Forget Me Not
by sugareey

Pairings: Harry/Draco; mentions of Ron/Hermione, Lucius/Narcissa, and past Harry/Ginny and Draco/Blaise
Rating:
R
Warnings:
A little bit of fooling around, and for being slightly graphic. Also, there's an excessive amount of references to the TV show, Supernatural. And a small one to Merlin.

Word Count: 43931
Genre(s): Mystery, Suspense, Horror
Canon:
Through DH (EWE)
Artist:
reikokatsura


Summary:
Only days after the Battle of Hogwarts, Draco receives an offer that might just help his family. However, he finds out he's in for more than he bargained for. Not only does Draco have to investigate a mysterious attack on one Harry Potter, but he also has to deal with a nasty revenant that refuses to disappear. It'll be a test of wit and heart when it comes to Harry and Draco working together to find some answers.

Author's Note: I've seriously had this idea since last summer, so I decided to take it and run with it until the very end. I have to thank my awesome, awesome betas, smirking_muse, cursedinsanity and arlad for holding my hand through this whole process and being extremely patient with me. They have all helped be make this fic the best one I've written thus far, so many thanks to you lovelies! And much thanks to the DBB mods for being very patient with me, while I tried to sort out everything! I hope that you will enjoy this story as much as I did writing it. If you're a big Supernatural fan, I'm pretty sure you'll pick up the references. Have fun reading! Cheers!

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


 

Harry could feel his wand against his chest, but he made no attempt to draw it. He knew that the snake was too well protected, knew that if he managed to point the wand at Nagini, fifty curses would hit him first. And still, Voldemort and Harry looked at each other, and now Voldemort tilted his head a little to the side, considering the boy standing before him, and a singularly mirthless smile curled the lipless mouth.

“Harry Potter,” he said very softly. His voice might have been part of a spitting fire. “The Boy Who Lived.”

None of the Death Eaters moved. They were waiting: everything was waiting. Hagrid was struggling, and Bellatrix was panting, and Harry thought inexplicably of Ginny, and her blazing look, and the feel of her lips on his—

Voldemort had raised his wand. His head was still tilted to one side, like a curious child, wondering what would happen if he proceeded. Harry looked back into the red eyes, and wanted it to happen now, quickly, while he could still stand, before he lost control, before he betrayed fear—


Harry snapped his eyes open, finding himself drenched in sweat and tangled up in his sheets. He looked around the room and sighed with relief. It was just a nightmare.

There was a reason why he hated falling asleep; he hated how his dreams would always haunt him with the horrifying memories of his past, especially from the last week. His body was still recovering from all the damage he’d endured in the Battle of Hogwarts. The various cuts and bruises had all been healed by Madam Pomfrey, but there was certainly no cure for the emptiness that resided in him now.

Harry rubbed his eyes and sighed again. He was so tired. Sleep was useless when he kept waking up. Even with Voldemort gone and most of the Death Eaters rounded up by the Aurors, there was still so much to be fixed. Like his soul, for instance. It had made perfect sense for Harry to let Voldemort kill him. He had been a Horcrux. It had explained their special connection, and why they could feel each other’s emotions. Voldemort had been living in him. Even with that Horcrux destroyed, Harry still felt tainted.

Pulling away the sheets, Harry climbed out of bed and headed for the loo. Stepping down the stairs slowly, he made sure not to wake anyone up in the Burrow. The last thing he needed was to worry Ron, any of the other Weasleys, or Hermione. They had their own problems to deal with. 

When he reached the third floor, he turned on the tap and splashed cold water onto his face. Blinking a few times, Harry glanced at the mirror and sucked in his breath. Staring back at him was an unrecognizable face. It looked much older, as if he had aged at least five more years. He looked defeated and exhausted.

Extremely exhausted, Harry thought as he studied the puffiness and dark circles under his eyes. Speaking of his eyes, the empty look in them was enough to make Harry flinch and look down at the still running water. He had no idea who he was anymore.

Turning the tap off, Harry made his way back to the bedroom in the attic he had always shared with Ron whenever he stayed at the Burrow. With Quidditch magazines and various articles of clothing littering the floor, the room was practically the same. Harry smiled to himself briefly before entering the dark room.
Ron wasn’t here, as he had taken into sneaking into bed with Hermione every night. It was perfectly understandable, with Ron mourning over Fred and Hermione preoccupied with her parents. They needed each other. Harry tried his best to comfort his friends, as well as the rest of the Weasleys, whenever he could. Still, he couldn’t help but feel guilty for causing so much pain, for not getting to Fred on time. He had been right there, and if he had moved faster, he could have saved them their grief.

Harry shuddered, trying not to think of the lifeless expression of Fred’s face within the rubble. Setting his glasses down on the nightstand, he sat down on his bed. He wasn’t sure why he was still here, even after he had paid his respects at Fred’s funeral. It had been one of the most awkward times of his life, simply because he had no idea what to do. Harry had stayed silent during the ceremony while the Weasleys and other friends cried all around him. The constant reminder of what happened to a good person, and so many others with him, had made him feel isolated and unworthy. Why was he alive while others weren’t? If it hadn’t been for Harry, there certainly wouldn’t have been a war, or a Lord Voldemort.

His heart ached. His parents would have been alive today if it hadn’t been for—

“Dwelling over the past again, Harry?”

Harry tensed up. He looked around the room suspiciously, except there was no one else there. But there was that voice! He’d heard it so many times in his own mind. Was there a chance he was hearing things again? Chills ran through his spine from that thought.

“You think this is just a figment of your imagination, don’t you? I’ll prove to you that I’m real, but you need to find me first.”

“You’re…you can’t be…” started Harry, his eyes wide. That had definitely sounded real. “I killed you!”

He heard a soft chuckle before the voice spoke again. “Are you sure about that?”

Harry didn’t answer as he tightly wrapped his sheets around himself. How could Voldemort possibly be back? Unless the bastard had turned into a ghost, and in that case, Harry had no idea how to banish him. If there was one thing he knew, wizarding ghosts stuck around indefinitely. Another chill ran through him as something that felt like cold fingers touched his arm.

“Come out and play,” the voice continued to mock him.

“Leave me alone! You’re supposed to be gone!”

“Not until I get to do what I need to,” replied the voice, laughing softly. “Fair is fair…”

Harry threw his blankets over his head for shelter. He could feel the air growing colder, knowing that Voldemort, or whatever this thing was, was moving in on him. Harry patted the surface of nightstand blindly, trying to find his wand.

“Spells won’t work on me. Embrace this. I promise it won’t hurt one bit…”

That was when Harry’s heart began to race. Panicking, he backed against the wall and squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t understand why Voldemort would be visiting him at the dead of night. Of course, people came back as ghosts and usually they weren’t so terrifying. But if Voldemort wasn’t brooding over his past, then that meant…

“Yes, this is revenge…” came the whisper in his ear, answering his question.

As soon as Harry opened his eyes, he found the frosty figure of Tom Riddle contemplating him carefully. Tom was his sixteen-year-old self, looking exactly as he had in the Chamber of Secrets. Tom smiled, his eyes suddenly glowing red.

“Nice to see you again, Harry,” he said coldly. “You knew this was coming.” Tom reached out, thrusting his hand into Harry’s chest.

It took all of Harry’s will power not to scream as he felt his heart being squeezed. Something was draining him, weakening him. He found himself being pinned down to the bed as he clawed his hands out in front of him. The cold, sharp feeling hitting his fingertips made him retract. Tom squeezed harder.

“Not giving up, are you?”

“Over my dead body!” Harry cried out, his body arching up as he gripped the sheets in agony. “Let go, damn it!”

Tom shook his head. “Like I said before, not until I do what I need to.”

The cold ache in Harry's chest suddenly got worse. Tears ran down his face as he bit lip so hard that it started to bleed. “You're sick!” he growled out.  

Tom laughed harshly. That was the last thing Harry heard as he opened mouth to scream, releasing all the pain that he had been bottling up. Everything eventually faded to black.

***

Draco stared out of the window, absently observing the view of the dying garden surrounding the Manor. There had been much happier days when the flowers were once in bloom with rich reds, magentas, purples and whites. He sighed, turning away and flopping onto his bed. A loud knock sounded from the door.

“I’m busy. Go away.”

“Draco, come out at once!” his mother’s voice called out.

“I told you, I’m busy!” shouted Draco, gritting his teeth. “Can’t you just leave me alone?”

“Your father requests your presence in the drawing room.”

“If this has anything to do with the blasted Ministry and their bloody Aurors—”

“Watch that mouth, young man!” Narcissa scolded him through the door. “Your father insists he has an important matter to discuss—”

Draco rolled his eyes. He finally stomped over to the door angrily and wretched it open. “What could he possibly…” he trailed off as soon as he saw how pale and stricken his mother’s face looked. “Mother?”

“Please, dear. It’s something we should talk about as a family,” she answered, her voice wavering slightly. She waited for Draco to step into the hallway before putting a hand on his shoulder.

Draco let his mother guide him downstairs to the drawing room. At the threshold, he paused anxiously. No matter how many times the house-elves cleaned the Manor after the Death Eaters had cleared out, it continued to bring back horrible memories. Draco could still picture each and every victim that had hovered over the mahogany table. He had been forced to watch them suffer under the Dark Lord’s orders, only to be left to die.

With a push from his mother, Draco entered the room. His father was sitting in one of the black leather chairs near the fireplace, reading the Daily Prophet. Lucius adjusted his spectacles on the bridge of his nose as he turned the page. He paused and looked up at Draco and Narcissa. He folded the paper and set it aside.

“Narcissa. Draco,” Lucius began, looking from his wife to Draco. He gazed at Draco a moment too long before turning to the newspaper again. “It seems that the war isn’t quite over just yet.”

“From what I recall, the Dark Lord is dead,” stated Draco, refusing to sit as he glared at his parents. “Harry Potter killed him, unless you weren’t paying attention.”

Lucius exchanged a surprised look with Narcissa before speaking again. “I am aware of that, Draco. That does not mean our troubles have disappeared. The Ministry has put on us house arrest us until they consider our cases for trial.”

“As if I didn’t know that!” Draco spat out, crossing his arms. “They want us to suffer, to remember being trapped with the Dark Lord. They want us to feel guilty for doing his bidding, for…”

“As a man that was greatly involved with the Ministry and the Board of Governors, I should think not!” retorted Lucius heatedly. “This is policy, and we knew what our consequences would be. We are more fortunate than those who currently reside in Azkaban.”

“They threw you into Azkaban, Father! The Dementors could have killed you before, and now you’re saying that the Ministry is doing the right thing? ”

“My mistakes have greatly caused you and your mother grave danger. I did not think the Dark Lord would—”

“The Dark Lord wanted me to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts and kill Dumbledore. Did you think that was something I wanted to do?”

Draco could feel his blood boiling with anger. He had never bothered mentioning the tasks to anyone else, not since he had spoken to Snape after the Welcoming Feast months ago. Snape had known about his plans, but not how helpless Draco had been at the time. As a mentor, Snape had meant a great deal to Draco, not only because he praised Draco’s abilities but because he had watched out for him. He had killed Dumbledore because Draco had been too weak. Snape had tried his best to protect him from the Carrows, and from everyone else at Hogwarts. He had been the only person who had believed in Draco. And now he was gone.

“He threatened to kill you and Mother if I didn’t obey.” he continued. “Even though I accepted the tasks, no one thought I was capable of completing them. Not even you, Mother.”

“What are you saying, Draco?” inquired Narcissa, moving toward Draco to reassure him.

“You made an Unbreakable Vow with Snape. You were afraid that I was going to fail.”

Narcissa stopped and looked at Draco sympathetically. Draco turned his back on her, sitting down on the carpet. Crossing his legs, he dropped his hands in his lap. He couldn’t care less if his parents were gaping at him for demonstrating such plebeian behaviour.

“He told me, you know,” said Draco softly. “Snape. He told me that you entrusted him to finish my tasks if I couldn’t. You knew that would happen, didn’t you?”

“Surely, you understand that you are my only son. I didn’t want anything to happen to you—”

“I did succeed! I let the Death Eaters into the castle.”

“Draco.”

Draco glanced up at his father, who was studying him intensely. He looked away from his burning stare.

“Would you really have killed the Headmaster?” asked Lucius curiously.

Draco did not expect this question. He hadn't had the time think about it at the time, just that he needed to save his parents. He knew he had enough power and anger to do it. His wand had been thrumming with energy, ready to cast the perfect Killing Curse. But Draco had been tired. With no one to help him, the Vanishing Cabinet had been hell to repair. His fruitless attempts to kill Dumbledore had only made Draco feel more ashamed of himself. Deep down, he knew would never have killed Dumbledore. Why else had he stalled that night, throwing petty threats at the old man, who had offered him safety in return?

“He wanted to protect me,” murmured Draco with defeat. “What would you have done?”

“You did what you could, Draco,” replied Narcissa, kneeling down next to Draco and kissing his head.

Draco glanced from his mother to his father. Lucius rubbed his temples with his fingertips before speaking carefully. “You made a difficult choice that protected your dignity. Very few in your position would have chosen the same.”

“I know.”

“This alone shows how strong you really are, compared to those like myself.”

Draco was certain he had heard wrong. Compliments from his father were rare. “Father, I messed up—”

“Listen to me, Draco. We would never have wanted you to kill someone. Not for your family or anyone else.”

“But if you have forgiven me, then why—”

“We may have forgiven you, Draco, but not everyone will,” Lucius cut him off with a serious expression. He reached for the Daily Prophet and beckoned Draco to come closer. “There is something you need to see.”

Draco stood up, brushing imaginary dust off of his robes. He walked over to his father and took the paper. Flattening it out, he raised his eyebrows as he stared at the headline of the front page.


ATTACK ON BOY WHO LIVED; DEATH EATERS PRESUMED TO BE INVOLVED!
By Rita Skeeter


“They let this cow write an article?” said Draco incredulously, staring at the blinking picture of Harry Potter looking back at him.

“Draco!” his parents exclaimed at the same time. Draco frowned as he read more.


It was only days since the one and only Harry Potter, also known as the Chosen One, marched into the Great Hall of Hogwarts with his good looks, bravado and fierce determination, ready to rid all evil from the wizarding world. We were right to believe in him because Potter finally defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named successfully. But was it enough?

The Ministry was notified that Potter was found earlier this week in a state of unconsciousness at the Weasley family home. Members of the family have no idea what happened to the boy, as there had been blankets thrown over him to cover his body. Numerous attempts to contact the Weasleys, including Potter’s best friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, have been made, but all have refused to comment.

Potter was transported to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries immediately after being found. Most of the public believe this attack is connected to the remaining Death Eaters. While the Ministry of Magic has custody of the Death Eaters who were arrested at Hogwarts that terrible night, others have escaped and gone into hiding. Some believe the poor boy was simply traumatised.

“I can’t blame the poor chap,” says old Mrs. Fletcher, age 112. “Harry Potter had to run for his life. Kids aren’t supposed to be dealing with such darkness and violence at such a young age. It’s not right.”

“Harry’s a good kid though,” disagrees Mr. Perkins, age 64. “Always kind and helpful. I can’t imagine him trying to hurt himself. He always tried to stay strong, no matter how bad things were. He’s a true a fighter.”

Very interesting, indeed. So what is the true fate of our beloved boy hero? An investigation is underway to uncover this mysterious case of (Article continues on p. 2).



That was all Draco allowed himself to read. He rolled the paper up in his hands until it resembled a tight tube. It had only been days since the battle, and already, someone had attacked Potter. How was it possible that there was no trace of evidence to be found? And who in their right mind would go to that disgusting Weasley chicken coop of all places? It didn’t make sense. Death Eaters wouldn’t be stupid enough to break in and attack everyone’s favourite hero. It was too risky.

All the other comments were complete rubbish, though. Did people really believe Potter would off himself? Potter was too noble of a Gryffindor to just give up. People were naïve enough to believe in anything, these days.

“Who do you think—” Draco began to ask but he stopped abruptly, shaking his head. “Who’s left that could possibly cast a spell that powerful on Potter?”

“We don’t know,” answered Lucius with resignation. “It takes a great deal of time and effort for a single wizard to prepare and execute such a flawless attack. Unless, the attack was carried out by a more powerful being.” He picked up a glass that was perched on the table next to him, which looked Firewhisky. Draco raised his eyebrows. His father only resorted to alcohol when something was troubling him. “What I do know is that the Aurors will be paying a visit sometime soon. They sent us a warrant by owl this morning.”

“You mean they have the nerve to accuse us when they’ve warded the Manor so we can’t leave?”

“They will be extremely cautious when it comes to Potter. The Ministry will do everything they can to—”

“To get us into Azkaban? To rip our rights away?” interjected Draco, throwing the newspaper onto the floor angrily. “They already want to confiscate our money and our belongings! What more do they want?”

“Draco, please calm down—” started Narcissa worriedly.

“No, Mother!” argued Draco, completely outraged. “They can go fuck themselves, for all I care! If they really think we had anything to do with Potter, then they are ignorant bastards who can—”

Draco Amadeus Malfoy!” shouted Lucius, standing up abruptly. He walked over to Draco and grabbed his arm firmly. “Shut your mouth at once! That is no way to talk to your mother, and I certainly have no wish to hear such vile language! Do I make myself clear?”

Draco winced. He probably should have known better than to get under his father’s skin, especially when he was already under so much stress. “Yes, Father,” was all he said before shoving his hands in his pockets. “Is that all?”

Lucius took a sip of Firewhisky before speaking. “Your mother and I have been talking. There are a couple of matters that need to be addressed. With the wizarding world in the process of reforming, the Malfoy name does not carry the influence as it once did.”

“I wouldn’t think so. Not after everything we‘ve done.”

“That is not the point. It means that this world isn’t ours anymore. We do not have the liberty to live as we should.”

“We need to be careful,” added Narcissa, moving toward Lucius and placing a hand on his shoulder. “We are one of few families that have been granted trials.”

“Why are you telling me this?” asked Draco impatiently. None of this information was new to him. He was smart enough to figure out that they had steeped low enough to be considered outcasts.

“We have done what we can for ourselves,” said Lucius with resignation. “It is common knowledge that your mother and I have been working with the Dark Lord. This will not be excused by the public. But you still have a chance to live, Draco. You can redeem yourself. You are still young. If you can defend your actions, it will greatly affect the outcome of the trials.”

Draco had to bitterly laugh at that. “Who in their right mind will believe what I have to say? I can’t excuse my decisions either, even though they weren’t the best ones. If you want me to redeem our family name—”

“That is exactly what I’m asking you to do.”

His burden was already heavy enough. This was asking for too much. His family’s ties with the Dark Lord had destroyed their lives. There was nothing he could do for his parents. And if they were thrown into Azkaban…the very thought made him feel sick. How could Draco get anyone to even look in his direction without pure hatred? There were still angry people out there, mourning over their loved ones because of his mistakes, because of Draco’s desperation to protect his family. No one would vouch for someone with a pathetic sob story like his, and he wasn’t going to ask. Besides, it was too personal. If only his parents knew how hard it had been for him, then they would understand.

“I am not confessing anything to a bunch of idiots who are just going to spit on me,” he told his parents. “They can do whatever they want, but I refuse to tell them what the Dark Lord made me do. They don’t need to know that.”

“Draco…”

“No.”

“This is our only hope—”

“So be it! If I’m forced to go to Azkaban for keeping my mouth shut, then I will!”

Before his parents could say anything else, Draco furiously turned on his heel and left the room. If his father was right, then he would rather save his pride. It was all he had left.

***

Harry could hear voices murmuring from far away. It was the first time in a while since he’d heard voices. They sounded familiar, but he couldn’t exactly identify who they belonged to. It sounded like two people were involved in a heated conversation. Keeping his eyes closed, Harry strained to listen in.

“You’re mad!” exclaimed a low angry voice. “Why would you even think about writing to that git, of all people? We have Healers to solve things like this!”

“Keep your voice down!” hissed a much higher one, sounding irritated. “They can only do so much. Harry’s lucky he’s even alive. The Healers have been able to repair his heart tissue and give him potions for all his other symptoms. But it’s not a cure. They still don’t know what’s wrong.”

So these people knew him, and apparently something major must have happened to him. That explained the potent odour of healing potions entering his nostrils. Harry quietly shifted onto his side, finding that his limbs felt very heavy. Opening his eyes halfway, he peered at his surroundings. He was lying in a hospital bed in a white room, which had to be St. Mungo’s. He had injured himself multiple times, but never so severely that he had to be rushed to the hospital.

When Harry looked over at the people conversing by the doorway, he was relieved that he recognised the brown bushy hair and the ginger mop belonging to his two best friends. Not wanting to catch their attention just yet, he stayed silent.

“If someone didn’t break into the Burrow, then what really happened?” asked Ron, his hands in his pockets. “Dad said the Ministry thinks it’s the Death Eaters, but that’s bollocks.”

“Maybe it’s a curse,” replied Hermione, leaning against the wall. “Curses are known to cause serious or fatal injuries to a person. Though, I can’t imagine what kind of curse would activate by itself if there’s no culprit.”

“Hermione…”

“I know you don’t like it. I don’t either. Potions will only do so much. We need to talk to someone who knows about this type of stuff. It would take a lot to get the best expert here who had the slightest clue about complex spells. Madam Pomfrey and even Slughorn have taken a look at Harry already and they don’t know what’s wrong. This could be ancient dark magic, and there are only very few people who know about that.”

“Like the Death Eaters in Azkaban, you mean? Or the ones running loose?”

“There’s always Malfoy.”

“Malfoy is a Death Eater!”

“We don’t know that for sure. We’ve never seen his mark. Neville and Ernie also told me Malfoy knows a great deal about potions, dark spells and their counter curses. You have to trust me on this, Ron.”

Harry frowned. Malfoy? What was Hermione on about? Why in the world would she want Malfoy’s help? Malfoy was supposed to be on house arrest with his parents.

“He was fighting with them!” retorted Ron with a scowl. “Malfoy was fighting with the rest of the Death Eaters to kill Harry and us! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“He didn’t kill anyone,” Hermione told him pointedly, shaking her head. “He was unarmed, remember? He lost his wand in the Room of Hidden Things. But I saw Malfoy help Seamus, Ginny, Dean and a bunch of other students to fight off Mulciber and Nott Senior.”

“What? When?”

“During the Battle of Hogwarts, of course! He was guiding them, probably telling them what spells to use. Malfoy wouldn’t have given himself away like that if he had been working for Voldemort.”

That bit of news was certainly a shock. He knew Malfoy had survived because of sheer luck when he saw him huddled up with parents in the Great Hall. He had no idea that Malfoy had helped those from Dumbledore’s Army. And Ginny. Ginny, who he wished was here, as they hadn’t had the chance to talk yet.

“How can you be so sure?” questioned Ron suspiciously. “Even if he had, he must have realised he was on the losing side and tried to switch over! You can’t just simply do that! War—”

“Makes you fight for survival, not for a side,” finished Hermione. “I think Harry would agree with me on that.”

“Agree with what?” Harry finally asked, deciding it was a good time to break into the conversation.

Ron and Hermione sucked their breaths in as they looked at him from the corner of the room. Harry blinked a few times and smiled.

“Oh, Harry! You’re awake!” cried out Hermione, rushing over to his bedside. “We were so worried about you! How are you feeling?”

“Could be better. I’m a bit dizzy. And cold.”

“Mate, we thought someone tried to murder you!” exclaimed Ron with relief, walking over to join Hermione. “You gave us a scare!”

“Well, if someone failed to murder me, I guess that’s a good thing,” reasoned Harry with a laugh. He winced before Hermione gently pushed him pack down to rest against his pillow. He rubbed his chest with a hand.

“Harry?”

“Hurts,” Harry grunted, gesturing to his chest. “Dunno why. Feels like something tried to squeeze the life out of me or something.”

“You’ll be fine,” reassured Hermione. “We’re just glad you’re all right.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Ron’s parents are sitting in the waiting room. Everyone else is back at the Burrow, waiting for news about you.”

“How long have I been out?”

Hermione shared an anxious glance with Ron. “About four days.”

Four days?” repeated Harry, horrified. No wonder he felt so drained. “What did I do to land here?

“Reckon a Healer might know more about that,” said Ron, walking toward the threshold of the room and peeking out into the hallway. “I’ll get one in here to check on you, yeah? Then, you’ll be out of here in no time.”

Harry grinned with relief. “Yeah, that would be good.”

***

“You can’t remember anything? Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. I was in Ron’s room one moment, and the next I was in a hospital bed. I think I blacked out or something.”

“The Healers did say that you suffered a concussion,” noted Hermione. “At least that explains the amnesia. You must have bumped your head really hard.”

“I couldn’t tell you,” grumbled Harry, massaging his temples with his fingers. “I’m on seven different potions and I have chest pain. What could possibly explain that?”

“The potions will stabilise your symptoms. If it’s a curse, it won’t be able to do anything to you for a while. At least, until the Healers find out what the direct cause is. Then they can treat you properly.”

“That could take months, and I’m not the only person that has been admitted to St. Mungo’s! There are hundreds of other people that need to be treated too. I only have enough potions supply for the next two weeks because that’s all they gave me. I’d like to get on with my life eventually.”

“I wish they would hurry up,” agreed Ron, lying out on the bed he was on. “That way, Mum and Dad wouldn’t be so paranoid. They have enough on their plates already.”

“You can’t blame them, Ron,” replied Ginny. “You would act the same if something managed to get through your wards and attack you.”

They were settled in Bill’s old bedroom, which he was now sharing with Ron. The Weasleys refused to take the chance of putting him up in the attic, in case Harry was attacked again. That meant Hermione was forced to stay with Ginny, and Bill and Charlie volunteered to keep George company. Percy had taken to locking himself in his room.

Frankly, everyone at the Burrow was in hysterics. The Weasleys were still mourning; the children doing their best to comfort their mother and Mr. Weasley sending owls to other relatives. Harry’s attack had created a ruckus, especially when he had requested to be released from St. Mungo’s. Harry had been strongly advised by Healers to stay for another three days but he had stubbornly demanded for them to let him go.

Returning to the Burrow meant constant smothering, with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley frequently asking if he needed anything. Harry would smile tightly and shake his head every time. He appreciated their sentiment, but when they offered to let him stay at the Burrow indefinitely, he told them he would have none of it. Harry already felt bad enough about everything. He didn’t want to distress them more, even if he was feeling weaker and more exhausted than usual.

“So now what?” asked Harry, leaning back in his wooden chair. “Something’s trying to do me in. How many more times will that happen before they succeed?”

“Don’t talk like that!” scolded Hermione, swatting Harry on the arm.

“I’m just saying that I’m not surprised. Whatever it was, it’s not letting me get away from all the evil very easily, even after killing Voldemort.”

“Well, it’s not the ghoul,” replied Ron thoughtfully. “That thing is as thick as a Flobberworm. Half of the time it’s too busy searching for moths and spiders to eat.”

Hermione sighed, moving her chair closer to Harry. “You haven’t been experiencing anything strange, have you? Your scar isn't hurting and you haven't been having hallucinations—”

Harry glared at her before wincing from painful tightness in his chest. He tried his best to ignore it. “I’m fine. Or, well, I was before all this…” He gestured to himself lamely.

“Seriously, Harry,” said Ginny with concern. “Hermione knows what she’s talking about. Maybe you should actually listen to your friends, for once.”

“I said I’m fine, Gin. And Voldemort is dead. He was cremated. Burnt to ashes. We saw it with our own eyes.”

“Don’t get yourself worked up, mate,” warned Ron, eying Harry warily. “No need to give Mum a fright.” He scratched his head, turning to Hermione. “Didn’t you say there were books on this stuff? You know, like simple health things with remedies and all?”

“Sure. It just depends on what you’re looking for,” answered Hermione plainly. “Why?”

“What if this is ancient magic? Not exactly dark, but something that goes way back. Something that can only be found in certain families. I’m sure that kind of stuff exists.”

“As in pureblood magic?”

“Well, yeah. Mum threatened me with an ancient spell that was supposed to skin me alive once when I wouldn’t clean my room. Said that my great, great, great grandfather Pontius liked to make up spells up and try them on people. They usually worked.”

“He was also known to be a vicious Slytherin,” added Ginny knowingly. “People didn’t know what they were in for when they tried to pick a fight with him.”

“Like Snape,” said Harry, suddenly feeling morose. He hated that fact that he had always been so nasty to his late professor, only to find out everything Snape had done had been for Harry’s benefit. “But Snape was a half-blood. Maybe bloodlines don’t really matter.”

Ron shrugged his shoulders. “No idea. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little research, would it?”

“Research,” repeated Hermione, her face lighting up. She glanced at Harry and Ron eagerly. “That’s it! Perfect!” She practically jumped out of her chair before giving Ron a sloppy kiss on the mouth, who kissed her back a bit too enthusiastically.

“Um, Hermione?” inquired Harry, a bit dumbfounded at the sight of his friends’ display. He glanced at Ginny, who was pretending to gag behind Ron and Hermione. He couldn’t help but smirk.

“Are you both done yet?” asked Ginny impatiently, rolling her eyes. “Some of us have things to do and places to be.”

“I think I’ve just been snogged,” said Ron dreamily, grinning madly. “It was brilliant.”

“Thanks for stating the obvious, Ron.”

“I’ll be right back,” stated Hermione, trying to contain her excitement. She grabbed Ron’s hand. “Since it was Ron’s idea, we have a few things to sort out. Be ready tonight, okay?”

“Be ready for what?” asked Harry.

But he never got his answer as Hermione dashed out of the room with Ron, leaving him even more confused than ever.

“I hate it when they do that,” muttered Ginny, shaking her head. “I love Ron and Hermione, but they’re just ridiculous when it comes to their snogging. And whatever else they do.”

“You’re telling me,” concurred Harry. “I can’t imagine how you deal with it when Ron comes into your room at night.”

“There are silencing spells and bat bogie hexes for a reason. It’s the only way I can sleep at night. Though, it would be better if I had someone to share my bed with… ”

“Yeah.”

Harry felt his hands turn clammy as he his face warmed. He looked up to see Ginny standing in front of him. She was absently playing with the hem of her shirt, though her eyes never broke away from Harry’s. She was so pretty. Her long hair fell perfectly over her shoulders. Her skin was smooth, her eyes were a nice honey color, her hair was so fiery…and everything was just so right about her. If Harry moved just a little closer, he could lift her chin up and kiss her.

But something stopped him. It almost felt too easy to back to the way things were, especially since Harry had been separated from her for most of the year. Was it possible that he could finally have his happy ending and fall in love?

“Harry?”

Small fingers joined with his. Harry could feel butterflies floating around in his stomach as Ginny moved closer to him. It was like that first time all over again when he had kissed her. Except now, Ginny was the one to lean in first.

***

Draco spent the next few days moping as he tried his best to restore what was left of the garden. The Malfoy garden had always been a beautiful haven. It was something that had been around since he first learned to walk. Draco had always loved coming here in the fall and the spring as a child so he could admire nature at its best. Mid-May brought blooming lilies, roses, gardenias, and many other elegant flowers and plants.

But occupation of the Manor by the Dark Lord had left the garden in a dire state. Plants had been wilting everywhere, and it had taken long, endless days in the sun to make everything look somewhat decent. It was worth it. Without magic, but with some help from the house-elves, Draco was able to bring back their vibrant colours again. The garden was one of the few places that helped him feel relaxed, as if nothing else mattered in the world. It offered peace, and the exotic plants and curvy gravel paths that led behind the Manor were things he couldn’t find elsewhere. This was his escape—a place where he wished he could just lose himself in forever. If only he could.

Sitting on the stone bench near the water fountain, Draco took a handful of rocks and tossed them in, one by one. His parents had not said much to him after their last discussion. He had taken to avoiding them as much as possible, either by staying in the garden or locking himself in his room. He didn’t want to think about what they had said. Draco knew he had responsibilities and expectations, but for once, he just wanted to enjoy doing absolutely nothing. He’d done so much. He needed a break.

He knew there was a greater chance of being confronted here, but it was so gorgeous outside. Draco wasn’t going to let anything spoil his enjoyment of the good weather. If his parents wanted him, they could send down a house-elf. He threw another rock into the water fountain, watching it sink to the bottom and create ripples within the water.

Suddenly, he heard a loud screech that made him jump. Looking up into the sky, Draco’s eyes widened as he saw a small, grey owl flying towards him with an envelope. It couldn’t be from the Ministry, could it? Had they already made a decision about his trial date? Draco scoffed when he saw how cheerful and hyperactive the bird was. Definitely not a Ministry owl. It was too happy for its own good. The owl landed on the bench next to him, bouncing up and down excitedly.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” demanded Draco, trying to reach out for the message. “Stop bouncing already!”

The owl stopped immediately, though it kept hooting loudly. Finally grabbing the letter, Draco was about to open it when he felt something pinch his finger. Draco gasped, bringing his wound to his mouth.

“You bloody bird! Hasn’t your owner hasn’t taught you any manners?”

The owl nipped his finger again, shooting Draco a glare before flying off. Draco turned his attention to the envelope. He couldn’t think of anyone who would want to write to him. Pansy would be lying low, like Blaise and Theo. All of their families were suspected of Death Eater activity, though he wasn’t sure if any of them had been convicted. The only other letters he had received in his life were from his parents or Snape.

Removing the parchment from its envelope and flattening it out against his thigh, Draco read the words quickly before he froze. He had to be hallucinating. Draco fingered the message, scanning the neat calligraphy again. If he thought the impossible couldn’t happen, it just had.

***

I know we haven’t gotten along in the past years, but I hope we can set our differences aside. I only require your assistance, as I believe that you will most likely have the knowledge to deal with something very important. I know what you did for the students at Hogwarts this past year, and I hope you will consider the proposal I am about to make to you.

By now, you surely have read today’s front page of the Daily Prophet. I know you and Harry never had a great history with each other, but he was sent to St. Mungo’s. The Healers have still not discovered what happened to him. I wish I could elaborate further, but if you want details, we’ll have to meet in person. Harry saved your life; not once but twice. The least you can do is help him, even if it’s just this once.

I’m sure you are aware that the Aurors will be coming by in the next day or so, but please bear with me. Included with this letter is a Portkey. It will activate tomorrow at midnight. The Portkey will not disturb the wards around the Manor. There are four words you need to remember: Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.

I’ll leave the decision up to you. I hope you’ll make the right one.

Regards,
Hermione Granger


***

Why should I trust you?

***

He can help you, only if you’re willing to help him. You’re at his mercy.

***

Fine. See you tonight.

***

Dear Mother,

When you read this, I will be gone. Before you say anything, I have not run away or abandoned you. Please understand that my temporary absence will be good for us, and for me. When I say this, I mean that I may have found a way to redeem our family name. It’s what Father wants, isn’t it? If all goes well, it may help us at our trials, whenever the time comes.

I cannot disclose what my task is nor do I know how long I will be away. As your son, I promise I will return home soon. I’ll find a way. I always do.

I’m sorry if I have disappointed you and Father. I know I have made some mistakes. I am attempting to remedy them. You can choose to inform Father about this matter, if you so desire. Don’t go looking for me just yet. All I need is for you to believe me when I say things will be all right. Just give me a chance to prove that to you.

With all my love,
Draco


***

Draco paced back and forth in his room. He wasn’t sure what else he could do, besides stare at the cold Galleon in his hand or the neatly folded letter on his desk. The letter made him feel slightly nauseous. It was almost like sixth year again. He would be performing another task that his mother would surely oppose. Draco kept telling himself it was for his family. This was what they wanted him to do, wasn’t it? This was the solution to restore honour to the Malfoy family name. But there was more to it than that. He needed to do this for so many other reasons.

When he had first seen the Galleon fall out of the envelope, Draco couldn’t help but laugh disdainfully. He had been cruelly reminded of the one he’d used to communicate with Madam Rosmerta. After all, that idea had come from Granger herself. He had overheard a conversation about the charmed Galleons and seen how they worked for Potter’s precious defence group. How ironic. Maybe it was an idea of a joke. Draco shook his head and sighed, tossing the coin in the air before catching it. There was still another five minutes before it would activate.

It had been a difficult choice make. At first, Draco wasn’t sure if it was too good to be true. Here was an opportunity to escape from the Manor, a place that was now empty and heartless. But was Granger’s request valid? Why had she chosen him out of many older and wiser people? He was barely of age and under house arrest for his questionable loyalties. What did he know that others didn’t?

Draco was also skeptical about the Portkey. Granger was the brightest witch of their class, and always would be. How she managed to make a complex Portkey that the Ministry couldn’t detect was beyond him. Or perhaps she had Weasley’s father make one for her. It was a fact that the Ministry only made visits if there was any news related to Death Eater trials or dark magic. The Aurors couldn’t do anything else. But if the Portkey were to lead him to them, or worse, Azkaban…

He shuddered at the thought. Granger wouldn’t be that ruthless, would she?

And then there was Potter.

Potter was the reason Granger had reached out to Draco in the first place. He couldn’t understand why Weasley and Granger couldn’t take care of Potter themselves, as they had managed to do for the past seven years. There were competent Healers at St. Mungo’s who would certainly rush to the aid of their Golden Boy. There was no reason for Draco to be dragged into this business. He didn’t even know the whole story about Potter’s attack, and he couldn’t exactly trust Rita Skeeter either. He had to admit, though, that he was very curious.

Draco had re-read the letter a few more times, trying to find any loopholes. Granger made a solid case. As much as he hated the fact that Granger had rubbed his debt in face, it was true. Potter never had to save him, but he had chosen to. Draco would be a fool to walk away from him without sparing some gratitude. He owed Potter his life.

This was the chance to repay his debt, at least before he was convicted. He certainly did not want more Auror visits, as the one from this afternoon had been rather unpleasant. It had taken all of Draco’s will to stop himself from snapping at the Aurors when they had restrained and questioned his parents and him about Potter’s attack.

Draco needed to prove to everyone how wrong they were about him. If they knew how hard he had fought against the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters just to survive, they would think otherwise. People were allowed to make mistakes. At least he was willing to make up for it. Draco wanted to be a better person. He needed to become a better person so he could maybe try, one day, to forgive himself.

He glanced over at the antique clock on his desk. Two minutes left. Well, he could wait a little longer. Pacing again, Draco felt his heart beating faster. What was he doing? Was breaking the law going to solve his problems? And what had really happened to Potter? Was everyone else in danger of getting attacked as well? Draco let himself contemplate these questions, eying the clock anxiously. If only the bloody thing could just light up already—

“Draco?”

“Fuck!” he swore under his breath, glaring at the Galleon furiously. “Activate already!”

“Draco, dear? Can I come in?” came his mother’s gentle voice.

“I'm busy!” responded Draco loudly, running a hasty hand through his white-blond hair. “As usual.”

“I just need a moment to speak with you.”

“Perhaps later,” Draco dismissed her. His eyes widened when coin began to glow red. He grasped it tightly, feeling its warmth in his hand.

“Really, what has got into you? You keep pushing your father and me away! We want to help you—”

“Goodbye, Mother,” Draco simply said, closing his eyes. He could feel the magic pulling at him, the Galleon growing even brighter.

Just when he felt a pull at his navel, he heard the sound of his door opening. He snapped his eyes open with horror, just in time to see his mother's shocked face. She started running toward him, but it was too late. Draco already felt himself whirling into nothingness.


***

Harry was sitting down at the kitchen table near the fireplace, a Butterbeer in hand. He brought the bottle to his lips, enjoying the cool feeling of the liquid reaching his throat. He had no idea why he was so thirsty, but Butterbeer was something he had missed. It tasted magnificent comparing to his medical potions. He watched as Hermione paced back and forth anxiously.

“Um, Hermione?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“What’s up?”

“Nothing,” replied Hermione quickly, eying the chair at the head of the table. She finally gave in and pulled it out to sit down.

“Then why are you keeping me in the kitchen?” asked Harry curiously, playing with the label on his bottle. “It’s getting late. I thought you said I needed rest?”

He hadn’t seen Hermione so wound up since their O.W.Ls. It might have been because her brilliant plan had almost turned into a disaster. Harry, Ron and Ginny had met Hermione in the living room earlier that evening. Most of the Weasleys had retired for bed before Hermione indulged them in her plan to conduct research using the Black library. It had made Harry feel uneasy, however. He had vouched not to return to Grimmauld Place, especially after Yaxley had discovered the house. But his friends were trying to help him, so Harry had reluctantly agreed. However, when Ginny had asked to come along, Harry had refused.

“That’s unfair! I have just as much right to go as Ron and Hermione!” she had told him angrily. “I was already pushed aside once. You seem to trust them more than me!”

It had been unfair. As much as Harry had wanted to take Ginny with him, he knew he couldn’t. Hermione had somehow convinced the Weasleys to let them leave the Burrow. Mr. Weasley had mentioned that the Ministry still proclaimed it dangerous to wander around Britain alone. Whatever Hermione’s excuse had been to go to Grimmauld Place, it must have been a good one. She must have been persuasive enough since she had Mr. Weasley give them a special Portkey. Bringing Ginny along would only raise suspicions.

Harry did not want to get in trouble for taking Mrs. Weasley’s youngest daughter away either, even if Ginny was only a year younger. It had been a legitimate reason, much better than his other excuses. Perhaps he was being overprotective, but bringing her along meant talking about a lot of unsaid things about the war. He was more than willing to listen to her experience at Hogwarts. Harry just wasn’t sure if he would be able to tell her about his. There was still much that he hadn’t even told Ron or Hermione. He wasn’t ready to talk yet.

“Hermione?” he repeated, drumming his fingertips on the tabletop. “You’re making me nervous. You kicked Ron out and—”

“I had to. It’s because we’re waiting for—”

Before Harry could hear Hermione’s response, he heard a loud pop as someone cursed and stumbled into the pots and pans hanging against the wall. Stunned, Harry looked at Hermione, but her expression was quite relaxed. It was almost as if she was expecting—

Malfoy?!” exclaimed Harry in complete shock.

“Hello to you, too,” grumbled Malfoy, brushing his robes off. He picked up the few pots that had fallen on the floor and hung them up hastily. Then he stopped, giving Harry a fixed glare before turning it on Hermione. “You never said he was going to be here.”

Hermione flushed. “It seemed appropriate that Harry should be present.”

“I assume you have the Aurors waiting upstairs for me, then,” replied Malfoy sardonically, his face darkening. “Go on. Lead me away.”

“No! Malfoy, that’s not why I owled you,” assured Hermione, wringing her hands together anxiously. “You knew I couldn’t tell you anything through the post. It’s just us here. I thought you wanted to know more about what we’re dealing with.”

“And why would you think that?”

“I just thought—”

“Maybe you thought wrong. Have you ever considered that?”

“Hermione’s hardly ever wrong,” Harry spoke up defensively. He remembered Hermione had considered writing to him, but now he knew why. Malfoy was supposed to help them with their research. It was difficult to process this thought, however, as Harry found it irritating that Malfoy was being so callous. “If you really thought she would throw you into Azkaban, you wouldn’t be here right now, would you?”

Malfoy glowered at him before shutting his mouth. Harry smirked with triumph. “That’s what I thought. Besides, you owe me.”

“If you and the Mudblood can stop reminding me about my debt, I would greatly appreciate it,” said Malfoy spitefully. “I already have the Daily Prophet announcing it every other day.”

“Don’t call Hermione a Mudblood!” retorted Harry hotly. His chest was hurting him again, but he didn’t care. He had forgotten how easily Malfoy got under his skin, especially when they weren’t in a life-threatening situation. “You should be grateful she reached out for you, instead of say, your father.”

“Don’t you dare bring my father into this!”

“Harry, stop,” advised Hermione, looking at him anxiously. “You’re going to be in an awful lot of pain if you keep this up.”

She was right. Soon, an excruciating pain hit Harry without warning. Something was seizing inside his chest. He groaned before clenching his jaw tightly and resting his head against the table. Merlin, he really needed to stop getting so angry. For some reason, anger was the perfect trigger for his chest pain. It made no sense, but it seemed to happen a lot lately.

“Potter?”

Harry didn’t bother looking up as he tried to breathe deeply through his nose. He needed to stay calm. The pain would go away, like it always did. He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting patiently.

“How long has this been going on?” he heard Malfoy ask with great interest.

“Since he was released from St. Mungo’s almost a week ago,” answered Hermione. “He’s taking potions to alleviate the symptoms.”

“They’re not working for the pain.”

“No, I guess not. But it’s all we have.”

They fell into a tense silence. Harry concentrated on the soothing sound of his breathing, which had slowed down significantly. He could feel his body relaxing, the tension in his chest loosening. Exhaling with relief, Harry lifted his head up and ran a hand over his face. He was so tired, and these brief episodes of pain were not helping. Glancing over at Malfoy, he found grey eyes studying him intently. Harry forced himself to look away.

“All right there?”

Harry nodded, trying not to feel embarrassed. He hated that Malfoy had to see him at his worst, so weak and useless. Malfoy was probably silently rejoicing. He turned his attention to Hermione, looking at her for help.

“Shall we begin, then?” Hermione waved her wand to make a quill, ink and some parchment appear on the kitchen table. “Right. So—”

“I had nothing to do with Potter’s attack, if that’s what you’re trying to find out,” Malfoy said at once. If he was mistaken, Harry thought he could almost hear the fear in his voice.

“No one is accusing you of anything,” Hermione told him gently. “We know you and your family were at Malfoy Manor that day because of the wards weren’t broken. That’s what Kingsley and Mr. Weasley told us.”

“And yet, they had their Aurors tie us down in chairs to interrogate us. Why is that?”

“They did what?” exclaimed Harry alarmingly. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Even Kingsley had said that it was against Ministry policy to bind people in their own homes. “They can’t do that unless you—”

“Unless we tried to attack them,” interjected Malfoy with a snort. “Yes, I know. My parents and I did not attack them, as that would have been useless. I don’t think they trusted us, even with ours wands being tracked by the Ministry, no less.”

“I could always mention it to Mr. Weasley,” offered Hermione. “But really, they’re not supposed to do that! It’s illegal to restrain someone without probable cause and—”

“Spare me the diatribe, and get to the point. If you’re so keen on following the law, then why did you break it so you could get me to come here?”

Hermione scratched a few notes down onto parchment, before setting her quill down and looking up. “The Ministry still can’t be trusted, even if it’s being rebuilt. There is still a lot out there, even if it seems like the war is over. You’ve already read the article. People think Harry was cursed. We think we’re dealing with dark magic, or something that’s equivalent.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“We need another opinion from someone who knows about this stuff. Someone who has worked for Voldemort.”

Harry watched as Malfoy cringed at Hermione’s words and cursed under his breath. Then, he began to pace across the room with his hands clasped behind him. Harry had never seen Malfoy so preoccupied before. Malfoy kept his eyes on the floor as he moved, deep in thought. Was Malfoy worried? If what Hermione said was true, Harry didn’t know what to think. Maybe there were traces of Voldemort still left behind. Had Voldemort come back for him? If destroying him wasn’t enough, Harry didn’t know what was.

It was so strange. There was no way Malfoy would show up here unless there was some catch. Hermione must have used some spell on the prat. Malfoy couldn’t care about a rat’s arse about Harry. He was supposed to be cocky, arrogant and selfish, but this Malfoy was pensive and distressed. Harry wasn’t sure what could explain this drastic change in behaviour.

Even if Malfoy chose to help, what could be uncovered about his accident? Harry knew he had been alone the night he’d blacked out, but that was it. If the Healers at St. Mungo’s couldn’t do anything, then no one could. He was a lost cause.

Harry frowned as he played with his Butterbeer label again. Slowly peeling it away, he watched Hermione and Malfoy carefully. Hermione was holding her breath, waiting for an answer. Malfoy had stopped pacing some time ago and was standing near the fireplace. He stared into the flames absently, his face looking almost vulnerable.

Finally, Malfoy pulled out the chair across from Harry and sat down. Dark grey eyes were trained on him again. Harry couldn’t help but blush as Malfoy watched him, this time with a guarded expression. If only Harry could just read Malfoy, he would know exactly what was going through the other man’s mind. Then again, Malfoy had always been an expert at hiding his emotions, whereas Harry wore his heart on his sleeve. Still, this was definitely better than seeing the malice that was usually reserved for him.

“Potter,” began Malfoy in a low voice, “I would be risking everything. My life, my parents… all that we own. You do realise this, yes?”

“Well, yeah—” began Harry, but Malfoy held up a hand to cut him off.

“Is that good enough for you?”

Harry blinked. “Sorry?”

“I need to know if you want more,” explained Malfoy, taking a deep breath. “For the life debt. Is this enough, or are you expecting—”

“Just this,” murmured Hermione uncertainly. “We just need you to help us figure out what happened to Harry. He’s still suffering from the after-effects of his attack. We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “Yeah. What she said. Just with this. Nothing more.”

Malfoy chewed on his lip with contemplation. “I’ll help, but under one condition.”

“Malfoy!” protested Hermione indignantly. “That’s completely—”

“I’m not asking for much. Should I succeed in saving Potter’s life, I want my name cleared.”

“You want me to testify for you?” inquired Harry with surprise, making sure he understood correctly. “At your trial? Is that what you’re trying to ask?”

“Yes,” answered Malfoy quietly, biting his lip again. “Look, it might not seem like a big deal to you, but I came here because I thought I could do something. No one has given me that chance up until now. If they did, then they never told me. My parents don’t even trust me. They have no idea what I’m doing or where I am right now.

“I don’t care what you think about me, but I did what I had to in the war. I’m not saying that I was right. I just want my life back. Please.”

Harry could only stare at him. He had never expected Malfoy to ask him for anything. It was almost a laughing matter. Malfoy wanted a favour from him, when he'd done his best to make Harry’s life a living hell in the past. Harry took a good look at the man facing him. They were men, now that they were of age. But Harry never had the chance to observe the person who called himself Draco Malfoy. Gone was the boy who had enjoyed pulling pranks and making fun of Harry. Here was someone who was worn out from fighting a war, just like him.

Malfoy’s features were still pointy. However, Malfoy had matured so much that it distinguished him from the small spoiled brat he had once been at age eleven. With a longer face, sharper jaw line and his taller yet thin figure, Harry could tell that Malfoy had gone through quite a lot. Malfoy was ghostly pale, and if Harry looked closely, he could see the familiar dark eye circles. He remembered seeing them when Malfoy stomped on his face and broke his nose. And when Harry had followed Malfoy or seen him through his visions. There had been fatigue. Worry. Even fear.

Somehow, this made Harry feel better. Maybe Draco Malfoy was human after all. Then, Malfoy did the unexpected by offering his hand.

It was an unspoken truce. If Harry rejected Malfoy now, he would be making a big mistake. They had had a chance to kill each other when they had been fighting at the Battle of Hogwarts, and yet they were both alive. That was something to be grateful for, even if they had fought on different sides. Yet, Harry’s mind was screaming at him, asking him what in Merlin’s name he was doing. Malfoy was Malfoy, and he had done nothing to help Harry before. They were still staring at each other, and that’s what Harry saw it in his eyes. Desperation. He’d seen it once before, when Malfoy had pointed his wand at Dumbledore, with his hand shaking rather badly and his wand slipping ever so slightly…

“It’s a deal,” Harry finally agreed, accepting Malfoy’s hand.

It was surprisingly warm and soft, despite the rough calluses rubbing against his skin. Perhaps Malfoy had endured more labour than he’d thought, from repairing the Vanishing Cabinet and performing Voldemort’s bidding. Harry squeezed Malfoy’s hand, shaking it twice before letting go. Malfoy tightened his grasp though, his brief expression of gratitude transforming into a familiar sneer.

“What the bloody hell is going on here?” demanded a loud, angry voice near the doorway.

Harry pulled away from Malfoy immediately. It wasn’t until a moment too late that Harry realised he had made this situation worse. He could feel hard, cold eyes burning into him. The peace between Malfoy and him had disintegrated. Eventually, he turned around to see Ron, whose face and ears were a bright shade of red. Harry glanced at Hermione with raised eyebrows.

“You didn’t tell him?”

“Tell me?” repeated Ron, stomping into the kitchen. “She told me, alright! Said she wanted to write to Malfoy for help, but I didn’t think she was serious!”

“Ron, I already explained this to you!” replied Hermione heatedly. “We didn’t have a choice!”

“Yes, we did!” shouted Ron incredulously. “And I already explained to you that there were other people we could get help from! Even Madam Pomfrey is much better than this…this…”

“Jealous, Weasel?” challenged Malfoy.

Ron narrowed his eyes at him. “Why should I be? Jealous of you? I don’t fancy seeing myself chucked into Azkaban.”

Suddenly, Malfoy leapt out of his chair toward Ron. It all happened so fast. Malfoy took a swing at him, and Ron was doing the same. Hermione cried out in horror. Harry raised his own voice, telling them to stop. But Ron was faster as he whipped his wand out. He took a step forward and poked it at Malfoy's chest.

“Do that again, and I'll hex your balls off,” growled Ron menacingly.

Malfoy shot a murderous glare at him, shoving his fists into his trouser pockets. He pushed past Ron roughly, heading straight through the doorway without saying a word. They were all silent until the creaking of the stairs stopped. It took all of Harry's willpower not to sigh as Ron rounded on him.

“What were you doing? Befriending that git?”

“Why are you blaming me?” Harry shot back. “I didn’t ask for him to come—”

“I can’t believe you actually think he is going to help—”

“Later,” dismissed Harry, waving a hand absently. He didn’t need this crap right now, especially when he was trying to work this new situation out for himself. “Can we talk about this later?”

“Harry—”

“Just leave it, Ron! Alright?”

It would be just his luck if Ron kept badgering him with useless questions. But, for once, Ron shut his mouth and nodded stiffly. Harry gave Hermione a sympathetic look before leaving the kitchen.

Sometimes, there really wasn’t anything to say. It was best to leave things as they were.

***

Draco felt like an idiot. It had been a completely stupid idea to meet with Granger, but it had been even more stupid to expect something good to come out of this. Draco still had not discovered anything about Potter’s attack, except that he was experiencing excruciating chest pains. He should have asked more questions. At least then, he would have an idea of where to start, and what to look for.

He leaned his head against the glass of the window, observing the view of the neighborhood outside. Draco had claimed the bedroom out of anger when Weasley had the nerve to threaten him. It was the first room he could find with a bed, a wardrobe, a full-length standing mirror and a blank picture frame on the wall. It was plain and simple for such a house with multiple floors and a grand staircase, but it would do.

Draco yawned. He hadn’t been able to sleep well, still angry and fuming. He would never admit that Weasley’s jibes had gotten to him, as they were proof that not everyone would be forgiving. Granger had been tolerable. She knew how to reason with him. Weasley was, and would always be, an insufferable git. It didn’t help that Draco had carelessly left his wand behind. He had been in a rush to leave the Manor and left it on his desk. Even if he did have it, it probably wouldn’t have been much better, considering it was his great aunt Elladora’s ancient wand. It would have been great, though, to have been able to hex Weasley’s face, rather than to allow himself to be humiliated like that.

Potter was a different story.

Potter was still the same with his short temper and spiteful remarks. At first, he had been just as unhappy as Draco with Granger’s arrangement. Somehow, everything had shifted into an uneasy quietness that they probably would never understand. The mention of the Dark Lord had caught Draco’s attention immediately, and seeing Potter in pain had made Draco feel almost sympathetic. There were plenty of curses that could trigger something like this, as he knew from experience. That was when Draco knew something had changed between them, when he had stupidly given his hand to Potter.

Draco had imagined this moment so many times before, wondering what life would have been like if he and Potter had become friends. Would there still have been a war? Probably. But the outcome wouldn’t have been like this. Maybe, Draco wouldn’t have fucked up so badly. If he had befriended Potter, would they have been just friends? Best mates? Perhaps he had too much pride, but Draco was never going to confess how frequently he thought about these questions. How much it had hurt when Potter had rejected him. How that one handshake on the Hogwarts Express could have changed everything.

Draco shook his head and smiled bitterly. That was wishful thinking. Potter might have accepted now, but he was no competition with Granger and Weasley. They would always be the Golden Trio, and Draco would always be the villain. That last idea was laughable. Him…a villain? Draco had met far worst characters than himself. Greyback, Yaxley, his own aunt! What was he then, if not a loyal Death Eater?

“What’s a fellow like you doing here?”

Draco almost jumped at the sound of the voice. Turning around, he was alarmed to see a young man with black, short and wavy hair smiling at him from the picture frame. He looked strangely familiar, but Draco couldn’t remember where he had seen his face before.

“Hello,” he greeted, walking over to sit on the bed.

“Hello yourself,” said the wizard, dressed in elegant green robes. “So, why are you here then?”

“Straight to the point, aren’t you?”

“Inquisitive, you are,” replied the wizard in a clipped tone. “Always one to challenge a question. Hmm…blond hair, almost like my cousin, Narcissa. I take that you are her son, Draco?”

“Y-yeah,” responded Draco, slightly taken aback. “Is it that obvious?”

The man laughed heartily. “Of course! I saw you for the first time when you were just an infant. Besides, all of us Blacks have dark hair. Narcissa was the only one who inherited the blonde gene, perhaps from my great, great grandmother Violetta. She was always beautiful, no doubt about it.”

Suddenly, something clicked into Draco’s mind. “So if you’re a Black—you’re saying that I’m in the House of Black?”

“The very one.”

“I should have known,” muttered Draco, feeling foolish. Surely, his mother mentioned this place in the past, now that he thought about it. He had also seen photos of the house-elf heads on the wall, which he learned was a Black tradition. He had not noticed them when he had gone upstairs though. “Who are you?”

“Name’s Regulus Arcturus Black. Son of Walburga and Orion Black.”

“Regulus Black. I’ve heard of you before. And Sirius as well.”

Draco had heard a great deal about Regulus, and how he had died for the Dark Lord’s cause. What had Regulus gone through? Had his death been painful? Had he been scared? Of course now, Draco knew better that the fear a Dark wizard was dangerous because it held people back. It had held him back.

There had been a number of stories about Sirius Black too. Draco had listened to his father talk about his times at Hogwarts, about how Sirius would always hang around with riff-raff like Remus Lupin, James Potter and Peter Pettigrew. How Sirius had been a rude and inconsiderate pillock. How he had eventually betrayed Lily and James. That last fact had been proven wrong when it was revealed that Sirius had never betrayed them at all. It had been Pettigrew’s fault, and Sirius had wrongfully been thrown in Azkaban. At the Department of Mysteries, he had been killed by Aunt Bellatrix. Learning the real truth had been quite a shock for Draco. He wasn’t sure whether to be horrified or angry when he had first found out.

“Ah, my brother, Sirius,” Regulus’ voice broke into Draco’s thoughts. He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “He was always the one that caused trouble. Mother and Father never thought too much of him.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“He left home and abandoned us to live with the Potters, did you know that?”

“No, I err—what?” spluttered Draco, raising his eyebrows. His father had failed to tell him that piece of information. He wondered if Potter knew about this.

“Best mates, that Potter boy and Sirius,” continued Regulus, unfazed. “Mother disowned him immediately. Then, she decided to keep an eye on me. She wanted me to do the right thing.”

“And did you?”

Regulus gave out a bark of laughter. “What do you think, boy?”

Draco only shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. It depends on what your definition of doing the right thing is.”

“You are, indeed, right about that.”

“What are you on about?” inquired Draco curiously, leaning closer to the portrait.

“I hear things,” said Regulus, giving him a pointed look. “The house-elf Kreacher has said much about the war. So there was another one, eh?”

“Kreacher lives here?”

“Indeed. Kreacher still serves the Black family. Though, that twerp shouldn’t have made him go to Hogwarts. Mother still can’t get over the fact that he inherited the place.”

“Who?”

“Potter’s boy, of course! That speckled, half-blood—”

“You mean Harry Potter owns this house?” Draco practically shouted out, his face paling quickly. “And Kreacher. Well, I’ll be damned.”

Why hadn’t it occurred to him that Potter owned the bloody house elf? Draco should have known, at least from what Kreacher had mentioned when he had made occasional appearances at the Manor during his fifth year. Draco remembered seeing the elf a few times over the Easter holidays, speaking low and fast with his parents, but never had he said anything about Potter inheriting the entire estate! Even so, Kreacher had helped him graciously during this past school year. But the question was, did Potter know about any of this?

At Hogwarts, the Death Eaters had taught students how to attack and torture each other. The Carrows had taken a great delight in picking on Draco, who had no choice but to endure the treatment. Draco was still considered a Death Eater, but that never stopped Alecto and Amycus from throwing multiple Cruciatuses and other curses at him, much to the shock of his classmates. Kreacher would always come to heal his wounds while encouraging Draco not to give up, to fight against the Dark Lord and rebel. It had been easier said than done.

Draco had kept his cover and did what he was told, which mostly entailed monitoring detentions. He had left the punishing to Greg and Vince because it had been difficult to ignore his classmates’ screams and cries of agony. At night, Draco would go to them, trying his best to heal their injuries, where Pomfrey couldn’t. It was his way of apologising. He had also taught various students defensive skills and attack spells against the cruelties of the Death Eaters. That had been his revenge against them.

And then there was the unforgettable night at the Manor. Bellatrix, Greyback and Scabior had laughed gleefully when they had captured Potter, along with Granger, Weasley and Thomas. Draco had been terrified. He couldn’t forget about his former classmates, especially after growing up with them for six years. But that unique knowledge had been quite beneficial. No one else had seen the others before. The only one that mattered was Potter.

Potter’s face may have been swollen, but those green eyes had been unmistakable. No one had greener eyes than Harry Potter. All along, Draco had known what he had to do. So when his father had asked for his confirmation, Draco had lied. It was all he could do to help, but it was better than seeing Potter brought to the Dark Lord. What he hadn’t anticipated was for Potter to take his wand. He also didn’t know that the Dark Lord would take him on a special mission. In the cave, the Dark Lord had left him behind.

Memories began swimming through his mind again.

Thousands of white hands pull him underwater.

His throat feels like it’s on fire from drinking the vile liquid from the basin.

Groaning and moaning, darkness and fire, and fear.

The sound of high, cold laughter as the world begins to fade away…


Without Kreacher, Draco would have been dead. While Madam Pomfrey’s care had been sufficient, Kreacher’s elf magic had been superb.

Draco didn’t realise he was holding his breath, so he exhaled deeply. His hands were shaking. Rubbing them over his tired face, Draco found Regulus watching him with worried eyes.

“What?” he snapped, instantly regretting the harshness in his voice.

“It’s funny,” commented Regulus, studying him very closely. “You remind me of myself, when I was your age. Alone, fearful and unsure. A young man who went in too deep—”

The sound of footsteps coming closer made them stop. Draco looked at Regulus expectantly, but Regulus simply shook his head. “I’ll save it for another time. Don’t keep her waiting.”

“Her?” Draco said to himself, perplexed.

Before he could even react, Regulus gave him considerate smile and disappeared from his portrait. It was then that there was a knock on the door. Draco got up and opened it, only to find Granger standing there, looking uncomfortable. He smirked and stood aside to let her in.

“Finally found me, have you?”

“Sorry about Ron,” Granger apologised at once, her cheeks turning pink. “I didn’t know he was going to be—”

“Whatever,” dismissed Draco shortly. He didn’t need to hear excuses about Weasley’s stupidity. Bloody Gryffindors and their righteousness. “What do you want?”

“I just wanted a word with you.”

“Get on with it then. Spit it out, Granger.”

Granger frowned as she shut the door behind her. “I need to know if you’re really going to try and help.”

Draco narrowed his eyes at her. “I see you still don’t trust me. I already told you I would.”

“Is this just to clear your name or—”

“I think that would be obvious!” snapped Draco, irritated. “You’re the one who asked for my help. If you would like me to head back to the Manor, I would be perfectly happy to do so.”

“No!” objected Granger, slightly frazzled. “It’s just that—I’m worried. We’re all worried. You have to know that I owled you because I thought you could help. You’ve always been the smartest wizard in our class. You’re excellent at Potions. If it’s true that you treated students for injuries—”

“Stop the flattery and explain to me what this has to do with Potter.”

“You know what kind of magic Death Eaters use, don’t you?”

“We are not having this conversation.”

“Some spells are dark enough to seriously injure or kill—”

“I know that! And I’m not proud of it either. I used them and watched them being cast. How is this going to help us find out what’s wrong with Potter?”

“You’re the best chance we have, Malfoy,” pleaded Granger, looking as if she was about to cry. “I mean, really, advanced Blood-Replenishing Potions? The Draught of Peace, Murtlap Essence and healing pastes? The average student can hardly make those! You must have helped so many people at Hogwarts, what with the Carrows around. And you know the counter curses to the darkest magic there is. I know you do.”

“Who told you that?” demanded Draco viciously. He didn’t want to think about how many of his personal potion remedies had been used on himself and other students. “What does it matter what I did then?”

“You knew what to use when people were hurt by the worse spells. It was good enough for Neville, Seamus and Ginny.”

Draco paused. It was true that he had helped Finnigan, Longbottom and Weaselette. When they had attempted to steal Gryffindor's sword, he’d tried to help them break into Snape’s office, but they had been caught. They had unwillingly gone to Draco to get their injuries healed after being punished by the Carrows. It had been that, or to suffer. His punishment, however, had been a lot worse for abandoning his prefect responsibilities. Draco ended up having to stay in the Hospital Wing for a week. Snape had visited him once, warning him to be careful. It had been Kreacher who healed him then, when simple remedies hadn’t been enough.

“No one was cursed enough to be sent to St. Mungo’s, mind you,” he replied softly, glancing at the floor to avoid Granger’s eyes. “I only know about basic potions and their healing properties. Potter’s case is more complex, with his chest pain and whatever else he has.”

“Harry gets the occasional dizziness, but it’s mostly just chills and fatigue. It hasn’t worsened, but it hasn’t gotten better either.”

“If he’s on so many potions, why aren’t they working? And why does he even need so much?”

“Maybe you should ask him.”

“I’m asking you because you would know what he’s taking. Potter probably just drinks them when you tell him to. Am I correct?”

Granger flushed again before twirling a lock of hair between her fingers. She took a deep breath before speaking. “Harry’s taking seven different potions. There’s some Calming Draughts, cough potion, an Invigoration Draught, a couple of Blood-Replenishing potions and a Memory Potion. I’ve looked up all the ingredients for each, and none of them have conflicted with each other yet…”

Just when Draco was going to interrupt, he felt something like a breeze lightly brush against ankle. He glanced around, scanning the surrounding of the room but finding nothing. Maybe he was imagining things. The window and door were closed. Scowling, Draco turned to Granger and felt it again. This time, it felt like the room was getting colder. He blew into his hands, noticing could see his own breath. Granger saw it too.

“Something isn't right here,” Draco murmured, exhaling again. “The temperature just dropped, and if it's not Dementors—”

“Malfoy, stay where you are,” warned Granger, trying to stay calm. Her wide eyes were fixed on something over his shoulder. “I—it's behind you.”

Draco spun around and felt his heart almost stop. There, in the mirror, was a ghastly-looking boy with dark, wavy hair and haunted eyes. It was a known fact that mirrors were peculiar artifacts; they always showed different reflections and images, almost like a Pensieve. This particular illusion, however, was somewhat eerie. Studying the boy closely, Draco concluded that he didn’t look more than eleven years old. He was quite tall for his age, but very pale. He was also barefoot and covered in smudges of dirt.

The boy never moved or blinked as he kept staring at them. Draco took a few steps closer, but Granger grabbed his wrist to stop him. He shot a glare at her, but she shook her head, her eyes still transfixed on the mirror. It looked liked Granger was waiting for something to happen. Draco took her hint and stayed where he was.

“Hello. Do you need something?” he asked, hoping that was good enough not to scare the boy away.

The boy tilted his head to the side before nodding slowly.

Draco glanced at Granger, who gripped him harder. He could tell that she was terrified. “What?”

“I’ve seen things like this before!” she whispered in a high-pitched voice. “Ghosts! They’re not like the ones that we usually see though!”

“That’s ridiculous!” said Draco, rolling his eyes. “Ghosts float about and do what they please. They don’t hang about in mirrors and—what the fuck is he doing?”

They stood there as they watched the boy smile maliciously and wave. Then, he started walking toward them. Draco elbowed Granger in the ribs, pushing her against the wardrobe. His heart was racing. He had seen many horrible things during within the last couple of years, but never something like this. He swallowed hard, watching the boy come closer, his smile still plastered on his face.

“If this isn’t a ‘normal’ ghost, then how do you get rid of it?” he muttered under his breath.

“It goes back into a hunter’s folklore,” Granger told him quietly, slowly feeling for the door of the wardrobe. “According to Muggles, these ghosts or spirits, as they call it, come back for a few reasons. Sometimes, it’s a personal preference and other times—anyway. They can’t stand iron or rock salt. It won’t get rid of them completely, but it will force them to leave for a while.”

“Well, seeing as we don’t have either at the moment, I’d say we’re pretty fucked.”

“I’ll find something in here. Stay in front and keep an eye on him.”

For once, Draco took Granger’s advice. He stood his ground as he stared at the mirror and waited. For the second time this morning, he found himself wishing that he had his wand. At least then, they could conjure some salt or iron and throw it at this thing. If it wasn’t a ghost or a boy, then it was a wild creature that wanted power and life.

It wasn't until Granger began rummaging in the wardrobe that the boy decided to climb out of the mirror. It was as if the glass was water, and he had no problem walking through it. He stepped into the room, his eyes flashing briefly with red. Draco felt his blood freeze as he met the boy's murderous glare. Before he could do anything, Draco saw the boy raise his hand in front of him and close it into a fist.

Suddenly, a sharp pain ran through his chest. Draco couldn't help but cry out as he leaned forward. “A little help here!”

“Malfoy!” Granger shouted out, turning around with something that looked like a walking stick clutched in her hand.

“Do…something!”

“Hold on! Just let me—”

Draco couldn’t focus on the rest of her words as he fell to his knees. He clenched his jaw, trying to suppress a whimper as the pain got worse. His heart felt like it was being squeezed, and if it didn’t stop soon, he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Draco looked up just in time to see Granger stepping forward and waving the stick through the boy. The boy made to grab the stick, but retreated when his hands touched the top of it. Granger swung the stick a few more times and the head of it went through the boy’s body. Almost immediately, the boy dissipated into thin air. And then, Draco could breathe once more.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah.” Draco coughed before letting out a sigh of relief. “W-what just happened?”

“That had to be a ghost of some kind,” replied Granger, releasing a sigh of her own. She propped the walking stick against the wall. “I’m just glad I found this stick. This was probably a family heirloom, judging from the cast iron as its head and the serpents encircling it. Thank goodness too, or I don’t know what we would have done.”

“Ghosts do not climb out mirrors,” stated Draco tensely. He tried to stand up but his legs trembled dangerously. Granger rushed to help him. “Thanks.”

“Ghosts have more powers than we give them credit for.”

“I don’t care if iron made him disappear, but that boy was too tangible to be a ghost, at least a wizarding one. He almost looked possessed, and his eyes turned red like the Dark Lord’s—”

I beg your pardon?

“He had to be something else. Most creatures hate iron. I highly doubt ghosts act like this in the Muggle world. Or do they?”

“There are a few suspicious murder cases every once in a while. Most of the time, the police just hide it, like the Ministry tried to hide things from us. These kind of ghosts are similar to wizarding ones; if they die somewhere, they’ll most likely come back to that specific place. Some of them come back to send warnings. Others, well—”

“They’ll try to kill you. To get revenge.”

Granger shuddered. “I guess you can put it that way. Those who aren’t given a proper burial won’t stop until they get peace. For other supernatural creatures, violence is part of their nature.”

“Meaning what?”

“If you think Basilisks or Acromantulas are dangerous, you’d be surprised by what other entities can do. There are the typical werewolves and vampires, but there are also demons, shape shifters, shtrigras, and even wraiths. They go after people because it’s their nature. These things derive from countless legends and myths, and each one is destroyed differently.”

“So, pretty much any old story written in a book is real.”

“Not exactly. There are also things that might just come to life if you believe in them enough.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Draco curiously, wondering why he had never heard much about the supernatural forces until now.

“There are just some things that are worth knowing,” said Granger softly with a shrug. “I have an uncle who…he used to hunt these things.”

“But he doesn’t anymore?”

“No. He—it was too much of a burden on his family.” It looked like she wanted to say more but she stayed silent.

Draco didn’t press, either. He rubbed at his chest absently as he studied Granger. He had no idea that she knew about something so evil and unknown, a phenomenon that so many wizards have tried to figure out in the past. Draco had learned very little about the supernatural realm when he was young, but he had chose to believe more in magical creatures and beasts instead. The supernatural was ambiguous. Magical creatures weren’t. There was more proof that these animals existed, and Draco had even had the pleasure of seeing some for himself, like dragons and Manticores when he had gone to France to visit relatives.

The supernatural belonged in legend, and legend alone. Things like demons weren’t commonly known to enter the wizarding world. Then there was ridiculous folklore that the Muggleborns would talk about when he’d been at Hogwarts. At the time, Draco had thought it was all rubbish.

Now, he wasn’t so sure. No one had ever mentioned that the supernatural was so irregular and complex. Whether the boy in the mirror had been really been a ghost or not was disconcerting There was only one thing they could do.

“We should tell Potter.”


***

It had been three hours. They had been sitting in the library for three hours, talking, brainstorming, theorising. Now, the room was silent. Harry paced back and forth across the room nervously. He knew Ron and Hermione were watching him. Malfoy was settled in a corner, engrossed in a pile of books he had picked off from one of the bookshelves.

Harry didn’t know what to think. When Hermione had first told him what happened in Malfoy’s room earlier this evening, he was tempted to dismiss her story. The stoniness of Malfoy’s expression had changed his mind, though. Nothing like this had ever happened when Harry had stayed at Grimmauld Place in the past. It didn’t seem likely that the house was haunted. If this was something else, Harry definitely wanted to figure out how to destroy it.

“I think we should stop for the night,” suggested Hermione tiredly, shutting the book in front of her. “We won’t get more information than we already have.”

“She’s right, mate,” agreed Ron, putting his hand on top of Hermione’s. He made a gesture towards Malfoy and lowered his voice. “Especially if that bloody git isn’t going to tell us anything.”

“I can still hear you, Weasley,” said Malfoy, looking up to glare at Ron. “And there’s nothing more to tell. You’ve already been told about what happened.”

“It sounds pretty dodgy to me.”

“Like you give a shit. I’m sure you would be rejoicing if that thing really had killed me.”

Harry stopped pacing at once. Malfoy had only mentioned that the boy had climbed out of a mirror, but nothing about an attempted murder. He looked at Malfoy incredulously before turning to Hermione. “Why didn’t either of you mention that? That’s something I ought to know!”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes at him. “Maybe I wanted to bring it up in private. All I know was that that thing was not human.”

“So this boy or thing…he tried to kill you?”

“That was his intention when he climbed out of the mirror. Don’t look at me like that. He tried to put me into cardiac arrest!”

“He’s telling the truth, Harry,” added Hermione hurriedly. “I think we just happened to be lucky that it wasn’t worse. We didn’t want to worry you.”

“Hermione, why are you even defending him?” asked Ron dismissively. “Malfoy’s talking rubbish—”

“You don’t know anything!” retorted Malfoy, slamming his book shut. He threw onto the floor, standing up and walking towards Ron. “She saved my life. If your girlfriend didn’t know about any of this supernatural stuff, we wouldn’t even be here right now! That thing had powers that no witch or wizard has.”

“Supernatural?” repeated Harry, glancing at Hermione peculiarly. “You mean like ghosts, monsters, and that sort of thing?”

Hermione only nodded before Malfoy rounded on him. “So you know about this stuff too.”

“Not really,” admitted Harry sheepishly. “Just from what Hermione told me, and from what I’ve heard in Muggle stories.”

There had been a time when Dudley and his gang had been obsessed with witchcraft and other folklore, right before the start of sixth year. They had borrowed books from the town library, taking turns reading stories out loud and setting up various rituals to see what would happen. Harry would press his ear against the wall of his room to eavesdrop. There were a fair amount of stories about murderers, but there were also ones about voodoo, the Loch Ness monster, and even bizarre creatures such as daevas and demons.

Aunt Petunia had hated it, dismissing all the folklore as a hoax. Of course, Harry knew that she was just paranoid. She didn’t want her Diddykins to become a freak, like him. Even though Dudley eventually moved on from that phase, Harry couldn’t help but wonder if there was really another realm of creatures, existing outside the magical world. It was incredibly difficult to know what to believe in nowadays, especially after being lied to for so many years; about his parents, his destiny, and who knew what else.

“What do you reckon then?” he finally asked, running a hand through his untidy hair. “If it’s supernatural and not magical—”

“It could be both,” interrupted Hermione. “There’s nothing that says that it can’t be, since the supernatural is something that cannot be explained by natural law and phenomena. Spells, divination, curses fall under this category.”

“Or they could just be the same damn thing,” countered Malfoy. “You’re saying that magic is supernatural.”

“If the magic is used with malicious intent, then yes. It is.”

Hermione didn’t have to say it, but Harry knew she was referring to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. To Muggles, they would definitely appear as supernatural. So would Dementors and the other creatures, like giants and werewolves. Anything that people had never seen in their lives would be considered supernatural. They would have to analyse this whole case from another angle.

“What are the chances that Voldemort is behind this?” Harry proposed curiously. “Or maybe one of the Death Eaters?”

“Like Malfoy, you mean?” suggested Ron rather nastily.

“Very funny,” sneered Malfoy. “Because I would definitely conjure something evil to attack myself. You’re also forgetting that I don’t have a wand. Idiot.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you if you could perform wandless magic. You can show that off, along with the Occlumency you learned from your aunt Bellatrix. But we can get you to tell us things, Malfoy. There’s Veritaserum and—”

“Ron, he didn’t do anything!” insisted Hermione, snatching her hand away from him. “We were just talking and—”

“I told you! He’s a Death Eater! I don’t know why you invited him here, but he knows enough! He knew about You-Know-Who’s plans and—”

“I would never ask someone for help if I thought they would hurt us!”

“So now Malfoy’s a saint?” retorted Ron, standing up so abruptly that he knocked his chair over. He didn’t notice. “He doesn’t give a damn about us! He might not have killed anyone, but are you forgetting that he let Death Eaters into Hogwarts? If it weren’t for him, Bill wouldn’t have been scarred and Fred wouldn’t have…he would have still been here…”

Hermione went over to Ron immediately to embrace him. “I didn’t mean it like that,” she told him over and over again. “That’s not what I meant, Ron. Please, believe me.”

Ron only shook his head as he bit his lip. He let Hermione hug him tighter, burying his face into her bushy hair.

Harry could only stand and watch. Fred had been a topic that they had avoided until now. Even after the battle, Ron had refused to say anything or acknowledge that something was off. It hurt to see his friends like this, torn and broken, and he wish he could do more. Apologies could only do so much. Ron would probably tell him that it wasn’t his fault, but Harry couldn’t help but take the blame. If only the world was how it was before, everything would be right again. But the past was the past, and even as a saviour of the wizarding world, Harry didn’t have the power to make everything right. But he would try.

When he looked up, he met the furious eyes of Malfoy. Malfoy pursed his lips into a thin line, his hands forming into fists beside him. It was almost like he was daring Harry to agree with Ron or say something more. But what was Harry supposed to say? There’s was nothing he could tell either of them, with the battle still fresh in their minds. Malfoy would tell him to shut up if he tried to console him, and Harry was sure that Malfoy was one of those people who hated pity. He hated pity too.

So Harry kept silent. Malfoy only got angrier, enough so that the dusty vase on the desk started to rattle. Harry put his arms up protectively, waiting for the vase to explode. When he heard footsteps exiting the room though, he realised that Malfoy had left the room. Without thinking twice, Harry ran after him.

“Harry!”

Harry ignored his friends’ calls as he followed the hallway towards the figure that was moving to the stairs. He wanted to hear what Malfoy had to say for himself. Clearly, something was bothering him if it made Malfoy this angry. Harry barely made it past the library when the door slammed shut. He immediately stopped and looked back. He could hear Ron and Hermione screaming as they pounded against the door. For a moment, he was torn from letting Malfoy out of his sight, but if his friends were in danger, he needed to help them. Running back, Harry tried to turn the doorknob but it wouldn’t budge. The door was locked.

“Get us out of here!”

“Please, Harry! Hurry!”

Alohomora! he muttered, pointing his wand at the lock. Nothing happened. “Come on! Alohomora! Damn it!”

“What’s wrong?” called Hermione through the door.

“It’s not working!” shouted Harry, frustrated. He stepped back before ramming his shoulder into the door. Rather than breaking it down though, a sharp pain ran through his shoulder. A nasty bruise was going to forming there in the morning. “Fuck!”

“What if you picked the lock?” suggested Ron, his voice muffled. “Dad always talks about how Muggle criminals do it all the time.”

“It takes a bit of skill. And I don’t have anything to pick it with,” Harry added, rummaging through the pocket of his trousers. He came up with a rubber band and a couple of sweets. “Stay where you are. You guys will be all right for a bit, yeah?”

“It’s fine. We’ll be fine.”

“Don’t leave them in there for too long,” replied an amused voice. He spun around to see Malfoy walking back in his direction.

“What should we do then?” he asked, pulling on the doorknob once more before giving up.

“Have your wand at the ready,” said Malfoy warningly as he got closer. “He could be anywhere.”

“Who?” Harry looked down both ends of the empty hallway, but they were the only ones there.

In a matter of seconds, the rest of the doors on the floor banged shut. The lights flickered. Harry and Malfoy glanced around, but still saw no one. When they met each other’s eyes however, something felt very wrong all of a sudden. Malfoy gasped and backed away. Harry frowned. And then he saw it. Grey eyes flashed with red. Doubt instantly turned into fury. He could feel it building up so quickly within his chest, he could barely breathe. But he didn’t care. Harry did the first thing he could think of and charged into Malfoy, trying to punch him in the face. Malfoy ducked and Harry took another swing. This time, he wasn’t so lucky, as Malfoy caught his wrist. He cried out when he felt nails digging into his skin.

Malfoy might have a few inches on him, but that did not stop Harry from shoving him hard. Malfoy stumbled back, glaring at him fiercely. Harry tried to locate his wand, only to realise he had lost it during the fight.

“Looking for this?” drawled Malfoy, holding the wand and rolling it between his fingers. He tossed it up in the air, catching it gracefully before pointing it at Harry. “Not like you’re going to need it anyway.”

“You’re going to kill me, is that right?” Harry bit out viciously. Pain struck him in the chest but he tried to ignore it. He needed to deal with this thing first, to interrogate it. This wasn’t Malfoy talking. Something, maybe a demon, was possessing him. “That’s not going to do you any good.”

Malfoy came closer and jabbed the wand into Harry’s throat. Harry gulped, looking away from the red eyes that were burning into him. “Maybe it will. I’m not the one who ruined everyone’s lives.”

The comment stung more than it should have. It was a thought that had always plagued his mind, but no one had ever had the nerve to just say it out loud. Rage roared into full fire as Harry kicked Malfoy in the shin as hard as he could. Hooking his foot around Malfoy’s ankle, he managed to trip him. Malfoy landed on his back with a thump. Harry rolled on the floor and got up to run, but he wasn’t fast enough.

Incarcereous!

Ropes shot out at him quickly, whipping around his wrists and ankles. Harry tripped and toppled to the floor, groaning in pain. His glasses fell next to him, but he couldn’t reach them. Harry hopelessly tugged at the bonds when he heard a bitter laugh. He dared himself to take a peek, squinting at the blurry figure nearby.

“I knew it was you!” seethed Malfoy, still lying on the floor. It looked like his arm was sprawled out beside him, the wand still in his grip and aimed in Harry’s direction. “It was you behind Potter’s attack. And it was you who came out the mirror!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” rasped Harry in pain, breathing heavily. He could feel his chest getting worse. It was getting harder to focus as the tightness began wrapping around his heart. But he refused to give up or to show any weakness, so he tried reaching out for his glasses again. “Untie me at once.”

“No. Tell me why you came back. You’re supposed to be dead.”

Harry stopped abruptly. “How do you know about that?”

Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with a sickening realisation. Malfoy wouldn’t know about him dying in the forest, unless his mother told him. He doubted she would say anything about it, and he hadn’t told anyone else. The only other person who knew was Dumbledore. If Malfoy was possessed, it was by none other than…

“Voldemort. It’s you, isn’t it?”

It couldn’t be, could it? Harry was supposed to be done with this war, a war that should have ended a long time ago. He struggled against the ropes even more, furious that Voldemort had the nerve to enter his life again. But Malfoy had cringed at the name, and that was when Harry knew he was wrong. Quickly glancing over, he noticed that Malfoy’s eyes had turned back to grey. Malfoy stared back at him blankly, still holding his wand. He lowered it slowly.

“Shit. Potter?”

Before Harry could respond, the lights flickered again. Then, everything turned dark.

“Malfoy?” he called out, moving onto his side. He hissed as sharp pain filled his chest. “Ow…”

Lumos!” he heard Malfoy murmur. Soft footsteps came closer as Malfoy shone the light in front of him, illuminating his apologetic face. “I…I thought you were him. I wasn’t going to take my chances.”

“You thought I was Voldemort?”

Malfoy scowled before sighing. “Do you want me to release you or not? Not that you deserve it.”

“Hey! I wasn’t going to take any chances either,” retorted Harry defensively. “You took my wand.”

“I didn’t even know it was going to work! You kicked and tripped me. You’re lucky I can still walk!”

“Well, yeah—” started Harry, but he gasped when he felt a warm hand travel up his shirt and press against his chest. He could already feel the tension fading away from such intimate contact.

No one had had ever done something like this for him before. Sure, Harry had been given back rubs and whatnot, but no one had ever dared to give him comfort or the touch he needed when things had been relatively bad. But here was Malfoy, kneeling next to him and rubbing circles against his chest to soothe him. Harry let his eyes fall shut as he let himself be caressed. He could feel the heat radiating from Malfoy's fingertips, and it felt good enough to make Harry forget about everything for a moment.

“That's how I knew it was you,” murmured Malfoy. “I could tell you were in pain.”

Harry shifted so he could sit up but Malfoy gently pushed him back down. He tried to move his hands, only to remember that he was still tied up.

“Damn it! Finite Incantatem!

The ropes that bound his limbs together vanished, but so did the fingers against Harry’s skin. For some odd reason, Harry was a bit disappointed. When he saw what looked like his glasses being shoved in front of his face, Harry couldn’t help but grin as he took them and put them on.

“Thanks,” he said, realising that he really meant it.

“Sure,” answered Malfoy.

They sat in silence, listening for any peculiar noises. There were none.

“Your eyes were red,” Malfoy spoke again, his voice wavering. “I swear, I was about to kill you.”

“So were yours,” replied Harry darkly. He frowned and looked at Malfoy. “I thought I was seeing things. That means this was all a trick.”

“Yeah, you could say that. A cruel one. The Dark Lord knew we were going to kill each other.”

“You think Voldemort’s behind this?”

“Who else would be?”

“But he’s dead! We saw him…”

“Granger mentioned that you’re taking Memory Potion,” stated Malfoy, quickly changing the subject.

“Yeah, I am,” admitted Harry, feeling his cheeks grow warm. He had a bad feeling about where this conversation was going. He had barely brought up his condition with Ron and Hermione; they just accepted it. Malfoy was definitely not someone he was going to consult with about his amnesia. “The thing is, it’s not working. I only remember bits and pieces of things—”

“Tell me.”

“Sorry?”

“Tell me what you know. Or what you think you saw when you were attacked.”

Harry opened his mouth, thought better of it and closed it again. In truth, he had regained very little memory of the incident, mostly voices and feelings. He could recall the laughter and the cold breeze against his skin, but that could have been something his mind created. Maybe he was losing it. Besides, who knew how Malfoy would respond to such musings? He wasn’t about to make himself look anymore of an idiot than he already felt.

“It’s nothing.”

“Potter, stop being such an imbecile.”

“I’m telling you the truth. I don’t know what happened.”

“Fine. Be that way.”

“Malfoy—”

“I really think it was him,” interjected Malfoy, running a hand over his tired face. “Who else would do this to you?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” muttered Harry grudgingly. He knew there were a lot of people who had supported Voldemort’s cause. There were people who hated Harry for defeating their Dark Lord. He had gotten a lot of grief; about how he had hidden from the world, how he had let people down and left some to die. There were still plenty of people who wished bad things on him.

A shuffling noise made Harry look up at Malfoy, who was now standing. Malfoy hesitated before offering his hand out to him. Harry glanced at it and finally accepted it, letting Malfoy help him up.

“Harry.”

Grey met green as they both stared at each other. Not only had Malfoy called him by his name, but there was something about his expression that made Harry want to reach out and touch his face. Harry could see a certain determination in Malfoy’s eyes, but also trepidation. He could definitely understand why Malfoy felt anxious about this whole situation. It made him realise how much they both had changed over the year, and how they no longer hated each other. At least, Harry didn’t. He had stopped hating Malfoy for quite a while.

Malfoy cleared his throat and held out his wand to him. Harry took it, letting the familiar magic travel through his fingertips. The wand stayed alit.

“Why do you think this worked for you?” asked Harry curiously.

“I don’t know,” replied Malfoy, shrugging. “It could have been a life or death situation. I did what I had to do, just like you did when you took my wand.”

A pang of guilt flared in Harry’s stomach. It was true that he had never given back Malfoy’s hawthorn wand after the battle. He’d been too caught up in mourning and his talk with Dumbledore to spare it a single thought. It had been tucked away in his moleskin pouch, forgotten until now. There was no use for it anymore, and Malfoy would need his wand back eventually. Harry had hated it when Malfoy had used his wand. He wondered how Malfoy must have felt when Harry had been in possession of his.

A buzzing noise sounded before the lights went back on. Harry licked his lips, shifting uncomfortably. Malfoy cleared his throat.

“You should get your friends,” he said stiffly. “I’m sure Weasley must have wet himself by now.”

“Don’t talk about him like that,” warned Harry, eying him warily. “Look, I know he was being a git but—”

Anger appeared on Malfoy’s face again, his eyes hardening. “Stop. Just…I don’t want to hear it.”

“Malfoy!”

But Malfoy quickly turned and left, disappearing upstairs without a backward glance. Harry rested his head against the wall dejectedly. There were still so many things that had been left unsaid. They would have to talk sooner or later, he decided. They needed to.

***

Draco woke up to loud chirping assaulting his ears. He groaned, trying to feel around for a pillow to put over his head, but to no avail. Wait, no pillows? Draco rubbed his eyes groggily and blinked, noticing that the window was open. No wonder. Bloody birds. He also discovered the large tapestry covering the wall across from him. It was ancient, holey, frayed and stained. And then it dawned on him.

He had taken the time to study it carefully earlier on, noting how the detailed the golden embroidery sketched out each and every family member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. It was a family tree that his mother had once told him about, one that recorded each time a baby was born. It was no surprise that Draco found himself there. He had also been told about the relatives that were burnt off from the tapestry for betraying their family. Those members had been disowned, like Nymphadora Tonks and Sirius Black.

Stretching his arms over his head, Draco glanced around the rest of the drawing room. Crumpled balls of parchment littered the coffee table. Stacks of books were piled high near the sofa he was lounging on. A big fat book was lying open on a page about shape shifters. So he had been looking up creatures. Or, actually, supernatural beings, Draco corrected himself, as he flipped through a few pages with summaries about rugarus and djinns. He had never heard of any of these creatures before, but they must have made some contribution to the wizarding world. Why else would they be listed in a bloody book about magical phenomena?

“I see you’re awake.”

Draco turned to find Regulus sitting on the grass of the lovely French meadow landscape that was hanging near the door. He was watching Draco intently, smirking.

“How long have you been here?” demanded Draco, feeling slightly self-conscious about a dead man watching him sleep.

“No need be so worried,” reassured Regulus with a light chuckle. “I was only asked to check up on you.”

“Potter asked you to, didn’t he?”

“Actually, good ole Phineas did. Mentioned something about an attack that happened the other night. He told me that you and Potter were at each other throats. Care to share?”

“Phineas didn’t elaborate?”

“I want to hear this from you, if you don’t mind.”

Draco leaned back against the sofa and groaned. There had been a reason why he’d chosen the drawing room as a refuge. He had spent all of his time here trying to avoid everyone since the incident. He didn’t want to deal with Harry yet.

Harry.

No, he would always be Potter to Draco. It had been a slip up, but even that excuse sounded weak to him. Either he had grown up, or something had addled his brain. But he wasn’t going to dwell on it.

There were still many questions he wished he could answer. Like the fact he could use the holly wand. Ha—Potter’s wand. Draco hadn’t expected it to work, not when his previous attempts to use other wands had failed. Potter probaly told everything to Granger and Weasley already. Draco was surprised that Granger and Potter hadn’t tried to barge in and demand answers from him yet, especially after he had told them repeatedly to piss off when they had each knocked on the door. They had thankfully left him alone with his thoughts about the Dark Lord and what needed to happen next.

The thing was, Draco had no idea how to proceed. Curse-breaking had never been his thing. He had never cared for the puzzles and the riddles that curse-breaking entailed. There was simply no truth and evidence when it came to counter-curses. It was all based on theory, and if that failed, well, things could end up disastrous. The counter-curses Draco did know were very basic, but for something as complicated as getting rid of the Dark Lord, he would need to dig deeper for a solution.

“You don’t think it’s possible for someone to come back to life, do you?” Draco asked aloud, staring at the ceiling. “I mean not as an Inferius, or a ghost, but as something else. I swear, it’s the Dark Lord that’s behind everything, even though I saw his body being burned with my own eyes.”

“If the Dark Lord is dead, then he should stay dead,” Regulus stated carefully, stroking his chin.

“Who else has red eyes besides that bastard? He tried to make me believe Potter was possessed by him! And then Potter thought I was the one who was possessed, until we realised that it was all an illusion! Even ordinary witches and wizards can’t do that!”

“The Dark Lord was never ordinary, was he?”

“No, definitely not.”

Regulus raised an eyebrow at him and snorted. “There’s something that might interest you about him.”

Draco laughed maliciously at that. “Like what? How he tortured people when he didn’t get his way? How he treated his so-called allies like shit by leaving them behind to die?”

“What are you rambling on about?”

“What don’t I know about the fucker? He left me in the hands of the Inferi the last time he made me accompany him!”

“I see you made it out alive. I take that Kreacher helped you.”

Draco turned and faced Regulus curiously. “How do you—”

Regulus just shrugged, giving him a small smile. “Elf magic. I’m sure you know a good deal about that. There’s a reason why house-elves are sacred to pureblood families.”

“If he hadn’t…” Draco began but stopped himself. He shook his head doubtfully. He had never mentioned the experience to anyone before. It was a fragile topic, but for some reason, he felt comfortable telling Regulus. He seemed to understand what Draco had been through. “I don’t even know how he found me. No one knew where the Dark Lord took me.”

“I know the feeling,” reassured Regulus, running a hand through his dark hair. “You should appreciate how fortunate you are, Draco. Not everyone is as lucky as you.”

“I wouldn’t call myself lucky. I wanted to die when he left me in the cave. He wanted to test me to see if I could get out on my own. It was a punishment for letting Potter and his friends escape from the Manor. And then the Inferi grabbed me and tried to take me under—”

“I know. It’s dreadful, I can tell you that.”

“You—”

“Died like that, yes. I was only a little older than you when it happened. I drank the potion and tried to destroy one of the Dark Lord’s Horcruxes. But I was too late.”

“But Kreacher could have—”

“I didn’t want him to save me. I told him to leave. There was no point of being saved because the Dark Lord would have simply killed me himself. Those were very dark times. As soon as I was painted as a portrait, I discovered that Kreacher had taken the Horcrux back here. He hid it, and judging from what I’ve heard about this recent war, I’m sure Harry Potter must have found it and destroyed it.”

“You bet I did.”

Draco and Regulus looked at each other with wide eyes before glancing at the large leather armchair in the corner of the room, where Potter was settled. Draped over the arm of the chair was his Invisibilty Cloak.

“You’ve been here the whole time,” growled Draco, standing up from the sofa. “I warned you about doing that before. It’s rude.”

“Going to stomp on my face?” challenged Potter, crossing his arms. “I know for a fact that you were never going to tell me any of this in person.”

“It’s none of your business,” Draco shot back angrily. He took a parchment ball from the table and threw it at Potter so it bounced off of his head. “If you even utter one word—”

“This is my business because you’re in my house!” retorted Potter with a scowl. His eyes darkened. “And if you really think I’m the type that shares secrets, you’re wrong.” He turned to Regulus. “Why have I never seen you around before?”

“I like to keep to myself, thank you,” responded Regulus haughtily, eying Potter with distaste. “Not that you care.”

“So it’s true. About the cave. Kreacher told me about what happened when you tried to steal the locket. But—”

“How do you know about the cave?” interrupted Draco as panic struck him. He had been so sure there was no one else who knew about such a horrible place; one that only accepted human blood for entry.

“Dumbledore took me there the night you let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts,” Potter explained quietly. He glanced at Draco regretfully as he fiddled with his cloak. “We had just come back to the castle when you disarmed him.”

“You were there. You saw me...”

Draco felt his throat close up. He thought he had left that memory behind. But there it was again. If he were to close his eyes, he would still be able to see Dumbledore’s sympathetic face, his twinkling eyes. He would feel his shaking hand, his heart hammering so hard in his chest. His clammy hands and the brooms. Two brooms. Draco should have known. Potter had probably been under his cloak. Potter had seen him at his weakest moment. Why was it that Potter was always there to witness Draco’s failures?

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Potter’s voice snapped Draco out of the memory. “That was just cruel, for him to leave you behind for dead! With poison and Inferi? No one deserves that!”

“The Dark Lord was a cruel man,” Regulus reminded them both. He nodded at Potter. “Though, I should be grateful that you finished what I started, Potter. Thank you for that.”

“I had to. There was no other way,” said Potter, his expression changing into one of determination. “I still can’t believe he had seven of them!”

Draco couldn’t either. Killing split the soul. To kill so many times and then hide the evidence away…it was just wrong. When Draco had learned of the real cause of the Dark Lord’s regime, he had been sickened by it. It hadn’t been about purebloods at all. The Dark Lord had wanted to purge the Muggle population. The wizards and witches that would remain were to be under his power, bowing down to him and kissing his robes. Draco shivered. If the world were like that, there was no point in living. That wasn’t freedom.

“Regulus, you mentioned that you went after one of the Horcruxes,” stated Draco, desperate to change the subject. “Why?”

“I had my reasons, some of which you may know of,” he told Draco, giving him a pointed look. “The Dark Lord was someone who did whatever it took to get what he wanted. He was the type of person who didn’t know when to stop. Magical law meant nothing to him. Neither did the realm between the magical and the supernatural worlds.”

“Meaning…?”

“He was playing with fire. His plan to stay immortal was a complex one and he had many means to achieve it. Horcruxes were not enough, so he sought out a demon to make a deal.”

“Demons?” repeated Potter, sitting up straighter in his chair as he stared at Regulus in alarm. “Hermione mentioned demons before. They’re supposed to be powerful. The ones that you make deals with…you’re basically selling your soul to them, in return for your wish to be granted. Ten years before they come after you—”

“I’m sure the Dark Lord found a loop hole. He always did,” muttered Draco dismally.

“The deal to become immortal was a crass one, and it was never made because he never sealed it with a kiss,” continued Regulus. “His soul was no good; torn into pieces and hidden. So the Dark Lord tried something else. Something no one had ever done before. When I heard about his idea, I tried to stop him. He simply laughed and told me that I was too naïve to understand. The other Death Eaters warned him not to do it too, but the Dark Lord refused to listen.

“There is a fine line between magic and the supernatural and his plan was to mix these worlds together. Black magic, used by demons and other entities, is radically different from our magic, but he didn’t care. The Dark Lord wanted us to be there the night he would perform a ritual. One of black magic, followed by one of pure magic. Black magic would piece his soul back together as one, even after death. Ancient wizard magic would guarantee him the use of magical powers, those he had when he was alive.”

“So that would make him somewhat immortal. Or undead,” replied Potter, blanching. “That means, he’s still around.”

“If he went through with this plan, then yes, he is,” confirmed Regulus. “My attempt to destroy that one Horcrux would have made the plan fail. One cannot become a revenant if the pieces are not intact beforehand.”

Draco froze when he heard those words. His father had spoken of revenants before. They were powerful beings that made frequent appearances in wizard myths. No one really knew what they were. It was common for revenants to appear as a visible ghost or even as an animated corpse. But their powers were endless. Some wizards had attempted to transform themselves into revenants out of spite, only to fail miserably. Professor Binns had mentioned that it was difficult for one to even become a ghost after death. Revenants were known as free spirits that were difficult to put to rest. If the Dark Lord was a revenant, they were completely fucked.

“We can’t kill him!” exclaimed Draco, his voice cracking. He slumped to the floor dejectedly. “The Dark Lord would definitely be back to seek revenge. And someone like him, he can take on multiple appearances and we wouldn’t be able to track him down.”

His hands were shaking badly, and he tried to clasp them together to make them stop. “Fuck! Why—”

“Draco.”

Draco glanced up in surprise to see Potter kneeling next to him. It was almost like déjà vu, but reverse. His name sounded strange, coming from Potter's mouth. Potter met his eyes earnestly as he clasped a hand on his shoulder. Draco held his breath and waited.

“We'll kill him. We'll find a way.”

They stayed like for moment, as if making a silent promise to each other. Then, they heard a loud scream coming from downstairs. Potter jumped up, pulling Draco up with him. Draco shared a look with Regulus as he watched Potter bolt out the door, but Regulus gestured for him to follow.

“He'll need you. Stay close to him.”

Draco wanted to protest but Regulus glared at him menacingly. “Magical revenants are vicious. If you don’t want Potter to be slaughtered, you had best hurry up!”

That did nothing to reassure him, but despite Reglus’ words, Draco ran out of the room and hastily made his way towards the stairs. He could hear furniture being smashed against the wall. He knew he was heading to his death, but if this really was the Dark Lord, he needed to do something. Draco raced down the stairs, taking a left into the dining room. His blood turned into ice when he saw Fred Weasley advancing on Potter.

“I don't know what you're trying to do, Harry,” said Fred, laughing lightly. “I was just trying to talk to dear Ron—”

“That's a lie!” shouted Potter, pointing his wand furiously at Fred's heart. “Ron wouldn't be scared of his own brother.”

Draco could see that Weasley was more than just scared. He was cowering and whimpering behind Granger in a secluded corner near a broken chair. Weasley leaned against her, gripping her hand so tightly that it turned his knuckles white. Granger shook as she tried her best to reassure him, stroking his ginger hair and whispering to him quietly. Draco had never seen them like this before, not even when they were fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts. They were supposed to be Gryffindors, not—

Granger caught Draco's eye, nodding at him to go to Potter. Draco wiped his hands on his trousers, spinning his emerald signet ring nervously around his finger. There wasn't much he could possibly do, now that he knew what they were after. He started to move slowly and silently, trying his best not to attract any attention.

Draco could feel rage radiating from Potter, which made him feel that much more restless. When he looked at Fred Weasley, he saw that the twin was glancing right back at him with an evil grin.

“Well, look what the Kneazle dragged in!” Fred announced brightly. “Draco Malfoy. Never thought I’d see you mix with this riff-raff.”

“Drop the act and show us who you really are,” sneered Draco menacingly. He walked straight up to him. “You might have had fun fucking with our heads, but we’ve had enough.”

“What gives you the right to deny me a visit to my brother?” argued Fred, tilting his head to the side.

“Fred wouldn’t be here!” came Weasley’s shaky voice. “He’s dead.”

Draco spun around to see Weasley draw his wand, his ears turning bright red. Granger just stood aside, allowing Weasley to move closer.

“My brother would never have come back! Not as a ghost, not as anything. He would have moved on.”

“Reveal yourself,” demanded Draco dangerously, turning back to Fred. “Or I’ll make you.”

“Fine,” answered Fred, his eyes flashing a familiar red. And then he transformed.

Standing before them now was an older version of the boy who had climbed out the mirror. He still had dark hair, but he was taller than ever and handsome, dressed in Slytherin attire. However, there was something about the hollow and cold eyes that made Draco stiffen.

“Tom Riddle,” the man replied, reaching out to take Draco’s hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Don’t touch me, you bastard!” snarled Draco, backing away and bumping into Potter.

“You fucker! Leave us alone!” yelled Potter, raising his wand again at Tom. “Stupefy!

Tom only shook his head regretfully. “You don’t remember, do you, Harry? Let me remind you. Spells don’t work on me.”

Potter only got angrier as he shot out more curses at him. “Levicorpus! Sectumsempra! Why can’t you just die, damn it!”

“Don’t—” Draco started to say. But then Potter’s breaths were coming loud and quick. Potter clutched his wand tightly but he was having trouble keeping balance. He leaned on Draco for support, and Draco tried his best to hold him up.

“This is such a waste of time,” drawled Tom, raising his hand in a familiar manner. He flicked it forcefully and grinned. “And now, let the fun begin.”

Instantly, Potter was thrown against a wall like a rag doll. He crashed down to the floor, his glasses breaking in the process. He moaned in agony, and to Draco’s horror, a trickle of blood dripped down from his forehead. Draco’s heart clenched when Potter screwed his face up, his hand reaching to his chest. This wasn’t happening…

“No!” he shouted, watching as Potter’s figure stilled.

“Harry!” Weasley and Granger screamed in unison, rushing to Potter’s side.

“Granger! Weasley! Get Potter of out here!” Draco bellowed out, unsure about what he was doing. All he knew was that they needed to get Potter somewhere safe.

“Malfoy—”

“Give me his wand and get the fuck out!”

“What?” cried out Granger, completely confused and terrified.

“Just throw it to me!” insisted Draco, raising his hand. “Trust me!”

Granger bit her lip before picking up Potter’s wand and tossing it to Draco. But it never reached him, because Tom summoned the wand into his own hand.

“I have to admit, I don’t exactly miss using a wand,” spoke Tom, stroking the fine holly with his fingers. “But it’s great fun to use, isn’t it, Draco?”

“Give it here. Or else,” seethed Draco, feeling pure hatred for this man rising once again.

“A wand. Good for torturing and killing,” continued Tom, moving predatorily towards Draco. He grabbed him by the collar and brushed the tip of the wand against Draco’s face. “Something you were never really good at. A coward, you were. Thinking you could disobey my orders.”

“What? Your orders? When you were living in my home?” questioned Draco, pushing Tom away. He was very surprised when his hands came in contact with a very tangible body. “What the—”

“I can be whatever I want, Draco. I can have a body. Or I can become invisible.”

“Don’t you even dare try that on me!”

Draco didn’t know what made him do it. He felt his hatred explode as he punched Tom in the face. He could feel bone breaking under his fist, which made him feel good. Blood dripped from Tom’s mouth. Tom angrily wiped it away, his eyes glinting dangerously before he jumped at Draco. Draco moved out of the way just in time, ducking behind an overturned table. And then he saw it. Tom turned into a lucid figure, almost resembling a ghost. Potter’s wand clattered to the floor.

“What did you do to me?” accused Tom, stopping to examine himself. “Malfoy!”

Draco didn’t answer as he stayed hidden behind the table, breathing hard. Somehow, he had weakened his enemy. He had no recollection of revenants being this complicated to deal with. The stories made it look so easy. But if this was the game Tom would play, so be it. Draco would not go to him. Tom would have to come here if he wanted to fight.

“Answer me when I ask you a question!” ordered Tom. He went through the table and grasped Draco’s arm, pulling his sleeve up. “You traitor! You’re weak. You were never worthy of having my mark.”

Draco felt like a thousand needles were stabbing through his skin. He bit his lip to avoid crying out, watching as translucent fingers dug into the ugly Dark Mark on his arm. This was it. Tom Riddle would kill him right now and everything would be over. He couldn’t imagine what his parents would say if they saw him like this. They would be horrified and heartbroken, of course. But wasn’t it Draco’s mission to save them? To save himself and Potter? He wouldn’t let Tom prove that he was a coward. Draco was far better than that.

He decided to distract Tom, waving a hand so it passed right through him. “Get your fucking hand off me!”

Tom stilled and released Draco at once. Something was happening. It almost looked as if Tom was fading. Draco waved his hand through Tom again, watching as the man cringed.

“What are you doing?”

It was the glint of his ring that caught his attention. His ring. Suddenly, something clicked in Draco’s mind. That had to be it! Ghosts hated iron. If it worked with the walking stick, then surely it would work with his ring! Draco hurriedly removed it from his finger, clasping it tightly in his hand. He hastily stepped away from Tom.

“Harry asked you to leave. You didn’t. So now I’m making you.”

“You—”

But Tom was cut off when Draco threw his ring right at Tom’s chest. Tom held up his hands in horror as his figure began to disappear. Finally, he was gone.

Draco stayed rooted in his spot as he watched his ring clatter to the floor. It bounced on the floor a few times before landing near his shoe.

“Malfoy.”

He scooped up his ring and raised his head up, only to see Granger standing by the doorway. She was clutching a potion bottle and a damp towel in her bloodied hands. She smiled grimly.

“How is he?” asked Draco uneasily, moving towards her with concern. He didn’t care if he was ghostly pale or shaking. He just needed to know that Potter was all right.

“Harry’s coming around. Ron’s with him. He’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

“I just wanted to—oh my! You're bleeding!

“What?”

“Your arm!”

Draco glanced down to see angry scratches against his arm. The blood from the fresh wounds were thankfully enough to cover his Dark Mark. But sooner or later, he would have to give them an explanation. That was a conversation he didn't want to have just yet.

Before he could retreat, Granger took the towel and gently wrapped it around Draco’s arm. “Come on. We’ll get you cleaned up.”

***

He remembered everything. The moment he opened his eyes, he felt as if he’d just woken from a nightmare. Hermione had told him that he had been knocked unconscious by Tom Riddle, and that was what had confirmed his worst fear. Voldemort was back, and now Harry knew why. It was always been about revenge, wasn’t it?

Harry rubbed his eyes tiredly as he leaned back against his pillow. After being confined to his room for the last couple of days, the option of sleeping was starting to get boring. Kreacher had visited a few times, bringing him food and checking on Harry’s injuries, but the house-elf never mentioned anything about Tom Riddle. Did he even know what had happened to Harry?

He was feeling a lot better, despite his aching head. At least his chest pain was gone. Maybe Tom had decided to do him a favour by getting rid of it. He had to be the cause of it, along with all the other damage. With his regained memory, Harry now knew that it had been Tom who had tried to kill him at the Burrow. He could still feel the cold fingers that had passed through him, and the way the exploding pain had made his body convulse before he passed out. The very thought made Harry feel sick. If the Weasleys hadn’t found him when they did, he probably would have died, this time for good.

A niggling voice in the back of his mind was asking another question though. If it had happened, would he have seen Dumbledore again? Or those he had lost? It was stupid to consider, but hecouldn’t help but wonder how things would be if he really did get to see Sirius and Remus again. And his parents. Perhaps he would be happy for once.

But Harry was not one to give up. No, he couldn’t give into temptation. He’d chosen to stay in the world of the living, and he needed to make his life worthwhile. He had buried the Resurrection Stone with good reason. Now, it was time to finish the fight that had made him famous in the first place, whether he liked it or not.

A knock sounded on the door. Harry sighed exasperatedly. It was probably Hermione or Ron again, pestering him about his welfare. He had told them a number of times that he was fine, even though he had been lying through his teeth. But he couldn’t get angry at them, especially after what they had seen.

“Come in,” he finally called out, rolling over to drop his face in his pillow.

The door slowly opened with a loud creak. When he peeked across the room though, Harry did not expect to see Draco standing there. He looked rather uncomfortable, adjusting his bandaged arm in a sling made out of torn cloth. Hermione had mentioned that Draco had been hurt when he had fought Tom, but Harry didn’t know it had been that bad. He sat up, watching Draco noiselessly enter the room and close the door behind him.

Somehow, Malfoy had become to Draco to him. Harry wasn’t sure when that had happened, but whenever he thought about Draco trapped in the cave, it was difficult not to feel sorry for him. He knew Draco wouldn’t want his pity, but how could he hate someone who had suffered just as much as everyone else? Harry had seen Draco’s reluctance and fear through his visions, and that had been enough to convince him that Draco wasn’t a bad person. He had never been a bad person Just someone who had been mislead throughout his life.

“How are you?” asked Draco, leaning back against the door.

Harry shrugged before sighing. “I...I don’t know. Better, I guess.”

Draco frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The chest pain’s gone, but…”

“But what?”

“I don’t know what else to say,” admitted Harry sheepishly, wringing his hands together. “I remember everything that happened to me though. Tom Riddle was always a bit of a cocky bastard.”

“So it was him then,” stated Draco, furrowing his eyebrows together. “And what he said before…”

“About spells not working on him? He’s right. That was what he told me at the Burrow when I tried using my wand on him.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“That explains everything. You do realise he’s not going to stop until he kills you.”

“He’ll kill you, too. You’re helping me.”

“I know.”

Draco sighed as he slowly made his way towards the bed, gingerly sitting down on the edge.

“You can come closer, y’know,” said Harry quietly. “I’m not going to bite.”

“I’m sure,” snorted Draco as he rolled his eyes, but he moved closer anyway. He settled down next to Harry on the small twin bed, his legs sprawled out in front of him.

“Hermione told me about what happened and how you fought off Riddle,” stated Harry carefully, purposely avoiding eye contact by playing with the frays of his blanket. “She said you made him disappear. Is that true?”

“It doesn’t really matter,” dismissed Draco bitterly. “It would have been better if I killed him. But as a bloody revenant, that’s impossible.”

“Impossible, or extremely difficult?” persisted Harry. He knew all too well that there were ways to get by anything, whether it was to escape from a three-headed dog or to destroy an enemy.

“Fine. There might be a way, but I doubt we’ll be able to figure it out. Even if we did, it would be far too difficult to execute correctly.”

“So, assuming that there is a way to get rid of Riddle, what do you reckon?”

“I only know as much as you do, Potter. Regulus knows a few things, but as far as I’m concerned, there might be someone else who knows more.”

“Who?”

Draco brought his knees up to his chest, bumping against Harry’s arm in the process. He looked at Harry hesitantly. “My father.”

Harry only nodded. He figured Draco would say just as much, and he also knew that Lucius Malfoy would know a great deal about dark magic and Voldemort’s plans. He definitely didn’t like the man, but if he was the only option they had…well, wouldn’t Lucius be delighted to hear that they were dealing with a revenant? He would probably kill Harry with his bare hands if anything happened to Draco, though.

That was another thing that Harry had yet to mention. He had written an owl to the Malfoys the first night he arrived at Grimmauld Place, notifying them of the fact that Draco would be helping him. After all, he still had his own life debt to pay back, and Harry felt he needed to redeem himself as soon as possible. In return, he received a threatening Howler from Lucius that had immediately exploded in his face. The letter from Narcissa had been more sincere. Draco had left her a vague letter of his whereabouts and she had been relieved to hear that Draco was with Harry.

“This is far better than having him fend for himself,” she had written in neat cursive script. “He needs someone to rely on if he wants to win his battles. Make sure to keep him safe.”

Keep Draco safe.

It was a promise he’d made when he decided to save Draco from the Fiendfyre and the Death Eater. Now, it was part of his debt, and even his heart, because the Draco Malfoy he knew now was someone he actually liked.

Sure, Draco was still a snot, but he was so similar to Harry. Motivated, stubborn, and brave. Harry had been too blind to see it before, but there was reason why he had always been drawn to Draco, trying to rile him up in every way he could. Harry had wanted his attention. There was just something about Draco that made Harry want to see into him, to understand how a person with such a complex life could hold up so well.

Apparently, Draco hadn’t held up as well as Harry had thought. But Draco had changed. He had done what he could to help and protect Harry. If Harry ever let anything happen to Draco now, he would never forgive himself.

“Potter?”

“Yeah?” he answered, blinking distractedly before gazing at Draco. “What?”

“I knew you wouldn’t like what I had to say,” muttered Draco, sighing heavily. “But it’s the only option we have. Either we go to him or—”

“It’s not that!” protested Harry, putting a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “I—for your sake, he’ll probably be more than willing to help out.”

“How would you know? You hate him,” countered Draco, glaring at Harry before shaking him off. “Stop that.”

“I told your parents where you are,” Harry suddenly blurted out. Maybe that was the wrong thing to say. Well, it was too late now. “I Owled them and—”

“You what?! Do you ever use your brain? Anyone could have intercepted that!”

“I spelled it so only they can read it. I’m not that thick.”

“Why haven’t you told me this before?”

“There hasn’t been a good time to tell you, has there?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Right.”

Harry shifted away from Draco uncomfortably, feeling slightly guilty for botching up their confidentiality. He was someone who appreciated privacy as well, and could sympathise with how Draco must be feeling. Harry had always hated it when people would always try to tip off the Daily Prophet about him. He was about to get out of bed and leave when Draco caught him by the wrist.

“So my father…” began Draco, rubbing his neck nervously. “He would have been one of the few Death Eaters that would know about the whole revenant ritual. Assuming that the Dark Lord made them watch.”

“You can write to him if you want,” offered Harry. “Or I can get Hermione to make you a Portkey—”

He stopped abruptly when he saw his doorknob moving. It rattled loudly, as if someone was trying to get in. Harry could feel Draco’s nails digging into his wrist as he held on. The air was feeling much cooler than usual, and that was when Harry started to panic.

“It’s him, isn’t it? He’s going to try to have another go!”

“I don’t know,” admitted Draco uncertainly, who was now clutching Harry’s arm. “Come on. Stand up. Get your wand ready if that door opens.”

They got out of the bed and slowly moved towards the door. The next thing they knew, the door burst right open, banging against the wall hard. They jumped back, almost into each other as they caught a glimpse into the hallway. But there was no one there.

“Hello?” they called out at the same time.

Harry and Draco stood idly and waited. And then they saw the head of translucent figure peek timidly into the room. Harry let his jaw hang open. From the corner of his eye, he noticed that Draco had turned as white as a sheet.

Vince? Is that you?”

“Um, yeah,” replied Vincent Crabbe, gliding through the threshold and making his way into the room. “I'm stilling trying to go through walls and stuff, but making things move is funner.”

Seeing Crabbe in his house was almost ironic. Crabbe had tried to kill Harry multiple times, but looking at him now, he almost seemed shy and afraid. What would bring Crabbe here? And why did he choose to become a ghost?

“I know what you’re thinking, Potter,” said Crabbe in a low voice. “It’s not what you think.”

“So you’re not here to kill me then?” inquired Harry suspiciously, his hand faltering a little as he held his wand out.

“I’m just a ghost,” replied Crabbe, spinning in a circle. “See, you can see through me, can’t you?”

“Yeah, we can,” agreed Draco, giving him a tight smile. “But what the hell are you doing here?”

“Warning you. The Dark Lord is one nasty rebnant, isn’t he?”

“Revenant, you mean.”

“Yeah, what you said, Draco.” Crabbe turned to Harry. “Look, I know I wasn’t the nicest to you, Potter, but I wanted to tell you what I’ve been hearing.”

“Hearing?” repeated Harry with a frown. “Hearing what?”

“I hear things from the dead. Well, I’m not sure if they’re dead, but they call themselves angels. They say you guys are marked by him. Potter’s got the scar and Draco’s got the mark. He’ll go for you both first, but he’ll want to target other people soon. He wants to finish what he started.”

“Let me guess. He’s going to fuck everyone over if we don’t stop him.”

Crabbe shrugged and scratched his head. “That’s what it sounds like. You gotta do something quick though. Break his soul and send him away from here.”

“What do you mean by breaking his soul? Didn’t he already do that by splitting it into Horcruxes?”

“I dunno. The angels said he has a soul again, and there’s a ritual that can break it. It’ll send him back to the afterlife.”

“Well, that’s just fucking fantastic!” seethed Draco, pulling at his hair. “You do realise there are thousands of rituals for this shit, Vince, don’t you?”

“Sorry, Draco,” apologised Crabbe, looking sad. “I just wanted to help. I’ve been hearing the Dark Lord talk too, and I thought I should tell you. He’s a selfish arse.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” persisted Harry, tucking his wand in his pocket. “For this ritual.”

“The angels caught me listening in,” confessed Crabbe guiltily. “I didn’t hear much after. All I know is that only you and Draco can stop him.”

“Us? Why us?” demanded Draco angrily. “Why not choose someone else who hasn’t fought in this damn war?”

“Ask the angels. They’re the ones who keep saying that you’re the only ones who are strong enough to stop the Dark Lord.”

Harry squinted at Crabbe, almost certain that his figure was beginning to fade way, “Crabbe, are you…what’s happening to you?”

Crabbe was about to answer when he completely disappeared. And then he came back again, looking as if he were a fuzzy image on a telly. Half of his figure would fade and then reappear again, but something was trying to keep him away from the living world.

“Vince!” cried out Draco, running towards his friend and putting his good arm out. “Don’t go just yet! Come back!”

“I gotta go,” Crabbed gasped out with wide eyes. “If I don’t go now, things will be pretty bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not supposed to know about any of this. The angels forbid me telling you everything and—shit, I gotta go! Good luck!”

“VINCE!”

But Crabbe smiled regretfully, waving before he faded away into nothing. Harry could only stare where the ghost had been a moment ago. Had that been real, or a figment of his imagination? He turned to Draco, who had slid down to the floor on his knees. He looked crestfallen.

“Draco?”

Draco looked up briefly at Harry before averting his eyes down to his lap. Harry felt a rush of emotion as he made his way to Draco. He wanted to comfort him, to do anything to take away the anguish that Draco had been forced to keep in. But Draco was a hard person to reach out to, so Harry reluctantly sat down next to him.

“Don’t,” murmured Draco, pressing his hands against the hardwood floor and bowing his head down.

“If you want to be alone, I’ll leave you be then,” Harry told him, slightly hurt.

He had no idea why he was feeling like this, especially about Draco. They may have started to get along force once, but that didn’t mean they knew each other. Before, he couldn’t care less about what Draco thought of him. Now, Harry wanted to stay close. It would have been what he wanted if he were in the same situation. To have someone to listen and talk to him.

Harry got up to leave but a tug on his trousers stopped him.

“I meant don’t go, idiot,” clarified Draco, smiling slightly. “Please.”

“You want me to stay?”

“Only if you want to.”

“I do.” Harry grinned back and sat down again, his leg brushing against Draco’s.

They just sat there for a while, not saying anything. The silence between them was enough for Harry to realise exactly how important Draco was in helping him fight his last battle. Their battle to finally defeat Voldemort. No matter how much he tried to deny it, Harry couldn’t anymore.

He needed Draco as much as Draco needed him.

***

“Ron, have you seen Malfoy?”

“Huh?” asked Ron groggily as he yawned. He squinted when the light from Hermione’s wand flashed into his face. “Hermione, it’s two in the morning. Shut that off and come back to bed.”

“I think I might have found something that might capture his interest, but I want to run the theory by him,” explained Hermione, ignoring Ron’s request. She moved the light above the ancient text she was flipping through. “This book says something about wand magic. And you remember how Malfoy could use Harry’s wand?”

“Yeah. But talk to them tomorrow. There are some people who want to sleep.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and levitated a pillow. The pillow soared into the ear and ended up whacking Ron hard in the face.

“Hey! What was that for?!”

“And I’m trying to tell you something! Malfoy can use Harry’s wand, and vice versa. I was thinking this might have to do with the magic of the Elder Wand, or even the Deathly Hallows.”

“Why don’t you go find Malfoy yourself and tell him? I’m going back to sleep.”

“I went to look for him an hour ago. I was thinking he might be in Harry’s room.”

Ron sat up straight when he heard that, staring at Hermione with wide eyes. “Wait, what?!”

“They’re not going to kill each other, if that’s what you’re so worried about. Technically, Malfoy saved us from Riddle, so you have no reason to—”

“I don’t hate him as much, if you’re suggesting that. He’s practically an angel, comparing to Riddle. I haven’t had a chance to thank Malfoy yet, but I’m more concerned about when he and Harry even became friends. I never saw that coming.”

“People change. You know that.”

“But did you ever think you would live to see this happen? Arch enemies are suddenly chummy with each other. What’s next? They become lovers? Actually, don’t answer that.”

“Oh, Ron.”

“I need to wash my brain out for even thinking about Malfoy and Harry…” Ron trailed off, taking time to absorb what he just said. “You think they could be…I mean, Harry has Ginny. But Malfoy…people have mentioned that he might have had done things with a couple of blokes…”

“I honestly don’t know,” said Hermione thoughtfully. Ron might not realise it, but she knew he was onto something.

Malfoy had been at Harry’s bedside since she and Ron brought Harry to his room. Malfoy had been the one to take care of him, to watch over him, just in case. One would have thought they were just very good friends. After all, friends took care of each other, didn’t they? But even when Harry had woken up, insisting that he was fine, Malfoy had stayed. From what she could gather as she continued to read though the remaining books from the library, Malfoy had somehow learned to care about Harry. And knowing Harry, he probably shared the same feelings. The real mystery was how deep these feelings ran. But that was discussion for another day.

“Hermione?”

Hermione sighed and closed the book, setting it gently by the nightstand. “Fine. Bed it is then. I’ll talk to Malfoy first thing when I wake up though.”

Ron grinned, pulling Hermione down on top of him and hugging her. “You worry too much.”

“Well, someone has to.”

“Fair enough.”

***

It was bright. He could feel the smoke entering his lungs, threatening to suffocate him. Draco could barely breathe as he stared in horror at the flames that were getting larger by the second. What had Vince been thinking, starting Fiendfyre? Damn him for learning that from the Carrows! He had created a death-trap for all of them. Draco was sure there was no way out this. Not with serpents, dragons and chimeras closing in on them.

“There’s no fucking counter-curse for this!” Draco yelled, gripping Vince’s arm firmly. “I hope you know that!”

“They said it was powerful though!” shouted Vince, clinging to Draco for dear life. “The Carrows, they said it was good for a diversion.”

“They’re liars! Why else did you think I had to teach other students how to fight properly! The Carrows will only tell you things that will get you killed!”

“Draco, I didn’t know—”

Vince’s words were suddenly drowned out as a dragon let out a loud roar. It was deafening. Draco could feel his heart beating quickly, and the heat licking his skin, making him sweat. His mother’s wand was probably burnt into ash by now, and Vince’s wand was useless. There was nothing that could put out a fire like this. They were as good as dead.

“I can’t hold on…Draco, it’s too much…”

“Vince, come on! You can hold on, alright? We’ll be fine. You have to trust me!”

“I can’t…”

Draco could feel Vince’s grip loosening on his arm. He acted quickly, reaching for Vince’s slumping body just in time. He struggled to keep friend up, draping one of Vince’s limp arms around his neck. He glanced at Vince, whose eyes were starting to shut. Vince was losing consciousness.

“Vince, you have to stay awake!” pleaded Draco, trying so hard to support Vince. He could barely stand on his own as the flames got closer and hotter. “We’ll get out of here, but you need to open your eyes!”

“Can’t…” Vince rasped before passing out. He was dead weight now, which made Draco topple to the floor.

“No,” Draco said to himself, shaking his head. He didn’t want to believe it. Sitting up, Draco stared at the still body lying in front of him. He didn’t care that he was covered in sweat, dirt and soot. It would be his fault if Vince was left behind. “Vince, wake up!”

But there was no response. Just then, an angry chimera spotted Vince and Draco. Draco swallowed hard. He wouldn’t be able to get himself and Vince out of the way. But he could try. Malfoys didn’t give up for nothing.

Just as the chimera pounced for an attack, Draco quickly jerked Vince behind him, finding a cleared spot near the crumbling Vanishing Cabinet. It was a close call, except hot ash began falling on top of them. Draco ripped his black robes off, using it as a cover before getting him and Vince to an alcove near a collapsing bookcase. They didn’t have that much longer, Draco was sure of it. He coughed as he inhaled the smoke, his eyes stinging and watering. He needed to get out of here. Draco had promised Vince they would get out of here. They had to.

He racked his brain, trying to think of anything his father and aunt might have said about Fiendfyre. They had never been stupid enough to use it. Fiendfyre was ancient magic, something that hadn’t been used since Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s time. The thought of Dumbledore made Draco feel nauseous. He had messed up. And now, he was trapped. The animals, the thickening black smoke…

“Harry, let’s get out, let’s get out!” bellowed a familiar voice. It had to be Weasley. Which meant that somewhere on the other side of the flames were Granger and Harry.

Draco barely had time to think about that as a dragon emerged from behind the bookcase, glaring down at him. It blew fire at him, which made Draco scream before ducking. The dragon roared angrily as smoke flared from its nostrils. It clawed at the bookcase, its red fiery eyes never looking away. So this was it. If this was Draco’s time to die, so be it. He would deserve it, wouldn’t he? The only wish he really had was for the war to end. Anything to make this war end, to save him from breaking even more.

And that was when Harry came out of nowhere. Harry riding a broom, his Muggle clothes covered in soot and rips. Despite the dirt smudged on his face, he wore a look of determination. Draco could see it in the green eyes that stared at him intently at him. His heart raced as Harry flew towards him. He grabbed onto Vince’s limp arm, squeezing with desperation. But then Draco dropped it as soon as he saw a rough calloused hand be offered to him. Harry was still looking at him, his face shining with sweat. He was waiting, thrusting his hand closer to Draco.

With one last glance at Vince, Draco moved forward to take Harry’s hand. He knew it was hopeless, trying to save Vince. He felt guilty as hell, but they would have to leave him behind. But if Draco could get onto the broom behind Harry, they could leave this inferno forever. He grasped onto Harry tighter but their hands kept slipping.

A roar sounded from behind him as Harry began to rise higher and higher into the air. He looked down, his eyes glowing bright red as he let the flames to slowly consume Draco…


“Draco! Wake up!”

Draco felt a hand shaking him roughly and cold fingers digging into his burning skin. He moaned, grasping for something to hold onto. When something smacked him in the head though, he snapped his eyes open to find familiar green ones staring back at him. It was just Harry, who was normal and not leaving him behind to die. Draco swallowed thickly as he leaned back into his pillows. He was in bed, safe and alive.

“Sorry. I had to do that because you wouldn’t stop shouting,” said Harry tentatively, releasing Draco carefully. He brushed his black fringe out of the way. “You were having a nightmare, weren’t you?”

“It’s fine. Really,” mumbled Draco, feeling embarrassed. Had he woken everyone up? At least Weasley and Granger hadn’t run in yet. Taking a shaky breath, he pulled the blankets closer to himself with trembling hands. From the glimpse of his surroundings, he realised he must have fallen asleep in Potter’s room since there was another bed next to his.

That was when Draco noticed the bright light coming from Harry’s wand. Harry set it down on the nightstand and sat next to Draco. At least it was only Harry that had woken up. His hair was sticking up everywhere, resembling a bird’s nest, and his glasses were perched crookedly on his nose. His faded Puddlemere United t-shirt and grey pair of sweats were quite plebeian but Draco didn’t comment.

“Draco…”

“I said leave it, Potter. I’m fine.”

Harry was still watching at Draco, looking unconvinced. “If you say so. I might be pants at lying myself, but I know a lie when I hear one.”

Draco arched an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. I can’t say I blame you. I’ve always pushed Ron or Hermione away when they asked me about mine. The nightmares, I mean. You’re not the only one, y’know.”

“Oh.”

“It’s understandable. We’ve all been through a lot.”

“Yes, we have.”

Who would have thought the great Harry Potter had nightmares? Draco had heard rumours back in his fifth year, but he had simply laughed it off. Harry always seemed like a pillock who just wanted fame and attention, yet there was more to him than met the eye. If Harry was admitting to this secret willingly, there had to be some truth to it, and that meant he trusted Draco.

When he took a closer look at him, Draco could see that Harry looked as tired as he felt. Draco couldn’t imagine what kind of nightmares Harry had. Had they woken up Harry when he had been in hiding? When did they start for him?

“I’ve been having nightmares for years,” Harry told him, as if answering his question. “It’s nothing new, but it would be better if they just…went away.”

Draco didn’t trust his voice, so he waited for Harry to say more.

“I know it’s not really any of my business, but what were you dreaming about? I—you called out my name and you were thrashing about—”

“I told you, it’s nothing.”

“Please. You can talk to me. Nightmares can be bad, I know.”

Draco tensed and shot a glare at Harry. “Tell me, how do you feel when you dream of the Dark Lord?”

“Well, obviously not good,” started Harry, slightly taken aback. “But what does that have to do with—”

“Damn right it doesn’t feel good! That’s how I feel when I have nightmares in general. I was trapped in Fiendfyre tonight. I felt like it was happening all over again, trying to save Vince and just waiting…”

“Draco, I’m—”

“Don’t say anything!” bit out Draco harshly, surprised to feel a wetness on his cheek. He furiously wiped his tears away, angry for letting down his defences so easily. “I don’t need your apologies! It would have been better to just leave me! Why did you even fucking come back? Why couldn’t you have just let me die?”

“I was never going to let that happen!” retorted Harry angrily. “That would have been wrong. No one deserves that.”

“You don’t know what I deserve!”

“Maybe not. But I know that you deserve a second chance. We wouldn’t be here if I didn’t…well….”

“I should have just stayed with Vince. Then I wouldn’t have to d-deal with all this shit. He wouldn’t have come today to—to…”

“Is that how you feel about everything?” inquired Harry with a wounded voice. “Are you saying it’s my fault that all this shit with Voldemort happened?”

“I never wanted to be his damn servant, Potter!” Draco spat out, ignoring Harry’s comment. At the moment, he was too upset to care, but if he didn’t get this off his chest now, he wasn’t sure if he ever would. “I did everything I thought was right, and look where it got me! Do you know what it feels like to be looked at as a traitor? People hated me because of the mark I wore, and when I tried to help them, they took it for granted!”

“I didn’t know—”

“You wouldn’t, would you? You had your own things to do, and I had mine. Think of me as evil if you want, but I sure as hell did not kill people like the other Death Eaters! I had to stand my ground and pretend to be one of them, watching as others were tortured before they were tossed into a pile in my own home!”

“Hey, don’t think I had it easy!” argued Harry, standing up. “I had to run away from everyone. I know you tried to help people out, Draco. I do! They’re stupid if they can’t appreciate that.”

“I’m surprised your girlfriend was willing to accept my help whenever she tried to start something up. Stealing a sword, hexing the Carrows—”

“Ginny is not my girlfriend. And you have to give her a little of credit. She doesn’t exactly like to be pushed around.”

“But you do?”

Harry went over and slapped Draco hard in the face. “I can't believe you have the nerve to say that.”

“And that gives you a right to slap me?” snarled Draco, rubbing his jaw. He had thought they were over these arguments. He thought that Harry had understood where he was coming from. Maybe Draco had been wrong. “You've always been that person that everyone looks up to, the person that has to please everyone! People pushed you to do the things that you've done, as much as they've pushed me. It's the same damn thing! It doesn't mean either of us were right, just because we didn't fight on the same side.”

“I never said I fought on a side!” growled Harry. “I went off on my own because Voldemort and the Death Eaters were looking for me! I had to destroy his Horcruxes myself before I could duel with him again. I was willing to let him kill me but he couldn't even do that right.”

“What are you on about?”

“That night in the Forest…I let him cast the Killing Curse at me. I should have died, but…it turns out that I was a Horcrux. Instead, I was given two choices: to pass on or to come back so I could finish what I needed to do.”

“So you came back,” stated Draco, completely taken aback. So the rumours that were going around were actually true. “You were able to come back because he killed a part of himself, instead of you?”

“Something like that, yeah,” agreed Harry. “I also asked Dumbledore’s portrait about it. He said it might have to do with me being the Master of Death too.”

Draco had to laugh at that. “Please tell me you’re not referencing to the story of the ‘Three Brothers.’”

Harry gave him a serious look. “I am, actually. As much as other people think it’s a fairytale, it’s not. You already know that the Elder Wand is real. You possessed its power before I took it.”

“I didn’t even know it then! If there is an Elder Wand, then where are the cloak and the stone?”

“You remember the Invisibilty Cloak that I have? I inherited that from my father, who got it from his line of ancestors. It just happens to that it belonged to Ignotus Peverell, one of the three brothers.”

“And the stone? What did you do with that?” asked Draco with great interest. The story seemed so childish, but the more Harry told him, the more everything made sense as he tried to piece everything together.

“I buried it,” answered Harry quietly. “I didn’t want it. Too painful to see all the ones I loved. I can’t think why I would have wanted to keep it.”

“Wow. So it’s all real then? The Peverell brothers and Death. I—that’s just mad.”

“It is.”

Draco leaned back, watching Harry's face flush a little.

“Um. Draco. I'm sorry for hitting you like that. It wasn't called for—”

“I shouldn't have provoked you,” apologised Draco. “Old habits die hard.”

Harry snorted. His face flushed even more in the light as he gestured to the bed. “Can I…?”

“Sit? Go ahead.”

Harry joined Draco, settling down so that they were lying down next to each other. It was a strange feeling to have Harry beside him. When Draco had imagined how things would be like if he had befriended Harry, it wasn't like this.

Draco couldn’t explain it in words, but Harry just made him feel like himself. Not like a Malfoy or a Death Eater, but just Draco. Harry was definitely stubborn and frustrating, but he was also honest and compassionate. If Draco didn’t know any better, he might have thought Harry actually cared about him. That sentiment was rather touching. The few people he did trust had never asked about Draco’s problems, to see what was wrong. But Harry had.

Draco jumped when he felt fingers brush against his elbow. “What?”

Harry took this chance to gently turn Draco’s arm, examining the wrappings that covered it.

“So your arm…”

“What about it?”

“Can I see it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Draco hesitated before pulling his injured arm closer to his chest. He still had some dignity left and he was not about to let Harry Potter feel sorry for him. “I would prefer not to. It’s something I don’t exactly want to flaunt.”

“I want to see what he did to you. I can try to heal it.”

“I doubt it. There’s no reason to look at it. It’s pretty ugly.”

“It’s where your mark is, isn’t it?”

Draco clenched his jaw, glaring at Harry dangerously. Harry smirked.

“I’m right.”

“Does it fucking matter?”

“No. But I’m still going to try to heal it, whether you like it or not.”

Draco could hardly blink before Harry had his wand drawn out. He tapped on Draco’s arm, forcing the wrappings to unravel. Draco looked away, knowing he would be staring down at a disgusting mess of blood and what was left of his Dark Mark. The mark was something he had always tried to hide because he was ashamed. He had tried to claw at it himself a few times in anger and desperation, but he had only made more scars against his skin. Draco knew he was tainted, and he learned to accept that.

But Harry didn’t seem to be bothered by his scars or the mark. He gently brushed his fingers against them, causing Draco to hiss. Instead of flinching away, Harry moved his fingers down Draco’s arm until they wrapped around his wrist. He glanced up meaningfully at Draco before casting another look at the wounds.

“Ready?”

Draco nodded, giving Harry his cue before shutting his eyes. He could hear Harry’s murmurs of incantations as magic swirled and wrapped itself around his arm. Draco bit his lip as the magic pulled around tighter and tighter, until it finally entered him. The magic burned as it travelled up his arm, and it took all his will power not to scream. At the same time, he could feel the pain and the grime on his arm disappear. Then, it was all over. When he looked down, his arm was pale and bare.

“How d-did you…what did you do to get rid of it?” stammered Draco, completely baffled. “Dark Marks are supposed to stay in place forever!”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” said Harry with amazement as he slowly set his wand down. He stroked the newly healed skin with his fingers. “Luck, maybe? There must have been enough damage on your skin for it to just not matter anymore. Whatever Riddle did to you, he destroyed most of the Dark Mark already. I just tried to heal you with a few ‘Episkey’s, and it worked.”

“Thanks,” replied Draco gratefully, meaning it wholeheartedly. Everything from Harry’s hospitality to his benevolence; it made Draco feel slightly overwhelmed. “I didn’t think this would…I didn’t think you could get rid of it. But thank you. It means a lot.”

“No problem. I guess it’s one less thing to worry about.”

“Indeed.”

Draco let out a yawn before letting his eyes flutter shut. The insistent grip that was still on his wrist, though, made him open them up to peer at Harry again. Harry looked him curiously.

“Have you talked to anyone? About any of this, or the war?”

“No,” admitted Draco, furrowing his brows together. “They don’t need to know about what happened. I’d like to keep it that way.”

“But you told me things,” persisted Harry. “Why?”

Draco didn’t have an answer for that. He pulled away from Harry and rolled onto his side, his back facing the window. “I don’t know. You’re a bit easier to talk to. You’re one of few people who are willing to listen. Besides, no one really likes to talk about what they saw.”

“I feel like that too. At first, people thought I was going mad whenever I talked about my nightmares. After the final battle, I think they’re starting to understand how it feels to actually live through a war.”

“I’m sure.”

“People are having a really hard time with it, especially now. Like Ron. I’m just glad Hermione’s there to comfort him. I think they need each other more than I do. They’ve helped me enough.”

“They’re still willing to help you,” said Draco softly. He could feel Harry’s body pressed closely against his back, making his pulse race. “They wouldn’t be here now if they didn’t care.”

“True,” replied Harry thoughtfully. “It still amazes me though. Even after putting everyone in so much danger, people still want to help.”

“Trust me, I would know.”

Draco turned to glance at Harry, and when their eyes met, it was almost as if time froze. The deafening silence rang in Draco’s ears. For once in his life, he actually felt uncomfortable having Harry’s undivided attention. Harry, who was gazing back with interest, rather than with hatred and anger. Hadn’t this been what Draco wanted? To be seen as an equal? Draco didn’t know what they were. He definitely knew that being friends wasn’t supposed to feel like this. At least with his mates, he never felt comfortable enough to just lie down and talk to them. Theo always argued with him, Pansy cooed over him and Blaise would fuck him. Talking about feelings wasn’t exactly something Slytherins did.

But with Harry…their school rivalry had been triggered by childhood grudges. Draco’s grudges. And Harry had always risen up to his challenges, like the Gryffindor he was.

Draco suddenly felt foolish for his rash behaviour during all those years at Hogwarts. He should have realised sooner that it would get him in trouble. But this thing between them, it was foreign ground, and he wasn’t exactly sure how to react. So Draco kept staring at Harry, attempting to ignore the funny feeling that had settled in his stomach.

Harry was the one to look away first as he sat up. “Right. I reckon it’s getting late so …” He made an awkward gesture towards his bed.

“Potter?”

“Yeah?”

Draco felt his face warm up. It was bad enough that Harry had to wake him up tonight, but to ask him to stay in his bed would be asking for much, not to mention awkward. “What do you do to keep the nightmares away?”

Harry ruffled up his hair with his fingers, making it messier than ever. “Well, there’s Dreamless Sleep Potion, but that isn’t exactly reliable. Most of the times at Hogwarts, I would wander throughout the corridors before going back to bed. Though—”

“What?”

“When I was with Ginny, it helped to have someone next to me when I was asleep.”

“Oh.” Draco sighed, pulling the blankets around him. “Thanks, anyway.”

“I could stay here, y’know,” continued Harry, stifling a yawn. “I’m not even sure if I can make the walk back to my bed.”

“It’s only two feet away.”

“That’s a long walk. And I’m tired…”

“Don’t be stupid!”

The sound of a heavy breathing instead of a response made Draco nudge Harry’s side with his foot.

“Potter, what do you think you’re playing at?” he hissed, nudging Harry harder. When there was still no response, Draco reached out to turn Harry on his back. “Fuck. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Of course, the git had to fall asleep, with his glasses still perched on his face crookedly and his mouth hanging open. Draco poked at Harry a few more times, but he didn’t budge. Draco would have to accept this sleeping arrangement then. As uneasy as he was with Harry Potter sleeping next to him, he was not going to drag him back to his own bed. The bed was big enough for two of them and as long as they stayed on their own sides, everything would be fine.

Reaching for the nightstand, Draco grabbed Harry’s wand. “Nox!” he murmured before settling down in his bed and curling around his blankets.

Draco could feel himself beginning to drift away when a warm body pressed against his back. It wasn’t until an arm draped over his waist when he tensed up. Draco could still hear Harry’s soft breathing as his unruly hair tickled his ear. He laid still, his breath caught in his throat. What was Harry doing? Draco waited for Harry to release him, but Harry only embraced him tighter, making his heart race again.

“G’night,” came a sleepy mumble next to him.

“You too, Harry,” Draco whispered back half-heartedly.

He closed his eyes and swore soft lips lightly brushed his neck. Perhaps Draco was going mad but whatever was going on, it was good. Really good. He had never felt so safe in his life. Even if it was Harry Potter making him feel like this, Draco didn’t want to let go of him yet. Hell, he hadn’t thought about Harry like this, not until now.

This was not friendship but something else. Something more. Something that might just change his life for the better.

***

The damn birds were chirping again. There were also occasional barks from dogs and meowing of cats. All together, the neighborhood was pretty loud. He had tried to get used to the sounds since his first stay at Grimmauld Place, but they still woke him up. Harry groaned as he rolled onto his back, only to feel something warm and solid pressed against his side. He moved closer and realised it was a body. That meant he hadn’t slept alone. Harry’s eyes widened. Who could possibly be in his bed?

Harry felt for his glasses on the nightstand, but to no avail. When he sat up to stretch, the blurry shock of white blond hair next to him made his heart stop.

Draco. He had fallen asleep with Draco. Shit.

Harry was about to move away when Draco snuggled closer to him. He was mumbling in his sleep and grabbed Harry’s hand. Harry watched as their fingers entwined against a pillow, and that was when all the memories came rushing back. Harry remembered being woken up by Draco’s screaming sometime during the night. He had tried to comfort him, and he knew that they had argued before talking about the war. It should have ended there, but that didn’t explain why he was still on Draco’s bed.

What would he say when Draco woke up? Harry was pretty sure blokes didn’t sleep in each other’s beds, just for the hell of it. But he’d slept so well last night, his dream absent of the usual images of bodies and battles. Harry knew he might not get another night like this again. What did this say about him? That he liked sleeping with Draco, or that he just liked sleeping with someone by his side? There was always the option of denial, of course. He could just not say anything at all and go back to sleep.

A guttural moan sounded next to Harry as Draco began moving against the bed. His eyes were squeezed shut but his breathing became faster and faster. Studying Draco closely, Harry could see that his hair was matted to his sweaty forehead, and it almost looked like his expression was one of pleasure. It wasn’t until Draco turned to spoon against his back that Harry felt something stiff press against his thigh. A moment later, he realised what it was.

Harry swallowed hard as he felt Draco’s erection press against him. Of course, it was normal for blokes to have morning wood. It was natural to reaction, especially if there was a warm body to—what was he thinking? This was absolutely mad. Harry knew this was wrong, as he had always fancied girls, like Cho and Ginny.

But Ginny hadn’t really been on his mind lately. Truth be told, he’d been too busy trying to figure out how to kill Voldemort to even spare her a single thought. He had also been enjoying his time getting to know Draco better.

It’s no wonder there hasn’t been anyone else,” whispered the traitorous voice of his conscience. “You were far too busy following Draco...

“Damn it,” groaned Harry hopelessly, throwing his pillow over his head.

It was true. Sixth year had been busy, what with schoolwork and following Draco around. Harry had even sacrificed sleep, just so he could try to find out what Draco’s plans were. Besides the search for Horcruxes, this mission had proven to be difficult, even when his friends had tried to stop him. They had always told him he had been a bit too obsessed with Draco. Perhaps they had been right.

Harry knew that all the times that he and Draco had punched, kicked and hexed each other hadn’t been out of courtesy. Draco had never liked him, yet life without him had been disquieting. When Harry was in hiding, there hadn’t been a single day where he didn’t think about Draco. His mind had been plagued with visions of Draco and his family, trying to survive under Voldemort’s command. Whether Harry wanted to admit it or not, Draco had always been a big part of his life. Their former rivalry and their recent alliance had triggered a riveting and even a passionate interaction between them. It was as if they couldn’t live without one another.

The idea sounded bizarre. Was he suddenly attracted to Draco? They got along now, but that didn’t mean anything. He knew that they were friends, but the way they could talk about the war suggested something else. Harry could barely even mention the war to Ron or Hermione.

Thoughts were spinning in Harry’s head. Maybe he was over-thinking things. There had been a few times in the Quidditch locker rooms when Harry had been able to appreciate the lean bodies of a few players. But that didn’t necessarily make him bent, right? Harry had never had the time to consider that possibility. Now that he did have time to think about it, he wasn’t so sure about where he stood.

There was no denying that Harry had learned to care about Draco, but he didn’t know if Draco reciprocated. Getting him to talk about his feelings was like fighting a troll. Harry had never paid much attention to Draco’s love life, but he knew that he had been very close to Pansy Parkinson and Daphne Greengrass. If Draco had had relationships with blokes, Harry had never heard about them. Coming from a pureblood family, Draco would probably never be able to date a bloke. Unless he had, and simply never told anyone.

Before he could dwell any further, Harry felt Draco shift beside him.

“Mmmm,” moaned Draco, rubbing himself against Harry’s leg. “Feels good.”

A hand travelled under Harry’s shirt, caressing his skin. On second thought, maybe this wasn’t so bad. Harry closed his eyes as fingers trailed against his side, up and down, until they reached his bum. He gasped when Draco cupped it and squeezed.

Somehow, Draco found a way to push Harry’s pyjamas bottoms down. Harry shuddered as Draco continued to caress his arse. Long fingers eventually found his hardening cock, wrapping around him tightly. He screwed his eyes shut as Draco began stroking him. Harry knew he shouldn’t be giving in. He wanted to resist these touches; touches that were supposed to belong to a girl. But his body had other ideas. He liked being touched, even if it was by Draco Malfoy, who was a clearly a bloke. Draco continued to rub himself against Harry until his erection was completely solid. Harry could feel Draco leaking, the precome smearing and creating a wet spots on both of their pyjama bottoms. Surprisingly, it turned him on even more.

It had been much too long since someone had touched him so intimately. Even when Harry was with Ginny, it had always been him who would do the caressing, the kissing, the loving. Ginny had tried to touch and satisfy him, but she had no idea what she was doing. At the time, Harry had been content enough to give her what he could. But now, he knew he had made a mistake. He should have asked for something in return, because clearly, he had been missing out.

Harry thought about how warm Draco was, and how lean and hard his chest felt against his back, compared to the soft curves of a girl. It was much better than he expected. Suddenly, a powerful feeling overcame his body. A moan escaped from Harry as Draco used his fingertips to tease him. Harry couldn’t explain it, but it was as if a fierce heat was running through him. Every nerve was sensitive to the touch. The way Draco’s thumb swiped over the head of his cock, smearing his precome everywhere—it was hot.

Harry decided then and there to simply give in. He deserved this.

Just when he tried to take his shirt off, Harry felt the hand disappear from his erection. Disappointed, he sat up and turned, only to be met by Draco’s watchful eyes. Draco’s face was so close that he didn’t need his glasses to see every facial feature.

There was just so much that Harry had never noticed about Draco before, like how pale his skin was, or how his blond hair was actually a mess for once, sticking up in different directions. Harry also noted the sprinkle of freckles across his nose, how long his eyelashes were and how his Adam’s apple would bob up and down every time he swallowed. These were the little things that made Harry’s heart pound faster.

“Draco—”

But Draco only shook his head, pressing a finger to Harry’s lips to silence him. Harry sat there, allowing Draco to take his Cannons shirt off for him and throw it on the floor. His grey eyes never looked away, dark with a hungry fervour. Draco briefly closed them, taking a shaky breath. Then, he closed the distance between them.

Kissing Draco wasn’t like kissing anyone else. Harry’s kisses with Cho had been innocent. Those with Ginny had been sweet and sensual. Draco kissed with a passion that was like wild fire. Harry could feel lips bruising his own, teeth clacking against each other, and yet, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter that the kiss wasn’t perfect…only that it never ended. Harry threaded his fingers through blond hair and tugged, bringing Draco face closer so he could kiss him harder. Magic danced around them and roared past his ears. The energy was so strong between them that Harry could barely breathe.

Merlin. Harry had never felt so alive before. This had been what was missing in his life. It was as if Draco wanted him; Harry, and not the Chosen One.

Harry was the one who finally broke away, panting heavily as he leaned back against the pillows. Draco was breathing just as hard. He licked his lips, still eying Harry before peeling his own shirt off. Two things went through Harry’s mind. First, he was positive he was dreaming. Draco Malfoy would never strip for him. Secondly, if he ever did, there were those thin white scars on his chest. Scars caused by Harry’s own carelessness. Memories of broken mirrors, blasted pipes, water puddles and blood instantly came back to him. He backed away from Draco warily.

“I can’t do this,” he said quietly, shaking his head. “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“No,” Draco growled out, grabbing Harry’s wrist. He fixed Harry with a ravenous gaze. “Need this. We need this—”

“Draco, I’ve never…not with a bloke—”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m not going to—just trust me, okay?”

“No. This isn’t right. This isn’t what you want.”

“You don’t know what I want.”

“I know you wouldn’t want people to find out about this,” insisted Harry, trying to get away. “Not when we’re so close to—”

“So close,” repeated Draco in a strained voice. He managed to pull off Harry's bottoms before taking care of his own. He straddled Harry firmly. “We are so fucking close…”

All the words died on Harry's lips when he felt Draco grasp both of them in his hand. Harry felt his eyes roll back as Draco pumped both of their cocks in unison. He could feel his need growing stronger, and he wanted it harder and faster. Harry let his hand join Draco's to speed things up. Draco's quiet humming eventually transformed into desperate moans. Harry noticed angry pink flush was working its way up Draco's neck.

“Want this, Harry…”

“What—”

But Harry never finished what he was saying. It wasn’t until he felt fingers teasing his balls that he felt himself tense up and come with a cry.

Seconds later, he could feel Draco’s hand tightly gripping his as Draco shouted with pleasure, more warm semen spilling all over them. Draco collapsed next to Harry on the bed, each of them taking their time to catch their breaths. They didn’t need to say anything to each other, as the silence said all.

A loud bang sounded outside the door, followed by yelling. Harry frowned. If there was another commotion…

“Master Harry! Master!”

The urgent call from Kreacher made Harry jerk away from Draco. He quickly shoved his glasses on and pulled the blankets up to cover himself but the house elf took no notice of his state. Kreacher seemed disgruntled. His wrinkly arms were crossed over his chest and a deep frown appeared on his old face.

“Kreacher! What are you doing here?” asked Harry in surprise, ignoring the way his face warmed up.

“No need to worry, Potter. House-elves don’t care about seeing your bits,” drawled Draco, still sprawled out on the bed. He definitely took no shame in displaying his nude body, his stomach covered with come.

Harry had to look away from the erotic sight, forcing himself to focus on Kreacher instead. Kreacher turned his head toward Draco respectfully.

“Master Malfoy,” said Kreacher, bowing deeper than ever. “An honour to serve you, as always.”

“What’s going on, Kreacher?” demanded Draco, slowly picking his clothes off from the floor. “I heard noises downstairs.”

“The Weasley from the Ministry has come to take everyone away! Master Harry is to go back to the unforgivable place called the Burrow—”

“Wait, who?” persisted Harry, raising an eyebrow. “Percy, or—”

“It’s Weasley’s father, isn’t it?” interrupted Draco darkly. “Maybe he found out that I was missing.”

But Kreacher shook his head vigorously. “Not Master Malfoy.” He held out a rolled copy of the Daily Prophet. “From Master Harry’s Muggle friend.”

Harry took the paper and folded it out. He felt all the blood drain away from his face as he read the front page in horror.

"THE DARK LORD LIVES," screamed the cover article, displaying a photo of frantic witches and wizards dispersing from a translucent figurine of a male. The dark hair and mischievous smile were unmistakable.

“Fuck,” Draco cursed quietly, his hands trembling. “Vince was right. And we still haven’t done anything to stop him.”

“We’re going to,” reassured Harry, putting a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “It’s going to be fine.”

“Tell me how things are going to be fine if Weasley is here to collect you lot,” responded Draco irritably, moving away from Harry. “Where the hell does that leave me?”

Harry wasn’t sure how to respond. He took a moment before turning to Kreacher for help. “Is Mr. Weasley here because of Voldemort?”

Kreacher nodded. “Kreacher heard the traitor speak of the Dark Lord scaring wizards and witches. Master Harry is to go back to fight him.”

“Sorry?” inquired Harry with bewilderment. “They want me to fight him again?”

“You heard the elf,” replied Draco sardonically. “Pack up and get going. The fucking Ministry needs you to save the day, as usual.”

“Draco…”

“Kreacher, tell everyone that Potter will down in a moment. And do not mention my presence. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Master Malfoy.” With a crack, Kreacher disappeared.

Harry knew exactly how things were going to play out, but if he could, he would try to stop the worst from happening. He reached for Draco’s face, his fingers caressing his sharp jaw line. Draco glanced up, shaking the hair out of his eyes. Harry licked his lips, thinking of something—anything—to say to make the situation better.

“It doesn’t have to be like this,” he whispered, moving closer to Draco. “We could hide you or—”

“That’s not going to work,” retorted Draco, standing up. “Just because we got off with each other doesn’t mean we can…” He trailed off and shook his head. “No.”

“But can’t we—”

“I’ll be gone before you know it.”

“That’s not what I—”

“I think it’s better if I leave, don’t you think?”

Harry privately disagreed. He felt torn because deep down, he wanted Draco to stay. Draco was the only person that would bring them a step ahead to defeat Voldemort. He had also changed Harry’s life without even knowing it. Draco had been a person to talk to, someone who had listen to the things he hadn’t been ready to talk about until now. Yet, Harry knew Draco was going to argue with him, no matter what, so he did the first thing that came to mind. Gripping Draco by the waist, Harry pulled him down and snogged him senseless. He could feel a wet and delicious tongue entering his mouth, and it was glorious.

“I don’t want you to go,” he whispered against Draco’s lips. “Not yet.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, the kiss ended. Harry felt himself being shoved away as Draco looked at him with disdain.

“I would rather die than have Weasley’s father arrest me in this state.”

“What are you trying to say?”

Draco stiffly reached for Harry’s wand. In mere seconds, they were not only cleaned up, but dressed as well. Harry raised an eyebrow as he watched Draco tidy up the rest of the room. “Draco, what the—”

“You’re mad if you think I’m going with you,” interjected Draco. “Our time will have been wasted if I’m thrown into Azkaban, and you’ll have no way of getting rid of the Dark Lord.”

“The house is still under a Fidelius Charm!” stated Harry hotly, running his fingers through his hair with aggravation. “No one would know that you were here if you stayed! They wouldn’t bother to check the whole house.”

“If you think I’d rather hide, you’re wrong. So fucking wrong, Potter,” seethed Draco, pointing the wand into Harry’s chest. “I don’t care how strong your fucking Fidelius is, I refuse to be pushed to the side like some coward.”

“But it was okay when Voldemort took over the Ministry, was it? It was okay to watch Hermione being tortured by your aunt, or for the Death Eaters to consider handing me over to Voldemort. If you’re trying to say that’s heroic—”

Harry had gone too far. He didn’t realise it until he saw Draco’s eyes boring into him with a fury so strong, it could have lit something on fire. Harry saw a wave of his wand before a flash of purple light threw him off his feet, making him land flat on his arse. Harry cringed from the pain before he heard the yelling start up again from downstairs. It sounded like Ron and Mr. Weasley were arguing. Pressing his hands against the floor, Harry could feel tiny tremors shaking the floorboards. This was not good.

“Stay the fuck away from me,” snarled Draco, the wand shaking in his hand. “I did what I could, you ungrateful tosser! He knew I was lying when he asked me what happened. The Dark Lord knew where my loyalties lay, and he made sure to let others know.”

“Is that why he took you to the cave?”

“What do you care? Even after I escaped, Snape made me stay at Hogwarts. It didn’t matter that I was the one cleaning up after people, making sure that they were still alive. No one gave a shit, even though I did! I may not be a golden boy like you, Potter, but I know what it takes to save a life, even if I can barely save my own.”

Footsteps were coming up the stairs. Harry and Draco glanced nervously at the door, and then at each other. If Mr. Weasley were to find Draco at Grimmauld Place, they would be in so much trouble.

“Someone’s coming…”

A firm knock sounded against the door. Just when the doorknob turned, Harry heard a familiar popping sound. It happened so fast, and there was no way for him to stop it.

It was that simple. Draco was gone. Harry reached the empty spot where Draco had been standing, completely stunned. All the anger, panic and hope that had been running through him instantly evaporated, replaced with a cold emptiness. He didn’t know what to think. He couldn’t understand why everything between them had to be so complicated. Just when he had thought something was going on between them, he had to bugger it up.

He cursed loudly and heard the door creak open. Hermione entered the room cautiously. “Harry? We need to—”

“I know,” interjected Harry tiredly. “Kreacher told me everything.”

“We’ve got to get Malfoy out of here!”

“Already taken care of.”

“Harry, are you all right?”

Taking one last look at the room, Harry walked to the nightstand and opened the top drawer. He pulled out his moleskin pouch. He hadn’t touched any of its contents since he had been in the headmaster’s office, but he knew now was the time. Loosening the drawstring, Harry pulled out a smooth hawthorn wand. He gripped it tightly, making a few sparks fly into the air.

They needed to move fast. There was a Dark Lord to kill and a Malfoy to find. Harry gave Hermione knowing look.

“Never been better. Let’s go.”

***

“I can’t believe I got myself into this mess.”

“I do have to admit, that was quite a story.”

“Oh, piss off! You didn’t expect me to stay in Wiltshire, did you?”

“When it comes to Potter, you’ve always done whatever it takes.”

Draco shot Pansy a dirty look, but Pansy only laughed as she pressed her lips against his cheek. It was almost like old times, when everything had been okay. Except now, Draco had left Harry behind.

He should have seen it coming. He knew he should have just moved away when he had realised that Harry was in his bed. His dreams earlier that morning had been filled with green eyes and a charming smile, and Draco hadn’t known why until he decided to kiss Harry. The kiss had been one of the best he had. Blaise had kissed with hunger. Daphne had been too gentle. Justin had been too interested in snogging his face off. Draco hadn’t known that Harry would kiss him back with such a strong passion. At the time, he thought his heart was going to explode with excitement. It had been perfect. Then, everything had gone wrong.

What was a hopeless infatuation should have stayed an infatuation. It had started roughly when his father had been sent to Azkaban. Draco had been angry and rambled on about how it was Harry’s fault until Pansy used a Silencing Charm on him. That had also been the time he’d just discovered that he preferred blokes over girls—thanks to Blaise—and that had only made things worse. Much to Draco’s embarrassment, Pansy kept making jokes that Draco fancied the pants off of Harry, even though the very thought seemed atrocious. Blaise had joined in, and the jokes continued well into sixth year. Draco had tried to ignore them.

There had been some moments that year when Draco had wanted to reach out to Harry for help. He had known that Harry was watching him and following him. Harry would have tried to stop him from pursuing his tasks. That had left Draco no choice but to do everything in his power to get Harry out of his life.

It wasn’t until very recently that Draco had been reminded of why he had wanted to befriend Harry in his first year. Harry was exactly what a friend should be: nice, funny and witty. He was also undeniably charming and handsome, and it made Draco wonder why he had tried to push Harry away in the first place. Now, he didn’t even know what was going on between them.

He didn’t know what made him do it, but Draco had Apparated from Grimmauld Place to Malfoy Manor. Draco hadn’t been sure if Apparition would work, even though he could perform simple spells with Harry’s wand. The news from Kreacher about Weasley’s father being in house had been bad enough. Harry calling him a coward had been worse. Draco found it both insulting and hurtful. Perhaps Draco cared about Harry’s opinion more than he should have. But he wasn’t going to go back now.

“You’re home, Draco. That’s all that matters,” murmured Pansy, massaging his tense shoulders with her fingertips.

Draco wanted to believe her. He dwelled over his thoughts as Pansy tried to loosen his muscles.

If he hadn’t found the Parkinsons in the drawing room with his parents earlier, he probably would have still been wallowing in sorrow. He hadn’t expected them to be at the Manor after hearing about the Ministry taking them in for questioning. Draco knew the Parkinsons were a rich family, but they had been one of few that had avoided involvement with the Dark Lord. That hadn’t stopped the Ministry from pestering them for information. Moments after coming home and eavesdropping on their conversation, Draco found out that the Parkinsons were granted freedom.

His sigh of relief to that news had been enough to attract the attention of his parents. Draco remembered everyone staring at him with wide eyes when he had entered the room. Narcissa had practically knocked him over as she embraced him tightly, tears running down her face. Lucius had pestered him with endless questions until he noticed how forlorn and exhausted Draco looked. He had stopped immediately, moving in closer to hug his son. Draco had been extremely shocked by that motion, as his father never hugged him. Looking at the Parkinsons, Draco had greeted them briefly and politely when his eyes fell on Pansy.

Even before he could say anything, Pansy had crushed Draco into a welcoming embrace of her own, which had been much more comforting and familiar. Draco had relaxed as he held her close to his chest, burying his face onto her shoulder. Her meaningful silence meant she had already figured out that something big had happened, and it made Draco love her that much more. It hadn’t been until hours later when everyone was asleep that they were able to talk.

As soon as Pansy had snuck into Draco’s room, everything spilled out. Draco had talked about how Granger had sent for him and how he’d been helping Harry. He knew there was no point in keeping secrets from Pansy, so Draco told her about the Dark Lord being a revenant, about talking to Vince and how things between him and Harry had changed. He had skipped the details of what had happened in the bed but Pansy wasn’t fooled. She had listened to him patiently, waiting for him to finish.

And here they were, lying on Draco’s bed in each other’s company. Draco had missed Pansy so much. They hadn’t had the chance to talk like this at Hogwarts, with Draco’s prefect duties and the intent ears of young Death Eater Slytherins. That had given him no choice but to distance himself from everyone. He knew Pansy had heard about some of the punishments he had had to endure. Somehow, confessing every detail to her about his part in the war and the recent turn of events made Draco felt strangely empty. Pansy had always been the girl that understood him and offered good advice. This time around, though, he wasn’t sure how she could possibly help him.

“I’ve looked for ways to get rid of revenants and there’s just nothing. The Dark Lord is having a ball terrorising innocent bystanders and he knows we can’t stop him. It’s hopeless.”

“I still don’t know why that madman would want to be a ridiculous undead being. It’s stupid.”

“It’s for revenge,” pointed out Draco, closing his eyes as Pansy stroked his hair. “He still thinks that there are wizards and witches out there that have done him wrong.”

“You’re lucky, Draco,” said Pansy sadly. “It could have been worse.”

“Why do people keep saying that?”

“Like who?”

“People. And it’s not considered lucky if the damn bastard keeps going after me. I can’t imagine how Harry dealt with him, year after year.”

“You care about him.”

Draco opened his eyes and frowned. “Pansy, don’t start.”

Pansy stopped playing with Draco’s hair and let her hand rest on a pillow. “Don’t give me that. You called him by his name. I can see it in your eyes.”

“I’m serious,” warned Draco, his heart caught his throat. “Stop.” He could tell she had been waiting to bring this topic up. As much as he wanted to talk about Harry, he wasn’t sure if he could.

“I know how you are, even if we haven't been able to talk much this year,” continued Pansy, her dark eyes narrowing at him. “You were always intent on hearing about Potter, whether it was in the Prophet or on the wireless. And when I heard about what the Dark Lord did to you after Potter and his friends were captured...” she trailed off, shaking her head before continuing, “Sometimes, I don't know if you think before you act. All I know is that you've always been after Potter's attention.”

“I owe him a life debt! If it's going to help my family, I wasn't about to say no to him!”

“Stop making excuses! You mentioned that you can use Potter's wand. Have you thought about why that is?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Draco demanded impatiently. “I told you, it was a life or death situation.”

In truth, he had already come up with some theory about why this had happened. It was possible that his magic was intertwined with Harry’s. Vince had mentioned that only he and Harry could stop the Dark Lord, and if Vince was right, it would explain why they were able to use each other’s wands. But if Draco had overpowered him and took his wand, where did that leave Harry?

“You can’t even get your great aunt Elladora’s wand to work, yet Potter’s hasn’t given you a problem,” stated Pansy evenly. “Think about it.”

“Don’t tell me you think that means we’re meant to be together or something.”

“You have a working wand, Draco! You said your father might know what the Dark Lord did to become a revenant…”

“Even if he does, what good would that do? Killing a revenant involves rituals from legend. That means no one has ever tested them out. If there’s even a way to get rid of the Dark Lord, it’ll require powerful magic. Ancient magic will take away his powers. Black magic will break his soul and send him away. This task isn’t something for a single wizard.”

“But it’s good enough for two.”

Damn. Pansy was too clever for her own good. Of course, leave it to her to think of ways rebuff his excuses. She wanted him and Harry to work together. Even so, Draco knew that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon. Harry was with the Weasleys, probably running back to the Weaselette. Despite the fact that Weaselette had been pleasant to Draco at school, the thought of her and Potter was infuriating. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves.

“I’m sure Potter will find a solution. After all he has his group of Gryffindors to fight by his side.”

“But you want to help him, too.”

Draco groaned, putting his hands to his face. “Why do you insist on talking about this subject?”

Pansy elbowed him in the ribs and glared. “Because you’re being irrational. You made sure to prove yourself to him. If Potter trusts you enough to help him, that means he respects you. He sees you as his equal. That counts for a lot.”

“I don’t care what he thinks!” argued Draco stubbornly. “He made it clear about how he feels about me! I could die for him, and he probably wouldn’t even notice.”

“He saved you from Fiendfyre, risking his life to protect yours,” stated Pansy fiercely. “Actions speak louder than words.”

“You do realise he’s straight, don’t you? His heart belongs to Weaselette. He hadn’t even done anything with a bloke until—”

“If what you told me was true, it didn’t seem like he was complaining when he getting a fantastic hand job from you. I’m not hearing you complain, either.”

Draco was fighting a losing battle. There was no point in denying how he felt about Harry any longer. For the duration of the time he spent with him, he had convinced himself that they were just friends. Being friends was better than nothing, but Draco knew that was crap.

“This is so fucked up. I hate you, Pansy.”

“Stop pouting. You want him. Admit it, Draco.”

“What’s your point?”

Pansy put a gentle hand on his arm. “C’mon, Draco. Do yourself a favour and go to your father. You’ll be one step closer towards saving your golden boy.”

Draco shrugged doubtfully. “I don’t know. Potter could use the help. My father, though…”

“You know I’m right.”

“Wench.”

“Wanker.”

He was glad he could count on some things to still be the same. Pansy grinned at him. Draco smirked back, and together, they both laughed for the first time in quite a while.

***

He stared at the mahogany door to his father’s study. The last time Draco had ever felt like this was when he had asked his father to take him flying. It had been a busy day at the Ministry for the Board of Governors, and he had yelled at Draco. Draco remembered retreating to his room in tears until his mother dragged him out to eat his dinner.

But he was not a child anymore. He was a man, but that didn’t make him feel any better. Draco hated going to his father for help. His father always had the tendency to diminish his confidence every time they talked. Draco didn’t want to listen to his lectures about how to be a good son, or to fulfill his duties as a Malfoy.

Just when he was about to knock, the door opened. His father stood there in his usual black robes, holding a large red book under his arm. His slim spectacles were sliding down his nose. Draco tucked his hands in his trousers.

“Father.”

“Draco,” Lucius acknowledged, opening the door wider. “I see you’ve been sleeping better.”

“Yes, I have actually,” answered Draco, wondering if one could count Dreamless Sleep Potion as a remedy. He gestured to the book curiously. “You’re doing research. On dark magic.”

“Yes, I am. And you seem to have something to say. What is it?”

Draco hesitated, not sure how to ask his question. “Father, what do you know about magical beings?”

“As in creatures?” asked Lucius, frowning. “It depends on what type you are asking about.”

“I meant supernatural beings. Like ghosts or…or revenants.”

Lucius raised his eyebrows. “This is about Potter.”

“Yes,” said Draco, slightly nervous. “I might have learned a few things while working with him, and it makes sense for them to be linked to recent events.”

“I see,” responded Lucius shortly, looking at his son. Adjusting his spectacles, he moved aside. “Then it’s best if you come in, Draco. There is much to be discussed.”

Draco only nodded as he walked into the study and sat in the squashy leather chair near the marble fireplace. It had been so long since he’d been here. It was a relief that everything looked the same, with bookcases lined from the floor to the ceiling. The green curtains were pushed aside to let the sunlight in and the mahogany desk was covered with dozens of parchments and a couple of quills. A stack of old books were stacked neatly on top.

Lucius took his time to shut the door and sit down at his desk. “I have seen the situation myself,” he told Draco, opening the red book carefully. “While he hasn’t paid us a visit yet, the Dark Lord’s disembodied soul is gliding all over London. No one seems to know how to stop him.”

Draco frowned when he noticed that the book had nothing but a pentacle on its cover. Granger had once mentioned something about pentacles when they were in the Black library after the mirror incident.

“According to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, pentacles are used to fore-know all future things, command the whole of nature, have power over devils and angels, and do miracles,” she had explained when Draco had asked her about a pentacle he found in a flimsy black book. “By miracles, he means that pentacles can drive spirits away.

Draco didn’t dare say anything, so he waited for his father to continue speaking.

“What have you found out?”

“What?”

“Draco, you are not fooling me,” explained Lucius calmly. “Potter was the one who told us where you were. He also believed that it might take my interest to look into the case. He was right, by the way.”

“Sir, I can explain—” Draco started, but Lucius held his hand up.

“No need to explain. I will tell you that only a fool would go after someone like the Dark Lord without any defence, especially in his current state.”

“He tried to kill me multiple times! Father, he’s a revenant and he has to be stopped before he ends up murdering half of Britain!”

“The Ministry has made this claim as well,” stated Lucius dryly, turning a delicate page of the book. “I believe that, for once, they are right.”

“Is there a way to reverse it?” asked Draco, leaning back in his chair. “I’ve tried to look through all the books in the Black Library, and Regulus said you might…know more.

“Regulus Black? Brave man. I presume his portrait must have told you more about the Dark Lord.”

“Well, he mentioned that the Dark Lord wanted to become immortal, so he performed a ritual.”

Lucius paused, looking at Draco meaningfully. “You must know, Draco, that I did not think this would ever happen. The Dark Lord once proposed the idea of becoming a revenant, but many of us rejected it. The ritual to turn into such an ugly creature is known to be legendary, and nothing more.”

“Regulus said the ritual involved ancient magic and black magic. Death Eaters were supposedly there to watch.”

“And I was not one of them. I was back at the Manor with your mother, caring for my infant son.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. He had not expected to hear that confession. While he had thought his father cared more about the Dark Lord’s orders than his family, perhaps Draco was wrong. Lucius Malfoy had tried to be a family man, making sure everyone was happy. It was good to know that his father had sacrificed his time to see Draco rather than serving the Dark Lord. Draco wondered how the Dark Lord had responded to that. Still, if his father hadn’t been at the ritual, then who had?

“If you are wondering who was present, very few were,” added Lucius. “Bellatrix, Rodolphus, Rowle and Avery. They were foolish to support the idea.”

“How did they find out about it?” questioned Draco. It didn’t seem like loyal Death Eaters would bother with anything unless they were under the Dark Lord’s orders.

Lucius placed the book on his desk and beckoned Draco to come closer. Draco did and instantly swore. Looking down at the page, he found that it revealed tons of passages in ancient Latin and a picture of what looked like a sigil made from blood. If this was the ritual that made the Dark Lord into a revenant, then the magic to reverse it was going to be more difficult to achieve. From what he’d gathered from Granger and his research, black magic involving blood was dangerous. A ritual demanding blood meant a sacrifice had to be made, and if Harry decided to sacrifice himself…Draco refused to think about it. There had to be another way.

“Where the hell did you get this?” he demanded in horror. “Father—”

“Promise you will not think badly of me,” warned Lucius hesitantly, putting a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “This very book is one that has been passed on as part of the Malfoy collection for centuries. Only few copies are known to exist to this day. It goes back to the druid Mordred’s time, and much of the magic from his era has been forgotten. Every spell, ritual, incantation, and whatever else is fused with black magic and our magic. Foolish wizards have tried to bring this magic, back but without success.

“I did not take notice of the book in this library until a few years ago. When I realised what it was, I kept it hidden away in the cellar as a transfigured jar of newt tongues. The Dark Lord and the Ministry never found out about it. Only I knew.”

“But the Dark Lord must have found it somewhere…”

“I assure you that I would have never allowed the Dark Lord to enter my home, until he decided to take residence here.”

“And the other copies?”

“This is where the mystery gets…interesting, shall we say. The Parkinsons mentioned that one copy had belonged to the LeStranges. After they were released from questioning at the Ministry a few days ago, they saw Rodolphus being dragged away by Aurors, screaming about the book. Not only had he been caught in hiding, but the book was apparently found amongst all the other dark artifacts in his home. It is likely that he or Bellatrix must have given it to the Dark Lord.”

“I can’t believe this!” exclaimed Draco, furiously shaking Lucius’ hand off. “Aunt Bellatrix might have been a mad woman to give the Dark Lord ideas, but you still know that it happened. You knew that there was a possibility that Dark Lord could come back, didn’t you?”

“I only had suspicions—”

“That’s crap! You have the nerve to say something now, after all these years? And well after the Dark Lord is around again, trying to kill people?”

Draco knew he shouldn’t blame his father, but it might as well have been his fault if the secret had been hidden for so long. Even if his aunt and uncle had given the Dark Lord the book, his father was the one who still knew that the ritual had happened. He knew that the Dark Lord could become a revenant after his death.

"I cannot say that I tried to stop the Dark Lord when I found out,” admitted Lucius disconsolately. “I was ignorant to believe that magic would not work. While I do not know what the original ritual entails, there may be a possibility to reverse it.”

“That being what? What could we possibly do to get the Dark Lord to kick the bucket again?”

“This book has the encryption of the ritual to reverse the Dark Lord’s state. I will tell you that I had enough time to translate it into decent English. There is no guarantee that it will work, but it is the only solution left.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“Draco. I am telling you the truth because it is what I should have done before. The Dark Lord was always one to take risks, but never bothered to look into the finer details. While the original ritual is clear and straight-forward, it also holds an encrypted riddle, suggesting that it could be a remedy. If my translation is correct, one must trap the revenant and recite an incantation to unbind him from his soul and powers. It is very dangerous, and it must be done by only a powerful wizard.”

“Like Harry Potter?” said Draco uncertainly, his heart clenching at the name.

“Exactly.”

“If this is some scheme to get him killed because you hate him—”

“He must do it because he is the true master of the Elder Wand,” interjected Lucius, closing the book firmly. He held it out to Draco. “This could be the only chance to banish the Dark Lord for good. There is no other magic more powerful than Potter’s.”

Draco glanced at the book before taking it suspiciously. “Where exactly do I fit in this whole thing?”

“I knew you would catch on. I recall that Potter stated that you were once the master of the wand before he overcame you?”

“Me? Are you suggesting that—”

“Yes. The power of two men is better than one. If you are willing, I will tell you exactly what you must do to get rid of the Dark Lord.”

“Father, are you sure about this?”

Lucius sighed and smiled ever so slightly. “Am I certain that this will work? No. However, I believe you can do this. The Dark Lord has made my family suffer. I trust you to put end to it, Draco, but that is your decision to make.”

There it was: another choice. Draco knew he could easily say no. But his father had faith in him, and so did Harry. Leaving Harry to fight the Dark Lord alone would be cruel. If his father was right, though, the power of the Elder Wand could possibly save them before it was too late. He needed to take this chance. It was now or never.

“I’ll do it. Tell me what I need to do.”

***

“Use him as bait? Are you mad?”

“That preposterous! He’s just a boy! Hasn’t he already been through enough?”

“He’s of age. If we’re right, only Harry can do this.”

Loud protests filled the kitchen. Kingsley was trying to calm everyone down, but every Weasley and remaining Order member refused to listen. They had been in this meeting for an hour. Kingsley and Aurors Proudfoot and Savage had travelled to the Burrow through the Floo Network to tell them more about Voldemort. Apparently, they had immediately known he was a revenant, based on reports from various witches and wizards they’d talked to. The lack of surprise on their faces when Harry, Ron and Hermione tentatively confessed what they had found out from Grimmauld place had been disturbing. It was even more so when Kingsley had announced that they had found a solution to get rid of Voldemort for good. Of course, this involved strong magic. Harry’s magic.

Figuring that no one would notice his absence, Harry slowly backed away from the crowd until he reached the living room. When he bumped into something solid, he turned around sharply, only to face Ginny. She looked just as surprised as he was.

“Harry?”

“Ginny,” he acknowledged awkwardly. “I didn’t know you were—”

“Hiding again, are you?” she asked with a blank expression.

Harry licked his lips nervously. What could he say to that? Sure, maybe he was hiding, but he had good reasons. The last few days had been so overwhelming that Harry needed to get away. Ever since he had come back to the Burrow, Harry had felt distraught and confused. He knew Hermione suspected something, but she hadn’t asked. Ron had tried to cheer him up, and every time he saw Ginny, Harry couldn’t help but feel guilty. Ginny had been acting very cool toward him, which was understandable considering their last conversation. She had every right to be angry, but that wasn’t the real problem.

“Not hiding,” Harry finally answered. “Just needed a place to think.”

“You seem to be doing that a lot lately.”

“I kind of need to, if I’m supposed to kill Voldemort once again. You heard Kingsley, didn’t you?”

“About you needing to trap Voldemort with a ring of salt and a devil’s trap? Yeah, I heard.”

“That’s asking for a lot already. It’s a risk because we don’t know if revenants are even immune to them. And the crap about a blood sigil and all these Latin incantations…it’s all theory! There’s no proof that it will even work! It’s all a riddle from a damn book!”

“They’re trying,” Ginny reassured him. “I know Dad hates the idea, but he thinks it might the only thing we’ve got. If we could have it any other way, we would.”

“I know,” he murmured dejectedly. “I just…I wish someone could help me. Sure, I was able to defeat Voldemort on my own the first time, but if I didn’t have help, things would be even worse. Now, people expect me to kill Voldemort one more time. Honestly, I don’t think I can.”

Ginny only nodded sympathetically. Harry scowled. He didn’t need sympathy, but he couldn’t get mad at her. He only had himself to blame for getting into this current situation. If he hadn’t tried to push Draco away, if he’d done something else to hold on a little longer, maybe things would have been different. Why had Harry been so stupid?

Thinking about Draco made Harry feel miserable. He hadn’t meant what he said about Draco, but the damage had already been done. It wasn’t until after Harry had returned to the Burrow that he realised how much he missed him. There was no one to talk to about personal things, or to tell him he was being an idiot. There wasn’t anyone to defend him when he couldn’t, or to make him feel safe when he was terrified. And it wasn’t just Draco’s personality that had captured his attention.

Harry could still remember the hands that explored his body, the way Draco had kissed him so enthusiastically. He had let Draco touch him, making him feel things that he’d never felt before. Draco had convinced Harry that he was worthy and even sexy, and someone who could be loved. Harry still wanted to believe all that, but without Draco, he felt empty. It didn’t make sense at first, because he still had Ginny. Night after night, however, Harry would dream about blond hair and a hearty laugh, only to wake up to find himself alone in his bed.

It was pathetic, but he couldn’t help it. Hours and hours of thinking had led to one conclusion: Harry fancied Draco. There was no question about it. As much as Harry denied it by trying to go back to Ginny, pretending things were okay, he already knew the truth. A couple of years ago, Ginny could have been the One. Now, Harry knew she wasn’t. Maybe he didn’t know who his soul mate was, but with Draco, it was as if anything was possible.

Somehow, Draco had grown on him. His sarcasm and wit had never failed to impress Harry, but it was his courage that had caught him by surprise. It was amazing that after all these years, Harry had never seen Draco for who he was. Reflecting on their time together, Harry was sure that Draco had to have some feelings for him. He wouldn’t have stuck around for so long if there hadn’t been anything between them. But just as quickly as Harry had gotten to know Draco, he had let him slip away.

Harry sat down on the sofa and stared at the floor, listening to the voices from the kitchen. They were softer now, but he could tell that they were not happy. Ginny went to join him, sitting a good distance from him. They stayed like that until she broke the silence.

“What do you think you’re going to do?”

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

“You could tell them no,” suggested Ginny, shrugging.

“I’d rather take my chances and get rid of Voldemort,” Harry told her, balling his hand into a fist. “He’s done enough to our world. His time should be up.”

“You do have the power of the Elder Wand to help you. It’s what makes you almost invincible, compared to all of us. At least that’s what Kingsley and Dad think.”

“I doubt it. I told everyone earlier, wands don’t work on him. I need to get the ritual right, or we’re fucked.”

“You can always let us help you.”

“That won’t work either.”

Ginny leaned closer and looked at him pointedly. “That meeting in the kitchen…that’s all so we can help you, Harry. We’re doing this because we want to. Look, we can stay with you when you wait for Voldemort. Someone could help you set up with the salt; another person can draw the devil’s trap. It’s not going to be easy, but things have never been easy.”

Harry knew Ginny was right. He should feel grateful, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to drag people along with him if it wasn’t necessary. He needed to make a sacrifice, not them.

“It’s supposed to be me. He just wanted me in the first place.”

“You can’t keep pushing us away forever. Let us help. Let me help.”

“Ginny…” started Harry but he stopped when Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.

“You can make whatever excuse you want, but I’m not going to take no for an answer! I don’t care if you’re in love with me or not, but please. Just let me help out, as your friend.”

“You…I—w-what?” spluttered Harry with wide eyes. How did she know about his feelings? Was he that obvious?

“I can tell you don’t feel the same way about me as before,” elaborated Ginny quietly. “Things change, and I’m fine with that. I know I’ve changed too. But you could have told me, instead of having me guess.”

“I wasn’t sure how—”

“By telling me, Harry.”

Harry could only stare at Ginny in shock. There were so many things going through his mind. For one thing, this was his best friend’s little sister. He also knew that Ginny had fancied him for years, even if she had dated other blokes. Yes, Harry had waited a long time for someone like Ginny to come along, so he could share quiet evenings near the lake, watching the sun set. But that love had been surreal. It had been so long ago. If Ginny was telling him that it was okay, maybe it was. If she thought it was time to move on, then Harry probably should.

“Alright,” he confessed. “I’m not in love with you.”

“That’s a start,” responded Ginny.

Harry smacked his head with a hand. “Damn. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. I feel like an arse.”

“You’ll be an arse if you don’t take me along this time.”

“You’re sure about this? About us? I just—”

“It’ll be fine, eventually. You have other things on your mind. You should take care of those things first.”

He could hear voices chattering loudly again. Harry stood up and peered into the kitchen. It looked like the meeting had been adjourned, as people were moving around and getting ready to leave. Harry took a deep breath before looking back at Ginny.

“I think so too,” was all he said, offering his hand to her. “C’mon. We have a long night ahead of us.”

Ginny glanced at his hand before finally taking it. Harry squeezed it and smiled, knowing that he had definitely made the right choice.

***

Everything was just about ready. He was in the dining room of Grimmauld Place where he had last met Riddle, smearing the last bit of blood on the wall. Taking a step back, Harry wiped his cut hand on a piece of cloth as he stared at the familiar symbol of the Deathly Hallows. The line, circle and triangle were all joined together, drawn out with his blood.

It had been Hermione’s idea. Harry knews sigils needed to be strong enough to send a revenant back to the world of the dead. When Hermione had brought up the Deathly Hallows, Kingsley and Mr. Weasley had looked at each other tentatively and had instructed them to look for other alternatives. But Harry had agreed with Hermione, explaining that it made sense that he would use the Deathly Hallows to send Voldemort back. The symbol couldn’t hurt him as the Master of Death, but it could certainly rebound on Voldemort. The Elder Wand had already done that in the Forbidden Forest and in the Great Hall.

Harry turned to see Hermione darkening the devil’s trap with another layer of paint on the floor. Ginny was making the salt ring thicker, and Ron was in deep conversation with Kingsley and Mr. Weasley. He was whispering furiously, pointing to the ancient red book that Savage held open. Mr. Weasley sighed as Kingsley shook his head and answered back in a low murmur. Proudfoot stood out in the entrance hall, guarding the front door.

All in all, no one knew if this ritual would work. Kingsley had told them that the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries had looked into the case, giving him the red book with a brief explanation. The pentacle on the cover suggested that the supernatural was one phenomenon that was being studied by the Ministry, to Harry’s surprise.

This is very old magic, and to most, it’s unheard of,” Kingsley had warned them, looking right at Harry. “The incantations should break the soul into pieces. The sigil will send them away from the living world. In theory, it works, but the forces of black magic and wizard’s magic must not conflict with each other.

He means you need to do everything in a particular order,” Hermione had clarified when Harry had asked her later. “You’ll need to trap Voldemort first before you can do anything. And you have to mean it, Harry. You have to mean it when you try to banish him away.

Obviously, Harry wanted Voldemort to be banished. For some reason, though, he had a very bad feeling that something was going to go wrong. When things did, he had always been able to find another solution to lean back on. This time, there was nothing. If this ritual went wrong, it could easily endanger him by sapping his magic or even turning him into a human sacrifice. The possibilities were endless, and Harry tried not to think about them.

“The devil’s trap is in place,” announced Hermione, smudging a line with a finger. “We’ll have to wait until he gets inside of it before I can repaint this line.”

“The same goes with the salt ring then, right?” inquired Ginny, leaning the bag of salt against the wall. “He’ll need to go into both traps before we can close them.”

“I’ll stand in the centre and wait for him then,” said Harry flatly. “It won’t affect me, but it’ll affect him.”

“This is absurd!” bellowed Ron. “We’re supposed to be witches and wizards! How is it that our magic is weaker than that of a bloody ghost? How is it that Muggles can get rid of these things easier than we can? I mean seriously…salt?”

“They are not from this world, Ron,” Mr. Weasley reminded him darkly. “Normal wizarding ghosts choose to stay behind or to move on. But these other spirits require other means in order to destroy them.”

“Arthur is right,” added Kingsley. “Our magic may be powerful, but it cannot resolve all of our problems. If abused, wizarding magic has dire consequences.”

Ron frowned deeply but kept silent as he and everyone else moved toward the window. Harry surveyed the room, studying the traps and the sigil. He could understand where Ron was coming from. Everyone was useless if they couldn’t even cast a simple stunning spell to at least stop their enemy. But there was nothing they could do now.

Harry took a deep breath and walked toward the devil’s trap. Just when his trainer brushed the salt ring, he felt his body fly back hard against the wall. Gasps and screams filled the room as Harry took a moment to get a hold of himself. He could feel the pain spreading in his back, which would later develop into a nasty bruise. But he couldn’t worry about that now. He had other things to deal with, such as the sudden temperature drop of the room and why he could suddenly see his breath when he exhaled.

Glancing up, Harry saw Proudfoot enter the room with a mischievous smile. Savage reacted instantly, shooting a powerful explosive spell at his colleague. Proudfoot, however, was able to deflect it, sending it right back where it came from. Kingsley pulled Savage down to the floor, just before the spell shot into the wall and created a burning hole. Ron held Hermione and Ginny back as they watched Kingsley and Mr. Weasley advance on Proudfoot. Proudfoot seemed to find the whole situation rather funny, as he raised his hands up innocently and laughed.

“What else do you have up your sleeve? You just witnessed Savage’s failure to attack me. Come on Kingsley. What can your precious Ministry do now to save your Golden Boy?”

“Get away from them!” demanded Harry furiously, getting up roughly to face Proudfoot. “If you don’t, I’ll make you.”

“Harry! What the hell?”

“Stay back, Harry!”

“That isn’t Proudfoot!” Harry told them hurriedly, gripping the hawthorn wand in his hand. “He would never go against any of us. It’s Riddle! I know it is!”

It should have been obvious before, but Harry hadn’t thought much about it until he had heard him speak. Proudfoot and the other Aurors always called him by his name. He would have to investigate how long Voldemort had pretended to pose as Proudfoot, but right now, he needed to get the bastard into the traps.

“Harry Potter,” said Proudfoot, his voice much colder and smoother. “That was impressive.”

“Proudfoot wouldn’t normally throw me across the room,” seethed Harry. “Now show your real self, Tom. Show everyone what you are.”

“You want to see? Fine.”

Harry watched as Proudfoot’s figure stilled before it started to glow. While Proudfoot sagged lower to the floor, the translucent figure of Tom Riddle stepped right out of him. The glowing dimmed and vanished as Proudfoot’s body fell onto the hardwood floor with a thump. From the corner of his eye, Harry could see Savage and Arthur rush over to attend to the unconscious man.

“I think my trick was better, don’t you?” commented Tom proudly. He was still wearing his school attire, but now he wore a disturbingly gleeful expression on his face, his menacing red eyes fixed on Harry.

“What the fuck is this?” Harry spat out, shaking with anger. “How can you possess someone like that?”

“There are infinite powers I have yet to…test out. Having Proudfoot as a meat suit was definitely worth it, I must say.”

Harry was panicking. He could feel fear rushing through his blood. He still needed to lead Tom to the trap, and he wasn’t going to come willingly. Asking for help seemed useless too. Everyone was pressed back against the wall on the other side, too terrified to move. If Harry could get to the sigil though, he could start with the incantations. He had memorised them all too well, but it would depend on how he said them, and when. Damn, they were out of options, fast.

“So, Potter,” drawled Tom casually. “I see Malfoy isn’t with you this time. Lover’s tiff?”

“Malfoy?” repeated Mr. Weasley with alarm. “He’s under house arrest!”

“Harry, what’s Riddle talking about?” inquired Kingsley curiously.

“Oh, did Potter not tell you? Yes, the two of them have been working together, trying to get vengeance on me.” Tom turned to Harry and smirked. “Draco was a good shield to hide behind, wasn’t he? He is intelligent, I’ll give you that, but he will never be strong enough to take on someone like me. He knows it, too.”

“Shut up!” shouted Harry, trying to control his temper. He knew Tom was trying to get under his skin, but he couldn’t help but get defensive about Draco. If Tom wasn’t a spirit, Harry probably would have strangled the damn bastard. “He’s a lot braver than you’ll ever be! If you weren’t so fucking scared, you would have passed on already, like everyone else in the war.”

“But I can see you shaking with fear! You’re terrified, aren’t you?”

“Not about dying. I could have died once, but even you couldn’t kill me right. That’s pathetic.”

“So you think you can defeat me again? All by yourself?”

“He’s not by himself, you son of a bitch.”

The voice made Harry look behind him with amazement. There, coming up from the kitchen was none other than Draco, followed by Kreacher and Lucius Malfoy. Harry could only exhale with relief, knowing that Draco was here; that he had come back for him. Draco was worth fighting for, and that was enough to make Harry believe that everything would work out.

***

Draco strode into the room, brandishing the holly wand slowly. His heart hammered in his chest as he swallowed hard, trying to avoid meeting everyone’s shocked expressions.

He had not expected anyone else to be here. After Draco had asked for his father’s help, they had worked endlessly to devise a plan so he could execute the ritual properly. That meant making the traps, drawing the blood sigil and knowing the incantations. Draco had assured his father that he could handle these tasks, knowing that the ritual could potentially fail. Failure, however, was a risk he was willing to take, if it meant that he could save Harry on time.

Now that he was here—thanks to Kreacher, who Apparated him and his father into Grimmauld Place—Draco was not sure if he was ready to deal with Tom. The brief glance at Weasley, Granger and everyone else told him things were not going well. The unconscious Auror and the shocked faces of Arthur Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt meant he needed to act fast.

When his eyes met with Weaselette, though, Draco almost stopped. He had not expected to see her, but he could almost hear the silent words being exchanged between them. While he had helped her at Hogwarts, he had eventually gained her trust. She knew that Draco had meant well, and now was no different. Her gaze almost told him to keep going, so Draco did. That was, until he met bright green eyes.

Draco watched as Harry licked his lips and twirled the hawthorn wand with his fingers. It was the first time he had seen his own wand up this close, since Harry had taken it. Harry watched him curiously before raising the wand ever so slightly, as if it were a sign. Perhaps it was, since they could use each other’s wands interchangeably. Draco had mentioned this fact to his father. In return, Lucius had explained the circumstances with wandlore, and how certain wands could be overpowered. His suggestion that two men were better than one came to mind again. Draco also remembered Vince’s words; that only Harry and Draco could finish this mission.

Looking down at the holly wand, Draco raised it as well. It was at that exact moment that he finally realised how closely connected they were. What was supposed to be redemption of a life debt had proved to be much more than that. This was the ultimate test of his heart and his hopes. Harry had been the one to make Draco feel alive again, even when every night from the past couple of years had felt endless. Draco knew he belonged somewhere, with someone. Harry was that someone Draco had always wanted in his life, but he had been too blind to see it.

Of course, there was a chance that Harry felt the same. As much as Draco wanted to find out, he would have to wait. All his emotions aside, Draco knew that there was much more to their connection. They were connected because of who they were. They were the only living wizards who had overcome the Elder Wand. If that was enough to kill the Dark Lord, he was willing to accept that.

Narrowing his eyes, Draco walked directly toward Tom. He could feel Kreacher and Lucius brush against him as they took a few steps back.

“Welcome back, Draco,” Tom greeted him before his red eyes swept upon Lucius. “And Lucius! A pleasure for you to pay a visit.”

“I’m sure, my Lord,” said Lucius stiffly. He glanced at Draco deliberately. “Now.

Draco raised the wand with determination and circled it above his head. A few sparks emitted in the air as he heard everyone hold their breaths. It wasn’t until he caught a glimpse of the red book, lying discarded on the floor, that he realised Harry knew about the ritual. Daring himself to look at the wall in front of him, Draco found that he was right. The bloody sigil of the Deathly Hallows stared back at him, and he grinned, suddenly feeling confident about what he was about to do.

Aut vincere aut mori,” recited Draco loudly, training his wand on Tom. “Bibere venenum in auro…

He slowly moved the wand toward the devil’s trap, hoping that the incantation did what it had promised to do. He was pleased to see that Tom’s frosty figure gradually glided in that direction. Tom froze, cleary realising that Draco had full control over him.

“What is the meaning of this?” hissed Tom, glaring at Draco dangerously.

Avarus animus nullo satiatur lucro,” Harry eventually joined in, the Latin sounding strange on his tongue. By now, Draco was sure he had caught onto his plan. “Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur…

Harry and Draco advanced on Tom from either side, moving him into the centre of the salt ring and the devil’s trap with their wands. Tom seemed to be growing weaker, his figure alternatively fading and suddenly sharpening again.

A coelo usque ad centrum a fortiori absit omen,” they called out in unison as the traps began to glow a bright white. “Dum vivimus, vivamus. Aut vincere aut mori…

They repeated the incantations without taking a breath. Draco took a brief glance at Harry, only to see him staring right back. He never took his eyes off Draco, not even when he beckoned Granger with a hand. Draco saw her scurry forward, using her wand to paint over the smudge of the devil’s trap. She nudged the salt ring with her foot to close it up, making the white light disappear. Draco raised an eyebrow, but Harry shook his head, grinning slightly.

“You knew about this!” Tom yelled with such wrath. “Lucius! You have betrayed me!”

“I betrayed no one,” sneered Lucius coldly. “You failed to listen to my advice years ago. Horcruxes were enough. You were foolish to think you could become immortal as a revenant.”

“You chose your wife over a true privilege.”

“My family is worth more. They have given me what I exactly what I wanted.”

“Surely that’s a lie! Draco has done nothing for you. He failed his tasks, and he never had the strength to fight or kill—”

“I assume you have never seen me fight,” interjected Draco with a bitter laugh. “Your Death Eaters had no idea what hit them when they fought against their enemies, did they?”

“For helping Mudbloods? Even more of a reason to call you a traitor,” spat Tom, gliding toward Draco angrily. Draco stepped out of the salt ring just in time, as the barrier was strong enough to prevent Tom from moving further. Tom tried to move past the ring, but with no avail. “Malfoy!”

“If you think we’re going to let you go, think again. You destroyed everything we had, and hurt the people I care about.”

“Who? Potter? Is this what this about?”

Draco glowered at Tom, ignoring the blush forming on his cheeks. “Fuck you. I’m sending you straight back to where you belong!”

“And where is that?”

“Hell,” said Harry in a dark voice. “Or at least back to the underworld, where you can’t come back.” He was standing next to the sigil, his bleeding palm facing up. He pressed it against the centre of the Deathly Hallows on the wall. “Time to say goodbye, Tom.”

The traps flared up again, this time with a red colour that lit up the room. Draco had to shield his eyes as he watched Tom scream in agony and slowly sink through the devil’s trap. Everyone else brought their arms up over their heads, just in case. Draco watched Harry squeeze his eyes shut, concentrating on letting his magic flow through the sigil. Even with the sheer strength of Harry’s magic, Tom was resisting him. Draco could tell that Harry was struggling to hold on as Tom began to rise from the devil’s trap with an evil grin.

“Draco!” Harry called out, looking at him desperately. He winced as he pressed his hand harder against the wall.

“Can’t do this alone, Potter?” scoffed Tom, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re supposed to be the most powerful wizard alive.”

Draco bit his lip, briefly glancing at all the eyes staring at him expectantly. He couldn’t tell how Shacklebolt and the rest of them felt about this whole situation, but they hadn’t stopped him yet. Gripping the holly wand shakily, Draco slashed it across his palm, making a moderate incision in his skin. He let the blood ooze before dashing towards Harry. He deliberately brushed his shoulder against Harry’s arm, staying close by.

“You’re forgetting who we are,” sneered Draco, showing his bleeding hand to Tom. “We’ve overcome the power of the Elder Wand. You have not.”

Without further ado, he pressed his own hand on the sigil. The traps glowed brighter now, as Draco could feel his magic being pulled out of him as it twisted and turned with Harry’s. He closed eyes, trying his best to focus when the house began to tremble. Draco could feel his magic draining out of him, but he kept pushing, hoping that he had enough power to send Tom away for good. He was destined to do this. He couldn’t give up. He had to mean this or else it wouldn’t work.

The room suddenly exploded with red. Draco ducked down just when the windows shattered. He used an arm to shield his head, keeping his hand on the sigil. A few shouts and screams could be heard as glass spewed everywhere. When he opened his eyes, Draco could see that the glowing traps were slowly fading. Tom was nowhere to be seen. In the far corner of the room, Weasley stood by Weaselette and Granger. Kreacher was holding onto Lucius, who was standing by Weasley’s father and Shacklebolt. They all glanced at each other tentatively with wide eyes, confusion apparent on their faces.

Once the light vanished, Draco felt his knees buckle. He fell to the floor, letting the wand clatter against the hardwood floor. He was still shaking. He knew his magic was still with him, but somehow it felt different. Hanging his head, Draco gave himself time to catch his breath. The sound of footsteps echoed across the room, causing him to look up and find Shacklebolt staring down at him.

“Draco,” acknowledged Shacklebolt, rubbing his bald head with a hand. “I hope you realise how many laws you just broke with that display of magic.”

“I understand,” replied Draco nervously. He didn’t want to go to Azkaban, not after everything he’d just done, but that wasn’t up to him. At least he had paid his debt back, fulfilling his promise to Harry. With a defeated sigh, he held out his wrists. “If you want to bind me and take me back to the Ministry…”

But Shacklebolt’s serious expression turned into one that looked rather impressed. “It seems many of us underestimated you.”

“But sir—”

“You knew about the ritual,” added Weasley’s father, limping towards them. “It was the exact one that Harry would have used alone.”

“If it wasn’t for my father—”

“Your father? Lucius?”

“Indeed,” drawled Lucius, moving next to Shacklebolt. He nodded at Weasley’s father. “Naturally, knowing about the Dark Lord helped us target his weaknesses.”

“And now he’s actually gone,” said a voice behind Draco.

Draco turned and looked up. Harry was covered in scratches, probably from the shards of glass. His glasses were perched crookedly on his nose, and he looked utterly exhausted. Still, he smiled at him as he knelt down and rested a hand on Draco’s shoulder. Draco shivered as the warmth seeped through his shirt.

“I have you to thank for that,” continued Harry sincerely. “If it wasn’t for you, I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“You knew I had to,” rasped Draco shyly. “It was nothing.”

“It was everything. He might have broken through my magic if you hadn’t stepped in.”

“That was revenge for the two years of hell. I wasn’t about to let you get killed, either.”

Picking up the holly wand, Draco held it out to Harry. Harry stared at it before extending the hawthorn wand to him. The moment Draco touched the wood, he could feel a strong burst of magic shoot up his arm. This wand was his, and it still chose him as its master. As they exchanged their wands, Draco could feel their hands brush against each other. He knew it was no accident, so he dipped his head slightly, hiding his small smile. Harry seemed to have caught it, because his grin grew wider.

“Thank you,” was all he whispered into Draco’s ear. Draco could feel Harry’s breath ghost over his skin.

“You’re welcome,” murmured Draco, licking his lips uncertainly. He knew there were adults that could be watching, but when Draco glanced behind him, he noticed that his father had gone with Shacklebolt and Weasley’s father to check up on everyone else. He relaxed.

Harry fiddled with his wand nervously. “I don’t think I can thank you enough.”

Draco stood up and offered his hand to help Harry up. “It’s fine, Potter. Leave it.”

“I’m serious, Draco. I wish I could—”

“Wish you could do what?”

Harry turned pink and almost stumbled into Draco when he was back up on his feet. They were so close to each other, almost nose to nose. Draco watched as Harry licked his lips. Those lips. How he would love to feel them against his mouth again! He could practically taste Harry, the slight chocolate flavour that Draco had associated with him since they kissed. He could just lean in—

A cough interrupted them and they jumped apart quickly. Harry and Draco turned their attention to Shacklebolt, who had walked over to them again.

“Mind telling me what is going on here?” he asked suspiciously. “It seems like this was planned.”

“I’ll explain at Malfoy’s trial, sir,” offered Harry. “Actually, make that plural. The Malfoy trials.”

“You’re willing to testify for my parents?” inquired Draco, bewilderedly. That hadn’t been part of their deal.

“They helped,” stated Harry with a shrug. “They were never like Voldemort. They just did what they thought was best so they could survive.”

“We’ll still need to take you and your parents in for questioning before the trials,” warned Shacklebolt. “There a few things we need information about. But in the meantime…”

“We know, Kingsley. And we’ll explain everything, I promise.”

“Harry…”

“I think Mr. Weasley and Proudfoot are trying to wave you over.”

Shacklebolt looked over at his colleagues, who were indeed beckoning him over. He grinned briefly before excusing himself. Draco waited for him to be out of earshot before he turned to Harry.

“I might still be sent to Azkaban,” he said flatly. “You’re not going to be able to defend all of my actions like some hero.”

“I’m a Gryffindor. That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” responded Harry, taking Draco’s hand in his. He carefully studied the cut on Draco’s palm before brandishing out his wand. “Episkey!

Instantly, the skin knitted back together, leaving it flawless. Harry’s fingers squeezed his hand before letting go. But Draco was quicker and caught Harry’s wrist. He decided to reciprocate the action and used his own wand to heal Harry’s cut.

Episkey,” Draco spoke softly, watching as the wound on Harry’s palm disappear. The action was intimate, suggesting that maybe his hopes weren’t entirely based on wishful thinking.

“Gryffindors are brave and daring,” persisted Harry, eying Draco intensely. “We’re known to take chances.”

“Slytherins are cunning and ambitious though,” declared Draco, his fingers still wrapped around Harry’s wrist. He tugged slightly, pulling Harry closer. “We’re complete opposites. I suppose that doesn’t bother you?”

“No, it doesn’t. Not at all.”

Harry grinned before leaning in to kiss him. Without hesitation, Draco kissed back, his heart filling with pure bliss. He knew they would need to explain this new development to everyone, but right now, he didn’t have a care in the world. He finally had Harry, and that was all that mattered.

***

References:
First excerpt of Harry’s nightmare quoted from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, American version, p. 704

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s opinion about pentacles and their purpose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentacle

Latin Phrases:
Aut vincere aut mori - Either conquer or die
Bibere venenum in auro - Drink poison from a cup of gold
Avarus animus nullo satiatur lucro - A greedy mind is satisfied with no (amount of) gain
Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur - We choose to love, we do not choose to cease loving. (Syrus)
a coelo usque ad centrum a fortiori absit omen- from the sky to the centre, from the stronger, let an omen be absent
Dum vivimus, vivamus - While we live, let us live

(Source: http://www.yuni.com/library/latin.html)




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