Pairings and Main Characters:
Harry/Draco which initially starts out as Harry/Luna, Ron/Hermione
Twenty years after the Battle of Hogwarts there are still Death Eaters roaming free. But when Auror Ginny Weasley captures Draco Malfoy in a fight, the wheels of war are set back in motion. Dragged into the fray once again by the call of duty, Harry, Ron and Hermione must track down a lost artefact before the Death Eaters can do the unthinkable bring Voldemort back from the grave.
Character death (not Harry or Draco), light violence/torture, some brutal but consensual slash
WHEW! My first big bang over with and Im already craving another because it has been so very gratifying. This story has been incubating for over a year in my head, and since first starting writing it has been reshaped, replotted, and rewritten many times with help from many different people. First and foremost a huge thanks to my beta and friend, hermitknut
, who willingly read, reread and rereread this to help me whip it into shape; to cleodoxa
for working with me when hermitknut
wasnt available; to talekayler
for cheerleading, word warring, nagging, and otherwise making me get shit done; to izzie_frutas
for being such a good sport when I had my mental break-down; to izzie_frutas
, and astridfire
for tackling this with good cheer and enhancing my story with their amazing talents; to the mods, who put up with me when I wasnt always very punctual; and to the reader, because without you, writing wouldnt be half as fun! Unlimited love for all of you forever! ♥
* * *
Like all things in life, magic comes at a cost to brew a potion, one must sacrifice ingredients; to cast a charm, one must sacrifice energy; to transfigure an object, one must sacrifice an object. Something not many people realise is that memories are magical, too, and the cost to remember is first to forget
* * *
Excerpt from Feeling Forgetful? by Calver De Plumes
Harry awoke like a swimmer breaking the surface, gasping so violently for breath that his back arched off the bed. Words spoken two decades ago still echoed in his head, as loud as a banshee's cry.
"It's Potter the Dark Lord wants! The Dark Lord wants him dead...
He sat bolt upright, clutching his head with one hand and groping for his wand with the other.
"It's that Mudblood! Avada Kedavra!
"No," Harry moaned, just as his fingertips brushed wood. "Lumos.
He disentangled himself from the damp sheets and stumbled across his dimly lit room to the empty stretch of wall facing his bed. He tried to draw a straight line down it, but his hand was shaking too hard and the wallpaper tore in a jagged stroke.
"Like it hot, scum?
A crack appeared beneath the ripped paper, washing Harry in the blue light that seeped out. Wedging his fingers into it and tugging, a secret door sprung open and his entire room was alight with blue.
"IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I'LL KILL YOU, HARRY!
" Ron's voice bellowed in Harry's head, and Harry gasped and realised that hot tears were leaking from his eyes.
He stared into the swirling depths of his Pensieve as he put his wand tip to his temple. Focussing reluctantly on the heat of the fire, the cold feel of the diadem around his wrist, Malfoy's terrified face between the reaching flames, Harry withdrew the memory and cast it away.
The silence overwhelmed him for one blissful moment. Then, quite suddenly, Harry shuddered and reached for his Pensieve, clutching it with white fingers to stay standing through the onslaught of pain. As his remaining memories fought to fill the new gap, Harry squeezed his eyes closed and tried to remember how to breathe. The missing memory appeared to him like a film playing behind a gauzy shroud; he squinted, but it slipped through his fingers.
As quickly as it had come, the pain was gone. Not even a shadow of it remained. And suddenly, he couldn't even remember what he had been trying to remember in the first place.
Peering inside the hidden closet, Harry eyed the shelves of crystal vials warily. There were dozens, all labelled and organised neatly. But Harry did not know what a single one of them contained.
"Let it stay that way forever," he muttered to himself before straightening up and backing away.
He tried to control his heavy panting as he resealed his wallpaper. There was a tap on his bedroom door and it creaked open.
"Harry?" Ginny whispered into the gloom of his Lumos Charm. "I thought I heard you up."
"You can come in," he told her before he collapsed back on his bed; he was suddenly exhausted.
Confidently, Ginny crossed his bedroom and tucked herself into bed beside him. They didn't touch, but Harry felt comforted by her heat against his arm and leg.
"Was it a nightmare?" she asked quietly. "You haven't had one of those in a long time."
"Seventeen months," Harry specified, staring blankly up at the ceiling.
"What was it about?"
"I don't remember," he admitted honestly.
They were silent for a while and Harry filled his mind with happy memories in the lull.
"Do you remember back when we were dating?" Ginny asked after a while. "Twenty years ago." She laughed, as though she couldn't believe it.
"I remember," Harry said, smiling weakly. "We were awful."
"Fought constantly," she agreed. "You had nightmares constantly, too...back then."
"Those were rough times."
"We stopped bickering at about the same rate your nightmares started going away," Ginny said thoughtfully.
Harry rolled onto his side to look at her profile in the light of his wand.
"There's no correlation there, Ginny," he murmured.
"No?" she asked.
"We stopped when we broke up," Harry reminded her. "There was nothing to bicker about after that."
"That's true." She laughed once. "What stopped your nightmares?"
Rolling onto his back again, Harry sighed.
"Do you remember Narcissa Malfoy's trial?" he asked. "I spoke for her do you remember that?"
"Yeah, I remember. You gave a memory that proved that she never followed Voldemort blindly."
"That was the first memory I ever gave up," Harry whispered.
Ginny didn't respond and Harry knew she was waiting for more, but he didn't intend to say more. After a long time, he began slipping in and out of unconsciousness. Sometimes the heat he felt against his side was Ginny sometimes it was a fire that roared at him and burned his skin until he jolted awake.
At some point in the night, Ginny reached over his body to the hand still clutched around his wand and put out the light. At another, her own wand went off with the shrill whistle of a freight train; he barely noticed as she bolted out of his bed.
"An Auror's duty never ends, Harry," he thought she said as she left, but he shifted into a more comfortable position and was asleep once more.
* * *
Draco was tired.
He was tired of hiding and of running; he was tired of changing locations at least once a week; he was tired of eating cold food and sleeping on the hard ground. But mostly, he was tired of Death Eaters.
They were all scum, Death Eaters even Draco was scum. Sometimes at night, when he couldn't sleep for the snoring, he would look up at the starry sky and wonder what life would be like if he wasn't branded.
Tonight was one of those nights, except that there wasn't any snoring. Tonight, Yaxley had led the Death Eaters deep into the moors of Northern Scotland to the place where the un-Marked hid. Tonight was a special night.
Draco had stood silently on the outer circle as Yaxley met with Fenrir.
"What are you doing here, Yaxley?" the man if he could be called a man had demanded right away.
After the war, the Marked and un-Marked had banded together to fight back. The tentative union had only lasted a short time before Yaxley tried to take over to fill the Dark Lord's place. But the Dark Lord had always made serving him worthwhile, and Yaxley... had not. Fenrir led away the ones Yaxley treated like inferiors; after that, the two groups did not stay in touch.
"We have a mission, Fenrir," had been Yaxley's reply, "and we would like your help."
"And just why would we help you?" Fenrir sneered, baring his yellow teeth.
"How did the Dark Lord reward you?" Yaxley wanted to know.
Fenrir's grimace had contorted into a slippery smile and Draco had backed away from the tense circle of reluctant allies. He'd gone unnoticed; no one really cared about him anymore.
Not far away, on the edge of a brackish marsh, the Death Eaters had set up a temporary camp. It would be deserted for as long as the reunion went on so Draco had taken advantage, laying out his cloak in the driest patch of heather he could find and stretching out on it.
The wetness seeped through it, chilling him, but he was lost in the sky in what-ifs.
Four stars directly above him formed a lightning bolt against the black backdrop and he traced them wistfully with his finger.
Then, with a suddenness that made his heart stop, an explosion rent the silence.
Draco flipped over to look back to where he'd come from. The near flatness of the moorlands showed him what he was missing: flames were licking across the heather-covered hills in the distance, the blinding orange decorated by quick flashes of red, green, purple, silver.
The inevitable must have happened; there was too much tension between the two groups.
Though he didn't really want to, Draco leapt to his feet and swung his damp cloak around his shoulders. Drawing up the hood, he ran toward the fighting, wand out. His father was still there.
But as he neared, and as the screaming and shouts reached his ears, and as the duelling pairs and trios grew sharper against the raging fire, he realised that it was not a fight between the Marked and un-Marked.
"AURORS!" a Death Eater on fire roared as he ran past Draco, a streak of orange.
Draco was frozen in place, watching the red-robed Aurors massacre his only means of survival in this harsh world. He scanned for his father, but the Death Eaters were all masked and hooded, and many had already Disapparated before the shield had gone up.
It was a moment before Draco realised he was staring into a face he recognised one he had not seen in many, many years.
"Malfoy." Ginny Weasley's lips formed his name, but her voice was lost in the chaos.
Without a second thought, Draco turned and fled, sprinting for the edge of the Anti-Disapparation Charm that arched in a faintly shimmering dome above him.
"STOP!" Weasley bellowed from behind him, but Draco only ran harder.
He was close; he could see the edge of the dome touching the grass. He lurched forward and twisted: destination, determination, delibera
" Weasley cried just as Draco began to feel weightless.
He thought he was going to make it, until something felt like it was being torn in half inside of him and a scream ripped through his lungs.
The charm forced him back to the Earth like a huge hand pressing down on him, and he collapsed hard, his ankle twisting unnaturally beneath him until he heard a distinct crack.
New, sharp pain blossomed up his leg, but the throbbing from his abdomen seemed to numb it. It was turning the edges of his vision black. He couldn't remember how to breathe.
The last thing Draco saw before darkness closed across the stars was Weasley's face looming above him, her expression unreadable.
* * *
In St Mungo's, Ginny was pacing back and forth in front of a door with a small, barred window, through which could be seen a pale figure unconscious in a hospital bed.
Beside the door she'd already stationed a Magical Law Enforcement Officer, who stood silently and watched her. She waited impatiently until the door opened and the attending Healer stepped out.
"Well?" she demanded.
"Well, his ankle is broken," the Healer started.
"Yes," Ginny agreed quickly. "But that doesn't account for why he's unconscious."
"From what I can guess," he said, "Mr Malfoy has probably splinched himself."
Ginny raised one eyebrow.
"Splinched? That's ridiculous. I mean, yes, he had started to Disapparate when I cast the jinx, but he never actually finished.
And anyway," she added sceptically, "he doesn't seem to be missing any body parts."
"You're right, that not all of him made it to his destination," the Healer agreed. "But you can't know how much of him did. He may have splinched some internal organs or other vital body parts. Furthermore, it's been proven by the Unspeakables in Thought that thoughts and memories can also be spl "
"Yes, yes," Ginny interrupted, waving a hand through the air, "I have connections in Thought."
She didn't hold much stock by the theory, though, no matter who
proved it. Honestly, how badly could it hurt to be cut off mid-thought or mid-memory? As a matter of fact, Ginny had just interrupted the Healer mid-sentence, and he was no worse for wear though maybe a little more irritated than before.
"Alright then," she demanded, "how quickly until you can have him fixed?"
The Healer pursed his lips. "If
he's actually splinched his insides, it will take a week at best to re-grow them "
" Ginny screeched. "But bones can be re-grown over-night!"
" he agreed with narrowed eyes, "but bones
are not nearly as complex as organs."
"Fine then," she conceded again, growing quickly more irritable. "And if he's not splinched?"
"Well, then I can't say how long. We'll have to run more diagnostics and even after we find out what's wrong, it will take time to fix it."
Ginny glared silently but he seemed to have nothing more to say.
" Ginny qualified for him.
She growled impatiently. Rubbing the bridge of her nose, she tried to calm down. "Just
" she began slowly, "just owl me when you know something.
She turned on her heel and stormed away in the direction of the lifts, but when the grilles opened for her, she found the lift already occupied by a thin, blond woman.
Ginny's temper melted away fast and she stared gravely at the woman, who looked blindly back. She didn't bother to fill Ginny's silence. In fact, she appeared not to have noticed Ginny's presence at all, but simply stood, as though standing was her entire agenda for the day.
She was the most well-known resident of the Janus Thickey Ward and one of Ginny's dearest friends. But Ginny didn't visit her anymore. There wasn't any point.
Finally stepping into the lift, Ginny carefully wrapped one hand around the woman's. Her fingers were icy cold and she made no notion that she even felt Ginny's touch.
"Come on, Luna," Ginny said. "Let's get you back to your room."
They took the lift up together, and Ginny guided the pliable body back to her bed; the whole while Luna stared at her with blind eyes. As she was tucking Luna back under the covers, a voice called Ginny's name and she turned to see her flatmate, looking clean and prim in his white Healer robes.
"Hi," she said as Harry approached. She motioned to Luna, who was lying silent, staring up at the ceiling. "You ought to keep a better eye on your patients."
"Ah," Harry sighed with a grimace. "Yes. I rushed out and must not have locked the door properly."
He leaned over Luna and began running a series of spells down her body. She had no reaction.
"What are you doing here?" he asked when he'd finished.
Ginny glanced around hesitantly at the other patients in the ward and the Mediwizards passing in and out.
"Not here," she said.
When they were shut away in Harry's office, she dropped into the armchair in front of his desk and sighed.
"We found the Death Eaters last night," she began, watching bemusedly as Harry's eyes widened.
"That's why you were up so early," he said. She nodded.
"We got a tip-off from one of our Werewolves; the pack he was running with turned out to be their cohorts. Today they planned to meet in the Scotland moors. We were all prepared to Apparate in and catch them off guard but something went wrong with the Aurors sent in early to stake out the area. We were ambushed and it turned into an all-out fire fight."
"Was anyone hurt?" Harry demanded.
"A few men in hospital beds, but overall a much better outcome than I might've hoped for. It was such a catastrophe..."
"No successes, though?" Harry asked.
"One. You'll never guess who I met in the fight." She didn't wait for him to guess. "Draco Malfoy."
Harry's face hardened and a frown turned down the corners of his mouth.
"I had hoped " he murmured. "But I suppose I knew he was with them all along."
"He disappeared just as fast as the rest of them after Voldemort fell," Ginny reasoned. "Anyway, I chased him down caught him, too, but he got wounded in the pursuit. The Healer said he splinched his insides, so now I have to wait for him to regain consciousness before I can question him."
Harry said nothing more, but Ginny wasn't surprised. He was rarely talkative when she discussed her work. He'd chosen not to join the Aurors for a reason, after all. Ginny thought that maybe it was because he'd grown tired of fighting.
And that's okay,
she thought with determination. You leave it to me, Harry.
* * *
On his lunch break that day, Harry went to the Ministry. He took the lift down to level nine where Hermione was waiting for him, smiling casually.
"Hello," she said, greeting him with a kiss on the cheek as the other occupants of the lift dispersed through the corridors.
When they were alone, Harry took his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket and swung it over his head. Hermione led the way as though she were alone through the Department of Mysteries to her secluded office in Thought.
Only when the door was locked did Harry risk coming out from beneath his cloak.
"Any change?" Hermione asked, getting straight down to business.
It was the question she always began these meetings with.
She went to a filing cabinet, which she unlocked with a password and a key, and pulled out a huge file. Laying it on the impeccably neat desk, the two of them went through it, spreading out their notes from thirteen years of fruitless study as Harry answered.
"She walked again yesterday," he reported. "I left the door open for her and was following her, but Ginny was there."
Hermione looked up sharply from where she was taking notes.
"Draco Malfoy is in St Mungo's and Ginny has been guarding him. She found Luna on the lift and took her back to her room."
"Draco Malfoy is..." She shook her head roughly. "Never mind, that's not important now. You didn't tell Ginny what you were doing, did you?"
"Of course not," Harry said, exasperated.
"Okay, well I suppose you'll just have to try again today."
"Right. Did you find the book?"
"No," Hermione said through gritted teeth. "I'm starting to think it just doesn't exist!"
She threw up her hands in irritation and Harry felt like doing the same.
"I still don't understand how a Muggle author could've gotten her hands on a magical book," he said, not for the first time.
"I looked up the Muggle and started traced her lineage. If she has magical ancestors, I've yet to find them."
Harry was crestfallen.
"Let's see her book again," he said.
"I've been through it a hundred times, Harry. I have the entire thing practically memorised!"
But even as she protested she was pulling the tome out of a drawer in her desk. Harry leaned over it to follow along as she began to read out loud.
"Of all the theories on memory loss, researcher Calver De Plume's is the most farcical.
That's the wizard, Harry, I'm sure of it. He has a plaque in the Thought Chamber for contributions made." She went on; "In his book,
Feeling Forgetful?, De Plumes proposes that memories can exist as long as they are rooted. If a memory leaves one mind, it can somehow be transferred into another mind and still survive. De Plumes goes on to discuss a special container that can hold these lost memories until such time as a brain is prepared to remember them again.
"And that's a Pensieve," Harry said, though he'd said it at least a dozen times already.
Hermione rubbed the bridge of her nose as she sat back in her seat. Harry continued to study the book.
"Hang on," he suddenly said, realising the comment he'd missed while he was focussing on the passage in the book. "You said De Plumes has a plaque? What's it for?"
"I told you, contributions to Thought. The plaque doesn't specify; they never do."
"But what if De Plumes isn't just discussing the Pensieve in his book," Harry said. "What if...Hermione, what if he invented
Hermione sat up ramrod straight.
"But then... That book would have to be ancient!
" she murmured. "The Pensieve is centuries old. It would mean I haven't been looking back far enough!"
Harry's eyes widened.
"You have books that old?"
"Older. Thought has the most extensive research system of all the departments."
"No wonder you chose this one to work in," Harry teased, and Hermione smiled.
"Okay," she said. "I'll look for the book and let you know what I find. In the meantime, we'll have to follow another path of research."
But they had exhausted all other paths.
Harry wanted desperately to look at the book now, but he wouldn't ask Hermione to take him to Archives. She was already risking her job just sneaking him into the Department of Mysteries. If he was found in Archives she could lose everything.
For a long time they sat in silence. Harry continued to flick through the pages of the book and rifle in the old parchment stacks. Hermione crossed her left leg over her right, then her right over her left. She groaned in frustration.
"Let's just view the memory again, shall we?"
"Hermione," Harry said quietly.
"Please, Harry. What if there's something we're missing?"
"We've seen it a thousand times!"
Hermione retrieved one of her work Pensieves and set it on the table, and despite his protests, Harry put his wand to his temple and lowered a silvery memory into the basin. The moment it left his mind he forgot altogether what it contained. They bent together over it and left their time.
In the kitchen in Grimmauld Place, Harry looked upon his eighteen-year-old self, who sat rigidly on a stool in front of the crackling fire. At the table, Hermione and Ron sat side-by-side and Ginny across from them. Harry marvelled at how youthful they all looked but did not miss those years when he had felt older than he did even now when Death Eater attacks were as quick and deadly as a Basilisk when nowhere was safe and people went missing or dead every hour.
Beside him, the present Hermione took his hand. They always held hands when they watched this.
"Isn't it funny?" Ron said, and his voice sounded loud in the silence. "Well, not funny, really ironic..."
"What, Ron?" past Hermione asked.
"Voldemort's gone," he said. "But the Death Eaters have never been more active."
"They'll stop eventually, though," Ginny said. "They don't know what they're doing without Voldemort. They're just attacking mindlessly. They'll stop."
Throughout the exchange, the Harry sitting by the fire never looked up.
A knock on the front door echoed down the long corridor to the kitchen. All four heads snapped up to look in the direction of the noise; then they rose as one and raced toward it.
By the time Harry and Hermione had caught up with themselves, they'd all drawn their wands. Harry watched himself unlatch the bolts and pull the door open. The front step was empty, but in the distance, a familiar figure stood with her back to them in the pool of light cast by the street lamp.
"Luna Lovegood?" Harry whispered. He stepped over the threshold and the present Harry saw Hermione reach frantically for his wrist but miss. "Luna, is it really you?"
When she didn't turn or reply, Harry glanced back questioningly at the others. Ron shrugged, but Ginny pocketed her wand and strode around Harry. When she reached Luna, she put a hand on Luna's shoulder.
"Luna, we're so happy to see you! We've been so worried. How did you escape?"
She spun the girl and Harry heard both Hermiones gasp. He knew that no matter how many times she saw it, Luna's face her unfocussed, blank eyes; the blood trails that leaked from the corners and rolled down her cheeks would never cease to shock her... nor Harry, for that matter.
Ginny pushed a delicate strand of blonde hair out of the path of bloody tears.
"Luna," she murmured, "what happened to you?"
Luna said nothing.
"Luna," Ginny repeated, "what's wrong?" And when there was only silence, Ginny took her skinny shoulders and shook the frail girl. "Luna, talk to me!"
But Luna did not. She never did again, in fact. They carted her off to St Mungo's where they were forced to feed her intravenously to keep her alive. They ran tests but no one could figure out what was wrong with her. She behaved as though she'd received a Dementor's Kiss, but the Healers were sure this was not the case.
After that, the Death Eater attacks stopped. They just went quiet. Five years later Harry became a Healer and took over treating Luna; in seven years, Hermione was sworn into Thought and they began working together to find a cure. They had had no success in all these years.
Back in Hermione's office, Harry returned the memory to his head without looking at Hermione. He didn't have to see to know that there were silent tears tracking down her face. She flinched when he finally looked up at her and he knew that she must see the cold anger he was struggling to keep in check.
"Well," he asked bitterly, "find anything new?"
"Don't be angry," she said in a small voice.
Harry shook his head violently and felt ready to yell, but he reined it in. He could vaguely remember the days when he had no control over himself when he had cried and screamed like a child whenever things went wrong.
"I don't know, Hermione," he said with forced calm. "Sometimes I think you do it to punish us. Every time we hit a dead end you make us watch that."
He pulled his cloak out of his pocket and swung it around himself. Wiping her tears away furiously, she rose.
"I'm going," he told her. "You can contact me when you find the book."
He didn't say, "And not before then."
Hermione lead him out of the Department of Mysteries and back to the lifts. As they waited in the deserted corridor, she whispered to him.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I love you, you know." She paused, but he didn't reply. "Ron misses you. Will you come for dinner soon?"
The lift came down and she stopped talking as the grilles jangled open. With his anger melted considerably in the short time that they'd been away from her office where memories of fear, worry and Luna haunted him Harry left a ghostly kiss on her cheek before entering the lift.
"Oops," she said to Ministry employees who were exiting it, "I forgot something in my office."
Then she turned and went back down the corridor.
* * *
Harry went into his office to change into his Healer robes. He stuffed his Invisibility Cloak into his desk drawer and pulled out an empty vial. Putting his wand to his temple, he took away his memory of finding Luna once more.
Like always, he felt better after he forgot. There was no more fear or hopelessness, but there was guilt guilt that hiding from the truth was doing nothing to help Luna. But he couldn't stop; he was addicted to forgetting.
As he made his way to the Janus Thickey Ward, he passed by Draco Malfoy's room, where two stoic sentry men flanked the door. Though Draco's care had been delegated to a different Healer, he could not resist the pull he felt at that moment.
He didn't have to offer his wand for identification to the guards; they nodded respectfully and let him inside.
"If it isn't Harry Potter," Draco said, but his voice was weak and he didn't bother making an attempt to appear more dignified. Harry knew he was in too much pain to move.
"How are you feeling, Draco?"
"When did we get so familiar?"
"Would you prefer Malfoy?" Harry asked, but Draco only sneered. "We're not children anymore. I thought maybe we could show a little civility."
In truth, Harry didn't remember enough about Draco to feel animosity toward him. Yes, most of the memories he did still have contained Draco taunting him and his friends, but from those he simply deduced that Draco had been a schoolyard bully. Even if there was cause to hate him, Harry didn't feel right doing it; after all, he'd willingly forgotten.
Under pretence of having business to do, Harry checked the files kept in a hanging box attached to the foot of Draco's bed.
"You're not my Healer," Draco said accusatorily.
"No, but I am Head of Spell Damage and have the duty of overseeing the other Healers on this floor."
He didn't bother looking away from the charts to see how Draco took this news.
After a moment Draco said, "Are you sure you didn't just come for a chat?"
Harry looked up to see that Draco was smirking at him. But when Harry smiled back, the expression melted away.
"Maybe I did," he said. "Working in the Janus Thickey Ward every day doesn't provide a lot of quality conversation."
"I don't know that I can offer you much. Living with Death Eaters for twenty years doesn't provide a lot of conversational fodder."
"I'm obligated to repeat all that you say to Ginny, you know," Harry warned.
Draco rolled his eyes.
"So do. It's no secret what I am."
Reaching across his body, he pulled back the sleeve of his hospital gown. Even this movement seemed to cause him pain, but Harry's eyes were riveted on the bared forearm and he hardly noticed. For some unfathomable reason, he felt the desire to touch Draco's Dark Mark.
When Draco pulled the sleeve back down, Harry blinked out of his trance.
"I have to go," he said, and left the room before Draco could speak again.
Something was niggling at the back of his brain; memories he had tossed aside.
* * *
Narcissa Malfoy was looking forlornly out a window when there was a knock on her front door.
With haste, she drew a shawl around her bony shoulders and hurried through the corridors of the Malfoy Manor.
She checked a looking-glass hanging in the vestibule as she approached the door. Her appearance was immaculate, as it always had been. Throughout her life, Narcissa had risen and fallen from grace many times, but she had always remained dignified.
With a light touch to the greying bundle of hair atop her head, she took the door handle and pulled it open.
Somehow, her guest appeared as shocked to see her as she was to see him.
For several long moments they stared at each other in stunned silence. Then together for they had always acted as two parts of one organism they were taken by the urge to touch. And for the first time in twenty years, Narcissa embraced her husband.
"No, Narcissa," Lucius said when she tried to kiss him. "There's not much time."
"What do you mean?"
"The Aurors I'm sure they're tracking movement here."
"Then why have you come? Go, go!"
It hurt her to say it; she missed him with every fibre of her being. But better for him to be safe than be with her. But he said the only word that could keep her from protecting him.
"Where is he?" she breathed. "Where is he?
"I don't know," Lucius said, grimacing. "There was an Auror raid. He was lost."
"They took him?" she asked, and she almost didn't want to know the answer.
"What do we do?"
He reached into the pocket of his torn and dirty robes and extracted a small hand mirror.
"What is it?" Narcissa asked, looking into it at her own reflection.
"Do not lose it," Lucius implored her. "It will allow us to communicate. I have another." He showed her.
"I don't know; Borgin sold them to me. He said he found something like them in the battle wreckage at Hogsmeade many years ago. He's reduplicated them."
Narcissa sobbed suddenly. These mirrors would be a sad substitute for having him with her. Lucius took her face between his rough hands.
"I love you," he told her, but she never had the chance to say it back.
Narcissa screamed as an explosion shook the building and blew in the wide front door. She hardly glimpsed the sight of a wall of red-robed wizards swarming through her mutilated vestibule before she was buried under flying shrapnel.
Splinters of wood shredded her robes and the skin of her hands and face. Stone dust shrouded the entire place in a thick cloud of invisibility and she threw up her arms in her only defence. She had no time to go for her wand as a huge wooden beam smashed into her and flattened her in the midst of the wreckage.
She heard a dozen voices shouting, a dozen footsteps pounding, one voice straining nearby; "Narcissa," he wept. "Narcissa, I'm sorry."
"I'm here; I'm okay," she wanted to tell him, but a blanket was falling over her and the darkness swallowed up her voice, then her mobility, then her consciousness.
* * *
"Well, well, Weasley, I must admit that I'm impressed. Two Malfoys in as many days."
"One and a half," Ginny amended as she paced her office. "We already had Narcissa under watch. She's hardly a prize. What I want is Malfoy Senior."
Greengrass stretched her legs out and crossed them on top of Ginny's desk, looking down her nose.
"Yes, but now you have an excuse to arrest Narcissa harbouring a wanted felon."
The way Greengrass eyed her, Ginny had the distinct impression that she was being tested. She shook her head.
"I don't want her arrested. Besides, the alarm sounded the moment Malfoy turned up on the property; we would've known earlier if she'd been harbouring him."
Greengrass nodded curtly and Ginny knew she'd passed. She wondered idly when this tension between them would go. They'd only been made partners a month ago, but the strain between them had not faded in that time. Greengrass obviously mistrusted Ginny, and Ginny was inclined to return the feeling; it had not escaped her memory that Greengrass had been friends with Draco Malfoy in school.
Still, Ginny could not deny that they worked well together in a fight. And there were no two Aurors more invested in the hunt for the Death Eaters.
"Then what do you want with her?" Greengrass asked.
"I want to use her as bait. Obviously Malfoy needs to communicate with her "
"And you think he'll try again."
Ginny resumed pacing.
"What of Malfoy Junior?"
"He'll have to go to Azkaban," Ginny said. "He's been running from the law for more than two decades."
Greengrass knew Ginny well.
"But first, I'd like to see what happens if mother and son meet," Ginny said.
"Ah, you want to let slip that they're in St Mungo's together."
"She'll hardly be able to resist finding him. They may be a slimy family of snakes, but I have no doubt they care for one another. She'll want to know he's okay."
"And what makes you think she'll go to him?" Greengrass asked. "They're both being guarded. Even if she found out he was nearby, she'd have no hope of getting to him."
"What are you thinking?"
Greengrass swung her legs down and sat up with a smirk.
"I'm thinking that I might know a few retired Magical Law Enforcement Officers who'd be willing to work for a pair of galleons."
* * *
It was only three days after his meeting with Hermione that Harry got the chance to let Luna walk again. He'd been so busy with his other patients that he'd only had enough time to run her diagnostic spells once a day and make sure she was getting the right nutrients.
But today, when he went into the Janus Thickey Ward, taking care to leave the door wide open, there was someone there that he hadn't expected.
"Hello, Harry," Neville said with a weak smile, rising from the chair he'd set between his parents' beds.
"I didn't know you were coming in today, Neville."
Harry steered away from Luna's bed and to the opposite side of the room to shake Neville's hand warmly.
"I had some spare time; the kids are all busy studying this time of the year."
"Oh, yes, it is test season, isn't it?"
"McGonagall's coming in a few weeks as Examiner for Transfiguration N.E.W.T.s. It'll be nice to have her around again."
"Hows Teddy getting on?" Harry asked, though he'd got an owl from him only yesterday.
"He's the favourite teacher, already, of course." Neville chuckled. "He's been using Weasley products for lessons making the students recreate potions based on observation alone. I don't think any of them have got one right yet."
Harry laughed too.
"I bet George is pleased. He always was too brilliant for his own good."
Neville glanced about the room.
"It's much quieter here without Lockhart, isn't it?" he noted. "How is he?"
"Very well," Harry said. "After those private tutoring lessons he's got the hang of most ordinary spells. He's already got a job chopping and dicing in the Apothecary on Diagon Alley, and he's living in his own flat."
Neville smiled and seemed about to say something more when his mum tugged on his sleeve. As he turned to see what she wanted, Harry glanced over his shoulder at Luna's bed, but it was empty.
"Hang on," he gasped. "Where's Luna?"
His eyes found the door, still standing open in his wake, and his heart tripped in his chest. Pointing his wand toward the window, he sent off a Patronus message to Hermione. Then he sprinted out the door with Neville shouting after him.
* * *
Time flew by in a blur when one suffered twenty-four-hour pain. Draco knew this before he was admitted to St Mungo's.
Many days had gone by since he'd woken up to a jagged throb in every inch of his body, but he tried not to count the passing time; there was nothing to look forward to at the end of this road. The moment his Healer signed his bill of health, Auror Weasel would whisk him away to Azkaban. He wouldn't even get a trial, he was sure of that.
With care, he rose from his hospital bed to pace his room. It was hardly more than a jail cell, though well-lit and very white. There were no windows and only one door, which had a barred opening through which his guards could see and hear him. Unlike the other private rooms at St Mungo's, Draco's had no bathroom. If he needed to piss, he had to ask his armed nannies to accompany him to the loo. But other than these quick trips, Draco wasn't permitted to leave his room, escorted or otherwise.
Despite the confinement or perhaps because of it Draco was on his way to a full recovery. He'd come far from that first day, when Potter had visited and Draco hadn't even been able to sit up for the crippling pain in his abdomen. He wished Potter would come back now, if only so that Draco could leave a more refined image of himself as Potter's last memory of him. But Potter never returned; that was always Draco's luck.
Habitually, he strode to his door and peered between the bars on the tiny window. And Draco was startled to find himself unguarded.
Normally, there were never fewer than two Magical Law Enforcement Officers flanking his door. Today there was one, and he was old, fat, and fast asleep. He teetered on a stool beside the door, snoring lightly. His arms were crossed over his chest and the fingers of his right hand dangled inches above his thigh where he wore his wand in an official MLE-issued leg harness.
And Draco didn't hesitate.
He didn't care if he might be caught. What was the worst they could do? Jail him? They were going to. Kill him? He could only hope.
Reaching an arm thinned from many years of fear and starvation through the bars, he stretched towards the guard. Fire licked up his spine and he felt as though something was ripping inside of him, but he refused to give up. The bars slipped up his forearm, catching on his bony elbow. He pushed hard and it hurt when his bones gave way to the unyielding bars. Even though he wore hardly any fat on him, his skin was still pinched as he pressed his upper arm through. He was forced to smash his entire body against the door and then his fingers brushed smooth wood just as his shoulder impeded his advance.
It was enough, though. If he pushed, stretched, and wiggled his fingers just right, he could urge the wand upward. It lifted inch by inch out of its holster closer, closer and then tilted precariously toward him. Quickly, he snagged the end between two fingers and drew it into his hand.
Draco didn't pause to see if the sensation had woken his guard. He twirled the wand in his fingers, directing it toward his door, and whispered "Alohomora.
" The lock lifted with a click.
He didn't even feel the pain in his elbow as he yanked his arm back through the bars and flung the door open. His insides burned and roiled as he sprinted down the corridor.
He moved away from the centre of the hospital where the lifts were and the crowds would surely be. He knew every corridor ended in a dead end, with doors on each side and a window at the finish, enchanted to provide a pretty view that didn't exist. But just because he couldn't see what was really
on the other side of the window, didn't mean there wasn't anything
on the other side.
He ran, he ached, he panted, and he hoped his body wouldn't fail him before he could reach the window or before one of the doors flashing past on each side of him opened and someone saw him or before his guard woke up and found him missing.
After following a turn the corridor forced him to take, he skidded to a stop with thirty metres to go. He could see the window, but his view was obstructed by the thin figure of a woman.
"But you're dead," he whispered to Luna.
* * *
Harry found Luna first, but Neville was hot on his heels. She was lying on her back in the middle of the fourth floor corridor, twitching violently. Beneath her eyelids, her eyes were darting back and forth.
"Bloody hell!" Neville cursed as Harry dropped down on the ground next to her.
He put his hands on her shoulders and shook her.
"Luna!" he cried. "Luna, can you hear me?"
Her eyes snapped open and Harry gasped at how blue and clear they were. It was apparent in an instant she could see.
Beneath his hands she flailed and kicked. Harry tried to summon a feeling of calm as he drew his wand.
" he said, and a silvery mist blew from his wand tip and settled over the corridor.
Almost instantly, Luna settled down, going limp and quiet. Beside him, Neville seemed to droop where he stood.
" Harry said, and Neville blinked and straightened again.
"Sorry," Harry apologised. "It's this new charm we've been using to calm the patients called Patronus Maxima. It works like the Patronus Charm except that it spreads the caster's emotions, allowing them to manipulate the emotional climate around them."
Neville nodded curtly.
Luna's body rose horizontally into the air. Her head lolled toward Harry and she looked directly into his eyes. It was a bit disconcerting after so many years. Together, Neville and Harry went back down the corridor and settled Luna into her bed.
"What happened?" Neville asked as Harry ran diagnostic spells.
"I have no idea," he admitted. "But according to my tests, she's never been healthier. Look she has her vision back."
As he spoke, Luna's face split into a brilliant smile.
"Harry," she murmured, and he thrilled to hear her voice.
"My god," Neville breathed.
Harry helped Luna sit up.
"Luna," he said, "can you hear me?"
"I can hear you," she said.
"Can you tell me what happened to you?"
"You saved me..." she muttered, awed; her eyes did not leave Harry's face. "Like an angel, you saved me."
Harry glanced at Neville in confusion, but Neville only shook his head, bewildered.
"What did I save you from, Luna?"
Instead of answering, she asked, "Why do you call me that?"
"It's your name," Harry told her.
"Are you sure?"
"What do you think it is?"
For a long time she thought about it. Then she smiled a strange, slow curling smile.
"Luna," she said.
"Tell me how I saved you," he asked her again.
"By the fire," she said. "I was caught in the fire but then you came down and pulled me out."
Harry's eyes narrowed. There'd been no fire, nor any traces of one in the corridor.
"What fire, Luna?" he asked. "Start from the beginning; tell me everything."
Luna seemed only too happy to give him anything he wanted. She explained in great detail, as though she could see it all now:
"We were in a huge room full of things things from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, stacked high on shelves and in mounds. There were old bottles, clothes, weapons I remember a sword and an axe. There was a great big cabinet and a load of rusty old cages some with skeletons in them. There were sculptures and books and hats and dirty cauldrons and sacks of rotting plants and food.
"And there were other boys with us, Harry. They were attacking you, but I tried to stop them!" She looked stricken but didn't stop. "And then one of them flung a curse into the piles of things. Fire exploded all around us and it was so hot and it couldn't be extinguished. You tried to summon water but it did no good it was so hot!
Harry was captivated by her tale now and listened eagerly.
"We all ran, because there was nothing else we could do. The fire was fast and it was all around me before I could get anywhere. I couldn't find you anymore after that and I was all alone and I thought I was going to die...
"But then you appeared," Luna breathed, "coming down out of the air. You had two people with you and they helped as you lifted me up out of the fire."
"Tell me more, Luna," he pleaded. "Where were we? Why was there a fight? Who were the boys? Who were the people who helped me save you?"
"I don't know," Luna admitted. She didn't appear to care much but she thought hard, as though determined to keep Harry content. "I heard some names. We were all shouting names."
"Yes? What were the names?"
"Crabbe, Malfoy, Hermione" Luna listed. "And Harry Potter," she said, suddenly cheerful again.
Harry was completely boggled. For the life of him he could not remember what she was telling him. As he wracked his brain, his head started to hurt and he pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose.
"Can you tell me how you got your sight back, Luna?" he asked.
"My sight?" She suddenly looked as confused as he felt. "What do you mean?"
"You...you were blind."
"No." Luna shook her head adamantly. "No, I wasn't."
Harry didn't try to argue. Maybe she didn't remember being blind.
Behind him, there was a sharp gasp and he turned. He was surprised to find Neville he'd forgotten that he wasn't alone with Luna. And then there was Hermione, standing not far away, her hand pressed to her lips. Behind her, Ron's mouth hung open.
Automatically, he moved toward them, but Luna's hand struck out and grabbed his wrist.
"Don't leave me, Harry!" she gasped, already half-way off the bed.
Harry spun back to her and laid a calming hand on her shoulder. He was surprised that she could do anything close to panicking under the Patronus Maxima Charm.
"It's okay," he told her. "I just need to talk to some people. I promise I won't ever let you out of my sight."
"Can't I come with you?"
Neville stepped forward.
"I'll stay with her, Harry," he said. He sank into the chair beside Luna's bedside. "Hello, Luna," he greeted her gently. "My name is Neville."
Harry hurried over to Hermione and Ron, where Neville's soothing conversation was just a murmur.
"Did you hear her?" he demanded of both of them. "Did you hear what she was saying?"
"But how does she know?
" Ron asked.
"Oh come on, mate. That was the time that Crabbe nearly killed us all with Fiendfyre. Don't tell me you've forgotten."
Harry tried to school his features into casual understanding. He had run into this problem before; this memory was obviously something he'd stashed away in his Pensieve who knows how long ago.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Must've slipped my mind."
Hermione was looking at him suspiciously so he changed the topic.
"What do you think changed? And how did she get her sight back?"
"I can tell you that, Harry," Hermione said, successfully distracted. "I found Calver De Plumes' book."
"You did?" Harry's eyes widened.
"Actually, she was just reading it to me when she got your Patronus," Ron said. "The whole damn thing's written in Runes, you know."
"De Plumes did a lot of experimenting with the removal of memories," Hermione explained. "One of his tests was meant to find out what would happen if a person were to have every last memory removed."
Harry's brow furrowed as he considered this. Hermione went on.
"It turned out that in removing the final memory, the only thing the person has left in their mind, the person goes into a sort of stasis. They stop recording sensory data and so appear like a vegetable. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch have no effect on them. They are little more than a walking corpse."
Harry was appalled by the thought. Ron looked solemn.
"You think this is what happened to Luna?" Harry asked.
"Yes. Which means that this change occurred because she was given a memory it only takes one to recover, and then the victim can begin creating new memories."
"So who gave her the Fiendfyre memory?" Ron wondered. "If it wasn't one of us... And with Crabbe dead and Goyle killed in one of the Death Eater attacks... And Malfoy couldn't've done it in custody."
"Was it you, Harry?" Hermione asked accusingly. "Because we all promised to keep the Horcruxes a secret. This is getting rather close to telling, isn't it?"
"I swear I didn't," Harry said defensively.
"Then who did?"
"No one. No one could have. She hasn't been in contact with anyone."
Hermione glanced over his shoulder at Luna.
"We need to see that memory," she said thoughtfully.
The three of them returned to Luna's bed and she grinned up at Harry.
"Luna," he began calmly, "it would help me help you if I could view your memory of the fire. Will you let me do that?"
Her smile drooped.
"Take my memory?" she asked slowly.
Harry nodded. Then, after a long moment, Luna did, too.
"Lay back," Harry instructed her, "and think hard about what you remember."
He took his wand from his pocket and gently touched her temple. When he felt the familiar warmth in his palm that said the memory had taken hold, he began to pull away.
And then Luna screamed.
It was blood-curdling and it went on and on. And all around them, the other patients of the Janus Thickey Ward began screaming, too.
"What's happening?!" Ron shouted over the ear-splitting noise.
"Put it back, Harry!" Hermione cried. "Put it back, now!"
As he did, she turned toward the panicking room and raised her wand.
" she cried just as the memory was absorbed back into Luna's temple.
The whole room went quiet but Harry's ears still rang. He was breathing heavily as he watched Luna closely. Her eyelids fluttered and then opened. When she focussed on Harry's face, a blinding smile spread over hers.
"I know you," she said. "You saved me."
Harry's eyes pricked as Luna took his hand and began to explain her memory to him, like she'd never told him before. Raising his wand, he easily mustered feelings of exhaustion and whispered, "Patronum Maxiumum.
Luna's explanation stuttered to a stop and she yawned hugely.
"Harry," was the last thing she said before her eyes closed.
that?" Ron asked quietly.
"I'm s-sorry," Hermione sobbed, and Harry saw that she had given over to the urge to cry. "I didn't think. I didn't know."
"What, Hermione?" Ron put an arm around her and stroked her hair.
"She hasn't made enough new m-memories. It's not s-safe to take that one from her."
Harry inhaled deeply as his heart rate slowed.
"It's okay," he said. "She's going to be okay."
And really, that was all that mattered.
* * *
Draco jerked awake violently at the sound of a voice whispering.
"Somewhere near here,
" it said. "Somewhere...somewhere...
Rigid with fear, he stared upwards at the lid of the Muggle dumpster where he'd weaved a layer of Secrecy Spells to protect himself from discovery. He was not far from the Hospital, but he was still in too much pain to get any further without rest. Now he thought that he should have risked it.
"So how did you get in here?
" the voice asked, and Draco's heart plummeted.
They'd found him; there was no use cowering in the rubbish. He was debating between surrender and a fight when a new voice spoke one he hadn't heard in twenty years.
"It's Potter the Dark Lord wants,
" Vincent Crabbe said, and Draco blinked in shock when he realised that he was hearing these voices in his head.
With his heartbeat still pounding in his ears, he concentrated on the subtle itch he now felt in his mind. There was a hole in his memories, but suddenly things were coming back. He could remember the beginning: staked out in front of the Room of Requirement as Hogwarts shook from the battle raging all around. He could remember the end: coughing and choking on the corridor floor as Potter stood above him, an ugly diadem clutched in his hands.
"Who cares what you think?
" Crabbe's voice whispered as Draco tried to remember the in-between. "I don't take your orders no more, Draco. You an' your dad are finished.
"What is this?" Draco whispered fearfully.
The answer came to him inexplicably. His memory was in the in-between and he could hear it calling; calling for protection so that it wouldn't be lost; calling for someone to claim it; calling for him. And he heard it.
Draco felt panic. Why would they take the memory from her? Either his plan was going perfectly right or horribly wrong.
"Like it hot, scum?
" Crabbe roared and Draco clutched his head in his hands.
He waited a long time for more of the memory. He glimpsed feelings: heat, fear, panic, more heat, so much heat, and then relief that made him gasp for breath. But never more voices, and finally, no more feelings. The silence could mean only one thing: that the memory had been re-rooted in a mind. But who had it now?
Looking above him again, Draco eyed the faint strip of light that ran between the dumpster and the lid. Did he dare? He was weak from fatigue and pain, and that would slow him down, but help wasn't far off. There was even a chance that the Aurors hadn't discovered he'd gone missing yet. Though admittedly a small one.
The itch from the hole in his memory decided for him. There was nothing for it. He had to check that his memory was safe and that his plan had worked. So, with bated breath, he lifted the stolen wand and removed his protective enchantments.
Each step he took down the Muggle street felt like a drum beat, calling the Aurors directly to him. He tried not to glance around as he walked it would only make him look more suspicious but his fingers were almost numb from the way he squeezed the wand hidden in his pocket.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, he came upon a familiar building. Taking the stairs two at a time, he went to flat 217 and knocked on the door. He held his breath.
"Draco?" a voice gasped.
He spun, his wand already drawn on the figure approaching from the stairs, but he was too slow.
His wand flew out of his grasp and Daphne Greengrass caught it.
" she said, and he heard the door click open behind him. "Get inside," she growled, both of their wands trained on his heart.
He did as she said, and the moment they were both over the threshold she closed, bolted and shielded the door. With secrecy spells in place, she stuffed her wand in her pocket and spun back to glare at him.
"What the hell
are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I need your help," he said. "But you can't ask what for."
"What for?" she snarled.
"I'm not going to tell you. I can't. It will put you at risk."
"I'm already at risk for every second I let you stand here conscious."
"You know I'm not on their side," he said quietly.
This melted her, and her face smoothed into a calmer mask.
"You believe me?" he asked her.
"Shouldn't I?" She cocked an eyebrow.
"I think you should."
"Then that's good enough for me."
She dropped onto her sofa and put her feet up the table. Draco still stood rigidly, but he felt warmth at the way she still trusted him after all these years.
"So, what do you need help with?" Daphne asked.
"I need to sneak into St Mungo's."
She barked a laugh.
"Draco, you were just in
St Mungo's, remember? Or did Weasley hit you a bit too hard when she took you down?"
"Don't ask questions, Daphne. I can't answer them."
Her expression hardened.
"Oh, stop being so serious, Draco. It will give you wrinkles."
She stood up and went to the kitchen.
"What are you doing?" Draco asked, a little surprised that she could think of eating at a time like this.
"I figured I'd get some lunch before Weasley finds out you've escaped. There'll be no rest after that."
* * *
When Harry arrived home that evening he was surprised to hear raised voices coming from inside his flat. He flung open the door to see Ginny in front of the fireplace where Daphne Greengrass' head hovered in the flames.
"And you know what, Greengrass?" Ginny was shouting. "This is all your bloody fault, too!"
"How is it my fault?" Greengrass demanded. Though she appeared just as angry, she was able to keep her voice calmer than Ginny's.
"You're the one who suggested the lax guard! If I didn't know any better, I'd say you planned this!"
"And what exactly would I have to gain from it?"
"Maybe your loyalties aren't quite where you say "
"Don't you dare
insinuate that I'm a Death Eater supporter." Greengrass' voice went low and dangerous. "They killed my whole family after the war, in case you hadn't forgotten, exactly because we never joined them," she hissed.
But Ginny's pride wouldn't let her apologise, and the two glared at each other for a long time. Harry finally closed the door and both pairs of eyes darted to him.
"I don't have to take any more of this," Greengrass said, and suddenly the grate was empty except for the pale flames that crackled innocently in the silence.
"What happened?" Harry asked as Ginny went to the kitchen to pour herself some Firewhisky.
"Malfoy's gone. Escaped St Mungo's this afternoon."
Harry's eyes widened, but a part of him found that he wasn't quite as shocked as he thought he'd be. In his mind, Draco always seemed to slither through the cracks.
"We put a relaxed guard on him," Ginny was explaining, "because we wanted to see if Narcissa would go to him."
"But it backfired," Harry concluded. She nodded. "Daphne's not to blame," he said gently.
"I know." Ginny scrubbed her face and tossed back the last of the whisky. "I'm going back to work."
Harry watched her step through the Floo and then he went to his bedroom. He'd had a headache since the incident with Luna. He'd been worrying over her all day, though he hadn't been able to do anything more for her between caring for his other patients. He knew Hermione was home right now, reading Calver De Plumes' book. She would tell him if she found anything.
In the meantime, he wanted to see first-hand exactly what Luna had remembered.
In his bedroom, he crossed to the opposite wall and touched it with his wand. The wallpaper tore in a straight line from ceiling to floor and the wall opened up like a set of thin double doors.
Inside on a pedestal was his Pensieve. Behind it, built into the hidden closet, was a shelf set with racks of crystal vials. Some were empty, but some contained single memories, labelled and stored in case he needed them.
He read through the labels, and their names made him shudder though he could not recall whatever they contained. There was an entire rack of vials devoted to the second of May, 1998. One of these contained a single word: 'Malfoy.'
With trepidation, Harry took this one down and emptied it into his Pensieve. From the swirling silver rose a figure kneeling on a forest floor. Narcissa was bent almost double, her hand hovering over air, and Harry had the inexplicable yet undeniable answer that it was his own body that had been beneath her palm.
"Examine him. Tell me whether he is dead,
" an eerie voice hissed from the Pensieve.
Narcissa bent lower, her hair falling over the side of her face.
"Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?
" she breathed.
" Harry's own voice said.
With a painful swallow, Harry plunged his wand into the memory and Narcissa's form erupted into just another innocent spiral before he could see any more.
"Wrong Malfoy," he choked.
Staring for a long time into the Pensieve, Harry felt hopeless. Even if he put this memory away and never looked at it again, it wouldn't be erased. To remove it completely, he would now have to take away his memory of this moment when he watched it. To be thorough, he might even have to remove the memories that had caused him to look for it.
One memory after another; anything that caused pain anything that triggered it. Soon he would be an empty shell; soon he would be in the hospital bed beside Luna. At first, this had been such a clever idea. What harm could it do? He only wanted a restful night's sleep for once. Now, the healing was never-ending. He could not contain the pain.
With his wand tip still immersed in memories, he dragged out the one of Narcissa in the forest and put it to his temple. With a shuddering inhale, he remembered.
Looking back to the shelf of vials, he saw another on the same rack labelled 'Fire' but he couldn't bring himself to take it down.
One was enough for now. He went to bed and slept fitfully.
* * *
Harry was on the night shift the next time Luna remembered.
In fact, he'd volunteered himself for the job, just to be close at hand in case she had any more breakthroughs. Or that's what he told himself.
They were sitting together on her bed; Harry leaning against the headboard, Luna cross-legged at the foot. He'd put up walls of protective enchantments to give them privacy from the other sleeping residents of the ward and to contain Luna's magic should it go awry.
Tonight, he was giving her back her wand.
"This is technically against protocol," Harry said as he offered it to her.
Luna made no show of guilt or hesitancy; she snatched it boldly from his hand. He smiled at her forwardness and wondered, not for the first time, where quiet, odd Luna had gone in the years of silence. Since she'd begun making new memories, she'd discovered this brave, strong personality that Harry had never met before. And he was drawn to it; he couldn't deny that. In the past three days, he'd spent more time with Luna than his job as her Healer really required.
"Healer Koffer would murder me if he knew I was doing this," he said. "Not to mention Ginny...Hermione...everyone else, really."
Luna shushed him.
"Help me," she said. "I don't remember any incantations."
"Try Lumos. Any first year could do it."
Luna's eyes narrowed mildly.
"I'm not a first year," she told him. "I'm just...forgetful." She grinned the infectious grin she had. "Lumos.
Harry released his breath in a puff of disappointment. Nothing had happened.
"Why didn't it work?" Luna pouted.
"Okay, let's think about this. Spells use a mixture of magic and feeling that's channelled through a wand connected to you. You have the wand; this is the very one that chose you when you were eleven. You have the magic; that's not affected by memory loss. So the only thing you could be missing is the feeling."
Luna rolled her eyes.
"If it's feeling that counts, then shouldn't I know what the spell does?"
"I'm sorry," he said. "I forget that you...erm, forget. It's a spell to give you light; it will come from your wand tip."
"Right." Luna straightened and held her wand aloft. "Lumos.
The tip of her wand glowed faintly and then went out.
A soft pool of light grew between them then faded.
And nothing happened.
Luna looked torn between anger and hopelessness.
"Don't give up," Harry encouraged, his heart aching for her. "It may take time for you to regain the full use of your magic. You haven't used it in such a long time."
She looked a little happier, but laid the wand aside and slumped against the footboard.
"Tell me something," she said.
"What do you want me to tell you?"
"I dunno, tell me a story from our Hogwarts days."
"I have one," Harry said. "I was in sixth year you, fifth. Our potions professor, Slughorn, hosted a Christmas party and you and I went together."
"We did?" Luna perked up and her eyes sparkled.
"Yes." Harry smiled. "And when I met you in the Great Hall you were dressed to the nines in sparkly silver dress robes. There were lots of girls staring at you."
She looked bored by this news, so Harry went on.
"On the way, you told me our current Minister was a vampire "
"Not that I ever heard."
"Why did I think so?"
"You were very strange," Harry said fondly.
"Am I still strange, Harry?"
He considered her for a moment; the way she changed moods faster than he could handle sometimes and the way she laughed with her whole body and the way she said his name, as if they shared some secret.
"Yes," he decided.
"Did I ever tell you..." she hesitated. "Have we ever kissed?"
Harry's eyes widened.
"No," he said thickly.
"I can't deny that I want to," she admitted. "It's almost all that I could think from the moment I saw your face."
Harry was at a loss for what to say, but he felt distinctly warmer than he had seconds ago.
"I must have liked you before," Luna went on. "Did you know?"
"It's always been hard to read you," Harry whispered. "Harder now."
"You don't have to read me. I'll tell you what I want."
And she leaned forward and kissed him.
It was short but hard, and he got the impression that she didn't want him to mistake it for anything but what it was.
"I have the feeling," she said after she'd pulled away, "that I've wanted to do that for a long time..."
Harry swallowed around the lump in his throat.
"We can't do that," he told her. "I'm your Healer. We have a professional relationship."
"The hell we do. You've broken one rule, Harry." She touched her wand still lying by her knee. "What's another?"
She leaned in again, but he put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
He put a finger to his lips and looked up over her shoulder. For a drawn-out moment, they sat in silence as he peered into the darkness.
"What is it?" she finally asked in a whisper.
"I thought I heard someone moving."
Luna seemed unperturbed.
"Could just be another resident."
Harry finally looked back at her. His heart rate sped up at the expression in her eyes.
"Either way," he said, "I ought to do my rounds again."
He climbed off her bed, pocketing her wand casually in the process.
"Will you come back?" Luna asked.
"I don't think so. You need to get your sleep."
She nodded, as if she'd expected nothing less, and crawled beneath her covers.
"Goodnight, Harry," she murmured.
"Sweet dreams, Luna."
Some time later he was checking on a different ward of sleeping patients at the end of the fourth floor corridor when he heard the scream. He took off before the echoes had faded away and burst into the Janus Thickey Ward to find it exactly as he'd left it; dark and silent. Thanks to the charmed curtains pulled around each bed that let noise out but not in, the other residents all slept soundly.
Harry hurried to Luna's bed which was stripped from her tossing. She lay on her back, panting and sweating, her eyes darting beneath her lids.
"No," she was moaning, "god, no."
"Luna," Harry said urgently.
He reached out to shake her awake, but her hand flashed up in the blink of an eye and stopped him by the wrist. Her eyes snapped open.
"Luna," Harry said more gently this time, "it's me; it's Harry."
The way she said it reminded him of the first time, when she'd called him an angel her saviour. Slowly, her eyes focussed on his face and she began to tremble uncontrollably.
Somewhere beyond the ward the clattering of something falling or being knocked over echoed down the corridor. Harry turned toward the door but Luna gasped.
"Don't leave me!" she begged him.
Decidedly, Harry climbed onto the bed and wrapped her in his arms. Her skin was cold but her body radiated heat.
"Tell me what happened," he said. "Did you have a nightmare about the fire?"
"No," Luna whispered. "It was another memory the night the Death Eaters kidnapped me."
Harry stiffened. He'd never told her this was what had happened to her.
"Tell me," he breathed into her hair.
"I was in my bed," Luna recalled. "But it wasn't night time. I was...ill? No, I was depressed. I was lonely."
"I don't remember."
"Was it your father? He'd just been killed in one of the Death Eater attacks."
"My father, no." Then she gasped. "My godfather! I was thinking of my godfather."
"I never knew you had one."
"He was away and I was alone. I think he was in danger; I was worried about him."
None of this seemed to add up with the day Luna had been kidnapped, but Harry didn't argue with her.
"Go on," he said.
"They came in my door, calmly without any force. Like they'd known where I was all along. They just walked right in. Two of them."
"I can't remember their names...but I remember that I knew them. They came in and smiled at me. 'Well, well,' one of them said. 'Look who it is.' The other one pulled me out of bed and they both laughed because I didn't fight them."
"Why didn't you fight them?" Harry shuddered when he felt wetness seep through his robes where Luna's face was pressed.
"It was hopeless," she sobbed. "I asked them where my mother was and they laughed at that, too."
Harry didn't tell her this was probably because her mother had been dead since she was a little girl.
"They blindfolded me and took me away from my hiding place and threw me in a dungeon. I was there for nine days. I remember the clock on the wall; they could have only put it there to torture me."
This didn't make sense either. Luna had come to Harry, blind and broken, only three days after her abduction.
"On the ninth day a hooded figure came in. 'The Dark Lord is displeased with you,' he told me, and I spat on his feet."
Harry felt a jolt of pride and fear bolt through him. Luna did not pause.
"He tortured me. 'Will you fight for him?' he asked me when he stopped. I didn't answer so he tortured me again. On and on, until I thought I would d-die."
Her voice broke and Harry petted her hair as she struggled to control herself. He was surprised that she'd made it this far.
"'Who are you loyal to?' he asked me the last time he came in." She tilted her head back and Harry looked down into her tear-streaked face. "I said your name," she whispered.
In the end, Harry had to give her a Dreamless Sleep Potion before she could relax enough to drift off again. Harry only wished he could hide from his own thoughts as easily.
At six in the morning he was relieved from his shift and he went home exhausted. Ginny was just rising, preparing for another long day of searching for Draco Malfoy. Her face was stony, though she greeted Harry warmly.
"Any progress?" Harry asked her as he watched her brew tea.
"You'll find him; he hasn't gone far."
"How do you know?" she snapped, but Harry didn't take offense; she was on edge. He shrugged.
"He wasn't fully recovered when he left St Mungo's. I looked at his charts. He still had a good thirty-two hours left before the potion he was taking could possibly have re-grown the rest of his liver. And without the potion, longer. It would be impossible for him to Apparate in that condition; too much internal pain his magic would rebel." Harry looked at Ginny curiously. "Didn't the Healer on his case mention that?"
"No, he did not!" Ginny shouted, though this time she was grinning manically.
Dumping her unfinished tea into the sink, she bolted to the fireplace.
"Thank you, Harry!" she cried, before throwing down a handful of powder and disappearing.
Harry stared at the fire, trying to work out whether he was feeling proud or guilty. Had he just unintentionally become Draco's downfall? Did he regret it?
In his bedroom, Harry opened his secret closet in the wall. He had returned here last night and the night before that to gaze hesitantly at the vial marked 'Fire', but neither nights had he been able to muster the courage needed to take it down. Instead, he had found something more interesting and less ominous.
Scattered randomly throughout his organised memories were at least a dozen vials marked 'Malfoy'. Aside from 'Voldemort', this was the most frequently occurring label. Harry was curious.
At random, Harry chose the rack dated for the thirtieth of June, 1997 and took down the 'Malfoy' vial, which sat between 'Locket' and 'Snape'. Emptying it into his Pensieve, he watched as two figures rose up from the spiralling memories; beneath a starry sky, Albus Dumbledore stared down the wand of Draco Malfoy.
"Good evening, Draco,
" Dumbledore said calmly.
"Who else is here?
" Draco demanded.
As with the memory of Narcissa, Harry knew inexplicably what was missing from the scene he himself, leaning frozen against the wall, his invisibility cloak hiding him from Draco. And with this remembrance came a feeling of helplessness so strong it nearly sent Harry to his knees. He felt frozen all over again as he watched the scene unfold.
Throughout the discussion Harry felt a tumult of emotion rising from the Pensieve: fear, anger, hatred. So many painful things. Now, as he watched it with a sense of perspective left to him by his forgetfulness, all he could feel was sadness. Draco's role in the war, if Harry could remember, might possibly have been harder than Harry's.
"I haven't got any options!
" Draco was shouting from the Pensieve. "I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!
" And Harry's throat felt obstructed.
Dumbledore continued on calmly, as if he was not at death's door. And as he spoke, Harry thought he saw decision breaking down in Draco's eyes thought he saw Draco's trembling wand lower by miniscule degrees.
"It is my mercy,
" Dumbledore finally said, "and not yours, that matters now.
The figures sank back into the depths of the Pensieve and Harry felt relief that it was over. But of course, it was not over. He wasn't going to run anymore.
Putting his wand into the memories, he dragged out the frightened Draco, the dying Dumbledore, the invisible Harry, and returned them delicately to his head.
* * *
Ginny visited Luna regularly now that it made a difference. She was thrilled to have her friend back, though she was little like the Luna Ginny had once defended against students who had called her Loony.
On most occasions, she found Harry already at Luna's bedside. She wondered how he found time to care for his other patients and still spend so many hours talking to Luna. Other times she found Neville, who never seemed to tire of telling Luna all about the stories of their youth. Today she found Hermione and Ron, both of whom she hugged warmly. She'd been so busy with work lately that she hadn't seen them in a while.
"How's the fight going, Ginny?" Ron asked after she'd hugged Luna, too.
"Confidential business, Ron," she said. Not all of it was, really, but she could never resist teasing him.
"Are you lot the only friends I have?" Luna piped up.
Hermione and Ron gaped at her, but Ginny doubled up with laughter. She'd always loved the way Luna had the tendency to say the most uncomfortable things. This Luna was even blunter than the first.
"Pretty much," Ginny told her with a grin. "But I know how you feel. I can't believe I still see my brother
so much. And Harry! Why am I living with him?"
"I wouldn't mind living with Harry," she admitted.
Ron choked a laugh and Hermione smiled.
"Trust me, Luna," Ginny said earnestly, "you'd hate it. He's a slob, and he's always hard up for rent, cheap son of a "
"Talking about me, are you?" Harry said, coming up behind Ginny.
"She was just telling me what a wonderful flatmate you make," Luna told him as he went to her side and kissed her on the cheek.
"Harry," Hermione said, "do you think I could have a word?"
Without being invited, Ginny stood, too, and followed them into the corridor; she liked to be wherever things were happening. She noticed the way Harry positioned himself to have a view through the door of Luna talking to Ron.
"Harry, I think Luna needs a change of scenery," Hermione began.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, there's not much more that St Mungo's can do for her. She's on the mend mentally, now she needs to start learning how to live a normal life again. She needs to start learning how to use magic, but she's restricted here."
Ginny thought Harry looked a bit guilty and she could guess why. He'd never been one to follow the rules; he was probably taking Luna out in secret, or something near to that.
"I dunno," Harry said slowly. "I don't feel comfortable just letting her loose in the world. She's a bit... fragile."
Looking back into the Janus Thickey Ward where Luna was sitting up on her knees in bed and telling Ron something using large, animated gestures, Ginny thought she was anything but fragile.
"You let Lockhart go," Hermione reminded Harry.
But they both knew that was different. Harry was so personally invested in this case that he could hardly part from Luna.
"Harry," Ginny said, "we have a spare bedroom. Why doesn't Luna come stay with us?"
"There," Hermione agreed cheerfully. "That's a perfect idea. You would be great for Luna, Harry. You know her situation better than anyone you're her Healer."
"But... But I'm her Healer!
That would be so unprofessional!"
"Oh please." Ginny scoffed. "As if your relationship is so professional now." She was gratified by Harry's flush of embarrassment. "And anyway, once you sign her Bill of Health she won't be your patient anymore and you're free to have whatever sort of relationship you want."
"Healer Koffer would never allow it," Harry said.
"You're Harry Potter," Ginny said simply.
He turned his eyes on her with a scowl. Ginny rolled her eyes; sure enough, she knew what was coming.
"I'm not going to use my name to get special treatment."
"Harry," Hermione cut in gently, "using your name for good won't diminish you in anyone's eyes."
The scowl still hovered on the corner of his lips, but he was looking back through the door with a longing expression, and Ginny knew he wouldn't need any more convincing. Inside, her spirits were lifting. With Luna close at hand, Ginny would be the first to know if she got any more memories back. Maybe Luna was her key to finding the Death Eaters.
* * *
After his shift the next evening, Harry asked Luna if she wanted to move out of the hospital.
He'd already talked shouted with Healer Koffer, got a grudging okay, and finished the appropriate paperwork. With the cogs in motion, his inhibitions had been replaced with excitement and a sick feeling of nervousness that she would reject him.
The feeling only increased as her eyes widened in surprise.
"But..." she said slowly. "But I'm a permanent resident..."
"In here," Harry explained, "permanent doesn't really mean forever. We never expect for our patients to not
get better." When she still didn't look convinced, he went on. "Gilderoy Lockhart was a permanent resident but he left. I know you don't remember him. He suffered mental damage, but in time he got back on his feet. He lives alone now, and he has a job. Barring that he's a little forgetful sometimes and that he doesn't remember any of his past, he's fine."
"I don't know how to use my magic," she said. "I don't have anywhere to go."
Harry realised she was scared and he took her hands.
"Luna," he said, "I'll help you with your magic. I want you to move in with me." At the last second he tacked "and Ginny" on the end.
"You? But you're my Healer."
"Not if you check out. Once I sign your papers we no longer have a professional relationship."
Her eyes snapped up to his from where she had been worrying her fingernails.
"What sort of relationship will we have, then?"
"A friendship," he said, and wanted to say "or more" but didn't.
Luna looked happy for the first time since they'd started talking.
"Can I kiss you?" she asked boldly. "If we live together."
Harry swallowed loudly and, not trusting himself to speak, only nodded.
"Then yes, I'd like to check out. When can I?"
"Now," he said too eagerly.
After she had gathered her few belongings, Harry walked her over the threshold of the Janus Thickey Ward. She smiled that contagious smile as they rode the lift down together and went to the front desk.
"Luna Lovegood," she said to the reception witch. "Checking out."
She was handed an air-tight bag that held the possessions she'd been checked in with so long ago. Luna emptied it carefully and examined each object. Her wand was there they both pretended Harry hadn't been sneaking it out to let her practice with it and a pair of ragged robes which she happily pulled on over her hospital robes. The only other item was a delicate gold band set with an insignificant emerald.
"Where did I get this?" she asked Harry, holding it up.
"I dunno. I never saw you wear it."
With a frown, Luna slipped it into her pocket.
"You don't want to wear it?" Harry asked.
"For all I know, I stole it from someone."
"You wouldn't steal, Luna."
She only shrugged.
"Alright, ready to go?"
With a sharp nod, she followed him out onto the bustling Muggle street. As they walked, Luna clung to Harry's elbow and looked about with wide eyes. He smiled but watched her to make sure that it wasn't all too much.
Quite suddenly they were surrounded by people who seemed to have come from thin air. Harry was shocked at their Apparating into a busy Muggle area, but when their flash bulbs starting going off his only worry was for Luna.
"Mr Potter!" one reporter shouted. "Can you tell us what prompted you to take Ms Lovegood home with you?"
"Potter!" another said. "Are you and Ms Lovegood having a secret affair?"
"Hey, Potter! Look this way!"
"Give us a smile!"
"How about a k "
With his hand firmly around Luna's waist, Harry Disapparated. They appeared on his doorstep, Luna doubled over and gasping.
"I'm sorry!" he said urgently. "I forgot you don't remember how to do that. I just had to get you out of there. Are you okay?"
"Fine " she wheezed. "Just surprised. Next time warn me."
When she'd recovered enough to speak normally, she asked, "What was all that about?"
"Just my life."
Luna looked questioningly at him.
"I'm sort of, erm...famous," he said.
"Well, for defeating the most powerful dark wizard of all time."
Luna eyed him for a moment, and then she shrugged. Harry's heart swelled.
"Will we have privacy here?" she asked, looking at Harry's door.
The way she said 'privacy' made his heart skip a beat.
He unlocked the door and held it open for her.
"Well, except for Ginny," Luna said, as she went inside.
She didn't meander in the entry way; instead, she went through each of the rooms, examining photographs and peeking inside cupboards.
"What's in here?" she asked when she came upon one that was locked.
"Newspapers," Harry said, shaken out of watching her. "From the time when Voldemort was alive and directly after his death."
"Voldemort," Luna said. "The man you killed?"
He nodded and she eyed him again.
"What?" he asked. "Why are you looking at me that way?"
"I just can't see you killing a man."
Harry didn't know whether to be pleased or offended.
"You're so...light. So good."
She said this with an expression torn between admiration and pain.
"Is there something wrong with that?" he asked.
"No," she said. "I don't know. I feel..."
He moved closer to her.
"Dark," she said.
"Luna." He took her hands. "You're so far from the Dark."
"I don't feel like it."
"I know you."
me. What if whatever happened to me changed me?"
But Harry knew even as he said it that it was a lie. Luna was vastly different from who she had been. He almost let go of her hands, but she suddenly clung tighter to him.
"Would you still like me if I had changed?" she asked. Harry's tongue felt dry and big, like cotton. "Would you like me if I was Dark?"
She leaned in close closer. And then they were kissing and it was full of passion and hunger and Harry gasped into her mouth as she devoured him, taking control and winding him up in her arms. She was intoxicating and he was instantly hard.
When they broke apart to breathe, Harry had to struggle to clear his hazy mind.
"You should get some sleep," he said breathlessly.
Luna did not argue. She simply let him go and moved away.
"Do you have any Dreamless Sleep Potion?" she asked. Since her second memory, she'd not got a single night of restful sleep without the potion.
"No, but I have something better. Come with me."
Harry led her down the hall into his own bedroom and then crossed to the bare wall beside his wardrobe to tap a familiar spot with his wand. The hidden doors opened to reveal his secrets, and though he'd never told anyone about it, he felt no fear at showing Luna now.
"What is this?" Luna asked, peering into the swirling silver mist filling the Pensieve.
He nodded minutely as Luna searched him with piercing eyes.
"Why are those separated?" She pointed to the shelves filled with vials.
"Those are the ones I don't want but might need. That way I won't have to search for them."
For a long time, Luna stared silently into the Pensieve.
"You can put yours here," Harry explained in case she didn't understand. "Once you've removed them you won't remember them. You've made enough new memories that taking out the two that give you nightmares won't hurt you."
Her head snapped up and she looked sharply at him.
"You want me to throw my memories away?"
"No, no! Not throw away, just store temporarily. You can put them back in the morning after you've slept. Just the two."
"Are you going to look at them?"
"Of course not," Harry said, hurt that she seemed so accusatory. "Not if you don't want me to. It's just for your peace of mind."
"No," she said decisively. "They may not be much, but they're mine and I want to keep them."
She crossed Harry's room to the door. On her way out she looked back.
"Thank you," she said, and he was surprised to find pity in her eyes.
Later, after Luna had gone to sleep, Harry reopened his secret cabinet and stared into the swirling mist as he considered what Luna had said.
"I hate you all," he said to the Pensieve. "And I don't want to keep you."
Angrily, he thrust his wand tip into them and dragged out a random memory. That night he dreamed of his father tormenting a young Severus Snape and woke feeling disgusted and in need of a shower.
* * *
Draco spent the next nine days bunkering down at Daphne's flat. Admittedly, it was a glorious nine days, spent relaxing and eating. He gained nearly a stone by the end of it, as well as some new robes that Daphne kindly picked up for him, and a trim and shave.
But when he woke up on the tenth morning it was to a headline in the Prophet
that made his spirits plummet.
POTTER AND LOVEGOOD IN SECRET AFFAIR?
The article, added as an afterthought beneath the huge picture of Potter with his arm around Lovegood, said all Draco needed to know: that he'd wasted his time that he'd lost his chance.
"Morning," Daphne said, coming into the kitchen fully dressed. "What's the matter?"
Draco shoved the Prophet
toward her sourly and she read.
"So?" was all she had to say.
"So, that's it, isn't it? It's all over all for nothing. Bloody waste. Shouldn't have even bothered."
Draco rose from his bar stool and left the kitchen.
"Wait a minute!" Daphne ran after him. "Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving back to the Death Eaters."
"And just what do you think you'll accomplish there?"
She watched him through narrow eyes, arms folded over her chest, as he stuffed the few belongings he'd gained into one of her spare rucksacks.
"I dunno. Nothing."
"Draco, you can't give up."
"What do you know, Greengrass? I haven't even told you what I've been doing."
He went to the door, but as he pulled it open it slipped from his grasp and slammed back into the frame. He spun to find Daphne's wand on him and pulled his own, matching her stance.
"I know," she said calmly, "that whatever you're doing is important. You wouldn't bother if it wasn't life or death. And I know something else. I know that you're not willing to let Potter down. You care for him now."
Draco opened his mouth furiously to protest but she spoke over him.
"Don't deny it, Draco," she snapped. "Your opinion of him has changed you don't hate him anymore and we both know it." She dropped her wand and straightened. "Anyway, you're safer here than you'll ever be in a Death Eater camp. You don't know how they'll receive you."
"I don't care," he said, blood still boiling from the ridiculous things she'd said about Potter.
For a long time they just glared at each other. But he knew Daphne was right. He would never give up this fight death had to come first. At last, he straightened too, pocketed his wand and smirked.
"What's this, Greengrass; you're worried about me?"
"In your dreams. I'm just worried what will happen to poor Potter without his trusty sidekick."
"Hardly," he said. "He doesn't even know I exist anymore. Couldn't even be arsed to hunt me himself."
"Stuff it, Daphne. You don't know what you're talking about."
He turned back to the door but Daphne was at his side in the blink of an eye.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"I have to go." And when she glared at him "I'm not giving up. I just need a fresh perspective. I'm going to find my father."
For a moment, Daphne appeared torn and Draco knew what she was struggling with: the warring desires to help him and to do her job. She clapped her hands over her ears and backed away.
"Don't tell me. Leave just leave. Hide your trail or I'll be forced to follow you."
He did as she said.
* * *
On the tenth night that Luna spent in Harry and Ginny's flat, Harry was startled awake by Luna's screaming. With a sense of familiarity, he rolled out of bed and padded across the hall to her room. Pushing the door open silently, he went to her bed.
She had already kicked her covers off and was lying on her back, panting and writhing. Harry stroked her hair off her sweaty forehead and caught one of her flailing wrists, pinning it gently to the bed.
"Luna," he murmured, and her eyes snapped open.
This was the tenth night he'd had to rouse her from her nightmares.
"You were dreaming," he soothed. "It was just a dream."
He no longer felt sad that she wouldn't consent to using his Pensieve at night. In fact, he'd been slowly emptying it of his own memories. He had nightmares himself, now, for the first time in so many peaceful years. But he wouldn't give up; Luna had struck a nerve in him. It was time to stop running from his past from who he was.
As usual, Luna's arms came up around his shoulders and dragged him down beside her. She lay across his chest and he cradled her, and soon they were both asleep again.
In the morning, they had breakfast with Ginny.
"It's just so baffling!
" she ranted as she ate. "Where could Malfoy be hiding? I've had Aurors scouring both Muggle and magical London for more than a week
and still no traces of him. And we're out of time; if he hasn't gone already, I'm sure he'll be Disapparating soon."
Harry listened with little interest. Ginny had been venting her frustrations on him since she'd become an Auror. But Luna listened raptly. She'd developed an unexplainable obsession with Draco Malfoy since the first day Ginny had said the name to her.
After Ginny took the Floo to the Ministry, Luna turned in her seat to face Harry.
"Aren't you going to work?"
"No. I'm taking the day off to spend it with you."
"Will you tell me about Draco?"
Harry felt an itch of irritation. For no good reason, he didn't want her to be so interested.
"What about him?" he asked reluctantly.
"What was he like at Hogwarts?"
"A right prat," Harry said. "He was pompous and ignorant and he made fun of me and my friends a lot. He made fun of you, too."
Luna looked sceptical and Harry only felt worse.
"You think I'm lying?" he demanded.
"Why are you angry, Potter?"
Harry flinched and struggled to rein in his temper. It was only in the last few days that she'd started using his surname, and she only did when she thought he was acting childish. The way she said it, with a bite to the 'P' and a hiss to the 'T', struck him with such a sense of familiarity that it made his head ache.
"Why are you so interested in Draco?" he demanded
"I don't know," Luna said coldly, and then she smirked and a shiver ran down Harry's spine. "Jealous, are you?" she asked him.
He looked away from her, and she leaned in to kiss him. When he closed his eyes he found Draco smirking at him from the backs of his eyelids. He groaned into her mouth as she reached for his groin.
"Draco," he gasped between her lips, and he meant to say "you wanted to know about Draco," but she didn't stop kissing him and her palm was rubbing him in circles. He slid his hands up her sides toward her breasts, but she pushed them away and pressed her mouth harder over his.
It was a long time before she finally released him.
"I'm sorry for making you angry," she said. "I don't want to fight."
He shook his head, but couldn't find his breath in time to forgive her before she stood and cleared their dishes off the table.
"Could we practice magic today?" she asked.
He was a little disappointed that she was done with kissing, but he didn't want to push her.
They both went into the sitting room and Harry picked up one of the pillows on the sofa and laid it on the tea table.
"Why don't you try the Levitation Charm? The incantation is Wingardium Leviosa
and the wand motion is like this."
He showed her. Luna nodded.
" she said, swishing her wand over the pillow, but nothing happened.
They were both prepared for it. She had been practicing simple spells for weeks to no avail.
"I don't get it," she snapped after repeating the charm five more times. "It's this bloody wand! It's not listening to me!"
"I think the wand is fine," Harry said, "but if you'd like, we can go to Diagon Alley to get you a new one."
"No," Luna growled.
She went on with the charm for the next hour before throwing her wand down and marching away down the hall.
Harry slumped down on the sofa, deciding to give her time. It wasn't long before he heard her shouting his name. He threw himself off the sofa and raced after her, but her bedroom was empty.
"In here!" Luna was crying. "Ginny's room!"
Harry hurried across the hall, now more confused than worried. Her shouting had sounded jubilant, and sure enough, she was standing by Ginny's wardrobe, grinning.
"What are you doing in here?" Harry asked her.
"I felt something, like a pull that guided me to this place."
Luna shrugged, unrepentant for intruding in Ginny's privacy. She held up a wand and Harry recognised instantly that it wasn't hers.
"Watch," Luna said. "Wingardium Leviosa.
Every last pillow on Ginny's bed rose up into the air and began spiralling around the bedposts with perfect precision. Luna let them fall back into place.
A pleasant golden light spilled from her wand tip.
Harry had never taught her that charm, though he'd used it many times in front of her. A light fluttering feeling of excitement flitted around and through him and he felt like dancing. His suspicion was completely erased by it, such was the strength of her joy.
"And get this," Luna said without cancelling the spell. "I found it in a box labelled 'Confiscated Wands'. It's a criminal's wand."
Harry didn't need to hear her bark of laughter to understand the amusement she felt at the situation. It was all around him, smothering him, making his chest rumble with his own undeniable laughter.
"I wonder whose it is. I wonder what crimes have been committed with it."
As she examined the wand, thoughtfulness pressed in on Harry and he felt curious with her. And though something in the back of his head told him he wanted to be angry, he couldn't fight Luna's influence.
After too long, Luna looked up, finally noticing his unnatural silence. He was pressed by confusion before realisation struck him.
" Luna said, and Harry slumped, as if her emotions had been sustaining and supporting him.
"Don't ever do that again," he said in a low tone as he struggled to sort through his emotions to find which were authentically his and which were forced upon him.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
When he looked at her, he tried not to glare. She didn't know, he had to remind himself.
"You have to be certified to use that charm. Otherwise it's illegal. Too much like control impossible to fight."
Luna didn't bother to apologise. Instead, she pointed her stolen wand at a pair of Ginny's shoes and made them walk around the room.
"Come with me," Harry said.
"Where are we going?"
"I want to find out whose wand that is."
They found Ginny at Auror Headquarters, sulking in her office with a glass of Firewhisky.
"Hello," she said without standing to greet them.
"What's the matter?" Harry asked.
"How do you know?"
"We've been monitoring Disapparations in London since his escape. His magical signature just passed through the field."
"You can't trace it?" Luna asked, and her hopefulness made Harry suspicious.
Ginny shook her head.
"There's no spell in the world powerful enough to do something like that," she said.
When triumph flashed in Luna's eyes, he changed the subject. He hated to be jealous.
"Luna found a wand in your wardrobe that works for her," he said.
Ginny's eyes snapped to Luna's face.
"You went into my wardrobe?"
"Don't be angry with her," Harry said soothingly. "She felt the pull of it. They work together beautifully."
"Fine," Ginny said, "but she can't keep it. That's confiscated property; illegal to wield now."
"But it works!" Luna cried, and clutched at her pocket possessively. "I can't give it up. I can't do magic without it!"
"Which one is it?" Ginny asked reluctantly. Luna offered it to her and Ginny had only to take one look to know. She snorted without amusement. "Malfoy's wand. I suppose I'll let you have that one. Not like he needs it apparently he's doing just fine with his new one."
Luna looked ecstatic and Ginny distracted. Harry felt conflicted by his desire to see Luna happy, and to snatch Draco's wand from her grip.
* * *
It didn't take Draco long to find the Death Eaters. Though the Dark Lord was long dead, their Dark Marks could still be activated to track one another an ability both handy and not.
He found them on a cliff edge overlooking the Irish Sea. It was night and sleeping bodies were strewn about the rocks. Further in the distance was a pair of tents. Draco went toward them, but as he crept past the sleepers, a hand shot out and grabbed his ankle, sending him face-first to the ground. He skinned his palms as he caught himself.
"Well, lookie here, boys," Selwyn said, rising up to stand over him.
Draco stood quickly, wary of appearing at a disadvantage, but he was already surrounded by black cloaks.
"Looking pretty good for an escapee, aren't we Malfoy?" Travers said, fingering his new robes.
"Where've you been, Malfoy?" Jugson sneered. "Papers said you escaped St Mungo's more than a week ago."
"Where's my father?" Draco demanded.
"Oh, him. Disappeared himself for a while, didn't he?"
Suddenly, Selwyn was inches from Draco, stabbing at his chest with a long, jagged fingernail.
"Don't play innocent with me, Malfoy," he hissed so low that the others couldn't hear. "I know you're both planning something. Conspiring against us, are you?"
Draco tried to put on a casual expression as he scoffed.
"Honestly, Selwyn, what would we gain from working against you? We're only following Yaxley's orders."
"Bullshit! I know how Lucius feels about Yaxley." The way he said Lucius was like a curse. "He ain't following no one's orders. Mark my words, little boy, if what you're up to bodes ill for us, you won't live to regret it."
He spun on his heel and marched away and Draco was able to elbow through the onlookers after that. He hurried to the tents.
Standing between them, he listened for voices and heard them.
"Not looking through these one more time! I'm bloody sick of them, Yaxley. It's been twenty years!
"I don't care, Rabastan! We can't stop they hold the secret. Let's look at the one of the mother's death again."
"We've looked at that a hundred times!"
"And we'll look again, Rodolphus, until we bloody well find where she hid it!"
The voices went silent after that, and Draco turned to the other tent.
"Father," he hissed against the sealed canvas door. "It's me."
Instantly, they were flung back and Draco was staring down the end of a wand. His father looked no different to the last time Draco had seen him. Deep lines were etched into his forehead and around his mouth; Draco felt as though he was looking into his own future.
"What were the last words your mother said to us?" Lucius hissed.
"She told us to remember," Draco answered, "that the enemy of our enemy is our friend."
Lucius dropped his wand and embraced Draco warmly, and for a moment Draco allowed himself to feel happy.
"Where have you been, my son?"
"I'll tell you everything," Draco promised. But first he went about the tent, sealing up the canvas windows and layering the walls in Secrecy Spells.
Then he sat down across from Lucius in the sunken lounge.
"It all began when I was able to escape St Mungo's. I was on my way out when I came across Luna Lovegood."
Lucius' eyes narrowed.
"But Lovegood's dead," he said.
"Apparently not. But they left her in a state. She was as good as a living corpse."
"Was?" Lucius hissed.
"I left her a memory."
"You did what?
" he demanded. "Tell me you're not serious. What memory? Tell me what memory!"
But they both knew Draco couldn't remember.
"I don't know," he said. "But I do know that it had Potter in it."
Draco explained quickly, already shamed by his father's anger.
"Don't you see, father? Lovegood's the key for both sides. Yaxley is following her trail, and I'm giving her a new one."
"And what makes you think she'll follow it?"
"She won't. But Potter will. He's her Healer. If anyone will understand the memories, he will."
"Memories," Lucius said dangerously.
"I went back after the first one," Draco admitted. "I gave her a second memory."
"And I suppose you don't recall what that one was either?"
Draco shook his head.
"But I do remember that it serves more than one purpose. I had to start off slowly. The first memory got Potter invested; the second will gain his trust."
"And the third? I assume there will be a third."
"The third will begin the hunt."
"Then why are you back here? This place is not safe for you if you plan to sneak away to help Potter."
"I didn't know what else to do. Lovegood's been removed from St Mungo's and now she's living with Potter. I can't get to her anymore."
He was surprised to see a ghost of a smile curl his father's lips.
"I believe I know someone who can help."
From within his robes he pulled a small hand mirror. Into it, he spoke Draco's mother's name.
"Lucius," her voice said in reply.
Draco leaped from his seat and hurried around him to look over his shoulder. And there was a face he'd not seen for many years.
"Draco," Narcissa breathed, her eyes wide. "Is it really you?"
"Is it you?
He wanted to reach out and touch her.
"We've been so worried about you," she told him. "Tell me you're safe now."
"Not for long, Narcissa," Lucius cut in. "Have you heard that Lovegood and Potter are new flatmates?"
"It was in the Prophet,
"Draco has formed a plot regarding them..."
And Lucius explained it to her. Draco felt pride toward them both as they fell with ease into planning. There were no questions about safety or sanity; there was only unconditional support.
"It is no longer safe for me to leave the Manor," Narcissa was saying, "but if I can do good, I will. Can you get me the next memory?"
"It will be tricky; you're being watched, now more than ever."
"No," Draco said, suddenly fierce. There was an innate sense of protection for his memories that he couldn't shrug off. "I'm not going to risk my memories that way. There are too many things that could go wrong with a middle man."
"Don't you trust your own mother, Draco?" Lucius snapped.
"Of course I do. It's any means of transportation that I don't trust. It could be intercepted."
"Then what do you propose we do?" Narcissa asked.
"Did you know that there's a new variation of the Patronus charm?" he asked, suddenly inspired. "I heard Potter talking about it just before I escaped St Mungo's. I was hiding nearby as he came to Lovegood's aid."
"What does it do?"
"It's aggressive. It projects emotions on a victim to make them feel the way the caster feels. The Healers use it to calm patients."
"How will this help us?" Lucius wanted to know.
"Think about how a Patronus works," Draco said. "It draws from your memories. Good memories are used to protect against Dementors; emotional memories can be projected to manipulate others. Patronuses are even used to send messages. It's the most corporeal form a memory can take."
"You want to send your memory as a Patronus to Lovegood," Narcissa said.
"Yes, but Potter must not be there when I do. He can't know yet that these aren't Lovegood's memories."
"There's another problem," Narcissa told him. "Potter lives with the Weasley girl, too."
Draco's eyes widened at the news.
"That's not a problem," Lucius said. "Narcissa, if you can take care of Potter, I can take care of Weasley."
* * *
On the last night of the month, Ginny went to Hermione and Ron's house for dinner to celebrate the end of the term for Rose and Hugo.
Harry and Luna were already there, as was Neville, who had never passed up an end-of-term dinner with the group since Rose had finished her first year.
"Auntie Ginny!" Rose cried when she came in, and threw herself into Ginny's arms.
"Hello, Rosie, how was your fifth year? Did you get all O's on your O.W.L.s?"
"I don't get my grades until the end of summer," she reminded Ginny.
"Oh, don't worry about it. With your mum being who she is I have no doubt. Of course, with your dad
being who he is..."
Rose laughed and drew Ginny by the hand into the kitchen where everyone was gathered around the huge island. Hermione slaved away over the pot roast while the group talked loudly. Ginny noticed that Luna was missing from Harry's side, where she always was, and glanced around for her.
Ginny spotted her through the double glass doors to the drawing room, kneeling on the floor with Hugo. He was teaching her how to play Quidditch with his miniature set of players and they were laughing raucously.
"I had no idea Luna liked Quidditch," Ginny commented when Harry came over to greet her. "She always seemed so oblivious at Hogwarts. Although, do you remember that ridiculous lion hat she made?"
"Yes," Harry said, laughing. "I was surprised by her sudden interest, too."
Ron approached to join the conversation.
"There're a lot of things we've been finding out about her that we never knew before," he commented, and Harry nodded.
"I think she's just forgotten to stay inside her shell since she's started remembering things," he mused. "This must be the Luna none of us ever got to meet, always hiding beneath her strange theories and funny comments."
Ginny glanced at Ron who was glancing at her. They both looked back at Harry who was gazing dreamily at Luna.
"When can we expect the wedding, mate?" Ron asked.
"Oh come on, you're completely smitten. I never thought you'd end up with someone like Luna, but I've got no problem with it."
Harry's eyes narrowed.
"What do you mean, 'someone like Luna'?" he asked.
"Well...you know...a woman. Always thought it'd be a bloke."
Ginny saw Harry relax.
"Ron," Hermione called from behind them. "Get Hugo and Luna, would you? Dinner's ready."
They all went out into the back garden where Hermione had charmed the tips of every leaf on every tree to light up the dimming evening. Just as she was levitating the pot roast onto the centre of the table, three things happened in quick succession.
The first was the appearance of a huge eagle owl that swooped out of the sky and low over the table, its great wings knocking over glasses of Butterbeer, to drop a note in Harry's lap. At the same time, a pearlescent mocking bird took shape fluttering in the middle of the yard. It spoke in Daphne Greengrass' voice: "Weasley. Death Eater in Diagon Alley. Come now.
" And suddenly, Luna stood and began walking away.
"Luna!" Harry barked, running after her. "Where are you going?"
"Home," Luna said, and Ginny noticed that her eyes appeared oddly blank.
"Ouch!" Hugo cried, having tried to open Harry's letter only to receive burned fingers. "Mum, Uncle Harry's letter hurt me!"
"I have to go!" Ginny shouted before anymore could be said, and sprinted toward the edge of the Anti-Disapparation Jinx over Ron and Hermione's house.
She appeared with a pop in the back courtyard of The Leaky Cauldron. The brick wall leading to Diagon Alley had been blasted open; brick dust still hung thick in the air and Ginny wheezed as she made her way carefully over the piles of shattered brick and into the bedlam.
People were screaming and running with no regard for anyone but themselves. Ginny was buffeted this way and that as she tried to shout at them that she was an Auror, to make way for the Auror. Then she saw the strobe of colours that could not be mistaken and took off toward it, bursting through the crowd with renewed vigour.
" she heard Greengrass yelling.
" he said, just as Ginny caught sight of Lucius Malfoy, duelling Greengrass in the midst of yet more debris from nearby buildings.
" Ginny shouted, and hit him squarely in the chest.
He arched slowly and tipped backwards, falling in slow-motion towards the ground. Ginny had him stunned and bound before he touched it.
"Good timing," Greengrass panted, coming toward her.
"Expelliarmus?" Ginny said, looking down at the incapacitated Malfoy.
"I know. It was that way the entire time I was duelling him. He never used anything more severe than a Stunner."
"Let's get him back to Headquarters. We'll send some M.L.E. officers in to clean up." Ginny whistled low as she finally took the time to glance up and down the cobbled street, mostly deserted now. "Blimey, you two really did a number on the place."
"It was Malfoy," Greengrass said. "His spells were going everywhere, ricocheting off windows and smashing into walls."
When they arrived at Auror Headquarters with Malfoy hovering between them, it was to a round of applause. Ginny didn't smile as she locked the three of them into a secure interrogation room and tied him to the only chair. When he was revived he looked around himself and a smirk slid across his face.
"Weasley," he said, not even looking at Greengrass. "It's nice to see you."
"What were you trying to do, Malfoy?" she asked. "Did you want to get caught?"
"No," he admitted, "but I can't say it's an altogether unpleasant outcome."
"And why is that?"
"Why, because you're here of course."
"You surely didn't have malevolent intent," Ginny told him.
"No. Your spells were mild and you made a mess of Diagon Alley without hurting anyone. If I didn't know any better, Malfoy, I'd say you were trying
to attract attention."
Greengrass shifted in the corner of the room and Malfoy's eyes slipped over to her then back to Ginny.
"Quite observant, Weasley," he said.
"I'm not looking for your praise," Ginny hissed.
"Then what are you looking for?"
"Congratulations, you've found one."
"I don't want the ones that want to be found."
"No time to get picky, Weasley."
Ginny leaned close, glaring into his eyes.
"What were you trying to distract us from, Malfoy?"
He made a show of closing his mouth. Ginny suspected that if he had his arms free he would have made the motion of Colloportus for effect.
"Okay, Malfoy, let's play a game."
"I love games," he said, smirking again.
"I'll ask a question," Ginny said, putting her hands on the arms of his chair and leaning over him, "and if you answer it, I'll tell you exactly which of your loved ones I have in custody. I'll ask another, and I'll tell you exactly what I plan to do with him or her."
Malfoy laughed heartily.
"You're bluffing, Weasley," he said. "Games are no fun if you cheat."
For a long time, they two stared unblinkingly at one another. Ginny knew she let nothing slip in her expression, and was disappointed that Malfoy was just as stoic. At last, she drew away.
"Come on," she said to Greengrass, and they left him alone in the empty room.
"What are you doing? You didn't get anything out of him."
"On the contrary," Ginny said. "We now know that he's been in contact with his wife and son."
"How do we know that?"
"Think about it. The last thing he should know about Narcissa is that she was knocked out in the raid on the Manor. And the last thing he should know about Malfoy Junior is that he was taken in the raid in the forest. We made sure the press never got news of his escape, and they didn't care enough about Narcissa to report that she was returned to her home. And yet he seemed confident that both of them were safe."
Greengrass was already nodding before Ginny had finished.
"So what's our next move?" she asked.
"We find out what Narcissa has been up to."
* * *
After taking Luna home because she absolutely refused to be anywhere else Harry went to meet Mrs Malfoy at the Three Broomsticks as her letter specified.
He went in warily, his hand on his wand in the pocket of his robes. It was mostly empty, though it was only eight o'clock, and Madam Rosemerta was going around lazily lighting candles as the sun sank lower on the horizon.
In the corner, Mrs Malfoy had already spotted him and was watching him steadily as he approached. He sat across from her.
"Mrs Malfoy," he said politely. "How are you?"
"I believe I'm in danger, Mr Potter," she said without preamble.
Harry's eyes widened.
"If you're right, you should go to the Aurors."
"You and I both know that they'll hardly believe me, and even if they do, they won't care."
He wanted to say that this wasn't true, but it probably was.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked instead.
"I simply want to tell you what I know, so that in the event of my death, you can pass it on to whomsoever it concerns."
"What do you know?"
"I know that my husband and son are not your enemies," she said, and Harry's eyes narrowed. "And I know that unless you quickly become involved in the race that is escalating, many things will fall to ruin."
"What race do you mean?"
"The one, Mr Potter, in which your Auror friend and the Death Eaters are currently neck and neck."
"What are they racing for?" he murmured.
"Power," she said.
Harry understood that she would not or could not say any more.
"What do I have to do with it?" he asked.
"You have been selected, Potter. From birth you were marked. Your duties are not over yet."
"Voldemort is dead," he said flatly. He didn't appreciate being told that he'd half-arsed the job.
"But his memory,
" she said, stressing the word, "lives on."
He opened his mouth to say something which he hadnt thought of yet, when the door to the building swung open, slamming against the wall.
"Harry," Ginny said, striding over with her partner at her side. "What are you doing here with Narcissa Malfoy?"
"We were just talking," he said, standing.
"Well, if you'll excuse us, I need to talk to her now."
Harry was happy to leave. Despite what Mrs Malfoy said, this wasn't his fight anymore, and he wanted no part in it. He hoped, for her sake, that she was wrong about being in danger. But if she chose not to tell the Aurors, that was her business.
When he returned home, he heard screaming coming from inside. Throwing open the front door, he ran through the flat until he found Luna thrashing in her sleep.
"Luna," he cried, shaking her. "Luna, wake up! It's a nightmare it's only a nightmare!"
She sat bolt upright and then, just as quickly, sunk against his chest, her fists balling into his shirt.
"It was a memory," she whispered. "A new memory."
"Tell me, Luna."
"It must be from when the Death Eaters had me," she began. "Maybe I was escaping, because I came across them in a dark room. I was crouching in the corridor as I listened to them."
"What were they saying?"
"Al'eyn Albyda," Luna breathed. "They were talking about the Al'eyn."
Harry had no idea what that could mean, but he was wary of asking her to keep talking. She had yet to calm down; she was pale as death and a light sheen of sweat covered her arms and neck.
"Luna," he said slowly, "will you show me?"
Her eyes snapped to his.
"In your Pensieve," she said, understanding.
"Will I get my memory back?"
"Don't you trust me?"
With a ragged breath, Luna sealed her mouth over his in a short, hard kiss. Her lips were hot.
"Without reason," she said when she'd drawn back.
"I promise you'll get it back."
They went together to Harry's bedroom and he opened the secret cupboard for her.
"Clear your mind," he told her, "and think of nothing but the memory."
He watched her face closely as he withdrew the silvery strand and she went through the stages of forgetfulness: the determination as she tried to prepare for something no one could ever be ready for; the fear as it all started to blur; the confusion as it slipped between her fingers; and finally, the short sharp pain of the other memories coming together to fill the gap.
"I can't remember," she whispered to herself.
"It's okay." He stroked her hair as he lowered her memory into his Pensieve. "I won't be here for a moment as I view it; will you be alright?"
She nodded and Harry bent into her memory.
He was in a dark, musty corridor, standing before an open door. Hovering near the wall was a strange, hazy pillar of smoke, but there was no Luna. From the room beyond came a quiet, gravelly voice.
"What did the Dark Lord need with all these books?" the voice said, and Harry could not resist passing through the door and into the room. Luna was not here either, but he didn't stop to think where she might be hiding.
He was in a dusty library, the walls lined from floor to ceiling with huge, untouched tomes, and in the centre was a heavy wooden desk piled with more, all lying open as if abandoned in a hurry. In a group around the desk stood Yaxley and the Lestrange brothers. Harry approached them and looked down at the books as Yaxley began leafing through one.
"They're about Egyptian legends," he said. "All of them."
"Look here," Rabastan said, paging through another. "This page is marked. What the bloody hell is an Al'eyn Albyda?"
"Look at what I've found," Rodolphus interrupted. "Letters. All signed by an E. Boutros." He held up a handful of yellowing parchments displaying faded script.
"Boutros..." Rabastan said. "I know that name."
"Of course you do," Yaxley growled. "She's a blood traitor. Worked for the Dark Lord in the first war; then switched sides when she got knocked up. Died not long after the Dark Lord disappeared."
"Looks like she was helping the Dark Lord with a secret project." Rodolphus was still scanning her letters. "I can only make out some of this but that name you read, Rabastan "
Rabastan looked back at the book.
"Al'eyn Albyda," he repeated.
"Yes, that. They discuss it a lot."
"Says here it's a magical stone. It can... It can wake the dead!
" Rabastan looked up with wide eyes at the others. "You think Boutros was supposed to be finding it?"
"It's possible," Yaxley said. "Boutros was a very knowledgeable witch. She was an inventor; studied all sorts of magic. But if she was finding it, either she never did, or she switched sides before she gave it to the Dark Lord."
"No mention of either in the letters," Rodolphus said, paging through them slowly. "They just end abruptly in November of 1980."
"When her sprog was born," Yaxley jeered. "You know the girl little blond thing that time in the Department of Mysteries."
"Lovegood," Rabastan interjected with a snarl. "Little Luna Lovegood, the daughter of a Death Eater?"
Rodolphus snickered but Yaxley appeared thoughtful.
"What is it, Yaxley?" Rabastan asked.
"Just think," he began. "If Boutros did
find the stone, who would be the single most likely person to know where it is?"
Understanding dawned on the Lestrange brothers' faces.
Suddenly, Harry heard a noise from the corridor beyond the library, like a shuffle, and jumped a little. He'd nearly forgotten that Luna must be out there listening. Yaxley had heard the sound, too.
"What was that?" he hissed, head turning toward the door.
The scene faded and disappeared.
When he was back in his bedroom, Harry felt suddenly exhausted, as if he'd run a long distance. He sat heavily on the edge of his bed and Luna hurried over to him.
"Are you okay? Was it terrible?"
"I'm okay," Harry said. "I need to contact Ginny. Right now. Where's my wand?"
"You dropped it."
Luna retrieved it from beside the Pensieve and brought it to him. Harry put together a quick message for Ginny in his mind.
His Patronus burst from his wand and cantered away through the closed window.
He looked to Luna to see her replacing her memory back in her head. A fierce sense of protection came over him as fear flitted through her eyes while she relived the scene Harry had just watched. When she turned back to him, he held his arms out for her and she folded herself gratefully into them. They stayed this way until his bedroom door slammed open and Ginny strode in.
"What happened?" she demanded.
Harry did not release his hold on Luna as he explained.
"Luna remembered something from her time with the Death Eaters. She overheard Yaxley and the Lestrange brothers discovering some of Voldemort's old research. In the first war, he was searching for a stone called Al'eyn Albyda."
"I've never heard of it."
"Nor I, but they said that it's possibly able to revive the dead..."
"Voldemort," Ginny breathed.
Harry nodded stiffly.
"Did they say anything else?"
"Yes." Harry glanced down at Luna. Would it be better to send her out of the room as they discussed her memory? But he couldn't bear to have her removed from his arms. "They believe that Luna's mother was the one who was helping him find it. Ginny...did you know she used to be a Death Eater?"
She shook her head solemnly.
"I have to go. I have to talk about this with Greengrass."
At the door she turned back.
"Contact me if you remember anything else, Luna," she said, and her voice was surprisingly gentle.
After she left, Harry stood up.
"I have to go talk to Ron and Hermione; they might know something. Will you be okay here?"
She nodded weakly but followed him to the fireplace. Just as he was preparing to step into the fire she spoke in a small voice.
"I told you I was Dark," she said. "My own mother was a Death Eater."
"No, Luna," Harry said seriously. "Your mother changed sides. She had you and you turned her good. If that's not proof that you're on my side then I don't know what is."
She looked only slightly mollified.
It wasn't until he'd gone through the Floo to Ron and Hermione's kitchen that Harry realised exactly what he'd said. My
"Harry!" Ron said, coming over to clap a hand on his shoulder. "What are you doing back here?"
"I need to talk to you and Hermione."
Ron must have seen the solemnity of the situation on his face, because his grin melted away.
"She's saying goodnight to the kids. She'll be out in a minute."
They sat in the drawing room, and when Hermione returned, Harry explained everything.
"Harry," Hermione said quietly, wary of waking Rose and Hugo. "Do you think this Al'eyn Albyda is related to the Resurrection Stone?"
"The what?" Harry asked.
"The Stone, Harry! Cadmus Peverell's stone to bring back the dead."
"Mind a bit foggy, mate?" Ron asked.
Harry tried not to grimace. He must've run into another removed memory.
"Right," he said, trying not to sound too fake. "Erm, I dunno, do you think it is?"
"It has to be. It's too much of a coincidence that there are two
"So...what should I do?" Harry tried not to sound too thick.
"I think you ought to go get it back, Harry," Hermione said. "If the Death Eaters come across it in their research and try to find it, it's bound to be safer with you than lying somewhere in the Forbidden Forest where anyone can come across it."
"Okay," Harry agreed. "Yeah, I'll do that. But what about the other stone?"
Hermione sat back heavily.
"I don't know about that. It sounds like a recreation of the Resurrection Stone. But I've never heard of anyone trying to recreate the Stone or the Cloak, though there are a thousand copies of the Elder Wand lying about."
"There are?" Ron said quickly, and Hermione shushed him.
"Yes," she said, "there are. But there's nothing to worry about. The magical properties of the Wand can hardly be recreated; all the copies are duds. I would have thought that none of the Hallows could be successfully recreated, actually."
Ron appeared relieved and Harry tried to match the expression.
"Hang on," Ron said. "I think I've heard of the Al'eyn."
"You have?" Now Hermione looked surprised.
"Yeah, I think Bill's mentioned it."
"But then we need to owl him immediately!"
The three hurried to Hermione's study, but Hermione stopped Harry just outside the door with a hand on his chest and Harry looked at her questioningly.
"Not you, Harry," she told him. "Let Ron and I do this. You need to go and find the Stone."
* * *
Back in his bedroom, after checking on Luna who was sleeping fitfully, Harry stood bathed in the soft glow from his Pensieve. Into the basin he had emptied every last one of his stored memories; empty vials lay scattered at his feet.
Words like 'Horcrux' and 'Hallows' rang in his ears and emptiness throbbed in his head like something worse than a headache. He swallowed thickly and drew his wand.
Putting the tip into the full basin, he drew out the first memory. An eerie hiss slithered up his wand.
" it taunted him in a violent whisper, "the Boy Who Lived.
" And Harry let it into his head.
The first thing he saw was his mother and father, looking at him out of a mirror, and he choked on the pangs of loss that bloomed in his chest but didn't pause.
Another memory from Pensieve to temple, and there were enchanted suits of armour clanging down a crumbling corridor, explosions rocking his brain, screams. And another, where deafening silence pressed on his ears as he floated across a flat lake with Dumbledore. The next brought his parents again, but now they stood beside him with Sirius and Remus, spitting images but not really there, like a cruel joke. And Sirius fell backwards through the veil.
Harry reached for him, but he found his hand full of Draco Malfoy's robes and he hauled him out of the fire and flew him to safety.
There were times when Harry felt a respite from the anguish and thought to himself, now what's wrong with this memory?
But then the calm would break as he replaced it with another, his hand moving without thought, possessed, uncontrollable. He heard Dumbledore sobbing to stop, that he didn't want any more, and then Harry realised that it was himself weeping, that he was on his knees. But his hand kept moving. Pensieve to temple, over and over, until he couldn't distinguish past from present.
A house appeared around him like smoke solidifying, blocking out a circle of Death Eaters in a graveyard. It was dilapidated and dark; it smelled like death. Bookcases lined the walls and the furniture looked moth-eaten and threadbare.
"How did you find me?" Draco demanded, as Harry oriented in a split second.
He registered the home of Severus Snape, his wand clutched in his hand, a different wand pressed through the fabric of his trousers against his leg, and a feeling of bone-deep exhaustion, all before the last syllable had slipped off Draco's tongue.
"I have my ways," he told Draco, unwilling to admit that he had tracked Draco obsessively with his own wand.
"Why are you here?"
"Since I'm the one with the advantage," Harry said, flicking his wand as emphasis, "I think I'll ask the questions."
Draco flinched as if Harry had slapped him, and Harry, who was so tired of fighting, lowered his wand.
"Where are your parents?" he asked.
Reluctantly, Draco answered.
"At Malfoy Manor, gathering what supplies they can find."
"You plan to run, then."
"As far away as we can get."
Draco was pale and rigid, obviously afraid that Harry would turn him in, but he didn't bother lying.
"I'm not going to stop you," he assured Draco. "But if the Death Eaters find you, they will."
"What do you mean?"
"So many of them escaped after Voldemort fell. They're gaining numbers; they're not going down without a fight. You and your father will be recruited; they won't let you worm your way out of taking a side. Your mother is the only one of you who is safe from both worlds."
"The Death Eaters hardly care about her, and I cleared her name with the Wizengamot. She won't be welcomed if she comes out of hiding, but she won't be arrested. I'm sorry to say I had little success with you or your father."
Draco's breath caught and he was at a loss for what to say, so Harry waited.
"That's...more than we deserve," he finally said with reluctance. "Is that all that you've come here to say?"
"Yes, and one other thing."
Harry reached into his pocket and withdrew the other wand. Draco tensed when he lifted it, but Harry did not aim it.
"This is yours," Harry said. "I don't want it."
Draco reached out with sure fingers and took back his wand. Though he held it directed at Harry, Harry felt no need to protect himself.
"Good luck," he said as he turned to leave.
"Potter!" Draco called after him.
He turned back to see that Draco's expression was caught in a rictus of remorse and gratitude, and Harry was struck by the thought that he was beautiful.
"I'm sorry," Draco said.
With a great, shuddering gasp, Harry found himself lying on his back on his bedroom floor. All around him was darkness; the gentle glow of memories had gone. And though their presence in his head caused him pain, he felt somehow relieved to have them back again.
He closed his eyes and smiled.
Everything was so clear now, as if he'd been living without his glasses for almost twenty years and now he'd suddenly put them back on. Answers were all he could find, no matter which way he turned; solutions sprang up to every question he asked.
Horcruxes and Hallows, as if he could have forgotten Fiendfyre and Death Stones. It was all so obvious. How could he not have seen?
An iron hand clenched around his heart as he thought of Luna beautiful, blunt, snarky Luna. Of course she wasn't Luna at all. He couldn't decide whether to feel relieved or frightened, horrified or pleased. He felt them all for a long time, and then he blinked them away.
These things he would mull over later; tonight his job was not done.
The morning sun was just cresting over the horizon when he Apparated to the Hogwarts gates. Though they were locked up tight, Neville had promised Harry access to the castle whenever he needed it. He tapped on the lock with his wand and it opened for him.
Striding across the ground toward the golden line of trees, Harry did not need to think to find the way. His feet took him, as if they'd been waiting this whole time to return. He walked with his head high, his eyes clear, but his mind felt foggy with the shadows of his loved ones those who had walked with him the last time he took this path.
"Until the very end,
" his father had whispered.
After a long time, Harry jerked to a stop. With a sense of assurance, he raised his wand.
"Accio Resurrection Stone,
" he said.
Before him, the dead leaves that blanketed the ground rustled. A broken stone rose out of them and fell into his open palm.
* * *
Harry did not return until late the next morning. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief as he came through the Floo and collapsed on her sofa.
He must not have slept at all, though Hermione could hardly say that she had either. There were dark, bruise-like bags under his eyes and deep lines in his face. And there was something about his posture...something familiar.
"Did you find it?" she asked as she studied him.
With a weary nod, Harry reached into his pocket and held up a tiny black stone with a crack down the middle. And the way his shoulders hunched forward made Hermione remember quite suddenly; this was how he had looked in the final years of the war tired, older than he should. He was carrying the weight of responsibility again.
"Wheres Ron?" Harry asked.
"He took the children to the Burrow. We got a reply from Bill."
Harry straightened as she unfolded the letter and read aloud:
"'Dear Ron and Hermione;'
"'Yes, I have heard of the Al'eyn Albyda. Most Egyptian wizards think it's just a myth. There are so many that have originated in this place. There is magic in its most ancient form here; stories are bound to spring up.'
"'As for the Al'eyn, it's rumoured to have the power to revive the dead. As the story goes, a great Pharaoh created it long ago to build an undead army with which he united Egypt. The stone was lost after his death, and one can only assume that, if it ever existed, he hid it before he died so that no one could copy him.'
"'I hope this tells you all you need to know.'
"'All my love, Bill.'"
"What do you think?" Harry demanded as soon as Hermione finished.
Before she could answer, the fire blazed green and Ron stepped through.
"Mum was thrilled to have Rose and Hugo for however long we need," he said to her. "Did you get us packed?" He noticed Harry then. "Oh, hello, Harry. Did you find the Stone?"
"Packed?" Harry asked instead of answering him.
"We need to go to Egypt, Harry," Hermione said. "If the legend Bill wrote about is true, then we need to find out more about it."
"But what about the Resurrection Stone? Don't you think this Al'eyn is just another name for it? It's safe here. There's no need to go to Egypt."
"I asked about that, too," Ron said, grinning.
"You heard what Bill said, Harry," Hermione explained. "This legend spans back to the reign of the Pharaohs. The Resurrection Stone isnt nearly as old."
When Harry still looked confused, Hermione said, "Don't you see, Harry? The Resurrection Stone is a recreation. The Al'eyn is the original.
Cadmus Peverell must have heard the legend of the Al'eyn and tried to copy it."
As she watched him absorb this, she was surprised to find that she could read the thoughts flitting across his face, just like she had when they had been teenagers.
"So you think this Al'eyn is in Egypt?" he asked.
"It's a possibility. If the Pharaoh who created it hid it before he died, it's likely he hid it in his tomb."
"But what about Luna's mum?" Ron suddenly asked. "Harry said that in Luna's memory there was a letter from her mum that said Voldemort would never know what happened to it."
"It's true that Mrs Lovegood may have found it and hid it somewhere else, but we can't be sure. Maybe she never found it. Or maybe she did and left it there. We should still go to Egypt either way."
When Harry went home to pack his belongings and tell Luna and Ginny where he was going, Hermione moved closer to Ron and settled gratefully into his offered embrace.
"Did you notice that he seemed different?" Ron asked.
"Yes," Hermione said.
"What d'you reckon?"
"I don't know."
"He looks just like he did when we were kids, all tired and stressed."
Hermione shivered. She was almost upset that Ron had noticed. It meant that the change wasn't something she'd imagined, and that worried her.
"I wonder if he's started having nightmares again," Ron went on. "All this business with the Death Eaters and the Stones and then Malfoy being caught and escaping..."
Hermione thought that it was something more, but she said nothing, only squeezed Ron tighter and pressed her cheek against his shoulder.
* * *
On the second morning after putting their plan into action, Narcissa still had not heard from Lucius or Draco.
She woke early to meet the owl who delivered the Prophet
and searched it thoroughly for news about what may have happened to them, all along hoping that she would find none. What she found was a brief article stuck in as a second thought that said Aurors Weasley and Greengrass had left for Egypt yesterday on a secret mission.
Well then, Narcissa thought, they couldn't have her husband or son, could they?
She spent most of the day sitting in Lucius' old study, staring into her hand mirror. She was nodding off late that evening when a voice issued from it.
"Draco!" she breathed, looking into his face with greedy eyes. "Why has it taken so long for you to contact me? Where is your father?"
"I'm sorry," he said. "The moment I returned to the Death Eaters I discovered that they were getting ready to move. We've been travelling for two days and tonight is the first opportunity I've had to be alone."
"Where is your father?" she said again.
"I assume he's been captured. He never came back."
Narcissa could not help the strangled sob that fell from her lips. Draco allowed her a moment to regain her control.
"Where are the Death Eaters going?" she asked.
"Egypt! But that's where Ginny Weasley's gone; it's not safe!"
To her surprise, Draco's solemn expression was suddenly cracked by a triumphant grin.
"Weasley's gone to Egypt? Do you know with whom?"
"The article only said that she and her partner, Greengrass, have gone on a secret mission."
"But Potter must be with her. The reporters just didn't find out."
"Potter? Why do you think so?"
"It's the memory I gave Lovegood. It worked!"
Narcissa felt only a little better that at least Lucius had not been taken in vain. He would be happy to know that. She wondered where they were keeping him now.
"What's in Egypt, Draco?"
"I don't know. But I do know that the Death Eaters have been putting off this trip for twenty years, so I can only assume that it's a last resort that they don't think it will be fruitful but that they've no other paths left to explore."
"It will be dangerous," she said, "with Weasley and Potter hot on your tail."
"Actually," Draco said with a humourless laugh, "I think we're hot on theirs. Our travel has been slow. We can't just walk into the Ministry and hire a Portkey."
"How close are you?"
"I think we're a day away. Yaxley is getting anxious. He's been hexing anyone who puts a toe out of "
Draco stopped abruptly and looked to his left.
"What is it?" Narcissa whispered.
"I have to go," he said, still not looking at her.
"Be safe," she pleaded before he vanished and her mirror once again showed only her own face.
* * *
Harry was very irritable by the time they met Bill at the Egyptian Ministry.
He'd had no sleep two nights in a row now that his memories were back to haunt him More than once he'd considered giving up this mission, returning to his peaceful state of ignorance, and leaving the fight to someone else. But he could not. If there was even the smallest threat that Voldemort could be revived, Harry couldn't rest.
And then there was Ginny, the stubborn mule. When Harry had told her that he would be gone for a few days, she hadn't let him walk out the door alone without all the answers to her questions, and not after that either. He had never been able to sway her once she got an idea in her head, and so he could not talk her out of coming, along with her partner, who said little but looked at everyone with judgment in her eyes. After that, Luna had to come; she'd refused to be left behind and Harry didn't want to leave her.
Though he knew now exactly who was inside her head, he couldn't stay away from her. If anything, he was even more drawn to her than before. But he stopped touching her if he could help it, and he never let her kiss him. It felt wrong now, as though he was taking advantage of her; the thought made him sick.
So his small group of three had doubled in size, and escaping England without notice proved to be almost impossible.
But they were in Egypt now, and Bill was smiling brilliantly as he came toward them, so Harry could not be cross with him. He looked the same as ever, though the planes of his face were somewhat harder, and the planes of his body only slightly softer.
"Hello, Bill," Harry said, shaking the offered hand. "How are Fleur and the kids?"
"Harry, good to see you. They're doing just fine, thank you." He looked at the others standing behind Harry. "You've brought more friends than I expected."
He gave hugs to his siblings and sister-in-law, nodded to Greengrass because she stood farther off and did not smile at him, and then froze when he came upon Luna.
"Well, look at you!" he exclaimed. "Last time I saw you, you werent much by way of company."
Harry was afraid Luna would be offended by this, but she grinned instead. He had to remind himself to stop expecting Luna's reactions and start expecting Draco's.
"I was just going through my rebellious phase. You know, keeping to myself," Luna joked.
Bill barked in laughter.
"I'm glad you're okay now."
"I hope you know that I have no idea who you are," she replied.
"Oops," he said. "Forgetful?"
"You could say that."
"Bill," Harry interrupted. "There's something important we need your help with, but we can't speak here."
"Right, we can go back to my place, though I have to tell you, it's not much."
And it wasn't.
Bill was staying not far from a Muggle archaeological dig in the Egyptian desert. He was posing as an archaeologist himself, so that he could keep a look-out for any magical objects they might uncover. Because his stay was only temporary, he was camped out in a tent erected in the shadow of the crumbling temple that the Muggles were excavating. Though he'd found them a spare magical tent, quarters were still cramped; Harry hoped they would not have to stay long.
"Okay," Bill said, after they'd all found places to sit. "What is this urgent business you're here for? I expect it has to do with the legend of the Al'eyn."
"Do you believe in it, Bill?" Hermione asked.
"I believe it probably sprang from truth, though I can't say what that was. The goblins at Gringotts have had me look into it briefly in the past, though I can't imagine why goblins would be interested in a Death Stone. All I found on it is what I told you about the Pharaoh."
"I've found only a little more," Hermione told him.
She'd got clearance before they left England to look in History Archives in the Department of Mysteries. There were housed thousands of books on magical history that spanned back far beyond the histories taught at Hogwarts. Only one book mentioned the Al'eyn.
"The Pharaoh, King Amunhotep, was a very powerful wizard and not in line for the throne. He fought for Egypt city by city, but numbers were not in his favour. He needed a bigger army if he was to defeat the Pharaoh who ruled before him. So he invented the Al'eyn, which woke the dead and controlled them. With this undead army, he became Pharaoh."
"What this stone creates sound like Inferi," Bill said.
"The Al'eyn offers things that Inferi don't. For one, it is easier to build an army with the Al'eyn. Inferi have to be created one by one. The creator must first murder a person and then place the curse on their body; it is always a life for a life. The Al'eyn wakes the already dead, so the army grows bigger faster.
"For another thing, Inferi can only survive in dark, cool places. King Amunhotep could never conquer Egypt with them."
Harry understood why. Egypt in July was like hell on Earth. His fringe was stuck to his forehead, his shirt to his back, and it was only getting hotter, though Bill promised it would cool down in the evening.
"Okay then," Bill said, though Hermione did not seem finished listing the differences between the Al'eyn and Inferi. "Have you come here to educate me, or was there something else?"
"We need to break into King Amunhotep's tomb," Harry said, and noticed Greengrass shift where she sat removed in the corner.
Bill was eyeing Harry sceptically.
"You don't seem the type to want an undead army, Harry."
"We don't want to use the Al'eyn, Bill," Ron said. "We want to protect its secret."
"Death Eaters," Ginny growled.
Bill looked between at each of their faces thoughtfully for a moment.
"But if this Al'eyn does exist, it's not been found for millennia. It seems safe already."
"With the Death Eaters after it," Ron said, "better safe than sorry, right?"
But Bill still appeared torn.
"I could get in a lot of trouble for breaking into a tomb without an agreement struck between England and Egypt."
"It's for the good of the magical world, Bill," Harry said.
He was prepared for it to take more convincing, but Bill nodded.
"Do you know where King Amunhotep was buried?" he asked Hermione.
"Yes," she said, and pulled a map out of her rucksack and unrolled it.
Together, she and Bill bent over it and figured out where the tomb was in location to themselves.
"But that's here," Bill said, shocked.
All of them rose, even Greengrass, and gathered around the map. Bill pointed to the spot that Hermione had marked with a circle.
"This is the temple that the Muggles are excavating. If you're right then the tomb must be underneath it."
Hermione's eyes were wide.
"What interest do the Muggles have in this place?"
"They found records that a war was fought here. They've been digging and, sure enough, they've found human remains. Lots of them."
"Of course," she breathed. "When Amunhotep died, the deeds he did with the Al'eyn were undone. His undead army must have fallen around his tomb as the enchantment left them."
"How do we get in, though?" Ron asked. "The Muggles will see us."
"We'll go at midday tomorrow," Bill decided. "When the sun is directly overhead they all go inside. It's too hot to work."
"Great," Greengrass murmured sarcastically. It was the first thing Harry had heard out of her.
"Have you found anything that could be an entrance to the tomb?" Harry asked.
"Actually, yes," Bill said. "There are steps in the centre of the temple that lead down into an empty chamber. There is no door, and behind the stones is only packed dirt. The Muggles suppose it once housed a shrine for the god Amun, because..." Realisation seemed to strike him. "Because the carvings on the walls read 'Amun is satisfied'."
"What?" Hermione demanded. "What is it?"
"Amun is satisfied," Bill repeated. "In Arabic, that is amunhotep.
It's a name, not a statement."
Hermione nodded, as if she was not surprised to be proven right.
* * *
The next morning, Harry woke anxious. He fidgeted as they all waited for Bill to confirm that the coast was clear and the Muggles had all gone into their tents for the afternoon. Hermione, however, seemed excited, peeking constantly between the flaps of the tent door since sunrise.
At last, Bill came to them, sweaty and dirty from working, and lead them up the crumbling steps of the abandoned temple.
There was no roof, and most of the pillars that had held one up were little more than stone stumps. All around the rectangular platform were holes dug in the sand, covered by canvases strapped to poles. Harry wondered why the Muggles were more interested in what surrounded the temple than the temple itself.
There was an alter in the centre, built out of the same stone as the structure, and behind it, a set of steps lead downwards into darkness. It was narrow and steep, and they had to go down one at a time with Bill in the lead and Ginny and Greengrass taking up the rear.
With a grateful sigh, Harry left the sweltering heat for the cool dampness of underground. In the chamber, he forgot about the weather altogether as they lit their wands and illuminated the carvings covering the walls.
"What do they say?" he asked Bill.
"Most of it is about offerings. That all people should make sacrifices to Amun if they want good luck." He touched a picture here and there. "Some is about war. Now that I know this is Amunhotep's tomb, I understand them a little better. The man loved war; almost worshipped it. This line here says it is better to die than to surrender."
Hermione examined the walls with Bill. Luna, too, seemed interested. But the Aurors hung back by the stairs and Harry stood aimlessly in the centre with Ron.
"How do we get from here to Amunhotep's tomb?" Ron asked.
Then Hermione gasped sharply.
"These aren't Egyptian hieroglyphs!" she said, pointing to a line of markings on the wall. "They're runes!"
Harry hurried over to her.
"What do they say?"
"'I have conquered death,'" she read.
Suddenly, the ground beneath their feet began to rumble and all of them pointed their wands downward. The stone was changing colours, fading. It went from rusty brown to pale grey to white-washed and then the colour disappeared altogether. The rock was as clear as glass, and beneath it they could see a river of white water rushing under their feet.
"That can't be natural," Ron mumbled, and then the see-through stones began to crack.
"We'll fall in!" Bill cried, back-tracking quickly as a huge fissure split the ground between his feet.
"Back to the stairs!" Harry shouted.
But before even Greengrass, who was the closest, could reach them, the stone shattered and they all plummeted into the rapids.
It was all panic after that. Harry was swept underwater before he could take a breath, and as the river took him away from the chamber he was plunged into watery blackness. Buffeted by the current, he hit the stone walls as he was whipped around turns and found that the rush of water had made them smooth. He tried to get to the surface, but he could not tell up from down, and the water seemed to fill the space, so that there was not even a surface to get to.
Then, just as he thought his lungs would burst and he would die before his body had found rest, the river spat him out into a dark body of water where the liquid churned and spun but where he was able to kick upwards and break through to air.
His lungs burned as he gasped and coughed, but he forced himself to paddle further away to calmer waters. Only then could he tread water and stay still enough to look around. By some miracle, he had maintained his hold on his wand, and he held it aloft to look for the others.
"Harry!" someone shouted over the rush of water, and his heart leaped to see Luna spluttering and swimming toward him.
"Luna!" he cried back.
When she was close enough, she took his hand.
"Come this way," she panted.
She tugged Harry forward before releasing him and they swam until the ground rose up to meet them until they could walk out of the water and into a stone cavern. Harry was relieved to see that everyone was there, sitting or lying on the stone and recovering. He looked back and saw what he had not before.
The river they came from opened into a small underground lake, which in turn narrowed into another tunnel on the opposite side of the cavern. Harry dreaded to think what might have happened to them, should they have been sucked into the second tunnel.
"Where are we, do you reckon?" he said, turning away from the lake to peer deeper into the darkness of the cavern.
"Careful!" Bill warned as he moved forward. "If this is the entrance to Amunhotep's tomb, there'll be traps. All Pharaohs tombs have them."
"You mean like a floor that caves in and plunges you into a deadly river?" Greengrass asked sardonically.
"Why did you come?" Ron snapped. "You obviously don't want to be here."
Harry knew Ron had been annoyed by her attitude from the very beginning. He suspected Ron didn't trust her. After all, Greengrass had been friends with Malfoy during wartime.
"Ron," Ginny barked at him, "she's my partner and I want her here. You lot are working against the Death Eaters; that's our job, so we've come to help."
"Load of help she's been so far," he mumbled, but did not argue.
"There's nothing for it," Bill said, who had not paid any attention to the dispute. "We have to go forward. The only other option is back in the river."
So, after drying themselves, they followed Bill deeper in, all wands held high to light the way.
For a long time, there was nothing but the dark, dank tunnel. And then they came upon a rotting wooden door. They paused in front of it.
"Are we going to stand here and admire it, or are we going to go through?" Luna asked.
"We need to check for traps," Bill said.
Together, he and Hermione used every revealing and cancelling spell Harry knew and some he didn't. After they'd exhausted the list, nothing appeared any different.
"Why would Amunhotep not curse the door to his tomb?" Bill wondered.
"Come on," Harry said. "You've tried everything."
He went forward, ignoring Luna as her hand darted out in a failed attempt to stop him.
Harry lifted the latch of the door and pulled. It creaked open and they followed him through. As they stepped in, torches lining the walls flared up and lit a huge chamber. Harry heard Hermione gasp as they saw what was there.
Skeletons dozens of them blocked their way to the other side, where an identical door was set into the wall. But the strangest part was that all of them were standing upright, facing away from the entrance, some of them still clutching wands.
"Blimey," Ron breathed. "What do you reckon happened to all these poor sods?"
"Same thing that'll happen to us if we don't get the hell out of here," Luna whispered.
"Do you think they'll attack if we cross?" Ginny wondered.
It did seem likely to Harry, but then why were all the skeletons facing away from them?
"How can they all be standing?" Bill wondered. "They should've crumbled."
"What if these are more of Amunhotep's army?" Hermione suggested. "Maybe it's some phenomenon of being revived and then dying again. Maybe they were on their way to where he's buried when the enchantment wore off and they just..." She waved her hand nondescriptly at the skeletons.
"That could be," Ginny agreed. "But just to be on the safe side, why don't I go first?"
"No!" Harry shouted, grabbing her by the arm as she made to pass him.
"Harry," Ginny said coolly, "I'm the Auror. You don't get to be the self-sacrificing one anymore."
"You're not going," he growled.
Ginny appeared surprised that Luna had taken the words right out of her mouth. Luna clutched Harry's arm as he had Ginny's.
"Oh, this is bloody ridiculous," Greengrass said, and she walked towards the far door.
She made it past the first few skeletons before she suddenly stopped mid-step and grew eerily still.
"Daphne!" Ginny cried, jerking forward, but Harry still had her arm.
"I'm okay," Daphne called. "But I can't move."
"I can't move at all my legs, my arms. I'm stuck."
"So that's what happened," Ron said, and Harry's gaze darted to him. "There's some sort of freezing charm in the room and once it's activated, you're trapped forever."
"What an awful way to die," Hermione whispered.
"No one's going to die," Bill said sternly. He raised his wand. "Finite!
"I'm afraid it's not that easy," Greengrass said dryly, still frozen. "Why don't you try to summon me next?"
It was meant sarcastically, but Bill did not hesitate to try, along with a handful of other unsuccessful spells.
"What do we do now, then?" Luna asked, after he'd given up with a grunt of frustration.
Automatically, Harry and Ron looked to Hermione.
"Let's think about this logically," she said weakly. "The freezing charm is obviously triggered by motion, as Ron said. That explains why some of the victims made it farther than others. They must walk with less commotion, less movements in the arms, et cetera."
"So you're trying to tell us the only way to get through is to not move?" Ginny said, scowling.
"Or..." Hermione said slowly, "to hide our movements."
"Could it really be that easy?" Harry breathed, understanding dawning.
"There's only one way to find out."
Hermione looked fearfully at Harry, but he felt hopeful. Thank goodness he'd taken to carrying his Invisibility Cloak with him almost everywhere. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans, he pulled it out.
"Here goes nothing," he said, and threw it over his head.
They all stared at the place where he disappeared, but Harry was already gone from that spot, grinning triumphantly as he made it to Greengrass' side uninhibited.
"What the hell is going on?" she barked when Harry quite suddenly threw his cloak over her head, too.
"Harry?" Hermione called, panic lacing her voice.
"It's okay," he replied. "I have her; we're by the door."
Ron whooped as Harry pushed the far door open, crossed the threshold, and revealed he and Greengrass to the others.
"Okay," he told her, "you wait here and I'll go get the rest."
They could only go one at a time because the cloak was not big enough to hide more than two of them completely. But eventually, they all made it through, Harry and Ginny arriving last.
On the other side of the chamber, they went through the door into Amunhotep's tomb.
It was lit with magical torches here, too, and filled with an assortment of riches; gold, silver, jewels and trinkets piled up all around the cavern. And in the centre, a huge gold sarcophagus laid with glittering crystals.
"You don't think," Ron said with a grimace, "that the Al'eyn is in that, do you?"
"Bloody brilliant," Ron groaned. "Well then, let's get it open."
"There could be more traps on it," Bill warned.
"Great," Greengrass said. "Why don't you throw some useless spells at it?"
As they bickered, Hermione was already studying the engravings in the gold.
"That won't be necessary," she told them, smiling. "Look; there are Runes written all over it. I know exactly what it's cursed with."
"Then how do we get it open?" Harry asked.
"We just open it. These Runes won't be activated unless they're read aloud. It's a bit foolish of him, but I suppose Amunhotep assumed that if a person read aloud the Runes that opened the floor in the Temple Chamber, they would read these ones, too, and be cursed."
Pointing her wand at the Sarcophagus, Hermione said, "Alohomora,
" and then was able to wedge her fingers beneath the lid and heave it up. Inside lay a neatly preserved mummy, arms crossed over the chest, crown adorned with a golden headdress.
"Very good, Granger," a gravelly voice said from behind them.
All seven of them spun and trained their wands on the figures pouring in from the Freezing Chamber. There were more than two dozen of them, and they were all swathed in black cloaks with bone masks.
* * *
Harry recognised the voice instantly, though he could not see the face.
"Yaxley," he growled, his fingers tightening around his wand.
The man who had spoken removed his mask, smirking at Harry.
"Potter," he said. "I didn't expect to see you and your friends here, but I must say, you've made it much easier on us."
"How did you get through the Freezing Chamber?" Harry asked.
"The Dark Lord taught us many tricks," he drawled. "And how did you find out about the Al'eyn?"
"From you," Harry told Yaxley, who was sneering at him. "You ought to be a bit more careful when you whisper things; you never know who might be listening."
Yaxley's eyes flicked over Harry's companions, surely looking for someone who could have overheard him saying anything. Harry knew immediately when his eyes landed on Luna, and Harry shifted protectively to block his view.
"That's not possible," Yaxley hissed, his eyes wide and unbelieving.
Harry smiled tauntingly.
"Maybe you think too highly of your magical abilities Yaxley."
Beside Yaxley, a pair of cloaked figures glanced at one another. Harry knew who they were. He looked at the others, trying to size up their opponent. He couldn't see how they would make it out of here; they were sorely outnumbered, especially since Luna hadn't learned any offensive spells yet.
"It doesn't matter," Yaxley finally said. "All that matters is the Al'eyn. Give it here, Potter."
"It's not here," Harry said. "You've come all this way for nothing."
Yaxley's eyes narrowed.
"You're lying!" he shouted. "You have it, I know you have it. You wouldn't have come here if you weren't sure!"
"Suppose we only came to ambush you?" he said. "Suppose we have back up hiding nearby."
Yaxley's eyes did not leave Harry's face, though the other Death Eaters began to shift uncomfortably and peer into the shadows of the tomb.
"You're lying!" Yaxley said again. "Accio Al'eyn Albyda! ACCIO AL'EYN ALBYDA!
Harry laughed, though he felt no humour.
"I told you, Yaxley, it's not here. You'll never find it. You'll never get Voldemort back."
" Yaxley screamed, and suddenly Harry was writhing on the dirty floor and there was pain racking his body so much pain...
" someone shouted above Harry, and the curse ended.
As if that one spell had flicked a switch, the fight broke out. All around Harry people were screaming curses and running. Luna dropped to Harry's side and helped him sit up; he noticed that her eyes were wide in shock.
"Was that you?" he shouted over the noise.
She only nodded.
"Can you fight now?"
"I doubt it. I only remembered the one spell and that was in a moment of panic."
"Stay close to me, then."
Harry got to his feet and was immediately swept up into the battle. In the chaos, he could hardly keep an eye on Luna and still fight. He suffered more than one painful curse in his attempts to shield her first. But she was watching him, and soon, she began to mimic him. Every spell he yelled she yelled. Flawlessly, they fell into a rhythm; he attacked and she defended. They cut down every enemy.
Harry was duelling two Death Eaters at once when he heard a scream.
" he cried, aiming for a pile of treasures beside the Death Eaters.
It exploded with a great clanging and shattering as coins, jewels, and other riches went flying through the air, rebounding off the stone walls. While the Death Eaters were distracted, Harry grabbed Luna's wrist and dodged the rubble, running towards where he'd heard the scream.
Hermione was crumbled in a heap against the wall with another Death Eater bearing down on her.
" he shouted.
The Death Eater's arms and legs snapped together and he fell forward. Harry darted to Hermione's side; she was conscious but clutching her shoulder. There was blood on her shirt.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked.
"Yes," she panted and accepted his hand as he helped her to her feet.
"What do we do?" he said hopelessly, looking back at the raging fight. "There are too many!"
"I think I have an idea," Hermione said. "Tell everyone to get back from the sarcophagus."
Before he could ask why, she had sprinted off into the bedlam again. Harry looked at Luna.
"You heard her," Luna shouted. "Warn the others!"
"LUNA!" Harry bellowed as she disappeared into the wreckage.
Dashing after her, he dodged spells and leaped over bodies, hoping they were not those of his friends. He spotted Greengrass taking on three Death Eaters.
" he cried and felled one.
"Thanks!" she said between firing off more spells.
"Get back from the sarcophagus!" he told her over his shoulder as he hurried on.
He found Bill and Ron, working together the way he and Luna had been. He gave them Hermione's orders and went on. He was looking for Ginny when he noticed Hermione standing on top of the golden coffin, her wand pointed down at it. As she spoke something he could not hear, the engravings beneath her feet began to glow.
Harry was about to turn and run when a new opponent crossed his path. Looking into the unmasked face, he was surprised to find Draco Malfoy. Draco, for his part, looked even more shocked to see Harry than Harry was to see him. For a drawn-out moment, they simply stared at one another.
And then, from the corner of his eye, Harry saw Hermione leap off the sarcophagus and race toward the door to the Freezing Chamber. Everything seemed to move in slow-motion as he turned to find that the sarcophagus the whole thing glowing with the light of a hundred Lumos charms blocked his only escape. Twisting back, he saw Death Eaters fleeing and Draco wide-eyed and mouth agape.
"Run!" was all Harry could think to say, but just as he lurched forward into his first step, the sarcophagus combusted, sending up twenty-foot flames that licked the ceiling and a solid wall of heat that blasted Harry off his feet. He was thrown into a wall, his head smashing against it and his teeth clacking together painfully, and slid to the ground in a dazed heap.
For a period of time that had no effect on him, he remained motionless there, gazing through half-lidded eyes at the blurry shadows darting through the shimmering heat. The fire was eating up the tomb at a terrifying pace, but Harry could not form a thought.
And then one of the shadows came to him and he felt hands under his arms, lifting him up. He was thrown over a bony shoulder which dug into his stomach, and his head lolled against a back as the person ran with him. All he could feel was heat; it seared his hair and burned his arms and for one lucid moment he wondered why no one tried Aguamenti.
"Stay awake, Harry," a voice whispered to him and he promised it that he would.
But he didn't.
* * *
Ginny was counting heads in the Freezing Chamber, which the Death Eaters had somehow made safe, when Malfoy came through with Harry tossed over his shoulder.
"Stop!" Ginny shouted, sprinting toward him with her wand out.
"I haven't got a wand," Malfoy wheezed and then collapsed onto his knees, Harry's lifeless body slipping off his shoulder and dropping to the ground.
" Ginny said now that Harry wasn't at risk.
Ropes twined around Malfoy's torso, binding his arms to his sides and cinching at his ankles. He fell sideways beside Harry and stayed that way. He put up no struggle nor even said anything as Ginny moved him against the wall with the other Death Eaters that had not perished in the fire or escaped back to the underground lake.
When she returned to Harry's body, Hermione was already there, working over it.
"He's not dead," she assured Ginny between healing spells.
Bill appeared at Ginny's side.
"Ron's okay," he said. "Broken leg. Luna is conscious now just hit with a Stunner. Greengrass has the other prisoners bound. We have to get out of here; the fire will come this way."
Already it was out of the door, licking up the far wall of the Freezing Chamber.
"Right," Ginny said. "Hermione, is Harry stable?"
"For now. I don't know how long he'll be okay, though. He needs professional treatment."
"Then let's get him some. Bill, help Greengrass and I to levitate the prisoners. Luna can help Ron. Hermione, you have Harry?"
"Then let's go."
It took much longer to get back up the tunnel to the underground lake, and once they had, Ron was green with pain, Luna panting and sweating, and Hermione fretting over Harry's state. They all looked hopelessly at the lake. Water rushed in one end and out the other, and that was it.
"There's nothing for it," Ginny said solemnly. "We'll have to follow the river."
"But Ron," Hermione said in a strangled voice. "And Harry."
"I'm more worried about the prisoners. What if they escape?" Greengrass said.
Hermione glared at her.
"Hermione," Ginny said soothingly. "Can you splint Ron's leg?"
She nodded and went to do it.
"Bill, I'm going to bind Harry to you. You're the strongest."
Bill gave a jerk of his head and then heaved Harry into his arms. Ginny cast ropes around them both so that Harry would not be lost in the river.
"Greengrass, you hold on to Rodolphus and Yaxley; I'll take Malfoy."
She looked at him with determination. She would not let him escape again.
They all waded into the water.
"How about Bubble-Head Charms?" Hermione suggested.
Each cast them on themselves and their charges. Ginny had to help Luna.
"Okay," she said at last, her voice warped strangely by the bubble. "Good luck."
Then, tucking her wand safely into her pocket and grasping the ropes binding Malfoy, she kicked off and swam toward the exit tunnel. It was not long before the current swept her toward it.
Though she could breathe this time around, this trip through the rushing river was worse than the first. Malfoy's ropes cut her fingers as the water tried to yank him away from her, and they were both battered against each other helplessly. She was sure it was worse for him, for he could not even kick his feet in an attempt to orient himself, but she had no sympathy.
At last, the bottom of the tunnel rose up and they slid onto slippery wet stone, crashing against a wall in a heap. When Ginny had cancelled their bubbles and stood up, she found that they had come in a full circle and were back in the Temple Chamber. The floor here had reappeared half-way, so that the water rushed over it and emptied through a narrow opening on the opposite side. Thankfully, the current pushed them sideways against the walls instead of through in a never-ending cycle.
Bill was next to arrive, arms wrapped protectively around Harry though they were still tied together. Ginny helped him pull Harry further out of the water before Hermione and Ron came sliding in with Luna close behind. They waited for a long time for Greengrass and her prisoners to follow, but all that came was a gush of pinkish water that lapped ominously around their feet.
"I'm going back through," Ginny said. "If I'm not back in ten minutes, go. Harry needs help."
"Gin " Bill started.
"Don't try to stop me!
" she hissed dangerously. "That's my partner missing and I will not leave her!"
She dropped into the gap without remembering to cast the Bubble-Head Charm, and was swept away once more.
In the dim lake she surfaced, coughing and choking, but with her wand raised and ready. She saw nothing and no one until she spotted a black heap half in the water on the stone shore. The small waves pushed it in and out in a rocking motion. Her heart in her throat, Ginny splashed toward it.
And it was Greengrass. Dead.
All around her the water was stained red with her blood. Yaxley and Rodolphus were missing.
Ginny did not allow herself to feel sad as she pulled Daphne into her arms and waded back to the tunnel. In the Temple Chamber, she lifted Daphne gently and looked at the others with hard eyes.
"Someone please bring Malfoy."
"Wait," Hermione said. She faced the wall with the Runes written on it. "I have conquered death."
The floor returned in full, only dark puddles of water betraying that it had ever been anything less.
They followed Ginny up the narrow steps and back outside. The sun had set since they'd been underground, and thankfully, all the Muggles had gone inside. Ginny carried Daphne to her tent where she retrieved their round-trip Portkey. When the others had all laid a finger on it, Bill with an arm around Malfoy and Hermione and Luna holding Harry, she activated it.
They appeared in the British Ministry, still bustling with evening activity, and were met with screams and confusion.
Reporters appeared for they were always lingering in the Atrium but none of Ginny's party made any attempt to hide themselves. There were more important things to worry about.
"Get Harry and Ron to St Mungo's," Ginny told them. "Bill, follow me."
Without once having to stop to adjust Daphne in her arms, Ginny, Bill and Malfoy rode the lift up in silence. When they entered Auror Headquarters, heads turned as they passed. Bill was dragged away by an Auror who would deal with Malfoy, but the rest of her co-workers followed Ginny into the huge chamber that they used for large mission preparations.
Ginny lowered Daphne onto the long conference table. With care, she straightened the limbs and pushed the wet hair back off the peaceful face. The wand, which she'd found floating nearby in the underground lake, she placed in Daphne's hand. Looking down on the pale skin, the lavender petal eyelids, the halo of bloodied hair, Ginny could not help thinking that it was fate; every last Greengrass had been murdered at the hand of a Death Eater.
After that, she went home and cried.
* * *
Draco was afraid when they left him alone in Auror Headquarters. Potter was incapacitated and Weasley was surely mourning in private for Daphne. Draco wished he could have that privilege. Instead, he grieved for his friend in front of the Aurors, and they laughed and mocked him before they locked in into a windowless room.
He was there for a long time. They brought him food eight times; that was how he counted the passing hours. One time, they delivered a lumpy mattress with the food and he lay down and tried to sleep but saw too many things behind his eyelids. There were not trips to the bathroom like there had been in St Mungo's. Instead, a silent Auror would come in and void his bladder and bowls with a spell that burned and made him itch for hours after.
And then, at last, Weasley came in. Her face was blank. She did not look as though she wouldn't smile she looked as though she couldn't.
"Malfoy," she said without inflection. "Are you going to talk to me or should I go ahead and throw you in Azkaban?"
"I'll talk to Potter," Draco said. "Anything he wants to know, I'll tell him."
"Harry is not an Auror."
"He's still in the hospital," Weasley told him.
Draco said nothing and Weasley sighed.
"You should hope he'll be on his feet before Robards gets fed up with having you here."
She went away and more time passed. Five more meals came. Draco wondered when he would start losing his mind. He almost wished for Azkaban, where the sounds of other prisoners screaming would surely make a better alternative to this debilitating silence as if he was the only person left in the world.
When the door opened the next time, Draco thought it would be a bowel cleanse; he wasn't itching anymore from the last one. But it wasn't. It was Potter and the She-Weasel. She conjured a chair and Potter lowered himself into it with a wince. Draco looked over his shoulder at Weasley.
"I know," she said. "You won't talk in front of me. Stupid, really, since Harry will just tell me everything you say."
She went out.
"You look terrible," Potter told Draco.
The Aurors had not bothered to heal his injuries from the fight and there was no opportunity for a bath in a prison cell. The dried blood caked on his face and arms from various cuts cracked when he moved.
"Take off your shirt."
Draco did not bother to ask why. He couldn't muster the energy to bicker with Potter. He unbuttoned his robes and slid them off his shoulders then pulled his shirt over his head. Potter sucked in a breath.
"Why didn't you tell anyone?" he asked.
"Would they have cared?" Draco said.
Potter took out his wand and Draco flinched. Without comment, he began to heal Draco's burned and blackened skin.
"The fire from the sarcophagus was magical," Potter said after the pain had faded significantly in Draco's chest. "I'll have to bring back a salve to heal it completely. But I hope that's better for now."
"Thank you," Draco said, and did not bother to put on his clothing again. It only hurt.
"Thank you," Potter said. "For saving me."
"Consider it a debt repaid."
"I have a list here." Potter pulled a small bit of parchment out of his pocket. "I'm supposed to ask you these questions."
"Go on, then."
"I'd rather hear what you want to tell me."
Draco could not stop the panic that touched his face, but he covered with a cough.
"Pardon?" he said.
"Ginny told me you would talk to no one but myself. Why? There must be a reason."
"Perhaps I just don't trust Aurors," Draco sneered.
"Then you trust me."
Draco cursed himself.
"Yes," he admitted, because he practically had already.
"Should I not?"
Potter looked at him with eyes that did not judge, but Draco felt judged all the same. He put his shirt back on in an attempt to alleviate the feeling of vulnerability. It did nothing.
"What's not to trust?" he said curtly. "You're the saviour of the wizarding world. You're loyal."
"But not to your side."
"Oh, and you know what my side is, do you?" he snapped.
Potter's eyes widened minutely but his expression did not change. His control infuriated Draco.
"I thought I did," Potter said. "What is your side?"
"I don't have a side," Draco hissed. "Why should I? Neither side wants me. Neither side cares."
Draco laughed humourlessly.
"You think I'm lying?"
"Cut the shit, Potter." He was losing control of the rage that boiled beneath his skin. "We both know you don't give a damn about me. You made that crystal clear."
"In what way?"
Nauseatingly, Draco felt his eyes prick. He banished the emotion with sheer force of will.
"Twenty years," he said rigidly. "I've been suffering alone for twenty years and what have you been doing? Shacking up with Weasley and Lovegood."
"What do you care who I shack up with?" Potter asked with an innocence that made Draco see red.
"I don't care. Do whatever you want." He looked away; he couldn't bear to look anymore. "Is this really what you wanted to talk about?"
"No," Potter said predictably. "I want to talk about what you did for Luna."
Draco's lips curled sardonically.
"Knew you'd figure it out."
"How did you know what she needed?" Potter asked.
"Because I saw what happened to her." Draco shrugged, attempting to look unaffected. "I watched them take every last one of her memories. Watched how she writhed and screamed and begged until finally, she just went limp. Limp and dumb."
Draco watched Potter's Adam's apple bob as he swallowed.
"So they were all your memories," he said. "And you used them to lead me along the path of the Death Eaters. It was you who spied on Yaxley's planning. It was you who was kidnapped by them."
"I don't know that I'd call it a kidnapping. Did Lovegood mention that she didn't fight them off?"
"Sometimes fighting doesn't make any difference at all." Potter sounded tired but Draco refused to feel worried for him. "How did you get back into the hospital after you escaped?" Potter asked.
Draco hesitated; he didn't want to betray Daphne's memory, but did he want to lie to Potter?
"Daphne Greengrass," he said reluctantly. "She trusted me."
Potter said nothing to this.
"And the third memory? How did you get that to Luna?"
"Ah," Potter said, and Draco could see recognition click into place. "You had Narcissa distract me and Lucius distracted... Poor Lucius."
"Is he here?" Draco demanded.
"No, he's in Azkaban."
Potter looked neither saddened nor pleased by the fact.
"I don't want to go to Azkaban," Draco admitted.
"I'm not going to let you."
Draco could see the sincerity in those eyes as plain as day but he had no hope. Potter had tried once before to clear his name and failed.
"I know what you're thinking," Potter said. "But this time is different. You played a large part in protecting the Al'eyn."
Despite not feeling reassured, Draco couldn't stop the smirk that spread across his face.
"The death stone," he said. "I knew you had it all along. How did you keep hold of it when Yaxley summoned it?"
But Potter shook his head.
"I didn't lie. We never had it. I can only hope it was destroyed in the fire."
"Or it wasn't there to begin with," Draco pointed out. "Either way, the Death Eaters won't give up looking."
Potter shrugged as if to say, "I won't either."
"Why did you do it?" he asked. "Give Luna your memories. You said you weren't on a side but that seems like a clear choice to me."
Draco flinched. This was what he had been dreading. How was he supposed to lie his way through this? He hated Potter a little more for making him.
"I don't know," he hedged.
"Rubbish. Tell me why."
"As if you don't know why," he snapped, temper returning.
"It was for you, of course," Draco wanted to say. "Don't tell me you couldn't guess that; don't tell me you haven't noticed the way Lovegood looks at you. Those are all my emotions, Potter. Lovegood admires you because I
do craves you because I
Instead, he remained resolutely silent as he wondered if Potter had liked all of Lovegood's attention if they had shagged. It made him sick.
"I have to go," Potter murmured, rising quickly from his chair. "I'll send a salve for your chest."
Draco glared venomously after him.
* * *
"What did he say?" Ginny demanded the moment Harry stepped out of the cell. "Did you ask him the questions I gave you?"
"No," Harry said. "I took some liberties. Let's go to your office."
Once there, Harry locked the door then settled gratefully into the chair in front of her desk. His whole body still ached from the cursed burns; he could only imagine how Draco felt.
"Ginny," he began. "I think you should let Draco go."
"He's not the criminal you think he is. Besides that, he might be of use to us."
"And what makes you think that he would help us?"
"He already has."
"In what way? If you're talking about him carrying you out of the tomb, that was just "
"Draco is responsible for Luna's recovery," Harry said.
Ginny sat back heavily.
"How do you figure?"
"The day he escaped from St Mungo's was the same day Luna got her first memory. And if that doesn't convince you, what she remembered was something only Hermione, Ron, Draco and I know about."
Her face hardened and her jaw set.
"Are you sure?" she demanded.
"There's no doubt."
He decided not to tell her about Greengrass helping Draco. That wound was still too fresh and he didn't want to upset Ginny.
"There's still the problem of Luna's real memories, though," Harry said. "Draco says the Death Eaters have them. Luna will never be fully recovered unless we can retrieve them."
"Does Malfoy know where the Death Eaters are?"
"I didn't ask."
"First I need to get a salve for his chest; he was injured during the fight, too, you know."
Harry tried not look at her judgementally, but he couldn't help himself.
"I'm sorry," she said graciously. "I wasn't here. I couldn't take care of him."
At the hospital, Harry ran into Ron and Hermione.
"Harry!" Hermione cried. "Where were you? You didn't even tell us you were checking out!"
"Sorry," Harry said, returning her hug gingerly. "Ginny needed me at Auror Headquarters, so I went there first."
"What are we going to do about the Al'eyn, mate?" Ron asked, and Hermione shushed him urgently.
"Why don't we go to my office?" Harry suggested.
They followed him there. Ron spoke again the moment the door was shut.
"What I really want to know is why the Death Eaters only just decided to go to Egypt. They've known about the Al'eyn for twenty years; why wouldn't they have gone earlier?"
"Because they thought Mrs Lovegood had already stolen it, of course," Hermione answered. "Which can only be true, since the Al'eyn wasn't in the tomb after all. The real question is, what made them go now
"They must not have found any clues in Luna's memories, and so they went looking in Egypt as a last hope," Harry said, thinking aloud.
"Pardon?" Hermione asked sharply. "What about Luna's memories?"
Harry felt tired. He didn't particularly want to explain this for a second time, but Hermione and Ron needed to know.
"Twenty years ago, the Death Eaters kidnapped Luna to take her memories."
He could see this click into place almost immediately for Hermione.
"With her mother and father dead," she said, clarifying for herself, "Luna is the only remaining person who might know where Mrs Lovegood hid the stone."
"And there's more," he went on. "Draco's the one who has been giving Luna memories. He's been sneaking them to her one at a time. He was trying to leave us clues so that we could stop the Death Eaters."
Hermione's eyes were wide; Ron's mouth was hanging open.
"Of course," Hermione breathed. "The Fiendfyre. He's the only one aside from us who could know. And the kidnapping. But that must have been his, not Luna's!"
Harry watched with only a little interest as Hermione and Ron worked through what he already had.
"And I had wondered about the most recent memory Luna got," Hermione was saying, "but this explains that, too."
"What about it?" Ron asked.
"Didn't you think it odd that she overheard Yaxley discovering that he would need her memories to track down Mrs Lovegood's stone? That would mean it was a coincidence that they just happened to kidnap her and then find out that they actually needed her."
"And Luna wasn't in the corridor," Harry added.
"When I viewed the memory, I was surprised that I didn't see Luna in the corridor listening in on the Death Eaters' conversation. But there was a foggy spot, as if something had been erased. Draco must have altered the memory to take himself out of it."
"He's sort of brilliant, isn't he?" Hermione said, her expression hinting at admiration.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "He is."
"Humph," Ron snorted. "I still think he's a git."
"Harry," Hermione said slowly, "you do realise what else this means, don't you?"
Harry grimaced when he saw that she had put the final pieces of the puzzle together, but nodded.
"What?" Ron asked, looking between them. "What does it mean?"
"It means that I have feelings for Draco," Harry murmured, though he'd come to terms with this before their trip to Egypt.
"What?!" Ron cried. "But but I thought you fancied Luna!"
"Ron," Hermione said soothingly, "Malfoy is
Luna. And Luna is Malfoy."
"Right, that makes no bloody sense."
"There's personality in memories," Harry explained. "Even though Draco edited himself out of them physically, his emotions were still there beneath the surface. When Luna got hold of them, his thoughts and feelings started to influence her own. In essence, she became Draco. They share his personality."
"Which would explain why Luna couldn't work her own wand but had no trouble with Malfoy's," Hermione concluded.
"Well," Ron said, and he looked as though he was struggling to keep calm, "at least I turned out to be right."
"You did?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, I always said you'd go for a bloke in the end."
* * *
Harry sent one of his Mediwizards to Auror Headquarters with Draco's salve. He told himself it was because he had other priorities, but he knew he just wasn't ready to face Draco again.
He wasn't ready to look into eyes that changed as suddenly as a breath, to try to decipher the double-meaning beneath everything he said to feel the niggling itch in the back of his brain, as if he was forgetting something important.
So instead, he went home. But home wasn't much better, because Draco was there, too.
"Where have you been?" Luna demanded in a way that Luna never would. "I got an owl hours ago from Hermione saying that you checked out."
"Sorry, I had some things to do."
She was bitter and Harry considered putting this off. He was about to make an excuse to leave when she spoke again.
"Listen, Potter," she said, and Harry could hear Draco more clearly than ever. "If you don't want me around anymore just say it so that I can start looking for my own place."
Harry groaned. Of course, he should have guessed that she'd suspected something. The distance he'd carefully placed between them since the night he emptied his Pensieve spoke for itself.
"Right," Luna said, rising from the sofa, "I get it. Don't worry, I'll be out of your hair by this evening."
"Luna, wait!" Harry called, but she didn't turn so he followed her quickly into her bedroom.
"Luna, there's something I have to tell you."
"I don't need to hear it." She didn't stop packing away all the things Harry had bought her since she'd left St Mungo's, and he couldn't stop thinking that if she'd been herself, she would have insisted that he keep them.
"Yes, you do," he said firmly and drew his wand. "Expelliarmus.
Draco's wand flew out of her hand and Harry pocketed it.
"Give me back my wand, Potter!" Luna barked.
"It's not your wand, it's Draco's."
Luna looked as though she'd been slapped. She sat heavily on the foot of her bed.
"I... I forgot," she admitted. "It feels like it was made for me."
"I know," Harry said gently. "And I can explain why if you'll let me."
"What do you mean?"
Harry sat beside her.
"Luna, when the Death Eaters kidnapped you it was because they wanted your memories."
"I'd figured that much out," she said, still with a slight bitter edge to her voice. "Even though you never cared to explain to me what you knew. It was because of my mum, right?"
"Yes, they thought you might know more about the work she did with Voldemort before she changed sides."
"And that's why I was nearly comatose for twenty years. Hermione told me this part something about not being able to record data in my brain."
"So what does this have to do Draco's wand?"
"Do you remember the first memory you had that day in St Mungo's?" Harry asked.
Luna only nodded, but Harry thought he saw her expression soften. He finally understood, from this subtle change, how much Harry's rescuing him had meant to Draco all those years ago in the Room of Requirement.
"That memory," Harry continued, "doesn't belong to you. You were never there when that fire ate up the room of things."
"Then how do I remember it?" Luna whispered.
"Draco Malfoy gave it to you."
Harry promised himself he would give her all the time she needed to process this, but after only a short wait, he could stand it no longer.
"Luna... " he said softly. "Are you okay?"
She looked at him and he was shocked to see tears in her eyes. Unsure, he put an arm around her shoulders and she didn't shake it off.
"I always wondered why you called me Luna," she said with a watery smile. "I don't feel like a Luna."
Harry swallowed noisily.
"It's very clear now that I know," she went on.
"Which memories are mine and which are his. There's always been something different about the three he gave me. I mean, other than the fact that they're obviously old memories and the ones I've made since recovering are newer. There's something about his that... aren't me.
"The problem," she said before he could speak, "is that I don't know what is
me. I don't know what will happen to who I am if I remove his memories."
The tears that she had held back while she was talking starting flowing in earnest now.
"I don't want to remove them," she said in a strangled voice. "I don't want to not be who I am anymore. Even if who I am isn't who I was."
"Shh," Harry soothed and pulled her fully into his arms. "You don't have to give the memories back. Not yet. Not until we find yours."
"But I will," she murmured into his chest.
For a long time he cradled her while she cried. Once she'd stopped sobbing, she pulled away and dried her face, but the red eyes were still there and they made Harry ache.
"I'm going to miss you," Luna whispered, her eyes intense with emotion.
"I'm not going anywhere," Harry promised.
She smiled grimly.
"But you won't be mine anymore. You'll be his."
Harry wished he could reassure her, but she was right. Somehow, in some way that he didn't understand, he was Draco's.
Luna stood and left her bedroom. Harry trailed behind her. In his room, she stood back to let him open his secret cabinet. When he did and she saw the empty Pensieve, her solemn expression suddenly broke into a riveting smile.
"I'm proud of you," she said, and he felt a childish sense of satisfaction.
Taking down one of the empty vials, Luna held out her hand expectantly. Harry put Draco's wand into it.
"Do you think my old wand will work once I've removed his memories?" she asked thoughtfully.
It only took a handful of seconds for Luna to transfer the three memories into the vial. Though it was a small container, it didn't overflow. The memories didn't seem to take up any physical space, but they glowed brighter the more she added.
When she was done, Harry felt as though the event should have been more momentous. Then Luna looked up and he could see in an instant that it was her.
"That's quite interesting," she said in a dreamy way that Harry hadn't realised he'd missed.
"What is? How do you feel?"
"I still feel Draco's influence on me from the past month, but at the same time, he is so thoroughly gone that I almost can't remember what he was like."
"Is that... okay?"
Luna smiled at him in a way she hadn't for twenty years.
"You can't miss something that you don't remember, Harry."
"I remember you," he told her warmly. "I missed you very much."
"That's a nice thing to say," she said. "I wish I could remember more of you."
"I'll get your memories back, Luna."
She handed him the vial and drifted out of his room aimlessly, and Harry couldn't stop the grin that spread over his face.
Looking down, he admired the delicate silver strands of Draco's memories. He felt extremely protective of them, and he put the vial gently into his pocket beside Draco's wand. He hurried to the Ministry of Magic.
* * *
Ginny was sitting perfectly still in her office and staring at the door when Harry burst in.
"Ginny, I "
"Harry!" she cried, leaping up and coming around the desk. "You got my owl then?"
"What? Owl? No, I "
"No? Then why are you here? Never mind, it doesn't matter. Listen, Robards has called the Wizengamot together for me. We're supposed to be down there in " she checked her watch " bloody hell, we're supposed to be there now!"
She grabbed his wrist and dragged him along behind her. In the lift she fidgeted impatiently.
"You'd better be right about this, Harry Potter, because it's my wand on the chopping block."
"Right about what? Ginny, why are we going to the Wizengamot?"
"For Malfoy's trial, of course! Don't you dare tell me you've changed your mind."
"Malfoy? You're trying to free Malfoy?"
Ginny couldn't help but grin at the hope in Harry's eyes.
"Are you willing to show them the memories you have that prove his innocence?"
"Yes!" Harry said loudly. "But how? How could you get a trial for him so fast?"
"I called in a favour." Ginny shrugged.
The lift clanged open and Hermione stood before them.
"Harry!" she said. "Ginny! What are you doing here?"
"We're going to Malfoy's trial," Ginny said.
Hermione's eyes went big as Galleons and Ginny's grin widened. Trials always made her cheerful arguing was one of her favourite parts of being an Auror.
"Would you like to sit in?"
"Please," Hermione said, and she followed them down the dim corridor in the Department of Mysteries to the largest courtroom in the Ministry.
When they went in, the full room fell silent. Ginny saw that Malfoy was there, already chained into the chair in the centre and looking confused. Above them sat Head Auror Robards, Minister Shacklebolt, and Chief Warlock Doge behind the high bench.
She gestured Hermione and Harry to the witness stand at the edge of the circle and took her place beside Malfoy.
"Ginny Weasley," Doge said in a wheezy voice. "You're here today to argue for Draco Malfoy's innocence. Is this correct?"
"Yes, sir," Ginny said.
"And what evidence do you have to support this claim?"
"Only those memories that Harry Potter is willing to provide for examination."
Most of the court turned to look at Harry, though Ginny noticed that Malfoy's head remained resolutely forward.
"We already examined and denied Mr Potter's evidence many years ago."
"New events have occurred that need to be taken into account," Ginny said.
"Very good," Doge said and nodded at Harry by way of invitation.
Harry came forward and a Pensieve was brought down by Shacklebolt's secretary. Without hesitation, Harry put his wand to his temple and removed a memory. He nodded to the man holding the Pensieve and went back to his seat.
Before the man could start back up the steps toward the high bench, Malfoy leaned forward in his chains.
"Wait!" he said loudly.
"Malfoy, keep quiet," Ginny hissed under breath.
Of course, he ignored her.
"I have a memory to add," he said.
"The court is not interested in your memories at this time," Robards told him sternly.
"It belongs to Harry Potter."
A murmur of voices rose up and travelled around the room like a breeze. Ginny stared hard at Harry but his eyes were wide and innocent and he shrugged at her.
"Why would you have a memory of Mr Potter's?" one of the Wizengamot Elders demanded.
"He gave it to me," Draco said arrogantly. "Almost twenty years ago."
There was more whispering as Doge sized up Malfoy. Then he gestured to the man with the Pensieve and he brought the basin to Malfoy's side.
"Auror Weasley," Doge said, "if you would."
Reluctantly, Ginny placed her wand tip against Malfoy's temple. He tensed, but then nodded curtly and her wand warmed beneath her palm before she pulled it away and deposited Malfoy's memory with Harry's.
The Pensieve was taken up to the high bench and the room went deathly silent as Doge drew out the first memory so that two figures rose from the silvery substance. From this distance, Ginny could not tell who they were, but Doge amplified their voices so that they rang out in the silence.
"Ginny told me you would talk to no one but myself," Harry's voice said, and Ginny knew that this was what Harry had heard when he talked to Malfoy in his holding cell. "Why? There must be a reason."
"Perhaps I just don't trust Aurors," Malfoy replied.
Ginny glanced down at the Malfoy in chains. He was sneering but it was weak-willed and his eyes were riveted on the small figures rotating in the Pensieve high above them.
"Then you trust me," Harry concluded.
A murmur went around the listening Wizengamot. Shacklebolt had to raise his wand and shoot sparks into the air before they quieted.
"What's not to trust?" Malfoy was saying when silence reigned again. "You're the saviour of the wizarding world. You're loyal."
"But not to your side."
"Oh, and you know what my side is, do you?"
Ginny could hear the anger in Malfoy's voice and it spoke volumes. She was watching the flesh Malfoy from the corner of eye calculating.
"I thought I did," Harry said. "What is your side?"
"I don't have a side. Why should I? Neither side wants me. Neither side cares."
On her other side, Ginny saw Hermione shift on the bench closer to Harry. Forsaking the memory voices echoing above her, Ginny strained her ears to listen as Hermione whispered into his ear.
"What if this doesn't work?" Ginny thought she said.
"It has to," Harry growled determinedly.
"Okay," Hermione said. "What if it does work?"
"What do you mean?"
"Malfoy goes free. Then what? You don't plan to just let him disappear into the Malfoy Manor with his mother. I know you don't. What are your plans for him?"
Either Harry didn't respond, or he said something so quietly that Ginny couldn't hear. She listened instead to the memory.
"I want to talk about what you did for Luna," the Harry of the past said to the room. Malfoy made a snide comment that he ignored. "How did you know what she needed?"
"Because I saw what happened to her," Malfoy said. "I watched them take every last one of her memories. Watched how she writhed and screamed and begged until finally, she just went limp limp and dumb."
Ginny felt sick, and she was surprised upon looking down at Malfoy to see that his expression seemed to match. Did he regret the way he sounded uncaring and callous or was he feeling compassion for Luna?
Harry went on, spelling out what Malfoy had done: how he'd laid a trail for Harry to follow, which memories he used to lead him, and then how he'd planted them.
"Daphne Greengrass," Malfoy answered when Harry asked. "She trusted me."
Ginny's heart seemed to plummet beyond her stomach and she hardly noticed Robards' eyes staring hard at her over the Pensieve.
"And the third memory?" Harry's voice, ringing through the chamber, seemed louder all of the sudden sluicing through her petrified brain. "How did you get that to Luna?"
"A Patronus," was Malfoy's answer.
"Ah, you had Narcissa distract me and Lucius distracted Poor Lucius."
With a jolt, Ginny realised it had been she Lucius had distracted. She and... Daphne. Was Daphne in on that plan, too? Had every moment with her been a lie?
"Is he here?" Malfoy asked eagerly.
"No, he's in Azkaban."
"I don't want to go to Azkaban," Malfoy murmured.
"I'm not going to let you."
It was a long moment later that Ginny realised the voices had stopped talking. She blinked rapidly, trying to clear her swirling thoughts, and looked up at the high bench.
"So," Doge said, looking at Harry, "Draco Malfoy has been planting clues in another person's mind for you."
"Yes," Harry confirmed.
"And where did these clues lead you?"
"Toward the discovery of an ancient artefact that is rumoured to have the power to revive the dead."
Another hiss swept the court. Ginny wondered how Doge never allowed his reactions to cross his face. But then, he was very old and he had seen very much. Maybe nothing shocked him anymore.
"Did you find this artefact?" Doge asked.
"No," Harry said. "We believe it was destroyed over a thousand years ago. But in the search for it, we found the Death Eaters. In the fight that broke out, Draco Malfoy risked himself to save my life and was arrested in his efforts."
Ginny was offended that Harry was being asked the questions. It was her trial; it was thanks to her that they were all gathered together. But Doge asked no more questions after that.
"Let us watch the second memory," he said, and Ginny was suddenly too curious to see what memory Harry had supposedly given Malfoy to feel angry anymore.
* * *
Harry couldn't help but feel apprehensive as Elphias put his wand tip into the Pensieve and drew out a second pair of figures. He had absolutely no idea what the memory could be of and was sure it was impossible that it could belong to him.
With little care for the rules and restrictions of the court, Harry stood and climbed the steps toward the high bench. No one stopped him, so he drew right up to the side, his eyes fixated on himself and Draco, rotating once again in the basin.
He recognised the scene immediately, though he couldn't see it in the Pensieve. His mind filled in the blanks: there were the ragged black curtains that hung over the windows, letting in little light; there were the shelves of books that lined the walls; there was the threadbare sofa.
They were in Snape's house.
"Did you say that you're sorry?" Harry's past self spoke and he knew in an instant that this was the second half of the memory that was last to be remembered on the night he'd emptied his Pensieve.
Now that he was aware the memory had been broken into two parts, he could feel the hole in his head like a throbbing wound. He hardly cared that those gathered around the high table were watching him closely as he leant nearer to the memory.
"Are you going to make me repeat it?" Draco said through gritted teeth.
"No, but I'd like to know what brought it about."
Draco looked down at the wand in his hand. He shrugged and Harry watched himself grin.
"Gratitude, maybe?" he said. "Or just remorse?"
"Not those," Draco admitted quietly. "Regret."
Harry went serious again.
"What do you regret?"
There was a long pause and the court was silent enough that Harry thought he could hear the beating of rain on glass. He remember in a split second that it had been a stormy night on which he'd found Draco.
"Us," Draco said at last.
When Harry didn't answer right away, Draco's eyes darted to his face, narrowed dangerously.
"What?" he demanded. "The great Harry Potter doesn't have regrets?"
"What about us do you regret?" Harry asked.
"I don't know," Draco snapped. "I suppose if we'd been friends I would have benefited from your undeserved fame."
Harry knew now, just as he remembered that he knew then, what Draco left unsaid beneath the defensive pretence; he regretted being enemies.
"I think we could have been great friends," he offered and watched Draco's eyes widened a fraction. "If things had been different."
For the second time, he turned to leave. For the second time, Draco stopped him.
"We could be friends now," he said so quietly Harry almost didn't hear him.
"I don't think we could," Harry admitted.
"Why? Too good to get chummy with a pure-blood? Bit hypocritical, don't you think?"
"I couldn't care less about what sort of blood you've got, Malfoy."
Harry winced at his own temper, which was obviously close to the surface; Draco was so good at getting a rise out of him.
"Then what is it that's so disgusting to you?" Draco demanded.
"Isn't it obvious?" Harry almost shouted. "You've got the god damn Mark and you expect me to be friends with you?"
"And that's what makes me worse than you?" Draco was shouting, too, now. "The fact that I've got some stupid mark I never wanted? But you can torment and be cruel to people, too; you can curse someone until they almost bleed to death at your feet; you can kill
and get away with it "
Harry was at Draco's throat in an instant, his wand pressed between Draco's ribs and Draco's own digging into Harry's cheek in retaliation. It occurred to Harry, like a third voice echoing out of the Pensieve that only he could hear, that he could end Draco's life with two small words. So long as he meant them.
He watched as the Flood of power consumed his past self as his eyes filled with it, like a shroud had been thrown over them. He wondered if everyone else in the court could see it could see the way he wanted to dominate
And he saw something he hadn't remembered seeing that day. He saw the way the opposite happened to Draco; the way his wand trembled just slightly as his mask slid away, like it had never existed. There was surrender in his parted lips, in his unfocussed eyes, in the way his head tilted almost indiscernibly to bare his throat. And Harry was horrified and enthralled by the way heat curled in the pit of his stomach.
"I'll do whatever you say," Draco breathed at last, and for the first time, Harry understood the submission for what it truly was.
He was suddenly disappointed as he watched himself step away from Draco.
"You'll help me fight the Death Eaters?" he demanded.
"Yes," Draco said.
And the memory ended.
* * *
Draco didn't know why he expected Potter to hang back after the trial, because Potter instantly proved that it was a foolish idea. The moment the Chief Warlock twirled his wand and sent a wave of magic downward to unlock Draco's bonds, Potter stood and was the first out of the courtroom.
"Cleared of all charges," echoed in Draco's head, but he didn't feel free.
Of course, all the charges weren't really cleared anyway. He had to follow Weasley up to her office to fill out forms that said he understood that he would still be considered a danger in the eyes of society; that Aurors could search his home and belongings unexpectedly at any time throughout the next three years; that he consented to being fined a small fortune for what they so diplomatically called 'court fees'.
But at last, Weasley handed over the wand Potter had pressed into her hand on the way out.
"Don't you forget, Malfoy," she said before she released it. "One toe out of line and I will see to it personally that you go straight to Azkaban."
Draco yanked his wand free then turned and left unescorted. Ministry employees eyed him as he went by. In the Atrium, the reporters descended on him like a lightning storm. Draco left straight for Malfoy Manor without a word.
"Draco!" his mother cried when she opened the door on him.
Without question, she threw herself at him and he caught her, feeling her frail, fragile body between his arms.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded as she pulled him into the vestibule. "Were you followed?"
He noticed that the marble floors were stripped down to the cold, solid cement base; that brick peeked through the plastered walls in places. His father had told him the Aurors had been brutal when they'd tracked Lucius down to the Manor. Draco wondered how much worse it had been.
"I'm not being followed. I'm free."
Narcissa's eyes were wide and disbelieving.
"Free?" she repeated.
"Cleared of all charges. I just came from my trial."
"How?" Narcissa breathed.
"Potter, of course."
"Father is in Azkaban. Did you know that?"
The hope dancing in Narcissa's eyes faded as she nodded.
"They put him there the day you returned from Egypt. It was noted in the Prophet
directly beneath Daphne's obituary."
"Ah," Draco said, bitterness and sadness plying him. "They wanted to make it seem as though her death was not for nothing."
"Was it for nothing?"
"Yes." He didn't try to stop the expression of disgust that wrinkled his nose. "The fighting was over. She had Yaxley and Rodolphus in bonds and we were leaving. But they must have squirmed their way free when Daphne fell behind. Weasley went back for her and found only her body."
"Dear Daphne," Narcissa whispered.
"I'm happy you're safe, Mother," Draco said quietly.
"And I you."
He kissed her cheek and went to his bedroom.
It did not escape him that the last time he'd seen this place it had been inhabited by the Dark Lord. The thought made him claustrophobic and he wanted to leave again. But he had nowhere to go and nothing to do. His life, more now than ever before, felt at an end.
* * *
Harry had a week off because Healer Koffer refused to let him work after being in the hospital for his own ailments. So he was thankful that Ginny took a few days off to keep him company. Luna was still living with them, but now that she was more Luna and less Draco, she didn't provide the same sort of conversation she used to.
The three of them were spending a lazy day at home. Ginny had ordered too much Chinese take-away, Harry had indulged in a bit more Firewhisky than he should have, and Luna was watching the Muggle television that Arthur had given Harry for his thirtieth birthday. She wore a rapt expression not quite appropriate for the absurd children's cartoon that was on.
When an owl flapped through the open window, Harry didn't bother moving to receive it.
"There are treats in my robes if you can find them," he told the owl, gesturing to the peg by the door as he opened the letter dropped in his lap.
He sat bolt upright.
"What's the matter?" Ginny asked, immediately alert. Luna didn't look away from the television.
"It's from Narcissa Malfoy."
"What does she want?"
"She wants me to come for dinner with her and Draco."
This got Luna's attention. She hadn't lost her interest in Draco since removing his memories.
" Ginny wanted to know.
"I hope you'll go, Harry," Luna said.
"She says she wants to thank me," Harry answered, eyes still on the letter.
"That's nice of her."
"Do you want me to go with you?" Ginny asked.
Though Harry already felt anxious, he knew he had to go alone. He needed to return Draco's memories, and it was time he had some of his questions answered. He shook his head at Ginny.
"Do you think they'll serve pudding?" Luna wondered thoughtfully. "You never have pudding here."
"I'll bring you home some pudding, Luna," Harry promised.
At half-five, Harry looked at himself hopelessly in the mirror. Though he'd spent longer than usual preening, he looked much the same. He tried not to care; why should he?
Buttoning up his smart robes, he put Draco's memories carefully in his pocket. With them, was a second vial containing Harry's memory that had been in Draco's head. The Wizengamot had given it back to him instead of to Draco after they'd viewed it, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to put it in his head.
He took the Floo to the Malfoy Manor, as Narcissa had instructed in her letter, and was greeted by the woman herself, looking perfectly lovely in pale silver robes with her silver hair in a bundle atop her head.
"Mr Potter," she greeted him.
"Harry, please," he said.
"And please call me Narcissa."
"Thank you." He smiled easily.
"If you'll follow me... "
Harry had been sure that he would feel stiff and edgy in her presence, but as she led him out of the welcome parlour and into an intimate dining room, he answered her sincere questions about his job and well-being with the ease of friendship.
"I hope you like lamb, Harry," Narcissa said as she let Harry pull her chair out for her.
"I do, yes."
"Ah, and here is Draco."
"Potter," Draco said in greeting as he came in and took the seat beside his mother, across from Harry.
"I think we ought to thank you, Harry, before we enjoy our dinner," Narcissa said.
"It's really not necessary," Harry told her, feeling suddenly nervous again.
"Oh, but it is to me. You may not have done all that you have for our benefit, but I am truly grateful all the same. I am forever in your debt, Harry, for returning my son to me, and if there is anything I can do for you, you have but to ask."
"You're welcome," he mumbled awkwardly.
He glanced up from his empty plate just in time to see Narcissa give Draco a pointed look.
"Yes," Draco said with a long-suffering expression. "Thank you."
The food was brought out by a quiet House-Elf. Harry was pleased to watch Narcissa thank it, too, through each course. He wondered how she had got her life twisted up with the likes of Lucius, and then he suddenly felt bad despite himself, because Lucius was like the purple Hippogriff in the room the only one Harry had not saved.
"Which side is Lucius on?" he could not help but ask in the lull left behind a conversation about Healing.
Narcissa only paused briefly in the motion of her fork to her mouth. Harry didn't dare look at Draco, for he could feel the grey eyes piercing him. Narcissa chewed slowly before she answered.
"Lucius is an enigma," she said with a palpable air of caution. "In all my years of loving him, I have never quite figured him out."
With only this, Harry already was a little reassured. He felt he could trust Narcissa, and he could see that she trusted Lucius. She went on.
"Though he has done many things that I wish he hadn't, he has only ever done them for the sake of his family's well-being."
"Self-servicing," Harry said before he could stop himself.
"Yes," Narcissa said curtly, and Harry winced. "Lucius is that."
"If you want testimony against him, Potter," Draco put in, "you'll find yourself disappointed. The Malfoys are loyal to each other first and foremost."
"And who are they loyal to second?" Harry asked. "The highest bidder?"
He didn't like to offend Narcissa and it was obvious he had but he found himself angry at Draco and the fact that he didn't know why only spurred his temper.
But Draco was coolly in control.
"It may seem that way," he said. "And if that is the way you choose to look at it, there's nothing we can do about that."
Trying to calm himself, Harry asked, "Which way would you like me to look at it?"
"We fight for you now," Narcissa said, interrupting Draco before he could answer. "We will do what we must to earn your trust."
"I trust you," Harry said despite everything.
"Thank you. That means a great deal."
Draco did not look prepared to drop the conversation, but Narcissa once again spoke over him.
"Shall we move the parlour for coffee and biscuits?"
When they were there, and Narcissa's House-Elf was preparing their tea, Narcissa suddenly stood.
"I apologise," she said, "but I must see to some business. Please stay as long as you'd like, Harry. Draco will make you comfortable."
Harry didn't have to see the stern look she gave Draco before she left to know that this was a set-up. He wondered why as he sipped his tea in silence, but Draco didn't seem inclined to speak first. Harry sighed. He set down his cup and reached into his pocket.
"Here," he said, holding out one of the vials. "These are yours the ones you gave Luna."
Draco's eyes widened a fraction as he accepted them. Harry was surprised when he took out his wand and started transferring the memories to his mind right away. The look on his face as he absorbed the last one was relief.
"Thank you," he said sincerely. "It's uncomfortable to be parted from them for so long."
Harry thought of the last two decades of his life and couldn't help the flush of embarrassment and shame. Draco wore an unsettlingly knowing expression but Harry shook it off; no one but Luna knew.
"I was wondering if you could tell me more about this one," he said, moving the subject on.
He drew out the second vial and looked at it thoughtfully. When he turned his eyes up again, he was shocked to see that Draco had retreated into his cool faηade; his face was drawn and his body coiled as if prepared to run or attack.
"If you're angry, Potter," he said slowly, "I don't want to bloody hear it. I care more about my own freedom than your regrets."
"What?" Harry asked stupidly.
Draco rose quickly and put the sofa between himself and Harry.
"Don't try to give it back to me," he barked. "I don't want it any more than you do. In fact, here! Take the others! Why should you get to forget, but not me?"
With his wand at his temple, he began drawing out memories and dropping them into the empty vial he'd left on the sofa. The extraction seemed to hurt him in a way that it shouldn't; his face twisted more with each one.
"Stop!" Harry said loudly, jumping to his feet.
"Make me," Draco snarled.
" Harry shouted just as Draco was going back for a fourth memory.
You are not
taking my wand from me again, Potter!"
But Harry didn't care about Draco's wand. The exchange had made Draco stop; that was what Harry wanted.
"What are you doing?" he asked breathlessly. "What are those?"
"Your memories," Draco sneered. "I don't want them so just fucking take them back."
"Why do you have them? Why do you have my memories?"
Harry felt frantic. There was something about this that felt painfully familiar.
"You discarded them."
"Because you're a coward," Draco hissed venomously.
The word rang in Harry's ears, like an echo of the past.
"They're memories of us," Harry said with a certainty he didn't understand. His eyelids fluttered as if his eyes wanted to close as if he could almost remember. "I want them back."
"No, you don't," Draco said, his eyes widening. "You were willing to let them disappear forever."
"I want them back."
The indecision was written clearly on Draco's face.
"What's the problem?" Harry asked. "Only a second ago you were eager to be rid of them."
"Fine," Draco snapped.
At last, he returned his wand tip to his temple and drew out the fourth memory.
He gasped at the removal and Harry wondered if it truly caused him physical pain. But the fourth memory wasn't the last. They kept coming and Draco put them all into the one vial. They fit easily, and they glowed with a brilliant luminescence that one memory alone could never achieve.
"Go home now, Potter," Draco murmured when he was finally finished.
* * *
With a lurch, Harry fell into his Pensieve. The memories strung together, dragging him along from one to the next whether he wanted to go or not.
"You're back," Draco breathed as he opened the door on Harry.
"Did you expect me to go away and never return?"
Harrys grin widened and it made his cheeks hurt. There wasn't much to grin about these days, but Draco's surprise made him do it.
"Sorry, but you won't be able to get rid of me that easily. Are you going to let me in?"
Draco looked back into the dim recesses of Snape's home.
"My parents are inside... " he began.
"Oh, never mind," Harry replied too quickly. "I'll come back another time."
Draco stepped out onto the front step to pull the door closed quietly behind him. He was washed in the light from the street lamp and Harry admired the way it made his hair glow.
"Why did you come back?" Draco wanted to know.
"You said you'd help me."
"I don't know how much I can," he admitted.
"Did you tell your parents I found you?"
"What did they say?"
"Is this how it's going to be when you come? You ask me questions and I answer obediently?"
"No," Harry said, and he couldn't help grinning again. "Sometimes you get to ask the questions."
He was pleased by the way this reply froze Draco, as if he didn't know how to react.
"Listen," Harry went on, "let's not do this."
"Do what?" Draco snapped.
"This... thing that we do. This competition. The anger. I'm sick of the anger."
Draco stared at him for a long time and Harry wondered if he should just leave.
"I don't know how to talk to you without getting angry," Draco said at last.
Harry laughed humourlessly.
"Great," he said. "That's great."
Predictably, Draco sneered again, but before Harry could react, he turned away.
"Erm," he said to the shrub by the door. "Force of habit." When he turned back, his face was smooth.
Harry offered him a smile that Draco didn't return. He sighed.
"Why don't we take this slow?" he suggested.
"I'm going to ask you a question now."
"Why did you decide to hide in Snape's old house?"
Draco paused before he answered, as if he had to focus on keeping his face straight again.
"Very few of the Death Eaters knew where he lived," he said. "And despite his being... gone, the protective enchantments around this place are still strong."
Harry nodded, satisfied.
"Now I'm going to ask you a question," Draco told him.
He opened his mouth and then closed it again. When he spoke, Harry thought it probably wasn't what he really wanted to ask.
"Could you bring a Prophet
? It's very secluded here and it's frustrating, not knowing what's going on."
"I'll do you one better," Harry said. "I can tell you what's going on. Absolutely nothing. The Death Eater's have all disappeared. There were Aurors hunting them at first, but the Ministry decided not to bother. Now efforts are being made to restore homes and businesses, to find missing people, to count bodies."
He swallowed thickly.
"Personally," he went on, "I don't think we're in the clear yet."
"You're right," Draco agreed. "They won't go down without a fight."
"Do you know anything?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Not likely, stuck in this bloody house."
Harry shuffled his feet.
"My mother is thinking about going back to the Manor for more supplies. Is it safe?" Draco asked.
"Yes," Harry said. "But tell her not to Apparate directly there. Even though she's cleared of charges, the Aurors might decide to track her."
Before Draco could reply, the door behind him opened and Lucius stood there, his cheeks sunken, his eyes dark.
Instinctively, Harry drew his wand and aimed it at Lucius' chest. He didn't seem to notice this. Or at least he didn't care.
"Come inside, Draco," he said, leaving no room for argument.
With a grimace, Draco turned and disappeared into the house. Lucius closed the door on Harry, leaving him alone in the dark street.
Half a dozen cracks rent the silence as Harry lurched forward into another memory. He was invisible this time, hidden under his cloak, but spells from his pursuers rained down upon him as he burst through the door Lucius had once closed on his face.
Tearing through the unfamiliar house with Death Eaters hot on his heels, he flicked his wand over his shoulder at the ceiling behind him. Rotting wood beams crushed the Death Eater nearest him.
"DRACO, GET OUT!" he roared as he neared the end of the hall.
He exploded through the door there, unsure what he would find, unsure how much time he had. Draco was sitting up in bed, his wand in his hand. Harry tore the cloak off his head and Draco sucked in a shocked breath.
"Get out!" Harry shouted. "Death Eaters they're here!"
"My father!" Draco gasped.
"No time "
Harry grabbed hold of Draco's wrist just as the first Death Eater appeared in the doorway. A curse passed through the place he'd been standing as he Disapparated them both away.
"Where are we?" Draco asked as he glanced around the empty house they landed in.
"My aunt and uncle's old house," Harry said. "They went into hiding last year. I guess they never returned."
"We have to go back, Potter," Draco demanded. "My father "
"Your father isn't there."
"How do you know that?"
"I'll tell you, if you promise to calm down and listen."
Draco glared at him and Harry squeezed his wand, prepared to take him down if he tried to leave. At last, Draco slumped in defeat and slid down a wall to sit on the floor.
"What happened then?" he asked. "How did they find us? How did you know?"
"I was... um... following Lucius," Harry admitted.
"What?" Draco asked, looking at Harry sharply.
"Can you blame me for being a little suspicious?"
"Yes," Draco growled.
"Well, so what," Harry said. "You don't have to agree with me. The point is, I was watching Spinner's End and I followed him. And do you know what? It's a good thing I did, because he met up with bloody Selwyn in Knockturn Alley. I guess once a Death Eater always a Death Eater, right?"
Harry eyed Draco's forearm accusingly and Draco put a hand over his hidden Mark out of habit. A bitter smile curled Harry's lips.
"That's what I thought. Dont know why I even bothered to warn you they were coming. You were probably waiting for them."
"For your information, Potter, my father went to meet Selwyn for you,
" Draco snapped.
Harry's brow furrowed.
"Why the hell would I want that?"
"He was going to go undercover, you stupid sod! He was going to get you information!"
Harry felt like he'd been punched in the stomach; all the breath went out of him.
"Lucius Malfoy," he said slowly, "was going to go undercover for me?
"Strangely enough, yes."
Harry dropped down onto the floor in front of Draco and stared blankly at the dust-covered carpet. Draco hardly allowed him any time at all to absorb this.
"Tell me the rest of the story," he said impatiently after only seconds.
"How they found me."
"Right." Harry shook his head. "Well, Lucius met up with Selwyn and after they split up, he went into an Owlery in Knockturn to send off a letter. Only he didn't know that Selwyn followed him and intercepted the owl."
Draco's eyes narrowed but didn't interrupt.
"Selwyn took one look at the letter, dropped it and Disapparated. I picked it up." Harry looked at Draco and knew he had already anticipated what was coming.
"It was for me," Draco said.
"Lucius wrote that he had earned Selwyn's trust and would return after stopping by Borgin and Burkes for something. I bet Selwyn thought if he had you, he could force Lucius to reveal what he was planning. I only beat him to Spinner's End by seconds."
"Thank God Mums at the Manor," Draco murmured and Harry felt a little frustrated to know that he wasn't going to get any thanks.
There was a muted thump as Draco dropped his head back against the wall and looked at the ceiling.
"What now?" he wondered.
"You should stay here," Harry said.
"But my parents "
"I'll tell your mother where you are," he promised. "And... I dunno, I'll figure out how to contact Lucius."
"No need," Draco said and hesitated. After a short pause, a look of determination stole over his face and he drew back his sleeve to reveal his Dark Mark. It stood out boldly against his pale skin. "I can summon him."
"It won't alert the others?" Harry asked, his eyes riveted on the Mark.
Draco covered it again and Harry blinked.
"No," Draco said. "It won't."
Harry stood and straightened his robes.
"I'll bring you some food and stuff later, but for now I have to get back. Ron and Hermione will be waking up soon."
"I'm shocked," Draco said, with a touch of his old sarcasm returning. "Your sidekicks didn't want to provide back-up?"
"They... don't know that I'm gone," Harry confessed. "No one knows that I've been in touch with you."
Draco lips formed a thin line but when he added nothing more Harry drew out his wand, preparing to Apparate.
"Potter," Draco said just before he disappeared. "I hope you know what you're doing."
The next memory materialised in the same room. Draco was pacing back and forth and when Harry appeared he whipped out his wand dangerously.
"Whoa," Harry said, holding up his hands, one clutching a full sack. "Just me."
"Is that food?" Draco demanded.
When Harry nodded, Draco snatched it from his hand without preamble and tore into it.
"What took you?" he said around a mouthful of bread.
"Sorry, it's a bit difficult to get away just now. The Death Eaters made their first move."
" Harry repeated.
"My father was here. He told me what happened."
Harry tried to imagine Lucius Malfoy in his aunt and uncle's Muggle house.
"What exactly happened?" he asked, shaking away the image.
"Selwyn turned him over to Yaxley but because the moron had dropped the letter he didn't have any evidence against Father. Father managed to convince Yaxley that Selwyn was losing it it wasn't hard. Selwyn is
kind of off his rocker."
Draco took a long pull from a flask of pumpkin juice before he went on.
"After that, Father had to do something to earn their trust. So he... "
Glancing sideways at Harry, Draco cut himself off. Harry understood.
"He suggested the attack."
Draco shrugged unapologetically but, surprisingly, Harry wasn't angry.
"No one was killed," he reminded himself. "But more buildings in Hogsmeade are burning now."
"Destruction is Yaxley's favourite way of making a statement," Draco said.
"That they're back."
They shared a look of foreboding.
"I have to go," Harry said. He looked at the sack Draco had already emptied. "I'll bring more as soon as I can."
On the floor in his bedroom, twenty years later, Harry twitched and his eyes darted beneath his lids as the memories changed again.
This time, there was a table in the centre of the room covered with an assortment of food, a pile of clothes on the floor beneath it, and a make-shift bed heaped with blankets pushed into the corner. The blankets shifted as Harry dropped a Daily Prophet
on the only chair and went over to the bed. He sat on the floor beside it, nudging the lump under the blankets with his wand tip.
"Mmphunn," it said.
"Wake up," Harry said.
"Potter?" Draco's head rose out of the pile and he blinked his sleep away rapidly. "Is something the matter? What happened?"
"Nothing," Harry said. "I brought you a Prophet.
Harry watched him straighten his hair and then go to the table for a snack. Draco turned back to find Harry's gaze fixed on him.
"You look tired," he said.
Harry smiled grimly.
"I don't get much sleep. But it's getting better."
"Erm... fewer nightmares."
Draco eyed him suspiciously.
"You're still putting memories in your Pensieve," he said.
It wasn't a question Harry had admitted it to Draco on one of the days he'd sat here aimlessly, preferring the peaceful quiet of the Dursley's to the bustling tension at Grimmauld Place so Harry didn't bother to confirm or deny.
"Are you staying?" Draco asked instead of plying Harry with questions or unwanted advice.
"I'm bored," he told Draco, who snorted inelegantly.
"There's not much to do here."
Draco rolled his eyes when Harry shrugged again.
"Did you at least bring Exploding Snap? Wizard chess?" he asked.
With a laugh, Harry shook his head.
"Ron would notice if his chess set went missing."
"Of course," Draco muttered. "Well, I don't know what you expect from me. I'm not much for company."
"You're better than everyone at Grimmauld Place," Harry said casually.
"Really?" Draco grinned arrogantly. "Better than Granger? Better than your girlfriend?
Despite not wanting to, Harry flushed. His grin stretching, Draco brought his biscuits and sat on the floor in front of Harry, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
"Spill it, Potter."
"There's nothing to spill. We just decided it wasn't working."
"No more She-Weasley?"
Harry shook his head and stole a biscuit for something to do.
"Hmm," Draco said.
"What's wrong with Weasley and Granger for company?" he asked instead of answering. "I mean, aside from the fact that they're completely dull."
"They're not dull," Harry said defensively, but Draco's expression showed that he was teasing. "I dunno, ever since the battle at Hogwarts they've been different around me so cautious,
like they're afraid I'm about to snap or something."
"Ah," Draco said cheerfully. "So they coddle you and you seek comfort from the nasty Slytherin."
Harry looked at Draco doubtfully and Draco only barked a laugh.
"What shall I do to make you feel better then?" he wondered aloud. "Tell you you're scum? Make fun of your hair? Or should I just knock you around a bit? Is physical domination more effective than emotional? Your wish is my command, Potter."
At this Harry flushed so thoroughly that he had to avert his eyes.
"Hmm," Draco said again, this time softer, more thoughtful.
Before Harry could look at him, his vision was obscured by a lock of pale blond hair as Draco pressed his lips against Harry's.
His reaction was instantaneous; Draco was on his back in a second with Harry standing above him, his wand trained on Draco's chest, his glare murderous.
"What are you playing at, Malfoy?" he hissed dangerously.
Draco looked up at him through contemplative eyes. He said nothing.
With a snarl of frustration, Harry gripped his wand tighter and Disapparated.
He reappeared in the same spot in a new memory but with the same feeling of turmoil whipping through him.
"Malfoy!" he shouted through the empty house. "Malfoy, where are you?!"
"Here," Draco said calmly, coming out of the bathroom.
Harry rushed at him, backing him into a wall with his hand on Draco's chest.
"What did you do to me?" he demanded. "What did you bloody do?"
"What are you on about, Potter?" Draco said, his arrogance infuriating.
"I can't stop... " Harry's eyes flickered down to Draco's lips. "I can't stop thinking about you."
And he smashed his mouth against Draco's because couldn't control himself; because he had been thinking of kissing him since the first time wanting to kiss him since the first time.
"Careful, Potter," Draco murmured against his lips.
"I don't want to be careful," Harry said, and roughly nipped Draco's jaw. "I'm always careful. Everyone around me is so careful.
"Okay," Draco said, and Harry felt a foot hook around his ankle, felt his knees buckle before he could understand, felt his wand fly out of his hand as he fell backwards.
The breath whooshed out of him when he landed on his back. Draco was over him in an instant, sliding hot hands beneath his shirt, and Harry shivered.
"Don't be careful, then," Draco breathed between Harry's lips before sealing their mouths together once again.
They didn't bother to undress. There wasn't time. Draco's exploring hands pushed Harry's shirt up until it was bunched beneath his armpits. Harry got Draco's flies undone and slid his trousers and pants down until his cock sprang free and his bum was bared.
Harry hardly cared that it was his first time touching another man's arse it didn't feel like his first time. He caressed the clenching muscles beneath the smooth skin and felt as though he knew this body.
Draco was watching him through pensive grey eyes.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You surprise me, Potter," Draco said.
With a throaty chuckle, Draco undid Harry's trousers and reached inside. Harry sucked in a ragged gasp, his fingers clenching in Draco's skin. The movement brought their cocks together and the friction was glorious.
With one hand wrapped around them both, Draco pulled back and ground down again. Harry shouted hoarsely.
"Hmm," Draco hummed.
"Stop saying that," Harry said amidst a groan.
"What would you like me to say?"
"I dunno." How was he supposed to think with Draco's cock sliding deliciously alongside his? "Something sexier."
"How about 'fuck, yes'?" Draco said in a low voice that went straight to Harry's groin.
"Better," Harry managed to get out as Draco thrust into his own hand.
"How about 'more, please'?"
"More," Harry gasped. "Please."
Draco's hand tightened impossibly around them and Harry arched, his chest pressing into Draco's, the head of his cock sliding through the coarse hair around the base of Draco's. And he came.
Another time, on another day, they were lying naked together in Draco's bed. Harry was propped up on a pile of pillows looking down at the silvery white head on his stomach. Draco was stretched out perpendicular to him, his feet extending beyond the mattress and onto the floor.
He shifted and winced as Harry watched him.
"Does it hurt?" he asked worriedly.
"No," Draco said. "Just a little uncomfortable."
"I think you more than made up for the pain," he said, running his fingers lazily through the drying semen on his chest.
They lapsed into silence and Draco let his arm fall limply back to the bed. His Dark Mark was revealed in full and Harry stared at it.
"What's happening out there?" Draco asked after a bit.
"More and more of the same," Harry told him distractedly. "The Death Eaters are getting worse. It's hardly safe to go outside alone anymore. Harder to get away from Ron and Hermione, too."
Draco said nothing.
"Have you heard from your father recently?"
"No." The fist of his Marked arm clenched.
"Do you think he's okay?"
"I don't know."
More silence. At last, Draco voiced what was on his mind.
"I'm thinking about joining him," he murmured.
Harry tensed and Draco must have felt it beneath his head because he sat up and turned to face Harry.
"Don't look at me like that," he said. "How long did you really expect me to stay here doing nothing?"
"You're not doing nothing,
" Harry contradicted.
"Doing you, then." Harry flushed. "It's not my nature, Potter," Draco went on. "Being useless."
"Oh, and you think it's mine?" Harry countered. "I haven't been allowed out of Grimmauld Place without a group of bodyguards since the final battle!"
"Don't start moping again," Draco said, and his sneer felt like a punch in the gut to Harry. "Poor Potter. People care about you and want to protect you."
"Shut up," Harry said quietly.
When Harry said and did nothing more, Draco stood up and pulled on his trousers.
"I'm going to find my father and don't try to stop me. I can't sit around here not knowing what's happened to him."
"So you want me to sit around not knowing what's happened to you?" Harry demanded.
Draco shrugged on his shirt without reply and Harry shot to his feet, not in the least worried about his nudity.
"If you leave, don't think about coming back," he said thoughtlessly.
Draco considered him through narrowed eyes. With a grunt, he turned away and pulled on his cloak.
"Fine!" Harry shouted, fear and anger driving him. "Fine, forget you! Forget all this!"
He put his wand to his temple and dragged out a memory. He suddenly forgot how this strange, tentative relationship began. With nowhere to put it, he flicked his wand violently and let the memory drift to the floor.
"Real mature, Potter," Draco snapped angrily. "Just like you to run away from this. Tell me, how many of your memories do you have left, anyway? Seven or am I shooting too high?"
"Running away?" Harry shouted back. "Running away? You think I'm
the one running away?"
"Well you don't see me tearing out my memories like a bloody coward, do you?"
"Fuck you, Malfoy! You don't know anything!"
Two, three, four more memories joined the first, lying like luminescent ribbons around his feet. Harry knew what would happen to them if they remained there, not rooted to anything, no way to survive; he would never remember again.
Draco was watching him with wide eyes; his expression was inscrutable.
Harry's eyes fluttered closed peacefully as he dragged the sight of Draco out of his mind. He Disapparated.
Kneeling in the centre of his bedroom, the blue glow of his Pensieve touching him, the weight of what Harry had seen pressed him toward the floor. He heard his door creak open.
"Harry," Luna said softly. "Why are you on the floor? If you're looking for dust bunnies, I've learned some helpful household spells that I could teach you."
His lips twitched as he looked into her familiar face.
"Thank you, Luna," he whispered.
"Did you bring pudding?" she asked.
* * *
Draco spent that night in his bed, but he did not sleep. He couldn't stop thinking about Potter where he was and what he was seeing.
By morning, he felt a sense of panic. What was Potter feeling right now? Would he be angry? Would he even bother coming back to see Draco again? And Draco realised he didn't want to be in the Manor to find out. Rolling out of bed, he dressed in a hurry and went outside to find his mother reading the Prophet
at a garden table amongst her roses.
His parting with her was easier than he'd expected; perhaps it was the twenty years that they had spent apart.
"I knew you'd go back," she said when he told her what he was going to do.
Then she kissed his cheeks and went quietly out of the room.
On his way through the Ministry, Draco was greeted with scowls and cold shoulders. One man even shoved him off the first lift he tried to take.
In Auror Headquarters, he was treated no differently though he didn't know why he'd expected to be.
"Malfoy!" Weasley said when he entered her office without knocking. "I wasn't expecting you."
"I wasn't really planning on coming," he told her, taking a seat casually and peering at some of the case files open on her desk.
She snatched them up and stuffed them into a drawer out of sight.
"Why did you come?" she demanded.
"I'm going back to the Death Eaters "
"Probably not the smartest thing to admit to an Auror, Malfoy," Weasley said witheringly.
"A daft one, at that." Draco sneered. "I'll go undercover, you idiot."
Weasley, to her credit, didn't bother to look embarrassed by her misunderstanding. Instead she glared at Draco.
"Watch how you talk to me," she told him. And then she grinned and Draco was struck by how similar it was to Potter's grin happy and real.
"Come with me," Weasley said, rising and going to the door. "Robards will want to debrief you."
"I'm shocked, Weasley," Draco admitted. "I pegged you for the nosy sort."
She shrugged but seemed pleased.
"I hate to be the one to break it to you, Malfoy, but you're not quite the mystery you think you are."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're going back because you don't fit in this world," she said. "And because you don't want to see Harry."
It took a considerable amount of Draco's self control to keep the shock from showing on his face.
Weasley went on: "That part, though, I don't have figured out. What is it between you and Harry?"
"So you are the nosy sort," Draco said triumphantly.
With a chuckle, she held the door open for him. But Draco wasn't quite finished.
"Potter doesn't know, Weasley," he confessed. "And I'd prefer to keep it that way until I'm gone."
"Great," she groaned. "So I'm left to deal with him when he finds out. I expect he's not going to have a good reaction, or you would've told him yourself."
Draco thought his expression was probably somewhere between a grimace and a grin. Rising, he followed Weasley up the corridor to the Head Auror's office.
Gawain Robards was an old man, but still fit still full of will. Draco distained his scruffy grey beard but admired the way he held himself, and the way nothing seemed to penetrate his hard skin.
He was not surprised when Weasley brought Draco in.
"So you want to spy for us?" Robards asked. "And just what do you think you will find that we can't?"
"Where should I start?" Draco replied arrogantly. "How many opportunities do you have to listen in on Yaxley's planning?"
"How many do you?
" Robards countered.
Draco didn't admit that he and his father were no longer trustworthy in many Death Eaters' eyes; he didn't bother mentioning that they were often left behind, both because they preferred it that way and because no one cared one way or another where they were.
"Plenty," he said instead, because whether or not Robards wanted him to, Draco needed to go. Weasley had been right; he didn't fit here. "I was there the day they took Lovegood's memories; I saw Yaxley carry them away. I overheard him instructing the Lestranges to search them, and what he wanted them to look for. And I was there the night they found the Dark Lord's old hideout the night they decided to look for the Al'eyn Albyda."
"What do you know about the Al'eyn?" Weasley demanded. "Do you know where it is?"
"If I knew, Yaxley would know; and if Yaxley knew, you'd all be fighting for your lives right now."
"Tell us about that night," Robards said. "Tell us about Voldemort's hideout."
Draco didn't bother to hide his momentary confusion.
"Potter didn't already tell you? Lovegood?"
"How would they know?" Weasley asked.
"It was one of the memories I gave Lovegood. Potter only just returned it to me this evening."
"May we see it?" Robards asked, and Draco got the impression that if he didn't consent, Robards would turn down his offer to spy.
Putting his wand to his temple, Draco drew out the memory reluctantly.
"Do you have a Pensieve?" he asked.
Robards removed one from a cabinet beneath his desk and Draco dropped the memory into the basin. He watched Robards and Weasley as they watched Yaxley and the Lestranges. It was clear from the moment Luna Lovegood's name came up that both Aurors had had no idea she was connected to the death stone.
"Merlin's tits," Weasley mumbled, and Robards didn't seem to care either way for her vulgarity.
Draco returned his memory to his own mind quickly, happy to have it back.
"I didn't even know Luna's mum was a former Death Eater, did you, sir?"
Robards didn't answer, which made Draco feel certain that he had known.
"You live with both Potter and Lovegood, Weasley," he said instead, his voice low with reproof. "How could you have let this information slip past you?"
Draco's respect for Weasley increased when she didn't cower beneath his quiet anger.
"I suppose I assumed that Harry told me everything, sir," Weasley admitted. "I guess he didn't."
Her eyes cut to Draco, who felt like he was being thoroughly examined. It occurred to him for the first time that this strong, independent woman was the same little girl who had worshipped Potter in their Hogwarts days. He wondered what she would think if she knew that he'd shagged Potter. He wondered if she
had shagged Potter.
"You will talk to Potter," Robards instructed Weasley, never noticing Draco's momentary lapse of concentration. "Find out what else he hasn't told you. I need everything; every scrap of information could prove essential. No more slip-ups, Weasley.
"As for you " He turned colourless eyes on Draco. "What extents have the Death Eater's taken thus far to find the Al'eyn?"
"Only what you know of," Draco replied. "Egypt."
"But they took Luna's memories two decades ago!" Weasley exclaimed.
"Yes," Draco agreed. "And they had nearly two decades worth to sort through, didn't they?"
"You mean to say," she concluded, "that during all these silent years, the Death Eaters have simply been watching memories?
"You can imagine what fun it was for those of us who were not in the inner circle," Draco said sarcastically.
"Expecting adventure, Malfoy?" Weasley taunted. "Hoping for some killing, were you?"
"Maybe a few fights here or there."
"Lucky for you there weren't any. We've seen how well you fare in Auror raids."
She grinned, which took the sting out of her blow, and Draco realised that he was amused by her. She had wit that her dolt of a brother didn't. And suddenly, Draco didn't begrudge her for having almost had the relationship with Potter that Draco never could.
"Okay, Malfoy," Robards cut in, not entertained by their banter. "We'll use you." Draco liked that he didn't try to sugar-coat it. "When can you be ready to leave?"
"Right away," Draco said, leaning forward in his seat with something like excitement. "Now."
* * *
Once Malfoy had been briefed on exactly what Robards wanted and had been armed with a Portkey that would take him anywhere in the United Kingdom at a whim, he left.
There was no fanfare and no goodbye. He stood, shook Robards' hand, inclined his head to Ginny, and walked out the door. Ginny could not help wondering if any of them would ever see him again.
"Go home now," Robards told her the instant they were alone. "Talk to Potter."
She didn't relish it. Even the blind could have seen that there was something strange between Harry and Malfoy something that she didn't quite understand. Harry had been obsessed with Malfoy from as far back as his sixth year at Hogwarts.
When she came out of the Floo into her living room, she found Luna sitting on the sofa with Harry pacing in front of her.
"Ginny!" Harry cried when he saw her. "What are you doing home? I just sent you an owl. Listen, Draco's missing. I think he might have "
"He's gone back, Harry," Ginny said gently, ready to have done with it.
On the sofa, Luna perked up.
"Oh, how brave of him!" she murmured quietly, and Ginny detected loss in her voice.
She knew that Luna had felt a kinship with Draco, though she'd never really met him since recovering in St Mungo's. Ginny understood now.
Harry took a step toward Ginny, who still stood on the hearth.
"Back?" he said lowly. "What do you mean 'back'?"
"To the Death Eaters. To spy."
Ginny would not beat around the bush with Harry.
"When?" he demanded, his tone slowly becoming more dangerous.
"Just now," Ginny said with a sigh. "He came in early this morning and we worked it all out with Robards."
"Right," Harry scoffed. "As if you didn't plan this all along. As if you didn't fight for his freedom for exactly this purpose! Give him a taste of what he could have and then put him straight back to work."
"Yeah, he had a taste," she retorted. "And guess what? He didn't like it. That's right, Harry, it was all his idea. He
was the one who came to me
. And yeah, I agreed that he should go. Do you know why? Because that's my duty: to do what needs to be done to keep the wizarding population safe."
"Don't you talk to me about duty, Ginny Weasley!" he snapped, suddenly furious.
But Ginny was prepared for his anger with a store of her own. Her body felt poised to spring and she wondered at what point this had become instinct for her.
"Well, someone ought to!" she shouted back. "You've obviously forgotten what it means!"
"What are you talking about?" he hissed.
"I'm the Auror, Harry. I'm the one who swore an oath to stop evil at all costs. And how can I bloody well do that if you're keeping information from me?"
"What information?" His anger was halted by his confusion, but she could still see it, ready to break free again.
"All of it! The memories Draco gave Luna; the fact that her mum used to work for Voldemort; the bloody reason
they seemed to know better what they were doing while we were just blindly groping in the dark!"
Harry's eyes were narrowed and Ginny expected him to deny knowing, or to come up with some cock and bull excuse for having kept it all a secret. But he didn't.
"He's Draco to you now, is he?" he whispered instead, like a dark threat.
"Yeah," Ginny said defiantly. "You're not the only one who's allowed to have a secret relationship with him, you know."
"And what do you know about it?"
"Nothing, Harry. That's the fucking point!"
"You don't get to know everything, Ginny! We're not that sort of couple anymore."
This hit her like a slap across the face.
Stalking around Harry, she collapsed onto the sofa. Luna patted her knee lightly, as if she'd just been told the Holyhead Harpies had lost a match rather than had her heart ripped out.
"Yeah," she agreed quietly. "I guess we're not."
Harry never could stay angry for long, something that Ginny sometimes hated about him. He dropped onto the low table directly in front of her and leaned forward, looking into her eyes in that pitiful way he had.
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "I love you, you know."
She grinned weakly.
Harry sighed and then sat back, pressing his palms against his knees.
"Draco and I," he began, "used to be lovers."
Ginny looked up, startled.
"Harry, I didn't mean You don't have to."
"I want to," he said. "I sort of... need to."
"Go on then," Luna said and Ginny saw that a huge grin was splitting her face. "I knew it was something like this. I could feel it!"
Harry chuckled darkly.
"It doesn't have a happy ending, Luna," he told her.
"We haven't reached the end yet, have we? Go on."
Harry grimaced, but did.
"It was between the end of the war and the day Draco went into hiding with the Death Eaters."
"But I thought he went into hiding right away. There were no traces of him after the Battle of Hogwarts."
"He did go into hiding," Harry explained, "but not with the Death Eaters. At first, he was just with his mum and dad in Snape's old home. I found him there and we... well we bonded."
"Merlin, Harry," Ginny said, suddenly horrified. "Did you cheat on me with him?"
"No!" he said quickly. "I swear he and I didn't do anything until after we broke up."
"Oh," she breathed. "Good. I would have had to murder you."
Luna laughed giddily and Harry offered a weak smile.
"Unfortunately," he went on, "my relationship with him didn't far outlast my relationship with you, Ginny. Not long after he and I... "
"Shagged," Luna said helpfully.
Harry's cheeks burned red.
"Erm, yeah. Well, not long after we got closer he left for the Death Eaters."
"And then you fell out of touch?" Ginny concluded curiously.
"Something a little more than that," Harry confessed. "I sort of wiped him from my mind. Took out all the memories I had of him during that time forgot all about him."
"Oh, Harry," Luna said. "That's really horrible."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "I was stupid."
"But how do you know all this now?" Ginny asked. "What happened to the memories?"
"Draco kept them all this time," Harry said. "Inside his own head. He only just gave them back to me last night."
Ginny didn't know what to say. She couldn't imagine how Harry must feel right now, having discovered that he'd once loved a person hed first hated and that he'd willingly forgotten him.
Luna was staring at her shoes.
"He left," Harry mumbled seemingly to himself, "before I could tell him I'm sorry. And now I don't know when I'll see him again. We've already lost twenty years... "
"It won't be like that again," Ginny said, determination strong in her voice. "We're going to end this thing sooner rather than later."
* * *
But sooner turned into later.
More than a week went by of silence. There were no furtive owls in the middle of the night no rushed pop-ins with his Portkey. In fact, there wasn't activity anywhere. Harry had never seen more boring reports in the Prophet
. But only Ginny seemed more restless about the quiet than he.
"What are they doing?
" she moaned not for the first time one morning. "What if we're missing something?"
"Draco would find a way to contact us," Luna said confidently, eating her breakfast as cheerfully as ever.
Harry said nothing ate nothing. With every passing day he felt surer and surer that Draco would never come back that they had missed the window for their relationship that he would never get the chance to tell Draco how he felt.
"I'd like to visit my home," Luna said, oblivious to his black mood. "Only I don't know where to find it."
"You can't go there, Luna," Harry murmured. "It could be dangerous."
"Hang on," Ginny said, perking up. "I haven't been there."
"Nor I," Luna agreed.
"What's your point, Ginny?" Harry asked.
"I'd like to go. What if there are clues? If that's where the Death Eaters took her from, there's bound to be something!"
Harry didn't feel as hopeful as he looked, but he wasn't going to turn down an opportunity to do something.
"Okay," he said. "Let's go."
"Oh, good!" Luna said.
They Disapparated together, as Harry was the only one who could take them there, and when they reappeared they were on a hillside atop which stood what Ron had once described as a giant rook. Only now it appeared to be half of one.
"Blimey," Ginny murmured, and Harry felt his gut clench.
"That's where I lived?" Luna asked, starting up the hill. "Its a little run down, isn't it?"
They didn't have to break in the door was hanging off its hinges at a strange angle. Inside, the smell of mould and mildew was overpowering; the entire second floor had been almost completely annihilated and they could see straight up to the sky.
"You must've put up one hell of a fight, Luna," Ginny said, grinning weakly.
Without replying, Luna made her way up the teetering staircase to what was left of the upper floors. Harry wanted to pull her back because the stairs looked ready to cave in, but Luna needed to see where she'd come from.
"This place has been searched," Ginny said when Luna was out of sight above them.
"You don't say."
She pointed around them and Harry saw what she had noticed. Everything was rotting from rain and some things were charred black from a fire that burned who knows how long ago. But the intriguing part was that everything was open. The china cabinet doors sat wide apart, drawers hung out of desks, even the sofa cushions had been ripped open, stuffing leaking out onto the floor.
"The Death Eaters came back," Ginny said.
"But how long ago, do you think?" Harry wondered.
"This couldn't have been recent. If they've been going through Luna's memories for twenty years, they'd've had to have come here ages ago."
"Then you don't think they were successful?"
"I don't know," Ginny said. "But do you really think that, if Luna's mum had found the Al'eyn, she would've hidden it here?"
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but just at that moment Luna reappeared at the top of the stairs.
"Look," she said brightly. "I've found a photograph."
She came down to show them. The glass was cracked, but beneath it, Luna's parents smiled down lovingly into the sleeping face of baby Luna.
"You look just like your mum," Harry noted.
They all admired the photograph until, suddenly, a glowing Patronus lit up the gloom.
"He's back," Robards' voice said simply.
Harry didn't wait; taking both their wrists, he Apparated them straight to the Ministry.
* * *
"Hold off, Potter," Draco said the moment Potter burst through Robards' office door. "You can yell at me after I've given my report."
He watched Potter examine him closely and Draco wondered what he would find. He knew that he had lost some of the weight he'd put on since he'd been submitted to St Mungo's, and that there were probably dark rings beneath his eyes; he felt ready to collapse at any moment.
But none of this seemed to sway Potter from his rage. He leant back against the wall without a word, crossing his arms and never removing his hard eyes from Draco.
"Malfoy," Weasley said, nodding cordially. "It's good to see you back."
"Hello, Draco," Lovegood chimed, following Weasley into the now-crowded office to wrap Draco in a warm hug. "It's so nice to finally be able to meet you."
Draco froze as she held him but didn't pull back. Admittedly, it was good to see her well; all his most recent images of her were haunting. After only a short time, he pushed her away gently with a grunt of discomfort.
"Right," he said, turning back to Robards and Weasley. "So Yaxley is bloody determined to find the stone, only he's got no idea where to look. When we're not on the move, he's hidden away in his tent going through... Well, going through your memories, Lovegood."
Curiously, Lovegood beamed at him.
"Where have you been to?" Weasley asked.
"All over. Apparently Lovegood's mother used to travel extensively. Yaxley must've found a time in Lovegood's childhood when her mother told her stories. He's been searching each place.
"In Germany, the Wiblingen Monastary Library had a secret room full of magical books. It was guarded by an old warlock, but he's dead now and the room burned after the Death Eaters searched it.
"Beneath the Singapore Strait, there's a colony of Merpeople who have been experimenting with the combination of their ancient magic and wizard magic, but the Death Eaters slaughtered them, too.
"I've seen more great magical achievements in the last ten days than in my whole life and they're all destroyed."
"You couldn't send word? We might have stopped them!" Weasley cried.
"There was no chance. Yaxley's kept a close eye on me. Since the results of my trial were in the Prophet
he hardly trusts me anymore. But there is some good news."
"What's that?" Robards asked.
"Rodolphus is no longer as close to Yaxley as he was. Since Rabastan was killed in the Pharaoh's tomb, he's blaming Yaxley for leading them on a wild Phoenix hunt. His break with Yaxley has allowed me to get close to him."
"He's told you something!" Weasley said excitedly.
"Not yet," Draco said. "But I think he will in time."
"In time?" Potter spoke up at last. "It's too bad you're out of time."
"Potter... " Draco sighed.
"Do you have anything more to say, Draco?"
"No, that's my full report."
"Good." Potter pushed off the wall and took Draco's wrist. "Then we're going."
It was a testament to Potter's power over the wizarding world that Robards didn't try to stop him.
Draco didn't bother to fight, either, as Potter dragged him away, though Weasley looked ready to. Instead, he trailed along behind, admiring the tension in Potter's broad shoulders and long neck. He had to admit that he had missed Potter in the time that he had been gone. And though he was still wary of Potter's anger at Draco having kept the memories from all those years ago, he was just as happy to have a row with Potter as he was anything else.
They went to Malfoy Manor and Draco led Potter into his bedroom suite, hoping it would offer enough privacy that Mother wouldn't overhear. He fully expected Potter to scream and throw things, to curse Draco for replaying the past, to tell him they were over that he didn't want this. What happened instead was infinitely better.
"I thought you were angry," Draco gasped into Potter's hard mouth once Potter had forced him back against a wall.
"I am angry," Potter growled.
"Well, I am, too," Draco retorted, "so get the hell off me."
He shoved Potter roughly, but he hardly budged, pressed as he was from knee to shoulder against Draco; Draco had not missed the hot erection sealed between them and, despite himself, his own body was reacting.
"You had your chance to be angry," Potter said. "But you ran away instead."
"Don't pull the high and mighty card on me, Chosen One," Draco sneered. "You don't always stick around when things get bad, either."
"So we're both cowards."
Potter offered a wary grin, but the rage and hurt that had never quite gone away were still the strongest emotions inside Draco.
"I never thought you were," he said seriously. "You didn't know it I
didn't know it, but I always looked up to you for that. I relied on it. But then... "
"I let you down," Potter concluded.
Draco's eyes narrowed.
"You're a fucking prick," he said.
Potter could not have been more sincere.
"Thank God," Draco murmured, and then crushed his mouth against Potter's Harry's.
He still felt tentative how could he know that Harry wasn't going to disappear again? But at the same time, Draco could no longer resist him. He wanted back what they'd had before, for as long as he could have it.
Harry restricted his arms around Draco and ground his renewed erection against Draco's thigh.
"Can we have make-up sex now?" he begged in a breathy voice that Draco had never forgotten.
Chuckling predatorily, Draco unbuttoned Harry's robes and cast them off. He couldn't believe how much he'd missed the feel of Harry's body against him how right it felt to be back there now.
Still unsatisfied, Harry tore his way through Draco's clothing, and Draco didn't care that it would need repairing. In the next moment, Harry pressed their chests together and Draco moulded into him, content, somehow, to stand that way forever.
"Fuck me," Draco told him. "And make it good."
"I'll do whatever you say," Harry whispered and they both remembered.
Draco let Harry lead him to the bed and he stretched out on it as Harry's eyes devoured him. He was not ashamed of his too-thin body or the scars that decorated it. He was not ashamed of his Dark Mark, and Harry suddenly guided Draco's wrist to his mouth and licked a burning hot stripe from palm to elbow crease, tasting the poisoned skin. Draco's eyelids fluttered and a rugged sound escaped his parted lips.
"Do it," Draco demanded greedily, spreading his knees to allow Harry to settle between them.
Reaching sideways, Draco groped in the drawer beside the bed and pulled out a vial of lubricant. He tipped it into his palm and took hold of Harry's erection. Draco was pleased with the noises he wrangled out of Harry as he prepared him.
"Now," he said at last, canting his hips.
"Shouldn't I "
So Harry drove into him. Draco arched and shouted with pain but hooked his ankles around Harry's thighs and pressed their bodies closer together as his buttocks spasmed.
"Is that what you wanted?" Harry asked, his eyes searching.
"God... " Draco groaned, his own eyes clenched shut and his hands clutching Harry's arms. "This is where you belong. Don't leave me again."
Draco felt the world fall away as Harry dragged the tip of his nose up the length of Draco's neck. There was no war, no Death Eaters, no stones to find. There was no threat when Harry kissed him.
"I can't move if you don't let me," Harry murmured into Draco's mouth.
Forcing himself to unlock his legs, Draco let Harry pull them up until the backs of his knees were pressed against Harry's shoulders. And then Harry shagged him into the bed.
There was no space for talking, for which Draco was grateful, close as he was to losing control. There was no space for moving; Harry's powerful thrusts rocked their bodies together, creating friction in delicious places, and Draco was helpless but to cling to Harry through it.
After a time, there wasn't even space for breathing.
The pressure built and crashed and built higher, better. Harry reached between their writhing bodies for Draco's cock.
"Come Merlin, please come," he panted, smearing a thumb over the leaking head.
Draco could do nothing but obey. With a cry his own ears couldn't hear, he surrendered his control; stars burst behind his eyelids.
When he was lucid once more, he was in time for the second wave of pleasure that was Harry's orgasm. It filled him with liquid heat and Draco's eyes rolled back as Harry shuddered and collapsed on top of him a welcome weight.
"Move," he begged after a while, squirming uneasily.
Harry groaned, but pushed himself up and watched with worried eyes as Draco twisted onto his side.
"Does it hurt?" he asked.
With a smirk, Draco said, "Just uncomfortable."
"Let me help," Harry offered.
Draco glared as Harry pushed him onto his back again. But then Harry's hands propped up Draco's knees and he dipped his head between Draco's thighs and all Draco could do was stare with wide eyes at messy black hair.
"AH!" Draco cried when he felt Harry's wet, smooth tongue poking entrance at his arsehole. "What the hell, Potter?" he tried to protest, but it came out more like a moan.
Harry thrust his tongue in and out of Draco's abused hole and Draco's cock stirred as he wondered if Harry liked how he tasted. He moaned again, uninhibited, and buried his fingers in Harry's hair.
By the time Harry had cleaned and soothed him thoroughly, Draco was half-hard again and surprised by his own libido. Grinning proudly up at him from between his legs, Harry began a seductive crawl along Draco's body. He pressed a strange-tasting kiss to Draco's lips and then relaxed on top of him again. Their cocks slid together, but Draco was happy just to lay there.
"Feel better?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Draco admitted.
They relaxed together until Draco felt himself slipping between awake and somewhere else.
"Don't let me fall asleep," he murmured.
"You need to," Harry whispered, brushing delicate kisses over the deep bruise-like circles beneath Draco's eyes.
"I can't," Draco retorted, voice thick with fatigue.
"I have to go back."
Draco felt Harry stiffen and he forced his eyes open, looking calculatingly into Harry's face.
"I can't let you do that," Harry told him.
With a deep sigh, Draco leaned forward and took Harry's lips. It was a kiss they'd never shared before one that was about more than passion and lust. Their eyes stayed open throughout the whole thing to watch and devour.
"I like you," Draco breathed into Harry's mouth like a promise, and Harry snorted.
He pulled back and examined Draco with those green eyes that Draco sometimes thought could see through anything.
"Don't you dare die," Harry finally said in a low, dangerous voice and warmth spread through Draco.
"I promise," he answered.
It took every ounce of strength Draco had to climb out of Harry's arms. He dressed slowly under Harry's close scrutiny and then, with a last look at him still sprawled on Draco's bed, debauched and satisfied, Draco Disapparated.
* * *
More days went by after Draco left. Harry was too responsible to stow himself away in his flat and worry, so he went about life as usual.
He was filling out release papers for a patient who had been hit with a Trip Jinx gone wrong when he got an owl from Hermione.
it read, Found new information. Bring Invisibility Cloak.
Excitement already coursing through his veins, Harry notified one of his Mediwizards that he was taking a long lunch and Apparated to the Ministry. He got a lift to himself, so he swung his cloak around his shoulders before the grilles opened.
Hermione was standing in the dim corridor beyond, peering into the empty lift.
"Harry?" she said cautiously.
"I'm here," he whispered.
"Oh, good. Follow me."
She led him into the Department of Mysteries and as Harry passed through the Spinning Chamber and the Brain Room he saw everything in a new light. Memories played out in his head that he hadn't remembered in too long: prophecies glowing in little delicate spheres; Death Eaters surrounding him and his friends, bone masks illuminated in the gloom; Ron with thoughts burning scars into his arms; Sirius...
Harry shuddered and hurried into Hermione's office.
"You'll never guess," she said the moment he removed his cloak and sat down. For once her desk was spread with a mess of parchments and books and she bent over it, flicking through them. "I can't believe
I didn't put the two together."
"What?" Harry insisted.
"Mrs Lovegood," Hermione answered, but before she could say any more a Patronus burst through her office door.
Harry expected it to stop, to open its mouth and issue a message, but it didn't. It drove straight through his chest, engulfing him in a strange heat that didn't burn.
He heard Hermione scream as he fell forward, and then he heard nothing at all.
He was in a mostly dark room that smelt like dirt and leaves. Wind whistled too loudly nearby, and a strange flapping noise was all around him. Just in front of him was a table on which sat a wooden bowl. A blue glow issued from it, illuminating the roof of a tent, but before Harry could get a closer look, he noticed movement to his right.
Draco suddenly appeared out of the shadows, standing in the pool of light cast by the Pensieve.
"Draco," Harry murmured, unable to stop himself from rushing over. But of course, Draco could neither see nor hear him. He approached the basin and peered inside. Harry looked, too, and gasped when he saw Luna's face swimming in the memories.
"Got you," Draco whispered.
"Well, well," a gruff voice drawled from the entrance of the tent. "Who knew Selwyn would have his uses after all?"
Draco spun, his wand out in the blink of an eye, but Yaxley was faster.
The force of the spell blasted Draco off his feet and he fell in a tangle against the soft tent wall.
"Want to tell me what interest you have in Lovegood's memories, Malfoy?" Yaxley growled.
"Just curious," Draco lied.
"Rubbish. You're working with someone, aren't you?"
Draco glared silently.
"No matter, you don't need to tell me. Legilimens.
Harry sucked in a sharp breath and watched in fascination and fear as Draco's face contorted with concentration. Slowly, as if trying to lift a heavy weight, Draco pushed himself to his feet.
" he said, like a vow, taking a step forward.
Yaxley's eyes widened and Harry knew that Draco was successfully blocking him. He felt pride burst in his chest. Then Yaxley snarled and thrust out his wand violently. Draco was thrown back again and his arms and legs went rigid as his torso squirmed.
"It doesn't matter," Draco said through his teeth. "Holding me down won't get you access to my "
His last word was drowned by an ear-splitting crack as Yaxley broke a post off the four-poster bed standing in the dark of the tent. He approached Draco with a foreboding smirk, bouncing the make-shift club in one hand.
"NO!" Harry shouted, lunging. But he fell through Yaxley just as the Death Eater hit Draco hard over the head.
Draco groaned and his head lolled to the side. All around Harry, his surroundings started to go dim and blurry. He could just barely make out Yaxley using Legilimency again. Harry watched in fear as Draco's face went blank and the whole world flickered like a ripple in a pool.
This must be Draco's memory, Harry understood, as the scene went in and out of focus.
A long time passed before Yaxley surfaced. When he did, his lips were spread in a macabre imitation of a smile. He seemed to be mulling something over in his head before he spoke at last.
"Hello, Potter," he said, and Harry's eyes went wide as Galleons.
He moved quickly out of Yaxley's line of vision but even when Yaxley's eyes continued to look into an empty corner of the tent he didn't feel reassured.
"It seems as though you and Malfoy have formed an interesting relationship."
Harry felt his cheeks grow hot, imagining all that Yaxley must have seen.
"This works out quite well for me, as it happens," Yaxley continued, talking into empty space. "Because I could use your help."
Harry wanted to hiss at him as he circled Yaxley silently.
"I think you know what it is that I'm looking for, and I want you to find it."
the voice in Harry's head rumbled.
"Otherwise, you may never see your pretty little fucktoy again."
As if to emphasise his point, Draco groaned from where he still lay, trapped against the floor. Yaxley knelt by his head and Harry saw red as he stroked Draco's forehead.
"There there, Malfoy," he cooed mockingly. "Your saviour will come, won't he?"
"No," Draco croaked, his eyes looking at nothing, his lids trying to close as he struggled against them. "No, Harry... "
"Shush," Yaxley hissed, putting his wand to Draco's throat. "Now, Potter," he started again, looking into Draco's pained face. "Come to Spinner's End by midnight tonight, or Malfoy will die."
Moving his wand to Draco's temple, he began to pull away a silvery strand of memory. The scene flickered once and disappeared.
Harry was on the floor of Hermione's office, propped up against the desk as she knelt at his side, looking fearfully into his face.
"Harry?" she begged. "Are you back? Are you okay?"
"Yaxley has Draco," Harry said. He shot to his feet and snatched his Invisibility Cloak off the back of a chair. "Spinner's End bring back-up."
He raced out of her office before she could say anything, swinging his cloak over his head. In the Spinning Chamber, the doors spun until they turned into a blurred circle and then came to a standstill.
"Let me out!
" Harry roared at them, and a door sprang open.
He made it to the Atrium in seconds that felt like hours. As he shouldered his way through the Apparition line he hardly cared that the people panicked as they were jostled by an invisible force. He took a deep breath before he Apparated to Spinner's End.
The day was still bright, the warm sun beating down on Harry as he paced silently back and forth in front of the house. Death Eaters flanked the door, and he breathed deep through his nose as he tried to figure out how he was going to get in.
And then the black guards shifted and looked up. Harry grinned when he'd followed their gaze and saw that the air was rippling above them, the sun bouncing at weird angles off a dome of enchantments.
"That's the Aurors," he said aloud to the Death Eaters, and then Stunned them both.
" he bellowed, blasting through the door just as a dozen cracks split the silent afternoon.
He charged in with his cloak still over his head, Aurors running in behind him, and was immediately swept into a fight. It was the trickiest duel he'd ever experienced. The house was dark and claustrophobic, stuffed with furniture to trip over. And there were people everywhere.
He couldn't tell which were the Aurors and which were the Death Eaters, so he was forced to abandon the more violent spells.
His cloak became a hindrance instead of a help, catching on thrashing wands and the sharp corners of furniture, so he tore it off.
"Harry!" he heard Ginny shout over the flying curses and crashes. "Have you found Malfoy?"
Then someone shouted "Incendio!
" and everyone in the room were thrown off their feet as the bookshelves went up in flames. It was suddenly blindingly bright, the air shimmering with heat and flickering shadows dancing on the walls. Bodies lay scattered, half-buried in flaming books, and someone was screaming the scream of a dying man.
"OUT!" Harry heard Ginny bellowing. "GET OUT!"
But Harry ignored her, tripping into the heart of the fire, spotting a dark opening into the recesses of the house.
Flames licked over his arms, trying to catch on his robes, but he darted through the black archway and was free of them. Peering into the still blackness, Harry recognised the corridor which led to the room Draco had slept in as a fugitive.
A hand touched his shoulder and Harry whipped around, his wand pointing between a pair of wide blue eyes.
"Luna," he gasped, clenching his chest with one hand. "Don't do that again."
"Alright," she said amiably. "Are we going to move now? This whole house is going to come down soon."
Harry considered telling her to go back, but she took his hand in hers and he felt comforted to have her with him. They crept together down the hallway, their lit wands raised ahead of them. At the end, Harry nodded to the door of Draco's room.
"There," he whispered to her.
"On three?" she asked.
She counted down with her fingers and together, they blasted through the door, charging in and twisting with their backs to each other. There was no attack there was no movement. The room was unsettlingly empty.
"Where is Draco?" Harry begged desperately.
"Look at this," Luna said dreamily. "How pretty."
Harry turned to see a familiar Pensieve left carelessly on the bedside table. The full basin let off a shimmering light.
"Luna," Harry breathed. "Those are yours."
"They're mine now, actually," Yaxley said, stepping into the room.
Harry spun and then froze with hesitation. Yaxley was holding an unconscious Draco to his chest, his wand pressed hard into Draco's throat.
"Careful, Potter," he sneered, mocking one of Harry's most private memories. "You wouldn't want to be responsible for his death, would you?"
Harry shook with the effort it took not to lunge at Yaxley. He hardly felt the gentle hand Luna laid on his arm.
"Now then," Yaxley said. "Where's the death stone?"
"I already told you, you fucking idiot," Harry snapped. "I don't have it!"
"Be nice," Yaxley bit out, digging his wand deeper into Draco's neck.
Harry twitched but said and did nothing.
"How about you, Lovegood?" Yaxley demanded. "Are you going to tell me where the Al'eyn is?"
"We don't have it!
" Harry bellowed.
"Shut up, Potter! SHUT UP. I know you have it! Give it to me!"
Then Yaxley turned his wand on Harry and three things happened all at once.
With Draco momentarily out of harm's way, Harry lurched forward, not caring that Yaxley's wand tip was lighting up with a spell. Yaxley shouted, "ACCIO AL'EYN ALBYDA!
" and Harry felt a split second's satisfaction that Yaxley had missed his only opportunity to stop him. And Luna gasped a soft, sharp sound that cut through everything else and shot straight down Harry's spine.
The fight ended as quickly as it had started. There was only Yaxley's shout of triumph and that was it. He gripped the Portkey around Draco's throat and disappeared. Harry dove through the spot he'd been only seconds ago and screamed his frustration. Yaxley was gone; Draco was gone. Everything was over.
"Come on, Harry," Luna said, tugging on his arm. "We have to go now."
He rose to his feet unsteadily, not sure if he had the will to go anywhere. But beneath her other arm, Luna was carrying the Pensieve full of her entire life, and Harry knew he had to get her out safely.
All around them was hot air and thick smoke as they moved back into the corridor. At the end of the hall, the opening through which they'd come had let in the fire. The flames were eating up the corridor at an alarming rate.
Taking Luna's arm in hand, Harry twisted but nothing happened.
"Auror enchantments," Luna told him over the roar of the fire and then doubled over as she hacked through a lung-full of smoke.
"Get below the smoke!" Harry told her, but it was everywhere, and though they crawled across the hall into another bedroom on hands and knees, they were still asphyxiated by the choking smell.
"Window," Luna gasped, pointing.
" Harry wheezed, but his spell was too weak to do more than crack the glass.
So, standing and wrapping his hand up inside his Invisibility Cloak, Harry cocked back his arm and threw his fist at the window. It shattered, but his hand was broken and he choked in pain, his lungs too full of poisoned air to make a noise.
Snapping off the jagged pieces of the window that remained around the edges, Harry boosted Luna through, the Pensieve still clutched to her chest, just as the fire burst into the room from the hall.
Using the last reserves of energy he had, Harry climbed out after her and toppled onto the grass. They panted and coughed and fell to their knees, but they were safe.
"Harry! Luna!" Hermione sobbed, rushing at them and dropping down to pull Harry into a bone-crushing hug. Ron stood over them, a gash at his hairline bleeding profusely, but otherwise unharmed.
"Thank God you're both okay," Hermione was saying as she hugged Luna. "But where's Draco?"
Despair so suffocating that he couldn't speak gripped Harry. Luna answered for him.
"Yaxley took him," she said hoarsely.
"How did he get out? We didn't see him!" Ron replied, head whipping around as though Yaxley would come stumbling out the door.
"He used Draco's Portkey," Harry replied.
Hermione and Ron grew solemn.
"What happened to all the Death Eaters?"
"Gone," Ron said. "One minute we were fighting for our lives, and the next, they were all sprinting for the exits. The Aurors caught a few but most escaped."
"Yaxley must have alerted them somehow their Dark Marks, maybe," Harry pondered. "But what happened? Why leave?"
"Dunno," Ron said.
"I might know," Luna interjected. Her eyes were big and thoughtful. "But I'd like to go home and look through these first." She nodded to the Pensieve cradled protectively in her arms.
"Yeah, let's go home," Harry agreed. "We can talk there."
"And clean up," Ron added, eyeing his torn and sooty robes. "I don't fancy turning up at the Burrow to get Rose and Hugo like this."
"I'll meet you at your flat, Harry," Hermione said. "There's something I've got to do first."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Ron asked her.
"No." She stood on tip-toes to kiss him hard on the lips. "I'll be quick."
"Wait for me," Ginny said loudly, coming toward them from where she'd been talking with a group of Aurors. "You're not going off to discuss anything without me."
She looked sternly at Harry, as if daring him to object, but he had no wish to.
Taking Luna into his arms again, her memories pressed between them, he Disapparated. Ron and Ginny were right behind him.
Once in his flat, Harry poured three full glasses of Firewhisky for himself, Ginny and Ron. Luna disappeared into her bedroom and Harry understood her desire for privacy as she remembered. He busied himself healing Ron's cut and his own hand and then took a shower, but when he was done he felt restless and afraid.
Where was Draco now, he wondered. And was he still alive?
* * *
Draco couldn't move when he came awake in a dim clearing of trees. He was bound so tightly against something solid and rough that he couldn't feel his fingers. Over the tree tops was a forbidding black tower, the setting sun pouring around the sides like a golden aura.
To his left, a shadow shifted and Selwyn stepped out of the trees.
"Ah, so you're awake. It's good to see a Malfoy finally put in his place," he sneered.
"Where am I?" Draco demanded, his voice coming weak through his parched throat.
"Nurmengard," Selwyn said cheerfully. "Can't you read?"
He pointed to a tall, weathered stone planted in the overgrown grass that Draco hadn't noticed before. There was an inscription on its flat face that read 'Gellert Grindelwald'.
Draco swallowed audibly and Selwyn looked excited by his discomfort. There was only one other body buried at Nurmengard, and Draco could only be tied to his headstone.
"Why are we here?" he asked hoarsely.
"Can you really be that daft?" Selwyn taunted.
He leaned casually against a tree and Draco burned to know what was going to happen, but didn't ask. He wasn't that daft, he just didn't want it to be true. If Yaxley had brought them to Nurmengard it could only mean one thing he had the death stone.
Selwyn watched Draco until the sun had become a series of shafts poking through the trees, lighting the clearing with golden stripes. The black tower was a dark shadow looming over everything. And then the light began to shift with the movement of a dozen men a hundred. Death Eaters filled the clearing, spilling into the dark of the surrounding wood. Yaxley stood before Draco without expression.
"You're still alive," he said, inflectionless, "because the Dark Lord always did like to take care of traitors personally."
Draco didn't flinch he'd been preparing himself for death since he first saw Grindelwald's headstone.
From within his pocket Yaxley pulled an emerald ring. With his fingernail, he pried the gem from the golden band and held it delicately in his palm. It was about the size of a ladybird and dull unsuspecting in every way.
"It won't work!" Draco said, desperation seizing him as he looked at the gem.
Yaxley's eyes met Draco's, though they seemed to look right through him.
"What do you know?" he asked.
"It doesn't bring back the spirit of the dead just a shadow of them. It won't be a Dark Lord who rules, but one who obeys."
He'd heard it from Weasley and Robards as they discussed all the ways the Death Eaters could use a weapon like this. But Yaxley was grinning, if you could call it that, and Draco shivered.
"Once again, Malfoy, you know but only one fraction of a plan that is beyond you."
And then, without fanfare without even a word Yaxley turned the emerald over three times.
Draco held his breath as the clearing went still and silent as death.
And then, from beneath his feet, the ground began to quake and rumble. Dust exploded into small clouds, caking Draco's shoes, and a crack split the wilting grass, widening, dirt caving inwards like sinkhole. And from within the sinkhole came a skeletal hand, claw-like fingers reaching and grabbing like the legs of a pale spider.
Utterly horrified, Draco watched the hand drag a body out of the ground.
It was deathly white and thin. Torn and stained rags hung off the bony shoulders, hardly obscuring the protruding ribs and hip bones. The cheeks were hollow, the white lips drawn back over dirty teeth. The sunken eyes were empty lifeless but the face was unmistakable.
It stood and looked at Draco and Draco looked back, unable to tear his eyes away unable to breathe.
"Bring the Pensieve," Yaxley whispered, his voice slicing through the silence like a curse.
From the watching crowd came a cloaked figure carrying a wooden basin and for a split second, Draco thought they were going to give the memories of Luna Lovegood to the body of the Dark Lord. Then he saw that swirling within the Pensieve was something black, not silver something evil.
"N-no " he choked, hot terror filling his eyes and throat as he watched Yaxley put his wand tip into the basin.
"Oh, yes," Yaxley breathed, lifting the first memory.
"How?" Draco croaked.
"Memories survive longer than the body," he explained, distracted. "And the Ministry were so quick to dispose of the body and leave it alone. Silly really," Yaxley murmured to himself, examining the black thread dangling from his wand, "not to guard the grave. As if I wouldn't try... "
And he put the poisoned memory to the skull-like temple.
The Dark Lord's eyelids flickered but he didn't move. Yaxley transferred another and another. Draco watched, transfixed, as the red eyes began to focus, as the claws clenched and unclenched by his sides.
At last, when the Pensieve was empty and Yaxley stepped back to leave Draco alone in the centre, the monster turned its eyes on Draco's. Fear gripped him like an iron fist and he felt dreadfully cold.
" the ghastly voice hissed, and a white hand struck out to arrest Draco's wand from where it lay uselessly in his pocket.
* * *
It was almost dawn when Luna emerged from her room. Ron and Ginny were asleep on the twin sofas and Harry was in the kitchen staring at the wall while the tea he'd brewed and never touched grew cold.
"Luna," he said, suddenly awake and alert. "How do you feel?"
"Hungry," Luna said.
Harry watched her anxiously as she dug through the refrigerator for something to eat. Her eyes were red and tired-looking, but she seemed no worse for wear.
"I have something to tell you," she said when she'd settled at the counter with a meat pie. "Should we wake Ginny and Ron?"
With a nod, Harry went to the living room and shook them each awake. Ron was groggy and disoriented, but Ginny sat up instantly, hurrying into the kitchen to hover beside Luna.
"How are you?" she asked worriedly. "Do you feel very different?"
"Not really," Luna told her serenely. "But it's nice to know who you are."
A dreamy grin flashed across her face for only a moment before it was replaced with a frown.
"What's the matter, Luna?" Harry asked.
"I know where the Al'eyn is," she answered.
"It was in my memories all along."
"But then, why didn't Yaxley find it?"
"I expect he did, but he didn't know what he was looking at."
From within her pocket, Luna withdrew a folded photograph. When she opened it, Harry could see that the crease was worn, as though it had been looked at over and over. It was the picture Luna had found in the wreckage of her home.
"Look there," Luna said.
She pointed to her mother, who was cradling the infant Luna in her arms. Her hands were visible, clutching Luna to her chest gently, and Luna directed their attention to a small ring on her left hand.
"Her engagement ring?" Ginny asked.
"No," Luna replied. "When they were engaged my father was very poor. He didn't buy her a ring. This was something my mother had before they even met."
"And heirloom, then?" Ron guessed.
"Hang on," Harry interrupted, leaning closer to look. "I've seen that before. Luna, wasn't that the ring given back to you when you checked out of St Mungo's?"
"When I turned nine," Luna explained, "my mum gave it to me. 'I will be with you always,' she said when she put it on my finger. After that, I never took it off until St Mungo's. After I found this photograph, I put it back on."
"You think that stone that emerald," Ginny said quietly. "You think that's the Al'eyn?"
"I'm sure of it," Luna said.
"Then you have it!" Ron exclaimed. "You have the Al'eyn!"
"No," Harry murmured, understanding dawning. "You were wearing, weren't you, Luna? Yesterday?"
"What, Harry?" Ginny asked. "So what?"
"Yaxley summoned it," Harry responded. "When we were in Snape's house. That's why he Disapparated so suddenly why they all did. Because he got what he wanted."
Luna nodded slowly and Harry barely noted the expressions of shock and fear on Ginny's and Ron's faces. He was staring down at the ring in the photograph the innocent gem.
"We have to go," Ginny said suddenly.
"Where?" Ron asked. "How can we know where to start looking?"
"Yaxley wouldn't waste any time. He'd go straight there."
"Go straight where?"
"Nurmengard," Ginny replied. "It's where Voldemort was buried. Right next to Grindelwald. Those are the only two bodies left on the island."
Ron looked stricken.
"Shouldn't we wait for back up, Gin?" he croaked.
"There's no time."
"Ginny," Harry said seriously. "There will be a lot of Death Eaters, and if they've already succeeded, Voldemort
will be there... "
"Exactly," Ginny agreed. "We can't wait another second."
From within the collar of her robes, she withdrew a plain silver chain on which dangled a teardrop pendant.
"This is an emergency Portkey," she explained. "It can take us anywhere in the world. It can take us straight to Nurmengard."
"What a handy thing to have," Luna commented.
"Yes, but only the Aurors highest up have them."
"Lucky we have you then," Luna said. She reached out and looped the chain around her wrist. "We're going now, aren't we?" she asked, when no one else moved.
Harry felt nervous. He couldn't quite grasp what they were about to do. And he couldn't believe he was going to allow three of his best friends to go with him. Hadn't enough of his loved ones already died at the hands of Voldemort? When would it end?
"Harry," Ginny said quietly. "There's no time to lose."
With resolve, Harry grasped the Portkey with one hand.
"Hang on," Ron said, his voice suddenly filled with panic. "Where's Hermione? She should've been here ages ago."
Harry's eyes grew wide.
"She never said where she was going," he realised.
"Suppose she's in danger," Luna said thoughtfully and Ron's face went bone white.
"Ron," Harry said firmly. "If you want to go find her, we'll understand."
For a second that felt like an age, Ron hesitated. At last, he gritted his teeth and grasped the chain.
"If she's in danger, we'll likely find her where we're going," he said, but his voice sounded weak. "Let's do this."
Ginny mumbled the activation word and told it where to go, and the Portkey began to glow. With a nauseating, almighty lurch, they were suddenly somewhere else.
The darkness was stifling and they all stood perfectly still as their eyesight adjusted. Barely visible through the treetops was the shape of a tower that appeared like a blacker spot in the night, standing like a sentry above them.
In a hiss that Harry almost couldn't hear, Ginny whispered hurried instructions.
"Harry and Luna, go right. Ron and I will veer left. About two hundred paces away from the prison you should come out into a clearing. That's where Voldemort was buried. That's where they'll be."
It was hard to let them walk away from him. Harry's mind was filled with terrible images of them stumbling upon Death Eaters in the blinding darkness. He hadn't even realised that his hands were trembling until Luna took one of them into her own. Without a word, they started off through the woods together.
It felt like an age passed as they walked. And then at last, the darkness began to lighten fractionally with the thinning of the trees. The silence here was, if possible, even quieter, and Harry wondered if Luna was still breathing; he wasn't.
He didn't expect to be able to enter the clearing, but the forest here was just as empty as it had been where they'd first appeared. And when they leaned cautiously between the last line of trees, they could see no one.
"Something's not right," Harry breathed.
"Look," Luna said. "Ron and Ginny."
She pointed across the clearing and sure enough, two figures were stepping out of the shadows, one waving in their direction. They met halfway, where a waist-high stone protruded from the ground. Harry looked at it with wide eyes. Luna brushed her fingers over the carved name.
"Grindelwald," she said thoughtfully. "He was a brilliant wizard, wasn't he?"
"He was a murderer," Harry ground out between his teeth.
"Yes," Luna agreed.
"Where is Voldemort's grave?" Ron asked.
"It's right over " Ginny gasped.
Where Voldemort's grave should have been, there was instead a gaping hole in the Earth, and a motionless lump rather like a body lay beside it.
"Oh dear," Luna said.
Harry's stomach plummeted and he tripped into a run.
He couldn't make out the identity of the body until he was right on top of it, and even when he saw that the hair was not pale white, that the body was not lean and long, he couldn't breathe until he had turned it over and seen the face.
It was Rodolphus.
"What can this mean?" Ron panted, the second to arrive beside the dug up grave. "Rodolphus dead?"
"Only one thing," Ginny replied as she joined them. "Voldemort's back."
"And more dangerous than ever," Harry added, still staring down onto Rodolphus' smooth face.
"What do you mean?" Ron asked.
"Don't you see? He killed Rodolphus one of the men who worked single-mindedly to resurrect him. He has no sense of justice or gratitude. This Voldemort is less human than he's ever been."
In the tentative silence that overcame them, Harry put his hand to his forehead and rubbed his scar in a habit that he had once thought erased forever.
"Can you feel him, Harry?" Ron breathed.
"No." Harry shook his head and dropped his hand. "That part of me is dead, even if he isn't anymore."
"Where do you think he is, then?"
"I dunno. Anywhere."
"If you were a resurrected Dark Lord," Luna wondered aloud, "what would you want to do first?"
Ginny made a choking noise in her throat and Harry thought for a moment that it was a laugh, until he saw her face, hard as stone.
"We should go back to Auror Headquarters. We need to send out an alert everyone has to know."
"There'll be panic if they do," Harry murmured.
"There'll be a massacre if they don't."
Taking hold of Ginny's Portkey, they all returned to the flat. Ginny and Luna went through the Floo to the Ministry first, but Ron took Harry's arm before he could follow.
"Harry," Ron said quietly. "I'm sorry, Harry, but I have to find Hermione."
In the midst of the fear and dread he was feeling, Harry had forgotten that Hermione was still missing.
"I understand," he said. "Go."
Stepping into the fireplace, Ron threw down his handful of Floo powder and stated his home address. Harry went on to the Ministry, where Ginny and Luna were waiting for him.
They hurried through the Atrium which was just coming alive with early-morning workers and straight to Auror Headquarters. Robards was sitting behind his desk, a pair of black-framed glasses perched on his nose as he sorted through paperwork.
"Weasley," he said, and then looked alarmed as Harry and Luna came in, too. He stood quickly. "What's the problem?"
"Sir, the worst has happened," Ginny said. "Voldemort's back."
* * *
To Draco's surprise, Voldemort had not seemed very interested in him.
But then Draco began to observe silently from the edge of things, and he realised it was no surprise at all.
This was not the same Voldemort who had lived twenty years ago. Nor, he imagined, could it have been the one who had gained a following in the seventies pretty and intelligent and with a dark streak. This Voldemort was a reincarnation of all the most evil things that his living self had ever been. Though Tom Riddle had had very little humanity to begin with, this Voldemort had none at all. He was programmed to rule, simply, single-mindedly, at whatever cost.
And so he had already disposed of many of his Death Eaters.
"I see ambition in you," he had told Rodolphus just before murdering him.
Selwyn had gone the same way for being a snivelling coward, and Fenrir for being rebellious. Yaxley he kept alive, but only just, and Draco wished the man would die so that the curse would end. Draco himself had been left wholly untouched; though why
Voldemort would keep him was a hideous fear that ate at him in every moment.
"What will please you, my Lord?" Dolohov dared to ask after they had returned to an English cliff seemingly without significance or reason.
For many hours Voldemort had stood looking out at the Celtic Sea. Draco, bound at the wrists and kept in place by a taut rope looped around Voldemort's skeletal hand, had not moved in that time. Yaxley lay motionless at his feet, except for the shallow movements of his chest as he wheezed.
From behind them, Draco could hear the survivors of Voldemort's return whispering their doubts to one another. He was certain that Voldemort could hear them, but he never flinched.
In the hand that did not hold Draco's leash, Voldemort was turning the Al'eyn over and over, the sunlight glinting off its pretty green surface.
"An army," Voldemort hissed. "An undefeatable army."
"You have the Al'eyn Albyda," Dolohov said. "All of the dead are at your command. My Lord, if you permit, we can go to Azkaban. There, I am sure of it, will rest endless bodies that will be loyal to you."
"Any that I resurrect will be loyal to me, you fool," Voldemort replied maliciously. Dolohov recoiled but he was not punished. "No," Voldemort went on, "I want something more than loyalty."
"What more, my Lord?" Dolohov asked timidly.
"I want an army that will ignite fear in my enemy: fear and betrayal, sadness and pain. In Harry Potter. I want to watch him suffer.
Draco tried not to let his panic show on his face. He should have known, of course, that this calculating, cold, deadly Voldemort would have his sights set on only one person.
"Tell me how I can make this happen for you, my Lord," Dolohov pleaded.
"Go away, Dolohov. I am doing it already."
The Al'eyn rotated, glittering, and Draco could not help his instinctual reaction to cringe back when he understood. The ropes cut into his wrists and Voldemort turned his strange, frightening eyes on Draco.
"Don't despair, Draco," he jeered. "You will play your part in this fight soon enough."
"Who?" Draco barely managed to croak. "Who are you resurrecting?"
"Quiet," Voldemort demanded vehemently, and Draco felt the magic from his own wand like a fetid brand on his lips, silencing him.
Dolohov remained steadfast but soundless and Voldemort looked over the choppy water again. The Al'eyn revolved.
In the hours that followed, a storm built over the sea, churning the grey water until it turned white and frothy. The wind that whipped across the cliff's edge was violent and stinging, carrying a salty spray that made Draco feel stuck in place. Dark clouds shrouded the sky, casting down shadows like giants that suffocated all they touched.
Then, at last, Voldemort returned from whatever trance he was in, tilting his head back as the skies opened and the torrent reached them.
He Disapparated, taking Draco with him but leaving Yaxley behind. And when they arrived at their new destination, he tugged Draco forward and ripped back the sleeve of his robes.
With one touch of a long, cold finger to Draco's forearm, his Dark Mark writhed and burned and the Death Eaters rejoined them. It was obvious that not all of them had bothered to follow and Draco wondered how quickly Voldemort would hunt down the deserters. But he seemed not to care.
"Where are we?" Dolohov wondered aloud, glancing up the path at a towering, teetering structure like a house.
"This," Voldemort said, starting up the path with Draco dragging behind him, "is called the Burrow."
Thunder rumbled through the dimming sky as Voldemort raised his wand and blasted through the main door. There was a scream, followed by the pounding of feet on hollow stairs, and then an unmistakable man burst through the kitchen, wand first.
But Voldemort was faster, and Arthur Weasley was thrown off his feet and smashed into a large kitchen table.
"Molly!" he was yelling before he'd even caught his breath fully. "Get out! Get Rose and Hugo out!
" Voldemort said, his wand directed through the opening to the other room as a figure darted past. The scuffling beyond the door halted. "Get them," he told his Death Eaters.
"NO!" Weasley bellowed, slashing his wand through the air.
The curse rebounded off Voldemort's shield and sliced clean through the rope binding Draco to him. In a moment, Weasley was incapacitated and his wife brought in, along with two children who were trembling and clutching Mrs Weasley's robes.
"Get out," Voldemort told Weasley, a voiceless spell propelling the man toward the still-open front door. "Go to the Ministry go to Harry Potter. Tell them where I am and who I have with me. Tell them I'm going to kill them all."
The thunder rumbled overhead as Weasley was thrown from his own home, his wand returned. He Disapparated with a last desperate look in at his family.
"Leaving so soon, Draco?" Voldemort breathed.
Draco froze in inching toward the back door as Voldemort turned on him.
"And just how far did you expect to get unarmed?" he asked mockingly. "Only those with wands can Apparate."
And just then, a dozen cracks rent the tense silence, echoing through the house from outside. A dozen more followed, and a dozen after that. Then the rain reached them and its pounding against the roof and windows muted all noises.
Draco felt ill with dread as Voldemort lifted his wand once more.
* * *
When Mr Weasley arrived at Auror Headquarters, panting and limping, the calm preparations that Robards was making to find Voldemort escalated into sheer and uncontrollable mayhem.
Ginny disappeared after hearing Mr Weasley's rushed story, rousing every last Auror, trainee, and retiree. Robards had put Mr Weasley in charge of calling together all the old Order of the Phoenix members. Harry and Luna had Apparated from the Ministry to their home to Ron and Hermione's, desperately seeking their missing friends who had no idea that their children were in Voldemort's hands.
"It's no good!" Harry snapped after they had tried Hogwarts as a last resort.
Neville had been there and had Disapparated straight to the Ministry when they'd told him what was happening. But no Ron, and no Hermione.
"I can't search any longer," he said. "I have to go help!"
"I'm coming too, Harry," Luna told him. "So don't tell me to keep trying."
Looking into her eyes and seeing there all the determination that he felt, Harry nodded curtly and took her hand.
They reappeared on one of the hillsides surrounding the Burrow and were soaked to the bone almost immediately by the sky-darkening rain. As Harry stood frozen he watched the fight already raging around him and felt a nauseating lurch of fear as he flashed back to the Battle of Hogwarts.
"They're all dead," Luna breathed, looking like he was. "Look how many he brought back... "
"Move!" Harry suddenly cried, dragging her sideways as a curse grazed past his ear.
Then she was swept into the chaos, her hand wrenched out of his, and he lost sight of her.
Harry was buffeted from side to side as he forced his way through the fighting, heading for the Burrow that towered over the scene like a watchful mother. It didn't take long until he broke through the line to the place where enemy and ally clashed together.
To his horror, Voldemort's army appeared to be advancing the Ministry adversaries falling back. Harry's eyes darting from one duelling pair to another, squinting through the rain, and it wasn't hard to see why. The Aurors and Order members were not attacking but defending. For some reason, they seemed to be avoiding the use of any offensive spells.
A curse whizzed over Harry's head and he was forced to drop onto all fours in the sticky mud. To his left and right, his friends were falling, one by one. Anger boiled within Harry anger spurred by fear. He would show them how to fight; as he had so many years ago, he would lead them into battle.
Aiming his wand into the oncoming mass of the undead, Harry squared his shoulders and shouted, "INCENDIO!
A tongue of fire lashed from his wand, splitting the hoard in two, engulfing one of the slower bodies in the flame. It took Harry a moment to realise that the hair-raising scream was coming from behind him.
Turning his head just in time, he saw a figure race past him. It was Luna, and she was headed straight at the wall of fire.
"LUNA!" Harry cried, taking off after her, but she was deaf to his calls.
"Daddy!" she was shouting. "Daddy!
On the ground and motionless, with the flames of Harry's spell licking up his tattered robes, was a foul mockery of Xenophilius Lovegood. Luna threw herself over his chest, her hands flying over him, beating out the fire. Her tears of fear disappeared among the soaked hair stuck to her wet cheeks.
And as Harry looked down into the bone-white, hollow face of her father, he understood. Voldemort, the soulless man that he was, had resurrected not their
enemy, but his own. He had turned them on their friends and family forced them to kill or be killed by those that they loved.
"Luna," Harry panted, watching her weep over a man who had died long ago. "Luna, get up... "
But Luna didn't listen, though Xenophilius's hand twitched, moved reached.
" Harry bellowed, and Xenophilius's wand flew out of his hand.
Reaching down, Harry hauled Luna to her feet and they stumbled backward a few steps as Xenophilius rose on stick-thin legs. He turned and looked at them with empty eyes, and then he came at them, his claw-like fingers aimed for their throats, his putrid lips twisted into a silent snarl.
"RUN!" Harry howled.
With Luna's hand caught tightly in his own, he bolted away from Xenophilius away from the fire that the rain was already putting out away from the driving dead.
Luna couldn't go far, and before they were out of harm's way, she had collapsed in a trembling heap, violent sobs wracking her body.
"What is this?" Harry choked, staring around him at the fighting.
He looked more closely now.
Beneath a tree that had been blackened by a misaimed curse, little Dennis Creevey all grown up was losing ground to his dead brother. On Harry's other side, Susan Bones was curled in a ball in the mud as most of her family closed ranks on her and Neville came barrelling in, white-faced but determined to fight them off. A perfectly preserved Albus Dumbledore duelled Kingsley, Robards and Mr Weasley all at once, his white beard a wet streak across his shoulder, his face contorted by a vulgar smile that Harry had never seen before.
But most sickening of all was what Harry could see in the distance, where Ginny and Teddy stood back to back, wands raised to maintain a thin magical barrier that was all that protected them from the advancing bodies of Fred, Remus and Tonks.
Harry felt as though the ground had dropped out from beneath him and he was falling with no end in sight. He bent double and retched onto the grass. The beating rain washed his sick away. Beside him, Luna rocked and shook.
"Impossible," she was muttering. "It's impossible."
And then she disappeared everyone disappeared as Harry's horrified eyes alighted on two faces that he'd never wanted to see like this.
"God, no... " he breathed, dropping to his knees, his wand hanging uselessly at his side.
His parents came toward him single-mindedly and he could do nothing but stare helplessly into their empty faces.
" his mother spoke, but her voice was a hiss a language that he could only remember but no longer speak. "My son, my beautiful boy.
" his father said. "We love you. We miss you.
They were raising a pair of wands, pointing them at his heart at the empty place inside Harry's chest. All was lost, and so he closed his eyes.
" a voice shouted, and Harry was thrown backwards off his feet by the force of the spell. His head hit the ground hard, but he couldn't feel his body tearing or exploding.
"Harry!" Hermione said urgently in his ear. Hands gripped his shoulders, pulled him upright. "Harry, can you hear me?"
He opened his eyes and tears spilled down his cheeks.
"My parents," he sobbed. "My parents."
"They aren't you parents, Harry," Hermione told him firmly. "Your parents are in here." She pressed a hand hard against his chest and Harry was suddenly aware of his heart beating fast against his ribcage.
"Hermione," he choked, suddenly hyper-aware of the situation. "Your children. Hermione. Rose and Hugo!"
Her face contorted into such pain that it hurt Harry.
"I know," she whispered. "I'll find them. They'll be okay."
She seemed to be reassuring herself more than him.
"What do we do, Hermione?" he asked her, clutching her arms tightly. "How can we fight them?"
"There's a way," she said. "It's not hopeless."
All around them, the one-sided battle raged on. There were screams from every side, but fewer curses streaked the sky than there should be. The dusk glowed with the blue of magical shields, but the light was fading too quickly.
" Harry heard before he saw.
Reacting instinctively, he grabbed Hermione's hand, still gripping her wand, and turned it on their attacker.
" he cried, and there was a shriek as the person whoever it was was blasted backward.
"I didn't see," he said, his voice wavering with the sickening thought that it could have been Remus or Mad-Eye or a hundred other people he had known. "I don't know who it was."
"It doesn't matter, Harry," Hermione assured him. "They're just bodies. They're not really them."
She stood and helped pull him up, too. Retrieving his wand from where he'd dropped it, she pressed it into his hand.
"We have to get somewhere safe," she said urgently. "There's something I need to tell you."
Luna had disappeared, so Harry allowed himself to be dragged back into the chaos. Hermione kept one hand firmly in his, but the other was flinging violent curses into the crowd of bodies all around them.
"Don't look, Harry!" she was shouting between spells. "Don't look at their faces!"
" Harry said shakily, and a body dropped as he ran past.
Suddenly, Ron was at his side, running with them, raining spells. His eyes were narrowed into slits, and he kept them trained ahead, never looking to the sides.
"You found him!" Ron shouted to Hermione. "Thank Merlin!"
But before Hermione could answer, a curse went straight through her abdomen and she collapsed, Harry tripping over her body before he could stop. He skidded across the grass, the rough ground scraping his face, filling his mouth, and caking his cheek in mud. Some of it burned his eyes and he coughed and spluttered as he tried to pick himself up.
A hand clamped down over the back of his neck and hauled him to his feet.
"Come on, Harry," Neville said quietly and Harry saw that he was sweating and breathing hard and that Susan Bones was slung over his shoulder.
Hannah was beside him, her hair wild, her eyes wilder. She took Harry's hand and squeezed it tight, urging him onwards.
Harry looked back just in time to see Ron scoop Hermione gently into his arms and take off again. The four of them ran at break-neck speed toward the line of trees, Harry and Hannah streaking ahead, unburdened, clearing a path through the oncoming attackers.
As the trees thickened around them, the people thinned and the rain fell like a gentle mist through the leafy canopy. At last, the fighting was a distant ringing in the blackness of the forest.
Harry skidded to a halt, panting. Neville stopped beside him and dropped to his knees, Susan slipping off his shoulder into a heap on the ground. Harry was surprised to see that she was conscious when she rolled herself into a sitting position and clung to Neville, who winced when she touched his bloody shoulder. Hannah stroked Susan's hair as they all caught their breath.
Ron had stopped not far away and had carefully lowered Hermione's motionless body into a 'V' made by a pair of tree roots.
"Is she alive?" Harry whispered, dreading the answer.
Ron put two fingers against her wrist and waited.
"Yes," he said. Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "But for how long?"
"She was going to tell me something," Harry said. "She knows how to end this."
"I know how," Ron told him. His face was stony, his eyes empty, but Harry knew the emotion was just beneath the surface, waiting to take over. "She told me when I found her."
"Where was she?" Harry asked.
"Coming out of the Department of Mysteries, of course." And somehow Ron managed a flicker of his lips sort of like a smile. His hand was pressed softly against Hermione's wrist, as if to reassure himself that she was still there... for now. "In Death Archives."
"Death?" Harry repeated. "Why Death?"
"She was researching the Al'eyn."
"There are records of it in Death?"
"There are records," Ron said, "of every person who has ever died, along with their cause of death. In some cases, there are records of those who died a second death."
"Because they were resurrected," Harry said, understanding.
"Yes," Ron confirmed. "Of course, the first instance Hermione found of this was a millennium ago, during the rule of the Pharaohs. Fifteen hundred men died a second death, all on the same day."
"The day Amunhotep died." Harry was sure.
Ron nodded. There was a thunderous explosion in the distance and they both spun, wands raised. Hesitating, unsure whether to react or to stay, Neville was the one who broke the tense silence.
" Susan bellowed after him, as he sprinted back the way they'd come, Hannah already hot on his heels.
"We have to help!"
His words drifted back to them on a rumble of thunder. Ron's face was stricken and Harry felt torn between following Neville and hearing Ron out. Susan Disapparated abruptly and they were left alone. The shouts and bangs from the battle were growing louder, filling the darkness.
"Quick, Ron," Harry said, his words rushing together. "Tell me the rest."
His face was green, but Ron inhaled and went on.
"After Amunhotep's army died," he continued weakly, "there were no more instances of any second deaths. That is, until the thirteenth century."
"What happened then?" Harry asked.
"There was another wizard that lived here in Britain who wanted what Amunhotep did," Ron explained. "Control. And he found a way to get it Amunhotep's way."
Ron nodded curtly.
"He found it, used it, and almost started a war right here."
"Here?" Harry demanded. "But why isn't it taught in History of Magic? Why don't I know about it?"
"Because he was stopped before he could cause much damage."
"How? How do you kill what's already dead?"
"You bring it back to life," Ron said. "Or as near to life-like as you can get it."
The sounds of fighting were even nearer, now. Harry thought that they would burst through the trees at any moment.
"Harry," Ron said, "do you remember who lived in the twelve-hundreds?"
Harry thought for a moment, but shook his head.
"The Peverells," Ron told him simply.
At that moment, the empty forest was suddenly filled.
"BACK!" Neville was shouting as he beat off a pair of unarmed corpses with is bare hands. "Get back!"
Someone else, fighting alongside him, had taken up Hermione's chant.
"Don't look! Don't look at the faces!" Ginny cried, and she took down her own brother with a Stunner.
Harry gagged, but fortunately Ginny had taken her own advice and seemed not to notice who it was.
"Ron!" Harry said. "Take Hermione and get out of here! Then come back and round up the others. Get them out just get out!"
Ron appeared torn, but one look at Hermione, still slumped unconscious against the tree decided it for him. Lifting her against his chest, he Disapparated.
Harry, with a last desperate glance at Ginny and Neville, Hannah and Teddy, and all his friends fighting for their lives, sprinted in the opposite direction straight into the on-coming army.
As he ran, bodies poured out from between the trees. There was Remus again, his face torn open by some violent curse, but not bleeding. And there was Rufus Scrimgeour, his hair a matted mess atop his head, his rotting teeth bared in a snarl. There were more faces that seemed familiar, but Harry tried not to look long enough to name them.
" he cried over and over, and they flew into the air, smashing against trees and breaking, crunching. Harry felt like he was going to be sick again, but he carried on.
" one of them shouted.
Harry roared in pain and plummeted to his knees as his trousers were slashed open, blood pouring immediately from a deep cut in his thigh. There was the sound of high pitched laughter and Harry looked up into the face of Severus Snape. His eyes were blacker than they ever had been in life, and his billowy robes hung in tatters over his bony shoulders.
"Get up, Potter,
" he hissed in Parseltongue in the voice of Voldemort. "Fight me. Kill me.
"You're already dead," Harry panted, clutching at his leg.
Snape raised his wand and Harry grimaced as he copied the movement with his own. The irony was painfully clear. How many times had he wanted to curse Snape when he lived? And now that he was dead, Harry didn't think he could do it.
Their eyes met and Snape's flickered with red just for a moment. Harry inhaled, the moment frozen in time.
And then someone broke through the underbrush nearby, toppling over into a pile of wet leaves and lying there twitching. Harry recognised the hair instantly.
"Draco," he gasped. "God, no. Not you, too... "
All the breath seemed to rush out of his lungs as he lurched to his feet, the world falling away. But Snape had not been distracted by Draco's appearance, and he slashed his wand violently through the air.
Harry was thrown off his feet and smashed into a tree trunk. He slid down it and crumbled, groaning, at the base. He could hear the twigs snapping beneath Snape's feet as he came closer, but Harry's body was seizing up with pain and he couldn't move to defend himself.
"I'm sorry." He barely managed the whisper of breath between his teeth. "Severus, I'm sorry it had to be you."
There was a pause the length of a heartbeat, and then Snape sucked in a sharp breath and Harry squeezed his eyes closed, awaiting the inevitable.
Death never came or if it did, it alleviated none of the pain. His breathing was heavy and harsh as he tried to straighten into a sitting position. Still standing over him, his face caught in a rictus of surprise, Snape appeared to be collapsing in on himself. His cheeks and eyes were caving like sinkholes, his hips and shoulders narrowing, his fingers and toes curling in.
Lips pulled back over his clenched teeth, he hovered this way for one awful moment. And then, with a blast of unnatural wind that came whisking through the treetops, he deteriorated into nothing more than a dusty breeze and was carried away, as though he had never even existed.
Harry shuddered as he inhaled, his eyes wide on the spot that Snape had last stood. He could feel tears tracking down his cheeks, but didn't try to wipe them away.
"H-harry," a quiet voice said, and Harry's eyes snapped sideways onto the figure of Draco.
He was leaning against a narrow trunk, his arm wrapped around it for support, his trembling wand still pointed at the place Snape had been. And his eyes, though eerily flat, were not empty not voids. He was alive.
"Draco!" Harry cried, forcing himself to his feet and stumbling forward.
Dragging his bad leg behind him, he hurried across the space separating them and clutched Draco's shoulders, shaking him hard.
"Draco, thank God you're okay!"
But it was clear that Draco wasn't okay, alive or not. His eyelids were flickering over faded eyes, his knuckles white as he clutched desperately at the tree. As Harry watched, Draco turned his wand on Harry, who noted in some insignificant part of his brain that it wasn't actually Draco's wand.
Clenching his eyes shut, as though he couldn't bear to see what he was about to do, Draco began to twitch.
"No," he was whimpering, "please, no."
Harry understood at last.
"Fight it, Draco!" he hissed, his fingers digging into Draco's shoulders. "Fight the voice! It's not you. You don't want this!"
"Not Harry," Draco murmured. "Not Harry."
The unknown wand was gouging hard into Harry's chest, but Harry didn't waver.
"You can break the curse, Draco," he said urgently. "You
are the only person who can control you."
Then, without thinking without even pausing to consider Harry leaned forward and pressed his lips against Draco's.
The kiss was less than pleasurable. It was desperate and dry; their lips were chapped and Draco's were unresponsive. But breathing came easier as the wand pressed into Harry's chest slipped downwards by centimetres, then inches.
Sliding his hands up Draco's neck, Harry buried them in Draco's wet and tangled hair and sealed their bodies together. Their noses were smashed and Harry's lips hurt, trapped between his teeth and Draco's, but he didn't relent.
And at last, the wand fell away altogether and Draco's hands clutched at Harry's sides, holding him tightly.
"You're back," Harry panted into Draco's mouth, and wrapped his arms around Draco's waist, buried his face into Draco's shoulder, and hugged him.
"I thought I was going to kill you," Draco moaned, his breath brushing through Harry's hair. "I wanted to kill you."
"It wasn't you. You're here now," Harry soothed him.
Harry could have remained this way forever. He could be anywhere, be anything, as long as he had Draco. But he had a duty and the screams of terror and pain echoing through the forest only reinforced his determination.
He stepped back and slipped a hand into Draco's.
"There's something I have to do," he said solemnly.
"I'm never leaving you again," Draco said, his hand squeezing Harry's fingers firmly.
Harry bent to retrieve the wand Draco had dropped but Draco shook his head.
"I took it off a body," he explained hoarsely. "I don't know whose. But I can't use it again."
Harry understood why, so he offered Draco his own wand instead.
"Use mine," he said. "I won't need it."
Turning, Harry stumbled into a painful trot, Draco's hand still clutched in his. His leg burned and throbbed and he tried not to think about how much blood he was losing. The trees started to thin and if Harry squinted, he could just make out a bright orange light burning beyond them.
Bodies sprinted across their path but Draco was quick with Harry's wand, and none touched them.
At last, they broke through onto the grassy countryside. The rain had let up, the thunder a distant roar, but the storm had not passed. Though night was fully upon them now, the white dotting of stars was burned away by a fire that blazed ahead of them. The Burrow had gone up in flames.
Harry froze in place, his eyes wide and terrified. Was anyone trapped inside? Where were Rose and Hugo and Mrs Weasley? Had Voldemort left?
"Don't stop now," Draco whispered in Harry's ear, and Harry tore his gaze off the place he had always considered a second home.
"I'll do it here," he murmured and turned away from the terrible sight to face Draco. "Got my back?" he asked.
"Forever," Draco promised, then levelled his wand over Harry's shoulder and cried, "Protego!
Harry heard the sizzle of Dark magic stopped in its tracks by Draco's shield. Spinning, his eyes landed on Voldemort or what had once been him holding Draco's wand in his thin fingers. The motionless bodies of his three captives lay at his feet.
Dead three times, Voldemort was so contorted now that he was hardly recognisable as a human. He was so thin that he wasn't much more than a skeleton; his skin was deathly pale and almost translucent, and Harry thought he could see the pulse of blood so sinister that it was almost black beneath his flesh. His bare scalp was veined with dark lines that seemed to start as his temples and branch outward and Harry knew, without reason, that he was being controlled by something that wasn't entirely him.
The completely black eyes held death in them as he raised his wand.
Plunging his hand into his pocket, Harry withdrew the stone that he'd taken to carrying with him everywhere. Turning it thrice in hand just as Voldemort opened his mouth, Harry clenched his eyes closed and felt the Earth stop spinning.
"Open your eyes, Harry."
The delicate voice came to him like a caress of wind against his cheek, and he obeyed it.
Before him stood his mother, beautiful again; young and whole. He could see through her, to the place where Voldemort stood frozen, but at the same time she appeared so real
. The world and reality it all seemed to drop away as he looked at her.
"Mum," he said, happiness and sadness washing through him just as it had done the last time, twenty years ago.
His mother looked sideways and he saw that his father was there, too, bespectacled and smiling.
"I'm sorry, son," he said quietly. "We never wanted to hurt you."
"It's not your fault," Harry replied.
"We're going to protect you now," Lily told him. "As we always have."
"And always will," James said.
Lily stretched out a hand, as if to touch Harry's cheek, and then they were whisked away like smoke on wind.
Harry's hand clenched around the Resurrection Stone and there were suddenly four more people before him.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, even in this half-form; Fred waved a hand, and Remus and Tonks smiled, standing close together. They vanished, too, but more replaced them.
Harry summoned dozens as many as he could remember. There was Cedric Diggory and Colin Creevey; Amelia Bones, her brother and his wife; Hannah Abbott's mother, who had silvery tears leaking down her cheeks; Alastor Moody, Barty Crouch Jr., Cornelius Fudge, and Bathilda Bagshot. Nameless figures appeared, too; those that Harry had seen in the battle, but had never met in life.
Even Snape materialised, though he no longer had a body to return to. He stood motionlessly, watching as Harry cried silent tears for all the dead, his black eyes glistening with emotions that Harry didn't want to know.
"Harry," Draco suddenly said after what had seemed like lifetimes. Harry had almost forgotten that he was there. "Harry, do you hear that?"
"What?" Harry croaked.
"The screaming," Draco replied, "the shouting. It's all gone. It's quiet."
Harry blinked away the tears and looked out over the flickering field. Bodies lay strewn here and there and Harry wondered how many were dead. In front of him, wand still poised over his head to strike, Voldemort was looking over Harry's shoulder into the forest, his black eyes wide.
"No... " he hissed, unbelieving.
"They're coming," Harry said without having to look.
And they did.
There were too many so many that Harry was surprised he had summoned them all. They came slowly, gathering together around him, more rigid than the living but just as solid and just as lovely.
Harry saw Voldemort jerk backward as if he were about to run, but Albus Dumbledore raised one hand toward him and he suddenly could not move his feet. He opened his mouth but suddenly could not speak.
"There are some that have died," Dumbledore said to Harry. His expression was of anguish, but his voice did not waver. "And for that," he continued, "we are truly sorry. The dead hold no grudge against the living."
"Then you're not living?" Harry asked, a tremor of hope not well disguised beneath the question.
"My dear boy, no," Dumbledore answered. "There is no way to return from where we are, and we would not wish for it."
"I miss you," Harry gasped. "All of you."
"We're always with you, Harry," Remus told him from the edge of the group.
Draco slipped a hand around Harry's waist, holding him reassuringly. Harry saw the smiles on his parents' face and a burst of pride exploded in his chest, bringing more tears.
"We will take Voldemort with us," Dumbledore went on. "But you must destroy the stones, Harry both of them."
Harry opened his mouth to argue, but nearby, the ghostly figure of Snape moved forward.
"You can't call them back again," he said. "They don't want to be here."
Harry ached as looked at the face, once twisted with anger but now smooth beautiful.
"I would call you back," Harry told Snape suddenly, sure of it. "I would want you back."
He did not receive a reply. Snape turned undecipherable eyes on him and said nothing more.
"Destroy the stones, Harry," Dumbledore repeated. "Please."
Swallowing audibly, Harry only nodded. Draco's arm squeezed gently around his waist.
A breeze ruffled Harry's hair, kissed his cheek. It whipped his robes around his legs, rippled through the grass, and bent the branches of the trees. To his right, Harry saw the fire of the Burrow reach up towards the sky, higher and higher, until he realised it was being sucked into the wind, leaving behind tendrils of smoke like grey fingers.
Before him, the bodies of his family, friends, and allies were crumbling to dust being swept away, too. In the end, there was left no trace of them.
* * *
Time flew by in a blur when one was waiting for life to resume a semblance of normalcy. Draco knew this all too well.
It was nearly a week after the dreadful night of the resurrection war, but it seemed like mere hours. Every night that Draco put his head on his pillow, he tossed and turned with images of the dead coming, reaching for him. He would roll over onto his side in a fit and open his eyes, seeking comfort; it always found him.
"Sleep, Draco," Harry would whisper to him, putting his arm around Draco's waist.
"Do you see them?" he always asked.
"All of them," was the reply.
"Do they frighten you?"
Draco never asked if Harry wished he could hide from his memories again, now that it was all over; Harry never tried to. That was enough for Draco.
On the last day in July, Draco woke Harry by putting his mouth on Harry's flaccid cock. Harry groaned and twitched and blinked awake, his unfocussed eyes widening as he caught sight of Draco.
"Fuck," he murmured.
"Happy birthday," Draco said in the second between stroking with his hand and going back down.
Harry was hard in Draco's mouth by the time his nose bumped into the curls around the base of Harry's cock. Draco swallowed around it, delighted, and Harry squirmed beneath him. There was something so right about waking up beside Harry and doing this
that he couldn't believe they hadn't been doing it for all of time; living with Harry had become as natural as breathing.
With enthusiasm, Draco bobbed his head up and down on Harry's erection. When Harry wove his fingers into Draco's hair, Draco kept his head down, working his tongue instead as he rolled Harry's balls in his palm. His other hand ventured further, stroking Harry's arsehole teasingly before he pressed one finger against it gently.
Harry's hand clenched hard in Draco's hair, Draco mumbled an unintelligible protest around Harry's cock, and Harry arched and came. Pulling back, Draco licked his lips as he watched Harry coat his own abdomen watched his eyes clench closed in rapture. When they opened again, Draco had already pulled himself off, too.
"I love you," Harry muttered to him, eyeing Draco's spunk, mingled with his own on his stomach.
Draco grinned and climbed off the bed.
"Youll love me less when I tell you what we're doing today."
"What?" Harry asked, confused. "I have the day off. I wanted to see Hermione."
"You see her at work," Draco reminded him. "Today, you've got to destroy the stones."
Predictably, Harry's face hardened and he slid out of bed, too, crossing into their bathroom. Draco sighed and followed. He didn't mention the topic again as they dressed for the day and went downstairs for breakfast. Mother was at the table already, picking delicately at a plate of Eggs Benedict.
"Happy birthday, Harry," she said by way of greeting.
"Thank you, Mrs Malfoy," Harry replied warmly, even though he'd just been giving Draco the cold shoulder.
"Are you doing anything special?" she asked.
"No," Harry said flatly, and Draco scowled. "Are you?"
"I'll be visiting Azkaban again today," she replied.
Harry nodded, looking forlorn. Draco had told him to stop feeling guilty about his father's fate. After all, prison visits were more than his parents had ever got while he and Father had been on the run.
Partway through breakfast, Harry's wand started spinning and whistling urgently on the table beside his hand. With a jolt, Harry leapt from his seat, bumping the table so hard that his pumpkin juice spilled. He glanced at Draco with a 'so there' look as he raced to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder.
"Granger does have a way of getting you out of a jam, doesn't she?" Draco said exasperatedly.
With a tense laugh, Harry threw down the powder and shouted, "St Mungo's!"
"A problem with a patient, I suppose," Narcissa said when he was gone.
"Granger must be awake," Draco replied.
"How can you know?"
"The Half-Blood Prince never fails."
Mother looked at him curiously, and Draco explained.
"Harry's Mediwizards concocted a potion for her that Harry was sure would work, but it didn't. So Harry altered it according to some notes left in an old potions book. They must've finished the modifications and dosed her this morning."
"And the potions book... ?" Narcissa asked, but Draco could see that she already knew the answer.
"Severus' old school book," he said anyway, his throat clenching closed around the tail-end of the reply.
"Thank heavens for that man."
She raised her glass in a solitary salute and Draco could not help but flinch as memories assaulted him. He wondered how long it would take before he could think of his godfather without regret and self-loathing.
But time heals all wounds.
Harry didn't bother to stop by his office to change into his Healer robes; he was too frantic.
But when he got to Hermione's private room and pushed the door open, his racing heart skidded to a stop.
There she was, as alive and lovely as ever, sitting up in bed with her two children tucked beneath her chin. One of her hands stroked Rose's wild curls; the other was stretched out toward her husband seated at her bedside, wrapped like a lifeline around Ron's fingers. And when she turned her face up to look at Harry, a beaming smile spilled across it.
"You did it," she said happily, and he knew she was referring to the battle.
did it," he replied, breathless but happier than he'd been in many days.
"You always do it," Ron added, squeezing her hand, and Rose and Hugo laughed. "Hey," Ron told them, "Uncle George is in the waiting room. I bet you could coerce him into taking you to Fortescue's."
" Hugo said, his eyes wide.
"Uncle George has a wicked sweet tooth," Ron whispered, as if confiding some very secret information in them.
"Come on, Hugo!" Rose shouted, rolling off her mum's bed and running out the door.
"No running!" Hermione called after them, but her voice was too weak for them to hear, the first sign belying her otherwise happy, healthy appearance.
Harry went to the chart hanging off the end of her bed and flipped through it.
"A hundred people before you have already read that, mate," Ron informed him.
"Yeah, but none of them are as smart as I am," Harry joked and Ron snorted.
"Will I survive, Healer Potter?" Hermione asked mock-seriously.
"For now," Harry said. "But living with him " he pointed his chin at Ron, "and those two " he jabbed his thumb at the door that Rose and Hugo had left ajar, "who knows how far off your day is?"
"Oi," Ron protested, but he was grinning.
Harry pulled the spare seat up to the foot of Hermione's bed and sat down. As he watched her, her smile began to melt away.
"Ron's already told you," Harry concluded.
Hermione didn't have to answer; her wide eyes, already shiny with tears, were answer enough.
"Oh, Harry," she mumbled, and they spilled over her cheeks.
Harry felt his eyes burn, his gut clench, his throat close up, but he couldn't cry anymore than he already had. Instead he folded his hands over his stomach and watched Hermione mourn; it was a strange sort of comfort.
"We buried her in that odd yellow dress she wore to your wedding and to Bill and Fleur's. Do you remember?"
Hermione nodded wordlessly.
"Draco gave her his wand," Harry went on, surprised that he could still speak at all. "Hers works just as well for him now anyway. Strange, isn't it? But it's really nicer that way. A piece of her goes on with us."
"It's a-awful," Hermione sobbed.
Harry watched Ron's thumb stroke the back of her hand and he suddenly longed for Draco.
"It is," he agreed. "Do you realise that during the short thirty-seven years that she lived, she spent fewer than half of them as Luna?"
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but her tears were too thick so Ron did, instead.
"She was always Luna, mate," he said gently. "She was always there, even when we couldn't see her."
Harry nodded; though he wasn't sure if he quite believed it, it was a nice thought.
"Ron's r-right, Harry," Hermione said when she'd gotten herself more under control. "Listen, while you were confronting Yaxley at Spinner's End, I was duelling Rodolphus. The whole time, he was keeping hold of this rucksack, so the moment he started to run, I summoned it and I got it!"
Harry couldn't see how this had anything to do with Luna, but he didn't interrupt; she went on, speaking more quickly in her desire to share what she'd found.
"Inside was the book from Luna's well, from Draco's memory. The one Yaxley and the Lestranges found about the Al'eyn. One look at the cover gave me the clue I needed to help you figure out how to stop Voldemort's army."
"Why?" Harry asked, intrigued now. "What was on the cover?"
"The author's name. Harry, it was written by Calver De Plumes!
Harry felt excited but confused.
"So he wrote a book on memories and one on ancient artefacts? Where's the connection?"
"That's what I wasn't sure about, so I went straight to History Archives to look him up. It turned out that Calver De Plumes is a penname. In fact, it's an anagram. De Plumes' real name is Cadmus Peverell."
"That's what lead her to Death Archives," Ron cut in, looking at her proudly.
"Not right away," Hermione corrected. "But when I started to think about it, I realised that Cadmus, being who he was, could not have known about the stone and not
tried to find it. And if he did find it, he couldn't have helped using it."
"Why not?" Harry demanded. "What do you mean, 'being who he was'?"
"Think about it, Harry. The Peverells were great inventors and powerful wizards. I don't think a one of them would have passed up a chance like the Al'eyn Albyda, do you?"
Harry wished he could deny it; he didn't like to think that Ignotus, Harry's ancestor, could have been so power hungry even if his brothers were. Hermione wasn't finished.
"That's when I went to Death Archives," she said. "And when I found evidence of another occurrence of second deaths like the one during Amunhotep's time, I knew there could be no doubt that a Peverell had gotten hold of the stone."
" Ron said, "is when I found her."
Hermione grinned at him.
"Yes, it was all Ron's idea."
"What was?" Harry asked, looking between them.
"Ron found me just after I'd decided that Cadmus must have used the Al'eyn. But when I explained it to him, his first question was why would Cadmus have invented the Resurrection Stone if he already had the Al'eyn?"
"Well," Harry said, thinking. "Well, yeah... Why would he have done?"
"Because," Hermione answered, "he wasn't the one who used the Al'eyn."
"But you just said "
"I was wrong."
"She was wrong," Ron repeated, doing a poor job of hiding his smirk.
Hermione hit his shoulder weakly and he laughed.
"After that," she continued, "I looked up all the books written by Calver De Plumes and I found one entitled Solely Souls.
It was a record of all the research Cadmus had done on the soul and its relationship both to the physical and spiritual planes."
"Erm... okay," Harry said blankly.
"Don't worry," Ron said. "I didn't get it either."
"The fact that Cadmus was experimenting with summoning souls to the physical plane," she said, "is proof that he was trying to create a weapon to combat the effects of the Al'eyn. You see, that is the vital difference between the Resurrection Stone and the Al'eyn Albyda; while the Al'eyn summons the body, the Resurrection Stone summons the soul.
Understanding suddenly dawned on Harry as he relived that night by the Burrow. While Voldemort had awakened the empty shells of the dead, Harry had brought back something less solid but much stronger.
"But then," he asked, realising there was still a gap in his knowledge, "who was the one who used the Al'eyn?"
"My guess is that it was Antioch," Hermione said.
"Of the three of them, he was the most ruthless," Ron agreed.
"So," Harry concluded, "that's why the Resurrection Stone worked for me. All along it was the counter-weapon to the Al'eyn invented for exactly that purpose."
"If you summon the soul, it will find reason that the body can't. The dead hold no grudge against the living," she said, and Harry's breath caught; she didn't know that Dumbledore had said those exact words to him only a few days ago.
"It's kind of exciting, if you think about it," Ron reasoned. "That the dead want so badly to stay where they are. It must be a nice place, the afterlife."
This made Harry think of Luna again wonder where she was right now, if she could see him.
"Hang on," he said. "What has any of this got to do with Luna? You said that Ron was right that she was always there even if we couldn't see her."
"Oh, that's something I came across while reading Solely Souls,
" Hermione said. "Cadmus discovered that as long as a person's body was walking on the physical plane, so could their soul. That's why, until the deceased are buried, they can't truly move on."
Hermione's eyes softened.
"So there is your answer, Harry," she told him. "Even though Luna didn't retain her memories, she still retained her soul
* * *
Much later that evening, after Harry had signed the form releasing Hermione first thing the next morning, he was making rounds in the Janus Thickey Ward. He wasn't technically on the clock, he just needed the comfort of the routine. Apparently, Neville was craving the same thing.
"Hello, Harry," he said as he ambled into the room, not quite as chipper as usual.
Harry went straight to him and embraced him in a warm hug.
"How are you, Neville?" he asked.
"Alright. Things are quiet around home without Gran's squawking."
Harry wasn't sure what to say so he just patted Neville's arm.
"Reckon she's happy though," he went on, "wherever she is. She went down fighting, even though she always said she was too old to see another war. It's what she wanted, really."
Grinning weakly, Harry joined Neville as he visited his parents.
"How are things with you and Malfoy?" Neville asked as he helped his mum to a glass of water.
Harry tried not to grimace, but Neville caught it; Headmasters seemed to inherit those eagle eyes.
"What is it?" Neville cajoled.
"Well, I'm sort of avoiding him," Harry admitted.
"He wants... he keeps heckling me to destroy the stones."
"Harry," Neville said seriously, "you have to. I'm surprised you haven't done yet."
"I know I should, but it's harder than it seems. I don't really intend to use them to talk to my parents, but it's nice to know that I could.
Neville watched his dad, who was looking in fascination at a magical photograph that Neville had brought him of Augusta Longbottom.
"You can always talk to them, Harry," he murmured. "They'll hear you."
Harry contemplated this in silence as Neville interacted with his parents. At last, he said, "I'm not even sure how
to destroy them. I doubt a Confringo will do any good."
"I think I might know a way," Neville mused.
After saying goodbye to Alice and Frank, Neville lead Harry to Hogwarts. They walked through the eerily quiet and empty corridors together and Harry recognised instantly where they were when they stopped.
Neville raised his wand in front of the empty stretch of wall across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.
" he said, and when Harry gave him a questioning look: "The entrance has been sealed off in case anyone happens upon it. That curse that Crabbe used during the battle has never died."
Harry's eyes widened in shock as Neville paced in front of the wall.
"You can ask it for anything," he explained as he did, "and no matter what you want, all you'll get is the fire."
The door materialised and Neville let his hand hover over the handle.
"I'll pull," he said. "You throw."
Swallowing audibly, Harry reached into his pocket and withdrew two stones. One was small but vividly green, as if a light was shining from within it; the other was larger and black as pitch, a jagged crack running down the middle. With a deep breath, Harry closed his fingers over them both.
He looked up at Neville and nodded.
"One," Neville counted. "Two... three!"
Neville heaved the door open and a great roar of heat burst through the crack, just a shimmer in the air at first until the flames followed, licking like vicious creatures up the stone wall and across the floor.
For a moment just one quick moment Harry was plagued with the memory of when this fire began.
"Like it hot, scum?
" Crabbe bellowed, and Harry could not stop the grin that curled the corners of his mouth as he lobbed the stones into the furnace.
Neville threw his shoulder against the door and screwed his eyes shut as he forced it closed on the explosive waves of heat that thickened the air all around them. At last, the handle latched and the door began to fade into the wall, as if it had never been.
Holding up his hands, Neville showed Harry two angry red palms, blisters already forming up and down his fingers.
"A bit hot," he said, cringing. "Do you mind?"
Harry pulled out his wand and healed Neville's skin.
"Thanks," Neville said.
Putting a hand on Neville's shoulder, Harry allowed his relief to reduce him to breathless laughter.
* * *
When Harry finally spun through the grate into the welcoming parlour, Draco was fuming.
"Where have you been?" he demanded before Harry had even regained his footing. "Avoiding me all this time?"
"No, I don't bloody care. You can't keep running from this, Harry."
"Draco, I'm not "
"Yes, you are! And I get it. Don't think I don't get it. You're not the only one who has lost someone they love."
"I know you "
"But these stones aren't toys! You have got
to destroy them "
"Draco, I did!
Draco paused and speculated Harry, his eyes narrowed sceptically.
"When did you?"
"Just now," Harry told him. "Neville and I went to Hogwarts. We threw them into the fire in the Room of Requirement."
His eyes widening, Draco scrutinised Harry's expression for signs that he was lying, but found none.
"Well then," he said gruffly. "Good."
He turned away and hurried through the halls of the manor to their bedroom. Harry followed silently, but when they were closed away, he spoke.
"Now," he said, "what are you really angry about?"
"I'm not "
"Please don't lie to me."
He looked so vulnerable with his shoulders slouched as if the whole world rested there and with deep bags under his not-so-bright green eyes.
"I didn't like it not knowing where you'd gone," Draco admitted quietly, and then cringed at his own words.
Harry took him into his arms in a heartbeat and his lips were so passionate, his tongue so suggestive, that Draco's lust burnt away all other emotions.
"I missed you, too," Harry said when he pulled away.
Satisfied, Draco turned away and began to remove his clothing for bed.
"So I guess it's all over," Harry mused as he did the same. "I don't think there's any possible way for Voldemort to come back now."
"It might be over for you," Draco said as he pulled his shirt over his head, "but not for me."
He contemplated his left forearm darkly. Harry stepped in front of him and put a hand over his Dark Mark, pulling him in so that their bare chests touched.
"In what way is it not over for you, too?"
"I see the way people look at me as I walk through Diagon Alley or the Ministry. I can't imagine that will end any time soon. I'll be as much a pariah as I was with the Death Eaters. Nobody wants me."
"Stuff that," Harry growled, his voice already reaching that low pitch that made Draco shiver. "Stuff them all. They'll get over it eventually. And besides, I
want you. Isn't that enough?"
He lowered his head and scraped his teeth possessively along Draco's jaw.
"Yeah," Draco panted, "that's enough."
Harry backed them toward the bed until he fell backwards, pulling Draco down on top of him. Draco groaned at the sensation of their bodies pressed hard against one another.
"I want to feel you inside me," Harry breathed into his ear, and Draco finally did shiver.
"It's about time," he said, then crushed his mouth against Harry's.
Their kiss was full of desperate longing, their fingers reaching and clinging. Draco forced Harry's hands over his head and pinned them there as he settled between his open legs. With a groan, Harry clamped his knees around Draco's hips and rutted up against him, their erections sliding together.
Using one hand, Draco reached for the lubricant in the bedside drawer and popped out the stopper. Harry hissed when Draco poured out a generous portion onto his abdomen just above his navel. Tossing aside the vial, Draco coated his fingers in the puddle dribbling downward toward Harry's cock and pressed them gingerly against Harry's arsehole.
"Don't be gentle," Harry growled, lifting his head up to bite Draco's lip.
As a shock of pleasure bolted straight to his groin, Draco pushed two fingers deep inside, absorbing Harry's grunt of discomfort into his mouth. His erection twitched against Harry's as he felt how tight Harry was. Weakly, he scissored his fingers, fighting every muscle in his body not to replace them with his cock.
But then Harry's arse clenched and control abandoned him.
Swiping up the remaining lube on Harry's stomach, he coated his cock and then aligned it with Harry's slick hole.
"Yes, yes," Harry said, before he even started pressing in, and Draco saw the complete surrender in those green eyes felt the boneless way Harry's body opened up beneath him.
He turned his head and laid his cheek on Harry's chest, his hands sliding beneath Harry's back to hold him tightly. And Harry's hands slipped into Draco's hair, grazing his scalp and caressing the bow of his ears. One finger trailed down Draco's curved spine. The tip of Draco's cock brushed over Harry's hole.
"Don't leave me," Draco whispered against Harry's skin before he even thought the words.
Despite Harry's demand, Draco was extraordinarily gentle as he pushed inside. Harry's fingers clenched in his hair, and beneath Draco's ear he could hear Harry's heartbeat accelerate. At last they were connected in the most perfect and sinful way and Draco never wanted to move.
But he couldn't stop himself.
"Merlin," Harry choked, his breath ruffling Draco's hair when Draco rolled his hips. "Do that again."
Chuckling, Draco restricted his arms tighter around Harry's back and used the leverage to push their bodies together. Harry canted his hips up to meet Draco's movements.
After a long time, they came that way, together: bodies wound, legs tangled, Harry's nose pressed into Draco's hair, his gasps of slow-burning pleasure ruffling through it. The thrusts were short but deep, and as the pleasure built they became a frenzy of movement, rutting against one another like animals, Harry moaning like one with his cock trapped tightly between their writhing, sweating bodies.
"Draco," he panted when they were sealed together by spunk, stilled together by exhaustion and satiation. Draco could only hum in reply, not bothering to lift his cheek still pressed to Harry's chest, or to unlock his arms from around Harry's back.
He fell asleep listening to Harry's heartbeat.
* * *
It is the body that corrupts the body that covets and lusts and hates. And that is why we leave them behind when we die: because the soul is the most beautiful piece of a man, and the most pure. If ever there was something truly good, it is a soul free of its Earthly bonds.
Excerpt from Solely Souls by Calver De Plumes