Draco and Harry had returned to Hogwarts the day after Boxing Day because they were still catching up on all they had missed after raising Sirius. Most of the other members of staff had returned by New Year, so there was an impromptu party in the Great Hall, instigated by Dumbledore himself. Then, before Harry realised it, it was time for term to begin again.
This time he made sure he and Draco were with the others on the train to escort the pupils back. He saw a familiar face on the platform that surprised him, even though afterwards he remembered that it shouldn't have done.
[Blaise,] he told Draco silently as they watched most of the school boarding the Hogwarts Express.
[Albus said they were hoping he was going to be cleared to come back this term,] Draco replied.
[They must finally have given him the all clear over Christmas,] Harry said, trying to catch Blaise's eye.
He wanted to assure the other boy that there were no hard feelings, after all it hadn't been Blaise's fault he had been used. However, the subdued Slytherin was quite obviously deliberately not looking anywhere near Harry at all.
In fact, in the end, Blaise managed to get on the train and just about vanish. At least, Harry didn't see him again until the platform at the other end. If he hadn't been dealing with a first year who was crying his eyes out, having lost his wand already, Harry would have cornered Blaise on the way to the carriages. As it was, by the time they found the wand stuck down the side of a seat (it had been far easier since Harry could see it's magical signature) Blaise was long gone.
As they made sure all the pupils were safely on their way to the castle, Harry resigned himself to having to talk to Blaise at a later date.
[It's not like he can go anywhere,] Draco assured him.
[I just want to clear the air as soon as possible,] Harry replied.
[And I'm sure you will,] Draco told him. [Wayward scarf at three o'clock.]
It was quite blustery on the platform and the Slytherin-coloured scarf managed to whack him right in the face. Draco found it highly amusing.
* * *
The first dinner of term was as noisy as ever, but so far nothing disastrous had happened, which Draco counted as a win. He hadn't been expecting any deliveries, but, as the evening owls arrived, one headed straight for him. He and Harry were sitting at their usual places at the second high table when his mother's familiar bird swooped down and delivered its letter. There were never as many owls arriving for the evening post as there were in the morning, but the occurrence was common place enough so that no one took any notice.
"Hello, Persius," Harry greeted and fed the owl a chunk of beef off his plate.
The bird hooted and nibbled at the offering as he stuck his leg out and offered the letter to Draco, but otherwise ignored him.
[You spoil that creature,] Draco gave his concise opinion to his soulmate.
It really was unseemly the way Harry cooed over anything remotely fluffy in nature, but as Harry beamed at him and tickled the once aloof owl under the chin, Draco had to admit that it was kind of cute. When he realised he had thought this he seriously considered obliviating himself. Shaking his head to clear it of the Gryffindorish thoughts, he opened his mother's letter and began to read.
The first paragraph was perfectly normal; his mother sent her love and enquired after both himself and Harry, even though she had only seen the previous week. It was the second paragraph that made him go cold.
I went to see your father today.
Those few words were enough to make him freeze and just stare at the paper; Harry's non-verbal, but never the less, concerned enquiry followed very quickly after this. Last time Draco had spoken to his mother about Lucius he had been very clear that he wanted nothing to do with the man ever again, and he had thought that Narcissa was of the same opinion. It felt almost like a betrayal that she had chosen to write about him, let alone that she had gone to see him, whether he was in a coma or not.
The doctors at St Mungo's contacted me and requested that I go. As you know Lucius has been unconscious since Harry returned the Killing curse to him, and the healers have been unable to isolate the magic which appears to be moving through his system. They wished me to witness what was occurring, and I feel that it is important enough to make you and Harry aware of it. The dark mark is disappearing from your father's arm. From what they have told me the healers noticed it was fading just before Christmas, and when they showed it to me it was nothing but a ghostly reminder, even paler than when He Who Must Not Be Named fell the first time.
I do not know what this means, and neither do the healers, but the Ministry has been made aware and they may wish to speak to Harry at some point. They have concluded that whatever the magic was by the time it hit your father, it is now causing this effect. I am sorry to have to bring up Lucius, Draco, because I know that what he became was monstrous, but I believe this deserves your attention, if for no other reason than to understand how this is possible.
The rest was just normal platitudes and goodbyes and Draco did not really see it. This news was too strange to allow his mind onto such mundane things and he looked over to where Harry was watching him with a worried frown above his anxious green eyes.
[Voldemort's mark is fading from Lucius' arm,] he explained with a calm that belied the feelings trying to make their way to the surface of his mind. [The healers believe it is the magic you sent back at him doing it, but they don't know how or why.]
[But the dark mark is supposed to be impervious to all magic except Voldemort's own,] Harry replied, his confusion obvious. [It's a bond mark and they're not supposed to fade completely even if the Master in the bond dies.]
[I know,] Draco agreed, trying his best to fight the threatening turmoil the revelation brought with it, [but the Killing curse is also supposed to be unstoppable, and you've already proven that wrong.]
Persius took off, since he was being ignored by both of them, and Draco watched the bird leave as he attempted to come to grips with the possibilities which branched before them. Something in the magic Harry had sent at Lucius was the only possible explanation, on that point he agreed with the healers, but what exactly it was doing and why, he had no idea. He was so lost in his own thoughts that it was not until Harry covered his hand with his own that Draco felt the faint guilt and trepidation that was under-running whatever else Harry was feeling.
If he had been thinking clearly he would have noticed it before, and now that he knew it was there he could not ignore it. When he looked at Harry, for the first time since they had bonded he saw a shadow of secrecy there, and a desperate need; something was praying on his soulmate's mind.
[Harry,] Draco said slowly, unused to the feeling of not knowing, [is there something you haven't told me.]
[I...] Harry's mental voice was so confused, that for a moment Draco completely forgot the letter and his mother's revelation, [I forgot,] his soulmate confessed. [I think I blocked it out, but now I remember.]
The pallid colour of Harry's cheeks and the guilt in his lover's eyes brought Draco to a very swift decision.
[We need to talk away from here,] he said firmly, [let me deal with the others.]
He did not give Harry time to agree or disagree, but he felt no disparity coming from his soulmate as he took charge.
"I have to speak to my mother," Draco said aloud as he looked at the now, somewhat concerned faces of their friends. "There are certain arrangements that need to be made concerning Lucius."
Several pairs of eyes opened at that and the small lie seemed to have explained Harry's reaction to those sitting with them. Draco did need to speak to his mother at some point, but that was not why he placed his napkin on the table and stood, drawing his soulmate with him.
[It's okay, love,] he said protectively, much calmer now that he had a problem to deal with; [whatever it is, we'll sort it out.]
* * *
Only once the privacy wards were engaged did Draco finally turn to Harry and ask: "What is it?"
When he and Draco had talked about the Dark Mark and Lucius it had all come flooding back for Harry. There was so much about the time after Draco had been kidnapped that was something of a blur, but this memory had come into sharp relief.
"Lucius' Dark Mark isn't the only one I have affected," was the only way he could think to start.
Draco sat down beside him on the bed.
"What do you mean?"
"Snape," he said.
He found it hard to even share the information with Draco. Technically he could have just shared the memory directly with his soulmate, but somehow, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"What about Snape," Draco prompted gently.
"When ... when you were taken," it was still hard to talk about the whole thing, "I was angry, so very, very angry and Snape pushed me at the wrong moment. I made his Dark Mark burn."
"How?" The question was simple and practical.
"I was furious and I wanted to hurt him," he explained, "and, right then, all I could see was a Death Eater. I projected a thought of Voldemort at him and his mark burned."
"Incredible," was not exactly the reaction Harry expected.
"That's all you can say, 'incredible'?" he asked. "Draco, that's dark magic."
"Bollocks," Draco said in a fair imitation of Ron, "that was you tapping into the connection you have with his Royal Snakiness himself."
"His Royal Snakiness?"
"It's better than The Dark Lord," Draco replied, "it takes away the mystique."
It definitely did that.
"Look, we know you've been connected to him since he tried to kill you as a baby, you have your own mark right there," Draco pointed at his scar. "What you did was beat him at his own game while you were angrier than a broody dragon. Now show me exactly what you did so we can analyse it, just in case it might come in useful at a later date."
"It's not dark?"
That had been the thing that had frightened Harry the most.
"Silly Gryffindor," was the only way Draco replied to that.
The memory was still not a pleasant one, but with Draco's dismissal of his worry, he began to relax a little. He wasn't comfortable as he drew everything he could remember together, but he did slowly begin to share it. He could live without ever remembering he was connected to Voldemort, but if anyone could find a use for it, it would be Draco.