather my father liked that spell! He was a bastard! He was a bastard but he still fucking loved me! I know he did!” Harry shouted.

“By-product of dirt and vileness!”

“Shut up!” Harry shouted furiously. “Sectumsempra!

“Dark Arts! Darks Arts again in the House of Black!” Mrs. Black shrieked, but she sounded excited this time.

“Who bloody cares?” Harry shouted. “It’s just a fucking spell! It doesn’t even do any damage to you!” he added bitterly.

Crucio!

“Not a bit of damage, but you make excellent target practice,” Harry sneered. “Bellatrix says I’ve got to really mean the curse. I want Voldemort gone so fucking bad, I have no worries about meaning it. I certainly don’t intend to make Dark Arts my next hobby, but you know, I better fucking learn them at some point!” he shouted. “I’ve got to fucking kill Voldemort. You hear that, bitch?”

“No, no! Filthy half-breed begone!”

Avada Kedavra!” Harry shouted. He watched in shock as the portrait tumbled to the floor in front of him. Stumbling back, he fell against the opposite wall and slid down it in disbelief. Mrs. Black was still shouting, but the sound was muffled now as her portrait was face down on the floor.

Hearing a sound, he looked up startled and wide-eyed as Snape stepped out into the open.

“It would seem that you have uncovered the key to the sticking charms in this house,” Snape said conversationally. “It was unlikely any of those they saw as the wrong sort would ever fire a Killing Curse, particularly at a portrait.”

Harry stumbled to his feet, hand over his mouth, and bolted for the loo. He proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach and by the time he was through he felt like he had vomited his actual stomach as well. He rinsed his mouth and stumbled to the kitchen, sitting down heavily in one of the chairs.

“Drink this,” Snape ordered, setting a cup of tea in front of Harry. Harry wasn’t sure he dared ask what Snape had added to it. Taking a tentative sip, he decided it tasted all right at least.

“That was quite an impressive display,” Snape said.

“I didn’t realize you were still here,” Harry said weakly.

“Would it have made any difference?” Snape questioned.

Harry thought about that for a moment while he drank another sip of his tea. “Probably not,” he finally admitted. “But I was angry and came here because I thought I’d be alone.”

“When you received your message earlier, you were muttering about ‘killing him’,” Snape said evenly.

Harry’s eyes widened to saucers. “I didn’t. I just . . . oh gods,” he said weakly. “I’ve just cast the Killing Curse.”

“Successfully,” Snape agreed.

“I could’ve killed someone,” Harry said, feeling his stomach churning again. He glanced down into his teacup, sure that whatever was in it was the only reason he wasn’t running to the loo again.

“If you had been aiming at a person rather than a portrait, they would have been dead now,” Snape said.

Harry swallowed heavily.

“I have again underestimated you, Potter,” Snape said, staring at Harry calculatingly. “Until a short time ago, I have never truly believed you capable of being able to win this war.”

“You believe it now?” Harry managed to croak out.

Snape nodded once. “I have only seen one other driven as much as you,” he said quietly.

With sudden insight, Harry stared. “You,” he said faintly.

“Me,” Snape agreed.

* * * * *

Harry dazedly let himself back into the Dursley’s house and climbed the stairs to his room. Snape had ordered him to finish his tea and then sent him home to rest until the morning.

He hadn’t protested.

He stepped into his room and blinked in confusion for a moment. He’d somehow forgotten about his full room. Draco, Narcissa, Victoria, Winky, Hedwig and Fawkes all turned to look at him when he entered.

“Potter? You all right?” Draco asked, looking at him with concern.

Harry slowly met his gaze. “Not really,” he admitted.

Bemused, he allowed Narcissa to hustle him over to his bed. He looked at her with a bit of alarm when she sat down beside him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“What happened?” Narcissa asked.

Her question dropped him immediately back into his swirling concerns regarding the fact that he’d managed to cast the Killing Curse. He didn’t realize that he lost what little colour he’d regained.

“Have you ever successfully cast the Killing Curse?” Harry asked Draco abruptly, and watched him turn white.

“No,” Draco said, voice barely audible. “You have to mean it.”

Harry nodded absently.

“Did you kill someone, Mr. Potter?” Narcissa asked evenly.

Harry grimaced, giving her a sidelong glance. Both Narcissa and Snape had managed to calmly ask him that same basic question and he found it a little disturbing. He answered her anyway.

“Just a portrait,” he said. “But the casting was successful. It was enough to get her off the wall.”

“She’s finally off the wall?” Narcissa asked in amazement, clearly knowing what portrait Harry was referring to. “I didn’t think it was possible.”

Draco looked at her sharply, but Harry managed a slight smirk. “Everyone tried, but she was still stuck there.” He sobered. “I wasn’t even trying to get her down,” he said softly.

He looked at Narcissa. “I slammed the door and woke her up. I was just fighting with her because she wouldn’t shut up. And we were both shouting, and I started casting curses. It wasn’t like I was hurting anybody. And we fought about the Dark Arts and I just . . . I just ending up casting the Killing Curse and she was down.”

He unconsciously leaned into Narcissa, accepting the comfort she seemed to be offering. “I know I have to kill to end this war. It was just a bit of a shock to say the words and know that I meant them,” he said.

There was a knock at the door and Harry sighed heavily. “What now?” he muttered, but he stood to answer the door.

Aunt Petunia was about to speak to Harry when her eyes lit upon Harry’s fully occupied room. It took her a moment to shake off her shock before she stared at Harry again. “You have a visitor. I’ve refused to let him in the house, but he still insists that he must see you. He said he’s the Minister of some sort,” she informed.

“Scrimgeour?!” Harry exclaimed.

Petunia nodded. “That was it,” she said.

“Oh, fuck!” Harry cursed angrily. “What the bloody hell does he want with me now?” He turned to glance at Draco and Narcissa, who both looked shocked and angry at being betrayed.

“I haven’t turned you in,” Harry hissed. “I don’t know why he’s here.”

Harry turned to Petunia. “Keep Uncle Vernon and Dudley away. I don’t care what you have to do or how you do it, but do it,” he ordered

Petunia nodded and disappeared. Harry shut the door for the moment and stalked over to Draco. “I haven’t turned you in,” he repeated firmly. “You said you trust me, so I need you to actually prove it right now. Don’t do anything stupid. Just stay put and let me handle this.”

Draco finally nodded slowly and Harry could see him relax slightly.

“Mr. Potter, there is still blood on your shirt,” Narcissa said calmly, although her face was white and pinched. “I believe it would be wise not to arouse suspicion.”

Harry twisted his head to try to see the back of his shirt, pulling it up. He yanked it off, and Winky was already handing him a clean t-shirt. “Thanks,” he said, his voice muffled by the new shirt being jerked over his head. Draco stepped forward and ran his fingers through Harry’s hair.

“That’s not going to help!” Harry exclaimed, batting Draco’s hands away.

“Well, it doesn’t look like you just tugged a shirt on now at least,” Draco muttered.

Harry glared irritably. “I don’t want to face him with blood all over me, but otherwise I could care less about my appearance.”

He opened the door, sighing heavily before making his way downstairs. He stepped outside where Scrimgeour was waiting for him.

“What do you want?” Harry asked coldly.

Scrimgeour gave him a grim smile. “This isn’t the friendliest household, is it?” he said wryly.

“Just get to the point, Scrimgeour,” Harry said. “Why are you here? Or would the better question be, what do you want with me now?”

“I had hoped that you might have changed your mind over the last month, now that you’ve had a little time to adjust,” Scrimgeour said. He eyed Harry’s hard expression critically. “I believe I may have been mistaken.”

Harry snorted. “I told you a month ago and I told you at Christmas. I’m not interested in becoming your little icon to ‘boost morale’,” he said flatly.

“The people need you, Harry,” Scrimgeour said, his own voice growing colder and harder.

“You know, I do believe you’re right,” Harry said thoughtfully. “The people do need me because I’m actually working to save their world. Unlike the Ministry, I really could care less what my image is. I’m going out and getting the job done.”

Scrimgeour’s expression turned angry. “The Ministry is working very hard to save the people.”

Harry snorted disparagingly. “Yes, that’s why you still have people like Stan Shunpike locked up. Because you care about the people,” he said sarcastically. “That’s about image, Scrimgeour. It’s not about the people. You wanting me to publicly align myself with the Ministry is about image, not the people.”

“People need to have faith in the Ministry or things will be very bad indeed,” Scrimgeour snapped.

“So give them a reason to actually have faith in the Ministry,” Harry said incredulously. “Have you ever thought about going that route?”

Harry shook his head, still having trouble understanding this attitude. “There’s a reason people followed Dumbledore, and it certainly wasn’t because he aligned himself with the Ministry. It’s because he stood strong in his beliefs and wouldn’t allow people to sway him. When things got rough, he would do something about them. He certainly wouldn’t hide behind some safe image and do idiotic things like lock people up for no valid reason.”

He paused to gather his thoughts. “Scrimgeour, you are losing the faith of the people because of your inability to take a stand. You wish to place a sixteen-year-old boy out in front and think that’s going to make people have more faith in you.” He paused. “You’re probably right, actually,” he admitted.

Scrimgeour only looked wary with Harry saying he was right about something, and Harry smirked at him. “I have people who will follow me, because they see me actually working my arse off to win the battles and the war,” he said. “I refuse to let the people see me endorsing the Ministry’s actions, because it would cause people to lose faith in me.”

Scrimgeour took a deep breath. “I was afraid you would play hard ball,” he said. “I came prepared to negotiate with you.”

“Negotiate how?” Harry asked suspiciously.

“It was brought to my attention late this afternoon that you have a baby in your care,” Scrimgeour said, watching Harry closely.

Harry was unable to keep himself from stiffening. Mr. Weasley must have said something to tip off the Minister, but it was obviously too late now to ask the Weasleys to keep quiet about Victoria.

He glared at Scrimgeour. “You will leave that baby alone,” he said dangerously.

“That baby seems to have no history,” Scrimgeour went on, ignoring Harry’s warning. “It’s quite suspicious and should be investigated further.”

“You think this is going to make me want to associate with the Ministry?” Harry asked furiously.

“I am willing to negotiate,” Scrimgeour said coldly.

“You want to negotiate with people’s lives?” Harry snapped. “With a baby’s life?”

“If it is necessary for the greater good of the people,” Scrimgeour answered.

Harry whirled, slamming his fist into the side of the house so that he didn’t actually punch the Minister for Magic.

“Now, Harry, is that kind of behaviour really necessary?” Scrimgeour asked patronizingly.

“It is if you want to keep your face intact,” Harry growled.

Scrimgeour actually took a step back in surprise. Harry sneered at him, his mind whirling as he tried to figure out what to do.

“I am willing to file the paperwork, immediately, listing you as the father of that child. With no further questions asked,” Scrimgeour said. “But you will come to the Ministry and give a public speech, supporting the Ministry.”

“No, I will not support the Ministry in such a manner,” Harry snarled. “Especially a Ministry that will use a child’s life as a bargaining tool.”

“Then I will be forced to take the child away,” Scrimgeour said.

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed, running a hand through his hair in agitation, not realizing he was spreading blood through his hair once again, this time from split knuckles.

“You have no idea what you’re interfering with,” he said furiously. “Why can’t you just leave me alone and let me do my job and win this fucking war?”

“The public needs some kind of reassurance, especially now that Dumbledore is gone,” Scrimgeour said, sounding slightly more sympathetic. “I am not actually enjoying this.”

Harry began pacing the yard, trying to decide what to do. Draco would kill him if he lost Victoria. Draco wouldn’t be thrilled if Scrimgeour gave Harry custody, either. He was damned if he was going to lose her to Scrimgeour, though. He’d done that article back in fifth year which had reached the people. Could he do something like that again?

“Whose child is she?” Scrimgeour asked quietly, watching Harry in bemusement. “Where did she come from?”

Harry realized that he’d played right into Scrimgeour’s hands. Scrimgeour may have hoped, but hadn’t necessarily expected Harry to react so strongly to his threats. It was time to turn the tables.

“Just like me, her family was killed and then she was dropped off here. She is another victim of this war,” Harry said coldly. “The way I see it, you are behaving little better than Voldemort. Attacking a child.”

Scrimgeour jerked back as if Harry had slapped him.

“Here’s the deal,” Harry spat. “You will provide me with paperwork that lists me as Victoria’s godfather and gives me custody. I need to know that you won’t try to use her against me again in the future and I will not let you take her away from me. Until such time as this war is over, she will be known as Victoria Potter.”

“Being known as a Potter will help protect her in the eyes of the public,” he said coldly. “It’s just too bad you’re forcing this out, because it’s just going to make her a huge target for Voldemort. So, if you have any compassion at all, I suggest that when you file this paperwork, you keep this quiet for as long as possible. Because if anything happens to that little girl, I will come after your head first.”

Scrimgeour’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “You have no right,” he snapped.

“I have every right,” Harry declared. “You brought this on, not me. I managed to reach the public,” he spat distastefully, “my fifth year. I’ll do it again. I absolutely refuse to publicly endorse the Ministry’s actions. I will, however, refrain from publicly calling them out. I will get an article out in which I’ll do my bloody best to reassure the people. But I will do it my way, not yours. The public doesn’t trust your way. You want me to be an icon? Then let me be an icon, not one of the Ministry’s toadies.”

“Speaking of, I don’t suppose you’ve gotten smart and gotten rid of Umbridge yet, have you?” Harry asked angrily. “You clean up the Ministry’s employees, and release the people like Stan Shunpike that you’ve wrongfully locked up, and I’ll even make a public comment that the Ministry seems to be trying to make an effort.”

“If you don’t make an effort, you won’t get me saying that you are,” Harry said.

“You cannot dictate the terms like this,” Scrimgeour said coldly.

“Can’t I?” Harry asked dangerously. “You try taking Victoria away from me, and I guarantee you that it will become public knowledge that you are using innocent babies as bargaining material.”

“The public would not believe that of me,” Scrimgeour scoffed.

“There’s a reason you’ve been after me,” Harry sneered. “Who do you think they’ll believe, you or me?”

Scrimgeour stilled, obviously realizing Harry was right.

“Do we have a deal?” Harry asked.

“You are ruthless in your bargaining, Harry Potter,” Scrimgeour said.

Harry simply nodded.

Scrimgeour exhaled heavily. “I will have the paperwork to you shortly listing you as Victoria Potter’s godfather with full custody rights. I will begin proceedings to release the prisoners. It will take much more time to work through the Ministry employees.”

“If you want real, honest help with that, then I recommend Arthur Weasley to help you,” Harry said. “Not Percy Weasley.”

“Very well,” Scrimgeour said reluctantly.

“I will set things in motion tonight, but I will not have anything published until you work to fulfill your end of the bargain,” Harry said coldly.

Scrimgeour studied Harry critically. “I have to wonder if I made the right decision to try to confront you,” he said.

Harry shrugged. “If your true goal is to actually help the people and reassure them at the same time, then you went about it the wrong way, but you’ll be getting results anyway,” he said.

“Not many would dare to try to bargain with the Minister for Magic as you have,” Scrimgeour said.

Harry smiled grimly. “Not many have the safety of the Wizarding world riding on their shoulders.”

Scrimgeour appeared startled for a moment before he nodded. “You should be receiving an owl shortly and I will keep you posted,” he said.

“Thank you,” Harry said, nodding in return.

“Best of luck to you, Harry Potter,” Scrimgeour said before he walked away.

Harry stared after him until he disappeared out of sight. Turning abruptly, he strode determinedly back to the house.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Thirteen

Harry watched with little surprise as the door mysteriously opened for him. He stepped into the house, the door shut behind him, and Draco slipped the Invisibility Cloak off.

“I can’t decide if you have everyone on your side . . . or no one on your side,” Draco said bemusedly.

“Tell me about it,” Harry grumbled. Especially after the argument with Scrimgeour, he felt like he had to fight for every bit of cooperation he got from his allies.

“I thought the Weasleys, at least, were on your side,” Draco said.

“They are,” Harry snapped. Draco surprisingly wasn’t sounding snide about the Weasleys, but the comment still put Harry on the defensive. “I just fucked up and forgot to tell them to keep quiet about Victoria. I don’t dare ask him about it, or it’d bring up more questions I don’t want to deal with, but I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Weasley was simply bragging about how proud he was of me for helping take care of her.”

Draco shook his head dismissively. “You probably couldn’t have given them a valid reason to keep quiet anyway, not without raising suspicion.” He stared at Harry with admiration. “I’m actually quite impressed, Potter,” he drawled.

“I am, as well,” Narcissa said, stepping forward.

Harry looked at them both warily. “You did hear everything, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, my daughter will now be a Potter,” Draco said dryly.

“Well, what was I supposed to do?” Harry snapped, heading up the stairs. “It’s not like I could give her real name. This way she’s at least protected from one side. If I gave her real name, she’d likely be a target on both sides.”

Harry stepped into his room and went straight to his desk, searching for some clean parchment, ink and quill.

“What are you doing now?” Draco asked.

“I’ve got to fulfill my end of the bargain,” Harry said absently.

“How?” Draco asked.

Harry found parchment, and started digging for ink. “I’ve got to write Luna first and get her to set things in motion with her dad, and then I need to write Hermione and get her to contact Rita so we can get an article going. Hermione will be able to help decide what should go public and what shouldn’t.”

He paused thoughtfully. “Although, I’m going to have to figure out how to explain things well enough to satisfy Hermione. She’s really going to be questioning why I agreed not to attack the Ministry. It shouldn’t be too hard, though. She knows how I feel about family. I don’t think she’ll question my motives too much,” he decided. “She’ll figure out what I should say.”

The Malfoys remained quiet as Harry quickly dashed off both letters and sent Hedwig out with them.

Harry sat down in the window after letting Hedwig out and turned to face Draco and Narcissa. Narcissa was sitting primly on the edge of his bed, while Draco was sprawled out comfortably. Harry snorted in amusement.

“Mrs. Malfoy, you really look out of place here,” he said ruefully.

She looked around briefly before meeting Harry’s gaze steadily. “I admit, this is not my usual style, but I am grateful to you for making us welcome,” Narcissa said. “I have no cause for complaint.”

Harry’s brow furrowed in thought. “You’re not quite what I expected,” he admitted.

“Then I believe that makes us even,” Narcissa said, smiling warmly at Harry. “You are not as I expected, either.”

Harry shrugged, conceding her point.

“I believe you have earned my trust tonight, as you have earned my son’s trust, and my granddaughter’s as well,” Narcissa said. “I believe my son is correct in that we should accept whatever protection you can offer our family, and in turn, we will do anything that we can to help you.”

Harry stared at her in surprise. It was what he wanted, but he still didn’t quite expect it to happen.

She smiled at him sadly. “This is not a decision I’ve come to lightly, but in many ways, it is a decision I have been working towards for a long time now,” Narcissa said. “I am not happy with the Dark Lord using my son as he has.”

She paused, gazing fondly at Draco, and even Harry, for a moment. “I still think of you as little boys, but it is clear that you are both strong young men, willing to do anything for your families.” Narcissa looked at Harry. “You, Harry Potter, are willing to do anything for all families,” she said. “I have great respect for that, and I admire your strength.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. The woman looked incredibly sad considering the words she was saying.

“It’s a difficult decision, deciding to leave my home,” Narcissa said. “But it is a life of daily fear to continue living there.”

Harry looked at her sharply, suddenly understanding something. “You feel by making this decision, you are also leaving your husband,” he said.

“Yes,” she said softly, looking extremely pained with that admission. “You have no reason to believe it, but Lucius is a good man. It is the Dark Lord who corrupts,” she said. “Lucius believes in family above all else and I believe he was doing as you mentioned earlier this evening. He made the choice to protect his family. He just made an incredibly different choice from that of your parents.”

“Lucius is a cold-hearted bastard,” Harry said flatly.

Draco sat up straight, tensed and angry, but Narcissa stopped him with a gentle touch on his arm.

“He’s a bastard,” Narcissa said with a slight smile. “Cold-hearted he is not.”

Harry went to run a hand through his hair in frustration, but his fingers caught on dried blood which had stuck the strands of hair together. He looked at his hand in disgust, but otherwise ignored it. “We’re not likely to agree about Lucius at the moment,” he said. “The last time I saw the man he was trying to kill me.”

“He was following orders,” Draco said angrily. “And then you lost me my father.”

Harry’s expression hardened and he glared at Narcissa rather than Draco. “And I lost my godfather,” he said.

Narcissa winced. The interaction caused Draco to pause and look at the two of them warily.

“It is worth nothing, but I am more sorry than you will ever know,” Narcissa said, tears filling her eyes.

Draco looked alarmed, but he was ignored.

“You and your family have made some really bad choices,” Harry said harshly.

Tears beginning to overflow, Narcissa continued to meet Harry’s gaze steadily. “And we are trying to finally make some good choices,” she said. “I know better than my son that you have no reason to give us any kind of chance, but if you do, we will accept that chance with the knowledge that it is a gift of life that you are offering.”

“I renounce the fear and ultimate death that up until this time the Malfoys have accepted,” Narcissa said, sounding regal despite the tears still falling. “With your willingness, I wish to pack whatever belongings I can, make financial arrangements, then leave the Dark Lord’s service immediately.”

Harry stared at her in disbelief. “I don’t have anywhere for you to go yet,” he said. “All I’ve got is this little room to offer at the moment.”

“Do you offer it freely?” Narcissa asked.

“Well, yes, I suppose,” Harry said in confusion. “But it’s dangerous for you here as well. You saw Scrimgeour here tonight.”

“We will have to be more careful,” Narcissa agreed. “But when he was here, I was witness to a young man who was willing to stand up to the Minister for Magic. A young man willing to subject himself to situations he didn’t want, in part to help protect my family. That is the young man I wish to follow. Not a Dark Lord who cares nothing for my family.”

Harry sighed wearily, feeling entirely overwhelmed. He was in way over his head and he knew it. He had no idea how to approach the man, though, who would be able to help him with this.

“I don’t want any followers,” he muttered.

Narcissa smiled through her tears. “No, I don’t suppose you do,” she said. “Which is all the more reason to follow you.”

Harry looked at her in confusion. Her words were beyond his comprehension at the moment.

“Look, I’m trying to work on a safe place for all of us,” he said. “It’s just taking some time,” he admitted. “I wasn’t joking when I said that for now we would literally all be stuck in this one little room together. If you disappear, you become targets of Voldemort and you’re already targets for the Light side. You will be stuck in this one little room and I can’t even offer you the rest of this house,” he added bitterly.

“I recognize that,” Narcissa said. “However, I also recognize that it is safer here in this little room than it is in the very large Malfoy Manor. This is not about comfort and luxury, as you probably know and understand better than me.”

“Yes, I understand it,” Harry said. “I’m just not so sure two Malfoys can truly comprehend,” he muttered.

“We will make do,” Narcissa said with a slight smile, before she sobered again. “I do understand that technically we would both be more useful if we continued to remain where we are. It would glean you more valuable information.” Her voice sounded questioning, as if she was trying to determine if that’s what Harry really wanted.

“Maybe,” Harry said dismissively. “But Malfoy sucks as a Death Eater. He’s just likely to get himself killed if he stays too long,” he said, completely serious.

“That’s one of my biggest fears,” Narcissa admitted. “It is not a life suited for my son, and certainly not for my granddaughter. It is harsh and unforgiving. I do not wish to subject them to it any longer.”

“All right, then,” Harry said slowly. He glanced around his room bemusedly. “I have no idea how we’ll make this work, but welcome to my room.”

“Thank you, Mr. Potter,” Narcissa said graciously.

“Um, I’m going to be sharing my room,” Harry said. “Could you at least call me Harry?”

Narcissa smiled warmly. Standing, she moved to where Harry was sitting and pulled him into a hug. “Thank you, Harry,” she said softly. “You may call me Narcissa.”

Harry hugged her back, feeling awkward, happy, and bemused by what was occurring.

She stepped back, and Harry realized Draco was watching and the emotions flittering across his face seemed to be matching Harry’s, except Draco also added hope, and conversely, fear.

“Are we really leaving the Manor and moving in with Potter?” Draco asked his mum.

“Yes,” Narcissa said.

“Oh,” Draco said, seemingly at a total loss for words.

“I reckon you might as well call me Harry, too,” Harry said dryly. “Especially since I think we’ll be sleeping together again.”

Draco was startled into laughter. “Looking forward to it,” he drawled.

* * * * *

Harry finally fell into bed, realizing that the next night he would likely be sharing it with Draco. Narcissa and Draco had left, declaring they would be back the next day, to stay. They would likely get little sleep, for they intended to pack everything that they could. They would go to Gringott’s first thing in the morning to withdraw funds and secure their accounts and then they would be back to stay with Harry.

Harry lay there, trying to figure out what the hell he thought he was doing. It made no logical sense whatsoever. He felt like he was being torn in a dozen different directions. Well, at least a half dozen—Malfoys, Dursleys, Snape, Weasleys and friends, Scrimgeour, the Order, and he couldn’t forget Voldemort.

He’d received the Owl from Scrimgeour. He was officially Victoria’s godfather. He’d stared at the document for a long time before carefully tucking it away in his trunk.

He could practically hear Ron shouting in his head that he was bloody mental, and couldn’t find it within himself to argue with that voice. It seemed his life just kept getting more complicated by the minute.

He looked around the darkened room. Surely it must have been a dream—or a nightmare. The Malfoys weren’t going to be moving into his room at the Dursley’s, of all places.

There was already his own bed, Victoria’s cot, and Winky’s small cot. He reckoned with a little rearranging they could make things work—somehow. He knew it wasn’t a joke that he and Draco would have to share. It was the only practical arrangement and they’d already managed it once before. He wasn’t sure how he really felt about it, though.

Then again, he wasn’t sure how he felt about anything anymore. Events seemed to keep spiralling out of his control. He found himself worrying about how Draco and Narcissa were faring at the Manor. Then he started wondering how Snape was going to feel about their disappearance. He still had no idea of how he was going to approach the man about this.

How was he supposed to explain that he had the Malfoys staying with him? Technically, he still had no proof that it wasn’t all some elaborate hoax. He didn’t think Snape would take it kindly that Harry was going with his gut instincts. Groaning, Harry buried his head under his pillow and eventually he fell into an exhausted sleep.

* * * * *

There was no sign of Draco or Narcissa before Harry had to leave to meet Snape at Grimmauld Place. He did think to warn his aunt that they would likely be arriving at some point, though. She hadn’t been pleased, but she had refrained from commenting.

Harry quickly discovered that Snape hadn’t arrived yet, and Harry couldn’t decide if that was a good or a bad sign. He found instructions left out for him on the workbench in the new potions lab. He didn’t know when Snape had left them, but it appeared he wouldn’t be meeting Harry after all.

Feeling like he was in detention, he got to work finishing shelving all the boxes of books. Then he set to work brewing potions, following the directions Snape had left for him. After several hours of work, he cleaned up. Feeling anxious, he popped back to the Dursleys instead of going straight to the Weasleys where he was supposed to be meeting Hermione.

He stepped into his room warily, not sure what to expect. He shut the door and leaned back against it.

The room had been rearranged. Harry’s bed was now shoved in the far corner. There was a new bed now in the opposite corner. Victoria’s cot was in between the two nightstands that stood next to the beds. Winky’s cot was at the foot of Narcissa’s bed. Harry’s desk was at the foot of his bed. Wardrobes flanked the doorway and a pair of comfortable looking chairs sat next to both beds, facing each other. That left a narrow walkway down the middle, and a small area for Victoria to play directly in front of her cot. Somehow, even Fawkes and Hedwig had a space in the room, perched at the side of Harry’s desk.

Harry stared in disbelief. They couldn’t really be planning to live like this. It was temporary, yes, but still. Narcissa was sitting in one of the chairs with Victoria on her lap. Draco was sprawled on his stomach on Harry’s bed reading a book.

“Good afternoon, Harry,” Narcissa said pleasantly.

“Afternoon,” Harry said dazedly.

“You smell like potions,” Draco said, wrinkling his nose.

“Yeah, I’ve been brewing,” Harry said absently.

“I can’t help, can I?” Draco asked.

“Uh, not at the moment,” Harry admitted. “But hopefully soon.”

Harry looked between them warily. “So, um, I gather everything went okay, then?” he asked.

“If you mean leaving our home behind and everything we’re familiar with to come live in this tiny room with you, then yes, it went okay,” Draco said, sounding resentful and bitter.

Harry sighed and looked down at his feet. He couldn’t really blame Draco for being upset about it all. He knew that Draco was ready to switch sides, but it didn’t mean that it was an easy adjustment.

“I’ll just go,” Harry said quietly, turning to leave.

“Harry, wait,” Narcissa said.

Harry paused and glanced at Narcissa. “There’s no reason for you to leave,” she said softly.

“I have to go to the Weasleys to sort out that article,” Harry said. “I just wanted to make sure you got here okay.”

“We’re fine,” Narcissa said gently. “It’s just a bit of a shock.”

Harry refused to turn around and look at Draco, but he nodded to Narcissa in acknowledgement. “I’m sure it is,” he said stiffly. “I’ll be back when I’m done.”

With that, Harry disappeared out the door quickly.

* * * * *

“What exactly is going on, Harry?” Hermione asked. “There has to be a really good reason you want to do one of these articles again.”

“I had a visit from Scrimgeour last night,” Harry said.

“What? Why?” Ron asked. “I thought you already told the git off last month.”

Harry shrugged. “He thought I’ve had ‘enough time to adjust’,” he said sarcastically.

“Bloody git,” Ron muttered, and Harry nodded in agreement.

“But why are you giving in to him at all?” Hermione asked, frowning in confusion. “You didn’t before. It makes no sense to do so now.”

Harry shrugged again. “He was ready to bargain with me this time,” he said.

Harry watched their eyes widen and he smirked.

“You bargained with the Minister for Magic?” Ginny asked.

Harry nodded.

“Wow,” Ginny breathed.

“Well, tell us what you get out of this,” Hermione said, excited and impatient.

“Prisoners released that should never have been taken into custody,” Harry said casually. “A few changes at the Ministry.”

“You’re joking!” Ginny exclaimed.

Harry shook his head, grateful that was enough in their opinions. Hopefully he could keep secret for a while longer the fact that Victoria had been used as the major bargaining tool.

“What kind of Ministry changes?” Hermione asked.

“I’m not exactly sure,” Harry answered honestly. “I asked for a Ministry cleanup basically. I told him to start by getting Umbridge out of there.”

“Bloody brilliant!” Ron said in awe.

Harry grinned, saving the best part of it for Mr. Weasley to tell them himself. He hoped Scrimgeour actually followed through with that.

“Good,” Hermione said in satisfaction.

“So, have you sorted out my article yet?” Harry asked hopefully.

“Well, Ginny and I have been working on it almost all day,” Hermione admitted. “Since it’s not really an interview, we thought we’d skip Rita this time and have you write the article yourself.”

“I can’t write a bloody article!” Harry exclaimed.

“You don’t have to,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “I’ve been reading your assignments for six years now. I think I can manage to write in a style that will sound like you.”

“Oh, well, okay then,” Harry said sheepishly.

“Hey, how come you’ll actually write this for Harry?” Ron protested. “You never write anything for us.”

“This is different,” Hermione snapped. “This isn’t for a grade. This is to help boost morale. You think we should actually rely on Harry to be able to do that?”

“Hey!” Harry protested automatically, and then thought better of it. “Wait, uh, never mind. You just go ahead and do what you need to do.”

“That’s what I thought,” Hermione retorted.

“So, you and Ginny are going to write an article, but we’re going to pretend that Harry actually wrote it. Then Luna’s going to get her dad to publish it,” Ron said, trying to clarify things.

“Yes,” Hermione answered. “But Harry’s also going to read over it and change or add anything first.”

Harry nodded. “I should be able to tell you here in a bit whether I’ll need to add anything about the Ministry.”

Hermione frowned at him. “I thought we weren’t to say anything about the Ministry,” she said.

Harry smiled at her mischievously. “Just tell me what you’ve got so far,” he said.

“Well, mostly we’ve just written stuff that we’ve heard you say before,” Ginny said.

“Like what?” Harry asked, thinking that covered a lot of territory.

“Like the fact that you refuse to let Voldemort win,” Hermione said. “And you don’t think others should just sit down and admit defeat. That you think people should be studying defence. We put in a paragraph talking about the extra defence you were teaching everyone,” she added.

“That was over a year ago,” Harry said sceptically.

“Yes, but most people won’t know that,” Hermione said. “We didn’t lie, though. We just pointed out that you taught and students learned.”

“We’ve added a few Dumbledore thoughts as well,” Ginny said. “Like not letting fear run your life. And people shouldn’t fear a name.”

“It’s not a time to forget their children’s education,” Hermione said. “If Hogwarts does or doesn’t open this year, make sure the children are still learning how to defend themselves. We’ve added a bit about how sheltering children doesn’t help,” she said quietly.

“Good,” Harry said, nodding his head for emphasis. “Instead of being afraid of what’s happening, we need to learn how to fight back. If we don’t, then Voldemort wins.”

“Oooh, that’s good,” Hermione muttered, her quill flying across the piece of parchment in front of her.

Harry was a touch alarmed. He was very glad he was with his friends doing this, rather than Rita Skeeter this time. Ginny looked amused, Ron simply looked on in bemusement.

“Let’s see,” Hermione said thoughtfully, her eyes skimming over what they had down on parchment. “There’s also a bit about how you feel Dumbledore would be upset if you wasted your time grieving, but how you intend to avenge his death.”

“No,” Harry said flatly.

The other three looked at him in surprise. “No?” Hermione asked.

“No,” Harry repeated. “This article is supposed to be about instilling hope in people. It’s not supposed to be about vengeance.”

“But, Harry,” Ron protested. “People want to hear that you intend to avenge Dumbledore’s death. They want to hear that you’ll get revenge on Snape for killing him. They want to hear that you’ll get revenge on Malfoy for letting Death Eaters into Hogwarts.”

“No,” Harry said again. “People are getting enough news about killing and people dying, everyday in the Daily Prophet. They should be told that there’s hope, not just plans for more deaths,” he said flatly. “The people should know that I’m doing my bloody best to prevent as many deaths as possible.”

“But what about Snape and Malfoy?” Ron protested angrily. “They deserve to die for what they did. What they did to Dumbledore, to Hogwarts, to my brother!”

Harry ran both hands through his hair in frustration. Ron had every right to be angry. Harry had been angry about it himself. There was a part of him that was still angry about all that.

“What do you want me to say, Ron?” he asked. “I’ll deal with Snape and Malfoy when I come across them. But it has nothing to do with instilling hope and boosting morale! People are already feeling the anger and fear, just as you’re feeling it. Do you want me to fucking encourage people to rant and rage? I won’t do it!”

Harry took a deep breath, trying to calm down again. He was finding it extremely ironic that he was supposedly writing this article to help instil hope and make people feel a bit calmer while events in his life were making him feel like he was spiralling out of control. He was in control, but he wasn’t.

“Harry’s right,” Ginny said quietly to her brother. “This isn’t about Bill. This is about trying to help calm people’s fears, not encourage them. Replacing fear with anger will just get more people hurt.”

“Yeah, all right,” Ron said grudgingly.

The conversation felt stilted as they tried to talk about the article again. Harry had felt uncomfortable about the thing from the beginning. He was feeling miserable now. Somehow, he felt like he was betraying Ron—and Bill—because of the things he was doing.

“How’s Bill doing?” Harry asked suddenly.

The other three stilled, and stared at Harry. This was one of those topics that everyone had been avoiding. Harry hadn’t realized there was something really wrong, but from the way Ron and Ginny had spoken, and the way they were all looking at him now, there was more to it.

Ron’s face morphed into one of anger again and he abruptly stood and marched off. Harry stared after him in concern and confusion.

“Bill’s not doing so well,” Ginny admitted quietly. “His wounds aren’t healing properly. He’s been spending most of his time shut up in his room.”

“I didn’t realize,” Harry said, ashamed that he hadn’t even noticed Bill was missing the last few times he’d been there.

“We thought you had enough to worry about,” Hermione said quietly.

“So you kept something like this from me,” Harry said flatly. He knew he didn’t have much room to talk, considering all the secrets he was keeping, but it still bothered him that they’d keep something like this from him. He couldn’t see a reason why Bill’s injuries needed to be a secret.

Ginny and Hermione looked away, unable to meet his eyes.

“Why isn’t he healing properly?” Harry asked.

“Well, that’s not exactly true,” Hermione said. “He is slowly healing, but Greyback messed him up pretty bad. It takes time and there was only so much Madam Pomfrey could do.”

“He should’ve healed by now, though,” Harry said, frowning.

“Greyback had some type of poison on his . . . claws,” Hermione said with a grimace. “It took a long time to realize that Bill wasn’t healing properly, then to figure out why. He’s healing now, but it’s still slow progress.”

Harry couldn’t get it out of his mind, even after the girls had changed the subject to more pleasant topics. He remembered Madam Pomfrey telling him there was no charm to heal Bill’s wounds. But there was a charm. He certainly didn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up if it wouldn’t work, though.

Harry drifted through the rest of the evening. Dinner ended up being a pleasant affair. Ron’s bleak mood lifted completely when Mr. Weasley came home, excitedly talking about how he was now helping to screen through the Ministry employees. Ron, Ginny, and Hermione had all looked at Harry suspiciously, but he just beamed brightly, happy for Mr. Weasley. Also happy that something positive finally seemed to be happening at the Ministry. Mr. Weasley had also brought back news about Stan Shunpike and a few others being released from Ministry custody.

The group of four went back to talking about the article, and Harry admitted that he’d suggested Mr. Weasley to help with the Ministry employee cleanup. The others were ecstatic over the news, but Harry was still upset about Bill. He wanted to try to help if he could. It was worth a shot.

Eventually, he got away from his friends and he went to Grimmauld Place, searching for, and finding, another vial of the dittany. Running back out, he Apparated to the Dursleys. He ran up the stairs, and promptly stumbled going into his room, having forgotten about the newly cluttered room.

“Sorry,” he muttered. His eyes flicked around the room. “Where the bloody hell is my trunk? I need my Invisibility Cloak,” he demanded.

“Merlin, Potter! What are you up to now?” Draco asked, but he was rolling off the bed to kneel on the floor, pulling Harry’s trunk out from underneath the bed. Harry flipped it open and snagged his cloak.

“Everything’s fine,” he said, hurrying back out again.

He Apparated back to the Weasleys, but this time made sure he wasn’t too close. He didn’t really want anyone to know he was there. Covering himself with his cloak, he snuck back into the house. Most of the family was in the sitting room for the evening, and he crept up the stairs quietly.

He slipped into Bill’s room.

“Who’s there?” Bill asked, staring hard at the door closing by itself.

“Quiet!” Harry hissed, pulling his cloak off.

“Harry? What are you doing here? And why are you hiding?” Bill asked curiously.

“Where’s Fleur?” Harry asked, instead of answering. “I thought she was in here with you.”

“She’s in France at the moment,” Bill said, frowning at Harry. “I would’ve thought you knew that.”

Harry smiled sheepishly. “I reckon someone probably told me. I, uh, haven’t been real good with keeping up with everything recently,” he admitted.

Bill chuckled. “Harry Potter a bit busy these days?” he asked.

Harry grinned ruefully. “You could say that,” he said, but then he sobered. “I feel bad, but I didn’t even know until this evening how bad your injuries still were.”

Bill’s face did look a right mess, violently red gashes slashed across his face.

Bill sighed heavily. “I’ll be fine. I’ve been hiding out in here, because I just seem to upset everyone when they see me,” he said.

“So, you’re doing all right?” Harry asked.

Bill smiled. “I’ve got a wonderful girl I’m fixing to marry in the very near future,” he said. “I’m doing quite fine.”

Harry grinned. “Glad to hear it,” he said, very happy to hear that Bill was actually in good spirits.

“Why are you here exactly?” Bill asked. “Considering the cloak, this doesn’t exactly feel like a social call.”

Harry looked at Bill, suddenly nervous. “Well, I might be able to heal you,” he admitted. “But I didn’t really want to get anyone else’s hopes up, in case it doesn’t work.”

“But you’re willing to get my hopes up,” Bill said wryly.

“I don’t have a choice but to tell you,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

Bill quirked a small grin. “So, Harry Potter’s branching out into healing nowadays?” he asked.

Harry shrugged. “Kind of,” he answered. “If this does work, I’d rather you didn’t say anything to anyone. I don’t really want to deal with any more attention. And well, to be honest, I don’t want to deal with the questions it would generate.”

“You’ve got a lot of secrets right now, don’t you, Harry?” Bill asked quietly.

“Yes,” Harry admitted.

“Well, do your worst,” Bill said pleasantly. “Whether it works or doesn’t work, I’ll keep it quiet.”

Harry glanced at the door nervously and Bill calmly picked up his wand and cast both Locking and Silencing Charms.

Harry took a deep breath. “You might as well lie down. It’ll probably be easier that way,” he said.

Bill shrugged and complied willingly. He lay down on his bed and relaxed, showing his trust in Harry. Harry focused on the actual wounds. There were several partially healed slashes across Bill’s face, and Harry started with one along his jaw line. He slowly drew his wand along the gash, murmuring the song-like incantation.

He watched intently, and was pleased when the gash started closing.

“It’s working, isn’t it?” Bill asked, sounding awed. “I can feel it tingling.”

“Yeah, it seems to be working,” Harry agreed absently. He was already focusing on the next gash. For several minutes, Harry worked on healing each of the slashes. When he was finished, he dug in his pocket and pulled out the vial with dittany.

“Here, I need you to drink this, but um, try to be careful,” Harry said. “You probably should avoid too much movement until they finish healing. I don’t rightly know,” he admitted.

Bill obediently tilted his head up just enough so that he could down the contents of the vial, before laying back.

Harry sat on the edge of the bed and watched the wounds closing in morbid fascination. He thought it was pretty wicked to see the healing like that, but realized that not every one would feel quite the same way. Bill didn’t seem to mind him staring, though, so he continued to watch.

He had no idea how long it had taken, but eventually he blinked back into reality. “Um, it seems to have worked,” he said, with a wide grin gracing his features.

Bill tentatively brought his hands up to his face, feeling the areas where the wounds had been. “There’s nothing,” he said in amazement. Bill snatched up his wand and quickly conjured a mirror. He stared at his reflection, turning his head this way and that, inspecting his face closely.

Finally, he set the mirror down and stared at Harry. “That’s bloody brilliant, Harry!” Bill exclaimed. “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” Harry said happily. “But remember, you promised me you’d keep it quiet.”

“And I’ll keep my word,” Bill said. He frowned. “Although, I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this.”

Harry grinned. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Maybe some potion you drink tonight finally kicks in overnight for a miraculous recovery by morning.”

“This is a miraculous recovery,” Bill said.

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. “Not really. I just knew the right spell,” he said.

Bill let it go, seeming to understand that Harry didn’t want the extra attention. Instead they talked comfortably for a bit, mainly about Bill and Fleur’s upcoming wedding. Bill did tell Harry, though, that Harry could skip the wedding gift, since Harry had already given his. Fleur was sure to be pleasantly surprised.

Harry eventually snuck out of the house again, feeling light-hearted. He slipped quietly into the Dursley’s house as it was actually quite late by that time. Stepping into his room, though, he immediately had Draco’s and Narcissa’s attention.

“Is everything all right?” Narcissa asked worriedly.

“Um, yeah,” Harry said. “It’s quite good actually,” he added, unable to keep the smile off his face.

“You were in a bloody hurry earlier,” Draco grumbled from his position in Harry’s bed.

“Sorry,” Harry said. “I didn’t mean to worry anyone. I just had to hurry so I could sneak back in before they locked the doors.”

“You’re talking in riddles, Potter,” Draco sneered.

“What the fuck is your problem?” Harry snapped, feeling his good mood disappearing rapidly.

“I just don’t like you talking in riddles,” Draco hissed angrily.

Harry stepped forward, glaring at Draco. “You don’t like riddles? You want to know where I was tonight?”

He didn’t wait for a response. “I found out tonight that when Greyback slashed Bill’s face, there was some kind of poison or something. I don’t understand it all, but I found out tonight that his wounds hadn’t been healing properly. I didn’t know if I could heal him and didn’t want to build up anyone’s hopes. And if I was successful, I didn’t want all the attention. So, preoccupied and anxious, I was in a hurry earlier,” he said, voice hard.

Draco had turned ashen. “Were you able to heal him?” he asked, voice barely audible.

“Yes,” Harry said flatly.

“I didn’t know,” Draco whispered. “I didn’t know he’d be there.”

“I already know that,” Harry said harshly. He raked a hand through his hair. “What’s done is done,” he said. He abruptly turned and jerked his wardrobe drawer open, searching for pyjamas. Still angry and upset, he stared in confusion at the contents of the drawer.

He glanced at Draco, who was sitting up in the bed looking like he was about ready to cry. Harry glanced at Narcissa. She looked little better than Draco. He wondered at the fact that they seemed to be truly terrified of his reaction regarding the ordeal between Greyback and Bill.

He stared at the contents of the drawer again. There were pyjamas, but none he recognized as his own. Now didn’t seem to be a particularly good time, though, to ask where his own clothes were. He finally snatched up a pair of pyjama bottoms and left to change in the bathroom.

Amongst all the other oddities, he couldn’t believe he was rooming with someone’s mother. There was something he found extremely disturbing about that fact that went beyond rooming with Malfoys. Although, it could have something to do with sleeping in the same bed as the mother’s son, while said mother was in the room. Harry didn’t really want to think about any of it.

It the light of the bathroom, he eyed the pyjamas he’d grabbed. Slytherin green, silk pyjamas. He shook his head. They might as well have had Draco’s name written all over them. Sighing, Harry slipped them on. He decided that they actually felt pretty good, but he wasn’t about to admit that to anyone else. Draco was a lot taller so the hems dragged the ground, but Harry didn’t care. They were just a touch big around the waist, so they would work well enough. And it wasn’t like Harry wasn’t used to clothes that were too big for him. At least he wasn’t swimming in these.

Even when he was finished in the bathroom, Harry lingered. He wasn’t sure what he’d be facing when he went back to his room. He’d calmed down again, and really didn’t feel like fighting. Screwing up his courage, he slowly padded back to his room.

Everything was quiet and everyone was in their proper places. The room was fairly dark, but there was enough light coming in through the window that Harry could make his way across the room to his bed. Sighing softly, Harry quietly climbed into bed next to Draco.

Draco was lying on his side and facing the wall, leaving as much space between him and Harry as he possibly could. Harry lay on his back, trying not to think at all. He finally registered that Draco was shaking. Not severely, but enough. He realized that Draco was crying and he didn’t know what to do about it.

Tentatively, Harry reached out his hand and gently tugged at Draco’s shoulder. Draco stiffened, but didn’t turn.

“I’m sorry,” Harry whispered. He really hadn’t meant to make Draco cry.

His words got no response. Harry wasn’t sure what to do. The last time he’d caught Draco crying, they’d ended up duelling and Harry had practically killed him. Thinking about Draco’s reaction back in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Harry decided maybe he should just leave Draco alone for awhile.

He pushed back the blanket and moved to slide out of bed, but a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Startled, Harry looked to Draco.

“Where are you going?” Draco whispered, refusing to actually look at Harry.

“I just thought maybe I should leave you alone for a while,” Harry whispered back, sounding uncomfortable and awkward to his own ears.

Draco tugged on Harry’s arm and, getting the message, Harry lay back down. He was shocked when he suddenly had an armful of Draco with Draco’s head buried in his neck, crying. Feeling alarmed, Harry just lay there for a minute, doing nothing.

Eventually, Harry wrapped his arms around Draco and rubbed his back. He murmured that it would be okay into soft, blond hair that was tickling his nose.

He wasn’t sure why Draco was crying and he didn’t ask. He could make plenty of guesses, though. From his reaction earlier, he knew Draco was upset about the damage Greyback had caused. He was fairly certain Draco was actually feeling guilty. Maybe Draco was even upset about angering Harry. It made sense if for no other reason than Draco didn’t want to lose Harry’s support.

Draco needed Harry now to help protect him from Voldemort. That couldn’t be an easy adjustment for Draco to make. Harry knew he’d have a hard time if their situations were reversed. Even if he was coming to trust Draco, it didn’t mean he would want to become dependant on him for any reason.

It certainly couldn’t be easy for Draco to suddenly find himself living in a Muggle bedroom rather than Malfoy Manor. Everything was changing for him. He could very well be upset about having to share a bed with Harry, for all that Harry knew.

Harry sighed, brushing his hand against the back of Draco’s head and combing his fingers through the soft locks of hair. He didn’t know exactly why Draco was crying. He didn’t know how long Draco cried, either. Eventually, Draco seemed to cry himself into an exhausted sleep, though. Harry smiled in the darkness, thinking Draco probably wouldn’t appreciate that he was reminding Harry of Victoria at the moment. Victoria seemed to like to cry herself to sleep on Harry’s chest, too.

Harry eventually drifted off, trying not to think about how warm and comfortable he felt and also trying not to think about how really different it was from holding Victoria.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Fourteen

Harry woke the next morning to a rapid fluttering around his head. “G’way, Pig,” he grumbled, trying to burrow into his pillow. The excited fluttering wouldn’t stop, though, and he shot out a hand blindly and snatched the little owl.

He opened his eyes blearily, and realized he had an audience. Snatching up his glasses with his free hand, he shoved them on. Draco was lying next to him in the bed, staring moodily at the little owl that had obviously woken him up as well. Narcissa was sitting with Victoria and watching them both in amusement.

Harry blinked away the oddness of the situation and quickly relieved Pig of his letter. Opening it up, he started grinning broadly as he read.

“Good news, Harry?” Narcissa asked, her voice gentle and warm.

Harry beamed at her. “Yes,” he said. “Well, it’s actually already news that I knew about,” he admitted. “But Ron’s written me to tell me about Bill’s miraculous recovery.”

“I want to know how you learned that spell,” Draco said. “I thought you’d learned it from Pomfrey, but obviously not if she hadn’t healed Weasley.”

Harry’s good mood dropped like a rock and he scowled at Draco. “Are you just incapable of letting me have a good moment now and then?” he asked.

He knew why Draco was suspicious, though, and knew he needed to deflect attention. “When we duelled, I learned the spell that I used from a book that belonged to Snape. Snape used that healing spell on you that day. He tried to force me to bring him the book, but I hid it instead. When I went back to Hogwarts the other night, I retrieved the book and found the healing spell,” he explained, somewhat misleading but truthful, overall.

“Hermione and I have been going rounds about that book all year as it is,” he said irritably. “Hermione didn’t figure out who it belonged to until later, though, and I don’t need anyone knowing that I essentially got the spell from Snape. Does that satisfy you now?” he asked sarcastically.

“Not really,” Draco said, scowling back at Harry. “Now I just have more questions.”

“Tough,” Harry snapped. “Because I’m not answering them.”

“I want to know why you used that spell on me,” Draco demanded. “You could’ve killed me!”

“I wasn’t trying to kill you!” Harry exclaimed. “You were about to Crucio me and I was just trying to stop you! I’d read the spell, but had no idea what it would do. The only thing I knew was that it was for enemies. Someone casting Crucio at me is considered an enemy!”

“Boys!” Narcissa said sharply. “That’s enough!”

Draco stilled, but Harry turned his head to glare at her. Without another word, he stood and stalked out of the room to go to the loo.

When he returned, Draco took his turn and Harry dropped down heavily on his bed. “I’m sorry,” he said to Narcissa.

Narcissa gave him a small smile. “It’s a difficult situation,” she said softly. “You’re holding up quite well, all things considered.”

Harry laid back. “Wish I felt like I was handling things well,” he muttered. “I’m still not even quite sure how this whole situation came about,” he said, making a wide sweeping gesture with his arm.

Draco returned and Harry watched him warily as he dropped down beside the bed and pulled out his trunk. He looked up at Harry before opening it. “I brought something for you,” he said quietly. “I don’t want it to get you angry again, though. It’s a . . . well, it’s a bit of an apology and something that I hope will show that you can trust me now. Even if I do keep fighting with you,” he added.

Harry continued to watch him warily, not at all sure he trusted what Draco was saying. Draco sighed heavily and opened up his trunk. He brought out a small box and handed it to Harry.

Harry accepted it gingerly. He glanced at Narcissa. She nodded her encouragement, but Harry realized that she looked a little worried as well. He didn’t exactly find that encouraging. He carefully lifted the lid off the box and peeked inside. Then let out a whoop of triumph, startling the others.

“I knew it!” Harry said, dropping the box as he lifted out the other shrunken Vanishing Cabinet. “This is the other one, isn’t it?” he asked excitedly. “The one that you had Borgin hold for you at the shop?”

Draco nodded, a little wide-eyed at Harry’s reaction. “How’d you know it was there?”

“Oh, I saw you that day,” Harry said dismissively. “When you ditched your mum, we followed you. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out exactly what you were up to in there, though.”

Draco was startled anew. “You’d followed me?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Harry answered. “Knew you’d be up to no good of some kind. Wish I’d figured it out then.” He wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to what he was actually saying, as he was remembering back to a different time. “I wonder if this is actually the same cabinet I hid in so you and your father wouldn’t see me,” he wondered absently.

“When was this?” Draco asked, staring at Harry in total disbelief.

Harry frowned. “Well, that would’ve been before second year,” he said. “That was when your father was trying to get rid of a bunch of stuff because the Ministry was on his case. I don’t know when you bought your Hand of Glory, but your father wouldn’t let you buy it that day. You were checking out the opals that day as well,” he added, sounding distant, lost in the memories of that day.

He looked back at the shrunken cabinet in his hand. “This must have been the cabinet I was hiding in,” he said. “You almost opened it, but your father called you to leave.”

He shook his head to clear it of the memories. “Anyway, I’m right glad to have this now,” he said.

He looked at Draco and finally registered the shocked expression. Harry chuckled. “Have you figured out I’m not quite as stupid as I look?” he asked in amusement.

“You don’t look stupid,” Draco said, seeming a bit dazed.

Harry’s eyebrows rose in surprise, and Draco flushed a light pink, realizing what he’d just said. He scowled at Harry. “Don’t let it go to your head,” he snapped.

Harry chuckled again. He let it go, looking at the cabinet again. “Thanks for this. I was hoping you had it. I’ve got both of them now, and maybe they’ll come in handy at some point,” he said.

“You intend to use them?” Draco asked in astonishment. “I just thought you’d want it so you’d know it wouldn’t be . . .,” he trailed off, not really wanting to bring up the Death-Eaters-in-Hogwarts issue again.

“So it wouldn’t be used against me again?” Harry asked dryly.

Draco shrugged uncomfortably.

“Yeah, there’s that,” Harry admitted. “But if it’ll get Death Eaters into Hogwarts, maybe at some point it’ll get Aurors close to Voldemort.”

“How do plan to manage that?” Draco asked in disbelief.

“Oh, I’ll figure it out,” Harry said dismissively. “It’s not like I can go after Voldemort yet, anyway.”

“Why?” Draco asked, sounding more and more confused by the moment.

“I can’t tell you that,” Harry said with a shrug. “Although, I really do need to get back to that problem,” he added with a grimace. “If I could sort out how to get rid of Voldemort, it would solve a lot of these other problems.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Narcissa spoke up quietly.

Harry turned thoughtful, running through all the things he needed to sort out. “Yeah, what was Regulus’ middle name?” he asked suddenly.

Narcissa’s eyes widened, but she answered immediately. “Adrian. Which means ‘dark one’,” she admitted softly.

Harry nodded in satisfaction. “I need you to tell me about Regulus’ time with the Death Eaters,” he said. “Especially whatever happened right before and after he died.”

Narcissa and Draco were giving Harry odd looks. “Why would you need to know about Regulus?” Narcissa asked.

“It’s important,” Harry said. He frowned thoughtfully. “I think it’s important, anyway. I need to know, but I really don’t know how it all fits in yet.”

Narcissa and Draco were still looking at Harry doubtfully.

“I can’t really tell you much,” Harry said. “Just trust me. I need to know about Regulus.”

“Breakfast first,” Narcissa said firmly. “And then I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Harry shrugged. That was soon enough for him and, he had to admit, the trays of food Winky had popped in with smelled good. Draco shoved his trunk back under the bed and Harry snagged Victoria. The two boys sat cross legged on the bed with Victoria between them. They each fed her bites of their breakfast as she mangled some toast.

Narcissa sat at Harry’s desk to eat, and eyed the boys’ eating routine with resignation.

Draco smirked at his mum and leaned over to stage-whisper to Harry. “Mum’s going mental seeing me eat like this. Especially watching Victoria,” he said.

Harry looked down at Victoria in confusion. “Why? We’re just eating.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Don’t you have any manners, Potter?” he drawled.

Harry shrugged. “I’ve seen my relatives get all stiff and formal when Uncle Vernon has guests. Everyone’s just uncomfortable. I’d rather be relaxed,” he said. “And Victoria’s not even a year old yet. She’s barely learning to eat by herself. It doesn’t make sense to fuss over a little mess.”

Especially since he’d learned the cleaning charms from Mrs. Weasley, he’d found it really easy to clean her, and the surrounding area, after she was done eating. He didn’t have to rely so much on Winky’s help for that anymore.

Draco looked the three of them over, including himself. “I’m not used to sitting in my pyjamas eating in bed,” he said.

Harry snorted, and it didn’t sound particularly humorous. “I’ve spent almost entire summers eating my meals in this room,” he said. Mentally, he added the thought that it was only when he got food, and he scowled down at his plate.

Draco seemed to be picking up on his thoughts, and he’d witnessed enough conversations regarding Harry’s relationship with his relatives to understand. “You know, you often come back after summer holidays looking awfully scrawny,” Draco said, eyes narrowed.

“I only had to spend a couple weeks here last summer,” Harry said, shrugging.

Draco sighed. “And you’re only here now because of us,” he stated. It wasn’t a question.

Harry shrugged again. “At least it’s been a lot better here this year,” he said.

Draco stared at him in horror. “This is better?!” he exclaimed.

“By far,” Harry said flatly, forgetting his desire to keep quiet about his past. “You think you feel trapped in this room? Try spending an entire summer, literally locked in this room. Bars on the window, let out twice a day to use the loo, and when you’re lucky, getting a bit of food pushed through the flap on the door.”

Having lost his appetite, Harry set his plate aside and began cleaning up Victoria.

“I’d figured out things weren’t all that great for you, but I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Draco said quietly, sounding a little shaken.

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry said dismissively. “It was only that bad one summer.”

“But here I am . . .,” Draco trailed off, looking upset.

Harry snorted in amusement, finding his sense of humour again. “Here you are acting like a spoiled prat and complaining about being temporarily stuck in this tiny room in a Muggle house?”

Draco shot him a weak glare, but nodded.

“I expect you to act like a spoiled prat in this situation,” Harry said with a grin. He sat down in the middle of what floor space they had and helped Victoria to stand, but his attention was still on Draco.

“I’d be upset about circumstances thrusting me here, too,” he added dryly.

“Circumstances have thrust you here,” Draco said slowly.

“Yeah, but I’ve had years to get used to it,” Harry said. He glanced around the room. “Although, this is a might unusual, even for my life.”

“How can you be so . . . accepting?” Draco asked.

“I just do what I have to do to survive,” Harry said with a shrug, not thinking it was a big deal.

“Harry!” Narcissa finally spoke up, sounding horrified.

“What?!” Harry asked, alarmed at her reaction, and he couldn’t figure out what she was reacting to. He quickly checked on Victoria, but she was still just bobbing at the knees while she clutched Harry’s hands.

“That’s no way to live!” Narcissa said sharply.

“What isn’t?” Harry asked, confused.

“My mother is shocked that you live only to survive,” Draco said quietly.

Harry rolled his eyes. “What do you expect? By all rights I should’ve been dead at fifteen months old. I’ve been fighting for my life in one way or another ever since.”

He was getting a little tired of all their conversations turning so serious or exploding into an argument, but once again he found himself sobering. And again, he focused on Draco, who he knew far better than Narcissa.

“Draco, I’m not sure you’ll believe this, but I understand far more about what you’ve been going through than you might think,” Harry said.

“You can’t,” Draco said, but he didn’t sound completely sure of himself as he met Harry’s calm gaze.

“I don’t and can’t understand all of it,” Harry agreed. “But I understand some of the important things. I understand some things that I don’t think many people would. On either side,” he added.

He paused to gather his thoughts. “You’ve grown up knowing which side of this war you were on. I don’t believe you ever even questioned it. You believed what your parents believed in. I don’t have to agree with the side you were on to understand that part,” he said.

Draco nodded reluctantly.

“One really awful night happened,” Harry said, his mind wanting to drift back to that night at the Department of Mysteries. “For all intents and purposes, you lost your father that night and I lost my godfather.”

Draco’s face tightened and Harry shook his head. “I’m not trying to talk about right or wrong,” he said quickly. “That’s just what happened. Believe me, I was there,” he couldn’t help adding bitterly.

“I found out that night that I am the one that has to bring down Voldemort,” he said flatly. “I don’t know when things happened for you exactly, but shortly afterwards, you were assigned the task to bring down Dumbledore.”

He looked away, unable to meet Draco’s gaze. “Ron and Hermione, well, I’m not sure they’d understand it. They’d say those two tasks are completely different. I felt that way myself,” he admitted. “In some ways, I still do.”

“On a personal level, though, they’re not really so different,” he said, his throat feeling tight. “You feel hopeless and powerless. The task feels bigger than anyone could ever imagine or understand. But you know that so much is riding on your success or failure. You tell yourself that it’s about the cause. But ultimately, all you’re really trying to do is protect your family and your friends.”

He fell into silence for a minute and the room seemed unnaturally quiet for the number of occupants in the small space. Taking a deep breath, he continued.

“If you want to survive, you learn to accept and adapt as best you can,” he said softly. “You’ll die if you don’t.”

Harry met Draco’s gaze again. “I’m not really finding any of this easier to accept than you are. I get just as frustrated and angry. But like you, I’m doing what I have to do to survive,” he said. “We disagree on a lot of things, but I’m not so sure we’re really all that different. I’ve just been fighting for my survival a lot longer than you.”

“Maybe we’re not as different as I thought,” Draco admitted slowly.

He cocked his head to the side, staring at Harry contemplatively. “What would you be doing right now if you could be doing whatever you wanted?” he asked suddenly.

“If I actually had a choice?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” Draco said. “If there was none of this other stuff going on and especially no war.”

Harry thought about that for a minute. He looked at Victoria and Narcissa and back to Draco before answering. “Well, things have changed a little,” he admitted. “But generally, a good summer day for me would be a game of pick up Quidditch in the Weasley’s back field. Lots of laughs and fun and finished off with a huge family meal outside in the backyard with tons of great food. Just laying around and relaxing afterwards.”

“A little snogging with the baby Weasley,” Draco sneered.

Harry grinned, ignoring Draco’s attitude. “I thought we were going with scenarios that wouldn’t get me killed,” he said.

“You didn’t seem too afraid of her family when you were at Hogwarts,” Draco said.

Harry shrugged carelessly. “That’s what Ginny basically said,” he admitted. “No, I’m not really afraid of her family. The others would accept us as a couple if that’s what we really wanted. But we’re not together anymore, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.”

“You’re not together?” Draco asked in surprise.

“No,” Harry said, shrugging again. “I, uh, broke it off with her at Dumbledore’s funeral,” he admitted. “I had too much other stuff to worry about. But then, we had a talk the other day. We’re just too much like brother and sister, and it wasn’t really like either of us had expected it to be. We’re just friends now.”

“The Weasleys are your family,” Narcissa spoke up, but her voice was soft.

Harry sent her a lopsided smile. “Yeah. I know you don’t like them much, but they’ve always been great to me.”

Narcissa smiled sadly. “The Weasleys have not held the same beliefs as the Malfoys,” she said.

“And they’re poor,” Draco sneered.

“Draco!” Narcissa said sharply, but both Draco and Harry ignored her.

Harry rolled his eyes, wondering why Draco had an attitude again. “Yes, they’re poor, blood-traitors,” he said. “They’re not proper purebloods following a psychotic madman who wants to destroy as much of the world as possible.”

“That’s enough!” Narcissa said.

Harry looked away.

“Draco, I believe we have already discovered that we need to rethink our views,” Narcissa said, her voice crisp.

“But, Mum!” Draco exclaimed.

“No,” she said firmly. “At the very least, we are guests here. And as such, we will not go about insulting our host’s family.”

“This is not a normal social function,” Draco said stiffly.

“No, it is not,” Narcissa agreed. “But it is no reason for us to forget our manners.”

“You must be joking,” Draco muttered.

“Narcissa,” Harry said hesitantly. “I’d rather Draco didn’t start going formal or anything. I respect what you’re trying to say. But, um, he wouldn’t be Draco if he was treating me polite. It’d just be too strange. And things are strange enough already.”

“You’d rather fight with my son,” Narcissa said flatly.

“Well, no,” Harry said. “But I’d rather he be honest. Draco and I have never got along, and I’ve never really thought of it this way until now, but that’s one reason I can respect him. I’ve always known where he stood. I didn’t like where he stood before, but I knew. There was no pretence, no false airs. I’d really rather not start now.”

“It is not proper behaviour for a Malfoy,” Narcissa said stiffly, “to insult your host and their family.”

“I’m not a proper host, either,” Harry said dryly. “I also realize the irony of me saying I prefer honesty when I can’t be honest about a lot of things right now.”

Draco eyed him calculatingly. “You are being as honest as you can, though, aren’t you?” he asked.

“As much as I can,” Harry agreed.

They lapsed into quiet for a bit as Harry transferred his attention to Victoria. Harry hadn’t forgotten that they were going to learn about Regulus, but he needed a bit of a break. Besides that, Victoria was getting tired of being ignored. For a while, Harry was happy to concentrate on nothing more difficult than sorting shapes into a ball. Although, he was uncomfortably aware that Draco was sprawled out on the bed and simply watching them. Narcissa settled herself in one of the armchairs with a book, but she seemed to spend more time watching Harry playing with Victoria as well.

Harry couldn’t really blame them. There was a distinct lack of things to do, and Victoria was fun to watch. He was dumping the brightly coloured blocks out of the shape sorter for her again when an owl flew into the room. It flew directly to Harry and he relieved it of its burden while Draco found some owl treats for it.

Harry skimmed the letter quickly, and then started over again, reading it much more slowly the second time through.

“Who is it from?” Draco asked.

Harry looked up at him. “Who the hell is Daphne Greengrass?” he asked.

Draco blinked at the odd question, but he answered. “She’s a Slytherin in our year, Harry,” he said dryly. “Is she writing you letters now?” he added sarcastically.

“Um, no,” Harry said. He bit at his lip as he debated whether he should tell Draco or not. He glanced at Narcissa, but it wasn’t like she was any help in deciding.

“Here,” he said, handing the letter over to Draco. “Tell me what you think this is.” It was really only a list of names and at the bottom was the date, a time and the words “same place”.

Draco snatched it from him, and Harry watched for his reaction as he read it. Draco was frowning deeply. “These are all Slytherins,” he said.

“And what do they all have in common?” Harry asked.

Draco’s eyes slowly widened as he skimmed through the list again. “They’re neutral,” he said in realization. His eyes jerked back to meet Harry’s. “Someone sent you this list so that you can help these students if the Dark Lord decides to mark them. That’s why it’s only names of some of the upper years.”

Harry nodded, not surprised by Draco’s perceptiveness. Draco knew the Slytherins far better than he did. He gestured to the list. “So, is it accurate?” he asked.

“I think so,” Draco said, skimming through the list, yet again. “Blaise isn’t on this list, though.”

“And who do you think sent me the list?” Harry questioned, smirking.

Draco’s eyes widened. “Blaise sent you this list?” he asked incredulously.

“Yeah, I talked to him last week,” Harry admitted. Draco didn’t lose his incredulous expression and stared at Harry in disbelief.

“Why?” Draco asked.

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. “You said he was your friend and he wasn’t so bad. So, I went and checked him out. I didn’t expect him to actually ask for my help, but I wasn’t going to tell him no,” he said defensively.

Draco glanced down at the letter. “Blaise isn’t my friend any more,” he said flatly.

“Yes, he is,” Harry said. His lips curled into a half smile, remembering his conversation with Blaise. “We argued about you and I had to shout about how much I hated you while he defended you.”

“He defended me?” Draco said in disbelief.

“Yes,” Harry said simply.

Draco glanced at the letter again. “He wants to meet you again today. Why?”

“Probably to inform me that you’re missing,” Harry said, shrugging. “It’s not something he’d want to put in a letter. He cares about what happens to you, but he’s also going to believe that I’ll need to be keeping an extra watch out for you. Since you’re so incredibly dangerous,” he added with an amused smirk.

“I want to go with you,” Draco said decisively, ignoring Harry’s soft jibe.

“Draco,” Narcissa said warningly, speaking up for the first time since the letter had arrived. “It is not safe to tell anyone where we are.”

Draco appeared torn, looking from the letter, to his mother, to Harry and back to the letter. Harry attempted to stay out of the ensuing argument between Draco and his mother, but he listened with an awed fascination. Considering the possible severity of the subject matter, they were still just a mother and son arguing over what was best. It was a little strange to realize that Narcissa had as much influence over Draco as Molly had over her sons.

Which is why Harry was all the more surprised when Narcissa was the one who finally turned to him and asked for his opinion.

“Um, I understand the concerns, but I, uh, don’t really think Zabini is that much of a threat,” Harry admitted hesitantly. He wasn’t overly sure it was the best idea to get between them. “He was asking me for protection, so I can’t see him running to tell Voldemort. More than that, even while asking for protection, he was still defending Draco. He’s not going to say anything to anyone that would put him in more danger.”

“And precisely what would be the advantage of Draco revealing himself to Blaise?” Narcissa asked.

Harry was fairly certain she already knew the answer from the way she was looking at him. He risked a glance at Draco, who was begging with his eyes for Harry to plead his case. Harry focused on Narcissa again. “Things are difficult enough right now and Draco could use the support of his friend,” he said quietly, feeling uncomfortable with the direct admission.

He went on hurriedly. “Another advantage is that if I show up with Draco, it gives me more weight with Zabini, and by association, the other Slytherins,” he admitted honestly. “I first wrote to Zabini for Draco’s sake, but my excuse to him was that I could use more allies. I hadn’t really thought it through that well at the time, but having more allies is definitely a good thing—especially if those allies are ones that I can keep from ending up on Voldemort’s side.”

Narcissa gave a nod of approval and then agreed that Draco could go, as long as they were careful.

“I feel like I’m five years old again,” Draco muttered sullenly.

Harry sniggered until Narcissa glared at him and then Draco was the one sniggering.

“At least I’m not the only one,” Draco drawled.

Harry stuck his tongue out at him, as it felt appropriate under the circumstances. They started laughing, with Narcissa shaking her head at them both.

“You do know how serious this is,” she warned, but she was smiling at their antics.

“It’s not like we could forget,” Harry said, but he shared a grin with Draco.

“As there is still plenty of time before you need to leave, perhaps you would care to hear about Regulus now?” Narcissa asked.

That sobered Harry up immediately and he nodded. He popped Victoria back into her cot and snagged a couple more toys to distract her before sitting down in the other chair, giving Narcissa his full attention.

“I’m not sure that there is really much I can tell you, to be honest,” Narcissa said thoughtfully. “I could tell you plenty of anecdotes from when we were children, but the events surrounding his death remain a mystery.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Harry said, shrugging. “I mainly want to know if Voldemort actually killed him or not. I’m pretty sure I already know why he didn’t want to be a Death Eater anymore. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know what killed him as well, but I need someone to confirm my suspicions.”

Narcissa looked at him in surprise, delicate eyebrows arched elegantly. “It would appear you know more than I do,” she said.

Harry shook his head in denial. “All I have are guesses,” he said. “I spent the two weeks before Draco showed up here with Victoria thinking about it a lot. I’d still appreciate it if you could tell me what you do know,” he requested.

Narcissa’s gaze grew distant as she remembered the past. “Regulus was . . . enthusiastic about joining the Dark Lord,” she began. “As was the case for many of us, he was drawn to the handsome, charismatic man that spoke of so many ideals that he’d grown up believing.”

“I had been very close to my cousin growing up, but I did not spend as much time with him once I was betrothed to Lucius,” she said. “What little I did see of Regulus, I saw that he’d become disillusioned of the Dark Lord’s greatness. He was younger than myself, yet in hindsight, I have to say that he saw the reality far sooner than I did,” she said regretfully.

She gazed at Harry sadly. “He tried to warn me, but I would not listen to him. I was happily in love with Lucius and I was more a supporter of him than an active supporter of the Dark Lord,” she explained. “I carry the Dark Mark on my arm now, but generally women were considered weaker and meant more for ornamentation.”

Harry’s brow was furrowed, his mind attempting to process all the information she was giving him. “Why do you have the mark now?” he asked, sidetracked by that point.

“Because when he first returned, only select few knew about it,” Narcissa explained. “He marked those he had easier access to.”

“And Lucius knew because he was there that night,” Harry muttered bitterly.

“Yes,” she acknowledged quietly.

Harry shoved the bitterness aside and went back to the topic of her cousin. “What did Regulus say when he tried to warn you?” he asked.

“He came to me a couple of times, simply questioning the Dark Lord’s methods,” Narcissa said. “It was not as he’d expected it to be. A short time before he died, however, he came to me again. That time he was terrified. He was barely even making sense.”

“What did he say?” Harry asked sharply.

Narcissa looked a little alarmed at Harry’s reaction, and she hesitated for a moment before she spoke again.

“There was nothing specific, Harry,” she said quietly. “He rambled about us all being in danger and he urged me to run, to go into hiding. He said he would explain more to me later, but then he was dead.”

“Would he have warned anyone else?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I can’t say for sure, but I don’t believe so,” she answered. “He was rather frantic when he ordered me not to say anything to anyone.” She hesitated. “He mentioned trying to find Sirius to warn him, but I do not think he was able to reach him, as he was estranged from the family by that time. And Bellatrix was far too enthusiastic about the Dark Lord for him to have approached her.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly, not wanting to dwell on memories of Sirius or his killer, or the fact that the lady he was speaking to was the one who had betrayed him. It would get him nowhere.

Rubbing at his temples, he turned over the information in his mind. The fact that Voldemort didn’t seem to know his Horcrux had been taken so many years ago certainly implied that if Regulus had said anything to anyone, they’d kept their mouths shut about it. Assuming, of course, that Regulus was the R.A.B. from the note.

“How did he die?” he asked abruptly.

“Unfortunately, I can not answer that question for certain, either,” Narcissa said. “Many people knew that Regulus had been growing more discontent in the Dark Lord’s service. A few nights after that rather disturbing meeting, he arrived back at my house. He was found collapsed in the yard and never regained consciousness, dying shortly after. Many believed that he had been cursed for showing disloyalty, but not one of the Death Eaters took what would have been considered the credit for killing him. The Dark Lord was simply pleased that someone had dealt with the malcontent in his group.”

“Voldemort killed him,” Harry muttered, staring unseeingly at the floor. “The bastard killed him and didn’t even fucking know it.” He’d not only killed Regulus, but Harry felt fairly certain that he’d actually been the one to kill Dumbledore as well. He had no way of proving it, but believed that they’d both died from whatever poison it was that had hidden the locket. He was certain that Snape’s Killing Curse simply hastened the process with Dumbledore.

“How could you possibly know this?” Narcissa asked.

Harry focused on her again, but didn’t know how to answer, as he wasn’t about to tell her the truth. He shook his head. “I just know it,” he said grimly. “Thanks, that was a big help.”

“You’re quite welcome,” she said, sounding a little bemused, “but I’m not sure that anything I’ve said could actually have been useful.”

It was useful information, but Harry had to admit that it still brought him no closer to the missing Horcrux. It made him more certain of who had retrieved it, though. He asked, but Narcissa informed him that no one knew where Regulus had been before his death. No one seemed to have seen him since she herself had—at least, not that anyone admitted to.

Harry turned in the arm chair, resting his head on one side and throwing his legs over the other as he got comfortable while pondering the mystery of the Horcruxes.

It was all rather confusing. Dumbledore had believed that Voldemort was unaware of anyone knowing about his Horcruxes. Yet Regulus had discovered the secret somehow. Considering the fake locket was still in place, however, Voldemort probably hadn’t discovered that Regulus, or anyone else, had found out. Harry didn’t think Dumbledore had been aware of Regulus or anyone else knowing about the Horcruxes, either.

Harry’s mind spun when he tried to figure out who knew what. Rubbing absently at his temples, he attempted to sort out what was really important. Harry knew about them, Voldemort believed no one knew. Regulus was likely the one to have taken the Horcrux and so there was no telling where it might be now.

He groaned in frustration. Was it possible that Regulus had found another one as well? From what Narcissa said, Regulus was missing for at least a couple days. Did that mean it just took him that long to find the cave? Was there someone else who had helped him? Dumbledore hadn’t been able to do it alone. And how in the world was Harry supposed to find the locket? It could be anywhere.

Draco’s head suddenly appeared over the back of the chair, startling him out of his reveries. “You all right?” Draco asked.

Harry blinked at him slowly. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Draco’s eyes were showing concern, but his mouth formed an amused smirk. “Because thinking appears to have been a painful process for you for the last hour,” he said.

“The last hour?” Harry repeated blankly.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes, you’ve been lost in thought ever since you finished talking with Mum about Regulus,” he explained.

“It gave me a lot to think about,” Harry said defensively.

Draco looked like he wanted to question Harry about it, but he didn’t. Instead, he pointed out that they needed to be leaving to meet Blaise. He unceremoniously dropped Harry’s trainers into his lap and ordered him to hurry up.

Harry looked at his wardrobe and then to Draco. “Where are my clothes?” he asked, still wearing the pyjamas he’d put on the night before.

“The top drawers,” Draco answered warily. “My mum and Victoria are sharing one wardrobe, and we’re sharing the other.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly, but nodded. He quickly gathered up clothes to wear and slipped out to the bathroom to change.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Fifteen

Under the guise of the Invisibility Cloak, Harry Apparated Draco and himself to the relatively safe location he’d scouted out the last time he’d met Blaise at the park. It had been bad enough going through the Leaky Cauldron before; he especially didn’t want to go through with Draco.

Harry slipped out from underneath the cloak, and strode casually over to the same bench and leaned up against it. He was pretending to be casual, but he was watching his surroundings warily. It wasn’t long before he saw Blaise approaching.

“Potter,” Blaise said with a nod. “I see you got my letter.”

Harry smirked at him. “You’re slacking, Zabini, when you resort to stating the obvious,” he said.

Blaise looked startled for a moment before he smiled. “The fact that I’m willingly speaking to you has thrown me off balance,” he said.

“I reckon that would do it,” Harry said in agreement, chuckling a little. “So, why’d you want to meet me?” he asked, sobering and getting to the point.

Blaise’s face instantly hardened, turning serious. “I’ve got some information for you that I didn’t dare risk being intercepted,” he said. He glanced around at their surroundings warily. “I don’t think anyone followed me, but maybe we should go somewhere else just in case.”

“Do you trust me enough to let me Apparate you?” Harry asked, eyes narrowed and scanning the area.

“No, but it’s probably a good idea,” Blaise said, grimacing.

Harry was thankful that Draco had insisted on arranging another meeting place where he’d be able to actually speak with Blaise himself. He’d know where to go to meet Harry now. Harry led Blaise back to a secluded area before Apparating them.

They arrived behind the Shrieking Shack and Blaise grimaced again as he recognized where they were at. Harry grinned. He and Draco had had quite the row over the location before they’d left, but Harry had won.

“Why here?” Blaise asked irritably.

“Because no one comes up here,” Harry said, shrugging indifferently. “Especially with no students around at the moment.” He still put up a Silencing Charm around the area for extra protection. He felt far safer in the anonymity of Muggle London than he did here.

Blaise nodded reluctantly, resigning himself to the location despite his wary glance at the old shack.

“So, why would someone have been following you?” Harry asked, effectively gaining Blaise’s full attention again.

“I don’t think I was,” Blaise said. “It’s hard to trust anyone right now, though. I have something to tell you, but I don’t want you telling the Ministry or anyone. I’m only telling you because I think you need to watch your back.”

“I can’t promise that I won’t tell anyone,” Harry said, “but I can promise that I won’t tell the Ministry.”

Blaise glared at him, but seemed to accept that. “Snape was at my house this morning,” he said abruptly.

“Why?” Harry asked sharply, despite already knowing the answer. These kinds of conversations were just too strange. He wasn’t the least surprised when Blaise informed him that Snape had been making subtle inquiries about Draco.

“With both Draco and his mum missing, there’s some kind of foul play going on amongst the Death Eaters,” Blaise said.

Harry sneered at him. “And you’re worried about poor Malfoy,” he said mockingly.

“Not that you care, but he could be dead, Potter,” Blaise snapped angrily.

“Why the fuck should I care?” Harry asked.

“Because I thought you should know that things are unsettled with the Death Eaters right now,” Blaise ground out. “The Dark Lord is going to be extremely angry when he finds out that the Malfoys have disappeared. Who knows what he’ll do, but it’ll likely be big and I thought you should be warned.”

“Do you think Voldemort will want to mark you now?” Harry asked sharply.

Blaise shrugged helplessly. “I have no idea,” he muttered.

“He won’t want to mark you for awhile yet,” Draco said quietly, suddenly appearing beside them.

Harry couldn’t stop himself from laughing when Blaise jumped back and almost fell on his arse. He received a glare from Draco for his reaction, and he honestly tried to calm himself, but he found it hilarious. He sobered quickly, though, when Blaise pulled his wand.

Blaise was staring at them both in shock and didn’t seem to know who to point his wand at. “What the fuck is going on?” he snarled.

“Put your wand away,” Harry said steadily. “Draco just wants to talk to you.”

Blaise’s eyes were darting wildly back and forth between Harry and Draco, who were still standing fairly close together. Draco started talking fast, explaining enough of the situation that Blaise eventually relaxed and put his wand away. He was actually starting to look even more shocked, however, the more that Draco talked.

Harry left them standing in the shadows and sat down on an old tree stump a few feet away. He was only listening with half an ear, as he already knew everything that Draco was telling Blaise. Draco notably left out any mention of Victoria, but otherwise made it clear that he and his mum had changed allegiances.

Harry sighed, inexplicably feeling out of sorts, considering that everything was going well. He absently kicked at a large rock, turning his thoughts to what Blaise had said about Voldemort.

He hadn’t put much thought into how Voldemort would react. He wasn’t convinced that it really mattered much, overall. Voldemort would certainly react to the Malfoys’ disappearance in some way, but if it wasn’t that, then it would simply be something else. Harry wasn’t sure if Voldemort even needed an excuse to wreak havoc on the world.

He did find it rather interesting that Blaise thought their disappearance implied foul play amongst the Death Eaters. It probably meant Draco and Narcissa were even safer with him than he’d realized. Most of the Wizarding world didn’t know they were missing, and the Death Eaters were looking at each other in suspicion.

Blaise was right, though, that something would likely be happening sooner rather than later. Harry kicked harder at the rock. The real question was whether he would get enough warning to do anything about whatever Voldemort planned.

“What’s his problem?” Blaise asked.

“He’s probably thinking again,” Draco said in exasperation.

Harry registered their words and scowled up at them.

“What? Planning evil plots against the Dark Lord?” Blaise asked snidely.

“Something like that,” Harry muttered darkly.

“Leave him alone, Blaise,” Draco said warningly, causing both Harry and Blaise to look at him in surprise.

Draco paid no heed to their shock, addressing Blaise. “We need him,” he stated haughtily. “Insulting him isn’t likely to inspire him to continue helping us.”

Harry gaped openly. That was rich coming from Draco, who still insulted him on a regular basis. Admittedly, it was mostly friendly nowadays, but still.

“Close your mouth, Potter,” Draco snapped irritably.

Harry shut his mouth with an audible clack only to open it again to question Draco about this insult business. “You still insult me all the time,” he said in disbelief.

“I do not,” Draco declared. “I simply make certain observations.”

“Observations, my arse,” Harry said dryly. “Who’s the one who cursed me up one side and down the other for choosing this as our alternate location?” he asked pointedly, gesturing to the old, boarded-up shack.

“Well, it’s not my fault you’re a bloody idiot for choosing a place that’s haunted,” Draco retorted.

“You’re just pissed off still because you’ve finally figured out how I tricked you that day,” Harry said, smirking.

“How was I supposed to know you’ve had a bloody Invisibility Cloak all these years?” Draco asked petulantly.

“If you hadn’t been such an arse to my friends that day, I would never have thrown the mud at you,” Harry retorted. He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Maybe I would have anyway,” he admitted. “It was a lot of fun.”

“I thought we agreed to drop this,” Draco said, glaring at him.

“You’re the one who said it wasn’t wise to insult me anymore,” Harry said sweetly. “I never said any such thing.”

Draco scowled. “I didn’t mean I’d never insult you anymore,” he snapped. “Merlin, I hate you, Potter.”

“Aww, you say the nicest things, Malfoy,” Harry said, starting to laugh.

Draco smirked in amusement and then they finally registered Blaise staring at them in disbelief again.

“You know,” Blaise said slowly. “I didn’t plan on telling anyone about this meeting, but I don’t think it would matter if I did. No one would ever believe me.”

Harry and Draco exchanged glances. “Um, you’re probably right,” Harry agreed. “I still have trouble believing it myself sometimes.”

Conversation fell into more light-hearted topics as Draco and Blaise caught up with each other. Draco didn’t seem ready to go back yet, and Harry simply sat and listened. He wasn’t exactly in a hurry to go sit in his cramped room again. It was far more entertaining to listen in on the Slytherin gossip.

His ears perked up in interest when the mysterious Daphne Greengrass was mentioned. He barely even remembered the quiet girl. He was extremely surprised to learn that Blaise had been dating her, but had broken up with her because she was supposedly too boring.

“Pansy would be an exciting change for you,” Draco said, taunting his friend.

Blaise grimaced in disgust. “You’re not pawning that bitch off on me,” he said.

“I’m effectively rid of her finally,” Draco said cheerfully. “One of the many bonuses to switching sides.”

“I’m sure there are many bonuses,” Blaise said in a knowing tone, causing Draco to glare at him warningly. Both of them glanced at Harry and he stared back in confusion, sure that he’d just missed something as they had been completely ignoring his presence up to that point.

“What?” he asked curiously.

“Nothing,” Draco snapped, back to glaring at Blaise. “Blaise is just being a prat.”

“Whatever,” Harry said, irritated at being left out. He went back to kicking at the rock, sullenly tuning out the rest of the Slytherin gossip while he waited for Draco. He reckoned that he could go back to the house by himself, but wasn’t keen on discovering what kind of reaction Narcissa would have if he arrived without Draco.

The woman had been much nicer than Harry had ever imagined, but she had been a Death Eater. He was sure she could turn into a right nasty bitch if she had to. That simply turned his thoughts towards Bellatrix. That woman really was a nasty bitch—an insane nasty bitch. It wasn’t a good combination in Harry’s opinion.

He may be making peace with a few Slytherins, but it would never happen with Bellatrix. He recognized that his loathing for the woman went far beyond anything he’d ever felt for any of the Malfoys, or even Snape when he’d hated him the most. Even thinking her name was enough to set him on edge almost instantly.

He couldn’t define what exactly made her different. Snape had killed Dumbledore, and Bellatrix had killed Sirius. Somehow, he was working with Snape, yet he was fairly certain he could muster up the ability to kill Bellatrix. He’d successfully cast the curse once and he wasn’t feeling any qualms about killing her if given the opportunity.

As he sat and thought about it, he realized that Snape could kill if he had to, but he didn’t enjoy it. Bellatrix, on the other hand, gloried in the killing.

“Harry.”

Scowling furiously over his thoughts, Harry focused in on Draco. “What?” he asked angrily.

Draco’s brow was furrowed in concern. “What were you thinking about?” he asked.

Harry dropped his forehead into his hands, his shoulders slumping. He simply shook his head in answer, not wanting to talk about it.

“Potter, I was mocking you earlier,” Blaise said slowly. “But were you actually plotting against the Dark Lord?”

“Someone has to,” Harry muttered.

“Fuck, Potter!” Blaise exclaimed. “Do you honestly believe you’re going to defeat the Dark Lord by yourself?”

Harry lifted his head enough to look at him. “Yes, I’ll defeat him,” he said, with hard confidence lacing his tone. “I’m not doing it by myself, though. Even you’re doing your part to help, Zabini.”

Blaise stared at him unblinkingly for long seconds before glancing at Draco.

“He’s real,” Draco said quietly.

Harry thought it was an odd thing for him to say, but Blaise seemed to understand it, nodding slowly in acceptance. Harry wasn’t pleased when Draco pulled Blaise further away and began whispering to him rather urgently.

He was pretty sure he wouldn’t have to watch them kissing, at least, if Blaise was looking for a more exciting girl to date. He thought it was a difficult enough task to find girls to date and had to wonder how Draco planned to find boys willing to go out with him, especially if he was hiding with Harry. Draco would just have to wait, Harry thought with a great deal of satisfaction.

He didn’t have time to dwell on those thoughts as Draco suddenly declared that it was time for them to leave. Harry was more than ready to go back to the Dursleys.

He was feeling awkward when they arrived back at Harry’s room with Narcissa fussing over them both worriedly. With no way of getting past the woman aside from climbing the furniture, he ended up following Draco’s lead and giving her a kiss on the cheek in reassurance. It worked and she allowed him to pass.

Harry drifted through the rest of the evening feeling rather bemused by everything. It was much easier when he simply avoided thinking about any of it, but he found himself unaccountably more nervous when it came time for them to go to sleep again. It was late and the Dursleys had already gone to bed. With some judicious use of Silencing Charms, they each made use of the loo and prepared for bed. He didn’t comment when Draco retrieved pyjamas for them both and they both changed quickly while Narcissa was in the bathroom.

It wasn’t helping him at all that Draco was uncharacteristically quiet. He simply climbed into bed and turned on his side to face the wall as he had the night before. Harry laid down, flat on his back. If he turned on his right side, then he was facing Draco’s back. If he turned on his left side, then he was facing Narcissa on the other side of the room. Lying on his back seemed the safest way to go.

He didn’t understand why he should be feeling so much more tense than he had the night before. He finally decided that it was because the night before there’d been a crisis, as such, involved. Something he could deal with. Tonight, he didn’t know what to expect.

Draco didn’t seem to be crying, at least. Feeling horrible for the thought, Harry almost wished that Draco was crying. He’d know what to do now if he had to hold Draco and soothe him until he fell asleep.

Eventually, he slept.

The next morning, Harry woke up alone in the bed. At least, he’d been alone until Draco flopped down on the bed and Victoria was unceremoniously landed on his chest.

“It’s time for breakfast,” Draco said, smirking at him.

Harry glared at him blearily, wondering how he could be so bloody cheerful. Draco wasn’t supposed to be cheerful, especially first thing in the morning. Victoria was being demanding in her own way, and Harry grudgingly got up to start the day.

The morning was actually going fairly peaceably and Harry was dumping the brightly coloured blocks out of the shape sorter again for Victoria when Winky popped into the room, looking anxious.

“What is it, Winky?” Harry asked, brow furrowed in concern.

“Message for Master Harry,” Winky said, handing him a parchment. Harry accepted it warily. He was getting real tired of these messages already, and since he was with Draco, there was only one other person it could be from.

Harry scowled as he read the parchment. Snatching his wand off the nightstand, he cast Incendio to burn it. He nodded at Winky. “Thanks,” he muttered.

She nodded nervously, but popped out again.

“What now?” Draco asked.

“I’ve got things to do,” Harry said, by way of answering, his tone making it clear that was all he was going to say about it.

“Do you know when you will be back?” Narcissa asked worriedly.

“I have no idea,” Harry grumbled. “I’ve got to deal with . . . with something. Then, I’ve still got a bunch of potions to brew, especially since I didn’t get any of them done yesterday. I promised Madam Pomfrey I’d have them to her soon.”

“Won’t your relatives be gone the next two days?” Draco asked suddenly.

“Yeah, I think so,” Harry answered absently, searching for his shoes. Draco reached under Victoria’s cot to find them, before handing them to Harry.

“Thanks,” Harry said, wondering how Draco always seemed to know where everything was.

“Well, if you brought the supplies here, couldn’t I help you with the potions? We could work down in the kitchen,” Draco suggested.

Harry stilled, and glanced up at Draco from his position of tying the laces on his trainers.

Harry thought about it quickly as he finished tying his shoes. It was an outlandish idea to brew potions in the Dursley’s kitchen, especially with a fully equipped lab at Grimmauld Place. But Harry would have help, and Draco was good at potions. And Draco desperately wanted something to do.

How would he cover that with Snape, though? He could just tell Snape he was having Hermione help him. He frowned, trying to remember if he’d told Snape that he planned on having Hermione help in the first place. And Hermione, he still didn’t know what to tell her, either. Maybe he could just say he bought them.

He sat up slowly and took in Draco’s hopeful expression. “I’d appreciate the help,” he admitted. “I’ll see what I can do today to get everything we’ll need.”

“Good,” Draco said, nodding in satisfaction.

Harry stood and stuffed his wand into the back pocket of his jeans. Narcissa stopped him with a hand on his arm, and he looked at her questioningly.

“Is this something dangerous?” she asked, looking worried.

Harry was a bit startled to realize she seemed genuinely concerned about him, even without Draco going with him. He slowly shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. He couldn’t say for sure that it wasn’t dangerous, considering Snape was involved. “It’s just something that I need to deal with.”

Narcissa nodded but gave Harry a quick hug. “Be careful,” she murmured quietly.

“I will,” Harry said bemusedly before walking out.

Narcissa Malfoy was much quieter than Mrs. Weasley, but Harry suddenly realized they were both mothers, and they were both looking out for him. Was there some universal code that required mothers to look out for wayward, orphaned children? If so, then how did Aunt Petunia fit into that? Was she just working on some delayed reaction that was causing her to be more helpful lately? Was it a witch’s code, rather than a Muggle code? Shaking off thoughts of either Narcissa or Aunt Petunia actually being worried about him, of all people, he hurried to the Apparition point. Snape would not appreciate waiting for him.

He wasn’t surprised to see Snape glaring at him the second he walked into the potions room.

“Why were you not already here, Potter?” Snape sneered. “You have work to be doing.”

“I know I’ve got work to do,” Harry snapped.

“I don’t have time for your laziness,” Snape said coldly.

“I’m not being lazy,” Harry said hotly. “I just can’t do everything at once. It’s been one thing after another for days now.”

Snape looked at him sharply. “Ah, yes, would you care to explain your sudden emergency?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“I’ve got Scrimgeour on my arse,” Harry snapped, skipping over the part about Draco and Narcissa and telling Snape about the second problem of that night.

“Why?” Snape demanded.

“The bastard wants to use me because I’m the fucking Chosen One,” Harry said bitterly. “He’s been trying since last Christmas to get me to be this grand icon of the Light and he wants me to support the Ministry.”

“And you didn’t jump at the chance for more publicity?” Snape sneered maliciously.

“No, I didn’t,” Harry said, still sounding extremely bitter. “But this time the bastard tried to blackmail me.”

Snape’s eyes widened marginally in surprise. “He tried to blackmail you?”

Harry suddenly smirked. “Yes, but it didn’t go how he wanted it to,” he said in satisfaction. “He tried to use Victoria against me. Instead, I’ve now got papers that give me full custody, Stan Shunpike and the other people held on false charges have been released, and the Ministry is finally conducting a clean up of their employees.”

“Scrimgeour agreed to all that?” Snape asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Harry said smugly. “And all I have to do is have another one of those stupid articles published like I did back in fifth year. Hermione and Ginny are writing some hopeful message to the public in my name and Luna is going to have her dad publish it.”

“What does this article say?” Snape asked suspiciously.

“Oh, nothing major,” Harry said dismissively. “And I get final say before it goes to be published.” He frowned as he remembered the argument with Ron. “Actually, I’ve already gotten into a fight about it. Ron thinks I’m being an idiot for refusing to add how I’m going to wreck vengeance against you and Malfoy for what happened.”

“I’m sure the public would enjoy hearing about how their Chosen One plans to attack the Death Eaters responsible for such a reprehensible attack on Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore,” Snape said stiffly. “Surely that is what Scrimgeour expects you to say.”

“I don’t really give a fuck what Scrimgeour expects,” Harry retorted. “He wants me to ‘boost morale’ and ‘restore hope’, then that’s what I’ll do. But I’ll do it my way, not his.”

Snape was eying him contemplatively, and Harry took the opportunity to actually study Snape. The man wasn’t looking good at all.

“Is everything all right, sir?” Harry asked, not realizing how much concern was reflected in his tone.

Snape’s eyes narrowed again as they flashed angrily. “No, everything is not all right,” he spat.

“What’s wrong?” Harry said quickly.

“Nothing that concerns you,” Snape answered.

Harry blinked in surprise. He’d honestly expected to be told about the Malfoys’ disappearance.

“Then, what’s the problem?” Harry asked.

“I will be unavailable the next few days,” Snape said curtly.

Harry was sure Snape was going to still be out looking for the Malfoys. He bit his lip as he debated whether he should tell Snape what he knew. He knew Draco would be horrified if he told Snape, but then Draco didn’t know Snape was a spy. Harry still wasn’t sure how Snape would react, either, considering Harry still didn’t have any real proof of the Malfoys’ loyalties. There was just enough doubt on Harry’s part to hold his tongue for the time being.

Snape was eyeing him contemptuously. “You will have to manage the potions on your own, but I have not left you without instructions,” he sneered.

Harry glared at the man, but didn’t speak. He was grateful Snape mistook his silence as a different worry.

“Perhaps Ms. Granger will be able to help you brew them,” Snape said. “Merlin knows you could use the help.”

Harry’s nostrils flared, but he bit his tongue. This was actually working in his favour, and he was determined not to rise to the bait.

“You are aware, of course, that you will have to do your brewing elsewhere if you wish someone to help,” Snape said coldly, watching Harry carefully. “This residence is under the Fidelius Charm still, but Dumbledore made me the Secret Keeper.”

Harry stared at him in shock, his anger wiped away. Snape looked distinctly satisfied with Harry’s reaction.

“I warned you that I would not allow you to bring any of your little friends here,” Snape sneered.

That’s not actually what Harry was worried about, but if that’s what Snape wanted to think, then Harry would let him. He realized uncomfortably, though, that Snape would have to be told about the Malfoys before Harry would ever be allowed to bring them there. There was no other possible way of getting around it. He was suddenly aware that he’d been subconsciously hoping for some other solution that would avoid the inevitable confrontation.

“What about Victoria?” Harry asked, still sounding stunned.

“The wards are adjusted to admit her,” Snape grudgingly admitted.

“Thank you,” Harry said, relieved that he could bring her to Grimmauld Place at least.

“The rooms are not fully suitable yet for a child,” Snape said sternly. “You will allow your house-elf to get this place respectable first.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said, still feeling a little dazed. What was he going to do about Draco and Narcissa?

Harry grit his teeth and put up with Snape’s scathing insults as Snape went over the rest of the potions that Harry needed to brew for Madam Pomfrey. He was grateful Snape marked each of the pages in his books, with all the appropriate extra notes, for every potion.

Harry was given a list of what ingredients they had available, and a list of ingredients that he was to go out and purchase. There were specific notes there as well. What to check for regarding smell, texture and appearance for each item. Harry bemoaned the fact that he would ever actually understand potions. He could follow directions, though.

And for once, Snape’s directions were completely thorough. He obviously wasn’t leaving anything up for Harry’s inaccurate guesswork when it came to potions.

All in all, Harry was left feeling overwhelmed and wondering why he’d ever thought he could handle this. Looking over all the meticulous notes, though, he was reminded why. Snape knew what he was doing, even if Harry didn’t.

He sighed heavily as he went over all the notes after Snape left. He would have to carefully rewrite every one of them down on clean parchment. Surely Draco would recognize Snape’s handwriting. It would give Harry a chance to study them, at least, so maybe he’d have at least a bit of a clue as to what he was doing.

“Winky,” Harry called. He still felt a little odd every time he called her, but especially when it wasn’t an actual emergency of any kind.

She popped in almost immediately. “Yes, Master Harry?” Winky said.

“Could you get me some clean parchment, quill and ink?” Harry asked. “Um, I’m not sure how much I actually have, but maybe Draco’s got some.”

Winky arrived back shortly with the materials Harry had asked for and a message from Draco that stated Harry was an unorganized prat.

Harry grinned, thanked Winky, and sent her to bring him and the Malfoys some lunch. He absently munched on some sandwiches and crisps as he started carefully copying everything he needed.

Next item on his to-do list for the day was to run to the Apothecary in Diagon Alley. That wasn’t exactly his favourite shop, but it was a little more worrisome this time because he was actually going to be alone.

He frowned, trying to figure out if he had any other options. Diagon Alley wasn’t exactly the safest of places anymore. But there wasn’t anyone he could take with him, either. He couldn’t take Hermione because she’d ask too many questions, and then wonder why he wasn’t asking her to help brew.

Draco was the obvious choice, but Draco couldn’t go to Diagon Alley. And he certainly couldn’t go anywhere with Harry Potter. Harry shuddered to even think of that nightmare. But as long as he wasn’t seen with Harry Potter . . .

Harry boxed up the supplies and his notes and Apparated back to the Dursleys.

Draco looked downright excited when Harry came in and dropped the box of potions supplies on his – their – bed. Harry shot him a look of mild disgust, as Draco started rifling through the box. “There’s got to be something unhealthy about your fascination with potions,” Harry said.

“It’s just too subtle for you, Harry,” Draco said absently, finding Harry’s parchment sheets and flipping through them.

Harry rolled his eyes, but looked on with fond amusement. He definitely had the right people helping him with the potions. He glanced at Narcissa, who was watching them both with a warm smile.

“Everything go okay?” she asked.

Harry shrugged. “Well enough, but I need to go to Diagon Alley still to get the rest of the ingredients,” he answered.

Narcissa’s gaze instantly turned back to one of worry and Harry suddenly had Draco’s attention again.

“You’re going by yourself?” Draco asked sharply.

Harry shrugged again. “I’m not sure I really have much choice,” he said, but he was eying Draco calculatingly.

“Surely your friends will go with you, at least,” Narcissa said. “It’s not safe in Diagon Alley right now.”

Harry nodded in response to her statement, but he was still eyeing Draco, who seemed to be catching on to Harry’s line of thinking.

Harry flicked his gaze to Narcissa briefly. “My friends think I’m brewing just the simplest of the potions and that I’m buying the rest,” he said. “There’d be too many questions if I take them with me to buy ingredients.”

“It’s hard to find quality potions to buy,” Narcissa said, frowning.

“I know,” Harry said. “But my friends also know I’ve got weird connections.”

He heard Narcissa’s sharp inhale and he looked at her fully. “I had Scrimgeour here a few nights ago,” he said. “My friends know that and I reckon I can mislead them in that direction. They don’t ever speak to him, so they’re not going to know where I got the potions from.”

Narcissa nodded, and Harry could tell she was relieved. It simply reinforced that there was still bits of mistrust between them, even though they were all trying. Harry looked back to Draco.

“It would be handy if you had someone watching your back,” Draco said casually.

Harry smirked at him. “Yes, it would,” he said. “Particularly someone who knew what the bloody hell they were talking about when it came to buying potions ingredients.”

“Where’s the cloak?” Draco asked, smirking in return.

Narcissa was eying them suspiciously. “You surely can’t be considering going with him?” she asked Draco.

“Yes,” Draco said simply.

“Draco, it’s dangerous for . . .,” she trailed off and looked back and forth between the two boys. “It’s dangerous for both of you,” she sighed.

“I think you could put us at the top of the most wanted lists for either side of this war,” Harry agreed cheerfully. “I’m afraid Draco doesn’t actually make number one, though,” he added mock regretfully.

Draco choked as he stared at Harry. Narcissa was glaring at Harry reproachfully.

“Oh, come on,” Harry said. “There’s something funny about a high profile Malfoy Death Eater and Harry Potter going out shopping together.” He cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. “I bet there’s a ton of good jokes in that somewhere. I wonder if Fred and George could come up with some,” he mused.

“Harry, you have a very warped sense of humour,” Draco drawled, but his lips were quirking with suppressed amusement.

Harry shrugged, a casual roll of his shoulders. “It’s either find the humour or go mental. I’d rather laugh,” he said.

He bit his lip thoughtfully. “I might actually be able to get a fairly unquestioning escort,” he said, thinking more about Fred and George.

“Who?” Draco demanded.

“I hadn’t considered them earlier, but Fred and George would go with me,” Harry admitted. “They know how to keep secrets,” he added when Draco glared at him disbelievingly.

“They’d run straight to the others,” Draco scoffed. “They’re Weasleys,” he said in disgust.

Harry glared at him, but didn’t call him out for his tone regarding the Weasleys. “I’m not going to break your trust, but if I wanted, I could tell Fred and George about you and they’d keep their mouths shut,” he said coldly.

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “They wouldn’t. I’ve been responsible for three of their brothers getting hurt.”

“They wouldn’t keep their mouths shut for your sake,” Harry said. “They’d keep quiet for mine.”

That made Draco pause. “Why wouldn’t they say anything?” he questioned, shifting the conversation slightly.

That was a good question, Harry realized, and he thought about it a moment before answering. Ron and Hermione would never keep something like harbouring Draco Malfoy quiet, but he knew the twins would. The question was why?

“Fred and George don’t have the same respect for authority as the others do,” Harry said slowly. “They don’t really think war is a game, but they treat it as such. They trust me, and respect me, I suppose,” he said thoughtfully. “I’m kind of the . . .,” he trailed off, trying to figure out what he was.

“The master player?” Draco interjected wryly, following what Harry was saying.

Harry shrugged. “I reckon master player works,” he said in agreement. “They won’t play the game the way anyone wants, but they see me as the master player. I’m sure they would find this situation hilarious.” He gave a lopsided smile. “I think they’d actually be proud of me.”

“They’d be proud of you for hiding me out here,” Draco said flatly.

“Yeah,” Harry said, his smile widening. “They’d keep my secrets, but most likely with the condition that they could be around to watch the fallout when everyone else eventually found out. They’d be ordering up extra popcorn in advance, just for the eventual occasion.”

“I’m a Death Eater,” Draco spoke slowly and clearly as if trying to make sure Harry could understand.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I know that and they know that,” he said. “I also know they value their lives more than yours.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he snapped.

Harry glared at him. “It means, you prat, that they aren’t going to fuck with me. If I told them to leave you alone, they would. Like everyone else, they know I’m the one trying to keep everyone safe and I have the opportunities to make it happen. They’ll wonder, but they won’t question me. They’ll accept that, whatever my reasons are for protecting you, ultimately I’m still working to save the Wizarding world.”

“The Chosen One,” Draco murmured.

“Yes, isn’t it brilliant that I’m the fucking Chosen One?” Harry said sarcastically.

Draco blinked at him. “You’ve finally figured out that you’re the leader for the Light side, haven’t you?”

“It’s been rather hard to miss recently,” Harry retorted. “I’ve got Malfoys in my bloody room, Order members actually listening to me, Scrimgeour inexplicably caving to my demands, Zabini looking to me for help, and even my aunt’s being halfway helpful.”

“Everyone’s scared and they believe that you’re their only hope,” Draco said quietly.

“I bloody well know why I’m actually getting some cooperation,” Harry said bitterly. “The only thing I really have to do in return is save the entire fucking Wizarding world!”

Draco arched a brow at his outburst. “So, you’re trying to say that the Weasley twins would cooperate with you,” he drawled.

Harry heaved a sigh of frustration. “No, I was trying to say that I wanted to go to Diagon Alley,” he muttered, “but somehow, it’s turned into a huge ordeal.”

“And you wish to take him with you to Diagon Alley,” Narcissa interjected wryly.

Harry quirked a half-smile. “Yeah, actually, I do,” he said ruefully. “He knows potions better than me and would be a big help with the actual shopping I need to do. He also knows the other Death Eaters, so it would make sense to have him with me keeping watch. It’d also be nice to have someone with me who knows how to use their wand in case something actually did happen.”

“You would still be seen as alone,” Narcissa pointed out.

“Not much I can do about that,” Harry said with a shrug. “But I’d rather have some backup with me, even if they are invisible.”

“What about Draco’s safety?” Narcissa questioned.

Harry looked at her steadily. “I don’t intend for anything to happen to him,” he said seriously. “If something happens that’s too big to handle, I expect him to get his arse back here and send a message to the Weasleys immediately. He could keep it anonymous – have Aunt Petunia actually write it or something – but provide whatever information possible so the Order would be able to have at least a clue about what happened to me.”

“We both know I’m a huge target,” Harry said. “I don’t expect, or even want, Draco to stand out with me. Between the two of us, though, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance of keeping watch so nothing happens in the first place.”

“The Invisibility Cloak is not fool proof,” Narcissa said.

“No, it’s not,” Harry agreed thoughtfully. “And it’s actually a problem if Moody is around. A Disillusionment Charm along with the cloak should solve that problem, at least.”

Narcissa sighed. “I don’t want either of you going,” she said.

“I know you don’t,” Harry said quietly. He felt a little strange trying to reassure Narcissa Malfoy, but was doing it anyway. “But we’re just going to Diagon Alley.”

She nodded in resignation. “I know you’ve got to do what you must,” she said.

“Thank you,” Harry said, nodding at her gratefully. He turned to Draco, who had that calculating expression on his face again.

“What now?” Harry asked, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“You’d be better protected if you had both visible and invisible protection,” Draco said.

Harry’s brow furrowed. “We’ve gone over this,” he said slowly.

Draco hesitated a moment. “Yes, we have. And you’ve stated that you could get the Weasley twins’ cooperation,” he said.

Harry’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Are you suggesting I actually tell them about you?” he exclaimed incredulously.

Draco closed his eyes briefly as he grimaced. “I trust you,” he said firmly, opening his eyes to meet Harry’s gaze directly.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Sixteen

Fred and George escorted Harry up to the flat above their shop, and noted with interest that Harry held the door open longer than necessary before shutting it behind him.

“Oooh, how exciting,” said Fred. “It would seem you’ve brought us extra company today, Harry?”

Harry nodded. “You have Silencing wards up in here?” he asked.

“Of course,” Fred said haughtily. “We can’t have the customers downstairs wondering what the odd noises are up here.”

“What’s up, Harry?” George asked with interest. “We’ve been assuming you were sneaking Ginny about or something, but I don’t believe you need privacy for Ginny in our flat.”

“You never know what they might be wanting to get up to,” said Fred, waggling his eyebrows.

“True,” George conceded, and looked back to Harry, waiting expectantly.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m not even seeing your sister anymore,” he muttered as he turned and nodded to his invisible partner.

Suddenly, Harry was handed his Invisibility Cloak and a muttered charm was heard. Draco Malfoy appeared, standing beside Harry and watching the twins warily.

The twins’ eyebrows rose to their hairlines, and they exchanged a glance before looking back at Harry.

“You know you’re with Malfoy?” Fred asked.

Harry nodded, watching the twins intently.

Fred and George nodded as they worked to process that information.

“Well, Harry,” George said slowly. “I must say, I didn’t expect you and Ginny to last, but I never expected Malfoy to be your next conquest.”

Harry spluttered indignantly. “He’s not . . . I’m not . . .”

Fred and George grinned, happy to have turned the tables and rendered Harry incoherent.

Draco relaxed fractionally and smirked at Harry. “We are sleeping together, Harry,” he drawled.

Harry glared at Draco as the twins burst out laughing. “But we’re not sleeping together,” Harry snapped.

“But you look so sexy wearing my pyjamas,” Draco purred seductively.

Harry’s eyebrows rose. “But I . . . we’re not . . .”

“Our little Harry, all grown up,” Fred cooed.

“All right, that’s enough,” Harry said irritably, glaring at all three of them. Deciding he didn’t care if the three hexed each other into oblivion, Harry turned his back on them and stalked over to flop down on the nearest couch.

“Uh, Harry,” George said, his tone curious. “Is it all right if we turn our backs on this bloke?”

“Probably not,” Harry grumbled. “He might try checking you out.”

“Potter! That’s disgusting!” Draco exclaimed, as the twins started sniggering.

Fred and George walked over and flopped onto the couch opposite of Harry, but he didn’t miss that they had their wands in hand. Harry looked over his shoulder at Draco, who was grimacing in disgust.

“Just come sit down, wanker,” Harry said.

Draco sneered at him, but moved to sit down stiffly next to Harry, regardless. His wand was also tightly gripped.

“So, Harry,” Fred began with a pleasant, conversational tone. “You do know that we should be turning him in after torturing him mercilessly.”

Harry shrugged. “Yeah, but we’re not going to,” he said.

Fred and George nodded, processing Harry’s answer. “All right, so what are we doing with him?” George asked.

Harry glanced at the scowling Draco. “Making him sleep on the floor tonight for being such a prat?” he suggested coyly.

“There isn’t even enough room on the floor,” Draco said irritably.

“You deserve it,” Harry retorted. “I can’t believe you’re misleading them like that. And it’s your fault I had to wear your pyjamas,” he added.

Draco didn’t get a chance to answer.

“You two really are sleeping together?” Fred asked, eyebrows raised incredulously.

“Yeah, but it’s not like that,” Harry said defensively. “You two have seen my room at the Dursleys. There isn’t a whole lot of room to start with, and now I’ve got . . . guests,” he said, turning to sneer the last word at Draco.

“Victoria?” George questioned.

“Yes,” Harry answered, leaving Narcissa out of it for the time being.

Fred and George were nodding again. Amongst the banter and bickering, they were still trying to process the situation.

“Bill and Charlie and Ron?” Fred questioned.

Harry knew what Fred meant. He was thankful Fred wasn’t actually making accusations, but Fred still wanted to know why they weren’t taking revenge on Malfoy for what happened to his brothers.

“Well, it was an accident with Ron and Draco wasn’t supposed to start duelling with Charlie,” Harry said, trying to sound reasonable.

“It wasn’t my fault!” Draco exclaimed. “I told you that!”

“It’s because of your hair that he recognized you,” Harry retorted. “I was going to tell you that I think we should dye it black or something.”

“I’m not dying my hair!” Draco said, sounding horrified.

“It’d help keep you from being recognized as quickly,” Harry said reasonably.

“I’d look awful with black hair,” Draco said, beginning to look a little ill.

“But it’d match those black shadows under your eyes so well,” Harry said innocently. It was beside the point that Draco had cast glamours to cover them. Harry still knew they were there.

Draco smacked Harry on the back of the head, glaring daggers at him. Harry had been expecting something in retaliation, though, and just started laughing.

“I have to admit, your hair also helped me find you so I could get your arse out of there,” Harry said, still grinning. He wasn’t about to admit that he rather liked Draco’s blond hair.

“If you hadn’t made me go in the first place, you wouldn’t have had to get me out of there,” Draco said moodily.

“If I hadn’t made you go?” Harry asked, incredulously. “If I hadn’t made you go, you’d probably be dead right now.”

Draco crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not talking about this anymore in front of them,” he said, with a jerk of his head toward the twins. “And I’m still not dying my hair,” he muttered.

Giving Draco one last, exasperated look, Harry turned his attention back to the twins. Fred and George were staring wide-eyed at them.

Harry smiled sheepishly. “Um, yes, well, Charlie didn’t get hurt too badly, right?”

Draco snorted, muttering under his breath.

“Shut it,” Harry snapped. “I healed you, didn’t I?”

Draco shot him a glare, but didn’t bother to answer.

“Hey, Harry, did you know Bill has been suddenly healed?” George questioned abruptly, watching Harry closely.

“Um, yeah,” Harry answered. “Ron sent me a letter telling me about it.”

“It sounds a bit mysterious to us,” Fred said. “Bill claims he doesn’t know how he recovered so well and so suddenly. Says the potions and such must have finally done their job.”

“That’s good to hear,” Harry said, smiling innocently.

Fred and George snorted in amusement. “Yeah, I reckon it’s good for you to hear that he’s claiming he doesn’t know anything,” said Fred.

Harry turned serious. “Bill doesn’t know anything,” he said. “Yes, I snuck back in after I’d left and I healed him. He’s knows that, but he doesn’t know anything else.”

The twins nodded in acceptance.

“You are the only two who I’m trusting to know about Draco,” Harry continued. “I need you to keep it quiet.”

George shrugged. “Yeah, probably wise not to tell the others,” he agreed, glancing at Draco.

“So, what do you need us for?” Fred asked, his tone accepting.

Harry smiled gratefully. “A couple things. One, I needed someone to know about Draco. In case there’s any trouble, he’ll now be able to contact you two, then you’d be able to pass word along to everyone else.”

“Planning on getting into trouble, Harry?” George asked with a grin.

“Not planning on it,” Harry muttered. “It just happens.”

“You don’t plan on trouble, but you decided to branch out and associate with a Death Eater?” Fred asked, grinning just as broadly as his twin.

“Shut it,” Harry grumbled. He noticed Draco was smirking at him again as well.

“I do hate to say it, but they have a point, Potter,” Draco drawled pleasantly.

Harry groaned in frustration. To hell with everything else, he was in real trouble if these three started getting along and ganging up on him. “I hate all three of you, I hope you know this,” he muttered.

He closed his eyes and dropped his head to the back of the couch, trying to ignore the sniggering of the other three. He felt Draco’s hand patting him on the shoulder. “There, there, Potter. I hate you, too, so there’s no reason to feel bad,” Draco said in mock sympathy.

Harry cracked his eyes open and turned his head enough to glare at Draco. “Why do I feel like I would’ve been better off if I’d just gone alone?” he asked.

Draco sobered and sat back. “It’s not safe,” he said flatly.

Exhaling heavily, Harry sat up straight again. The twins were looking at him curiously with a hint of worry.

“If Malfoy’s concerned, there’s a problem, Harry,” George said.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Harry said. “I’ve just got to finish brewing the potions for Madam Pomfrey, but I need to buy the ingredients.”

He explained how Draco was going to be helping him with the brewing, and why he couldn’t take the others with him. Fred and George understood, and agreed that it wasn’t safe to be going about Diagon Alley alone. Especially if you were Harry Potter.

“A few of the ingredients on his list are only going to be found in Knockturn Alley,” Draco added.

Harry looked at him sharply. “You didn’t tell me that,” he said.

Draco shrugged. “There’s a reason why I agreed to you telling these two,” he said flatly. “Bad enough for you to be wandering Diagon Alley alone. You need someone visible with you walking into Knockturn Alley.”

“Maybe we should just pick up those ingredients for you, then,” Fred suggested.

“We head down there fairly frequently for ingredients we need for our products,” George agreed.

Harry was looking at Fred and George and didn’t notice the flash of relief that crossed Draco’s features, but the twins did. Fred and George exchanged a glance then looked at Draco, eyebrows raised in question.

Harry glanced at Draco curiously, noticing that Draco was scowling at him again. “What’s your problem now?” Harry asked in bewilderment. “We should be thankful they’re willing to get those other ingredients for us. I don’t really want to be heading into Knockturn Alley if I don’t have to.”

Draco kept his gaze trained on Harry, but Harry didn’t realize Draco was deliberately avoiding the twins. “It doesn’t surprise me those two are used to wandering in areas they don’t belong,” Draco sneered.

“For Merlin’s sake!” Harry exclaimed. “It’s not like I need you wandering around in Knockturn Alley, anyway. When you shop down there, all hell breaks loose. I’ll take my chances on Fred and George.”

“You do that, then,” Draco said contemptuously.

Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Look, can we just get on with all this?” he asked.

Draco waved his hand, indicating Harry should go right ahead with his plans. Harry ran a hand through his hair, trying to figure out what was going on. Something had just happened; he was sure of it. But he couldn’t figure out what it was.

“I need to stop at Gringott’s first,” Harry said, letting it go. “The last time I was there, I hadn’t expected to be buying a bunch of potions ingredients.”

“When was the last time you were there?” Fred asked curiously. “Surely you haven’t been there recently.”

“Um, recently,” Harry admitted, but he wasn’t ready to tell them about Winky.

“Well, I’ll go with you,” Fred said, not questioning Harry any further. “And George can stay here with Malfoy for now.”

“Works for me,” George said with a shrug.

But Draco looked horrified. “I’m not staying here!” he exclaimed.

“Sure you can,” George said easily. “You can help me pick out some products for Harry while we wait.”

Draco blanched and looked at Harry, slightly panicked. “Potter?” he said pleadingly.

Harry grabbed Draco’s arm and pulled him off to the side. Glancing at the twins suspiciously, he placed a Silencing Charm around him and Draco.

“Draco, you can’t go with me into Gringott’s,” Harry said quickly. “You know that.”

“I can just wait outside like I was planning on doing,” Draco said. “I don’t want to stay here.”

“George is right, though,” Harry said. “You can pick out some of the useful stuff they’ve got. I know you’re familiar with their products,” he said wryly.

Draco looked pained.

“Draco, they’re not going to try to hurt you or anything,” Harry said cajolingly. “They’re just trying to keep us both as safe as possible. Since we have their help, there’s no reason for you to risk yourself, waiting alone while I’m in Gringott’s.”

“Harry, they have no reason to keep me safe,” Draco snapped.

“Have they done anything?” Harry asked pointedly. “Have they even asked many questions?”

“No,” Draco ground out. “But they will as soon as you’re gone.”

“George won’t,” Harry insisted. “He doesn’t trust you enough to leave you alone here, but he trusts my judgment enough to know that I want to keep you as safe as possible. This is the best way.”

“I won’t stay here with some Weasel,” Draco sneered.

Harry took a deep breath. If Draco wanted to play that way, then fine. “If you don’t stay here, then I’ll have to tell your mum that you were deliberately putting yourself at risk when you didn’t have to,” he said.

“Leave my mother out of it,” Draco snapped.

Harry smirked. “No,” he said smugly. “I think your mum would be quite interested in hearing about this.”

Draco scowled, obviously knowing Harry was right. Harry was laughing inside. Draco was willing to stand up to his mother when things were important enough, but Harry knew Draco had limits.

“I thought Gryffindors were supposed to play fair,” Draco muttered.

Harry grinned, but managed to keep the laughter suppressed. “As you pointed out, I’ve got a few Slytherin tendencies that come in handy sometimes,” he said. “So, will you stay?” he asked.

Still scowling, Draco took down the Silencing Charm and stalked over to drop down sullenly onto the couch.

“Let’s go, Fred,” Harry said brightly. “Oh, and Draco, don’t eat or drink anything George might try to offer you.”

George waved them out cheerfully. Harry and Fred managed to make it to the street before bursting out into laughter.

“Merlin! You’re good, Harry,” said Fred in admiration. “I don’t know what you just said to him, but I’m quite shocked that it was so effective.”

Harry grinned. “I know how to hit him where it counts,” he said.

Fred shook his head in amazement, and they were silent for a minute as they walked. “You do know that you’ve chosen quite the sneaky protector, don’t you?” he asked suddenly.

Harry frowned thoughtfully. “I didn’t exactly choose him,” he said slowly.

“Maybe not,” Fred said. “But he came to us, knowing where we get some of our ingredients, and hoping we’d take on that task for you.”

“He wouldn’t have asked you two to do that,” Harry protested.

“And he didn’t ask,” Fred agreed. “But he looked terribly relieved, though, when we volunteered to do it. I never would’ve expected it, but he seems quite interested,” Fred hesitated a moment before adding, “in protecting you.”

Harry shrugged it off. “He needs me,” he said. “It serves his interests if I’m kept alive.”

Fred gave Harry a sidelong glance as they walked up the steps to the bank. “If you say so, Harry,” he said.

Harry frowned, not understanding Fred’s tone, but he didn’t question as they stepped into the bank. It was business as usual, and it wasn’t long before Fred and Harry were walking back.

“Do you think they’re doing all right while we’ve been gone?” Harry asked a bit nervously.

Fred shrugged. “Depends on your boy,” he said.

“He’s not my boy,” Harry said irritably.

Fred grinned. “You picked him up somehow, not us.”

“I didn’t –“ Harry cut himself off, knowing it was useless. Hadn’t he himself teased Draco about picking up strays? It would probably be simpler if he just went along with the teasing.

Fred grinned even wider. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Harry,” he said.

“Well, you know me. I like ‘em feisty with a lot of attitude,” Harry said sarcastically.

Fred burst out laughing. “First Ginny and now – yeah, I’d say you’re right,” he said.

Harry rolled his eyes but then glanced at Fred curiously. “You’re not upset about me breaking it off with Ginny?” he asked.

“Nah, you two are too much like family to each other to make a good couple,” Fred said dismissively. “Besides, Ginny’s tough, but you need someone stronger.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose questioningly. “What do you mean by that?” he asked.

Fred hesitated, looking sombre for once. “You’ve got some serious responsibilities, Harry. You need someone strong enough for you to lean on once in awhile. Ginny’s one tough little witch,” he said fondly. “But I don’t know that she’s really strong enough to help with the burdens you carry around.”

“I wouldn’t let her,” Harry said fiercely. “She’s been through enough, and she doesn’t need to deal with my responsibilities.”

“Spoken like a good brother, not a good lover,” Fred said quietly.

“Oh,” Harry said. Fred had a point. They lapsed into silence, Harry pondering over Fred’s words. He had to wonder if there was anyone who would ever really understand all he was going through that he could lean on for support now and then.

He stumbled slightly as he remembered the conversation with Draco. Draco understood what it was like having to try to kill off a powerful wizard. He also knew an awful lot about Harry’s activities, with the only real exceptions being Snape, which would hopefully be dealt with soon, and the Horcruxes.

He was already leaning on Draco for support. He was sleeping with Draco—comfortably. He’d comforted Draco in the night. He’d asked Draco to go with him today. He was doing everything he possibly could to protect Draco. He inexplicably felt safe with Draco. He’d been obsessing over Draco for at least the last year.

He stopped in the middle of the street.

“All right, mate?” Fred asked.

Harry stared at him, wide-eyed at the way his thoughts were turning.

Fred’s smile was grim when he stopped to face Harry. “Figured out he’s strong enough, then?”

“There’s nothing going on,” Harry said, feeling ill.

“Something is,” Fred disagreed.

“There’s not,” Harry protested. “It’s just . . . business.”

“Business doesn’t explain you two worrying over each other,” Fred said wryly. “I’m not honestly sure who is supporting who more, as it does appear to be rather mutual from what I can see.”

“We’re not,” Harry said quickly.

Fred raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

“I told you, he just needs me alive to serve his interests,” Harry said crossly.

Fred actually laughed. “Yes, I’m sure it’s much better when the person is alive,” he said suggestively.

“Eww!” Harry grimaced in disgust. The idea of sex with dead people was not a pleasant thought. But that meant . . . he was thinking about . . . sex . . . with Draco . . . who was very much alive.

“He’s a boy,” Harry blurted out.

Fred was laughing again. “So what if he’s a boy,” he said dismissively. “He’s got a lot of issues, I must admit, but the fact that he’s a boy isn’t one of them.”

Harry frowned. “I’m not gay,” he said.

“I’m sure you’re not, after what I’m sure you’ve been up to with my sister,” Fred said dryly.

“I’ve never taken advantage of Ginny,” Harry said defensively.

“Didn’t say you did,” said Fred with a grin. “I’m just not as blind as most of my family.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair as he tried to sort things out. “I liked being with your sister . . . that way,” he admitted.

Fred shrugged. “So. Doesn’t mean you can’t like being with a boy, that way, as well. Being bi-sexual isn’t a bad thing. It just means you open up more options for yourself,” he said, still grinning.

Harry groaned miserably. He’d never be able to sleep with Draco again. He’d been able to avoid any wayward thoughts before, but now . . .

“You do realize who we’re bloody talking about, don’t you?” he asked crossly.

Fred smiled that grim smile again, losing much of his humour. “Just watch yourself,” he said quietly. “I don’t know what the bloody hell you’re doing with him in the first place and I know you don’t intend to tell anyone else about him. However, I’m not one to tell you how to run your life and you know that George and I are going to support you in whatever you decide.”

“You sound like you’re actually trying to encourage me to . . .,” Harry trailed off, trying to decide what exactly Fred was trying to encourage.

Fred grimaced. “Not encourage, really. Just make you aware of what I’m seeing,” he said. “I think things are happening between you two, and I want to make sure you know that you’ve at least got my support.”

“Thanks, I think,” Harry said.

Fred gave him a lopsided grin. “Gotta admit, he keeps you on your toes more than anyone I’ve ever seen around you,” he said.

“Too true,” Harry muttered as he started walking again.

* * * * *

“What the bloody hell took you so long?” Draco snapped the second Harry walked in the door.

“Missed you, too,” Harry said sarcastically. He risked a glance, and saw Fred nodding knowingly at him. Harry scowled and gave Fred a shove.

“Harry seems to be in a mood, Malfoy,” George said regretfully. “I don’t know that he deserves all the wonderful things we found for him.”

“Harry’s always in a mood,” Draco drawled.

Harry glared at all of them as he flopped onto the couch. Fred and George laughed at him, as Fred went over to inspect the table where George had gathered a pile of things for Harry.

Harry shot a questioning glance between George and Draco while the twins were occupied. Draco gave a slight shrug in response. Harry nodded, glad things seemed to have gone well.

In turn, Draco shot a questioning glance between Fred and Harry. He quirked an eyebrow when Harry flushed in response. Fred turned to call Harry over and grinned widely at seeing Harry’s red cheeks.

“Oh, Harry,” Fred said sweetly. “Be a good boy and come see what they’ve selected for you.”

Harry scowled at him, but heaved himself off the couch and wandered over to the large table.

Fred and George’s flat was a large open space, for the most part. Kitchen and sitting room all flowed together. Space in the middle seemed to be reserved for product creation, with shelves along the wall overflowing with anything and everything.

Draco had followed and leaned against one of the less dangerous looking shelves, watching with interest as Fred and George animatedly described everything for Harry. A lot of it was products that Harry had seen before. The Decoy Detonators, the Instant Darkness Powder, and anything else they thought Harry might find useful at some point.

“But that’s not all,” George said dramatically. Glancing between the twins, Harry realized they were both practically vibrating with excitement.

“We have something, created especially for you, Harry,” Fred added.

George reached under the table and brought up a box. Harry looked at it warily. It didn’t look like much and it wasn’t overly large. It looked like any robe box he’d seen in Madam Malkin’s.

“Do you remember our discussion of the Shield Cloaks?” George asked.

“Yes,” Harry answered, still wary.

“Remember how we said they were only useful against minor to moderate hexes?” Fred asked.

“Yes,” Harry answered again, flicking his gaze back and forth between the twins.

“You’re sure you trust him?” George asked Harry, glancing at Draco.

Startled by the question, Harry looked to Draco. Draco locked gazes with him, and Harry could feel the question pounding in his mind. Did he trust Draco? There were so many reasons not to. But staring into those stormy grey eyes, Harry couldn’t come up with those reasons. He slowly nodded, seeing the surprise, relief, and gratitude – along with something he couldn’t define – wash through those stormy eyes.

Harry tore his gaze away. Blinking, he looked at George. “Yes,” he said quietly.

George and Fred exchanged a quick, meaningful glance, which Harry didn’t miss. Harry swallowed heavily, realizing that Fred had obviously caught a lot that Harry had been missing before. He didn’t dare look back at Draco again.

“Well, then,” George exclaimed, sounding especially loud after the rather intense moments. “We have something here for you, Harry. This is a one of a kind.”

“Quite difficult,” Fred added. “Took us almost a year to create.”

“Then you shouldn’t be giving whatever it is to me,” Harry protested.

“We know who we owe for our success,” George said firmly.

“Show him, George,” Fred urged, his excitement palpable in the air.

George whipped off the lid of the box with a dramatic flourish.

“Wow,” Harry breathed. “What is it?”

George lifted the beautiful, ice blue cloak out of the box and moved to wrap it around Harry’s shoulders. Harry’s body instantly disappeared.

“It’s another Invisibility Cloak?” Harry whispered.

“It is an Invisibility Cloak, but not exactly,” George said, his tone full of respect.

Harry looked at him curiously.

Fred took up the explanation. “It took us a right while to find another Invisibility Cloak, as they’re quite rare. We couldn’t just nick yours from you, as it’s often in use,” he said, with a pointed nod to Harry’s other cloak, currently lying across the back of one of the couches. “Let’s just say that knowing people like Moody and Mundungus can come in handy. Anyway, while we were searching, we experimented on plain cloaks. Went through a fair amount of them, too, trying to get them to shield higher level curses,” he said.

“Right painful process,” George interjected

“Yes,” Fred grimaced in agreement. “But we can say that we’ve been able to successfully create this cloak so that it will shield high level hexes now.”

“We can’t guarantee you that it will deflect the Unforgivables,” George said. “But we think it will.”

“That’s encouraging,” Harry said sarcastically.

“You don’t know because you can’t test them,” Draco spoke up quietly.

Three heads turned to look at him, and two nodded.

Draco gazed steadily at Harry. “You know I can test two of them,” he said calmly.

Harry’s eyes closed. “I can’t, Draco,” he said quietly.

“I’m not asking you to,” Draco said.

“But it would be useful to know,” Harry said bitterly, rubbing at his scar.

“Wrap the portrait up in it,” Draco said.

Harry’s eyes snapped open and focused on Draco. “Think that would work?”

Draco shrugged. “It worked well enough as a focus before,” he said.

Harry fingered the cloak thoughtfully.

Fred cleared his throat. “Well, in addition to comprehensive Shield Charms, the cloak will also render you silent. Cloak yourself fully and no one will be able to hear any sounds you make, even masking the sound of your footsteps.”

“We’ve also made a few adjustments that will help keep you undetectable, even to people like Moody,” George said. “There’s also tons of pockets, and they’re lined with charms so that the cloak won’t weigh you down, no matter how much you put into them.”

“Wow,” Harry breathed, thinking about how handy that would have been over the years.

“It’s not going to be overly useful in battle,” Fred admitted. “But in sneak mode, it’ll keep you protected as much as we possibly could.”

“I can’t –” Harry cut himself off and attempted to swallow down his emotions. He couldn’t believe that Fred and George had done this for him. It was too much. “This should be yours. It’s your creation. You’ve spent all the time on it. You spent the money on the cloak itself.”

“No,” George said wryly. “You just made an early investment on it.”

“It’s yours, Harry,” Fred insisted. “There’s absolutely no one else who needs it more, or who could find more uses for it.” He cast a glance at Draco. “Although, I admit, all the months spent working on it, and all the imagined uses, I never once imagined you using it to hide Death Eaters.”

“Ah, but we were confident that our Harry here would find some rather creative uses for it. We had no doubt that it would be put to good use,” George declared happily.

Draco snorted in amusement. Harry started laughing. “Well, I should certainly do something to pay you back for this, at least,” he said, his eyes sliding to his other cloak.

Fred followed his gaze. “No,” he said sternly. “That was your dad’s. We wouldn’t dream of it, and I’m not going to listen to you insult us by even suggesting it.”

“Your money is no good with us, either,” George said firmly.

“But I can’t just accept something like this,” Harry protested.

“Sure you can,” George said easily. “We wanted to do it, and we actually learned a lot of useful things in the process. We’ve got loads of other products coming out of this project.”

“It’s too much,” Harry insisted.

Fred shrugged. “It’s what we could do. We’d do it for any family member that found trouble as much as you,” he said with a wide grin.

Harry wasn’t feeling extra pressure from them to defeat Voldemort. He knew that wasn’t their intention. They knew what he had to do, and they were just trying to support and protect him in their own extravagant way because they considered him family. He couldn’t feel more grateful. He was struggling hard to control his emotions.

“You lot have anything he could put all this junk in?” Draco sneered, turning the others’ attention away from Harry.

Fred and George immediately jumped into action, seemingly grateful themselves for the distraction.

Harry pulled the hood up on the cloak, in the pretence of testing it out. Even knowing he was invisible to the others, he still stepped away and turned his back before quickly wiping his eyes.

Feeling a little more in control, he took notice of the cloak again. Aside from the ice blue colour, at first it seemed very similar to his other cloak. Looking at it from the inside, though, he could see the many pockets, some larger and some smaller.

Moving around, he also quickly realized that he didn’t have to hold it in place like his other cloak. It wasn’t stiff, but rather, followed his movements. In fact, he realized that it stayed an inch or so away from his body at all times. It appeared to be roomier than his other cloak, but he wasn’t sure if he was just imagining that because of the distance it kept from his body.

“Potter! Where are you bloody at?” Draco asked irritably.

Harry stepped up right behind Draco and pulled the hood back. “Right here,” he said calmly, and grinned brightly as Draco yelped and jumped away from him.

Fred and George broke out into hysterical laughter. “This is brilliant!” Harry exclaimed enthusiastically.

“I hate you, Potter,” Draco said sullenly.

“Awww, I hate you, too, Malfoy,” Harry said cheerfully.

“Harry,” Fred gasped, trying to catch his breath after laughing so hard. “That was worth it all.”

“Shall we get the potions ingredients finally?” Draco sneered.

“Yeah, I reckon we should get moving,” Harry said. He slipped the cloak off and tried passing it to Draco.

Draco took a step back. “I’m not wearing that,” he said.

“Why not?” Harry asked, frowning.

“They made that for you, not me,” Draco said.

“But it’s brilliant and it’ll keep you protected better than my other cloak,” Harry said.

Draco shook his head. “No, Potter,” he said, moving to pick up the other cloak.

George got to it first. “Wear the new one, Malfoy,” he said quietly.

“You don’t want me wearing that,” Draco said angrily. “You made that special for him. You fucking well didn’t intend for a Death Eater to be wearing it.”

“No, we didn’t,” George said with a shrug. “But we made it for Harry. He gets to use it however he wants and right now he wants you to wear it.”

“And does Potter get whatever he wants?” Draco sneered.

George grinned. “Not always, but often enough to irritate you,” he said pleasantly.

“I’m not wearing it,” Draco said forcefully, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Come on, Draco,” Harry begged. “Just wear it and let’s go.”

“No,” Draco said stubbornly.

Harry flicked his gaze to the twins briefly. “Remember what I told you earlier about risking your safety?” he asked Draco warningly.

“Potter, you wouldn’t,” Draco said, glaring at Harry.

Harry shrugged. “You know I would,” he said.

“I try to be bloody nice by not using your new cloak and you threaten me,” Draco grumbled.

“I don’t particularly want to be punished,” Harry pointed out. “Especially since I don’t even know how I’d be punished.”

“It wouldn’t be as bad for you,” Draco muttered.

“So, wear the cloak,” Harry said, holding it out again, “and save us both from being punished.”

“Do you realize how kinky you sound?” Fred asked.

“All this talk of punishment sounds quite fascinating,” George agreed.

Draco smirked in amusement, finally giving in and accepting the cloak from Harry.

“Yes, I’m looking forward to getting him home so I can get the kinky prat into bed,” Harry said sarcastically. “So, if we could hurry this up?”

The sound of Draco’s laughter was cut off as he put the hood on.

“Brilliant,” Harry breathed, looking at the spot Draco had just disappeared. He looked at the twins. “I’ve always had to be so careful to be quiet.”

Fred and George beamed. “We thought you’d appreciate the improvements,” George said.

Draco’s head appeared again suddenly. “I didn’t do the Disillusionment Charm,” he said.

Fred nodded his head. “This cloak will make a huge difference, but if you have to take it off for any reason, the Disillusionment Charm will keep you hidden that little bit longer,” he said seriously.

“If I have to cast any curses,” Draco said.

“Exactly,” George said. “You can’t cast through the cloak, even if you wanted to, because of all the magic in it. You’d have to separate the cloak at least a little bit, and someone could catch a glimpse of you. Or your wand, at least, especially since so many spells require wand movement.”

“Why does it take four of us to go to the Apothecary and only two of us to go to Gringott’s?” Harry interjected absently. “I mean, I essentially walked to the shop by myself.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “We Apparated close to the shop, and you didn’t actually go in any shop by yourself besides theirs. Goblins guard the bank, so it’s not too much of a concern, and it was close to here. The Apothecary, on the other hand, tends to present more . . . unsavoury people. Besides, one of the reasons we told these two was so I’d have someone to tell on your side if something goes wrong. I thought we’d gone over this.”

Harry shrugged. “It just sounded odd when I thought of it that way,” he said.

Draco shook his head in exasperation before casting the Disillusionment Charm on himself, then disappearing under the cloak.

“That’s a good double-up on protection,” Fred said admirably. “Has he taught you that spell yet?” he asked Harry as they made for the door.

“Not yet,” Harry said. “I hadn’t really thought much about it before and I’ve been busy learning other things.”

He felt Draco’s hand on his arm and nodded when Fred looked at him questioningly before shutting the door. They made their way down the street, Harry and the twins chatting about anything and everything. He liked the twins. They weren’t about to be brought down by the gloomy atmosphere that was now Diagon Alley.

The twins pointed out that to be loud and noticed by everyone, meant you’d be noticed damned quickly if you suddenly disappeared. Harry had trouble arguing with that logic.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Seventeen

Draco slipped into the Apothecary with Harry, in between the twins. Digging the list out of his pocket, Harry grabbed a basket and started loading it up with ingredients. The shopkeeper, and any customers, thought twice about coming in Harry’s direction with Fred and George making a loud commotion. The twins left Harry to do his business, chatting loudly over whatever struck their fancy.

For his part, Harry could feel Draco sticking close to him. He couldn’t directly see or hear Draco, but several items from the shelves seemed to float into Harry’s basket. A couple items floated out of his basket as well, and he took another look at his list, trying to figure out where he’d messed up.

Eventually, Harry was pretty sure he had everything and muttered that to himself. He felt Draco tugging on his arm, leading him to a different shelf in the far corner of the room. Harry stared at it blankly. He had no idea what Draco wanted him to get. Fred and George had followed and created a human shield between Harry and the shopkeeper, who was far too close in Harry’s opinion.

Several items were quickly floated from the shelf to Harry’s basket. Too quick for him to get any idea what they were. He again muttered to himself about having everything and this time felt his shoulder squeezed. Taking that as a yes, he finally made his way to the front counter to pay for it all.

“I hate that place,” Harry muttered once they were outside again.

“You volunteered for this job,” Fred said cheerfully.

“Don’t remind me,” Harry grumbled.

As they were walking back down the street, Harry felt a sharp tugging on his arm. “Hey, I want to go in here,” he said quickly, interrupting Fred mid-sentence and not even knowing where “in here” was.

Fred and George quickly followed Harry’s lead and they slipped into the closest shop. Stepping inside, Harry realized they were in the Magical Menagerie.

“So, what are we interested in?” George questioned cheerfully, even as he watched Harry being carefully turned to face the front window. They watched as two men ambled past. Harry made a move as if to go out the door again, but was jerked backwards.

Scowling, Harry answered George. “I reckon I’m interested in something in here,” he said.

“Sounds like a safe bet,” Fred agreed, grinning.

Fred and George fed some inane story to the lady at the counter, and Harry idly looked around. He would’ve rather have followed whoever it was that Draco had hidden them from, even though he knew it wasn’t the smartest idea.

He thought about asking about treats for Fawkes, but decided against it. He didn’t think it was a good idea to announce that he had Dumbledore’s phoenix. Instead, he checked out all the strange creatures.

He felt a sharp tugging on his arm again, and was seriously starting to get annoyed about it. He allowed himself to be led anyways, and ended up halting in front of a tank with snakes. He rolled his eyes. Of course Draco would be interested in the bloody snakes.

He felt a pinch on his arm. “Bloody hell,” Harry muttered.

“Problem, Harry?” Fred asked innocently.

“Yes,” Harry said irritably. “It seems I’m interested in the snakes.”

Fred started sniggering and Harry glared at him.

“What’s so interesting about these snakes?” George asked curiously, coming up behind him.

Harry finally took a real look at them, and suddenly understood why he’d been dragged over. He took a step closer.

“Blimey, Harry! Those are some colourful snakes,” George exclaimed, staring at the snakes in amazement.

“They’re the house colours of Hogwarts,” Harry observed curiously. He glanced warily around the room. They were the only customers, the lady behind the counter was preoccupied with something or other, and the room was noisy with all the animals. He glanced at Fred and George.

They both shrugged. “Go for it,” George said.

Harry took another step closer to the tank.

Hello,” he hissed in Parseltongue, feeling a bit ridiculous.

The four snakes in the tank lifted their heads and turned in Harry’s direction.

You speak?” one of them hissed.

Yes,” Harry said, shrugging. Then felt stupid again, because he wasn’t sure a snake was going to understand the body language of a human. “I am curious about your pretty colours,” he hissed.

We believe we are the only ones like this,” Harry was informed. “The woman raised us in the back room,” the snake hissed and lifted its head in the direction of the lady behind the counter.

Harry glanced over at her. She had her nose buried in a book and seemed oblivious to her surroundings.

Why?” Harry asked, turning back to the snakes.

We do not know. You would have to ask her,” hissed the red snake. “We know that she is not happy with us.”

Harry glanced at the woman again, frowning. “Are you dangerous or something?” he asked the snakes.

We have deadly venom,” the snake admitted.

Is that all?” Harry questioned. “Lots of snakes have deadly venom.”

We can affect things,” one of the snakes hissed after several moments of quiet.

Affect things, how?” Harry asked, not understanding.

Harry suddenly felt unbearably cold and shivered. Fred and George were looking at him oddly. Harry looked back at the snake. “Did you do that?” he asked.

I did,” the blue snake hissed. “I can affect the temperature in an area.”

What can the others do?” Harry asked quickly.

Hold up your hand,” the red snake hissed. Harry did and felt a sudden, sharp pain in the palm of his hand. Flinching, he jerked his hand back to his chest. “I can make it feel like a snake bite.”

Harry rubbed the thumb of his left hand across the palm of his right. He couldn’t see anything, but he could still feel a slight tingling pain, even though it was quickly fading away.

Thanks for the warning,” Harry hissed sarcastically.

The feeling of the bite is the warning,” the scarlet snake hissed. “It is brief and contains no venom.”

Harry slowly nodded, realizing that made sense. He looked to the bright green snake.

I can change location,” it said.

What do you mean?” Harry asked, brow furrowed.

Hold out your arm and I will move to your wrist,” hissed the snake.

Harry held his arm out again curiously. Fred and George both yelped in astonishment when the snake suddenly appeared, wrapped around his wrist and forearm, but Harry simply stared.

Unfortunately, the twins had caught the shopkeeper’s attention. “What are you boys doing?” she demanded.

The green snake quickly disappeared from Harry’s arm and appeared in the tank again.

“I’m interested in buying your snakes,” Harry said calmly.

“You can’t buy those,” she snapped. “They’re dangerous.”

“How?” Harry questioned.

“I believe they are possessed,” she said, glancing at the snakes fearfully.

Harry snorted in amusement. Fred and George stared at Harry incredulously, but kept their mouths shut.

The woman shot a glare at Harry, but her eyes were swiftly trained on the snakes again. He saw her shiver violently and quickly repressed his grin.

“Where did they come from?” Harry demanded.

“They were an experiment,” she admitted, surprising Harry. He had been pretty sure they were an experiment, from what the snakes had said, but he was surprised that she would actually admit it. “Spells were performed on the eggs before they hatched. They were meant to simply have the beautiful colouring of Hogwarts, as it would make an attractive selling point. Yet, strange things happen around them.”

The woman shrieked unexpectedly, and clutched one hand protectively to her chest.

Watch this.” Harry heard the hissing, and glanced briefly at the tank, assuming it was the little yellow snake. The woman’s pale lilac robes were suddenly a shockingly bright yellow.

Harry couldn’t keep himself from laughing. He quickly stopped, though, when he realized the woman was close to tears. “I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “If you tell me how much you want for them, I’ll take them off your hands so you won’t have to deal with them anymore.”

“I can not, in good conscience, sell them to a boy,” she said stiffly.

Harry rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his hair, trying to figure out how to convince this woman to sell the snakes to him. He saw her tear-filled eyes widen. “You’re Harry Potter,” she said.

Well, that might do it, Harry thought sarcastically. “Yeah, I am,” he said out loud. “Now will you sell them to me?”

She slowly nodded, still staring at him.

“Could you gather up whatever supplies and such that he’ll need?” Fred asked politely, dragging her attention to him.

“Certainly, certainly,” she said, sounding flustered.

Harry shot Fred and George a grateful smile as they herded the woman away to gather whatever he’d need to take care of four snakes. He turned to look at the snakes again. “If I take you home with me, can you promise never to bite anyone—unless I tell you to?” he asked them.

You will take good care of us?”

Of course,” Harry said.

Then, as speaker of the snake language, you are our new master and we will obey your word.”

Harry was startled at that proclamation. “I do not wish to control you, only protect those around me.”

We do not belong here with this woman. We like you and are content with you as our master, rather than her.”

I think anyone’s going to be better than her,” Harry said, glancing over his shoulder at the woman in question.

No one else has spoken the snake language with us.”

There’s only one other who can,” Harry admitted. “But he is evil.”

May we travel on your body?”

What?” Harry hissed, eyebrows raised incredulously.

We can wrap ourselves around your arms or your neck and travel comfortably that way.”

Harry looked down at himself. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt wasn’t going to cut it. He looked over to the twins who were wearing violent magenta robes. He looked back to the little yellow snake. “If I can borrow one of my friends’ robes to wear, can you change the colour of them for me?” he asked.

I’d be honoured.”

Harry grinned. “Be right back.” He quickly talked Fred into giving up his robes. Grateful the twins were shorter than Ron, at least, Harry tugged the robes over his head. He beamed brightly as they changed from the violent magenta colour to a beautiful emerald green.

Exact same as your eyes.”

Thank you,” Harry hissed happily. He dipped his hands down into the tank and watched as the snakes slithered under the sleeves of the robe. It felt downright strange as they wrapped themselves around each of his forearms.

Comfortable?” he asked.

Receiving an affirmative answer, Harry walked over to the counter. The woman was obviously happy to be getting rid of the snakes, because Harry was pretty sure she only charged him for the tank and supplies for them.

Feeling strangely happy, considering he was wearing four snakes and robes that were trailing the ground because they were too long for him, Harry made for the door to leave the shop finally.

He paused, though, remembering why they’d gone into the shop in the first place. Hissing quietly to the two snakes on his right arm, he waited until they had moved. One around his neck and one on his upper left arm. It felt a little creepy to feel them slithering under the robes he was wearing. Making sure he had his wand accessible, he finally stepped outside.

“Blimey, Harry! What was that all about?” Fred exclaimed.

Harry beamed happily, but didn’t answer at first, looking around the area warily. “Look good to you?” he asked. Fred and George nodded, but looked at Harry expectantly. Harry felt the reassuring squeeze of his shoulder and nodded to the twins.

They started walking and Harry began explaining about what seemed to be the snakes’ defence mechanisms. “Only you could end up with magical snakes, Harry,” George said, shaking his head.

Harry frowned. He hadn’t really thought of it that way. He’d just liked them and hadn’t wanted to leave them there with that lady when they’d so obviously been unhappy about it. “Well, they needed a home,” he said defensively.

“And who better than our Harry to give them one,” Fred said cheerfully. He looked down at the bottom of his robes that Harry was currently wearing. “Although, I seem to have sacrificed my robes for them.”

“I’ll buy you new ones,” Harry said apologetically.

Fred grinned. “Ah, it’s worth it. Besides, you look so cute with your pretty robes trailing the ground like that,” he said cheekily.

Harry scowled and tried to smack him, but Fred dodged ahead. Both he and George were laughing and, unable to resist, Harry started laughing with them. They were still laughing as they trooped back into Fred and George’s flat.

“Your boy in here?” Fred asked before shutting the door.

“He’s not my boy,” Harry protested.

First the cloak, and then Draco, appeared with a muttered charm.

“I’m not his boy,” Draco scowled.

Fred simply rolled his eyes. “Well, you’re not mine, and you’re not George’s, so you must be Harry’s,” he said, as if it was completely logical. He didn’t give Draco a chance to respond before he continued. “So, what’s the list that we still need to get from Knockturn Alley?” he asked.

Draco opened his mouth to argue with the previous statement, but closed it again in resignation. Harry dug out the list and handed it to Draco. George set out another piece of parchment, ink and quill at the table, and Draco began carefully going through the list and writing anything they still needed on the clean parchment.

“Who were the blokes?” Fred asked.

Draco looked up at him. “A couple of Death Eaters,” he admitted.

“And we didn’t go after them because . . .,” Harry said leadingly.

“Because we had no idea if they were actually alone or not,” Draco said calmly. “We also didn’t know if they would Apparate out of there immediately if they’d seen you, and arrive back moments later with a bunch more Death Eaters. I saw no need to take the risk.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “Well, that would explain it.”

Draco rolled his eyes and went back to his lists.

Shrugging off the idea of errant Death Eaters, Harry unbuttoned the robes he was wearing and slipped them off so he could see what the snakes looked like.

“Blimey!” Fred exclaimed, having been watching Harry.

Draco quickly looked up again, and his eyes widened in amazement at seeing the snakes wrapped around Harry’s arm and neck.

“You’re quite colourful, mate,” George said, looking at Harry curiously.

Harry beamed and hissed at the snakes for a moment.

The other three watched wide-eyed as the snakes obeyed what Harry told them and started slithering around Harry’s body and off onto the couch.

“Oh Merlin!” Fred said weakly. “And I thought it was interesting watching you with a phoenix sitting on your shoulder.”

“You’ve got your own unique Magical Menagerie, Harry,” George agreed.

Grinning at their comments, Harry caught Draco’s wide-eyed gaze. Draco shook his head slightly and purposefully turned back to the parchments he was working on.

Harry frowned slightly, but was quickly sidetracked by the twins’ request to hold one. With the snakes’ permission, the twins checked out Harry’s new pets.

Fred, decked out in new robes identical to the ones he’d been wearing earlier, and George left right after Draco finished with the revised list of potions ingredients.

“What’s the matter?” Harry questioned. “I thought you liked the snakes.”

Draco exhaled heavily. “I do,” he admitted. “You just . . . you sound the same but different.”

Harry started as he realized what Draco was talking about. Harry talking to the snakes reminded Draco of Voldemort.

“In the shop it was noisy,” Draco said. “I heard you, but it wasn’t quite the same. In here, it’s quiet and it surprised me a little.”

“Are you going to be okay with it?” Harry asked in concern. He didn’t particularly want Draco getting upset every time he talked to the snakes. He really didn’t want Draco associating him with Voldemort any more than he already did.

“I’m fine,” Draco said, rolling his eyes for emphasis. “Let me see them,” he demanded eagerly.

Harry rolled his own eyes and introduced the snakes to Draco. He watched in amusement as Draco became entranced by them. Draco was absolutely fascinated as the green one wrapped around his upper arm.

Harry decided to try to take advantage of Draco’s distraction. “So, what happened while I was gone earlier?” he asked.

“Nothing much,” Draco answered absently. “Mostly he just told me to watch out for you and then he started collecting all that stuff.”

Harry’s eyes widened incredulously. “George told you to watch out for me?” he asked.

Draco looked up and realized what he’d said, but he didn’t seem to mind. He shrugged. “Yes,” he said, frowning thoughtfully. “You were right and he didn’t really ask me anything. Didn’t threaten me, either.”

He snorted in amusement. “Actually, he did question me. He wanted to know anything I could tell him about how the products worked for me and what I had to suggest for any improvements.”

Harry was startled into laughter. “That sounds like George,” he said fondly.

“Your friends are odd,” Draco said, but he didn’t make it sound like an insult.

“True,” Harry said with a shrug. He saw no point in denying what was the truth.

“What’d you talk about with the other one?” Draco asked.

Harry flushed. “Um, not much,” he said evasively.

Draco lifted one brow, and Harry realized irritably that it was both a question and a statement of disbelief. “He didn’t question you or tell you to get the hell away from me?” Draco asked.

“Um, no, not really,” Harry said, stumbling over the words. “He, uh, we talked about Ginny.”

“Ah, threatened you for taking advantage of his sister and then breaking her poor little heart,” Draco sneered.

Harry glared at Draco for his tone. “No, he didn’t,” he snapped. “In fact, he told me it didn’t surprise him that Ginny and I broke things off and that she wasn’t right for me because I needed someone stronger.”

Harry’s eyes widened as he realized what he’d blurted out and he saw the satisfied look on Draco’s face.

“Did he have any suggestions for who would be right for you?” Draco drawled casually.

“Maybe,” Harry said irritably. He cursed himself for not keeping his mouth shut. He could manage to keep a load of important secrets, but when it came to things that would only hurt himself, he couldn’t seem to keep quiet.

“So, are you interested in someone?” Draco asked.

“Maybe,” Harry said again. This was actually the truth, he thought, as he turned his head away and closed his eyes. He hadn’t really thought about Draco that way before, but he’d thought about him. He’d thought about Draco constantly for the past year. Uncomfortably, he realized that he’d obsessed over Draco even while he was seeing Ginny.

But although he’d thought about Draco a lot, he hadn’t really thought about him in any romantic or sexual way. He couldn’t deny to himself, though, that he’d checked Draco out more than once recently. His cheeks flushed as he remembered stripping Draco down and washing him when he was injured. He’d been tired and concerned at the time, and it hadn’t been a time geared towards sexual perusal, but it didn’t stop Harry from picturing Draco’s body again now.

He remembered holding Draco two nights before. Again, it hadn’t been a sexual moment in any way, but . . . it had felt good. It had felt comfortable and warm. And seeing Draco wandering around in just a pair of low-riding pyjama pants?

This was really not a good time to be thinking about these things. And he wasn’t sure if there was a good time. Draco was not a good choice. He was a Death Eater. They hated each other. They fought constantly.

But he’s changed, Harry’s thoughts insisted. He could be an obnoxious prat and he still had low opinions of Weasleys, Muggles and house-elves, but he’d changed. Or maybe, he realized, he’d just learned that there was far more to Draco than his point of view on those topics. Draco still knew far more about the Dark Arts than was probably healthy, but he didn’t want to be a Death Eater anymore. They still fought constantly, but that wasn’t the same anymore, either. Inexplicably, there was actually trust between them and a fair measure of respect as well.

He realized his feelings for Draco had been changing and building without him even recognizing it. He’d been focusing on a lot of things, but romance of any kind had not been amongst his priorities. He’d slid into these feelings for Draco naturally, and it didn’t seem to matter that he was a boy. Even with everything in their history, Harry was attracted to Draco. He was attracted physically, and he had to finally admit, he was attracted to Draco as a person.

“Harry,” Draco said softly. “Who are you thinking about?”

“You,” Harry answered without thinking, eyes still closed.

“So, that means you’re interested in me?” Draco questioned.

Harry’s eyes flew open and he whipped his head around to stare at Draco. “No,” he denied.

Draco scooted closer to him on the couch, setting snakes aside. “I think you are,” he said.

Harry looked at him, eyes wild. “I’m not,” he protested. “I was just thinking about how wrong we would be together.”

“But you were thinking about us together,” Draco said.

“Oh, well,” Harry paused, trying to gather some coherent thoughts and not having much luck. Draco was moving far too close to him and it was making it impossible to think. He bit his lip nervously and his eyes widened as Draco’s gaze flicked to his mouth.

“I’m interested in you,” Draco admitted.

Harry’s eyes widened even further. “You can’t be,” he protested. Even as he said it, he realized that there’d actually been quite a few signs of Draco’s interest that he’d not recognized before.

“Why not?” Draco asked.

“Because . . . because you hate me,” Harry said, trying to latch onto that thought. “It’s a law of nature or something. Malfoys hate Harry Potter.”

Draco snorted softly in amusement. “And Harry Potter must hate Malfoys?” he asked. “It’s a rule?”

“I’m sure it must be,” Harry said.

Draco’s sudden smile was smug. “Harry Potter lives to break rules,” he said.

Harry stilled. There was some illogical logic in there somewhere that was appealing. No, it might not be logical to most other people, but it sounded logical enough to him. Whatever the reasons, he liked Draco, and Draco said he liked him. Sure, there were some risks if he got involved with Draco. More risks than with most relationships. But Harry liked taking risks. He did it all the time. In fact, he was used to jumping into risky situations with both feet.

Having come to a decision, Harry moved suddenly and straddled Draco’s lap. He grinned at Draco’s startled expression. Harry had no real idea what he was doing, having no experience with boys, but he was going to take advantage of Draco’s stunned silence. Taking off his glasses and tossing them aside, he cupped Draco’s face in his hands and leaned in to kiss him.

Draco’s lips were already parted in shock, making it easy for Harry to slip his tongue inside. Draco was unresponsive at first and Harry took the opportunity to explore, sliding his tongue experimentally through Draco’s mouth. Harry had known him for six years and never once had he ever guessed that Draco tasted sweet.

Then, Draco started to respond, and Harry moaned into Draco’s mouth as Draco’s tongue met his own. Bad time to think of Ginny, but Harry suddenly knew what she meant about that extra spark. He felt like sparks were travelling down his spine, but he realized vaguely that it might have something to do with Draco’s hands running up and down his back.

Harry smoothed his own hands along Draco’s jaw, down his neck and back to twine in silky strands of hair. Draco’s tongue thrust into his mouth and Harry savoured the mutual exploration.

The pressure of the kiss eased, and with a final brush of lips, Harry backed away slightly. Breathing heavily, Harry stared into Draco’s eyes which had turned silvery instead of grey, glazed with desire.

“Wow,” Harry breathed.

Draco blinked, then shook his head slightly as if to clear it. “That was unexpected,” he said dazedly.

“Is that a problem?” Harry asked.

“Hell no,” Draco said, suddenly smirking even as his arms gripped tighter around Harry’s waist, holding him in place. “When you decide something, you don’t hesitate, do you?”

“No,” Harry said, chuckling a little. “Quick action is often an advantage.” Deciding action was a much better idea than talking, Harry leaned back in to kiss him again.

Ten minutes later, they were still snogging heavily when the twins burst back into the room. Harry and Draco broke the kiss, but Harry didn’t move from Draco’s lap. Draco stiffened and looked warily at the twins.

Fred and George froze for a moment, but then slammed the door and grinned at Harry.

“You got over that issue fast,” Fred said cheerfully. “Always knew you were a bright boy, Harry,” he added proudly.

“Here, you might find this useful even sooner than we expected,” George said, tossing one of the bags he was holding.

Harry caught it easily, and looked inside. He hadn’t been embarrassed to be caught snogging. Now, his cheeks were flaming. “George!” he exclaimed, quickly closing the bag.

Draco reached for it, but Harry held it up at arm’s length.

“How could you?” Harry asked incredulously.

“Figured it might be useful for you,” George said innocently.

Draco managed to wrestle Harry’s arm down enough to reach the bag. In resignation, Harry let him take it. Watching Draco peek inside, Harry felt gratified to see Draco’s cheeks flush pink, and felt a twinge of excitement when Draco looked interested despite his embarrassment.

Fred grinned happily. “Now you can have an even happier birthday,” he said. “Just be thankful we’re giving it to you early and that we’re not giving you your present at the Burrow.”

Harry looked at him in horror. “Oh, that would have been bad,” he said, swallowing heavily. That was one imagined scenario that certainly helped ease away his erection. He could just imagine the Weasley’s and Hermione’s reactions upon discovering the book about gay sex and the various jars included in the bag. Aside from the embarrassment, it would generate a lot of questions that Harry wasn’t remotely prepared to deal with at the moment. He hadn’t even answered them for himself, yet.

“We have to agree with you this time,” George said regretfully. “You know we generally enjoy causing a stir, but this might have been a bit much at the moment.”

“But you’re going to make sure we’re around when you finally tell the others about Malfoy,” Fred piped up.

“’Course, we’ll need some warning,” George added.

“Yes, have to have time to lay in a fresh supply of popcorn,” Fred agreed.

Harry gave Draco a smug grin, and Draco started laughing. “All right, you win,” Draco said ruefully.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Eighteen

Harry and Draco arrived back at the Dursleys, loaded down with packages and snakes. Flushed and happy, they unloaded everything onto Harry’s bed, not knowing where else to set all of it.

“Hello, Mum,” Draco said, moving to kiss her on the cheek, and Harry did the same.

Narcissa stared at them both in astonishment. “I was worried about you,” she said weakly.

“I know you were,” Draco said apologetically. “The day just got a little out of hand.”

“Sorry, Narcissa,” Harry said, adding his own apology.

She waved a hand dismissively, but was still staring at the two of them bemusedly. “What happened?” she asked.

Draco’s eyes lit up. “Wait until you see what Harry got today,” he said. Around only Harry and his mum, he sounded much more excited than he had around the Weasleys.

“What should we show her first?” Harry asked, grinning widely.

“Take off the robes,” Draco said, smirking at Harry.

Harry raised his eyebrows at the extra meaning, but started unbuttoning the robes. Both boys grinned at the gasp from Narcissa when she saw the snakes Harry was wearing.

Harry started unloading snakes as Draco animatedly told his mother about their impromptu visit to the Magical Menagerie. She was startled when she heard Harry first speaking Parseltongue, but she didn’t appear to be disturbed by it.

While Draco had Narcissa distracted with colourful snakes, Harry quickly stuffed the bag from the twins in his trunk. He really didn’t want Narcissa seeing what was in that bag. He did have a moment of regret that he didn’t have his room to himself anymore. He’d had far too much alone time in the past, and wished for a bit of it back so he could explore the contents of the bag.

Sighing because there wasn’t anything he could do about it at the moment, he looked up in time to catch Draco watching him. Draco winked before turning toward his mother again.

Grinning, Harry shook his head. He didn’t know what the hell was happening between them, but it was exciting.

Snatching Victoria up out of her cot, Harry happily sat down on the floor with her to play for a bit. He’d let Draco try to figure out where to put the snakes and all the potions stuff. Because, glancing around the already packed room, Harry didn’t have a clue.

“Draco, let me see the yellow snake,” Harry requested.

“No, you’ve got Victoria right now,” Draco said.

“So,” Harry said. “I want to show it to her. She’ll like that one.”

“Potter, you’re not giving my daughter a bloody snake,” Draco said coldly.

Harry hissed in Parseltongue, received an answering hissing back, then glared at Draco. “There, the snake’s not going to do anything to harm Victoria in any way and the snake’s been warned that Victoria’s still little and will have to learn how to treat the snake right, but may grip too tightly at first.”

“The snake will tell me if Victoria is hurting it so I can stop it,” he added.

“The snake has deadly venom,” Draco snapped.

“I know that,” Harry retorted. “Come on, Malfoy, you’re supposed to be the bloody Slytherin into snakes.”

“But not for my daughter, who’s not even a year old yet,” Draco said angrily.

Harry hissed and Draco yelped, jerking his hand back. Harry sneered in malicious satisfaction as the yellow snake slipped away from Draco.

“I didn’t think the yellow one did that,” Draco said irritably.

“It doesn’t,” Harry said pleasantly. “The yellow one is the camouflage snake that can change the colour of things. I think Victoria will get a kick out of it.”

“I hate you, Potter,” Draco grumbled in resignation.

“I hate you, too,” Harry said happily.

The yellow snake slithered onto Harry’s lap, and Victoria was instantly trying to grab for it when she saw it. Harry carefully held her wrist and hand so that she couldn’t make a fist and showed Victoria how to pet the snake.

“Gently,” Harry said. “Feel how smooth?”

“Da,” Victoria said.

Harry chuckled. “Snake,” he said.

Victoria tried to grab hold of the colourful snake. “No,” Harry reprimanded quietly. “Gently,” he repeated. “You don’t want to hurt her, so you have to pet her gently.”

“Da,” Victoria gurgled.

“Snake,” Harry said. “Sssssss.”

“Sssssss,” Victoria repeated the sound, obviously liking it.

Harry laughed at her. “Good,” he said. “And close enough for the moment.”

“You want to see what the snake can do?” he asked.

“Da,” Victoria said.

Harry rolled his eyes, but hissed at the snake. The snake itself changed to a beautiful lilac colour that matched Victoria’s dress. Victoria giggled in delight and Harry grinned.

“Purple,” Harry said. He hissed to the snake, which then changed to a blue to match Harry’s t-shirt.

“Blue,” Harry said.

Victoria giggled again, and Harry continued to cycle through colours with Victoria and the snake.

Draco and Narcissa had been watching carefully, but when nothing more drastic than a lesson on colours occurred, Draco set about setting up the tank for the snakes. Narcissa continued to watch, but she relaxed and smiled warmly when Harry glanced up at her.

Draco moved Harry’s clock from the nightstand to the desk and put the snake tank there. It was too big, but it’d have to do. Once that was done, he managed to stuff all the potions supplies on top of the wardrobe.

Harry was impressed. He would never have been able to organize their small living space, but somehow, two people who were used to the most space imaginable, were managing to keep things organized and under control.

“So, what should we call your snake?” Harry asked Victoria.

“It’s not hers,” Draco said firmly.

“Why not?” Harry asked. “She likes it.”

“You can’t give a deadly snake to a baby,” Draco explained slowly.

“The snake will still be with the others,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. He turned his back on Draco and looked to Victoria. “So, what do you think?” he asked her.

Victoria giggled happily. “Sssssss.”

“Yes, snake,” Harry said with a grin. “So, we’ve got ‘ssssss’ and ‘da’,” he said thoughtfully. “Not sure I can do much with that.”

Harry turned to Draco suddenly. “Can I call her snake ‘Lissa’?” he asked hopefully. “Since you won’t let me call her ‘Lissa’.”

“Harry, their colours match the Hogwarts houses,” Draco pointed out in a reasonable tone. “Don’t you think you should at least name them accordingly?”

“What would you name them?” Harry asked.

Draco frowned thoughtfully at the other three snakes in the tank for a minute. “Salz, Gryff, and Rave,” he said decisively. He sneered as he looked at the snake Harry was holding. “And that’s a bloody Hufflepuff snake you’re wanting to give to a Malfoy,” he said in realization, despite the snake being a baby blue colour for the moment.

Harry grinned. “But it is still a snake, and Hufflepuff seems appropriate for such a little girl,” he said. “I don’t really want to name it Huff, though. And not Puff, either. I still like Lissa. It’s got those nice ‘s’ sounds for Victoria.”

Draco closed his eyes and grimaced as if he was in pain. “Will you do it even if I say no?” he asked.

“Probably,” Harry admitted. “Unless you go completely mental about it.”

Draco sighed in resignation. “Whatever you want,” he said. He perked up. “Can I show Mum your cloak?” he asked.

“Sure,” Harry said easily. He was willing to make the deal, especially since he knew Narcissa would be seeing the cloak sooner or later anyway. But now, Draco would be stuck hearing the snake called Lissa all the time.

Harry listened half-heartedly to Draco’s and Narcissa’s conversation as he continued to play with Victoria. He called Winky and asked her to bring them a late dinner. Harry didn’t know about everyone else, but he was hungry and tired.

By the time they’d finished eating, Harry was just sitting on the floor, lethargically leaning up against the bed.

“Harry?”

Harry looked up to Narcissa. “What? Sorry, I wasn’t listening,” he admitted.

“You look tired,” she said in concern.

Harry shrugged carelessly. “Yeah, it’s been a long day,” he said.

Draco tossed Harry some pyjama bottoms.

“Go. Get ready for bed,” Narcissa insisted.

Shrugging, Harry was happy enough to do as he was told without question for once. He finished quickly in the bathroom and came back to drop down on his bed. He was thinking he should wait for Draco, but fell asleep almost immediately.

* * * * *

Harry woke slowly, feeling warm and relaxed. Somehow, he’d ended up half sprawled over the top of Draco, with one leg between Draco’s. His eyes opened wide as he felt the hardness pressing into his hip.

“You’re awake finally,” Draco said softly.

Harry slowly lifted his head to look at Draco. “You’re definitely awake,” Harry whispered.

“You feel good,” Draco said, unapologetic. “And we’ve actually got the room to ourselves.”

Sidetracked temporarily by that information, Harry turned his head to glance quickly around the room.

“Where is everyone?” he asked in astonishment.

“Your relatives aren’t here, remember?” Draco said. “Everyone is downstairs to get out of this room for once.”

Harry grinned. “And they won’t be back anytime soon?” he asked.

“No,” Draco said smugly.

Harry dipped his head again and began licking a trail up Draco’s neck. He delighted in the low moan slipping past Draco’s lips. He kissed and sucked, loving the feel and taste of the smooth, warm skin beneath his lips. He didn’t know much about boy sex, but this part was still the same.

Draco shifted to lie completely on his back, dragging Harry to lie fully on top of him. Harry quickly rediscovered the difference between boys and girls as their hard lengths touched, only two layers of silk separating them.

“Oh gods,” Harry groaned. “This feels good.” He’d never truly imagined how different and amazing it would feel to have another cock pulsing next to his own. The silk was no barrier to the heat or the fabulous hardness.

“It’ll get even better,” Draco promised, dragging Harry’s head down for a kiss.

Knowing what he was doing in the kissing department, at least, Harry dove into the activity with enthusiasm. He plunged his tongue into Draco’s mouth almost the second their lips touched, taking pleasure in that moist heat.

Draco’s hands felt hot, too, trailing a path down Harry’s sides and settling into a firm grip on his hips. Harry couldn’t decide where to focus his attention. It all felt so new and wonderful and Draco’s skin was so incredibly warm.

Then Draco parted his thighs, settling Harry more firmly between them. Harry groaned, not needing the extra encouragement from Draco’s hands to grind down against him. He pulled back from the kiss, eyes wide as he stared at Draco. He felt distant relief that Draco looked as lost to the sensations as he felt.

“Draco, I –” Harry panted, his words cut off as Draco thrust up against him.

“Harry,” Draco moaned. “Just don’t stop.”

Harry was sure they should be doing something different, considering they were still half dressed, but it felt too damned good to argue with Draco. This worked for now. It was working so well that it wasn’t going to take much more of that incredible heat and friction.

He pressed open-mouthed kisses along Draco’s throat.

“Yes,” Draco hissed encouragingly.

Harry whimpered, grinding his hips down into Draco’s. Draco slid his hands to grip Harry’s arse and he couldn’t believe how incredible it felt. He knew he was going to come and ground down harder. Seconds later, pulses of liquid heat were jetting from his cock.

With a loud groan issuing from Draco’s mouth, Harry felt Draco’s cock pulsing more hot wetness between them. Harry had never felt so comfortably sticky in his life, as he lay atop Draco, attempting to catch his breath.

Feeling Draco moving, Harry shifted to his side and watched as Draco pulled his wand from under the pillows and muttered a couple of quick charms to clean them up. Harry was grateful to have the cooling wetness disappear.

He wasn’t quite sure what to say now. It was interesting enough trying to figure out what to say to a girl. He and Draco hadn’t even had a chance to talk about the change in their relationship, and all this boy sex was completely new.

“All right?” Draco asked, looking at Harry closely and making Harry wonder what he looked like.

“Yeah,” Harry said. “I feel incredible, actually.” Physically, he did feel wonderful. “I just, uh, don’t know much about sex with boys,” he admitted.

Draco chuckled. “If it feels this good with you now, and you claim to not know what you’re doing, I’m really looking forward to later on when you do know,” he drawled, sounding incredibly satisfied.

“Don’t you know what you’re doing?” Harry asked curiously.

Draco was quiet for a moment before answering. “I’ve got Victoria because I wasn’t willing to tell my father my preferences,” he said.

“But why would your father care?” Harry asked. “I thought, well, I thought he’d let you do almost anything.”

“I needed an heir,” Draco said shortly. “You don’t have an heir by having sex with boys.”

Harry mulled that over. “But it’s okay to have sex with me now because you have Victoria?”

Draco appeared reluctant to answer.

“You still shouldn’t be with me at all,” Harry said flatly in understanding. “I’m not a proper pureblood girl for you to marry.”

“That’s not it,” Draco said quickly.

“Then, what is it?” Harry asked.

Draco exhaled heavily. “Well, it’s not completely it,” he clarified. “It wouldn’t matter so much if I married or not, as long as I had an heir, but Victoria’s a girl,” he said.

Harry blinked, trying to figure out what that obvious fact had to do with anything.

“She’s not a boy, Potter,” Draco snapped.

“So?” Harry said blankly.

“Which means she’s not a proper heir. She can’t carry on the Malfoy name,” he said, spelling it out for Harry.

“So, what, she’s just worthless?” Harry asked incredulously.

“No!” Draco said. “A pureblood girl has a very high ranking. She just can’t carry on the family name. She’ll marry into another family.”

Harry stared at him and wondered how Draco could talk that way so calmly. As if Victoria was just a piece of property to manipulate. Draco seemed to simply accept it as normal, and Harry realized with a sickening feeling, that Draco probably did think it was normal. Draco was talking as if Harry was the stupid one in this conversation for not understanding what he was talking about.

“You’re fucked up, Malfoy,” Harry said slowly.

Draco’s expression darkened. “I shouldn’t expect you to understand,” he snapped.

“I understand that you think Victoria has no rights,” Harry said heatedly. “I understand that you think you haven’t had the right to be who you want to be. I understand you’re placing more importance on this stupid heir shite than you are on your own feelings.”

“I’m here with you, aren’t I?” Draco shot back angrily.

“Have you been with any other boys?” Harry demanded.

“No,” Draco ground out.

“Surely if you’ve known all this time that you preferred boys, you snuck around at Hogwarts or something,” Harry said.

“With who, Potter?” Draco said snidely. “Anyone who associated with me would have immediately passed on the information if they’d found out. And no one I associated with had the same preferences, anyway.”

“How would you know, if you were all going about being proper little purebloods?” Harry asked sarcastically. “I feel fabulous, knowing you’ve chosen to go slumming with me.”

With one corner of his mind, Harry noticed how Draco’s eyes had changed from the beautiful silvery colour from earlier into a wild, stormy dark grey. Draco did not look the slightest bit happy with Harry’s comments.

“Malfoys do not go slumming,” Draco said furiously.

Harry snorted derisively. “No? Then you tell me what this is all about,” he snapped, waving a hand between the two of them. “I happen to like my bits, and I’m not going to exchange them for something more suitable to provide you with a male heir.”

Draco stared at him. “Gods, Potter, where do you come up with such stupid ideas?” he asked incredulously.

“Me?” Harry exclaimed. “You’re the one –” he cut himself off. He didn’t really want to fight with Draco. He wasn’t even sure how they’d started arguing again. Surely they were supposed to be lying in bed in post-orgasmic bliss at the moment – weren’t they?

He’d learned a few things from this argument, though. Amongst all the pureblood crap, he’d learned that Draco was no more experienced with boys than he was. “So, Mr. Know-it-All Wanker, you don’t know any more than I do about boys,” he said smugly.

“Well, what do you expect?” Draco said defensively. “I’ve been stuck with Pansy for ages.”

Harry started laughing. He couldn’t help it. “You’ve never really wanted to be with her?” he asked.

Draco glared at him. “Would you want to be with her?” he snapped.

That just made Harry laugh even harder, remembering all the times he’d seen Pansy hanging off of Draco.

“Quit laughing, you prat,” Draco grumbled.

Harry tried, he really did, but he was still sniggering at the disgruntled expression on Draco’s face.

“You’re something else, Draco,” Harry said, even to himself he could hear the fond amusement in his voice.

Draco sneered at him, but Harry could tell he was pleased with that. Harry smiled. He still didn’t have the foggiest clue as to what the two of them were doing – with each other – but he was going to enjoy it while it lasted.

He settled back down on the bed, with Draco next to him.

“I talked to my mother last night,” Draco said abruptly, startling Harry. “After you fell asleep.”

Harry groaned. “Draco, could you just let me enjoy this moment with you, at least a little?” he asked.

“I told her about us – whatever this is,” Draco said, ignoring Harry’s comment.

“You told her?” Harry said, feeling the panic rising in his chest. “You just got through telling me how you need some pureblood witch to give you a proper heir and how you’ve never been with a boy because that information might get back to your parents. And you told her?!”

Draco rolled to his side, propped himself up on one elbow, and with his other hand began to trace lazy patterns on Harry’s chest.

Harry was still feeling panicked, but that felt nice. He stared at Draco in confusion.

“I’ll have to remember that this shuts you up,” Draco drawled.

Harry glared at him, but it was weak and they both knew it. “I can still talk,” Harry said petulantly. “Why’d you tell her, Draco?” he asked, sounding calmer now, but still insistent on an answer.

“Because I want you,” Draco said calmly.

Harry gaped. He wasn’t sure what kind of answer he’d been expecting, but that wasn’t it.

Draco smirked at Harry’s reaction. “If I’m old enough and capable enough of making a significant change such as switching sides in the war – which was met with my mother’s approval – then I should be capable enough of deciding who I want to be with.”

“That makes sense,” Harry said slowly. “So, you thought she’d approve. Did she?” he asked hopefully.

Draco smiled, and Harry felt the panic recede dramatically. “She said she was proud of me for standing up for what I wanted. She said maybe it was time for other things to change.”

“What about the heir thing?” Harry asked, hesitantly, as he didn’t want to set Draco off again.

Draco shrugged his free shoulder. “I don’t know,” he admitted honestly.

Harry said nothing. He wasn’t sure what he could say.

“My mother also said she’s not surprised that I want to be with you,” Draco said softly. “That you’re an amazing person and that you’re –” he paused, and the smirk returned to his features, “– strong enough to handle me.”

Harry started laughing. “Had you told her what Fred said to me?” he asked.

Draco shook his head. “No, I hadn’t,” he answered, obviously amused.

“I reckon it’s good that we know we’re strong enough for each other,” Harry said dryly. “But I have to wonder if that simply means we’re more likely to kill each other off.”

Draco chuckled. “We do have a tendency to be at each other’s throats a lot,” he admitted.

Harry gazed at Draco thoughtfully. “We have a lot of history to deal with,” he said slowly.

“We do,” Draco agreed.

“Why are we trying . . . whatever it is we’re trying?” Harry asked. “You’ve always hated me.”

“I still hate you,” Draco said wryly.

Harry grinned. “But you want me anyway,” he said, sounding very self-satisfied.

Draco splayed his fingers and ran his hand from the base of Harry’s throat to the waistband of the pyjama pants he was still wearing.

Harry’s breath caught at the sensation as much as the intensity of Draco’s gaze. “Draco?”

“I’ve known you for a long time,” Draco said slowly. “But I’m not sure I ever really saw you until this last month,” he admitted. “You’re not who I always thought you were.”

He ran his hand back up Harry’s abdomen and rested it on Harry’s chest. Harry swallowed.

“You’ve always fucked with my world,” Draco said ruefully.

Harry was startled into light laughter. “I could say the same,” he said.

Draco acknowledged that with a nod, smiling a little. “I can’t say I was ever attracted to you before this last month, but it seems I’ve always been drawn to you. Circumstances have changed, so it’s opened up new possibilities. I’m allowed to see you differently now, and I happen to like what I see,” he said softly.

Harry’s eyes widened. That made perfect sense to him.

“You feel it, too, don’t you?” Draco said.

“I feel it,” Harry agreed. “I’ve been obsessing over you for the last year. I didn’t consciously consider this until yesterday, though,” he said ruefully, with a hand waved between them.

Draco chuckled, shaking his head in fond exasperation. “You really do just jump right in, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Harry said, giving Draco a lopsided smile. “I freely admit I don’t have a bloody clue as to what I’m doing starting any kind of relationship with you, but my instincts say that it feels right. So, I’m going with it. I’ll sort out the details as I go.”

“We do have some pretty major details between us,” Draco drawled sarcastically.

“Yeah, and if we wait until we sort out all those details, then we’ll never see any action,” Harry said reasonably. “It’s not like we’ll ever agree on everything anyway.”

Draco gaped at him for a moment, before he smirked. “Are you just using me for sex, Harry?” he asked.

Harry smirked back, causing Draco’s eyes to widen slightly. “No, but I’m a sixteen-almost seventeen-year-old boy and I’ll take whatever sex I can get.”

“I knew there was a reason I liked boys better than girls,” Draco drawled.

Harry raised his brows questioningly.

“A girl would have to have everything bloody perfect before you could get any action,” Draco said, sounding a little bitter.

“Pansy not quite as affectionate as she’s always led everyone to believe?” Harry deadpanned.

Draco moved suddenly and pinned Harry to the bed. Unable to suppress it any longer, Harry grinned up at him.

“Are you saying things were better with the little Weasley?” Draco snarled.

“Being with her didn’t feel anything like this,” Harry said, attempting to reassure Draco. “I don’t have a problem with girls, and I obviously don’t have a problem with boys,” he said, flashing a smile that swiftly turned sheepish. “It just never occurred to me that boys were an option before. I don’t think it feels this good because you’re a boy, though.” He reached up and brushed the back of his fingers across Draco’s cheek. “I think it feels this good simply because it’s you.” Odd as that felt to say, especially to Draco Malfoy, Harry believed it to be completely true.

Draco stared at him. “You mean that?” he asked softly, hesitantly.

“Yes,” Harry answered, his voice just as quiet, but filled with conviction. “Everything with you – between us – seems to be intense,” he said, recognizing the truth of that even as he said the words.

Draco nodded once in agreement before lowering his head and capturing Harry’s lips, beginning their earlier activity all over again, but this time with Draco on top.

* * * * *

“Potter, don’t you know anything about potions?” Draco asked snidely.

“Not much,” Harry ground out. “My professors have either hated me or fawned over me. I haven’t had one who will actually teach me.”

Draco paused for a second, processing that information, but then seemed to disregard it. “Why the fuck did you volunteer to supply the potions?” he asked.

Harry waved his stack of parchments, which he’d been trying to read, in front of Draco’s face. “I don’t have to understand potions to fucking follow directions,” he said irritably.

Draco snatched them out of Harry’s hand, flipping through them without actually reading them. “I don’t even understand these. I know how to brew the burn salve, but these instructions aren’t even right,” he said, referring to the parchment on top.

“Did you read through them all?” Harry asked curiously, sidetracked by the fact that Draco had not only read Harry’s parchments, but seemed to actually recognize the differences.

“I needed to know what we’re doing, didn’t I?” Draco said.

“Then, what are we doing?” Harry asked, throwing his hands up in the air and giving up.

“Well, first we’re going to get things set up in this kitchen so we don’t have you blowing us both up,” Draco said snidely. “Then, you’re going to explain to me why your instructions are all wrong.”

“They’re not wrong,” Harry said, breathing through his nose and trying to stay calm. It wouldn’t do to spit out that they were Snape’s instructions. “There’s a reason I did so well in potions this last year. And it has absolutely nothing to do with Slughorn.”

“Then, what is it?” Draco asked quickly.

“I just accidentally ended up with a book that gave me better instructions,” Harry answered.

“That’s it?” Draco said in disbelief. “I’ve wanted to know the answer to this all year – and that’s it?”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Harry said petulantly.

Draco waved the parchments haphazardly. “And these are all just copied from some book?”

Harry simply shrugged. He didn’t want to answer that question. Draco didn’t seem to think anything odd as he went back to flipping through the parchments. “So, how do you know these will work right?” Draco asked.

Harry shrugged again. “I brewed better potions than you and Hermione most of the time,” he said.

Draco scowled. “I hated you for that,” he said.

“I know,” Harry said, not taking offence. “So did Hermione. In fact, I’m sure you both still hate me for it.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Why isn’t Granger helping you with the potions? I would’ve thought she’d jump at a chance to volunteer for something like this.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “I’ve been arguing with Hermione about potions all year,” he said. “We don’t get along so well when the subject comes up. She would’ve helped me anyway if I’d asked her, but I haven’t asked.”

“You’re a bastard, Potter,” Draco said, without rancour. “Some of us actually worked hard for our marks this last year.”

“It’s not like I didn’t actually do the work,” Harry pointed out. “Besides, I doubt my decent marks in potions this last year made up for the first five years when I got zeros every time I breathed wrong.” He narrowed his eyes at Draco. “Or every time you decided to ruin my potion.”

Draco didn’t exactly appear repentant, but he did back off and didn’t say any more about it. They went back to work, this time with Harry following Draco’s lead as they set about brewing all the other potions needed for the hospital wing at Hogwarts.

They did follow the instructions on Harry’s parchments, though, and Draco grudgingly admitted that everything was coming out well. The entire day was spent brewing, with few breaks. Even Narcissa spent some time helping, when she wasn’t taking care of Victoria.

“Mum, what do you know about potions?” Draco asked when she first offered to help.

Narcissa arched an elegant eyebrow at her son’s attitude. “I may not be as well-versed in potions as you and your godfather,” she said, her chin held high. “But like Harry, I am quite capable of following directions.”

Harry grinned as Draco backed off. He was growing quite fond of this woman. She smiled at Harry as he directed her to one of the cauldrons they’d been working on. Draco scowled at them both, but handed his mum the appropriate parchment without further comment.

Harry stepped out at one point, and when he came back, he simply stood in the doorway for a couple of minutes, lost in the surrealness of the situation. Draco and Narcissa were each working diligently on the potions of the moment. Other cauldrons, with long simmering times, were bubbling on the other side of the kitchen table. The counters were covered with a wide variety of ingredients.

Aunt Petunia would surely have heart failure if she were to see her kitchen turned into a potions lab. The drawn curtains made it even more surreal, as Aunt Petunia always had them open. They couldn’t allow any Muggles to witness what was going on inside, though, and they couldn’t allow any possible stray visitors from the Wizarding world to see just who was there.

Sighing heavily, Harry wandered over to the counter and went back to work chopping and grinding up ingredients.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Nineteen

The following afternoon, they were again working on potions when Draco and Narcissa suddenly yelped. Harry looked to them in alarm and they were both clutching at their left forearms.

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed, knowing immediately what it meant. Draco was pushing back his sleeve, and Harry saw the jet black Mark. It had been a dark red before but, at the moment, it was an almost shiny black. Harry irrelevantly wondered how long it would take to fade back to red again after summoning.

“He’ll know now,” Draco whimpered.

Narcissa looked no better than Draco, but she swiftly moved to wrap her son in a tight hug.

“Can he reach you through the Marks?” Harry asked sharply, realizing it was something he should’ve asked long before now.

Draco pushed at his mother for some breathing room and scowled at Harry. “Of course he can reach us. He uses the Mark to summon his followers,” he spat. “I thought you knew this, Potter.”

“I do know that,” Harry said impatiently. “I’ve watched him do it before. What I don’t know is if he can do anything else through the Mark.”

He didn’t really think so. If Voldemort could reach his followers through the Mark, ones like Karkaroff would never have lasted as long as he had. He didn’t really think the Mark connected Voldemort to his followers, like his scar connected him to Voldemort.

Draco frowned deeply and Narcissa was the one who answered. “No,” she said quietly. “It only distinguishes his followers from others and it allows him to summon them.”

“Does he have some way of summoning just one of you?” Harry asked. He knew that when Voldemort touched the Mark that it called all of the Death Eaters. But could Voldemort call just one follower – or two – repeatedly until they arrived at his side?

Narcissa shook her head and Harry was deeply relieved. “If he summons one, he summons all through the Mark. It simply allows us to Apparate directly to his current location. He cannot reach us the same way that he’s been able to reach you in the past,” she said.

“So, Voldemort can’t torture you through the bloody thing?” Harry asked, needing that clarified.

“No,” Narcissa said simply. “We will only feel the burn each time he summons the Death Eaters.”

Harry exhaled heavily. “Well, that isn’t so bad, then,” he said.

“Not so bad?” Draco ground out. “This fucking hurts, Potter.”

Harry unconsciously rubbed his scar. “I’m sure it does,” he said.

Draco’s eyes widened and Harry realized what he was doing. “Yes, I’ve got my own bloody Mark,” Harry said sharply. “Be fucking thankful he can’t reach you through the one on your arm.”

As if talking about his scar triggered a reaction, Harry could feel it start to burn and prickle painfully. He winced, concentrating on his Occlumency shields for a moment, making sure that he was blocking his mind from Voldemort.

Unfortunately, Voldemort didn’t seem to be blocking his own mind. He was furious enough that the emotion was coming clearly across the link to Harry.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a few moments, pressing on his scar in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

“Harry? Harry!”

Draco and Narcissa each had a hand on one of his shoulders, staring at him anxiously.

“He knows,” Harry said simply.

“Already?” Narcissa asked, her face pinched and white.

Harry shrugged. “He’s furious,” he said, realizing his face probably looked just as pale as the other two. “I can’t see him being that angry about anything else at the moment. This is the first time he’s summoned the Death Eaters since you’ve disappeared and, considering how furious he is, I reckon he hasn’t been at your house since you left to find out before now.”

Draco swallowed audibly and his palpable fear registered with Harry.

“It’ll be okay,” Harry told them both firmly. “You knew he would find out.”

“But this is real,” Draco said shakily, lifting his arm to stare at it.

Trying not to think about Narcissa still standing there, Harry leaned forward to kiss Draco. Draco didn’t seem to mind that his mother was watching and latched onto Harry almost desperately, plunging his tongue into Harry’s mouth. He seemed to be trying to erase any pain and replace it with pleasure. The assault on the senses was actually quite effective, Harry dazedly realized.

Draco broke the kiss and dropped his forehead to Harry’s.

“Better?” Harry asked softly.

Draco laughed harshly. “Yes, but don’t you dare kiss my mother like that to make her feel better,” he said.

Harry jerked back, horrified at that thought. He darted a glance at Narcissa and she still looked dreadfully stressed, but she was smiling slightly.

“Draco,” Harry hissed. “I can’t believe you said that.”

“Me neither,” Draco admitted, glancing at his mother. “I apologize.”

Narcissa smiled sadly. “It is all right,” she said mildly. “I understand the feeling. It is suddenly more real, and there is no turning back now.”

Draco straightened and his expression hardened. “I don’t want to turn back,” he said, voice full of conviction.

“I know,” Narcissa said in understanding.

Harry felt his scar burn again painfully and suddenly understood that while these two were here safe, Voldemort was sure to make someone pay. Since Snape was clearly close to the Malfoys, and Harry was fairly certain he hadn’t said anything to Voldemort about their disappearance, would Snape be the likely target of Voldemort’s wrath?

“I’ve got to go,” Harry said abruptly, already stepping back from Draco and turning to leave.

Draco grabbed his arm and jerked him back around. “Go where?” Draco asked sharply.

“Voldemort’s furious,” Harry snapped, trying to think fast for something believable.

“What does that have to do with you leaving?” Draco asked, eyes narrowed.

Harry jerked his arm free and Draco let him go.

“I’ve got to warn the others,” Harry said, pressing the heel of his hand against his scar. “Surely Voldemort had something planned for tonight if he was summoning his Death Eaters.”

“But you have no idea what he has planned,” Draco said, sounding almost pleading.

“No, but if I warn everyone, we can prepare as best we can,” Harry said, his voice hard. “Wherever Voldemort decides to attack tonight, hopefully someone can get word to us and we can try to prevent the damage as much as possible.”

“I’ll get your cloak,” Narcissa said, swiftly leaving the room.

“I have to go, Draco,” Harry said, rubbing at his scar. “And I have to go now.”

Draco took a deep breath and gave Harry a jerky nod.

“I’ll be fine,” Harry said, softening. He kissed Draco quickly, before turning to leave. Narcissa handed him his cloak in the front hall, and with one final glance at them, Harry was out the door.

Harry Apparated to the alleyway near Grimmauld Place and had only ran a short way when he heard a pop behind him. He whirled sharply, wand in hand.

Snape appeared startled to see him, but was almost instantly back in control. “Why are you here, Potter?”

“My scar,” Harry answered simply.

Snape nodded curtly and quickly cast a Silencing Charm around the area they were standing. “I have no time,” he said. “The Dark Lord is preparing to attack Hogsmeade. Within the hour.”

Harry inhaled sharply, wide-eyed at that news. Snape gave him no time to question.

“The Malfoys are missing and he is furious,” Snape said, his gaze flicking to Harry’s forehead. “I am only able to warn you because he thinks I am making a final check for them. The Dark Lord plans to take out his fury on Hogsmeade and step up plans for trying to get closer to Hogwarts.”

“He’ll know that you’ve warned us,” Harry said, his mind whirling with the shock. He’d expected something, just not quite this. Snape seemed to have avoided punishment, but Hogsmeade was to take the punishment instead.

Snape shook his head. “No. He has sent many out to check possible locations for the Malfoys. All must return within fifteen minutes. He will be unaware who leaked the information,” he said with cold satisfaction.

He looked at Harry intently. “Can you handle this?”

“I have to,” Harry snapped, spine straightening.

Snape nodded curtly, as if he had expected that answer. Harry watched as Snape Apparated and then did so himself, his mind whirling feverishly.

He slammed back into the Dursley’s house, hoping he could save Hogsmeade and protect all the secrets at the same time.

“What happened?!” Draco shouted, alarmed at Harry’s sudden appearance, particularly since he’d just left a few minutes before.

Harry rubbed hard at his scar. “I know where Voldemort’s sending his followers and there’s no time for questions!” Harry shouted. “Winky!” Winky popped in immediately. “Can you go to Fred and George?” He barely waited for her nod. “Go to them and tell them I need them here immediately with as much of their destructive product as they can stuff in their pockets. Now!”

Winky popped out and Harry looked to Narcissa. “I need the other cloak, parchment and ink, and then you might want to stay out of the way. They know about Draco, but not you.”

Narcissa nodded briskly and made for the stairs.

Harry tossed his new cloak at Draco. “You’re coming with me, but you’re going to keep your arse hidden,” he said forcefully. “Go get anything the twins gave me that might be useful and load it into the pockets of the cloak.”

Draco was wide-eyed, but immediately took to the stairs, two at a time.

Harry shouted, “Dobby!”

Dobby popped in almost instantly.

“Don’t start, Dobby,” Harry commanded. “Go to the Weasleys and tell them to get everyone they can to Hogsmeade, prepared to fight, immediately. I’ve already told Fred and George. Assuming the Death Eaters don’t get there first, I’ll meet them in front of The Three Broomsticks.”

Dobby’s eyes were always large, but now they were absolutely enormous. “Anything for Harry Potter, sir,” he said, before popping out again.

Harry took a deep breath as Narcissa came into view again as soon as Dobby was gone. She looked scared and worried, but at the same time, she appeared determined. As she was laying out the writing materials on a small side table in the entryway, Harry called for Fawkes.

He didn’t know how the hell Fawkes’ magic worked, but Fawkes appeared and rested heavily on his shoulder just a moment later. The stray thought floated through Harry’s mind that he was lucky there was so much instantaneousness to magic or Hogsmeade would never have a chance.

Focusing, he glanced at Fawkes, and stroked his feathers once. “Will you be able to deliver a message for me?” he asked. Fawkes trilled and Harry set about writing a quick note to McGonagall. He’d thought about sending Dobby to her, but hoped this way would get everyone there as quickly as possible.

Get everyone to Hogsmeade immediately.
Voldemort attacking within the hour.
I’ll be at Broomsticks shortly.
Weasleys know already.

Narcissa charmed it dry even as Harry was tossing the quill aside. He rolled it swiftly and Fawkes took it in his beak. “Take it to McGonagall, then follow any instructions she gives you,” Harry ordered. He hoped like hell McGonagall knew how to use Fawkes to get the message to everyone else.

With a flash, Fawkes disappeared.

“Hogsmeade?” Draco questioned, having returned and read the note over Harry’s shoulder.

“Yes, he wants to get closer to Hogwarts,” Harry said sharply. “You need to hide or Fred and George will see you,” he said to Narcissa.

She just shook her head. “You’re taking Draco?” she asked.

Harry nodded, but didn’t answer as the door suddenly slammed open again. His eyes flew from the twins to Narcissa and back.

Fred and George stared at Narcissa for a second in astonishment. “You get around, Harry,” George said in admiration. “House-elves and more Malfoys.”

“So, where to?” Fred asked, already their focus back to Harry.

“Voldemort plans to take Hogsmeade within the hour,” Harry said quickly. “I’m sending Draco under the new cloak with you two to protect Honeydukes. Do whatever you have to do to keep the Death Eaters away from there,” he ordered. “The three of you should be able to handle that. Get some distractions going so the Death Eaters will hopefully avoid it all together.”

Fred and George nodded in understanding. Draco looked questioning, but didn’t say anything as he also nodded.

Harry hurried into the kitchen and began loading his pockets with several potions, while Draco added several to the pockets of the other cloak with the twins’ help.

“Narcissa, box up the rest of the finished potions,” Harry said. Looking to Winky he added, “When she has them all done, you and Dobby take them to the hospital wing at Hogwarts.”

Narcissa and Winky both nodded. Harry shook his head, trying to shake off the oddity of giving orders to the two of them like that. Thankfully everyone was just following orders and not questioning. Of course, he was about to go meet up with the rest of the Weasleys and who knew all else. Surely there would be more questions there.

Harry took a deep breath, his mind working furiously to figure out if he’d forgotten anything. “The snake!” he said suddenly.

Draco whirled and ran up the stairs. Harry actually smiled a little. Draco understood how the snake could be a good weapon, as Harry had used it more than once on him.

Narcissa handed him his cloak and gave him a quick hug as they waited for Draco. She looked to the twins who were watching in wide-eyed amazement. “Stay safe,” she said softly.

Fred and George nodded slowly.

Draco came barrelling back down the stairs, jumping the last half of the steps. He handed the snake to Harry before giving his mother a quick hug.

“Ready?” Harry asked, the snake now wrapped around his neck. The others nodded and they all ran to a place where they could Apparate, Harry in the lead.

Before Apparating, Harry gave Draco a quick, hard kiss. “Stay out of trouble,” he ordered, grinning and including Fred and George in that warning.

The twins grinned back, as Draco smirked. “We will if you will,” Fred said cheerfully.

Draco and Harry slipped the Invisibility Cloaks on, and they Apparated. Harry hoped to hell the Death Eaters weren’t in Hogsmeade yet.

* * * * *

Adrenaline pumping furiously, Harry landed a little ways from The Three Broomsticks. He hadn’t wanted to Apparate out in the open in case the Death Eaters were already there. If he was lucky, Voldemort hadn’t even called back all the Death Eaters from searching for the Malfoys yet. He had no idea how much time had actually passed, though, as everything seemed to be happening so quickly.

Moving forward cautiously, after checking to make sure he was hidden completely under the cloak, he looked out on the main street. He was thankful when he saw only Order members. He slipped off the cloak and walked quickly towards the group of people gathering.

“Harry!”

All heads turned towards him, and Harry wondered briefly how exactly he’d gotten himself to this point. He’d told Draco that he’d finally figured out he was the leader of the Light side, but Merlin, didn’t these people know he was just a bloody teenager? He snorted softly. Then again, they’d put him on a pedestal as a one-year-old. He reckoned their faith in him made at least a little more sense now that he was almost seventeen and could actually understand what was going on around him.

Silence fell upon the group as he approached, and he looked around at all of them. Hermione, Ron and Ginny were there, too, he noted with surprise. He darted a glance at Mrs. Weasley, who looked incredibly strained, as Harry’s friends moved to stand beside him.

“What’s happening, Harry?” Remus asked.

Harry tried to calm his trip-hammering heart with little success. “Voldemort’s furious,” he said, rubbing at his scar, not just for effect. “He’s planning to take down Hogsmeade so he can get closer to Hogwarts, and he’s organizing the Death Eaters to send them here within the hour. I think it’ll be a large scale attack.”

Harry sought out Moody. “Is everyone in position, like they were the last time?” he asked.

“Yes,” Moody said. “A group is already placing extra wards on as many of the homes and buildings as possible. We’ve got one group at either end of the town ready for attack. The rest of us were just waiting for word from you.”

“We need more people,” Shacklebolt snapped angrily. “There are not enough of us, if what Harry says is true.”

“Can’t the other Aurors be called in?” Harry asked. “Surely they’re cooperating with the Order now, aren’t they?”

“The Order and the Ministry are still very separate entities, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall informed him.

“Scrimgeour’s not sending any help?” Harry asked dangerously.

“Proper channels must be adhered to,” she said angrily.

Harry’s nostrils flared. Proper channels? After the bastard had tried to blackmail him?

“Can you connect me to him?” he asked sharply.

McGonagall looked at him in surprise, but then nodded. “Follow me,” she said crisply.

“Hold on,” Harry said. He faced Hermione, Ron and Ginny. “I need you three to go to the Shrieking Shack, just in case,” he whispered quickly. They started to protest, but Harry continued. “I’ve already posted Fred and George at Honeydukes.”

Ron and Hermione’s eyes widened as they suddenly understood why.

“We’re needed here to fight,” Ginny protested.

“No, we’re needed there,” Ron said, agreeing with Harry, much to Ginny’s confusion.

“I’ll take her,” Hermione said, grabbing hold of Ginny’s arm. “Good luck, Harry,” she said. The three Apparated away, and Harry turned back to McGonagall, only to be faced with Mrs. Weasley.

“Where did you send them?” she asked shrilly.

“I’ve posted them, and Fred and George, at places I need them,” Harry said firmly, with no time to argue with her.

Remus put a reassuring hand on Mrs. Weasley’s arm. “I’m sure Harry’s doing his best to keep them from getting hurt,” he said mildly.

Mr. Weasley stepped up to the other side of her. “Let Harry do his job,” he said to his wife.

Mrs. Weasley closed her eyes in defeat, nodding weakly.

“Thank you,” Harry said quietly, then moved quickly to follow McGonagall into The Three Broomsticks, leaving Moody and Shacklebolt to finish directing people to wherever they needed to be.

“Can we do this meeting somewhere private?” Harry asked, realizing there were a lot of people holed up inside for safety.

McGonagall looked at him oddly, but nodded as she stepped behind the bar and into a back room. Rosmerta let them go without question, looking scared and worried.

McGonagall cast Harry another odd look before she threw some Floo Powder into the fireplace and called the Minister’s office.

“Rufus?” McGonagall called.

Harry could hear Scrimgeour on the other side. “I told you, Minerva, proper channels must be adhered to,” he said sharply.

“So you’ve said,” McGonagall said briskly. “But I have someone here who wishes to speak with you.” She didn’t wait for a response, instead moving back and gesturing Harry forward.

Harry stuck his head into the flames and felt his gut wrench at the sickening feeling of just his head swirling to the other location.

“Potter?” Scrimgeour said in astonishment.

“Why the fuck won’t you send the Aurors here?” Harry asked furiously, getting straight to the point.

“Potter, there’s no sign of Death Eater activity in the area,” Scrimgeour said, trying to sound reasonable. “Proper channels must be followed and, as I’ve told Professor McGonagall, Aurors will be sent to check the area tomorrow.”

“Proper channels, my arse,” Harry scoffed. “Those Death Eaters are coming at any minute with the intention of flattening Hogsmeade. There won’t necessarily be an area to check if you wait.”

“You can’t know this,” Scrimgeour said doubtfully.

“I’m called the fucking Chosen One for a reason, Scrimgeour,” Harry ground out, willing to use whatever means he had to convince the man. “It’s not because I’m an idiot.”

Scrimgeour’s eyes narrowed.

“Now, get your arse moving and get every Auror you can out here to fight,” Harry said coldly. “Then, tomorrow you can happily report to the public about what a fantastic job you did of being able to prevent destruction of this town. If you don’t get help here immediately, then I get to give my own report.”

“Are you threatening me, Potter?” Scrimgeour asked.

“No, just stating a fact,” Harry said, glaring dangerously. “I thought you understood I’m not playing a fucking game. I also thought you understood I’m not playing things your way.”

Scrimgeour gazed at Harry for a few seconds before nodding sharply. “I’ll send all I can immediately,” he said.

“Thank you,” Harry said pleasantly, before leaning back out of the flames and breaking the connection.

“Very impressive,” McGonagall said, giving Harry a small smile. “Even Albus still had difficulty attaining Ministry cooperation at times.”

“That’s because he wasn’t The Chosen One,” Harry said sarcastically. “It’s downright ridiculous how much leverage I’ve got with it, but it seems to work with Scrimgeour, so I’ll use it.”

Suddenly, several screams could be heard and Harry quickly covered himself with his cloak as he and McGonagall carefully left the room.

“They’re outside,” Rosmerta said fearfully, pointing to the view outside the windows. They couldn’t see much, but there was definitely light from spells shooting across the area. They could also hear shouting and the sounds of the battle.

“Lock up behind me,” McGonagall said sharply.

Harry made sure she felt him slipping out the door before her, quickly moving to the side of the door and trying to figure out what was happening.

It was chaos.

There were black robed figures everywhere he looked. So many duels were taking place. Staring, Harry was overwhelmed for long seconds. Voldemort must have sent every bloody follower he had for there to be so many Death Eaters in Hogsmeade.

Harry saw someone fall. He didn’t know who it was, but he jolted back into action.

He hissed quietly to the snake around his neck. “Can you bite the wand hand of anyone wearing a white mask?”

Yes,” Gryff hissed. Harry watched in satisfaction as a nearby Death Eater yelped suddenly, jerking his wand hand. Whoever was duelling with him took advantage, disarming and stunning.

Perfect. Keep doing that,” Harry hissed.

I have to be close enough,” the snake responded.

Then, we’ll keep moving,” Harry hissed.

Adrenaline pumping furiously through his body, Harry stepped away from the wall. Crouching low, he began skirting the duelling partners. He knew he needed to avoid battling directly. If any of the Death Eaters caught sight of him, they would go for him immediately.

He knew he couldn’t afford to be caught, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do whatever he could to help. It just meant not jumping into the middle of the battle. He darted around, avoiding the duelling, but getting close enough for the snake to help. Trying to stay low, he worked his way towards Honeydukes, hoping the twins and Draco were doing okay.

Harry inhaled sharply as he spotted a figure on the ground – not in Death Eater robes – blood flowing.

Bite them as hard as you can,” Harry hissed. “As many as possible, because I need to get in there.”

Harry darted forward, dodging curses, trying to get to Tonks, lying so still on the ground.

Please don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead.

“Tonks,” he whispered harshly.

“Harry?” she murmured.

“Shhh.” He grabbed her and Apparated, hoping like hell his destination would be clear.

“Harry!”

“Is it clear?” Harry asked quickly.

“There’s no one,” Ginny said.

“Tonks!” Hermione exclaimed anxiously. “Harry, she’s hurt badly. We’ve got to get her to Hogwarts.”

“Just hold on,” Harry snapped impatiently. Tonks had blood flowing freely from a huge gash along her arm and one alongside her head. It looked like someone had sliced down her side from head to fingertips. She had passed out when Harry Apparated her, and blood was still flowing, scaring the hell out of Harry.

Wand in hand, he placed it at the edge of the wound on her head and began muttering the song-like incantation. He barely registered his friends staring at him in astonishment, focusing on the injury.

He paused when he reached the end of the gash on her head. “Ginny, there’s potions in my pockets,” he commanded. Better to have Ginny digging in his trouser pockets rather than Hermione or Ron, and he didn’t want to take the time to do it himself. Already he was placing his wand at Tonks’ shoulder and starting the incantation again.

He sat back on his heels after Ginny had retrieved the potions, but continued to focus on the long slash along Tonks’ arm until he’d reached the end of it.

“It’s healing,” Ron breathed. “Where’d you learn that?” he asked.

“The book,” Harry snapped. He looked to the girls. “Try to revive her and make sure she takes the dittany along with the Blood-Replenishing and the Pain-Relieving potions.”

Hermione nodded, but was looking between Harry and Tonks in amazement.

“Continue to keep watch,” Harry ordered. “Don’t leave and I’ll be back.” He didn’t wait for their response and Apparated away again after covering himself with the cloak.

Battle was still waging in Hogsmeade. Harry appeared close to Honeydukes, quickly spotting Fred tossing out some type of firecracker that was effectively keeping the area cleared. Harry wrinkled his nose in disgust. It seemed the twins were also attempting to keep the Death Eaters away by smell. He noticed another set of firecrackers going off near the other end of the building, but didn’t see anyone.

“Where’s George?” Harry asked, coming up close to Fred.

“He got hit,” Fred said angrily. “Before the Aurors came, there were just too many of the bastards.”

“Where is he?” Harry demanded.

“I don’t know,” Fred said quickly, lighting off something else.

“Why don’t you know?!” Harry shouted.

“Your friend moved him,” Fred answered. “I think he’s at the other corner of the building, or somewhere close there.”

“I’m going to have to reveal myself,” Harry said, thinking quickly.

“I’ll try to cover you,” Fred said.

It was crazy. There were Aurors and Death Eaters fighting all over the small town. The front of Honeydukes had a fairly wide semi-circle clear in front of it, though.

Harry ran to the other end of the building, as a huge, very bright and very loud firework display went off in front of the store.

“George!” Harry shouted, removing his hood and hoping like hell Draco was actually close enough to see and hear him in all the ruckus.

His arm was suddenly grabbed tightly and Harry flipped his hood up again. He was startled when he was abruptly Apparated, and stumbled when he landed. Harry looked around wildly. After the brightness of the fireworks display, it was suddenly pitch dark. Blinking furiously, he tried to get his eyes to adjust.

Draco’s blond head suddenly appeared next to him, only to kneel down. “He’s hurt badly, Harry,” he said anxiously. “He was caught in a nasty duel with Macnair. I got him out of there, but I didn’t know where to take him or how to help him. I gave him one of the Pain-Relieving Potions and one of the Blood-Replenishing, but I don’t know how to heal him. I could only wrap his leg to keep pressure on it.”

George was unconscious, but still breathing. “Where are we?” Harry asked quickly.

“We’re just over the hill behind Honeydukes,” Draco said. “I didn’t want to take him far.”

Harry nodded. “Here, take Gryff,” he commanded, removing the snake from his neck and passing it to Draco. “He knows to bite anyone in a mask. Keep helping Fred. I’m taking George to the others at the Shrieking Shack.”

They exchanged a quick glance before Draco reapplied his Disillusionment Charm and each of them Apparated.

“It’s George!” Ginny exclaimed, horrified at the sight of her brother.

“Help me!” Harry ordered, already working to tear George’s trousers away from the wound. Ginny jumped in and applied pressure. Once Harry had the trousers clear, he nodded to Ginny and she removed the cloth that had been covering it.

It looked awful; a wide gash splitting the flesh of George’s thigh down to the bone. Ginny moaned, swaying where she was kneeling. Harry darted a glance at Ron, who was staring transfixed at George’s leg. He wasn’t looking much better than Ginny.

Hoping they’d be okay, Harry put his wand tip to George’s thigh and began the incantation. He didn’t even know if the spell would work on a wound this deep. He shuddered in relief when he finished, the wound starting to close slowly.

Harry looked back to Ron and Ginny, who were also looking relieved, though still worried. He frowned suddenly, glancing around the room. “Where’s Hermione and Tonks?” he demanded.

“Hermione took Tonks to Hogwarts through the tunnel,” Ron said. “She healed, but she was still weak and she still had other minor injuries.”

Harry nodded. “Ginny, do the same with George,” he commanded. “He should be fine in just a bit.”

Ginny nodded weakly. “Thank you, Harry,” she said quietly. Ron nodded in agreement.

“I’ve got to tell Fred,” Harry said, rising to his feet again. He frowned, looking at Ron. “You okay here by yourself?” he asked.

“Yeah, mate,” Ron answered firmly. “I’m here if you need me and I’ll keep watch still.”

Harry nodded gratefully before taking a deep breath and disappearing again. When he appeared near Honeydukes, he found Fred leaning up against the side of the building.

“Fred?” Harry questioned, looking around the area.

Fred started and stood up straight. “Is he all right?”

“He’ll be fine,” Harry said quickly. “He’s healing and I left him with Ron and Ginny. Ginny’ll be taking him to Hogwarts as soon as the wound’s completely closed.”

Fred collapsed back against the building again in relief.

“What’s happening?” Harry asked, feeling the sudden hand in the middle of his back. Odd with them both in Invisibility Cloaks, but Draco could at least hear Harry, even if he couldn’t see him.

“They just left,” Fred answered, sounding weary. “They seemed to finally give up.”

“Are you okay?” Harry asked in concern.

Fred smiled grimly. “Fine. Your boy found you yet?”

“Yes,” Harry said, not even attempting to argue that Draco wasn’t his boy. “He’s here.”

“Then I can tell him thanks and he’ll hear me,” Fred said quietly. Harry felt the hand on his back shift and was fairly certain Draco was acknowledging Fred’s words somehow.

Fred suddenly grinned and shook his head. “The stories I’ll have to tell someday.”

“Ouch!” Fred yelped, jumping to the side.

Harry didn’t know exactly what Draco had done, but Fred had deserved it. Fred obviously agreed, because he simply grinned wider.

“Go get Ron,” Harry said. “I’ll meet you up at Hogwarts soon.”

“Where are you going?” Fred asked.

Harry glanced around. “I should see if anyone else needs help,” he said quietly.

Fred sobered. “I think they’ve already taken the injured to the castle,” he said. “You won’t be able to help anyone else here.”

Harry closed his eyes tightly, and was grateful when Draco pulled him close for a moment.

“Harry?” Fred called quietly.

Harry remembered that Fred still couldn’t see him. “I’m here,” he said, straightening again. “Get Ron,” he repeated. “I’m going to Hogwarts.”

Fred nodded and disappeared.

“I’ll see you back at the house later,” Harry said to Draco. “I’ve got to go see if I can help.” His arm was gripped tightly and for the second time that night Harry was Apparated by Draco.

Harry looked around warily, and recognized that they were not far off the path outside the Hogwarts gates. Draco dragged him behind some trees before pulling his hood back. Harry slipped his own hood down.

“I want to go to the castle with you,” Draco said quickly, looking nervous.

“You aren’t going to be able to help at all,” Harry said.

“I know,” Draco said. “I just . . . I just want to go back to the castle with you.”

Harry closed his eyes. “This is really not a good time,” he said.

“Let me come with you,” Draco said pleadingly.

“I don’t have time to argue,” Harry said wearily.

“Then, I’m coming with you,” Draco said. He kissed him quickly, a brush of lips, before pulling the hood back up.

Harry paused for a moment before heading to the castle. “Winky,” he called softly.

“Yes, Master Harry?” she said, popping into existence before him.

“Could you please let Narcissa know that Draco and I – and Hogsmeade – are safe?” Harry asked. “Also tell her that it will still be awhile before we make it back.”

Winky nodded and bowed slightly before disappearing again.

Harry walked back to the path and slipped his cloak completely off since he didn’t actually need it now. His mind shifting to think about who might, or might not, be in the hospital wing, Harry picked up his pace and was soon running to the castle.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty

Harry burst into the hospital wing, panting for breath. Oddly enough, under the circumstances, hardly anyone seemed to notice. The hospital wing was chaos. Eyes darting about wildly, Harry spotted Hermione rushing towards him.

He was expecting a hug. Instead, she grabbed his hand and started pulling him to another part of the room. “Harry, you’ve got to come help,” she said, sounding desperate.

Alarmed, Harry hurriedly followed her, only to realize that she was leading him to Remus. “Oh no, not Remus, too,” he said miserably.

“He’ll be fine, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said sharply. “But I understand you know a charm that will heal wounds like this more quickly?”

Harry nodded, wondering if Snape would kill him when he found out that Harry was letting others in on the spell.

“Then heal him – quickly,” she ordered. “The Death Eaters seem to be using more and more spells that are slicing people open,” she added. “There are others that need healing.”

Considering that she obviously had other patients to attend to, Pomfrey still stood to the side and watched as Harry took up the position beside Remus. There were two large slashes across Remus’ chest, reminding Harry sickeningly of when he’d sliced Draco open. Harry guided his wand along the wounds, healing both of them. “He needs dittany,” he said quietly when he was finished.

Madam Pomfrey nodded briskly, and Harry realized she was already holding a vial. “We will talk later, Mr. Potter. For now, please have Ms. Granger direct you to the others who could benefit from this spell tonight.”

Harry worked his way around the room, healing all open wounds that he could. Hermione followed, offering vials of dittany afterwards. Harry soon realized that Madam Pomfrey was essentially working on patients ahead of them, running checks and healing all other injuries.

So many injured. Some people Harry didn’t even recognize. But Charlie was back in a hospital bed, and Mr. Weasley had sustained a knock to the head after he’d been stunned, Harry learned.

Eventually, he ended up leaning against the wall closest to George’s bed. The Weasleys were all talking quietly, and Harry was a little surprised that no one was asleep. Pomfrey always drugged him to sleep when he was in the hospital wing. These were a bit different circumstances, though, he had to admit.

He started when a hand squeezed his shoulder. His eyes widened marginally as he remembered that Draco had followed him to Hogwarts. Draco was in the middle of the Hogwarts hospital wing. Where all these people wanted him dead or in Azkaban. And Draco called Harry stupid. Harry shifted closer to the body next to him anyway.

Now that things had calmed down dramatically, Harry saw McGonagall making her way towards them, gathering Remus, Tonks, and Pomfrey along the way.

Harry stepped forward, away from Draco, as Remus neared. He was immediately enfolded in a tight hug.

“Harry, I’m worried about you,” Remus murmured softly.

“I’m not the one who got hurt,” Harry retorted, his voice muffled by Remus’ chest. He could feel the rumbling as Remus chuckled quietly.

“With as much blood as you have on you, you’d think you were injured, though,” Remus said, pulling back and smiling gently.

Harry looked down at himself ruefully. “Yeah, a shower and change of clothes sound like a wonderful idea.”

“Not yet, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said.

Harry groaned and moved to lean back against the wall again, as Pomfrey urged Remus and Tonks to sit. He felt Draco brush against his side, and felt horribly exposed, despite the fact that everyone had turned to gaze expectantly at McGonagall.

Pomfrey pulled privacy screens, then McGonagall cast Silencing Charms around their area, making Harry extremely nervous about the fact that Draco was there. He had to consciously remind himself that two of the most important things Draco didn’t know, concerned Snape and the Horcruxes. McGonagall didn’t know about them either, though, so she certainly wouldn’t be bringing them up.

His worries were pushed aside as McGonagall solemnly told them of the deaths. Several people had died, and few of the names were ones that Harry recognized. He closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the wall as he took in the news. Hearing about people dying was, unfortunately, something he was becoming accustomed to.

He felt more of the guilt because he had been there this time and hadn’t been able to help. He was the one who had called those people there. He also felt guilty because he was glad it wasn’t anyone he was close to.

“Harry!”

He opened his eyes wearily, simply to see everyone staring at him. “It’s not your fault, Harry,” Hermione snapped, even through her tears and while she was clutching at Ron.

“I didn’t say it was,” Harry said quietly.

“But you’re thinking it, mate,” Ron said. “Even I can see it.”

Harry quirked a half-smile. “Hermione been giving you lessons on observation?” he asked.

The group laughed a little through their tears.

“No, I just know you,” Ron retorted, grinning a little.

“Mr. Potter, your friends are correct,” McGonagall said. “I have gathered this group here to give you this bad news personally, but also to tell you that your efforts have saved the town of Hogsmeade and the people who live there.”

“I didn’t do it,” Harry protested. “I didn’t even fight,” he said bitterly. “I can’t afford to fight yet.”

McGonagall held her hand up to silence the others who began to protest. “Potter, I am aware that this was a group effort,” she began. “I am also aware that you did far more than not fight. However, I do have many questions regarding your activities tonight.”

Harry looked at her guardedly. “I’m likely not going to answer them,“ he said warily.

“Yes, I am aware of that as well,” McGonagall said dryly. “Perhaps you could begin by explaining this spell you used to save two lives and heal many others tonight,” she suggested.

Harry glanced from Tonks, to Remus, to George. Then noticed Bill smiling.

“Yes, Harry,” Bill said in amusement. “Do tell us.”

Harry smirked at him. “You’re just tired of trying to make up excuses,” he retorted.

Mrs. Weasley looked from Harry to Bill in astonishment, then back to Harry. “You healed Bill?” she questioned.

Harry nodded reluctantly. She looked ready to jump up and smother Harry with hugs, but Mr. Weasley put a staying hand on her shoulder.

“Why didn’t you tell us, Harry?” Hermione asked, frowning at him.

Harry sighed. “Because I didn’t know if it would work at first. And then I didn’t want, or need, all the attention,” he explained. “Also, because I learned the spell from that book, and didn’t feel like listening to you harp on me about it again.”

Hermione glared at him. “You tried using another spell from that book?”

“Yes, and it worked,” Harry snapped, sweeping his hand around to indicate half the people he’d healed.

“It could be a Dark Arts spell,” Hermione went on, unrelenting despite the obvious good.

Harry shrugged. “I think its borderline,” he admitted.

“How could you even learn such a spell?” Remus asked, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Such a powerful spell learned by only reading about it?”

Harry kept his gaze steady. “I learned a far worse spell simply by reading the name of it,” he said evenly.

“That’s right,” Ron piped up. “That one you ‘bout killed Malfoy with a few months ago.”

Harry winced as chaos erupted.

He felt Draco’s hand brush along his arm, rubbing reassuringly. It felt reassuring, anyway, and Harry was thankful he wasn’t getting poked or something. Hopefully Draco wasn’t taking offence by all this.

“Enough!” McGonagall said sharply. Everyone quieted down almost instantly. “Mr. Potter, I believe you have some explaining to do.”

Harry faced her with a hard expression. “I had read about a spell in Snape’s book, a note in the margins. All I knew was the name of the spell and that it was for enemies. I caught Malfoy by surprise and ended up in a duel with him. I used the spell. I spilt Malfoy’s blood,” he said bluntly. “Snape used a spell to heal Malfoy. I recently found the spell Snape used and learned it. It’s proved quite useful.”

McGonagall pursed her lips, and Harry was sure she wanted to question him further before punishing him severely. He was surprised when she spoke again.

“I believe it best that we keep the nature of this spell amongst ourselves, but Potter, you will need to instruct Poppy, in particular, about how to perform it,” McGonagall said firmly.

Harry nodded.

“It has indeed proved quite useful, and we are in difficult times,” McGonagall continued. “I have many questions, but overwhelming the questions is my feeling of pride in all you’ve accomplished tonight.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably, and McGonagall smiled. “I know you do not wish for the recognition, but I am astonished that you were able to set things in motion so quickly. Your handling of Scrimgeour was impressive. You brought the help here that we needed.”

She paused and narrowed her eyes at him suddenly. “Mr. Potter, I’ve spoken with many people tonight, and several of them have commented that the Death Eaters often appeared to have trouble with their wand hand. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Harry cocked his head and smiled innocently, a smile that fooled nobody present. “I did nothing to them,” he answered—truthfully.

“You will not tell us,” McGonagall corrected dryly.

“Not at the moment,” Harry agreed. He probably would have, but Draco had the snake and there was no way of retrieving it in front of everyone.

“Is there anything you are willing to tell us?” she asked.

Harry frowned thoughtfully. “No, I don’t think so,” he said slowly.

“You are as secretive as Albus,” McGonagall tutted.

Harry grinned. “Thank you,” he said smugly. “I’m honoured.”

The group laughed, but most of them were still eyeing Harry questioningly, and a few with open suspicion. Hermione and Remus, in particular, were definitely suspicious.

“So, if we’re through with grilling me for information, can you tell us about the Death Eaters now?” Harry asked.

“Several were captured tonight,” McGonagall informed them. “But again, I do not believe we have captured any of the higher ranked followers.”

“What about Snape and Malfoy?” Ron burst out angrily.

McGonagall shook her head sadly. “I have heard several reports that they witnessed Snape at the battle, but he was not captured.” Harry wasn’t sure if she was sad because Snape was there fighting on the wrong side, or because Snape hadn’t been captured.

Harry tried to keep his face expressionless, simply following the conversation.

“What about Malfoy?” Charlie spat. “The little bastard get away again?”

“I haven’t heard any reports of anyone even seeing him tonight,” McGonagall said.

“Perhaps Malfoy has just gotten better at hiding since last time,” Fred suggested, grinning at Charlie.

“’Course, you ended up in the hospital wing again, anyway,” George added, also grinning widely at his older brother.

Harry ducked his head, trying to keep a straight face, unable to believe the twins were actually joking about the whole situation. The hand that had been brushing against his arm had stilled and Harry pressed against the body next to him.

“Shut it, you two,” Charlie grumbled, but he was smiling. “It’s not like I’m the only one in here.”

“I dearly wish you would all stop torturing me and stay out of the hospital wing in the future,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly.

Harry was smiling along with the others at this point, when he noticed that he had Remus’ attention on him. Remus was frowning thoughtfully. Harry raised his brows in question, but Remus just shook his head slightly.

“I think it is time for my patients to rest,” Pomfrey declared. “The rest of you should go home and rest as well.” She looked at Harry. “I expect you back here tomorrow.”

Harry hesitated for a moment, but couldn’t see any easy way out of it. “I’ll be here,” he said in resignation. “But I’m sleeping first,” he added.

She smiled and nodded in acceptance.

“Then, I think you will come have a nice little talk with me afterwards,” McGonagall said. “Perhaps four o’clock?” she suggested.

Harry groaned. He really did hate “talks”. They were always stressful in one way or another. And he was sure Draco was laughing underneath the cloak. “I’ll be here,” he grumbled.

“We will talk now, Harry,” Remus said mildly, but with a note of command.

“Remus, it’s late,” Harry protested.

“It’s very late,” Remus agreed. “You will spare me a few moments, nonetheless.”

Hermione looked disappointed that Remus was stealing him away. “Tomorrow, Harry,” she said.

“I’m already being chewed out and questioned enough tomorrow,” Harry said sarcastically. “I’ll see you Tuesday.”

“But Harry,” Hermione protested.

“No,” Harry said firmly. “I plan on sleeping, and then I have things to do.”

“Then, I’ll be here tomorrow so you can teach me that spell, too,” Hermione said determinedly.

“Me, too,” Ginny piped up.

“I reckon that means I’ll be here,” Ron muttered.

“We’re coming as well,” Fred added cheerfully.

“Always did learn a lot in Harry’s lessons,” George agreed.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll see everyone here around three o’clock tomorrow, then,” he said, giving in.

“Splendid,” McGonagall said. “Rest well, Harry,” she said, smiling pleasantly.

Harry scowled at her and Hermione, knowing that he was likely to be grilled mercilessly the next day.

“Come, Harry,” Remus said.

Sighing heavily, Harry followed Remus from the hospital wing. He paused, with the door open, and glanced back at everyone. He’d only intended to pause long enough to let Draco through, but he hesitated longer as he looked around the hospital wing. There were still a lot of people there. Some injured and some just visiting. Almost all of them had helped fight to protect Hogsmeade.

“There were more people taken to St. Mungo’s,” Remus said quietly. “A lot of people willing to fight.” He looked at Harry directly. “All of them came based on you calling them.”

Harry sighed and finally shut the door and began walking with Remus.

“You feel responsible for them,” Remus stated.

“A little,” Harry said. “It’s hard not to.”

Remus hummed in response. He lapsed into silence for several minutes as they wandered further away from the hospital wing.

Exhaustion was setting in for Harry and he wasn’t paying much attention to where they were going, just letting his feet carry him along. It wasn’t until he felt a strong grip on his arm that he realized they were heading up. Up towards the Astronomy Tower.

Harry stopped in the middle of the corridor. “Remus, where are we going?” he asked in alarm.

Inexplicably, Remus smiled. “I wondered if there might be a problem heading up this direction,” he said.

“Of course there’s a problem,” Harry snapped. “You know what happened up there.”

“Perhaps I do,” Remus said, nodding.

Harry frowned at Remus’ tone. He couldn’t figure out what Remus was getting at.

“Come. We’re near the Room of Requirement,” Remus said. “It has been a long night and I could use a rest.”

Harry looked at him in concern. “I’m surprised you were let out of the hospital wing,” he said in realization.

Remus smiled. “Luckily for me, Poppy had many distractions tonight,” he said.

Harry couldn’t help but smile in return. They changed directions slightly and made for the Room of Requirement.

I need a comfortable place to talk with Remus. . . . I need a comfortable place to talk with Remus. . . . I need a comfortable place to talk with Remus. . . .

The door appeared and Remus stepped forward to open it, leading the way inside. “Very nice, Harry,” Remus said appreciatively.

Harry felt Draco brush past him and stepped inside himself, glancing around the room. It looked like a comfortable common room, only without all the blatant house colours. It was far more muted and cosy, with comfortable chairs and couches surrounding a large fireplace.

Remus sat down wearily in one of the armchairs and gestured for Harry to sit as well. Harry sank onto a couch and instantly decided that he didn’t want to move again. He laid his head back and moaned softly in relief.

“Comfortable?” Remus asked in amusement.

“I’m tired, Remus,” Harry said, pouting a little, eyes still closed. “It’s been an incredibly long day. It’s the middle of the night. This is comfortable and I could fall asleep right here,” he added.

“Perhaps your guest would appreciate an opportunity to sit down and rest as well,” Remus said mildly.

Harry’s eyes flew open and he jerked his head up to stare at Remus. “You’re my guest here,” he said slowly.

Remus nodded once in acknowledgement. “I am not the only one, however,” he said.

“Remus, why did you want to talk to me?” Harry asked, his voice growing hard. Remus simply couldn’t know that Draco was there – could he?

“As I said earlier, I am worried about you,” Remus said, gazing at Harry in concern. “Also, I wish you to know that whatever you need from me, you have my support.”

Harry looked at the man warily. They hadn’t been able to spend a whole lot of time together, but Remus was the closest person Harry could claim as family. He could claim the Dursleys, but even with Petunia’s slightly changed attitudes, they did not evoke nearly the same emotions.

Remus smiled again. “I think, perhaps, you should have written the essay on werewolves that you were assigned,” he said.

Harry frowned in confusion.

“The full moon is in a week,” Remus said mildly. “If you had ever written that essay, you would know that a werewolf has a heightened sense of smell, especially as the full moon nears.”

Harry’s eyes widened as it sunk in what Remus was implying. He could actually smell Draco in the room with them.

“I do believe there is someone else here who should have written that essay as well,” Remus added.

“What are you trying to say, Remus?” Harry asked sharply. If he really did know about Draco, they could be in serious trouble.

“I am completely unaware of how this situation could have come about,” Remus admitted, frowning. “But I am here to help in any way that I can. If you will let me.”

Harry lowered his head and tried to think. Could Remus be trusted? He wasn’t remotely as excitable as Ron. As a Marauder, he wasn’t as much of a stickler of the rules as Hermione. He had told Draco that he would not betray him, though.

Harry looked back at Remus steadily. “I’m sorry, Remus, but I can’t tell you anything,” he said. Remus may suspect, but he had no proof.

Remus nodded in acceptance, but he looked disappointed.

“I don’t mean to disappoint you,” Harry said miserably.

“No, Harry,” Remus said, smiling sadly. “You could never disappoint me. I am incredibly proud of you and all that you are doing. I am only disappointed in myself that I am unable to help you more.”

“But you have been,” Harry protested.

“I believe you have taken on tasks that no others have been willing to take on,” Remus said. “Where you are finding the strength to do so, I have no idea.”

Remus’ choice of words made Harry smile. Remus looked at him questioningly.

Harry shook his head, still smiling.

There was a rustling of fabric and Draco suddenly appeared, tense and watching Remus warily. Remus had obviously known, but he still looked surprised to see Draco.

“Draco,” Harry hissed. “What are you doing?”

“He already knows I’m here,” Draco snapped.

“He only suspected, you twit,” Harry retorted irritably. “He never even mentioned you by name.”

Draco rolled his eyes impatiently. “No, but we all know who you were talking about.”

“Well, yes,” Harry admitted. “But you didn’t have to show yourself.”

“I don’t think he’ll say anything,” Draco said.

Harry blinked. “Are you trying to convince me?” he asked in astonishment.

“If he knows, and is willing to help, then maybe he’ll help you with all the blasted questioning you’re going to be going through tomorrow,” Draco snapped.

That made Harry pause and he looked back to Remus, who was watching them both in amazement.

“Yes, well, do sit down, Mr. Malfoy,” Remus said dazedly.

Draco dropped down on the couch next to Harry, causing Remus’ brows to rise.

“You didn’t really believe he was here, did you?” Harry asked Remus.

Remus looked between the two boys sitting on the couch together. “I was fairly certain he was here, but I’m not sure I actually believe it even now,” he admitted.

“Remus, you can’t tell anyone,” Harry said pleadingly.

“Do you know what you are doing, Harry?” Remus questioned.

Harry laughed harshly. “Hell no,” he exclaimed. “I can trust Draco, though.”

“Draco?” Remus questioned in disbelief, registering the use of Draco’s given name this time. “How in the name of Merlin did you two ever get to first name basis?”

Harry glanced at Draco, who was now smirking. Harry smacked his thigh in warning. “Don’t start,” he said.

“Didn’t say a word,” Draco said, still smirking.

Harry’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he turned back to answer Remus. “I, uh, kind of told him he might as well call me by my first name when he moved in with me,” he admitted.

“He’s living with you?” Remus exclaimed, eyebrows rising to his hairline. “At the Dursleys?”

“Um, yes,” Harry admitted nervously.

Remus opened his mouth to speak, but then couldn’t seem to close his mouth again, no words coming forth.

“Remus?” Harry called worriedly.

Remus closed his mouth – then his eyes.

Harry glanced at Draco, not sure what to do about the situation. He pulled his wand and, after a quick glance at Remus, he cast a Silencing Charm around him and Draco.

Draco sighed heavily. “We’re not going to get away without answering questions, are we?” he asked Harry.

Harry shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he answered, sounding apologetic. “Maybe you should tell him,” he suggested. “I don’t know how much you want me to say.”

“Does it matter to you?” Draco asked, frowning.

Harry shrugged. “I already trust Remus. It’s up to you how much you feel comfortable telling him. I know this means you wouldn’t tell him anything if you had a choice, but . . .,” he trailed off, shrugging again helplessly.

Draco rubbed at his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m contemplating telling the wolf anything,” he muttered.

“You wouldn’t have had to tell him anything if you’d kept the cloak on,” Harry said irritably.

“But you need him on your side,” Draco snapped, glaring at Harry.

“I was handling it,” Harry protested.

“But you shouldn’t have to handle it all by yourself,” Draco retorted. “I’m not telling him for my sake, you prat.”

“I didn’t ask for you to risk your safety,” Harry said, eyes glinting dangerously.

“No, you just ordered me to walk into the middle of a battle with you,” Draco said sarcastically.

Harry jerked back as if he’d been hit, and Draco’s eyes widened.

“Harry,” Draco said pleadingly.

“No, you’re right,” Harry said stiffly. “I’ve said I would try to keep you safe and then I turn around and order you to walk into a battle where you’re now wanted by both sides.”

“I’m not some damned self-sacrificing Gryffindor, but I am trying to help,” Draco snapped. “I know we’re in the middle of a fucking war. I also know that you are literally at the centre of it all. I’m not walking into this blind, but this is still difficult.”

He took a deep breath. “We both know Lupin isn’t one of my favourite people, but we also both know that he is one of yours. He’d already learned I was here. That was my mistake,” Draco admitted. “At this point, it makes sense to take advantage of him knowing. He could help provide some much needed support for you.”

“The Slytherin thing to do,” Harry said slowly. “Take advantage of the situation, whatever it may be.”

Draco nodded in agreement. “I know it’s a bit of a risk, but he sounded accepting,” he said, grimacing a little. “Far less risky to tell Lupin the truth when he suspects anyway, than it would be to tell the Weasel.”

Harry glared at him, and Draco rolled his eyes. “I’m only willing to go so far, Harry,” he stated haughtily.

Harry nodded reluctantly in agreement. “You’ve gone further than I ever would’ve expected from you,” he admitted.

“Sacrifices are often made in wars,” Draco said dryly.

“You’re making a lot of sacrifices,” Harry agreed.

“I’m not the only one making sacrifices,” Draco said seriously. “You’ve made a lot of sacrifices for me and my family. I’m trying to do the same, but it’s not easy.”

Harry smiled warmly. “I appreciate it,” he said.

Draco glanced at Remus, who was watching them both with interest. “So, are you wanting to tell him about us?” Draco asked.

“I reckon I should, if you’re willing,” Harry said. “I’m not sure how he’ll take the shock, though,” he added nervously.

“Then let’s find out,” Draco said, his eyes glinting mischievously.

Harry wasn’t given a chance to ask how before Draco had leaned closer to kiss him. Harry sighed into the kiss, not really caring about Remus for a few moments. Draco felt warm and comforting pressed up against him, the kiss actually helping to relax him and soothe his ragged nerves.

Draco pulled back and his lips quirked into a half-smile. Harry realized the kiss must have done the same for Draco, because he looked a lot less tense now as well.

Harry finally broke the Silencing Charm and they turned to face Remus again. Harry felt bad for Remus, who was staring at them, more gobsmacked than he had been at any other moment during the night.

“I understand the desire for popcorn now,” Draco drawled in amusement.

Harry sniggered, darting a quick glance at Draco, before focusing on Remus again. “That probably wasn’t the best way to tell you,” he said apologetically. “But Draco and I are kind of together.”

“How?” Remus asked, the shock ringing in his voice.

Draco abruptly reached for the cloak he’d laid beside him on the couch and started digging in the pockets. He retrieved three vials and handed one to Harry and passed one to Remus. “Pepper-Up Potion,” he said. “We’re all exhausted, but I think we’re still going to be here awhile,” he admitted.

Remus followed Harry’s lead and downed the contents of the vial. All of them feeling much more alert, Draco began to explain exactly what had been happening since he’d showed up with Victoria at the Dursleys. Harry helped fill in the parts about Scrimgeour, Winky, and the twins. Draco explained about his mother and their desertion of the Dark Lord.

Remus listened intently to all of it, rarely interrupting, only asking a question now and then for clarification. When they wound down their tale, Remus sat back and gazed at them both in amazement.

“I am astonished at what the two of you have been able to overcome to reach this point,” he said.

Harry and Draco both shrugged.

“Draco, would you mind if I have a private word with Harry?” Remus asked.

Draco looked surprised to be asked, but gestured for them to go ahead. Harry moved closer to Remus and cast a quick Silencing Charm.

“You’re quite good at those,” Remus said.

“Lots of practice,” Harry said ruefully.

Remus sobered. “Harry, I wish to know if you are in contact with Severus as well,” he said.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Why would I be in contact with Snape?” he asked sharply.

“Why would you be in contact with Draco?” Remus returned.

“You heard us tell you about Victoria,” Harry retorted.

Remus waved his hand dismissively. “You’ve overcome a lot of anger,” he said. “You are not the same as you were. I watched you in the hospital wing tonight. While Ron and the others were still filled with anger, you barely reacted to the mention of either Snape or Malfoy. If you’ve been able to reach . . . amicable relations with Draco, then perhaps you’ve been able to reach some kind of truce with Severus as well.”

“Snape hates me, Remus,” Harry retorted. “In case you don’t remember,” he added sarcastically.

“Snape hates everyone,” Remus said dryly. “That tells me nothing about whether you’ve reached a truce with him.”

Harry sniggered quietly. “Draco’s still been making regular declarations of hatred,” he admitted.

“And look where you two are,” Remus said.

A shudder passed through Harry’s body. “I’m not sleeping with Snape,” he said firmly.

Remus chuckled. “I would think Draco is enough for you to handle in that regard,” he said.

“Definitely,” Harry said, with feeling. His brow creased as his thoughts shifted back to Snape and he debated whether to tell Remus or not.

Remus leaned forward, looking like he wanted to reach for Harry, but he didn’t. “Harry,” he said, sounding horribly sad. “I made a huge mistake once, believing the worst of someone I knew to be trustworthy. I convicted them along with everyone else, and I don’t intend to do that again if I can help it.”

Harry’s eyes widened as he realized what Remus was saying. “You couldn’t have known,” Harry said. His thoughts turned dark. “It was Pettigrew’s fault,” he said angrily. “You had good reason not to trust.”

Remus shook his head sadly. “Maybe,” he said, clearly not believing it. “Peter was weak. I knew that. I didn’t believe him capable of betraying you and your parents, but I knew he was weak,” he repeated. “Sirius, on the other hand, was strong. He was always strong,” he said, sounding sad and distant. “I knew that, but was still quick to believe the worst.”

“The situation was bad, though,” Harry admitted. “It didn’t look good for Sirius.”

“It doesn’t look good for Severus now,” Remus said quietly.

No, it didn’t, Harry admitted silently, his thoughts churning with what Remus was saying. His emotions were twisting and turning in his gut.

“Severus is just as strong as Sirius,” Remus went on. “In fact, I think Severus is much stronger in many ways. I refuse to simply convict Severus with the evidence at hand, no matter how damning. If he has switched loyalties, then I will mourn the loss, but I will not believe it without further proof.”

“He did kill Dumbledore,” Harry said, recognizing that he was playing Devil’s Advocate. “Most people consider that enough evidence. Sirius didn’t actually kill anyone, even though everyone thought he did.”

“But why did he kill Dumbledore?” Remus asked softly. “What else is there that I do not know? We are living in extreme times.”

Harry nodded slowly. They were certainly living in extreme times and lots of things were happening that shouldn’t be.

Remus sighed heavily. “I know you are keeping many secrets, Harry. I can only hope that a truce with Severus is one of them.”

Harry met Remus’ gaze, staring intently. “You will keep my secrets and not question my actions?” he asked.

Remus smiled in reassurance, glancing at Draco who was watching them both closely. “Yes, Harry, I will keep your secrets. I understand how important your secrets are. I also recognize that not everyone would understand your actions, but I can see what an impact you are making.” He met Harry’s gaze again. “I cannot promise never to question, but I will promise not to interfere with your decisions.”

Harry took a deep breath. “You know he’ll kill me for telling anyone, don’t you?” he asked.

Remus chuckled, clearly happy with Harry’s question. “He will not kill you. He may decide to flay you within an inch of your life, however,” he said.

“That’s encouraging,” Harry said sarcastically.

Remus sighed in relief. “Severus warned you tonight, didn’t he?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Harry admitted. “But you can’t say anything, Remus. No one knows except me—and now you. Draco doesn’t even know.”

“Severus doesn’t know about the Malfoys?” Remus asked curiously, brow furrowed.

Harry shook his head. “No, but he’s worried as hell about them. Not that he’d admit that to me. I haven’t told him because I’m not sure how he’ll react,” he admitted. “I don’t technically have any proof that the Malfoys have switched sides.”

Remus looked pained. “Harry, I must admit that I have my own concerns, but if anyone can help you with this, it would be Severus,” he said.

Harry shrugged. “I know I’m going to have to tell him. The sooner I tell them all, the sooner we can all get moved into Grimmauld Place.”

“You can access Grimmauld Place?” Remus asked in astonishment.

“Yeah, Dumbledore set it up for me and Snape,” Harry said carelessly. “I’m working on making it liveable so I can get the Malfoys and me moved in there.”

Remus rubbed a hand down the side of his face, trying to process everything Harry was telling him. Harry looked at him in sympathy. “I think I’ve probably given you enough shocks tonight,” he said quietly. “You should go back to the hospital wing and get some rest.”

Remus chuckled quietly. “And just who is the adult here?” he asked.

Harry gave him a cheeky grin. “Pomfrey would say it wasn’t you because you can’t even learn to stay in bed where you belong,” he said.

Remus laughed, nodding in agreement. “I do believe we all need to get some rest,” he admitted.

Harry broke the Silencing Charm and looked over to Draco. “You okay?” he asked quietly.

Draco shrugged. “Fine,” he said warily. “In desperate need of a shower, though, and sleep for twenty-four hours would be nice.”

Harry nodded in agreement. He wanted to be clean and in bed sleeping. He just didn’t want to go through the effort of getting there. He also wondered if he should be checking in at Grimmauld Place first.

“Winky?” he called, glancing warily at Remus. Remus didn’t comment, though. He only looked on curiously.

Winky popped into the room, looking anxious and wringing her hands. “Yes, Master Harry?” she said.

Harry frowned, sidetracked by her appearance. “Are you all right?” he asked.

She looked to both Remus and Draco before looking back at Harry with large, questioning eyes. Harry’s frown deepened and, with a quick glance at the others, he cast yet another Silencing Charm, around him and Winky this time. “What is it, Winky?” he asked. “Are Narcissa and Victoria all right?”

Winky nodded. “Worried, but fine. Winky was called to the house by Master Snape.”

Harry’s eyes widened in alarm. “Is he all right?” he asked.

Winky’s eyes filled with tears as she shook her head. “Winky was not to inform you.”

“He’s not your master. I am,” Harry said sharply, willing to enforce that under the circumstances. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Master Snape had me bring supplies for healing,” Winky said tearfully. “Not well at all.”

“Fuck!” Harry exclaimed. “Go back there and watch over him,” he ordered Winky. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He broke the Silencing Charm and was already on his feet.

“Harry! What’s wrong?” Draco asked in alarm. “Mother? Victoria?”

“They’re fine,” Harry said hurriedly. “Go back and reassure your mum that you’re all right, though.”

“Where are you going?” Draco asked.

“I’ve got to go,” Harry said in answer, heading for the door.

“Harry,” Remus called.

Harry glanced at Remus’ questioning, worried gaze and nodded once. Remus inhaled sharply. “Go,” he ordered.

When Harry had paused, it had given Draco a chance to catch up to him. Draco kissed him quickly. “Stay safe,” he murmured.

Harry smiled slightly and hoped it was reassuring. “I’ll be back at the house as soon as I can,” he said, before he opened the door and took off running.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-One

Harry slammed into Grimmauld Place and Winky popped into the hall. “This way,” she said, hurrying up the stairs.

He followed her up and into one of the bedrooms. He took little notice of the room itself, his eyes immediately drawn to the figure sitting on the edge of the bed. He noted absently that it was a damned good thing he wasn’t squeamish at the site of blood, because there was blood everywhere. The fact that there was so much of it, though, was scaring the hell out of him.

“Potter,” Snape snarled, glaring at him.

“What happened?” Harry asked, hurrying over and ignoring the warning.

“Get out of here, Potter,” Snape ordered, not answering Harry’s question.

Harry didn’t miss Snape’s ashen appearance or his obvious weakness. He ignored the shock of seeing Snape without his robes, wearing only trousers. The condition of the man’s bare chest and back was far more shocking.

“You’re hurt,” Harry snapped. “I’m the only one you’ve got here, so you’re just going to have to put up with me.”

“I will be fine,” Snape ground out. “I do not need you here.”

Harry ignored him. “What happened?” he asked again, studying the wounds across Snape’s chest. The man had obviously been trying to clean them up, but more blood was oozing from the wounds. It looked like some had already been healed, considering the blood patterns.

He pulled his wand and crouched down before Snape.

“What are you doing?” Snape asked, eyes narrowed.

“I’m going to help heal these,” Harry said absently.

“Have you been healing others tonight?” Snape asked sharply.

Harry glanced up, realizing that Snape was eyeing his blood-stained clothes critically.

“Yes,” Harry said warily. He did not want to argue about the use of the spell right now. Snape desperately needed healing, whether he wanted Harry’s help or not.

“I gather you can use the spell on yourself – which is good to know – but you’re weakening with all the blood loss,” he said. “It’ll be faster if I do it, and you’re not going to be able to reach your back, anyway.”

He lifted his wand, but his wrist was suddenly grasped. Harry looked up at Snape questioningly. Snape gazed at him intently, seeming to be searching for something. Harry figured he must have found what he was searching for because Snape gave a slight nod and released his wrist without a word.

Harry focused on the wounds again, and started to guide his wand along them. Winky brought fresh water and towels and he would pause to wash away some of the blood. Snape continued to watch intently, but didn’t comment or interfere. He only stopped Harry once when he reached for his pouch of potions and, selecting a couple of them, he drank them quickly.

As the flesh was slowly knitting together on Snape’s chest and abdomen, Harry climbed onto the bed so he could start on his back. He winced, noticing that the long lashes were even deeper. Putting his concentration to the task, he began the process of healing them.

“Potter,” Snape said weakly. Harry paused before starting on the next slash.

“Yes?” Harry asked softly, noticing that Snape was swaying slightly.

“Need to lie down,” Snape murmured.

Harry honestly had trouble believing Snape had lasted as long as he had. He moved quickly off the bed. He noted that Snape’s chest had healed completely now and moved to help the man lie down on his front. Snape had to have been doing badly because he allowed Harry’s help without protest.

Snape’s eyes closed and Harry wondered if the man was going to finally pass out. He carefully climbed back onto the bed and worked to finish healing all the wounds. Once done, he checked on the man, realizing he was breathing evenly. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly considering the circumstances, Snape had actually fallen asleep—in Harry’s presence. Checking the empty vials, Harry realized that Snape had actually taken some Dreamless Sleep before lying down.

Harry stared in astonishment. The man hadn’t wanted him there at all, and then deliberately knocked himself out? Admittedly, the man desperately needed the rest and healing time, but . . . he never would have expected Snape to trust him that much.

Shaking his head in disbelief, and wishing he could go to sleep himself, Harry began to get Snape actually cleaned up. He snorted softly to himself. Maybe Snape just didn’t want to be conscious for this humiliation. Keeping himself clinically focused on the task at hand, he stripped the man down and washed away all the blood. He didn’t know where Winky found them, but she produced some clean night clothes. Harry struggled to get Snape covered, knowing the man wasn’t going to be happy with this at all. Grimacing, Harry hoped Snape knew he wasn’t at all happy with this, either.

How the hell did he get himself into these situations, he grumbled to himself. No student should ever have to see their professor naked. Harry refused to dwell on it, but knew that, in one sense, he found that far more disturbing than seeing the actual injuries.

Between him and Winky, they eventually got Snape settled in clean bedding. Harry stared down at the man who was now sleeping comfortably. The man was a complete and total mystery to Harry, but he couldn’t help feeling for him.

He just wasn’t sure what he felt for Snape. They weren’t exactly professor and student anymore. They weren’t really enemies like Harry had thought for a time. They weren’t exactly friends, though, either. They certainly weren’t lovers like Remus had teased. Harry grimaced at that thought. No, seeing Snape naked had definitely not done anything for him.

He sighed as he continued to stare at the man. Whatever they were, Harry was worried about him. He’d never thought it possible before, but he was truly worried about Snape. He knew that Snape had ended up taking the punishment for the Malfoys having disappeared and the failure to take Hogsmeade. Likely others had been punished, too, and Snape was probably lucky to be alive.

It had finally occurred to him while healing that Snape had been whipped. Those had been lash marks covering his chest and back. Harry had no idea what other injuries or curses Snape had endured, but he knew that he’d endured a lot.

Snape needed to be told where the Malfoys were. He’d just taken the punishment for them and deserved that much, at least. He may or may not be happy that Harry was hiding them, but the man shouldn’t have to worry any longer about where they were. He dealt with too much as it was.

Harry smiled. He wondered if he should be worried about Snape’s sanity. The man had to be slipping to take a Dreamless Sleep potion while the boy-he-loved-to-hate had a wand pointed at his back.

“Master Harry?” Winky called hesitantly.

Blinking, Harry turned inquisitively.

“There are fresh towels and clothing in the bathroom for you,” Winky said.

Harry smiled gratefully. “Thank you,” he said. He cast a brief glance at Snape. “Are the others doing all right?” he asked.

“They are awake, waiting,” she replied softly.

“Then I should hurry,” Harry said, sighing. “Stay here and watch over him, please?” he asked. “He should be fine now, but come get me if there’s any problem at all.”

Winky nodded.

Harry showered quickly, wishing he had time to relax under the gloriously hot water. He dressed in the jeans and t-shirt Winky had left for him and shoved his trainers on his feet. Checking on Snape one last time, he left a note saying that he’d be back the next night, but Winky could reach him beforehand if need be. For Snape’s sake, Harry hoped the man actually slept most of that time.

He wearily left the house, wondering absently what time it was.

* * * * *

“Are you all right?” Draco asked, looking Harry over anxiously as he stepped into the Dursley’s house.

“I’m fine,” Harry said. “Just exhausted.”

Narcissa stepped forward, looking relieved. “You’ve had us very worried,” she said quietly.

Harry shrugged. “I had things to do,” he said simply.

Draco’s face tightened for a moment before relaxing. “Harry, you’ve got far too many things to do,” he drawled.

Harry smiled tiredly. “I know, but there’s not much I can do about that,” he said.

“Bed,” Narcissa said firmly. “You will only have another busy day tomorrow, and tomorrow is a very short time away.”

Groaning, Harry started for the stairs.

“Um, Harry?” Draco said, stopping him.

Harry raised a brow in question, causing Draco to look at him oddly.

Draco shook his head and focused again. “Lupin will be here at one o’clock,” he said.

Harry darted a glance at Narcissa, who nodded.

“Yes, Draco informed me,” she said calmly.

“Lupin wants to talk to you again before you go back to Hogwarts,” Draco explained. “I think he also wants to see personally that my mother and I are actually living here,” he added wryly.

“Are you all right with this?” Harry asked Narcissa.

“I respect his wish to make sure you are safe,” she said by way of answer.

Harry nodded wearily. In other words, she wasn’t happy with it, but she accepted it. Good enough.

It didn’t take long for him to change and crawl into bed, Draco right behind him. They fell asleep quickly, wrapped snugly together, and never even heard Narcissa come into the room.

* * * * *

Harry was still in bed and blearily attempting to wake up when the knock at the front door was heard. Narcissa gazed at him sympathetically as he rolled out of bed, grumbling about having to get up.

He padded down the stairs to let Remus in, wondering absently where Aunt Petunia had disappeared. Not that she would’ve willingly let Remus in, even if she had been around. Remus looked at him with as much sympathy as Narcissa, and Harry was simply finding it irritating. He didn’t say anything, but held the door open wider and gestured for Remus to come in.

“What happened last night, Harry?” Remus asked in concern.

“I don’t have my wand,” Harry muttered.

Understanding, Remus cast a Silencing Charm around them.

“The git was injured badly,” Harry grumbled. “I helped patch him up and hopefully he’s still sleeping it off.”

“He let you heal him?” Remus questioned in disbelief.

Harry shrugged. “There was no one else around to do it,” he said. “He didn’t have much choice.” He didn’t feel like talking about it. He turned and started for the stairs. “You might as well come upstairs.”

Frowning, Remus dropped the Silencing Charm and followed. He stopped and stared in astonishment when they arrived at Harry’s room.

“Remus Lupin, Narcissa Malfoy,” Harry said, gesturing to each person as he said their names. “I’m sure you already know each other.” He dropped down onto the bed with the rumpled Draco. Draco lay back down with him and they both closed their eyes.

“Don’t you two go back to sleep,” Narcissa warned.

They grumbled incoherently. Narcissa shot them an irritated glare before standing to greet Remus. She held her hand out. “Mr. Lupin,” she said graciously. “It’s a pleasure.”

Nonplussed, but grateful his manners kicked in regardless, Remus shook her hand. “Mrs. Malfoy,” he said with a nod. “Call me Remus.”

“And do call me Narcissa. Please, have a seat,” she gestured. “Can I offer you some tea? Or something stronger, perhaps?” she asked with a wry smile.

Remus relaxed a little and smiled in return. “I would appreciate something stronger, but perhaps it is best if I stick with tea,” he said.

Narcissa smiled in understanding. She’d had Winky bring tea and a bit of lunch for the boys, which was spread out on the desk. They quickly prepared the tea to their liking before sitting down.

“Excuse me for this,” Narcissa said in advance apology. “Boys!” she said sharply. “Harry, Draco, we have a guest. You will not lie there and go back to sleep.”

“’S just Remus,” Harry protested.

Narcissa sighed. “Harry, he is still your guest,” she attempted to explain.

“’S a manners thing,” Draco mumbled.

“You should have more respect, Draco,” Narcissa snapped. “You’ve been taught better than this.”

“Thank Merlin I haven’t been taught these manners things,” Harry said, starting to grin, despite his eyes being closed.

“I always thought you were deprived,” Draco said, smiling as well by now. “I was clearly wrong.”

“Boys!” Narcissa exclaimed in exasperation.

Remus chuckled along with Harry and Draco as they sat up. “And to think most people would worry about Draco corrupting Harry when the reality appears to be the other way around,” he said in amusement.

“When they work together, I believe we are all in trouble,” Narcissa said dryly. “They will corrupt each other and anyone around them.”

Harry and Draco both smirked, extremely satisfied with themselves.

Narcissa shook her head in resignation. “You two go get dressed,” she said.

“Which translates to mean she’d like to talk to Lupin in private,” Draco said, shoving at Harry so he could get out of bed.

“At least they seem to have those manners things,” Harry agreed, rolling out of bed. “So I think we can count on them not trying to kill each other.”

“Harry, do you have no respect for the seriousness of this situation?” Remus asked, sounding curious as much as reproachful.

Harry shrugged carelessly, but his gaze was serious as he looked between Remus and Narcissa. “I’ve got enough things to be serious about, and I’m not worried much about the two of you. I know you’re both worried about me and Draco,” he said. “If protecting our safety means you two have to behave civilly towards each other, then I think you’ll do that. If I’m wrong, then tell me now.”

Remus exchanged a glance with Narcissa, before shaking his head at Harry. “No, you’re right, Harry,” he said mildly.

With an armful of clothing, Draco grabbed Harry’s hand to pull him out of the room.

“I hope I’m right,” Harry muttered as he padded down the hallway.

“I think they’ll be fine,” Draco said, although he sounded a little anxious as well. “We just need to give them some time to talk.”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, shutting the bathroom door behind them. He looked at Draco, who was setting their clothes on the counter. Leaning back against the door, he smiled mischievously. “So, what can we do to waste a little time?” he asked.

Hearing the tone, Draco’s head snapped up. “I’m sure we can think of something,” Draco drawled, stepping over to Harry.

They were quickly absorbed in the task of kissing each other senseless. Draco’s hands roamed across Harry’s shoulders, up his neck and were soon tangled in Harry’s hair. Harry’s hands were roaming up and down Draco’s back, exploring the smooth, warm skin.

Tucking his thumbs into the waistband of Draco’s pyjama bottoms, Harry hesitated. He didn’t know how far Draco was willing to go, and he still didn’t really have a clue as to what he was doing. Not stopping in his exploration of Harry’s mouth, Draco wriggled his hips in encouragement.

Harry groaned deep in his throat as Draco’s movements triggered waves of sensation to travel through his groin and outwards through his body. Vaguely remembering that he was the brave Gryffindor, Harry hooked his thumbs and slid Draco’s pyjama bottoms down. The silk pooled at Draco’s feet and Harry’s own pyjamas quickly joined them on the floor.

“Oh gods,” Draco groaned, ripping his mouth away.

Both boys were breathing heavily as they looked down to where their cocks were brushing against each other. Transfixed by the sight, Harry slowly reached to take Draco’s cock in his hand, wrapping his fingers around and squeezing gently.

Draco whimpered, and Harry’s eyes flicked up to look at Draco’s face. His cheeks were flushed pink and his face was awash with obvious pleasure. Deciding he was doing something right, Harry’s eyes travelled back to Draco’s cock in his hand.

Only knowing what he himself liked, Harry began to mimic the motions. He swiped his thumb across the head, smearing the leaking pre-come. He squeezed again gently before pumping his fist up and down.

“Harry,” Draco moaned.

Harry’s eyes flicked back to Draco’s face, meeting silver, glazed eyes. Holding Draco’s gaze, he brought his hand up and licked his palm and along his fingers. Draco inhaled sharply, knowing what Harry intended.

Looking down again, Harry gripped Draco’s cock firmly and revelled in the hissing issuing from Draco’s lips. With his attention focused on bringing Draco pleasure, he was startled when Draco’s hand reached for his own cock. Harry’s rhythmic pumping faltered as Draco touched him.

“Oh, that’s good, Draco,” Harry moaned.

“Don’t stop,” Draco protested breathily.

Harry picked up his motions again, watching and feeling as Draco did the same to him. He felt Draco tensing and knew he was going to come. He pumped faster and watched in fascination as pearly streams of come jetted from Draco’s cock. Some of the hot creaminess landed on his own cock, which Draco swiftly smeared as he continued to stroke Harry. Groaning, Harry came, unable to hold back.

Draco slumped against Harry, even as Harry slumped against the door. They slid to the floor, limbs tangling together and breathing ragged.

“That felt good,” Harry said a couple minutes later.

Chuckling, Draco shifted to kiss Harry lightly. “Yes, it did,” he agreed.

It was new and wonderful, and Harry loved it. “I can’t wait to do more,” he said.

“We’ll get there, lover boy,” Draco drawled in amusement. “One step at a time.” He cocked his head to the side. “You’re not exactly the patient sort, are you?”

“And you are?” Harry retorted.

Draco smirked. “No,” he admitted. “But I happen to be enjoying all of this.”

“Me, too,” Harry agreed softly.

“Come on,” Draco said, rising to his feet and holding out a hand to help Harry up. “Take a shower with me.”

“You want me to shower with you?” Harry asked in surprise.

“Why not?” Draco asked. “It’s not like we haven’t seen each other naked,” he said reasonably.

Harry frowned for a moment. Much as he wanted to do even more with Draco, he did wonder if they were moving awfully fast. He shrugged off his hesitancy. He would get to see Draco with water streaming over his naked body. He’d be an idiot not to accept the invitation.

Draco smirked knowingly and moved to turn the water on.

* * * * *

“Did you two work out your differences?” Harry asked, walking back into his room. He picked up Victoria as Narcissa held her up for him.

“Yes,” Narcissa said wryly, looking at the two boys, both with wet hair. “Now that you and Draco are through, perhaps you could feed Victoria, and have some food yourself, before you have to leave.”

Harry grinned, unrepentant. “I could do that,” he agreed, sitting down on the bed with the little girl as Draco gathered up some plates of food for them. Draco tossed Harry a banana. He peeled the skin back and broke off a small bite for Victoria. She reached for more, but Harry only gave her another little bite. He’d just showered and had to leave soon. He really didn’t want to get covered in mushy banana first thing.

“Na,” Victoria demanded.

“Yes, banana,” Harry said. “But you’re not getting the whole thing at once.”

“Here,” Draco said, tossing Harry a roll.

“You want some bread?” Harry asked her, breaking off half the roll and trying to hand it to her.

“Na,” she demanded.

“Why’d you have to start with a banana?” Harry whinged, looking at Draco.

Draco shrugged. “She likes them,” he said.

“I don’t want to go to Hogwarts covered in banana,” Harry said.

Draco rolled his eyes. “It’s not like you don’t know the cleaning charms,” he drawled.

“It’s not the same,” Harry grumbled, handing Victoria another small bite, which she grabbed eagerly. He broke off a larger bite for himself and popped it into his mouth.

Draco set a plate down beside him before sitting down on the other side of Victoria with his own plate. He fed Victoria a bite of cooked carrot, which she mashed between her gums just as happily as she had the banana.

Grateful Victoria was distracted, Harry picked up his own plate and began eating. He had taken a few bites before he realized Remus was watching him curiously.

Harry lifted an eyebrow questioningly.

Remus shook his head slightly. “I’m just a little surprised at the ease with which you two seem to work together – taking care of a small child.”

Harry shrugged carelessly. “We’re slowly getting things figured out,” he said before taking another bite.

“The three of you – well, you . . .,” Remus trailed off uncertainly.

Harry exchanged a curious glance with Draco before looking back to Remus.

“I see it as well,” Narcissa said softly to Remus.

“See what?” Draco demanded, beginning to get irritated with these vague comments.

Remus glanced at Narcissa before answering. “The three of you look like a family,” he said quietly.

Harry started, almost dropping his plate.

“With Victoria’s black hair and grey eyes, she looks like she is both of yours,” Remus continued. “And the two of you appear to be her parents – together.”

“Legally, she is a Potter as well as a Malfoy,” Draco said dryly.

Harry felt his chest constrict painfully. He knew that despite whatever was happening between him and Draco, they weren’t a family. He realized suddenly that he wished to be, though. Up until this moment, taking care of Victoria and his developing relationship with Draco were two separate issues. But they weren’t. Draco and Victoria came together. And Harry wanted them both.

He didn’t belong. He was just a little interlude because of circumstances, and that fact had never hit as hard as it did now.

Abruptly, he set his plate aside. “I’ve got to run to the loo,” he said as an excuse, hurriedly leaving the room. He practically ran down the hall and locked himself in the bathroom. He slid down the door to the floor, where he and Draco had been not that long before.

What was he doing? He was getting himself deeper and deeper involved, and he was just going to end up hurt. He banged his head despairingly against the door. This was going to hurt severely.

“Harry?” Remus called, knocking on the other side of the door.

Sighing heavily, Harry stood and attempted to rein in his emotions. He opened the door to find Remus smiling sadly. “Come here,” Remus said softly, holding his arms open.

Harry stepped into the embrace gratefully, wondering how bad he must look for Remus to react this way. “Oh, Harry,” Remus murmured. “You’ve fallen hard, haven’t you?”

Harry couldn’t bring himself to answer. What was he supposed to say? Remus seemed to already know that he was an idiot. He allowed himself to be guided down the stairs and sat down on the couch in the sitting room. He registered Remus casting the Silencing Charm around them, before he was pulled close again.

“I’m an idiot,” Harry mumbled against Remus’ chest.

“No, Harry,” Remus said gently. “Falling in love does not make you an idiot.”

Harry pulled back in shock. “Am I actually in love?”

Remus chuckled. “You seem to have the symptoms,” he said wryly. “What did you think it was?”

Harry frowned. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I just . . . I just realized that I’m setting myself up for one hell of a fall.”

“What do you mean?” Remus prompted.

Harry tried to gather his thoughts. “You said we looked like a family, and I realized how much I wanted it. I mean, I’ve always wanted a family, but I want this family. I want Draco and Victoria. Somehow, I’d never connected what’s been happening between me and Draco to Victoria. They come together, and I’m not going to be able to keep them forever,” he said sadly.

“Because this is just a temporary situation,” Remus stated.

“Yeah,” Harry sighed.

“How do you feel about Draco?” Remus questioned.

Unknowingly, Harry’s eyes sparkled animatedly. “Well, he can still be a right bastard, but he’s incredible,” he said.

Remus smiled, but didn’t interrupt.

“I know everyone would think I was mental, but I like him,” Harry said. “It is mental, because I’ve hated him for years,” he admitted. “But he’s caring and strong and funny. He feels as strongly about family as I do.”

His brow furrowed deeply as he continued slowly. “Draco understands me and I think I understand him. Not everything, of course, but important things. I don’t agree with all of it, but I respect why he was doing what he was doing.”

Remus simply nodded in acceptance, not questioning or disagreeing.

“I trust him,” Harry said. “It may not make sense to trust him, but I do. I want to do everything I can to protect him and keep him safe, but at the same time I know that he can take care of himself most of the time.” He grinned suddenly. “He makes a really lousy Death Eater, though. How he managed to survive this long with that lot, I have no idea.”

Remus chuckled. “Somehow, I think that might be considered a strength rather than a weakness.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “That’s what I’ve decided. He’s strong, Remus,” he said. “It’s taken far more strength to switch sides than it did to follow blindly.”

“I agree, Harry,” Remus said quietly.

“It’s become kind of a ridiculous private joke, but he’s my strength,” Harry said softly. “No matter what’s happening, he’s there for me.” He tilted his head to the side. “He might be there arguing with me, but he’s there.”

“You do seem to have a rather unique relationship,” Remus said in amusement.

Harry shrugged, grinning. “I’m not sure we’d know what to do if we didn’t argue. Odd as it may sound, I like it. He’s honest with me. If he doesn’t like something, I know it. There’s no tip toeing around each other.”

Remus nodded in understanding. “There’s also no denying that physically you seem to be compatible,” he said dryly.

“He’s hot,” Harry said, smirking. “I’m disappointed in myself for not figuring this out sooner.”

Remus shook his head in exasperation. “The boy is scrawny and looks like he hasn’t eaten properly in months. He has deep shadows under his eyes which make him look like he hasn’t slept properly in months, either.”

Harry frowned. “Well, yeah,” he said, baffled as to why Remus was suddenly insulting Draco’s appearance. He thought Draco was actually starting to look a lot better now that he was getting some proper rest and he was eating well again. He certainly looked a lot healthier than he had when he’d first shown up at the beginning of the summer.

“Harry, my point is simply that this is obviously not a relationship being built solely on physical attraction like so many teenage relationships,” Remus said, smiling.

“Oh,” Harry said. “But I am attracted to him.”

“Yes, and if you are attracted to him even when he does not look his best, then it goes beyond the boundaries of a shallow attraction,” Remus attempted to explain.

“Is this what I’m feeling then – love?” Harry asked.

Remus smiled. “Harry, I’ve only seen you two together for a short time, last night and this afternoon. During that time, I’ve seen a couple very much at ease with each other. Whether you are arguing, making major decisions, feeding a small child, or reclining in bed together with company present,” he added the last wryly.

Harry was listening intently, but he couldn’t help grinning.

Remus shook his head ruefully, but continued soberly after taking a deep breath. “You and Draco remind me of your parents,” he said.

Harry inhaled sharply, the grin falling from his features as he stared incredulously.

“James and Lily loved each other very much and would do anything for each other and their little boy,” Remus said softly. “They argued and disagreed about plenty of things, but it never seemed to matter in the long run. They did everything together and worked well together. Their animosity in their younger years wasn’t as severe as that between you and Draco, but it was there. Once they discovered they actually liked each other, there wasn’t anything that was going to separate them.”

That brought Harry full circle back to his original concerns. “But Remus, this is all just temporary,” he said. “It’s different circumstances than it was for my parents.”

“Different circumstances, but still difficult times,” Remus said. “I think you are selling yourself short by saying Draco only wants you temporarily.”

Harry sighed heavily, running his hands through his hair. “You don’t think it’s just because I’m the only one available?” he asked bitterly. “Once things are better, he’ll be able to get custody of Victoria back and he can move on.”

“I don’t know if what I’m feeling is love or not, but I know it’s going to hurt like hell when he decides to leave,” he said miserably. “What would I do without him? Without Victoria? They mean everything to me, Remus.”

He paused, bowing his head as he understood. “I love them,” he said flatly. “As impossible as it is, I love Draco Malfoy.”

“Oh, Harry,” Remus said, pulling Harry close again. “Not impossible. And I think he cares just as deeply for you.”

Harry snorted. “Remus, he’s probably upstairs complaining about what a prat I am again. He doesn’t care about me like that.”

“Harry, Draco has been standing in the doorway watching you anxiously almost this entire time,” Remus said quietly.

Harry started and whipped his head around. Draco was indeed leaning against the side of the doorway, watching with narrowed eyes.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Harry accused, turning back to Remus.

“You needed to talk about it,” Remus said simply. “Love can be glorious and wonderful, but also confusing. I’m here to listen anytime you need me.”

“I’m still confused,” Harry said petulantly.

Remus chuckled. “I’m sure you are, but hopefully less confused than you were,” he said.

“Maybe,” Harry admitted, smiling. “Thanks, Remus.”

Remus nodded, and broke the Silencing Charm. He nodded to Draco as he passed, heading upstairs again.

“What was that all about?” Draco demanded, stepping into the room.

Harry smiled nervously. “Um, just me being a prat,” he said.

“You’re always a prat,” Draco said impatiently. “I want to know what’s wrong.”

Harry bit his lip, trying to figure out what to say to Draco. He certainly wasn’t about to declare his love to him. He still hadn’t adjusted to that idea himself. He wasn’t so sure they were ready to talk about their uncertain future, either.

“Harry,” Draco said warningly, sitting down on the couch.

“I didn’t want you to be offended by Remus comparing us to a family,” Harry said.

“Why would that offend me?” Draco asked.

“Because Victoria’s not mine,” Harry said softly. “She’s your daughter, and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to take her away from you or something.”

Draco snorted. “Like you’d ever do something like that,” he said. “I know, and you know, that you wouldn’t. So, what’s really the problem?”

Harry looked at him curiously. “You really don’t believe I would?”

“No,” Draco answered immediately. “Family’s too important to you.”

Harry smiled sadly. “Yeah,” he agreed. “But I’ll miss her,” he added, almost inaudibly.

“What do you mean by that?” Draco asked sharply.

“I know this is all temporary,” Harry said.

“Do you want it to be temporary?” Draco asked, eyes narrowed.

Harry lowered his head. “No,” he whispered, feeling incredibly exposed with that one little word.

Draco was quiet for a long time and, sighing, Harry moved to stand up.

“Wait!” Draco exclaimed softly.

Harry finally risked a glance at him. “Draco, don’t worry about it,” he said. “I know things aren’t permanent. I told you, I’m just being a prat.”

“Harry, nothing is certain right now,” Draco said.

“I know that,” Harry said agitatedly. “Nothing in my life is ever certain. Unless you count the fact that Voldemort intends to kill me. I can rely on that,” he said sarcastically.

“You’re not going to let him kill you,” Draco said angrily.

“I didn’t say I was,” Harry retorted. “I only said that’s his intention. And I know I’m not going to get anything permanent until he’s gone.”

“I don’t want to just be some passing fling that you toss aside for something permanent once you defeat the bastard,” Draco snapped.

Harry paused, blinking in astonishment. “Is that what you think?” he asked.

Scowling, Draco looked away and didn’t answer. Harry suddenly realized that Draco was probably even more scared than he was that this would all just disappear if he could ever win the war.

“Draco, I’m not going anywhere,” he said quietly. “Everything’s happening so fast, and I’m trying to deal with so many things, but . . . I’m not going anywhere,” he repeated.

He paused, trying to gather his thoughts and decide exactly how much he wanted to say. He decided to take the risk. “It hit me pretty hard that I want to be a family with you. I don’t want to lose you or Victoria, but when this war is over, you’ll have no reason to stay with me anymore. You’ll be able to move on and find someone better.”

Draco stared intently for a minute before finally responding. “When you defeat the bastard, you’ll be the catch of the century. I’d be a fool to get rid of you at that point,” he drawled.

Harry dropped his face into his hands, laughing at the absurdity of that. It was so like Draco, but Harry got the message. Draco didn’t want this to end, either. Good enough for the moment.

Dropping his hands, he grinned up at Draco, who was now smirking at him. “You’re just looking forward to all the popcorn moments,” Harry accused.

“Of course,” Draco said haughtily. “Watching you squirm while you attempt to explain my presence makes it all worthwhile.”

“And here I thought it was the sex that made it all worthwhile,” Harry said in mock disappointment.

He went down laughing as Draco attacked, until Draco attempted to snog the life out of him.

“I think they’ve worked things out,” Narcissa said sarcastically.

Draco broke the kiss and lifted his head to smirk at his mother.

“Draco, you have no sense of shame or propriety,” Narcissa chided.

“Harry’s not fond of propriety,” Draco said promptly.

Harry choked, shoving Draco off of him. “Don’t you be blaming it all on me,” he said, although he was grinning happily.

Remus shook his head in exasperated amusement. “Harry, we are already late,” he said.

Cursing, Harry snagged the trainers that Narcissa held out to him and hurriedly shoved them on his feet. “How did you ever take care of yourself?” she asked.

“Too busy taking care of everyone else,” he muttered absently, his mind already moving to his destination. He pounded up the stairs, returning with the red snake and his rucksack to put it in.

Harry gave Draco a hurried kiss and was off again.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

Harry and Remus were met at the Hogwarts gates.

“Harry, you’re late,” Hermione accused. “You were supposed to be here almost thirty minutes ago.”

Before Harry could reply with some angry retort, Remus cut in smoothly. “I’m afraid I needed to speak with Harry,” he said mildly. “My apologies.”

“Oh,” Hermione said, unwilling to push the issue in front of Remus.

Harry sent him a grateful smile when Hermione turned to march back to the castle. He soon found himself in a room near the hospital wing with the Weasleys, Hermione, Tonks, McGonagall and Pomfrey. Harry was incredibly grateful that Remus was there as well.

Madam Pomfrey insisted on Harry teaching them the healing spell first, and he explained everything he knew about it. He helped everyone learn the proper technique and incantation.

“I think I’ve got it,” Ron muttered doubtfully.

Harry hesitated before sidling over to Charlie. “Do you have a knife on you?” he asked quietly.

Charlie’s eyes narrowed as he stared hard at Harry. “Yes,” he finally answered.

“Then let me use it,” Harry said calmly. “There’s a quick, easy way for Ron to test whether he can perform the spell or not.”

“You’re actually going to cut yourself, then let Ron point his wand at you?” Charlie asked dubiously.

Harry grinned. “When you put it that way, it does sound more risky.”

Charlie shook his head but produced the knife anyway. Turning his back and using Charlie as a shield, Harry made a quick slice across his forearm. Nothing deep, but something for Ron to practice on.

“Okay, Ron,” Harry said, turning around. “Hurry up and heal this because it bloody stings.”

Harry ignored all the gasps, focusing on Ron. “Harry, what’d you do?” Ron exclaimed.

“Just hurry up and heal this,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

Ron stepped forward and, swallowing nervously, touched his wand to Harry’s arm and muttered the incantation. Everyone watched as the small cut healed almost instantly.

“Brilliant,” Ron breathed. “I did it.”

Frowning her disapproval of Harry’s teaching methods, Madam Pomfrey swiftly cast a couple of cleaning charms to clean up the blood. Harry wished he knew how to do that, but he wasn’t given a chance to ask. Hermione knew at least one spell to clean up blood, and so did Narcissa. At some point, he was really going to have to have someone teach it to him.

“I think that is enough of that,” McGonagall said firmly.

“Fine,” Harry said. “But he knows he can do it now. And if we’re done with healing spells, I’ve got something to show all of you.”

He retrieved his rucksack and stuck his hand inside, allowing the snake to curl around his forearm.

“Harry, is that a snake?” Ron asked, wide-eyed as he saw the snake slithering on Harry’s arm.

“Yes, this is Gryff,” Harry said calmly, holding it up to show everyone. They wanted answers, and this was the best he could give them at the moment. He was hoping that it would be shocking enough to help distract from any other questions.

He grinned, seeing that he certainly had everyone’s attention.

“Where’d you get a snake?” Ron asked in disgust.

“We gave it to Harry as an early birthday present,” George said.

“Yeah, mate,” Fred agreed. “Why didn’t you bring the others?”

Harry could’ve kissed them for their cooperation. They not only gave him an excuse for having the snakes, but also a way out of having to explain their real birthday present to him.

“You gave Harry snakes for his birthday?!” Ron shouted before Harry could answer.

“Saw them in the Magical Menagerie,” George said with a shrug. “They were bright and colourful and we thought Harry’d like them.”

“You would like bright and unusual,” Bill said dryly.

The twins beamed brightly at their oldest brother. “Of course,” they said in unison.

There was a lot of eye rolling as attention shifted back to Harry.

“So, why did you bring a snake here?” Ginny asked curiously.

“Because I was asked why so many of the Death Eaters seemed to have problems with their wand hands last night,” Harry said cryptically. He looked questioningly, and apologetically, at the twins.

They nodded in resignation. “Go ahead,” George said.

“It’s not like we’re not used to being test subjects,” Fred added.

Watching the group warily, Harry hissed quietly to the snake. Fred and George were both yelping a second later and then trying to rub the pain out of their hands.

“And I knew that was coming,” Fred grumbled good-naturedly.

“Sorry,” Harry said.

“What just happened?” Mrs. Weasley asked sternly, glaring at Harry and the twins in disapproval.

Harry began explaining about the snakes and their magical abilities.

“Well, that’s one weapon we’re not taught in Auror training,” Tonks said cheerfully.

Harry laughed along with most of the others. He wasn’t laughing long, though, as McGonagall decided she wanted to talk to Harry privately. Harry grudgingly went with her, but insisted Remus come with them. Ron and Hermione wanted to come, too, but he said he’d meet with them afterwards, much to their disappointment.

It wasn’t a pleasant visit with McGonagall. She questioned him about everything, insisting on answers. As a result, she got a fair amount of lies and half-truths, which didn’t exactly make Harry happy. Especially since he was bringing Remus and the twins in as accomplices.

Harry told her the twins had gotten him the ingredients, close enough, and Remus took the credit for helping Harry with the actual brewing of the potions.

He also had to explain about Winky, as McGonagall knew she had disappeared from Hogwarts. She wasn’t at all happy with Harry choosing to bond a house-elf to himself, but she did promise not to say anything to anyone—particularly Hermione.

Giving up that information helped explain a lot of things, at least. Including how Harry had been able to contact everyone so quickly after his “vision”. McGonagall seemed satisfied with that explanation, at any rate. Harry was deeply relieved when she finally let him go.

Unfortunately, Hermione and Ron were lying in wait for him.

“Perhaps you could take it easy on him, Hermione,” Remus suggested mildly before walking away and leaving Harry alone with his friends.

Harry was dragged unceremoniously into a nearby classroom and Silencing Charms were erected.

“I want to know what’s going on, Harry,” Hermione demanded. “I know you’re up to something.”

Harry snorted in amusement. “Of course I am,” he retorted.

That made her pause for a second, as she obviously hadn’t expected Harry to agree with her. Ron was wisely sitting on a desk off to the side, trying not to get between them.

“What’s going on?” Hermione repeated. “You’re acting oddly, and even Ron and I don’t have a clue as to what you’re doing half the time.”

“What do you want me to say, Hermione?” Harry asked, getting irritated because he didn’t know what to tell her. “You know I have secrets that have to be kept right now.”

“Not from us,” Hermione said, sounding hurt. “We’re trying to help you.”

Harry lowered his head, feeling guilty for hurting his friends. He knew he couldn’t afford to tell them, though. Once again, he was going to adjust the truth to suit his purposes.

“Dumbledore left me with more than just the task of the Horcruxes,” he said slowly. “He told me I could tell the two of you, and only the two of you, about that task. I wasn’t told I could tell you about the other things.”

“What other things?” Hermione asked quickly.

“I just told you,” Harry snapped. “I can’t tell you.” It was beside the point that Dumbledore hadn’t even seen fit to inform Harry about Grimmauld Place and Snape. Dumbledore also hadn’t actually assigned Harry the Malfoys, but Harry was pretty sure the old man would be happy with how he had handled things overall.

“I think you’re beginning to sound just as vague and mysterious as Dumbledore always was,” Ron spoke up.

Harry shrugged. “I understand better why he’d be that way now,” he admitted. “Some secrets just have to be kept when you’re at the centre of a war.”

“Harry, do you feel like you’re . . . well, not exactly taking Dumbledore’s place, but . . . ,” Hermione spoke hesitantly, not sure how to phrase it after all that had been said at the Order meeting.

Harry understood what she meant. “I’m not just an icon anymore,” he said sarcastically. “I’m actively working at being the symbol of the Light side.”

Hermione flinched at Harry’s tone, knowing he wasn’t happy with the situation. She sighed heavily, and Harry waited tensely for her to decide whether she was going to keep pushing or not.

“Ginny and I have your article done for you,” she said, sounding resigned, at least for the moment.

Harry smiled gratefully in relief and accepted the parchment she handed him.

“You’re not off the hook, Harry,” she warned. “I just think that while we have you here, we shouldn’t be wasting our time. We need to talk about the Horcruxes.”

“Have you figured anything out?” Harry asked hopefully.

“Well, no,” Hermione admitted.

“Regulus’ middle name was Adrian,” Harry said. “It fits the initials left on that letter.”

“How’d you figure that out?” Hermione asked. “Never mind,” she said, holding her hand up and turning thoughtful as she mused over that information.

“But Regulus was a Death Eater,” Ron said. “How could it have been him?”

“He got in too deep and wanted out,” Harry said with a shrug. “I just don’t know how he would’ve managed to find out about the Horcruxes.”

“Maybe he didn’t actually know it was a Horcrux,” Ron suggested.

“Ron, the letter said he knew it was a Horcrux,” Hermione said impatiently.

“Oh, that’s right,” Ron said sheepishly.

Hermione rolled her eyes at him, but immediately dropped back into her thoughtful expression. “I don’t think it’s really important that we know how he found out about the Horcruxes,” she said slowly. “It would be more helpful if we actually knew for sure it was him.”

“Why does it matter at all who it was?” Ron asked.

“Because then we could more easily determine what he might have done with the real Horcrux,” Hermione answered.

“It was him,” Harry said evenly.

Hermione looked at him sharply. “You know this for sure?” she asked.

“Yes,” Harry said without elaborating.

“How?” Hermione snapped out.

“I just know it,” Harry said, his tone making it clear that he wasn’t going to say anymore about it. “What we have to figure out now is what Regulus would have done with the locket. It could be anywhere. I’ve been thinking about it, but so far I haven’t been able to come up with anything.”

Hermione opened her mouth to argue with Harry, but then she closed it again without questioning him. They lapsed into a long silence as they pondered the problem.

“Grimmauld Place,” Hermione breathed.

“What?” Ron said in confusion. “I thought we were trying to figure out what Regulus would’ve done with the Horcrux.”

“We were. We are,” Hermione said impatiently. “He still lived at home with his parents, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” Harry answered. He wasn’t sure that Regulus had gone there, though, as Narcissa had said he’d shown up on her front lawn. He’d thought about searching Grimmauld Place, but it just didn’t seem likely that the locket would be there.

“So, see, Grimmauld Place makes sense as a good hiding place,” Hermione said excitedly. “There was so much junk in that place that it could easily be overlooked.”

“Hermione, we threw all that old junk away,” Ron said.

“Not all of it,” Hermione said impatiently. “I remember a locket in the drawing room – when we were cleaning. I’ve only heard Slytherin’s locket described and I’ve never thought about it in connection with Grimmauld Place before, but I remember it now.”

Harry looked at her sceptically. “Hermione, Regulus died a long time ago, which means the locket would’ve had to have been there for years. Dumbledore was in Grimmauld Place a lot. Surely he would’ve noticed a locket if there was one there.”

“But Dumbledore didn’t know Regulus, or anyone, had discovered the locket,” Hermione said earnestly. “What reason would he have had to look for it at Grimmauld Place? Besides, how much time did he actually spend in any part of the house aside from the kitchen?”

Harry shrugged one shoulder half-heartedly. “Probably not much,” he admitted.

“Exactly. We were the ones who did all the cleaning and Dumbledore was never around for any of that,” Hermione said.

Harry and Ron exchanged sceptical glances and Hermione glared at them irritably.

“Just try to remember,” she snapped. “We were all cleaning out that large glass cabinet and on one of the shelves was a locket. Some of us tried to open it, but couldn’t, and Sirius ended up tossing it into the rubbish sack without a second glance.”

Harry and Ron furrowed their brows as they tried to remember. There had been all kinds of odd, creepy things. Harry could picture George wrapping his hand carefully before rescuing the Wartcap powder from the rubbish sack.

Suddenly, Harry could picture the locket. He closed his eyes tight, trying to bring up the picture clearer in his mind. It was the same, he was sure of it. “It was there,” he said excitedly. “It was at Grimmauld Place.” His face fell. “It was at Grimmauld Place,” he said flatly.

“Sirius threw everything away,” Ron said dejectedly.

“Not everything,” Hermione insisted. “Don’t you two remember? Kreacher kept rescuing things from the rubbish sack. What if the locket was one of the things he rescued?”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Kreacher!” he called.

Kreacher popped sulkily in front of Harry. “Master called?” he said resentfully.

Harry ignored Kreacher’s attitude and quickly explained what they were looking for. They were all dismayed to hear Kreacher gleefully explain that he’d rescued the locket, but had taken it to Lucius the night of the Ministry fiasco.

“Fuck!” Harry cursed angrily after dismissing Kreacher.

“I reckon we at least know it wasn’t thrown away,” Hermione said miserably. “And we do have at least some idea of where it’s at now.”

“Malfoys,” Ron spat furiously. “It figures they’d be involved. They were the ones who gave the diary to Ginny.”

Harry was angry, but not for quite the same reasons. He didn’t think Narcissa or Draco knew about the Horcruxes, or they would’ve told him. He hoped so, anyway. He was going to have to question them, but he had the terrible suspicion that Lucius was the one who had the answer, and Lucius was in Azkaban.

“Fuck!” Harry cursed again, kicking at one of the desks angrily.

“Harry, stop it!” Hermione snapped, looking at Harry anxiously. She always seemed to get a bit nervous when he was angry.

“What are we going to do?” Ron asked. “It’s not like we can just walk into Malfoy Manor and start searching it.”

Hermione’s eyes widened and her gaze shot to Harry worriedly.

“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on it,” Harry sneered. Ron and Hermione didn’t even know the place was crawling with Death Eaters, and possibly Voldemort himself, and they were still panicked at the idea.

Hermione looked relieved, but still irritated with Harry’s tone. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she admitted.

Harry knew what he was going to do. He needed to confront the Malfoys. He’d thought of something else, though, with Ron mentioning the diary. And now seemed like a good time to change the subject.

“Hermione, have you thought about how we can destroy the Horcruxes once we’ve found them?” he asked.

“Nothing definite,” she said with a sigh. “I would feel better if Dumbledore had told you how he destroyed the ring. It’s like he just wanted you to find them, but then not destroy them. Why didn’t he tell you what to do next?” she asked, bemoaning the lack of information.

“I destroyed one as well,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I destroyed the diary.” He cocked his head at Hermione. “I’ve been wondering, could you research Basilisks and their venom?”

Hermione frowned. “I could, but where in the world would you find another Basilisk?”

“Why do I need to find another one, when I know where the first one is at?” he asked.

“That’s been years, Harry,” Hermione said. “It’s not going to do you any good now.”

“Just research, please,” Harry asked, sending her puppy dog eyes.

“All right, I will, but I’m not sure it’ll do any good,” she warned.

“Call it a hunch,” Harry said, shrugging.

Why did Voldemort want Hogwarts so badly? He didn’t ask the question aloud, but rather, allowed it to reverberate through his skull. There was something there, he was sure of it.

“You’re not thinking of going back down there, are you, mate?” Ron asked, interrupting Harry’s thoughts.

“Not right now,” Harry answered absently. “I need to talk to Ginny first.”

“You’re not taking Ginny down there,” Ron said stubbornly. “She was terrified. I’ll go with you.”

“She knows more about the Chamber, though,” Harry said quietly.

“Harry, it couldn’t be good to remind her of those memories,” Hermione said worriedly.

Harry didn’t answer. He really didn’t want to argue with them anymore.

“So, all we’ve got is a trip down to the Chamber to research a possible way of destroying Horcruxes that we don’t even have?” Ron clarified.

Harry snorted. “Sounds hopeless when you put it that way.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Are you seeing something more in all this that we’re not?” she asked suspiciously.

Harry shrugged noncommittally.

“Harry,” she said warningly.

“All I’ve got are vague ideas and suspicions at this point,” Harry said, trying to stay calm. “I have nothing concrete to tell you.”

“If you don’t tell us, then we can’t help,” Hermione said.

Harry glared at her, quickly losing his hold on his temper. “I’ve already said I need to talk to Ginny and you both are shooting it down, saying I shouldn’t do it,” he said. He snapped his mouth shut before he said anything else.

Hermione and Ron seemed to guess his thoughts, though, as both of them looked stricken. He’d been trying to warn them about Malfoy almost the entire year, but they had written it all off. There were reasons Harry wasn’t letting them in on all his secrets. It had a lot more to do with their lack of faith in him, than it did a lack of trust on his part.

Harry ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “I’ve got to go,” he said abruptly.

“Harry, stay,” Hermione said pleadingly. “We’ll figure out some solution to this.”

He turned back to her, already halfway to the door. “I know you want to help, and you are helping. You’re just going to have to trust me with the rest of it,” he said, before walking out of the room.

He was a little surprised to find Remus waiting for him.

“Didn’t go well?” Remus asked sympathetically after taking one look at Harry’s dark expression.

“They’re not happy with me, but we did generate some new information,” Harry said. His pace quickened as he thought about the Horcruxes again. He really needed to talk to Draco and Narcissa.

“Harry, where are you going in such a hurry?” Remus asked, sounding amused. “I didn’t think you’d be that anxious to go to your next destination.”

Harry stilled, looking back at Remus, before it dawned on him. He still had to deal with Snape.

Remus frowned. “I assumed that’s where you were going,” he said.

“Not until seven,” Harry said.

“Then you have just enough time to eat,” Remus said firmly. “We’ll go to the kitchens.”

“But Remus,” Harry protested. “I need –” He cut himself off. He couldn’t talk about what he needed to do.

“Can whatever it is, wait a little longer?” Remus asked. “You have yet to eat properly today.”

“I reckon it can wait,” Harry said reluctantly.

He followed Remus to the kitchens and allowed Dobby and the other house-elves to heap food on them. Deciding he was ravenous, Harry ate heartily.

“So, are you planning on following me everywhere now?” he asked conversationally between bites.

Remus chuckled. “I would if I thought it would do any good, but I had no other plans for today anyway.”

Almost out of habit, Harry erected a Silencing Charm around them. “You know I can’t take you to Grimmauld Place?”

“I am aware of that,” Remus said evenly. He hesitated. “I wish for you to deliver a letter to Severus, though.”

“Ah, Remus, why would you have me do that?” Harry complained. “I already have to try to tell him about the Malfoys.”

“What better time than when he’s already irritated with you,” Remus said in mild amusement.

Harry glared at him. “Irritated? He’s always irritated with me. He’s going to be furious about this,” he said.

“Are you getting along with him no better at all?” Remus questioned.

“Better,” Harry said sarcastically. “But better than what we were still leaves an awful lot of room for improvement.”

He shook his head at Remus’ sympathetic gaze. “It doesn’t matter. We are getting along better. I’m just not looking forward to telling him about you or the Malfoys.”

* * * * *

Harry warily let himself into Grimmauld Place a short time later, knowing he was a few minutes late, and not knowing what to expect. He found Snape in the kitchen, calmly sipping a cup of tea and reading a book, which was set aside as Harry entered.

“Do you even know what it means to be on time, Potter?” Snape asked curiously.

Harry snorted in amusement, relaxing. “I’m being pulled in all different directions and being questioned at every turn. I’m lucky anyone allows me to go anywhere, let alone let me go so I can get there on time.”

Giving himself something to do, Harry found a cup and poured himself some tea before sitting down across from Snape. “You look better,” he said carefully.

Snape nodded curtly. “I believe I owe you a thank you,” he said stiffly.

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. “You would’ve done the same thing for me,” he said.

Snape made no further comment about it, instead changing the subject to the events of the night before. He started to question Harry about the battle and Harry answered, conveniently leaving out any mention of Draco.

He was a little surprised, but grateful, when Snape didn’t react badly to Harry using the healing spell and having to teach the others. It was another one of those things that Snape seemed to have anticipated.

Things were really going quite well until Snape slammed his cup down on the table in frustration. “The Dark Lord wouldn’t have even gone for Hogsmeade last night if it weren’t for the Malfoys,” he bit out angrily.

It was time. Whether Harry wanted to do it or not, it was finally time to tell Snape.

“Voldemort would’ve attacked Hogsmeade at some point regardless,” Harry said flatly. “You’re just angry and worried because you’ve been unable to find them.”

Snape glared at him. “You know nothing about me or the Malfoys,” he sneered.

Harry shrugged, feeling oddly calm now that the moment was finally at hand. If he were honest with himself, he was actually feeling relieved.

“I know you’ve been searching for them since they disappeared five days ago and I know where they’re at,” he said.

Snape blinked in astonishment before regaining his composure. “You know where the Malfoys are?” he asked in a dangerously low tone.

“Yes,” Harry said, undaunted by Snape’s tone and the death glare being directed at him.

“Potter, I had just begun to think that you might actually have a brain in that head of yours,” Snape said.

“They’re on our side now,” Harry retorted. “They needed a safe place to go, so I gave them one. What’d you expect me to do?”

“Malfoys do not switch sides,” Snape sneered viciously. “You’ve simply placed yourself directly in the middle of more danger.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m not in danger from them,” he said. “Narcissa fusses over me every time I go out, worrying about if I’m going to get hurt. And Draco, well, Draco fusses over me, too, in his own way.”

Snape stared at him blankly. Harry felt very satisfied to have stunned the man for once.

“The Malfoys. Fuss. Over you.”

“Yes,” Harry said calmly, enjoying this immensely.

Snape shook his head slightly. “Take me to them. Now,” he demanded.

“Don’t you want me to explain any of it first?” Harry asked.

“Oh, you will be explaining,” Snape said. “But we need to remove the danger first.”

“They’re not dangerous,” Harry said in exasperation.

“Now!” Snape commanded.

Harry exhaled heavily. “Fine,” he snapped. “Meet me in the alleyway behind the Dursley’s house.”

“They’re at the Dursleys?” Snape exclaimed, seemingly unable to help himself. “A Muggle residence?”

Harry shrugged. “Yes. I haven’t been able to bring them here yet, and no one is looking for them there.”

Snape opened his mouth and then closed it again with an audible clack. He spun on his heel without another word and stalked out of the room.

Sighing, Harry followed in the wake of the billowing robes, hoping he’d made the right decision.

* * * * *

Snape’s eyes were narrowed into thin slits as he listened to Harry mutter the incantations that would allow Snape past the wards on the Dursley’s property. “Draco taught me,” Harry said quietly in answer to the unspoken question as he led the man to the house.

“Not now,” Harry said sharply to his aunt as she popped her head into the entranceway. Her eyes widened as she saw Snape and she quickly disappeared again. Harry reckoned it was a good thing that Uncle Vernon was busy watching the telly that was blaring loudly.

Harry walked up the stairs with Snape following him, but paused before opening the door to his room. “Give me just a minute to get Draco’s wand away from him. I don’t need him getting anybody hurt,” he whispered.

Snape narrowed his eyes suspiciously, but nodded curtly.

“It’s about time you got back, Harry,” Draco said as Harry opened the door.

“Did you miss me?” Harry said dryly as he stepped into the room. He deliberately left the door open a crack. Even if Draco or Narcissa noticed, it wouldn’t matter in a minute anyway.

“I never know what kind of trouble you get into while you’re gone,” Draco drawled.

Did you have any trouble today, Harry?” Narcissa asked.

“Um, just a bit,” Harry said. “But I think it’ll be okay.” He had walked over to the bed and he leaned down to give Draco a quick kiss. He pulled away, with Draco’s wand in hand.

“Hey,” Draco protested. “What are you doing with my wand?”

“Just trying to keep you from doing anything stupid,” Harry said, as he took two quick steps and snatched Narcissa’s wand off the nightstand by her bed.

“Harry?” Narcissa questioned, alarmed by his actions.

“It’s okay,” Harry said hurriedly. “I promise you’re safe. I just took your wands to keep everyone safe.”

“What the fuck are you up to now, Potter,” Draco snapped.

Harry took a deep breath. “You can come in now,” he called.

Draco and Narcissa whipped their heads around to stare at the door, and watched as Snape stepped into the room.

Harry looked at Draco and watched as he turned white.

“Draco, it’s all right,” he said hurriedly.

“Potter, he’s a fucking Death Eater!” Draco exclaimed, keeping his eyes on Snape. “Out of how many times I’ve told you this, I thought you’d finally understood that.”

“So are you and your mum,” Harry pointed out. “I didn’t think my room had enough Death Eaters, so I thought I’d invite another one home,” he added sarcastically.

Narcissa was staring at Snape fearfully, while Snape was watching Harry and Draco curiously. Harry noticed, but he was too busy arguing with Draco to deal with either of them yet.

“Give me my wand, Potter,” Draco hissed.

“No,” Harry said firmly. “Not until I can be sure you won’t hex him.”

Draco’s gaze finally slid to Harry. “Are you protecting Snape?” he asked incredulously.

Harry’s face twisted. “Um, I don’t really think he needs protecting,” he said. “I’m more protecting the rest of us. It wouldn’t be good if you decided to try duelling your godfather in here.”

Narcissa seemed to come out of her shock a bit. “Severus, you may sit down if you wish,” she said graciously, indicating the other chair. “They should be done arguing within just a minute or two, then we’ll be able to sort out what exactly is going on.”

Snape lifted a brow, but chose to accept the chair and sat down across from her.

“Mother!” Draco exclaimed. “How could you invite him to sit down?”

“He has come here as Harry’s guest,” Narcissa said calmly, despite her tight expression. “I presume Harry has a good reason, and so I will trust his judgment.”

Draco’s jaw dropped, and then he turned to Harry again. “What the fuck did you do to my mother?” he asked furiously.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I didn’t do anything to her and you know it,” he said. “She just seems to have those weird manners things, even in odd situations. You know, manners—what you’re always accusing me of not having.”

Draco was becoming more and more agitated, and Harry was beginning to actually worry. “Draco, just calm down so I can explain,” he said pleadingly.

“I don’t want to calm down!” Draco shouted. “You brought Snape here. He wants to kill you, you dumb bastard!”

“He does not,” Harry retorted. “And if you’d let me explain, then you’d know that.”

“He’s put you under some spell,” Draco said. “He’s done something. You know he’s capable of it.”

Harry hissed quietly and Draco suddenly yelped before trying to shake the pain out of his hand.

“I hate it when you do that,” Draco said, eyes narrowed.

“Then quit,” Harry snapped. “You’re getting hysterical.”

“I’m not hysterical,” Draco said haughtily.

Harry shot a glance at Narcissa and she nodded. Harry tossed her the wands he was still holding and then stepped over to Draco, toe-to-toe. “Do you trust me?” he asked quietly.

Draco glared for a few more seconds before relenting and giving Harry a quick, hard kiss. “Yes,” he hissed, stepping back. “But I still hate you.”

Harry grinned. “Fine, now sit down with me and listen to your godfather,” he said.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Potter,” Draco muttered. He sat down stiffly on the edge of Harry’s bed. Harry sprawled out comfortably, resting against the headboard.

“That was enlightening . . . disturbing, but enlightening,” Snape sneered.

“I could’ve warned you,” Harry retorted. “But you were no more in a mood to listen to explanations than Draco.”

“You had best start explaining now, Potter,” Snape ordered coldly.

Harry shrugged. “There are reasons why I haven’t explained anything before. How much do you want me to explain?” he asked.

Snape flicked his gaze between Draco and Narcissa. “What have you told them?” he snapped the question at Harry.

“They know nothing at this point,” Harry said.

“Nothing?” Snape asked, raising a brow questioningly.

“Nothing about you,” Harry clarified. “Although, they have guessed that you’ve been worrying yourself sick over them,” he added. He grinned as Snape scowled. Harry shrugged, unrepentant.

No one seemed quite willing to talk, so Harry continued. “Look, all three of you are on the same side—the side that doesn’t want Voldemort to win. Now, considering you three actually like each other and are essentially family, it should be a hell of a lot easier on everybody now that you know that. I’m a bit out of this family loop, but it would sure as hell make my life a whole lot easier. I’ve got enough secrets going around, and I’m terribly tired of trying to be the go-between for you lot.”

He paused and glanced around the overcrowded room. “Besides, if you three could figure out that you can actually trust each other, then those of us who’ve been living in this room could finally move out. Oddly enough, I’m already getting quite sick of sleeping with my boyfriend while his mother is in the room,” he said.

Draco snorted in amusement as Narcissa laughed lightly. Snape managed to look bemused and disgusted by that piece of information.

“I am unsure if I wish to know how this situation has come about,” Snape said.

Harry shrugged. “Not sure myself, really, so I couldn’t explain,” he said. He looked to Draco. “Although, it can be explained how we’ve come to be existing together in the first place.” He nudged the other boy. “Prove you have manners and make some introductions.”

Draco glared at him. “She’s sleeping,” he snapped.

“Who’s sleeping?” Snape questioned suspiciously.

“Relax,” Harry said to Snape, rolling his eyes. “Just go look in the cot.”

Snape glared, but followed Harry’s suggestion. Narcissa stood as well and they stared down into the cot. “Severus, meet Victoria Analissa Malfoy. She is Draco’s daughter,” she said softly.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Snape stared for several long moments at the sleeping baby, then turned to face Draco and Harry. “Draco, she is your daughter?” he questioned sharply.

“Yes,” Draco answered proudly.

Snape’s eyes narrowed as he pinned his gaze on Harry. “You told me that the child was yours. That her name was Victoria Potter,” he said coldly.

Harry shrugged carelessly. “I’ve got legal paperwork that says that’s her name,” he said. “I never actually said she was mine, though.”

“That is what you informed me of, Potter,” Snape said dangerously.

“No, I didn’t,” Harry disagreed. “You asked me if she was an illegitimate child and I agreed. I just didn’t correct your assumption that she was my illegitimate child.”

Snape frowned and gazed back into the cot. “She is a Malfoy child,” he murmured.

“Yes, Severus,” Narcissa said gently. “And she is the main reason why we are here.” She encouraged Severus to sit down again as she continued, taking her own seat. “Draco was unaware he had a child until after returning from Hogwarts. When he became aware she was in danger, he was able to rescue her.”

“That night,” Snape said slowly in understanding. “That raid, and you volunteered to go,” he said to Draco.

Draco nodded. “I couldn’t do anything to save the rest of her family, but I was able to get Victoria out of there.”

“And you brought her to Potter?” Snape questioned disbelievingly.

“It was the safest place I could think of,” Draco said defensively. “What was I supposed to do?”

Draco and Narcissa continued to explain the sequence of events that led up to that evening. A couple of times one of them would look questioningly at Harry, but he would wave them on, telling them it was okay to tell Snape everything. Harry was on the receiving end of a few sharp glances from Snape as well.

They were all questioning him when it came to the events of that first battle. Harry was getting a headache as they tried to sort out who knew what and who was where when. And not a bit of it was new to him. He was getting rather tired of rehashing the events of the night he’d helped Draco from opposing sides of war.

“Why does everyone always go over that night?” he asked petulantly. “First Draco, then Narcissa, and now Snape. I was just doing what needed to be done.”

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, lowering his head.

“He is amazing, isn’t he, Severus,” Narcissa said softly.

Snape looked up at Narcissa, then over to Harry, who was feeling extremely uncomfortable.

“Potter, I distinctly remember ordering you not to be anywhere near that battle,” Snape said quietly.

Harry shrugged. “I had to be there in case anything went wrong,” he said.

“And you had to be there to bail out Draco’s arse,” Snape stated as a matter of fact.

Draco scowled, but Harry nodded. “He makes a lousy Death Eater,” he said.

“Indeed,” Snape said. He looked to Draco. “Do continue.”

Draco frowned, but went back to explaining everything that had been happening. Narcissa took over parts of the story, but Harry stayed out of it as much as possible. In fact, he sprawled out on his stomach and laid his head down on his crossed arms. The other three were still unsure of the situation, but he wasn’t.

He was tired. He realized he should have known this would turn into another long night. Hopefully they’d all decide they trusted each other enough so they could finally move to Grimmauld Place. He was tired of working around the Dursleys and all of them living in this small room. He was tired of keeping secrets between Snape and the Malfoys when he shouldn’t have to. He was just plain tired of secrets. It was ridiculous in the sense that they were all on the same side.

He wondered again if he still needed to keep the secret of the Horcruxes safe from Snape. He knew it was probably best not to tell Draco and Narcissa. But Snape. Why hadn’t Dumbledore told Snape?

If they could get this issue sorted out, then he would at least talk to the Malfoys about the locket. He was truly hoping that one of them knew where it was. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do if they didn’t know.

“Potter!”

“What?” Harry asked irritably.

Draco rolled his eyes. “How you manage to stay focused in a crisis, I have no idea,” he muttered.

“This isn’t a crisis,” Harry retorted.

“Boys,” Narcissa reprimanded gently.

Harry rolled his eyes as Draco glared sullenly.

Snape lifted a brow questioningly, staring at the two boys in disbelief.

“They have an interesting relationship, do they not?” Narcissa said in amusement.

“This seems impossible,” Snape murmured quietly.

“They are growing up,” Narcissa said mildly, but the pride could be heard in her voice. “They are becoming strong young men making difficult decisions, and choosing quite wisely, I believe.”

Narcissa shifted her gaze from the boys to Snape. “I said earlier that Victoria was the reason Draco and I are here,” she said. “But that is not exactly true. We are here because of Harry.”

Snape cast a brief glance at Harry, but quickly focused on Narcissa again.

“It is because of who he is and the choices he has made,” she continued softly. “He chose to take in Victoria. He chose to wait for Draco to explain, rather than calling for the Aurors. He chose to help Draco, knowing Draco was still on the opposing side at first. Harry’s done many things.”

“He has forced you to choose sides because of Victoria,” Snape said, but his voice held doubt of his own words. It was more questioning.

“No,” Narcissa said, shaking her head for emphasis. “While Harry is standing up and making his choices, he encouraged us to do the same. In fact, he was quite forceful when he said that we should stay with the Dark Lord if we so desired. He knew the risks we would be taking by leaving the Dark Lord’s service and never once attempted to force our decision.”

“It would seem that Potter has done something that I have been working to figure out how to do for years,” Snape said, surprisingly without bitterness.

Harry spoke up, refusing to let Snape think that. “No, I did nothing,” he said. “It didn’t matter who I was. It was Victoria that made the difference.”

“She was a catalyst,” Snape said.

“I suppose,” Harry said.

Snape nodded thoughtfully.

Harry sat up and snagged his rucksack from the end of the bed where he’d dropped it, pulling out the parchments from within. He figured he might as well give Snape Remus’ letter while Snape was halfway calm.

“What do you have there?” Draco asked curiously.

Harry handed him the parchment Hermione had given him. “That’s my article that I’m supposed to be going over.” Looking interested, Draco took it and began reading immediately.

“This is a letter I was asked to give to you,” Harry said evenly, handing the rolled and sealed parchment to Snape.

“A letter for me,” Snape said flatly.

“Remus guessed last night that I knew where you were,” Harry admitted in a rush. “Today he asked me to give that to you.”

Snape’s eyes flashed dangerously. “You informed Lupin?” he snarled.

“He’s a nice man, Severus,” Narcissa interjected calmly.

Snape flicked his gaze to her briefly before settling his glare on Harry again. “You informed Lupin about the Malfoys?” he questioned.

“Yes, but I had Draco’s permission,” Harry answered.

Draco snorted softly, capturing Snape’s attention.

“You didn’t give permission?” Snape asked, eyes narrowed.

Draco and Harry exchanged a glance. Draco snatched up Harry’s wand, and erected one of their Silencing Charms. Neither of them noticed Snape surreptitiously disabling the charm.

“Are you sure it’s safe to trust Severus?” Draco asked. “It’s one thing for me and Mum to tell him about us, as he’s always looked out for us. I don’t really think he’ll turn us over to the Dark Lord. But telling him about Lupin puts you more at risk, doesn’t it? I don’t think you should be telling him about any of the things you’re doing. I understand that you believe he’s on the Light side, but I don’t understand how you can actually believe that.”

Harry tilted his head curiously. It felt a little strange for Draco to be worrying about him like this. There was some warped role reversal with Harry trusting Snape and Draco attempting to warn Harry to stay away from him.

“Draco, you might not appreciate this, but I feel like I can trust Snape more than you when it comes to issues with the war,” he said slowly, tensing in preparation of the anger he was sure that would be forthcoming.

Draco’s face tightened visibly. “You believe he’s been on your side all along, and I’ve just switched sides,” he said stiffly.

Harry nodded, but hurried to reassure. “I do trust you. It’s just –” He looked at Draco helplessly.

Draco gave him a grim smile, not particularly pleasant. “I know you do, Harry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I was at if you didn’t.”

“Draco,” Harry said, pleading with him to understand.

“I just don’t think you should trust him. How can you trust Severus when he’s always treated you so badly?” Draco burst out. “He’s a Death Eater and I’ve listened as he talked about any dozen ways of being able to kill you.”

Harry simply stared at Draco pointedly, until Draco huffed impatiently. “I know that could describe me as well,” he said irritably. “But this is Severus we’re talking about. You don’t know him like I do. He truly is dangerous, Harry.”

“I trust him, Draco,” Harry said.

“I don’t trust anybody but you,” Draco snapped. “I don’t even trust my own mother as much as you. It’s not safe to trust anybody.”

Harry gripped Draco’s face in his hands, bringing them almost nose-to-nose. “You trust me, so I need you to go with this, even if you don’t trust him. This isn’t easy for me, either, but if I had any doubts about Snape at all, I would never have told him where you were.”

“Harry,” Draco said, sounding just as pleading as Harry had been a minute before.

“Draco, I need him,” Harry said firmly. Draco’s face tightened angrily under Harry’s hands, and he tried to pull away, but Harry wouldn’t allow it. “You are my support and I need you as well,” he said, gazing intently into Draco’s stormy eyes. “But Snape is the most powerful ally I’ve got in this war.”

“He killed Dumbledore,” Draco said angrily, daring to bring it up if it would help convince Harry. “What makes you think he won’t kill you when it’s convenient for him?”

Harry’s expression darkened and he let go of Draco, but he didn’t waver when he spoke. “It wasn’t convenient for him to kill Dumbledore,” he said coldly. “It was just something that he unfortunately had to do. He was just a pawn in the events of that night, who obediently fulfilled the roles he was given – by Voldemort, by your mother, and by Dumbledore himself. He’s not even fully aware of the circumstances surrounding Dumbledore’s death. He didn’t even really kill Dumbledore, when it comes right down to it.”

“But we both saw him,” Draco said weakly, staring at Harry with an expression that seemed to be a mix of fear and awe.

“Appearances can be deceiving. Snape performed an act of mercy while protecting us,” Harry said harshly. “I know what happened that night, Draco. While you were busy leading Death Eaters into the school, I was with Dumbledore far away from the castle. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I watched Dumbledore sacrifice his life. Gods, I didn’t just watch, I was fucking ordered to help,” he said bitterly.

“You want to know the truth, Draco?” he asked rhetorically. “I fucking watched Dumbledore die twice that night. He’d already forfeited his life for the cause before we ever made it back to Hogwarts.”

He paused, glaring fiercely. “Do you want to know why I know Snape won’t kill me when it’s convenient?”

“No, Harry,” Draco pleaded. “Just stop.”

Harry continued anyway. “Dumbledore’s death was a huge sacrifice for the Light side, but killing me would mean the end of the Light side and the true beginning of Voldemort’s reign over the Wizarding and Muggle worlds.”

“Snape can hate me all he wants, but he won’t kill me, no matter what the circumstances are. He will help me vanquish Voldemort,” Harry said with cold, hard conviction.

Draco swallowed audibly, tearing his gaze away from Harry to risk a glance at Snape. Harry turned to look at the man, and realized that Snape was staring at him in shock. A quick glance showed Narcissa was also staring at him with a stunned expression. It registered that they’d heard everything and he transferred his glare back to Snape.

Snape had already closed off his expression. He flicked his wand to completely cancel the Silencing Charm Draco had cast. “I need to teach the two of you better Silencing Charms along with my spell that will counter most Silencing Charms that people use,” he said evenly. His words didn’t match the appraising stare he was directing at Harry.

Harry lifted his chin, turning back to Draco. “You want to bring up Dumbledore?” he said, cold fury at the entire situation engulfing him, but leaving him surprisingly clear-headed. “I’m understanding the infuriating old man better and better all the time. I need my allies and it would be a hell of a lot simpler if all of you got along and trusted each other. If I wasn’t keeping so many different allies separated, I could spend more time doing the most important job,” he said coldly.

“I trust all three of you and I trust Remus,” he said, glaring at all of them as he stood and walked to the door. “Deal with it.”

“Don’t run away now, Potter,” Snape sneered.

“I’m not running away,” Harry said furiously. “I’m getting out of here before I do something I regret.”

“Calm down,” Snape ordered, warding the door with a flick of his wand.

“I’ve got new leads that need to be followed up,” Harry ground out. “I’m not going to be able to question Draco and Narcissa like I need to tonight, so I might as well go talk to Ginny.”

“Ginny!” Draco exclaimed.

Harry’s nostrils flared as he closed his eyes and tried to regain control, not even sure when the hell he’d lost it.

“Let. Me. Out.”

He heard Narcissa mutter a spell, and Harry snatched at the door handle, jerking the door open and slamming it loudly behind him.

“Boy! What is the meaning of that racket?” Vernon bellowed from the sitting room as Harry pounded down the stairs.

Gritting his teeth, Harry ignored him. He slammed out the front door before his uncle could even make it to the entrance way.

Furious with the lot of them, and realizing he had his wand but neither one of his Invisibility Cloaks, Harry Apparated to the twins’ flat in Diagon Alley. He bounded up the stairs and pounded on the door.

Fred jerked the door open. “What’s wrong?” he asked immediately, glancing around the area warily.

Harry frowned, pushing past Fred. “Nothing’s wrong except for the fact that I live with people that irritate the fuck out of me,” he snapped.

“Ah,” Fred said, shutting the door calmly. “So, what can we do for you in the middle of this fine night?” he asked pleasantly.

Harry actually looked at Fred and George and was momentarily distracted, wondering how he’d managed not to notice the second Fred had opened the door. “You two are, uh, bright,” he said.

Fred and George beamed at him, wearing neon green and neon yellow pyjamas. “Thank you,” they chorused.

“You two can actually sleep wearing those?” Harry asked curiously. They nodded, but didn’t get a chance to answer verbally as Harry shook his head, Fred’s earlier comment finally registering. “Never mind. What’d you mean, ‘middle of the night’?”

“It’s almost midnight,” George said cheerfully.

“Fuck!” Harry cursed. “I reckon having you sneak me in to talk to Ginny tonight is out of the question, then.”

With raised eyebrows, the twins exchanged a glance. Harry saw them and rolled his eyes. “It’s not like that,” he retorted. “I just need to talk to Ginny about something and Ron and Hermione aren’t going to let me near her.”

“Ron and Hermione? Or Malfoy?” Fred asked knowingly.

“Oh, I’m sure he’s got the wrong idea,” Harry said angrily. “But Ron and Hermione are the real problem. They just don’t want me getting Ginny involved with anything.”

“But it’s important,” George said, making it sound like a question.

“Yes,” Harry said. “Maybe,” he qualified after a moment. He trusted the twins, but really didn’t want to explain to them that he wanted to talk to Ginny about the Chamber of Secrets. None of the Weasleys were overly fond of the topic.

Harry rubbed his temples, attempting to will away the pounding that had taken up in his head. He had no idea how Dumbledore had handled all the stress, but he knew that he wasn’t handling it nearly as well.

“All right, mate?” Fred asked, sounding concerned.

“No,” Harry admitted, sighing wearily. “Sorry I bothered you,” he said, heading for the door.

George stopped him. “Wouldn’t be sporting of us if we sent you back out in the state you’re in,” he said.

Harry really didn’t want to go back to the Dursleys yet. “Can I have a bit of a lie down on your couch?” he asked. “Just until this pounding in my head slows down.”

“Sure, mate,” George said easily as Fred walked over to the kitchen area.

The fury drained from his system, Harry collapsed onto one of their couches.

“Here,” said Fred, handing Harry a Pain-Relieving Potion. Harry downed it gratefully and laid down until it could kick in properly. Wishing he didn’t have to go back and deal with the people in his room, Harry fell asleep.

* * * * *

Harry woke feeling groggy and wondering why the potion hadn’t stopped the pounding in his head.

“Fancy seeing no one here,” Fred grumbled tiredly after opening the door.

Not feeling particularly alert, it wasn’t until Harry heard Draco’s voice that he understood what was going on.

“Weasley, you need to go check on Harry,” Draco said, his voice tight. “He said he was going to talk to your sister, but he never came back last night.”

“You think he’s cheating on you with Ginny?” Fred asked.

“No,” Draco answered, and Harry could hear the sneer in his tone overlaying his anxiety. “I need to know if he’s there safe, or if something happened to the prat.”

“The prat is fine,” Harry muttered sarcastically.

Draco’s head was suddenly looming over the back of the couch, staring down at Harry with relief. Relief, however, quickly morphed into irritation. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Sorry, I must’ve fallen asleep,” Harry mumbled.

“Potter, you’re going to be the death of me yet,” Draco muttered, moving around the couch and shoving at Harry’s feet so he could sit down.

Harry put his stocking feet in Draco’s lap. Draco stared at them for a moment before he seemed to decide that he’d allow it. He rubbed at Harry’s ankle as he looked over at him.

Fred and George dropped down on the opposite couch, looking no more awake than Harry felt.

Harry ignored the probing gaze from Draco. “Winky,” he called.

“Yes, Master Harry,” she said, popping in beside him.

“Would you please inform Narcissa that Draco found me and that I’m fine?” he asked. “Then bring back some breakfast for four, please.”

Harry closed his eyes after she disappeared again, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep.

“What time is it?” George asked sleepily.

“Daylight,” Fred answered.

“Sorry,” Harry mumbled. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“Not a problem, mate,” George said.

“For us,” Fred agreed.

Harry groaned as Draco snorted. “It’s only a problem for me,” Harry muttered. The twins wisely decided not to comment.

“Draco, did you sleep at all?” Harry asked hesitantly.

“No,” Draco said shortly. “I was packing.”

Harry’s eyes flew open and he stared at Draco questioningly. Draco nodded.

“Well, something good came out of last night, then,” Harry said.

“Good?” Fred asked, seemingly unable to keep himself from blurting it out.

“Yes, good,” Harry said. He wasn’t sure what else to tell them, though. Draco wasn’t forthcoming with any answers, his gaze still trained on Harry. Sighing, Harry looked over to Fred and George. “We’re moving somewhere safer than the Dursleys.”

“I reckon that is good, then,” George said slowly. “But, uh, Harry, how are we going to reach you?”

Harry had no idea. He could reach everyone else quickly, but no one was going to be able to find him.

“Coins,” Draco said curtly.

“Like the DA coins?” Fred asked.

“Yeah, Draco can do the charm,” Harry said dryly.

Draco’s jaw tightened, and Harry could practically feel the tension radiating off of him. Sliding his feet to the floor, Harry shifted until his head was lying in Draco’s lap instead. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, gazing up at Draco from his vulnerable position.

The apology didn’t seem to help and Harry sighed heavily as Winky popped back into the room. The twins eagerly helped her spread things out on the coffee table between the two couches, as their dining table was currently covered in who-knew-what.

Harry made a move to sit up but Draco stopped him. “Harry, I –” he cut himself off. One hand rested on Harry’s chest and the other carded through Harry’s hair.

“Master Harry?” Winky said, eyeing the two of them carefully as she called for his attention.

Harry turned to her, realizing she was done unloading breakfast. “What is it, Winky?” he asked.

“Winky is to tell Master Harry ‘half past eight means at least attempt to be here on the hour’,” she said, passing on the message verbatim.

Harry grinned, despite himself. “Return message – I have three, and one’s not going to let me out of sight, but I’ll do my best.” He only had three people that could possibly hinder his progress of making it back for the meeting time Snape had set.

She nodded and left them to their breakfast.

Draco arched a brow. “What the bloody hell did that mean?” he asked, knowing who the message had to be from, but not understanding the odd messages or Harry’s reaction.

“It means I must not be in too much trouble,” Harry answered, still smiling as he sat up. Not if Snape was teasing him about being late.

“You’re not in trouble,” Draco agreed, but he was frowning as he attempted to make sense of the messages. “So, does that mean eight o’clock or nine o’clock?”

Harry laughed. “I have to be there at eight o’clock,” he said. “What time is it anyway – besides daylight time?”

Fred grinned. “It’s seven o’clock now,” he said.

Harry gazed at Draco warily, even as he leaned in close to him. “Are you all right?” he asked quietly.

Instead of answering verbally, Draco kissed him. It was harsh and punishing at first, but he gradually eased up, running his tongue soothingly across bruised lips.

Draco finally broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against Harry’s. “I hate you, Potter,” he said, breathing heavy.

Harry let out a breathy chuckle. “Do you need a proclamation in return?” he asked.

Draco nodded against Harry’s forehead, smirking now.

“Then, I hate you, too, Malfoy,” Harry said.

Fred and George let out loud, dramatic sighs. “Oh, how touching,” George said tearfully.

Fred wiped his own fake tears away. “Brings back memories of the good old days,” he agreed.

Harry burst out laughing as Draco snorted in amusement. “Old days, my arse,” Draco said. “I’ve been cursing Potter all night long.”

Harry winced, despite Draco’s light tones. “I’m sure you have been,” he said. “I am sorry for falling asleep, you know. I just laid down to get rid of a headache. I was going to head back.”

“Another headache?” Draco asked, frowning again.

“It’s just stress,” Harry said dismissively, finally digging into his breakfast.

“Just stress,” Draco muttered sarcastically, repeating Harry’s words as he pulled his own plate towards himself.

“You know, Malfoy, you are supposed to be alleviating Harry’s stress,” Fred pointed out helpfully.

Harry grinned, casting a sidelong glance at Draco.

“I can’t keep him in one place long enough,” Draco said dryly.

The twins and Harry laughed. They got down to the business of eating and Draco brought up the issue of the coins again. Discussing it over breakfast, it was determined that they’d each carry one and Draco knew how to charm them so that the messages could go both ways. It was almost eight o’clock by the time they had four charmed coins and everyone knew how to use them.

“It’s time to go, Harry,” Draco said.

Startled, Harry looked at the time and groaned. “Okay, hold on,” he said. He looked to the twins. “Do you think you could get Ginny away for me somehow?” he asked.

“For how long?” Fred asked.

“It’s not an easy task with Mum right now,” George said.

“I know,” Harry said, staring unseeingly at the floor and frowning as he thought about it. “I don’t really want to rouse Ron or Hermione’s suspicions, either. It depends on Ginny. If she agrees, then I’d really need a few hours alone with her.”

He looked up at the sound of the twins sniggering, realizing they were looking back and forth between him and Draco. Turning to look at Draco, he noticed the blond was scowling.

“Harry, do you have a bloody clue what you just said?” Draco asked.

Harry’s brow furrowed as he thought about it. As it dawned on him what his words had sounded like, his expression turned sheepish. “It’s not like that,” he retorted. “I just think she might have some key information that I need.”

“It’s a damned good thing for you that I trust you,” Draco said.

“I know,” Harry said gratefully. “Otherwise my life would be far more unpleasant.”

He turned back to Fred and George. “So, do you think you can get her away for me?”

Fred flipped his coin in the air as he answered, “We’ll see what we can do and let you know.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, heading for the door.

“Harry,” Draco called, stopping him.

“What?” Harry asked.

“We moved,” Draco said simply.

Harry blinked in surprise. “You said you packed,” he said slowly.

“I did,” Draco agreed. “Then, I moved everything.”

Harry opened his mouth to speak, then glancing over at the twins, he thought better of it. “Okay,” he said instead. “I reckon I only have one thing left to pack then.”

Draco frowned. “The room is empty,” he said.

Harry smiled sadly. “One thing was hidden,” he said quietly. “It’ll only take me a minute to retrieve and you can come with me if you like,” he offered.

Draco nodded as he slipped the cloak on. Harry yelled his thanks to the twins again as they left.

Walking into the Dursley’s house a couple minutes later, he felt a little odd. He knew this was very likely his last time coming to this house. He felt almost bad that Petunia wasn’t there, most likely off on one of her shopping runs. She’d often made herself scarce over the last month, but she’d actually been helpful this summer. More helpful than she’d ever been in the past, at least, which surely counted for something. He realized he was actually going to miss her, just a little. He wasn’t going to miss Vernon or Dudley, though.

Shoving aside the conflicting emotions to examine later, Harry headed up the stairs a final time. The room looked empty again. Sadly, it looked like Harry’s normal room once more. He had hated this room, but this last month he’d actually enjoyed the close quarters far more than he’d realized.

He was thankful Draco remained silent, simply watching Harry closely. Harry dropped to his knees and pulled up the loose floor board. He found more than he’d expected, though. He stared down into the small space in shock for long moments before he carefully pulled the items out and fell back on his arse as he stared at them.

“Harry?” Draco said in concern, crouching down beside him.

Harry shook his head, unable to answer. He set aside his own photo album, focusing on the second album he’d found. One that shouldn’t have been there. He hesitated, but slowly opened it. It was a picture of his mum. It was a Muggle picture, but she looked so much like she did when Harry had seen her in Snape’s Pensieve. Surely it must have been taken during her summer holidays that year.

He could feel his eyes beginning to burn. He couldn’t do this now. He gently closed the album again, not daring to look at any of the other pages. He knew he was going to fall apart if he did.

He looked back to the small space under the floorboard. The space he’d thought was hidden all this time. “She knew,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Aunt Petunia knew where my hiding spot was. I hid my album there this year. I didn’t need to hide anything for once, but I still hid that. I tucked it away so it would be safe.”

He cleared his throat. “Aunt Petunia knew I’d be back,” he whispered. He looked down at the album he was clutching, his knuckles white with the tight grip he had on it. Aunt Petunia had left it for him, knowing he’d be back to get it. Harry was trying to wrap his mind around that, but was struggling.

“I’ve got to go,” he said abruptly. He shoved the floorboard in place, checking to make sure there was nothing else inside. Clutching both albums to his chest, he finally looked at Draco.

“Let’s go,” Draco said evenly.

Harry nodded, extremely grateful for Draco’s quiet acceptance. He simply couldn’t deal with this right now. And not here. Remembering the spell Snape had used to shrink all the books, Harry carefully shrunk the albums and tucked them away in the Invisibility Cloak. Draco said nothing when Harry handed the cloak back to him.

It wasn’t until after they’d Apparated away that Harry felt like he could breathe normally again. It also wasn’t until they were actually approaching Grimmauld Place that he realized he still didn’t have a clue as to what to expect once he got there.

Pausing outside the door, he took a deep breath to fortify himself and squared his shoulders. He stepped inside, heading directly for the kitchen as usual. He was shocked to find Remus there, along with Snape and Narcissa.

“Good morning, Harry, Draco,” Remus said, smiling. Narcissa’s smile was welcoming and relieved as well.

“Half past eight, right on time,” Snape said sarcastically.

Blinking, Harry looked to the clock. Snape was right. Shaking his head to clear it, he was aware of Draco watching him closely and Snape eyeing them both suspiciously.

“Morning,” he greeted. “I had a couple of tasks to take care of this morning, and the second took longer than expected,” he said, moving to pour himself and Draco cups of tea, pausing on the way to kiss Narcissa on the cheek like Draco always did. It had become a habit for him as well. He was always worrying her and she seemed to find it reassuring.

Snape wordlessly held his cup out to Harry. He took it without question and poured the man a new cup, fixing it the way he liked before handing it back. Remus and Narcissa both looked mildly surprised, shaking their heads when Harry asked if they would like more.

Harry sat down in his usual spot across from Snape without thinking about it, and Draco looked at him curiously. Draco was sitting next to Narcissa, across the table. Harry shrugged and looked to Snape. “So, what’s on the agenda for today?” he asked, breaking the silence.

Snape snorted derisively. “I am under the impression that I need to be asking you that question,” he said dryly.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

Harry rubbed his temples absently. The tension was thick in the room. He had no idea how Remus had ended up at Grimmauld Place, but he was afraid to ask. Everyone was being extra quiet and cautious, and Harry wasn’t sure if it was because of Snape or if it was because of him. He wasn’t sure if he dared to bring up anything about the night before. Snape had obviously allowed the others access to Grimmauld Place, which was a good thing, but Harry had no idea how happy he was about it. With the exception of maybe Remus, everyone was tired and out of sorts.

“I would like some explanations, Potter,” Snape said silkily, interrupting his musings. “No one appears to have a full understanding of what you have been up to.”

Harry met his gaze steadily. “Honestly? No one will. Not until this is all over,” he said. “I can’t afford for everyone to know everything. There’s too much at stake.”

Snape nodded once in acknowledgement. “I understand that. However, I have a far better understanding of the Dark Lord’s plans than I do yours. After the events of this last night, it has come to my attention that you have far more plans in action than I was aware of.”

He eyed Harry calculatingly. “You, Mr. Potter, have been taking a far more active role than I had believed you capable of. You have been delegating tasks and intelligence, while taking on far more than you should be able to,” he said.

“In other words, you thought I was just following your orders, and Dumbledore’s orders, blindly,” Harry said sarcastically.

“Yes,” Snape said bluntly. “There have been a few things that have caused me to question your actions, but with all I’ve learned this last night, there is obviously far more going on than I’ve realized.”

Harry realized Snape wasn’t actually asking for specifics. At least, not in regards to the task Dumbledore had assigned him. He wanted to know Harry’s general plans and what the hell Harry had been up to without him knowing about it. Harry thought he’d find that a whole lot easier to answer if he knew himself.

“I’ve had to shift a lot of my priorities,” he began, speaking slowly. “When I left Hogwarts, my only real task was the one that Dumbledore gave me. I didn’t plan to get involved with everything else, but then Draco showed up with Victoria and you showed up here.”

He quietly explained how everything had changed. For the group that was there – Snape, Draco, Narcissa, and Remus – he finally explained all of it. Everything that he had been doing. Individually, they each knew bits and pieces, but not a one had known about everything. The only thing he left out was the task of finding and destroying the Horcruxes, but he even mentioned that indirectly.

“What now?” Draco asked.

“I keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Harry answered quietly. “Any information Snape can bring back, I take it to the Order. I try to keep Scrimgeour and the public under control, providing hope,” he said sarcastically. “I train with Snape and Remus – defence and offence – light and dark – anything that’ll help me in battle. I help the Order in any way I possibly can, including providing more potions. I continue working to keep Voldemort from gaining too much control over the Wizarding world, while I work on the means to actually defeat him.”

He paused thoughtfully. “I’ve got a home base here now, that’ll make things a lot easier. I’ve got allies and developed resources, and I intend to use them.”

“The means to defeat him?” Snape questioned, paraphrasing Harry’s words.

“I haven’t had much time to concentrate on that problem, with everything else that’s been going on,” Harry admitted. “But I’ve got some leads now that I didn’t have before. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk to Ginny later today.”

“You also need to talk with Draco and Narcissa,” Snape stated.

Harry nodded warily, knowing that was not going to be an easy discussion. And Snape seemed to have decided that he should talk to them now.

“What can we help you with, Harry?” Narcissa asked gently.

Harry eyed Draco, not knowing how he was going to react. His father was often a rather volatile subject. He was suddenly grateful Draco was sitting on the other side of the table.

“It’s about Lucius,” Harry said abruptly, and watched as Draco tensed and his expression hardened.

“What about him?” Narcissa asked calmly.

Knowing it wasn’t going to get any easier, Harry forged ahead, focusing on Narcissa instead of Draco. “Before everything happened at the Department of Mysteries, Kreacher took a locket to Lucius. Do you know where it is?”

Narcissa didn’t look happy with the subject, but she wasn’t taking offence. She gazed at Harry sadly. “Harry, at the time, my mind was focused on . . .,” she trailed off uncertainly.

Remus made a noise, and Harry glared at him warningly, before turning back to Narcissa. “I know. You were focused on my weak links and betraying Sirius,” he said impatiently. “I need to know about the bloody locket.”

She blinked once in surprise before frowning thoughtfully as she tried to remember. “Kreacher came to me first. When I was . . . finished with him, he blathered something about a gift for Lucius. Things were a little hectic, but I did ask Lucius about the alleged gift. As you can never be quite certain of anything in regards to Kreacher.”

Harry nodded, knowing how true that was. “What did Lucius say about it?” he asked.

“Harry,” she said his name hesitantly. “He didn’t even tell me what it was. Only that it would please the Dark Lord greatly if he chose to give it to him.”

“He didn’t give it to Voldemort, did he?” Harry asked in alarm. For whatever reason, the thought that Voldemort could actually have it back had not crossed his mind.

“No,” Narcissa answered immediately, shaking her head. “He said we would discuss it the next day. He put it in his personal vault for safe-keeping.”

“Vault?” Harry questioned. “His Gringott’s vault?”

Draco and Narcissa exchanged a glance before she answered. “No. The Malfoys are an extremely old family. There is a hidden vault at the manor that only the head of the family has access to. Designated heirs are keyed into the wards and spells, so that upon the death of the current head, the next in line will then have access,” she explained.

Harry was confused, but was afraid he understood the general idea of the situation. “Lucius is the only one who can access this vault where the locket is at. Draco would have access when his father dies,” he said.

Narcissa flinched and Draco glared, but they both nodded.

“Fuck!” Harry cursed. “So, I’ve got to figure out how to get to Lucius now.”

“You’re not killing my father!” Draco shouted angrily.

“Who said anything about killing him?” Harry retorted. “I need the bloody bastard to get the locket for me.”

That gave Draco pause and Harry sneered at him.

“Just how do you plan to get Lucius out of Azkaban, let alone get him to cooperate with you?” Snape interjected smoothly.

“I don’t have a bloody clue,” Harry snapped. “I had hoped to avoid this.”

“You’re serious about attempting to free my father?” Draco asked incredulously.

“What choice do I have?” Harry asked. “I have to get that locket. If I have to go through Lucius to get it, then that’s what I’ll do.”

“Does Lucius understand its importance?” Snape asked sharply.

“I don’t think so,” Harry answered. “It’s Slytherin’s locket, so Lucius surely considers it valuable because of the whole pureblood, Slytherin pride and family heritage thing,” he said dismissively.

He paused as he realized the others were staring at him in various degrees of shock. “And that’s not why it’s important?” Remus asked.

“Um, no,” Harry admitted. “It’s part of it. Voldemort is Slytherin’s last heir, so he considers it to be a very valuable item in that respect. It doesn’t have a thing to do with why I have to have it, though.”

“You mean to destroy it,” Snape said knowingly.

“Yes,” Harry agreed, wondering if Snape knew what it actually was. Snape’s next comment answered that question, though.

“I am no closer to understanding Dumbledore now than when he was alive,” he muttered.

Harry smiled grimly. “I would find this task a lot easier if Dumbledore had been a lot more straight-forward about all of this,” he said.

Snape nodded in agreement. Whatever Dumbledore’s reasons for keeping the details secret, both Harry and Snape were respecting the man’s wishes. Snape had not once asked for details regarding Harry’s actual task. He was only attempting to help Harry as needed.

Right now, Harry needed help trying to figure out how to get Lucius out of Azkaban.

Silence had fallen over the group at the table, and Harry was hesitant to break it again. How was he supposed to ask if Lucius was still sane in there or not?

“Is Lucius an Animagus?” he asked, deciding that was the politest way he could ask. He didn’t expect Draco’s livid reaction.

“Yes,” Draco ground out, glaring daggers at Harry.

“Lucius’ sanity is surely intact,” Snape said, drawing Harry’s attention, and obviously understanding why Harry had asked the question.

“There is no chance of him escaping like Sirius did, though,” Remus spoke quietly. “New precautions were implemented after Sirius’ escape.”

“Perhaps you could get cooperation from Scrimgeour,” Narcissa suggested. “You certainly handled him well before.”

Harry lowered his head, rubbing his temples as he thought about that possibility. “It took me months to convince Scrimgeour to release prisoners who were innocent,” he said. “It would not go over well if I tried to get Lucius released.”

“Potter, even the Dark Lord has been unable to determine a way to free the prisoners,” Snape said. “I do not believe this is possible.”

“It’s not even possible to contact the prisoners in Azkaban,” Narcissa said bitterly.

“Ministry officials can get in there,” Harry said, thinking about Sirius getting the newspaper off of Fudge. And Crouch had gotten in. His eyes widened. And Crouch had gotten out.

“Crouch,” he said aloud.

The other three looked at him blankly, but Snape sneered at him. “Impossible,” he said.

“Not impossible,” Harry corrected, latching on to his idea.

“You’d need a sacrifice, Potter,” Snape pointed out condescendingly. “Do you happen to have someone suitable just lying around?”

Harry scowled. “Couldn’t we just replace him with one of the other Death Eaters or something?” he asked.

“Potter, you’d need a Death Eater who you could order to cooperate,” Snape sneered. “Imperius and any other magical forms of coercion would be detected. Do you happen to know any Death Eaters willing to sacrifice their life for you?” he asked sarcastically.

Sacrifice their life.

“Would one owing me a life debt work?” Harry asked.

Snape blinked in astonishment. “There is a Death Eater who owes you a life debt?”

“Pettigrew,” Harry said.

“I should have known,” Snape said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“So, would he work?” Harry asked hopefully.

“Possibly,” Snape admitted. “But Potter, you don’t know what you are suggesting.”

“I know exactly what I’m suggesting,” Harry said in a cold, hard voice. “I’m talking about walking into Azkaban, dumping off Peter Pettigrew – who should’ve been in there almost sixteen years ago – and walking out with Lucius Malfoy. I’m talking about condemning a man to his death. I’m talking about committing a crime that could easily get me locked up in that place.”

His expression darkened even further as he glared at Snape. “Once I have Lucius out of there, I’m going to blackmail the bastard. I’ll make sure he knows I have Draco and Narcissa and refuse to let him see them until he gets me that locket.”

“You’re not the Golden Boy I’ve always thought you were,” Snape stated.

“A Golden Boy isn’t going to win against Voldemort,” Harry said coldly.

“Indeed,” Snape said with satisfaction. “I’ll need to research how we can utilize the life debt, and then we will make further plans.”

Harry nodded in acceptance.

“I will help with whatever research you need, Severus,” Remus spoke up. “I know precisely the events surrounding the life debt itself, if it’s any use.”

Snape gave him a curt nod.

“Lunch first,” Remus said, looking to Harry. “Why don’t you and Draco go check out your room,” he suggested.

Harry eyed him warily, unable to believe Remus wasn’t lecturing him.

“I’m here to help, not question,” Remus said, smiling slightly. It didn’t erase the concern from Remus’ face, but it helped reassure Harry, regardless.

“You’re not just going to turn around and question Snape instead, are you?” Harry asked suspiciously.

“No, Harry,” Remus said, smiling wider. “I’m not.”

Draco snorted in amusement. “Harry, do you know how unbelievably bizarre it is to hear you defending Severus?” he asked.

Laughing, Draco led a bemused Harry out of the room.

Harry walked through the house, realizing he hadn’t been paying any attention to all the work Winky had been doing. He’d spent most of his time in the basement, where the kitchen and the potions lab were located. He paused in the doorway of the drawing room, staring in disbelief. The room wasn’t recognizable – with the exception of the Black family tapestry that still hung on the wall. Amazingly, the room looked comfortable and inviting now.

Climbing the stairs two at a time, Draco following in confusion, Harry threw open the door to his old room. Blinking in amazement, he remembered that he had actually been in this room before. This appeared to be Snape’s room now, and he backed out again quickly.

“Where’s my room?” he asked, baffled by this turn of events.

Draco looked at him oddly. “You’re the master of this house now,” he said slowly.

“So?” Harry said blankly.

Draco huffed at him, grabbed his hand and dragged him upstairs. On the top floor, Draco paused before a door. He looked at Harry nervously before opening it with a flourish, stepping aside so Harry could enter first.

Wary now, Harry walked into the room. He stopped and stared at the luxuriant room. He was sure this had been Buckbeak’s room the last time he’d seen it. The dirty place had been transformed to something far beyond his expectations.

The room was done in shades of blue and silver, with lots of rich, soft fabrics. Harry didn’t have a clue about such things, but the huge bedroom looked expensive. To one side was a comfortable looking couch and a couple of chairs in front of a fireplace. A large canopied bed took prominence in the other half of the room. There were wardrobes and shelves filled with books and all manner of things. Paying more attention to some of the details, Harry realized there were dragons everywhere. Small and large figurines were all over the room. Even the couch pillows had dragons patterned on them.

“This is your room,” Harry said bemusedly, turning finally to look back at Draco, who was still hovering near the door.

“Our room now,” Draco said, sounding uncertain.

“Well, yeah, of course we’re sharing a room,” Harry said, not concerned about that part. “But this,” he gestured expansively, “is your room.” He gazed around the room again in fascination. “How could your room be here?”

“Do you like it?” Draco asked softly.

“It’s incredible,” Harry said. “But how could it be here?” he asked again, stuck on that aspect of the situation.

Draco explained how he and his mum had enlisted the house-elves to help them shrink and pack many things in Malfoy Manor when they’d gone back that last night. At Harry’s incredulous questioning of where they’d put it all while at the Dursleys, Draco admitted that much of it had been packed tightly under the beds and in the closet that they’d emptied of Dudley’s old junk.

He also described a pair of trunks that, to Harry, sounded suspiciously like Moody’s seven-compartment trunk. Harry remembered Dumbledore using a ladder to climb into the trunk with a room large enough to keep a person alive for months. He reckoned it wouldn’t be that hard to pack such a great amount of items that way, especially if they’d been reduced in size first.

Wandering the room, Harry discovered their own personal bathroom and a walk-in closet that housed an outrageous amount of clothing. It didn’t particularly surprise him that Draco owned that much, but seeing the proof was rather daunting to someone who simply threw on whatever was closest in the morning.

During the night, Draco, Narcissa and Winky had worked to put this room together. Draco didn’t say it explicitly, but Harry got the message that once the room was done, Draco hadn’t been able to hold back his anxiety any longer and had gone to the twins’ flat to search out Harry.

Harry felt guilty again at the reminder that Draco hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before, worrying about Harry’s whereabouts.

“So, this is your actual bed?” Harry asked, grinning wickedly as he fell backwards onto it.

“Yes,” Draco said, smirking as he toed off his shoes before crawling onto the bed and straddling Harry’s hips. “It’s far more comfortable than that tiny bed we’ve been sleeping in.”

“This does feel terribly nice,” Harry said slyly, shifting his hips slightly.

Draco inhaled sharply before leaning down to capture Harry’s lips hungrily. They were engaged in a very pleasant snog fest when it registered that Remus was yelling for them to come down for lunch. Groaning, they spent a couple minutes composing themselves before they went back downstairs.

Snape took one look at them when they appeared and rolled his eyes. “I take it your new room meets your approval, Potter?” he said sarcastically.

Harry blinked innocently. “I’m sure the room is quite nice, thank you for asking,” he said pleasantly. “I’m afraid I didn’t have enough time to appreciate it all, as I was rather preoccupied.”

Draco choked on his laughter, Snape snorted – in amusement or disgust, Harry wasn’t quite sure – and Remus and Narcissa were shaking their heads in wry amusement.

Keeping up the innocent façade, Harry turned to Draco. “Are my manners improving, love?” he asked.

Draco nodded, laughing too hard to answer otherwise as he collapsed into one of the chairs. Harry laughed with him, absolutely delighted that he’d been able to make Draco laugh like that. It felt good with all the stress they’d been under.

Lunch was surprisingly relaxed and pleasant. There was room for a feeding chair for Victoria, and Harry fed her while he ate his own meal. He enjoyed the time chattering with her.

He learned that she’d been with Winky all morning, while Winky worked on setting up a nursery for her. The nursery was to be on the third floor, across from Narcissa’s room. He still didn’t know exactly how Remus had ended up there, but discovered that Remus had a room of his own, too, on the second floor across from Snape.

He still wasn’t sure what exactly was going on between Snape and Remus, but he at least learned that Snape had brought Remus to Grimmauld Place early that morning. Harry reckoned whatever Remus had written in that letter must have had a powerful impact on Snape.

Draco hadn’t been able to tell him much about what had happened after he’d stormed out the night before. Draco had been kicked out of the room while Snape talked to his mum, and after that he’d been ordered to start packing things up and getting it all moved to Grimmauld Place. Whatever discussions had taken place, it had seemed to satisfy Snape enough that he hadn’t subjected Draco and Narcissa to Veritaserum. Harry was both surprised and happy with that fact. He hoped that it meant Snape had at least a little faith in him. He ruefully admitted to himself that it probably meant Snape thought he could control the Malfoys.

He looked around at the group, happy despite the oddness of the situation. Something had definitely shifted for this group of people to be so relaxed together, but it was nice. Fawkes trilled a greeting, as if he could hear Harry’s thoughts and agreed with them. Harry grinned at the bird, resting on his perch which had been placed in a cosy niche near the doorway. This room was definitely the best place for him, as busy as it always seemed to be.

Harry made an extra effort to pet him and give him a little attention before heading back upstairs after lunch. It was a little odd, he realized, that Hedwig’s cage and the snake tank were amongst the only visible evidence of Harry’s belongings that existed in his and Draco’s new room.

Looking around, he did finally notice his Firebolt, along with Draco’s broom, leaning up against the wall in the corner. He assumed his clothes were in one of the wardrobes, and there were two desks, so one had to be meant for him.

Draco’s influence could be seen all over the room, though, and Harry had to wonder if he really belonged.

“Does it bother you to have all my things here?” Draco asked quietly, having been observing Harry since they’d gotten back.

Harry shook his head. “This is all just really different and I’m wondering where I fit in,” he admitted. “I don’t look like I exist here any more than I did at the Dursleys.”

“I didn’t unpack any of your personal items,” Draco said.

“Draco, I don’t have any personal items to speak of,” Harry said dryly.

“Then we’ll have to change that,” Draco retorted. “Now, come here and lay down with me. I’m exhausted and I know you’re tired as well.”

They’d actually been sent to their room, ordered to take naps. Harry had felt like a five-year-old, but he had to admit that some sleep sounded like a good idea. He could afford to take the rest of the afternoon off.

Once he lay down, with Draco curled around him, he gave up on thinking all together. Thinking was far too stressful and lying with Draco in an amazingly comfortable bed was too wonderful to waste the time being stressed.

* * * * *

“This article is well-written,” Remus said.

Harry shrugged. “Hermione and Ginny wrote it. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write it that well,” he admitted. “I’m supposed to be looking it over and making any changes before taking it back to be published finally.”

Snape held out a hand, requesting the article. Harry continued to play with Victoria while he waited for Snape to read it. They’d all retired to the drawing room after dinner, and Harry thought they made an odd little group. The drawing room was cosy and comfortable, though.

Draco and Narcissa were looking over the Black family tapestry that was still on the wall and Harry was half listening to them. Draco was getting a family history lesson in terms of who’d been excluded from the family, and exactly why they were excluded.

“Potter, there is conspicuously not a single mention of the Death Eaters,” Snape said, frowning at him.

“I told you before that I was doing the article my way,” Harry said dismissively.

“You honestly believe that Scrimgeour will accept this?” Snape asked.

“It’s not an assignment where he gets to mark me on the damned thing,” Harry retorted. “It’s a bloody article that’s going to go out to Merlin knows how many people. Once it’s out, he’d be hard pressed to deny any of it.”

Snape snorted in disgust. “He will have no need to deny any of it as you are deigning to actually praise the Ministry in this blasted thing,” he said.

“That was the deal,” Harry said, bristling defensively. “He’s done everything that I asked, so now I need to fulfill my end of the bargain.”

“He will not see this as fulfilling your obligations,” Snape said.

Remus spoke up quietly. “The praise of the Ministry is wonderfully understated. Harry is not giving them complete support, but carefully concedes that the Ministry has been slowly becoming more effective lately. I believe Scrimgeour will be pleased with it.”

“Scrimgeour will be pleased, but he wishes for vengeance, as do most wizards and witches,” Snape sneered. “If Potter does not address the issue directly, surely Scrimgeour will once again be looking closely into his activities. The bargain unfulfilled could mean Victoria’s certificate being suddenly ‘found’ and made public knowledge.”

“Paranoid much?” Harry muttered.

Snape glared at him. “Potter, you are risking that child,” he said.

“I’m not!” Harry exclaimed hotly. “I’m thinking ahead! Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Well, I’m actually doing it for once. When Voldemort’s dead and you can come out of hiding, what would it look like if I’m suddenly defending people that I had been declaring vengeance against? It’s bound to make things easier later if I don’t openly declare vengeance to start with.”

The room was suddenly silent. Even Victoria was silently chewing on one of her toys. Harry couldn’t figure out why Snape, Draco and Narcissa appeared to be stunned.

“What?” he asked defensively. “Is it really so hard to believe that I can actually think ahead now and then?”

Remus had been smiling and he chuckled at Harry’s last comment. It broke Snape from his silence and he shot a glare at Remus. “This does not concern you,” he sneered.

Remus stared at him challengingly. “Doesn’t it?” he said. “I believe it does concern me, as I will be standing right beside Harry when it comes time. You and I have already addressed this issue, Severus.”

“And it would appear that you’ve passed on your foolishness to Potter,” Snape said in disgust.

“I haven’t spoken to Harry about it,” Remus said in denial.

“Ah, then it is simply Gryffindor idiocy shining through in both of you,” Snape sneered.

“Severus, whether you consider it foolish or not, Harry and I will do everything in our power to give your life back to you when this war is over,” Remus said quietly. He and Snape both glanced at Harry. “And, yes, Harry has a lot of power to make it happen.”

“It’s not possible,” Snape said harshly.

Harry had been following the conversation closely and had caught on to Snape’s problem. Now his eyes narrowed. “We obviously have different definitions of what’s not possible,” he said, his voice low and hard.

“It is impossible for Harry Potter to work with Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy. It is impossible for the Malfoys to turn against Voldemort. It is impossible for the model Gryffindor to be able to successfully cast the Killing Curse.”

Harry matched Snape’s glare, pausing for emphasis. “It is impossible that the fate of the Wizarding world rests in the hands of a sixteen-year-old. I live in the world of the impossible,” he stated coldly. “As do you.”

Snape wasn’t about to relent so easily. “I will never teach at Hogwarts again, Potter,” he said, barely controlled anger brimming in his voice. “Anything I may have gained was permanently lost when I killed Albus Dumbledore. It is very likely that I will not even survive this war myself.”

“Fuck you, Snape,” Harry sneered. “You’re not getting off so fucking easy.”

“You think death is easy?” Snape asked coldly.

“You’re not going to die,” Harry said angrily. “You’re going to help me wipe the evil bastard out of existence and then we’re all going to go back to Hogwarts where we belong.”

“Your arrogance blazes through brilliantly,” Snape said disparagingly.

“I don’t care what you call it,” Harry said, scowling furiously. “All I know is that we’re not going through all of this for nothing. Voldemort is all about hypocritical prejudice. I’m not going to go through all the work of vanquishing him to simply put up with more of the same shite from everyone else.”

“You truly believe Gryffindor ideals will make an impact on a prejudiced society?” Snape questioned. “It will not happen, Potter.”

“The fuck it won’t,” Harry declared. “When I mix Gryffindor ideals with the Slytherin ability to take advantage of a situation, I will make it happen.”

Snape didn’t respond, staring at Harry calculatingly.

“Harry is a very determined young man, Severus,” Remus spoke up quietly. “He also has power that society has given him, whether he has wanted it or not. I do believe that he is prepared to actually use that power now.”

“I’ll do whatever is necessary to keep people from being wrongly persecuted,” Harry said darkly. He gestured to the parchment that Snape was still holding. “That includes not saying things that would go against my case once Voldemort’s dead. Feeding people’s desire for vengeance would not help any of us.”

Snape gave no indication of backing down or giving in. After several long, tense seconds, he simply changed the subject. “This article has too much of Ms. Granger’s voice,” he declared. “It is far too wordy to believably be written by you.”

“I reckon you want me to rewrite it,” Harry muttered.

Snape’s lips curled up at the edges. “An article written by you should contain more of your rather passionate expressiveness,” he said. “I do not believe Ms. Granger or Ms. Weasley has effectively captured your voice.”

Remus was smiling warmly. “Perhaps you could add some subtle groundwork for future events,” he suggested.

“Harry – be subtle?” Draco scoffed, sounding amused. “He’ll need some help.”

Harry addressed Remus. “You’re taking the blame when Hermione wants to know why my article is changed,” he warned.

Remus chuckled and nodded in agreement. “I believe I shall point out that assignments for classes will have a different voice than other types of writing,” he said. “It is a fact I am sure she is aware of, yet she struggles with writing outside of coursework mode.”

Harry certainly believed that, thinking Hermione was going to miss attending classes the most if they didn’t start back at Hogwarts in the autumn.

Draco took over the physical writing as the group reworked and built upon the article that Hermione and Ginny had already written. It was a rather spirited discussion which Harry found himself actually enjoying. By the time he was rewriting the article in his own handwriting, he had to admit that it sounded far more personal than it had previously.

* * * * *

The next day things got a little sticky when Harry presented the article back to Hermione. She was suspicious and disgruntled that her hard work had been edited so drastically. Remus came along and helped explain things, but Harry still spent a fair amount of time attempting to smooth her ruffled feathers.

As he half-listened to Hermione critique every other line of the article, he glared daggers at Ron, who was conveniently on the other side of the yard talking with Remus. With a whispered “good luck, mate” Ron had left Harry to face Hermione by himself.

Harry couldn’t help but think that the bloody article had been more trouble than it was worth, and it hadn’t even been published yet. Luckily, by the time it came out, he would’ve already dealt with everyone who actually mattered. Rather than arguing over the thing, again, he’d have been much happier going with Draco.

Draco likely wasn’t having a particularly good time, either, but he was surely having a better time than Harry. While Harry was busy at the Weasleys, Draco was meeting with Blaise at the Shrieking Shack. Harry grinned inwardly, remembering Draco’s outrage at breakfast when Remus had explained the “haunted” house. Draco had agreed to use it as his meeting place, though, and at least Harry wasn’t too worried about anyone finding them there.

Draco and Blaise were working on possible plans for the Slytherins that didn’t want to become part of Voldemort’s army of Death Eaters. How they planned to do that, considering they couldn’t tell anyone anything, Harry wasn’t sure. He did know that Draco at least planned to give Blaise one of the coins so they had that communication set up.

Hermione sighed in exasperation and set the article aside, clearly recognizing that she’d lost Harry’s attention. “Harry, what have you been doing?” she asked. Her gaze flicked over to Remus on the other side of the yard, then back to Harry. “I thought you were staying at the Dursleys until your birthday, which is still a week away, but you keep popping up with Lupin.”

He startled at the realization that his birthday was coming up soon, but he didn’t want to admit that he’d already left the Dursleys. That would bring up any number of issues – ranging from Victoria to Snape to not staying at the Weasleys – that he did not want to talk about. He knew how to distract her, but it wasn’t his favourite topic of conversation.

“I reckon with Sirius gone, Remus probably feels it’s his duty to look out for me now,” he said.

“Oh,” Hermione said, her expression instantly turning sympathetic. “Are you all right with that?” she asked hesitantly.

His brow furrowed as he consciously thought about it. He realized with surprise that he was all right with that. He felt a little guilty, but Remus was more like a father to him than anyone had ever been.

His frown deepened. But then, how did Snape and Narcissa fit into that line of thought? They were looking out for him as well. Narcissa had definitely taken to mothering him, almost as much as she did Draco. Everything with Snape, though, was complicated. He couldn’t talk to Snape about personal issues like he could with Remus. But it was Snape he was counting on, more than anyone else, to actually help him get through the war.

“Harry,” Hermione said, interrupting his thoughts and bringing his attention back to her. She was gazing at him worriedly.

“I’m all right, Hermione,” he said softly. “I’ll always miss Sirius and my parents, but Remus, well, he’s here. I know he cares for me, and no matter what I do, I know he’ll accept me.” If he hadn’t known that before, Remus had proven it by accepting his relationship with Draco, let alone everything else going on in his life.

“You see him as a parent, don’t you?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I’m not sure if it’s appropriate or not, but I do.”

“Well, he was close to your parents and Sirius,” she said. “I think they’d approve.”

Harry pushed thoughts of family aside as Hermione steered their conversation back to Horcrux and war-related issues. He listened intently as she explained some of the things she was learning about snakes and basilisks. That information would likely be useful, particularly when it came time to kill Nagini.

The conversation became much more difficult when it came to the other Horcruxes.

“Harry, have you thought of any way to search for the locket?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. He wondered what she would say if he told her Snape was working on a solution to that problem.

“I was thinking,” Hermione said, picking up the article again, “that perhaps you could talk to Scrimgeour.”

“Why?” Harry asked, brows raised incredulously.

“Well, we need to search Malfoy Manor, right? Maybe Scrimgeour could help us get in there. You do seem to have some leverage with him,” she said.

“The joys of being the bloody Chosen One,” he muttered sarcastically.

Hermione frowned at him in disapproval, but otherwise ignored his comment. “With Ministry and Auror backup, we could search for the locket. And maybe they’d even be able to capture Malfoy,” she added.

Harry scowled. It was the best reaction he could come up with, knowing he should probably be flying into a rage about Draco. He was thinking more, though, about Hermione’s idea. If he didn’t have access to Severus, and the Malfoys themselves, he’d probably think it was a good plan.

“Do you think you could get Scrimgeour’s cooperation, without telling him what you’re searching for?” Hermione asked.

“Possibly,” Harry admitted. Scrimgeour was a pain in the arse, but like much of the bloody Wizarding world, he put a lot of faith in Harry being able to actually end things with Voldemort.

“I reckon it’s a good idea,” he said grudgingly. And it would hopefully put Hermione off for a bit while he went about his own plans. “I’ll go talk to him soon and see if I can get him to help.”

Hermione nodded in satisfaction. “Good, that’s settled. So, we just need to decide when to go back to the Chamber,” she said.

“I’d still like to talk with Ginny,” Harry said, his jaw tightening.

“Harry, it wouldn’t be good for her,” Hermione said, her disapproval back in place. “Besides, it’s not right to bring her into it. We’re not allowed to talk to anyone else about the Horcruxes. You know this.”

“I don’t want to tell her about the actual Horcruxes,” Harry said, glaring at her. “I just want to find out what she remembers. Maybe she’s got some clues that’ll help.”

“Dumbledore already talked to her,” Hermione snapped. “What do you think you’re going to learn from her that he didn’t?”

Harry clenched his jaw, not daring to speak. Even if he wasn’t angry with Hermione, he wasn’t sure he could explain. He didn’t know why he felt so strongly about it, but he’d been mulling over thoughts of Voldemort and Hogwarts and the Chamber for a long time.

And Ginny had been there. She’d talked with Tom Riddle. She’d understand and be more likely to help than anyone. Particularly as he didn’t even really know what he was looking for.

Hermione seemed to take his silence as agreement with her, and blithely went on to suggest plans to check into the Chamber over the weekend after she’d had more time to research basilisks. He realized bitterly that she didn’t expect to find anything and was only humouring him. The only reason she was agreeing to the trip down into the Chamber was because of the basilisk. And how was he supposed to argue with her when he only had vague suspicions?

As they prepared to leave, he rubbed absently at his scar. He spent far too much time trying to think like Voldemort.

They met Luna and her father over lunch in town. It went well enough, and Harry was rather amused by the fact that Luna definitely took after her father. Remus’ mild-mannered personality helped to ease some of the Lovegoods’ enthusiasm, which Harry was sure that Hermione was eternally thankful for.

He wasn’t so amused by the fact that Ron and Hermione made it impossible for him to talk to Ginny. It was another two days before Fred and George could arrange to get her away from the Burrow. The time wasn’t exactly wasted because he spent it in training with Snape and Remus instead, but he was still anxious to talk to Ginny and follow up with any possible leads he had to find the Horcruxes.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Harry was not happy as he arrived at the twins’ flat. Narcissa had gently woken him not long before and he’d had to leave the warm comfort of Draco’s arms to be here. As it was, he was running late, and he had been highly aware of Snape’s smirk when he’d left Grimmauld Place.

It didn’t help his mood that he had received some concerned looks from Remus and Narcissa, considering he was leaving with his broom and his original Invisibility Cloak. He’d explained that Ginny didn’t know about his new cloak – and he wasn’t sure if he wanted her to know about it yet – but he’d refused to explain the actual need for the cloak or the broom.

What is your problem, Harry?” Ginny asked.

“I’m betting that he just crawled out of bed,” Fred said.

“He does appear to have that grumpy morning look to him,” George agreed. “Even though it’s almost half ten already.”

“You’d think that you would recognize that look, Ginny,” Fred said innocently.

“Ah, but maybe he wasn’t so grumpy on those mornings,” George pointed out.

Harry and Ginny were both scowling now. As Ginny berated her brothers, Harry bemoaned the fact that Draco would not be happy with this conversation. He wasn’t happy, either, and would much rather be back in bed where he’d left Draco sleeping soundly.

After getting the article sent off, he’d gone back to Grimmauld Place and spent the last day and a half in training. He’d thought it had been gruelling training with Snape. It sure as hell wasn’t easier when he had two professors ganging up on him. Draco had been put through his paces as well, and they’d taken some brutal physical punishment while trying to master some stronger shields. The only plus Harry could see in the training was that Remus made sure that Snape healed them afterwards. Harry and Draco were now the dubiously proud owners of jars of Snape’s personal bruise salve that worked wonderfully fast. It didn’t keep them from collapsing in exhaustion after applying it, though. Harry really hadn’t wanted to get out of bed that morning.

Sighing, knowing he needed to clear his head and deal with this, he called a halt to the bickering and teasing by asking about how the twins had managed to convince Mrs. Weasley to let Ginny out of the house finally. His mood lightened considerably as he listened with amusement. From what he could figure out, Fred and George had weaved some grand, elaborate tale about how Ginny was the only one who could help them with some product. They’d managed to confuse their mother, and everyone else, and kept at it until she had agreed.

Ginny pointed out wryly that if they hadn’t warned her first, she would never have allowed the twins to sucker her in that way. The fact that Ginny had actually wanted to go had helped convince Mrs. Weasley that it must be all right. Ginny had, of course, been ordered to stay at the twins’ flat.

“We’re not staying here, though, are we?” Ginny asked.

“Depends on you,” Harry said. He glanced at the twins and they grinned wryly as Harry erected a Silencing Charm around him and Ginny.

“I need to talk to you about Riddle and the Chamber of Secrets,” he said.

“You don’t want to actually go back down there?” Ginny asked, sounding alarmed and her face draining of colour.

“Well, I have to go back at some point, with or without you,” Harry admitted. “I was kind of hoping that you would go with me because I need to know more about the Chamber.”

“You know as much, if not more, than I do,” Ginny protested.

“Maybe,” Harry said, shaking his head doubtfully. “Riddle talked to me while I was down there, but you were down there longer than I was. And you actually talked to him all year,” he said.

“Yeah, about you,” she said ruefully. “I didn’t talk to him about the Chamber, or really anything about him. Anything regarding those topics, my memory is still a blank.”

“Well, I suspected that,” Harry admitted. “You’ve said something before. But you remember that night in the Chamber. Surely Riddle talked to you then.”

Ginny frowned deeply, thinking back to that night. “Harry, I don’t remember much,” she said slowly. “I was unconscious for most of it. What I was alert for, he mostly gloated about luring you there.”

“He does have a habit of doing that,” Harry said bitterly.

“What do you need to know exactly?” Ginny asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. “But the more I think about the Chamber, the more I’m convinced that I’m missing something. I’m hoping that if we go back, the place will trigger some memory.”

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” Ginny pointed out. “Wouldn’t it be better for you to look at my memory through a Pensieve or something?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Harry said sheepishly. “I don’t have one, but I reckon I could probably come up with one somehow.”

They were quiet for a couple of minutes as they thought about the situation. Finally, Ginny spoke up again. “It wouldn’t be the same as actually being there, would it?”

Harry shrugged. “I’ve seen a lot of Pensieve memories, and it’s as good as being there,” he said. “It wouldn’t give me your thoughts, but if you went into the memory with me . . .,” he trailed off, shrugging again.

“You have to go back again anyway?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’ve got my own memories of what happened, but I’m hoping that being there will help trigger something,” he said.

“Which means I should go as well,” Ginny said ruefully.

“You don’t have to,” Harry said quickly. “The Pensieve is a good idea.”

“I’ll go,” she said decisively.

“Are you sure?” Harry said. “You do know that we’ll be seeing the dead carcass of that basilisk, along with all the rest of that creepy place?”

Ginny grimaced. “Yay, I can’t wait,” she said in disgust.

Harry hadn’t eaten yet, so they stuck around until after lunch. Fred and George didn’t look particularly happy with letting them go off alone, especially as Ginny was obviously pale and tense, but they didn’t try to stop them.

On the way to Hogwarts, Harry wondered if he was making a mistake by taking Ginny back. Ron and Hermione had been vehemently opposed to the idea. Fred and George were concerned again. Harry was used to Ron and Hermione disagreeing with him about things, but those worried expressions on the normally jubilant Fred and George bothered him.

This was important, though. His instincts were screaming that something was there in the Chamber of Secrets. Voldemort placed too much importance on Hogwarts, and the Chamber itself, for there not to be something. Surely there was at least some kind of clue.

They made it safely to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom and Harry wasn’t quite prepared for the sudden wash of emotions that flooded him when he stepped into the room. He’d been so focused on everything else that he’d forgotten about what he’d done to Draco in this room.

Ginny dealt with Myrtle as Harry’s memories shifted him backwards in time. Draco crying. Them duelling. Harry cursing Draco and Draco clutching at his chest as blood poured freely.

“Harry, are you all right?” Ginny asked.

Harry nodded. He had a sudden, desperate urge to go back to Grimmauld Place and reassure himself that Draco was all right, but he was fine. He walked over to the sinks and wondered anew if this was such a good idea. Memories were likely to slam back into both him and Ginny down in the Chamber. Ironically, he wanted the memories to hit. He just wasn’t as confident as he had been that they’d be able to handle them.

He looked at Ginny questioningly and she nodded, determined. Swallowing heavily, Harry focused on the small image of the snake and watched as the sinks moved aside.

They grimaced, staring down the slime-covered pipe. “That is disgusting,” Ginny said, wrinkling her nose.

“Faster to slide down than to try to manoeuvre the brooms through the pipe, though,” Harry said. Ginny had borrowed one of the twins’ brooms, so they each had a way out. “It’ll be hard enough trying to do it on the way back.”

“Won’t Fawkes help again?” Ginny asked hopefully. The pipe was large, but it wasn’t really large enough for easy flying. They’d be able to do it, but it would be slow going so that they didn’t slam into the walls of the pipe.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t really know,” he said. “Last time was an emergency and this time isn’t. I’ll try calling him when we’re ready to go, but I don’t know exactly how Fawkes does things. We need the brooms just in case.”

He shook off all his doubts and grinned at her. “Ready to get dirty?” he asked.

“Ready for my next adventure with Harry Potter,” she said wryly, smiling herself.

Laughing, Harry began the long descent, Ginny following behind him. They landed in a heap at the bottom. Quickly untangling themselves and lighting their wands, they started the trek through the tunnels.

“I wonder how Lockhart’s doing,” Harry mused, clambering through the hole Ron had created in the pile of rock.

Ginny giggled, but it sounded forced. Glancing at her sharply, he began an idle chatter as they walked, filling the silence and attempting to distract her from the creepy atmosphere.

Reaching the actual Chamber, he hesitated. “All right?”

Ginny took a deep breath. “All right.”

Not particularly reassured, but nodding anyway, Harry opened the Chamber. Taking Ginny’s hand in his own, they walked in together. Harry stared in shock. The large room was exactly as he remembered it. It looked just as it did when he left. The basilisk was eerily the same. He’d expected decay, and realized dazedly that the stench of the place was no worse than it had been before.

“Why isn’t it rotting?” Harry asked, his voice loud in the cavernous room. He’d rather hoped that they’d be able to use the venomous fangs somehow to destroy the Horcruxes, but he hadn’t expected the entire bloody snake to be intact.

“It’s cold,” Ginny said, her voice hushed. “It’s preserved down here.”

As she said the word cold, Harry recognized that he was covered in goose bumps. It was indeed miserably cold. He just had so much adrenaline flowing through him that he hadn’t really noticed.

He was wondering if Hermione had done any of the research yet regarding the basilisk when Ginny’s grip on his hand tightened painfully. He noticed with a start that she was staring at the spot where he’d found her before. There was a blood-stain marking the area where Harry had fallen beside her after killing the basilisk.

The memories gripped him and shifted him backwards in time again. Finding Ginny. Talking with Tom Riddle. Fighting the basilisk. Fawkes healing him. The memories swamped his consciousness.

He had no idea how long he stood there, but eventually he became aware of his surroundings again to discover that Ginny was sobbing uncontrollably next to him. He pulled her to him protectively and they sank to the stone. He sat there holding her, making soothing sounds and murmuring any reassurances he could think of. Inwardly, he was cursing himself for putting her through this.

He had to admit, the whole situation was overwhelming. It probably hadn’t been his best idea for the two of them to come alone. He was startled when she began to speak.

“I don’t remember getting here,” Ginny whispered. She slowly sat up straight and looked around, seeming to pull herself together a little.

She stood and Harry followed her lead, watching her carefully. She seemed to wander aimlessly for a couple of minutes, but it gradually dawned on him that she was retracing some path only she could see. She shook her head and finally looked at Harry. Harry didn’t think she looked so good at the moment, but she appeared determined again.

“I first remember being here,” Ginny said, indicating the space where she was currently standing. “Riddle was there, not far away,” she said, pointing. “He was laughing. I was scared because the last I knew I’d been in bed. Then I was here. Nothing in between. I was just suddenly here and there was this boy talking to me. I didn’t know who he was. And when he did tell me, I didn’t believe it at first.”

She gazed at Harry. “He looked a lot like you do now,” she said, shivering.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut, remembering how Riddle had talked about their similarities. He wasn’t overly pleased with the comparison.

“As long as I don’t look like the snake-faced bastard fifty years from now,” he said sarcastically. “I reckon I can live with the comparison.”

Ginny’s lips quirked into a tiny smile. “You’ll always be better looking,” she said.

“Glad to hear it,” Harry said, shaking his head at the odd exchange, but grateful for the bit of levity.

He listened carefully as she described her conversation with Tom Riddle. Riddle had given her details that convinced her he was the same boy from the diary. He had explained to her – and she now explained to Harry – how he’d lured her there and used her energy to be able to take on a corporeal form.

Ginny frowned. “He said there was something special about the diary that allowed him to come back,” she said slowly. Harry wasn’t surprised, considering he now knew that it had contained a piece of Voldemort’s soul.

“He said . . . he said it was fitting that he took on that form here, because it was a place meant for many secrets,” she said.

“It was fitting,” she repeated, glancing at Harry. She suddenly seemed more alert than she had been since they’d arrived. “Harry, when I wrote in the diary, he would talk about secrets a lot. At the time, I thought he simply meant my secrets, as I told him everything,” she said bitterly.

Harry waited expectantly. Her entire attitude indicated that she was stumbling upon something important.

“I often complained about being the seventh child,” Ginny said. “When we were down here, he said it was a fitting place for the seventh secret. Not the seventh child—the seventh secret.”

Harry’s jump of excitement encouraged her to continue.

“I thought he was mocking me – especially with the way he was laughing – but he wasn’t mocking me, was he?” she asked. “You’re searching for his seventh secret.”

“Not exactly a seventh secret,” Harry said, smiling grimly. “But close enough.” He looked around with new eyes. “So it is here somewhere,” he said.

“Harry,” Ginny said, calling his attention back.

“I never thought it important before, but Riddle said that once he had dealt with you he planned to,” she paused, swallowing heavily. “He planned to throw me into the basilisk’s lair. He laughed and said it was a fitting place for me since I appreciated secrets so much.”

Harry’s gaze jerked to the huge, stone statue of Salazar Slytherin. He remembered Riddle speaking to the statue and the mouth opening to release the basilisk from its depths. The mouth was closed now.

He took a few steps towards it before glancing back at Ginny. “Stay here,” he ordered. He strode closer to the statue, staring up at it. Knowing only the words that Voldemort had spoken, Harry now repeated them.

“Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four.”

He watched as the mouth opened again, as he’d watched years earlier. The mouth opened until there was a huge black hole. A shudder travelled through his body, and he looked to the basilisk, reassuring himself that it was dead. Slowly, he walked to the statue and began climbing it.

“Harry! No!” Ginny shouted, running forward. “You don’t know what’s in there!”

Harry thought she sounded suspiciously like Hermione. But then again, this place had gotten to Ginny, and he couldn’t really blame her for being more cautious. He looked between her and the black, gaping hole. “Stay here. I just need to find out what’s in there,” he said with determination, beginning to climb again.

Groaning, Ginny began climbing as well.

“No!” Harry shouted. “I said stay there!”

“I don’t like this place, but I’m not letting you go by yourself,” she snapped.

Harry had reached the hole and peered into the darkness. He sat down on the edge, Ginny coming up beside him. It was another slimy tunnel, tilting down sharply. Their lit wands didn’t penetrate far.

Harry glanced at Ginny. She glared at him challengingly and he nodded in resignation before pushing off. He slid downwards, but landed with a thump a lot sooner than he had expected. He jumped to his feet and lit his wand again. Holding it aloft, they could see torch brackets on the walls and Ginny murmured the spell to light the first one.

Illumination spilled over a wider area, and glancing around, Harry was sure they were in the basilisk’s den. This is where it had hibernated and slept throughout the many, many years. Harry assumed there was some type of spell on the room, because the temperature was a lot more comfortable than it was in the main chamber.

It was large, but not overly so. Circular shape. He couldn’t see any other openings other than the one they came in. So, once again, only a Parselmouth would be able to enter the room. The snake itself could obviously speak the language to get itself in and out of its den.

Harry frowned in thought, watching absently as Ginny lit more of the torches in the room. It was a good spot for Voldemort to hide one of his Horcruxes. It had been protected by a basilisk, and only someone who could speak Parseltongue could reach the place. There was the small problem of the basilisk itself disturbing the Horcrux, though.

“What am I missing?” Harry mused aloud.

“There’s nothing here,” Ginny said quietly, her voice a little shaky, despite there not being anything in the room.

Ginny was right, though. There wasn’t much in the room to speak of. Smooth, worn stones on the floor, bone fragments and shed snake skin. Torches on the wall, all of which were illuminating the room brightly at the moment. All but one, Harry realized.

“Ginny, why didn’t you light that last torch?” Harry asked curiously.

“I tried,” she said, shrugging.

Harry looked at her sharply before striding forward quickly to examine the torch. Searching, he easily spotted the small engraving of a snake, just like the one on the sinks in the girl’s toilet.

He bit his lip, thinking quickly. The Inferi as well as the potion had protected the locket. Surely the basilisk and ability to speak Parseltongue were the protections for whatever this Horcrux was.

“Ginny, go back to the main chamber,” Harry commanded. This time, there was no room for argument in his tone.

“Harry,” she said weakly.

“No,” he said forcefully. “I know Parseltongue, and you don’t. I don’t want to risk you being trapped.” He Accioed her broom from the other chamber. She looked terrified at leaving him alone, and going back to the main room by herself, but she went without any further protest.

Taking a deep breath, Harry went back and focused on the tiny engraving of the snake.

“Open up.”

He stepped back quickly, watching with bated breath. After all he’d seen before, he should not have been astonished to see a doorway appear, but he nonetheless was. The torches in the small room beyond flickered to brightness. In the centre was a table.

Harry’s heart had already been beating rapidly, and his pulse beat even faster at the sight of the silver hand mirror lying innocently on the table’s surface. Wand at the ready, he stepped into the room hesitantly. Scanning the room quickly, he could see empty bookshelves lining the four walls, but nothing else.

Only the table with the mirror resting on its surface.

Taking another step, Harry could see the ornate letter R carved into the handle. Rowena Ravenclaw. He was as sure of that as he’d ever been certain of anything.

He wasn’t certain, though, that he wanted to touch it. He’d never been so afraid to look in a mirror in his life. If he looked in it, would he see Tom Riddle? Voldemort? Or simply a reflection of himself?

He glanced around at the bookshelves again. He carefully walked around the table, checking for anything else in the small room. On the bottom shelf on the far wall, hidden from the doorway by the table, was a single book and a stone.

He didn’t want to touch the stone any more than he did the mirror. The book was tempting him, though. It looked horribly like the diary that Harry had destroyed.

It didn’t escape his notice that if he’d picked up the mirror straightaway, and if it was cursed in some way, he may very well have never seen this other diary or the stone. Out of the three objects, Harry wanted to see what was written in the diary. It was something he was more familiar with, and the other had only been harmful when written in.

He reached for the diary, heaving a sigh of relief when nothing happened as he picked it up. He opened it, surprised to actually see writing on the pages. The word “Horcrux” seemed to leap from the pages. Skimming several passages, Harry became more and more convinced this was Voldemort’s notes regarding the topic.

Excited beyond belief, but remembering Ginny in the other chamber, Harry carefully tucked the diary into his rucksack that already contained the Marauder’s Map and the Invisibility Cloak. He wasn’t going to touch the stone or the mirror yet. He would be back soon, hopefully armed with more knowledge.

Grinning happily, he left the small room, the doorway closing behind him. He Accioed his Firebolt and flew carefully up the relatively short pipe. Flying into the Chamber, he spotted Ginny easily. His grin dropped quickly, however, as he landed next to her.

“Ginny? Oh, fuck!” he exclaimed softly. “I’m sorry.”

He knew with one look at her face that she’d been absolutely terrified waiting here for him. Tears were coursing freely down her cheeks and she was trembling violently. He could see the relief in her features, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the horror she’d clearly been feeling.

“It’s all right, Ginny,” Harry said soothingly. “I found more than I ever could have hoped for. Let’s get you out of here.” Gathering both of their brooms in one arm, he wrapped the other around Ginny’s waist, guiding her out of the room and through the tunnels.

She didn’t say a word, but stumblingly followed Harry’s lead. He could feel the shudders coursing through her and was increasingly worried. His only focus at this point was to get her back to safety. Reaching the bottom of the main pipe leading up, Harry called softly for Fawkes. He was eternally grateful when the phoenix appeared.

“Could you carry us up again, Fawkes?” Harry asked. Fawkes fluttered in the air before him, waiting patiently.

“Ginny, I need to hold onto Fawkes and the brooms, so I need you to hold onto me tightly,” Harry said urgently. “You won’t have to try to fly back up this way. Can you do that for me?”

Ginny nodded and wrapped her arms tightly around Harry. He didn’t like the idea of not holding on to her at all and somehow managed to wedge the two brooms between their bodies so he could wrap one arm around her. “All right, Fawkes, we’re ready,” he said. He reached for Fawkes’ tail feathers, and they began their ascent through the pipe, landing back in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.

“You lived again,” Myrtle said in disappointment.

“Yes,” Harry said irritably. “I need you to be quiet and not tell anyone you’ve seen us here.”

“I always keep secrets,” Myrtle said, sounding gleeful about all the secrets she must know. Harry looked at her for a moment, wondering why he’d never thought to question Myrtle before. She could have been a more valuable resource in the past. He shook his head to clear it of those thoughts, digging the Invisibility Cloak out of the rucksack. He quickly checked the map and their path was easily clear.

Ginny didn’t talk the entire way back, but her trembling gradually lessened, as they walked the length of the tunnel. Harry tried to talk to her reassuringly, but wasn’t sure what else he could really do for her. Getting her back to safety was the first priority. He promised her a shower and hot tea and she did nod at those suggestions, at least. She was responding to him, but her thoughts still seemed to be stuck down in the Chamber.

He was extremely relieved when they finally made it back to Fred and George’s flat without further incident.

“What the hell happened to you two?” George asked in alarm when they entered.

“We’re fine,” Harry snapped, glaring at the twins and silently warning them to back off. He dropped the brooms, his rucksack and the cloak unceremoniously to the floor.

“Ginny?” Fred called her name, looking worried.

She shook her head, still not wanting to talk.

“C’mon, Ginny,” Harry said gently, leading her to the bathroom. “You need a shower and it’ll help you feel better.”

“Harry,” George said, again sounding alarmed. “You can’t go in there with her.”

“The hell I can’t,” Harry snarled. “I’m not leaving her alone again,” he said, stepping into the bathroom after Ginny and slamming the door.

Harry gazed at her standing in the middle of the bathroom, looking lost. “Ah, Ginny, I’m sorry,” he said miserably. Sighing heavily, he stepped over to turn the water on.

“Can you get undressed yourself?” he asked.

She looked at him blankly for a moment before she lifted shaking hands and fumbled with the buttons of her shirt. It wasn’t helping her any that her clothes were covered in the filthy slime.

Cursing himself for putting her, and himself, in this situation, he moved to help her. She began crying again as Harry gently helped her out of her clothes. He hesitated when he had her down to her knickers and bra, closing his eyes tightly for a moment. Draco was surely going to kill him for this.

When he opened his eyes, he saw her trying to unhook the bra herself, but it wasn’t coming unhooked for her. Taking a deep breath, he did it himself and helped her step out of her knickers, before urging her into the shower.

“I’m a dead man,” he muttered to himself. Speaking louder, he called to Ginny. “Are you okay in there?” Not getting an answer, he poked his head into the shower. “Ginny?”

She just looked back at him.

“Oh, Ginny, I know this is hard,” Harry said miserably.

She still just stood there gazing back at him with tears streaming down her cheeks, mixing with the water cascading over her from the shower head.

Harry began yanking his filthy clothes off, cursing and muttering under his breath. “I’m a dead man. It’s just a matter of who’s going to kill me first.”

He stripped down to his boxers, absolutely refusing to take them off, before stepping into the shower with Ginny. She was standing exactly as she had been. Harry soaped up a sponge and handed it to her. “I’ll wash your hair for you, but you need to wash your body yourself, all right?”

She nodded jerkily, accepting the sponge. Grabbing the bottle of shampoo, he gently nudged her shoulder with his other hand so she’d turn her back to him. As quickly and efficiently as he could, he washed her hair. With all the slime in it, he had to do it twice, though. Finished with her hair, he realized that she hadn’t done a thing with the sponge he’d handed her.

“Wash, Ginny,” he ordered gently.

She nodded and this time she finally began washing herself. Heaving a sigh of relief, Harry began washing his own hair. When she was done, she stepped out of the shower on her own. Harry dropped the boxers and quickly finished washing. Turning off the water, he snagged a towel and wrapped it around his waist before stepping out. He was at least trying to keep things as proper as he could.

Ginny was sitting on the closed toilet seat, wrapped in her own towel. She was simply staring at the floor. Harry dropped to his knees in front of her.

“Are you feeling any better yet?” he asked hopefully.

Her eyes rose to meet his. “A little,” she said, speaking for the first time since they’d left the Chamber.

“I’m so sorry for taking you there, Ginny,” Harry said, absolutely miserable.

Ginny heaved a shaky breath. “I’ll be all right,” she said. “It was just harder than I thought it was going to be.”

“If I’d known it would hit you this hard, I . . . ,” Harry trailed off.

“You would still have done it,” Ginny said quietly. “We would still have gone.”

“You know why I had to take you, don’t you?” he asked, pleading with her to understand.

Ginny smiled a little. “No, Harry, I don’t actually know why. I know it has to do with Voldemort, and I know you got all bloody excited, so whatever it was I helped you find must be something good.”

“Well, what you helped me find is actually bad,” Harry admitted. “But the fact that we found it is good. Now, I just have to figure out how to get it out of there. But I think I may have found that solution as well.”

Ginny looked at him closely. “Harry, just how dangerous is this?” she asked. “I was scared to death that you weren’t going to come back.”

He went to run a hand through his hair as he tried to figure out how to answer that. He frowned at his hand as he realized his hair was still sopping wet. So was Ginny’s for that matter. He grabbed a couple more towels off the shelf and handed one to Ginny before beginning to towel dry his hair.

Ginny simply bundled her hair into the towel on top of her head. “You’re avoiding the question, Harry,” she said.

Harry dropped the towel around his shoulders. “It’s dangerous,” he said flatly.

She was frowning in concern and Harry shook his head. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You’ve done your part and it’s over with. No one else had the clues that you did.”

“Lucky me,” Ginny said sarcastically.

He smiled sadly at her. “If it’s any consolation, I know how you feel,” he said.

“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry,” she said. “I know you’ve got it much worse than me. I really don’t know how you stand it.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know either sometimes,” he admitted. He shook his head to clear it. “Are you going to be all right now?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah,” Ginny answered softly. “I think it was mostly just the shock of being there again. That, and I worked myself into quite the sorry state while I was waiting for you,” she said ruefully.

“Your family is going to hate me when they figure out what I did to you,” Harry said.

“They’re not going to be finding out,” Ginny retorted, seeming to get a bit of her spirit back. “Fred and George are the only two who know anything. And Merlin knows they’ll follow along with anything you say.” She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes as she studied Harry.

He gazed back at her warily. “What?” he asked suspiciously.

“Who is it that’s going to be upset with you for showering with me?” Ginny asked bluntly.

Harry blinked at her. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Harry, you wore your underwear into the shower with me. We’ve had sex before and it’s not like I haven’t seen you naked. You’re obviously seeing someone,” she said.

Harry groaned, ducking his head and realizing it would be hard to deny under the circumstances. “I’m seeing someone who’s going to kill me when they find out,” he muttered.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she said sympathetically. “I realize it would sound terribly suspicious, especially with you as secretive as you are anymore.”

“Yeah,” Harry said miserably.

“Will you tell her?” Ginny asked. “Does she know we were together?”

Harry winced, knowing Draco wouldn’t be pleased to be referred to as a girl. He wasn’t going to correct Ginny, though. It was her assumption, and it would help keep any suspicions at bay. “I won’t keep this secret, but I don’t know how I’m going to explain it, either,” he admitted.

“So, she does know we were together,” Ginny stated.

Harry simply nodded.

“You’re not going to tell me who she is, are you?” Ginny asked wryly.

He looked up at her again and, smiling slightly, he shook his head.

“Are you happy?” she asked. “Did you find your spark?”

Harry’s smile widened. “Yes, it’s incredible, Ginny. I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, and . . . ,” he faltered, realizing that he was probably insulting her.

She smiled genuinely. “Harry, I’m happy for you. I think it’s fantastic that you’ve found the right person for you. If you want to be blissfully sappy and tell me all the details, then go right ahead,” she said slyly.

“I’m not blissfully sappy,” Harry retorted, but he was still smiling.

“I think you are,” Ginny shot back. “Tell me what she’s like. You owe me some good thoughts after what you put me through tonight.”

“I think you’re feeling better now,” Harry said dryly, standing up finally.

“Tell me,” she demanded, standing herself and moving to block the door.

Knowing he wasn’t going anywhere without telling her something, Harry leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, thinking about Draco. “Bloody gorgeous, strong, stubborn, witty, challenging, creative, caring, protective, possessive,” he added wryly. “Family comes first, excellent at potions, amazing on a broom, loves a challenge, hates being bored, brilliant at kissing, warm and snugly in bed.”

“Harry, who the hell is she?” Ginny asked, gazing at Harry in fascination. “Does she have a brother?”

Harry shook his head in answer to both questions, smiling. “I can’t tell you, Ginny,” he said, sounding regretful. “We’re in the middle of this war, and it’s just not safe to tell anyone. You can’t even tell Ron and Hermione I’m seeing someone.”

“Anyone with you is a major target and Ron and Hermione would simply pester you until you landed in St. Mungo’s,” Ginny said.

“Something like that,” Harry agreed. “And Ron and Hermione are already upset with me for enough things as it is. They’re not going to be happy I went behind their backs to take you there tonight. They didn’t even want me to talk to you about it. I will probably have to tell them I took you, though,” he warned.

“They’re not my keepers,” Ginny retorted, “And I’ll be fine.”

“So, can we leave the bathroom now?” he asked suddenly.

Ginny held her hands out in front of her, which were still visibly trembling. “I am better, Harry, but I don’t think I got enough details to counteract the shaking,” she said.

Harry chuckled. “Too bad. Some warm clothes and a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa would do you good,” he said.

She nodded in agreement and turned to finally open the door.

Fred and George leapt forward anxiously as they exited the bathroom, looking them both over worriedly.

“Are you both all right?” Fred asked.

“We’re fine,” Ginny said calmly. “I was a bit shook up is all.”

“Hanging around Harry is sure to do that to a person,” George said cheerfully, relief evident in his tone.

“Thanks,” Harry said sarcastically. “Do you have some clothes for us?”

“Ah, well, Ginny’s things are in the bedroom,” Fred answered. “Afraid you’re stuck with wearing my clothes again.”

“Again?” Ginny asked curiously, pausing on her way to the bedroom.

“I had to borrow some of Fred’s robes once,” Harry said dismissively, accepting the stack of clothes. He’d long ago gotten over any issues about his clothing and didn’t particularly care what he wore nowadays. He realized there was some strange irony with him probably being the least fashion conscious person in Hogwarts, seeing the most fashion conscious person in the school.

He shrugged off Ginny’s suspicious gaze and turned to go back into the bathroom again to get dressed. He had barely shut the door before he was accosted. He was shoved against the wall and Draco appeared, kissing him possessively, before he had a chance to register what was happening.

He responded automatically to Draco’s touch, not even questioning his sudden appearance. He moaned into the kiss, his hands grasping Draco’s invisible shoulders, anchoring himself for the assault. Feeling the hardness pressing into his abdomen, he rose up on his toes, attempting to bring them closer together.

He was a little startled when his towel was suddenly ripped away, but groaned when Draco touched him. Harry felt like he was drowning in the sudden wash of pleasure. Draco had yet to release his mouth, tongue sweeping through every corner, claiming him.

Harry scrabbled for the fastenings on the cloak, wanting to feel Draco. He couldn’t concentrate, Draco’s hand was squeezing and stroking him as the other hand rolled his balls gently in his palm.

He finally released the fastenings on the cloak, shoving it off Draco’s shoulders. He skipped Draco’s shirt, heading directly for the trousers. Draco’s mouth tore away from his as his hand connected with hard flesh, the trousers already undone.

“Oh gods, Draco,” Harry moaned, as he stroked Draco’s erection quickly.

He received an answering moan, before Draco attacked his neck, nipping and sucking greedily.

“Draco, I can’t. Oh gods. Please. Yes. Draco,” Harry whimpered. He thrust into Draco’s hand, even as he attempted to keep the same rhythm as Draco thrust into his. He couldn’t take much more of this.

It wasn’t just the act itself. It was the suddenness. It was Draco’s intense, forceful attitude. It was Draco’s possessive claiming. Harry had the need to be claimed fully even as he wished to claim Draco. But there wasn’t time for that. He was going to come. Soon. Now.

Draco’s assault on Harry’s neck didn’t pause as Harry came. Finding some stray thought in his brain, he caught some of the hot, creamy essence in his other hand. Switching hands, Harry renewed his efforts stroking Draco’s hard length, his hand gliding easily with his come. Draco faltered, dropping his forehead to Harry’s shoulder as he came, shooting hot fluid against Harry’s abdomen. Harry’s spent cock twitched as he shuddered.

It took another minute, but Draco finally lifted his head and looked at Harry. “You are mine,” he said forcefully.

“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Yours. Only yours.”

Draco nodded in satisfaction before stepping back. Harry watched as Draco cleaned himself up and straightened his clothing.

“Harry?”

Harry blinked at him, realizing he hadn’t moved at all. His brain finally set into motion again, and his eyes widened. “You’ve been in here all along,” he said.

“Yes,” Draco said. “Did you think I was going to let you in here with Weaselette by yourself?”

“Don’t call her that,” Harry said automatically, but there was no force to the words as he tried to make sense of everything.

“Be happy I’m not cursing her into next year,” Draco sneered. “She’s not supposed to be showering with my boyfriend.”

Harry looked at him nervously. “Nothing happened, Draco,” he said.

“I know that, you twit,” Draco retorted. “If something had happened, you would’ve already been cursed yourself.”

“I messed her up pretty bad,” Harry said quietly. “I just needed to make sure she was okay. I didn’t want to shower with her, but she wouldn’t have wanted Fred and George to help her like that.”

Draco stepped closer to Harry again, cupping his face gently with one hand and looking at him in concern. “I saw her. I saw how bad off she was,” he admitted. “What happened, Harry? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Harry said, shrugging carelessly. “It was just another one of the unpleasant tasks I had to do.”

He brightened, giving Draco a quick kiss before pulling away to begin cleaning up and getting dressed as he talked. “I’m actually quite pleased,” he said. “I’ve made progress today.”

He continued to mutter to himself as he dressed. “I’m sure it’s Ravenclaw, which covers all but Gryffindor. There’s only one other, which is Hufflepuff.”

He paused for a moment in pulling the robes on. “Godric Gryffindor,” he mused. His eyes widened. “Oh Merlin,” he breathed. “Could I have been right?”

He began pulling on his clothes again impatiently, not registering the alarmed expression on Draco’s face. “I was going to go,” he said, angry with himself. “But I thought it was just me being sentimental or something. Surely Dumbledore would’ve searched. But it simply has to be there. It ties the last two houses together.”

He paused again. “But could Voldemort have done it? Wouldn’t Dumbledore have known? I know the house was destroyed, but I don’t even know if anything is there still,” he said bitterly.

“Harry!” Draco said sharply. “What are you nattering on about?”

Harry blinked at him, realizing he shouldn’t have been saying anything out loud.

“You’re leaving again, aren’t you?” Draco asked, watching him intently.

“No, not tonight,” Harry said, his shoulders slumping. He swallowed heavily. “I reckon it’d be better to go during the day.” He turned away, not wanting to discuss his parents with Draco.

His eyes caught on his reflection in the mirror. “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed softly, fingers brushing against the huge love bite on his neck.

Draco sniggered, wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist and propping his chin on Harry’s shoulder. Harry met his amused gaze in the mirror. “You’re quite proud of yourself, aren’t you?” he asked dryly.

“Of course,” Draco drawled.

Harry smiled slightly. “How am I supposed to hide this?” he asked.

Draco pouted at the idea of hiding it, but answered anyway. “Cast a low-level glamour over it,” he said, pulling his wand and casting the charm.

Harry frowned as it disappeared. Brushing his fingers over the spot again, he could still feel the tenderness, and his smile returned.

Draco smiled back, happy with Harry’s reaction. He combed his fingers through Harry’s hair, attempting to tame it, at least a little, while Harry buttoned up the robes.

“I’ve been in here so long, they probably think I’ve drowned,” Harry muttered.

“The matching pair know that I’m in here with you,” Draco said casually.

Harry started, but then realized that he probably should’ve guessed that. He looked at Draco curiously. “So, you decided to hang out with Fred and George while I was gone?” he asked.

Draco grimaced. “I knew you’d come back here first,” he said defensively, picking the cloak back up off the floor and wrapping it around himself.

Harry simply nodded, not pushing the topic. He knew Draco had been worried about him. He worried Draco every time he disappeared somewhere.

“Besides,” Draco added, “we’ve been working on adding some charms so that the cloak will mask scent as well.”

“Oh,” Harry said, attempting to grasp the idea of Draco willingly working with Fred and George. It was a good idea, though. “Did you figure it out?”

“We’re still working on it, and I’ll need Lupin to help us test it,” Draco said. “But, yes, I think we’ve figured out a solution.”

Draco pulled the hood up and, shaking his head, Harry finally left the bathroom.

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

“Are you all right, Harry?” Ginny asked worriedly.

Fred and George were attempting to smother their grins.

“I’m fine,” Harry answered casually. “How are you doing?”

“You were in there a terribly long time,” she said in concern, ignoring his question.

Harry sat down, resting his head against the back of the couch before he responded. “I’ve figured out someplace else I need to go,” he said quietly, knowing it would deflect attention, but not really wanting to talk about it. “When we were still at Hogwarts, it’s where I had planned on going first, but then I dismissed it.”

“Now you think it’s actually important to go to Godric’s Hollow?” she questioned.

Harry’s head snapped up to look at her.

She shrugged. “Ron let it slip,” she said.

Harry scowled, knowing it had also just been slipped to Draco. “Ron’s got a big mouth,” he said irritably.

Ginny shrugged again. “We all know that,” she said dismissively. “He deliberately let it slip to me, though.”

“Why?” Harry asked.

“Because he’s got it in his head that we’re going to live happily ever after,” she said wryly. “When Hermione laid into him for it, he said that he’d want her there if he had to deal with something like that, so he thought you’d want me there.”

He opened his mouth, and then shut it again quickly. The whole situation was ridiculous. Fred, George, and Ginny all knew Harry would want someone else there, but while the twins actually knew who it was, Ginny didn’t. Ginny didn’t even know that the twins knew anything and vice versa. And all the while, Draco was probably watching them all, scowling darkly.

“I’m taking Ron and Hermione with me and that’s it,” Harry said firmly. “Surely Hermione won’t mind waiting while I kick Ron’s arse,” he added.

The three redheads laughed.

“Ah, come on, Harry,” Fred said cajolingly. “You wouldn’t force us to miss out on watching that.”

Harry smirked at him. “It wouldn’t be worth it. I can’t afford to hurt him too badly at the moment,” he said.

“Too bad,” George said despairingly. “Little Ronniekins deserves a good arse kickin’.”

“I don’t know,” Ginny said, giggling. “Hermione’s been doing a pretty good job on him already.”

“She does have him fairly well-trained,” Harry agreed, grinning.

“So, no chance of you taking us with you?” Ginny asked, sobering.

“No,” Harry said flatly. “Ron and Hermione know why I’m going and, no, I can’t tell you. It’s bad enough with you knowing as much as you do,” he said.

“Harry, we’re not going to say anything to anyone, and we’re not even blabbermouths like Ron,” Ginny said.

“No,” Harry repeated forcefully. “I’m following Dumbledore’s orders on this. He told me I could tell Ron and Hermione, but no one else. I’m needing too much help to follow the orders completely, but I’m doing my best.”

Ginny frowned at him, clearly not happy. “Why didn’t Dumbledore ever ask me before?” she asked, shifting the subject a little.

“I don’t know,” Harry said, frowning. “It doesn’t make sense. Part of it must be because I didn’t get a vital piece of information to him until not too long before he died.” He shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense, though, either.”

Why didn’t Dumbledore question Ginny about the Chamber? Dumbledore hadn’t been certain about there being seven Horcruxes until after Harry got the memory out of Slughorn. Which explained why Harry understood the references to the seventh secret that Ginny had mentioned, but it didn’t explain why Dumbledore hadn’t questioned her in the first place.

Harry dropped his head, rubbing at his temples, lost in thought. Absently, he brushed his fingers across his scar, thinking about Voldemort and Dumbledore and Horcruxes.

It was easier to understand why Dumbledore hadn’t questioned Kreacher. The old wizard hadn’t known that Regulus had discovered the Horcruxes. Harry felt uneasy, though, that he was discovering the locations of the Horcruxes all of a sudden, when Dumbledore hadn’t been able to find them for so long.

Harry kept saying it was simply instinct that was guiding him on his search. He’d felt strongly that there was something about the Chamber that led him back there. Was it simply instinct? Was it an understanding of Voldemort’s ways, as Dumbledore had believed? Or was it something more?

His fingertips traced along his scar again. There was no question that he had a connection to Voldemort. Was there something about the connection that was leading him now? Why was he able to find the Horcruxes? A horrible, terrible thought settled into his mind. Was he connected to the Horcruxes? On the heels of that thought, Harry had another. Voldemort had tried to kill him, but hadn’t succeeded. Was he a Horcrux?

“Harry!”

He looked up absently. “I need to talk to Hermione,” he said, feeling queasy. He fervently hoped that she’d be able to tell him if he was a Horcrux or not.

“Harry, are you all right?” Ginny asked, looking alarmed.

“No. I need to talk to Hermione,” he repeated. He knew he must look bad, because even Fred and George were gazing at him worriedly. He just couldn’t seem to pull himself together, thoughts of Horcruxes and connections to Voldemort swirling haphazardly through his mind.

He rubbed his temples hard, attempting to ease the pounding that had started up in his head again. Suddenly, he jerked them away as if he’d been burned. He stared at his hands in horror.

What if the headaches weren’t stress? What if Voldemort was messing with him again, just more subtle than before? What if Voldemort was “helping” Harry find all these clues?

He felt sick, knowing he hadn’t actually retrieved any of the Horcruxes yet. Why should he be able to suddenly start having all these clues? Surely it was too easy, considering that Dumbledore had been trying to solve this for years. Not that he felt what he was dealing with was easy, but still. It was all too quick.

Could the diary that was now in his rucksack have just been planted for him to find?

He’d been so sure, but now that the doubts had set in, especially after the day he’d had, Harry was feeling terrible.

“Harry, snap out of it,” Ginny said sharply, shaking his shoulders.

He focused, looking up at her. “What if I’m wrong about all this?” he whispered hoarsely. “What if this is all Voldemort?”

Ginny stared. “It’s not,” she said, but she didn’t sound particularly firm about it, and Harry certainly wasn’t reassured. She dropped her hands to her side. “It can’t be, Harry,” she said weakly.

George and Fred were standing on either side of her. “Ginny, can you keep Harry’s secrets?” Fred asked.

“Can she handle another shock?” asked George.

“I’m fine,” Ginny snapped. “Harry’s the one who’s not okay.”

“No,” Harry said, his muddled brain registering what the twins wanted to reveal. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” Fred retorted.

“Whatever hit Ginny earlier has now hit you as well,” George agreed.

Harry held his hands out in front of him and realized he was shaking. “It’s not the same,” he protested, stuffing his hands beneath his thighs so they wouldn’t shake.

“This isn’t about today. Not really. This is about the Department of Mysteries. He pulled me. Successfully. Sirius died, Malfoy’s father ended up in Azkaban. People got hurt. What if Voldemort’s pulling me now?” he asked miserably. “I need to talk to Hermione,” he said, yet again.

“Told you before, mate,” George said. “We can’t send you to anyone when you’re in this kind of state.”

“And you’re much worse off than you were the other night,” Fred added.

“We’ll handle her,” George said, getting everyone’s attention with the odd comment.

“I have her wand,” Fred said cheerfully, pocketing Ginny’s wand.

“What’s going on?” Ginny demanded.

“I said no!” Harry snapped angrily.

Draco appeared next to Harry. “You’re outnumbered,” he drawled.

“Malfoy!” Ginny shouted, making a lunge for him, but caught by the twins who gripped her arms tightly and dragged her back.

“Fuck, Draco!” Harry exclaimed. “Do you even remember that you’re supposed to stay hidden?” he asked sarcastically.

Draco?!” Ginny shouted incredulously. The twins didn’t need to magically stun her as she stood stock still, gaping at Harry in shock.

Harry and Draco ignored her. Draco sat down and grabbed Harry’s shaking hands tightly in his own. “I couldn’t just stand there and do nothing while you’re falling apart,” he retorted.

“Damn it! I’m fine,” Harry snapped.

“If I hear you say you’re fine one more time, I’m going to hex your arse,” Draco said. “You’re getting hysterical, so just calm down,” he ordered.

Harry stilled, recognizing their reverse roles from just four days before when he’d shown up at the Dursleys with Snape. “I reckon I should be grateful you don’t have the snake,” he said, much calmer.

“I could use pleasure instead of pain to calm you down,” Draco drawled suggestively.

Smiling wryly, Harry gave him a kiss.

“Better?” Draco asked.

“A little,” Harry answered. “But Draco, things are still fucked up. At the very least, I’m connected to Voldemort,” he said, fingers brushing his scar again.

“Harry, we already know you’re connected to him. That’s why we worked so hard on your Occlumency. Voldemort’s not pulling you,” Draco said firmly. “Don’t be a prat. Stop and think about it. You’d know if he was.”

In other words, Snape would’ve told him if Voldemort was up to something like that. “I know,” Harry said slowly. “But there’s still odd things happening.” He was back to rubbing his temples.

Draco dug through the pockets of the cloak until he produced one of the Pain-Relieving Potions. “Drink this,” he ordered.

“I’m taking too many of them,” Harry muttered, downing it anyway.

“Luckily for you, they’re not addictive,” Draco said, a small crease in his forehead showing his concern. “If you develop a tolerance for them, we could be in trouble with any of the stronger ones, though,” he admitted.

“Lovely,” Harry said sarcastically.

“Just lay down for a few minutes until that kicks in,” Draco encouraged.

Harry moved to lay down with his head in Draco’s lap. “This is how I ended up falling asleep here last time,” he said warningly.

“Just lay down,” Draco repeated, carding his fingers through Harry’s hair. “Close your eyes.”

“I do still need to talk to Hermione,” Harry said, but closing his eyes as ordered.

Harry drifted into sleep, exhausted. He didn’t hear the Silencing Charm Draco cast on him, the one they used on Victoria all the time, or the conversation that followed.

Draco warily looked over at the redheaded trio. Fred and George were relaxed, except for the fact that they each still had a firm grip on Ginny’s arms. She didn’t look to be going anywhere, though. She was staring gobsmacked at Harry and Draco.

Much as he’d like to simply Obliviate her, he didn’t think Harry would appreciate it. He was fairly certain, though, he could convince her to cooperate for the same reason – for Harry’s sake.

“Who are you?” she asked accusingly, coming to life and glaring at Draco. “And what did you do to Harry?”

Draco rolled his eyes, the twins sniggering. “You know who I am, Weaselette,” he drawled. “And I did nothing to Harry other than calm him down and help him relax enough so that he fell asleep.”

“My name is Ginny,” she said between gritted teeth.

Draco’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Like I told Harry, when you’re showering with my boyfriend, you can be thankful I’m only calling you Weaselette instead of cursing you into next year.”

Ginny’s eyes widened at all the information that Draco had just revealed. “You . . . you’re . . . you can’t be the ‘bloody gorgeous, brilliant kisser’,” she stumbled over the words, latching onto the descriptions Harry had used to describe Draco.

Draco smirked at her. “The one and only,” he drawled.

The three had still been standing, but as Ginny’s legs threatened to give way, Fred and George guided her over to the other couch, encouraging her to sit down. She finally looked at her brothers. “You two knew about Malfoy, didn’t you?” she accused.

“Yes,” Fred said pleasantly. “He’s not so bad.”

“Getting kind of used to having him around,” George added.

“What are you saying?” Ginny demanded.

“We do what we can to protect Harry,” Fred began, speaking slowly for her, which she didn’t seem to appreciate.

“Malfoy belongs to Harry,” George said, speaking in the same manner.

“So, we accept Malfoy,” Fred said.

“And do what we can to protect him as well,” George finished.

“Malfoy does not belong to Harry,” Ginny snarled.

“I do,” Draco said softly. “I belong to him as much as he belongs to me.”

“No,” Ginny said, firmly in denial. “You hate each other.”

Draco smirked. “I can’t argue with that,” he drawled pleasantly.

She looked at Harry, lying so peacefully and comfortably with his head pillowed on Draco’s lap. Draco’s fingers were still absently playing with strands of black hair.

“You don’t look like you hate each other,” Ginny finally admitted. Sighing, she met Draco’s gaze. “Tell me what you can?” she asked.

Draco nodded in agreement, giving Ginny a very condensed and limited version of events. He hesitated, but decided to tell all three of them about Victoria.

It wasn’t an overly pleasant conversation, as Ginny wasn’t nearly as satisfied with Draco’s vague answers as the twins had been. She was a bit disgruntled to discover that her brothers were firmly on Draco’s side. Eventually, she grudgingly gave in. The evidence in front of her was difficult to ignore.

Ginny threatened dire harm if Harry got hurt, Draco sneered, Fred and George shook their heads in amusement, and Harry slept peacefully through all of it.

“Is Harry actually all right?” Ginny finally asked, gazing at his sleeping form in concern.

Draco sighed, looking down at Harry. “I think so, but he’s dealing with a lot of shite,” he said. “Do you know why he wants Granger all of a sudden?” he asked, changing the subject slightly.

“No, not really,” Ginny answered. “He never mentioned her until just now. I’m not sure it has any relation to whatever he found tonight, because he didn’t want to talk to her until he started worrying that Voldemort was manipulating him again.”

Draco exhaled heavily. “I should probably take him home,” he said.

“Home?” Ginny asked, eyebrows raised.

“As close to home as either of us have at the moment, yes,” Draco sneered. “He needs a good night’s sleep. Merlin knows what tomorrow will bring.”

Ginny tilted her head, eyeing Draco speculatively. “You’re doing everything you can to help him hold it together, aren’t you?”

Draco didn’t respond, not exactly comfortable with her knowing that. The fact that he was holding a civil conversation with a Weasley, that also happened to be Harry’s ex-girlfriend, was suddenly making itself known in Draco’s conscious thoughts.

“I’ve never seen Harry . . . relax so quickly like that before,” Ginny said. “Not once he’s got himself worked up.” She looked at Draco, her expression grateful. “I don’t understand it at all, but whatever you’re doing for Harry, I truly hope you keep it up.”

Draco arched a brow in surprise. Just a short time earlier she’d barely given grudging acceptance – which had honestly been more than Draco had hoped for – and now she was encouraging his relationship with Harry? Draco wasn’t convinced that he cared personally, but for Harry’s sake he was glad. Whether he liked it or not, he knew Ginny was important to Harry and they were still friends.

“I will,” he said finally.

* * * * *

The second they returned to Grimmauld Place, Harry was engulfed in a tight hug by Remus. Narcissa was hovering close by and hugged him next. Harry realized with a start that even Snape was leaning against the wall nearby and running a trained eye over him, checking to be sure he was all right.

“Merlin, I’m fine,” Harry said grumpily. “Why all the fuss?”

Draco had woken him not long beforehand. Harry had only long enough to assure himself that Ginny was doing all right and that the twins would take of her before Draco had hustled him back to Grimmauld Place.

“Potter,” Draco said warningly.

“I am fine,” Harry said with a sulky expression.

“Tea,” Snape ordered.

Harry looked at him blankly, trying to figure out what tea had to do with anything. He wasn’t given an opportunity to protest, though, as he was led insistently to the kitchen. Upon stepping into the room, his gaze immediately fell upon Fawkes, resting on his perch once again.

“Hello, Fawkes,” Harry said softly, walking over to him to gently stroke the bird’s head. “Glad to see you made it back all right.” All of a sudden, it hit him why the others were so worried and he turned sharply on his heel to look at them.

“I really am fine,” he said earnestly. “No emergencies and no injuries. I just needed him to get out of a bit of a tight spot.”

Draco frowned, seeming to realize something else was going on. Remus and Narcissa looked relieved. Snape remained impassive, but gestured for Harry to sit.

Sighing, Harry realized he wasn’t going to get away without explaining, at least part of what he’d been up to during the day. Giving in to the inevitable, Harry sat down at the table. Snape set a cup of tea in front of him and ordered him to drink it. He wondered what Snape had put in it, but took a sip regardless. He realized that he’d never gotten any hot tea earlier, like he’d promised Ginny, and appreciated it now.

“Here, Potter,” Snape said, handing a tin to Harry. “Treats that Fawkes enjoys.”

Harry smiled gratefully. “Thanks.” Opening the tin, he called to Fawkes and offered him some of the treats. Fawkes rested on his shoulder, appearing content. Feeling more content himself, he looked around to the others. Draco was sitting next to him, with the three adults facing them from the other side of the table.

“Would you care to explain exactly why Fawkes deserves treats now?” Snape suggested silkily.

“As Dumbledore would say, a trip down memory lane is sometimes necessary,” Harry said, smiling cheekily.

Remus was surprised into smiling and Snape snorted in amusement. “Potter, do not believe that you will be allowed to avoid explanations like Dumbledore,” Snape said, his lips curling at the edges.

Smiling, Harry shrugged. “Actually, there really isn’t much I can tell you, based on his orders,” he said.

He sobered, meeting the gaze of each person solemnly. “It is absolutely vital that Voldemort does not have any idea where I’ve been today,” he said. “It’s even more important that he doesn’t find out about the discovery I made. No, today wasn’t pleasant, but it was worth it. I’m one step closer to being able to defeat him. Truthfully, I think I’ve gained far more than one step today,” he admitted.

He frowned, staring into his tea cup for a few moments before looking to Snape. “Sir? I need to know . . .,” he trailed off, biting his lip.

“What is it, Potter?” Snape asked.

Harry glanced at Draco. “If it’ll make you feel better, just ask him, Harry,” Draco said quietly. “I think he’s going to tell you the same thing I did, though.”

“I need to know if Voldemort’s pulling me at all,” Harry said on an exhale. “Like when he planted all the information about the Department of Mysteries.”

Snape’s brow creased in concern. “There has been no indication of anything of that sort,” he said. “In fact, he has expressed extreme frustration that he has been unable to reach your mind as he has in the past.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that before?” Harry accused.

Snape lifted a brow. “And given you a reason to relax and not push to continue learning?” he asked pointedly.

“I can’t afford to relax,” Harry said petulantly. “It would’ve been nice to know.” He shook his head, trying to clear away the feelings of old resentment. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“Potter, why are you asking about this now?” Snape questioned, frowning at him.

Harry’s hands lifted to his temples, almost of their own accord. It had become habit recently. As soon as he realized what he was doing, he pulled his hands away to look at them.

“I’ve been having a lot of headaches,” he said quietly in explanation. “I’ve thought they were just stress, but . . .,” he trailed off uncertainly.

“Do they feel at all unusual?” Snape asked.

“No, but . . .,” Harry said, trailing off once again.

“But what, Potter?” Snape asked, eyes watching him closely.

Harry shook his head helplessly. “I don’t know how to explain,” he said.

“If you do not explain, then I can not help you,” Snape said with surprising patience expressed in his voice.

Draco shifted closer and wrapped an arm around him in reassurance. Harry leaned his head against Draco’s shoulder for a few moments, soaking up the quiet strength as he attempted to gather his thoughts. At least he seemed to have caught Snape when he was in a patient mood.

He straightened, focusing on Snape again. “Dumbledore spent years trying to figure out how to defeat Voldemort. He spent this last year giving me all the pieces of this elaborate puzzle that he’d been able to gather. I helped him gather a couple of the pieces myself. One extremely important piece, in particular,” he admitted.

Snape was listening intently, giving Harry his full attention. “Go on,” he encouraged.

“Dumbledore spent years,” Harry emphasized. “Yet, all of a sudden, I’m piecing things together fast. Things are falling into place so fast that I don’t have time to keep up with all the clues.”

“And you are concerned that the Dark Lord is somehow involved,” Snape concluded.

“Yes. I mean, how is it that I can figure this out when Dumbledore hadn’t been able to? It’s not possible. I’m just a bloody teenager who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing,” Harry said, becoming highly agitated again.

Snape warmed Harry’s cup of tea, ordering him to drink. Harry had to wonder if the man was lacing his tea with Calming Draughts or something else, but he sipped obediently.

“Potter,” Snape said slowly. He leaned his elbows on the table, steepling his fingers under his chin. “First of all, I do not believe the Dark Lord is involved in any way. With everything I have seen and heard, I am far more inclined to believe that your apparent successes have to do with those ‘survival instincts’ that you were recently shouting about so eloquently,” he said dryly.

Harry flushed, remembering his ranting in the Room of Requirement. “My instincts certainly aren’t better than Dumbledore’s, though,” he protested.

Snape eyed him speculatively. “Perhaps not,” he said. “However, I have to wonder if you are approaching the situation from a far different perspective. You are presumably building your knowledge on the foundation that Dumbledore has already built for you. You are taking that knowledge, and using your own resources to expound on it.”

Harry frowned doubtfully, biting at his lip. That’s what he was worried about – that he was approaching things from a different perspective – one not his own.

“What else is concerning you?” Snape asked.

Harry shook his head. “I can’t really talk about it,” he said miserably.

“You still want to talk to Granger?” Draco asked.

“Yes,” Harry said, shrugging helplessly.

Draco’s expression tightened in irritation. “Just talk to Severus. He’s listening and trying to help you,” he said.

“I know, and I appreciate it,” Harry said quietly, glancing at Snape before dropping his gaze to the tabletop. “Hermione can help answer a question for me that no one else can, though.”

“Potter, whatever your other concerns are, I do not believe your headaches are related to the Dark Lord,” Snape said calmly. “You are under an extreme amount of pressure. It is not at all surprising that the stress surfaces in the form of headaches. They are also likely due to your lack of proper sleep habits,” he said pointedly.

Harry shrugged. “I took a nap earlier,” he said.

“You only slept a couple of hours, Harry,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “C’mon, let’s go to bed. You can go talk to Granger in the morning.”

“Go,” Snape said dismissively.

Harry nodded to Snape and wished them all a good night, following Draco’s lead. They were both quiet as they prepared for bed, as both were exhausted. Harry lay down, sure that he would fall asleep quickly. He was comfortable, and it felt wonderful lying with Draco, but his mind refused to settle.

He carefully slid out of bed, not wanting to wake Draco. Now that he had an opportunity, he retrieved the diary from his rucksack and settled into one of the chairs by the fireplace to read.

He read, becoming more and more nauseated. He’d been right that it was Voldemort’s notes regarding his knowledge of Horcruxes. There were detailed descriptions of what Horcruxes were. More horrifying were the notes outlining precisely how to create a Horcrux – the process, incantations and descriptions of how the soul was split. He didn’t understand all of it, but the comprehensive notes sketched out precisely why Voldemort had decided it was best to split his soul into seven pieces.

Harry read on, further sickened by the fact that the words on the pages were completely impersonal. It was precise, analytical, and cold. Everything he could ever possibly want to know about Horcruxes was there in black ink on cream coloured pages.

He was surprised to find information on how to destroy the Horcruxes, but he realized that the diary was nothing if not thorough. There was hope in the fact that the Horcruxes in themselves were not difficult to destroy. They held a piece of life, and could be destroyed in any manner that life could be destroyed.

Harry paused and thought about that. He’d destroyed the diary simply by stabbing it with the deadly poisonous basilisk fang. What had Dumbledore done with the ring, though? It had not been dangerous to touch as the old wizard had been wearing it before destroying it, but destroying it had done something terrible to Dumbledore’s arm. Whatever Dumbledore had done, it had blackened both the stone in the ring and his arm.

Why? It didn’t make sense. Harry turned back to the pages of the diary, hoping to find the answer as he continued to read.

Turning the page, it took Harry several moments to register that the words on the following pages looked different. It took him awhile longer to realize that the words were in Parseltongue.

His heart pounding, he read quickly. The words he read in Parseltongue left his head reeling.

And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal . . .

That bit of the prophecy had never made more sense than it did at that moment.

Voldemort, with all his learning, still relied heavily on the fact that he was the only Parselmouth in existence. However, he had given that ability to Harry.

It would lead to Voldemort’s downfall.

* * * * *

“Potter, what are you doing?”

Harry looked up, blinking rapidly as he focused on the owner of that sharp voice. He glanced at the area around him. Books stacked haphazardly that he’d pulled from the shelves in the potions lab littered the entire area. “Research,” he answered, looking back up at Snape, who was now towering over him.

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “These texts are all on the subject of the Dark Arts,” he stated.

“Voldemort doesn’t deal in light shite,” Harry said bitterly, without thinking. “No, he goes for the nastiest things in existence.”

“Indeed,” Snape said, raising a brow at Harry’s attitude.

Harry rubbed his face tiredly. “Is it morning, then?” he asked.

“Surely you have not been awake all night?” Snape asked, his tone making it clear he already knew the answer.

“I have been if it’s morning,” Harry said dryly. “And if it is finally morning, then I need to go see Hermione,” he added, beginning to stack some of the books.

He paused, looking up at Snape warily. “Um, I actually need to borrow some of these books. Hermione’s far better at research than I am. She has great respect for books and I’m certain she won’t let any harm come to them. As long as I don’t tell her they’re yours,” he qualified.

Snape frowned, taking in Harry’s appearance. “Potter, are you all right?” he asked, ignoring Harry’s rambling about the books.

No, I’m not all right, Harry wanted to shout. The fact that it was Snape asking the question was probably the only thing that kept the words from spewing from his mouth. “Do I look that bad?” he asked instead, his voice loaded with sarcasm.

“Yes,” Snape said bluntly.

Harry scowled at the man. He was startled when Snape produced his wand and conjured a large mirror.

Harry stared at his reflection. He’d never seen himself look so terrible. His bloodshot eyes looked crazed – deep, bruised shadows beneath them. The rest of his face was deadly pale. His hair was practically standing on end from all the times he had been running his hands through it. The glamour over the love bite had faded, leaving it standing in stark contrast to his pale skin.

In short, he thought he looked like he’d been beaten and left for dead.

Mentally shaking it off, he looked back to Snape. “Well, I reckon I do look that bad. Thanks for pointing that out to me,” he said sarcastically.

“Potter, you need rest,” Snape said sharply.

“No, I’ve got work to do,” Harry said, beginning to gather books again.

“You are not leaving here with those books,” Snape said.

“But I need them!” Harry said, alarmed. “You have to let me borrow them!”

“You expect those books to be able to help you?” Snape sneered.

“Yes!” Harry shouted. “You don’t understand! I have to finish figuring out what to do.”

“Not today,” Snape said dangerously.

“You don’t understand,” Harry repeated, pleading with Snape. “I’m the only one who can defeat Voldemort.”

Snape’s brow furrowed as he gazed at Harry. “Potter, we both knew this already. This is not new information,” he said.

Harry pulled his knees to his chest, sitting in the middle of a sea of books. He took in a shuddering breath. “I didn’t know or understand exactly what Voldemort had done before,” he said bleakly. “I never truly believed that I was the only one who could kill him.”

Snape crouched down beside him, meeting him at the same level. Harry met his gaze, not knowing how much despair was written on his own expression. “Voldemort’s made it impossible for anyone but me to kill him. I’ve learned tonight that he’s even more evil than everyone gives him credit for,” he said. “He truly wants to be invincible and, at this point, I am the only one who stands in his way.”

“Do you believe you can defeat him?” Snape asked steadily, his hand reaching forward to grip Harry’s shoulder.

Harry bowed his head. “Yes, but I’m going to have to learn more Dark Arts to do it,” he said. “I don’t think Dumbledore expected that. The way that he talked, he was proud of me for not being seduced by the Dark Arts, but he seemed to feel it was synonymous with wanting to be one of Voldemort’s followers.”

“Do you feel they are the same?” Snape asked.

“No. I’ll never be one of Voldemort’s followers,” Harry said quietly. “But I will use whatever Dark Arts I need to accomplish my goal. I really only need to learn a few spells,” he admitted, knowing he was attempting to rationalize.

“Potter, come sit down,” Snape commanded, gripping Harry’s arm and hauling him to his feet. Harry allowed himself to be sat down on the couch next to the man.

“Look at me,” Snape ordered.

Harry couldn’t bring himself to lift his gaze and shook his head.

“Harry.”

Startled at hearing Snape use his first name, Harry looked up at him. “I thought that might do the trick,” Snape said dryly.

Harry scowled at him. “I’m really not in the mood to be mocked,” he said.

“No, I’m sure you’re not,” Snape said seriously. He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Given the circumstances, I believe it is time we addressed each other by first names.”

Harry blinked several times in astonishment, unsure of where the hell this had originated. He was sure that he’d been talking about the Dark Arts, Voldemort and Dumbledore.

Snape looked irritated with Harry’s expression. “I would think that you would appreciate having one less enemy,” he said.

“You’re not my enemy,” Harry said quickly. “But you really don’t want me to call you Severus, do you?”

“One who is willing to defend me, especially under such difficult circumstances, deserves to be able to call me by my first name,” Severus said. “You have more than earned the right.”

Harry’s brows rose doubtfully, but he gave it a try. “Thank you, Severus,” he said. He gave him a lopsided smile when Snape smirked at him. “And Draco thought me defending you was bizarre.”

“Indeed,” Snape said, still smirking in amusement, but then he sobered again. “Harry, Dumbledore would think no less of you for using the Dark Arts,” he said.

Harry’s mood, that had lightened a little, immediately plummeted once again, but now his eyes were locked on Snape’s. He could feel his eyes burning, and he didn’t want to cry, but if Snape kept this up, he was going to lose it.

“He was my mentor as well as yours, Harry,” Snape said quietly. “I understand the need to make him proud, even when the task he’s assigned seems beyond my capabilities. He would be extremely proud if he could see you right now.”

Harry couldn’t hold onto the tears and bowed his head again. “I’m trying, but I’m not as strong as you,” he said miserably.

“I think you are,” Snape said.

Harry shook his head in denial. He was startled when Snape pulled him close, but clung to the man once he was there. It took him long moments to register that Snape was hugging him just as tightly. He had no idea how long they sat there like that, but his tears had dried again before Snape gently pushed him away.

“Surely that should satisfy the old man,” Snape said, his voice rough.

Having started to feel uncomfortable, Harry stared for a few moments before he suddenly smiled. “Yes, I’m sure he’s quite satisfied that we’re finally behaving,” he said.

“Indeed,” Snape said softly, giving Harry a small but genuine smile.

Harry felt much lighter, and was sure that Snape felt the same way. Unfortunately, Harry felt even more exhausted than he had earlier, and he groaned as he looked back at the mess of books.

“All right, brat,” Snape said. “Tell me how urgent it truly is for you to see Ms. Granger this morning.”

“I have some extremely important information to give her,” Harry said. “I went over the information myself last night, and there’s research that needs to be done.” He looked at Snape. “Hermione’s my researcher,” he said with a shrug. “The sooner I get it to her, the sooner she can get started.”

“Do you not think that it would be more appropriate to go over this information when you were rested properly?” Snape questioned.

Harry paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. “As much as it concerns me that I’m discovering these clues so quickly, I feel like I’m running out of time. Voldemort wants Hogwarts. He wants it for more reasons than Dumbledore realized, and now that Dumbledore is gone, he’s just going to work harder at taking over the castle.”

“The Dark Lord has mentioned that he has plans for taking Hogwarts,” Snape admitted quietly.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry asked sharply.

Snape eyed him speculatively. “You already knew this when he attempted to take Hogsmeade. Aside from that, there is nothing definite that I could tell you at this point. It seemed unnecessary to scare you when I could tell you nothing more,” he said.

“Well, as terrible as it is, I’m less scared of him taking the castle than I am at him discovering what I’ve learned,” Harry said. “And he will discover it immediately if he gains access to Hogwarts.”

Snape’s eyebrow arched in surprise.

Harry smiled grimly. “I know more about Voldemort than anyone would ever wish to know, and I need to make sure he stays unaware of that fact,” he said. “The faster I can pull things together, the better off we will all be.”

“Very well, then,” Snape said. “Gather the books you need.”

Gratefully, Harry went back to piling up the selection of books that seemed like they would be the most useful. While he was doing that, Snape went to his potion cabinet and returned with a vial.

“This is stronger than Pepper-Up and will help you stay more alert,” he said, handing it to Harry. “It’s not wise to take it frequently, but it would seem that this is one of those times.” He watched as Harry downed the contents. “You will rest tonight,” he ordered.

Harry nodded in acceptance and began shrinking the books, putting them in his rucksack. Snape waited until Harry was ready, and then broke the wards he had erected on the room. Harry looked at him in surprise, as he hadn’t known that Snape had placed them, but didn’t question the man aloud.

Walking into the kitchen, they were greeted by three very anxious people.

“Leave him be,” Snape said warningly, attempting to halt the questions before they started.

“No,” Draco said, shaking his head. “It’s bizarre enough having Harry defend you,” he said to Snape. “Having you defend Harry . . . it’s not right.”

Harry exchanged an amused glance with Snape before sitting down next to Draco. “Welcome to the world of the bizarre,” Harry quipped. “If something strange and unusual can happen, then it will surely happen to me.”

“Now, that’s certainly the truth,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. He looked Harry over critically. “You look like shite, Potter.”

“Draco,” Narcissa reprimanded.

Harry shrugged. “It’s all right. I’ve already been informed I look like hell,” he said.

“Ah, so Severus is still himself,” Remus said in amusement.

“Yes,” Harry said wryly. “I’ve already been given all my lectures for today.”

“I’m sure I can produce more,” Snape said smoothly, sitting down with his cup of tea.

“I’m sure he’ll need more,” Draco said to Snape before turning to Harry again. “I want to know why you disappeared from bed last night.”

“I needed to spend some quality time with Voldemort,” Harry said sarcastically.

“What?!” Draco exclaimed incredulously.

“Much as I would’ve rather been sleeping with you, I learned some valuable information about Voldemort last night and I needed to process it – alone,” Harry said. He glanced at the clock. It wasn’t even seven o’clock in the morning yet. “Did you discover I was gone and raise the alarm or something?”

Draco flushed a light pink. “Something like that,” he muttered.

Harry looked at Snape. “So, did you volunteer or get elected to see what the idiot Potter was up to?” he asked sarcastically.

“He locked us all out,” Draco said irritably before Snape could answer.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Harry said slyly. “I’ve been ordered to stay in bed tonight.”

Draco arched a brow in interest. “That’s something, at least,” he said. “I don’t reckon he ordered you to stay here today,” he added hopefully.

“Um, he tried,” Harry admitted. “I’ve got things to do, though.”

“I don’t want you going there,” Draco said. “You aren’t seriously planning to go with just Granger and Weasley, are you?”

“Go where?” Snape asked, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

Harry glared at Draco. “For someone who supposedly doesn’t trust Snape, you’ve got a big mouth,” he snapped.

“You changed my mind,” Draco said haughtily.

“Draco, you weren’t supposed to know I was going there,” Harry said irritably.

“But I do know, and I don’t want you going there without me,” Draco said forcefully.

“Why?” Harry asked.

“Because I don’t want you looking like the Weaselette did last night,” Draco retorted.

“I can handle it,” Harry ground out.

“Harry, you’ve had no sleep. Your headaches have just been getting worse. You’re pushing too hard,” Draco said, his expression softening. “You don’t know what you’re going to find there, and it would be difficult to deal with even under the best of circumstances.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Harry said stiffly. “I have to go.”

“I don’t understand it, but I recognize that,” Draco said. “I’m just saying that I’m not willingly letting you go there without me.” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Weaselette and the matching pair are going as well.”

“What the fuck?!” Harry exclaimed. “You can’t tell me that you’re conspiring with them to follow me?”

Draco bit his lip. “I think Lupin should go as well,” he admitted.

“What?! No!” Harry said, his voice rising.

“You took the Weaselette yesterday because she had the best information!” Draco shouted. “You need Lupin for this.”

“No, I don’t,” Harry said fiercely. “I thought you understood last night that Ron and Hermione are the only two who know why I’m going.”

“Then tell us!” Draco exclaimed.

“I can’t and you know that,” Harry snapped. “Dumbledore told me to tell no one, only giving me permission to tell Ron and Hermione. I’ve already fucked up by letting out as much information as I have.”

“Dumbledore would want you safe and sane,” Draco said dangerously.

“I fucking hate you,” Harry said irritably.

“The feeling’s mutual,” Draco drawled, sensing Harry giving in.

“Fine. I’ll probably be spending most of today doing research anyway, so I’ll wait until tomorrow to go there. You fill in the rest of my keepers,” Harry said sarcastically. “I need to finally go talk to Hermione.”

He glared at Draco warningly. “And no matter what happens, you will not reveal yourself to Ron and Hermione. It would not go over nearly as well. As much as you irritate me, I’d like to keep you around.”

* * * * *

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Beginning with Draco's unexpected arrival at the Dursleys, Harry's summer after sixth year becomes filled with activity and many secrets. As his summer progresses, Harry generates several unexpected allies as he finds himself actively becoming the leader of the Light side. H/D, post-HBP, WIP


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and company are property of J.K. Rowling.
Beta: Many thanks to Bookgirl!

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Harry sat down on Ron’s bed, trying to figure out why everyone thought they had the right to tell him what to do. Draco hadn’t even allowed Harry to leave Grimmauld Place until he’d cleaned up and glamours were cast. He had to admit, he did look more presentable now, and at least Hermione and the Weasleys weren’t badgering him over his appearance.

They were badgering him about everything else, though. He’d been ordered to eat, his sanity was again questioned regarding Snape’s book and the snakes, and Hermione and Ron had been casting worried glances at him all morning so far.

His life hadn’t exactly been easier before the events of the last month, but it had certainly been simpler.

“Okay, what’s going on?” Hermione demanded after casting privacy wards on the room.

“I found one of the missing Horcruxes,” Harry said bluntly.

“What? Where?” Ron asked, eyes wide.

“In the Chamber of Secrets,” Harry admitted.

“Where’s Ginny?” Hermione questioned worriedly. “She went with you, didn’t she? That’s why she’s not here.”

“You took Ginny?!” Ron shouted.

“Ginny’s fine,” Harry snapped, irritated with his friends. “Yes, she went with me. Fred and George are taking care of her. I checked on her this morning and she’s just fine.”

“Why would you take her? And without telling us?” Ron asked, sounding hurt.

“I did try telling you,” Harry pointed out. “You two didn’t want to listen to me.”

“You’re right,” Hermione said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Well, it’s done now, Ginny and I are both fine, and I found one of the Horcruxes,” Harry said, not wanting to dwell on it.

“You actually found one?” Ron asked in amazement.

Harry nodded, his excitement coming back. He quickly filled them in on his visit to the Chamber of Secrets, glossing over Ginny’s reactions to the place. Hermione looked a little suspicious, but she was sidetracked when Harry explained what he’d found.

“Have you read it, yet?” Hermione asked, when Harry was finished. “It could be dangerous.”

“I think it’s dangerous,” Harry said grimly. “But not in the way you mean. It contains all of Voldemort’s detailed notes about Horcruxes. It’s not well-documented information and would be dangerous in the hands of any Dark wizard who thought they’d like to give it a try.”

“Good thing Snape doesn’t know about it, then,” Ron said angrily.

Harry frowned thoughtfully, wondering if that was the reason why Dumbledore hadn’t trusted Snape with information about the Horcruxes. Snape liked the Dark Arts, but surely he wouldn’t want to split his soul into pieces?

“We’ve gone over this, Ron,” Hermione was saying, her tone suggesting she’d repeated the words a thousand times already. “You were obviously right all along that we shouldn’t trust Snape.”

“Is there anything else in the diary?” she asked Harry, not giving Ron a chance to say anything more about Snape.

“Does it say where the other Horcruxes are?” Ron asked hopefully, his attention diverted.

“No,” Harry answered Ron. “It doesn’t say where they are, or even what they all were, as he didn’t have them all at the time he hid the diary.”

“He had to have hidden it when he went back to Hogwarts to ask Dumbledore for a job,” Hermione said thoughtfully.

“That’s what I think,” Harry agreed. “I think the stone on that shelf is somehow the curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position as well.”

“It does make sense,” Hermione admitted. “And Voldemort definitely didn’t have all of his Horcruxes made at that time. Dumbledore told you that he planned to make his last one when he tried to kill you,” she said, looking at Harry sadly.

“That’s one thing that I’d really wanted to talk to you about last night,” Harry said. “When I was talking to Ginny, we were wondering why Dumbledore had never asked her more about the Chamber. I don’t know why he didn’t, and I started thinking about how I seem to be working my way through this on instinct.”

He took a deep breath. “I know there’s a connection between me and Voldemort, and no one seemed to understand it, or how it happened. I started wondering if Voldemort had somehow tried turning me into a Horcrux,” he said quickly. “If I had a bit of Voldemort’s soul in me, then it would explain why I seem to be able to work this out.”

“Oh, Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, horrified.

“It’s all right,” Harry said reassuringly. “I figured out that it’s not possible.”

“Are you sure?” Ron asked, hesitantly.

“I’m positive,” Harry said grimly. “I know more about making Horcruxes than I’d ever wished to know. Voldemort couldn’t have transferred any of his soul, his life force, to me.”

“Do you know what did happen?” Hermione asked, watching Harry anxiously.

“Voldemort was prepared to kill me, then immediately create his Horcrux. I would have been a ‘significant death’, as Dumbledore liked to phrase it,” Harry said sarcastically.

Hermione and Ron winced at Harry’s words and his tone, but continued to listen closely.

“Voldemort liked to possess his victims before killing them, particularly when it was one intended for a Horcrux. I think ‘significant deaths’ were to be savoured,” Harry said in disgust. “He would leave a bit of his magic within the person, knowing it would be returned to him shortly. His own magic would combine with the victim’s, enhancing the strength of his Horcrux when he created it immediately afterwards.”

“When Voldemort tried to kill me, my mother’s love for me, and hence her lingering magic, interrupted the process. Her magic, likely combined with my own, caused the spell to backlash upon Voldemort. He disappeared, but a bit of his magic was left in me,” Harry said flatly.

“But you can’t counter the Killing Curse,” Hermione said slowly, trying to process what Harry was saying. “How could his curse have backlashed?”

Harry took a deep breath. “Here’s my theory about what happened.”

“Voldemort came into the house. Killed my dad. My mum knew what was happening, and likely cast some kind of spell to shield me. Voldemort entered the room, and she pleaded with him for my life. Not her own. If Dumbledore’s concept of the power of love is anything to go by, that probably strengthened her Shielding Charm. Voldemort wasn’t dealing with that, however. His focus was still me. He kills her when she won’t get out of the way, not knowing that by killing her, he’s just strengthened her spell yet again. He attempts to possess me, leaving his bit of magic behind as he planned, but he hadn’t expected the pain of my mother’s love surrounding me. That seriously weakens him. He gives up on possessing me, and casts the Killing Curse, but my mum’s magic shields me. The Killing Curse is rebounded back to his already weakened body . . . and he disappears.”

“That theory is a little wild,” Hermione said sceptically.

“It’s not as wild as I once would’ve thought,” Harry said bitterly.

He leaned forward, earnestly listing his points.

“I told Riddle that my mum died to save me, and he told me himself that it was a powerful counter-charm. Whether it was actually a Shielding Charm or not, I have no idea, but whatever she did, it obviously worked, since I lived.

“Dumbledore insisted that the ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’ is love. I’ve got it, Voldemort doesn’t.

“Voldemort’s tried to possess me before. At the Ministry. He didn’t last long, and it was extremely painful for him.

“We know the Killing Curse was rebounded. Whether it’s technically possible or not, it happened.

“I’ve got Voldemort’s Parseltongue ability. A power I shouldn’t have.

“Yes,” Hermione said, a little impatiently. “We do know all of that. But—“

“Hermione,” Harry said sharply, cutting her off. “Listen to me. You’re right. I still don’t know exactly how my mum’s counter-charm worked. I don’t understand that magic fully. However, I know how Voldemort created his Horcruxes.”

Hermione, and Ron, were startled by his intensity. Harry was determined, though, to make them understand.

“I’m absolutely positive that Voldemort possessed me. It’s how he works, and it’s the only thing that’s ever made sense for how I ended up with some of his powers,” Harry said.

“So, you’re saying he intentionally transferred some of his powers to you?” Ron asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Harry said. “Remember, he didn’t know that part of the prophecy, so he wouldn’t have known not to. He possessed me, transferring some of his magic to me. Not his soul,” he emphasized. “He created the connection between us when he did it, but I don’t think it was intentional.”

“Why would he do that?” Hermione asked plaintively. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“It does make sense if you’re Voldemort,” Harry insisted. “He values power above all else. Possessing a person’s body means power over them. Transferring some of his own magic over to the victim means control over their magic.”

“The connection between you?” Hermione questioned, her brow furrowed deeply.

“I think he had to open up a mental link to be able to transfer the magic,” Harry said. “But then he possessed me. Everything would have happened quickly. When he encountered my mum’s love surrounding me, he gave up on the idea of transferring his magic and simply tried to kill me. Considering that he didn’t know we were linked until a year and a half ago, I believe he thought he hadn’t been successful at all.”

“But he was successful,” Hermione said. “The two of you were linked at that point, and you took on some of his magical powers.”

“Yes,” Harry said.

“But Harry,” Hermione said. “Everyone knows that you are a Parselmouth. It should have been an obvious clue to Voldemort. Why didn’t he realize before that you were linked? Why did it take him until you saw the snake bite Mr. Weasley to realize?”

Harry frowned, not having an explanation for that one.

“Because he wasn’t around second year when everyone found out,” Ron said. “It’s not something people like to talk about. You Know Who probably didn’t know Harry was a Parselmouth. Even after he found out about the Chamber being opened, he could’ve easily thought he’d opened it for Harry himself, just like he’d opened it for Ginny. It’s not like he communicated with his diary self, since Harry had already destroyed it – him – whatever.”

Hermione and Harry were both nodding at Ron’s explanation. “What about your scar?” Hermione asked Harry.

Harry shrugged. “My scar is where the Killing Curse hit me,” he said.

Hermione shook her head slowly. “No, well, yes, but I think the scar is Voldemort’s connection. It’s the actual mental link he forged,” she said. “You feel everything regarding him through it.”

“So, if Harry got rid of his scar, he wouldn’t be connected to Voldemort anymore?” Ron asked curiously. “Could he get rid of it?”

“I don’t know if he could,” Hermione admitted, peering at Harry’s forehead. “But if the scar was gone, I think the link would be gone as well, and vice versa.”

“Well, there’s one more reason to defeat Voldemort,” Harry said. “I’d be happy to be rid of this ugly scar. Let’s get rid of both and be done with it.”

“All right,” Hermione said briskly. “Now that we’ve sorted that out, let’s get back to Voldemort’s diary. What else does it have to say?”

Harry finally reached for his rucksack and pulled out the diary, handing it to Hermione. For someone who loved books, she was extremely hesitant to take it. “You’re sure it’s not dangerous?” she asked nervously.

“It won’t hurt you, but it’ll probably scare you,” Harry said bluntly. “It’s morbid and quite horrifying. Killing people and splitting up the soul is not a pleasant reading topic.”

Unable to control her curiosity, Hermione tentatively opened the diary, Ron looking over her shoulder. “You’ve read all of it?” she asked, glancing up in time to see Harry nod.

“You won’t be able to read all of it yourself, though,” Harry said.

“What?” Hermione asked in confusion. “Why?”

“Everything related to Horcruxes in general is written in English,” Harry explained. “His other notes are written in Parseltongue.”

Hermione gaped in surprise before she started flipping through the diary until she came across pages with the odd markings.

“That’s Parseltongue?” Ron asked. “How can snakes have a language that can be written down?”

Hermione was studying the pages with interest. “Any language can be written,” she said absently. “But surely Voldemort knew that it could also be decoded. I think,” she added, sounding unsure the longer she looked at the page.

She looked up at Harry. “You actually see words here?” she asked.

Harry shrugged, nodding. “It took me a bit to realize that I wasn’t seeing English,” he admitted.

Hermione looked fascinated, and Harry was sure she was about to slide way off track. They’d already done that once. “Everything we’ve been talking about, with Voldemort transferring his powers and all that, it’s important because he transferred his ability to speak Parseltongue,” he said.

“What else could he have transferred?” Ron wondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” Harry said impatiently. “The fact that he transferred his ability to speak Parseltongue, though, was a huge fuck up on his part.”

“Language, Harry,” Hermione admonished automatically.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I don’t think it’s hit you, yet,” he said. “If I couldn’t speak Parseltongue, I would never have been able to reach this diary – or that Horcrux,” he said pointedly.

Hermione and Ron’s eyes widened in realization. “You’re the only one who could,” Hermione breathed. “Not even Dumbledore . . . “

“Exactly,” Harry said. “It gets better . . . or worse,” he added, frowning. He shook his head to clear it of that mental debate and pointed to the diary. “Anyway, that – everything written in Parseltongue – explains Voldemort’s plans for his Horcruxes.”

“Like what?” Ron asked, perplexed. “You said he didn’t have all his Horcruxes when he left this diary.”

“No, he didn’t,” Harry said. “But he had various plans for how he intended to protect them. On the pages of that diary are lists of possible curses that are compatible with the Horcruxes,” he said sarcastically.

“You mean, it’s all laid out for you?” Ron asked incredulously. “He just left you the information?”

“Oh, honestly,” Hermione huffed. “He didn’t think anyone could read it. He was the only Parselmouth in existence at the time,” Hermione said. “And being the last of the line of Slytherin, he wouldn’t have expected any others. It was his key defence to protect his secrets.”

“Exactly,” Harry said. “And it does make things easier, but it’s still not laid out for me,” he warned.

“Why not, if it’s all right there?” Ron asked.

“Because we don’t know what curses he used on which Horcruxes,” Hermione answered, understanding better than Ron. “For example, the mirror that Harry found, we’ll have to research Voldemort’s curses, discover the counter-curses and learn how to detect them.”

She looked to Harry suddenly. “Does it say anything about how to destroy them?” she asked.

Harry nodded. “The hard part is getting to them, and dealing with Voldemort’s protections. We already know that Voldemort’s notes aren’t going to be any help with finding the locket,” he said pointedly. “This diary is mostly just a comprehensive book about Horcruxes, and in Parseltongue are the methods he used personally to create his. It’s really not useful in terms of locating the Horcruxes. But once we have them, they can be destroyed just like any life.”

Hermione shuddered. “You’ve essentially already killed him once, then,” she said.

Harry blinked. “I reckon I have,” he said in realization, thinking about the other diary.

“You really are the Chosen One,” Ron said, sounding bemused and not a little horrified.

“Ron!” Hermione admonished.

“It’s all right, Hermione,” Harry said grimly. “The same thing hit me as well.”

“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry it has to be you,” Hermione said sadly.

Harry rubbed at his temples. “I’m fine,” he said. “But while we’re talking about me having to kill someone, I should point out that those curses and protection spells of Voldemort’s involve the Dark Arts.”

As he had expected, he ended up arguing with Hermione about the Dark Arts, until he finally started shouting at her. “Magic is magic! I don’t give a fuck whether you label it light, dark or monkey magic! If it helps me defeat Voldemort, then I’m going to learn it and I’m going to use it.”

Hermione and Ron stared at him in shock until Ron started sniggering. “Monkey magic?” he questioned.

Harry opened his mouth, and then shut it again, shrugging. Hermione was back to glaring at him again. “This is serious, Harry,” she snapped.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Harry asked angrily. “Aside from what I knew before, I’ve been reading Dark Arts texts most of the night. From what I can tell, Dark magic is about intent and arbitrary Ministry laws. I intend to kill Voldemort and I don’t really give a fuck about the Ministry laws.”

He glared at her, his expression fierce. “You can start telling me that I’m no better than he is when I start killing innocent people and attempt to take over the world.”

“You’d never do that!” Hermione exclaimed, horrified.

“Exactly,” Harry said angrily. “So back off about the Dark magic. If you don’t want to help me with this, then just say so.”

“Of course I’m going to help,” Hermione said, but she did not look at all happy.

“So, what do we need to do?” Ron asked, hoping to smooth things over between his best friends, who were still glaring at each other.

“I need help transcribing these spells into English,” Harry said, disgruntled. “They all need to be researched. Then, from what I can understand, I need to learn how to perform the counter-curses in Parseltongue. I was also hoping Hermione would read the diary later and see if I’ve missed anything important.”

“You know I will,” Hermione said, sighing. “I’m sorry, Harry. I do know it’s Voldemort, not you, but this is still a bit much and I just don’t like it.”

“I don’t like it, either,” Harry said. “It’s just what has to be done. I can’t tell