Title: That Old Black Magic
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Chris King, Ladyholder
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 133,000
Rating: NC-17 (language, explicit sex, and violence)
Genre: Established Relationship, Time Travel, Angst, Adventure
Warning: No Brit Pick, sexual situations two time traveling characters are various ages, an author with a transitory respect for canon who has rarely met a cliché she didn’t absolutely adore.
Summary: Head Auror Harry Potter and his magical partner, Lord Draco Malfoy, are cast back in time against their will and at the whim of fate to right the injustices done during the second blood war. Faced with a nightmare filled future, a looming war, and the forced to deal with people long dead to them–they must navigate the past, protect the future, and learn to forgive before it’s too late.
Art by FanArts Series
* * * * –
July 12, 2010
“Lord Potter, it is high time you woke and greeted this fine day we are having.” Lips trailed along the curve of his ear and a warm, familiar body pressed close to him.
“I protest the description fine,” Harry muttered. He caught his lover’s hand and curled their fingers together around his morning erection. “But you could help me change my mind.”
Draco Malfoy hummed. “It is a beautiful sunny Monday morning—perfect for traipsing about the country seeking naughty wizards who do bad things.” He ran his thumb over the head of Harry’s cock and pressed a kiss against the back of his neck. “The wireless says there’ll be no rain.”
“Those lying bastards,” Harry said pleasantly as he relaxed back against Draco’s chest. “Always teasing me with perfect flying weather. Besides we have two hours before we’re due for the meeting with Shacklebolt.”
“True,” Draco acknowledged. “What was I thinking waking you so early?”
“You’re a wretched human being,” Harry sighed. He turned abruptly and pinned Draco’s naked form to the bed. “I should punish you.”
“Merlin, I wish you would,” Draco exclaimed with a breathless laugh. He spread his legs invitingly and arched under his lover’s body as Harry settled on top of him. “You gorgeous bastard.”
Harry smirked as he slid one hand under them to cup Draco’s arse. He rocked them together, rubbing his cock over Draco’s balls and prick. “You’re the pretty one. I see the way people look at you—like they want a piece of you.”
“They can’t have me,” Draco said, soft and serious. “I’m all yours, Potter.”
Harry allowed his hand to drift up and linger over the small of Draco’s back where his partner had several runes embedded. Each rune had been carefully crafted and placed by someone else before they were ever lovers. He wished, often, than he’d been the one to do them but it was done and removing in order to redo them would be painful and unnecessary. He activated the rune that would prepare and lubricate Draco’s hole and watched with half-closed eyes as Draco responded to his magic with a full body shudder.
The first time they’d had intercourse, Harry had pulled out a tube of lubrication to Draco’s horror. The very idea of something so Muggle interacting intimately with his person apparently was more than the Malfoy heir could tolerate. He’d spent twenty minutes trying to get dressed before Harry had talked him back into the bed. Harry had learned a lot about runic magic that night.
He dipped his fingers into Draco’s hole—not to check the spell work because experience had taught him it was sufficient to their needs despite the fact that the runes didn’t interact perfectly with his magic, but because he loved to watch his lover’s eyes go wide while he finger fucked him. There had been three men before Harry in Draco’s bed and he’d been surprised to learn that they’d all been rather inconsiderate on the foreplay issue.
“Don’t tease me,” Draco whispered as he shifted his legs and wrapped them around Harry’s waist.
Harry pulled his fingers out of Draco and cast a wandless lubrication charm so that he could slick himself up a little. He wrapped a wet hand around his cock and jacked himself a few times before rubbing the head against Draco’s loosened hole. He sank in slowly, the first stroke was always overwhelming—the hot, clinging, wet heat produced by the preparation spell had blown his mind the first time. It was complicated spell work, the more turned on Draco was—the better the spell worked and felt.
“I love your big cock,” Draco murmured as he ran his fingers through Harry’s hair, clutching at the back of his neck as his lover rolled his hips and pushed in deep. “Yeah, fuck. Don’t stop Harry.”
“I won’t, Dragon,” he promised as he clamped one hand on Draco’s hip to keep him in place. “Not until you’re done.”
“Harder,” Draco demanded. “Fuck me harder, Merlin, stop being a tease.”
Harry laughed but stopped the languid roll of his hips. He shifted them slightly up the bed, pushed Draco’s legs up onto his shoulders, and wrapped his hands around the top of the wrought iron headboard they’d purchased in an antique shop in Muggle London. Leverage accomplished, he started to thrust deep and hard into Draco’s arse. Draco didn’t always want it this way, but when he did nothing less than a vicious pounding would satisfy him.
Draco arched up off the mattress, his hands digging, tearing the sheets as Harry fucked him. “Fuck, yes, that’s… good, Potter.”
“Wank that pretty prick of yours for me,” Harry ordered and laughed breathlessly at the glare it earned him.
The ire at having his dick called ‘pretty’ didn’t prevent Malfoy from following Harry’s instructions. He stroked himself slowly—a complete counter to the hard, fast fuck he was getting. Within a minute, he was shuddering and shaking through an orgasm. His cum jetted out over his stomach and clung to his fingers as he collapsed on the bed.
Draco shivered as Harry continued to fuck him—over stimulated but unwilling to admit it. He never admitted when he’d had enough—maybe, Harry thought, he didn’t even know when he’d had enough. At first, when they’d become lovers Harry would pull out as soon as Draco had come but experience had taught him that would just piss his lover off. Sex was one issue they both worked to keep anger free. Though their relationship wasn’t based on sex at all, they both liked to fuck too much to get mad over it.
“Come in me,” Draco whispered as he trailed his hands down Harry’s sides. He pulled his legs off Harry’s shoulders and wrapped them high around his back. “Come on, Harry, give it up for me.”
Harry let himself be pulled down and into Draco’s embrace as he thrust deeply into the tight, hot heat of his lover’s arse and came hard. He collapsed briefly on Draco and gave himself a few seconds to catch his breath before he carefully pulled from Malfoy’s body and rolled over to lie beside him.
“I’m pretty sure it’s your turn to cook breakfast,” Draco said.
“It’s been my turn all month,” Harry complained.
Draco snorted. “You’re the one that sent Winky on vacation against her will. I’ll probably have to pay for a mind healer when she returns just to help her recover from the trauma of it.”
* * * *
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been the Minister for Magic since the end of the war. It was a post that Harry knew Shacklebolt would fight to keep for as long as he could. Between Harry and Draco’s work as Aurors and as sitting members of the Wizengamot, and Kingsley in the Minister’s office, they’d done a lot to correct the issues and problems that the blood-purists had created in magical Britain. Was it completely handled? Not by a long shot, but they had far reaching plans despite the dire predictions from all over the world about the state of magic and the magical population.
They encountered Under Secretary Emmeline Vance as they exited the magical lift to enter the Minister’s offices. Emmeline had never liked Draco and was of the school of thought that the Ministry should’ve done everything possible to keep the two of them separated. Pairing them as aurors was just of the one many mistakes she was thrilled to point out.
Harry had spent the last three years making sure that Vance would never have a chance at sitting in the Minister’s chair and the snotty witch didn’t even know it.
“Kingsley is expecting you, Lord Potter,” Emmeline said as she motioned towards the administrative assistant she shared with the Minister while completely ignoring that Draco was in the room. “Just check in with Hannah and she’ll announce you.”
Hannah Abbott had taken Ginny Weasley’s place in the office as Kingsley’s admin shortly after Ginny had tried to dose Harry with a love potion at a Ministry function. There wasn’t a Weasley working in the Ministry now because of the scandal it had caused. Molly had, of course, blamed Harry for it. Hannah motioned them over as soon as Vance stalked away.
“Hey guys, he’s ready for you. Told me to send you right in.”
“How are you, Ms. Abbott?” Draco asked and lifted an eyebrow. “Still sending those protest letters to Witch Weekly on our behalf?”
Hannah laughed and blushed. “Me and about three hundred other witches. Hardly seems fair that you are two are excluded from their stupid list just because you prefer each other. Those old witches totally underestimate how hot that is.”
Harry flushed and poked Draco as his partner laughed. The Witch Weekly had publically thrown them both off the Fifty Most Beautiful Wizards List after it had come out that they were gay. Apparently the little gossip rag had taken their lack of interest in witches far more personally than most of the witches they actually encountered. More than one, Hannah included, had offered to join them for the night, the week, or forever. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on the point of view, neither of them were interested in pursuing women, sexually or romantically. Their single-minded devotion to each other, however, hadn’t done a thing to slow down the offers.
Kingsley was at his desk with an elaborate tea set when they finally broke free from Hannah and entered. “Ah, there are my two favorite trouble makers. I trust you made sure to flaunt yourselves in front of Emmeline before coming in?”
“She was out of her office lurking about,” Harry said as he settled in a chair and accepted the tea Kingsley offered. “So we didn’t have to wait around to flaunt anything. She’s a pain in the arse.”
“Yes, and rather blind to the idea that she isn’t going to be Minister,” Kingsley admitted. “She’s asked me twice in the last quarter if I was sure I wanted to run again.”
“If you don’t…” Draco began with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m content making everyone uncomfortable and providing them with a daily reminder of what happens when we let bigots control things,” Kingsley admitted. “I’ll let you know when I’m almost done so we can start grooming my replacement. Now, what did you want to talk about?”
“Robards suggested strongly that we see you concerning our… investigation into Lord Longbottom,” Draco began carefully. “In order to keep the matter more contained, he declined attendance to this meeting unofficially. It wouldn’t do for the Head of the DMLE, the Head Auror, and the Minister to be in a meeting out of the blue. There is nothing scheduled for a least a month officially and this can’t wait. We figured we could bank on our personal friendship with you to make it look less like business.”
Harry had taken the role of Head Auror somewhat reluctantly three years prior and mostly only because he hadn’t wanted to end up having Cho Chang for a boss. She’d been trying to separate him and Draco since the academy and they would’ve probably had to involve the Minister to prevent her from accomplishing it if she’d become the Head Auror. They were considering Gawain Robards as Kingsley’s replacement when the time came. He was a solid, forward-thinking wizard who didn’t allow nonsense and despite his prior affiliation with Rufus Scrimgeour, Harry and Draco trusted him.
“Investigating a sitting member of the Wizengamot is a dangerous proposition—especially one with an upstanding history of serving the Light as the Longbottom family has,” Kingsley said.
“We’ve tried to interact with him socially,” Harry allowed. “But he’s been isolating himself since the death of Augusta. As you know, his parents finally passed last year and Augusta only lived a handful of weeks after that. Neville hasn’t married nor has he had any kind of long term relationship in years.” Harry sighed and shook his head. “I know that he’s turned down a job at Hogwarts four times so far but McGonagall is pretty insistent upon getting him in to replace Madame Sprout who is quite ready to retire.”
Kingsley nodded. “So, he’s isolating himself in grief? Is that not unexpected?”
“It is perfectly reasonable,” Draco allowed. “If he weren’t also stock piling potion ingredients that he’s gathered from as far as New Orleans. He spent six weeks there over the winter and just returned from another weeklong visit. Despite my best efforts I was unable to find out who he visited while he was there.” He pulled out a piece of parchment. “I do have a list of ingredients he has bought over the last six months from various places plus the ingredients he declared with customs when he returned to Britain.”
Kingsley took the parchment and unrolled it. He reviewed the list with a frown. “I don’t… recognize half these ingredients, Draco.”
“No, sir, I wouldn’t expect you to.” Draco took a deep breath. “In fact, very few people outside of a select few of Severus Snape’s preferred students—those of us who tutored with him privately at Hogwarts and over the summers—would recognize most of the ingredients on the list. Several of the ingredients are illegal to even grow in the UK and are only marginally legal in other countries. Those are the ones he brought back from the US. We checked with the customs clerk who cleared him for travel and found that she’d been memory charmed in order to prevent her from reporting him before he could get out of the International Floo system.”
Kingsley rubbed his face. “And this was when?”
“Yesterday afternoon,” Harry said. “We’ve had him under passive surveillance and we put a flag on his passport after his first trip to New Orleans. We’re at the least worried about what he’s going to do to himself and at the most worried that he’s planning something truly damaging.”
“You think he’s gone dark?” Kingsley asked, shocked. “Harry, you said yourself all those years ago that he was instrumental in the defeat of Voldemort, and that his leadership alone saved hundreds at Hogwarts during the war itself.”
“I think he’s a bit mad,” Harry said. “I don’t know if it’s grief or guilt over the loss of his parents. You know that they released a neural regenerator not even three weeks after his parents died? Several long term patients at St. Mungo’s have already been revived – all of them were victims of over-exposure to the Cruciatus Curse.”
“So self-harm options?” Kingsley asked.
“Just killing himself doesn’t require this level of planning,” Draco said bluntly. “What these ingredients do… the conclusion could be drawn that he’s going to attempt some sort of time travel ritual. As those rituals are inherently dark as they most often require a blood sacrifice—we’re left to assume he’s going to sacrifice himself and try to send something back to the past.”
“Merlin.” Kingsley sat back in shock. “That’s just… we can’t let this get out, gentlemen. He must be contained quickly and with as little stir as possible. I want him in a secure room at St. Mungo’s as soon as possible. If people found out that a high ranking member of the Wizengamot was attempting time travel… I can’t even imagine the fall out.”
* * * *
The house was old and it reeked of black magic. Harry exchanged a silent look with his partner of ten years and Malfoy lifted one elegant blond eyebrow in response. They’d been paired up in Auror training much to Ron’s disgust and after a few short months—Harry had quietly moved into a large flat in the same apartment building as his training partner. Within a year, they were lovers and only George Weasley still spoke to Harry regularly.
Bill and Charlie remained friendly but absent due to their own jobs. Ron and Ginny had both played the ‘betrayed’ card and Molly had promptly coddled them both. Arthur just liked to keep his head down so Harry didn’t blame him for only speaking to him on the sly when no one was looking. He wouldn’t want to incite the wrath of Molly or Ginny Weasley either if he were Arthur.
“Should we call in a team?”
Draco scrunched up his nose and leaned back against the tree near the edge of the woods they were using for cover. “It isn’t like he’s a Death Eater, Potter.”
“Yeah, but the war changed him pretty drastically,” Harry reminded gently. “Not to mention we’re pretty sure he’s fucking crazy.”
Draco spared the seemingly small shack they’d tracked Neville Longbottom to a brief glance and then focused on Harry. “Our reasons for coming alone haven’t changed and Kingsley was pretty intent on keeping this as contained as possible.”
“I know.” Harry sighed. “You’re certain about the scan results?”
“He’s definitely preparing a time travel ritual – a soul transference of some kind based on the wards and the potion ingredients he bought. My knowledge of black magic isn’t as expansive as I’d like and you distract me from my studies. Additionally, I wasn’t able to fully research half the stuff we heard he purchased while he was in New Orleans.”
Neither one of them saw the wide range stunner coming. Harry reached out for Draco as his partner slumped forward and was hit by the strong wave of magic himself.
* * * *
Harry woke up feeling like an idiot. He waited in the silence that surrounded him for some sign of Draco. The last time they’d been ambushed, Malfoy had spent fifteen minutes ranting at him before their so-called kidnappers had returned. Kicking the shit out of them had been quite stress relieving for both of them.
“I can’t fucking believe Longbottom got the drop on us,” Draco muttered. “You might as well open your eyes, Harry. We’re in a world of trouble. Our magic is being suppressed by the runes on the altar we’re on. I’ve tried repeatedly to summon my wand.”
Harry opened his eyes and found himself tied on a large ritual altar next to Malfoy. He huffed in exasperation. “Seriously? Does this ritual call for a blood sacrifice or something?”
“I’m not entirely certain which ritual he’s using,” Draco admitted. “There are roughly ten that all do the same thing and he has the power to cast them all. I can’t believe I ever called that guy a squib.”
“Too right.” Harry shifted and tugged at his wrists with a sigh. “Have you talked to him, yet?”
“He told me to shut up when I tried and then said a few disparaging things about our relationship,” Draco admitted. “Apparently, you deserve better than a Death Eater’s son and he’d kill me outright except that it would make you mad.”
“Right.” Harry sighed. “When did he go batshit insane and how come we didn’t notice?”
“No clue,” Draco said airily and sighed when the door opened and Neville Longbottom returned. “Ah, there’s our friend now, Harry. The Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom.”
Neville frowned at him. “Shut it, Malfoy.”
“Nev,” Harry began and wet his bottom lip nervously as he watched the man he’d known most of his life stir a cauldron carefully. “Can we talk?”
Neville shrugged. “We have a few minutes before the potion is ready. I want to thank you both for trying to help me on your own. I’m glad I didn’t have to kill any Aurors. My parents were Aurors, you know. It would’ve made me sad to kill them.”
“Right.” Harry sighed with relief. “So you aren’t going to kill us?” He shared a look with Draco and found a calculating look on his lover’s face.
“Oh, not exactly, I’m going to sacrifice myself,” Neville said quietly. “I’ve chosen the most powerful and complete Soul Rending ritual there is—it does require a blood sacrifice.”
“Soul Rendering?” Draco demanded. “Longbottom, what do you plan?”
“I’m going to tear your souls out of your bodies and return you both to a time in our past when you can do the most good. You’ll retain all of your memories, knowledge, and hopefully your adult magical power as well. I think that will be very helpful what with you both being archmagus. I’ve been working on this ritual since it was announced in the Prophet that Harry was an archmagus. I knew he’d have enough power to fuel the ritual. It was quite a boon for me when Malfoy was identified as well. I’d never put much stock in those legends about archmagus pairs before that.”
Harry shuddered at the cheerful, insane quality of Neville’s voice. “Look, we all lost loved ones in the war, Nev. But messing with time is a dangerous thing—we could make things worse. Just the act of sending us back will alter everything.”
“I know,” Neville said simply. “It’s for the best. My reasons aren’t entirely selfish, Harry. I’ve been researching, you know. It’s what I do for the Ministry. Birth rates are down, more squibs are born every day, and there has been a dramatic decrease in Muggle-born intermarriage in our society to the point where many in the Department of Mysteries believe that magic is leaving because our population isn’t large enough worldwide to sustain it. Muggle-born births are down seventy-five percent in the last two years alone. They estimate the last magical child in Britain will be born in the year 2043. Voldemort did too much damage—too many people died, Harry.”
Harry stared at the ceiling. He’d seen that report—it had been accompanied by a series of proposed laws forcing reproduction, marriage and outlawing same-sex couples who weren’t capable of ritual reproduction. He hadn’t been worried—he knew that he and Draco together had more than enough magic to create children. Draco himself had been a ritual birthing as Lucius hadn’t wanted to risk producing a squib child.
Between Umbridge and her cronies and Voldemort and his Death Eaters—they’d managed to kill over twenty thousand witches and wizards in Europe who weren’t pure enough to be a part of their society. The blood war had spread worldwide and hadn’t stopped completely until nearly five years after the death of Voldemort. It had decimated both the economy and wizarding society across the planet but they were recovering.
“There are other ways to change our future,” Draco murmured. “We have time to fix this problem, Neville.”
“No, we don’t.” Neville glanced at them. “But the two of you will.” He turned back to his cauldron. “I was just going to send Harry because I know that he’ll do everything he can to stop the really bad things that happened. But, I knew he would need someone he could depend on and if it were me—he’d never forgive me for killing you, Malfoy.”
“You’ve got that right,” Harry snapped.
“So, I’m sending Draco back with you so you won’t shoulder the burden alone. It’s only right—since he’s your partner. I didn’t get to do much research on what an archmagus was but it’s probably for the best if you go back together. Of course, you’ll have to do everything in your power to keep your time travel a secret—no matter that I’m forcing you. The Ministry will probably kill you for it if they find out. Or, alternatively, they’ll lock you up in the DOM and leech every bit of information out of you before memory charming you both back into infancy.”
“Great.” Harry shifted his wrists and sucked in a deep breath. “I don’t want this, Neville. It might be selfish in your mind—but I don’t want to relive the war. I don’t want to experience it again. It was too much. Don’t you think I’ve given enough?”
“You’ve given a lot,” Neville agreed. “Your parents, your godfather, the Lupins, Dumbledore… even your little elf friend Dobby. But I’m giving you a chance to save them all. I was going to send you back to fourth year, but it crossed my mind that the resurrection of Voldemort should take place as it originally happened. I’ve studied your memories of that night extensively, of course. I made a thorough study of the war as I prepared for this. It’s best not to leave you guessing on how he will return. I wish we could save Cedric as well, but it would mean you going back alone and reliving Voldemort’s resurrection.”
Harry couldn’t let himself respond. It was selfish to want this Draco at his side—to risk his lover’s soul in a ritual with an obviously insane Neville Longbottom.
“Don’t worry, Harry. I won’t ask you to make the decision. I’ve already decided that I will send you and Draco back to a few weeks before fifth year begins. It will let you save your godfather at least and maybe keep Dumbledore in the school.”
And he could murder Umbridge in her sleep. He turned his head and focused on Draco then—he could see the same rather malicious intent swirling around in his lover’s beautiful silver eyes.
“Did I ever apologize for being such a prat at school?”
Harry smirked. “Yeah, sometime between the first and second blow job.”
“Right.” Draco nodded and exhaled sharply. “Neville, not to be a nag but you are brewing that potion correctly, right? I’d rather not die… completely as it were.”
“I’ve been practicing,” Neville said. “I’ve brewed it over a hundred times.”
“Then how come we just now got a report on you buying the ingredients?” Draco demanded and frowned.
Neville snorted. “I have a Mastery in Herbology, Malfoy, and my own private greenhouses. I only bought the ingredients to lure you out here.”
The only thing worse than getting played, Harry thought, was getting played by a mad wizard. “You realize I’m going to hex you straight into next month the next time I see you.”
“Well, the younger me isn’t going to understand that,” Neville said idly. “But he’ll forgive you readily enough—he loved you very much.”
Harry’s stomach lurched in horror and he looked briefly at Draco only to find Malfoy glaring furiously at Longbottom’s back. “Loved me?”
“Yes,” Neville nodded as he carefully filled two vials with the brilliant, sparkling purple potion. “You’re like my brother, Harry. I always wished we’d been raised together—if our parents hadn’t been attacked by Death Eaters, we would have grown up best friends at the very least. I know I’m twice as loyal as Ron Weasley ever was.”
“I…I agree, Nev, you’re the most loyal man I know. Look, we can get you help. You don’t have to do this.” Harry sighed when Neville just shook his head in denial.
“So, for the sake of watching our own arses and perhaps saving you from having a bed in the secure wing at St. Mungo’s…” Draco began. “When exactly did you go insane?”
“No clue, really,” Neville offered cheerfully. “I felt kind of funny after fifth year—when we went to rescue Sirius Black from the Department of Mysteries. Those brains that attacked Ron? They talked to me some…” Neville trailed off. “They didn’t find Ron very interesting, ya know, but he’s something of a stupid twat at any rate. They were careful not to hurt me. I talk with them a lot. It’s entirely too easy to get into the Department of Mysteries. They’ve all been very helpful in making a choice on when to send you back and which ritual was best.”
Merlin. Harry thumped his head back on the table and sighed. That night had cost him a lot—even now nearly fifteen years later. “Neville, I’m begging you not to do this.”
“I’m sorry, Harry.” Neville casually stunned Draco and poured the potion down his throat. “I won’t stun you if you promise to swallow it—I think you will—after all, you don’t want Draco to go back by himself, do you?”
Fury and no small amount of hatred boiled in his blood as he nodded. He stared pointedly at Draco’s still form, his fingers straining to touch him even though their hands were tied too tightly to the table. “Fine. Merlin, Nev, I hate you so much right now.”
He swallowed the potion without even a token attempt at refusing it. His fate would be locked with Draco’s—no matter what happened. They were partners in every sense of the word and nothing was going to come between them. He slumped in relief when Neville revived Draco and the blond immediately turned to look at him.
“I love you,” Draco whispered fiercely. “You’re my whole life, Harry. I think you always have been—even when I was doing my damnedest to make you miserable.”
“Neville,” Harry said, his voice hard and demanding. “I want to hold his hand.”
Longbottom said nothing but with a casual wave of his wand the ropes binding their hands to the table shifted and they were jerked together roughly. Harry quickly thread his fingers with Draco’s and took a deep breath.
“Harry.” Malfoy’s fingers clenched around his desperately.
“I love you, too. More than anything or anyone—you’re my family, Draco, and I can’t imagine my life—any life I might live without you. Let us be bound in magic and in soul for eternity.”
Draco’s eyes widened comically and took a deep breath at the beginning of an ancient marriage rite that he’d wanted but Harry had been hesitant over. Part of him didn’t think it was fair to bind his soul to Malfoy’s for eternity—since he figured he was and always would be Fate’s bitch. “Let us be bound in magic and in soul for eternity.”
“Let it be known that I will forsake all others and give myself to you; heart, body and soul until magic fades and we know no more,” Harry whispered. He relaxed minutely when Draco repeated the words back to him. “Let no one by word, by wand, by hand, by deed, or by magic separate me from Draco Lucius Malfoy in this life or the next, So Mote it Be.”
“Let no one by word, by wand, by hand, by deed, or by magic separate me from Harry James Potter in this life or the next, So Mote it Be.” Draco’s thumb brushed over the top of his hand as magical marriage bond settled over them. Golden light flared between them bright and beautiful.
“Soul mates,” Neville murmured as he started to activate the runes on the altar. “That’s nice.”
“Fuck you,” Draco said crossly. “And also? Your wedding present sucks!”
Harry snorted and took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m hexing him—maybe even while he’s asleep. Maybe I’ll do it every night.”
“That’s not very nice, Harry, I’m giving you a second chance,” Neville said petulantly as he came to stand at the end of the altar. “I accept I deserve a hexing once or twice—but repeatedly?”
Harry frowned as Neville picked up an athame. It suddenly became six times more real that it had been when he woke up tied to an altar. He glared at Longbottom. “If he doesn’t survive this, Neville, I’m going to murder you. I don’t care what they do to me afterward—I’ll let the whole goddamned planet fall to Voldemort.”
“I’ve left nothing to chance,” Neville promised neutrally.
“I call upon the four elements to aid me in my hour of need. I call upon the Earth to accept that fate has dealt us a cruel blow. I call upon the Air to understand the choice I’ve made. I call upon the Water to embrace the flow of time. I call upon the Fire to burn away the mistakes of man. I gift to Fate my lifeblood, willingly sacrificed so that these two worthy souls may be placed in time where they can do the most good. So Mote it Be.”
Harry struggled against the ropes and gasped in horror when Longbottom cut his own throat.
“Goddamn it,” Harry hissed as his old friend slumped over the end of the altar, his blood spilling on the runes underneath his and quickly spreading around the table—aided by magic and small grooves in the marble designed to catch and disperse blood. “We really should have ritual altars on our list of watch items.”
“Word,” Draco agreed.
Harry snorted. “I’m never letting you watch American Muggle TV again—it’s rotting your brain.”
Magic snapped around them and then nothing.
* * * *
June 18, 1996
He jerked around, his eyes darting back and forth as he was bodily pulled down the hall between a bunch of shelves. “Hey.”
Hermione frowned at him. “What’s wrong with you? Did you have another vision? Have they moved Sirius?”
Harry closed his eyes briefly. He was going to hex the mother fucking hell out of Neville Longbottom. They were in the Department of goddamned Mysteries at the end of fifth year. He let Hermione find the shelf and said nothing as he was led to stand in the area where Sirius should be according to the fake vision Voldemort sent him. Fate was a cunt and Harry looked forward to punching her in the face at some later date.
“Well?” Ginny demanded.
“He’s not here. He should be,” Harry murmured. He didn’t remember what he said before and it didn’t matter. This night would not end the same because if it did, he didn’t think anyone would have the right to hold him accountable for his actions. “I don’t understand.” That seemed reasonable a response.
“Harry, this thing has your name on it.”
He turned and looked at the prophecy record, his heart heavy and his soul aching with the knowledge of what was going to happen if he touched it. Harry reached out hesitantly and then pulled his hand back again.
“Aren’t you going to see what it says?” Hermione questioned quietly. “It’s a prophecy record, Harry.”
“I know what it says,” Harry murmured. “I’ve known for a long time. My parents left me a letter in my trust vault. I found it before third year. I was so overwhelmed first year that I didn’t even look around. I knew nothing about anything then.” He frowned at the record, in reality he hadn’t found his parent’s letter until he was eighteen but he was going to have rearrange the truth a little to protect himself and the knowledge he had of the future. “This shouldn’t be here—it’s stupid and dangerous for them to leave it here considering what it says.”
“What does it say?” Ron asked.
“That I have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord,” Harry said shortly. “It says other stuff about a child born as the seventh month dies but that’s the gist of it. I’m Fate’s Chosen and Tom Riddle can’t kill me. I had more power as an eighteen month old than he had as a grown man. Even as untrained and unprepared as I am, he has no hope of ever defeating me.” He held back a smirk as he spun the outright lie. “Even his minions are incapable of killing me—I’m essentially immortal as long as Tom Riddle lives. Fate and magic will protect me until it’s time for me to kill the Dark Lord. That’s why I survived the years of abuse and starvation with my Muggle relatives.”
“Merlin,” Ron murmured. “Why didn’t you say?”
“My parents said I should tell no one that I knew until someone brought up the prophecy,” Harry said simply. “I barely remember them. It seemed important to follow their instructions as much as I could. The only way I really have of honoring them is to live a good life and try to be the kind of man they would’ve raised if they’d had the chance.”
“Where is Sirius?” Ron questioned with a frown. “He should be here, right?” He looked around, his hand clenching around his wand. “Unless… Harry, could You-Know-Who have faked the vision you saw?”
Harry pretended to be shocked and then horrified by the very idea that Voldemort could manipulate his mind. He could feel magic shifting around him and knew it was the disillusioned Death Eaters. “Call him Tom Riddle or that ridiculous made up name he made people fear, Ron. He’s nothing to be feared—just an insane half-blood with a Muggle father with delusions of grandeur that exceed both his abilities and his social position. He isn’t even titled—the Gaunt family lost their nobility hundreds of years ago because their familial magic faded due to inbreeding.”
“You liar!” Bellatrix screeched, immediately dropping her disillusion charm and firing a hex at them.
“Protego!” Harry produced a shield wandlessly and the stunner was barely absorbed. He’d have to work on that. They were, unfortunately, surrounded. Not quite like last time, he thought. They’d taken too much time to talk and he hadn’t grabbed the globe.
“Easy,” Lucius Malfoy murmured. “There is… no reason for such behavior, Bellatrix. Mr. Potter is simply misinformed concerning our Lord. That can be corrected easily.”
“I’m not the one who is misinformed,” Harry snapped back. He glanced towards the prophecy and inclined his head. “Looking for that, Lucy? Did you get enough information for Tom to keep from being tortured or will you have to suck his dick tonight, too?”
Hermione’s outraged gasp would’ve made him laugh at any other time.
Lucius hissed in fury. “Retrieve the prophecy record and give it to me, Potter. I’ll let your friends live, if you do.”
“You’ll leave now and be satisfied with what you know already or I’ll blow your head off,” Harry returned evenly. He levied his wand and pointed it right at Malfoy’s head. “I owe you one, anyways, Malfoy.”
“You think you can defeat me?” Lucius demanded.
“I know you can’t kill me,” Harry returned evenly. “You did hear that part, I assume? I also know if anyone of you casts a curse, hex, or even a bloody tickling charm at one of my friends—I’ll make it my life’s mission to end every single one of you before I kill your so-called Dark Lord.”
If he’d had time to plan—he would have killed them all that night. Fucking Longbottom. He sent the younger version of Neville a look and found his stalwart and earnest friend pointing his wand at Bellatrix. He almost smiled and he was going to make sure neither Neville nor Ron came into contact with those fucking brains tonight—if he had to banish them all to accomplish it, so be it. The Unspeakables could send him a bill.
“We don’t fear you,” Dolohov snarled and fired a hex.
Everyone scattered and Harry jerked the prophecy from its holder as he passed the shelf. The shelving around them wobbled and he cursed under his breath. “No one touch the records! They’ll drive you insane. Only someone involved in a prophecy can successfully remove one from the shelf!” He shoved the globe in his pocket and fired a reducto at Malfoy that had the wizard darting and staring at him stunned. He fired again and barely missed the older wizard as Malfoy apparated out of the way a short distance.
“Harry!” Hermione shouted.
“Defend your life!” Harry snapped back. “This isn’t a goddamned exercise.”
Surprise and then resolve flicked over her face and she sent a perfectly executed diffindo curse at Bellatrix, slashing the witch’s face from across her left eye to her chin. The older witch screamed and chased after Hermione who darted down another aisle.
“Stay together,” Harry shouted as he moved towards the atrium of the Ministry—they had to get up there before the Order of Phoenix arrived. He didn’t want Sirius anywhere near the Veil this time. “Serpensortia! Serpensortia!” He flung two large, swift vipers out behind him and hissed, “Seek and kill the ones who attack us!”
“Serpensortia!” Neville shouted and a python shot out of his wand.
Harry blinked in surprise but quickly instructed the snake to seek and kill as he had his own. He doubted the conjured snakes would do more than distract but every little bit helped. “Great job, Neville!” He turned and Bellatrix appeared. His jaw tightened with fury. “Sectumsempra!” The curse slashed her open much as it had Draco in the previous timeline and she fell to her knees—shock and horror warring on her face before she was whisked away by a portkey.
That, Harry thought, would bring Voldemort much sooner than before. He sent a stunner in Nott’s direction—aware the man was more a follower than a believer. He was dangerous, yes, but only when he was surrounded by other Death Eaters. The man had turned into a complete coward after the war—retreating into his family home and letting his son, Theo, assume the public face of their family, having never been marked as a Death Eater himself. He knew the others wouldn’t bother to wake him up—he wasn’t much of a fighter.
“Don’t touch the jars!” Harry shouted as they ran through the Brain room.
He herded them through and sent a piercing hex at Walden Macnair—blasting a hole into his shoulder and causing the Death Eater to portkey away in his pain. He had to get rid of Dolohov before he cursed Hermione. They entered the bloody Death Chamber and Lucius Malfoy caught up with them—hitting Neville with a Crucio. Harry saw red as his friend stumbled to the floor—his wand skittering across the floor towards Anton Dolohov.
“Reducto!” Harry snapped out—the curse hit Malfoy broad side. The man barely had time to look at Harry in shock before he stumbled to his knees. He rushed forward but the leader of the Death Eaters portkeyed away. “Fuck!” He hit Dolohov and then both Lestrange brothers with fully powered stunners just as they escaped the room and stumbled into the Atrium.
Voldemort apparated into the Atrium with a dramatic boom and Harry barely refrained from rolling his eyes. He sent a casual reducto at Riddle and it startled him briefly but he recovered and sent a Killing Curse at Harry. He summoned a golden statue to block the curse and then wordlessly flung the statue at Voldemort, causing the older wizard to apparate out of the way. Well, two could play that game. Harry apparated directly behind Voldemort and sent a low powered reducto at the wizard. He knew he couldn’t kill Riddle yet but hurting him was worth doing. He apparated again just as members of the Order arrived.
He couldn’t let Dumbledore interfere. He apparated in front of Riddle and when the Dark Lord started to curse him—Harry shouted, “expelliarmus!” Their wands connected and the golden cage of light appeared again just as the Minister and half a dozen Aurors started to appear one by one.
“Potter!” Riddle shouted in outrage.
“Riddle!” Harry taunted back. “How does it feel to be at the mercy of a fifteen year old boy? Do you really think you’re my equal?” He laughed as the tight ball of white light balanced on the streams of their magic and he gave a little push to send it towards Tom. “Both of my parents were magical. My father was born of the most ancient and noble house in the wizarding world. Your father was a Muggle. How bloody dare you assume that you are my equal!”
“I will kill you!” Voldemort hissed in Parseltongue.
“You don’t have enough magic in your corrupt body to give me a nose bleed,” Harry hissed in Parseltongue back before switching back to English to taunt him. “Did Lucy and Bella make it back to your hovel? I do hope you left someone behind to take care of them—they both might bleed out otherwise.”
He forced the white ball of magic further towards the older wizard and watched Riddle stumble as he tried to control his wand. At least Longbottom had gotten one thing right—his magical power had come back with him. He wondered how the wizarding world would react to a nearly sixteen year old archmagus. Two, if Draco had made it back with him. His heart ached a little as he thought of his lover and very recent bond mate.
“You will die by my hand!” Voldemort shouted.
Harry slid his hand into his pocket and wandlessly duplicated the prophecy record. He pulled out a glowing blue orb with and held it aloft. He could hear Dumbledore shouting ‘no’ but no one would get through the golden dome that surrounded them. “Is that what you think this says? Do you think it will tell you how to defeat me?” He laughed. “This wasn’t made for you, Tom Riddle. It was made about you.” He turned his hand and the globe fell to the floor and shattered into thousands of pieces—the blue magic within wisped around Harry as he forced the white ball of magic into Riddle’s wand.
The golden cage shattered and Harry apparated, sent another reducto at Riddle then followed it up immediately with the Patronus charm. A huge dragon burst out of his wand—easily as big as the horntail he’d faced in fourth year. Harry apparated again, summoned another statue as Dumbledore entered the fray. He slammed the statue towards Voldemort. It hit Riddle head-on and the wizard disappeared with a rush of magic indicating the activation of a portkey.
The silence that followed the Dark Lord’s retreat was quite epic, Harry thought. He could hardly wait to show Draco the memory of it. His gaze darted around the room—taking in Sirius in his animagus form sitting in the shadows near Remus and then going to his friends. They were all staring at him in shock. “You guys okay?”
“That was bloody awesome!” Ron said.
“That arsehole Dolohov broke my wand,” Neville said with a weak shrug.
“I…” Hermione shrugged. “I’m going to go with Ron—that was bloody awesome, Harry.”
Ginny and Luna exchanged glances and both nodded their agreement.
“Right.” Harry turned to look at the Minister—choosing to ignore Dumbledore the way the man had ignored him all year. “Well, Cornelius?”
If anyone had anything to say about the Boy-Who-Lived using the Minister’s given name they didn’t say anything.
Fudge cleared his throat. “That was… You-Know-Who.”
“Voldemort,” Harry corrected. “Or more accurately, Tom Marvolo Riddle.”
“But… it just can’t be,” Fudge whispered. “It’s not…”
“I told you a year ago,” Harry shouted. “I told you, Fudge! You stuck your head in the sand like a bloody, mindless bird and let that monster plan and build his forces for a year!”
Fudge nodded. “Yes, you did.”
Harry took a deep breath and looked around the destruction that the duel had left of the Atrium. Most of the statues were damaged or outright destroyed. “You let Umbridge torture me at Hogwarts and you told everyone I was deranged and a liar. You ran Dumbledore out of Hogwarts when you knew he was the only wizard that Voldemort has ever feared.”
“My boy, you’ve been through a difficult…” Dumbledore trailed off when Harry finally looked at him—the fury on the boy’s face was shocking.
“Difficult? You let Fudge’s toady torture students. You let him call me a liar. You let him continue to persecute my innocent godfather.” He held up a hand when Fudge started to protest. “Fudge, do you want to remain the Minister for Magic?”
Mouths dropped open in shock, Dumbledore’s among them.
“I…” Fudge trailed off, unprepared for the question.
“Because, right now, the way I see it your career is over. The real problem with that is we have no way of knowing if the person that could theoretically take your place is sympathetic to the Dark Lord or not. I’m not sure we should take that risk. Better the devil we know, as it were.”
“Agreed,” Amelia Bones said.
“When did you learn to apparate?” Fudge questioned suddenly.
Harry snorted rudely. “What? You want to put me on trial for apparating illegally? I did it the first time when I was a little kid—accidental magic.” Several people in the room winced, having no need to be reminded of the trial Fudge had forced the previous summer. “Funny how I warranted a trial for underage magic and my godfather was put in Azkaban for life without one.”
“That’s impossible,” Fudge snapped. “Of course he had a trial.”
“Prove it,” Harry returned evenly. “I can guarantee you that you won’t be able to find a transcript because it never happened. Barty Couch, Sr. put an accomplished, decorated Auror in Azkaban without even a token trial.” His gaze flicked around—hitting the Aurors in the room. “I wonder what would have happened to one of you if you’d pissed Fudge off. Maybe he would have stuck you in a cell like he did poor Hagrid my second year. No trial, no charges, and no evidence. The immorality of the wizarding world makes me sick.”
“Harry, there will be another time to discuss…” Dumbledore stopped again when Harry glared at him.
“Albus Dumbledore, are you my enemy or my friend?” Harry asked quietly. Even Fudge stopped fidgeting.
The Headmaster must have realized in that instant that his relationship with Harry was at stake because he cleared his throat. “Harry, I am and always have been your friend. I haven’t always made the best decisions regarding you. I have many regrets but you are like… a grandson to me. In a better world, your parents might have even allowed me that honorary position in your life.”
“Then help me now,” Harry demanded. “Stop making me do this alone! I’ve been alone since I was eighteen months old and I’m so bloody tired! Every year, you jerk me out of that horrible house on Privet Drive and the wizarding world takes its pound of flesh from me and then you throw me back like I don’t matter!”
Albus stared at him for a long minute and cleared his throat. He pulled his wand carefully and the tip lit with a gentle white magic. “I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, do solemnly swear on my magic and life that Lord Sirius Black was not the Potter’s Secret Keeper, he did not betray them, and he did not kill Peter Pettigrew, or the twelve Muggles as he was accused. He is and always has been loyal to the Potter family and most specifically to his godson, Harry James Potter. He never received the fair trial he was due. So Mote It Be.” His wand stayed lit as the oath settled around them.
“Merlin,” Amelia Bones hissed and glared at Fudge. “How bloody dare you, Fudge! You’ve had my Aurors wasting their time searching for an innocent man! Did you know he didn’t have a trial?”
Fudge shook his head, pale. “No… no… I didn’t believe the children—they were just children. What did they know?”
“This child saved all of your arses at the expense of my parents, you contemptible bastard,” Harry snapped and turned away from Fudge. “You make it so difficult to care about this world, Fudge.” His grip tightened around his wand and the tip started to glow brightly. “I’m the second archmagus to be born in over four hundred years in Great Britain.” He inclined his head. “Did any of you know that?”
“No,” Dumbledore whispered, clearly surprised and slightly horrified. “Do you know who the other is?”
Harry nodded. “Of course. We always come in pairs, you know. Drawn to each other in the times of great need. Bound by fate and sacrifice to defend the Light.” It was a legend that Draco and he had stumbled across long after they’d become lovers—it had amused them and the announcement that they were an archmagus pair had stunned the wizarding world. Many had wondered what would have happened if they two of them could have come together before Voldemort had marked Draco Malfoy. “As to his name, I won’t reveal it. It isn’t like I can trust Fudge to be an honorable wizard.”
“Harry…” Fudge began and huffed. “How can I mend things between us?”
“You can start by petitioning the Wizengamot to pass laws requiring every Ministry employee to be checked regularly for the Dark Mark and signs of the Imperius Curse. You can double the Auror budget, allow recruitment for new Aurors, stop denying that Voldemort resurrected himself, and then you can fully exonerate Rubeus Hagrid because he didn’t open the Chamber of Secrets—Tom Riddle did. You can pay Hagrid reparations for putting him in Azkaban during my second year because you had to appear to be ‘doing something’ and you can give him back the right to carry a wand. You can exonerate Sirius Black. Then you can call forth a special commission to review the records of every witch and wizard who is currently in Azkaban to make sure they were actually given a trial before being shipped off to that hellhole. Then, I might actually believe the Ministry of Magic is capable of being fair. I might believe that people besides myself and a few select others actually believe in things like justice and integrity. Do all of that, Fudge, and prove to me that you’re a wizard that the men and women in this building can trust to lead them in a war.”
“That’s a lot,” Fudge said roughly.
“Then I look forward to reading about your resignation in the Daily Prophet,” Harry returned in a low tone. “I can be your ally or I can be your enemy; the choice is up to you. Be honorable or be gone.”
“And if I do all of this? You’ll support my administration?”
“I’ll support a proactive, anti-Death Eater administration no matter who leads it,” Harry said. “I can support an honorable, honest man who admits his mistakes, and makes and follows through with plans to correct them in the swiftest and best possible manner. I can support a man who surrounds himself with honest, courageous people who respect the rights of others no matter their blood status or species.”
Fudge nodded quickly.
“I believe the wizarding public at large would support you if both the Headmaster and I stood with you when you make your announcements,” Harry said neutrally. He paused and frowned at the man. “But, Fudge, if you cross me—now or in the future—there isn’t a person on this planet that can protect you from what I’ll do. I am finished being a pawn. I am finished being your whipping boy and I am most certainly finished being Voldemort’s target. Are we clear?”
“Very,” Fudge admitted quickly.
“Good.” Harry turned to Dumbledore. “We aren’t finished with our conversation, sir, but I believe the rest should be done in private. Do you agree?”
“Yes, my boy, I do.” Dumbledore nodded sad but resolved.
“Good. We took Thestrals from Hogwarts to get here—we left them outside. Can Hagrid retrieve them for us?”
“We’ll see to it,” Amelia said. “I’ll make sure they are unharmed and returned to Hogwarts, Lord Potter. My word on it.”
“Thank you, Madame Bones.” Harry didn’t dismiss the twitter of shock that ran through his friends and most of the still silent members of their audience. He pulled out his wand and flicked it around the atrium—casting a series of silent repairo charms. He paused on the fountain and with a small flick changed the house elf so it looked just like Dobby. “Headmaster, can you create a portkey to return us to Hogwarts? Perhaps the infirmary?”
“Of course.” Dumbledore stepped forward and summoned Fudge’s bowler hat with a small smirk. “Thank you, Cornelius; I’m sure the children will take good care of your hat.”
Harry watched all of his friends rush forward and touch the hat. He paused and looked at Dumbledore. “You’ll see that he is safe?” His gaze flicked to Sirius who still lurked almost unseen in the shadows of the atrium.
Albus’ gaze widened briefly and then he nodded. “Of course, Harry. I’ll allow nothing to happen to him. You have my word.”
“Good.” Harry paused again and turned to the Minister. “Also? I want all of my friends to be exempt from the laws governing underage magic, Minister. I’ll send you a list of their names within the week.”
“Just your friends?” Fudge questioned, nervous. “What about yourself?”
“My friends and any witch or wizard who has passed at least two OWLS,” Harry clarified. “I’ll send you list of anyone who hasn’t taken their OWLS but is my friend. As for myself, I won’t need it, will I?”
Fudge flushed. “No, of course, not…err… Lord Potter. I assume you’ll be claiming your title this summer?”
“It is my right,” Harry returned tightly. “Unless that is something else you’d like to protest.”
“Of course not,” Fudge said immediately. “Just let us know, young man, I’ll send Aurors to escort you to the bank for your safety.”
“You needn’t waste their time protecting me,” Harry said coolly. “I do hope they’ll have better things to do.” He touched the hat and the portkey activated. He really fucking hated portkeys.
* * * *
Still gripping his wand, Harry walked to the bed that he usually ended up in as Poppy rushed into the room.
“What is going on here?”
Harry waved at Hermione who launched into an immediate explanation—listing any curses that they might have suffered. She insisted that Neville be seen first because he’d been under the Cruciatus Curse. The mediwitch was horrified and immediately confined them each to a bed.
“Harry, what is an archmagus?”
He looked at Hermione. “It is the highest rank a wizard or witch can receive as far as measurement of pure magical power. Some archmagus in the past have been capable of elemental magic while others were able to achieve an animagus form of a magical creature. Merlin was an archmagus and his animagus was a unicorn.”
“Who was his archmagus partner?” Hermione questioned with a frown. “Why isn’t that in the history books?”
“His partner is unknown, lost to time. It’s family lore,” Ginny admitted from the bed across from them. “It’s told in family grimoires and journals. That’s how we are educated before eleven, Hermione.”
“Oh.” She turned to Harry. “So… what about you? Are you elemental? How could you keep this from us? Don’t you trust us?”
“My mother knew what I was when I was born,” Harry said. It wasn’t true, exactly, but there was no one who could gainsay what he was going to say. His parents had begun to suspect he was different shortly after his first birthday. “She kept it a secret from everyone because she was afraid of what the Ministry at the time might do. They could have taken me from my parents Hermione, and raised me to be their weapon. I’m not an elemental but my archmagus partner is.” Will be. He looked down at his hands in frustration. Not knowing his partner’s status was going to drive him mad.
Merlin, he was so fucking worried about Draco he could hardly think straight enough to lay the dishonest foundation that was required to protect them both. How could he live a good life now? Everything he did from the moment he had returned to the past would be built on a dark, ugly secret. “I read my mother’s journal last summer—it was charmed so only I could read it. I found it in the attic of my Aunt’s house.” Not true, he’d originally found the journal in his vault after the war. His stomach tightened with guilt but he pushed ruthlessly past it. There was nothing he wouldn’t suffer to keep Draco safe.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hermione demanded fiercely and ignored Madame Pomfrey who had moved to examine her.
“At first, because I was furious with you for not writing me. You kept things from me—allowed me no time to really prepare myself for how I was going to be treated by practically everyone this year, all because the Headmaster told you not to write me. Well, frankly, Hermione? That excuse still doesn’t mean much to me-not even nearly a year later. I needed my friends last summer. I watched Cedric Diggory be murdered and I had no one to talk to about it. I had no one to confide in. I had nightmares for weeks and my Uncle liked to wake me up by punching me in the chest.” Truth, but he’d never told a soul what he’d suffered in the Dursleys’ house before he’d become lovers with Draco. He and Malfoy had shared a bed for a week before the Slytherin had confronted him about the nightmares and demanded an explanation.
He turned away from the all onto his side and took a deep breath when invisible fingers brushed over his cheek. Draco. He barely stopped himself from saying his lover’s name aloud. “Then I kept it to myself because my archmagus partner requested it of me as he wasn’t as far along in his development as I was. My gifts began to manifest shortly before my birthday. Probably spurred on by what I experienced with Voldemort. We were vulnerable because neither one of us were fully matured. I had a duty to magic and to the Light to protect him.” Draco’s invisible fingers brushed over the top of his hand and Harry clenched his fingers in his blanket. It was unbearable not being able to reach out for him.
“But I’m your best mate,” Ron protested. He was sitting on the side of a bed in between Ginny and Neville. Luna was curled up under a blanket watching the proceedings in silence.
“He will stand with me every day, Ron,” Harry murmured. “He’ll never turn from me in jealousy. He’ll always believe in me and trust my word.” He watched Ron flinch visibly. “He will never hold himself above me and lecture me as if I’m some ignorant child. Our mutual faith and regard is beyond any other. We are bound by fate and by magic to defend, honor, and protect each other and the Light.”
“Harry?” Hermione began. “There are little gold flashes of light on your face and hand. Is something wrong with your magic?”
He realized then that every time Draco touched him, their magic was flaring. “My archmagus partner is here—he is disillusioned and must remain so. It’s too dangerous for him to reveal himself.” He glared at Poppy who started to protest. “It could get him killed before he fully matures.” It wasn’t the full truth but it worked because the mediwitch immediately backed off. He knew that she was the only person in the room who could theoretically override Draco’s disillusionment spell. He didn’t know enough about Draco’s condition to draw any conclusions about his magic at this point.
Draco pressed a folded piece of paper into his hand and it appeared as he released it. Then a soft mouth brushed over his and he knew his entire face was probably glowing with their magic. Then he felt Draco’s magic retreat and knew that the Slytherin was leaving the room. He tightened his grip around the note and slouched back on the bed, his gaze averted as Poppy approached.
“Are you fully matured now?” Poppy questioned. “I haven’t scanned your core in over a year.” Which was an extremely lucky piece of fate, even if he could alter his magical signature to an untold degree. Being able to hide what they were was just one way Magic herself protected an archmagus.
“I believe so,” Harry admitted. “I’ve been trying so hard to hide it that I kept pushing my magic down into my core. I think it caused a more rapid expansion. I had no one to confide in about it—neither did my partner. He can’t tell his parents and the Headmaster refused to make himself available to me this year.”
“And for that, my boy, I can offer no excuse,” Dumbledore said from the doorway of the infirmary. “I hope you can forgive me.”
“I believe given time we can work through our differences, sir.” Harry watched Poppy’s scan with interest, aware that the Headmaster was doing the same. It was nearly exactly as it had been before older, Wacko-Neville had sent him and Draco back in time. “Was I right, Madame Pomfrey?”
She huffed. “Yes, Mr. Potter, you were absolutely right. You are a fully matured archmagus.” She shook her head. “I don’t even want to know what is going to happen when you go through your magical maturation.”
“You think I still will?” Harry questioned. In the previous timeline it had been his magical maturation that had woken the fullness of his core. The very idea that he might still have that nightmare ahead of him was disconcerting. His magical maturation had nearly killed him shortly after he killed Voldemort.
“Yes,” Poppy said shortly and shared a look with Dumbledore. “You’ll be careful of his temper, Albus. His emotions are delicate at this stage. I won’t have my infirmary destroyed because you’ve frustrated this young man with your riddles.” She walked away before the Headmaster could defend himself.
“Yes, well.” Albus conjured a chair and sat down with a little sigh. “My boy… where is Dolores Umbridge? Hogwarts tells me she’s not on the grounds.”
Harry and Hermione shared a look and the witch had the grace to blush furiously. “It’s funny, really. You see, Madame Umbridge threatened to Crucio me to get information about Sirius. Hermione and I led her into the Forbidden Forest in an effort to stall her until we could get some help. Unfortunately, a group of centaurs came upon us and they really don’t like her at all.”
“That’s true,” Hermione agreed. “Though she hates them right back.”
Dumbledore cleared his throat and Poppy had to leave the room. Her laughter was rich and full even behind the solid oak door of her office. “Madame Umbridge is in the Forbidden Forest with the centaurs?”
“Yep.” Harry snagged a blanket from the bottom of the bed and pulled it up over his legs after he toed off his trainers. “I kind of hope they don’t kill her, actually. I mean, she certainly deserves it because she’s an evil toad but I’d really like to see her go to prison for what she did here at Hogwarts.”
Actually, he wanted to kill her himself. He wanted to gut her like a fish but would be just as satisfied with drilling a hole in the middle of her forehead with a piercing hex. Her future actions made it impossible for Harry to justify letting her live. She was an enemy of the Light. He averted his gaze to keep the Headmaster from seeing the fury he knew would be evident in his eyes.
“May I know who you’re archmagus partner is, Harry?”
“No, not yet. It’s not my right to reveal,” Harry said roughly. He wasn’t sure if Draco’s magic had returned to the past with him and there was no chance he was going to risk him for the sake of Dumbledore’s curiosity.
“Very well, I respect that. I understand how important your relationship with him is.” Dumbledore took a deep breath. “May I know the manifestation of your archmagus gifts?”
Harry paused and considered it. “I have the ability to draw and wield wild magic.” He ignored the reactions of his friends and watched intently as Dumbledore relaxed and smiled softly, clearly pleased. “I have precognitive abilities but they are burgeoning and untrained. I couldn’t approach anyone for training, obviously.”
“And your partner is the elemental then?”
“Have either one of you sought your animagus form?” Dumbledore questioned softly.
“Yes, but we swore between ourselves to only explore that together. We haven’t had the opportunity to do so.” Another lie. In the future, they’d registered privately with the Ministry but never discussed their forms in public. His own form was that of a large magical viper whereas Draco was an ancient and extinct form of dragon called a lohi-wyrm. When Draco had achieved his transformation, his dormant Parselmouth abilities emerged. It became a valuable tool for them as they could communicate sub-vocally in Parseltongue.
“Is he in danger?” Albus questioned.
“Every day,” Harry murmured. “If anyone knew the truth… I don’t know… what would happen. He believes the best way to protect himself is to hold the secret as long as possible. I agreed, reluctantly, as I worry about his physical safety. I have no doubts concerning his loyalty to me despite how he is forced to behave in public.”
“Very well,” Dumbledore nodded. “When Poppy releases you, I’d like to see you in my office. The password is Sherbet Lemon. As to the rest of you, your parents have been informed of your ordeal and your bravery. They will be arriving shortly. Miss Granger, your Head of House is retrieving your parents personally.”
* * * *
He was surprised to find that Dumbledore was alone. He’d half expected the Minister to be in attendance. “Where is Sirius?”
“I believe he is at headquarters framing his full pardon so he can hang up next to his mother’s portrait,” Albus said pleasantly. “That’s what he said he was going to do.”
Harry slumped with relief and wondered how many protective charms he could put on his idiotic godfather without the man noticing. “Thank you.”
“No, thank you,” Albus said severely. “You reminded me tonight that individuals matter just as much as the big picture and I feel like an old fool for… well, everything. I should’ve listened to you in your first year when you said you didn’t want to return home. I should’ve asked why.”
“We can discuss that later, sir.” Harry averted his gaze briefly and then glanced around the room at the portraits. “Can these guys tell others your secrets?”
“No, they are spelled to hold the secrets of the Headmaster as sacred,” Albus murmured. “They will never speak of the discussions they’ve witnessed—not even with me when it concerns previous Headmasters or students.”
Harry nodded. “I’m a horcrux. He made me one accidently the night he killed my parents. You know that, right?”
Dumbledore stared at him, horrified and then sat down in his chair weakly. “No, no I did not know for certain.” He cleared his throat. “A horcrux is horrifically dark magic, Harry. How did you find out about them? It was my intention to discuss this topic with you next year.”
“My archmagus partner figured it out—his family tree has some Dark Arts practitioners. My scar is unusual and when I told him I was having visions connected to Riddle—he figured it out. He’s been helping me all year learn to occlude my mind.”
“Your partner is teaching you Occlumency?” Dumbledore questioned, obviously dubious. “Professor Snape indicated that you were doing quite poorly with his lessons.”
“When I finally admitted to my partner that I wasn’t taking remedial potions and explained what Professor Snape was doing to me—he was furious. He said that I was never going to learn to occlude my mind the way Snape was teaching me. I’ve been working with him since Snape and I had our disagreement.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Very well, I believe that is a subject we can discuss later in the summer as well.” He cleared his throat. “What have you learned about horcruxes?”
“They are not dark magic—but black magic,” Harry clarified. “Often the Ministry of Magic in Great Britain lumps the two together when that is inappropriate. Most blood magic is considered dark but unless it is sacrificial, it’s not black magic.” Harry paused aware that he was rambling and about to get on a soapbox. He’d often lobbied for a change in how the magical arts were categorized in Britain. “At any rate, a horcrux is black magic and it involves the splitting of a magical person’s soul facilitated by a sacrificial killing. Making one is an act of insanity but making more than one is… a path that allows for no redemption.
“There are others besides the one I carry—you are already seeking them.” Harry walked to stand near Fawkes. The phoenix leaned forward and rubbed his face against his hair in a gesture so affectionate that Dumbledore started in surprise. “He will live with me after you’re gone but you know that already, right?”
“I did know that,” Albus said softly. “He told himself after your second year that you would take care of him and that he would eventually bond with your oldest son. It gave me great hope that you would have a long and fulfilling life.”
“I suppose it also came as some relief to know that I would remain Light enough to earn a place in a phoenix’s life. My upbringing wasn’t all that dissimilar to Tom Riddle’s after all.” He sat down in a chair near the Headmaster’s desk. “You can’t search for them by yourself. You’ll see yourself killed if you try.”
“Are you certain?”
“I’ve seen it—you with a curse blackened hand wearing a strange ring.” He watched understanding light in Dumbledore’s eyes. “Do you know the location of the ring, already?”
“No, but I have several more places to search this summer.”
“Don’t go alone—while the horcrux in me is dormant—the others won’t be. The diary was powerful and compelling. There is no telling what that ring could make you do before you regained control of yourself. The vision was abrupt and short—far shorter than anything Voldemort has sent me.” Harry focused on his hands and tried to reconcile his own manipulations and lies. He was working for a better future. He just hoped he never forgot the individuals in his life.
“We will find a way to remove it from you,” Dumbledore whispered. “There must be a way.”
“I had planned to ask the dverger eventually,” Harry admitted. “They are much more comfortable with blood and soul magic than most wizards. I’d rather the Ministry not know about the horcruxes.”
“I agree,” Dumbledore murmured. “Do you know what the others are?”
He had to tread carefully—knowledge had to be given in a way that was ambiguous but solvable so the Headmaster didn’t start to get suspicious of his undeveloped precognition. It wasn’t even untrue—in the future he’d chosen to leave the skill undeveloped because prophecies pissed him off. Now he rather regretted that. He wondered if he could have seen Wacko-Neville coming. “The ring—features heavily in my dreams. His snake—would he risk intentionally making a living horcrux on purpose?”
“A magical viper is theoretically immortal much like a basilisk,” Dumbledore admitted. “His affinity for snakes might have driven him to do so after his resurrection. He’s insane enough not to care about the risks.”
Harry nodded. “I agree. There is a necklace or locket of some kind. It’s silver and I only see flashes of it. Sometimes Tom is wearing it in my dreams—even my nightmares but he wasn’t wearing it tonight or the night he was resurrected so I don’t think he has it with him.”
“No, I agree. He would keep it hidden and away.” Dumbledore carefully made a few notes in a small brown journal that Harry had never seen before. He wondered what had happened to it after the Headmaster had died in the previous timeline. “How many do you think he made?”
“How many could he make?” Harry questioned.
“I have no idea,” Dumbledore admitted. “But as a young man he dabbled in divination and Arithmancy.”
“Seven is the most magical number,” Harry said. “So, perhaps seven.”
“Perhaps,” Dumbledore said by way of agreement. “The diary being the first?”
“The soul fragment trapped in the diary was very young,” Harry said. “The age I am now so it would make sense—he made his first horcrux here at Hogwarts when he released the basilisk the first time. Poor Myrtle.”
“Indeed.” Dumbledore frowned, intense and sad. “I should’ve seen what he was then.”
“Perhaps, but even if you had—what proof would you’ve had?” Harry ran his fingers through his hair. “During my second year, I dreamed repeatedly about a beautiful woman wearing a crown. Does that make sense to you?”
“Ravenclaw’s Diadem,” Albus murmured. “Yes, it makes sense. Tom would’ve enjoyed the irony of using items of the Founders for such a purpose. Harry, can you focus on the necklace in your memory and get a clearer picture of it?”
“It’s not a memory,” Harry murmured. “I can’t explain why—I just know that I can’t pull them out for anyone else to view. I tried with my partner.”
“It’s not a surprise,” Dumbledore admitted. “Your intrinsic magic is protecting the sanctity of the visions.”
Merlin that was slick, Harry thought amused. He wondered if it was true or if the Headmaster was pulling it out of his arse. Either way it worked for him and he intended on repeating it in the future if someone asked to view one of his visions. He closed his eyes and pretended to think about the necklace, wondering what he could reveal that would cause the Headmaster to make the right connection. “It’s silver and very old. The surface is an amber color but not completely, there are emeralds embedded in it.” He opened his eyes and found Dumbledore scribbling madly in his journal. “Sir?”
“The emeralds, do they have a shape?”
“I can’t see it clearly, sir. What do you think it is?”
“Salazar Slytherin’s locket was stolen from a collector when Tom was a young man. I never made the connection that he was Slytherin’s heir until much later,” Albus admitted. “It looked much like what you have described and it would have attracted Tom’s attention as soon as he became aware that it existed still.”
“Agreed.” Harry nodded and pursed his lips. The cup was in Bellatrix’s vault so at the moment no one really had access to it. “Nothing else stands out, sir, but there should be one more, right?”
“Yes, I believe so.” Dumbledore set aside his quill. “We need to train your abilities, Harry, so we can discover the final horcrux. They must all be destroyed before you can face him.” He paused. “You know the prophecy, don’t you?”
Harry really wanted to fuck with Dumbledore’s head. The old wizard had it coming after all. “Yes. My parents made reference to it in a letter I found my third year in my vault but not the exact wording. When I started taking Divination—the first time I came into physical contact with Professor Trelawney—I heard it like a loud whisper in my mind. I hear it every time she touches me.”
It wasn’t true exactly, of course. He hadn’t found his parents letters or journals until after the war. The chest containing the information about his parents’ suspicions that he was an archmagus wasn’t even visible to him in the vault until his core had fully matured. He watched the blood drain from the old wizard’s face and resolved to show Draco the memory the very first chance he got. The best part was he didn’t feel remotely guilty about it.
“Why didn’t you ever…”
“At first I believed no one else knew about it,” Harry admitted. “I kept it to myself because I felt like it was my business and then I read about prophecy records, and how magic automatically gathers them and stores them in the Department of Mysteries thanks to Merlin. Then I realized you probably knew it and didn’t want me to know it. It helped me make sense of why my parents tried to hide with me.” He huffed and shrugged. “I should’ve realized that Voldemort was tricking me tonight, sir. I was just so worried about Sirius that I couldn’t think straight.”
“I understand,” Dumbledore murmured. “He is a tangible connection to your parents and the person they gifted with their trust. Being chosen as a godfather in the magical world is an immense act of trust, Harry. Tonight, your resolve and your bravery honored the trust your parents put in Sirius when they named you his godson. He couldn’t be more proud of you. He was bursting with it and cannot wait for you to join him this summer.”
“Do I have to return to Privet Drive?”
Albus winced. “I promised your Aunt that the wards would protect her through to your seventeenth birthday, Harry, in exchange for her housing you.”
Harry nodded. “The wards are almost depleted then?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“I could probably charge them fully in about twenty-four hours if I threw magic at them but I would need… protection from my relatives during that time period, sir. Well, more accurately they might require protection from me. Our relationship is an extremely poor one for reasons I’m not prepared to discuss yet.”
“Do you believe you could charge a rune stone?” Albus questioned.
Harry shook his head. “Not safely—at least not yet. It doesn’t feel safe and I’ve learned to listen to those feelings.” In the future, he’d needed Draco to channel his magic into rune stones and to prevent him from over extending himself. He cleared his throat. “You should know that I lied my arse off about the contents of the prophecy while I was in the Department of Mysteries. I could feel magic shifting around me—I knew we weren’t alone but I didn’t know who was there.”
“So it was never activated?” Dumbledore questioned more to himself than to Harry and nodded. “Excellent and you destroyed the record.” He paused. “Technically, you could be fined by the Ministry for that because the prophecy wasn’t just about you.”
Harry glared at him. “If that bastard Fudge even thinks about fining me for denying Tom Riddle his rights to that prophecy record I will sue him for everything he’s worth.”
“Your language is horrible,” Albus chided softly but his eyes were twinkling madly.
“I’ve had a difficult day!” Harry exclaimed and slouched back in his chair with a sigh. “All of my secrets came out; I had to fight Death Eaters and a Dark Lord.”
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “I was under the impression that your Patronus was a stag.”
Harry sighed. He hadn’t expected his Patronus to look like Draco’s animagus form. He had no explanation for it—even after his relationship with Draco had started his Patronus hadn’t changed. Maybe it was the marriage bond. “That’s the first time I’ve seen it as a dragon, sir. Before it was a stag… and in all of the DA meetings it was a stag. I can’t explain it.”
“There are times in a wizard’s life when a Patronus may change due to emotional upheaval—grief or even falling in love may do that.” Albus smiled kindly and Harry felt his face heat, which was mortifying. He was thirty years old—blushing was out of the question and yet his nearly sixteen year old body was totally on board with the whole red faced thing. “And not just a dragon but an ancient dragon. It is fascinating.”
“It was pretty cool.”
“It certainly distracted Tom and gave you time to gather yourself for another volley,” Albus allowed. “Your dueling was… excellent, Harry. The power you wielded and your precise apparition was truly impressive. I believe this summer we must focus on expanding your knowledge of curses and hexes. The next time you face a real battle—I don’t want anything to hold you back.”
“You’re prepared to train me?” Harry asked completely floored.
Albus paused, his face pensive and sad. “You will never be alone in this fight again, Harry. I will stand with you at every opportunity. I will teach you everything I know. I will bring in others and they will teach you everything they know. Tonight, watching you fight Tom I realized that the childhood I wanted to preserve in you is long over and you deserve to be treated like the young man you are. I hope that eventually you can forgive this old wizard his mistakes.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Okay.” He cleared his throat and sighed. “It’s almost dawn. Should we go rescue Fudge’s toady from the centaurs?”
“I will see to it,” Albus murmured. “You need your rest and I’m sure your friends are waiting for your return. I will also make arrangements for us to stay at Privet Drive.”
Harry stared. “Us? You and me?”
“Yes. I will monitor your progress in charging the wards and provide instruction on the process. We’ll continue our discussion about Tom, his life, and his path to darkness this summer if time allows. I think it is important that you understand that.”
Harry considered the memories he’d reviewed in the first timeline and realized those lessons were going to start sooner. “I will try to organize my own thoughts as well regarding my experiences with him. It might lead us to figuring out the missing horcrux.”
Dumbledore nodded and then he opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a slim book. “This is an empty grimoire. Most wizards are given their own on the coming of their majority by their father. James is not here to gift you with one and I would like to do this for you.”
“I’ve seen them in my family vault,” Harry admitted. “What do I do?”
“Grimoires are spelled and protected with blood magic,” Albus admitted. “You must do this work in private to make certain that the book will only be useable by you and your descendants. You can write down your visions, dreams, or whatever thoughts you might have about magic or just your life in general.”
Harry’s gaze flicked to the brown journal on Dumbledore’s desk. “That is your personal grimoire?”
“Yes, it is spelled to automatically return to my family vault upon my death.” Albus touched the book carefully. “I’ve had it a very long time. You’ll never run out of pages, the ink will never run or bleed through—it will become a source of comfort for you.”
“I see.” Harry nodded. “How do I bind the grimoire to me?”
He already knew but was curious to see if Dumbledore would be completely honest with him. He watched the elderly wizard stand and go to a small bookshelf. He returned with a bright blue book entitled Protecting Secrets and Familial Magic by Godric Gryffindor. Harry stared at the book, awestruck. Dumbledore pulled a stack of parchment from a shelf behind him and cast a powerful duplication charm on the book.
“It is a permanent duplication,” Dumbledore murmured. He offered the book to Harry. “It is only right that you should have it. Unfortunately, the original can’t leave Hogwarts.”
“Why is it only right?” Harry questioned. Would the Headmaster admit it?
“As I said, Harry, only a true Gryffindor could’ve removed that sword from the Sorting Hat.” He glanced towards the sword. “And that is what you are—the blood and magical heir of Godric Gryffindor.”
Harry snorted. “I wish I’d known that second year when the entire school ran around calling me the Heir of Slytherin.”
“My apologies,” Albus muttered, clearly contrite. “My duplicity has often left you the bereft of my support and consideration. I feel as if I will never make up for the wrongs I’ve done you, Harry.”
“You’ve made an excellent start,” Harry said. He shrank the grimoire and the book by Gryffindor and slid them into the back pocket of his jeans. He grimaced when he realized he’d done it wandlessly and shrugged at the Headmaster. “You knew I could, right?”
“You used several wandless and silent spells against Tom during the duel. I wasn’t sure if you were driven by need or if it was a skill you’d been developing on your own. I’m pleased to see that you’ve already developed a certain control over your magic in that regard. It will be helpful in your training this summer.”
* * * *
Draco came out of the shadows shortly after Harry exited Dumbledore’s office, snagged his hand, and led him through a series of hallways and straight into a secluded broom closet. Harry laughed softly as he threw a privacy ward at the door and gathered his love close. “Dragon, I was so worried!”
“You?” Draco hissed. He buried his face against Harry’s neck and shuddered. “I woke up in Umbridge’s office and realized… Merlin, we should have asked Longbottom to make sure he got his bloody math right!” His fingers clenched on Harry’s t-shirt. “I could kill him.”
Harry rubbed a small circle on Draco’s back and prepared to ask a question he’d promised long ago that he’d never ask his partner. They’d never, not once, discussed how Draco had been marked. He knew that Lucius had forced it on his son and that had been enough for him. Draco kept his memories of his father pretty close to the vest. The trauma of the man’s actions against him hadn’t faded with time or even the elder Malfoy’s death. “Are you…” He closed his mouth and shut his eyes. It didn’t matter if Tom Riddle had already marked him—Draco was his and always would be.
“No.” Draco trembled against him. “Not yet, it’ll happen this summer sometime or it would have or it did in the other bloody timeline. I won’t let that monster do it again. I won’t. I can’t tolerate it. I didn’t even remember what it felt like before the Mark—I didn’t realize how dirty it made me feel.”
“What’s up with the golden light?” Harry asked softly. They were lighting up the closet with it currently.
“We got married,” Draco said dryly. “We pledged eternity and if we are reincarnated we will be a fated couple. Somehow, the magic transferred back with us. We’re probably labeled as soul mates in the Book of Souls which is frighteningly convenient. I think we should curse Longbottom within an inch of his life. I need to research the ritual he used to see what else he might have accomplished. It’s going to be hell hiding this side effect. I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s not mentioned in the archmagus research we gathered.”
Harry pulled him gently toward him and backed up until he could rest against the wall. “I’m exhausted.”
“No wonder,” Draco murmured. “I think we were mostly dead all day or something. The potion definitely killed our physical bodies and then Fate herself had to make the choice to send us back.”
“Seriously? You mean Neville fucking killed us and there was no guarantee his request would be honored?” Harry glared.
“There is a reason a large portion of time travel magic and rituals are considered black arts,” Draco said dryly. “The only exception is a time-turner because you can’t alter what you know to be true.”
“Mostly dead,” Harry murmured. He ran his fingers through Draco’s hair and pulled him close. “Don’t think I overlooked that ridiculous Muggle movie reference.” He pulled his lover closer and kissed him.
Draco fell into the kiss without a moment’s hesitation. They indulged in the intimacy of it for a long moment before they broke apart reluctantly.
“I should return to my dorm.”
“I know.” Draco brushed his mouth over his again. “Did you save Sirius?”
“Yes,” Harry murmured. “I think I cut Bellatrix practically in half though and I did my level best to kill your father but I’m not sure I succeeded.”
Draco offered him a grin. “Well, it’s the thought that counts, love.”
“They both escaped so your father didn’t get arrested. I did get the Lestrange brothers and Dolohov unless that moron Fudge lets them go or something equally stupid. Macnair portkeyed away and Rookwood—he disappeared, I’m not sure where he went to be honest. I left Nott stunned in the Hall of Prophecy so he might have escaped. I think Neville or Ron stunned Crabbe. It was seriously a hot mess.”
“I bet it was,” Draco said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there. When I realized what tonight was and what you were going to face—I could only pray that you didn’t land in a moment that would get you killed.”
“It was righteous,” Harry admitted. “I can’t wait to show you everything.”
“I can’t wait to see,” Draco agreed. “I love you.”
Harry kissed him then, his hands dropping and clenching Draco’s hips. He pulled back slightly, their lips just slightly apart. “I love you. I won’t let anyone come between us. I’ve laid the groundwork to get Dumbledore on your side immediately.”
“I overheard most of it—at least what you said in the infirmary to him and to the others. I felt you the moment you passed through the wards of the school. I figured you’d end up in the infirmary. The portkey was rather unexpected though. I don’t think you ever told me how you returned to the school the first time.”
He hadn’t told him—even now he was extremely embarrassed about how he lost control the first time he lived through this night. “The same way but the events were different. It was a very difficult night. I don’t know what will happen due to the changes I’ve already made. Be on your guard, Draco, and watch both of your parents closely. You know how often your father put your mother under the Imperius and that she’s been potioned to the gills. You can’t trust her to act in your best interest—even if she wanted to.”
“I know.” Draco closed his eyes. “I won’t forget and I will rip off Tom Riddle’s wand arm if he tries to mark me.”
“If for some reason you managed to do that,” Harry began dryly, “you are required to beat him with it.”
Draco grinned at the image and then they both laughed softly. “Be careful among those Gryffindorks.”
“You be careful around those snakes,” Harry returned evenly. “Else I might have to come down there and prove to them who’s the biggest snake in this place.”
“Indeed,” Draco agreed with a low, husky laugh. “Christ, I think I’d probably come a little if you did.”
* * * *
He entered through the portrait hole, rather relieved to have even remembered the password and was confronted with a screeching Molly Weasley. She was currently yelling at Ron for letting his sister leave the school. She turned to glare at him when she realized he was there.
“And you! How dare you!” She stalked across the room and smacked Harry across the face. “How dare you get my babies involved in a fight with Death Eaters!”
Harry stared at her in complete surprise and then carefully wiped the blood from the side of his mouth. He certainly hadn’t seen that coming. She hadn’t hit him last time, but then last time she hadn’t seen him until much later. His gaze flicked around the room, grazing over Hermione’s parents who looked fairly shaken up, the Lovegoods standing side by side looking sweet and as crazy as ever, and then settling on Augusta Longbottom who appeared far calmer than he’d expected.
“I didn’t get them involved with anything,” he finally said quietly. “I told them… no… I begged all of them to stay here at Hogwarts. I was going to go alone and I would have gone alone if I’d hadn’t thought they’d just find some way to follow me. However, I offer my apologies to your family for whatever harm came to your children tonight—be it mental or physical.” He cleared his throat. “Madame Longbottom, I understand that Neville’s wand was broken… I would like to pay for the replacement.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Lord Potter,” Augusta snapped. “Neville has told me all of what happened tonight and I believe you acted to the best of your ability in the defense of your family. Neville chose to go with you. He admitted this to me and explained to me how you begged them all to stay behind.” She glared pointedly at Molly who was rapidly paling. “I know all of this because instead of screaming at my grandson and jumping to conclusions—I listened to him instead.”
Her tone was so icy, Harry was rather surprised the room wasn’t getting colder. “My grandson acted honorably this evening and chose to stand with his friend against frightening odds. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of you both and I’ll buy him a new wand with a smile on my face while I brag up and down Diagon Alley about my how grandson stood and battled side by side with the first identified archmagus to be born in four hundred years.” She paused. “If that is alright? I’d very much like to brag about that.”
Harry laughed weakly and winced. He touched his mouth again and half-glared at Molly Weasley. “You go right ahead and brag all you want, Madame Longbottom.”
Augusta pulled her wand and cast a silent healing spell for his lip. “There. I also owe you a great debt. Hermione explained to me and her parents that you stopped Lucius Malfoy when he used the Crucio on Neville. I couldn’t have borne it—to lose another of my family to that evil curse.”
“I did my best to kill Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy,” Harry admitted. “I don’t think I succeeded. The cowards portkeyed away.”
“It’s the thought that counts, dear,” Augusta said brightly and patted his cheek. “Molly, you owe Lord Potter an apology. It’s my understanding that he protected both of your children multiple times tonight in a situation that they themselves insisted on being involved in.”
Harry wondered how the dowager of the House of Longbottom would feel if she knew that she and Draco Malfoy had the same opinion on his efforts to kill Death Eaters earlier in the evening. He watched her stalk out of the common room, leaving a shell shocked Neville behind. Molly started to speak but he held up a hand.
“I’d rather you didn’t say anything else to me right now, Mrs. Weasley. I’m not your child and you have no right whatsoever to lecture me or attempt to discipline me as if I were. Ron and Ginny came with me because they wanted to. If you’re angry—be angry with them. I don’t control my friends or their actions. I don’t have the right to tell them what to do. Maybe you’ll regret hitting me later or maybe you won’t—I’m quite used to the Weasley temper and right now I’m in no mood for whatever you have left to vent.”
He turned to Hermione’s parents. “Dr. and Mrs. Granger, I want you to know that Hermione is one of the smartest, strongest witches I know. She was brave and smart tonight—I am honored to know her and be her friend. I have been honored to be her friend since she graciously allowed me to jump on the back of a troll in her defense during our first year.”
Hermione offered him a small smile and her parents echoed it. “Well, it was the least I could do—I mean I lured it into that bathroom and did all the real work to trap it. It was only fair and that you and Ron got to knock it unconscious.”
“You keep telling yourself that,” Ron said with a half-laugh. “Harry, mate, I tried…”
“I know you did,” Harry said quietly. He looked at Molly and found her staring at him in wounded shock. “It’s hardly the first time she’s failed to listen to you and jumped to conclusions instead. I don’t have to wonder where you get it, after all.”
Ron huffed. “Harry.”
“It’s true,” Hermione said and shrugged when Ron glared at her. “Seriously. It’s true.”
“No, Lord Potter, don’t attempt to apologize to me either.” Xenophilius shook his head. “My Luna has her own mind and confessed her part in this evening. I’m satisfied that you did not force her to come along with you to the Department of Mysteries.” He paused and smiled winningly. “Can I get an interview for the Quibbler?”
“Sir, I would be honored.” Harry offered him a slight bow.
“Very good then, I will have Luna arrange it.”
Harry nodded and then went to the stairs leading up the boy’s dorm, ignoring Molly’s call completely. He couldn’t deal with her now. The healing spell had done the trick but he could still feel the sting on his skin. The only person to ever slap him like that before had been his Aunt Petunia and as such he’d always associated being slapped in the face with disrespect. He’d never tolerated being hit after he’d left his Muggle relatives in the previous timeline.
Ron and Neville entered shortly after he did. Seamus and Dean were both awake and getting ready for breakfast.
“Harry, mum didn’t mean anything by it. She was upset and wouldn’t listen…”
Harry waved him off. “I can’t deal with it or her right now, Ron. I’m sorry if that upsets you.”
“No,” Ron said. “You aren’t upsetting me. She upset me. Ginny is crying she’s so upset and I’m embarrassed. I can’t believe…” He trailed off. “I’m just really bloody sorry, Harry. I don’t know what else to say.”
“That’s all you need to say,” Harry murmured. “I need sleep. Don’t let anyone wake me up—I don’t care who they are.”
“Got it, mate.” Ron sighed. “We’ll just lock the door then?”
Harry pulled his wand and threw up a security ward on the door. He figured he’d have to make some wild ass lie to explain how he knew how to ward later. “Only people who sleep here can enter.” He crawled into his bed, pulled his curtains, cast a privacy charm around his bed and curled into his blankets.
He pulled the torn piece of parchment from his pocket and opened it carefully. The words were an immense comfort despite the time he’d already spent with Draco in the broom closet.
“Once two souls have met they are eternally bound.”
He fell asleep with his wand clutched in his hand.
* * * *
June 31, 1996
Harry watched Draco disappear into the carriage that would take him down to the Express with a heavy heart. The thirteen days between the Department of Mysteries “battle” and the end of term had been a wretched sort of agony. Hermione and Ron had not let him out of their sight for even a minute. He didn’t know why but speculated that they were just so concerned about the secrets he’d kept from them that they didn’t want him to have a chance to make more.
Out of spite, he’d conducted two very public DA meetings in the Great Hall just because he could and he’d sent Umbridge a flower arrangement full of Nightshade anonymously. As death threats went, it wasn’t a heavy handed one. He figured she didn’t even know what the flower was since she was an idiot. Later in his life, he’d discovered that she’d left Hogwarts without earning a single NEWT. He’d been so peeved that he’d sent Fudge a Howler.
Ron stopped in the doorway beside him. “Are you sure you can’t get the Headmaster to let you ride the train?”
Harry shook his head. “It’s a risk at this point. We made sure that everyone knew I wasn’t going on the train. Voldemort won’t waste resources attacking the train at this point if I’m not on it and… he’s probably not in the position to do much of anything with Lucius Malfoy injured.” That was something that Snape had reported quite gleefully. He’d been surprised by how much damage Harry had inflicted on Lucius in the fight.
“I’ll floo your trunk to your godfather’s then,” Ron said quietly. “Hermione is going to join us there as soon as she can. She’s going to try to talk her parents into leaving the country for good.”
“If she isn’t careful, they’ll freak out so bad they’ll take her with them,” Harry said dryly.
He knew that Hermione would just have her parents charmed or worse if they interfered with her plans. He’d learned later, long after the war, that Hermione had requested that her parents be charmed by the DMLE six times between her first and sixth year during the original timeline just so she could return to Hogwarts. After she’d turned seventeen, she’d done it herself repeatedly to keep her parents out of her business. For all of her vitriol for the treatment of house elves and other magical creatures—the sanctity of her own parents’ minds had hardly been a concern at all.
“How long do you think you’ll have to stay?”
“If we can charge the wards the way that Dumbledore hopes…” Harry shrugged. “Then just a couple of days otherwise I’ll have to stay at least two weeks.”
Ron cleared his throat nervously. “Mum said you haven’t responded to her letter.”
“I didn’t read it,” Harry admitted. “If she had further foul things to say… I didn’t want to see it and if she wants to apologize she can do it in person. I can’t just let her continue to run roughshod over me like I’m a child and accept her behavior, you know. I have to stand on my own two feet, Ron, and I won’t be coddled, lied to or verbally or physically abused by anyone ever again.”
“I understand. I’ll tell… her. I’ll make her understand if I can and if I can’t, I’ll just talk to my dad.”
Harry nodded. “You should go—they are almost ready to leave.”
“See you in a few days,” Ron said as he started down the stairs. He turned and inclined his head thoughtfully. “I’m not going to like him, am I? Your archmagus partner?”
“I hope you both can learn to get along,” Harry said neutrally. “We have a difficult time ahead of us, Ron. War is… a man’s business and there is no room in it for childish grudges.”
* * * *
Number Four Privet Drive. Harry hadn’t seen it in thirteen years but time hadn’t dulled his memories of the place. He’d returned once after war—to find Dudley and put a charm on him so he would be notified if the man ever produced a magical child. Dudley had produced three magical children—two sons and a beautiful little girl that had been the spitting image of Harry’s own mother. Petunia had been horrified and disowned him and his children. Vernon had been dead four years before Dudley’s first son had any accidental magic.
Fortunately, Dudley had been a devoted father and had ventured into the magical world often with Harry and Draco so that his children wouldn’t be ignorant when the time came for them to attend Hogwarts. Harry hoped that Dudley would find his sweet wife again, turn his life around and have those three children again because he’d adored the little terrors. Draco had pretended not to not like them but he’d never ceased to have candy in a robe pocket when they went to visit or when they met them at the Leaky Cauldron for a day on Diagon Alley.
Dumbledore was dressed in a smart, tweed suit that was probably the height of Muggle fashion in 1932. Harry thought it was great and couldn’t wait to see his Aunt and Uncle’s reaction. He’d sent Hedwig and his trunk to Grimmauld Place and packed a small bag for the excursion to Surrey. Dumbledore had a small bag as well. He was actually looking forward to spending the weekend in a Muggle home and had told Harry so.
It was going to be the best time Harry had ever had at Privet Drive because one of the ways they were going to charge the blood wards was to do magic everywhere as often as possible. The Headmaster knocked on the door cheerfully and Vernon answered with an angry frown already in place.
He stared at Dumbledore’s suit and then hurried them in with an impatient huff. “Look at you! You look like a freak.”
“I think he looks great,” Harry said with a bright smile. “Very retro.” He laughed when he saw that Dumbledore’s eyes were twinkling brightly.
“Ah, yes, Vernon. You and Petunia received my letter?”
“Of course,” Vernon hissed. “Couldn’t miss it with that bloody ridiculous bird and the fire!”
Oh. He’d sent Fawkes. Harry was bitterly disappointed to have missed that.
“Well, then, we believe Harry will be able to charge the wards within forty-eight hours. It might take longer but then again, it might be only a day. We’ve never attempted what we will be doing. If this works, Harry has agreed to return next summer and charge the wards for one additional year. I should warn you, however, that the Dark Lord who killed Harry’s parents has returned and his blood relatives might very well be targets.”
Harry nodded, his expression as earnest as he could manage. “Yeah, Voldemort has no idea how much I hate you people. He’d probably love to come here and kill you.”
“Harry,” Albus admonished. “That was unkind.” He handed him his bag. “Now go upstairs and get us settled. I’ll be sleeping in the guest room. Do make sure it’s up to my standards—you know I can’t abide being uncomfortable.”
Harry almost laughed. Later he would ask the Headmaster if he’d taken lessons to produce that snotty, aristocratic tone. “Red and gold?”
“Or blue!” Albus said cheerfully. “I adore blue. Once we are settled properly, I shall call Bilby, my personal elf, and set up our menus for the next two days. There is no need to eat poorly while we’re roughing it in the Muggle world. You’re always rather thin when you come back from the summer. Muggle food must be insufficient for wizards!”
Roughing it. Harry bit down on his lip to keep from laughing and hurried up the stairs before he ruptured something important. He took Dumbledore’s bag into the guest room and pulled his wand. He painted the walls a midnight blue, charmed the ceiling with a twinkling painting of the night sky, and then concentrated on the bed. He increased the length in deference to the Headmaster’s height, redid the head and footboards in a nice pale oak, and then changed the duvet to a brilliant white with gold trim. Then he settled the Headmaster’s bag on the bed and went off to totally put the meaning of magic into his old room.
Twenty minutes later, there was a full, moving Quidditch mural on his ceiling and he was lounging on a double bed. He’d painted the walls sky blue to match the ceiling’s background. Every once in a while the seekers would flick down the wall, doing a respectable rendition of the Wronski Feint before returning to the game.
Dumbledore entered and smiled as he looked around. “Excellent transfiguration, my boy. I really like my ceiling. Your aunt nearly had a brain seizure. Did you alter the bed?”
“I made it longer since you’re so tall and changed the headboard a little. It was plain before.” He motioned towards his own ceiling. “Slytherin vs. Gryffindor; it’s the first match I got to use my Firebolt in against Draco.”
“Ah, young Draco.”
Harry just shot the old wizard a glance. He figured that his dragon Patronus had given his secret away more than anything else but was pleased that the Headmaster was keeping his council about the issue of his magical partner. “He’s the only challenge I’ve ever really had among the seekers at Hogwarts. Of course, now I’m banned for life.”
“Dolores is a ridiculous woman,” Dumbledore said with a sigh. “She doesn’t have the power to ban you from an internationally played sport based on a single fist fight at a game at Hogwarts. I’ve had Minerva locate and retrieve your broom. Filius is checking it over thoroughly for curses and hexes. It’ll be brought to headquarters as soon as it’s ready.” He paused. “Staged fist fight, I would say.”
Harry nodded and allowed the Headmaster to draw his own conclusions. “Thank you, sir.”
“I apologize that it was taken from you at all,” Dumbledore murmured. “You were right; I did let the Ministry do things last year that were really inappropriate. Can I watch the game?”
“Sure.” Harry slid over and made room. Dumbledore made himself comfortable on the bed. “Did you make good use of the time you were gone?”
“Yes, I did some research on Tom and confirmed my suspicions that he’d probably made a horcrux. I wish I could have seen the diary before it was destroyed.”
“It was a horrible thing, sir.” Harry shuddered.
“Yes, my boy, I imagine it was.” Dumbledore sighed. “I have arranged a meeting with Alastor Moody. He’ll be joining me on my hunt for the Gaunt ancestral ring.”
“You think that’s the ring I saw in my vision?” Harry asked trying to sound curious and unsure at the same time.
“I believe so, yes.”
“Don’t put it on,” Harry said shortly. “Make sure Moody knows that he should stun you silly if you even try to put it on.”
Albus laughed softly. “I will, my boy, I promise. I’d like your permission to discuss your visions with him.”
He was surprised but he found himself nodding. “Moody and McGonagall, yes. Snape and Flitwick, no.”
“Filius? Why would you say no to him? He’s a very honorable man and he is very fond of you.”
“I notice you aren’t defending Snape.”
“I’ve spoken with Severus in regards to your lessons,” Albus said quietly. “It is the closest I’ve ever come to cursing him in all the time that I’ve known him. I understand why you can’t bring yourself to trust him. I won’t ask it of you again.”
“I trust that he’s a spy for the Light,” Harry said simply. “But I don’t know that I’ll ever believe he has my best interests at heart. As for Professor Flitwick, I respect him greatly and enjoy learning from him. I hope to learn dueling from him this summer. However, I would hate to put him in a position where he might feel compelled to lie to his own clan. He is half-dverger and they will ask him about my archmagus gifts. As a member of a dverger clan, he is required to speak the truth and nothing less than the absolute truth if he is questioned by his clan leader or the Horde Chieftain. I’m not sure I want them knowing I have precognitive abilities at this point. I don’t know how or when I want it revealed to them. I’ll have to discuss it with my partner.”
In the future, when the news of his untrained precognitive abilities had surfaced—the dverger had tried to force him to train and offer them advice on investments on the threat of losing the Black legacy as he wasn’t truly a blood heir to Sirius Black. He’d never forgiven them for that then and wasn’t going to give them ammunition against him again.
“I see and I understand. I wouldn’t wish to cause Filius such harm either. He is very proud of his place among the dverger. Not all half-breeds are accepted by them.”
Harry cleared his throat. “Which parent…” He trailed off and scowled as Seeker Draco darted across ceiling and caught the painted version of himself only to kiss him soundly and dart off. “You didn’t see that.”
Albus snorted. “No, of course not, dear boy. As to your unfinished question, I have never asked how Filius came to be half-dverger and half-wizard. It is well-known that he was raised in his parental clan, but is an orphan.”
“Yes, but it is nice to know that the dverger took care of him despite his mixed blood. I don’t know if the same would’ve been said for the wizarding side of his family.”
“People are awful.”
“Yes, unfortunately. Fundamentally, most everyone I know is deeply flawed.”
Harry nodded. “Word.”
* * * *
Dumbledore was dressed in what passed for casual for the mad old wizard; a butter yellow robe with bright green butterflies swishing about his hem and cuffs. Every time Vernon or Petunia saw him they freaked out, which was easily the best part of Monday morning. He’d found out before going to bed the night before that Vernon had taken the whole week off so he could protect Petunia from all the nasty magic Dumbledore might do.
Harry had talked the Headmaster into allowing him to cook breakfast instead of calling for Bilby. Well, Bilby had brought them a basket of groceries first and had stared at them mournfully until Dumbledore promised he could return and handle lunch and dinner.
The Dursleys had joined them shortly after Dumbledore had used his wand to set the table. Well, he’d transfigured the table and chairs into something nicer and then he’d set it with the china and flatware that Bilby had supplied. They’d all sat down in silence and Dudley had immediately stuttered through a thank you for Harry having saved his life.
“It’s no problem, Dud.”
“Did you get in a lot of trouble for using magic?” Dudley asked he accepted the plate had set down in front of him. “I tried to get mum to tell them that I would testify for you if there was a trial. Them dementee things were right scary.”
Harry paused and stared at Dudley. It had taken years before Dudley had admitted that he’d seen the Dementors. He’d been afraid that it would mean he had magic and that his parents would start hating him, too. It hadn’t been until Dudley had been identified as a squib that he’d admitted seeing them—his oldest child had blown up a birthday cake and they’d had to Obliviate half a dozen children and ten Muggle adults. Harry and Draco had taken the case because Dudley was family.
“They were very scary,” Harry said neutrally. “I saw them for the first time during my third year. And no, I didn’t get in any real trouble. I was just defending our lives.”
“They would have killed my boy?” Vernon demanded. “Dumbledore, is that true?”
“I’m unsure actually,” Albus admitted as he cheerfully cut into his French toast. “Harry, my boy, this is excellent. I had no idea you cooked so well! As to the Dementors—when a magical person is kissed by a Dementor, it is considered the ‘death of personality’. The Dementor takes their soul and leaves their body behind to live on. In the cases where Muggles have been kissed—in the past, they normally die. However, your son Dudley is a squib like his mother. Lily was the first non-squib born in the Evans family in several hundred years. Because Dudley is a squib—he might have survived being kissed but he would have been essentially mentally dead.”
“And these things just roam around?” Vernon demanded. “Don’t your kind protect us from them?”
“We do try to keep them contained,” Albus admitted. “The Dementors in question were sent here to kill your nephew. They shouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near him while he was at home for the summer but your disregard and lack of affection for him, Petunia, means that the wards do not function as they were intended to. They still protect this home but they no longer shield the neighborhood. They no longer protect the school where Harry and Dudley were educated as younger children. I’m left to wonder if the wards ever extended that far after I cast them the first time.”
“Because… you said all that was needed was a blood connection.”
“She’ll never understand,” Harry said quietly. “Let it be, sir.”
“I’m not stupid!” Petunia snapped.
“No, you’re just intolerant, thoughtless, selfish, and completely without a single ounce of compassion in your entire body. Your own son sits here practically half dead because you over indulged him and let him eat to excess as a child,” Albus said coolly. “Without some kind of intervention, he’ll be lucky to live to be thirty.”
Dudley nodded. “My doctor at the school said the same. They put me on a diet.”
“A diet is not enough,” Albus said shortly. “I’m not even a mediwizard and I can tell your heart and organs are already laboring to the point of near failure, my boy.”
Harry looked down at his plate. He’d made sure to fix an egg white omelet and turkey bacon for his cousin which Dudley had taken without comment. He’d grimaced at the wheat toast but had just shrugged. In the future, Dudley had nearly died of a heart attack at twenty. He’d been married a year and his wife had immediately contacted Harry because she hoped that magic might save him. Magic had indeed saved him but it had been a long road for Dudley—hundreds of potions over a number of months to correct the organ damage.
Albus glared at Petunia. “And that is your fault—yours and Vernon’s. You underfed Harry and never loved him. You spoiled your own son obscenely and overfed him. In the magical world, the authorities would have taken both children from you for your neglect and abuse.”
And the Headmaster didn’t even know the worst of it. Harry didn’t know why he hadn’t told the man but maybe it was because he didn’t think the elderly wizard could take another shock.
“It’s too late for me then?” Dudley questioned, he moved what was left of his eggs around on his plate. “I’m going to die young?”
“There are potions,” Albus allowed. “We could repair the damage done to you and help you lose weight.”
“My son will not take any freak potions!” Petunia screeched. “I won’t have him tainted with your disgusting magic!”
Albus ignored her. “As you are a squib, young Dudley, and a blood relative of Harry… he could petition of the Ministry of Magic for custody of you. He is a Lord and a peer of the realm in his own right—both Muggle and magical. His claim will not be denied due to your poor health.”
“He can’t just take my son! He’s a child himself!” Vernon exclaimed.
“Mr. Potter is well within his rights to claim his title and emancipate himself as a minor. Then he could claim the imminent peril of his cousin’s health as a reason for seeking to protect him within the House of Potter. There is nothing you would be able to do about it.”
Harry understood then. “The blood protection—the one that helps keep me safe from Voldemort. It would work with just Dudley then.”
“He is an Evans by blood,” Dumbledore allowed. “However, there is still the matter of the protection I promised your aunt in return for you living in her home as a member of her family.”
“You will find that she never kept her part of that oath, sir,” Harry said quietly. “Sparse meals are the least of what has been done to me in this house.”
“Title,” Vernon muttered. “That little freak doesn’t have a bloody title.”
“Where do you suppose the money that was paid to you monthly to see to his care came from?” Dumbledore questioned carefully. “The two thousand pounds I placed in your accounts each month, Vernon, came from the Potter Trust as outlined in the will of James Potter if you were the only remaining choice for placing his son. Harry is the heir to one of the wealthiest and oldest magical families in Great Britain. His ancestor was granted both lands and titles by King Arthur Pendragon himself. This summer he will claim his title as the Earl of Gryffindor.”
He knew they’d been paid. In the future, he’d found the records of the payments in his accounts and the will that had made it possible. He’d always wanted to believe that his parents wouldn’t have left him with Petunia but she was simply last on a long list of people who all died. James Potter had trusted the magical government to see that his son was monitored and they had failed both him and his son.
“You were paid to take care of Harry?” Dudley demanded.
The outrage from his cousin was such a surprise that Harry’s mouth dropped open.
“Don’t call me that stupid name,” Dudley snapped. “You were paid to take care of him? You said he was a burden. You said the freaks made you take him in and take food out of our mouths to feed him.”
“He didn’t deserve to have that money spent on him,” Vernon snapped. “It’s bad enough we had to put with his freakishness for years!”
“You’re a liar and a fraud,” Dudley said coldly. “I don’t even know why he came back here to charge the wards considering how you’ve treated him his whole life. If I were him—I’d be plotting your murders.” He shoved back from the table and stalked away.
Harry found his cousin in his room staring at the Quidditch ceiling in complete shock. “Hey.”
“They’re playing some kind of game.”
“It’s called Quidditch.” Harry dropped down on the bed beside him. There wasn’t much room he thought with a wry smile but Dudley did try to scoot over. “I made it using a memory of a game I played. I’m the one in red and gold chasing after the golden snitch.” He pointed at his miniature self. “I won this game but I charmed it so that there are variations. They’ll never play the same game twice. It’s not actually on the ceiling but on a big piece of canvas I stuck up there with a charm. I’m going to take it with me when I leave.”
“Cool.” Dudley sighed. “Your Headmaster doesn’t know my dad beat you up.”
“He doesn’t know they encouraged and rewarded me for beating you up either.”
“Nope.” Harry glanced at his cousin. “Why are you so weird?”
“My school put me in counseling ‘cause I had nightmares about the dementee things but of course I couldn’t tell them why. She made me talk about my childhood and my parents and a lot of stuff came out. If I were younger—they’d have probably called the police and had my dad arrested. There isn’t much proof to be had these days… he hit you last summer, didn’t he?”
“Don’t let him hit you anymore,” Dudley muttered. “You’ve got that magic stick. Use it.”
“It’s a wand,” Harry said. “I can have a mediwitch visit you when they aren’t around and give you the potions to correct your organ problems. She’d put you on a diet.”
“I wouldn’t have the money to pay for it.”
“I’ll pay for it,” Harry said. “Hell, apparently I’ve been paying for your arse since I moved in this place. No need to change that up now.”
Dudley snorted and then laughed. “You have! You totally have paid for me since the beginning. They probably saved some of that money for my Smeltings tuition. It’s expensive.”
“Just keep it a secret. I’ll have the mediwitch charm your potions so no one but you can see them. No need for you to end up in an early grave because your mother is a nutter.”
Dudley nodded. “My middle name is Scott. I go by that in school.”
“Well, thank fuck for that,” Harry muttered.
Dudley nodded. They watched the game in silence for a few minutes and then Harry started to explain how it worked and what each player did. Dudley asked questions then Harry charmed the painting to start a new game and set it up to keep score in the corner. A little miniature Lee Jordan appeared and started to commentary the game.
“Hey, Harry,” Dudley began. “Does that Malfoy guy always get fresh with you when you play? ‘Cause I think that’s sexual harassment.”
Harry laughed and blushed slightly. “He’s my… boyfriend.”
“Wow.” Dudley snorted. “Please let me be around when you tell Dad you’re a poof.”
“Arse.” Harry elbowed him. “Don’t call me a poof.”
“Right. Well, tell me so I can get a snack and a good seat when you tell Mum and Dad that you’re a big gay wizard. Because that’s the kind of moment that comes along once in a lifetime.”
* * * *
Harry was wearing a pair of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt when the Headmaster prodded him downstairs. The center of the wards was actually in the living room. Dumbledore had informed him he’d picked that room in the house because he assumed Harry would spend more than there than any other. He was wrong but the center hadn’t shifted to match Harry’s primary location.
He drew his wand and reviewed the instructions that the Headmaster had written down and gone over with him several times. If he did this right, it would give the wards a big boost and allow them to gather power more quickly. The last thing he wanted was to hang out with the professor for two weeks in this Muggle hellhole with his screeching aunt and uncle. They were worse than Molly Weasley and that was saying something. His jaw tightened—he still hadn’t forgiven her for hitting him. He didn’t know if he could.
He closed his eyes and ignored the Dursleys, who were huddled around the dining room table having a nice snack. Harry put his holly wand on the floor in front of him and settled into the lotus position. In the background he could hear Vernon complaining about “freak nonsense” and Albus telling the fat Muggle to be quiet.
“Now, see here! The neighbors might notice something!” Vernon shouted.
“Your neighbors will notice nothing,” Albus assured. “Your neighbors have never noticed anything magical has happened at your house—not the owls and none of Harry’s accidental magic as a child. The wards prevent it.”
It would have been nice if the wards had prevented Vernon from kicking his arse, Harry thought idly. “I’m ready.”
“Very well,” Albus said. “I will cast an amplification ward around you and it will build on any magic you are able to throw off. Then it will act as a conduit into the wards. Watch your energy levels and do stop if you get tired.”
“Of course, sir.” Harry barely stopped a full shudder running down his back as Dumbledore’s magic settled around him.
He settled down in his core after pretending to struggle with it. It was a mental exercise after all and at thirty, Harry had been quite adept at clearing and settling his mind for the kind of magical casting he was going to do for the Headmaster. It couldn’t be perfect but it had to be good.
Once he settled the first thing he noticed was a small white tether on his core. He was startled as he hadn’t had that tether until much later—after the war when he’d found and bonded with little Winky. That she’d survived that long unbonded had been an extreme surprise to him. He had a house-elf bond at fifteen? He touched the tether and was immediately rewarded with the kind of affection and near-fanatical devotion he associated with Dobby.
What a sneaky little bastard, Harry thought, wryly. It was a weak connection as he’d done nothing on his end of things to shore it up—so he grasped the tether and with a little twist of his magic made it as permanent as he could.
The red pulsing tether attached to the center of his core was his marriage bond with Draco. That it had survived the trip back in time, considering it was brand new and unconsummated, was staggering. Its strength and health was such a relief that Harry felt himself settle even deeper and relax fully.
He drew on his core and gathered magic in a small pulsing ball then with a mental push threw it out of his body. It burst out much like accidental magic and hit the ward—had his eyes been opened he would have seen the golden ward glow bright before magic and light settled over the whole house. Harry gathered another tight ball of magic and threw it out—mental exhaustion tinged on his mind and he withdrew from his core. He wasn’t completely spent but didn’t want to leave himself vulnerable—even with Dumbledore on hand to protect him. He wasn’t prepared to start drawing on wild magic without Draco around.
He opened his eyes and found his wand floating vertically in front of him—the tip glowing brightly as if he’d cast a Lumos spell.
Albus dispelled the ward immediately and went to Harry, ignoring the shocked and horrified looks on the two elder Dursleys faces. “Harry, my boy, are you alright?”
“Tired, but good, sir.” Harry blinked rapidly. “Did I do okay?” He reached out and plucked his wand out of the air.
Albus laughed, awed and relieved. “You did perfect, young man. If you can do that again in twenty-four hours we can leave for headquarters immediately after.”
“Could I do it now and leave now?” Harry asked.
“No, no, I don’t want to risk tasking your core like that so soon in your manifestation.” Albus helped him stand with a firm hand. “You need food and rest, after such a feat of magic, young man.”
* * * *
July 2, 1996
The train ride back from Hogwarts had been a special kind of agony for Draco. He’d known that Harry had left the school with Dumbledore and wouldn’t be riding the train back to London but he didn’t know why. There were speculations—mostly concerning the pardon of Sirius Black and the return of the Dark Lord. The two stories had been battling for headlines since they’d broken a week before. He hadn’t had any time alone with Harry after the first night—the Gryffindors had surrounded Potter at all times and he hadn’t resented it exactly because he knew there were people in his own house that would have loved to curse his mate in the back given a chance.
The Slytherins had been a mixed bag of reactions—plenty of them had already known that Voldemort had returned due to their fathers’ service as a Death Eaters. Contrary to what many might believe, there were only a handful of future Death Eaters among his housemates—there would be fewer this time around. He’d led many of them down the wrong path—Vincent and Greg both had followed him into the Death Eaters. He didn’t think either would have joined if he hadn’t submitted to his father’s will. Vincent’s father had never intended on bringing his son in front of the Dark Lord, at least not during the war.
Pansy’s family was neutral and Blaise Zabini’s parents were notoriously grey and more focused on money than anything else. The Greengrass family prided themselves on staying above the fray, and were essentially neutral. Their politics were pro-Pure-blood but they weren’t going to get their hands dirty in a war.
His mother had picked him up from the train station, dazed and looking thoroughly Imperiused. In the previous timeline, his father had been in Azkaban so he’d returned to the train station and had immediately taken a portkey to Paris that his mother had arranged for him. It had been a good summer—the first freedom they’d had in a long time and it had lasted until Riddle had broken his father out of prison.
The manor wasn’t overrun with Death Eaters like he had feared, but his father had activated the secondary set of wards. Aurors had searched the manor twice, once since his return from Hogwarts, for his father as he was now a “person of interest” in relation to a “disturbance” in the Department of Mysteries.
Of course, his father was resting quite comfortably in his own bed behind family wards. The Aurors hadn’t even seen the staircase that had lead to the fourth floor of the manor. The second search team had included Mad Eye Moody and that paranoid old wizard hadn’t found the staircase either. Draco had been rather disappointed by the whole thing.
His father had called him upstairs for several discussions. He’d so far avoided the plans for the Dark Lord to mark him in way of a belated birthday gift. It was an obscenity and he would never allow them to taint his bond with Harry. Being without the Mark for just a few weeks had opened Draco’s eyes to how truly vile the thing was and how tainted he’d felt as an adult because of the Mark.
Draco entered his father’s bedroom quietly and wondered idly how his mother would react if he murdered his own father in his bed. The Aurors would probably frown on it, which was really the only reason he was currently refraining. Granted, it wasn’t particularly sporting or charitable to kill a man in his sick bed, but Lucius Malfoy was an enemy of the Light and Draco found being in his presence extremely uncomfortable.
“Father.” Draco sat down in the bay window that overlooked their Quidditch pitch. In the future, Harry and he had often taken to the pitch to chase a snitch—sometimes for hours. He smiled at those memories and then schooled his expression as he focused on the man who had sired him. “Did you require something?”
“I wish to speak with you about your place at the Dark Lord’s side.”
“Is marking one Malfoy a slave not enough for the son of a Muggle?” Draco asked dryly and watched his father flush with fury. “The Daily Prophet has run a series of articles on his background—people are very interested because of the story about Hagrid and the Chamber of Secrets. There was a small ceremony at the Ministry this afternoon where Fudge gave Hagrid a gift certificate to get a custom made wand—because of his size, you know.”
Lucius grimaced in distaste. “They are lies, of course. Our Lord is a Pure-blood. I have no doubts of it.”
“I’m sure,” Draco murmured and brushed imaginary lint from his linen slacks. “I won’t take the Mark and I won’t change my mind.”
“He expects it!” Lucius shouted.
“Then you will have to disappoint him. It was your choice to promise him something you knew wasn’t yours to give. I will not swear my magic or fealty to that insane monster, Father.”
“He’ll kill you,” Lucius snapped. “I won’t be able to protect you.”
“You’ve never protected me,” Draco murmured. “Why should you start now?”
“You are my son. You will obey me,” Lucius ground out through clenched teeth.
“I will do nothing of the kind,” Draco said mildly.
“You speak this way because you know I can’t use magic,” Lucius snapped. “When I’m finished with these foolish potions—we will have a different conversation.”
“As you say,” Draco murmured.
His father had been forced to take several potions that didn’t mix will with practicing magic in order to heal the damage Harry had done to his shoulder. It was the only reason Lucius Malfoy wasn’t already dead. Draco knew that his godfather was diluting the potions Lucius was receiving in an effort to protect him. He wanted to let the man know it wasn’t necessary but didn’t know how without revealing more than he could. The last two weeks at Hogwarts had been agonizing—seeing Harry but not even being able to get close to him because of the Gryffindors.
“You said in one of your letters that Potter had been training students. Who has been training him? I know that Umbridge obliterated DADA studies at the school this year.”
“He is close with that werewolf that taught during our third year and he probably spent time with Sirius Black last summer. I imagine Dumbledore has been harboring him since his escape since he apparently had no problems presenting the man to the DMLE so he could be pardoned.”
Lucius nodded thoughtfully. “Potter is powerful. The Dark Lord wants you to try to get close to him to discover what he’s done—if he’s gone through any power boosting rituals.”
“Hmm,” Draco began. “You haven’t read the Prophet from today have you?”
Lucius frowned and grabbed the folded paper from his tray with his good hand. He flicked it open and stared in horror.
HARRY POTTER: ARCHMAGUS!
WHO IS HIS MAGICAL PARTNER?
The article was sensationalized and full of fairytale information about warriors for the Light and archmagus and all that rot, which amused Draco to no end but it was also probably one of the more factual pieces ever printed about Potter himself. That the story hadn’t broken sooner was something of a mystery but Draco figured that was Fudge playing games and trying to situate himself and the Ministry in the best possible way.
“Impossible!” Lucius snapped. “His mother was a Mudblood.”
“Indeed,” Draco said dryly. “She was also a confirmed sorceress and the smartest witch of her generation. James Potter was a mage, himself. Not particularly surprising that they would produce a powerful magical child.”
Lucius scoffed and tossed the paper. “Dumbledore has performed some ritual on the boy and they are passing off is power levels as an archmagus to hide what they’ve done.”
“You think the Leader of the Light would perform a dark ritual powerful enough to mimic the power signature of an archmagus?” Draco asked as the door opened to his father’s bedroom and his godfather strolled into the room with a tray of potions.
“Desperate men can do dark things,” Lucius snapped. “Severus, you will talk some sense into this foolish boy!”
Severus glanced at his godson before handing Lucius three vials. “As I’ve informed you in the past, Lucius, my oaths as godfather prevent me from cursing your spawn for you. You have only yourself to blame.”
Draco refrained from smirking. The oath of a godfather could be as casual or as formal as requested by the parents. Lucius, in his efforts to protect his brand new heir, had forced Severus Snape to make a very strongly worded vow to protect his godson and to never intentionally cause him physical harm. Snape had all but vowed to die for his godchild.
“He plans to refuse the Dark Lord,” Lucius explained. “The insolent little whelp doesn’t care that he’ll get himself killed.”
Snape raised an eyebrow at Draco and he found himself shrugging. “Better dead than a slave to that monster. He’s a crime against nature and magic as far as I’m concerned. I don’t like to mingle with Muggles. I’m not fond of Muggle-borns that don’t make an effort to fit into our society. Beyond that? I couldn’t give a fuck less about Pure-blood politics.”
Lucius turned a lovely shade of purple and his wand hand twitched with the desire to curse his son silly. “You will do what I say or I will disown you, Draco. You will accept the Dark Lord’s Mark gratefully and serve him faithfully or I will kill you myself.”
Draco stood and casually arranged his robe. He bowed briefly towards his godfather and gave his father a blithe, pleasant smile. “Good eve, Father, may you rest well and heal quickly.”
He left the room without hurry even as fury boiled in his gut. Arguing with his father was delicious. It almost made him regret killing him so soon in the previous timeline. Not that it mattered. He had every intention of killing him the moment he could safely get away with it. It wouldn’t take much to goad the prick into a duel and Lucius was vicious when provoked and not nearly as cunning as he pretended to be.
“You shouldn’t provoke him,” Narcissa whispered from her place hovering by the door.
Draco pulled the door shut. “Mindless devotion is his path, Mother. It won’t be mine.”
“I don’t want you to be hurt, Draco.”
“I wish the same for you,” Draco said shortly. “Our circumstances don’t hold up much for hope for that, however. We will make do with what we have.”
Narcissa nodded. “If we can hold out another year…”
“You realize that is impossible. I won’t take the Dark Mark. I’m not going to further corrupt our family magic with Tom Riddle’s foul presence,” Draco snapped. “He’s ruined my father—destroyed whatever he might have become without the Dark Mark. I will not allow that insanity to taint me as well. I’d rather die first.”
Narcissa trembled. “Please, Draco, just do what you must to survive.”
“That kind of survival isn’t worth it,” Draco said evenly. He strode down the hall away from her—furious with her weakness and his own hurt. His mother’s circumstances were beyond her control, he knew that. She was incapable of acting against her husband without suffering for it.
* * * *
The portkey dropped them in front of the floo at Number 12 Grimmauld Place and if Dumbledore was surprised by Harry’s graceful landing he said nothing. Sirius appeared in the doorway immediately and Harry didn’t even bother to restrain himself. He launched himself at his godfather and let the man chatter against his cheek as he hugged him back.
He was guided up three flights of stairs but he barely paid any attention to that. Sirius sat him down in a chair by a dormant fireplace in a large bedroom that had been done up in Gryffindor colors—complete with a large four-poster bed with curtains. “I was so worried!”
Sirius smiled grandly. “You? Do you have any idea how upset I was when I heard you’d flown to the Department of Mysteries?” He patted his cheek as he knelt down in front of him. “But I would have done the same for you.”
“Of course you would have,” Harry said shortly. “You escaped Azkaban for me.”
Sirius rocked back briefly on his knees and regarded his godson carefully. “What you did in the atrium… the way you spoke to Fudge and Dumbledore… Harry… I would have never asked that of you.”
“You’re my family.”
“No one in my family has ever stood up for me that way,” Sirius whispered. “Not even your father would’ve defied Dumbledore for me. He would have submitted to the idea that the Headmaster knew best. You forced a lot of powerful people to do what you wanted—to listen to you. Your parents would’ve been so proud of you.”
“I…” Harry sighed. He didn’t know if he believed that. From the journals he’d read, he’d learned that his mother was a very grey witch but that she’d hid all of that from her husband. His father had been light to the point of sainthood and had been Dumbledore’s man to the moment he died.
“I can’t be what he was,” Harry whispered. “My Dad… he followed Dumbledore blindly and I can’t be that man. Maybe things would be different if they’d lived but the way I grew up…” He sighed and slouched back in the chair. “I resent the hell out of Albus Dumbledore, Sirius, and there is no place in this war for that. I don’t know how to get past it.”
“I know how you feel,” Sirius admitted. He stood from the floor and took a chair across from him. “I was… put in prison without a trial. Even Bellatrix Lestrange received a trial so there was no reason why I shouldn’t have except that everyone took my so-called betrayal so personally that the law didn’t matter. Men and women I worked with daily didn’t even present a token protest at the time. Dumbledore should’ve known that I wasn’t… but no one said a word. No one even asked me what happened. If they had they wouldn’t have believed me anyway. It was your belief in me that made the difference.”
“Would’ve had still had his doubts. He believed I was a traitor before your parents were killed. Just like I believed he was the one who had turned,” Sirius said bitterly. “It was your trust in both of us that got us where we are today. Sometimes, I admit that it isn’t enough. There is a lot of anger between us but we are working through it.”
Harry nodded. He looked around his room and smiled. “This is mine?”
“Yeah. All yours. It used to be my brother’s, but I redecorated. We’re in a family warded part of the house so no one can get up here but me and you and Kreacher.”
His heart clenched briefly at the thought of his old elf. Kreacher had sort of come with his Black inheritance and after the war the little old elf had faithfully served until he’d been killed by a dark wizard trying to break into Grimmauld Place. Harry had sold the house after that—he hadn’t been able to take the memories anymore.
He and Winky, who had survived because Kreacher had protected her, had moved into the same building that his then Auror partner, Draco Malfoy, lived in. They’d eventually taken over an entire floor of the building and put it under war wards. Their home had been a sanctuary in London but they’d often stayed in Malfoy Manor as well because of the grounds and most especially the Quidditch pitch.
“I don’t remember a fourth floor before being warded against non-family,” Harry admitted.
“I didn’t have complete access to the wards,” Sirius showed off his ring. “I claimed my title at the bank shortly after I received my pardon. When I came back, the wards were completely open to me and my mother’s portrait… well, she’s still batshit insane but she shuts up now when I insist.”
Harry nodded. “Right, well. That’s good. I want to go to the bank myself.”
“Are you ready to talk to me about all the stuff you’ve been keeping to yourself?” Sirius questioned. “Like your archmagus gifts and your partner and the obvious training you’ve undertaken when no one was paying attention?”
“I… there are things I can discuss and things I can’t,” Harry finally said. “I can manipulate, draw, and control wild magic. As a result my core is practically never ending as long as I’m not cornered into a place where magic is nullified. I’m vulnerable, of course, because I’m not fully bonded with my partner.” He grimaced at that and wondered yet again how Wacko-Neville had gotten the drop on him and Draco. It was really embarrassing.
“And his name?” Sirius questioned. “I assume it is a ‘he’? I’ve heard of female archmagus but there was talk that you referred to him as a ‘he’ in the infirmary.”
“He.” Harry confirmed. “I can’t talk about him, Sirius. Not yet, I need time to adjust and to think about things. Everything came to a head so quickly and I wasn’t prepared for all of that to come out of me the other night. I don’t know why I admitted it the way I did. I’d kept it a secret for so long.”
“There was a letter in my trust vault—I found it third year,” Harry explained, the lie flowing out of his mouth too easily. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect Draco but lying to Sirius was agony. It was, however information he wanted passed on to Dumbledore and the rest of the Order. If the Ministry even suspected they’d traveled in time… the result would be disastrous.
He couldn’t discuss the future with Sirius or anyone else until he’d had the time to make a plan with Draco. “It outlined the prophecy but didn’t give the specific wording, explained my parents’ suspicions that I was a burgeoning archmagus, and that I probably had a record in the Book of Souls. Mum and Dad told me to keep my secrets as long as I could so I did.”
“I can’t blame you for that,” Sirius murmured. “I wasn’t aware that they’d left you a letter in your trust vault. It was good to do as your parents told you, Harry. They would have never led you astray. If the Ministry had found out you were a burgeoning archmagus… they could have taken custody of you. Now it’s too late and Fudge knows it. They no longer have the option of trying to shape or mold you into what they want so they have to deal with the man you’re going to be.”
Harry nodded. “I’m immune to most mind control.”
“I did hear you threw off the Imperius like it was nothing,” Sirius pointed out.
“I can’t be obliviated,” Harry admitted. “Memory charms can be placed but they fade after a few hours. Compulsion charms literally bounce off me and potions will be burned out of me by magic. It’s one way that magic protects the archmagus and it’s why I must keep my partner a secret until he fully matures. In his immature state, he’s vulnerable to the Imperius curse and compulsion charms.”
“Including the Dark Mark,” Sirius said. “An archmagus could be marked before his maturation but not after.”
“Correct.” Harry looked at the fire and with a flick of his hand started it. “Why is this place always so cold?”
“Ancient warding magic lowers the ambient temperature significantly. That’s why Hogwarts uniforms are wool—even the summer uniforms are thicker than what you might find in a non-magical school.”
Harry nodded his understanding. “Does the Black family have access to absorption crystals?” They were technically illegal outside of special circumstances but the old families had been allowed to keep theirs as ‘family heirlooms’. He knew there was a set in the Potter Vault but he didn’t want to move them out of Gringotts until after the war. They held the memories of hundreds of his relatives including his parents and thus were priceless in his mind.
“Yes, that’s how magical portraits are powered, you know. There’s a large one at Hogwarts,” Sirius said conversationally. “But you’d have better luck putting the Muggle Crown Jewels on your head than getting a look at it.”
“Do you have any that could be used to teach me while I sleep?” He knew the answer already—he’d used them after the war to teach himself politics, history, and a variety of other subjects that Hogwarts hadn’t.
“What would you like to learn?” Sirius questioned. “They aren’t all that good for practical magic lessons as we learn best by demonstration.”
“Arithmancy, runes, magical history, Muggle military history, politics, Latin, French, warding, and animagus theory,” Harry said without hesitation. Using the crystals would help hide his future knowledge of the material and give him a refresher on what he might need for schoolwork. “Philosophy—western and eastern disciplines. Occlumency and Legilimency.”
Black was still for a minute and then he nodded. “I’ll go into the library and set up a crystal for you. We can install it in the headboard of your bed. It will gather information from the books in the house—all of the books in the house which includes both the public and the private library.” He paused and then gathered himself. “I’ll include all of the text books from Hogwarts as well. It can’t hurt for you to get a foundation on all of the theory work.”
* * * *
July 5, 1996
Harry was in the library on the first floor when Dumbledore called him into a meeting for the Order. Hermione was still with her parents and Ron was in places unknown. He knew that the entire Weasley family would be joining them for the summer in a few days and he wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.
He closed his grimoire and the book automatically shrank down to the size of a matchbook as he slid it into his front pocket. The kitchen was full of Order members, Molly and Arthur Weasley among them. He glanced briefly at Mrs. Weasley before offering Arthur a hesitant smile. The man immediately smiled back and relaxed in his chair.
“Hello all.” He was rewarded with a mixture of ‘Lord’ and ‘Mr.’ Potters. He took the seat the Headmaster indicated and focused on Augusta Longbottom. “I wasn’t aware that you were a member of the Order, ma’am.”
“I joined last week,” Augusta said shortly. “You didn’t have to spend any unsupervised time with those horrible Muggles, did you? Neville told me that they don’t treat you well.”
“No, ma’am. The Headmaster never left me alone with them,” Harry felt his face flush and he accepted the tea that was slid into place in front of him. “I should only have to return briefly next year as well.”
“Good.” Augusta shot Albus a knowing glare and focused on her tea. “Neville sends his regards.”
“Did he get a new wand yet?”
“Not as yet, we’ve an appointment in August to see that he has a wand that suits him perfectly,” Augusta explained. “I’ve even agreed to have a custom one made if necessary.”
“I think that’s great, Neville is a powerful wizard.” Harry paused and considered his next words carefully. “His magic is… strongly entrenched in nature, you know. When he practiced in class or in DA, I could sometimes smell the forest or the greenhouses. There hasn’t been a true practitioner of green magic in fifty years, right?”
“Right.” Augusta stared at him in shock. “I will certainly bring it up to him and see what he thinks.”
Harry nodded and then focused on the Headmaster. “Did you want me to show them the memory of the Department of Mysteries?” He glanced towards the empty pensieve that was in the center of the kitchen table. “At what point would you like me to start?”
“Where ever you are comfortable,” Albus admitted. “Memories are a very personal matter, my boy, and I don’t wish to force you to give us any information.”
“Will you be able to pick up my thoughts or emotions from the pensieve?” He already knew the answer but it was a good question for an inexperienced wizard to ask.
“No. While your emotional state and perceptions can slightly alter a memory—we won’t be able to tell what you were thinking about as the events unfolded or ascertain how you felt about it.” He paused and cleared his throat. “However, we might see or hear the things you heard due to your archmagus gifts. I realize your visions are protected but did anything happen in the Department of Mysteries that you’d prefer remain private?”
“Not private, but I would hope that everyone here will remember that I said things when I was dueling with Voldemort that I don’t believe. Most of the things I said were just a way to distract him and get him angry because I learned in the graveyard that when he is angry—his control isn’t as absolute. I made statements about his blood status and inferred that I found his having a Muggle father inferior. I told him I found him inferior and that he’d never be my equal as far as I was concerned.” Harry sighed. “I don’t believe that—I certainly don’t consider myself above anyone. Well, maybe I do think I’m better than he is but that’s just because he’s dark and crazy.”
“I don’t think anyone could fault you for taunting an enemy in a duel,” Sirius said with a small smirk.
Harry shrugged. “The wizarding world finds fault with me if I exhale sharply on a Wednesday after a full moon at lunch.” He ignored the laughter that followed that statement. “Additionally, during our escape from the Hall of Prophecy, several snakes were conjured—two by myself and one rather large boa constrictor by Neville Longbottom. I spoke Parseltongue to them and instructed them to kill my enemies. Some of you might find that part of the memory disconcerting to say the least. I imagine all three snakes were banished before they accomplished anything.”
“Actually,” Arthur cleared his throat noisily. “The boa constrictor did manage to capture and subdue a man named Rookwood, whom you probably wouldn’t recognize. He wasn’t killed but the snake did break a great many of his bones before he was rescued by Aurors.”
Augusta patted his arm. “Again, dear, it’s the thought that counts.”
Harry offered her a smile. She was a bloodthirsty little old witch and he really liked that about her. “Right then.” He pulled his wand and closed his eyes so he could concentrate on the memory. He decided to start it just as they were landing the Thestrals outside the Ministry.
He swished his wand and automatically made a copy of the memory rather than pulling it out of his head, which startled several people in the room. Harry dropped the silver strand into the pensieve and sat back with a frown as he found several people staring at him. “What?”
Amelia Bones cleared her throat. “You just performed an Auror level memory duplication. Most people outside our field don’t copy a memory because it requires more… work and control over their magic.”
“Ah.” Harry shrugged and thought furiously for a few seconds about how to cover such an idiotic mistake. “That’s how I was taught to extract a memory. My archmagus partner said it is the height of foolishness to remove one’s own memories when a copy will serve just as well. I imagine he learned from his father.”
“I don’t disagree,” Amelia admitted. “People are surprisingly casual about removing memories from their heads. I haven’t allowed anything but a copy in more years than you’ve been alive.”
“Very well,” Albus said and activated several runes on the pensieve. “This is a projection pensieve, Harry, not quite like mine. There are times when I might stop the memory to ask you questions. Is that alright?”
The projection took over most of the room and had the kind of high definition quality that Muggles could only ever hope for. Harry watched the scene dispassionately as they rushed through the Ministry trying to save Sirius. He could still remember his desperation the first time around. He noticed the stumble when he landed in his past body and wasn’t surprised when Albus immediately paused the playback. Combining his previous memory with the new memory had been tricky but it seemed to have worked almost perfectly.
“My boy, what was that?” Albus questioned.
“I don’t know,” Harry murmured. “At the time, it felt like the entire world paused but that doesn’t make sense. Would the Death Eaters have bothered with anti-apparition wards?”
“Perhaps to prevent accidental magic,” Amelia allowed. “You, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood are all on record for accidental apparition as children. Do you think you felt wards activating?”
“At the Muggle home where my relatives live, the Headmaster cast a ward around me and it felt very similar to what I experienced in that moment—my magic sort of snapped inside me.” Harry waved a hand. “I’m sorry I don’t have the information to correctly articulate how that felt.”
“I don’t think that information is available,” Remus Lupin offered softly. “You’re the first archmagus we’ve had to talk to in quite a while. The last pair left journals of course but they will only be made available to the next confirmed archmagus pair.”
Harry nodded. The journals had been more personal than anything he’d ever read. Draco had been somewhat disappointed in the lack of magical theory in the four book set but later on when their relationship had fully matured the books became invaluable. They’d learned that the loneliness that had plagued them both since childhood was their magic reacting to them being separated.
Dumbledore began the memory again and Harry sat back with his tea while the others watched. He noticed that several people, including Molly Weasley, made horrified noises at the first mention of the prophecy. He shared a knowing look with the Headmaster as the projected version of himself started to lie his ass off.
Albus paused again. “Tell me, when did you realize you weren’t alone?”
“About three seconds after I realized Sirius wasn’t where he was supposed to be,” Harry admitted. “Though Ron made the jump to the vision being a fake to lure me to the Department of Mysteries later, I realized that it was a trap when the Death Eaters started to move around us.”
Albus nodded and started the memory without further discussion. Various things happened as the fighting began but Molly Weasley’s soft crying was the only thing he really heard. Watching her children fight and run from Death Eaters must’ve been a nightmare come true for her. It didn’t excuse her behavior but maybe it explained it enough that he could work on forgiving her.
“Stop!” Snape shouted. “Boy! Where the hell did you learn that spell?”
Harry flinched at being called ‘boy’ by Snape. His gaze flicked to the image of Bellatrix Lestrange cut open from sternum to hip and cleared his throat. “My archmagus partner and I have trained together in secret for most of the year. It is one of the spells he taught me.”
“No.” Snape glared. “I don’t believe you.”
“Believe what you will.”
“I created that spell and have told very few people,” Snape hissed. “There is no way some Gryffindor taught you that!”
Harry paused and then he laughed. “Oh, Snape, seriously? You think my archmagus partner is a Gryffindor?” He sat back in his chair and laughed his ass off.
“Harry,” Albus chided. “Don’t be snide.”
“Oh, sorry!” Harry said breathlessly. “You thought it was Neville? He would’ve been a great choice actually at least magically but personality wise we don’t mesh very well. I’m sure he finds me quite difficult to deal with a great deal of the time.” He waved a hand at the three images on the paused pensieve. “He’s a gentle soul, really, and that kind of wholesale destruction is beyond him.”
“But it isn’t beyond your partner?” Moody questioned. “He’ll be as ruthless as you?”
“You think I’m ruthless, Moody?” Harry asked, amused.
“I think you’re a lad after my own heart,” Moody said plainly and then grinned when several people around the room huffed at him.
Albus sighed and began the memory again.
Augusta touched his arm, her fingers clenching against his wrist as Lucius Malfoy used the Cruciatus Curseon her grandson and smiled in relief when Harry made every effort to take off his wand arm with a powerful, well-aimed reducto. She patted him and brushed a few tears from her face as the projected version of him entered the atrium and Voldemort appeared.
The duel was faster than Harry remembered. It looked very much like he was playing with the Dark Lord and that wasn’t good. He knew why and he was positive that the Headmaster knew why but he didn’t want questions about it.
He ended the memory shortly after Voldemort portkeyed away. Those that hadn’t witnessed his confrontation with Fudge and Dumbledore would just have to be satisfied with someone else’s memories of the event if they were desperate to see it.
“Harry, may I keep this for study?” Albus questioned.
“Of course,” Harry sat back and watched Albus conjure a vial and then carefully store the memory.
“Is your partner is strong as you?” Moody asked. “Albus mentioned that you’d said he was an elemental. Can he control, conjure, and call on all of the elements? What is his affinity?”
Harry stared at the ex-Auror slightly exasperated. “We are equal in many ways but not all. In areas where one of us weak—the other is strong. Our magical gifts complement each other across the board. He is a full elemental and his affinity is fire. When we cast together—I can harness our welled magic and conjure both water and wind wandlessly. I can also safely handle the fire he conjures. He is able to use my connection to wild magic to replenish his core but he often relies on me to moderate that for him. Though we haven’t tested it, we are entirely certain we are capable of intercontinental apparition if we apparate together.”
“And alone?” Amelia asked.
“The Arithmancy he’s done suggests that I would have no problems apparating anywhere in Europe or Asia and perhaps as far as the middle of Africa in a single apparition. I could hop around the entire planet on my own and so could he.”
“You both have animagus forms?” Minerva questioned. “I would be thrilled to help you with your transfiguration. How far have you gotten?”
“We’ve both done the meditation to acknowledge our forms but neither of us has attempted the transformation due to the… magical power we believe will be required. My archmagus gifts are fully developed but I don’t want to do it without him. We’d both be pleased to have you with us the first time we try.” It wasn’t a bad idea. He had no idea how his magic would respond in the younger version of his body and transfiguration accidents could be the stuff of nightmares.
“Do you have the same form? That is one of the legends about archmagus pairs,” Augusta asked.
“No, our forms are complimentary but we aren’t the same,” Harry stared down at his tea and then shook his head. “He’s besotted with his form but… mine has caused me some concern.”
“It’s a snake,” Moody surmised. “A magical one—viper, runespoor… not a basilisk, lad?”
Harry sighed. “Moody, you’re too smart for my own good. How did you get that?”
“You’re a Parselmouth,” Moody said simply. “Your immunity bite was the basilisk, right? That’s the first snake to ever bite you?”
“Yes, my immunity bite was a basilisk.” Harry rubbed his arm where the scar was. “But my form appears to be just a viper. A rather large magical viper, but a viper nonetheless. I was very worried that it would be a basilisk mostly because I can see fault and vulnerability in that form that I don’t in a viper. Any idiot can conjure a rooster.”
“I don’t understand the immunity bite business,” Tonks offered from her end of the table. “What is that?”
“Parselmouths develop an immunity to snake venom,” Harry murmured. “The more powerful the snake who bites them first—the stronger that immunity is. Because I was bitten by the King of Snakes and survived it… there isn’t a venom or poison on this planet that will kill me. Some might make me very sick, but that’s all.”
“Can I ask some questions about your archmagus partner?” Amelia Bones asked.
“I’ll attempt to answer them without revealing information that could lead you to his identity.”
She frowned. “You don’t trust me?”
“I trust the people at this table more than most but I don’t trust anyone with him. Not even the Headmaster has heard his name from me. No one on this entire planet means more to me than my archmagus partner, Madame Bones. I won’t expose him to risk if I can do a single thing to avoid it.”
“Very well,” Amelia murmured. “You said he was an elemental… do you believe his development is almost complete?”
“Yes. My own rapid development seemed to jump start his.” Harry figured they’d start admitting Draco was fully developed after he neutralized his father but again, that would fall to him.
“He’s an elemental and he currently attends Hogwarts?”
“Are his parents aware of his abilities or his relationship with you?”
“And his identity is a secret because you both fear for his life if he were to be discovered before he is mature?”
“We fear for his life and we fear that he might be misused,” Harry said neutrally. “I’m far too gone for anyone at the Ministry to attempt to gain control of me but an immature archmagus would be vulnerable to loyalty oaths, potions, or compulsions. Had anyone in the Ministry known what I was before my gifts fully developed—I would have been potioned within an inch of my life.” Amelia winced but didn’t deny it. “Of course, the problem remains that I am mature and my partner is not. Merlin help the person or persons that attempts to control us both through him. I will do everything within my power to see him protected, Madame Bones.”
“Of that I have no doubts,” Amelia muttered. “I should warn you that the Minister is trying to pass an emergency bill that would allow us to measure the magical strength of every sixth and seventh year at Hogwarts in an effort to locate your partner.”
“Let him,” Harry said neutrally. “We are both capable of altering and hiding both our signatures and our magical strengths. My partner won’t be found that way.”
“I’ve been told that you have visions about Voldemort and his activities. Can you now tell the difference between reality and events he might be faking to provoke you?”
“I haven’t had any Voldemort induced visions since the Department of Mysteries. I won’t trust any that I see in the future at any rate. I’m working on blocking them out completely.”
“It is a valuable source of intel,” Moody muttered.
“It is also agonizing and honestly, Moody, you can’t sit there and tell me you’d be thrilled with that dark wanker having a backdoor into your head either,” Harry snapped. He huffed. “Kreacher!”
The elf appeared immediately and stared wide-eyed at Harry. “Half-blood Master requests Kreacher?”
Harry glared at him. “If you ever refer to my blood status again, Kreacher, I’m going to kill you, set your body on fire, and Riverdance on your ashes. Are we clear?”
Kreacher huffed, but his eyes were glinting with what could only be amusement. “As Master Harry says.”
“My tea is cold and I’m starving. Do something about both.” He shoved the cup aside. Kreacher stared at him. “I swear to Merlin, I will take your mother’s head off the wall and bury it in the most improper Muggle way possible.”
Kreacher stared at him horrified for half a second and then disappeared in a flash.
“Riverdance on his ashes?” Sirius asked then he waved Harry off with a laugh.
An entire plate of sandwiches appeared on the table beside the pensieve and then a new tea tray snapped into place on the table with a little thump.
* * * *
Snape cornered him in the downstairs library. “Boy!”
“Potter,” Harry corrected. “You can call me Harry or Potter or Lord Potter or Mr. Potter. Hell, you can call me Scarhead for all I give a fuck but if you don’t stop calling me boy, Snape, I’m going to curse you so hard your great-grandfather will wake up in his grave and demand to know what happened.”
Snape stared at him for a second and then he huffed. “You have been spending time with my godson.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The threats, mostly, and the curse secondary. I taught Draco that curse.”
“So you did,” Harry murmured. His eyes darkened and he glared. “I want your oath you won’t reveal this to anyone.”
“Or what?” Snape questioned.
“I’m not above killing you,” Harry returned icily. “Draco would be pissed, of course, but he’ll get over it because he adores me.”
Snape stared at him for a moment. “He’d get over it?”
“Of course. There is no one and nothing on this planet that will come between us—not you, not his father, not that insane monster, Riddle. No one. We can and will forgive each other anything.”
“Even if he takes the Dark Mark?” Snape questioned. “You know his father intends to offer him to the Dark Lord this summer.”
“Draco won’t take the Mark. As for Malfoy Sr., I do hope he has his affairs in order because I have faith he won’t survive the summer.”
Severus snorted. “You did a fair job yourself. That he can even use his wand arm at all is a miracle. You came very close to blowing it off completely.”
“I tried,” Harry snapped. “I’ve spent so much time pulling my punches that it’s hard to… let go.” He inclined his head. “Your oath?”
“How do I know you aren’t just using my godson to hide your real partner? You’ve given both me and the Headmaster enough hints to make that connection… I imagine Moody isn’t far behind.”
“That’s certainly what a Slytherin would do,” Harry acknowledged. “None of my hints were on purpose. I had no idea a bloody dragon would come out if I cast a Patronus. It hasn’t all year. I used that curse on Bellatrix because I wanted to kill her and it was the first thing that popped into my mind that wasn’t exactly dark and wasn’t an unforgiveable.”
“Fine.” Snape drew his wand. “I, Severus Snape, do solemnly vow on my life and magic to keep the knowledge of Draco Lucius Malfoy’s gifts as an archmagus a secret until which time it is commonly known.”
Harry watched the oath seal and he relaxed. “Every time you call me boy I’m reminded of my fat Muggle uncle. It’s not a comparison that you’d enjoy, Professor.”
“I heard that Molly Weasley hit you.”
“She slapped my face,” Harry said neutrally. “Even you’ve never disrespected me like that.”
“Lying to yourself or to me?” Harry questioned. “You just spent the last year raping my mind, Snape. Don’t even think for a second that my dipping into your personal pensieve is revenge enough for what you’ve done to me.”
“If you’d bloody well studied and done as you were told you could have learned it easily!” Severus hissed.
“Studied what?” Harry demanded at a near shout. “There were no books in the library on the subject of Occlumency and there was nothing in any of my school books either. How the hell was I supposed to study and learn anything, Snape?” He ignored the fact that his godfather, Lupin, and Dumbledore had all come quickly into the room.
“Of course there were no books in the library!” Snape ground out. “I checked them out and brought them to you last summer. I left four books on meditation and Occlumency for you, you lazy little bastard, and you couldn’t bother to study a single one!”
Harry stared at him, color draining out of his face. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I said that I have no bloody goddamned idea what you’re talking about!” Harry shouted. “I never saw a single book!”
“I brought them here shortly after you were brought here,” Severus said coolly. “I left them on the kitchen table with a letter outlining what you should read from each book to prepare for our lessons. Are you telling me you never received the letter or books?”
“I never even saw them.”
“So you… didn’t spend an hour before each of our lessons preparing your mind?” Severus questioned. “You didn’t meditate daily like…”
“What the hell is going on here?” Sirius demanded.
Severus pulled his wand. “Accio Hogwarts library books!” There was a hard thump and then another and then another and every man in the room turned to look at a large trunk located in the corner of the library. “What is that?”
Sirius sighed. “That’s the trunk Molly used to store all the dark arts books she found in this library that weren’t properly warded so the children couldn’t read them.”
Snape stalked across the room and unlocked the trunk with a few harsh, silent wand movements. The trunk opened and four books immediately wrestled to the top of the pile and stacked themselves on his hand. He offered Harry the pile silently.
Harry took them and carefully pulled the parchment from the middle of one of the books. It had his name on it written in Snape’s familiar scrawl. “I never saw these.”
“Potter,” Snape began. “I apologize.”
“For what?” Snape laughed bitterly. “You were right—I did spend a bloody year raping your mind! Merlin, I’m surprised you were aware enough to even take your OWLS!” He sat down in a chair and covered his face with two shaking hands.
He shook his head. “Albus, I really don’t want to hear whatever you have to say right now. I only have room in my mind for one startling revelation at a time.”
Harry snorted. “You’re such an arse, Snape.” He waved the letter when his professor glared at him. “You do realize I’m not actually James Potter, right? I mean you know that? Because you’ve never given any indication that you realize we aren’t the same person. I might look like him—hell I might even sound like him for all I know but I don’t remember either of my parents. I’ve never been coddled or spoiled a day in my life that I’m aware of. My Muggle relatives worked me like a house elf in their home from the time I was old enough to stand and hold a broom at the same time. And if you think for a minute that I enjoy being famous—then you need your head examined.”
“You had no problems blackmailing the Minister in pardoning your godfather,” Severus muttered.
“That wasn’t about fame—that was about power.” Harry stood with the books. “I think you’re Slytherin enough to understand that, right?”
“Where are you going?” Sirius questioned.
“To ask Molly Weasley why she put these books in that trunk instead of giving them to me. I doubt seriously that she overlooked the letter that was addressed to me if even if she didn’t open it,” Harry explained.
“Perhaps I should…” Albus trailed off at the twin glares he received from Harry and Snape. “You two have spent too much time together.”
“Snape has never been kind to me,” Harry began and held up a hand when Dumbledore started to protest. “Even when he saved my life he was begrudging about it but what happened this year was beyond the pale. I would go back to my dorm after our ‘lessons’ and pass out. Twice, when I couldn’t pass out on my own I stunned myself just to get some fucking relief. Yes, he should’ve asked me if I had questions about the reading he thought I was doing. He should’ve asked me if I’d even achieved a meditative state but that isn’t the kind of teacher he is. We all know that about him. If I’d had these books I wouldn’t have been tortured by two different teachers last year.”
Remus cleared his throat. “That’s the second time you’ve said that. What do you mean by tortured? What did Umbridge do to you?”
Harry shifted the books and silently showed Remus his hand. The words were still there—carved in his own handwriting. “She made me write lines with a blood quill and promised to see me expelled and my wand snapped if I told anyone. I’m not the only one—she tortured many of the Muggle-borns and half-bloods. She left Hermione alone for reasons I don’t understand but that is neither here nor there.”
“A blood quill.” Albus reached out and touched Harry’s hand. “My boy, a blood quill?
“A blood quill,” Harry confirmed quietly.
Albus’ aura flared and he apparated with a sharp pop.
“I’m glad my last name isn’t Umbridge,” Sirius muttered. He took up Harry’s hand and frowned at it. “Severus, is there a potion we can use on this to heal him? He shouldn’t have to carry this around for the rest of his life.”
“I don’t know,” Snape murmured. “I will investigate it.” He paused and stared at Harry. “I’m surprised your partner didn’t avenge this.”
“We all have our roles to play,” Harry said. He carefully pulled his hand free of Sirius’ and patted his godfather’s shoulder. “Let’s go get an explanation from Mrs. Weasley.”
A few minutes later he dropped the books on the table in front of her. Arthur was reading through several scrolls at the end of the table. “Harry, lad, what are those?”
“They are books that Professor Snape left me last summer for me to read,” Harry said quietly. “Mrs. Weasley, can you tell me why you hid them in the bottom of that trunk in the library?”
Molly reached out and took the books so she could review the titles and then huffed. “They are too dark for you, Harry. He had no business leaving you such things to read. I’ll put them back in the trunk. You shouldn’t even be in that trunk to begin with. I told all of you children…”
“I am not a child!” Harry snapped. He took the books from her hands and slapped them back on the table. “Did it occur to you that he gave them to me for a reason?”
“No, I couldn’t even begin to guess why he would give you such dark books to read.”
Snape frowned at her. “Because Dumbledore instructed me to retrieve them from the Restricted Section of Hogwarts Library and give them to Mr. Potter to review so that he would be prepared for the Occlumency lessons the Headmaster instructed me to give Mr. Potter.”
“Why would the Headmaster ask you to teach him such a dark art?” Molly demanded.
“Occlumency and Legilimency are grey arts,” Harry corrected. “They are not restricted in any way by the Ministry or any other magical government on this planet. All employees of the DMLE are instructed heavily in both subjects in the hopes they’ll find someone as gifted as Professor Snape is. He had no idea I hadn’t read these books, Mrs. Weasley. He had no idea I wasn’t following the instructions he left in the letter that was with them. So, he spent the last year raping my mind with the intention of teaching me Occlumency. Your interference and your inability to mind your own business caused me to be mentally abused on a weekly basis for nearly the entire school year.”
“Molly,” Arthur said quietly. “You had no business keeping Harry’s correspondence from him or hiding those books. You’ve caused both of them irreparable harm. I’m surprised Severus can even stand to look at himself. Ginerva and I both owe Harry a life debt and this is how you treat him? It’s bad enough that you slapped him in the face but to cause this kind of trauma and pain between two people who can barely stand each other’s company as is… I’m ashamed.” He stood. “Harry…”
“It’s not your fault,” Harry said shortly. “I don’t blame you. I’m not angry. I’m just… hurt that I can’t trust her.” He picked up the books and stalked from the room without another word.
Arthur took a deep breath. “Sirius…”
“Arthur,” Sirius began quietly. “I opened my home to your family without pause. I gave all that you hold dear shelter and the best protection magic can provide and your wife has violated that trust repeatedly.” He stared pointedly at Molly and found her staring at the table. “Molly.” He waited until she lifted her gaze. “You’ve caused irreparable harm to the House of Potter. He is well within his rights to break with your family entirely for what you’ve done. He told us there were nights he suffered so much because of the Occlumency lessons that stunned himself just to sleep.” She visibly blanched. “Your actions hurt him emotionally, physically, and mentally. That doesn’t even take into account what Severus must feel. It’s true he has no love for Harry but I can’t see a circumstance where he would knowingly torture a fifteen year old boy. Knowing how I grew up and understanding that it was similar to Snape’s own childhood—I can attest to the fact that neither one of us would abuse a child willingly. Where I in his shoes—I’d probably kill you for this.”
Sirius stalked from the room without another word.
* * * *
Albus Dumbledore stalked into the Ministry, his aura flaring so wildly that by the time he was half-way to Dolores Umbridge’s office, half the on duty Auror force was trailing along behind him. He ignored Percy who immediately stood and asked him about his business and shoved in the door of Umbridge’s office with his magic. It slapped and bounced against the wall.
“DOLORES UMBRDIGE! YOU TORTURED MY STUDENTS WITH A BLOOD QUILL!” His magic snapped open around the room and her ridiculous kitten pictures started to rattle on the walls. “How bloody dare you!”
She stared at him and then simpered. “Now, Dumbledore, I was well within my rights to discipline those wretched little children any way I saw fit.”
“Yes, I’m sure you passed a decree that said so,” Amelia Bones snapped. “Cornelius! What are you going to do about this?”
“There are no laws against…” He trailed off when Dumbledore’s magic flared and started to swish his own robes around like he was in a hurricane. “Dolores, I must insist that you apologize to each student that you made use the blood quill and the Ministry will offer restitution…” He trailed off when she glared at him. “Just how many students did you use the blood quill on?”
She sniffed delicately. “None of them were Pure-blood, Cornelius, so it hardly matters.”
Fudge paled. “Dolores, you’re fired. Amelia, take her into custody and review her conduct at Hogwarts to see what charges if any can be filed against her. Even if a blood quill isn’t exactly illegal—I believe that she could be charged with child endangerment for each usage of the quill. Do you agree?”
“You can’t fire me!” Dolores shouted. “I did what you wanted! You wanted Potter neutralized. Well, he spent so much time in detention last year that he barely had time to breathe! I made sure.”
“Dolores Umbridge, you are under arrest on the charge that you endangered numerous children at Hogwarts,” Amelia began pleasantly and motioned two of her Aurors to take her into custody. “Tell me, Madame, what do you know about the Dementors that attacked Harry Potter and his cousin last summer?”
Dumbledore forced himself to calm down as Umbridge was dragged from her office. “I’m surprised by you, Cornelius.”
“He said…” Fudge stopped and cleared his throat. “Lord Potter said he would not tolerate pro Pure-blood politics in my office. I respect that he meant it. How many times did she make him use…”
“The words, I must not tell lies, are etched on his hand. I can’t even fathom how many times he must have used a blood quill for there to be scarring, Cornelius.” Dumbledore glared at the pink office as if the space offended his soul. “Dolores Umbridge is an abomination. This will be an excellent opportunity for you and the Ministry to prove to Lord Potter that you intend to treat injustice the same no matter where you see it.”
“Has he revealed to you anything about his abilities?”
“Very little,” Dumbledore admitted. “He hasn’t revealed his partner yet. He fears that you might try to influence the young man before he’s fully matured.” He watched Fudge blush and nodded. “You would hardly be the first to be tempted to do so I’m sure. Harry is a Wild Mage—there hasn’t been one since Merlin as far as we know. His partner is an Elemental Mage, which I expected. One part of the archmagus pairing is always an elemental. His partner’s affinity is fire. They are both magical animagus but he hasn’t revealed his form to me formally.”
“The prophecy… the one Potter destroyed… what does it say, Dumbledore?”
“I swore a vow of secrecy to the parents of the two children suspected to be involved in the prophecy that I would never reveal the wording of the prophecy to anyone but the children themselves. We would find out later that the prophecy was about Harry,” Albus admitted roughly.
Fudge huffed. “I can imagine how Lily Potter got that vow out of you.”
“She was a formidable woman,” Albus allowed.
“What can you tell me?”
“That Harry Potter was chosen by fate and magic to end Tom Riddle,” Albus said shortly. “He and his archmagus partner are the key to winning the war that is coming. Our support will see them win the day.”
“Are they a threat to us?”
“They certainly have the power to be but the innate magic of an archmagus pair excludes such ambition, Cornelius. Neither Harry nor his partner will seek the dark arts even if they are forced to practice them in order to win this war. They will not seek power for the sake of power and will have little interest in politics. If you are honest and supportive of them, I’m sure they’ll join us in this fight and any fight for the Light that will come after. Mr. Potter has already indicated that he’d like to become an Auror after he leaves Hogwarts. I doubt that his partner’s ambitions are far different.”
“Right.” Cornelius nodded. “There are some people in the Department of Mysteries who wants to meet with Potter and his partner.”
“I will convey their wishes. Do they have correspondence I could pass on?” Albus said pleasantly.
Fudge frowned. “Do you have a guess as to who the partner is?”
“Of course, but I would be doing both him and Mr. Potter a disservice by discussing it. I would never seek to harm either of them that way—it would destroy what little trust I’ve managed to rebuild with Mr. Potter and what I hope to build with his partner.”
* * * * –
Xenophilius Lovegood was a very odd wizard. Harry had always thought so and out of all the people who had betrayed him during the war it was the easiest to forgive him. His love for his daughter was without limit and Harry could respect that. His own parents must have felt the same way about him, to die for him the way they had.
He’d had to do some fancy talking to get out of Grimmauld Place without a full escort. He hadn’t escaped without Sirius but then he really hadn’t tried. His godfather’s company was something he coveted since his return to the past. Harry watched Xeno set up a dictation quill and get settled at the table. Luna was sitting beside him looking studious and serious. He found her rather charming and always had. A part of him figured if he’d been straight, she’d have been the only witch on Earth who could’ve accepted him just for himself. He would do everything in his power to make sure that neither Luna nor her father fell into the hands of the Death Eaters this time around.
Harry realized sometime after the fact that he shouldn’t have agreed to an interview like this without discussing it with Draco but it was done and he pride himself on being a man of his word.
“It’s been a while since we chatted, Lord Potter. A lot has happened since the end of the Triwizard Tournament for you—the resurrection of the Dark Lord, being put on trial for violating the decree on underage magic, and of course the public slander campaign at the hands of the Ministry and the Daily Prophet.”
Harry inclined his head in agreement. “Some people don’t handle… fear well, Mr. Lovegood. Granted, I wish that those in power in the Ministry had responded better to the events of the Third Task, it’s in the past and it’s best if we let that rest so we can deal with the present and the future that is to come. The Minister has acknowledged the return of Voldemort and is working with the DMLE to shore up defenses in response.”
“The Daily Prophet recently announced that you are an archmagus. My research into this indicates that you must have a magical partner. Why haven’t we met him or her?”
“I’ve chosen to keep that information private as long as I can,” Harry admitted. “Keeping my partner safe is of the utmost importance at this juncture.”
“What lead you to the Department of Mysteries on June 18th of this year?”
“By means that I cannot discuss, I was led to believe that the Dark Lord had captured my godfather and was torturing him there in an effort to get him to do something. Though I tried to leave my friends behind, in the end we all came to London to save him.”
“But you’d been misled?”
“Yes, I wouldn’t know that until the trap was sprung but yes. Voldemort had sent his Death Eaters to the Ministry to try to force me to remove a prophecy that concerns us both from the shelf. That prophecy record was destroyed during the duel I was forced into with Voldemort later that same evening.”
“It must have been important to him to risk such so much—it ended up revealing his return to the world,” Mr. Lovegood speculated.
“There are those who put a great deal of faith in Divination,” Harry said neutrally. “I personally don’t take it very seriously. I believe in making my own destiny.”
“How long have you known that you were an archmagus?”
“I knew that my parents suspected that I was one but I wasn’t sure I believed it until my magic started to change. It was disheartening actually—as I knew it would be just another way I be set apart and different from everyone else. Being famous for surviving the murder of my parents is pretty horrible actually. Now there is one more reason for people to think that I am more than what I am.”
“And what are you?”
Harry paused and considered that question carefully. Very few people had ever even thought to ask him what he thought of himself. They were were far more enamored with their assumptions about him. “A man shaped by the loss of both parents, whose sole memory of them remains the two of them fighting off Voldemort and my mother begging for my life. I was raised isolated from the magical world—hated by my Muggle relatives because I was different and abnormal to them. Due to the Ministry’s ineffectual response to the war’s aftermath—many Death Eaters went unpunished and it wasn’t safe for me in the magical world. In so many ways, I was punished instead. I was denied my godfather, my familial legacy, and the knowledge of magic until I was invited to Hogwarts.”
“You suffered in the Muggle home you were raised in.”
“I think most of classmates at Hogwarts must have guessed that I wasn’t treated well at home. I never tried to go home for the holidays—preferring the safety of Hogwarts while the vast majority of them rushed home to their families. I dressed badly because my relatives refused to spend their money on me and I hadn’t had access to my own trust fund because I hadn’t known it existed until my first year. Yes, I suffered but the specifics are private and I’d rather not discuss them.”
“Do you blame the Ministry for that?”
“I would think that that there would be safety measures in place for magical children being raised in Muggle homes and if there are—it is suspect that those measures never insured that I was well treated in my Aunt’s home.” Harry shifted his teacup around and set the beverage aside. Accepting it had been polite but he wasn’t really in the mood for it.
“Archmagus pairs usually have different magical gifts. Can you share yours with us?”
“It won’t be much of a secret—most with mage sight will be able to discern that I’m a practicing Wild Mage the first time they see me cast magic. Traditionally, within archmagus pairs at least one of them is a Wild Mage.”
“Harnessing and controlling wild magic is an unspeakably priceless gift,” Xeno said. “And your partner?”
“My partner’s abilities are to remain a secret at this point. It is for his protection.”
Xeno nodded. “What would you say to those that called you a liar and didn’t believe you? Who questioned how Cedric Diggory died?”
“I would tell each and every one of those people that I forgive them.”
* * * *
July 7, 1996
Harry jerked upright in his bed, blindly reaching out for Draco in the darkness and found the bed empty. The door to the bedroom was suddenly thrown open and Harry’s wand shot into his hand from the nightstand with a thought.
Sirius just laughed. “You did that wandless, pup. Bad dream?”
“Something like that,” Harry admitted roughly. His stomach was in knots and his heart felt like it might burst from his chest. The dread he’d had building inside him for days had doubled suddenly.
Sirius frowned. “Harry?” He slid into the room. “Was it a vision?”
“Bad dream or vision, it was horrific,” Harry murmured. He dropped his wand on the bed and took a deep breath. “I need…” He looked at Sirius. “Can you call a house elf through the wards of this place?”
“I’m the secret keeper,” Sirius admitted. “I can adjust the wards and call an elf if he is known to me. You want your little friend, Dobby, right? I met him a few weeks back. Dumbledore had him here helping me out with the cleaning.”
“Please,” Harry whispered softly. “I’d like to see him very much.”
Sirius frowned but nodded. He pulled his wand and swirled it gently to alter the wards that were under his direct control. “Okay, try calling him. He’s very enamored with you—so he should come if you call him.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly on the image of Dobby taking that knife in the back for him—dying so that he could continue to fight against Voldemort. “Dobby!”
The elf appeared with a sharp snap, his eyes wide with shock. “Harry Potter calls for his Dobby?”
“Are you mine?” Harry questioned softly, he felt bad forcing Dobby to admit what he’d done but he needed to make sure the elf was even aware of their bond. “Are you my elf, Dobby?”
Dobby blushed and averted his gaze. “A house elf cannot live without a bond, Harry Potter. Yous magic is very strong—I didn’t think you’d notice until after your maturation.” His eyes welled with tears. “Please don’t be freeing Dobby, Harry Potter, sir. That mean Grangy witch not understand! I works very hard to be a good elf. I takes the job at Hogwarts to be close to you. I puts my pay in your vault like a good elf!” He pulled on his ears. “I cleans the dogfather’s house and make yous room special so you can come here.”
Harry reached out and grabbed Dobby’s wrists. “Hey, calm down. I’m not going to free you if you don’t want to be freed. I’d never hurt you that way, Dobby. I promise.” He looked to Sirius for help when the elf promptly threw himself in his lap and started to cry in earnest. Sirius, for his part, just smirked. “Dobby, I must ask you a big favor.”
Dobby nodded and hastily scrambled off the bed. “Dobby does his best for his Harry Potter.”
“You can still pass through the wards to Malfoy Manor, can’t you?”
Dobby flushed brightly but nodded. “Old master does not know.” He sent Harry a sly look. “Does Harry Potter wish me to pillage mean old master’s private library for fun books?”
Harry grinned. He’d seen that private library later in life—after the senior Malfoy had met his bitter end at his son’s hand. The amusement fell from his face immediately. A sixteen year old Draco Malfoy might have tolerated his father’s abuse of his mother—but a thirty year old Auror and certified Hit Wizard would probably rip his father to pieces for hitting Narcissa. He knew Draco’s temper would be short and the little contact they’d had at school before circumstances separated them hadn’t been nearly enough. He figured Lucius must be out of his sick bed by now.
“No. I would very much like to know if Draco Malfoy is healthy and okay. It’s important that you not be seen by anyone but him and he won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Dobby nodded. “Young Master Draco was always very kind to Dobby when mean master was not around. His mother teach him respects to all magical creatures.”
Harry nodded. He knew that—they’d had long discussions about his childhood and Narcissa Malfoy. In fact, it had been Draco inviting Hagrid to his apartment for coffee one afternoon in front of Harry that started to change his opinion of the Malfoy scion. The fact that Hagrid had readily accepted with a broad grin and a little wink told him that Draco had been keeping quite a few secrets from everyone while he’d been at Hogwarts.
“Fine. Please go and check on him. His father is a very dangerous man.”
Sirius said nothing until Dobby was gone. “You dreamt that Lucius hurt his own son?”
“I know he has hurt him in the past and the events at the Department of Mysteries are only going to make the man more unpredictable and vicious. He regularly curses and tortures Narcissa, Sirius.”
Sirius exploded. “That fucking bastard! He hurts my cousin?” He stalked around the room. “How do you know this?”
“Draco told me last year—he said that his father has abused his mother for as long as he can remember. Narcissa can do nothing about it until Draco has reached his majority; she doesn’t want to leave Draco alone in the house with him. I know she’s your family, Sirius, but I’m not sure what you can do about it.”
* * * *
Draco turned his head just slightly at the sound of a small pop. He’d expected to find a Malfoy house elf there, instead he found Harry Potter’s. He closed his eyes briefly at the relief of seeing Dobby standing in his bathroom dressed in shorts and a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed him Harry Potter’s biggest fan.
He cleared his throat. “I’m pretty sure I’m Harry Potter’s biggest fan.”
Dobby frowned at him. “I could get yous a t-shirt but I still thinks I’m his most biggest fan. My Harry Potter is worried about you.”
“Tell him…” Draco bit down on his lip and sighed. He didn’t want Harry apparating to the manor in a fit, especially considering how many Death Eaters were currently dining with his father. “That I’m fine.”
“Yous not hurt?” Dobby moved closer. “Mean old master not hit you this summer?”
Draco flushed more out of anger than embarrassment. “I’ve some bruises, Dobby, but nothing too damaging. I have to bide my time until the moment is right.”
“Can Dobby get Master Harry Potter’s Dragon anything?”
Draco laughed softly at the title. “I do need several things, Dobby. I realize you’ve already given your bond to Harry and I don’t want to interfere with that but I need an elf that is loyal to me in this house. Someone I can depend on to help me if things get violent with my father.” He considered the young house elf that’d bonded with Harry after the war. “Do you know where Winky is?”
“Winky at Hogwarts drunk on butterbeer.”
He nodded. She’d had a problem before bonding to Harry but Potter had put a halt to that particular habit of hers fairly quickly. “Alright, go to her and request that she sober up. Tell her that I’m looking for a proper house elf and that Harry Potter recommended her to me. Promise her that I will never abuse her trust or her bond if she chooses me to be her new family.”
“I will.” Dobby hesitated. “Does Master Dragon have a message for Harry Potter?”
“Tell Harry Potter that my soul is pure and my love is righteous.”
* * * *
Harry and Sirius were sharing a tray of snacks when Dobby returned. The elf frowned at the food and huffed. “Did you ask old Kreacher for food whiles I gone?”
Sirius grinned. “Yep, sorry.”
Harry set aside a sandwich he was nibbling on. “Was he okay? Sleeping?”
“Awake. The mean old master and the beautiful mistress were entertaining other mean wizards.” Dobby twisted the front of his t-shirt with his fingers. “He had bruises on his back and side but my magics did not detect in any serious injuries or broke bones. I goes to Hogwarts because he wants to meet with Winky. I tells her to bring healing potions and bruise balm from the infirmary. She takes good care of him.”
“Good.” Harry frowned. “Did he say anything else?”
“He says to tells you that his soul is pure and his love is righteous.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly and then nodded. “Yes. Okay. Thank you. Can you listen for him and Winky? If he gets in trouble, will you know?”
“I can return and touch him with my magic so that I can make sure he is safe.”
“Do that. Ask him to allow it for my peace of mind. He shouldn’t protest. Tell him that he can do the same with Winky. You can give her access to me, right?”
Dobby reached out and touched Harry’s hand. A soft gold light gathered into a ball on his fingertip. “I take this to Winky so she may watch over my Harry Potter as I do. Once she bonds with your Draco, I present her with offering of your magic.”
Harry nodded. “Very well. Guard my magic closely until you can give it to her. I trust you with this task.”
Sirius lounged on the end of the bed. “His love is righteous.” Dobby popped away with that, leaving Harry on his own with Sirius. “I realize I’m not much of a guardian, Harry, since I spent your formative years in prison but I hope you know you can trust me.”
Harry frowned. “Well, that’s hardly your fault, Sirius. I mean, sure, you lost your temper with Pettigrew but you should’ve been able to trust the Ministry to treat you fairly and give you a trial. I wonder how many people are lingering in Azkaban having never received a trial.”
He knew actually. Once he’d graduated from the Auror Academy, he’d set aside a few hours a week to work through the prisoners of the island—making sure each one actually deserved to be in prison. He’d freed fifteen people from the prison, despite the inference of the Ministry and his own bosses. In fact, he’d spent every knut of the money Sirius had left him on the defense of those people in the trials he’d forced through public opinion.
“Will you tell me? I think I’ve been pretty patient about all of this stuff.”
“Will you promise to listen to me and not lose your temper?”
Sirius grinned. “Yes.”
“Draco Malfoy is my soul mate and my archmagus partner,” Harry whispered. “I’m completely and totally gay and the idea of sex with girls kind of grosses me out.”
“Wow.” Sirius fell back on the bed with a shocked laugh. “Just wow. Molly is sure going to be disappointed—she has plans for you, you know. Made a comment more than once that she had more right to you than I did because you were going to be part of her family for real.”
“She’s a piece of work,” Harry said by way of agreement. “I know Ginny has a crush on me but I haven’t encouraged it at all.”
“Obviously, since girls are gross,” Sirius said with a put upon sigh. “There go my plans for a trip filled with debauchery after you leave school. Are the two of you bonded?”
“I… I’m not sure,” Harry admitted. “Perhaps magically but we haven’t… I mean not physically.”
“You’re a little young to bond but no one should speak out against if you’re soul mates,” Sirius began. “That being said, he’s the son of a Death Eater and that won’t sit well with anyone.”
“Who cares?” Harry asked. “People hate me and love me by turns.” He frowned down at his wand, which was lying on the bed where he’d dropped it. He picked it up and swished it around. “I do trust you. It isn’t a matter of trust… keeping Draco a secret.”
“No, it’s a matter of survival. It certainly isn’t something you could have put in a letter,” Sirius admitted. “The last several days have been hectic for you at any rate. Have you told Ron or Hermione?”
“No.” Harry frowned. “Hermione would pester me with even more questions. Ron turns on me at the least provocation so it isn’t like I can trust him. He could mouth off and put Draco in danger just by being himself.”
“Could you add some advanced transfiguration books to the absorption crystal? Also, maybe something on battle magic?”
“Sure, not a problem.” Sirius glanced at the glowing blue crystal that was pulsing gently at the top of the bed. “The Weasleys will be here tomorrow. I don’t feel comfortable telling them no because of the kids. I realize you’re still pretty upset with Molly.”
“I am upset with her,” Harry agreed. “But I’ll get over it. It’s not like she’s evil—just nosy and high handed.”
* * * *
Harry was working through his notes and adding to his grimoire when Molly Weasley found him on the second floor. She cleared her throat gently and Harry put down his quill, then carefully closed his grimoire. Magic shifted around the book, sealing it tightly as he stood from the desk. He was still tired from the night before—he and Sirius had stayed up together the rest of the night talking about his life on Privet Drive and what he’d experienced at Hogwarts prior to their meeting. It had been at times rather traumatic for them both. Showing his godfather his scars had made the older wizard homicidal. Sirius had in turn, shared his thoughts and experiences on his imprisonment and escape from Azkaban.
“No, I… I’m still getting the children settled. I’ll make tea for everyone after that.” Molly followed him to a grouping of chairs near a bustling fire place. “This place is always so cold.”
“Sirius said it’s because of the ancient wards, like at Hogwarts. They are sentient and were neglected for a very long time because the house was unoccupied.” Harry sat down and crossed his legs as he settled back in the chair. “We’ve had a difficult time of it lately.”
She nodded. “Yes.” Molly twisted her hands in her lap. “I wanted to apologize for hitting you first—the last person I slapped in the face was Barty Couch and he was such an arse.”
“I’m sure he had it coming,” Harry said by way of agreement. “I didn’t expect that from you. Maybe a little yelling but I thought you respected me.”
“I was angry and so upset I could hardly see,” Molly murmured. “That’s no excuse for hitting you, though. I’ve never hit one of my own children like that.”
“I’m not your child.”
“Which gives me even less of a right,” Molly said bluntly. “You’re a kind, brave boy who nearly died for my youngest child and I… hit you. If you hadn’t reported the attack you witnessed in your vision, Arthur would’ve died. To say that our family owes you is a vast understatement. I am ashamed of my behavior, Harry.”
“I’ll get over it eventually,” Harry admitted. “It only hurt so much because my aunt hit me like that a lot when I was little. She would scream at me that I was a freak that no one loved or wanted and she would slap my face repeatedly while she did it.”
Molly paled and tears welled in her eyes. “Oh, Harry.”
“I don’t think you’re like her.”
“No, I’m worse. At least you never trusted her!” Molly wiped her face with trembling fingers. “As to the books and those lessons. I don’t agree that you should’ve been exposed to any of it. And if you were going to be taught a mind art it should’ve been with someone you could trust. But, I never should’ve kept the books from you. It wasn’t my right and my actions caused you so much hurt.”
“If Snape and I had any ability to communicate…” Harry said wryly. “We are as much to blame as you are and we both know it, Mrs. Weasley. I refused to complain out of pride and he accepted that I was lazy and stupid because of his own prejudices.”
“But I took away the tools that would’ve prepared you for those lessons and for that I’m very sorry.”
* * * *
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a sandwich that Molly had forced on him the moment he entered the room and writing a letter. Hermione and Ron were also eating, and both kept looking at him.
“Harry, what are you writing?”
“A letter to Professor McGonagall,” Harry said. “I’m going to drop Divination and take Ancient Runes instead. Also, I’ve asked to take the OWL for Arithmancy. I think I should test well for it since I did well in maths in Muggle school and I’ve read the magical theory from the fourth and fifth year text books. The Ministry will allow you take up to five OWLS due to independent study.”
Hermione nodded. “I agree on the maths. The first two years of Arithmancy were mostly proofs and algebra. Did you take that in primary?”
“Yes, Dudley hated maths so it didn’t matter if I did well in it. I even got to take seminars in the summers for geometry and calculus. I was four years ahead in maths before I was invited to come to Hogwarts.”
Hermione smiled at him. “Good. That should be fine. I can let you see my book from last year if you think it’ll help. As for Ancient Runes, they might let you take classes with the fourth or fifth years but I don’t see how you could get into the NEWT level class.”
Harry dismissed the insult and the assumption on her part. “I started studying runes during fourth year to prepare for the final task. I didn’t know what I was going to face in the maze so I read through the text books for Ancient Runes—third year through seventh year. I figured I might need it in case there were wards in the maze. Last year, I studied with my archmagus partner because he enjoys both subjects.”
It was a plausible explanation but he could see Hermione’s mind working it over, trying to find fault. It was easily the worst thing about her—the assumption that she knew everything there was to know about anything and anyone. “Well, I’m not sure you’ll do well with the OWL but please let her know that I’ll be happy to help you catch up if you can at least pass with an Acceptable.”
Harry had intended to barely pass the Ancient Runes OWL but in the face of her assumption he felt a little anger spark inside him. Hermione had grown up but she’d never really changed. In the other timeline, she’d had a brief, doomed relationship with Ron that had ended badly enough that Hermione had eventually gone to the US achieve her Mastery in Charms. When she’d returned—Harry had found it difficult to be around her because she was extremely critical of everything about the wizarding world in Britain.
“I actually don’t anticipate having any problems with Ancient Runes. The first two years are almost entirely taken up with memorization and theory. This year is the second practical year and I’ve already picked my topic for my project for the year. I’ve sent a letter to Professor Babbling already. She sent back a few essay questions for me to answer in advance of the OWL and preemptively approved my topic for this year’s final practical project.”
Hermione stared him in shock while Ron had started frowning. She huffed and asked, “Can I see your essay questions?”
Harry rummaged through the parchments in front of him and passed the document to her before returning to his letter to his Head of House. “I wrote Professors Babbling and Vector first to make sure I could take the NEWT classes provided I received at least an Acceptable on my OWLS before bothering McGonagall with it.”
“What are you on about?” Ron finally demanded. “Why would you take on more work? Divination is an easy class.”
“It’s a ridiculous and useless class,” Harry returned evenly. “You either have a gift or you don’t—additionally those who have the gift of Sight don’t come into the skills until after their first magical maturation. They shouldn’t even offer it to students until seventh year and then only to those who have been certified by the Department of Mysteries as having the Sight. I need Ancient Runes and Arithmancy to be an Auror. As it stands, I’ll probably have to get a tutor for potions because Merlin knows that I learn nothing from Snape. I’ll need an O on my NEWT for Potions as well to get fully into the Auror Academy.”
“An O?” Ron questioned, clearly horrified.
“Yes, though you can enter the academy on probation if you don’t have the NEWT scores you need but I rather think it would be dodgy for me to be entered as a probationary. People might think I only got in because I’m famous for something I didn’t even do. Besides, those entering on probation rarely make it to through all three years. Sirius and I had a pretty long discussion about it. He graduated at the top of his class at the academy. He was a year behind my Dad because he took off a year after Hogwarts to do something… he doesn’t like to talk about. I figure it must have been for the Order.” Harry slouched back in his chair and fiddled with his quill as he read through the letter that he’d written to the Deputy Headmistress. He didn’t think she’d say no since both professors had agreed.
“Well, of course they’ll let you in. They might even let you bypass the academy altogether.”
Harry frowned. “Why on Earth would I want that, Ron? I certainly hope no one at the Ministry is so stupid that they would endorse putting me in the field as an Auror without extensive training. I expect to be given all the training available and I’d like to start now… you know, before Voldemort succeeds in finally murdering me.”
Hermione huffed a few times and then glared at Harry. “This is brilliant.”
“Thanks. Why do you look irritated?”
“Because it’s brilliant and you’ve never done this well on your work before. Your grasp of the way runes could be used for warding and the idea you have about weaving wards together instead of just layering them is fantastic. Is that your project for this year?”
“Yeah, Professor Babbling is looking forward to working on it with me,” Harry admitted. He took the parchment back. “No corrections?”
She laughed. “There are a few spots but I don’t think you should correct them—that way you can honestly tell her that you did it completely on your own. It’s great work, really. It’s almost as good as your DADA work and that is saying something.”
“Thanks.” Harry tucked the parchment back in his pile. He’d made a few mistakes on purpose because he didn’t want anyone to think he’d cheated. These classes were very important and he wanted the years of education that were due to him from Hogwarts before he ended up in the Auror Academy again.
He finished up his letters and sealed them carefully. “Dobby.”
The elf appeared immediately at his side, shot the food in front of him a dirty look, and huffed dramatically. “Harry Potter should only takes food from his Dobby!”
Harry grinned at him. “Well, Mrs. Weasley makes awesome sandwiches. I could hardly say no when she offered me one. I have the letters for Hogwarts. Thank you for delivering them for me. Did you get the newspapers like I asked?”
“Theys on your desk,” Dobby asked as he gathered each packet and read the name carefully before stowing them in a pouch tied to his belt. “Also, Hedwig is back with a letter and I left yous clothes purchases on the bed.”
Dobby nodded and then turned around to show himself off. “I has new pants. I bought them with the monies you gave me.”
“I noticed. They look grand. I love all the pockets.”
Dobby patted his black cargo pants and grinned. “I gots lots of stuff in them.”
“Good.” Harry propped his hand on his chin. “Did you have a nice visit with Winky? How is Operation Get In Winky’s Tea Towel going?” He shot Ron a sly glance when the red head burst out laughing.
Dobby huffed. “She plays hard to get ‘cause she’s not a disgrace anymore. I have to court her properly.”
“Well, if you like her…” Harry trailed off when Dobby blushed. “Right. Well, shall I write a note to her new Master and let him know that I approve of courting?”
“Yes, Master Harry,” Dobby said with a put upon sigh. “Please.”
Harry picked up his quill and dashed off a quick note that was all for show which he signed with a flourish. He rolled it carefully and handed it to Dobby who took it with a small frown. “Be brave, Dobby, and I’m sure you’ll win… the girl elf.” He laughed when Dobby popped away with another huff.
“Harry.” Hermione frowned at him. “You made Dobby your slave? How could you?”
“No, I didn’t make him a slave. I merely acknowledged the bond he has had with me since the end of second year when I freed him from Lucius Malfoy. He’s been pretending to be free since then.”
“Why… you… I don’t understand.”
“House elves aren’t bound against their will, Hermione. Granted, they can be tricked into service and once they are bonded—that bond can be transferred from parents to son if there is family magic is involved. Dobby was in the Malfoy family for three hundred years and his bond was passed down through the patriarchal line. That is one reason why Lucius was so furious with me—I cost him a very valuable and experienced house elf when Dobby chose to accept the way out of the bond.”
“So when you freed him Malfoy, the bond transferred to you?” Hermione demanded. “Then you should set him free!”
“It didn’t transfer. Dobby made a new one and bound himself to me. He figured I wouldn’t notice until I had my first maturation. I only noticed the small tether to my magic because I’ve been practicing Occlumency. And no I’m not going to free him.” Harry started to pack up his supplies and waited for the explosion that would come next.
“Harry! You can’t keep a slave! It’s wrong and horrible and you’re a better person than that! Dobby deserves to be free.”
“Shut up,” Harry hissed as the adults in the house entered the kitchen in reaction to Hermione’s shouting. “Did you read about house elves when you started that ridiculous SPEW thing? Did you ask the ones at Hogwarts how they felt about their jobs?”
“No, of course, not they’ve all been brainwashed!”
“Hermione, you’re a bright girl. You probably are the brightest witch of our generation at Hogwarts but sometimes you’re an idiot. You came into a world you knew nothing about and while you’ve made every effort to soak up all the information you can about magic, you’ve failed to learn a damn thing about magical people or creatures. You refuse to accept any point of view that fundamentally disagrees with your Muggle values no matter how far apart the circumstances are.”
“How dare you! You were raised Muggle, too! You know how backward…”
“Hush,” Harry snapped. “We don’t even come close to believing the same things, Hermione. A house elf bond is not enslavement – it is a symbiotic relationship built on sympathetic magic.” He turned to Arthur Weasley. “Mr. Weasley, why don’t you have an house elf?”
“Selfish, lazy people own slaves, Harry! The Weasleys are better than that!” Hermione protested. “Those bonds are for people like Malfoy.”
“No,” Arthur said. “They are for those with the familial magical legacy to support them. My family line will start to draw house elves to them with my grandchildren. Bill’s first born son will be eligible to become the first Scion of the House of Weasley as with that generation we will achieve ancient status as a house. House elves can’t be purchased, Miss Granger, they are drawn to powerful magical people like Harry once they reach adulthood and can no longer tether themselves to their parents. The elves at Hogwarts are bonded with the Headmaster and the person who takes his place must be magically strong enough to create a bond with all of them. He has reached his limit of those he can safely support—which is why he didn’t offer poor Winky a bond.”
“I don’t…” Hermione frowned. “They’re slaves!”
“They’re highly magical creatures who found a way to survive when their species almost died when they were nearly driven to extinction by a magical version of the Black Plague. Nothing the wizards of the time could do would save them because the plague was destroying their ability to have magic. Without magic, a house elf will die,” Harry said bluntly. “If you’d bothered to ask any of them at Hogwarts they would have told you, plainly, that they bonded to live. Dobby snuck a bond on me so he could survive when I foolishly, with no regard to his safety, freed him from a situation I didn’t understand. I tore him from his family, Hermione. His parents still work in the Malfoy home. His younger sister is Narcissa’s personal attendant. He isn’t even allowed to visit them because of what I did.”
“It’s wrong,” Hermione ground out stubbornly.
“Your inability to adapt to your circumstances will be the death of you if you aren’t careful,” Harry snapped in return. “As for Dobby, no, I will not release him from his bond to me because quite frankly—murdering my dear and loyal friend to keep you happy seems a ridiculous price to pay.”
“He could bond with someone else! You have duty to take the moral high ground here!”
“He’d probably die of a broken heart if Harry freed him,” Sirius said dryly from his stance by the door. “After all he has been sporting a variety of t-shirts proclaiming himself to be Harry Potter’s greatest fan for months.”
“It’s sick and wrong.”
“It’s morally repugnant that you’d rather see an entire race of magical beings extinct rather than accept the circumstances that allow them to live,” Harry returned evenly. “Frankly? I’ll bond with any house elf that asks me—until I’ve taken all I can support because I know I will be kind to them and never ask them to hurt themselves. And I won’t feel guilty and I won’t regret it because if I have duty in this world—it is to honor my mother and father both in word and in deed. That means being a man they can be proud of.”
“Your parents didn’t own house elves,” Hermione scoffed. “Where are they? Why aren’t they with you?”
“They’re all dead, Hermione,” Remus Lupin said quietly. “The two that were in hiding with the Potters died that night—trying to fight Voldemort off so that Lily could escape with Harry. They were both in the hallway leading up the nursery—cursed to death. The others died at various times—ten were with James’ parents when Potter Manor was burned to the ground. The Death Eaters warded the place to prevent escape and killed everyone in the manor. There was one more but she…” He sighed and glanced towards Harry who was pale and shaken. “She died because Harry was too young to sustain a bond with her and she refused to seek out another because she was his nanny elf. It is my understanding that she died standing just outside the wards on Privet Drive when Harry was three years old. She visited there every day to watch for some sign of him. We buried her with the rest in Godric’s Hollow.”
“Her name was Tavi,” Harry murmured. “I think I remember her.”
“You should,” Sirius said quietly. “Her name was your first word.”
Harry pointed a finger at Hermione. “We’re finished with this conversation. It’ll never happen again. I’m not going to continuously defend myself and the legacy of my entire family to you every time you get your back up. Accept this or not, I don’t care. But the conversation is permanently over.”
“You can’t just decide that!”
“It takes two people to have a conversation, Hermione. I realize that might be something of a revelation for you since you spend most of your time talking at people instead of with them but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m finished with this particular conversation. Grow the hell up. Voldemort had Cedric murdered right in front of me and he tortured me. Then I spent an entire year being called a nutter and being actively shunned by most of the wizarding world. I have more important things to do than argue with you about something that we are never, obviously, going to agree on.”
* * * *
July 8, 1996
Draco had listened to his mother scream in the night for as long as he could remember. He hadn’t really understood what his father was doing to his mother at night until after his second year at Hogwarts. He wouldn’t learn why until after he killed his father in her defense. The marriage contract Narcissa had signed before marrying his father guaranteed him a wife as long as she had a child under the age of majority. That marriage entitled him to monthly payments from the Black Family Trust as part of her dowry.
Narcissa, unbeknownst to her husband, had sterilized herself with a permanent birth control spell shortly after Lucius’ magic had been damaged due to being tortured by the Dark Lord. They couldn’t make a child with magical ritual because of the damage and she’d insured she’d never have a child naturally. He didn’t know this—if he had maybe he wouldn’t have forced himself on her night after night trying to make another child.
She screamed again and Draco sprung from the bed. He would not tolerate it. He stalked down the hall, wand in hand and burst into his father’s study only to find his mother writhing under the floor under a pain curse. Not a Crucio; Lucius had no interest in driving his wife to insanity.
“Get out of here, boy!” Lucius snapped.
“Release her,” Draco leveled his wand at his father. “Right now or I swear I’ll make you wish you were on your knees in front of that utter bastard you enslaved yourself to.”
“Draco, no,” Narcissa whispered as Lucius released her. “Please, baby, just leave.”
“No.” Draco’s gaze never left his father’s shocked face. “You think you’re stronger than me—you think that your years of experience can protect you from me but you’re wrong. You wouldn’t be the first wizard to underestimate the love between mother and son. You’ve hurt her for the last time. If you think for a fucking second I won’t end you where you stand—you’ve obviously failed to recognize the kind of man you were raising. Mercy, Father, is for the weak. And while I might think you a wretched, evil man… I’d never think you weak.”
“Get out of here, I will deal with you tomorrow of that you can be sure!” Lucius shouted. He pointed his wand at his son. “Now!”
“Mother, come here.” Draco held out a hand for her and wasn’t surprised at all when Narcissa struggled to her feet and started toward him.
Lucius sent a cutting curse toward his wife without blinking an eye and she stumbled to her knees.
Draco’s eyes darkened. “Winky! Protect my mother.”
An elf Lucius had never seen before popped into the room and pulled his wife out of the way, a powerful shield snapped into place in front of them as she tried to heal the wound on her back. “You think you can best me, boy?”
“I think that I’ve been looking forward to killing you since I was five years old,” Draco returned evenly. “This is goddamned red letter day in the House of Malfoy.”
* * * *
Harry looked up as Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore entered the room. “Is… has someone been attacked?”
Severus glanced briefly at Dumbledore but said nothing.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Yes, it seems that Lucius Malfoy attempted to kill his wife and son this evening. Narcissa has been severely injured and Draco managed to kill his own father in the resulting duel.”
Harry fought the urge to burst out of the chair and demand to be taken to Draco. “I… is he alright?”
Severus nodded abruptly. “He is physically unharmed which is a minor miracle. His father was a vicious man and the Dark Lord’s right hand man for a reason. You can imagine that the Dark Lord will be furious over the loss of his wealthiest servant.”
“He’ll seek Draco as a replacement,” Harry surmised. “And Draco’s mother? How is she?”
“She is… very hurt,” Albus began. “Draco walked in on his father torturing her. We’ve yet to determine the extent of the damages.”
“Is Fudge pressuring the DMLE to charge him with murder? They’ll seal the Malfoy estate for the trial.” Harry stood. “I can’t touch my main vault until I’ve claimed my title but my trust account should cover the cost of a solicitor.”
Albus stopped him. “No, my boy, there is no need for such action on your part. Minister Fudge is doing his best to hold onto his job. Lucius was found with an active Dark Mark, his study was overrun with reports on attacks planned for the Death Eaters, and personal correspondence from Voldemort himself. Now as to why we are here, Narcissa has requested and received sanctuary with the Head of the House of Black.”
“Which is Sirius,” Harry said with a nod.
“Yes, we’ve agreed that Narcissa and her son come here and live on the fourth floor of the residence in the warded family quarters. They are going to seal Malfoy Manor for the duration of the war. Draco has already been to Gringotts and claimed his vaults to prevent anyone from interfering with his family estates or monies.” Dumbledore paused and then mustered on. “There is more.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “What else could there be?”
“During the altercation with his father, Draco found himself fighting off another attack. His house elf, which he stole from me by the way, tore Peter Pettigrew almost to pieces. He’s so physically damaged he can no longer shift into his rat form.”
“Winky?” Harry asked. “Winky did that?”
“How did you know it was Winky?” Albus asked with a frown.
“Twofold actually, she’s the only free elf you employee at Hogwarts and my house elf Dobby is doing his level best to win her heart and make baby elves,” Harry confided and was pleased when Snape looked at him horrified. “Right, I don’t wanna know either. I didn’t even know house elves could have sex. I guess I thought the stork brought elf babies or something.”
“Right. Well, Peter is at St. Mungo’s and while he will probably live… we’ve already secured his confession and they will have his trial within the next few days.”
Harry nodded and walked to the window. He crossed his arms and sighed. “What is it that you wanted to ask me?”
“Sirius has impressed upon us all that while some parts of his home might be used by the Order of the Phoenix; the whole of it is your home. We are here to ask you if it is okay for Narcissa and her son to come into the house.”
Harry blinked in surprise but then relaxed as he realized that all three men were playing at the game of keeping Draco’s role in his life a secret. His gaze flicked to the bottom of the door and found a little flesh colored string curling around the edge. The twins or Ron were listening to the conversation. “Yes, of course. I would think you would know that… I’m not so selfish and self-centered to assume that the entire world has to revolve around me, Headmaster.” He glanced briefly at Snape. “No matter what some might think, I understand more about Draco’s circumstances than most. After all, I spent the better part of the last fifteen years being habitually starved and beaten by my Muggle relatives.”
Snape barely caught Dumbledore when his knees weakened. “Sir?”
Dumbledore struggled briefly and straightened up, his face ashen and his aura flaring so brightly that it eclipsed the sun that was peeking through the curtains. “You what?”
Harry looked at him steadily, gauging and reviewing his responses. He’d waited for weeks for this particular moment. “It can’t be much of a surprise, sir. I mean, you are tied to the wards on Privet Drive, right? There must have reports done in the infirmary about my health?” He knew it wasn’t true—besides treating obvious injuries, the mediwitch at the school had never done a full medical history scan on him. Some magical children were just small—they didn’t find out the extent of Harry’s medical history until his first magical maturation threw him into a coma. One he almost didn’t survive. He’d rather not have that experience again. “It was their intent to beat the freak out of me. What they didn’t and couldn’t possibly understand was that their abuse probably accelerated the growth of my magical core—to keep me alive.”
“It has often been the belief of Pure-bloods that injuring their children between the ages of five and ten strengthens their ability to heal and perform magic later in life,” Severus murmured. “My mother certainly believed it.”
Harry shot him a look of understanding that had nothing to do with pity. “I won’t throw a fit if you bring Malfoy and his mother here. I promise, no matter how either one of them behaves, I will not be a problem for anyone. Your bigger concern should be the Weasleys. Ron can’t even hear the word Malfoy without foaming at the mouth.” He glanced towards the door and Snape’s gaze followed his, then widened briefly as he saw the extendable ear as well.
“I’ve already spoken with Molly and she will inform her children of the behavior that is expected from them. This is Sirius’ home and he’s letting them live here out of kindness. I impressed that upon her as well.” Dumbledore paused and then sighed. “I was treated to a story when I first arrived about an altercation you had with Miss Granger.”
Harry frowned. Hermione hadn’t spoken to him since the thing in the kitchen the day before. “She needs to learn to mind her own business, sir. I respect you a great deal but if you insist I apologize to her then I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you. In the five years I’ve known her, I’ve allowed her to have her way because I really didn’t care. Well, that is no longer an option for me.”
“I understand though I do hope you will make peace with her eventually. I believe she will be a powerful friend in the war that is coming.” Dumbledore paused. “I did explain to her that what she was trying to do at Hogwarts was disrespectful and damaging. Though she couldn’t have freed the elves that work there even if she’d directly handed them clothes—her behavior scared and threatened them. They shouldn’t have to work in such an environment.”
“No, I agree. I apologize for letting her continue when I knew better. It didn’t occur to me that they would be anything more than slightly annoyed with her. Even Dobby calls her ‘Mean Grangy’.” He grinned when Snape snorted. “Professor Snape, if I could I would like to speak with you in private?”
“Very well.” Snape moved to the other side of the room and Albus left them with a brief nod of encouragement in Harry’s direction. Snape pulled his wand and cast several privacy wards in a blink of an eye. They both watched the extendable ear recoil and retract against the privacy ward.
“How is Draco?” Harry demanded the moment he could. “Is he hurt at all physically? He never admits to any sort of pain so you should just force a pain relieving potion on him. Also? He should have a dreamless sleeping potion and I want him brought here immediately. I can’t believe…”
“Hush, Potter,” Snape said gently and snorted. “He told me that the two of you have been involved in secret since after the second task of the tournament during your fourth year. He also said that you share the belief that you are soul mates, which is above and beyond that of your archmagus partnership. The depth of secrets the two of you have kept is staggering.”
“We are soul mates,” Harry snapped. “I have no doubts and I know for a fact he has none either.” He sucked in a deep breath. “Dobby!”
The elf popped into the room immediately and shot Snape a speculative look before turning his attention to Harry. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“You exchanged magic with Winky?” Harry demanded.
“Yes, your Draco agreed.”
“Then why didn’t you come to me immediately when Lucius Malfoy nearly killed him?” Harry shouted and then retreated when Dobby’s eyes widened in horror.
“Oh.” Dobby yanked at his ears. “Oh, the bad Master!”
“Easy.” Harry reached out for him. “I’m sorry, Dobby. Just take a deep breath. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I’m just really worried about Draco.”
“Bad old master used old family wards!” Dobby sobbed. “I feels nothing through them. My poor Winky!”
“Lucius did have the estate locked down. Draco had to claim the title and take the ring off of Lucius’ dead hand to even unlock the place to call for help. His mother was in a terrible state. She interfered in the duel twice in an effort to save her child. She was so overwrought that I don’t think she realized that Draco outclassed his father by leaps and bounds,” Snape explained neutrally.
“Right.” Harry sat back and rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “Go check on them, Dobby, and make sure Winky is getting the help she needs if she’s been injured. Don’t let anyone dismiss her if she needs help with healing. You know wizards often overlook injured house elves.” He glanced at Snape and found the man frowning at his hands. “You didn’t even ask her, did you?”
“No, I didn’t,” Snape admitted and winced when Dobby popped away with a rather large bang. “I don’t like you.”
“You hate me for something I didn’t even do,” Harry corrected. “You were the one with all the expectations and assumptions built in when we met. I could and probably would’ve turned to you for support and even mentorship if you’d been remotely kind to me. You remain one of the few links I have in this world with my mother. She sacrificed herself for me and I strive every day to be a man she could be proud of. I think you know that—deep down somewhere in that black hole you call a heart.”
“Your father was cruel and heartless,” Severus snapped.
“He was a cruel child and a marginally better young adult. He never had the chance to be more,” Harry said evenly. “He died fighting to save me and my mother; I think that has to say something about him. He loved us both—I hear his voice in my dreams, yelling at my mother to run while he used himself to distract Voldemort. He didn’t even hesitate. It’s the only clear memory I have of his voice.”
“He didn’t deserve your mother.”
“Well, you certainly didn’t either,” Harry returned evenly. “You called her a Mudblood and a whore, Snape. You turned on her in your own embarrassment, taking out your anger on her when she’d done nothing to deserve it. Then you cowardly joined the Death Eaters only to betray that oath when Voldemort didn’t keep his promise to at least not kill my mother.”
“How do you know…”
“While my Occlumency is for shit… I’m a natural Legilimens,” Harry said neutrally, the lie fell naturally from his mouth. He had to wonder how long he’d have to lie about the knowledge he had to protect himself and Draco. He was by no means a natural Legilimens but over the years he’d become one of the most powerful on the planet due to his archmagus gifts. “I’ve known far more than I ever admitted practically since I stepped into the magical world. Hagrid and McGonagall are open books. Flitwick isn’t much better. His mind is a little aggressive because of his half-dverger heritage but it’s manageable. Neither you nor Dumbledore saw me as a threat and that allowed me to brush over your minds when it suited me to do so—you’re especially easy to read when you’re angry. You allow yourself to vent and get angry with me often. I hope you don’t do that with Voldemort.”
Snape looked horrified but it quickly gave way to anger. “What gave you the right…”
“I suppose the same force that gave you the right,” Harry said conversationally. “Come now, Snape, it isn’t like you consider anyone’s privacy but your own sacred. And just thank whatever god you might worship that I talked the Sorting Hat out of putting me in your house. I would have probably already ended half the people in my year group and all the ones above me by now.”
Snape glared for a few seconds and then his eyes lit with amusement. “You confuse me, Potter, but I suppose no one is a better match for my godson than you. Not that either of you need my approval. I will return with him with as soon he’s released from questioning. His mother will remain at Hogwarts for some time as she is severely injured and magically exhausted from the torture she suffered before Draco interfered.”
* * * *
He’d decided that he’d let Draco determine who else would know about their relationship. In any situation, Malfoy had more to worry about that Harry did. People from all sides would be furious with their pairing and in many ways Draco was in twice as much danger as Harry himself would be despite the fairy tale circumstances that surrounded archmagus pairings.
He leaned against the kitchen counter, a glass of orange juice in his hand while he waited for the floo to flash with the impending arrival of Snape and Malfoy. The kitchen wasn’t entirely full but the senior members of the Order were in attendance. He didn’t know if it was a display of power or one of support. Perhaps more threat than anything else considering the way Moody was tucked into the back corner, wand drawn.
The floo flared and Draco Malfoy swept out of it just as elegantly as he always did and Harry’s stomach tightened with anxiety. Draco’s gaze centered on him and relief swept so obviously across his face that several people in the room were left gaping. Draco crossed the room without a single hesitation and Harry pulled him close the moment he could, his almost empty glass slipping from his fingers and shattering on the floor over their boots.
“Dragon,” he whispered and threaded his fingers through Draco’s hair as he pulled him in, being so careful not to touch his skin. “I’m so sorry.”
Draco shuddered and inhaled sharply. “He had it coming.”
He closed his eyes and ignored the intense scrutiny of the other occupants of the room as Snape entered through the floo. “You aren’t hurt?”
“No, the arrogant bastard underestimated me,” Draco whispered.
“Potter,” Moody snapped. “I think we’re due an explanation.”
“I don’t agree,” Harry said neutrally his eyes darkening as he took in the wand that Moody hadn’t put away. “The way I see it, there is one person in this room who has the right to ask me questions about my personal relationships and he has the information he needs.”
“Now you see here…” Alastor began.
“No,” Harry snapped and then he shifted so that he was between the retired Auror and Draco. He tugged Draco from the room by the sleeve of his robe without another word—keeping his body between the Slytherin and the rest of the occupants of the room as he did so.
He pulled him silently through the hall and to the stairs where the Weasley children and Hermione were sitting. “Draco needs his rest.”
“Why are you playing host for a snake?” Ginny demanded as she glared at them.
“He killed his own father today, Ginerva. I think even you might understand how traumatic that might be,” Harry said icily. He tugged gently on Draco’s robe and led him up the stairs in silence.
* * * *
“What was that?” Molly demanded as Sirius shut the door and set up the privacy ward. She glared at him and then turned to Snape who was leaning against the wall silently. “Well?”
“I believe Harry has already made it clear that his personal relationships aren’t up for discussion,” Sirius said neutrally. “I have all the information I need regarding their friendship and why they’ve kept it a secret. Obviously, acknowledging even a casual friendship with Harry would have been extremely dangerous for Draco. Lucius wouldn’t have tolerated it at all. That young man suffered today—no matter how dark his father was, Lucius was the patriarch of the Malfoy family.
“He taught that boy to fly. He taught him how to hold his wand properly and put him on the train to Hogwarts his first year. He was there for his first steps and to comfort him the first time his accidental magic caused more damage than amusement. He killed his own father, Molly. Have some compassion here and try to remember that due to his age Draco also had to shoulder the brunt of his family magic as the patriarch within minutes of his father’s last breath. It would have fallen on him like a ton of bricks rather than wait for it to be invoked due to… conquest by the Heir of the family.”
Molly paled and sat down at the table.
“Is Potter involved with Malfoy?” Moody asked, incredulous. “The boy is probably as dark as his father! Does his archmagus partner know he’s involved with the son of a Death Eater? We can’t afford for the two of them to be at odds.”
“We have a right to know what is going on between them,” Emmeline Vance said by way of agreement. “Albus, you’ve said more than once that Harry Potter is important in this war. Obviously, Voldemort agrees because he’s tried to kill Potter multiple times. If he’s being influenced negatively by a Death Eater’s son…”
“I think that’s enough,” Minerva McGonagall said suddenly. “Mr. Potter’s personal life is none of our business. The lad has done nothing to deserve your speculation or your insinuations.”
* * * *
Harry shoved close his door and tugged on the ties that held Draco’s cloak in place free. “Merlin, I was so bloody worried.”
Draco sighed against Harry’s mouth and shuddered as he clamped his hands on his lover’s hips. The air around them lit up with the golden light of their marriage bond. “Me too. I’m going to curse Longbottom so hard he’ll limp the rest of his natural life. I fucking hate him for making me go through that again.”
Harry laughed and kissed him again. “I thought we’d keep this a secret as long as possible.”
“We have a fuckton of stuff to keep a secret,” Draco whispered as he pulled at Harry’s belt and shivered when Potter’s mouth brushed down the side of his neck. “Dumbledore is on our side. Fate is on our side. Hell, even Magic herself is on our side. I intend to be with you throughout this war, Harry. It was always my place and one of my biggest regrets was not being with you the first time.”
Harry pulled at Draco’s shirt and lifted an eyebrow when Draco stiffened. “Something wrong? Are you hurt?”
“No,” Draco sighed and blushed. “I’m a thirty year old grown man in a skinny sixteen year old body. I don’t even think my dick is the same size.”
Harry grinned. “Wait, you lost virginity at seventeen the first time right?”
Draco nodded. “Yeah, I told you… it was Blaise.”
“Now, it’ll be me,” Harry whispered as he started to unbutton his shirt. “I’ll be the first to slide into you.”
Draco shuddered and pulled Harry close. “Harry.”
“You, too,” Harry whispered. “You’ll be my first. I didn’t let anyone even touch me sexually until the middle of sixth year. Dean Thomas and I would meet up in a closet on third floor and jerk each other off.”
“That’s hot,” Draco admitted. “But you can’t do that this year—I’d hate to have to put an impotence curse on him. Doesn’t mean that I won’t do it.”
Harry grinned but that faded as he pulled Draco free of the dark blue silk shirt he was wearing and found his torso and side littered with bruises that were starting to yellow with age. “What… the fuck is this?”
“My father beat me,” Draco admitted. “He wouldn’t let my mother use healing potions on me either. Winky brought me some stuff but things happened so fast when my parents came home.”
“Your natural healing ability should have healed this within a few hours,” Harry snapped. He left Draco and went to search through his trunk for bruise balm. “Dobby!”
The elf popped into the room silently. “Yes, Master Harry.”
“Tell Snape I need a healing potion then let Sirius know that he needs to adjust the wards so that Winky can at least have access to the family warded area of the manor,” Harry ordered as he found the small jar of balm. “Also, bring a tray of food for us both.”
“Right away, Master Harry.”
“Are you going to boss me around as well?” Draco asked dryly as he stripped down to a pair of black silk boxers and sprawled out on the bed.
“Well, I know how much like you it when I do,” Harry said with a small laugh. He toed off his shoes and went to the bed. “Get on your stomach. I’ll start with your back. You can tell me why you aren’t healing the way you’re supposed to.”
“I went through my first magical maturation two weeks after my eighteenth birthday originally. Gained a few inches in height, filled out a little, and developed my healing ability. I don’t know what time travel and the fact that my archmagus abilities are fully developed will do to my magical maturation,” Draco admitted. He grabbed a pillow and curled his arms around it. “Most of it was stinging hexes but after he got bored with that he used a bludgeoning curse to make sure I wasn’t going to be able to fight back. Then he used his fists.”
“I’m sorry you had to kill him again,” Harry murmured as he started to rub the balm into his skin. “It took you years to get past the nightmares from it last time.”
“Well, the first time I was nineteen year old marked ex-Death Eater. Now I’m not tainted with the Dark Arts and his Mark. I forgot what it was like before I let them mark my magic with their… insanity.” He rubbed his face against the pillow and sighed. “Voldemort is going to be pissed, seriously pissed. My father supplied him with most of the money he needs to fund his operation. I’ve already been to the bank to put a stop to any timed or future withdrawals. I also put a blood ward on my vault.”
“Good.” Harry shifted on the bed and slid astride his lover’s thighs to get better leverage. “I’m a skinny kid myself right now. I didn’t start nutrient potions until after the war. The healers at St. Mungo’s were horrified by my condition after the final battle. It was like that year on the run just broke me down completely.”
“I’ll talk to Severus about preparing something special for you,” Draco murmured. They both turned to look at the door when it opened. Malfoy snorted as both of their godfathers entered the room. “Merlin, Potter, you didn’t put up a privacy ward.”
Harry laughed. “I would have if I’d thought I was going to get laid.” He smeared more balm on the yellowed skin. “Did he break or crack any of your bones?”
“No, he was careful to never do that after he had to take me to St. Mungo’s to have all the bones in my left arm regrown,” Draco murmured. “He told them I fell off a broom.”
“How old were you?” Harry asked even as he shot his godfather and Snape a glare to prevent them from interrupting. He already knew the answer to the question but he figured it was appropriate to ask again.
Harry nodded. “My Uncle broke my arm when I was four. He twisted it until it snapped then he threw me in the cupboard… my aunt wouldn’t even look at me the next day. But she did give me all the food I could eat. It was rare that she fed me that much. She must have thought the extra food would help my magic heal me.”
“She wasn’t wrong,” Draco pointed out.
“Right. She could have taken me to the doctor instead,” Harry muttered. “Snape, did you bring that healing potion I sent Dobby after?”
“Yes,” Severus answered. He pulled out a pouch and set a series of potions on the bedside table. “I have an extra strength healing balm as well.”
“This is yours,” Harry admitted. “I stole it out of your cabinet before we even went to the Department of Mysteries. I always need it in the summer.”
Severus frowned at him but put a similar jar on the table as well. “Did your uncle hit you last summer as well, Potter?”
“As often as he could,” Harry said as matter of a fact as he shifted and tapped Draco’s hip. “Turn over.”
Draco shifted and turned over slowly. “And this summer?”
“I was there for forty-eight hours and Dumbledore spent the entire time acting like you and decided at the end quite loudly that he didn’t like roughing it with Muggles.” Harry frowned at him as he touched the bruises over his rib cage. “No cracked ribs? Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. My mother checked me over afterward. She was worse off than me after that night,” Draco murmured.
“What’s up with the light show?” Sirius questioned. “Is it related to your magical partnership?”
“We don’t know,” Harry said quietly. They really needed some privacy so they could plan out what to reveal and to whom. “It started after Draco matured.”
“You tried to kill Lucius in the ministry,” Snape said coolly. “It was to protect, Draco, right?”
“I’d thought to spare him the trauma of killing his own father, yes.” Harry took some more balm from the jar and started to work it into the skin of Draco’s shoulder just over his collarbone. “We’ve both known for a long time that the only way Draco would be free… would be if Lucius was dead.”
Sirius frowned. “Draco, did you provoke him into that fight?”
“I didn’t have to,” Draco admitted. “I certainly planned to. That’s why I took the first beating and why I goaded him on an hourly basis while he was recovering. I wanted to put him in such a temper that he would attack me and I could kill him in self-defense. I knew if it went down differently that I’d be investigated by the DMLE and that kind of attention wouldn’t have been good considering the state of our partnership. Our magic isn’t stable and we aren’t entirely sure why.”
Draco’s hands drifted over Harry’s thighs briefly before one of their godfathers cleared his throat noisily. He huffed and pulled his hands away, much to Harry’s amusement. “Who would think that the two of them would be prudes?”
“I’m not a prude,” Sirius protested. “I just… well frankly…” He slouched down in a chair and frowned.
“You’re not homophobic, are you?” Harry asked with a pretend frown as he concentrated on Draco.
“What?” Sirius asked.
Harry shared a glance with Draco and found his partner smirking at him, obviously aware of the little game he was playing. “What?”
“Harry, I doubt he even knows what that word means. Even in old Pure-blood families, same-sex pairings aren’t frowned upon as long as the pair is capable of producing children through ritual.”
“What does that word mean?” Sirius asked with a frown.
“Fear or hate gay people…” Harry said with a shrug.
“Oh, well, no I’m not that,” Sirius said and huffed. “I’ve had my share of wizards and witches.”
Harry laughed and closed the bruise balm. “Take a potion, Dragon. Your muscles are stiff. You must ache all over. You’ve probably taxed your core as well.” He shared a look with Severus who pulled out several more vials. “Want to soak in the tub?”
“No. I’d like some fire whiskey.”
“Dangerous with the potions,” Harry reminded as he watched his lover pick up several. “Did you use an Unforgiveable on your father?”
Draco sighed. “No, I promised you I wouldn’t taint my core with dark magic if I could help it. I know how uncomfortable it would make you to touch my magic if I were…” He sighed as Harry pulled a shrunken trunk from the cloak he’d taken off and enlarged it. He placed it near the back of the room and then opened it. “I want the green ones.”
“Of course you do,” Harry said dryly. He pulled out a pair of jade green silk pajamas. “Take your potions, Dragon, or I’ll stun you and pour them down your throat while you’re unconscious.”
* * * *
“What is going on?” Ron Weasley demanded as Sirius emerged from the fourth floor. “Where’s Harry? He’s not in the room we share. He didn’t sleep there last night but I figured he fell asleep in the library or something.”
“I gave him a room in the family quarters. He’s entitled to his own space in my home,” Sirius said shortly. “Right now he’s helping Snape take care of the injuries that Draco didn’t report to Poppy. I suppose he wanted everyone to focus on his mother.”
“Well, I couldn’t go up the stairs.”
“You aren’t keyed to the wards,” Sirius said as he entered the office he shared on the second floor with his godson. “Harry will come back downstairs when he is ready.”
“There is something wrong with him,” Ron said as he followed Sirius into his office. “He’s talking about extra classes next year and he yelled at Hermione. His temper is worse and now he’s acting like Malfoy’s friend. He’s going to go dark if we don’t do something.”
Sirius turned to stare at Ron. “You know, Harry and I spoke at length about you and your friendship. I did my best to make him understand that your friendship isn’t worth the pain you cause. You turn on him at the least provocation. You actually think that he enjoys being famous. Your jealousy over what he has is frankly disgusting considering what he lost to get it. Do you think he’d wouldn’t rather have a family rather than be the very last of his family? Do you still think he put his name in the Goblet of Fire? I mean, I know you said you changed your mind about that—but it’s rather convenient that you came to that conclusion after he did so well in the first task.”
Ron sputtered. “He’s my best mate! I’m just worried about him.”
“If you were really worried about him you’d be supporting him in the decisions he’s making rather than sneaking around behind his back telling me that you think he’s going dark. The very idea that he would go dark and take Voldemort’s side is obscene. That monster murdered Harry’s parents. He murdered Harry’s entire family.”
“But… Malfoy,” Ron sputtered.
“Draco Malfoy nearly died defending his mother’s life,” Sirius said quietly. “I grew up in a dark family, Ron. My father treated my brother and I like we weren’t worth breathing. We were both beaten regularly to encourage our magic to be reactive and increase our core strength.” He paused as Ron paled dramatically. “It is a common practice in dark families, Ron. Draco suffered much the same way. He’s covered in bruises. Unfortunately, Harry has a great deal in common with Draco. He grew up physically abused himself. He’s going to be unnaturally protective of Draco for reasons I’m unwilling to discuss but if you want my godson’s friendship—you’ll support that as well.”
“He’s been my best mate since we met practically,” Ron protested. “He’d choose Malfoy over me?”
“Yes, you have no hope of competing with Malfoy for Harry’s friendship, Ron. Take me seriously on this. Accept Draco in Harry’s life or not—that is your choice but the consequences will be permanent.”
* * * *
“Sirius isn’t going to key us into the wards leading the family floor,” Ron announced as he entered the library located on the first floor of the manor. “He’s not worried about Harry being friends with Draco—no matter what I said. Even when I mentioned that Harry might go dark.”
Ginny frowned. “Well, Sirius does come from a traditionally dark family maybe he doesn’t care if Harry goes dark. We should tell the Headmaster.”
Hermione looked up from the book she was studying. “It isn’t like the Headmaster doesn’t know. He was in the kitchen when Harry took Malfoy out of there and brought him upstairs. He and Professor Snape had a private meeting with Harry before they brought Malfoy here. Whatever was said in that meeting made Harry treat Malfoy the way he did when he arrived. He must feel sorry for him. I wish the twins would tell us what they heard.”
“He was being nice to him and treating him like a friend,” Ginny ground out through clenched teeth. “It didn’t look like pity to me. I don’t like it at all.”
Hermione sighed. “Ginny, Harry has never once even tried to act like he was interested in you. Your crush used to make him very uncomfortable, you know. He goes out of his way to avoid the common room when you try to sit with him or talk to him about stuff. He treats you like a sister—a little sister that sometimes gets on his nerves to be honest.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Ginny shouted and then blushed when Hermione just raised one eyebrow at her. “Harry and I are fated. I’ve already requested a search by the Ministry.” She lifted her chin when Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“You requested a formal search for Harry Potter’s fated soul mate?” Hermione asked, her voice soft and horrified. “You know if he actually has a soul mate—you just put a target on that person. She’ll be a huge target for Death Eaters.”
“It’s me!” Ginny shouted. “And I’m already a Death Eater target because of my parents. I want him to know and understand how important I am to him.”
* * * *
The room around them was dark when Draco woke from the potion induced nap. His lover was beside him, resting but obviously not asleep.
“I’m here,” Harry murmured. He turned and pulled Draco into his arms. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through the rest of the summer without you… I should’ve just stunned half my bloody house and snuck out to meet you while we were still at Hogwarts. Not knowing what you’ve been up to has worn me thin.”
“We need to put secrecy vows on the elves,” Draco said. “It isn’t that I don’t trust them but there are magics available to those who practice the Dark Arts that could break the will of an elf.”
“Agreed. We’ll just have to word them carefully. I don’t want to endanger their lives by being stupid and they’d take them without even considering the ramifications. I have a problem with Kreacher.”
“Yes,” Draco agreed. “He’s Sirius’ elf—tied to him by the Black familial magic. Asking him for the locket would be dangerous unless we fill Sirius in.”
“I discussed the locket, the ring, and the diadem with Dumbledore before I left Hogwarts. He’ll find clues for the locket that will lead him to that horrible cave. If I find it in the house, just out of the blue, it might lead to questions we can’t readily answer.”
“Hmm, you haven’t discussed my gifts with Dumbledore, correct?”
“No, and I just gave him a brief overview of my own. I don’t think anyone should know what we are truly capable of. I did suggest to Professor McGonagall that we’d like her to be on hand for our first transformation. We don’t know how our magic is going to react to our younger bodies.”
“That thought had crossed my mind,” Draco agreed. “Human transfiguration mistakes can be nightmarish. I’d certainly want someone of her caliber on hand to deal with… any problems we might have.”
“Are you suggesting we lie about our abilities to cover up for finding the locket?”
“No, it would be far too easy to be caught in a lie like that. Our deceptions have to be defensible and simple. Sophistication will lead us to make mistakes which we can ill afford at this point. Magic will do a lot to protect us but if we lose the faith of those around us—that is damage that will ripple out through the rest of our lives.” Draco sighed. “I think that if I was to come into contact with the locket physically that it would react badly to my magic. Dark arts objects have before.”
“I’m carrying a horcrux and your magic is responding negatively.”
“No, but the one you carry is dormant—subdued by your mother’s protections. I have to think if it were really a soul leech or a spiritual possession that your mother’s magic would’ve destroyed it when you were a child. Voldemort couldn’t touch you before he used your blood to resurrect himself. That is very telling.”
“Yes,” Harry murmured. “I can’t disagree with that.”
“What do you know about the locket?”
“That Sirius’ younger brother, Regulus, took Kreacher with him to that cave after he found out what Tom had done to his house elf. He ordered Kreacher to switch out the lockets and find some way to destroy it before he was killed by the Inferi in the lake. When Dumbledore retrieved the fake locket, I found a note inside it from Regulus.”
“And in the first time line, Ron used Gryffindor’s sword to destroy the locket.”
“Yes, but only because it’s been imbued Basilisk venom. The sword is entailed to the line of Godric Gryffindor for eternity—one of the few dverger made items to be treated so. In the first timeline, Griphook’s eventual theft of the sword insured that I wasn’t severely punished for breaking in and stealing from the bank. He violated the covenant between my house and the dverger nation that was established with the first Potter Patron.”
“Would they accept you as their Patron?”
Harry frowned and turned on his back to stare at the ceiling. “In the future we had, their leadership wouldn’t have pissed on me if I were on fire. In the here and now? I’ve done nothing to offend them at this point. I haven’t even claimed my title so they don’t have much to do with me. That will change as soon as I put on my grandfather’s ring. I don’t know for certain but I doubt they would be offended by the offer considering my level of social power and the very profitable connection I’ve made with the House of Malfoy.”
“True enough,” Draco agreed. “They respect money and power. We have plenty of both. You should claim your ring soon then return to the bank sometime before the end of summer to have a meeting with the Chieftain. We can go over dverger etiquette in detail so we can set the appropriate tone for our future relationship with them. How many times have you visited the bank at this point in time?”
“Once before first year and again before second year. Numerous times during the summer before my third year as I was living on the Alley because I blew up my Aunt Marge, the wretched cow. I think Molly Weasley went the Alley for me before fourth year. I know I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the Alley or the bank after that. It wasn’t safe as far as Dumbledore was concerned. Honestly, it was so long ago mentally that it’s difficult to remember at times.”
“Right.” Draco sighed. “She doesn’t still have your vault key, right? The dverger frown on that.”
“No, she returned it each time,” Harry murmured. “I checked my accounts in the future—no one ever stole from me. I could account for every single knut I spent concerning the trust vault and no one had access to the main vault until I came of age.”
“No, the Weasleys are too poor to be thieves,” Draco agreed. “Arthur could’ve gone very far in the Ministry if he were less… honorable. One reason why my father hated him and the rest of the Weasley family is because of how inflexible their moral code happens to be. He never understood someone who wouldn’t do anything it took to get ahead.”
“That’s not an uncommon sentiment. Many view such men as Arthur Weasley weak because of it but I don’t believe that.”
“No, me neither. It takes much more strength to stand against the crowd than to allow the crowd to take you to a place you’d rather not go.” Draco cleared his throat. “So, thinking back on it—when did your relationship sour with the dverger?”
“I was furious with them over their neutrality in the war,” Harry admitted. “I was young and foul tempered to say the least. I’d lost so much in the war and grief was about the only thing I had left. They were very displeased to learn that I was the one that broke into the bank and even more perturbed when their honor wouldn’t allow them any sort of punishment due to the fact that Griphook stole from the Gryffindor estate. They were also enraged that they’d housed a horcrux for so many years. Had Bellatrix Lestrange not been dead at that point—I have to think they would’ve hunted her down and cut off her head.” Harry laughed suddenly. “They gave Molly Weasley ten thousand galleons for killing her. Molly was torn between being horrified that they were treating her like a hit wizard and rather thrilled with the money.”
Draco snorted. “I can just imagine.” He sighed. “Okay, so at this point – neither the dverger nor you have made the steps necessary to turn your relationship into something antagonistic.”
“Right, not as far as I know,” Harry said in agreement.
“Then I believe the offer of Patronage will be well received and even if they eventually say no—it’ll be considered honorable that you offered. It will set a far different tone for our relationship with them.”
“Do we ask them to side with the Light?”
“I think neutrality is the best option,” Draco murmured. “It’ll be a good faith gesture on your part and when the Death Eaters attack the patron of the dverger Horde—they’ll court war with an entire nation of blood thirsty magical creatures who can hardly stand wizards anyway. It’ll be a blood bath and further remove Voldemort from gaining financial support.”
Harry huffed and glared at the ceiling.
“What?” Potter demanded and frowned. He’d rarely ever taken such a tone with Draco after they’d become lovers. It had become obvious that a lot of their irritation with each other had been them both vainly trying to ignore the overwhelming attraction they shared.
Draco sighed. He sat up abruptly and slid astride Potter’s hips before the other wizard realized what he was about. He pinned Harry’s hands to the bed and regarded his partner seriously. “You made an enemy of the dverger in the other timeline, Harry. The best thing we can do for our family and for all of magical kind is to learn from our mistakes the first time around. Having them as your enemy never served you, us, or the war effort. Do you accept that?”
“Do you accept the potential gain of forming an alliance with them?”
“Yes.” Harry frowned. “Of course, I’m not a fucking idiot.”
“Don’t take that tone with me, Potter,” Draco snapped. “We’re here now and this is what we have to live with.”
Harry coiled underneath him, bucked up his hips and flipped Draco on his back. He crawled on top of him and settled between legs that opened almost of their own accord. “Look at you acting all bossy in bed… what unnatural state for you.”
“Fuck off, Scarhead.”
Harry grinned. “Merlin, I can’t imagine how I wasn’t humping your leg by the end of fifth year the first time we did this. What with your natural charm on display.”
Draco huffed and rolled his eyes to keep from laughing. Nothing about their past had been funny before but seeing Harry like this—young and beautiful was overwhelming. At thirty, they’d both been restrained and pressed upon by the duties the Ministry and even the world piled on top of them. There had been no relief, really, from the onslaught. War had been followed by the Auror Academy, which had wrought more changes that even Draco could’ve imagined beforehand. After that—duty came first.
Draco brushed Harry’s hair from his forehead. “I wish… that this year would be easier. I wish we could play Quidditch and pass notes in class. I wish the worst we could expect was detention for spending too much time staring at each other. But war is looming ahead of us, Harry, and I resent it.
“I resent it perhaps more now than I ever did before because no matter what we change in the now; we’ll have still lived through that horrible war the first time. We’ll have still suffered the same losses, mourned our friends, buried our enemies, and I’ll never get the image of my mother—drunk and raging at me out of my head. Not ever and I hate that. I hate that I can’t forget how she blamed me for my father’s death when she was really drunk. How she forgot how it was to be with him and only remembered that I had essentially murdered the love of her life.”
Harry shifted off of him and gathered Draco into his arms. “I know, Dragon. I can’t even… look at Sirius without seeing him fall through the Veil. Over and over again. I dream about the war we fought and the war we will fight. Looking at Fred Weasley is heart breaking—seeing him laugh and plot jokes with George is just too much for me at times.”
“I could barely stand to look at Severus at school,” Draco murmured. “I wish I’d never made you show how me how he died.”
“I wish I could promise you that he will survive the war,” Harry whispered. “But his place as a spy is so precarious and Dumbledore is… careless with his life. It’s as if he believes that Snape can only find redemption in dying for the Light.”
“We could remove his Dark Mark.”
“We can certainly try—right now it’s not a stain and maybe we can remove it though I’m not sure I want to risk such an experiment on him. I wonder if we could capture a Death Eater and use him as experiment.”
“Pettigrew is in custody,” Draco murmured. “If we offered the right incentive, the Ministry might grant us access to him.”
“No, we couldn’t remove his Mark,” Harry said. “They would be furious if they knew we could remove the one defining characteristic of a Death Eater. They depend too much on the Dark Mark to find Voldemort’s followers. I can’t imagine what Fudge would try to charge us with if he knew we’d even attempted it much less been successful.”
“Hestia Carrow will return to Hogwarts marked,” Draco said. “I don’t know about her sister Flora as she had little to do with me as Hestia had been chosen by the family to garner my interest despite my betrothal to Pansy Parkinson.”
“When did you get rid of thing the first time around?”
Draco stiffened briefly and sighed. “Fuck.”
“You’re not…” Harry shifted so he could stare at Draco. “Are you still betrothed to that… witch?”
Draco flushed. “Yes, I forgot about it!”
Harry laughed. “Wow. I’m in bed with Pansy Parkinson’s fiancé. Maybe we should sleep separately until you’ve resolved this.”
“Oh.” Draco poked him sharply in the ribs. “You’re such a bastard, Harry, I swear. You know bloody damn well I never laid a hand on that witch!”
“So did she dump you in the first time line?” Harry asked with a little smirk. “You know for failing to be straight?”
Draco sighed. “I wish. That twat chased me mercilessly until it came out that I’d been a spy for the Unspeakables. She was at my trial, you see, making every effort to stand by her wizard as a true Pure-blood witch should. Then I had to go and embarrass her by being found genuinely innocent. She was absolutely horrified that neither she nor my mother were required to buy my way out of Azkaban. Her parents went to the bank immediately after the trial and broke the betrothal under the mistaken belief I was going to be disowned by Lucius. Except, of course, I killed him and immediately claimed my title to prevent one of my cousins from sweeping in and making a bid for it. After about a month, her father came around and offered to reinstate the betrothal. I declined, obviously. It was quite the scandal among Pure-blood circles. I was offered several witches after that—both of the Greengrass sisters individually, the Patil twins were willing to marry me together, and Hestia Carrow. Flora was already married at that point or I’m sure she would have been on offer as well.”
“I hate how some Pure-blood families treat their daughters,” Harry said. “Like cattle to be sold. It’s obscene. Promise me… promise me if we ever have a daughter that you won’t even think about doing that to her, Draco.”
“No, I never would,” Draco promised. “I wouldn’t arrange marriages for any of our children. I felt trapped by the contract with the Parkinsons during the first timeline. I was really relieved when I found out it had been terminated.”
“Can you terminate it yourself or do you have to talk her father into doing it?”
“I can do it—though I’m going to have to pay a hefty cancellation fee. I’ll take care of it as soon as I can.” Draco relaxed against him and sighed when Harry’s arms slid back around him. “I’m sorry I forgot.”
“Out of all the things you’ve had to deal with over the past few weeks… forgetting you were engaged to a wretched little witch like Pansy is not a surprise. I would’ve forgotten on purpose. Repressed the horror of it so deeply that I would only remember it when in the presence of a Dementor.”
Draco laughed. “I wish… she was a good friend when we were younger but all that changed when her parents told her about the contract. She turned into this clingy, horrible girl who is outright vicious to most of the females in Slytherin. She cursed Daphne Greengrass twice in our original sixth year for talking to me.”
“Did she take the Mark?”
“Yes, during seventh year originally. One problem with the changes we’ve made is that I won’t know for sure when some of them take the Mark. In fact, I was responsible for many of them being Marked in the first place. Voldemort tasked me with bringing students into the fold during my sixth year. While I was trying to kill Dumbledore and generally being as evil as possible to you.”
“Did they resent you for that after the war?”
“More so than I ever thought possible—many of them ended up serving terms in Azkaban for things they did while in Voldemort’s service. It’s entirely likely that more than half the students I brought to the Dark Lord wouldn’t have gone on their own. They might have capitulated if he’d won but they would’ve remained neutral if I hadn’t been there to lead them down the garden path.” Draco averted his gaze, his eyes dark with anger and shame. “Now, he’ll task someone else with killing Dumbledore and turning as many students as possible.”
“We’ll interfere with that as much as possible. When did they acquire the Vanishing cabinet from Knockturn Alley?”
“In August, my father bought it.” Draco took a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll send Winky to buy it. She’ll bring it here and we’ll repair the one at Hogwarts to use as an escape route in the event that the Death Eaters find another way into the castle.”
“Not here,” Harry shook his head. “We can’t expose Headquarters to people who don’t know the secret and we wouldn’t be escaping on our own. You locked down the manor—what about the cottage in Wales?”
Draco frowned. “I bought the cottage in Wales after the war.”
“Godric’s Hollow is out—I don’t want to lead anyone to my parent’s graves. I intend to put a Fidelius on the cemetery as soon as I can. I was going to ask Sirius to take me there sometime this summer.”
“You can’t cast the Fidelius yourself,” Draco admonished. “Dumbledore would lose his shit. However, you could take him along and ask that you be made the Secret Keeper. It’s your family’s land after all and the cemetery there is full of your ancestors, so there is no one around to protest what you do with it.”
Harry nodded. “You’re right, of course. It’s really difficult having to pretend to be less than what I am.”
“I understand,” Draco murmured.
“You’re the only one who ever will.”
* * * *