Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter/The Sentinel
Pairing: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Word Count: 20,218
Warnings: Explicit language, Violence, Minor Character Death
Summary: The night of the Third Task, Draco makes a decision that changes everything.
The steady beat of Potter’s heart soothed the hollow place in Draco’s chest that had appeared mere hours before. A part of him was furious that he’d been reduced to lingering in the shadows outside of the infirmary while his bloody Guide was interviewed by Minister Bones about the return of the Dark Lord. His fingers drifted briefly over the wrist cuff he wore. He’d worn it since before he’d started Hogwarts—his mother had gotten it for him so he could hide. And he had concealed his abilities as a Sentinel—from his father, from the members of his house, and most specifically from the boy he met in a robe shop. He hadn’t learned Harry’s name until the train, but he had known instantly that the boy in the shop was his Guide and that the boy wasn’t a pureblood. It was a circumstance his father would never allow.
He’d told his mother, of course, about meeting the boy in the ragged clothes in the robe shop and how he’d found his Guide even though the boy was clearly latent. The day after he had been sorted into Slytherin he’d sent his mother a note with just a name written on tear-stained parchment with a shaky hand. His Guide was Harry Potter. The knowledge had devastated his eleven-year-old self. He’d known instantly that he’d never be able to have a proper life with his Guide. There were too many obstacles, too many dangers, and his father was probably the least of them. Who in the magical world would tolerate their savior being bonded to a Death Eater’s son?
The very instant Harry had been taken during the Third Task, Draco’s whole existence seemed to stutter. Even now, hours later he felt ripped open and destroyed by what had happened. He’d stood in the shadows and listened as Bones practically interrogated Harry though Draco was relieved when Harry’s godfather had berated the older woman into taking more care with his son. At the end of first year, it had been revealed that Sirius Black was innocent and Fudge had been ousted from office in the backlash of his attempts to murder the pureblood Earl of Blackmoor when he knew he hadn’t had a trial.
Draco pressed back against the wall and pulled his cloak closer to his body as the doors to the infirmary opened and Bones strode out with several Aurors and the ICW oversight committee, which had come at Black’s insistence when Harry’s name had come out of the goblet as the Hogwarts’ Champion. It had eventually been revealed that someone had tricked the goblet into naming Harry as the third competitor, but it was done and couldn’t be undone. So Draco had been forced to watch his Guide nearly get killed by a dragon and various other creatures over the last year. It was enough, he thought, to make him riot all by himself.
Dumbledore exited followed closely by McGonagall and Sirius Black. The headmaster and Black were arguing which Draco figured was a commonplace thing. It was well known that Dumbledore greatly opposed Harry’s removal from his Muggle relatives and that Black had threatened to go before the world court to get custody of his godson. Draco had no idea why Dumbledore was so obsessed with Harry’s living arrangements outside of school, but he’d stopped trying to interfere with Black after the very public threat of a trial. His mother found the whole situation very curious and more than a little entertaining, but she then thrived on conflict and gossip.
Draco slipped into the infirmary before the doors shut and glanced around. All of the lights were out except for the one leading down the hall to where Pomfrey’s quarters were. He hesitated and took a deep breath.
“It’s all right.” He looked up and found Harry standing at the end of a partition. “I told her you were outside waiting for everyone to go away. She won’t bother us unless my vital signs get wonky.”
“You shouldn’t be up.” Draco crossed his arms. “I heard what you said about being crucio’d. You must be in a lot of pain.”
“She gave me a few potions,” Harry said and walked back around the partition.
Draco couldn’t help but follow. He watched Harry slip back under his covers, and after a moment, he walked around the bed and pressed himself up against the wall. He slid down to the floor with a huff and rubbed his face with both hands. “Why did it have to be you?”
Harry laughed softly. “I’ve been asking myself that same question for years.” He adjusted his pillow and curled up on his side.
“You were latent before,” Draco said. “How did you…when?”
“I’ve been sort-of latent since my parents were killed,” Harry said simply. “Or maybe since I was hit with the Killing Curse. The people at the Burton Foundation in London like to call the condition Empathically Sensitive. Some Guides never get beyond that stage, you know, so I did wonder if I would be like that because I was magical. My aunt told me about magic when I was about seven years old because I fell down the stairs but bounced a bit. I was quite startled.”
“What’s the Burton Foundation?” Draco questioned.
“A place for Muggle Sentinels and Guides—they advocate, protect, and teach. Muggles weren’t always kind or fair to our kind, you know. Just like they weren’t so great to magical people in the past. The Burton Foundation started a worldwide group of training facilities called Sentinel/Guide Centers. My aunt took me there when I was three because I couldn’t sleep. She knew I had the potential to come online and was worried that I had.”
Draco nodded. He’d never really learned much about the Muggle world thanks to his father’s disgusting politics. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“You were obviously very upset to meet me that day,” Harry said and looked away from him. “I guess I wasn’t what you had in mind? Perhaps you expected a girl?”
“I never cared one way or another regarding gender,” Draco admitted. “But the moment I saw you, I knew you weren’t…” He sighed. “A pureblood. It was frankly even worse when I realized who you were. There are probably a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t be in this room right now.”
“Is it your father’s preference or yours?” Potter questioned.
Draco swallowed hard. There was a time when such things as blood purity had, in fact, mattered a great deal to him. His father had practically brainwashed him from a very early age. “My father doesn’t know I’m a Sentinel. My mother has helped me keep it a secret since I was eight years old. I knew the moment I came online that I couldn’t trust him with the truth of what I was. He has been talking about arranging my marriage recently to a proper pureblood witch from the right family.”
“Do you care that I’m a half-blood?”
“No, not at all.” Draco untied his cloak and shrugged it off. “You’re reckless and prone to falling into unnecessary drama which I do find very concerning. You’re stupidly famous in a way that I find ghastly and unseemly, and you have terrible taste in friends.”
Harry glared. “You’d better not say a word about Hermione.”
Draco huffed. “Hermione’s fantastic. I mean that waste of flesh and bone, Ron Weasley. If you’ve been sensitive since you were little, then you damn well know he’s a piece of shite.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, but I keep him close because of Dumbledore. He’s been using Ron to spy on me since first year. I don’t know why but I find it curious so I say all the things Dumbledore wants to hear so Ron can report it back. Hermione has been advocating for some sort of permanent curse since first year when I told her the truth.”
Draco blew air out between his lips as he processed that frustrating piece of news. “Dumbledore is manipulative and lies more than he tells the truth, but I imagine you know that already. He likes to play with people—as if they aren’t even real and watch the fallout from a place of what he considers moral superiority. I’m glad you haven’t fallen for any of his crap.”
“You don’t want to bond with me.”
For a moment, he allowed himself the luxury of looking at the floor then he focused on Harry’s face and met his gaze. Potter’s too green eyes had always been such a draw for him, and it was worse after he’d returned to school without the glasses. “It’s all I want, but I…no one will accept it, Harry. What do you think Dumbledore would do if his golden boy bonded with the son of a known Death Eater? What do you think the press would say about you then? Do you think it was difficult to be called a glory-seeking brat in the Prophet? They’ll eat us both alive if my father doesn’t kill us first.”
“I don’t care what they put in the paper but if you’re that concerned I’ll just have my Dad buy it,” Harry said dryly. “As for Dumbledore, I can stop playing his game any time I like, and he’ll be furious to realize how little he’s actually accomplished, but he won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.”
“And my father?”
Harry slid out of bed then and dropped to knees between the spread of Draco’s legs. “Let’s get something straight, Malfoy, I’m don’t give a single fuck what any goddamned Death Eater might think they can do to me. I don’t fear Tom Riddle, and I don’t fear his slaves. Clear?”
“Crystal,” Draco murmured and swallowed back the shock of Harry’s abrupt change of mood. “What happened to your glasses?”
Harry sat back on his heels a bit and blinked in surprise. “What?”
“Your glasses,” Draco repeated very slowly. “Those things you used to wear on your face so you could see.”
Harry laughed a little. “Oh, well, I had spell damage from the…” He trailed off and touched his famous scar. “The healer I saw over the summer fixed them. Dad was furious that Dumbledore hadn’t ever gotten me checked over by a healer, not even the night I was cursed.” He shifted around, dropped down on his butt and folded his legs in front of him. “The old git just dropped me on my aunt’s doorstep like a bottle of milk with a note.”
“You know I’ve been trying to make you hate me since first year,” Draco confessed. “So if this day ever came you’d be so horrified that you’d run from me.”
“I know,” Harry said and laughed. “You’re really transparent. I don’t know how you got sorted into Slytherin when you’re clearly just about as Hufflepuff as anyone can be.”
“If you’re going to be rude I’ll just go back to my dorm,” Draco said and tried not to smile as his Guide just shrugged. “I don’t have to keep you company, you know.”
“Your loyalty to me is humbling, and I’ve watched you for years do the most selfless thing I could imagine anyone doing much less a Sentinel,” Harry said seriously. “I’m your Guide, Draco, and you were prepared to spend your life alone to protect me. That’s the least Slytherin thing I can think of.”
“My mother paid Dumbledore a thousand galleons to ensure I was sorted into Slytherin,” Draco admitted roughly and blushed when Harry snorted. “Shut up.” He looked away from Harry. “You’re beautiful, you know, and I’ve hated practically every minute we’ve spent together since we met because there was nothing real between us.” His tears welled, which was horrifying, so he rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes quickly. “Fuck.”
“You can’t hide your emotions from me, Draco,” Harry said gently. “That’s why I could never hate you or honestly even take your bad behavior half as seriously as you wanted me to. At first, I played along because you were more desperate than anything else, but over the years that desperation gave way to grief. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be the source of agonizing grief for my own bloody Sentinel?” He moved away then and stood up. “It’s dragonshite, actually.” He threw himself back on the cot. “And the floor is cold.”
“When I went looking for Harry Potter on the train,” Draco began and paused when Harry focused on him. “I was under orders from my father to befriend you, so I searched for you as instructed. I had a whole speech planned then I found you in that car with Granger. The two of you were reading Hogwarts, a history and I…”
“I broke your heart that day,” Harry said. “I knew it—the moment I confirmed that I was Harry Potter. I felt every bit of your agony, and that’s when I knew for certain that you were my Sentinel. I’d strongly suspected it in the robe shop, but you all but ran from me.” He rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “I had an opportunity tonight to kill your father. I didn’t do it, but I wanted to.”
Draco wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He both loved and hated his father in equal measure. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because I’m a better person than he’ll ever be,” Harry said evenly. “Men like your father and Riddle—they let nothing and no one temper their hatred or their desire to subjugate others. That’s their true darkness, you know. All of them—every single one of Riddle’s followers are greedy, hateful, and ignorant. I can’t bow down to such a thing, Draco, and I know you can’t either.” He turned his head, and their gazes met. “I’m prophesied to defeat Riddle. That’s why he keeps trying to kill me.”
Draco lurched forward and all but crawled to the side of the cot, so they were close but not touching. “No, Harry, no. You can’t…”
“Then who?” Harry asked. “Fate has spoken.”
“Fuck fate,” Draco hissed.
“He’ll never stop coming for me,” Harry said. “I can fight, or I can die.”
“Those are wretched, stupid choices,” he snapped. “You could run!”
“Forever?” Harry questioned. “What a terrible life that would be.”
Draco stood from the floor and walked away from the cot toward the window. All of the arguments he’d made over the years seemed to fade away in the wake of his Guide’s words. He barely refrained from flinching when Harry came to his side. Potter’s body heat brushed against his, and he resisted the urge to activate another layer of protection in his bracelet. He had most of his senses muted already, but his touch sense had never been a problem until now.
“Three months after I came online, my father lost quite a bit of money in a business deal. He was furious and raged for several hours about being cheated. He destroyed everything in his office, and he killed…” Draco took a deep breath. “He beat a house elf to death. I listened to every bit of it. The next morning, I asked about Nelly, and he lied to me. He told me she’d been given clothes for being lazy. That’s the day I learned how to tell when my father was lying with my senses.” He cleared his throat. “It’s the first thing I strive to learn about everyone I meet actually. You can learn a lot about someone through the lies they choose to tell.”
“I always like to figure out what makes people furious—especially the anger they manage to keep to themselves. If they don’t want you to know they’re mad about something, it’s probably vital to them.” Harry pushed open the windows and stared out at the night sky. “My spirit animal is a thunderbird. She came to me in the cemetery. She tore Peter Pettigrew to pieces.”
“Nothing the little rat bastard didn’t deserve,” Draco said dryly. “Mine’s a dragon—ancient form. He’s huge, bossy and prone to plotting my father’s murder. One day he’s going to eat him, and I probably won’t care all that much when it actually happens.”
“It’s a terrible thing to ask of you,” Harry began. “But will you stand with me, Draco?”
Draco reached out and brushed his fingers against Harry’s. Magic and something more sparked between them. Carefully, he laced their fingers together and cleared this throat. “Yes.”
* * * *
“Relax,” Harry said. “Madam Pomfrey will take care of everything.”
“You’re sure?” Draco questioned. “She’s…”
“Certified by the ICW to work specifically with minor-aged Sentinel/Guide pairs. She is required to be our advocate and help us protect our bond in every single way she can. Madam Pomfrey spent the entire summer after our first year in Rome taking classes and learning everything she could because I told her about my latent status as a Guide. We’re very rare, you know, at least in Europe. There are only about four hundred magical Sentinel/Guide pairs on the whole planet. The Burton Foundation knows about magic and the hidden magical enclaves. The ICW has a huge treaty with the Council for Sentinel/Guide Matters, which is directly funded and managed by the Foundation out of London. Muggle Sentinels have been helping magical communities hide since the witch burnings started in Europe.” Harry picked up a piece of toast from the tray between them.
“Is the headmaster of the school I attend,” Harry said evenly. “And that could change in a heartbeat. I’ve no emotional attachment whatsoever to this school, Draco. We could be tutored at home for our OWLs or go to Rome and attend the International Academy. Hermione would be thrilled with either option.”
“Hermione, huh?” Draco said and raised an eyebrow.
“She comes with the package,” Harry gestured to himself. “One Guide and one profoundly bossy and adorable best friend.”
“I can’t imagine she has nice things to say about me,” Draco muttered.
“Oh, Hermione thinks your stupid desire to impale yourself on your own angst is very romantic,” Harry said and grimaced. “But she’s a fifteen-year-old girl, and I’ve come to realize that they can’t be reasoned with. I hope that improves, as she gets older. If not, we’ll just have to make the best of it.”
“You took her to the Yule Ball, and she was your hostage during the Second Task.”
“The Yule Ball thing was more a favor we did each other—Krum was stalking her around the school, and I didn’t want to go with anyone who would get ideas about anything, really. People are so greedy, and that goes double for a few girls in this school. It’s kind of gross to be around them. They’re far more interested in my fame, money, and future titles than they are me.” He cocked his head. “What’s this about?”
“Everyone pretty much assumes you’ll marry her,” Draco blurted out. “And I do mean everyone.”
“She’s my best friend,” Harry said simply. “We’ve never really tried to define our future relationship, but she’s known I was a latent Guide since our first year. I’ve never once had to question her motives or her loyalty to me, and I can’t place a value on that. My friendship with her is priceless.” He frowned. “Are you jealous of her?”
“I always have been,” Draco admitted and shrugged when Harry huffed a little. “I can’t help it, Harry. She’s always been exactly where I should’ve been. There were times when it was a relief, but there were other times when it was infuriating and hurtful. It kind of hurts more to know you’ve always known about me.”
“Are you about to get bent with me for respecting your obvious boundaries because that would be utter dragonshite and we really don’t have time for it? I can feel Dumbledore’s unmitigated fury from here so I know you can hear him.”
“He’s screaming at Pomfrey about her failure to disclose your status during your first year and wasn’t at all pleased to be told that patient confidentially was infinitely more important to her than his little hurt feelings.”
Harry snorted. “Honestly, spending all of her summers abroad these past few years have really given her a bit of attitude.”
“Your godfather is there as well—he’s telling Dumbledore to mind his own business and that our bond is protected internationally by the ICW. Also, McGonagall is telling him that since I came online as a Sentinel that there’s no way I’m actually any sort of dark wizard and that the headmaster is a ridiculous fool.” Draco’s eyes widened. “We need to go.”
“He stunned all three of them, and he’s coming here.”
Harry scrambled out of bed, grabbed his shoes from the pile of his clothes and tugged them on. “The window.”
Draco pushed open the doors, hiked a leg over and reached out for his spirit animal. Abraxas appeared with a flash of magic. The dragon curled one forearm around him and lifted him right out of the room. He crawled up onto his back and held out a hand for Harry who was wrapping a cloak around his pajamas. Harry took the hand immediately and scrambled up Abraxas’ leg to settle in behind him.
“Wow. He’s beautiful.”
“And he knows it,” Draco said. “Take us past the wards, Brax.”
The dragon pushed off the castle and leaped into the air with a snap of huge black wings. Harry figured he was easily ten times larger than the Horntail he’d faced in the first task. “Did you ever read The Hobbit?”
Draco laughed and pulled Harry closer by wrapping his fingers around the other boy’s wrist. “He told me he’d never come see me again if I called him Smaug. Have you named yours?”
“I just met her last night,” Harry shifted closer and wrapped the cloak around them both. “She killed Pettigrew then picked me up and sort of apparated us back to Hogwarts.”
“Thunderbirds travel over lightening, actually. I’m sorry you didn’t get a peaceful meeting with your spirit the first time. Are sure about it being female?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Harry glanced back at the school and focused on Hedwig. After a few moments, his owl left the owlery and headed toward London.
“Yeah.” Harry took a deep breath. “Is my Dad okay?”
“Yes, he’s awake and shouting at us…well…me to run.” Draco leaned forward and patted Abraxas neck. “Let’s go. Take us to the strongest magical Sentinel on Earth.”
“He’s in Japan!” Harry shouted as the wind around them picked up, and Abraxas carried them swiftly away from Hogwarts. “It’ll take us…”
“A couple of hours at most, young Guide,” Brax hissed. “Calm yourself.”
Harry looked back at Hogwarts once more, and the sky filled with a lovely white light. His Dad’s grim Patronus burst through the glowing wards of Hogwarts and headed toward London. He relaxed. If his Dad was awake enough to conjure a Patronus, then he was certainly in a condition to defend himself if need be. He tried to reach out and touch his Dad’s mind. He didn’t do it often because it made the older man uncomfortable. Sirius’ time in Azkaban had been torturous, and he didn’t want Harry exposed to that.
He whispered one name into his father’s mind, “Hiro Ito.”
* * * *
In the distance, he could hear Granger and Longbottom trying to cajole Harry out into the surf; Draco let the sounds drift over him content with the easy, relaxed beat of his Guide’s heart. Hermione had shown up in Japan roughly a week after the school year ended with Harry’s godbrother in tow. They’d both militantly infiltrated his space and became his friends for his own good, apparently. He hadn’t minded all that much considering how standoffish Sirius Black had started out when he’d first arrived. Black’s obvious love for Harry won out quickly enough as his Guide barely had to express the smallest bit of disappointment regarding Black’s behavior before it was immediately corrected.
Draco didn’t actually blame Black for being concerned about their pairing or the shite show that was still going down between Britain and the ICW. Dumbledore was currently wanted for attempted pair bond interference by both magical and Muggle authorities. Magical travel in and out of Japan was currently severely restricted and monitored because the daft old wizard was at large. The ICW had sanctioned Britain heavily for not immediately arresting Dumbledore and for their failure to capture him, which Draco thought was hilarious. The International Protectorate of Magic had sent Hit Wizards into Britain to capture both Dumbledore and Riddle. Currently, the reward for Dumbledore was twice that of Riddle’s.
“You’re not going to join them? They’ve found some gillyweed.”
Draco focused on Hiro Ito as the older Sentinel joined him on a meditation mat. “I figured he needed some time to relax and enjoy himself. When I’m with him, he focuses on me a lot.”
“Is he not focused on you right now?” Ito asked in amusement and quirked an eyebrow as Draco felt his face flush with heat. “Ah, I forget what it is like to be so young and insecure.”
“I’m not insecure.” He made a face when all he received in return was a haughty look of disbelief. “I invested a lot of time in staying away from him, you know. It’s difficult sometimes to get past that for both of us.”
“More so for you.”
Draco shrugged. “Perhaps. I made a decision after I met him that first time to do everything I could to protect him from my father and I know, now, that I chose the wrong path for us both. I can’t change that, and we’ve acknowledged the hurt that caused. The bond growing between us makes him trust me and it shouldn’t. It’s not right. I haven’t earned his trust.”
“The bond wouldn’t exist at all if he didn’t trust you,” Ito said evenly. “A Guide’s ability to accept a Sentinel is not unconditional nor should it be. He sees into the heart of you, and he knows you better than you know yourself. Many people fear the Sentinel more than they do the Guide—they fear your magical power, your ability to use your senses to see through their games and manipulations. They often dismiss the empathic components of a Guide’s gifts. It is a foolish thing to do because no magic can hide you from a Guide’s power. Magic can be used to confuse your senses a hundred different ways, but the only way to stop a Guide from seeing the heart of you is to knock them unconscious.”
“Or kill them,” Draco said grimly. “I think plenty of people know that, Master Ito. Dumbledore and Riddle are obvious threats, but they aren’t the only threats my Guide will face in the years to come.”
“And that is why the murder of a Guide or Sentinel is an international crime in both societies.”
“He’d still be dead—no matter how the person was responsible was punished.” Draco ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “The prophecy is driving me nuts.”
“I’m not surprised,” Ito said mildly. “Protecting your Guide is an intrinsic part of the Sentinel in you, and that is at odds with your Guide’s fate. One must be careful, Mr. Malfoy, when such powers are at play. Riddle has already made a mistake once and paid for that with disembodiment.” He motioned toward the exit of the garden. “Go. Play in the ocean with your Guide.”
Draco nodded and stood. “Thank you for your time, sir.”
Ito inclined his head. “Dinner will be served in two hours.”
Draco set the alarm on his watch as he walked out of the garden and down the path to the ocean. Hiro Ito lived in seclusion on an island off the coast of Japan and had for more than a thousand years. He found Harry sitting on the beach on a towel.
“Waiting on you,” Harry said as Draco sat down beside him. “Nev and Hermione are off in the water—probably snogging.”
Draco blinked in surprise. “When did they become a couple?”
“Apparently, he was on hand to comfort her after she was told you and I had to flee to escape Dumbledore.” Harry made a face. “He’s lucky I like him, or I’d probably curse the shite out of him.”
Draco laughed. “He’s a good sort.”
“Yeah, but it’s Hermione, and there isn’t a wizard alive good enough for her—present company included.” Harry made a face. “But he likes her a lot and respects her, so I’m not going to say anything.”
“If he hurts her, we’ll just have to kill him,” Draco said.
Harry nodded his agreement. “Do you think you could handle gillyweed?”
“Master Ito didn’t seem to think it would be a problem,” he said and shrugged. “Worth a shot to try in a safe place at any rate.” He stood and offered his hand to Harry who took it without hesitating.
Harry squeezed his fingers gently as he stood. “I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Okay,” Draco said slowly.
Harry grinned. “Don’t get suspicious, it’s nothing insane.”
“You’re a Gryffindor,” he said seriously. “I have to be prepared for crazy.”
Potter rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. “Kiss me.”
“Yeah, you know—your mouth on my mouth. It’s an appropriate gesture of affection between two individuals who have romantic and/or sexual feelings for one another. Kiss me.”
Draco huffed. “Who says I have romantic and/or sexual feelings for you?”
Harry grinned. “If you don’t then I’m really concerned about how often you wank thinking about my bum.”
He felt the heat spread up his face. “Rude, Scarhead.” Draco pulled his laughing Guide closer and used his free hand to touch Harry’s jaw. “Very rude.”
“Honest,” Harry corrected breathlessly. “Ferret.”
He pressed his mouth against Potter’s and Harry sort of slithered up against him—all fluid and loose-limbed like he didn’t have a care in the world. Draco shuddered violently against the first taste of his Guide’s mouth. He was in over his head, drowning in one sensation after another. Harry’s hands clenched on his waist, fingers brushing over his skin as they slid under his T-shirt. Draco felt anchored at that moment, and the world righted itself for the first time since Harry had come online. He lifted his head and met Potter’s knowing gaze.
“I feel like I don’t have a single secret from you,” he whispered harshly.
Harry’s eyes darkened. “Does that concern you?”
His Guide grinned then with obvious delight. “You liar.”
“How do you feel?”
Harry glanced toward Hermione and found her staring at him. “It’s weird, actually, to have everything out in the open. I feel like I can relax for the first time since I met him. But he’s still using that bracelet to control his senses. I’m trying to be patient about it, but it feels like he doesn’t trust our bonding process.”
“He’s been wearing it for a long time,” Hermione reminded him and shifted her stack of parchment around in front of her. “It’s been a source of control and probably relief for him all this time.”
“I know so I’m being patient.” Harry grinned when she rolled her eyes at him. “You and Nev, huh?”
She blushed and bit down on her bottom lip. “He’s a good person, and I trust him.”
“I do, too,” Harry said. “You know Ron is going to respond poorly since he’s convinced that you’re in love with him.”
“That’s so gross,” Hermione groused. “He’s such a pig, and he’s dumb, too, Harry.” She crossed her arms with a huff. “I have a hand mirror smarter than that…that….weasel!”
“I told him that you don’t like him as anything more than a friend and he said I was just jealous.” Harry laughed when she pitched over on her side and buried her face in the back of the sofa. “It’s just pureblood entitlement.”
“Hey,” Neville protested as he came into the room.
“He’s rude,” Draco said dryly as he followed Longbottom in with a tea tray. “What were you talking about anyway?”
“You weren’t listening?” Harry questioned.
“No, because I’m not rude,” Draco informed him primly.
“I’ve got years of empirical evidence that would say otherwise,” Harry said. “And we were talking about how Ron thinks Hermione is in love with him.”
“Oh, well that’s not because he’s a pureblood,” Neville said earnestly as he helped Draco unload the tray. “That’s because he’s dumb. Really dumb, actually. Why would the brightest witch in school want to date someone who probably won’t earn a single OWL?”
“See!” Hermione exclaimed as she rolled off the sofa and stalked over to the table to join them. “It’s ridiculous! He’s probably looking for some witch to support him after school because he’s criminally lazy and intellectually inferior.”
“He’s not going to pick a fight with the heir of an ancient and noble house,” Draco said as he fixed his tea. “So let Neville be the buffer until the Weasel gets used to not getting what he expects to get. He turned fifteen, right?”
“Yeah, but what does that matter?” Harry questioned.
“He’s old enough to be called out for his bad behavior by a peer,” Neville said. “I’ll turn fifteen before we return to school and it’ll be announced in the paper. Just like your status will be announced, Harry. It’s not exactly emancipation but it does come with some privileges, and one of those is the right to honor duel.”
Hermione made a face. “I don’t like the sound of this.”
“Consider it just another social weapon,” Draco advised. “One that can be used to shield you from unwanted attention or punish someone for acting inappropriately toward you. Ron isn’t stupid enough to actually earn that sort of discipline.”
“I think you are really overestimating his intelligence,” Hermione said and took the tea Harry made her. “Thank you, Harry.”
“She’s right—Ron’s a moron,” Harry said. “He accused me of being jealous of how much Hermione liked him.”
“But you’re gay,” Neville said in confusion. “How can he not know that?” He huffed and shoved a whole biscuit in his mouth.
“We’re going to have to give you some dueling lessons,” Draco told Neville and shook his head. “And probably contact his father for a discussion before we even go back to Britain just to try to head off some of that dragonshite. You’ll want to write your grandmother and inform her of the…hmmm….relationship?”
Neville and Hermione both blushed.
“I’m not trying to tease you,” Draco said quickly. “It’s just best to be prepared for any sort of backlash that might come your way. Hermione has a reputation of her own to consider because being Harry’s best friend has made her well known. It will be news that the two of you are exploring a romantic relationship and you should probably work to avoid an honor duel with that fool if at all possible.”
Hermione huffed and turned to Harry. “Can’t we just throw him in the Forbidden Forest and let Hagrid’s spider colony eat him?”
“Ha, no.” He pointed a finger at her when she started pouting. “You wouldn’t let me do it last year when he was a total git about my name coming out of that stupid goblet. Double standard, much?”
“Witches have a whole list of things they’re allowed to do that we’re not,” his dad said as he came in shedding a cloak. “The ICW caught Dumbledore trying to enter Tokyo. I let him put a tracking charm on me and led him right into their custody. He tried to use Fawkes to escape, so one of the Hit Wizards hit the bird with a reductor curse.”
Harry winced. “Is Fawkes okay?”
Sirius pulled a little white fluff ball out of his shirt pocket and offered it to Harry. “They’ve checked him over. Apparently, Dumbledore has been cursing him after every burning for decades to make him stay with him. He’s clean of those behavioral curses now, and Dumbledore had been charged with magical creature abuse on top of everything else.”
Harry took Fawkes, and the phoenix tweeted at him vehemently. “Oh. He’s…very hurt.”
“Very,” Sirius agreed. “He asked specifically to come to you, and they assured me he wasn’t dangerous for you.”
“No, not dangerous, just wounded,” Harry said and took a deep breath. “His ability to bond is broken—probably permanently. Dumbledore can’t suffer enough for this.” He turned to Draco. “We need to build him a nest. He’ll probably take quite a while to heal.”
“How long is quite a while?” Draco asked.
“It’ll take him at least a year or more to recover. I’m unsure of his growth cycle. He might choose to stay small,” Harry, sighed. “Let’s see if Hedwig will mother him.”
Thirty minutes later, Draco was lounging on Harry’s bed while his Guide tried to get his owl to agree to host a phoenix chick. Hedwig was, as far as he could tell, decidedly childfree and she wasn’t on board with Harry’s plan at all. The owl barked sharply, ruffled her feathers, and turned her head.
“Fine,” Harry said. “I’ll just take care of him all by myself. I’ll keep him in my pocket all day and hand feed him. He’ll like that. He’s so small I won’t have a problem taking him to class and stuff. Maybe I’ll get a little basket to carry him around in so he’ll be comfortable.”
Draco laughed at the glare that earned Harry. “Is she jealous?”
“Extremely so. She’s never really liked Fawkes, especially after that incident with the chamber. The phoenix tears in my body changed my magic and had some limited impact on my familiar bond with her.” He focused on the owl. “It’s not his fault that Dumbledore is an evil git who cursed him for decades. He’s been tortured, Hedwig.”
Draco barely kept from laughing when the owl visible slumped on her perch. He knew exactly how she felt—it was difficult to deny Potter anything. She slowly walked down the stick and put one foot on the nest they’d built from materials they’d summoned out of the garden.
“Thank you very much,” Harry said. He put Fawkes in the nest. “We’ll keep fruit and nuts for him to eat in a basket over on the dresser.”
Draco watched Harry pull off his shoes then crawl onto the bed with him. “Your Dad said we weren’t allowed to be on the bed together, remember?”
“With the door shut,” Harry added. “The door’s not shut.”
“I think you’re splitting hairs, but I’ll let you pick that fight with him,” Draco murmured. “The ICW is going to ask us to appear at the trial.”
“Dad already mentioned that to me, and I’m not worried. There will be protections in place because of my minor status—Dumbledore will also work to reveal as little as possible about the prophecy.”
“Unless he thinks he can use it to gain control of the situation.”
“He doesn’t know I know it so he probably thinks he can manipulate us into agreeing to drop charges against him but what he doesn’t realize is that neither you nor I have a single say in the charges that were placed on him regarding our bond. The ICW has no choice but to file charges and punish him severely for it or they’ll risk the agreement with the Burton Foundation.”
“Which would put our enclaves at risk since Muggle Sentinels and Guides help us hide,” Draco said. “It’s a tricky situation for certain. I don’t think his reputation or previous actions can save him from what is to come.”
“No, I don’t think so either.”
“The age of consent is sixteen.”
Draco inclined his head toward Harry as Sirius Black entered the room.
“In Britain,” Harry said and raised an eyebrow. “Guess what it is in Japan.”
“Guess how many different impotence curses I learned while I was at Hogwarts,” Sirius returned dryly.
Harry sat up and crossed his legs in front of him. “Whatever, Dad, we aren’t even naked. We were talking about Dumbledore and court.”
Draco shifted around when Black dropped down on the corner of the bed and sat so he could focus on the older man. “Harry seems to think that Dumbledore will work to protect the contents of the prophecy.”
“He won’t have a choice actually. He was made to take a vow on his magic that he’d never share the contents of the prophecy with anyone but Harry or Neville as there was some question as to which boy it would be at that point. Of course, after that night, it was all too clear that the prophecy was about Harry. He should’ve told Harry in his first year—I was outraged to learn that he hadn’t.”
“Did he offer any sort of excuse,” Draco asked.
“He said Harry appeared far less mature than he’d hoped upon his arrival to Hogwarts and that his aunt had obviously coddled him.” Sirius grimaced. “He also said that Harry was a sensitive and thoughtful child which he found surprising since he’d assumed he’d be more like James.”
“He’d have told me when it served him best,” Harry said. “He’s been doing that since the beginning—revealing parts of my life to me in times when he thought I need to be prodded in one direction or another. He even overtly encouraged me to be more like my father by giving me the invisibility cloak and that whole thing with Quidditch. I love to fly, but I’m happy I’m not allowed to play anymore. Well, I could play if I was willing to wear an empathic dampening device and I’m not, so there’s that.”
“You’re saying he wanted you to be reckless,” Draco speculated. “Break rules and what?”
“I suppose his main purpose was to see if I had what it takes to defeat Voldemort,” Harry said evenly. “But the problem is that he doesn’t even know what is. I don’t know what he assumes the power-he-knows-not is but considering what he actually knows about me…well.” He sighed and shrugged. “In the end, Dumbledore and Voldemort are two sides of the same coin. Both want to use me to their own ends, at least Voldemort is honest about the fact that he thinks I should die.”
Draco reached out and snagged Harry’s hand. “Dumbledore wants you to die?”
“Want is the wrong term but I’ve known since first year that he fully intends for me to die in the fight with Riddle but I don’t know why since he’s also confident that I will prevail.”
Draco focused on Black and found the older man was pale and obviously furious. “Can you arrange for us to talk to him before the trial?”
“I don’t know,” Black murmured and slid off the bed. “But I’ll go ask right now.” He left then returned to the doorway and pointed his finger at them both. “Clothes stay on, zippers stay up, buttons stay buttoned. I mean it.”
Harry just laughed a little as his father left. “See, he likes you.”
“I think he plans to castrate me,” Draco said with a frown and checked to make sure his zipper tab was secure.
* * * *
The ICW and the Burton Foundation had come down heavily on the World Court of Magic regarding Dumbledore’s trial process and their status as minors. Harry was thankful for that as the entire hearing had been sealed and put under a host of secrecy charms. The World Court hadn’t, however, agreed to any sort of private meeting between him and Dumbledore. In fact, they really didn’t even want to allow the elderly wizard to be in the same room with Harry or Draco in their semi-bonded state. Fortunately, they couldn’t prevent their inclusion in the trial process since the whole thing was about his attempted crimes against them both.
The moment Dumbledore was led into the room, his gaze seemed to laser in on Harry, which made everyone shift around him. Draco pressed closer, and Harry just squeezed his fingers gently. His Sentinel had been holding his hand since they’d portkeyed to Switzerland for the trial. The entire trip had been nothing short of agony for Draco who’d never traveled by portkey and pretty much vowed to never do it again once they were back in Britain.
Dumbledore was taken to the dock and restrained both physically and magically despite the fact that he was wearing some sort of suppression collar. Harry let himself relax when Draco did and turned his attention to the magistrate in charge of the trial. He hadn’t met Louis Bertrand, but Master Ito spoke highly of the Frenchmen and the World Court of Magic itself. Harry had watched court dramas on the telly with his Aunt Petunia growing up, but he had a feeling that things in the magical world were much different considering the various ways they could force someone to be truthful. Also, it was his experience that justice was often quite lax in the magical world.
Bertrand called the session to order with a wave of his hand, and the magic in the room shifted in such a way that Draco stiffened briefly beside him. “For those of you new to the World Court of Magic, I’ve activated the privacy protocols for this room due to the nature of the charges being presented and the age of the victims. I call this session to order, Mr. Brandon; I’m ready for you to begin.”
A man in dark blue robes stood immediately. “Good morning, Justice Bertrand, the International Confederacy of Wizards in conjunction with the Burton Foundation and the International Sentinel/Guide Center hereby charge Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore with the attempted interference of a Sentinel/Guide bond, intent to cause bodily harm to a Sentinel with magic, intent to cause bodily harm to a Guide with magic, attempted custodial interference, the active intent to manipulate and control an online Guide through magical means, assault and battery with magic, resisting arrest by magical means, and finally magical creature abuse.” He paused. “We reserve the right to press further charges as information is obtained.”
Bertrand nodded. “I’ve reviewed all of the evidence regarding the magical creature abuse and will render judgment on that matter immediately.”
The single man sitting at the defendant’s table stood. “Justice Bertrand, will we not be allowed to launch a defense regarding this charge?”
“No, Mr. Doge, you will not,” Bertrand said icily. “There is no defense that would justify the subjugation and enslavement of a phoenix for over fifty years. There is no lighter creature on this planet, and the phoenix in question is so damaged by Mr. Dumbledore’s behavior that ten different experts on the matter believe he will never be able to magically bond with another person. Your client has delivered upon an immortal creature a permanent disability for no other reason than vanity.”
The justice focused on Dumbledore. “Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, I find you guilty of gross magical creature abuse. This court sentences you to magical castration. You will live out the rest of your life, Mr. Dumbledore, in the suppression collar.” He drew a wand, pointed it at Dumbledore. “Indissolubilem nexum.” The spell hit the collar, and it glowed gold as the entire room shifted in shock.
The shock and revulsion that drifted over the people in the room was hard to ignore. Harry took a deep breath and averted his gaze.
“My apologies, Mr. Potter.”
He looked up and found Bertrand staring at him. Harry felt compelled to stand under the man’s attention so he did and Draco rose up with him, fingers clenching tightly. “Sir.”
“The emotions in the room are running very high already. I can’t imagine this will be a comfortable experience for you and I regret that,” Bertrand said simply. “Moreover, I believe this entire process will be a violation of your privacy, and for that, no apology is enough.”
“I understand, sir.” Harry shifted closer to Draco.
“Due to your fame, I imagine you’re quite used to it,” Bertrand continued. “And I regret that for you.” He cleared his throat. “Mr. Brandon, call your first witness.”
Harry sat and pulled Draco down with him as Poppy Pomfrey’s name was called. He’d signed a form regarding his records with mediwitch shortly after his arrival in Switzerland, so he knew his medical history was going to be up for discussion in the proceeding. He wasn’t overly concerned, as Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t reveal a single thing she didn’t have to.
“Madam Pomfrey, thank you for joining us today.”
Pomfrey inclined her head. “I’ve reviewed the privacy waiver Mr. Potter signed. I reserve the right to ignore it if I feel any question is out of bounds.”
“Of course, Madam, I have no objections to the use of your better judgment regarding such things. When did you come to know that Harry Potter was a latent Guide?”
“During his first year at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter came to me with severe headaches that he could not manage on his own. After several return trips, he confessed that he’d been labeled Empathically Sensitive by the Burton Foundation and was considered to be in a semi-online state despite his overall latency. I visited the Burton Foundation the very next day and presented myself as his healer of record. I was subjected to an interview that bordered on a criminal interrogation after which I was allowed to show to them the note Mr. Potter had sent along with me to facilitate my being given information not normally given to mundanes.
“They gave me the information I needed to help him, and I returned to the school with a treatment plan in place. His empathic abilities were being bombarded, essentially, by the other magical children in the school. Students in a boarding situation have a variety of stressors— both academic and personal. Learning magic can be dangerous, you see, and they are confronted early on with the fact that their wand is a weapon as much as it is a tool. Mr. Potter invested himself in making his peers comfortable with their new circumstances in an unconscious manner. Thankfully, by Yule, he’d mastered several techniques to lessen that stress on his abilities and the headaches went away.”
“Did Mr. Dumbledore express undue interest in Mr. Potter?”
Poppy inhaled slightly. Harry frowned; he knew the woman had done a lot to shield him over the years. He really hoped none of it had been illegal though he wouldn’t have put it past her. “Albus believed himself to be Mr. Potter’s magical guardian and gave me instructions as if he were. But I had ministry prepared records for all of the children in my care and knew, for a fact, he was not Mr. Potter’s guardian in any single way. I didn’t correct his belief and ignored his instructions.”
“And what were his instructions?”
“I was ordered to ignore his scar, first and foremost which I found very curious. The first chance I had, I did a complete investigation of the scar.” She frowned. “It was disappointing because while it is a permanent curse scar—there’s not a damn thing remarkable about it beyond its origins. He also told me I was not allowed to do any medical scans beyond a level one health scan unless Mr. Potter’s injured severely. Mr. Potter broke his arm during second year playing Quidditch. The headmaster attempted to supervise the healing, but I threw him out of the infirmary.”
“Did there ever come a time when you believed Mr. Potter needed medical services beyond your ability?”
“Yes, I’m a mediwitch because I don’t have the magical power to pass the practical part of the mastery in healing. Mr. Potter’s vision was compromised due to spell damage from the curse he took as a child. I told Dumbledore he needed to visit St. Mungo’s for treatment regarding his vision, and the old bastard refused. Mr. Potter decided not to pursue treatment over the summer after first year because he believed it would make Dumbledore more of a problem. I didn’t agree with this, but the boy can be quiet stubborn.”
“For the record, who was listed as Mr. Potter’s magical guardian?”
“Sirius Black,” Pomfrey said shortly. “The moment I saw it I knew something was dreadfully wrong. He was listed as Harry’s godfather which meant…it meant he couldn’t have possibly have betrayed the Potters. It threw everything I knew about October 31, 1981 into question. Unfortunately, I made a series of mistakes that nearly got Lord Black killed.”
“If you would expand on that?”
“I went straight to Azkaban and visited Lord Black. I knew him as a child. It was quite difficult to see him curled up in that cell—a shell of the bright and rowdy young man he’d been. I demanded he tell me what really happened and he swore on his magic that he was innocent. Satisfied with both his vow and his story, I returned to London and made an appointment with Amelia Bones. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to us, that meeting was not as private as we believed. Cornelius Fudge conspired with his undersecretary, Dolores Umbridge, to see Lord Black kissed by a Dementor to avoid the ministry being embarrassed. Amelia Bones barely got him out of Azkaban alive, and it took the better part of six months to clear his name and see Fudge punished for his crimes.”
“Azkaban is known the world over for being one of the worst of magical prisons,” Brandon said. “It was quite brave of you to go there and see Lord Black.”
“I’m not afraid of Dementors,” Pomfrey said dryly. “I’ve been dealing with petulant, over emotional teenagers for decades, Mr. Brandon. A Dementor has nothing on a thirteen-year-old with a wand and too much time on their hands.”
Harry coughed to cover up the laugh he couldn’t really contain. Fortunately, he wasn’t the only one to be a little more amused than appropriate by her tart response.
Brandon shifted several parchments around in front of him and schooled his face. “How did Mr. Dumbledore react to the freeing of Sirius Black?”
“When I look back on it, it’s easy to see that he was furious with me, but at the time I mistook his anger and thought he was just as outraged as I was by the injustice. He did demand to know why I hadn’t come to him immediately with my suspicions.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t need a man to solve my problems, Mr. Brandon,” Pomfrey said evenly. “Dumbledore might have been Chief Warlock at the time, but such a position does not grant him the ability to investigate a situation like Lord Black found himself in. The Chief Warlock in Britain has minimal powers and only within the Wizengamot when it’s in secession. He was, at best, a glorified babysitter for those gits in the House of Lords.” She shifted in her seat. “The truth charms on this chair are rather robust young man.”
Brandon smiled at her. “Yes, ma’am, they are. Perjury is heavily frowned upon in the World Court of Magic as you might imagine.”
She nodded but scrunched up her nose in distaste. Harry figured he was going to owe her a rather large amount of chocolate before the day was done. “I needed someone with power and a clear head. Amelia Bones was the obvious choice. It all worked out in the end though I do believe I’ll use more caution should I have to subvert the government and get an innocent a man out of prison again.”
“Can you please tell me about the night of June 24, 1995, and the events that brought us here today?”
“Mr. Potter was kidnapped during the third task of that foolish tournament,” Pomfrey said sourly. “I lodged ten different complaints over the course of the year regarding the tournament and how dangerous it was for those children. We’re lucky none of them were killed or maimed for life. Mr. Potter was gone for several hours and was returned to by his spirit animal, a very impressive thunderbird, who allowed me to take him into my care. I brought him to the infirmary where I confirmed his online status. I treated his injuries and the curse damage the best that I could before Minister Bones arrived to speak with him. He was conscious and capable of answering questions with no issues, so I allowed it but insisted on monitoring his vitals during the entire interview. When I felt he’d had quite enough of their prodding—I kicked everyone out as I knew that Mr. Malfoy was probably lingering close by and would want to see Mr. Potter.”
“You were aware, then, that Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter were compatible enough to bond.”
Pomfrey paused and focused briefly on Harry who merely inclined his head in permission. “Mr. Potter told me during his first year that he’d met his Sentinel and that his Sentinel was online. Knowing that I had a pair of them in the school is what led me to the ICW the summer after their first year to receive a thorough education about Sentinel/Guide pairs. I wanted to be prepared to help them in any way I could when Mr. Potter came online. Mr. Malfoy’s status was not listed in his medical records from the ministry, and after my return from Rome I took note of the fact that he was wearing a suppression device I’d been taught to recognize.”
“Did you consider reporting their status to Headmaster Dumbledore?”
“You didn’t think he had the right to know?”
“No. I considered their status to be private medical information and Mr. Dumbledore was not in a position to demand such information for himself no matter what he might think.”
“I don’t understand,” Brandon admitted.
“Shortly after I was hired, the headmaster informed me that I was duty bound to report to him any special or unique magical gifts or circumstances I came across during my treatment of students. I was expected to report to him if I found natural animagus, metamorphmagus, elementals, enchanters, etc. He was very put out with me during second year when it was revealed that Mr. Potter was a parselmouth. Since the boy had been in my care already several times, I was aware of his gift but hadn’t reported it. He tried to lecture me, but I ignored him. I’m used to ignoring unpleasant things and people.”
“Did there come a time when you were forced to reveal Mr. Malfoy’s status?”
“Yes.” Poppy scowled. “The bastard put a compelling charm on me when I wasn’t looking. It had been a long night, and I’d gotten little sleep. It’s the first time someone’s gotten the drop on me like that in years. He’s a powerful wizard, and I couldn’t fight him off. Fortunately, Lord Black and Minister Bones were also due to arrive for that meeting, and they interfered. The damage was done, however and Dumbledore was furious that I’d allowed Mr. Malfoy to get anywhere near Mr. Potter. He said the bond couldn’t be allowed even if that meant it forcing them apart and breaking whatever bond they had in place.
“Of course, we all protested this. He used the security in his office to attack us, and we were all three knocked unconscious. The children, however, had already escaped past the wards. I wouldn’t find out until the next day that they’d used Mr. Malfoy’s spirit animal to fly to bloody Japan. I, personally, think that Dumbledore should be charged with reckless endangerment of two minor children for that event alone. Imagine, two boys on the back of a damned dragon over the ocean! They could’ve fallen off and drowned!”
Harry considered their flight from Britain exciting and a little romantic, but he’d kept that to himself since practically every adult considered the whole thing kind of outrageous. Even Ito had been a little appalled by the fact that they hadn’t flown somewhere safe and taken a portkey to Japan.
Mr. Brandon returned to his seat and yielded the floor to Elphias Doge. Harry knew the wizard casually as he’d been introduced to him several times over the years at various functions that his dad’s title required of them.
“Good morning, Poppy.”
Pomfrey’s gaze narrowed slightly. “Don’t get shirty, Elphias.”
Doge blushed and shifted slightly on his feet. “Madam Pomfrey, were you injured by my client during the events of June 25, 1995?”
“Yes.” She quirked an eyebrow when Doge appeared confused but didn’t elaborate.
Doge exhaled sharply. “How were you injured?”
“My wounds are emotional, magical, and psychological. He manipulated me with magic and callously violated the sanctity of my mind. Mr. Dumbledore forced me to betray my oath as a medical professional with brute magical strength. I have several core fractures as a result that will take more than a year to heal. I won’t be able to return to work for at least six months if not longer depending on how well I heal. I’m not a young woman, Mr. Doge, and your client took absolutely no care during his assault on me.”
Harry couldn’t bank the fury that welled up in him. It rolled off him, and Draco shuddered in shock even as people around them started to scatter. His magic surfaced, and his aura brightened so much he couldn’t see past it. Strong hands gripped his arms and his breath caught in his throat.
“Calm down, right now, Harry James.”
His father’s voice penetrated the growing storm in his head, and he turned toward that sound even as the hands on him tightened.
“Easy,” Draco murmured. “They’ll kick you out of this courtroom if you don’t calm down.”
Cool, familiar hands touched his face, and he automatically opened his mouth to accept the potion vial that was pressed to his lips. Harry took a shuddery breath after he swallowed the bitter calming potion.
“Why are your hands always so cold?” he asked hoarsely.
“You always ask that, lad, and the answer will never change,” Poppy said gently. “The sanitation spells on my hands make them cold to the touch.”
Everyone was quiet and still around him as he got his bearings. He blushed furiously as he looked across the courtroom and found Justice Bertrand standing at his desk. “My apologies, sir.”
Bertrand nodded and regained his seat. Everyone followed suit. “It’s quite all right, Mr. Potter, the testimony was upsetting, and you’re inexperienced regarding the fullness of your gifts as a Guide.”
Madam Pomfrey pressed the vial into his hand. Harry looked down and noted that she’d given him about a half dosage of the soother. Far more than he’d ever had to use before. She patted his shoulder and returned to the witness stand.
Doge looked horrified, which made a tendril of shame coil in Harry’s gut. Dumbledore’s solicitor was merely doing his job no matter how offensive Harry found it, and didn’t deserve to be terrorized for it.
“Madam Pomfrey, did you at any point consider Albus Dumbledore to be a genuine threat to Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy?”
“No.” Pomfrey paused when a few people gaped at her in shock. “Mr. Potter’s spirit animal is a thunderbird, and Mr. Malfoy’s spirit animal is an ancient form of giant dragon. Had he presented himself as a threat to either of them he’d have been ripped to pieces and set on fire.”
“Yet you tried to interfere and prevent my client from leaving his office to check on Mr. Potter.”
“Mr. Potter had suffered quite enough trauma, Mr. Doge, and didn’t deserve to have to watch his spirit animal rip yet another foolish wizard limb from limb,” Pomfrey sharply. “I was striving to take care of my patient because that’s my job. Your client, on the other hand, was going to magically assault two teenage boys for no rational reason that I could discern. He’s a delusional old man. No one would survive trying to get between those two boys. There is nothing more dangerous on this whole planet than a magical Sentinel or Guide.”
“And you don’t think that makes Mr. Dumbledore’s concern about their bonding a legitimate one? Mr. Malfoy’s father is a Death Eater.”
“Albus Dumbledore’s father went to Azkaban for torturing three Muggle children and died there. Albus, himself, used to shag Gellert Grindelwald.” Mouths dropped open in shock all over the room and Poppy shrugged. “So I hardly think he’s in a position to judge anyone.”
Doge blinked rapidly and looked down at his parchments. “No further questions, Justice Bertrand.”
Bertrand turned to Pomfrey. “Thank you very much for your time, Madam.”
His father’s name was called, and Sirius patted his shoulder. “Take the rest of that potion, lad.”
Harry frowned but uncorked the vial and did as instructed. He tucked the vial into an interior robe pocket and linked his fingers with Draco’s. He wished Hermione had come with them, but the ICW hadn’t allowed that. She’d returned to Britain with Neville. He wondered how Augusta Longbottom was handling that relationship and vowed to stick his nose in it if the old witch gave either of them a hard time.
“Lord Black,” Brandon began. “I’d like to speak with you regarding Mr. Dumbledore’s interference regarding the custody of your godson.”
Sirius nodded. “I was informed. Shortly after I was exonerated and treated for the various medical issues I had because of Azkaban, I executed James and Lily Potter’s will which granted me sole custody of their only child. Dumbledore was unable to interfere legally, but he did make several attempts to manipulate me regarding Harry’s physical custody including making a fraudulent claim that there was some sort of protection on the Muggle house Harry was living in.”
“And there were no protections?”
“There were wards,” Sirius allowed. “Blood wards that were being fueled entirely by Harry’s magic. They served no purpose beyond protecting the property and were a burden on him magically. I had them removed, and I paid Gringotts very well to ward the house properly to protect my son’s Muggle aunt. Then I moved Harry into my home so he could have the proper magical upbringing that his parents wanted. Dumbledore was furious and accused me of destroying the protection that Lily’s sacrifice created. He refused to believe any of the reports that were made by the warding team I sent to the house that explained the wards did nothing like he claimed.
“Even after the warding situation was resolved, he repeatedly insisted that I was terrible for ripping Harry out of the only home he’d ever known and ignored the fact that Harry wanted to live with me in the magical world. He said that Harry didn’t belong in the magical world unless he was in school. His position was bizarre but considering what I’ve learned here today about his blood politics and past—it’s starting to make a horrific amount of sense. He has, over the years since then, accused of me often of coddling and spoiling Harry.”
“And do you spoil your godson?”
Sirius laughed. “Yes, I suppose I do. I missed a lot of his life because I was in prison and he’s a good kid. I enjoy making him happy and buying him things. It hurts no one, and I admit I’ve often gone to extremes just to irritate Dumbledore.”
“What would be an example of extreme?” Brandon asked curiously.
“Harry’s favorite broom is the Firebolt,” Sirius said. “His was broken during a game at school, and there was a waiting list to get it replaced.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his legs. “So I bought the company. Life is short, Mr. Brandon, and I don’t like to wait.”
Brandon nodded and cleared his throat. “Of course, Lord Black. How did Mr. Dumbledore react to this piece of news?”
“Oh, he had a complete fit actually and sent me a hateful letter. He called me immature and frivolous.”
“And your response?”
“I had his letter published in the Daily Prophet. He received several dozen howlers for trying to rain on my parade. I spent ten years in Azkaban. The general consensus was that I deserve to spend my money any way I’d like.”
“Can you tell us about the events in Dumbledore’s office the day your godson was forced to flee Britain?”
“Minerva McGonagall and I were late for the meeting with Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey due to a situation at the ministry. The statue guarding his office let us through without a password. When we entered, he and Poppy were in a heated conversation that ended up abruptly when Minerva questioned what was happening. Dumbledore successfully avoided answering the question and launched in a tirade about Harry and his gifts as a Guide. He wanted to know if I was aware of my godson’s latent status and I admitted that I’d known since he was an infant that he had active Guide genetics. I wasn’t at all surprised when Harry told me that his empathic abilities were in an active state. Things got out of hand quickly, and Dumbledore became unhinged when it was clear that I didn’t have a problem with my Harry bonding with Draco Malfoy. We were stunned unconscious, but I was trained as an auror—my magic has been conditioned to respond to such magic immediately, so I was only unconscious for perhaps as much as a minute. When I was younger, before Azkaban, I could shake off the average stunner in seconds. I shouted for Draco to run—to take Harry and run. He did as instructed.”
“Did you give him a destination?”
“No, but Harry told me their choice telepathically before they left the area. I was a bit surprised because as far as knew neither of them knew Hiro Ito personally.”
“Did you come to know why they made the choice they did?”
“Apparently, Draco’s spirit animal was told to take them to the strongest magical Sentinel on earth. Abraxas, the dragon, chose Hiro Ito. I honestly can find no fault with the choice. Master Ito has proven knowledgeable and very gracious in hosting us in Japan over the last month. The boys are settled, and their bond is developing in a very natural way.”
“You made headlines in Britain recently when it was announced that you used your status as the Earl of Blackmoor to take legal custody of your godson’s Sentinel.”
“Draco’s mother is a Black by birth,” Sirius said evenly. “That makes his safety my responsibility, and he fears his father will murder him. I’m afraid that fear is legitimate. I had no choice but to take custody of the lad for his own good. I’m in the process of dissolving his parent’s marriage as my cousin begged me to help her escape the marriage her father arranged for her.”
“And Lucius Malfoy’s contention that he’s not a Death Eater and isn’t a threat to your godson or his own son?”
“The night Riddle was resurrected in Little Hangleton, Lucius Malfoy heeded his Dark Lord’s call and did nothing to prevent my lad from being tortured and nearly killed. I consider him and every Death Eater on Earth to be the mortal enemy of the House of Black and the House of Potter. As far as I’m concerned, Lucius Malfoy doesn’t have a son.”
* * * *
Harry was pushing his food around on his plate instead of eating. Draco had said nothing when Lord Black had prodded his godson several times to eat, but he was pretty aware of the fact that Harry hadn’t actually taken a single bite of food.
“We could order you something else.”
Harry looked up and focused on Draco. He still wasn’t entirely comfortable under his Guide’s scrutiny, but he refrained from fidgeting.
“I don’t want to testify,” he said and set aside his fork. “And I’m not hungry at all. I think I’ll probably throw up if I eat.”
Black sighed and pulled the plate from in front of Harry. “Lad, I’ve done everything I could to limit your time on the stand but…Justice Bertrand must hear from you regarding Dumbledore’s actions over the years. Without magic, that old man isn’t much of a threat to you physically, but he could do untold damage if he’s left free to roam and speak to any number of people. Our goal here is indefinite solitary confinement in Apollumi. We can’t risk him being returned to Britain for any sort of prison sentence in Azkaban. He has political allies that could work to free him of that and the collar that Bertrand bound to him.”
“Is that possible?” Draco questioned. “He used a permanent bonding spell.”
“I don’t believe anything is permanent,” Sirius responded. “With magic, even death can be circumvented. I’m sure there are people already in Britain researching methods for removing that collar. Dumbledore has as much of a cult following as Riddle.”
Harry nodded. “I understand, Dad, and I’m going to do everything I can on the stand to make it clear how much of a threat Dumbledore is to Draco and me, but I don’t like the whole thing. I just wish…” He flushed and averted his gaze. “I wish he would just die. It’s not fair that gits like him live and good people like my parents die.”
“I know,” Sirius said quietly. “But please refrain from saying that on the stand.”
Harry laughed reluctantly. “I’ll be good.” He shrugged. “They’re just going to ask questions I don’t want to answer. Some mundanes don’t understand what it’s like to be constantly exposed to their emotions and it wasn’t always easy to push that stuff away when I was younger.”
“I’m not helping, am I?” Draco questioned and took a deep breath as guilt settled on him like a cloak. “I’ve been dragging my feet on the bonding, and you need it for stability.”
Harry exhaled sharply. “Merlin, Draco, please don’t be offended by this but the last thing I need right now is to be fully bonded to you. I can barely maintain my own emotional balance. I’d be total pants at helping you maintain yours on top of it. I don’t honestly know which one of us is the bigger mess emotionally and I’m not really interested in finding out right now.” He rubbed his head in a fashion that screamed frustration to Draco and left the table to pace around the hotel suite that they’d been given by the WCM.
“Relax,” Black said. “He always paces when he’s working stuff out in his head. No matter Harry’s emotional state, the two of you shouldn’t complete your bond until you’re both ready for it. And I’m not talking about the sex, though I do hope the two of you take your time on that front because it would only deepen an already profoundly intimate relationship for you both and I don’t honestly think either of you is prepared for that. A part of you is grieving the life you thought you’d have, Draco, and you’ve let that loss fester in you for a very long time.”
Draco flushed and averted his gaze. “There isn’t a single online Sentinel in my line—maternal or paternal, but I’m sure you know that already. It certainly wasn’t something I expected to happen. I’ll never forget the look of horror on my mother’s face when she realized what was happening to me. I hope to never see it again. Part of it was about my father’s potential reaction, but that wasn’t all of it.”
“The life of a Sentinel is one of sacrifice and loss,” Sirius said then. “There will be times when you and Harry stand alone in a way that no one around you will be able to prevent. In our world, magical powers such as yours and Harry are both coveted and feared at the same time. Harry’s experiences with fame have left him jaded and resentful.”
“I can’t blame him there,” Draco said and glanced toward his Guide who was leaning against the wall next to the large window staring outward. “It’s obscene the way people treat him for events that were not of his own making.”
“But they were,” Harry said and turned his head to focus on them. “I don’t know why I survived the Killing Curse, but I do know that my magic lashed out at Riddle and drove him from his body that night. It wasn’t all that different from the day Quirrell tried to kill me first year. I set him on fire from the inside out with accidental magic. He’d have probably turned to ash just like Riddle’s body did that night in 1981 if I hadn’t been knocked unconscious.”
“I don’t understand.”
Harry held out a hand and summoned a fork from the table. The metal started twisting and melting in the air before it reached Potter. The mass of writhing molten metal swirled around rapidly until it misted and fell into Harry’s hand like rain. The water pooled in his hand, heaved like a small ocean upward and gushed up once before returning to a fork shape and dropping heavily in his palm. “I’m a psionic mage, Draco. That’s power-he-knows-not.”
“Psionics were driven to extinction by Muggles during the Inquisition,” Draco said even as he warred mentally with what he had witnessed. “Everyone knows that.”
“Everyone is wrong,” Sirius said as he stood. He checked his watch. “We have thirty minutes left until the trial restarts.”
Harry watched his godfather leave the room then refocused his attention on Draco. “Well?”
“What can you do?” Draco questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Telepathy, telekinesis, and psychokinetic manipulation like you just witnessed. I can also do permanent configuration and conjurations.”
Draco stood and walked over to him. He focused on the city street down below them. “Once I believed that being my Guide was the most dangerous thing that could’ve happened to you. It’s terrible, but I’m relieved to know that’s not the case.”
Harry laughed and nudged him. “Relax. I’ve got plans that don’t include dying until a very old age. I can pass off most of my gifts with spell work and the pretense of wandless magic. Precious few people will ever realize that I truly am and that’s for the best.”
Harry shifted in the witness chair and grimaced.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Potter?”
“The truth spells on the chair are intrusive,” Harry admitted as he focused on Justice Bertrand. “I’m still a little off-kilter magically and mentally due to the way I came online, sir. I’ll be fine.”
“Very well, let me know if you need a break from the chair,” Bertrand said and focused on Brandon. “Mr. Brandon, you may begin.”
Brandon stood, smoothed down his waistcoat and approached the podium. “Thank you for giving us your time today, Mr. Potter. I realize you’re in a difficult period of your life as you adjust to your new gifts.” He spread several pieces of parchment out in front of him. “Can you tell me about your first empathic impression of Albus Dumbledore?”
“Your Honor, I must object,” Doge said. “The boy hasn’t been exposed to my client outside of these circumstances since he began training as a Guide.”
“While Mr. Potter has not been fully trained to act as a Guide, he was exclusively educated at the Burton Foundation in London since shortly after the murder of his parents due to his empathic sensitivity,” Brandon said smoothly. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Potter?”
Harry shifted in his chair. “Yes, my aunt took me to the Burton Foundation for an evaluation just a week after I came into her care because she could not soothe me or get me to sleep. Sentinels and Guides are common in my maternal line, so she worried that something of that nature was taking place for me. I was labeled Empathically Sensitive at that time. Though at that age, I couldn’t be taught a great deal. A Guide employed by the Burton Foundation taught me to self-soothe through techniques developed to deal with online children despite my latent state.
“By the time I was four, I was attending classes daily at the foundation in London. I received my entire pre-Hogwarts education there and was taught to understand my empathic impressions of people so that I could discern between fear and anger for instance. They’re actually very similar empathically so it can be a stumbling block for Guides.”
“Objection overruled, Mr. Doge,” Bertrand said. “Please continue, Mr. Brandon.”
Brandon nodded and focused on Harry. “Your impression of Dumbledore?”
“Deceptive—he made a pretense of being a bit of a nutter actually. At first, I thought it was just a way of putting the students at ease in his company because he’s magically very powerful and quite famous in Britain. Then I came to realize he used the behavior and the appearance of being a fragile looking old man so that people wouldn’t perceive him to be a threat.”
“And was he a threat?”
“Yes.” Harry cleared his throat and looked down at his hands. “From the very start, I found it difficult to be in his company due to his public persona being such a great odds with who I saw him to be. No single person presents to everyone around them their true self—we all wear a series of masks so that we can navigate polite society but the headmaster was different and disconcerting. But I didn’t believe him a threat to me specifically until the end of first year.”
“And what happened at the end of your first year at Hogwarts?”
“Several events happened back to back that made it clear to me that Dumbledore couldn’t be trusted and that specifically I should consider him a threat to my…happiness I guess is the best way to put it. He certainly didn’t have my best interests in mind. The first incident came when it was revealed that our defense professor was being possessed by the wraith of Voldemort. Professor Quirrell had struck me as odd from the beginning and looking back on it there was a duality of emotions being projected off of him, but I’d never encountered a possessed person before.” Harry shrugged. “I know what to look for now.”
“What about that situation made you distrust the defendant?”
“After Quirrell attacked me and was killed, I had to spend some time in the infirmary. I didn’t mind so much as Madam Pomfrey is a comforting person and very entertaining if you catch her in the right mood. She has lots of stories to tell. The headmaster visited me during that time, and I asked him why Voldemort wanted to kill me. He told me I was too young, basically, to worry about such a thing. It was dismissive and uncaring considering what I’d gone through but he was hardly the first adult to treat me in such a fashion. Adults spend a great deal of time thinking they’re placating the children around them.
“At any rate, he refused to answer the question, but then he asked me about my life outside Hogwarts. When I told him that my aunt and uncle were good to me, he was surprised and…furious.”
“Furious,” Brandon repeated. “He was furious that you were treated well in your family home?”
“Very,” Harry said. “It was startling and also horrifying. He was raging on the inside, but his face was practically placid, and his eyes were just twinkling as if he didn’t have a care in the world. That’s when I realized he was a sociopath. I’d been taught about them at the foundation but they’d never directly exposed me to such a person. He’s manipulative, lacks empathy, and can’t react normally to unexpected stressors, which often leads him to overreact as a coping mechanism. Most people think he’s just dramatic, but really he’s just bad at pretending to be a normal person and his persona cracks periodically as a result.”
Brandon nodded. “You said there were a series of events?”
“You already know that he protested my living in the magical world and tried to interfere in the legal process that returned me to the custody of my godfather. He never bothered to ask me what I wanted in that situation and, in fact, appeared to be pleased with the idea that I would be unhappy to return to my aunt’s Muggle home. Which was true—I wanted to live in the magical world and with my godfather specifically. My aunt and uncle have never been unkind to me, but I’m not like them, and that difference has often been a stumbling block for all three of us. The Guide issue alone was enough but to add magic on top of it was really stressful for the entire household.
“My godfather makes sure I get to visit my aunt over the summers whenever I want, and that’s for the best. She’s much less stressed now that she’s no longer responsible for me. In the Muggle world, the custody of a latent or online Guide is a tremendous responsibility and had I come to any harm in her care she would’ve been severely punished by their justice system. That’s not to say she wanted me to be harmed but she invested a great deal of her time and energy into keeping me safe. She’s not nearly as high-strung as she used to be now that she’s had a significant break from all of that worry.”
Brandon nodded and shifted his parchments briefly, and Harry hoped that meant a change in the subject. “Did you know that Dumbledore believed himself to be your magical guardian your first year?”
“No, I did not.”
“When did you become aware that he had tried and failed to gain control of your financial matters before you came to Hogwarts?”
“Shortly after I moved in with my godfather we had to go the bank to make some adjustments regarding my accounts and my parent’s estate. My account manager, Razel, revealed that Dumbledore had tried to claim regency over my title. My godfather was furious, but I didn’t really get it at the time. I eventually learned such a thing would’ve given the headmaster an untold amount of financial and social power over me until I turned twenty-one.” Harry made a face. “Knowing what I know about him, I find that a very worrisome idea.”
“I can imagine. Did there ever come a time when you feared for your physical life in Albus Dumbledore’s company?”
“Not directly, no, but he does fully expect me to die sooner rather later.” Harry winced when the small audience reacted to that with shouts of shock. He waited until Justice Bertrand had settled them down before continuing. “He thinks I’m too powerful to live and after I defeat Voldemort that I should die. Though it would be better if I died defeating Voldemort because Dumbledore would’ve liked to take credit for most of it. He enjoys fame, and honestly, he’s probably enjoying infamy as well.” He glanced toward Dumbledore and found the elderly wizard glaring at him. “Yes, actually, he’s definitely enjoying this. He finds this entire process amusing and doesn’t think he’ll actually spend a day in jail. He also thinks that the collar he’s wearing is temporary and that’ll be able to remove it.”
“I object,” Doge shouted and stood. “The witness is violating my client’s privacy!”
“No, I’m not,” Harry protested. “I wouldn’t actively touch that old git’s mind in my current state. Look at him! He’s practically wallowing in smug superiority.” He waved a hand and sat back in his chair a bit when Bertrand cleared his throat. “Sorry.”
“Objection overruled, Mr. Doge. Your client is sitting in an empathic dampening field, as you very well know and insisted upon. Mr. Potter isn’t capable of circumventing it to actively scan your client.” Bertrand focused on the prosecutor. “Mr. Brandon, do you have any further questions for Mr. Potter?”
“Just one, Your Honor.”
“Very well, continue.”
“Mr. Potter, do consider Albus Dumbledore a threat to your bond with your Sentinel?”
“I believe he’s capable of killing my Sentinel if given an opportunity, so yes, I do consider him a threat to my bond.”
Brandon returned to his seat, and Doge took his place.
“Mr. Potter has my client ever personally endangered your life?”
The room grew curious and still as Doge leaned forward slightly. “Pardon me?”
“I said, yes.” Harry raised an eyebrow. “Shall I spell it?”
Doge flushed. “How exactly did my client endanger your life?”
“He knowingly and with no hesitation allowed my parents to make Peter Pettigrew their Secret Keeper in early October of 1981. As we now know, he had a spy in Voldemort’s ranks, which means he was certainly aware of the fact that Pettigrew was a Death Eater. He said nothing—which led to my parents being murdered and my own attempted murder at the hands of Voldemort.”
“And you know this for certain?”
“I asked him once if he knew Pettigrew was a traitor and he lied to my face about it,” Harry said evenly. “So, yes, I know this for certain.”
“If you knew all of these things about Dumbledore, why didn’t you ever tell anyone?”
“I did,” Harry said evenly. “My godfather and specifically Madam Bones knew that Dumbledore was a problem, but it was determined that he would be monitored for information due to the situation with Voldemort still being mostly alive and darting about the country as a wraith. Of course, he had to go completely off the rails, and now here we are having this trial.” He waved a hand around at the room. “But as I said, he’s enjoying this. He likes to be the center of attention.”
“And you don’t? You are the most famous magical person alive,” Doge pointed out.
Harry found the idea disgusting and knew he didn’t keep that emotion off his face. “No, I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I loathe being famous and find the reason behind my unreasonable fame to be obscene. There is nothing, Mr. Doge, pleasant about being famous for surviving a family annihilation at the hands of a dark wizard.”
“Earlier, you testified that Mr. Dumbledore refused to discuss his thoughts regarding You-Know-Who’s obsession with you. Are you worried that the events that led us here will prevent you from ever getting that information?”
“Not at all,” Harry said. “There’s a prophecy concerning myself and Voldemort. I’ve heard the contents and know exactly why I was attacked as a child. I will not discuss the contents of that prophecy here today in court. Dumbledore witnessed the prophecy and used that event to manipulate everyone around him so that he could have power over the situation. He no longer has that power.”
“You don’t know everything!” Dumbledore shouted and tried to stand. “You need me, Harry Potter!”
“Mr. Doge, control your client!” Bertrand ordered harshly. “Or he will be silenced!”
Harry said nothing while Doge went to the dock and had a hushed conversation with Dumbledore. He focused on Draco who was sitting on the bench beside his godfather, rigid and furious. He sent a little push of amusement down through their very tentative bond, and his Sentinel rolled his eyes.
Doge returned to the podium. “Mr. Potter, are you aware that you have a piece of You-Know-Who’s soul lodged in your scar?”
Harry laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Doge.”
“I’m entirely serious, young man,” Doge said. “You have a piece of the dark lord’s soul in your head. It’s been there since you were cursed as a child.”
“Your client suspected that I had a piece of Voldemort’s soul in my head and he did nothing about it for fourteen years?” Harry asked then shook his head. “Wow, I really didn’t think he could get any worse then you go and prove me wrong. I assure you, Mr. Doge, I am very much alone in my own head. Though shortly after my aunt gained custody of me, I did spend a week in the company of the Alpha Prime Guide of Europe so that he could repair the damage done to me empathically due to being struck by the Killing Curse. If there had been anything left of Voldemort or the curse on my person—he would’ve expelled it during that time. I’m sure such a treatment would be listed in my records with the Burton Foundation and Mr. Brandon has my permission to check.”
Brandon stood. “Your Honor, if it would please the court, the current Alpha Guide Prime of London is here with his Sentinel and does have a copy of Mr. Potter’s medical records. He’s more than willing to testify regarding any treatment given to Mr. Potter by the Burton Foundation.”
Bertrand nodded. “Mr. Doge, if you have no further questions for Mr. Potter?”
Doge glanced toward Dumbledore who was once more focused on glaring at Harry. “I reserve the right to redirect, Your Honor.”
Harry left the stand and relaxed once he was more settled at Draco’s side. He laced their fingers together and focused on Bertrand as Mr. Brandon called Dr. John Watson to the stand. He’d met the Alpha Prime of London a handful of times and found him fascinating. But his Sentinel, Sherlock Holmes, was far more amusing to Harry. He’d rarely met a woman with a more extravagant attitude in his life, and he liked her a lot. Harry glanced toward the Sentinel in question, and she raised an eyebrow at him then winked. He barely refrained from laughing.
Dr. Watson settled into the witness chair and put a thick folder down in front of him. His ordinarily pleasant expression was entirely missing. Harry knew him to be a soldier as well as a medical doctor, but he’d never really thought about the man’s past before now. He found himself deeply curious.
“Is everything all right, Dr. Watson?” Brandon questioned.
“Harry was quite accurate regarding the magic on this chair,” Watson said. “It’s disconcerting and uncomfortable. Though probably far more for me than it was for him since I’m not magical. I’ll be fine.”
“Can you tell us about Mr. Potter’s condition when he was first brought to the Burton Foundation?”
“His aunt brought him to the foundation in London on November 11, 1981 because he was distressed and not sleeping. She knew he was a latent Guide and worried that the murders of his parents had damaged him. An investigation revealed that the child had witnessed the murder of his mother and was in deep distress over the event, which he did not fully understand due to his age. He was admitted to the hospital portion of the foundation, and the Alpha Prime Guide of Europe was called into consult, as he was the most powerful Guide in the region at the time. He was also a wizard.”
“And his name?” Brandon questioned.
“Henry Burke. Because he’s magical and not aging as fast as a Muggle does, he retired from the role of Alpha Prime of Europe five years ago. I am unsure of his current location. Per his notes, I know that he performed several spells on Harry Potter to cleanse his magic and mind of the trauma of losing both parents in such a short period of time. He also noted that there was a small amount of dark magic clinging to the scar, which required him to take the boy into a ritual circle of some sort. After that ritual, all of the child’s empathic evaluations were clear and free of any sort of magical influence. If there was ever any sort of possession, it has been gone since he was treated by Guide Burke.”
“Are you confident that Mr. Potter does not have a fragment of Voldemort’s soul in his head?” Brandon questioned.
“Mr. Potter spent the better part of a decade in the company of highly educated and powerful Guides on a daily basis. I’ve personally meditated with him on several occasions, and more than once entered the astral plane with him. He is very much alone in his head, Mr. Brandon.”
“No further questions, Your Honor.”
Bertrand nodded. “Mr. Doge?”
“No questions, Your Honor,” Doge said stiffly and avoided looking at Dr. Watson which Harry found highly offensive.
Watson stood with a small laugh. “I don’t need to make eye contact with you, Mr. Doge, to gain access to your mind. And I wouldn’t waste my time or misuse my gifts to do so.” He shot Harry a knowing look as he left the stand and returned to his Sentinel.
Brandon stood. “I had one more witness, Your Honor, but she was not released from St. Mungo’s with permission to travel by any means. As such, I’ll need to amend charges against Dumbledore to include a further charge of magical battery against an oath bound apprentice. Minerva McGonagall suffered several magical injuries when, Mr. Dumbledore, her contracted mentor used defensive magic against her without cause. The violation of their contract caused her magical core damage far beyond normal due to the unprecedented length of their mentor/apprentice relationship. He kept her under contract for forty-three years. I’m still reviewing that situation, and he may face further charges in regards to her as he clearly abused that relationship in a variety of ways—including preventing her from marrying and having a family of her own.”
Bertrand’s face darkened with temper as he made notes on a piece of parchment in front of him. “Noted, Mr. Brandon, please keep this court informed of further developments regarding Madame McGonagall. Is she expected to recover fully?”
“Yes, but it will take time. I’ll submit the medical findings to your office shortly, sir.”
“Very well. Mr. Doge, you may call your first witness.”
Doge stood. “I have but one witness, Your Honor. My client will be testifying on his own behalf.”
“He may do so from the dock,” Bertrand said without looking up from the notes he was taking. “Unless he’d like to leave the empathic dampening field in favor of the unprotected witness box.”
“He would not,” Doge said sharply and straightened slightly when Bertrand glared at him. “Your Honor.”
“Very well, for the purposes of the court record, let it be known that Albus Dumbledore has chosen to testify under an empathic dampening field from the dock and that all truth spells assigned to the witness chair have also been applied to the chair he’s restrained in. Mr. Brandon, you may feel free to inspect the spells.”
“I have every faith in your work, Your Honor,” Brandon said with a nod in his direction.
“Albus, if you would please tell the court what led you to protest the bonding of Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy?”
“Clearly none of the adults involved in the situation fully understand how damaging it will be to Mr. Potter’s reputation and life to be magically bonded to the son of a Death Eater. This Sentinel/Guide nonsense isn’t important. Mr. Potter has a greater destiny that he must meet for the greater good and he should be focused on that. What he’s done is immensely selfish considering what is to come. He’ll not survive the conflict with Riddle and he shouldn’t—due to his magical power and unwarranted fame. He’s a coddled little boy and since his arrival at Hogwarts has repeatedly used his fame to his own benefit. He even had one of my best professors fired because he didn’t like him. Severus was practically driven from the country because Potter called him a bully in a Daily Prophet interview of all things. The fact that he gave an interview to a newspaper at eleven years old says a lot about him, I’d think.”
“Why didn’t you tell Mr. Potter about the prophecy in his first year?”
“Because he was immature and reckless. He never should’ve confronted Professor Quirrell over the fake Philosopher’s Stone I had hidden in the school. I was planning a trap for Voldemort, and he ruined it. I could’ve captured the wraith, and this whole matter would’ve been resolved years ago with a simple exorcism spell from Mr. Potter. Now, thanks to him, Voldemort has a body. I’ve done all I could over the years to shape the boy into a better person, but it is clear, as we sit here today, that he believes himself special and important. Far too important to make the sacrifices fate will require of him. I fear for the whole world as a result. He’s incapable of serving the greater good.”
Harry glanced toward his godfather and found the older man looking more bemused than angry. Dumbledore was certainly using a lot of words, but he wasn’t actually saying much at all. It was more character assassination than anything else and Harry had suffered more than his fill of that during the tournament. Dumbledore’s poor opinion of him hardly mattered at all.
“So you believe he must die to defeat You-Know-Who?” Doge asked.
“He has a piece of Voldemort’s soul in his head so, of course, he must die. If he doesn’t then Voldemort will return over and over again. They are linked in life and in death, unfortunately. I don’t believe for a moment that he’s been cleansed of such a taint—it is beyond the power of any living wizard, including Henry Burke who wasn’t even educated properly as far as I know. He was certainly never a student at Hogwarts, and I don’t know with whom he apprenticed with. It was never announced.”
“Why did you attack Poppy Pomfrey, Lord Black, and Minerva McGonagall?”
“They were interfering in a matter they didn’t fully understand. I had more information than they did and certainly better judgment. I didn’t have time to convince them, and unfortunately, I was too late to separate the boys. They’d already fled Hogwarts.”
“And separation was all you intended?”
“Of course, I’m not a monster.”
“No further questions at this time, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Brandon,” Bertrand prodded.
Brandon stood and went to the podium as Doge left.
Dumbledore smiled pleasantly at the prosecutor. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, young Malcolm. I thought you’d gone home to America permanently.”
“It is unfortunate that I cannot say the same,” Brandon said evenly. “Mr. Dumbledore, tell me about the night you dropped Harry Potter off with his aunt in 1981.”
Dumbledore paused briefly. “I had Hagrid take him to Surrey, England as that is where Lily Potter’s sister lived. Minerva had checked the family for me earlier in the evening. We all three met there on Privet Drive and the boy was left in Petunia Dursley’s care.”
“Directly in her care?” Brandon questioned.
“No, not exactly.”
“Then what exactly?”
“I left him on the doorstep with a note,” Dumbledore said after a moment of struggle.
“You left a fifteen month old toddler on a doorstep in November?” Brandon questioned. “Did you ring the doorbell?”
“No, of course not. I’m sure Petunia found him as soon as she woke up.”
“She did find him when she woke up—playing in her backyard in her son’s sandbox,” Brandon said evenly. “The note and blanket you left him wrapped in where on the front porch. Fortunately, he didn’t walk out into the street or into the neighbor’s garden which had a pond.”
Harry knew that story already—his aunt had told it more than once, and it was listed as an abusive incident in his file with the Burton Foundation. They hadn’t pressed the issue because keeping him safe from Dumbledore had proved to be more important and he hadn’t actually been injured by the old bastard’s behavior. His aunt considered it one of the more heinous events of her life though since she learned her sister was murdered in a discarded, crumpled up letter that a toddler had chewed on.
“Did you at any point return to check on Harry Potter after you dropped him on the Dursley doorstep like a bottle of milk?” Brandon questioned.
“He was with family, and that was for the best, so no, I did not check on him. I should’ve. I had no idea his aunt’s grief over her sister would make her spoil her nephew so ridiculously. It was startling to find out, today, that they actually enrolled him at the Burton Foundation as a latent Guide. It’s ridiculous. He should’ve gone to a normal primary school with his cousin.”
“It’s actually illegal for an empathically sensitive child, like Mr. Potter, to be left in the traditional school system in Britain, Mr. Dumbledore. While his aunt agreed with the schooling option, she had no other legal option. I would think since you claimed to be his guardian during this time period that you would’ve been interested in checking on him periodically.”
“I had little time to travel to the Muggle world and do such a thing. I’m sure the wards would have notified me if there was a problem,” Dumbledore said.
“Is that so?” Brandon questioned and pulled a few pieces of parchment from his stack. “Justice Bertrand, I would like to submit to this court a warder’s report prepared by Gringotts. You’ll note that the notification runes on the ward stone were deactivated on October 31, 1981 at the moment the caster died. The wards on Petunia Dursley’s home were set by her sister, Lily Potter.” He passed the report to Bertrand. “You’ll note that the wards allowed Mr. Dumbledore to add the child to as a power element, but his notification instruction was outright rejected shortly after his departure from the wards. Had he bothered to return to Privet Drive in the decade to follow, he might have known that before today.” He focused on Dumbledore. “Mr. Dumbledore, do you want Harry Potter to die?”
Dumbledore visibly struggled then, shifting his chair and pulling at the restraints before glowering at the prosecutor. “Yes.”
“Because he’ll grow more powerful and more popular with age.”
“More powerful and more popular than you,” Brandon said then. “Another crime of pure vanity to place at your feet, Dumbledore.”
* * * *
“I don’t get why you didn’t want to return to court for the verdict.”
Harry shot his Sentinel a sly look. “And you call yourself a Slytherin.”
Draco huffed. “Harry.”
“Can I change Louis Bertrand’s decision?”
“No.” Draco frowned.
“Does Dumbledore expect me to be there? Does he hope to have the chance to manipulate me one more time?”
“Yes, to both of those. So you’re depriving yourself of seeing justice done on your behalf to stick it to him?”
“I can watch the memory in a pensieve,” Harry pointed out and avoided saying that he’d just desperately wanted to come home to a familiar place. “Dad will certainly share his memory with us both if you’re inclined toward seeing it, but I don’t care what happens to Dumbledore. I don’t care what happens to Voldemort, either.”
“Do you think they’ll tell Dumbledore that the ICW captured Voldemort?”
“I think they’re more inclined to interrogate him regarding Voldemort’s survival and how he accomplished it. I don’t expect they’ll be gentle about it either. Not that he would have much a defense with his magic permanently subdued.” Harry rolled slightly so he could stare out the window. Draco was pacing around the library in their residence in Hogsmeade, so he’d thrown himself in the lounge by the window to watch him, but the pacing was starting to drive him nuts. “You didn’t say much about the content of your mum’s letter.”
“She’s safe, free of my father since he’s in custody and less than thrilled with that since she’d be much more interested in being my father’s widow than his ex-wife. She was hoping he’d die horribly.”
“Ah, well, he still might. I think Dad will postpone the divorce thing until the trial just in case he gets kissed or whatever. I think regardless, your mother is going to get the entire Malfoy estate.” Harry paused. “I’m sorry he’s not the father you wanted him to be.”
Draco shook his head. “I shouldn’t feel this way because he’s never been the father I wanted or needed. Maybe I thought he would have a change of heart if the dark lord ever returned. I don’t know.”
“Hope is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Draco crawled onto the lounger and spooned up behind him. “Is this okay?”
“Yeah, perfect.” Harry grabbed Draco’s hand and pulled him in closer. “Relax, they’ll figure out how to get rid of Voldemort permanently soon enough, and I’ll do whatever is required on my end to accomplish it.”
“I won’t die because of that arsehole,” Harry said roughly. “What did you want to be when you grew up? Before you came online as a Sentinel.”
“An Unspeakable,” Draco murmured. “My father would’ve been horrified by that as well. He has very strict ideas about the sort of life I was going to lead. I’m glad he’s in Azkaban for life for more than one reason. What about you?”
“Well, before I knew I was magical I wanted to be a doctor—one that specializes in the treatment of Sentinels and Guides. Then after the whole magic thing came around, I realized that was still possible but that I would have much more interesting options in the magical world. Once at Hogwarts, I became fascinated with magical healing, but I knew that such a field would never hold your interest. I want us to work together, so I’m open to going to the Auror Academy and working our way into the Department of Mysteries if that’s what you want. We could also do that on an international level. The ICW would certainly open their arms to us after Hogwarts.”
Draco inhaled sharply against Harry’s hair. “What about Hermione? What are her plans?”
“Oh, she’d like to go to the International Academy of Magic and pursue a mastery in spellcraft. Why?”
“You said you were a package deal. She’s important to you so we should probably go with her to the IAM to make sure she’s safe. Their enrollment is public, and they educate a variety of people—some of whom have no business near a witch of Hermione’s caliber.”
“We’ll have to endure a lecture about her independence and autonomy, but I agree,” Harry said with a nod. “I’d like to learn runic magic. You?”
“I want to pursue a mastery in potions,” Draco admitted. “It’s always been a goal for me. You did me an immense favor when you got rid of Severus Snape.”
Harry turned in his arms. “I know.” He smiled. “I did that for you. That was the only class we took where you clearly out of sorts and utterly disappointed after every lesson. I’m surprised I lasted a whole month without losing it.”
“He’s a gifted brewer,” Draco admitted. “It was very disappointing to realize what a terrible teacher he was. I knew I wasn’t going to learn enough to get a proper placement after Hogwarts with him teaching. I can’t imagine how many potential potion masters he ruined during his tenure at Hogwarts. My father was put out, however, as he used Snape to spy on Dumbledore.” He brushed Harry’s hair from his forehead. “I honestly thought you did it for yourself. He was cruel to you.”
“Well, he certainly gave me enough ammunition to get rid of him when it came to that, but frankly I never could take his whole act seriously. Dumbledore had so many behavioral curses on that git that I’m surprised he could function. Snape was a barely leashed feral dog, and it wouldn’t have taken much at all for me to push him right off the deep end. I considered it—to punish him for being so terrible, but then I realized I could make Dumbledore look bad and get rid of Snape at the same time. It was hard to pass up that kind of a twofer.”
“Granted,” Draco said with a laugh. “How did you get Rita Skeeter on your side anyway?”
“I blackmailed her,” Harry said cheerfully and grinned when Draco’s eyes went wide with shock. “Merlin, you utter Hufflepuff.” He tugged his Sentinel closer by hooking his finger into the other boy’s collar and kissed his mouth very gently. “She’s an unregistered animagus. After I was exposed to McGonagall, I learned to spot them empathically.”
“That’s fascinating,” Draco admitted. “Kiss me again.”
“You kiss me, this time,” Harry murmured and relaxed back on the lounger.
Draco followed him down and brushed his lips over Harry’s. “You’re going to get us both grounded.”
“Physical intimacy is important to our well-being,” Harry said as seriously as he could muster and grinned when Draco huffed under his breath. “He won’t get bent with us, really. Dad knows that hurting me is utterly contrary to your nature.” He frowned and looked down, focusing on the pristine white button-down Draco had insisted on wearing. “He knows you’d walk away from me if you could.”
“It’s true,” he insisted.
Draco caught his chin and gently prodded upward until their gazes met. “I’d never have gotten very far. If you’d never come online, I would’ve lingered at the edges of your life until the day you died. I would’ve watched over you—protected you and whomever you married. If there had been children, I would’ve cared for them and protected them as if they were my own.”
“At a distance.”
“It would’ve been for the best,” Draco said shortly.
“Wearing that stupid bracelet the whole time,” Harry muttered roughly and rolled his eyes. “Ugh, you’re such a git.”
Draco frowned then pressed his thumb against the bracelet. It fell off his wrist with a snap of static. Harry stared in shock.
“What?” Draco questioned. “You hate it, right?”
“I loathe it,” Harry admitted. “But I wasn’t asking you to remove it.”
“No, you were just going to be unhappy about it,” Draco pointed out.
Harry shrugged. “It makes you feel safe and comfortable. I’d never want to remove a source of either for you no matter how much I might personally dislike it. We have to make compromises or at least that’s what my Dad told me.”
Draco picked up the bracelet and tossed it over his shoulder. “Stop being so reasonable, it’s utterly contrary to everything I know about you.”
Harry grinned, wrapped one hand around Draco’s neck and tugged him down. “You’re an idiot.”
Draco let one hand fall to Harry’s hip as he pulled him closer. “It’s your turn.”
“Is that how it’s going to be?”
“Yeah,” Draco murmured and took a deep breath as Harry leaned upward slightly and pressed his lips gently to the corner of his mouth. “Tease.”
Harry laughed. “We’ve got plenty of time, you know.”
“Yeah.” Draco shifted slightly and settled down in his Guide’s arms. He pressed his face against Harry’s neck inhaled deeply. “All the time in the world.”
* * * *
Harry liked the house in Hogsmeade out of all of his dad’s properties, because it had been bought specifically for them. They’d picked it out together and redecorated like crazy to suit themselves. It wasn’t stuffy or formal like the manor house. It didn’t have an insane portrait like Grimmauld Place. But what he liked most was the rooftop garden and the pool. He loved the pool on the roof even though it was kind of ridiculous. He watched his spirit animal fly over Hogsmeade for nearly thirty minutes before the large bird landed gently on the wall that surrounded the garden. She hopped down, and Harry approached.
She lowered her head and rubbed her large beak against his chest. “Hello, boy.”
He laughed at the gentle touch of her mind against his; her telepathy wasn’t a surprise as she’d been quite bossy the whole time they were in the cemetery. “I chose a name.”
“It’d better be good, or I’ll drop you in the snow in your pajamas.”
“That’d be really mean,” Harry informed her seriously as he smoothed back her white and gold feathers. “Gwenllian. Gwen means fair and white. Llian means flaxen. I read about Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd when I studied Muggle history. She was a warrior and a princess in Wales.”
“And your mother’s name was Lily.”
“Yes,” Harry flushed. “Is that okay?”
“Good.” He continued to pet her. “The dark wizard that attacked me in the cemetery was captured. They have him in a special prison in Rome while they research what to do about him. I’m worried, I guess, that he’ll escape before they can neutralize him. But Dad told me I didn’t need to be concerned about that because they’re keeping him in a really secure place. The thing is that he’s escaped death so is there really any place that can contain him?” Harry sighed, and Gwen nudged him enough to nearly knock him off his feet. “I know.”
“It does you no good to worry about it. You can’t change the circumstances.”
Harry nodded but glanced back toward the door that led to the rest of the house. “It’s okay, you can come out.”
“I didn’t want to upset her,” Draco said. He stepped out onto the roof and joined them. He offered Harry a robe. “Your dad said you never dress properly for the roof.”
Harry took the robe and shrugged it on. “Did he tell you the verdict?”
“Guilty—life in Apollumi. Dumbledore apparently had an epic fit and had to be subdued. He nearly worked free of the collar so now he’s wearing a cuff on his wand hand, too.” Draco ran a hand through his hair. “Does she like her name?”
“I do,” Gwen said and leaned forward to peer at the Sentinel. “I trust you’ll do a better job of keeping track of your Guide, young man.”
Draco blushed. “Yes, ma’am.”
Abraxas swept past them, and Gwen’s head snapped up. Lightning danced over her feathers, and she launched in the air. The two spirit animals spun around each other and took the same flight path.
Draco leaned on the wall and watched them. “She trusts him.”
“He’d never hurt her.” Harry nudged him. “Wanna fly with me?”
Draco shot him a look. “You have a broom up here?”
“Yeah,” Harry admitted with a laugh. He trotted off to the small garden shed near the back and returned with a Firebolt.
“Your dad is gonna get mad,” Draco warned.
“Worth it,” Harry assured and hiked a leg over the broom. “Come on.”
Draco sighed but gamely climbed on behind Harry. He wrapped his arms around Harry’s waist, and they shot off the roof like a rocket. Their spirit animals turned immediately and joined them. Harry glanced back at the house and wasn’t surprised to see his dad getting settled on a lounge near the pool. The older man lit a cigarette and waved a hand at them so Harry relaxed and for the first time since he came online he felt settled and safe. Draco’s body relaxed into his, and for a moment the energy flowing between them thickened before it ebbed away gently.
Harry opened his mind just a bit and that’s all it took, his Sentinel settled in without a single pause. He laughed and leaned back into Draco’s arms. “There you are.”
“You bloody ridiculous Gryffindor, bonding on a broom.” Draco’s grip tightened on him. “We could’ve fallen off this thing if it had been…rough or whatever.”
“It was never going to be rough or whatever,” Harry said in amusement. “You just gotta learn to go with the flow, Draco.”
He turned the broom toward Hogwarts and Abraxas blew fire as they crossed the wards. The school already felt different without Dumbledore. Harry could only hope that everyone and everything that the older wizard had touched would eventually heal.
“Let’s go introduce Hagrid to our spirit animals. He’ll be thrilled,” Draco suggested.
“Ha, deal,” Harry agreed and turned his broom toward the half-giant’s hut.