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On Your Side

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Harry carefully finished a masonry restoration spell and stepped back to view his handiwork. It looked like he’d put it together properly, which was more than could be said for his first few efforts. He had signed up to help with the restoration at Hogwarts after he had defeated Voldemort, as had a number of other people who had nowhere else to go. Like other students his age, he was also studying for his NEWTs at the same time and living in the dormitory that had suffered the least amount of damage during the battle: Slytherin.

He’d grown to like the common room in Slytherin with its underground view of the lake. It was peaceful. The dungeons were quiet, calm, and felt like a sanctuary after his year on the run. It was a little strange, at first, rooming with Ron, Neville, Ernie, and Draco Malfoy, but Draco had definitely changed—to the point where he had voluntarily apologized to all of them, individually, without being asked. Harry found he actually enjoyed Draco’s company now, in the evenings when they sat around the fire and tried to study for NEWTs together.

Harry frowned, focused in on a detail carved into the stonework. Had he put it together correctly? He could suddenly see it more clearly. It grew clearer and larger and more detailed as he looked at it, and he couldn’t seem to look away. He vaguely heard someone shouting at him, felt someone tugging at his arm, and then everything seemed to dissolve in a sparkling haze of too much.

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There was an unrecognizeable surge of magic from somewhere nearby, but Hermione, used to weird bursts of magic while they rebuilt Hogwarts, ignored it in favour of the roof support she had nearly completed. When she finished, she stepped back to admire her work, and then noticed that Harry had been standing still for too long. “Harry?” she said. “Harry, are you okay?” She tapped on his shoulder and he didn’t move.

“Ron, something’s wrong with Harry,” she called.

Ron came hurrying over from his section. “What’s happened?”

“He won’t move. He’s just staring at the wall and he won’t respond.”

Ron tapped his friend, tugged at his arm, and leaned over to look at his eyes. He swore. Then he pulled out his wand and conjured his Patronus. “Go to Madam Pomfrey,” he instructed. “Tell her that Harry Potter has just come online as a sentinel and is zoned. Hermione and I are bringing him to the hospital wing, but he’s going to need a guide.”

He sent the Patronus off and did a stretcher charm. “Come on, let’s get going.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Hermione asked. “What’s a sentinel?”

Ron gave her a funny look. “You’ve never heard of sentinels?” he asked. “They’re mostly a Muggle thing; how do you not know this? I mean, you know everything.”

“What’s mostly a Muggle thing?”

“Um, shortest way to explain it is that a sentinel’s someone with extra-strong senses. Harry’s focused in too much on one of them and gotten sort of lost. A guide is someone with empathic abilities that can ground his senses and help him not zone out. Again, how do you not know this?”

“How is this a Muggle thing?” Hermione asked. “It sounds magical.”

“Nah,” said Ron, guiding Harry around a corner. “Most sentinels and guides are Muggles. Wizarding sentinels have an extra sense to cover magic, but I don’t think it’s really a magical thing at all. Trust Harry to be another kind of weird, right?”

Hermione snorted. “If it’s weird, it’ll find him,” she said. “So this guide thing. Can any guide help him?”

They headed up the stairs to the floor where the infirmary was located. “Depends,” said Ron. “His guide’ll be the best at pulling him out, but most guides should be able to get him out of this zone.”

“His guide?”

Ron gestured to Hermione to open the door. Madam Pomfrey pointed them to a bed. “He looks like he’s in a bad way,” she said after she quickly assessed him. “I’ve called all the guides here to come and see if they can help. Severus will be able to pull him out if no one else can, but I’d rather not bring him in if I don’t have to. He’s still not doing well.”

Hermione watched as Ron settled Harry on the bed and then a woman Hermione recognized from Hogsmeade ran in. She gently laid a hand on Harry’s wrist, then immediately let go when Harry flinched.

“Sorry, Poppy,” she said. “He’s too high-level for me to handle him.”

“I was worried about that,” said Madam Pomfrey. “Never mind. We’ve got some higher-level guides here who might be able to do it.”

Hermione and Ron had to step back and wait as each guide who arrived made Harry flinch, or even flail, in the case of a couple. Madam Pomfrey looked more and more concerned as the minutes went by.

Then a panicked-looking Draco Malfoy ran into the room and skidded to a stop.

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Draco was in the middle of rebuilding a roof support when the surge of energy hit his consciousness. His sentinel was nearby, and had just come online. He wanted to scream with frustration and settled for a few curse words. It would take him at least half an hour more of work to get the roof in this section done safely.

Less than ten minutes later, a Patronus darted through to inform him that a sentinel had come online and zoned and needed the help of a guide. “I’ll be there when I can,” Draco said, and the Patronus ran to the next person.

He could feel his sentinel’s distress but he focused on his work. It wouldn’t do to have the roof collapse just because he couldn’t concentrate. As soon as the last piece of stone was safely mortared in place with magic, he ran as fast as he could to the infirmary.

He nearly fell over when he stopped and saw who it was. “I got here as quickly as I could, Madam Pomfrey,” he said. “I was putting some of the roof back on and couldn’t stop, but I felt him come online.”

She smiled. “Good. He hasn’t responded well to anyone else. I wondered if you might be a match, given your level.”

“You’re not going to keep me from him?” Draco asked, looking terrified.

The expression on Poppy’s face made Hermione wonder if she had underestimated the matron. “If anyone tries, they will answer to me,” she said. “Now go to him.”

Draco took Harry’s hand and murmured softly to him. Hermione couldn’t hear what he was saying, but Harry reacted. His eyes opened, and he sat up and wrapped his arms around Draco. “Draco!” he said, his voice sounding relieved.

“I’m here, Harry,” Draco said.

“Good,” said Harry. He pulled Draco down on the bed next to him, buried his face in Draco’s neck, and shut his eyes.

A moment later, Draco was quietly laughing at his sentinel. “He’s asleep,” he said. “That zone must have exhausted him.” He readjusted himself so he was all the way on the bed. Harry whimpered slightly and tightened his grip. “I’m not leaving, Harry,” he whispered in the sentinel’s ear, and Harry relaxed again.

Madam Pomfrey smiled. “I’ll arrange one of the guest suites for you two. You can move when he wakes up.”

“Thanks,” said Draco. He moved one of Harry’s arms so he could settle more comfortably onto the bed.

“Why do they need a guest suite?” Hermione asked Ron.

Draco raised an eyebrow at her. “Something you don’t know, Granger?” he asked.

“That’s what I said,” Ron commented. “Seriously, Hermione, how have you never heard of sentinels and guides?”

“I have an answer to that,” said Madam Pomfrey. “I’ve gathered from other Muggle-borns that they don’t usually learn about sentinels and guides in school in this country until they’re about twelve, so Hermione would have missed it. And it’s something that’s taught at home for wizarding children; the Hogwarts curriculum doesn’t deal with it except in Muggle Studies, since it’s considered primarily a Muggle phenomenon.”

“And I dropped Muggle Studies,” said Hermione. She sighed. “I need to go to the library now. Although...Draco, why is Harry nuzzling your neck?”

Draco snorted. “Trust you to fixate on that. Sentinels and guides who are compatible can bond with each other. It’s sort of a metaphysical melding thing. I’ll be able to help Harry stabilize his senses and provide him with a baseline; he’ll help me manage my empathy and strengthen my shields. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Harry and I are both high level, which means that, practically, we’re only compatible with each other. Another guide could help Harry with zones and keep him from overdoing things with his senses, but he and I are only able to bond with each other. We’re going to be a permanent fixture in each other’s lives.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “You mean you’re now Harry’s partner.”

“If you’d like to use that term, yes.” Draco decided she might as well know the rest of it. “And yes, the bond in our case will almost certainly be a sexual one. Lower-level sentinels and guides can and often do form platonic bonds, but something about the way things work for the higher levels means that that’s not an option available for us.”

“Really? That seems...odd.”

“Well, I’m not asexual, and I know Harry isn’t. And I highly doubt that we’re siblings, and since those are the only known exceptions to that rule...”

Hermione blushed. “Oh. So that’s why you need private rooms.”

Draco smirked. “Yes, I doubt either of us would appreciate bonding out here in the hospital wing, since the process does involve rather more than either of us would want you seeing.”

“And speaking of,” said Madam Pomfrey. She called a house elf and instructed it to prepare an empty guest suite so that it was something called “sentinel-friendly” and stocked with food and water. It squeaked with excitement and vanished to do her bidding.

Hermione slid into one of the chairs. “This is so weird. I can’t believe I’d never even heard of sentinels and guides. My parents never mentioned it, and I don’t think it’s ever come up here at school.”

“There’s an entire section in the library on the subject,” said Ron. At the expression on Hermione’s face he said, “What? I read, too, you know.”

“But I’ve been through the entire library and never seen it.”

“It’s on the other side of the Restricted Section,” said Draco. “The governors wanted it that way. The blood purists aren’t always happy about the phenomenon. It’s an indication that wizards and muggles aren’t as different as they like to pretend. My father was deeply disappointed that I was a guide. He would have tolerated it had I been a sentinel, but he hates guides. I’m still amazed he tolerated Severus for so long.”

“Snape’s a guide?” said Ron. “Really?”

Draco nodded while he gently combed his fingers through Harry’s hair. “He’s been training me. I came online last year, before everything happened with Dumbledore. Right after Harry and I had that fight where he nearly managed to kill me.”

Ron winced. “That’s a great way to endear yourself to your guide.”

“Well, neither of us knew we were each other’s then. I wasn’t online and neither was he. I can’t exactly blame him. I was trying to kill Dumbledore, however half-heartedly.” Draco snorted. “I mean, if he tried killing me now, I’d be more than a little perturbed, sure, but back then, I was the enemy, as far as he knew.”

“You’re a guide and he’s a sentinel,” said Ron. “He’s not going to attack you.”

“Really?” said Hermione. “That’s your reasoning? Not them getting along over the last few months?”

“Sentinels don’t attack guides,” said Ron. “It just doesn’t happen.”

Hermione snorted. “Right.”

“No, he’s actually correct,” said Draco. “Much as it pains me to admit it.”

Ron rolled his eyes at that.

“Sentinels have a profoundly strong protective instinct regarding guides,” said Draco. “There would be something seriously wrong if a sentinel did attack a guide. Our history of mistrust isn’t enough to override that protective instinct. And you may have noticed that his first response to me was rather more cuddly than offensive.”

Hermione laughed. “You used the word ‘cuddly.’ I think I may have to hold that over your head for a while.”

Draco shrugged. “Fine,” he said. “Would you mind giving us some privacy now? You can go raid the library for information about the sentinel and guide community. Harry’s likely to be more than a little tactile when he wakes up, and I’ll have to explain a few things to him first before we relocate. I don’t really want to bond solely on instinct without him knowing why it’s happening.”

Ron stood and offered a hand to Hermione. He pulled her to her feet. “Great. Have a good time! We’ll see you in a week or so.”

He towed Hermione out of the hospital wing just as she asked, “Why won’t we see them for a week?”

Draco snorted again. He was impressed that Hermione had missed out on learning about sentinels and guides, particularly since they occurred in both the Muggle and magical worlds. However, the climate in wizarding Britain in recent years hadn’t been particularly sentinel or guide friendly. The only ones from that community to be Death Eaters were himself and Severus—he had been forced into it before coming online and Severus had been a double-agent. However, even the theoretically Muggle-friendly Order of the Phoenix hadn’t been particularly welcoming towards sentinels and guides. He knew that Nymphadora Tonks had been a low-level guide, and she’d acted as Lupin’s guide for a while, but Lupin was too high-level for them to be able to bond with each other. He still wondered why on earth they’d gotten married when there was every chance that either would leave for someone they could actually bond with.

The Sentinel-Guide Centre for the UK had lost a lot of people during the war. No one there was willing to side with the Death Eaters, particularly since so many sentinels and guides were Muggles, and they had fought back. The Death Eaters had been ruthless, and Dumbledore had, well, not exactly ignored the SGC’s need, but hadn’t helped them much, either.

Draco knew that there was an international community for sentinels and guides but didn’t really know why they hadn’t helped. His guess was that it was linked to the Statute of Secrecy. He’d recently learned that the UK was more strict about how the Statutes were enforced than any other country in the world. He wondered if the magical sentinels and guides had been discouraged from reaching out to the international community for help during the war. Again, probably Dumbledore. He was all for finding magical allies in Europe, particularly among the non-human peoples, but seemed to have primarily paternalistic views towards Muggles.

But Draco had more important things to concern himself with for the moment. He had a sentinel. That deep emptiness that he could never quite ignore would finally be filled. He gently ran his fingers through Harry’s hair. Harry...his source of frustration and irritation and obsession for years...more recently, his friend...and the person he was convinced he’d never be with.

A surface bond had sprung to life with their first contact and Harry’s instant acceptance of Draco. The connection made Draco’s shields feel less brittle, even though it wasn’t a full bond yet.

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Harry drifted to awareness slowly. He was warm and he felt safe. There was someone there, someone who smelled and felt right and whose heartbeat he felt like he could listen to forever. The weird state he’d sunk into was gone and he felt stable again.

“There you are,” a voice murmured. Harry hummed in agreement. He knew that voice.

He opened his eyes. “Draco,” he said, smiling. He wasn’t surprised to find Draco there, though he supposed he should be.

“Harry,” Draco replied, smiling back. “How’s your head?”

“A little achey, but fine,” he said.

“Good,” he said, catching the hand that Harry lifted to his face. “I know you’re going to want to touch me more, but we need to talk first.”

Harry groaned. He wanted to explore Draco, and they were in a bed, which was convenient.

“Please,” Draco added. “I’ll feel better if we talk first.”

At that, Harry agreed. “Okay, what do we need to talk about?”

Draco chuckled. “You really are out of it, aren’t you? What happened earlier? Do you remember?”

Harry focused on the last thing he could remember. “Everything was too much, too loud, too clear, too smelly...”

“Yes,” said Draco. “That was you coming online. You’re a Sentinel.”

“Really?” said Harry, brows knitting in surprise. “I’ve sort of heard them. People with extra-strong senses, right?”

“Yes,” said Draco. “I’m glad you know that much. Hermione had never even heard of them.”

Harry nuzzled Draco’s arm contentedly. “My cousin watched a television program about them once and I got to see part of it before my aunt made him switch it off. Said something about unnatural freaks. Since that’s the line they took on magic, too, I figured sentinels weren’t that bad.”

“No, they’re not,” said Draco. “But they can get overwhelmed by their senses because there’s so much going on. It’s hard to control your senses without help. Sentinels have guides, people with empathic abilities, who bond with them and help them balance out their senses. And guides, well, our shields only work so well without a bond, so you sentinels help us with our shields so we don’t go mad from picking up on everyone’s emotions.”

“That sounds rough,” said Harry. “So you’re a guide?”

“Yeah,” said Draco. “I came online before Dumbledore died. Anyway, I felt you come online earlier. You’re my sentinel.”

“Your sentinel?”

“Yes,” said Draco. “I’m a high-level guide: my empathy is strong and I can do a lot with it. You’re definitely a high-level sentinel. Your senses will be stronger than those of most sentinels. The problem with being high-level is that there are fewer and fewer compatible guides or sentinels at that point. Severus rated me around level 10, which means I have basically one match.”

“Me,” Harry breathed.

Draco nodded and then found himself pulled into a deep kiss by Harry. He shivered at the contact and let himself fall into the kiss before he remembered that they were in the hospital wing. He pulled back. “Harry, we’re in public,” he murmured.

Harry growled at that. Draco sighed. Bloody sentinel. “Harry, Madam Pomfrey had a room set up for us. We can get there through the Floo. But you’ll need to let go of me for a moment so we can get over there.”

Harry blinked, coming back out of his instincts. “Sorry, I should have asked to kiss you, and I’m not usually like this.”

“Your instincts are on high alert right now,” said Draco, swinging himself out of bed and offering his hand to Harry. “You’re going to be protective of me, since I’m basically your source of sanity, but you’ll be a little more jumpy about things until we bond and your instincts know that we’re secure.” He raised his voice. “Madam Pomfrey, we’re off. Harry’s fine and I’ve explained things to him. You probably shouldn’t come in here; he’s a little instinctual right now and might see you as a threat.”

“Thank you, Mr. Malfoy!” Madam Pomfrey called from her office. “Contact me if you two have any problems, please!”

“Of course!” Draco called back before drawing Harry over to the Floo.

When they tumbled out of the fireplace in what Harry recognized as a Hogwarts’ guest room, Draco turned and shut the Floo. “The house elves will probably pop by with food occasionally but otherwise we’ll be left alone for now. Do you want to talk some more or did you want to bond?”

“Bonding means we stay together forever, right?”

Draco was surprised by the emotions coming off of Harry for a moment and then he remembered the conversation they had had after his father had disowned him, when Harry had talked a little bit about the Dursleys. “Forever,” he promised hoarsely, and leaned in to kiss his sentinel.

Chapter Text

“Dr. Sandburg? We have a report from the UK branch that you should see.”

Blair looked up from the paper he was writing at his assistant’s voice. “What was that?” He tried to shift his mind out of sentinel legends from New Zealand and back to the world of reports and paperwork. He took a gulp of the coffee sitting next to his keyboard and realized it had gone cold.

“There’s a report from the UK branch. They have a new alpha pair, so they sent us the information, as per protocol?” Nathaniel looked a little anxious as he offered the folder to the other guide.

“Sorry, Nate,” said Blair. “I guess I was a little lost in my work.” He stood and stretched, then took the folder and opened it. “A new alpha pair...that’s good. The UK hasn’t had one in a while, have they?”

“They don’t currently have an alpha pair,” said Nathaniel, flopping into Blair’s desk chair. “At all. I double-checked, since I couldn’t remember the last time we’d heard from them on this topic. Their last alpha pair were killed in that war the wizarding community in Britain was having about twenty years ago, and no one emerged to take their place.”

“That’s...really strange,” said Blair. “The UK community’s big enough that they should have more than one alpha pair. I mean, DC alone has at least two, and the UK should have a larger population than they do. Why haven’t we looked into it?”

“The notes in their file say that they were investigating and would report back. You’ve only been Prime for five years, so it was before your time.”

“Did you take a look at the file?”

“No, once it printed I brought it straight over. What do we have?” Nathaniel asked. It would be his responsibility to liaise with the UK branch to contact the new pair.

Blair looked through the first few pages. “Both sentinel and guide are eighteen, so both pretty young, and both are wizards. Bonded a week ago and just registered their bonding with the UK office. The sentinel came online the same day they bonded, so they probably knew each other beforehand if the guide was around when the sentinel first emerged. The sentinel’s name is Harry James Potter. No family listed; emergency contact is someone named Hermione Granger.

“The guide is named Draco Malfoy, and he has been online for about sixteen months. His file says that he has received some training from a Severus Snape, considered one of the best guides in Britain. Can you look him up?

Nathaniel leaned over to Blair’s computer and started searching their database. “What else?”

“There’s parents noted, but a no contact order is in place. Probably indicative of guide prejudice. Emergency contact is the aforementioned Severus Snape. Guide Malfoy was tested briefly after coming online, but hasn’t regularly come in for updates.”

“There was another war in wizarding Britain that just ended a few months ago,” Nathaniel noted. “That’s probably why.”

“Fair enough,” said Blair. “Guide Malfoy tested very high on the scale, and is rated at a level 10 now that he’s bonded. Sentinel Potter is also a level 10, all six senses, and they definitely hit the alpha qualifications. They’ll need additional training at those levels, so we should probably contact them to arrange a time for them come out here.”

“I’ll put it on the list for next week,” said Nathaniel. “We should give them a little more time to settle into their new bond. Ah, here it is. Severus Snape, guide and wizard. Oh, this is weird. Come look, Blair.”

Blair leaned over his assistant’s shoulder. He frowned. “He’s a level 10 guide and is unbonded, and is still noted as one of their best guides? Where’s the note about when he came online?”

Nathaniel scrolled down. “Is this even possible?” He pointed to the date. “It’s been twenty years since he came online, and according to their latest assessments on him, he’s still functioning fine as level 10, even without the stabilizing influence his sentinel would have provided.” He frowned. “Records don’t indicate that they’ve even bothered to offer some of the options available for augmenting his shields to keep him stable.”

“I think we found our missing alpha guide,” said Blair, looking at the photograph of the man in the file. “What happened to his sentinel?”

“Who knows?” said Nathaniel. “Should we contact Guide Snape and see how he’s managing as well?”

“Probably.” Blair leaned against the wall and groaned. “And UK branch never noticed this discrepancy, did they?”

“Nothing here indicates that they did. Snape’s listed as having attended several gatherings, but he stopped attending after he started teaching at a wizarding school in Scotland. Someplace called Hogwarts.” Nathaniel scanned through more of the file. “And there isn’t much here other than the basic eval each time he comes in. Absolutely about how he’s handling such high-level empathy without a sentinel to shield him or without some of the support the SGC can offer.”

Blair frowned. “This means UK branch isn’t doing their job, if they aren’t evaluating him more thoroughly. We’ll need to audit everything they’ve got up on the database, and then send a team over to take a look. How did we miss this?”

“UK branch has always been a little remote,” said Nathaniel. “They’re about half and half magical and non-magical and the UK magical community is the most restrictive about the Statute of Secrecy in the world. Most of what I know about what’s happened over there lately comes from the magical guides who stay in touch with some of the community over there. As far as I can tell, the UK branch sent us nothing about the war they were having as it was happening. I only heard about it after things were done and dusted. What I did hear was troubling; it’s on your list of things to bring up at the next big meeting, when Jim gets back. They lost a lot of people during the wizard war; apparently the losing side was not fond of sentinels or guides.”

Blair made a few notes and then said, “Can you pull up the files for a few more sentinels and guides from the UK to see if the evaluations are as limited as they are for this one?”

“Sure,” said Nathaniel, backtracking and typing in a few search terms. “Give me a moment.”

The phone in the outer office rang. “I’ll get it,” said Blair, taking the few steps out the door to Nathaniel’s desk. “Hello, Dr. Sandburg’s office, Dr. Sandburg speaking.”

“Dr. Sandburg, are you answering your assistant’s phone again?”

“Nate’s busy,” said Blair. “What is it, Lilah?”

“I’ve got an international call for you,” she said. “There’s a guide from Britain calling. He says he’s Alpha Guide Draco Malfoy and he needs to speak with you urgently.”

“Really?” said Blair. “Put him through to my office.”

He hung up and picked the phone up in his own office when it rang, switching it over to speakerphone so Nathaniel could listen. “Dr. Sandburg.”

“Hello, Dr. Sandburg,” said a clipped voice. “This is Guide Draco Malfoy. I’m sorry to trouble you, and about throwing my status around to get through the phone system, but I’ve got a situation that requires more help than the branch here is able to provide.”

Blair leaned up against his desk. “Of course,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. We were going to be contacting you and your sentinel in another week or two, since that’s standard practice for all alpha pairs. It’s just come to my attention that you haven’t had any alpha pairs in your area for longer than is wise, and your centre has a lot of irregularities.”

“Yes, about that...I’ve discovered a case of pair-bond interference.”

Blair and Nathaniel both hissed. Pair-bond interference was one of the most serious crimes one could commit in the sentinel and guide community. “What do you know?” Blair asked.

“My mentor, Severus Snape, is a high-level guide who has never bonded. His sentinel just recognized him for the first time. It did not go well, as they’ve known each other since they were eleven. His sentinel believed that Severus had been hiding from him and obscuring his recognition abilities and tried to attack him. Once we got them separated and I took a look at their empathic landscapes, I discovered evidence that someone had been using mental magic on both of them. The sentinel, despite extensive contact with his guide in the past, had been unable to recognize him as such, and the guide, well, the guide believed he had been rejected, and the spell reinforced that.”

“Who did this?” Blair’s voice sounded like it was made of ice.

“He’s dead,” said Draco. “Over a year ago. He was powerful enough that the spell only recently started fracturing. Sir... I did some more thorough examinations, as much as I could. I don’t think it would be safe for them to bond unless their empathic landscapes are closer to healed, and the spell is gone. I can’t trust the branch here; they’re barely competent most of the time, and they’ve lost half their people in the war. Do you know about that?”

“Not much, I’m afraid,” said Blair. “Your magical community is the most restricted one that we know of and they avoid sharing anything with us if at all possible. Are you able to come out here?”

“I was hoping that was a possibility,” said Draco. “When can we come?”

“How soon can you get here?” Blair asked.

“One moment,” said Draco. They heard the murmur of another voice in the background. “Yes, Harry, I have a passport. I’m not that much of a pureblood,” Draco said. “Does Lupin have one?” There were a few more not quite intelligible sentences, then Draco redirected his attention. “Dr. Sandburg, my sentinel believes we’d be able to pull everything together to leave tomorrow sometime. Would that be acceptable?”

“That should be fine,” said Blair. “That would put you here in a day and a half or so?”

“We’ll be taking a Portkey, which is much faster than an aeroplane,” said Draco. “I think we can get the SGC here to issue us one quickly without having to go through Ministry channels, so we can leave late morning or early afternoon tomorrow. An international Portkey takes approximately five to ten minutes to reach its destination.”

“That’s insane,” said Blair. “Also fantastic. The sooner you can get here, the better. I’ll pull together our best healers. Oh, and how many people should we be prepared for?”

“We thought that Severus and his sentinel, Remus Lupin, and the two of us should be the only ones to come. The man who did this to them was well-respected in our community and we’re concerned that if word got out about what happened, Severus and Lupin would encounter problems. The quieter we can keep this until they’re well, the better.” Draco’s voice sounded strained.

“Have you documented it on your end?”

“Yes. We have documentation and confirmation from two other people who knew Dumbledore well and can testify that his magical signature is present in the spells on them. They won’t be releasing the information unless it becomes necessary at some point.”

“Okay,” said Blair. “Get out here as soon as you can, and I’ll get things ready on our end. See you soon.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Draco. “See you tomorrow.” He hung up.

Blair heaved a sigh. “We have our work cut out for us,” he said. “Can you get Winnifred Cooper in here? I want a healer who knows magic working on this.”

“I’ll call her,” Nate said, minimizing the database on his computer and starting to pull up contact details for guide healers. “Did you also want me to book one of the guest suites in your building?”

Blair’s brow furrowed. “Yes. I think...yes, we’ll put Guide Malfoy and Sentinel Potter in a suite, and then Snape and Lupin can stay in our guest room so Jim and I can keep an eye on them while we’re still in the healing process. I’ll call Jim...no, I can’t, he’s out consulting for the police department right now.”

“I’ll make sure food and clean linens are provided and the suite is freshly cleaned,” said Nathaniel. “Was there anyone else you wanted to bring in?”

“I’m going to see if I can get Phil in. Book another guest suite for them and I’ll give him a call.”

“On it,” said Nathaniel, heading back to the outer office.

Blair sank into his chair and reached for the phone, while scrolling to the correct entry in the file Nate had pulled up for him. He tapped in a number and waited while it rang.

“Coulson,” said the voice on the other end.

“Phil? This is Blair Sandburg.”

“Blair? I take it there’s a reason you’re calling my cell?”

Blair smiled at the tone in Phil’s voice. “I’ve got a code 546 coming in tomorrow, complicated by factor 7.”

Phil went from disgruntled to business-like immediately. “And you want me on it?”

“I want you on the team for it,” said Blair. “It’s been going on for twenty years, so it’s going to be bad. We’re calling Win Cooper in as well, and I think between the three of us, we can manage.”

“You might want to have Daniel on standby just in case,” said Phil.

“I’ll give him a call tomorrow if I think he’s needed once I’ve taken a look at the situation with my own eyes. Are you able to make it?”

“We can be there the day after tomorrow,” said Phil. “We’re on our way back to a debriefing at the moment and we’ll leave as soon as we can. Are we meeting at the centre in Cascade?”

“I want to keep it a little more private than that. We’ll be at mine and Jim’s place. There’ll be a suite reserved in the building for you.”

“Great. See you then.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Phil hung up his cell and leaned back against the wall. He was exhausted, but he could sleep on the plane on the way out to Cascade. He vaguely remembered the guest suites available for sentinels and guides in Jim and Blair’s building being fairly nice. He ran through the list of things to do. They would need to go home and pack. Transportation would also require figuring out.

Clint thudded onto the bench next to Phil. “Here,” he said, handing him an energy bar and a bottle of water.

“Thanks,” said Phil. “Just got off the phone with Blair Sandburg.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “Really. What did he want with you?”

“He needs us out in Cascade for a while. I’ll get the leave-of-absence sorted with SHIELD after the debrief.” Phil downed half the bottle of water. “It’s a case of pair-bond interference.”

“Shit,” said Clint. “Are you up for that?”

“Yeah,” he said. “What about you?”

“I’ll be fine,” Clint replied. “You’re doing most of the work, right?”

Phil snorted. “Don’t I always?”

Clint smirked at him and slid an arm around his guide’s shoulders, drawing him closer. “Rest,” he said. “And finish eating that before you doze off.”

Phil ate the last of the energy bar, grimacing at the taste, and leaned more firmly against his sentinel. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply, and let himself relax.

Clint felt some of the tension leave Phil’s body and smiled. He breathed in the scent of his guide and the anxiety that had surged up when he heard the phrase “pair-bond interference” faded. They were good. And if the person who had interfered with this unknown couple’s bond was available, he was going to kick their ass.

Chapter Text

Draco hung up the phone and sagged with relief against Harry. “We leave tomorrow as soon as we’ve got the Portkey lined up,” he said. “They can help.”

Harry hugged his guide closer. “Good,” he said. “Did you want to call the centre or should I?”

“They’ll listen to you more than me,” said Draco, edging out of Harry’s way. The phone booth was cramped with the two of them crowded into it, but neither of them minded the close quarters.

Harry briefly nuzzled Draco’s neck, because it was reassuring, and because he could, and picked up the phone. He kept the conversation short and to the point. The witch he spoke to assured him that she would have the Portkey available for pick-up tomorrow morning. Draco relaxed quite a bit once Harry confirmed the Portkey. In the last day and a half, they had experienced a level of stress that neither had endured since the end of the war.

Harry and Draco had emerged from their week of seclusion after bonding and gone to register at the SGC’s UK branch in London. Once they had been tested and certified as a Level 10 Alpha pair, Harry had dragged Draco over to Gringotts and added him to all his bank accounts, and then towed him over to Grimmauld Place to make sure he was included in the wards. After that, he had taken his guide out to lunch in Muggle London to avoid the wizarding press.

Draco had been a little surprised by how whole-heartedly Harry had embraced him, and how intent he was on incorporating Draco and their bond into his life. Harry, feeling his guide’s uncertainty, had asked what was on his mind. Draco stammered it out and Harry had responded with a fierce embrace. “You’re mine,” said Harry. “My guide. My family. I’ve never had that before. Of course I don’t want you going anywhere.”

The guide had smiled and hugged his sentinel back. “I think I may love you,” he said.

“I think so, too,” said Harry, kissing Draco.

The trouble had started when they returned to Hogwarts. Harry had asked Draco about other sentinels and guides in the area, and he had mentioned that both Severus and Remus were part of the community. “Can we see if they’re free to talk?” Harry asked. “There’s so much I don’t know.”

“I’ll go get Severus,” said Draco. He smirked. “He likes me better. Shall we meet in the staff common room?”

“Fine with me,” said Harry, pressing a quick kiss to Draco’s lips. He disappeared down the hall towards the guest quarters where Remus was staying.

Draco headed for the dungeons and Severus’ rooms. “Would you be willing to talk with Harry and me?” he asked his mentor. “Harry has a lot of questions about the community that I can’t answer. He’s dragging Lupin down to the staff room to ask him about being a sentinel, but I know you’ve been more involved with the SGC than Lupin has.”

Severus sighed. “Fine,” he replied, with a twinge of emotion that Draco couldn’t quite place. He heaved himself out of his chair. “Poppy has graciously granted me permission to leave my rooms, but I’m required to use a cane and she wants me to go everywhere with an escort.”

“I’m sure she’s just thinking of your recovery,” said Draco, opening the door and following Severus out.

The older wizard snorted. “Of course.”

When they rounded the corner into the hallway by the staff room, they came face-to-face with Harry and Lupin, who were chatting calmly.

Lupin’s eyes dilated suddenly and he growled and lunged for Severus. “You bastard!” he shouted. Draco felt a surge of overwhelming rage from the sentinel.

“Hey!” said Harry, yanking on Remus’ arm. He pulled him back.

Severus had fallen over and was huddled on the ground, trying to make himself as small as possible. The scent of a guide in distress made Harry want to rip Remus’ head off.

“What the fuck are you doing, Lupin?” Draco demanded, putting himself between Remus and Severus.

“He’s my guide!” Remus shouted. “How the hell have you been hiding this from me?” He strained against Harry’s hands and broke free. He knocked Draco out of the way and dived for Severus.

Stupefy!” Harry’s voice rang out and the werewolf fell to the floor. He turned to Draco and hauled his guide into his arms. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” said Draco. “Just startled.”

Harry, without letting go of Draco, looked at Severus. The man was shaking. Harry could smell terror and panic, and that coming from a guide sent his protective impulses into overdrive. He sent a quick Incarcerous at Remus, and then he and Draco worked together to move Severus into the staff room.

“Harry, get Lupin in here, on the far side of the room,” Draco ordered. “I don’t want someone stumbling over him in the hall and letting him go. And then make some tea for Severus. I need to take a look at him.”

It hurt Draco to see his mentor in such a state. He’d always been so strong, even when he was practically dying. “Severus,” Draco said, concerned when there was no response at first. “Severus, can you hear me?”

The man nodded, still trembling, still unwilling to speak. “Okay,” said Draco. He tried to gather his thoughts together and started with the most obvious question. “Lupin says that you’re his guide. Is that true?”

Severus nodded again. “He’s never wanted me,” he whispered. “He’s never even acknowledged me before.”

“And now he has,” said Draco. “How long have you known he was your sentinel?”

“Since he came online,” said Severus. His eyes went darker and Draco sensed the emotional pain he was experiencing at the memories. “Potter and Pettigrew chased me away from the hospital wing, and then Albus...” he faltered. “Albus said being bonded would put Lupin in danger, since he already had me infiltrating the Death-Eaters. Remus would have...he would have wanted to protect me, and he was already too closely allied with the Order, even before graduation. It would get us caught, Albus said, it might get Remus killed. I wanted my sentinel to be safe...but I wanted us together, too. He said he would talk with Lupin and let him decide what he wanted. The next day, Lupin walked right past me in the Great Hall and didn’t even glance my direction.”

“Fuck,” said Draco. Harry slammed the teapot onto the tray so hard it nearly broke. The hot water he just filled it with sloshed out of the spout, splashing water and tea leaves all over.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Harry demanded. “He—he just ignored his guide? For twenty fucking years?”

“And he married Tonks,” Draco spat. “She was a low-level guide.”

“They couldn’t bond,” Severus commented apathetically. “I’m level 10, so he is, too.”

“Something’s really, really wrong here,” said Draco. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to the next bit, but it had to be done. “Severus, will you let me take a look at your empathic landscape?”

“Fine,” Severus agreed. He wasn’t any more eager to have Draco root around in his head than Draco was to be there. He leaned back in the chair they’d helped him into, sinking into the soft cushions.

Draco pulled up a footstool and sat next to Severus. “Harry, would you mind grounding me? I think I may need to go pretty deep.”

“Sure,” said Harry, abandoning the tea. “How do you want me to do that?”

“Just sit behind me and touch my neck or something. We haven’t practiced enough yet to know which grounding positions will be most comfortable for us.”

Harry squeezed onto the footstool (like most Hogwarts’ stools, it was large, and he and Draco were both skinny), slid his arms around Draco’s waist, and nuzzled his neck. “Good?”

“Perfect,” said Draco. “Hold on.” He took Severus’ hand in both of his. “Here goes.”

Harry felt Draco’s breathing deepen and his heart rate slow. He could tell that Draco was using his empathy, but while he could feel what Draco was doing, to an extent, he couldn’t tell what he was seeing as he examined Severus’ empathic landscape.

Draco felt the world drop away as he delved gently into Severus’ mind. He could feel Harry, holding him, keeping him safe, giving him a way back home, but he needed to focus on what was wrong with Severus and Remus and their bond. Even unbonded, they should have a connection to each other. He gritted his teeth as he saw the amount of empathic damage in Severus’ mind. He needed concentrated time with a mind healer; Draco wasn’t trained enough to do the work that was needed. They would be having words about that later, he thought. Then he reached for the part of the mind where the sentinel-guide bond had its source. In an unbonded couple who were in proximity, the bond should be latent but with spikes of activity – as if it were preparing to activate.

Draco saw none of that. He saw an area which was almost completely dark, glowing dully through what looked like cracks. He poked at it. There was magic here, he realized. Some kind of spell blocking the bond, but the cracks in it suggested that it was fracturing, which meant that it was old and hadn’t been renewed recently. The magical signature felt familiar. It didn’t belong to either Severus or Remus. He nudged it gently and the darkness flared ominously.

He let himself surface. “Harry, I think I need to take you with me,” he said. “Severus, is that okay?”

Severus sighed. “Might as well. I doubt he could do much more damage than is already there.”

“I noticed,” said Draco. He fixed his mentor with a stern eye. “We’ll be having a chat about you needing to see a mind healer after this.”

“I’m the best one in the country,” said Severus. “I can’t heal myself, though. It’s never worked well.”

“Last time I checked, the SGC had centres all over the world. Someone will be able to help.” Draco shook his head. “Harry, remember how we connect through my empathy? Can you sink into our connection? I should be able to pull you through to see what I’m seeing once you do that.”

“Right,” said Harry. He closed his eyes and reached for the connection in his mind that linked him to Draco. It was more of a intricate web that interlaced the two of them together, so that they were almost one person, rather than two, but there was a particular part which would pull him more into Draco’s mind.

As soon as he felt Harry make the connection, he took the two of them deep back into Severus’ mind. Here, he said. What does this look like to you?

Magic, thought Harry. Dumbledore’s magic. What is it doing here?

Are you certain? Draco asked.

Of course. I know his magic, what it looks like, how it feels. It’s really distinctive, Harry said. He knew exactly what Dumbledore’s magic felt like; all those sessions with the older wizard on Tom Riddle’s life had taught Harry more than one thing.

That’s what I thought, Draco replied. He recognized Dumbledore’s magic but needed confirmation from someone more familiar with it. It’s blocking the bond between the two of them. But it’s fracturing now, and the bond wants to activate. But it can’t with all this still here.

Can you just take it off? Harry asked.

I poked it and it reacted, said Draco. It’s a powerful spell, and I think it’s multi-layered. There’s a good chance he put some sort of fail-safe in. I can’t take it out without causing more damage – I don’t know enough about what I’m doing. We’re going to need help. Come on, let’s get out of here.

Harry caught glimpses of the landscape as Draco pulled them out. He’s really hurt, isn’t he? he asked.

Yeah, said Draco. It’s bad. Bonding with that kind of damage would be rough, but with that spell in place, I don’t think it’s even possible yet.

Shit, said Harry.

Agreed.

They opened their eyes at the same time. Severus blinked as he felt Draco withdraw entirely from his mind. “And what did you discover that required Potter’s input?” he inquired.

Draco decided the blunt answer was the best choice. “Dumbledore placed a multi-layered spell on your latent bond to block it. It’s fracturing.”

Severus went completely still.

Harry carefully detangled himself from Draco and went to check on Remus and renew the Stupefy on him. They weren’t ready to deal with him, and he had a feeling that once Remus knew what had happened, they would have a semi-hysterical sentinel on their hands, along with the near-catatonic guide.

Through their bond, Harry could feel Draco’s emotions. He was absolutely furious, but was doing his best to ignore that – his concern for Severus and for Remus was at the forefront of his mind, and was primarily what Severus would feel from him.

Harry was deeply concerned as well, but a very large part of him was more than glad that Dumbledore was already dead. If he had been alive, he wouldn’t have lasted long. Harry realized that his reaction was in part due to him being what Draco had described as an Alpha Sentinel. He and Draco were meant to take leadership in the sentinel-guide community and to protect the sentinels and guides under their care. They were supposed to prevent things like this from happening. Oh, he knew that Dumbledore’s actions had occurred long before Harry and Draco were online, before the two of them were born, but that didn’t stop Harry’s fury. He thought it was probably poetic justice that Severus had been the one to kill Dumbledore.

“Harry, I’m going to take Severus back to his rooms,” Draco said. “I think you need to be the one to talk with Remus. I’ll check on his empathic landscape once he’s ready.”

“Okay,” said Harry. He looked at Draco. “I’m really glad the bastard’s dead,” he said softly.

“Me, too,” said Draco. “I think the impact of being an alpha has just hit me. If I’d known this back then, I would have had no qualms about killing him.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. He looked at Severus. “We’re going to do whatever we can to fix this,” he promised.

Severus nodded in acknowledgement. “Thank you, Sentinel,” he said formally. Then he took the hand Draco offered him and got to his feet. “Please wait until we’re well away before you revive him. I think he will not react well.”

Harry watched Draco help Severus out of the room. He closed, locked, and warded the door behind them, and then turned to Remus. He levitated the other sentinel into a chair, re-cast a careful Incarcerous, and then took a moment to focus.

Rennervate,” he said quietly.

Remus’ eyes shot open. “What the fuck is going on?” he spat at Harry.

Harry stared his old friend down. “You just tried to attack a guide, Sentinel,” he said sternly. “Can you tell me why?”

The werewolf blinked for a moment before backing down and starting to think clearly. “He’s my guide,” he said. “He’s mine. He’s...he’s been hiding that from me.”

“Does that justify attacking him, particularly when he’s in ill health?”

“I...I don’t think so.” Remus looked bewildered. “He hated me that much, that he would block our bond?”

Harry winced. “It’s more complicated than that, Remus. Draco and I heard what Severus had to say, and then we dived into his mind. Someone put a block on the bond between you, one that neither of you were able to detect. He tried to come to you when you came online, but my dad and Pettigrew chased him away from the hospital wing before he could get close enough. They didn’t know.”

“But he would have come back, wouldn’t he?” Remus asked.

Harry tried to find a tactful way to explain but settled for being blunt. “Dumbledore said he’d talk with you. Severus was in the middle of infiltrating the Death Eaters, and as his sentinel, you would have been expected to do the same. I think Dumbledore had other plans for you, and didn’t want to change them, and was worried that your presence in Severus’ life would ruin his plan for Severus to work as a double-agent. The spell on the bond on Severus’ side, which he didn’t know about, reeks of Dumbledore’s magic. It prevented you from recognizing Severus as your guide, and Severus believed that you didn’t want him.”

“Oh god,” said Remus, his face ashen. Harry’s senses detected the physical responses that indicated shame and horror. “And then I attacked him. It was instinct—I didn’t intend to, but everything made me want to hurt him.”

That troubled Harry at a visceral level. Sentinels shouldn’t want to hurt guides; he’d found in their visit to the SGC and their meetings with Severus that he felt at least slightly protective of every guide he’d encountered. He couldn’t fault Remus for being angry if he’d thought Severus had been the one to interfere with their bond, but going so far as to try to attack him, when he was still recovering from his injuries...that was beyond the pale for a sentinel. It was entirely possible that the spell’s fracturing was interfering with Remus’ instincts.

“Where is he?” Remus asked. “Please, I need to see him. I need to tell him that I’m sorry.” The note of concern in his voice, accompanied by the way the scent of hostility had rapidly faded, told Harry that Remus was starting to think clearly again.

Harry made a decision, and cancelled the Incarcerous holding Remus to the chair. “Draco’s getting him settled in his rooms again and having Madam Pomfrey check on him. I don’t think I can trust you in the same room with him again at least until Draco’s taken a look at what’s going on in your head. If there’s something in the spell to override your instincts, you can keep him safer by staying away until we figure out a solution.”

Remus slumped back into the chair. “I hate that that makes sense.”

“I know,” said Harry. “You two are supposed to be together, and someone tried to stop that. I promised Severus that I would do everything in my power to fix this, and I make you the same promise.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

That night, Harry lay in bed, staring at the details in the ceiling while Draco checked on Severus and Remus one more time. Once Draco had confirmed that the spell was no longer interfering with Remus’ instincts, they had cautiously let Remus into the same room as Severus. Remus had collapsed to his knees next to his guide and apologized. Severus had reached out for his sentinel and the two had ended up wrapped around each other, with neither of them functioning well. Severus was barely hanging onto his shields, and now that Remus had found his guide, his senses barely stabilized when they weren’t in physical contact.

Madam Pomfrey was about ready to dig Dumbledore up and kill him again when she heard what had happened. She insisted on calling in Minerva and Filius so the three of them could confirm that it was Dumbledore’s magic. “You’ll want a record,” she said. “Just in case.”

Draco agreed.

Harry found himself considering the advantage of sentinel eyesight when he got to see the details of the particular shade of crimson Minerva’s face went when she became truly furious. And Filius...watching him cast delicate spells to reveal as many details as possible about Dumbledore’s enchantment was very interesting, indeed. Draco wrote down all the details Filius, Minerva, and Madam Pomfrey (whom Harry still could not think of as Poppy, no matter how many times she insisted on it) could provide.

By that point, Severus and Remus were nearly asleep. Harry and Draco agreed to sleep in Severus’ sitting room on a transfigured bed so they could monitor the pair overnight, and they would decide what came next in the morning.

Draco crawled into bed next to Harry. “Asleep and stable,” he murmured, letting Harry pull him close. “What a fucking mess.”

“We’ll fix what we can,” Harry said. “Now sleep. I can feel how tired you are.”

“You too,” Draco said. “Wake me if they stir.” He fell asleep almost instantly. Harry soon followed.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Late the next morning, a deeply worried Harry and Draco trekked down to the edge of Hogsmeade to use the phone box there. Draco took charge of barrelling his way through the directory system once they got through to the Cascade SGC, and both Harry and Draco started to feel better the moment Blair told them they could come as soon as possible. They were going to get help.

Chapter Text

Harry and Draco trekked back up to Hogwarts and reported in to Madam Pomfrey, Severus, and Remus. “The Guide Prime wants us in Cascade as soon as possible,” said Harry. “I’ve arranged for a Portkey to take us to the international headquarters tomorrow.”

Severus leaned back against the pillows with a sigh of relief. He had stayed in bed – the events of the day before had exhausted him – and Remus refused to leave him. He gently carded his fingers through his sentinel’s hair. Now that he knew the spell was in place, he could feel it, affecting his ability to link with his sentinel’s mind, but the minimal mental contact he could establish was enough for the moment. Remus had imprinted four out of five mundane senses, and had a partial imprint for Severus’ magic, and that helped him to hang on; out of contact with his guide, his senses spiralled out of control. Draco had checked the spell and surmised that fractures in the spell, paired with the latent bond, were affecting him.

“Good,” Remus mumbled from where he was ensconced in the blankets.

“What needs doing?” Madam Pomfrey asked. “I assume you’ll need to pack. Do you have enough clothes? What’s the weather like there?”

“I believe it’s similar to here,” said Severus. “And we’ll need Muggle clothes. I have an adequate wardrobe for the purpose. Remus?”

“Most of what I have is Muggle,” said Remus. “I spent more time there anyway. Muggles think werewolves are mythical.”

“I have clothes,” said Harry. “Draco?”

Draco shook his head. “I have one Muggle outfit and a couple sets of robes. Most of my wardrobe either didn’t survive the war or is at my parents’ house, and I doubt Lucius will let me waltz in to pick it up. He’s probably burnt it all. And that’s all wizarding clothes.”

“We can go get clothes today,” said Harry.

Madam Pomfrey cleared her throat. “Harry, I would be more comfortable if Draco remained here, in case of any incidents with Severus and Remus. I can do virtually nothing for sentinel-guide problems, particularly if they are bond or empathy-related.”

Harry and Draco exchanged glances. “I don’t like leaving Draco alone here,” said Harry hesitantly. “But that makes me sound weird.”

“It makes you sound like a recently bonded sentinel, Potter,” said Severus. “Draco should be safe here, and you’ll know if something’s wrong.”

Harry looked at Draco, who shrugged. “I’d rather not be separated, either,” he said. “However, it’s probably best if you go run the errands and I stay here. Madam Pomfrey has a point, after all. I can you give you my measurements for clothing, and you don’t have to get much. If I need more we can always pick something up while we’re in America.”

“America,” said Harry. “American money. We’ll need that. And I’ll need to check with my Muggle bank to see if I can access my account over there.”

“Americans use different money?” said Draco blankly.

“They do,” said Severus. “Every country has its own currency, Draco. I don’t think American wizards even bother to use wizarding money these days.”

“We put you on my Gringotts accounts,” said Harry. “We didn’t make time to go do the Muggle ones, too, but my Gringotts accounts are linked up with the Muggle ones so I can transfer between them easily. Apparently goblins don’t really care whether you can use magic or not.”

“They never have,” said Remus. “Money is money to them. They’re more concerned about whether or not you deal honestly with them.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” said Harry. “I did have to pay a few fines for the damage we did when we hauled a dragon out of there, but they were surprisingly reasonable about the whole thing when I explained why I’d broken into the bank in the first place.”

Madam Pomfrey smiled at that. “You-Know-Who was just as bad for them as he was for us,” she said. “You killed him, and breaking into the bank allowed you to do so.”

“Okay,” said Harry. “Goblin politics aside, the sooner I go, the sooner I can get back. Draco, could you write down your clothing sizes for me? I can estimate but having them would help.”

Draco summoned a piece of parchment and scribbled down the numbers. “Please remember that I don’t usually wear Muggle-style clothing,” he said. “Nothing too outlandish.”

Harry remembered some of the clothes he’d seen at the Quidditch World Cup and laughed. “No floral nightgowns, I promise.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Harry reluctantly left Hogwarts and apparated to the town where the branch of his bank was. He inquired about getting American cash for his trip, explaining that it was an emergency. The teller noticed the medical ID bracelet the SGC in London had given him and asked if it was sentinel-related. “It is,” he said, surprised.

“I can put an alert on your account for travel,” the teller said. “As well as on your credit card. You’re bonded?”

“Yes, about a week ago,” said Harry. “My guide couldn’t come with me today, part of the emergency, but I need to add him to the accounts when possible.”

“I can do that now while you’re here,” said the teller. “Usually he’d have to come in person, but we can make some exceptions for sentinel-guide pairs. I’ll need his name, birthdate, address, the usual.”

Harry filled out paperwork for Draco, signed as Draco’s proxy for him to have full access to the accounts, and took the information the teller gave him regarding account access while traveling.

“I’m afraid we don’t have much American cash on hand at this branch,” said the teller. “I can give you about $250 American and you can always bring pounds and get them exchanged at a bank or currency exchange in the States.”

“Thanks,” said Harry. “I’ll take the $250 and if you could give me £500 as well that should be enough for now. Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome, Sentinel Potter. Have an excellent day.”

Harry left the bank feeling a little overwhelmed by all the paperwork, but with a bank card in hand for Draco to sign and activate once they had time. He found himself once again deeply grateful that his father’s family had been wealthy, and that Gringotts had taken decent care of the accounts while Harry was a child. He’d been more than a little shocked when he went in to sort out reparations for Gringotts to find that the account he’d had access to while he was in school was only one of several. He wasn’t really used to having money yet, but he had to admit that it made life much easier.

He looked around the street and found a nearby shopping centre. He had feeling that Draco would not have been thrilled with the selection, but he went to the store that looked closest to what Draco might actually be willing to wear and selected appropriate Muggle clothes. He knew from their last week together that Draco didn’t have much at all; his father had disowned him as soon as it was clear that no one was going to arrest Draco for being a Death Eater. Draco had had only a few things at the castle, and knowing how vindictive Lucius Malfoy could be, Draco’s assumption that his clothes had been destroyed was probably correct.

Harry chose enough clothes for a week, figuring that they might have time to go shopping while they were in Cascade, and then Draco could pick out his own things. He added a couple things for himself, since they were headed towards autumn and Harry hadn’t yet replaced the jacket he’d managed to destroy while on the run from Voldemort.

Once he was done, he took his bags, found a place where he wouldn’t be noticed, and apparated back to Hogsmeade. Throughout his trip, he had known that Draco was safe, but now that he was closer the connection to his guide intensified to the point where he knew that his guide was safe and exasperated and not that far away. He hurried up the hill to find Draco waiting at the gates.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Draco felt a little like screaming. Granger was upset that Harry and Draco were leaving, and that she wasn’t getting a full explanation. Severus was in pain and stressed, Remus was panicky, Weasley was irritated with his girlfriend, and Harry was picking up the Portkey. They were waiting at the gates with their baggage so they could leave as soon as Harry got back. He wondered if travel was always like this, if people murdered each other because they were trying to go places.

It had been a horrendously long day, since they were timing things so they wouldn’t arrive in Cascade in the middle of the night. There had been packing, last minute panics, and a great deal of fussing from Madam Pomfrey.

Harry popped back, a plastic disc in hand. “Everyone ready?” he asked.

“Please,” said Severus. “I feel Draco wanting to kill us all and I think he might if we don’t leave immediately.”

Ron laughed, getting a startled look from Draco. “What?” said Ron. “It’s funny. I could totally see you doing it, too.”

“Such a reassuring thought,” said Draco.

Hermione hugged Harry and Draco bristled slightly. Guides might not have the same instincts as sentinels, but he wasn’t particularly eager to see someone handling his sentinel like that. Harry met Draco’s eyes over Hermione’s shoulder and his expression mollified Draco.

“Step back, everyone who’s not going,” said Harry. “This one activates with a spoken command once we’re all holding on. Ready?”

Luggage was grabbed, and each person took an edge of the plastic disc. “Empathy,” said Harry, rolling his eyes at Draco. Draco sent a flash of amusement back to him before the Portkey activated and they spun off to America.

They landed abruptly in a field where there were several people waiting. Everyone in the incoming group except Draco vomited once they stopped spinning.

Draco, used to Portkeys, kept his balance and reached for his sentinel. “Are you all right?” he asked, crouching next to him.

“Yeah, I just don’t do well with Portkeys, and it was weirdly intense.” Harry looked up at him, pale with blotches around his eyes. “And that smell...” He retched again.

“Dial your sense of smell down a few notches,” Draco instructed. “And your sense of magic. Probably your sense of taste, too.” Harry groaned and tried to follow Draco’s suggestions.

Someone else cast a Vanishing spell and the vomit disappeared. “I take it these are my patients,” said a woman’s voice.

Draco straightened up. “Yes,” he said. “That’s Severus Snape, guide, and Remus Lupin, sentinel. And you are?”

She looked ordinary, but Draco could feel a very strong guide aura radiating from her. She smiled at him. “Winnifred Cooper, guide and healer. You must be Draco Malfoy. Let’s get the four of you out of the field.”

Harry got to his feet and hauled Remus upright. The other sentinel looked green. “You okay?”

Remus nodded. “Portkey hasn’t taken me like that since I was a teenager.” He grimaced at the taste of vomit in his mouth. “Severus?”

Another guide, a man with long curly hair, was helping Severus stand. “I believe Poppy was right about my requiring a cane,” said Severus.

“What the hell happened to you?” the guide asked.

“We brought his medical files,” said Draco. “He was badly injured several months ago and is still recovering.”

Winnifred Cooper waved her wand in a diagnostic spell over Severus. “Hells bells, I’m impressed that you’re still alive,” she said. “So really, let’s get you inside. That one over there is Blair Sandburg, by the way.”

A bald man, a sentinel, who had stood back from the group a bit, waved. “And I’m Jim, Blair’s sentinel. I’ll get your luggage.” He looked at the two bags. “This is it?”

“Wizards,” said Winnifred cheerfully. “We shrink things down. It makes travel a little less miserable.”

“Thank you!” said Draco. “Why do people travel when it’s horrible?”

“Because we like to visit new places, experience other ways of doing things,” said Blair as they moved out of the field and towards a large building.

“You’re an anthropologist,” said Winnifred. “You actually enjoy travelling. Me, I like being in a familiar place.”

Severus eyed their escorts, trying to get a read on them and failing. “Is this normal behaviour for you?”

“Mostly,” said Blair. “Part of it’s us trying not to lose it. I can feel how badly shredded your empathy is right now and it’s making me want to kill something, and I’m not exactly a bloodthirsty person.”

“In here,” said Jim, opening a door. “We need to run and register your passports first.”

“You guys can do that here?” Harry asked.

“International SGC,” said Jim. “We get you magical ones coming in, and the odd sentinel and guide with a private plane. The government was pretty happy to hand that responsibility over to us. We just send the info to the border agency so they have it on record.”

Harry fumbled their passports out of his bag and handed them to the woman Jim indicated. She ran them through a scanner and handed them back, but not before adding stickers to Harry’s and Draco’s. “You’ll come up as a sentinel and guide now,” she said, making a notation on her computer. “It makes border crossings a lot easier.” She stamped four pieces of paper and handed them to Harry. “Stick these with the right passport. Your visas – here with the SGC – kind of like a visitor’s visa, and we can offer you a job but you’ll need a regular work visa if someone else does.”

“Thanks,” said Harry. He sorted the passports and visas together and then put them back in the envelope he’d carried them in. “So, now what?”

“Now we take you over to the medical centre and I check Severus and Remus out more thoroughly,” said Winnifred. “Can you dig out the medical records you brought along?”

“I have them,” said Draco, enlarging a folder he’d stuffed in his jacket pocket. “Our mediwitch included as much information as she could.”

Jim interrupted. “Does anyone need coffee or tea or food? I was going to stow you bags in the car, since you’re staying off-site in our building, and then get some coffee. I don’t really do this part.”

“No, you’ll have the fun part of training Harry here how to use his senses properly,” said Blair. “And yes. Coffee please. And sandwiches. I think this is going to take a while. Anyone else?”

“Tea,” said Severus. “Black, with a splash of milk. Remus takes his the same.”

Remus, who had gravitated closer to his guide, smiled. “You noticed.”

“Of course I did,” Severus said with a hint of acid in his tone. “We’ve been acquainted since we were eleven. I’ve had numerous opportunities to observe how you take your tea.”

“I’ll try the coffee,” said Harry. “Draco?”

“Yes, coffee, with milk. Harry will no doubt want sugar.”

Jim looked bemused. “And Win?”

“Green tea if it’s available,” she said. “Mint if it’s not. Food for all of us is probably a good idea. Allergies?”

There was a chorus of no’s. Then Remus said, “Oh, silver. And aconite.”

“Okay then,” said Jim. “That’s one of the weirder ones I’ve heard. I’ll be back with a cart.”

Draco slipped his hand into Harry’s as they followed Winnifred and Blair through the maze of corridors. Severus was coping on his own with Remus’ help, but Draco couldn’t stop himself from watching them closely. After all, he had had charge of them until now.

The large room they found themselves in was equipped with supplies that looked vaguely medical to Draco, who wasn’t really sure how Muggles did medicine. There was a seating area with couches and a low table, as well as an exam area.

“We’ll start over here,” said Winnifred, gesturing to the couches. “Since Severus is obviously in need of medical attention, he goes first.”

“Joy,” Severus muttered. “What do you need from me?”

Blair took the folder of medical files from Draco and opened one. He whistled. “Venomous snake? Did you have an antivenin?”

“I had developed one for that particular snake, yes, though the effects of the venom were particularly potent and I am still recovering. The attack was accompanied by a great deal of blood loss, and even Blood Replenishing potions only do so much,” Severus summarized.

“Blood Replenishing potion? That exists?” said Blair.

Winnifred lifted her wand to cast a diagnostic spell. “Yup. It doesn’t work very well on non-magical humans, though. I’ve tried with a couple volunteers who had magical family members. I think adjustments to the recipe might prove fruitful but getting funding to test magical potions on non-magical humans is a bit dicey. That was before I came online, so I haven’t tested non-magical sentinels or guides. I think they’d have a better chance of it being effective, so we can put that on the list.” She frowned. “You have a staggering amount of nerve damage, Severus.”

“Cruciatus curse,” said Remus grimly.

Winnifred dropped her wand. “Are you fucking kidding me?” she demanded. “Who the hell has been torturing a guide?”

“His name was Voldemort,” said Harry. “He was a Dark Lord. I killed him a few months ago.”

Blair frowned. “And no one from the SGC in Britain contacted us about this.”

“They are really disorganized right now,” said Harry. “I mean, they about flipped out when Draco and I came in to get evaluated. It was like it wasn’t really an ordinary thing for them.”

“They’re useless,” said Draco flatly. “They evaluated us accurately, but given our status...”

“It would be hard to miss; your presence is intense,” Blair finished. “We’re auditing the files they have on our network right now, and we’ll be moving to an on-the-ground audit in a week or two. Something has gone seriously wrong there and I’m really worried that no one here seemed to notice.”

“Notice-Me-Not spell?” suggested Remus. “Or some kind of Muggle-repelling charm? They’re not hard to do and it could have just made people overlook things.”

“Who would have done that? And why?” said Winnifred. “What could they possibly have to gain?”

“Power,” said Severus. “We had more than one power-hungry madman at large in our country, but the other one was better at appearing harmless.”

“That would be the one who did this to you?” Winnifred asked, casting another spell. “This is a visualization of your empathic map.” It lit up with thousands of visible connections that looked frayed. She carefully pulled in on a section. Draco recognized what he and Harry had seen earlier.

“You said the bastard was dead?” Blair asked. Draco felt the spike of rage from the other guide and wholeheartedly agreed.

“He’s dead,” said Severus. “I killed him myself.”

Winnifred grimly cast another spell, this one aimed at Remus. His empathic map appeared. “This is yours,” she said, zooming them in on the section where their bond should be. “Draco, good work catching this. I look forward to teaching you.”

“Thanks,” said Draco. “I wish I could have stopped it happening.”

“This is old,” said Winnifred. “It’s been re-cast periodically to refresh it, but at its base, here, see that?” She pointed to layers on the spell that looked slightly faded. “It’s got to be around twenty years old. The fractures indicate that, while it’s outlived the death of its caster, it won’t be long before it breaks down completely. We’ll need to carefully remove it before that happens, because I doubt it’ll go quietly.”

“What do we do?” Blair asked. “This is your field.”

“Basic empathic healing to start,” said Winnifred. “Severus, have you seen an empathic healer recently?”

“No, though I was about to start training Draco on it,” said Severus. “There aren’t very many of us in Britain at the moment.”

Winnifred fixed him with a stern look. “You are a high-level guide who has been online and unbonded for twenty years. The level of torture you have experienced has left you with the worst nerve damage I have ever seen. What were you thinking?”

Severus shrugged. “I probably wasn’t. Dumbledore groomed me to be his spy in the enemy camp from an early age, and I was so desperate for validation that I was willing to do anything he asked.”

“And this,” she said, pulling out and pointing to another section. “You’ve been Occluding, haven’t you?”

“He tried to teach me how to a couple years ago,” said Harry. “Dumbledore had him do it.”

“And you couldn’t learn it,” said Winnifred. “Latent sentinels aren’t usually suited for it. Magical guides can practice it, but it can cause long-term damage if used for too long.”

“I’ve used it over the last year and a half,” said Draco. “Not since May, though.”

“I’ll look at your brains later,” said Winnifred. “Neither of you is in such bad condition as Severus. Why were you doing it?” she said, turning back to Severus.

“The Dark Lord was a Legilimens, and used it to gain information, from his followers and his enemies alike. I needed a way to only show him what I wanted him to see,” said Severus.

“A valid use, though obviously it didn’t exempt you from torture, did it?”

“That wasn’t the point,” said Severus. “He used torture on followers and enemies alike as well.”

Winnifred sighed. “Of course he did. You’re sure he’s dead?” she asked Harry.

“I spent a lot of time killing bits of his soul just to make sure he was dead,” said Harry. “I’m certain.” He squeezed Draco’s hand. Draco sent him a pulse of reassurance.

“You will tell us that story later,” said Blair. “It sounds interesting. And weird. So, healing, Win?”

“We need to get some of the damage cleaned up before we start working on the spell,” said Winnifred. “We need a clear shot at it. Severus, if you could lie down on the floor?”

Blair stood and fetched a mat out of a cupboard and rolled it out. “Just close your eyes and breathe, and Win and I will do the rest.”

“Draco, you want to help?” Winnifred asked. “You might as well start learning now.”

“Sure,” said Draco. “I’d be happy to. Actually, I sort of feel responsible for them, if that makes any sense.”

“They’re your people, from your territory,” said Blair. “Of course you do.”

Harry watched as the three guides carefully arranged themselves around Severus and placed their hands on his chest. He could feel Draco extending his empathy and guessed the other two were doing the same. Remus shifted nervously.

“He’s safe,” said Harry. Remus looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I know, it’s weird, me reassuring you,” Harry said in response.

The door opened and Jim came in with a cart of food. “Well, they got down to it quickly,” he commented. “Coffee’s here, so’s the tea, and I brought a bunch of food.” He looked Harry up and down as the young man got to his feet. “You look like you could use a square meal.”

“Remus, come over here,” Harry ordered. “You can stay in the room and watch Severus, and keep him safe, but you’ve barely eaten in the last day. You won’t do him any good if you’re passing out because you couldn’t take the time for food.”

Jim grinned. “You always been like this, or is just your sentinel tendencies coming out?”

“He worries about everyone an inordinate amount,” said Remus, slowly getting up and moving to the food. “I wasn’t surprised that he came online, given the way he is about protecting people. But fussing this much is new.”

Harry poured himself a cup of coffee. “It’s permanent, isn’t it?” he asked Jim.

“Yeah, although it’s worse with stuff like this,” said Jim. “I mean, I look at your guide over there and want to eviscerate the person who did this to him, because he’s a guide and I’m a sentinel, and since Blair and I are currently in charge, we’re responsible for you guys, but that’s a normal response. You, though..." he waved at Remus, "I can smell how shattered you are about it. And you have an odd scent, by the way. I can’t make sense of it.”

“Werewolf,” said Remus. He sipped his tea.

Jim blinked and set down his sandwich. “Okay, wasn’t expecting that. Is it in your file?”

“The one the SGC has? No. Werewolves aren’t exactly popular among wizards.” Remus shrugged. “I usually get fired when people find out. It’s better than it used to be; there’s a potion that gives me some control over myself during the full moon, but it can’t stop the transformation. It’s difficult to make, though. We brought several months’ worth with us, since Severus had some made and in stasis, but he’s one of the few people who can make it reliably.”

“But you’re only dangerous during the full moon? I mean, werewolf dangerous.”

Remus nodded. “Doesn’t change people’s minds.”

“It’s so stupid,” said Harry. “You have a problem and as long as you’re secure during full moon and have your potion, you’re fine. The rest of the time, you’re completely normal.”

Jim decided to change the subject for the moment, though he wanted to come back to it as some point, preferably when Blair was there to listen. “So, you’re a werewolf. Do vampires exist, too?”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

When Blair, Winnifred, and Draco were done healing Severus for the moment, they resurfaced, made Severus eat, and ate a couple plates of sandwiches themselves. Then Winnifred said it was Remus’ turn. She ran a few medical scans on him and then told him he needed to lie on the floor. She and Blair focused their empathy on him and started working. Draco, since he was new to empathic healing, had been told to rest. He ate and got to know Jim a bit while leaning against Harry. He hadn’t been prepared for just how much healing would exhaust him. Severus finished his tea and dozed on the sofa.

After Winnifred and Blair finished with Remus, they turned their attention to Harry and Draco. “Health check,” she said. “Blair, take notes for me.”

Draco was told that he was mostly all right, but she was going to research some Nerve Healing potions for all them. He had Cruciatus damage from the last year. “You’ll need a dash of empathic healing, but bonding smoothed over a lot of that,” Winnifred explained. “We’ll wait for another day; I don’t want to overtax myself. We have another empathic healer on his way in, and one of us will handle your treatment. Other than those concerns, you’re fine.”

She turned to Harry. The frown the first scan elicited grew deeper as she cast several more. She took the file they had started for Harry from Blair and made a few notations. “Harry, are you comfortable with me bringing this up here, or would you prefer to discuss this privately?” she asked.

Harry sighed. “It’s fine. I can guess what you have to say.”

“Your scans indicate that you experienced neglect and physical abuse in childhood,” Winnifred said gently. “Am I correct?”

He nodded. Draco protectively wrapped his arms around his sentinel, feeling the emotions this brought up.

“Who was it?” said Blair.

“My aunt and uncle,” said Harry. “They raised me. And my cousin, he liked to beat me up.”

“Was Social Services ever involved?” Winnifred questioned.

He shook his head. “No one ever believed me,” he explained. “They were good at hiding it.”

“And when you went away to school?”

“No one brought it up. I went to the infimary if I was sick or injured, but Madam Pomfrey didn’t do any scans like you just did.” He buried his face in Draco’s neck for a moment and then met Winnifred’s calm brown eyes.

“She should have,” said Remus. “It’s mandatory for each student.”

Harry blinked. “It was? No one ever told me.”

“We’ll need to report that and have it investigated,” said Blair. “I’ll put it on the list.”

Jim cleared his throat. “Are we done for now?” he asked. “I think heading back to the apartments and getting them settled for the evening might be a good idea. Win, you can talk with Harry later.”

“Of course,” she said. “It’s nearly dinnertime.”

Draco looked at the clock in surprise. It was four-thirty in the afternoon. It felt much later, since his body was still accustomed to British time, but he thought eating before bed was a good idea. He hadn’t realized that so much time had gone by while they had been working.

It took a few minutes to get organized, but they were soon heading out of the building and climbing into a vehicle. Draco was so tired that the novelty of his first car ride was lost on him. He was climbing out of the car all too soon and staring up at an apartment building.

“The SGC owns this building,” said Blair as they walked inside to the elevator. “We use it as housing for some of our staff and for guest suites for visitors. Harry and Draco are going to be in one of the guest suites. Severus and Remus are in our guest bedroom until we’re sure they’re stable on their own, just to be paranoid.”

“This is my floor,” said Winnifred, getting off at the second floor. “See you all in the morning.”

“We’re going to order food,” said Jim as the doors closed. “Any preferences?”

“Not pizza,” said Blair. “We had pizza last week.”

“Chinese?” Jim said hopefully.

“Is that okay with you guys?” Blair asked.

Harry nodded. “Sounds good.”

“What’s Chinese like?” Draco asked.

“You’ve never had Chinese food?” said Blair, eyebrows going up.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. “I’ll get Remus and Severus to their room,” said Jim. “Blair, you have their keys, right?”

“Nate gave them to me this morning,” said Blair. He pulled two key rings out of his pocket. “You two are here,” he said, leading them down the hall. “Get settled in. Jim’ll call when the food’s here.”

Harry and Draco stepped into a neatly furnished flat. There was a bedroom, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a living area. Everything was good quality, and it had the neutral sort of smell that came from sentinel-safe cleaning products. Harry dropped their bag on the bed and reached for Draco.

“I did not want them all knowing about the Dursleys,” Harry mumbled. “Fuck.”

“I’m here,” said Draco, smoothing his hair and sending reassuring feelings his way. “Pretty sure we’ll have to talk about my family with them at some point, too. Not looking forward to that.”

Harry kissed Draco. “I love you, you know that? And I can feel that you’re pretty out of it. You don’t have to make me feel better.”

“It’s something I can do,” said Draco. “I feel like we barely made a dent with Severus today.”

“He looked better after you were done healing him,” Harry offered. “My super special eyesight confirmed it.”

Draco smiled. “Good. Now, tell me, quickly, before I have to eat it, what does Chinese food consist of?”

Harry snorted. “Pureblood.”

“Yes, but I’m your pureblood.”

Chapter Text

Harry’s eyes snapped open, and he was suddenly wide awake. The room was still dark, even though they’d left the curtains open. He groaned.

Draco rolled over. “You too?” he asked.

“What time is it?” Harry mumbled, burying his face in his pillow.

Draco sat up and leaned over. “The clock on the dresser says 5:37. I’m presuming a.m. Is this that ‘jet lag’ Jim mentioned?”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “Our bodies haven’t readjusted and the UK’s about eight hours ahead of Cascade.”

Draco flopped back on the bed. “I’ve been awake since five. My brain won’t shut up. Is anyone else awake? I can get empathic signatures all over the place, but if people are dreaming that can read like they’re awake. Or at least it does right now. Maybe if I get a bit more training it won’t.”

Harry concentrated for a moment, dialing up his hearing. “I hear a lot of snoring,” he said. “Sounds like a couple people are up; there are showers running somewhere in the building.”

“Shower. Showers are good,” said Draco. “Almost as good as caffeine. Let’s shower.” He climbed out of bed and headed for the door that led to the bathroom.

Harry watched him for a moment, then got up and followed. Obviously, jet lag was good for something.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

While Draco sorted through the clothes Harry had bought him the day before (two days before? The time change made it hard to tell), Harry checked the fridge and the cupboards in the small kitchen. “I could cook,” he called into the bedroom.

“You cook?” Draco said, finally selecting a jumper to go over the collared shirt he liked best.

“It’s my aunt’s fault,” Harry said. “She made me. It came in handy over the last year; Hermione’s not great in the kitchen and all Ron can do is chop things. His mum likes to be in charge with the food.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Draco asked, pulling his jumper over his head. He’d met Molly Weasley properly over the summer while they were restoring Hogwarts and was suitably terrified of her.

Harry smiled at his guide. The grey of the jumper just about matched the grey of Draco’s eyes. He shut the door of the fridge and went to pull Draco into a kiss. Draco rolled his eyes and kissed back. Being able to touch each other was still such a novelty that Harry almost didn’t notice there was someone outside until just before they knocked on the door. He recognized them, as did Draco, though Draco noticed the person’s aura rather than their scent.

“It’s Blair,” Harry and Draco both said, and then laughed. Harry answered the door.

“Good morning!” said Blair. He was dressed, alert, and his hair looked like it never slept.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Is there any reason you are so wide-awake?”

“Coffee,” said Blair, gesturing with the mug in his hand. “Also I’m bonded to an ex-military man. He wakes up early, particularly when we’re monitoring a couple.”

“Did they do okay overnight?” Harry asked.

Blair nodded, stepping into the apartment. “They’re asleep. Both of them are completely exhausted. Part of it’s the healing from yesterday, part of it’s the stress of being close and not being able to bond. And Win said that it’s going to take a long time for Severus to be fully recovered from his injuries.”

“You should have seen him three months ago,” said Draco.

Blair shuddered. “He gave me a more complete summary after you two headed off to bed. I’m a guide; I have a Ph.D., not an M.D. Not really my thing.”

“What’s an M.D.?” Draco asked.

Blair’s eyes widened at that. “A doctor? A medical doctor? You’ve never heard that term before?”

“Pureblood,” said Harry, nudging his mate’s shoulder. “A doctor’s the Muggle equivalent of a healer, Draco.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” said Draco. “I believe I have heard that term before. And the other one you mentioned?”

“Doctor of Philosophy,” said Blair. “It’s an academic qualification indicating a high level of proficiency in a specific subject. I have one, in anthropology, and I’m working on a second in sentinel-guide studies. My dissertation for my first one got a bit derailed when I came online and ended up bonding with my research subject, but it ended up focusing on the ethnography of sentinel interactions with mundanes in law enforcement contexts.”

“Your research subject?”

“Jim,” said Blair. “He reluctantly let me follow him around so I could study how an unbonded sentinel in law enforcement behaved around both colleagues and the general population. I came online a few weeks after that. Jim was right there and hauled me off to his place so we could bond.” Blair smiled at the memory. “I had to find a new research subject and then my dissertation took a little longer than planned because we had to get trained, and then it turned out I was a shaman, which meant more training, a few trips to South America, and getting promoted to the head alpha pair of North America. It was crazy. A few years later, the Council heads retired and appointed us, so now we’re in charge of the whole shebang.”

“Sounds like a headache,” Harry commented.

“You don’t know the half of it,” said Blair. “But you’ll be finding out. I have plans for you two, and they include the SGC branch in the UK, once we finish the audit.”

Draco laughed. “Of course they do,” he said. “Harry, I’m blaming this on you.”

“Me?” Harry protested. “What did I do?”

“You and your propensity to end up at the centre of trouble.”

“It’s okay, we’re not going to dump the centre on you and leave you on your own,” Blair promised. “Lots of support. Things need to change there, and they can’t manage on their own like they’ve insisted on doing for the last thirty years. You’re needed. We haven’t worked out the reason for it, but we have fewer alpha pairs over your side of the pond, and you’re the only active ones from the UK. It works better to have locals head things up; people tend to work with them better. And I think the magical side of the community could use someone like Harry as their Alpha Sentinel. Your fame will be helpful in smoothing things over.”

Harry pulled a face. “Joy. Now, did you come by for anything specific?”

“Yes, actually,” said Blair. “I thought you two might like to go out for breakfast and have some time to get used to the area. There’s a really great coffee shop just a couple blocks from here, and they opened about ten minutes ago.”

“Excellent,” said Draco. “Harry, we’ll try your cooking another time.” He dug out their coats and pushed Harry and Blair out the door. Blair wandered back to his apartment and Harry and Draco set out to find breakfast.

Harry had to dial down his hearing a bit once they were outside; much of the building was soundproofed in deference to the sentinels who lived there and he wasn’t used to the traffic. It wasn’t as busy as it had been last night when they arrived but early morning commuters were already out and about. Draco spotted a sign a short ways from the apartment building and pointed it out.

The coffee shop was mostly quiet this early in the morning, but it smelled of freshly baked bread and coffee, and it was warm and dry. A too-short summer had given way to an early fall, and a constant drizzle misted down from the cloudy skies. They eagerly ducked indoors and shrugged out of their damp jackets.

Harry studied the menu for a moment and then nudged Draco. “What do you want?” he asked.

“That is the largest pastry I have ever seen,” said Draco.

Harry looked where Draco had gestured and his eyes widened. “That thing is massive.”

The barista, who had been patiently waiting, laughed. “Cinnamon rolls as big as your head,” she said. “Our specialty. You guys want a couple?”

“I’m not that ravenous,” said Draco.

“One, and two forks,” said Harry firmly. “I’ll have a latte, and Draco, what did you want?”

“Cappuccino,” said Draco. “Do people actually eat one of these in a sitting?”

“Some do,” said the barista, taking the bills Harry offered her. Draco hadn’t sorted out American money yet, though he understood it was based on tens rather than arbitrary numbers like wizarding money, and that seemed to make sense. “Most people end up sharing or taking it home with them.” She handed Harry a few bills and some coins. “Give me a sec and I’ll get your cinnamon roll plated.”

Harry took the full-sized plate and the forks. The barista started on their drinks, steaming milk and making espresso using a machine that Draco thought would not have looked out of place in the wizarding world, though it appeared to run on electricity rather than magic, despite the amount of steam that came out of it.

“Where did you want to sit?” Harry asked.

“Anywhere,” said Draco. “Find a spot and I’ll bring the coffee over.”

The barista set Harry’s drink into a saucer. “Just a moment and yours’ll be ready,” she promised. “You guys here with the SGC?”

“Yes,” said Draco, taken aback. “How did you know?”

“Blair sends pretty much everyone with jet lag down here,” she said. “And I noticed the medical alert bracelets. We get a lot of guides and sentinels coming in here. Most restaurants use sentinel-friendly cleaners and stuff anyway, but we make a point of it.” She expertly frothed milk and poured it into a cup. “Here you are.”

“That’s typical here?” Draco said.

She blinked. “Well, yeah. You guys represent a fairly significant minority of the population, and no one wants to send someone into a zone because they used the wrong cleaning product. It’s like not letting people know that you have peanuts in stuff.”

“Sorry, it’s just a bit odd; we don’t have that many sentinels and guides in the UK,” Draco explained. “I guess there are just more in America.” Then he paused. “Peanuts?”

“Peanut allergies,” she said. “Not posting that you used peanuts in something that doesn’t obviously contain them can be dangerous since peanut allergies are so volatile. Do people not have peanut allergies in England?”

“They do,” said Harry, coming up and retrieving his coffee. “Draco just doesn’t know anyone with a peanut allergy.”

“Do you?” Draco asked, picking up his own coffee and following Harry back to the sofa he’d chosen.

“There was a kid in my class at school before I came to Hogwarts. I remember hearing that peanuts are a more popular food in America than they are back home, but they still show up often enough that people with the allergy have to be careful,” Harry explained.

Draco leaned against Harry and took a sip of his cappuccino. “This is really good,” he said. “I have to confess, I’m surprised that she assumed that it wasn’t that unusual to be a sentinel or guide. How many people do we have in the UK?”

Harry frowned. “I don’t know. The centre director said they’d lost a lot in the war. I think Voldemort targeted sentinels and guides as well as Muggleborns.”

“There’s a reason Severus told me not to advertise it when I came online. I don’t think anyone besides him and Poppy knew at Hogwarts. I did a brief evaluation at the centre, and then my parents knew. Father was...disappointed.”

Harry slipped an arm around Draco and pulled him closer. “Wanker,” he said.

Draco snorted at that. “Well, I won’t dispute that,” he replied. “But yes, Voldemort did not like the SGC. They wouldn’t side with him, and a lot of them were Muggles.” He went silent. Severus had told him some of what happened. Draco remembered the absolute agony of those stories, how Severus had tried to warn as many people as he could, but many of them had chosen to stay and fight, to do what they could against the Death Eaters. Some had survived. Many had not. Dumbledore hadn’t lifted so much as a finger to help, and then in that last desperate year, the Order had been too busy trying to survive to help, even if they had been so inclined. Despite having a few odd guides and sentinels, so few of the Order had truly cared about the sentinel and guide community.

“I think I hate the Statute of Secrecy,” said Draco softly. Harry hummed in agreement.

“I got a letter a few days before I came online about that,” he said. “The committee that oversees the international stuff, they’re re-evaluating the Statute. They want me to testify, sometime in early November, about how the Statute affected things in Britain during the war. There was something about recent world events indicating that it’s time to come out of hiding, but I haven’t had a chance to catch up with the news. I don’t think it’s about Voldemort, specifically, but something big happened recently.”

“Put it on the list of things to ask about,” said Draco. “Did you write back to the ICW?”

Harry nodded. “I said as long as they were okay with my being in favour of abolishing the Statute, I’d testify all they wanted.”

“Have they responded?”

He shrugged. “No idea. We were too busy bonding and then coming here. I assume if they sent me a letter Hermione would make sure it got forwarded. Or it’d make it here, if they’re using owl post.”

Draco finished his coffee. “I think I want another one of these. You have all the American money.”

Harry pulled out his wallet and handed Draco a piece of paper with a five printed on it. Then he changed his mind and exchanged it for one with a ten. “Get me another coffee, too. Please?”

“Of course. And then we can start on that ridiculous pastry.”

The ridiculous pastry was delicious. Harry decided they were coming back another day because it was too good not to have it again. The coffee was excellent, too. When they left, the barista waved and told them they were welcome to come again, though that might have had something to do with the money Draco had dropped into the tip jar.

They walked back to the apartment building and decided to check in with the others. “There’s more people there,” said Harry, as they approached the apartment. “I don’t recognize two of them.”

“Then let’s go meet them,” said Draco. “No one in there wants to cause harm to anyone else there, so stop being jumpy.”

“Sorry, habit,” said Harry. He knocked.

“Come in,” said Jim, opening the door. “How was coffee?”

“Fantastic,” said Draco. “We’re going back.”

Harry looked cautiously around the room. Severus and Remus were still asleep; he could hear them from the other room. Win was curled up in an armchair with a mug of tea and a sheaf of paperwork, Blair was on a yoga mat with another cup of coffee, and there were two people he didn’t recognize on the sofa, also with coffee.

“You were down at Raven’s?” said one of them, the sentinel.

“Yeah,” said Harry cautiously.

“Great place,” said the sentinel. “I’m dragging Phil down there when we have time. Did they have their cinnamon rolls? I can smell their cinnamon rolls.”

“Those were absurd,” said Draco. “And very good. We’re going back.”

“Good choice,” he said. “I’m Clint. This is Phil.”

“Hello,” said the guide with a polite smile. Draco could sense him evaluating them. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Is it?” said Draco.

Phil’s smile became more genuine. “Sorry, I’m a little cautious with new people. Part of the job. We’re here to help out with the situation.”

Clint grinned. “So, you sure the bastard who screwed with their bond is dead? 'Cause I'm happy to help make sure of that."

Chapter Text

“Oh, he’s dead,” said Draco, reacting more quickly to the question than Harry. “Severus killed him.”

“Excellent,” said Clint. “I approve. Was it painful?”

“Bloodthirsty sentinel,” said Phil.

“Hey, the only reason I didn’t completely destroy Loki was because Hulk got there first,” Clint protested, hands up in defense.

Phil raised an eyebrow. “You did shoot him with an explosive arrow.”

“You’re welcome,” Clint replied.

“Ah, banter,” said a sardonic voice. “What an excellent way to be woken in the morning.”

Draco grinned at the burst of embarrassment he felt from Harry. Severus and Remus had stumbled out of the bedroom and were both still in their pajamas. He supposed seeing your former terrifying professor in striped pajamas was awkward. He certainly found it surreal to see Remus in a baggy t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms.

“There’s tea and coffee,” Blair offered. “Bread for toast, cereal, and we can make or get something else if you need a larger breakfast.” He looked at them with an appraising eye. “You both feel better than you did yesterday.”

“We feel better, too,” said Severus, heading straight for the tea. “I had no idea things had gotten so bad.”

“You’re not better yet,” Winnifred warned. “We still have a lot of work to do. How do matters between the two of you feel this morning?”

Severus paused in adding milk to his tea. “The latent bond doesn’t feel...right. Like there’s something in the way. Everything in that...area...seems raw.” He paused. “I can tell that the magic’s there, when I couldn’t before. It feels like we couldn’t make a bond happen yet, with the spell in the way.”

“Good,” said Win briskly. “You’re starting to get some of your own self-awareness back. You two should eat, shower, get dressed, and then we’ll start on this morning’s healing sessions. We’ve planned to work for a while this morning, break for lunch, do some more healing in the afternoon, and then I have a consult with some other witches who specialize in weird spells. The sooner we figure out how to get rid of that thing safely, the better.”

“I’m Phil Coulson, by the way,” the new guide said. “Clint, my sentinel, and I are here to help. I’ve been going over Blair’s and Win’s notes on your condition.”

“Am I helping today?” Draco asked.

“Yes,” said Blair. “Although I think I want Jim and Clint to take Harry over to the centre and see what he knows and where he needs training, if you two can tolerate the separation.”

“We’re fine,” said Draco. “He’ll just be bored here.”

“More frustrated that I can’t help,” said Harry. “So whatever you want me to do is okay.” He squeezed Draco’s hand. “We had some time together this morning.” Then he paused. “Unless you want me here?”

“Harry, I like being around you but I’m not a delicate flower who’ll wilt if you spend a few hours away from me. I’m perfectly safe here, and if something happens, our bond will let you know.” Draco squeezed Harry’s hand back, and let go, sending a pulse of reassurance as he did.

“Then let’s hit the range!” said Clint, bouncing up from the sofa. He picked up a duffle bag. “I brought my good bow.”

“Excellent,” said Jim. “Jeep’s downstairs.”

Harry kissed Draco goodbye and followed the other two sentinels out with a wave. Draco caught Severus looking at him with a mix of sorrow and envy and realized again just how much Dumbledore had taken from Severus and Remus.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

After breakfast for the others, Draco settled in with a cup of tea while Phil talked with Severus and Remus, asking them questions about how they were feeling, what their current experience of each other was. Draco furrowed his brow when Phil asked how the two were responding to each other emotionally now versus the day before.

“Is there a problem, Guide Malfoy?” Phil asked, without lifting his eyes from his notes.

“No, sir,” said Draco. “I was simply curious about the nature of your questions.”

Phil set aside his pen and looked up. “My sentinel and I have experienced bond interference,” he said deliberately. “We had been bonded for years, and an extraterrestrial magic-user essentially froze our bond, took control of Clint, forced him to commit crimes. When we stopped him and got our bond back, there was a lot of damage. We spent a long time healing and re-orienting to each other. I’m trying to ascertain whether the damage suffered by Guide Snape and Sentinel Lupin manifests itself similarly to the way the damage to our bond affected us.”

“Oh,” said Draco. “I see. I just...” “You’re protective of them,” said Phil. “As you should be. I have no ill intents towards them and I want to help. If what Clint and I went through can help, well, at least it’s good for something.”

Blair sat down next to Draco. “They came here, after,” he said. “Their wounds, empathically speaking, were very similar to the ones we saw during the healing session yesterday.”

“I think we’re ready to start,” said Win. “Phil, you and Draco start with Severus; Blair and I will work on Remus this morning. We’ll switch after lunch.”

Severus sighed. “If we must. Please be careful with my brain.” He settled onto a mat on the floor, Remus next to him. Remus reached for Severus’ hand, unable to keep away from his guide, even if they couldn’t yet bond. Severus relaxed slightly at Remus’ touch.

Draco went in first, falling into his mentor’s mind with what was rapidly becoming familiarity. He could already see the differences. He checked first on the spell to see if the mind healing had affected it in any way that would be dangerous later on.

This is the magic? he felt Phil ask.

Not what you expected? said Draco. Yes, this is the spell. It’s wrapped around this spot and tangled here.

Interesting, said Phil. Loki’s magic was more like ice that burned. This feels like flame but looks dark.

Loki. He used the name of a god? Draco sounded disgusted.

Oh, he was the original, said Phil dryly. Long story. Now this, this I recognize. He drew Draco’s attention to a deeply furrowed section that was inflamed. This is caused by involuntarily reaching out for his sentinel with his empathy and being forcibly blocked.

Draco winced as he looked at the wound. How do we treat it?

Phil smiled. Like this.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Harry climbed into the jeep after Clint. “What are we supposed to do, exactly?” he asked as Jim started the vehicle.

“Training,” said Clint. “Most sentinels find they prefer to have at minimum, a basic understanding of hand-to-hand fighting and weapons use. That whole ‘protect the tribe’ imperative. So, what fighting styles do you know, what weapons can you use?”

Harry blinked. “Well, I have my wand,” he said. “And I sort of learned wizard duelling, but Duelling Club only lasted for one meeting back when I was twelve. I know a lot of defensive spells, though.”

“And?” said Jim.

“And that’s it, really.”

“Seriously?” said Clint. “I thought your file said you were just in a war.”

Harry shrugged. “Yeah. A magical war. Knowing spells was more important. It’s not like anyone sat me down and taught me how to fight.”

Jim frowned. “They didn’t teach you how to fight other than using spells?”

“Well, no. I mean, the stories I could tell you about our defense against the dark arts teachers are kind of horrific. Severus and Remus were the only decent ones, and Remus was teaching more background theory stuff since it was only a third-year course, and Severus taught us more actual fighting in sixth year, but there was only so much he could do then, since the Ministry was weird about the curriculum.”

Jim let out a long, aggravated sigh. “Can you throw a punch?”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “I think so.”

“This is going to be fun,” said Clint.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

“What are our plans for removing the blocking spell?” Phil asked over lunch. They had spent a couple hours on empathic healing, followed by analysis of the spell. Severus and Remus had eaten lunch and then gone back to bed for a nap, exhausted from the healing.

“I have no idea,” said Blair. “Magic’s not my area. Win?”

Win took a bite out of her sandwich, chewed thoughtfully, and swallowed. “I was going to consult with Tara and Willow. They’re too busy to leave DC unless it’s an emergency that absolutely requires them, but I’d like to bounce some ideas off of them. Draco, you up for that?”

“Sure,” he said. “You want me to help?”

Win nodded. “You’re learning fast, and you know the situation. And frankly, you have more raw power than I do because you’re bonded.”

“I do?”

“Yes,” said Win. She set aside her sandwich for a moment and gathered her thoughts. “Magical guides and sentinels typically experience a boost in their core magical power when they come online. I’ve been online for about five years, so I’ve been able to hone my empathic healing, but you are naturally very good at it, and your power is well-suited to it. Severus has taught you well thus far. I also want you there because you are from the same culture as the wizard who created this spell. I’m American and from what I’ve been able to decipher, the spell has a number of twists to it that make no sense to me.”

“That’s Dumbledore for you,” said Draco. He grimaced. “He liked his wheels within wheels.”

“So, you come consult with me,” Win said. “Willow and Tara are our eastern seaboard experts in obscure magic; I’d check with our expert in Japan, who has more experience than they do, but frankly, she does better with the spell forms that typify Asian magic. Willow and Tara work with North American and English magic, and have a fondness for tinkering with obscure European spells. Plus, the time difference is less weird.”

“Fine,” said Draco, draining his glass of water. “Are we using the Floo?”

Win blinked. “I thought we’d just use Skype.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Harry looked skeptically from one man to another. “Is this an American thing? ‘Everyone should know how to use a gun’?”

“Only if you’re in Texas,” said Clint. “I prefer the bow.”

Jim handed Harry a set of ear protectors. “That’s because you’re weird, Hawkeye. And it’s not like you can’t handle a gun.”

“Fine,” said Harry, holding his hand out for the gun Jim had chosen. “If it’ll get you to trying to compete with each other for two minutes, I will try shooting a gun.”

Five minutes later, Clint was wincing at the pattern on the target. “Yeah, you need help, kid.”

“You said I was fine in the hand-to-hand stuff we tried earlier,” Harry protested. “And I’ve got a wand, so why do I need to know how to use a gun?”

Jim snorted. “Right, we said you were fine for a beginner in the hand-to-hand. And you’re telling me that being able to hit a target isn’t important in a wand fight?”

Clint snickered. “Wand fight.”

“Are you twelve?”

“...maybe fourteen.”

Chapter Text

Washington, D.C., 12:45 am, EST

The phone rang. Tony groaned, rolled over to the nightstand, and picked up. “H’lo?”

“Tony? It’s Win Cooper. Sorry to call so late, I just needed to talk to someone.” Her voice sounded upset.

“Who is it?” mumbled Jethro. “Dispatch?”

“Just Win,” said Tony, crawling out of bed and finding a pair of pajama pants. “Go back to sleep.”

“Kay. Come back to bed.”

“Soon,” Tony promised. Jethro rolled over and started snoring. Tony left the bedroom and headed downstairs. “It’s really not that late, Win,” he said, glancing at the clock on the microwave and deciding on hot chocolate. “What’s up?”

She sighed. “This fucking situation. Have you heard about it at all?”

“Tara said you and Blair were working on something insane, but we’ve been so busy that she didn’t have time to elaborate.” He wedged the phone between his shoulder and ear while he poured milk into a saucepan.

“We have a case of bond interference, with magic involved, and I’m on the team trying to fix it. I consulted with Tara a couple times over the last few days and we’re planning to try cracking the spell tomorrow. I’m panicking.”

Tony grinned. “And you need me to talk you back off the ledge. Got it. So, magic and bond interference? That’s possible?”

“Magic makes a lot of shitty things possible,” said Win. “In this case, take a couple of megalomaniac wizards who want to control a country, make one of them really talented at appearing benevolent, and have him figure out how to screw with bonds so he can control a sentinel and guide.”

“Fuck. Have you arrested him yet?”

“He’s dead,” said Win. “And I think you’re the first person who hasn’t asked me if they can kill him.”

Tony shrugged and rummaged through the cupboard for hot chocolate mix. “Eh, I’m a cop. Just because I have a gun doesn’t mean I want to kill people. Sure, I’d make an exception for the scumbag we’re dealing with right now, but it’s not like I want to kill everyone we arrest.”

“What do you have going?” Win’s voice lightened as she switched subjects. “Tara said it involved the Centre and the Marines, so you guys were investigating, and that she couldn’t leave, otherwise she and Willow would be on their way here to help me and Draco.”

“Draco? Is that another one of those weird wizard names?”

He could practically feel her eyeroll over the phone. “Yes, Tony, he’s a wizard. His family has a thing about constellations. Now spill.”

Tony checked his milk and turned the burner off. He whisked in the hot chocolate mix, a fancy one that Abby had given him for Christmas, and poured the drink into a mug. He settled at the table. “Okay, tell your friend his parents are dorks for the constellation thing.” He took an almost-too-hot gulp of his drink. “So, we have a Marine father, whose college-aged daughter came online. A guide.”

“He didn’t react well?” said Win.

“Guide prejudice is alive and well in America,” Tony intoned. “She eventually managed to broadcast her panic, her pain, her fear. Her spirit animal, a fox, showed up at the centre, going nuts. I was there, teaching a self-defense class, and it went right for me. Wouldn’t leave me alone. So I grabbed Tara and Willow, called Jethro, because he goes a little crazy if I wander into danger by myself, the hypocrite, and followed the fox, who took me to the base.” He stared into his hot chocolate. “The thing that gets me is that we can nail him for a hell of a lot more than we could have if she was underage. If she was underage, child abuse, yeah, but since she’s an adult, we have assault, false imprisonment, attempted guide suppression, which is a hate crime, and...it makes me wonder if she was underage, if anyone would have noticed. He could have pulled her out of school, claimed to be homeschooling her, and no one would have checked up.”

“Parents’ rights versus children’s rights,” said Win softly. “We’ve had this conversation before.”

“I know I react badly,” said Tony. “Because of my parents. Because of what they got away with. But I could feel her, Win. And I could feel his hate.”

“How are you doing?” she asked. Tony struggled with cases like these and it could be weeks before he managed to put this behind him.

“I have Jethro,” he said. “So better than I would be.”

Win’s sigh said it all. For all Tony could have problems letting go, Win had an even harder time with difficult cases, and Tony’s theory was that it was because she hadn’t yet found her sentinel. She felt like the latent connection between them flared to life periodically, but not enough for her to seek him out before it disappeared.

“And this wizard,” said Tony, jumping to their earlier subject. “Did he do this to anyone else?”

“We don’t know,” said Win. “Do you think it’s possible?”

“You said he wanted control, and he was willing to exploit the sentinel-guide bond to get it. I doubt he’d stop at one couple.”

“They hadn’t even bonded yet, Tony,” said Win, an aching sadness in her voice. “The sentinel had just come online and the guide was going to find him when that bastard intervened. He made it so they could be in the same room together and the sentinel had no idea he was in the presence of his guide. The guide thought he had been rejected.”

“God,” said Tony, thinking about how horrible that would be. “And it was advantageous to him?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Win. “Severus, the guide, was his spy in the enemy camp. They were a terrorist group focused on the purity of the wizarding world, and they were vicious. He was so damaged, physically and empathically, I’m honestly suprised he’s alive. Dumbledore wanted him doing that, and thought a sentinel would jeopardize his position with the group.

“So now most of the wizarding community in Britain thinks Dumbledore was a saint who helped stop a madman from murdering them all. He was constantly consulted by their government, defeated a powerful dark wizard during WWII, ran the school that educated most of the young magic users in Britain for decades. He looked harmless, good, and yet...it looks really bad, Tony. We’re auditing the centre. It looks like he screwed with things there, too, to get them overlooked so we wouldn’t notice.”

“Then he probably interfered with more bonds,” said Tony. “Someone like that, who’s managed to get into power, isn’t going to let go of it easily and isn’t going to let the ethics of the sentinel and guide community get in his way. Was he a sentinel or a guide?”

“No,” said Win. “Severus told me that Dumbledore’s brother was a sentinel, never bonded. He thinks the man is lower-level and that’s why he was able to manage, but doesn’t know for sure. The current theory, from Remus, the sentinel, unless we can get more data, is that, for all he was able to meddle with the sentinel-guide bond, he didn’t entirely understand what he was doing.”

“Really,” said Tony.

“I doubt it, but Dumbledore let Remus attend school as a teenager even though he’s a werewolf, and gave him work after school at various times. Despite what the man did to him, he feels indebted.” Tony could hear the irritation in her voice.

“You know that’s not unusual in situations like these, Win,” said Tony softly.

“Does it matter if I know that?” she retorted.

He took another gulp of hot chocolate. “Logically, it helps. Emotionally, not so much. What’s really scaring you right now? You get angry like this when you’re afraid.”

She snorted. “Can you use your empathy over the phone?”

“No, but I’ve spent enough time working with you over the last few years to know how your brain works. Now spill.”

“Okay,” said Win. “I’ve never dealt with a spell like this before. It’s new. What if I make it worse?”

“How bad is it right now?” Tony asked.

“Point,” said Win. “They can’t bond with the spell there. I might make it worse, but odds are that anything will be an improvement.”

“Then go with that for now,” said Tony. “You are one of the best empathic healers in the world, hands down, even unbonded. You’ve got this.” He yawned. “Need any more input?”

“Not right now,” said Win. “Thanks for letting me talk, though. I’ll let know you how it goes tomorrow?”

“Please,” said Tony. “And at some point I want to meet these wizard friends of yours with the weird names. I mean, I thought Spike was a weird name, but at least that’s just a nickname.”

“Draco’s sentinel is named Harry,” Win offered.

“Nah, one wizard with a normal name isn’t enough data, Winnifred,” he said. “Go, sleep. You’ll need the rest. Kick ass tomorrow.”

“Thanks. Tell Jethro hi for me.”

“Will do.” Tony hit the “end call” button and yawned again. He stuck his mug and the pan in the sink and headed back upstairs. When he crawled back into bed, Jethro rolled over and wrapped around him.

“You’re cold,” he said. “What was it?”

“I’m just going to steal your warmth,” said Tony. “Win was panicking about a case and wanted to vent. She’s doing a big magic thing tomorrow.”

“Sleep,” Jethro said. “We have interrogations tomorrow.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Tony, snuggling into his sentinel’s arms. He closed his eyes and let his partner’s closeness leach away the tension he felt around their current case. Something told him there was more going on than just one intolerant father, and whatever it was would be bad. Sleep would help.

Chapter Text

The room was silent while Win sorted through her notes. She passed them to Draco, who scribbled a few comments in the already marked-up margins and handed them back to her.

Harry leaned over to Clint and whispered, “Are they just going to keep doing this?”

“Shush,” said Draco. “Did you want us to rush into this and accidentally render your godfather brainless?”

“Technically he’s not Harry’s official godfather,” said Severus. “But I would certainly prefer my sentinel to have a brain, even if he’s been encouraged to overlook its use for far too long.”

“Hey!” Remus protested.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “You’re saying Dumbledore and the Order encouraged you to think for yourself?”

“Well, no,” said Remus. “Fine. But yes, please, let’s keep my brain intact, shall we?”

The guides in the room exchanged smiles at the interaction between the pair. The healings over the last few days had settled the two more, and they were now able to interact with each other without extreme tension. It was a positive sign that Severus felt secure enough to tease Remus, and Remus’ protest was not truly defensive.

Phil cleared his throat. “Shall we check the plan once more before we begin?” he suggested. “Unless you don’t feel ready?” He glanced at Draco and Win.

“Oh, I had my panic moment last night and called Tony,” Win admitted. At the expression on Clint’s face she added, “Not Stark.”

Clint looked relieved. “Good. I was starting to question your sanity. I don’t think we want him helping with this.”
The expression on Phil’s face at the thought had both Draco and Harry wondering who on earth this Stark was and why he discomposed Phil so much. They exchanged a quick glance and decided to leave it for later.

“Not at this stage, no,” Blair agreed. “His skills are put to better use elsewhere. I did ask him to send along the info packets he put together for Steve, since Draco and Harry will need quite a bit of education that’s dependent on understanding non-magical history and culture.” Blair grinned. “School starts tomorrow, assuming everything goes well today.”

“Good thought,” said Phil. “Stark did a damn thorough job helping his sentinel catch up to the 21st century. Now, Win, the plan.”

Win sighed dramatically, but flipped through her notebook to her summary. “This isn’t one of your ops, Phil. Okay, you and Blair: your jobs are to monitor the empathic states of the patients, and work on healing any empathic damage that emerges from the breaking of the spell. Phil’s on Severus, Blair’s on Remus. Jim and Clint are here to keep the two of you grounded while you work. Draco will be dismantling the spell on Severus’ side, while I’ll be working on Remus. Harry, Draco will need you to ground him.”

“And who’s your back-up?” Harry asked. He’d seen her at work but this was an elaborate ritual and Win didn’t have anyone standing with her.

“Blair and I can easily ground Win if she needs it,” said Jim. “We’ve done it in the past in healing situations.”

“And I am perfectly capable of functioning without a sentinel,” said Win tartly.

“Yep, you’re a grown-ass guide who don’t need no sentinel,” said Clint.

She pointed her wand at him. “You are lucky that I am fond of Phil,” she said. “Although I will ask his opinion on turning you purple. Draco and I have spent the last three days that we weren’t doing empathic healing to work on spell-breaking protocols. We don’t need to rehash that for you non-magicals, because realistically, you can’t do anything about it. Harry might, but he’s better off providing Draco’s support this time.” She cleared her throat. “Blair, you get to be the bad guy.”

“Why do I always have to be the bad guy?” Blair asked. Win stared him down. “Fine, fine,” he said, turning to Severus and Remus. “You two: there is an excellent chance that you will want to bond as soon as the spell’s out of the way. For your own safety, you need to let us assess you before you can act. So put a hold on any desires to jump each other, or whatever other bonding-related urges you might experience. Please.”

Severus nodded; he had expected the caveat. Remus looked and felt like he wanted to protest, but knew they were being reasonable. “Agreed,” he replied.

“Then let’s do this,” said Win. “Harry, wards.”

Harry pulled out his wand and stepped to the perimeter of the room. After some discussion, they had chosen one of the meditation rooms in the centre for their spellwork. It was as shielded as possible against magic so magical guides could work without frying the electrical system. Hermione had recently created several wards that did an even better job of shielding against magic than the fancy insulation the centre had come up with, and she’d taught them to Harry. When Phil heard that, he said he knew several people who would be interested in consulting with her at some point. Harry said she was busy doing A-Levels at the moment and was going a little crazy with it, so it would be best to wait a few weeks. Phil agreed, but insisted on getting her contact information.

The wards went up without even making the lights blink, but Win insisted on switching off the lights and using candles during their ritual just to be sure. She lit the beeswax candles they had placed around the room with a lighter, not wanting to bother with using magic. The room filled with the gentle glow of candlelight and the scent of burning wicks and beeswax.

Severus turned to Remus and pulled him into an embrace for a moment. Win watched, pleased at the progress; Severus had been amenable to Remus touching him but had rarely initiated contact over the last few days. She could tell that he was nervous about the ritual but was hiding it well. The couple settled onto the floor in the centre of the room like they usually did for healings. Remus interlaced his fingers with Severus’ and smiled. His emotional tenor was hopeful; he was less nervous than Severus.

Once the pair was comfortable, Blair and Phil sat next to their assigned person so they could monitor their empathic states. Jim and Clint sat behind their guides so they could be in physical contact without interfering with their contact for empathic monitoring.

Draco waved Harry over to stand at the west side of the circle they were going to cast, near Severus, and then he and Win exchanged glances. “Ready?” she asked.

“As I’ll ever be,” said Draco, and, standing on the eastern side of the room, lifted his wand. He took a deep breath before speaking. “Aethera voco.”

Ignem voco,” said Win, on the south of the room, raising her wand.

Aquam voco,” Harry said from the west side of the room. .

Draco crossed to the north side. “Terram voco.”

Animam vocamus,” they said together. “Hic orbis facitur.” A bubble of white light formed around the group, within the wards Harry had cast.

Blair was obviously fascinated by the phenomenon, but a nudge from Jim had him re-focusing on Remus.

Win sat beside Remus, and placed a hand over his heart. Draco did the same with Severus. Harry sat behind him, gently placing a hand on the small of his back to ground him. Win cleared her throat, met Draco’s eyes and nodded.

Slowly weaving a series of complex wand movements over Severus and Remus, Draco and Win spoke in unison. “Quid faciamus nunc, sanet vulneratos, in nominibus Domini Dominaeque artis magicae. Agimus institutiae, restitutori. Nostri illorum refert. Incohemus.”

Then it was all familiar, work Draco knew inside and out. He and Win fell into the minds of their subjects and located the spell, as they had done many times in the last week. Draco, keeping in mind their plan, set pure magic into the cracks of the enchantment, then traced runes against the glow of the magic which would guide the spell when they activated it. Before he finished, he felt the pulse of magic that told him Win was done on her end and waiting for him. He didn’t rush, but soon enough he was sending his own signal.

Then they counted down together and, casting with all their concentrated will, intent focused solely on destroying Dumbledore’s spell, they spoke as one. “Confici claustra.” The spell shattered.

Extermina carminen nocentem.” The bits and pieces of residue from the spell faded out of existence.

Iterum coniunge coniugium.” Draco’s breath caught in his throat at the beauty of it when the bond surged to life and Severus’ mind connected properly to Remus’ for the first time. He pulled his attention back to the ritual before his distraction could be a problem.

“Sic sit!”

There was one last flare of magic, and it was done.

Harry and the others were unprepared for the shockwave of energy that exploded from the couple and their healers as they intoned the last phrase. It was a combination of magic and empathic energy. Harry watched as his wards held against the magic but did nothing to hold back the empathic energy. That passed through the wards like they weren’t even there.

“Fuck me, it worked,” Draco gasped once he surfaced from Severus’ mind.

Win grinned. She looked pale but triumphant. “Awesome. Let’s open the circle.”

“Right,” said Draco. Harry helped him to his feet and to his place at the north of the circle. “Abeat in pace, terra.”

Harry, who had moved to the west side, raised his wand. “Abeat in pace, aqua.”

Win had staggered over to the south. “Abeat in pace, ignis.”

Abeat in pace, aether,” Draco said after he slowly walked to the eastern side of the circle.

Abeat in pace, anima,” the three said together. “Gratias Domino Dominaeque artis magicae agemus. Orbis aperitur sed non frangitur. Abeat in pace.”

The glowing orb that surrounded them vanished. Win stumbled to the trash can by the door, and threw up. All of the sentinels in the room winced and Harry vanished the vomit for her.

“Thanks,” she weakly. Clint poured her a glass of water from the pitcher they had at a table in the corner. She sipped it carefully.

“Are you okay?” Blair asked.

Win nodded. “I expended a lot of energy, and that spell was some seriously dark magic. Check on Severus and Remus.”

Phil was already running an empathic scan. “You’re both fine,” he said. “I would say that the ritual did exactly what it was supposed to. Blair?”

“One sec,” he said, placing a hand on each of them and extending his empathy. “Yeah,” he said after a few minutes. “You are good to go. What do you want to do?”

Remus helped Severus sit up. “I think we would like some privacy,” said Severus. “Remus?”

“Whenever you’re ready, Severus,” he said quietly. “I—I wish I’d known what we were missing. This is—thank you.”

Jim cleared his throat. “Okay,” he said. “We have one of the bonding suites here set up for you if that’s what you want. The staff will be alerted that a potentially fragile pair is bonding, and there’s medical care on site if you need it, given Severus’ condition. If you need help of any kind, it’s available. If you aren’t quite ready for that, then you can come back to the apartment and rest. Whichever you need.”

Severus and Remus stared at each other for a moment. “Bonding suite,” said Severus. “I’ve gone quite long enough without him, and I’m not forgoing my sentinel any longer.”

Chapter Text

Severus took the cup of hot chocolate Remus offered him. The process of getting settled into a bonding suite had been easy enough—Phil and Clint had walked them over, introduced them to the staff, and made sure they knew how to request food and medical attention. Then they had left, and the two were alone.

Remus sipped his own hot chocolate and Severus watched his sentinel relax under the influence of the chocolate...and the privacy. It hadn’t been possible for them to be truly alone until the spell was removed—Remus had attacked Severus once and no one had wanted to risk it happening again. With the spell gone, and their bond starting to activate normally, they could be left alone in the bonding suite, doors locked, with no one to interrupt.

Remus had requested hot chocolate before they had headed into the suite, and a container of high quality hot chocolate mix and a jug of whole milk had been delivered promptly. Since the suite came with a small kitchenette, Remus had heated the milk in a pan on the two-burner stove and mixed the drinks for both of them.

“It was strange, being able to sense that magic when they took it out, after it had been there so long without my noticing it,” said Remus thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said Severus. “If you had asked a year and a half ago, I would told you that I didn’t believe Dumbledore was capable of such dark magic.”

His sentinel grimaced. “I’ve always found chocolate helpful with dark magic.”

A wry smile twisted Severus’ lips. “I’ve noticed.” He paused. “I found it helpful, too. It eased the ache of not having you. I suppose it affected the spell a bit.”

“It’s certainly possible,” Remus agreed. He sighed. “Now what?”

“I believe we’re expected to shag like rabbits for the next few days,” said Severus. “Though I think I’d prefer a more leisurely pace than that.”

Remus nearly choked. “You just want to get down to it?”

“No,” said Severus. “I think we have a few discussions ahead of us, you need to finish imprinting your senses, and I have to complete my empathic imprint.”

“Discussions,” said Remus. He stared into his hot chocolate for a moment. “Is the werewolf thing a problem?”

Severus’ brow furrowed in thought. “I hadn’t actually thought too hard about it,” he admitted. “I am...fearful of werewolves. My encounter with your other self when we were teenagers was profoundly traumatic. Neither of us were online at the time, however, and I’m not concerned that you would try to harm me during the full moon now, though I certainly was the last time I was in your presence when you changed. But the spell’s no longer a concern, and since I am your guide, your wolf would recognize that in me, even without the Wolfsbane.”

“Really?” said Remus. “I hadn’t really thought about that. I just...Dora wanted me taking the Wolfsbane and locking myself up, just in case. She didn’t want me anywhere near her during full moon.”

“That is frankly more of a problem for me than your condition,” said Severus. “You got married to another guide, Remus.”

“I did,” said Remus evenly. “I wasn’t truly interested in her, and, well, it was strange. We only slept together a handful of times and we were separated within a couple of months of marriage. It felt like I’d just given in, and given up, right then after Dumbledore died, and I might as well take what I could. I didn’t think I’d survive the war, after all. What little attraction I had for her vanished shortly after the marriage ceremony. It was almost like I’d been...”

“Enchanted,” Severus finished. “That arsehole.”

“I don’t think we could prove that,” said Remus. “I regret hurting you that way, though. And Dora didn’t deserve that. If she wanted to be with a sentinel, she should have been with one she could have bonded with, and who truly wanted her.”

Severus realized that their hands had met across the table. “That is regrettable,” he said, letting his fingers twine together with his sentinel’s. “I—I still don’t know if I will be able to get over that quickly, though.”

Remus nodded. “It still hurts that you didn’t seek me out and tell me twenty years ago. Perhaps we could have avoided this, though my common sense says that Dumbledore would have intervened, and we were too young to fight him then.”

“Then shall we try to mend our hurts together...Sentinel?” said Severus.

Remus smiled. “Guide,” he whispered. He drew Severus to his feet and they crossed the room to the bedroom. Remus shut the door and faced his guide.

Severus felt waves of uncertainty from Remus and decided to take the first step. He reached for the top button on Remus’ shirt, and undid it. Slowly, he slid the next button through its hole, and the next, until his sentinel’s shirt was fully unbuttoned and slid it off Remus’ shoulders. Remus’ eyes were dilated; he was breathing shallowly. Severus placed a hand on his chest, over his heart, and felt its beat accelerate. “Your turn,” he murmured.

Remus gulped, and started in on Severus’ buttons. His hands shook slightly as he carefully removed his guide’s shirt. “Now?” he asked.

Severus raised an eyebrow. “I seem to remember the literature indicating that it will be easier for you to imprint if neither of us is wearing clothes.”

“Right,” said Remus. “Um, did you want me to...?”

He snorted and slid his trousers off, kicking off his shoes in the same motion. Remus stared in awe at his guide, his eyes focusing on him, memorizing every detail. When Severus sat down on the bed, naked, and made an impatient noise, Remus remember that he was still half-dressed, and quickly stripped. He knelt on the bed next to Severus and reached out tentatively.

“I won’t break,” said Severus. His tone gentled as he caught a wave of emotion from Remus. “I promise.”

So Remus gently leaned his guide back onto the bed and started work on imprinting. As he breathed in his guide’s scent, listened to his heart, and ran his fingers over his skin, he felt the bond between them settle as Severus reached out with his empathy and swept through Remus’ psyche.

Remus gasped as Severus’ empathy wove them together. Later, he would decide that there were no words to describe the sensation, lost as he was in all his senses, wholly focused on his guide, but in that moment, he could only experience it as the most profound event in his entire life, with none of his mind given over to coherent thought. He pressed his forehead to Severus’ and took a shuddering breath. Then he leaned down and joined their mouths together. Severus eagerly opened his mouth and when their tongues met everything intensified again.

“Merlin,” Severus gasped when Remus moved down to kiss along his neck and nuzzle at the scars Nagini had left there. After the years of rejection he hadn’t expected to feel so welcomed by his sentinel, but Remus’ reaction to Severus’ empathy told him that not only was he welcome, he was wanted. That realization shook him deeply. So few people had ever wanted him, and those who had had only wanted him for what he could do. Remus—despite his bone-deep need for Severus—wanted him just because he was himself, not solely because he was his guide. Severus trembled in his sentinel’s arms and Remus kissed him to soothe his distress.

“Was that the empathic imprint?” he whispered.

Severus cleared his throat to answer, but the flow of emotions across their bond gave Remus his response before he could speak.

“Did you want to complete the bond now, or wait?” Remus asked, as he flooded their bond with feelings of trepidation.

That demanded a verbal answer. “I will tie you down and climb on top if you’re that afraid of hurting me, but we are bonding now, before anyone else can muck things up for us,” Severus snapped.

The delighted laughter from his sentinel and the relief he felt through their connection told Severus that Remus was merely overly concerned about his well-being. And wasn’t that a pleasant thing to know?

“Oh, if you need to tie me up sometime, I won’t tell you no,” said Remus. “But I think I would prefer to skip that this time.”

Severus snorted. “It’s always the quiet ones,” he said.

“I have been very deliberate about cultivating an unassuming manner,” Remus agreed, leaning over to the bedside table to find the lubricant that had been placed there. He pressed another kiss to Severus’ collarbone and then slid down to explore further. Their banter ceased as Remus prepared Severus and Severus let himself be lost in the unfamiliar sensation of loving touch.

There was an awkward moment when Remus carefully slid inside, and Severus clutched at his sentinel’s shoulders. “Okay?” Remus asked.

“Yes,” Severus gasped. “I—I hadn’t really expected...I thought it would probably hurt.”

Remus swallowed, trying to think of a response, and instead just kissed his guide. “Has it hurt before?” he asked.

“First time for this,” said Severus succinctly. He blushed.

Remus blinked. “Oh. Well, um, glad I took my time then. Are...are you ready for more?”

“I think so,” said Severus. He reached out with his empathy as much as he could and felt the last of the bond start to form as Remus moved. When they came together, it locked into place, complete and unbreakable.

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They slept. When Remus woke, his guide—his guide—was still asleep. Remus settled in to watch Severus at rest, noting how some of his frown lines smoothed away in sleep. He relaxed into the surety of their bond, the knowledge that they’d found each other despite everything and everyone who had stood in their way. He had never thought he would have this; he had believe that the reason he had never found his guide was that his condition made it impossible. He had accepted that, though there had always been times when he had railed against that fate, when he had been desperate to have a connection to someone. His short-lived marriage to Dora had been born out of one of those times of desperation.

He deeply regretted the choices he had made then. The strange despair he had felt from Dumbledore’s death at Severus’ hand had been only slightly held at bay by giving into Dora’s desire for him. And then, only a few short weeks after their hurried wedding, he had looked at Dora like she was a stranger, completely confused as to why he had married her. The sentinel in him, damaged though he was from years without a guide, was nearly repulsed by Dora, and she could barely pull him out of a zone. He had moved out and teamed up with Charlie Weasley, his sentinel, and the Weasley twins, and done his best to hobble the enemy.

Many of the twin’s plans had reminded him of a film his mother had loved, The Great Escape. It was far from the same situation, but their outlandish methods of fighting back against the Death Eaters had worked more often than not. He had felt a little less alone around them, and Charlie and his sentinel, Lucas, had been willing to help stabilize him. They were a mid-level pair, so Charlie had an easier time pulling Remus out of zones, and the presence of another sentinel had made Remus feel part of the tribe, more so than the rest of the Order did.

Gently stroking his fingers through Severus’ hair, Remus wondered how lonely that year had been for Severus, stuck at Hogwarts, frantically trying to prevent the Carrows from killing any students, trying to keep the other teachers from killing him, completely on his own, with no real support. Between the isolation, the hostility from others, and his empathy picking up on all the fluctuating emotions in the castle, he must have been in agony. Remus instinctively curled closer to his guide, who shifted and actually snuggled deeper into his arms. Remus smiled and closed his eyes so he could focus his hearing on Severus’ heartbeat.

He didn’t really know what was supposed to come next, and their first full moon together was less than two weeks away, but they were one now, and he intended that nothing should ever come between them again.

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The week of isolation was meant to help newly bonded couples cement their connection and get used to being part of each other’s psyches. For couples who bonded shortly after meeting, the time also served for them to get to know each other. Understanding each other at a soul-deep level was a guarantee of the bond, but that didn’t exactly include information such as food preferences, educational background, common interests, and significant life events.

Part of Severus had assumed that they wouldn’t really need to get to know each other; he and Remus had been in each other’s lives, to varying extents, since they were eleven. The reality, of course, was that they didn’t know each other all that well. Remus’ best friends had been Severus’ worst tormentors in school, and none of their interactions had been the sort to further friendship. After Dumbledore interfered, Severus’ grief and resentment had prevented him from learning too much about his sentinel. He had researched werewolves, had been deeply invested in developing the Wolfsbane Potion, had known Remus was educated enough to teach DADA, but he had shied away from learning too much. It had been too painful.

The result was that their time of seclusion surprised him. Remus was clever and well-read. He knew much less about potions than Severus, of course, but his knowledge of runic work equaled Severus’ and they found themselves earnestly debating competing theories. The passionate argument led to an equally passionate interval in bed, though it admittedly took very little to encourage either of them to make a move towards reinforcing their bond through sex.

The hours of talking, touching, and learning to love each other settled both sentinel and guide. They felt safe. They were both aware that this period of time would be easier than what was coming—the intimacy of their new bond, the relief they felt in each other protected them for now—at some point they would have to work through their past conflicts and their pain, but for now, they were finally whole, and none of the clouds truly marred that.

Chapter Text

“Yes, Hermione, of course we thought of that when we planned the ritual,” said Draco, mobile phone held to his ear. “It didn’t have any relevancy to this situation.” He rolled his eyes at Harry, who could hear both sides of their conversation. “No, we consulted with a pair of experts whose specialties include arcane ritual magic. They discussed Grimby’s Hypothesis and dismissed it.”

Harry handed Draco a cup of tea and watched his mate settle on the sofa, cup in one hand, phone in the other. Harry had called Hermione after the ritual to let her know what had happened and now she was dissecting it with Draco. I have two of them now, he thought, before Hermione’s protest and Draco’s response pulled his attention back to the conversation.

“Well, just because a lot of morons agree with Grimby, that doesn’t make his hypothesis remotely close to being useful. You need to read more broadly, especially on the international discussions around ritual magic, and you can’t use the Hogwarts library for that because the Board of Governors limited the information on ritual magic in the library.”

Harry drifted over to the list of people whose arses he was planning to kick and added the Hogwarts Board of Governors to it. The list was displayed prominently on the fridge in their flat. “Tom Riddle/Voldemort” was at the top of the list with a bold line drawn through the words. The next entries were “Albus Dumbledore’s rotting corpse” and “Lucius Fucking Malfoy.”

Draco snorted as he watched Harry scrawl the newest addition down and then said, “No, Harry’s doing something amusing. Now tell me about your O-Levels.”

“Well, I’ve finished all but two, and my NEWT results came back with high marks,” Harry heard Hermione say through the phone. “I’m not terribly concerned. Just tired. Ron and I broke up and I haven’t been sleeping well.”

“Wait a second,” said Harry. He took the phone when Draco offered it to him and found the correct button to switch it to speakerphone. “You and Ron broke up?”

“Yes, last week,” said Hermione. Her sigh was audible. “Honestly, I’m surprised it took us this long to get the sexual attraction out of our systems.”

“Me, too,” said Draco, earning himself a raised eyebrow from Harry. “I didn’t really think that you had enough in common for a long-term relationship.”

Hermione laughed a little. “Thanks for not pointing it out,” she said. “I doubt either of us would have taken it well. I think we needed to figure it out on our own.”

“This is really weird,” Harry volunteered.

Draco squeezed his sentinel’s knee. “What, your partner discussing relationships with your female best friend?” he teased. “How on earth could that possibly be strange?”

“Sexual attraction and Ron,” said Harry succinctly.

“Harry, you’re gay,” said Hermione.

“That doesn’t mean I’m attracted to everyone with a dick!” Harry protested, turning crimson. “I’ve never been attracted to Ron! Never!”

Draco grinned. “You’re adorable, love. Hermione, I know you can’t see, but I believe the shade he’s just turned is called ‘tomato.’ It’s fantastic.”

That got a genuine peal of laughter from Hermione. “Thanks,” she said. “I needed that image in my head.”

“So, moving on from your previous sexual attraction to Ron,” said Draco, elbowing Harry back when he elbowed Draco, “where are you staying now? With your parents?”

“No, I’m at Grimmauld Place,” she said. “Harry told me it was okay to stay there, and it’s awkward at the Burrow right now, even if Ron and I definitely agree it was for the best. I think Molly had this vision of us getting married and letting her plan the wedding. And I signed up to take my exams at one of the testing centres in London, so it’s convenient to be there.”

“What about your mum and dad?” Harry asked. He had noticed that she had dodged the question. “I thought they were back from Australia.”

There was a moment of silence. “They wouldn’t be comfortable with me staying with them,” Hermione said carefully.

Hermione had gone to Australia, Ron in tow, a week after what was now called the “Final Battle.” She had tracked down her parents, reversed the Memory Charms, and been promptly kicked out of their home. She had eventually convinced them to let her back in. Then she told them about the war, and what the last year had been like for her, and been told that she was grounded until she was thirty. Given that she was eighteen, grounding her was more than a little irrelevant.

Ron had told Harry in private that it had been weird. Her parents had let them help with packing their home up to move back to Britain, but had staunchly refused to allow any magic in their home. For Ron, raised in a magical home, this was baffling, since they could have had the house packed in less than a day if they had used magic. Instead, they spent a week quietly packing things into boxes and then into a shipping container. Hermione’s parents had not spoken at all to Ron, and barely said a word to their daughter. They didn’t touch her and they only acknowledged her existence when necessary. They didn’t want to listen to her desperate apologies.

After eight days in Australia, Hermione and Ron returned to Hogwarts, and her parents completed the process of moving home on their own. Hermione wrote to her parents twice a week, but received only a couple letters in return. She ventured down to the phone box outside of Hogsmeade a few times, but all her conversations were extremely short. Ron patted her on the back when she cried about it, but had no idea to handle the type of conflict she was facing.

Harry was sympathetic, though he felt that her parents had the right to be angry. It would have been one thing if they had agreed to the memory charms for the duration of the war; it was another thing entirely that Hermione, after trying to explain to her parents that they were in danger, had resorted to brainwashing them. He pointed this out, and she acknowledged that he was right, but she had been unable to see any other way out. She couldn’t trust the Ministry with her parents. They wouldn’t relocate voluntarily. The Order had, when asked, told her that they didn’t have the resources to protect her family.

Draco had sided with Harry when he heard the story. He probably wouldn’t have forgiven someone for doing that to him, and Hermone’s parents didn’t even have the ability to defend themselves from memory charms. Personally, he thought Hermione had panicked. It was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard of her doing.

In retrospect, Draco could think of options, though he didn’t say so to Hermione. Her guilt had been so palpable that even mundanes could practically feel it. That didn’t stop Draco from thinking of better ideas. A compulsion charm, to convince them to move—not entirely ethical, but better than memory charms. A member of the Order might have been willing to talk to them and convince them of the danger, even if the Order couldn’t hide them. Wards were mostly a group effort, but Hermione could have done something.
But then, Draco had never been in Hermione’s specific situation. His own father wouldn’t spit on him if he was on fire, and his mother was limited by Lucius’ control over her. He loved his mother, hated his father, and could no longer interact with either. And, true, Draco had taken the Dark Mark to keep his mother alive, so he knew far too much about untenable situations and the things a person might do out of desperation.

Still, Hermione had crossed a line. Between that and the last year, her magical aura now read as grey, not light, though Draco thought it suited her better. Memory-charming her parents had broken something in her, and ensured that she would never be able to have a normal relationship with her parents. If that had even been possible before. Draco had listened to other Muggleborns talk about their families, about the distance, about growing away from their roots, over the summer they had all spent in the Slytherin dorms, fixing the castle and studying for NEWTs. Well, those Muggleborns who had survived.

The Order hadn’t protected them, either. Harry had—well, he had lost it a little, when he’d learned that his abusive relatives had merited a safe house, but no one else’s family had. He hadn’t said much while the others talked, that night that they had spoken of families and the war. But later, Draco found him curled up next to the window by the lake, staring into the depths. The desolation poured off him. Draco had been fighting his attraction to Harry, but couldn’t help himself. He sat down beside the other boy, cast a warming charm, and leaned against him. Neither had said a word. They had fallen asleep there, and woken barely half an hour before everyone else.

Hermione’s guilt for her parents was earned. But Harry’s guilt was not. It had not been his responsibility to protect everyone. Draco quietly touched Harry’s back, projecting reassurance and calm towards his sentinel. Harry cleared his throat. “You know you’re welcome to live at Grimmauld Place,” he said. “You’ll always have a home with us.”

“Thanks, Harry,” said Hermione. She paused for a moment. “Oh, remember how I was working on a charm to get my computer to work in a wizarding household? I did it!”

“Really?” said Draco. “What did you come up with?”

“It’s a combination of several charms, actually,” said Hermione. “Shielding to prevent magic from oversaturating the electronics, since magical energy is more powerful than electrical energy. It’s like how in Europe we usually use 220 volts to power things, and in America they use 110. I don’t have access to tools that would let me measuring the voltage I get with magical power, but at a guess, it’s at least 300, probably more. So I tinkered with a few things and came up with something that converts the magic into electrical voltage that my computer can handle so I can use it here and at Hogwarts. I still have to use an internet café since we don’t even have a phone lined wired in here, but I think I can figure out how to create an internet hotspot using my mobile and then tether the computer to that. The shielding obviously works on my mobile, since I’m talking to you right now and I’m sitting in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. We actually get really good reception here, but I’m not sure why yet. I have a few theories.”

Draco and Harry exchanged looks. “I think a few people here are going to want to talk with you,” said Harry. “Win, our healer, lives normally, without much magical stuff at home. They have some warding things that let them do a bit of magic at home without destroying the electronics, so they can use electric lights and the phone, but they can’t do any magic near a computer. They’d love this.”

Hermione laughed. “And here I was just thinking about dragging magical Britain out of the dark ages,” she said. “I’ve obviously been thinking too small. I’d better go. I have the beginnings of migraine again, and I need to try to sleep. I have more studying to do tomorrow and it’s late here.”

“Sleep well, and if you keep having migraines, go to a healer,” said Draco.

“Good night,” said Harry.

“Bye,” said Hermione. The phone beeped when she hung up. Harry winced slightly at the sound, and dialed down his hearing slightly.

Draco pulled Harry close immediately. “It’s not your fault, love,” he said.

“I should have done something to help with her family,” said Harry, closing his eyes and settling his ear against Draco’s chest as they leaned back on the sofa.

“Did she ask for help?” he said. “Does she even talk about her parents with you?”

“No,” said Harry. “And she doesn’t talk about her parents much. I...I don’t know what it’s like to have parents so I sort of assumed that was normal.”

Draco combed his fingers through Harry’s unruly hair. “She made a mistake, Harry. A big one. She has to live with the consequences of that. It’s not unlike when I took the Dark Mark. I was desperate to save my mother, and absolutely terrified. It was a mistake, but I couldn’t think my way out of the situation.”

Harry traced his fingers along Draco’s left arm. Their bonding had had an unexpected side effect. The Dark Mark was gone, completely, as if it had never existed. Draco was hoping that bonding would have the same effect on Severus, but since the pair were still in seclusion, he would have to wait to find out.

“Let’s go to bed,” Harry suggested.

Draco smiled.

Chapter Text

Phil opened his eyes. “Stop poking me,” he said clearly.

Clint leaned over him. “But you’re so pokable, Phil.” His guide raised an eyebrow. Clint stopped smirking. “Fine, I brought you coffee. We have a call from the DC SGC.”

Phil groaned and struggled to sit up. He gulped down nearly half of the coffee in a few quick swallows, despite its temperature. “Tara and Willow, Tony and Jethro, or Spencer and Hotch?”

“Tony and Jethro,” said Clint. “They stumbled across something big that we need to be briefed about.”

“Will this end up a SHIELD thing?” Serious SGC incidents that required Phil and Clint frequently ended up needing SHIELD’s involvement as well. Captain America’s recovery had been one of those joint operations that had not gone well because SHIELD operatives hadn’t bothered to listen to the sentinels and guides on the mission.

Clint shrugged. “No idea if this is SGC, SHIELD, or something else. Come on. You have enough time to get dressed.”

Phil staggered to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, dressed, and accepted another mug of coffee. As he stared into its depths, he was reminded of the reason for his atypical sluggishness. “Any word on Severus and Remus?”

Clint opened their door and guided Phil out into the hallway. “Word from the Centre is that their bonding proceeded without further incident and that they wanted more food.”

“Good,” said Phil, as they reached Blair and Jim’s apartment. “What’s on fire now?” he asked as the door opened.

The video call was already set up and live. Tony didn’t even laugh at Phil’s remark, which told them all just how serious things were. Phil and Clint exchanged glances and focused on the briefing. The tribe was under threat.

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Harry found a message that had been shoved under their door when he stumbled from the shower to the kitchen. “We have a meeting over at Blair’s at 10:30,” he called to Draco, who was fussing over his hair.

“Another one?” Draco asked, making one final adjustment to his coiffure. “Delightful. Am I allowed tea first?”

“We have time,” Harry promised. “I just put the kettle on.”

Draco rummaged through their shared closet. It didn’t take him very long. “I think we may need to go clothes-shopping in the next few days,” he called back to Harry. “I know we did laundry yesterday but I’m still short on things that would work for anything more than casual.” He pulled on the set of trousers he had pressed the night before.

Harry wandered into the bedroom, mugs in hand. He offered one to Draco. “I was kind of in a hurry when I bought those,” he said. “I’m not really used to having lots of clothes, so it seemed like enough to me.”

Draco sipped his tea, closing his eyes with pleasure. Harry had the knack for getting tea exactly right. “Appearances, Harry. Blair wants us taking over the SGC branch back home. Dressing the part is important; it gives people confidence that you know what you’re doing.” He set his cup down on the nightstand and reached for the outfit he had selected.

“It’s like armour?” said Harry, settling on the bed to watch Draco button his shirt.

“A uniform, or a costume, if you’d rather,” Draco corrected. He smiled tightly. “Mother taught me all of that.” A flare of grief echoed across their bond.

Harry pulled Draco onto the bed with him. “Maybe you should write to her.”

“And maybe Lucius would burn the letter in front of her,” Draco retorted. “Their marriage contract is strict, Harry, and it’s enforced by magic. That is an old wizarding custom more than one pureblood has been happy to see fall by the wayside. I thought it was normal until I started at Hogwarts and learned that even the most traditional of my classmates’ families rarely used the old contracts anymore. I think...I think it may have been a reaction to Aunt Andromeda’s elopement. She was supposed to marry my father, and my mother got stuck with the marriage instead. I’d guess Lucius and Grandfather insisted. Bellatrix certainly didn’t have that sort of contract.” He shuddered.

Harry stroked a hand through Draco’s hair. His guide squirmed away. “I just spent nearly fifteen minutes getting my hair right!” he protested, before letting Harry pull him back into an embrace for a few more minutes.

Between Harry insisting that Draco eat some toast before they left, and Draco needing to repair his hair, they were barely on time to their meeting.

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Blair winked at them. “Good morning!” he said. “I’ve got some new people to introduce to you and they’re going to be working with you for the next few days.”

“Oh?” said Draco. He looked over the sentinel-guide pair who were waiting for them. They were both tall men; the sentinel was dressed in a standard business suit, while the guide’s clothing was more casual – his cardigan and brightly coloured trainers suggested a less formal occupation than his sentinel.

“This is Dr. Spencer Reid,” Blair gestured to the guide, and then to the sentinel, “and Special Agent Aaron Hotchner. They work for the FBI at the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Mostly they track serial killers, but their skills in profiling human behaviour are what we are after here.”

“What’s the FBI?” Harry asked. “Sorry, British and magical; there’s a lot I don’t know.”

“Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Aaron Hotchner. “We investigate crimes on the federal level – ones that cross state lines or crimes that have been designated under federal jurisdiction, rather than state or local jurisdiction.”

“That sounds complicated,” said Harry.

“It is,” said the sentinel. “Or it is when you are unfamiliar with it."

“As a sentinel-guide pair, we are occasionally seconded to the SGC when they require our expertise,” said Spencer Reid. He continued to chat, explaining their role and summarizing some of their past work with the SGC. Blair poured several cups of coffee and handed them around.

Harry’s eyes widened when he saw the amount of sugar Spencer added to his coffee. His sentinel noticed Harry’s expression. “He practically lived on coffee when he was attending graduate school full-time,” he explained. “Sometimes I think the sugar in there was the only thing keeping him going.”

“I ate food, too,” Spencer protested. “We’ve had this conversation before, Aaron.”

Aaron squeezed Spencer’s arm affectionately. “I remember,” he said.

Jim pushed open the door. “And breakfast is here,” he said, lifting a bag filled with takeout from a nearby restaurant.

“And you were fussing about me not eating enough earlier,” Draco said, nudging Harry and accepting a cup of coffee.

“I didn’t know there’d be food here,” Harry said, defending himself.

Blair, in the middle of opening up boxes, laughed. “Harry, we always have food. Jim would probably be happy to eat nothing but takeout for the rest of our lives, but our kitchen is stocked with stuff that’s actually food for you, too.”

“These are healthy,” Jim said, picking up one of the breakfast sandwiches.

“That has bacon,” said Blair.

“One of the major food groups,” Jim asserted.

Aaron picked up a plate. “And the pork-free ones?”

“Are you Jewish?” Harry asked.

“No,” said Aaron. He and Spencer exchanged a look. “We had a case that put us off pork for the foreseeable future.” Their expressions and emotional tenor dissuaded everyone in the room from asking.

Harry nudged Draco towards the food.

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Draco glanced warily over his shoulder. After a brief discussion about what skills Reid and Hotchner could teach Harry and Draco, Reid had suggested that they observe the younger pair in an everyday situation to evaluate how they were using their sentinel and guide abilities when not in danger. He explained that learning to take in important facts about their environment and the people around them was easily applicable to the work they would be doing in the UK, and he wanted to get a baseline.

Harry agreed and suggested they go shopping, since Draco had mentioned wanting to add to his non-magical wardrobe. This led to the situation they were in now: standing in a clothing shop with Reid and Hotchner a few aisles over.

“Doesn’t this seem bizarre to you?” Draco hissed to Harry.

Harry leafed through the rack of shirts in front of them. He pulled off a grey collared shirt and handed it to Draco. “Eh, it’s not so bad. I’m a little uncomfortable with it, but it’s a lot better than having the Order hiding the bushes around the Dursleys’ house without letting me know they were there.”

“When did that happen?” Draco demanded, adding a second shirt to his load. “Don’t forget you need more formal clothing, too.” He tossed a third shirt at Harry, who caught it neatly.

“Oh, after the Triwizard Tournament,” Harry said, staring down at a sleeve like he was trying to analyze the weave of the fabric. “Dumbledore was being his usual self; he insisted I go back to the Dursleys’ and told my friends not to tell me anything about what was going on, for my own safety.”

“Fucker,” said Draco. He found a shirt in a pale green that would complement Harry’s eyes. “This one,” he said. “I want to see you in that.”

Harry smirked. “Just that? I think it’ll have to wait until we purchase it.”

Draco elbowed his sentinel. “Pay attention. You need to try on several styles so you can see what suits you best.”

“They all sort of look the same to me, other than colour,” said Harry, gesturing at the dozens of shirts surrounding them.

“Well, they aren’t,” said Draco. “And if I had to learn all the nuances of men’s high fashion, I’m damn well going to use it to our advantage.” He looked around the store. “Thank Merlin that the clothing worn under open robes is basically the same. I just had to research men’s jackets last night on the internet thing.”

Harry tensed at some sound Draco couldn’t hear, and then Draco noted an additional empathic signature. He looked towards the door, the direction Harry was facing. A new customer had entered, and been greeted by the shop assistant.

“No ill intentions,” he murmured, stroking the hand not holding clothing along his sentinel’s arm.

Harry breathed out slowly. “Right. Sorry.” He relaxed by degrees and then froze again when another shop assistant entered the main area from the storeroom.

“Keep breathing,” Draco reminded him. He selected a few more items and then said, “That should be enough for now. Let’s try them on.” He steered Harry over to the dressing rooms and set the clothing down on the bench once they’d shut their door. Harry hauled him close and clung tightly. He was trembling all over.

“Why is it so bad right now?” he whispered. “I can’t—we were fine at the centre.”

“The centre’s safe,” said Draco. “We’re both more jumpy here because it’s unknown. Remember the walk over and there was that flashing green light in that shop window?”

Harry rubbed a soothing hand up and down Draco’s back. His guide had reacted badly to a light that was the same shade as the light from the Killing Curse. He didn’t know how to fix that, but for the moment, holding onto each other seemed to be all they had.

“Harry, Draco,” said Aaron from outside the dressing room. “I think we should probably finish up here and head back.”

“Sorry,” said Harry.

“Don’t apologize,” said Aaron. “We’ve got some preliminary recommendations to start you off, and I think you two need to be back in an environment where you feel safe for now.”

Draco pulled away from Harry and picked up one of the shirts he had selected. “I agree. Harry, try these on and then we’ll get going.”

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Spencer made coffee while Harry and Draco put their purchases away and re-grounded themselves. “Their files, paired with their reactions out in public, indicate that both of them have experienced successive bouts of trauma.” He breathed out in a long sigh. “I’m impressed that they function as well as they do.”

Aaron finished reading Harry’s file and picked up Draco’s. “This is appalling,” he said. “What Harry has told Win and Blair about his life...why didn’t Family Services get involved?”

Spencer pursed his lips. “Magic,” he said. “Easy enough to redirect attention away from a single abused child if you want him to feel isolated and be easy to manipulate.”

Aaron’s frown deepened as he read through Draco’s file. “What is wrong with the British magical community?”

“Too much,” said a voice from the door. They both glanced up, recognizing the voice immediately.

“Win,” said Spencer, breaking into a smile. “You look well.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I think sleeping for a few days helped. Is that coffee?”

“Just ready now,” said Spencer. “Milk and sugar?”

“Yes,” she said, taking a seat across from Aaron. “It’s good to see you both. There’s been so much to sort out here. I wanted to call you in earlier but we were so focused on dismantling the enchantment on Severus and Remus that there really wasn’t time for the work you do.”

“We’re here now,” said Aaron. “If you’re rested enough, I think you and Spencer should probably do some mind healing and counseling with Harry and Draco.”

She nodded, accepting a cup of coffee from Spencer with a murmured thanks. “Blair and I have worked with them a little but they were relatively stable when we arrived, so we decided most of it could wait. Both of them needed empathic healing but bonding had stabilized them quite a bit. I take it they aren’t doing as well now that they don’t have Severus and Remus to focus on?”

Aaron took the coffee Spencer brought him and set down the files so his guide could settle close to him on the sofa. “Draco had a panic attack in response to a bright green light in a store window.”

“Killing Curse,” said Win. “It’s bright green and he would have seen it used frequently during the war.”

Aaron nodded and continued. “Both of them, but Harry especially, experienced hyper-vigilance while they were shopping for clothing. Every time a person entered the store, Harry reacted as though they were a threat until Draco reassured him that he couldn’t feel ill intentions from them.”

Spencer cleared his throat. “Have you done an evaluation on them?”

Win sipped her coffee. “I have. It’s likely that helping extract the dark magic on Severus and Remus and consequently being exposed to it, even briefly, may have exacerbated their issues. They’ve been doing very well until now, but I planned for Phil and I to work on their healing this week.”

“Phil and Clint have gotten pulled into an investigation for an anti-Guide ring that Tony and Jethro stumbled across,” said Aaron.

Win leaned back into her chair. “Of course they have. Spencer, are you able to help me?”

Spencer drummed his fingers on Aaron’s knee until his sentinel captured his hand and interlaced their fingers. “I should be,” he answered after some thought. “I know healing isn’t quite my forté, but I can certainly back you up.”

Win set her coffee cup down and cracked her knuckles, making Aaron wince at the noise. “Then let’s get them in here and get started,” she said.

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Harry swallowed nervously as he lay down on the floor. Draco sat beside his head. “It’ll be fine,” he promised. “I know letting other people in is hard, but this will help. Just breathe.”

“We will pull out if it gets too much,” Win said. “Close your eyes and focus your senses on Draco while Spencer and I work.”

Harry did what she asked and winced as he felt Win and Spencer slip into his mind. After the disaster that had been his Occlumency lessons in fifth year, anyone in his mind (except for Draco now) was terrifying. He expected it to hurt but when it didn’t, he began to relax.

Win and Spencer pulled out of Harry’s mind after half an hour, and they reconfigured so they could work on Draco. Harry held Draco’s hand while they healed his guide and yawned as they finished up.

“That’s enough for now,” said Win. “You should both have a nap and then we’ll talk about what’s next over dinner.”

Spencer yawned too. Aaron pulled him to his feet. “You need a nap, too,” he said. “Come on.”

“Why does all this healing involve sleep?” Harry asked as Draco tugged him towards the door.

“Sleep is magical,” said Draco. “Come on.”