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Bleeding on the Outside

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic beta bewarethesmirk.

*

Hooded figures stood in a tight circle. The only sounds: muffled shuffling of feet, and the odd indistinct cough.

It was an anticipatory silence that had fallen over the waiting group. Eyes hidden by masks were trained on the solitary figure at their centre, waiting for his signal to Apparate.

The figure pulled up his hood, covering his long, white-blond hair with a shroud of black, and readied his wand.

The Dark Lord would be pleased when he returned to find Harry Potter languishing in the dungeons, and the recalcitrant Malfoy heir returned to his rightful place at his father's side, suitably repentant.

Yes, Lucius Malfoy decided, he would be very pleased indeed.

*

"Is that another letter from him?"

Harry looked up from the piece of parchment he was reading and carefully placed it on the bed at his side. His expression was tight when he answered Ron's question. "Yes, this is another letter from Draco. Please tell me you're not going to start on this again."

Ron made a face, turning away to fold his Quidditch robes and tuck them in the side of his already bulging trunk. "I was just asking."

Harry scowled. "You're never just asking anything. I don't see what your problem is."

There was a pause as Ron seemed to debate his reply. He finally muttered, "He's my problem."

"Oh, for fu-" Harry bit back the word. "It's not like this is new; you know I've been seeing him for a while now, Ron."

"I don't trust him," Ron said flatly, turning around to face the other boy, his arms folded.

"Well, I do."

"And so that means the rest of us are meant to?"

"Frankly, Ron, I don't care what you do." Harry was tired of this argument. "I just know I trust him."

"That's bloody nice, that is. You don't care about us now, is that it?" Ron's face was flushed. "Now that you've got him."

"Jesus, Ron, I didn't say that." Harry paused. "Okay, maybe I did, but I didn't mean it like that. It's just… think about what he's given up. He's got Voldemort and his dad after him, no money, no family – and all because he's with me."

"The Order's protecting him," Ron argued. "And how do you know it's not some big plan? V- V- You-Know-Who could've sent him to… y'know…"

"To what, Ron?" Harry snapped, and the guilt he was feeling vanished in an instant. "Corrupt me? Shag me stupid so that I can't think straight, then take me straight to Voldemort so he can kill me? Or maybe you think he's trying to make me join up. Is that it?"

He didn't give Ron a chance to reply, words spilling out, uncensored, in his growing anger. "You know, maybe you're right. How the fuck could I have been so stupid to think someone might actually like me? Especially someone like a Malfoy. Imagine a pureblood wizard actually wanting to be with half-blood scum like me."

"Harry, mate, I didn't-"

"Don't fucking 'Harry, mate' me. I've just about had enough of your stupid conspiracies. Either you trust me, or you don't; and if you don't, then there's the door." He jerked his head at the closed bedroom door.

When Ron didn't move, Harry let out a long breath. "Lupin trusts him, Snape trusts him." Ron screwed his face up, and Harry went for the jugular. "Your mum and dad believe him." He couldn't go as far as to say 'trust', but the Weasleys had typically taken him under their wing, much to Draco's horror.

Ron's shoulders sagged. "Yeah, I know. But me and Hermione think you should be careful, that's all. She's worried about you." ‘She’, of course, meaning them both.

Feeling his anger ebbing away, leaving a feeling of tired resignation, Harry looked at his friend. "Is this about Draco, or is this about me not telling you two about Draco?"

"We're your best friends. You should have said something," Ron answered.

Harry's eyes hardened. "What? Like you told me about you and Hermione?" He saw Ron's defiant gaze slide to the floor and he continued. "What was it? Six months before I even knew you were dating? And that's only 'cause Ginny pointed it out."

"It's not the same thing."

"Why not?"

"Because it's Malfoy." Ron seemed to think that was reason enough.

Harry shook his head exasperatedly. "You're just going to have to deal with it, Ron. He's not going anywhere."

"More's the pity," Ron said under his breath, but thankfully Harry didn't hear him.

The two boys lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Harry returned his attention to Draco's letter, and Ron proceeded to haul the entire contents of his trunk onto the floor, determined to make more room to fit everything in.

They were alone. Most of the other Gryffindors were in the common room celebrating the imminent Christmas holidays, Hermione was helping Madam Pince in the library, and Neville had taken up residence in one of the greenhouses, hand-feeding a newly flowered Snapping Squirtle.

Raucous laughter drifted up the stairwell and Harry scowled at it. He slumped back on the bed, with his feet dangling over the edge, and glared up at the twinkling strands of enchanted tinsel wrapped around the wooden frame.

Bloody Voldemort, Harry thought. Another Christmas spent trapped in Hogwarts 'for his own protection' - how he'd come to hate those words. He had no choice; he was painfully aware that he was dependent on the generosity of others, and if the Weasleys were not willing to take the risk and invite him to their home, then he had no other option but to stay in the castle.

He wasn't being fair, and he knew it, but bitterness still rolled in his belly like a coiling snake every time he saw a reminder of what he was going to miss.

And yet, he knew that wasn't really what he was upset about. He knew where he really wanted to spend Christmas – and it wasn't with the Weasleys – but he didn't need anyone to tell him that the risks were far too great, that for once he wasn't the only person in whom Voldemort had an interest.

His hand clutched Draco's letter tightly to his chest, and he looked up into the canopy of the bed, fervently wishing his boyfriend was lying beside him and not hiding away in Grimmauld Place.

Harry, don't be such a girl. He could hear Draco's voice in his mind and a small smile flickered across his face. Draco would arch an eyebrow and sneer, but unlike their younger years, his eyes would be glowing with undisguised humour.

Harry closed his eyes. Draco would be sprawled against the pillows, smirking down at him; gesturing with long, elegant fingers for Harry to come closer and-

Whoompf.

A muffled explosion rocked the room, the sound reverberating through the castle walls and leaving the bed curtains flapping back and forth. Harry pushed himself upright, staring across at Ron, who looked equally startled.

"What was that?" Ron whispered, his knuckles tightening on the wand in his hand, the bundle of clothes he'd been levitating now a tangled mass on the floor.

The noise from the common room had abruptly ceased; they couldn't hear any voices. It was as though the entire castle had been frozen into an uncertain silence.

Harry slid off the bed and moved over to the bedside cabinet, picking up his own wand. It felt reassuring in his hand, and he turned around to face Ron. "What do you th-" he started to speak, but cut the words off abruptly as the air around them began to shiver with a shimmering light.

Particles danced in the air around then, pulsating through shades of colour in a stroboscopic dance of light, flashing faster and faster until suddenly, with a piercing blast of white, the particles vanished.

Immediately, a shrill alarm began to sound throughout Hogwarts. It galvanised Harry into action. He started towards the doorway, reaching it at the same moment as it swung open and a breathless Seamus stumbled in. Clutching at Harry's robes as he tried to get his breath, he gasped, "There's Death Eaters in the castle; the Portraits are screamin' we've all to go to the Great Hall."

"Death Eaters?" Ron repeated, staring at Seamus in horror. "How…?"

"Dunno." Seamus was already turning to go, but stopped short when he realised he still had a hold of Harry's sleeve. He stared down in surprise and let go, muttering an apology.

"'S okay," Harry said, waving him off. "I thought we were getting out of here?"

A pink-faced nod and Seamus turned back to the open door. He took one step and yelped, crashing back onto Harry's foot, as a stream of white shot out of the stairwell and streaked between them into the room. All three boys swung around, Harry and Ron raising their wands automatically.

"Wha...?" Seamus stuttered, staring at the shimmering illusion of a cat, perched on top of Ron's trunk, and looking directly at them.

"It's all right," Harry said, lowering his wand. "It's Professor McGonagall's Patronus. She must have sent a message."

Almost as though it were listening, the cat's ears twitched and it opened its mouth, speaking words with the Professor's familiar clipped tone. "Mr Potter, as you are no doubt aware, the protection wards of Hogwarts have been thwarted, and Death Eaters are inside the castle. I believe it is you they seek, so it is imperative that you leave before they find you. Unfortunately, the anti-Apparition wards are still in effect; therefore, I suggest you use your broom and get to a safe distance from where you can Apparate to you-know-where. Oh," the cat paused, as though it was adding an afterthought - and not the absent Professor, "take Mr Weasley with you. Good luck to you both."

The cat snapped its jaws closed and began to dissipate into the air, leaving Seamus and Ron staring at it in bemusement.

Harry, however, looked tense. "They're after me," he said. "Again. Don't they have anything better to do?" He pushed his glasses up his nose and distractedly rubbed at the scar on his forehead, the shrill alarm making his head hurt.

Seamus looked over at him, with pity and a certain amount of nervousness. Distant shouts and bangs echoed through the castle, and it was obvious from the way he was fidgeting, he was itching to leave.

Harry shook himself out of his momentary gloom, waving a hand in the direction of the stairs. "Go, Seamus. Get to the hall."

Needing no further encouragement, with a strained grin of thanks, Seamus was off down the stairs in a clatter of footsteps.

Squaring his shoulders, Harry turned and pointed his wand at the window, spitting out a couple of spells. "Engorgio," and the window stretched wide, "Accio broom," and his broom flew across the room and slapped into his open palm.

Ron was still frowning at the fading cat, and Harry snapped at him. "Get a move on, Ron."

"Sorry," Ron said, quickly summoning his own broom. He still looked disconcerted, and he held back as Harry started towards the window.

"What about Hermione?"

Harry stopped abruptly. "She'll be all right," he said, but couldn't look at his best friend, knowing that his own doubts would be clear on his face. He was certain of one thing though. "She'll be a lot safer if they think I've gone." He turned and met Ron's gaze. "I'll understand if you stay," he said.

For a moment, Ron looked torn; his usually uncluttered expression blurred with doubt. "McGonagall will protect her, won't she?" He didn't wait for Harry to answer. "And she said I've to go with you."

"You don't have to…"

"No." Ron shook his head, setting his jaw. "No. I'm coming. Besides, Hermione would kill me if anything happened to you."

Harry couldn't help but smile: Hermione probably would. "Okay then, let's get out of here."

He pointed his broom towards the window and took off, hearing the swish of air as Ron followed.

They streaked out of Gryffindor Tower and high into the sky above Hogwarts, piercing alarm vanishing as soon as soon as they were free of the building. At any other time it would have been the perfect night for flying: the moon was bright, not a cloud marred the sky, and a gentle breeze gave the air a refreshing chill.

Unfortunately for Harry and Ron, the clarity of the sky meant that the instant they flew from the window, they were spotted by the Death Eaters stationed outside the doors of Hogwarts, who had obviously been warned that they would try to escape on their brooms.

A curse blasted upwards and Harry had to swerve sharply to avoid it, feeling the burst of energy as it skimmed through the air past him.

"Watch out, Ron!" he yelled, dodging another curse and spiralling his broom vertically through the sky to try and get out of range. When he felt the air settling, he pivoted back around and looked for Ron, expecting him to have followed. His stomach clenched as he saw Ron below him, zigzagging back and forth in an attempt to evade the barrage of spells being fired in his direction, now that Harry was too high for them to target.

Several Death Eaters were clustered together and firing hexes one after the other, forcing Ron to react defensively, not giving him a chance to break free.

Rage bubbling inside, Harry flattened his body flush with his broom and aimed it at the ground. Holding on with one hand, the other clutching his wand in a white-knuckled grip, he shot downwards towards the group of masked figures. With his wand aimed into their midst, he began to shout a litany of every destructive curse he could think of:

"Expulso! Incendio! Stupefy!"

They scattered, one fell, another crashed backwards into a tree falling into a lifeless heap on the ground.

"Diffindo! Sectumsempra! Reducto!"

Cloaks ripped and masks askew, the panicking Death Eaters ran in all directions. Another fell, horrific screams piercing the air and Harry felt a surge of malicious satisfaction.

With Seeker's reflexes, he lifted the broom moments before it hit the ground, skimming across the surface of the grass before tilting the broom back to the sky. Adrenaline coursing through his body, Harry flew back up to a pale-faced Ron, and jammed his wand into the waistband of his trousers.

The two boys shot across the grounds towards the castle boundary, Ron flying as close to Harry as he dared.

"What the ruddy hell did you think you were doing?" he shouted, the words whipped away by the rushing wind, aborted fragments reaching Harry's ears. "Wha' – hell – think – doin'?"

It was enough for Harry to get the gist.

"Saving you," he yelled back.

"I didn't need-" Ron began to reply, but was suddenly slammed to the side as Harry swung his broom and barrelled into him. Ron let out a shout and toppled to the side, barely keeping hold with sweat-slicked palms.

He could smell scorched birch, and flecks of charred wood hit his face as he righted himself. They'd been hit by a curse – that much was obvious – and Harry must have seen it coming, pushing Ron out of its path.

Ron frowned.

Harry? Where was Harry?

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic beta bewarethesmirk.

*

Ron looked frantically around at the empty sky, dropped his gaze, and immediately sent the broom on a direct path down. Harry was plummeting towards the ground, hanging from the end of his smouldering broom with his left hand, trying valiantly to swing out his other arm and catch hold of the shaft, hoping to tilt the broom back into a horizontal position and stop its rapid descent.

Ron prayed that his extra body weight would give him the advantage of speed, heart thudding in his chest as he drew fractionally nearer. The ground was coming up fast, and more curses were flying though the air. Ron hissed as he saw Harry flinch to the side as one hit, twisting away again from another that missed and flew upwards, skirting past Ron's ear and leaving a searing burn.

Ron was almost there; his fingers could just about touch the blackened brush of Harry's broom.

"Harry!" he yelled. "Gimme your hand!"

Harry arched his head back, eyes widening as he saw Ron so close. A second's hesitation, and he reached out with his right hand; their fingertips barely touched and Ron flattened down, urging his broom faster.

Fingertips, fingers, and then, finally, hands. Ron spread his palm wide and grabbed Harry's hand, clenching it in a vice-like grip.

"Let go!" Ron shouted, meaning Harry to let go of his broom. Harry understood, and putting all of his trust in his best friend, he opened his left hand.

With nothing to guide it, the broom swung sharply away, weaving erratically through the air and leaving a smoky trail.

"Hold on," Ron said through gritted teeth, not sure if Harry could hear him. The ground was approaching fast and he had to pull back before they hit. He heaved back on the broom with all of his strength, shifting his weight and swinging Harry like a pendulum, trying to pull out of the suicidal dive.

His shoulders were screaming in pain, every muscle in his body straining, but Ron pushed it all away as he concentrated on making the bloody - broom - straighten - out.

It seemed like an eternity, but was probably no more than a few seconds, before he felt the broom begin to respond. A tiny movement at first, and then, ever so slowly, it tipped back. Their speed was slowing, but it was still too little, too late: they were going to hit the ground.

All Ron could do was give the broom a tug and aim it at some dense shrubbery, hoping that the vegetation would cushion their landing.

And then they hit, Harry first, losing his hold on Ron's hand as he plunged into the bushes. Ron followed, deliberately letting go of his broom and throwing his hands up in a futile gesture of protection.

They crashed through the viciously stabbing undergrowth until they finally came to a rest, tangled in barbed branches, bruised and battered, but still breathing.

Ron was on his feet first, dragging himself out of the clinging vegetation and stumbling out onto a clear patch of grass. He looked around for Harry and saw him likewise struggling to pull himself out of a cluster of bushes, blood trickling from a nasty scrape above his eye.

"Hang on, mate," Ron said, limping over and reaching out to help Harry.

As Ron tugged him free, Harry asked roughly, "You all right?"

"Yeah," Ron replied. "But I don't fancy doing that again anytime soon."

Harry let out a chuckle, but it was forced; his face was set in a tight expression as though he were concentrating really hard. "So where are we?" he asked, finally staggering out into the clearing. He clutched Ron's arm a few seconds longer than necessary before letting go, and Ron frowned.

"We're outside the grounds," Ron said. "I think we've got a few minutes before they realise where we are." He'd belatedly noticed the lack of curses. "I think they went after your broom."

"Yeah?" Harry said, but he wasn't really listening. He took a few faltering steps and sank to his knees, his wobbling legs unable to support him. He rested a palm on the ground and dipped his head, breathing heavily.

"Harry?" Ron panicked. "What's wrong?"

"It's okay, just give me a second," Harry said tersely. "Just got winded, that's all."

Ron hovered helplessly, and when Harry started to push himself up, he was immediately at his side. "We need to get out of here," he said, putting his arm around his friend and helping him to his feet. Harry scowled.

"Yeah, I know," he said. "But my head's ringing, and I think I'm seeing two of everything. I just need a minute. Could you…?" He gestured over to a nearby tree, indicating Ron should help him there.

Glancing worriedly back at Hogwarts, Ron complied, guiding Harry to the tree and letting him sink to the ground, sitting propped against the trunk. Harry closed his eyes and leant his head back against the rough bark. "Just give me a minute," he repeated.

The moon was bright, and as Ron crouched beside Harry, he could see his friend clearly. He looked terrible: underneath the scratches and dirty smudges, his skin was chalky white, and a fine sheen of perspiration glistened in the moonlight. And then Ron looked down.

"Harry, mate, you're bleeding."

"Probably caught myself on the branches," Harry said, not really paying attention. With his eyes closed he could almost believe he felt fine, and he was distracted by the sounds of shouts in the distance. He thought they were getting closer, but he couldn't be sure.

"No. You're really bleeding."

The panic in Ron's voice made Harry snap his eyes open and look at him, vision wavering with the sharp movement of his head and resolving into sharp focus as Harry took a calming breath.

Ron was staring down at Harry's side, and Harry followed his gaze, feeling a flutter of nerves as he saw his shirt was soaked with blood. Fighting his own rising panic, he tugged his shirt free and winced, a sharp burst of pain radiating from his ribs. He'd thought the throbbing pain was just from the landing…and then he remembered being hit by something when he was falling through the sky.

"Fuck," he swore sharply. "I thought they only hit me with a Stunner." His fingers were reluctant to lift his shirt, fearing what was underneath. But the blood – and the sudden stretched pain – made it necessary.

Wincing at the awkward movement, he caught the side of his shirt and pulled it away from his skin, lifting it up so they could see the wound.

Ron let out a sound of horror and his eyes widened; Harry could only look down with stomach-churning fear. The wound, an open slice running diagonally across his ribs, was deep and long, and blood was flowing freely down his side. But as bad as that was, nothing could have prepared him for the black threaded veins branching out from the injury, unnaturally throbbing underneath his paling flesh.

"Harry…" Ron gasped. "We have Apparate. Now."

Harry let his shirt fall and looked at Ron through slightly unfocused eyes. "I can't Apparate, Ron."

Ron looked at him, horrified. "You have to. I can't… I can't do us both. Bloody hell, Harry, I'm not even sure I can get myself out of here. I nearly splinched myself at the exam, remember?"

Harry hadn't forgotten. "I know," he said, fear bubbling in his chest but determined not to let Ron see it. It hurt to breathe, and his vision was growing more unclear by the minute. "You have to go. Get help."

Shouts drifted across the Hogwarts grounds, and the two boys looked towards the sound. Through a gap in the undergrowth they could see balls of light from illuminated wands bobbing in the air as Death Eaters headed in their direction.

Ron looked at the advancing figures and down at Harry. "No. I can't," he began, but the other boy interrupted him.

"Go," Harry said fiercely. "Go, or I swear I'll hex you myself." Harry had his wand out and pointed directly at Ron. He was unable to hide the tremor of his hand and the wand wavered, but his expression was determined. Every ounce of strength he had left focused on the gesture. "It's stupid to let them catch us both."

"But you're hurt."

Harry bit back the sarcastic, 'Really?' that was on the tip of his tongue. They had no time for this, no time to argue. He could feel consciousness beginning to slip away. "They need me alive, Ron. They won't let me die until Voldemort's had his turn – and he's in Romania, remember? 'Unreachable,' Snape said."

Ron nodded forlornly knowing Harry was right. He still wished he had paid more attention to the Apparating lessons.

"I'll be back," he said, awkwardly patting Harry on the shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture.

"You'd better." Harry gave him a weak grin, feeling the edges of his vision starting to blur. The lights were almost upon them. "Go."

Closing his eyes and trying to block out the sounds around him, Ron concentrated as hard as he could on the Order's Headquarters.

And in an instant, he was gone.

Harry let his hand fall, his wand falling to the ground from unresponsive fingers. He felt the world tilting and he let himself fall to the side, barely registering the shout of triumph as the first Death Eater found the clearing.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic beta bewarethesmirk.

*

Ron appeared in the living room of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, fighting the nausea in his throat and blinking his eyes against the light.

There were two others in the room: Remus Lupin was sitting on a chair by the fireplace, sipping from a mug, but Ron saw a wand being discretely tucked into the cushion of the chair; Draco Malfoy was pacing back and forth in front of the window, and was the first to openly react to Ron's arrival.

He froze, his grey eyes flicking to either side of Ron as if expecting another person to appear.

Ron opened his mouth to speak, but the words caught in his throat when Malfoy's eyes centred on him accusingly.

"Where is he?"

"He's hurt," Ron blurted out; Malfoy looked stricken at his blunt reply. Guiltily, Ron looked at his former professor, deliberately turning away from the Slytherin. "Do you know about…?"

"Yes, Ron," Lupin answered. "Minerva managed to get out some messages when the castle was breached. We knew you were on your way." He laid down his mug carefully on a side table. "Where is Harry, Ron? How badly is he hurt?"

"He's just outside Hogwarts. They hit him with some sort of spell. Harry thought it was a Stunner, but then there was all this blood…" His voice shook. "He had this…this big cut along his side, and there were all these black lines coming out of it. And they were… moving."

"Moving?" Lupin repeated.

"Yeah, like worms or something." A low, primal sound came from Malfoy's direction.

Frowning, Lupin rose from the chair. "I need to get Severus," he said. "That sounds more like his area of expertise than mine."

Ron shook his head. "No, we don't have time for that. We have to go and get him now," he insisted. "The Death Eaters are going to find him." He could feel the intensity of Malfoy's stare, but refused to look.

Lupin paused at the door, hand on the handle. "Don't worry, Ron. We'll get him back." His expression was worried, but he gave Ron a reassuring smile. "Have a cup of tea; you look like you need it. And get some ointment on that ear or it'll get infected. I'll be back soon." Not waiting for Ron to reply, he pulled the door open and left the two boys alone. The door closed with a resounding thud, and Ron flinched.

He touched his ear gingerly; he'd forgotten all about it. The pain was nothing more than a dull burn, and compared to what Harry had suffered, seemed inconsequential.

"You left him?" Malfoy spoke quietly.

Ron slowly lowered his hand to his side and reluctantly looked at the Slytherin, begging with his eyes for understanding. "He told me to. He said he couldn't make it, and he said to get help."

"You left him," Malfoy repeated slowly. He took a step forwards, and Ron automatically stepped back, only to find a table bumping against his hip.

"I- I-" He floundered for words under the intensity of Malfoy's stare. The blond's eyes were narrowed, jaw clenched so tight that Ron could see tendons standing out along his neck. He looked dangerous.

"You left him." Another step. "He would have never left you, you spineless coward, he'd have risked his life for you." He must have seen some flicker of reaction on Ron's face then, because he inhaled sharply. "He did, didn't he? The stupid idiot saved your life, and still you left him. To think you're meant to be a pure-blood wizard. And his friend." A derisive snort. "You're a joke."

Ron blanched at the harsh words, spoken with such vehemence. It didn't matter that it was Malfoy – a boy he loathed with all of his heart – saying them, he was only voicing Ron's own thoughts about himself. Still, he had to argue, "I didn't have a choi-"

Without warning, Malfoy launched himself across the room and crashed into him, sending them both back and over the table to land on the floor in a messy pile of tangled limbs.

Malfoy pushed free, getting an arm out and slamming a fist into Ron's jaw. He followed with another punch to Ron's already tender side, which had the Gryffindor gasping for breath as he fought to get some sort of purchase on the threadbare carpet.

Ron gasped out, "No, Malfoy, don't..." Another punch narrowly missed Ron's head, and he could feel his temper start to rise. "Wait..." A blow to the shoulder, and he finally managed to get his arm free.

Malfoy may have had the advantage of position, but his blows were erratic and fuelled by emotion. Ron was bigger and heavier and had just about had enough. He cursed, "…for fuck's sake…" and caught the next flailing fist in his hand, using his larger bulk to push Malfoy up and off him.

"Get off," he snapped, his self-recriminating fear finally transforming into anger as he pinned the blond down with a knee to the chest, Malfoy's fist still trapped in his hand.

Malfoy's pale face was spotted red with anger, and he fought Ron's hold. "Let go of me, Weasley."

"Not until you calm down," Ron said breathlessly, finding it surprisingly difficult to keep the other boy pinned down. He was a bundle of bony, flailing limbs, and Ron felt like he was trying to subdue an octopus as he finally pinned the other boy's hands to the floor on either side of his head.

Harry's going to kill me for this, he thought, and then felt a pang through his chest as a dark part of mind thought: if he's still alive.

He was suddenly aware that Malfoy had stopped struggling, and he looked down suspiciously. The look of pure, undisguised hatred that was directed at him took his breath away, and he shook his head. "I swear there was nothing I could do," he said. "If I could have...."

"Don't bother," Malfoy hissed. "I'm not interested in your pathetic excuses. Just know that if anything," his voice caught, "anything happens to Harry, I'll kill you."

Ron swallowed, opened his mouth, and closed it again. What could he possibly say?

They were frozen there: two boys, one full of undiluted anger, the other, self-recrimination. Both utterly terrified.

Ron chewed his lip and debated releasing his hold on Malfoy's wrists. He wasn't stupid enough to think that Malfoy had calmed down, one look at his face made it clear he hadn't, but Ron thought that maybe he'd calmed down enough to stop fighting. That he'd had long enough to regain some of his supposed Malfoy poise.

Malfoy seemed to realise what Ron was thinking and his body relaxed somewhat, fists unclenching and fingers splaying wide in supplication.

Ron nodded fractionally and was just about to let go when the door to the room swung opened, and a black cloaked figure barged in.

"Weasley!" Severus Snape bellowed. "Unhand Draco this instant!"

Startled, Ron abruptly released Malfoy and fell back, mouth opening to deny Snape's obvious assumption, when Malfoy's fist caught his chin in a solid right hook.

Ron fell back from the blow, stunned, and Malfoy was on him again, this time with the advantage of Ron's disorientation, more punches finding their target as Ron weakly tried to defend himself.

"Draco, control yourself," Snape admonished, striding over to the two boys and attempting to pull Malfoy off Ron. He managed to hook an arm around Malfoy's waist and tug him back, but was unprepared for the elbow that found his ribs, and then for the hand flung back, crashing against his face.

He let go and brought his hand to his nose, expecting it to come away bloody. Below him, Malfoy had returned his attention to Ron; but the momentary respite had given Ron a chance to recover and he was retaliating, throwing punches back at the blond, smacking away Malfoy's lighter blows.

With a frustrated growl, Snape tugged up the sleeves of his robes and waded in, grabbing each boy by the scuff of their shirts and attempting to hold them apart. But these weren't children in his grasp, these were two very angry young men, and before he knew what was happening, they had both thrown fists in his direction; and that was all it took for Snape to lose his temper and forget that as their teacher he was supposed to show some restraint.

Fists flew, feet kicked, and at some point one of them got a head butt in. That might have been Ron – well-practised in multiple scuffles after years of torment from his brothers. A stray elbow slammed into Malfoy's cheek and hurt enough for him to yelp; Snape felt the scrape of a boot slide down his shin, removing a significant amount of skin; a hand gripped tightly in Ron's hair and he felt a chunk rip out as he yanked free, surprised to see Snape with the strands in his fingers. Snape sneered at him, twisting to the side to avoid Malfoy's fist. He raised his own arm, about to catch Malfoy's arm when suddenly…

"Impedimenta!"

They were thrown viciously apart. Ron thudded back against the armchair, Draco found himself slammed against the over-turned desk, and Snape fell in an ungainly heap at the feet of an incensed Molly Weasley, her wand still raised in her hand.

She was the picture of rage, red-faced and furious. "Just what do you think you are doing?"

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter.

*

Bloody hell, how much did I drink last night? was Harry's first thought. The pounding in his head and heaviness in his body made him reluctant to move.

Then: Couldn't the gits have put me in bed rather than leave me on the floor? Hope this isn't piss. A cheek pressing on a damp floor, cold and unforgiving.

And finally: What the…? Trying to bring up his hands to rub at his sleep-encrusted eyes. Has Draco been pissing about with the handcuffs again. I'll kill the-

Harry froze. Memories flooding back through the blanket of throbbing pain. Hogwarts. Ron. Death Eaters.

"Master, I think he's awake," an unfamiliar voice squeaked, and the sound of footsteps clipped towards him.

They stopped and he heard another voice - the one he feared hearing possibly even more than Voldemort – say, "Is he indeed?" before something sharp and pointed thudded into his ribs and he folded over on himself, gasping, and pulling sharply on the metal shackles holding his wrists firmly behind his back.

"Potter." The tone was sharp and what he suspected was a well-placed boot repeated its cruel wake-up call. "Get up."

"All right," Harry coughed out.

"Now!" A shuffle of movement made Harry flinch away again, and laughter mocked him. "Now, or I will think of more entertaining ways to get your attention."

Harry forced his eyes open and was relieved to find the room he was in was dimly lit, pale illumination provided only by some flickering wall sconces.

He was lying on the floor of a very dank cell. From the encrusted manacles hanging on the opposite wall, to the solid metal door with its barred peephole, it looked like something from an old horror film he'd seen once on his Uncle Vernon's television.

A slight tap of impatient shoe upon floor, and Harry's gaze slid reluctantly to the highly polished pair of boots sticking out from underneath elaborately styled robes, standing barely a foot away. Sliding his eyes up past folded arms and a wand held loosely in elegant fingers, he finally locked eyes with the one man he dreaded encountering more than any other: Lucius Malfoy.

"I'm delighted you could join us," Lucius sneered, icy blue eyes travelling over Harry's bedraggled form. "We have much to discuss."

Harry swallowed, determined not to show his fear. He felt horribly vulnerable lying at the feet of the senior Malfoy and pushed himself awkwardly to his knees, a task made more difficult without the use of his hands and the hammering inside his head. Finally, he was upright, and he sank back against his heels, breathing heavily and waiting for the room around him to settle.

With his head bowed he could see his clothing was tattered, his shirt ripped open and thoroughly blood-stained. It hung in ragged shreds but still Harry could not see anything of the wound to his side, the one that was now surprisingly painless. Lucius seemed to notice Harry's attention and said, with mock politeness, "I must apologise for the treatment of your wounds, Potter. Feazle, here, was tasked to tend the nasty little injury you suffered on your way to us."

A small squeak off to the side and Harry suddenly remembered they were not alone in the room. A bedraggled little house-elf cowered against the wall to Harry's right, enormous, glistening eyes staring at Lucius in terror.

Lucius was still speaking. "It has rudimentary healing skills at best, and could do little more than apply the potion it was given. I had neither the time nor the inclination to perform the spells myself." He leant forwards with his wand and used it to shift Harry's shirt out of the way, wrinkling his nose in distaste.

Harry looked down at his side, remembering the frightening sight, and instead saw a messily healed scar running across his ribs. There were still echoes of pain, although it was more than likely the result of Lucius's boots. Reddening blotches showed just where his kicks had landed.

"It is a pity," Lucius observed. "Draco does so like his toys to be unmarked; he always throws the damaged ones away."

This little dig finally broke Harry's silence. "I've already got a scar – and he seems fine with that," he bit out.

Lucius's wand was suddenly under his chin, forcing his head up and back. "That is not a scar; it is a mark of honour." Harry twisted sharply from the wand and glared at Lucius, who looked down at him through narrowed eyes. "And I am quite sure Draco respects it as such."

Harry bit down on his response, refusing to let Lucius goad him any further, settling instead on staring at Lucius with as much hatred as he could muster.

Lucius acknowledged the move with a nod of his head and lowered his wand to his side. He turned his attention to the trembling house-elf. "Did I not give you a duty to attend to?" he asked sharply, and Feazle trembled in fear.

"Feazle is sorry, Master, Feazle will go right away."

"Feazle better," Lucius said. "And I hope that Feazle will remember to chastise itself severely for the oversight."

"Yes, Master. Sorry, Master," the little creature stuttered and vanished in a blink of an eye.

"You're a bastard," Harry said angrily, his temper again getting the better of him. "Why do you do that?"

Lucius seemed amused at Harry's reaction. "Ah, the champion of house-elves: a sweet little notion, but completely pointless. They were born to serve - they have no other purpose in life - and to let them think they have is a form of cruelty in itself."

"That's not true," Harry said. "And even if it was, it still doesn't give you the right to torture them."

"It isn't torture," Lucius said slowly, speaking as though to a child. "It's education. A little punishment will make it remember not to make the same mistake again."

"It's not an 'it', it's a 'he'," Harry corrected him, almost certain that Feazle was masculine – sometimes it was difficult to tell.

Boredom was settling into the aristocratic features. "I really don't care, Potter. In fact, I tire of this whole conversation. So, I shall just get right to the point." He slicked his hair back from his face and asked, almost offhandedly. "Where is he?"

"Who?" Harry automatically responded.

Anger flashed across Lucius's features. "Don't play games with me, Potter. You know who." He bent down and spoke; his breath hot against Harry's face. "My traitorous offspring. Where is he?”

"How should I know?" Harry tried to shrug, but the cold metal biting into his wrists hampered the movement.

A hand crashed across his cheek, sending him sprawling across the floor. Without the use of his hands, he had no way to stop from cracking the side of his head on the dungeon wall. He fell to the ground, hissing air out between his teeth, stone scraping mercilessly across his cheek, and knocking his glasses off his face and onto the floor. A hand gripped his hair and yanked him up to his knees, forcing his head back.

He looked up at Lucius Malfoy with as much defiance as he could muster. "Wrong answer?" he asked, gasping as a cold hand circled his throat.

"Are you really that brave, Potter? Or are you just stupid?" The fist clenched tighter, and Harry's lungs fought for air, but he still managed to rasp out one word.

"Stupid."

Lucius stepped forwards, deliberately grinding Harry's glasses under his foot as he propelled Harry up and slammed him back against the moist stone wall. Wrists tearing under the cold metal around his wrists, he scrabbled uselessly with his feet, kicking against stone and air, trying to break free of Lucius's asphyxiating grip.

Harry's body was screaming for air and he fought desperately, the malicious smile on Lucius's face fuelling an almost uncontrollable terror. But very quickly Harry could feel his body growing weaker, darkness edging into the sides of his vision, and he barely registered the scornful laugh as Lucius let go and stepped back, letting Harry fall to his knees on the ground. Lucius looked down, amused, as Harry took heaving breaths, painfully forcing air into his oxygen starved lungs.

Lucius pulled a white monogrammed handkerchief from his robe pocket and wiped his hands, tucking it away again and raising his wand to point it at Harry who was watching him through bloodshot eyes.

"I have a few matters to attend to and I do not trust that you – even shackled as you are – will not make some foolish attempt to escape."

Harry managed to smirk, even as he coughed.

The blond man considered him thoughtfully, and his next words made Harry's insides churn but he fought to keep the smirk on his face. "Now that I see gentle persuasion has no effect, I will return later to continue this discussion more vigorously."

When Harry did not respond, Lucius said, "I will find out his location."

Harry lifted his chin defiantly and the smile fell from him lips. His voice was hoarse, but audible. "Not from me, you won't."

Surprise momentarily flicked across the older man's features, but he covered it with a sneer. "We shall see," he said. He extended his wand arm and said clearly, "Stupefy."

For the second time that day, Harry slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter.

*

Draco squeezed his eyes closed for a moment, trying to regain some modicum of control. He couldn't believe he'd lost it like that, scuffling like a common Mud- Muggle, he corrected himself mentally. Like a Muggle.

"It wasn't my fault!" Weasley's plaintive wail rang out across the room, not helping Draco tamp down on the rage he was feeling. No matter how justified his anger was – although he wasn't deluded enough not to realise he was using Weasley as a convenient target - he had to forget about Weasley and concentrate on Harry. Harry. Even the thought of Harry made something inside twist painfully and he took a long, slow breath to settle himself. Where was that infamous Malfoy poise when he needed it?

Harry was in trouble, and how did he react? With the maturity of a five-year-old having a tantrum, like a Weasley, when he should be doing something constructive.

A thud sounded in the corridor outside the room, and Draco opened his eyes.

Weasley and his fussing mother were on the other side of the room: she poking at her son's ear, he whining about 'Hermione' and 'Harry', with an occasional 'Leave off, Mum, it's fine'.

Snape, however, was standing by the armchair, arms folded, staring down at Draco. A reddening patch on his cheek was the only sign anything untoward had occurred. "Do you require medical attention?" he said. "Or some mollycoddling, perhaps?"

Mrs Weasley's head snapped around and she glared at the black-haired professor, still clearly annoyed about the fight. Snape did not even look in her direction, black eyes fixed on Draco.

A bubble of inappropriate laughter almost escaped Draco's lips and he felt the simmering anger die down, an odd calm descending over him. He shot Snape a grateful look and pushed himself to his feet, wincing. "I'm fine," he said. "Did you see Professor Lupin?"

"I did, yes. He gave me a garbled account of events before heading off to assemble the Order." There was another slamming sound – a door banging, Draco realised – and he turned his head briefly towards the noise, turning back when Weasley spoke.

"What?" Weasley was looking at Snape stupidly. "Why did Professor Lupin need to tell you anything?"

The black eyes settled on the Gryffindor. "Because, Weasley, I was talking to your mother in the kitchen when you bumbled into the house. Did you think I was clothed in a masked robe and rampaging about the grounds of Hogwarts?"

"Well… I… I thought you were at Hogwarts. Didn't you know about it?"

"Obviously not," Snape retorted. "Now, Lupin said you had information about an injury Potter has sustained?"

Draco watched as Weasley gathered himself together to relay the information again. Hearing it once had been enough, and so Draco turned and walked over to the door, intent on looking out into the hallway.

He was reaching out for the handle when the door swung violently inwards. Mad-Eye Moody barged in, brushing Draco brusquely to the side. "They've got Potter," he barked, cutting into the conversation, looking directly at Snape.

"What?" Draco snapped, moving around so he was facing the ex-Auror.

Moody's fake eye swivelled to focus on Draco. "This doesn't concern you, boy. Don't you have something better to do?"

"Moody!" a female voice admonished from the doorway. "Don't be horrible." Pink-haired and pink-cheeked, Nymphadora Tonks strode into the room, tripped over a fallen seat cushion, grabbed Draco's sleeve and righted herself. "Sorry," she said to him with an apologetic smile. "Are you okay?"

He brushed off her concern. "What's happened to Harry?" he asked instead.

Her expression softened and Draco tensed. "Like Moody said, as tactfully as ever, the Death Eaters have taken him. We've just been to Hogwarts and they're all gone; there's no trace of Harry. The Aurors are still looking though," she added, a pathetic attempt at reassurance.

"I couldn't see him," Moody stated flatly. "So he's not there."

"Moody!" she chastised him again, shaking her head.

Weasley's usual ruddy countenance had paled, Draco noted with some satisfaction, and he seemed to be attempting speech.

"You'll find him, right?" he said finally.

"'Course we will, Ron," Tonks replied, and Moody harrumphed.

"Don’t put false hopes in his head, woman," he snapped. "For all we know, he's already dead."

Anger bubbled under Draco's skin. "Don't say things like that," he spat. "Harry's alive, I know he is."

"Yeah," Weasley agreed, and Draco sneered at him, not needing, or wanting, his support.

"This bickering is all very fascinating," Snape cut in. "But entirely pointless. I, for one, would like to know about Hogwarts. Do you have news of the school itself?"

"Bit of structural damage; no deaths," Moody answered, and Tonks rolled her eyes.

"Honestly, Moody, I swear you're getting worse." She wrinkled her nose as he scowled at her, shifting her attention back to the others. "There are a few cuts and bruises, and they've all had a scare, but apart from that, everyone's fine."

"Did you see Hermione?" Weasley asked.

"No, but Professor McGonagall passed word along that she was okay. You could probably contact her; they're letting owls through now. Everything else should be back to normal by tomorrow."

Weasley looked relieved and Draco felt his lips curl. He couldn't help himself. "How nice for you, Weasley, your little girlfriend is all right. How quickly you forget about Harry."

"That's not fair," Weasley said angrily, glaring across the room. "I'm just as worried about Harry as you are."

Weasley's mother likewise reacted. "Draco," she scolded, as though she thought her words would make an impression on him.

Draco deliberately turned his back on them and looked at Tonks and Moody. "So, what exactly are you planning to do about Harry?"

To his consternation, Tonks looked embarrassed. "Er… we don't know, not yet. We don't know where they've-"

"There's no need to tell him anything," Moody said sharply, cutting her off. "We don't know that he's not working for them."

There was a silence in the room; no one leapt to his defence. Draco folded his arms, looking around at all the faces of his supposed allies, feeling his insides chilling. Aside from Moody and his disconcerting eye, the only person who would meet his gaze was Snape, who half-shrugged.

"You think I had something to do with this?" Draco asked softly of no one in particular. "That I would hurt Harry?"

Mrs Weasley seemed to find her tongue and she blurted out, "No, no, of course not, Draco. Moody didn't mean-"

"I meant exactly what I said," Moody interrupted again. Raising his wand, he took a step towards Draco, who stood his ground. Moody scowled. "Even if he's not working with them," he poked his wand into Draco's chest, "he'll have an idea where Harry is." Both of his eyes locked on Draco and the man seemed to swell, filling Draco's view. "Don't you, boy?"

Draco met his stare with unblinking grey eyes and, without a flicker of emotion on his aristocratic face, lied. "No," he said. "I have no idea where he is."

Moody's eye whirled in its socket, looking for signs of deceit, but Draco had been trained well and the ex-Auror could do nothing more than let out a disbelieving snort and turn back to the others.

Draco tried not to show the relief he felt, fully aware that Snape was still watching him and knew him far more than anyone else in the room. He hadn't lied, not really, more told a half-truth. He didn't know exactly where Harry was, but if his father was involved in the attack then Draco had a pretty fair idea where Harry would have been taken.

But the knowledge would not help the Order. Even if he did tell them, there was no way they could do anything to help; no-one could without putting Harry's life at risk, and there was no way Draco would allow that to happen.

He would have to come up with a plan on his own.

He focused his attention back on the group. Moody was questioning Snape about Harry's injury.

"Lupin said Potter was hurt?"

"Indeed." Snape nodded. "Weasley was just giving me the details of the curse when you barged in."

"And?" Moody prompted.

Snape's lips pursed, but he answered. "It's a nasty little incantation designed to disable an opponent; quite effective and notoriously unpleasant. But it's not fatal," he said, seeing some looks of horror, "if it's treated quickly."

"Harry could die?" Weasley asked, looking pale.

"He could, but he won't," Snape said forcefully. "The Dark Lord would be extremely angry if Potter was killed before he had a chance to deal with him personally."

"Oh, well, that's all right then," Weasley said sarcastically. "Just for a minute we were starting to worry- Ow!" he yelped, flinching away from the hand his mother had just whipped across the back of his head. Draco smirked as the Gryffindor rubbed at the spot with his hand. "What did you do that for?"

"Because I can," she informed him. "Now, will you behave yourself and answer Professor Snape's questions."

Weasley glowered but snapped his mouth closed. He looked over at Snape, who folded his arms.

"I don't believe I actually have any more questions. Moody?"

"Nope."

Weasley shot his mother as defiant a look as he dared; inwardly relieved she wasn't paying attention to him when he did it.

"So, what do we do now?" Draco asked.

Snape raised his eyebrows. "You do nothing. The Order will find Harry."

"I am not sitting around here whilst Harry is in trouble," Draco snapped, and – to his surprise – he heard Weasley agreeing with him.

"Neither am I."

"Ronald," Mrs Weasley reprimanded and his defiance was visible.

"No, Mum, Harry's my best friend and I am not hanging around while you lot look for him without me."

"Admirable sentiments," Snape said scathingly, looking at both boys in turn. "But at the moment no-one knows where Potter is, never mind what condition he is in, so until we get further information all any of us can do is wait."

Mrs Weasley nodded. "Professor Snape is right. Now, I suggest you boys go to the kitchen and have something to eat. I made sandwiches."

Ordinarily Draco would have refused, but something had just occurred to him: a germ of a plan. "Fine," he said abruptly, shocking everyone with his ready acquiescence. "Let me know if you hear anything."

He swivelled on his heel and strode to the door, yanking it open and hurrying upstairs, a determined look on his face.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter.

*

Ron couldn't believe that Malfoy had just left the room - no arguments, no tantrums, nothing. Judging from the stunned silence amongst the adults, none of them could believe it either.

What was Malfoy thinking? One second he insisted he wasn't going anywhere, the next he was out of the door. Ron frowned. Unless, of course, he was up to something.

Ron looked around at the others, and seeing that not one of them seemed to be paying him the slightest bit of attention, started across the room.

"Ron?" his mum said – and he cursed inwardly. "Where are you going?"

"You said there was sandwiches," he responded, looking over his shoulder at her, not missing Snape's derisive sneer. "An' I'm hungry."

"Try to leave some for everyone else," she warned.

Ron plastered a smile on his face. "Right." When she said nothing more, he turned away and hastened to the door, intent on finding Malfoy.

He caught up with him on the stairs. The Slytherin was peering into a room off the second floor landing and muttering under his breath.

"Where are you, you little…?" He must have heard Ron's footsteps because he turned sharply and snapped, "Weasley. What the hell do you want?"

Ron leaned against the banister, trying to look nonchalant, but actually a bit winded from racing up the stairs. "Just wondering what you were up to."

"It's none of your business." As he was speaking, Malfoy's eyes flicked over Ron's shoulder, to the stairs leading up to the next landing, and they widened. He snapped his attention back to Ron. "Go and bother someone else," he said abruptly. "I'm busy."

Not waiting for Ron to speak, he turned and started up the next set of stairs, taking them two at a time.

Ron followed, and almost crashed into the Slytherin's back as he whirled around and challenged, "What are you doing?"

"Following you," Ron repeated. He thought Malfoy was supposed to be intelligent.

"Following m- Oh, for Merlin's sake, I don’t have time for this." Frustrated, he ran a hand roughly through his fine blond hair. Ponce, Ron thought. "Fine…fine. Follow me if you must. But no matter what you see or hear me doing, keep your big mouth shut, all right?"

Suspicious, Ron asked, "Will it help Harry?"

"Yes. Maybe. Oh, hell, I bloody well hope so."

"Okay."

Malfoy looked dubious, but he was obviously desperate to get up the stairs, and so he nodded, once. "Not a word."

Ron mimed a zip being pulled across his mouth and Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Come on, then."

He set off again, racing up the flights of stairs until they were at the very top. Ron had never ventured so far up in the house, never gone past the fifth floor, and judging from the grime and dirt coating everything, neither had anyone else. The only clear patches were smudged footprints on the floor in front of them leading to a small door, which was standing ajar, and was presumably the entrance to the attic. Or at least Ron fervently hoped so: he wasn't in a fit state to be climbing anywhere else.

Puffing heavily, he followed Malfoy to the door and watched him go in, following behind, and clambering up the couple of steps into the cobwebbed attic of Grimmauld Place.

Like the rest of the house, it was in a state of aged disrepair; cluttered with broken pieces of furniture and stacked boxes, years of accumulated junk, the product of generations of hoarding Blacks. The light was dim, leaching in through grimy windows, and a pervading scent of mustiness filled the air. Ron coughed as he carefully stepped after Malfoy, trying not to knock anything over.

Malfoy, however, was showing none of his usual grace; he was pushing boxes out of his way, kicking things off to the far side of the room when they blocked his path. Dust billowed up in his wake, making Ron cough even harder.

Ron was about to protest, when Malfoy said loudly, "Kreacher? Where are you?"

There was a scuffling sound in the far corner, and Malfoy turned to stare at the shadowed spot. "Show yourself. Now!" he commanded, his tone making even Ron flinch.

The wizened head of the ancient Black family house-elf appeared from behind a pile of cobweb-encrusted, splintered chairs. He reluctantly shuffled out into a clear patch of floor, grumbling angrily to himself.

"Hurry up," Malfoy ordered, and Kreacher shot him as venomous a glare as Ron had seen from any house-elf.

"Traitorous, Muggle-loving scum," the house-elf muttered, but loud enough so both boys could hear. "Should have been drowned at birth. No respect for his family."

"What did you say?" Malfoy's tone was ice cold, and it made the old house-elf pause.

"Nothing."

"You dare insult a Malfoy? A descendant of the Black line, who are your true masters?"

The house-elf's eyes narrowed. "You are not a true Malfoy. You have shamed them. Kreacher knows."

Drawing himself to his full height, Malfoy looked down at Kreacher with a sneering expression. "Unless things have changed in the last few minutes and I have not been informed, I am still a Malfoy, still a son of Narcissa Black. Under house-elf rules, and with the absence of your current master, you are still beholden to obey every order or request I make of you. Is that not so?"

Kreacher's frail body was quivering in indignant anger, but he was forced to spit, "Yes, Master."

Malfoy relaxed fractionally. "Very well. I want you to tell me where Harry is."

Ron inhaled sharply, and Malfoy shot him a warning glance.

"Whom?"

Malfoy took a step towards the creature. "Do not test me. Where is Harry Potter?"

"Kreacher does not know the location of the half-blood." The house-elf looked up at Malfoy defiantly.

"But you could find out." Malfoy's wand appeared in his hand, and Ron shifted nervously. "Couldn't you?"

Kreacher replied obsequiously, "Kreacher is but a lowly house-elf, Master; he would not know how."

"Don't lie to me," Malfoy snapped, poking the house-elf with his wand, sending him stumbling back a few steps. Kreacher looked up, startled.

"Master?"

Malfoy was glaring down at him. "I know that you kept my mother informed of everything that happened here. Do you really expect me to believe that that has stopped?" He didn't give the house-elf a chance to respond, poking him again with the wand. This time Kreacher fell to the floor, stumbling over his own feet, scuttling back as Draco took a threatening step. "I thought you were sworn to protect the master of the house? Harry Potter? Surely you have betrayed your oath as a house-elf by sharing information about him to his enemies?"

Kreacher was curled in on himself, huddled back against the pieces of broken furniture, as far away from Malfoy as he could get. "Kreacher has not spoken of the master directly," he said in a trembling voice. "Only of other things."

"It's the same thing," Malfoy snapped. "And you know it." He dropped to one knee in front of the quivering creature.

Ron was struggling not to intervene; he despised the nasty little house-elf, but the sight of him cowering at Malfoy's feet was almost unbearable to watch. As though he could sense Ron's thoughts, Malfoy turned and stared at him, cold grey eyes looking deadly in the eerie lighting. Ron forced himself to calm down, folding his arms against his chest, and Malfoy turned his attention back to Kreacher.

"Do you know, when I was a child, my father let me play with the house-elves," he said conversationally, his wand bouncing in his fingers. "When Muggle children were pulling wings off flies, I found much more entertaining things to do. It's always much more satisfying when you can hear something scream."

Kreacher let out a petrified little gasp and tried to scuttle farther away. Ron forced himself to stand still and not say anything. He had to trust that Malfoy knew what he was doing; he had to, for Harry's sake.

Malfoy continued. "I learnt my first Unforgivable when I was five. My father taught it to me, and he gave me a first hand demonstration of its use. It really is quite remarkable, you know - how one simple word can produce such a lasting impression. Once you've experienced it, you never forget." Ron frowned at the pained edge to Malfoy's tone, but it was gone when the blond spoke again, and he thought he must have imagined it.

Malfoy's voice lowered to a seductive whisper as he leaned closer to the house-elf. "Would you like me to show you?"

"No, Master, please. Kreacher hasn't done wrong. Kreacher is a good elf."

Malfoy pointed his wand at him and said softly. "Are you really?" Ron tensed.

"Please, no!" Kreacher was gasping for breath now, begging, his little hands raised in supplication. "Kreacher will find Harry Potter for you. He promises."

"Sorry? What was that you said?"

"Kreacher will find Harry Potter," the house-elf said more firmly this time, seeing Malfoy's wand lowering. "Kreacher will go to Malfoy Manor and speak with the elves there. They will know where he is."

"Good," Malfoy said, and stood, brushing off his robes. He looked down at the prone house-elf as though surprised. "Well? What are you waiting for?"

Kreacher stared up at him with wide eyes, clicked his fingers, and abruptly vanished with a 'pop'.

Ron was shell-shocked. He opened his mouth to say something, only to have Malfoy forcefully push him out of the way as he disappeared back down the steps of the attic. Angrily, Ron followed, thudding down the steps and onto the top landing, ready to lay into the Slytherin for the way he had treated Kreacher.

But any words of chastisement vanished when he saw Malfoy sitting against the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest and his face obscured by his hands. His wand lay on the floor a few feet away from him, almost as though it had been tossed aside.

Ron faltered, unsure what to do. "Malfoy? You okay?" he asked hesitantly.

"Go away, Weasley," came the muffled reply.

Ron scuffed a shoe against the dirty floorboards, considering, and then walked over to the Slytherin, sliding down the wall to sit alongside him.

He could hear a groan of annoyance and the blond lifted his head slowly, rubbing at his eyes with his fingers, taking a deep breath, and not once looking at Ron. "Are you deaf as well as stupid?" he said, his voice strained.

"Eh? What?" Ron said.

"I said, 'Are you deaf-' Oh, piss off, you sod," Malfoy snapped, hearing Ron's snort of laughter. He reached out a hand and picked up his wand, staring at it. He was silent for a few moments and then: "I sounded like my father up there," he said, so softly that Ron almost didn’t hear.

Ron had no clue how to respond, and so he said nothing, just watched Malfoy roll the innocuous piece of wood in his fingers. Then something slowly clicked into place. He frowned. "Malfoy?"

"What?"

"I thought you couldn't use your wand. Harry said something about your dad being able to trace it or something."

"Yeah."

"So, you couldn't have…?"

"No. Kreacher didn't know that though."

"Bloody hell," Ron swore. He let his own head fall back against the dirty wall. "I really thought you were going to do it," he admitted.

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

There was a hushed silence. Ron lifted his head to find Malfoy staring at him incredulously, eyes red from rubbing. "You're sorry? Why?"

"I dunno." Ron shrugged. "For thinking that you could, I suppose."

Malfoy's face twisted and he let out a bitter laugh. "Oh, I could all right. I'm a Malfoy, remember?" He pushed himself to his feet and shoved the wand into the back pocket of his trousers. The mask was slipping back into place with every word he spoke, his tone growing more clipped. "Don't go getting any fanciful ideas about me, Weasley. Everything I told that house-elf up there was completely true."

"Well, bully for you," Ron scoffed, likewise getting to his feet. "So, are you going to tell me now?"

"Tell you what?"

"Where Harry is."

Malfoy stopped moving, looked at Ron. "I don't know."

"So, what was all that about?" Ron pointed to the attic door.

"Obviously, that was me trying to find out exactly where he is."

"You have an idea though, don't you?"

"Maybe. But I can't be sure…" Malfoy admitted.

Ron stared at him, his heart thudding in his chest. "Where? Where is he?" he spluttered. "You have to tell the Order, then they could go and get him."

"No," Malfoy said, shaking his head. "I can't. I'm not certain. And even if I was, they would just go rushing in, and there's a multitude of wards protecting the place. There's no way they could get in undetected; there's no way I can get in undetected. And the instant the wards are breached my father would…" He swallowed. "I'm not telling them," he said finally.

"So, you're not going to do anything?"

"I didn't say that, did I?"

Ron stared at him for a long moment. "I'm in," he finally declared.

"You're what?" Malfoy said, frowning.

"Whatever it is you're planning, I'm in."

"No." The blond shook his head firmly. "No, you're not."

"You can't do everything on your own," Ron argued. "You'll need help."

"That's as may be. But I won't be needing help from you," Malfoy said haughtily, and Ron wanted to punch him.

Instead, he said carefully, "I'll tell."

Malfoy's expression darkened. "You'll what?"

"I'll tell them what you're up to."

"You don't know what I'm up to." The blond's fists were clenched.

"I know enough. I can just tell them you know where Harry is, and they'll have you locked up before you can say, 'My dad's a murdering Death Eater'."

Malfoy's jaw clenched and Ron tensed, waiting for the eruption, but then, to his surprise, the Slytherin grinned a little. "For you, Weasley, that insult was almost passable."

Ron blinked. "Er…"

"All right," Malfoy said. "You can help. But until Kreacher comes back with some more information, we'll just have to wait." And with that he started down the stairs, leaving Ron standing with his mouth open.

*

Lucius Malfoy strode into the cell with Feazle skittering along at his heels. The little house-elf was carrying a camera, far too big and heavy for him to manage easily, and he struggled with it through the door, narrowly missing crashing into Lucius as he paused in the door way.

"He doesn't look like much, does he?" Lucius said, staring at the unconscious Harry, still lying on the floor.

Feazle blinked, large lids shuttering slowly over his watery eyes. "Sorry, Master?"

"Potter," Lucius clarified, taking a few steps towards Harry. "Why would Draco choose him over his family? He could have any witch, or wizard," he said scornfully, "from any of the great families across Europe, and still he chooses this…" He had his cane in his hand and used it to poke at Harry.

The house-elf didn't know what answer its master was looking for, if any, and so it stayed silent, having learnt long ago that when it came to the Malfoys that was sometimes the safest thing.

Lucius lifted his head and frowned at Feazle. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he snapped.

"Sorry, Master," Feazle said quickly, hurrying forwards to set the camera down in front of Harry, tripod legs automatically dropping to the ground, and scuttling the camera back and forwards as Feazle tried to focus the picture on Harry. Finally, he had Harry's down-turned head in the frame, and he looked over to Lucius who was waiting impatiently.

"Are you finished?"

Feazle nodded quickly.

The senior Malfoy strode around behind the camera to look at the image of Harry, flicking Feazle to the side with his cane. "No," he barked, making the little house-elf tremble in fear and stumble away from him. "This is not what I told you. Can't you not even follow the simplest of instructions; must I do everything myself?"

"Feazle is sorry, Master."

Lucius sneered at the quivering house-elf. "Feazle will be sorry, once this task is done." He turned back to the camera and prodded at it, raising the viewpoint a few inches above Harry's head, and pulling it further back to widen the view. "That's better," he said. "Can I trust you to press the button when I tell you to?"

Feazle hurried forwards. "Yes, Master."

"Good," Lucius replied, stepping back around the camera and over to Harry. Making sure to keep himself out of shot, he took a fistful of Harry's hair in his hand and nodded at Feazle. "Now."

Within minutes the task was complete, and Lucius was sliding a wizarding photograph into his pocket, regarding the little house-elf thoughtfully.

"You know, I think I'm getting a little rusty on my Unforgivables these days. I feel the need to practice my Cruciatus Curse." He raised his wand and pointed it casually at the trembling elf.

"Crucio."

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter.

*

People had been coming and going all evening. Professor McGonagall had arrived only moments before, breathless and flustered. She disappeared into the Order meeting without noticing Draco and Ron were watching her from their vantage point at the top of the first landing. They were sitting side by side on the top stair, albeit at either end of the wide step.

Kreacher still hadn't returned.

"Mum'd fix that for you in a jiffy," Ron said as he caught sight of Malfoy – no, Draco, he thought, for Harry's sake he should try to think of him as Draco – rubbing distractedly at his bruised cheek.

Draco lowered his hand and leaned back against the wall. "It's fine," he said shortly.

Ron shrugged. "'S up to you, but she's good at that sort of thing. She's had a lot of prac-"

"Weasley," Draco snapped. "I thought we were attempting to eavesdrop. How are we meant to do that if you keep on prattling on?"

"It's not like we can hear anything," Ron argued. "We've been sitting here for ages and all we know is who's in the room. My bum's gone numb," he added, readjusting his position on the stair to prove his point.

"That's absolutely fascinating," the Slytherin said dryly. His rolled his neck and let out a sigh. "This is pointless, absolutely pointless. You'd think they would have the common courtesy to keep us informed; they must have some inkling of what's happened by now, surely?"

"Beats me, mate," Ron said. "But soon as Fred and George get a chance, they'll let us in on what's going on." His brothers had disappeared into the room earlier with a couple of enthusiastic waves in their direction.

"Wonderful," Draco said sarcastically. "My most reliable sources of information are a couple of mentally-deficient Weasleys."

"Oi, that's my brothers you're slagging off."

"And?" Draco inquired, his eyebrow arching.

Ron scowled. "Just… Just stop it, all right?"

"Fine. I'll keep my insults to a bare minimum, if you agree to stop talking and give me a chance to think."

Ron lapsed into a sullen silence which lasted barely five minutes. "So," he said, and Draco groaned. "What are you thinking about?"

"Merlin's sake, Weasley, how on earth does Granger put up with you?"

"What do you mean?"

"All this incessant chattering - how do the two of you ever find time to consummate your relationship? Or does she likeit when you talk?" he sneered.

Ron didn't know what consummate meant, but he could guess from the rest of Draco's words what he was referring to, and his face flushed. "Don't talk about Hermione like that."

"What? The two of you aren't...?" Draco smirked at Ron's embarrassment. He smoothed a hand across his trousers and said, "I have to admit I was surprised you actually managed to get yourself a girlfriend - and Granger's meant to be such a clever witch. Whatever does she see in you? You know, when Harry told me I-" The Slytherin's words broke off suddenly, all traces of humour vanishing from his face. "Just shut up, Weasley," he said.

Ron dropped his chin onto his hand, propping his elbow on his knee. After a moment, he said, "You're really worried about him, aren't you?"

"Of course I'm concerned." Draco was terse. "He's my partner, for Merlin's sake. Or has that still not managed to sink into that thick skull of yours?"

"No, no," Ron said hastily, "it's not that. It's just, it's still a bit weird, y'know…that you and Harry…that you're going out and stuff." He picked at his chewed thumbnail, not looking up, knowing that Draco would be smirking. "'S weird, is all I'm saying."

"We've been together a long time," Draco said, managing to sound both amused and weary. "Thought you would have come to terms with it by now."

Ron was surprised, and he half-glanced in the Slytherin's direction. "But it's only been a few months," he said. "When you went against your dad and You-Know-Who. And Harry told us about the two of you."

"That's when you found out? I was under the impression that…" Draco paused. "Ah. Maybe it was only Granger that knew."

"Hermione knew?" Ron felt his stomach drop; he was gutted. Why hadn't anyone told him? Wasn't he supposed to be Harry's best friend? He knew he sounded like a petulant child, but he couldn't help it. "You told her first?"

"I never told anyone," Draco corrected him. "I believe she guessed, and Harry confirmed her suspicions. As to why they didn't tell you…" Draco shrugged. "Maybe it has something to do with your complete lack of understanding; maybe Harry thought that you might not support him." This was a vicious dig at Ron's immediate reaction to the news; it wasn't something he was proud of. He'd stormed off and refused to speak to Harry for weeks, only relenting once Hermione had made it clear she would not accept his behaviour if he wanted their relationship to continue.

He couldn't argue with Draco's snide comment, so instead he asked, "So, when did she find out?"

"Must have been about a year ago," Draco replied.

"A year? You've been going out with Harry for a year?" He turned and stared at the Slytherin.

Draco was regarding Ron as one would an idiot, and Ron was rapidly beginning to feel like one. The Slytherin shook his head. "You really are clueless, aren't you?" He stretched out a long leg and idly scratched his thigh. "She found out about us then. Harry and I have been friends – of sorts – for over two years now."

"What? How?"

"Have I upset you now, Weasley? Disrupted your pre-conceived notions of our relationship?"

"You can't have been friends for that long," Ron said firmly. "I'd have known." Of course he would; he was Harry's best mate, wasn't he? How could he have missed something like that?

"I said we were friends 'of sorts'. Don't you ever listen? He – we – tolerated each other for a while."

"I don't remember," Ron started to argue, but even as he spoke, he was thinking back, recalling the events of their fifth year; Umbridge and her sadistic schemes, with her private little Slytherin army. But Ron realised his memories of that year held only a few glimpses of Draco; the latter months, Ron couldn't recall him being around at all.

Draco must have realised Ron was remembering. "We found out we both used the Quidditch stands to get away from everyone. The annoying prat wouldn't leave me in peace," he said fondly. "Became a bit of a habit to go at the same time, and I missed him when he wasn't there."

Ron saw that Draco's grey eyes were focused off in the distance, a small smile on his lips. It was eerie, Ron decided, he was far too used to Draco's smirks and sneers. This must be the person that Harry saw, the Draco that Harry insisted Ron would like, if only he gave him a chance. Ron still wasn't too sure about that, there only so much ponciness a bloke could take, but he would admit that this version might not be that bad.

Draco was still speaking. "It wasn't until the Bludger incident at the start of sixth year that I realised things were a bit different."

"Bludger incident?" Ron frowned.

"Don't you remember – the game with with Ravenclaw – when Harry grabbed the Beater's bat and slammed a Bludger into my face? Put me in the hospital wing?"

Ron couldn't help the grin; it was a moment he had savoured. "Yeah. But what about it?"

"Turned out that was Harry's idea of wooing someone."

Ron stared, and then couldn't help it, he laughed. "Yeah," he said, "that sounds like Harry."

Draco rubbed absentmindedly at the bridge of his nose – where the Bludger had hit, if Ron remembered correctly.

"So you've been together since then?"

The Slytherin nodded. "Yes, Weasley, we have."

"Bloody hell."

"Indeed." Draco was regarding him thoughtfully. "So, is it now acceptable that I'm worried?"

Ron nodded. "Yeah, mate, 'course it is. I didn't- I thought you and Harry were just-"

"Shagging?" Draco supplied.

That made Ron flinch. "He accused me of thinking that earlier. Before he was…" The words faltered. Had it only been a few hours ago? It felt like days. "We'll get him back," Ron said finally. "I know we will."

Draco said nothing.

"What's up with you two?" Fred's voice was so close it startled him and he sprawled back onto the landing. He glared up at his grinning older brother, who had managed to sneak up the stairs. "Thought you might want this," Fred said, tossing a small object across to Draco, who automatically reached out and caught it.

The Slytherin let out a disgusted hiss as he saw a pink ear bundled in a long strand of sinuous string lying on his palm, and he dropped it onto the top stair, wiping his hand on his trousers. "You… You…" he stuttered furiously.

"Brilliant, Fred," Ron exclaimed, diving for the fallen ear. He picked it up, flicking off the few bits of dust that had adhered themselves during its brief sojourn on the floor.

"Brilliant?" Draco parroted. "What, exactly, is brilliant about an ear?"

Both Weasleys gave him a pitying look. "It's not just an ear..." Ron said.

"...it's an Extendable Ear," Fred finished.

"Of course it is," Draco said scathingly. "And that should impress me, why?"

Fred grinned at Ron. "Is she always this thick?"

Ron would have replied, but then he saw the murderous expression on Draco's face, and decided that maybe he should try and change the subject before the Slytherin ripped his brother's head off. Or tried to anyway; Ron wasn't sure who would come off worse in a verbal scuffle between the two, but he knew that he would be mortally injured in the crossfire. "It lets us listen in on the meeting," he explained, starting to thread the ear between the banisters. "Fred and George invented it," he added.

"Explain to me why we need one of those," Draco asked, finger pointing at the ear, "when we have him," the finger slid to Fred, "right here, and we can just ask him what happened."

"Because-" Fred started to reply, but the sound of a door crashing open downstairs cut off his words.

Mrs Weasley's strident tones called out, "Fred Weasley! Get back in here this instant!"

"-I'm expected back in the meeting." Fred grinned, and started down the stairs. "Happy listening."

"But…" Draco began, but Fred was already gone, the sound of a closing door signalling his departure. Draco let out an irritated hiss. "Why does that always happen?"

"S'alright, mate," Ron said, unwinding the string in his hands. "This works great."

Draco eyed the appendage dubiously. "If you say so."

Feeling more purposeful now that he had something practical to do, Ron spooled out the thread and whispered, "Go!" at the ear. It immediately began to lower to the ground, the string sliding through Ron's hands, and he looked down through the banisters to see where it had reached.

He felt Draco move alongside him, the Slytherin maintaining a slight distance, but close enough that he could see what Ron was doing.

The ear was just at the top of the door, so Ron offered the free end of the string to Draco.

Draco stared at it in disgust. "And just what do you expect me to do with that?"

"You stick it in your ear," Ron said, and the Slytherin's face managed to look even more horrified. Ron tutted. "Ponce," he said audibly, and shoved the end of this string onto his own ear, listening intently.

"Can you hear anything?" Draco asked, and Ron shushed him.

"Give me a sec."

He could only hear muted chattering, and he leant closer, hissing, "Go!" again at the dangling ear. The ear dropped down a little more, and with each movement, the conversation became clearer. He could just make out Professor McGonagall's voice and some odd words, the sentences more audible at the end: "Hurry" - mumble -"time" - and - "don't want to involve the boy unless it's absolutely necessary."

Then, Snape speaking: "I'd check for a Confundus Charm, if I were you."

And Moody's sharp reply: "I know what I'm doing!"

"I was only making a suggestion."

"Well, it's a bloody obvious one."

"Language, Alastor!"

There was some low grumbling and then a forced, "Apologies, Minerva."

Ron had his face pressed against the wooden bars, looking down, a hand cupped over his own ear to block out Draco's insistent questions. He could feel a finger poking into his shoulder and he shrugged it off, missing some of the conversation down below. He focused his attention, hearing his mum say, "You'll let us know won't you?" just before the door crashed open and slammed right into the Extendable Ear, rocketing Ron's eardrum with a percussive blast of sound as the ear was thwacked away, swinging pendulum-like towards the banisters.

Ron fell back against Draco with a curse, hearing Moody's reply blast through the string, "I'LL LET YOU KNOW AS SOON AS I DO!"

Ron yanked the string from his ear and let it go, aware that Draco was pushing at him, snapping words that buzzed in Ron's head.

The ear, released from its fetters and already on its backward swing, splattered against Moody's forehead and fell to the ground at his feet.

Mrs Weasley, standing just behind Moody, looked down at the floor before her gaze flicked straight back up. "Ronald! Draco!" she bellowed.

Ron, still wincing, finally managed to get himself upright. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "Now we’re for it."

Draco, busy wiping off his clothes, looked up. "Oh, get a spine, Weasley."

Ron shook his head in despair as he heard his mum shout again.

*

Harry huddled against the wall as he shivered violently: it was bitterly cold. He'd awoken to find himself alone, no sign of Lucius, and he wasn't sure whether to worry or feel relieved.

It had taken all of his effort to sit upright; even if his hands hadn't been tethered, he'd still have struggled. His vision was wavering, the room lurching around him even as he leant his head back against the stone wall. He wasn't sure if it was the after effects of so many curses, or just a good old-fashioned concussion, but he knew that if things didn't settle down soon, he was going to throw up.

The remnants of his glasses lay smashed on the floor near his feet, the glass crunching as he tried to straighten out his legs, numb from the cold floor. Great, he thought. Perfect. How much of the blurring was due to his wonky eyes?

Letting out a soft sigh, he tried to rub his face on his shoulder; it was itchy with encrusted blood. He felt filthy - blood and dirt covered every patch of visible skin and clothing. His shirt was ruined, hanging bloody and ragged from his body, but he was glad he was still wearing it – without it, he would have felt too exposed in front of the elder Malfoy. It was illogical, but it was one of the little things he was clinging to, to stop the big things overwhelming him.

Things like saving Draco's life.

As long as he was able, he would not let Lucius Malfoy get his hands on his son. Even if that meant dying.

The thought of Draco brought a pang of fear and longing to his chest and he tried to push the emotions away. He couldn't – wouldn't dwell on Draco.

Think of something else, damn it.

He was thirsty. It was an idle observation at first, but the more he thought about it, he realised just how thirsty he really was. It felt like something disgustingly foul has crawled into his mouth and died; his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth with each painful swallow.

Butterbeer would be nice, or water, just a large glass of water.

But with the thought of water, came the realisation that he had another problem, a more immediate one, and he let out a rasped, "Fuck."

"Harry Potter?" a little voice squeaked from the shadows, and Harry's head jerked away from the stone.

"What? Who's there?" he asked, and coughed.

With timorous steps, Feazle stepped out into the dim light of the flickering sconces.

Harry drew his legs up and said with false bravado, "What now?"

The house-elf looked upset. "Feazle is not here to hurt Harry Potter, no. Feazle is a friend of Dobby's. Feazle has been hearing from Dobby that Harry Potter is a good Master." He didn’t sound too convinced.

Harry felt a spark of hope flourish in his chest. His voice strained as he asked a barrage of questions. "You know Dobby? Can you get in touch with him? Tell him…" But Feazle was already shaking his head, and Harry's hopes vanished as quickly as they had risen. He sank back against the wall.

"We is not permitted to talk to Dobby, no. Not after he became free. He is not welcome."

"Can't you get a message to him?" Harry's voice was almost a whisper.

The little house-elf was shaking his head so violently, his ears were flapping back and forth. "No, please, don't ask Feazle. Master Malfoy would punish Feazle again. Please, don't ask."

"It's okay, calm down," Harry said weakly. "I'm not asking you to."

Feazle dropped to his knees. "Oh, thank you, Harry Potter. Dobby was right: you are a good, kind Master."

Harry would have rolled his eyes if even the thought of it didn't make his stomach lurch. Instead, all he could manage was a croaked, "Yeah, well, Dobby talks shite," before he let out a racking cough, and he squeezed his eyes closed as his body shuddered, pain erupting everywhere.

He could faintly hear Feazle's panicked chattering, and then he felt a warm calm spreading through his body, like a soothing balm. The trembling eased, and he blinked open his eyes to see the house-elf hovering at his side, a cup of water clutched in his bony hands.

With Feazle's help, Harry gratefully drank the water, feeling better with every mouthful.

"What did you do?" he asked finally, when he'd drunk enough, only sounding a little hoarse.

"It was only a simple calming spell. Feazle used to use it on Master Draco when he was little. Did Feazle do wrong?"

"God, no," Harry said. "Feazle did absolutely brilliantly."

The house-elf puffed out his chest with pride. "Thank you, Harry Potter."

Harry looked over at him. "Feazle?" he said awkwardly, his face pink beneath the grime.

"Yes, Harry Potter?"

Harry shifted a little, and dropped his gaze, before muttering. "Er...I…I really need to pee."

"Oh," Harry heard a delighted clap of hands and he looked up to see Feazle beaming, "Feazle knows just the spell…"

"Thank God." Harry exhaled, and then along with the relief, a thought occurred to him. "You didn't by any chance use it on Master Draco as well?"

When Feazle bobbed his head, he looked at Harry in consternation as Harry laughed, the edges tinged with hysteria.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter. And
the awesome oldenuf2nobetter has done some amazing fanart for the chapter here.
Please go look and tell her how amazing she is!

*

Draco couldn't believe that any one person could possess a voice quite so strident. His own ears were aching, and he felt a small measure of pity for Weasley, who was wincing at his side, obviously still suffering from the stupidity of using his brothers' product.

Draco was aware that his posture was only serving to incense Mrs Weasley further, and he leant even more casually against the wall, arms folded, one elegant ankle hooked over the other.

The other Order members had left the house under the cover of her tirade. With them gone, and Kreacher conspicuously absent, Draco was willing to remain silent whilst Mrs Weasley ranted. If someone had asked, however, he wouldn't have been able to say what exactly she was ranting about – odd words like 'sneaking' and 'dangerous' and 'we'll tell you anything important' filtered through – but mostly he thought about Harry, and tried to formulate a plan that could be put into effect should Kreacher come back with an answer.

And he wanted to know if Ron had heard anything important in the seconds before they were caught.

Mrs Weasley seemed to be winding down; she punctuated her final, scolding words with one light slap of the side of Ron's head, and the vaguest suggestion of movement to repeat the gesture with Draco. He glared at her, daring her to even approach him. There were some things he would not tolerate, not even for Harry.

She seemed to think better of it and dropped her hand, finally herding them up the stairs with the admonition that they go straight to their beds.

Draco's lips curled slightly. As if he could sleep.

But he pushed off the wall and obediently followed Weasley as he trudged up the stairs, heading to the room that – for the moment at least – he called his own.

"Did you hear anything?" he asked Weasley as they turned onto the second floor landing.

"Eh?" Weasley was sporting his usual blank expression, and Draco tried to be patient.

"With the Ear. Did you hear anything?"

"Nah, not really. Only Snape and Moody going at it as usual. I'll owl Fred and George when she's," he glanced down the stairs, "not watching."

Frustrated, Draco nodded. "Fine."

"See you in the morning, yeah?"

"I wasn't planning on going anywhere, Weasley."

"But what if Kreacher comes back?" Weasley frowned. "You'll tell me? You won't do anything stupid?"

"You'll be the first to know," Draco lied smoothly. He was growing to tolerate the Gryffindor, but if he seriously thought Draco was really going to ask for his help, well, he was even more stupid than Draco thought.

Seeming to accept Draco at his word, the other boy nodded. "Right then. Night, Malfoy," he said.

"Goodnight, Weasley," Draco replied politely and walked over to his door, not looking back as he let himself inside.

With precise movements, he began to partially undress, leaving his trousers on in case he had to leave quickly. He neatly folded his shirt and laid it on the back of a chair; he toed off his shoes and placed them, with his socks tucked inside, at the side of the door for the house-elves to clean.

The room was warm, so he slipped his t-shirt off and, bare-chested, lay down on the bed.

"Nox," he said, and the lights – charmed by the house-elves to react to his voice – dimmed, leaving the flicker of the fire in the hearth the only source of illumination in the room.

Draco knew he couldn't sleep, knew that the stomach-churning fear gnawing inside him would make it impossible for him to close his eyes and not see. The darkness of his mind was plagued with images of what Harry was going through, what possible tortures were being inflicted upon him, and if Draco even dared to consider that his father was involved, then his fear was magnified ten-fold.

He tried to sleep, he really did, but after what seemed like an eternity of staring up at the cobwebbed ceiling, he finally admitted defeat and sat up. Not bothering with the light, he slid off the bed and padded barefooted towards a trunk tucked in the corner of the room.

Wincing at the sound of it scraping across the floor, he dragged the trunk over to the hearth and settled cross-legged before it. He reached over to toss a couple of pieces of coal onto the dwindling fire, vaguely disgusted he had to resort to such a Muggle method of fuelling the flames; the restriction of his magic was growing more tiresome as each day passed.

The trunk wasn't locked, and the lid opened easily, revealing the neatly packed contents. Draco knew what he was looking for, and he pulled out a pile of assorted garments and books until he unearthed the small bundle of photographs, hidden in the bottom, wrapped in Harry's Invisibility Cloak. Draco carefully replaced the cloak in the trunk, a sad smile on his lips as he remembered Harry's insistence that he take it "just in case Voldemort or your dad turns up."

You should have kept it, you idiot, Draco thought, his fingers reluctantly lifting from the soft fabric.

The photographs were wrapped in strands of Muggle elastic, and he slid them free, tossing the bands of elastic back into the trunk.

Harry grinned out at him from the pictures, looking happy and relaxed. Draco rubbed the back of his knuckles against his eyes, irritated that the prickling heat of the fire was making them water. Sniffing – coal dust, he reasoned – he sorted through the pictures; they were mostly taken during the holidays when, under the guise of studying for exams, Draco had returned to Hogwarts early to spend time with Harry. His father, distracted by Voldemort, had barely noticed his absence.

One photo, taken in Hogwarts’ snow-covered courtyard, showed Harry looking dangerously gleeful, launching a barrage of snowballs at the camera, or more correctly at its holder, Draco. The image ended in a blur of white before resolving to show Harry again. That was the day Draco had told Harry he loved him.

A chill had crept into the room and Draco moved closer to the dwindling fire; he stretched out his long legs and failed to suppress the shiver that ran up his spine. Twisting awkwardly, he reached out and grabbed a shirt from the top of the trunk, only realising it was one of Harry's – that he'd left behind on his last visit – as he pulled it on, and the warm earthy scent that was pure Harry filled the air.

Draco lay back on the floor, the photos clutched tightly against his chest, and he closed his eyes.

He thought of Harry smiling, of Harry in the snow, and he tried desperately not to think that he would never see Harry again.

*

Across the hall, Ron was awake.

He was sitting fully-dressed in an armchair by the fire. A length of string was tied tightly around his wrist; it trailed across the floor, under the door, over the threadbare hall carpet, and up to the door handle of Draco Malfoy's bedroom. Another tight knot held it firm.

If the Slytherin ponce thought that he, Ron Weasley, bought the whole 'you'll be the first to know' bollocks he'd spouted, then he had his head even further up his own arse than Ron thought.

There was no way Draco was going anywhere without him. Harry was his friend, too. Okay, not in the same way, Ron thought uncomfortably. But he'd been Harry's mate first, his best mate, long before the poncy git had taken an interest.

Ron shifted his position and considered taking another sip of Pepperup Potion, but thought better of it. His mum would notice if the bottle was any emptier, and she'd never let him hear the end of it.

Scratching his ear with his wand, Ron settled back into the chair and let his eyes drift shut. If Draco made a move, the string would jerk and wake him up. And that was Ron's last coherent thought before he fell asleep.

*

Harry had finally fallen into a fitful sleep on the hard cement floor. The dungeon was freezing cold, and even in his sleep, Harry was shivering. But in his dreams he was with Draco, at Hogwarts, in the snow.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Draco Malfoy has angered many by supporting his boyfriend, Harry Potter. When Harry is captured, will Draco be able to stifle the urge to throttle Ron Weasley? Can they work together and rescue the Boy Who Lived? Do they have a choice? Not HBP or DH compliant.


Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter.

*

When Draco strolled into the kitchen in the morning, no-one would have guessed that he had spent the night on the floor. Ron, however, looked like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards: hair sticking out everywhere, dark smudges under his eyes, and it was obvious he was still wearing his crumpled clothes from the previous day. A cleansing spell had freshened them up, but it unfortunately didn't iron out the creases.

"Any news?" Draco asked.

"No-one's about," Ron answered, glancing up from his half-eaten breakfast. His fork paused halfway to his mouth as he stared at the blond boy in disbelief.

The Slytherin was wearing a very familiar blue shirt over his habitual black attire; it hung loosely on his slender frame.

"That's Harry's shirt," Ron said, not noticing the bit of sausage falling off the fork and onto the plate.

Draco poured himself a coffee and walked over to the kitchen table, pulling out a chair and sitting down. "Yes, it is. Bonus points for observation, Weasley; I didn't realise you were so attentive to Harry's clothing."

Ron stared at the familiar cloth, faded from years of washing, and a frown line appeared on his forehead. "But that's his favourite shirt."

"And I'm wearing it." Draco took a sip of coffee and regarded Ron over the rim of the cup. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever worn any of your girlfriend's clothing?"

"No, of course I haven't," Ron said, horrified at the thought. "She's a girl."

Draco shook his head pityingly. "You haven't? How sad. What a boring life you must lead." Ron was saved from coming up with a reply by the sound of voices in the corridor.

Both boys' heads whipped around, staring at the kitchen door as the voices increased in volume. They were arguing.

"I don't approve." Mrs Weasley's voice was shrill as the door swung open.

"Yes, well, as much as we appreciate your opinion, Molly, we have no other choice." Professor McGonagall preceded the other woman into the room. Her red-rimmed eyes alighted on Draco, and she pursed her lips. "Mr Malfoy, if we could have a moment of your time?"

Draco laid down his coffee. "Certainly," he said. "Here?"

"May I suggest we take the discussion into the front room?" Professor Snape spoke from the shadows of the hallway.

"Indeed, Severus," McGonagall agreed, not taking her eyes from Draco. "It is a rather delicate matter. The front room, if you please, Mr Malfoy."

As Draco got to his feet, Ron blurted out, "I want to hear."

"Ronald," Mrs Weasley snapped. "Keep quiet."

"But, I…"

"Mr Weasley," the Transfiguration professor sounded equally sharp, "if you are needed, we will call for you. This is not the time for histrionics."

Ron slumped back in the chair, folded his arms and glowered. Draco barely spared a glance in his direction as he walked to the door. It was all right for him, Ron thought. He was getting told stuff; he could swan off wearing Harry's shirt and listen to whatever–

Harry's clothes. A light went off in Ron's head. Didn't Harry say something about leaving his Invisibility Cloak with the Slytherin? And wouldn't that mean that it was…

Ron's eyes snapped to the kitchen door and the stairs beyond. He was unaware that anyone in the room had noticed the change in his expression; he didn't see the look of suspicion Draco shot him just before he followed Professor McGonagall from the room.

He was far too distracted.

*

"Good morning, Potter," Lucius Malfoy said brightly as he strode into the cell. "Sleep well?"

Harry was sitting back against the wall, and he turned his bruised face to Lucius. "Brilliant, thanks."

Lucius narrowed his eyes at his prisoner's level tone. Harry should have been quivering in fear, both physically and mentally traumatised by the degradation he was suffering, but instead he was alert, defiant, and a good deal more sanitary than he should have been.

The cane clicked on the floor as Lucius regarded Harry, who met his stare; neither spoke.

Feazle skittered into the cell and stood just behind his master, his large eyes focused on the floor while he awaited his master's command. With no warning, the elder Malfoy's cane whipped back and hooked forwards, catching the creature in its path and propelling him forcibly towards the wall.

With a squeal of pain, little hands met cold stone with an audible crack, and the house-elf fell to the ground, whining piteously as he cradled his right hand against his chest.

"No!" Harry struggled to his feet, all pretence of serenity gone in an instant. "Leave him alone." He wavered unsteadily but did not fall, green eyes sparking with anger as they focused on Lucius.

"How noble, Potter, to see you rise to his defence." Lucius smiled at his own joke. "But I fear Feazle has disobeyed my orders. Have you not, Feazle?" He flicked the prone house-elf with his cane, and Feazle squealed.

"No, Master, no. I not disobey any orders. Feazle is a good elf."

"Explain to me then – when I expect our guest to be wallowing in his own filth and begging for mercy – I find this." The cane spun towards Harry and the tip shoved hard into his chest, sending him staggering back against the hard stone. "This," he said again, emphasising the word with another poke of he cane, "is someone who has had assistance. He is clean."

Harry was pressed back against the wall, eyes following the cane as Lucius let it drop back to its usual place by his side.

The house-elf remained on the floor, one hand clutched to his chest, his unblinking focus trained on his master. Lucius relished the terror in the creature's expression. If only Potter could be made to display the same pitiful demeanour; how pleasing it would be to have the boy cower at his feet like a beaten dog.

Slowly, prolonging the moment, he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the house-elf. "I believe punishment is in order. Don't you agree?" he asked, not expecting or waiting for an answer. "Crucio."

As he spoke the word, Harry flung himself from the wall with another shout of admonition. He clearly intended to knock Lucius to the floor, but with the beatings and lack of food, he wasn't as steady on his feet and misjudged the distance. Instead of slamming into Lucius, he barrelled straight into the path of the curse.

He was thrown back against the wall and crashed to the floor, his body twisting violently with the force of the curse. He let out a cry of pain.

Startled, Lucius took a few moments to register what had happened, staring down at the writhing boy at his feet, watching the curse tear through his body. And then, with the abrupt realisation that his master would be displeased if he caused any permanent damage, Lucius broke off the curse. He was aware that the house-elf was sobbing uncontrollably at his feet, but he paid it no mind.

Taking a step closer to Harry, who was still shuddering on the floor with the fading effects of the Cruciatus, Lucius looked down at the sweat-streaked face of the wizarding world's most vaunted hero. "How admirable, Potter," he said scathingly. "How positively heroic." He prodded Harry with the toe of his boot, and Harry flinched away.

"May I ask what exactly you hoped to achieve?" Lucius was genuinely puzzled. "You saved a house-elf a little bit of pain, but do you not think he will punish himself all the more for your act of mercy?"

The thought had obviously not occurred to the boy for his eyes shot to the house-elf, a look of horror flashing across his pathetically easy-to-read face. He made an attempt to hide the expression, aware that Lucius was watching. The trembling in his body was easing, and he laid his head back on the cold stone, clearly too exhausted to rise.

"Whatever is the matter, Potter? Where's that defiant spirit now?"

Taking a ragged breath, Harry focused blood-shot eyes on Lucius. His voice was a strained whisper. "Fuck you."

A spike of irritation shot through the elder Malfoy at Harry's words. "You really are stupid, aren't you, boy? One would almost think you wanted to suffer."

"Better than listen'n to you talk," Harry said.

Lucius's wand was pointing at the prone form before he had time to think about what he was doing, the curse falling easily from his lips. And this time, when Harry screamed, the wand did not waver.

Harry's body whipped back and forth uncontrollably, limbs striking hard off the wall as he was thrown about the floor like a rag doll. His harsh, broken cries were like sweet music to Lucius's ears; a symphony of exquisite suffering.

With a malevolent smile, Lucius strengthened the curse, savouring the sight before him. How glorious it would be to reduce this mongrel to a babbling wreck. How would Draco feel about him then, if he was left with a creature with no more sense than a newborn baby?

Harry's screams were echoing off the damp dungeon walls, and Lucius relished every decibel. He forgot about his intention to find Draco's whereabouts, his master's desire for Harry to remain uninjured; all Lucius could see was the object of all his hatred being destroyed at his feet. And it was a glorious vision.

He did not know how long had passed - it could have been minutes, or mere seconds - but Lucius slowly became aware of the house-elf tugging violently on the sleeve of his robes, and he reluctantly looked down.

"What?" he snapped, surprised when the creature stood his ground.

"You'll kill him, Master," Feazle said loudly, trying to make himself heard over Harry's cries. "Master will be punished."

The house-elf's words took a moment to process, and then Lucius blinked once, twice, and then abruptly ended the curse. The cries snapped off, plunging the room into an eerie almost-silence, the sounds of Harry's gasping breaths seeming like a whisper after his screams.

Lucius was staring down at the house-elf, who was cringing, expecting to be punished for his temerity. "You are unfortunately correct," Lucius said, and Feazle's head lifted. "I do not, for one second, think you were concerned for my welfare, but you were correct to point out our master's wishes." Seeing a look of relief appearing on the house-elf's face, his tone chilled. "Do not think, however, that I have forgotten your transgression."

Feazle bowed low, scuttling back out of reach, muttering apologies.

Taking a calming breath, trying to regain his customary poise, Lucius looked over to Harry.

Harry was lying on his side, facing the wall, as huddled as his shackled limbs would allow. He was trembling violently, and fresh blood flowed from his wrists, wounds torn open from straining against the metal tethers.

Lucius stepped over and crouched down, pressing the bloody flesh with his finger, lips curling upwards when Harry whimpered and tried to pull away. The blood was dark and sticky, and Lucius lifted the daubed finger to his mouth, tongue flicking out to taste the coppery stain. Feeling a strange sense of satisfaction, he wiped the rest of the blood off on the remains of Harry's shirt, noticing for the first time the state it was in.

"Remove that this instant," he said, directing his words to the house-elf, pointing a finger at Harry.

After a moment of confusion, Feazle realised his master was indicating Harry's shirt and not Harry himself, and he painfully raised his unbroken hand to wave it over Harry. His right hand hung uselessly at his side.

The shreds of Harry's shirt vanished, leaving his bruised and bleeding body exposed to Lucius's sadistically appreciative stare. Harry made another sound of despair, and squeezed his eyes tightly closed.

"Now isn't that better?" Lucius said, pleased to see the boy so obviously distressed. He trailed the tip of his wand down the side of Harry's arm in a mockery of a lover's caress. "You must be used to this, surely: the honour of being touched by a Malfoy? You are, after all, Draco's pet."

The boy remained silent, still shuddering, but he was listening – and how could he not, when Lucius was deliberately leaning close and speaking softly in his ear.

"You are nothing more than a rich boy's toy; does that make you proud? Or do you still delude yourself that you are more to him than that?" Lucius laughed. "It is our fault, his mother's and mine, we are guilty of over-indulging him.

"But, no matter; I know my son, Potter. And remember, he is my son – a Malfoy to the core. Soon, when he returns to his rightful place by my side, he will find someone more worthy of his time, and you will be nothing more than a passing memory."

"No." Harry's brokenly voiced a denial, whether to himself or Lucius, Lucius could not tell.

"No? Your self-delusion is most amusing. You think yourself so important? The infamous 'Harry Potter', hero of the wizarding world? In truth, you are no more than a mongrel half-blood with an excess of luck, blundering around with your little flock of trailing sycophants."

Lucius drew back and tucked his wand in his robes. "It amazes me that you continue to value your own existence. Even your family despise you, do they not? And your so-called friends only value you for your status. Do you truly believe that you would be so popular if you were anyone other than The Boy Who Lived? That my son would have thrown his life away for a nobody?"

"S'not true," Harry said. "They are m' friends." Lucius did not fail to notice that it was not Draco that Harry mentioned.

"Really? So where are they now – these friends of yours?"

There was no response, only the sound of Harry's ragged breathing. Lucius got to his feet and wiped off his robes.

"I'll just leave you with this piece of information, Potter: I sent a communication – a ransom note, I believe you would call it – to my son yesterday, and I have yet to receive a reply. Do you still believe he cares for you? It seems he is content to leave you here with me." Lucius's lips formed the barest smile; Harry had tried to stifle the sharp inhalation, but Lucius had heard it clearly. "We shall just have to see about making your stay even more pleasant; it appears you may be here for some time."

Lucius turned, nearly kicking the house-elf, who was quivering at his heels. He looked down. "And you," he said, "will not aid this boy in any way. Do I make myself clear?"

Feazle nodded, wide eyes flicking over to Harry and back to the floor. "Yes, Master."

"Good." With one final sneering glance in Harry's direction, Lucius strode towards the door of the cell, Feazle scuttling after him. As he set off along the corridor, Lucius fancifully imagined he heard a broken sob drift after him. He smiled.

*

"You received this yesterday?" Draco said. "And you didn't think to give it to me then?" He was holding a large envelope in his trembling hand, his thumb pressing against an ornate wax seal.

Professor McGonagall's lips pursed at his tone, and she brusquely replied, "No, Draco, we did not. We felt it more prudent to make sure it was safe."

Draco was practically vibrating with rage, but he hid it, holding his body so tight that the tendons stood out starkly along his neck. "But you couldn't, could you? Because you discovered it wouldn't open."

"How do you know that?" she asked, and Snape, observing from the doorway, straightened.

"If you had asked me, I would have told you yesterday. This letter is charmed. This seal," a long finger pointed, "means that it can only be opened by a Malfoy." Draco lifted his chin. "It can only be opened by me."

Her shoulders sagged. "We feared as much."

Draco's tone was icy, and he stared at her with unblinking grey eyes. "Perhaps my name written on the front should have provided a further clue."

Colour tinged the professor's cheeks as she reacted to his admonishment. She was unused to students being so openly scornful, but it was clear from the pained look of guilt on her face that she felt it was deserved. "Draco, we…"

"Mr Malfoy," Snape interrupted. "Once you are quite finished chastising us for our lack of judgement, perhaps you would deign to actually open the envelope."

Draco's gaze slid over to the Potions master, and he tilted his head, feigning apology. "I'm terribly sorry, sir, but the seal will only open when a Malfoy – and only a Malfoy – is in its presence."

"And you really expect us to believe that?"

Draco raised the envelope in his hand. "I'm here, I'm holding it, touching the seal, and yet it's still closed."

Snape raised a disbelieving eyebrow but could not argue with the facts. Clearly reluctant, he turned to Professor McGonagall. "Unfortunately, he may be telling the truth."

She was horrified. "We can't leave him on his own with the thing; anything could happen when he opens it."

"That may well be," Snape said. "But unless we intend to ignore its contents – and by default, Potter's predicament – someone will have to open it. As you said yourself, there is no choice."

The older woman looked defeated, and she nodded her head. "I know." She took a weary breath and turned to Draco. "We will be right outside the door should you need us."

"I won't."

"Draco, you may not like it, but we are only trying to do what's best."

"What's best for you…and your cause. Not what's best for Harry."

"That's not…" She swallowed back the shrill denial and continued more evenly. "You are still a child – there is much that you do not know."

"Trust me, Professor, you couldn't begin to fathom the true depths of my knowledge. Now, I believe I have a letter of some importance to read, so if you don't mind?" He gestured to the door.

Professor McGonagall turned away, cloak swirling in a flurry of emotion as she flung the door wide and left the room.

Snape's black eyes bored into Draco. "You grow more like your father with each passing day," he said.

Draco remained silent, and the Potions master let out a small exhalation of disgust, before pivoting on his heel and following the other teacher out into the hall. He pulled the door closed behind him, making sure it slammed.

Draco stared blankly at the closed door; Snape's words hung heavily in the air.

Was this how his father felt, then? This burning rage inside at the sheer arrogance of others. How dare they keep this from him, call him a child, assume that they, in any way, knew what was best.

The edges of the seal pressed into the soft flesh of his fingers as he clutched the letter.

When he'd seen it in McGonagall's hand – the familiar penmanship, the Malfoy seal – fear had flooded through him, a deep-dark terror made real by the sight of a single letter.

He'd hidden it behind the mask of scathing anger, and even now, alone in the room, he was reluctant to let the anger go. He felt his every move was being watched. The fear would smother him given the chance, and Harry needed him sane and focused.

Harry.

The thought of Harry vitalised him into action. He grabbed a wooden-backed chair from near the desk and carried it over to the door, jamming it forcefully under the handle and locking the door as effectively as he could have done with his wand. They would be forced to blast it to get it open.

Returning to the desk, he laid the envelope down and took a deep breath. There was a letter opener lying on a stand, and he picked it up, pushing the pointed tip against his thumb and puncturing the skin. Blood immediately welled from the wound, and he held the bleeding finger over the envelope, letting a single scarlet drop fall onto the wax seal.

He'd lied to the professors. The seal would open, no matter who was present: all it required was a Malfoy's blood.

As the droplet of blood hit the seal, the wax rippled like water, and the envelope very slowly began to rise into the air, the thick paper unfurling from its constricting folds.

Whilst the Weasleys, and the rest of the inferior wizarding families, had to resort to the childish simplicity of Howlers, the Malfoys had developed a more sophisticated version as a means of communication. Draco had rarely seen it used; it required an intricate amount of spell-work to create, something his father saw little need for unless he wanted to create an impression.

Draco stepped away from the desk, his eyes not leaving the envelope, unfolded now into a single sheet of parchment as it hovered in the air.

The parchment began to stretch, rippling and twisting in an invisible breeze; sharp folds started to shape the paper, making corners, lines, edges, and with each subtle origami-like crease, a face began to appear, long and disdainful and chillingly familiar.

Lucius Malfoy's visage stared at Draco from sightless white paper eyes, and yet Draco could see his father before him. It took all of his will to stand firm and wait, and not bow his head in the habitual respect he had long been trained to show.

A few last tweaking tucks and the shaping ceased, and with a surprising fluidity of movement, the paper mouth began to move.

"You are a disgrace to the name Malfoy." Lucius Malfoy's voice was icy in its disdain. "And I am ashamed to call you my son."

Draco clenched his jaw tight and tilted his chin up, staring at the image of his father in silent defiance. He would not show even an imitation of his parent how much that comment wrenched at his heart. His father's voice continued.

"But I am a forgiving man, Draco; I understand the attraction of the forbidden, the need to act on your desires. And now is the time to set aside these distractions and regain your former position within proper society. Few know of your transgression, we have kept it hidden, and although our master will not allow your treachery to go unpunished, he will, I am sure, be most appreciative of the gift we both have for him and show you leniency."

Harry, Draco thought. He was trembling, not out of fear, but from fury. How dare his father think that this was a whim, that Harry was no more than chattel to be gifted to his master.

"We have not the luxury of time for you to see sense on your own, so I have been forced to resort to a plebeian method to encourage you to return to your home, where we can discuss the issues you have in a rational fashion."

Draco snorted derisively as the parchment Lucius paused to let his words sink in.

"I suggest you make your way here quickly; with each moment that passes, my patience is tested. And I'm sure I need not remind you of the consequences of testing my patience, do I? Or perhaps you do need a little visual reminder."

The face mimicked Lucius's sneer. "Don't keep me waiting, Draco. Return home before it is too late."

With those final, chilling words, the paper features contorted, the mouth widening and spitting a piece of card onto the floor at Draco's feet before disintegrating into a million dusty fragments that scattered across the surface of the desk.

Draco stared at the remnants of the parchment, his heart thud-thudding painfully in his chest as he let his gaze fall on the card at his feet; it was a photo, he realised, lying face down, and very slowly he reached down and picked it up.

The air shifted around him, creating swirling eddies in the papery dust. Draco's fingers tightened on the photograph, and he stood, barely breathing, dreading what he would see.

He looked down at the innocuous piece of card, and almost of their own accord, his fingers turned it over and he saw the picture.

Dark and barely lit, he recognised the Malfoy dungeons at once, but that was a subconscious recognition, his grey eyes were trained on the face of boy in the photograph: Harry, bereft of glasses and eyes closed, bloody and bruised, his hair gripped tight in an elegant hand as his head was lifted and held to face the camera like a trophy on display. The hand abruptly released its hold, and Harry's head fell hard against the cement floor. Draco hissed. And then the hand was back, twisting in Harry's hair and lifting again as the image continued on its unending cycle.

It was simple, direct, and had Lucius Malfoy been standing in the room, Draco would have thrust his fist into his father's face and kept pounding until there was nothing left to distinguish him as a Malfoy but his blood-streaked blond hair.

He crossed to the desk and laid the photo on it, placing both hands on the dusty surface and keeping his head bowed. Taking slow steady breaths, eyes staring at the repeating image, he tried to marshal his thoughts

"You can take the cloak off, Weasley," he said tightly, not lifting his head. "I know you're there."

There was a tense silence in the room behind him, and he pushed away from the desk and turned around, focusing on an empty space a few feet away. "Next time make sure the cloak is actually covering your feet."

There was a rustle of sound, a brief flash of trouser leg above the visible pair of battered trainers, and then a muffled, "Oh, bloody hell."

The cloak lifted to reveal a red-faced Ron Weasley. The red head gathered the cloak into his arms, and looked shamefacedly at Draco. "When did you…?"

"Give me some credit, Weasley. You came into the room when Snape and McGonagall left. Your stench was instantly apparent."

Weasley scowled, and Draco turned back to the photo suddenly tired of the bickering; he had no stomach for it.

Weasley came over to his side, looking down at the photo of Harry. "Harry… mate," he said painfully, swallowing heavily. "What the hell are we going to do?"

Draco let out a breath and then said firmly, "Obviously, we're going to go to the Manor and rescue him."