Desperation – 1/6 – Sunfire

Title: Desperation
Author: Sunfire (SunfireScribbles)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Drama, Family, Kid!fic, Hurt/Comfort, PreRelationship, Slash, Romance, First Time
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Discussion- Child Abuse, Violence- Canon Level, Explicit Sex
Author Notes: Dumbledore-bashing and Good Malfoys. And awesome art by Tiffany
Beta: NCP
Word Count: 160,277
Summary: Add the Desperation of a young child to escape his tormentors to the three D’s of Apparition, and a lot can go wrong, or right. What if, when chased by Dudley and his gang, instead of the school roof, Harry’s accidental magic delivers him to the grounds of Malfoy Manor? Well, to start, a Harry Potter, raised and shaped by Pure-blood knowledge and tradition will have a far different impact on the Wizarding World than the ignorant and abused child Dumbledore had expected to be delivered to him on September first.
Artist: Tiffany


Art by Tiffany


Art by Tiffany

Volume I: To Escape

Chapter One: Away

The badly scuffed toes of his sneakers were right on the edge of the pool of shadow, but Harry was too afraid of making any noise to attempt to scoot back further. As it was, the boy’s back was pressed as tightly to the brick as he could get it, so it was unlikely that any kind of adjustment would hide him any better. And hide was exactly what he was trying so hard to do. School had let out only ten minutes prior and he had spent every second of it trying to avoid the latest round of Harry-Hunting. The seven-year-old was having mixed success. For all that he was much quicker and more agile than his cousin, the larger boy’s numerous friends did not even things out in Harry’s favor. Those numbers had led to his current predicament, pinned in between Dudley and Gordon to his right, and Piers and Malcolm on his left.

The dark-haired boy could hear both groups discussing the likeliest place for their quarry to be hiding. The sound of one of them suggesting they look behind the dumpsters, which were less than a meter away from his actual hiding spot, was less concerning for him than the fact that he couldn’t hear Dennis at all. Which meant there was a member of Dudley’s gang unaccounted for. That was not usually a good sign for Harry, as it often meant that there was someone sneaking up behind him.

Even with the solid wall at his back, Harry had to resist the urge to look over his shoulder and instead examined his surroundings for a possible escape route. The number of times – which coincidently was the same as the number of days he and Dudley had attended this school – that he had been hunted throughout the school grounds meant that he had become fairly familiar with the layout of such routes. He had exactly three options, two of which were in the direction of one group or another of Dudley’s gang, and one, which cut through the large open football pitch.

Before the young orphan had a chance to consider which option to risk, a cry of “there’s the freak!” was heard, forcing the scared boy from his hiding spot and out into the open as two of the three routes were filled with larger boys racing towards him. Each of those boys were holding a stick or other object, and Harry knew very well what they were for. He still had the bruises and cuts from the sticks they had used in the last few rounds of Harry-Hunting over the weekend.

Panic at the thought of yet more of the same had the skinny little boy sprinting all-out across the green field without any consideration for the pain he’d been having in his leg since Saturday’s Harry-Hunt. Maybe if he could reach the school kitchen there might be some adults around. Dudley and the others might hesitate to attack him in front of adults other than their parents. The cries of his pursuers were closing fast as the two groups came at him from either side. If he spared the second to turn and look he was certain his cousin would be a ways behind his faster, if not less violent, friends. He daren’t spare even that long, however, and continued to watch in front of him for any obstacles in his path to temporary freedom.

The fear and desperation nearly choked him as he felt a hand just barely miss the trailing edge of his oversized shirt. For a split second his eyes landed on the roof of the building still a few meters away and he briefly wished he were on top of it, too high for any of the other boys to reach. It suddenly felt like he was being pushed in from all sides but the sensation ended as the thought fled, replaced by an even more desperate hope to be away. As high as the roof was, he would eventually have to come down and the Hunting would start all over again. But if he were away, away from Little Whinging and away from Privet Drive, and away from the Dursleys, then he would be safe.

If only, if only he could be away. As he cleared the pitch and felt his aching feet slamming against the pavement of the car park, Harry wanted to be away more than absolutely anything else. Away. The word rang in his head and the pressing sensation returned, feeling almost like he was being forced through a small pipe. His empty stomach seemed to drop out of him and spin him around at the same time. The strange feeling stole his breath and he was sure he’d been caught. Vivid green eyes squeezed shut against the expected feeling of a sudden sharp yank on his shirt from one or another of his tormentors.

But instead of his knees making painful contact with the pavement as he was yanked off his feet and into the hands of the four malicious boys, Harry Potter found himself suddenly sprawled on soft green grass. Still, he braced himself against the blows that were sure to follow, even as he wondered how he had gotten back on the pitch. When the attack failed to come, he dared a quick glance upwards, skinny shoulders still hunched forward and hands still raised to protect his head. The bullies were no where in sight, however. And neither was anyone else.

All he could see was green. A large hedge rose before him, a wall of green to match the lush grass underneath him. But there were no hedges that tall on the school grounds, there were no hedges at all near the football pitch, where the grass was far more yellow and patchy than what he was laying on at present. This was not the pitch. This was not Little Whinging Primary School. Harry’s breath began to come fast and shallow, making it impossible to catch his breath as one word began to echo again in his thoughts. Away. He was away.

 

The small boy struggled to his feet and looked frantically around himself in every direction, the word growing louder and louder in his head as every new sight confirmed what he had so desperately wanted but never thought he would have. He was away. He was safe. No Little Whinging, no Privet Drive, no Dudley’s gang, no Dursleys. After several moments Harry finally managed to convince his arms to lower to his sides and his breath to slow and calm, at least somewhat. A part of him couldn’t believe this was happening.

Strange, freaky things happened around him, he knew. The Dursleys never failed to point out when anything the least bit unexpected happened around him and explain in excruciating and loud detail how wrong that was. But nothing like this had ever happened before. No matter how many times he had fallen asleep in his cupboard wishing he would wake up somewhere – anywhere – else, it had never happened. Even his dreams of being in another house with another family, one where he was actually wanted, had always been indistinct. There had never been edges to his dream world, only blurry shadows darkened with tears and desperation. But this was clear.

The lines of the hedges on either side of him were sharp and straight. The green walls even formed a perfect corner several feet behind him where they turned to head off in another direction like the hallway that led from his classroom to the front door of the primary school. But instead of echoing taunts from the other children he’d heard as he traversed those halls, this place was quiet, only the sound of a bird some ways off penetrated the leafy walls. At least at first.

It was only a few minutes after his arrival, when he had worked up the courage to turn one of that green corner to see where it led that Harry heard a voice. It was coming from ahead of him, where the hedge walls opened into what looked from his angle like a vast box of green with a grassy bottom, leafy sides and a lid of blue sky. The small boy froze, then shrank back against the hedge wall in an effort to remain unseen. In the brief glimpse he had caught, he was able to tell that the sound was coming from a blond boy sitting inside another green shape in the center of the larger hedge box.

The sight did little to reassure him. He knew the danger posed by adults, especially when he’d done something strange or ended up where he shouldn’t, but he had also learned well the danger that could come from a boy his age. Many of the injuries he had suffered over the years were a result of the games his cousin liked to play and they rarely hurt less than the lessons his uncle and aunt had to pound into him. Harry’s attempt to remain undetected was not successful, as the other boy seemed to catch sight of the movement and come immediately to his feet.

“What is it, Wobbly? I’m playing!” The annoyed voice rang through the quiet afternoon, and the brunette covered his mouth with one hand to muffle his breaths and stayed as still as he could.

“Wobbly?” the blond called again. The word was spoken on a huff of breath and was accompanied by the sound of movement from around the corner. Only a moment passed before another call came, this one even closer to where Harry was doing his best to blend in with the leaves at his back. “Who’s there?

The words sounded less irritated but still left the small boy wondering if he should try to make it back to the corner at the other end of the verdant hall. Before he had a chance to try and escape, the blond suddenly appeared with a startled and not very happy “who are you?” as soon as he was within sight of the dark-haired boy.

Harry had gotten very good at recognizing many types of anger and disdain so as to better anticipate the harsh and usually painful consequences they would bring. The tall boy before him was showing neither of those familiar emotions as he eyed the interloper up and down with a sneer. But shock and annoyance, the brunette had long ago learned, could herald their own less than pleasant, and sometimes humiliating, effects. Harry didn’t dare speak. Trying to defend himself when he had done something freakish never got him anything but an extra dressing down or even another smack. And he knew he’d done something even more freakish than normal.

He could feel the tremors starting in his arms and legs and held his body as rigidly as possible even as he hunched in on himself, ready to fend off the first blow. Normal boys didn’t close their eyes in the car park and open them seconds later somewhere completely new. But he was away, he wasn’t with the Dursleys anymore. Maybe being a freak wasn’t as bad here as it had been there. The small bubble of hope that grew inside him at the thought left him feeling just a little sick to his stomach.

A loud sigh showed that the other boy was tired of waiting for a response and repeated his question impatiently. “Who are you and what are you doing here? How did you get into the maze? Did my father bring you here?”

Harry forced himself to give a slight shake of his head. “I-” fear choked him for just a second at the almost mean look on the boy’s face when he didn’t answer right away. What if he was like Dudley? What if he told him what happened and the blond got mad at him for doing something so freakish? What if he hated him? What if he hurt him?

“Well?” the word was drawn out somewhat with another sneer.

The scrawny boy tried again, hoping as hard as he could that away really was somewhere being such a freak wouldn’t earn him a beating. “I’m Harry.”

The response only earned him a raised brow, or rather two, though Harry was pretty sure the other boy had only meant to raise one. He’d seen people on the telly through the slats in his cupboard door do that when they were unhappy or didn’t believe something they were being told. In an attempt to satisfy the blond, he did his best to answer the boy’s other questions.

“I-I don’t know how I got here. I was-” as soon as he thought about it he could hear the pounding of chasing feet, the cries of Dudley’s gang as they drew closer and closer behind him. “I was at school and, and then I- I was here. I didn’t mean to, really, I just, I just wanted to be away and-and then I was.”

The stuttered explanation must have made more sense to the blond than it did to Harry because he nodded knowingly. “Accidental magic.”

Magic. The word was too loud in his ears, an echo of the times he had heard it screamed in his face, all the times the Dursleys had tried to tell him how horrible and freakish such a thing was. Magic wasn’t real, he knew, it was just something stupid worthless freaks called the horrible freakish things they did. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had told him that many times. Even saying the word earned him a beating. If he actually did magic, ohh, that would be bad, he thought as he felt the shaking worsen as he frantically shook his head. “No! No, I didn’t do magic, I didn’t! I swear. Please. Please, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. Please.”

The blond reared back at the first shout, his grey eyes widening as he watched the smaller boy start to shake in his huge ugly clothes. He instinctually raised his hands in a placating gesture but as soon as they started to move, the brunette folded in on himself, crouching in a ball on the grass and covering his head with both hands. Unsure of exactly what to do but unable to do nothing, the blond kneeled down next to the shivering form. He thought frantically for a moment before he remembered the name the other boy had given. “Harry. Harry!”

The boy jerked slightly, then quieted, though it took another repetition of the name to get him to look up tentatively through his unruly fringe. A moment’s silence hung between them before the blond sighed. “Look, everything is fine, alright? You don’t have to get upset, we can-“

The taller boy broke off, not entirely sure what to say and instead falling back on the manners his mother had taught him soon after he started to talk. Slowly, he held out one pale hand towards the still cowering boy and introduced himself calmly. “My name is Draco Malfoy, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

Green eyes flicked uneasily between the blond’s face and hand before hesitantly unwrapping a single arm from around his head to gingerly shake the hand being held out to him. “Hi Draco. Nice to meet you. I’m Harry Potter.”

The warm hand in his froze mid-shake and Harry snatched his hand away, bringing it back up to his head. Maybe Draco had heard of him. Maybe his parents knew Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon and they’d heard all about what a terrible, worthless, ungrateful freak he was. Now he was in for it.

But no blow came, nor any yelling or look of disgust. The blond didn’t even move away from him, just knelt with his hand still extended and stared at him.

“You’re Harry Potter?” he asked in a tone that implied he didn’t quite believe what he’d been told as grey eyes swept over the hallow-cheeked face.

The Dursleys, as a rule, never believed he was being truthful and had convinced most of his teachers so far that he was a liar, but no one had ever doubted his name before. It always bothered Harry that people thought he was lying when he was telling the truth and the Dursleys were the ones lying. The idea that this boy he’d never met thought he would lie about his name of all things replaced some of his fear with indignant anger.

He lowered his arms away from his head and glared up at the blond. He started to tell the other boy that of course he was Harry Potter, who else would he be? But as he did so a gust of wind sifted his messy black fringe just a little across his forehead and Draco let out a gasp.

“You’re Harry Potter!” he said again, this time with an excited grin that Harry found to be quite odd. Green eyes narrowed and he looked at the boy as if unsure what was happening. “Merlin! You’re Harry Potter!”

Draco had a hard time not jumping up and down as he thought about the fact that Harry Potter, the real Harry Potter, had apparently accidentally Apparated himself onto the Malfoy property. Though the smaller boy sure had gotten upset at the idea of what he’d done, shouting and swearing that he hadn’t done magic. Which was awfully strange, the Malfoy heir thought. Performing accidental magic strong enough to not only Apparate, but to do so through the type of wards on the Manor lands showed how powerful the famous child would surely be as a grown up. Mother and Father would be so proud of him if he managed something like that. Mother and Father. He couldn’t wait to tell them that Harry Potter – Harry Potter – was there.

Draco wasn’t old enough to participate in the lengthy after dinner discussions held by his parents and on occasion, his Godfather, but he had been allowed to listen a few times. He had listened extra closely when Harry Potter was mentioned. He’d been hearing stories about the Boy-Who-Lived for as long as he could remember. His mother still told him bedtime tales about the famous boy and how such a powerful and influential figure would make the perfect kind of friend for the heir to the House of Malfoy.

She and Father both had said that Potter may be the only friend he could ever make that would be a true equal to him socially and politically. The House of Potter, through the House of Peverell, was the only other surviving Most Ancient and Noble House since the imprisonment of the last Black heir. Not to mention that the Boy-Who-Lived was the only person who could ever hope to protect the House of Malfoy from what would come. Draco wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but he had heard his parents both say it so it must be true. He’d thought he’d have to wait until school started to meet the famous boy but now he didn’t.

The blond simply couldn’t wait to play with him, and be best friends, and grow up to be the two most powerful wizards ever. They’d rule the Hogwarts dungeons and everyone would look up to them and they’d be very best friends always and have so much fun. Not that he didn’t have fun with other kids sometimes, there were several families his parents socialized with that had children his age. But those kids only came because they wanted to be invited to Malfoy Manor and because it was, according to Mother, ‘advantageous for a House to interact with those better positioned than themselves.’ Draco knew what that meant, it meant they only played with him because he was the Malfoy heir. They weren’t really his friends, not like Harry Potter would be.

Draco had wanted to be friends with Harry Potter since the very first story he’d ever heard, about the night he survived the Killing Curse because his mother loved him and his parents had died in order to save him. Potter knew how important family was and that the survival of one’s House and family was more important than anything else. Malfoys valued family above all, and the Boy-Who-Lived was probably the only other person who could understand that. He so badly wanted a best friend, one who understood him and who would not only be able to treat him as an equal, but whom he could treat as an equal as well.

It didn’t look like he was off to the best start, though, the blond observed as the other boy continued to stare up at him from his position on the ground. He had only been receiving his comportment lessons formally for a year, but Draco knew you never left a guest outside on the ground, especially such an important one. No matter how much he wanted to play with Harry right away, the proper thing to do was to escort him inside, and introduce him to Mother and Father, and offer him tea. And maybe a change of clothing, he thought to himself as he convinced his new friend to let him help him to his feet.

“This is the hedge maze,” Draco explained as he herded the smaller boy into the center of the maze where he had been playing before he arrived. The maze was the most protected place on the grounds, outside of the Manor, anyway. Generations and generations of Malfoys had woven protective spells and wards and illusionment charms into the hedges. Some spells had even been placed on the seeds themselves.

“That’s my fort,” he pointed to the hedge gazebo as they passed it to take the path that would lead them out, “it’s in the very center of the maze and it’s one of the very best places to play on the whole grounds. I’ll show you inside later and we can make another throne for you to sit on when we play castle and dragons.”

They were almost out of the large maze when Draco realized that Harry was having trouble keeping up with him as he tugged him enthusiastically along. The blond did his best to slow down but he was just so exited to bring his new friend to the Manor that he had a rather hard time of it. When the brunette fell behind and started limping, Draco finally managed to keep pace with the smaller boy, concern dampening his excitement.

“What’s wrong?”

Harry ducked his head, the messy fringe falling to hide his eyes. “Nothing,” he mumbled quietly.

“Yes there is. You’re limping,” the taller boy stated confidently, even as he eyed Harry with confusion. Why someone would claim there was nothing wrong when they were clearly hurt made no sense to the Malfoy heir. He always told his parents or one of the house elves when he got hurt so they could fix it immediately. Draco truly hated being hurt. Father said he had a low threshold for pain, whatever that meant. Obviously it wasn’t something the other boy possessed however, as he responded to the comment with hunched shoulders and the apparent attempt to quicken his uneven steps.

“Sorry,” he muttered on a quick upward glance.

Now the blond was even more confused. “Why?”

The question seemed to make Harry equally bewildered, but the brunette stayed silent on the off chance pointing out how he was slowing them down would remind him to be angry like Aunt Petunia always got when he was moving too slow cleaning or carrying her grocery bags to the house. The lack of an answer didn’t seem to bother the other boy, who began pointing out different plants and animals as they made their way through a garden. The flowerbeds were perfectly neat and tidy and each bed was surrounded by its own tiny hedge amongst the perfectly cut grass.

Harry hated working in the garden at Number Four, it was always either so cold and wet that he ached, or so hot that he got tired and sore and sunburned no matter what the chore was. He cringed at the thought of having to keep these gardens looking so nice. The brunette bit his lower lip, hoping that he wouldn’t be expected to work in the gardens.

Before he managed to panic at the thought of all the chores there must be with such a huge yard as this house had, he reminded himself that he was away now. He was safe now. Surely these people would be nicer to him than the Dursleys. He couldn’t imagine anyone being meaner. Maybe they’d even let him do just the cooking or the polishing. He was good at cooking and he liked doing the polishing. It was always a relief, having something to do that didn’t require too much thought or so much work that his knees or arms were left shaking by the time he finished. Most of his other chores were like that, but not the cooking or the polishing.

Pushing the thoughts away, he forced himself to listen to the blond as he continued to chatter while leading them into a copse of trees and out the other side where their destination finally became visible. Harry stumbled, hardly even noticing when the taller boy darted back to help steady him, green eyes locked on the sight before them. If the preoccupied grin on his face was any indication, Draco hadn’t noticed the smaller boy’s shock.

“Harry Potter, welcome to Malfoy Manor.” The Malfoy heir was quite proud of how proper he sounded as he gestured towards his home. His guest didn’t make the expected response, but the blond was far too excited to let the lack of proper manners bother him. Comportment lessons were dreadfully tedious after all, it was easy enough to forget them. Mother said it was okay if he forgot sometimes as long as he kept trying to remember. Maybe he and Harry could have those lessons together now so they could practice all the formal stuff on each other instead of the house elves. Even comportment lessons would be almost fun with Harry Potter there, surely. Bouncing ever so slightly on the balls of his feet at the possibility, Draco tugged on the dark-haired boy’s arm to get him moving again.

When the smaller boy finally tore his eyes from the enormous building that seemed to almost float above the wide river like a bridge of white stone with blue pointed roofs, he stumbled again. Concerned grey eyes narrowed as their owner remembered that his new friend had been limping for several minutes. Flushing slightly at having forgotten the other boy might be hurt, he skipped any of the other things his mother had told him to do and say when welcoming an important guest and instead hurried to get him into the house so Mother and Father could help him and make him comfortable.

The brunette followed along with decidedly less enthusiasm as he continued to eye what the other boy had called a Manor. It looked like a castle to Harry. A big, fancy, important castle. Certainly nowhere he would be allowed inside. Aunt Petunia said almost every day that Harry didn’t deserve to stay in their nice home, and she and Uncle Vernon were always quick to punish him if he took advantage of their letting him stay there anyway. What would someone who was important enough to live in a castle do to a worthless freak who showed up out of nowhere and messed everything up? Aunt and Uncle said Harry messed everything up just being there.

A stuttered protest got him nowhere in convincing Draco that he couldn’t go inside and in fact, earned him a huff and a glare instead. Harry’s shoulders rounded forward slightly at the expression, though it was replaced by a wide grin the instant the smaller boy started to move slowly towards the door.

Even with the cheerful expression and encouraging hand held back towards him, it took a minute for Harry to force himself to step foot into the pristine mansion once they reached the door. He imagined that each and every thing in sight was worth more money than he deserved to have spent on his food for the month. Aunt Petunia had several items like that – he always hated dusting them for fear of what she might do if he damaged one – and even the smallest thing here looked like it was fancier than every one of his Aunt’s pieces put together. The mere thought of the kind of beating he’d earn if he touched something made his already unsteady legs and feet shake almost uncontrollably.

“Come on, Harry,” the blond called impatiently as he made his way across the huge room, under the arched supports of a grand staircase and into a hallway beyond. The smaller boy did his best to follow without moving too slowly or limping too much, though he was still very careful to stay on the wooden floor rather than the vibrantly colored rug he was sure to destroy simply by stepping on it. It took him longer than he wanted to traverse the outer edges of the room, but eventually he caught up with the blond who was waiting for him. As soon as he got within reach, Draco grabbed his arm again and towed him down the hall until they reached a set of doors.

Harry had never seen anything like those doors. The doors were large and carved all over, and parts of them were shiny like they were decorated with bits of gold. He did not want to know who was behind doors like that or how that person would react to seeing a grubby freak in his perfect castle-like house. Before he had a chance to sneak back out the way they’d come as he wanted to, the blond boy burst through the double doors with a loud cry.

Chapter Two: A Malfoy’s Expectations

Lord Lucius Malfoy was having a bad day. Truth be told, he was having a bad week. The Hogwarts Board of Governors had spent the last several months putting together a proposal for a new elective course that could teach the incoming Mudbloods about the culture and traditions they were constantly running roughshod over. Learning even the simplest things about proper behavior if nothing else would at least prevent refined society from dealing with such crass and insulting manners as every outsider child inevitably displayed. And the uncouth little things didn’t even realize they were doing it. It was aggravating in the extreme.

If a class was being offered to teach Pure-bloods about a Muggle world they were unlikely to ever have anything to do with, why then could not the school at least try to teach the Muggle-born about the world they were to live in for the rest of their lives? Because, apparently, such a thing was ‘limiting’ and ‘partisan’ according to the refusal they had just received from the insufferable old Headmaster. Lucius threw the roll of parchment back onto his desk with a disgusted sigh.

The frustration he so often felt as he watched the ways of his ancestors constantly ignored and disregarded if not outright sullied was mounting as it hadn’t since he was fresh out of the confounded school and so foolishly idealistic. He had thought he and his fellows would make such inroads against the invading hordes but all he had done was subjugate himself even more than his culture was already being crushed under ignorant feet.

The Lord of the House of Malfoy knew he had made many mistakes in his youth and he daily sought ways to ensure his family might somehow escape the future that would await them with the return of the Dark Lord. Yet at times like these he remembered exactly why he had been so desperate to see his ancestors’ traditions protected that he had thrown his lot in with the once charismatic wizard he was now tethered to. But even that worthy goal was not worth what it had almost cost him. Service to Voldemort was not the life he had wanted for his family. He must now think of his wife and son more so than of society and culture as a whole.

Before he could turn his thoughts back to more prosaic matters, the doors to his private study crashed open, startling him so much that he almost spilled an entire pot of ink across his desk. He bit down any verbal response, however, as his son burst into the room with the widest smile he had seen on his face for some time.

“Father! Father, look! Look who I found in the maze!”

The wizard automatically began to berate his son for the way he had entered the office, stating as calmly as possible that he had been told to enter a room respectfully and only after having knocked. Then the child’s words actually registered.

“Someone was in the maze?” Lucius asked in a disbelieving voice tinged with worry. The Malfoy hedge maze was the most secure place on their land aside from the private wing of the Manor, draped in layers of spells to protect the family and punish anyone else that entered. That was why he had always encouraged his heir to play there when he was alone on the grounds. The property as a whole had a thorough ward network but there was no such thing as too much protection, especially considering who some of his allies were. His reaction didn’t seem to register with the young blond, who simply nodded his head with a proud grin and swept an arm out into the hallway behind him.

“I was in my fort and then he was just there, in the third path off the center.” Draco darted forward and grabbed his father’s hand, tugging it insistently towards the doors. “It was accidental magic!”

Lucius narrowed his eyes at the small form that was beginning to take a couple stumbling steps backwards as they approached. The Manor and grounds were both warded against Apparition by anyone but himself and his wife, so it was somewhat of an outlandish idea that anyone, let alone a child, had managed to Apparate onto the grounds. Making it into the maze was even more unbelievable. The amount of raw magical power required for such a thing was beyond what any adult usually possessed, or could control. And the boy in front of him, small, scrawny, dressed in atrocious and ill fitting clothing, looked incapable of summoning a feather, accidentally or otherwise. How had this dirty little boy gotten here?

Lord Malfoy opened his mouth to begin questioning the child when the boy tripped over his own feet and fell backwards onto the polished wood floor. Draco immediately leapt forward with a cry to help the other boy up, seemingly not noticing the look of abject fear the brunette was sporting.

“Harry!” Draco grabbed his new friend’s arm and pulled him to his feet, absently surprised at how easy it was. But the only real thing on his mind at the moment was introducing the bespectacled boy to his father. “It’s Harry Potter, father! See?”

The Malfoy heir reached out and swept the tangled black fringe off the boy’s forehead to reveal the famous scar. The taller boy didn’t see the way the brunette flinched when the small hand moved towards his face, but Lucius did. Shrewd grey eyes locked on the scar for a heartbeat, then swept more carefully over the entire child, cataloguing everything he saw. Small, dirty, poorly dressed, pale, thin, and clearly terrified. Bony shoulders hunched forward, his free arm crossed defensively over his belly, though it and the rest of him shook slightly at the adult’s approach. This was the famous Dark-Lord-slaying Harry Potter?

“How did you come to arrive in my maze, Mr. Potter?” The words were not harsh, or loud, or accusing. But the child flinched at the sound anyway. “Did someone bring you here, or did you use magic?”

The last word seemed to have an inexplicable effect on the skinny brunette. He began to shake to such a degree that Draco had to use both hands to keep him on his feet, and already wide fearful eyes opened still further and took on a panicked gleam. Then he spoke, the stuttered words as desperate as any he had heard from a victim facing the Dark Lord’s wand.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t, I didn’t use magic. I swear, please. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry, sorry. Please…” the last came out on a whine as Lucius came within a pace of the boy.

“Father! Stop, you’re scaring him.” Draco exclaimed as he glared at him. Then he turned to face his new friend and tried to reassure the smaller boy. “Harry, it’s okay. You’re not in trouble. Right, Father?”

Blond brows rose slightly at the almost demanding tone of the question, as if his son were daring him to say otherwise. He inclined his head slightly and took a step back away from the boys, even as he tried to make sense of exactly what was happening. There were pieces here, but he had only suspicions as to the puzzle they formed and no idea what to do with it.

“Of course not. Welcome to my home, Mr. Potter. Perhaps you would like to sit down? I will order us tea, “ the wizard took another step away and gestured back towards his private study. Draco immediately took the opening and started forward, but quickly realized his guest was too unsteady on his feet to follow him in. The young blond kept hold of the smaller boy’s left arm and wrapped his own right arm around the skinny shoulders to offer support. Still, it took a noticeable amount of effort on the taller boy’s part to get Harry moving.

Lucius stepped as far out of their path as he could without leaning on the wall, and once they had entered the room, he did the same. In taking his seat, he chose the one next to his desk rather than the one behind it and watched his son get the famous boy settled on the settee almost two yards across from him. The uneven gait he observed from his unexpected guest was more than could be explained by the hesitation and tremors still in evidence.

“Mr. Potter, are you injured?” The messy head of black hair lowered at the inquiry, the boy hunching forward and looking pointedly away as he shook his head. The older wizard did not have to call the child out on his lie, however, as Draco immediately cut in.

“He is, Father. He’s been limping and he was walking real slow too, almost all the way from the maze. I brought him here as quick as I could, Father, so you and Mother could heal him.”

The expression on his heir’s face clearly stated that he was proud of himself for taking care of his guest and expected his father to feel the same. The way the small grey eyes started to narrow when an offer to see to any injury was not immediately given said he would accept nothing less than the aid he had come for. Lucius suppressed a smirk at his son’s automatic expectation that he would receive what he wanted. No Malfoy would tolerate anything else than exactly what he wanted in any given situation.

“Certainly. I shall notify your Mother that her healing talents are required and send in some tea, shall I?”

Draco briefly wondered why his father hadn’t simply called a house elf to fetch his mother and bring tea, but was too busy being grateful his new friend looked marginally more relaxed once his father left the room. That progress suffered a bit of a setback when a small table appeared suddenly out of thin air in front of the settee they were on, complete with a full tea set and a plate of biscuits.

Green eyes spent several moments darting wildly around the room, whether looking for the source of the food or checking to see if something would happen in response to its arrival, the blond wasn’t sure. The Malfoy heir was gratified however, when his own unruffled behavior in serving them both a cup of tea and beginning to eat and drink seemed to reassure the smaller boy a little. Hoping to set his guest even more at ease, Draco held out the plate of biscuits. “Biscuit? My favorite are the molasses ones but the oatmeal are quite good too.”

Very slowly, and after a long pause, Harry reached out and took one of the proffered treats, doing his best to return some portion of the smile that the taller boy sent him in response. The first few bites he took of the biscuit were tiny, not knowing what to expect. He’d never been allowed biscuits before, except once at school when Tony Rogers brought them in for his birthday. But he hadn’t even get a small bite of it before Dudley had stolen it for himself, claiming that Harry had knocked his on the ground.

The chewy sweetness of the biscuit went wonderfully with the fruit tea and he began taking larger bites, anxious to finish it before anyone decided he didn’t deserve it after all. His self-appointed friend only grinned, finished his own, and snagged them each another. This time the brunette got molasses but it must have been okay for him to eat it even though it was Draco’s favorite. Draco had given it to him after all, and he hadn’t even snatched it back and laughed like Dudley sometimes did. Ten minutes later, all the biscuits and most of the tea was gone and both boys were much more relaxed, discussing the different foods they liked best.

The blond found Harry’s preferences a little odd, but he didn’t say so, they were friends now after all. He knew they would be, of course, but it was still exciting to experience it now instead of having to wait until Hogwarts. He could tell that Harry still wasn’t sure about things, but that was probably because he was hurt. It was hard to have fun when something hurt a lot. Draco couldn’t wait until Mother came and fixed whatever was bothering the other boy so he could take Harry up to see his room and all his animated toy dragons.

Any plans he might be making for the rest of their afternoon were placed on hold when the doors reopened to reveal both his parents. His mother barely spared him a smile, her attention focused on the other boy, who seemed to shrink in on himself a little as soon as the adults appeared. He could hardly blame her really, it was Harry Potter, after all. Why Harry looked so unhappy to see her, he didn’t understand, though he never got a chance to ask as the regal witch swept in and sat in the chair his father had previously occupied.

“Hello, Mr. Potter, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Harry didn’t manage much more than a nod, his eyes growing wide once more and any composure he had gained swiftly fading. Narcissa didn’t bother to correct his manners, too fascinated by the scrawny boy’s behavior. Paired with what Lucius had told her on the walk here, she found this already unbelievable situation growing still more strange. “I hope you enjoyed your tea.”

The fearful expression turned guilty and he clutched his hands in his lap as quick as he could. He knew he shouldn’t have had any, freaks never got to eat things like biscuits, he knew that. “I-I’m sorry,” Harry hastened to say, “I didn’t mean to eat so many. I can make more, please, I can.”

The blonde woman flashed him an odd type of smile he’d never seen before and shook her head. “Nonsense, Mr. Potter. The biscuits were for you, after all. If you’d like, you may have another when we have finished tending your injury. Draco said you were hurt?”

The headshake started even before she had completed speaking. “No, no I’m fine.”

A single blonde brow rose in question but once again, the other boy jumped in to refute the brunette’s denial. “He is not. He was limping and everything.”

“Hmm, your ankle then, is it? Or perhaps your foot.” the Lady Malfoy half asked half stated as she slowly rose and approached the settee where the boys were seated. She ignored the way the Potter boy pressed himself into the cushions behind him as she settled elegantly onto her knees. She ignored the way he flinched when she gently took hold of his right foot and pushed up the ragged end of his trouser leg. The ankle she exposed appeared normal if not far too skinny for a boy his age. As soon as she touched him, Harry became perfectly still, aside from the fine tremors she could feel under her hand. Remaining silent, she released his right foot and began to raise the left instead.

A sharp gasp escaped the boy and she slowly moved the dirty and worn piece of clothing up his leg to expose a badly swollen ankle and a mottling of dark bruising layered over older bruises now tinged green and yellow at the edges. The instant the injury was exposed, Harry spoke.

“I fell.”

Neither adult said anything in response to the almost panicked words. Not that she didn’t have anything to say, however. In fact, the witch had quite a few things to say about a young boy who walked half the breadth of their extensive grounds with such an injury and still insisted there was nothing wrong when offered aid. None of the things she didn’t say were at all complimentary of whatever guardians the child happened to have.

The series of spells that followed did much for the swelling but little for the bruising. When blue eyes finally raised from their work to meet green, it was to find the latter riveted to the wand in her hand. With a tilt of her head and a smile that hid yet another question, Narcissa carefully released the injury and rose to her feet.

“Dobby.” The elf appeared with a pop only a moment later, and their unexpected guest jerked noticeably in his seat but only stared wide-eyed at the creature, as the Lady of the house requested a jar of bruise balm and a single dose of pain potion. When the strange thing disappeared with another pop, Harry couldn’t contain his gasp.

“Haven’t you ever seen a house elf?” The Boy-Who-Lived shook his head swiftly from side to side in answer to the other boy’s surprised question. “Then who does all the cooking and cleaning at your house?”

The brunette looked over at the first person to ever act like they actually wanted to be friends with him and started to answer with a stuttered “I-I-I-“ only to bite his lip with a quick glance at the adults. Silence again descended on the room though it took a pointed look from his mother to keep Draco from saying anything else before Dobby reappeared with the items she had requested, making Harry once more flinch in his seat.

“Here you are, Mr. Potter,” Narcissa said with a smile as she handed the vial with the strange purple liquid to the child. She simply held it out, smile never wavering, until he finally took it from her hand and swallowed its contents when she instructed him to do so. The edges of the bland smile twitched as she saw his startled expression and surmised that the potion had started working.

“Excellent. Now the balm,” with a slight pause, the witch offered the jar to the small boy after relieving him of the empty potion vial. “Perhaps you would like to apply it yourself?”

The expression of relief that crossed his pale face was obvious. “Very well. Wobbly,” the elf appeared instantly at her side and then popped away eagerly when asked to fetch a full casual ensemble from Draco’s room. Other than the name, it appeared indistinguishable from the one that appeared before. Seconds later, the creature happily set a tidy stack of clothes on the table in front of the startled boy.

“There is a bathroom just across the hall, you can apply the balm there as well as change into something a bit less travel-worn.”

The brunette blinked for several seconds, as if not quite sure what been said. Then he was shaking his head yet again. “Oh no, that’s okay. Dud- my stuff’s fine. I’m fine, really. I don’t need new clothes.”

The words were insistent, even as green eyes wandered briefly over to the neat stack of new clothing. The blatant want in his gaze when he looked at them was clear, as was the way he forced himself to look away and bite his lip with an air of resignation.

“Nonsense, Mr. Potter. It is no trouble, and you’ll be much more comfortable that way.” As she spoke, Narcissa shoo’d the boy into the bathroom across from her husband’s study. Without another word, the pile of clothing and the jar of balm was pressed into his hands and the door closed on the bewildered child.

The two adults waited silently for several moments, absently watching their son fidget in his seat as he waited for the other boy to return. Under ordinary circumstances she would scold him for the unrefined behavior. However, she was having a hard time remaining poised herself, and could tell by the slight twitch of her husband’s fingers that he was resisting the urge to fiddle with his cane. Such actions on his part were very rare, and reserved almost exclusively to private discussions regarding the Dark Lord. The witch slowly made her way to his side, ensuring that Draco was far enough away from them not to hear any conversation that might take place.

“Lucius?” she questioned in a whisper. The slight raise of her brow at his answering glance was enough to tell him what she didn’t say.

“This is foolhardy,” he returned, his lips barely moving as he spoke. She inclined her head in agreement and blue and grey both glanced to the closed door of the bathroom before returning to each other. “If the others were to hear that I had the opportunity to deal with Potter and did not do so, we would all pay for it. When He returns…”

She pressed her lips together firmly as he trailed off, knowing as well as he did what the consequences would be for their family if the Dark Lord learned they had let the Boy-Who-Lived slip through their fingers without ending the threat. No matter that the Dark Lord had wanted to kill the boy himself before he disappeared, and may be displeased with having lost his chance, he would be furious if one of his own had failed to do it for him. A furious Dark Lord was not something she wanted to ever see aimed in the direction of her family. And yet, seeing the skinny, frightened child that had stoically tried to ignore his own pain, Narcissa had a hard time thinking of him as a threat to be dealt with.

“What should we do with the child?”

“You’re going to help him aren’t you? So he can be my friend and help us like you said?” The young voice startled both adults from their short discussion, neither having noticed that their son had wandered closer to them while they spoke.

“It is a complicated situation, dear-“ Narcissa began, only to have her husband cut in with a question.

“What do you mean by that, Draco?”

The Malfoy heir furrowed his brow in innocent confusion as he looked at his parents. “He’s my friend now, just like you said he would be. And he can help us. I heard you talking with Uncle Severus, you said that if we had Harry Potter on our side, that we had a chance to be safe and make things right.”

The young blond cocked his head to the side as he finished, as if thinking about what he had said, perhaps making sure he had repeated it correctly, or perhaps just wondering what exactly his father had meant when he’d said that. He didn’t always understand the things Mother and Father talked about in the parlor after he was supposed to be in bed. When they spoke with his Godfather, he understood even less, but that is why he often snuck away from his elf, Wobbly and listened. So he could learn how to be a good Lord Malfoy like his father.

Maybe he hadn’t said it properly, he thought as he watched his mother bite her lip in a way she almost never did. He didn’t have time to think about his possible mistake, however, as Father kneeled in front of him with narrowed eyes. “Why exactly did you bring Mr. Potter here, Draco?”

He scowled lightly up at the older wizard. Hadn’t he just said? “To help us. And be my friend. Now I can play with Harry and we can fix things and help you do what you want, like you said.”

For a moment, no one spoke. Though in the wake of his heir’s almost exasperated words, Lucius stood and stalked to the other side of the room. He could recall any number of times he had sat up late into the night with his wife and friend, lamenting the state of their world and what was likely to befall them all in the years to come. While they had considered many ways in which to free their family from Voldemort, no strategy had ever seemed tenable and it was decided that they may have to wait and hope that the Boy-Who-Lived would save them all as the prophecy Severus had heard implied.

Placing the fate of his family in the hands of a child who had been hidden away with Muggles, untrained and unknowing of his place in their world did not, of course, sit well with the Lord of the House of Malfoy. The wizard leaned forward, hands on the edge of his desk and stared sightlessly at the papers stacked there.

He could also remember more than one melancholic discussion regarding the power held by the Headmaster and the ways he used it to stifle and subdue Wizarding culture to his liking, even taking over the placement of the famous boy without a single question or complaint from the many brainless sycophants that populated Magical society. For all the power and control the old man possessed now, it would only grow when he brought Potter to the school and groomed him for his role, which according to what Severus had been able to glean, did not include the acceptance of his title or his House Seats on the Wizengamot.

They could only assume that Dumbledore would name himself Proxy for the boy, or else convince the child to name him as such. The damage that could be done to Wizarding culture under those conditions was immeasurable as far as Lucius was concerned. He had almost convinced himself it was a price he was willing to pay if it meant freeing his family from near slavery with the destruction of the Dark Lord. But now, faced with an alternative, he was uncertain. He was tempted.

“The boy may be the only way to bring Him down,” Lucius admitted quietly as his wife approached, leaving their son standing restlessly in the doorway and watching the bathroom for his friend’s appearance. “And he hardly seems to be receiving the training he will need to do so where he is.”

Narcissa conceded the fact with a nod, ignoring her husband’s sneer as she thought back to the skinny child’s injury and all the other signs obvious in his appearance and behavior. “He hardly seems to be receiving much of anything where he is. He may, in fact, be eager to find a different situation. One which could see him trained… properly.”

The couple exchanged a heavy look, and his gaze drifted once more to the surface of his desk. It was obvious that the famous boy’s home life was far from ideal, or even adequate. If the boy was unhappy enough to accidently Apparate himself to them, he may be thankful to those who took him in, as Narcissa suggested. He might also be unhappy with the one who had placed him in the Muggle world to begin with. With the correct training, such a child could easily be made to see the ills that were befalling their world.

How would the Wizarding community react were their young hero to speak out against the daft old man they thoughtlessly followed? How would the Wizengamot? The boy had, after all, inherited the Potter and Peverell seats on the court. Not to mention the other. Dumbledore and his ilk did not have access to the oldest of their society’s genealogy, such things existed only within the private family trees of those families who were old enough to own them and who valued their House enough to pass them on.

Therefore, the deepest roots of those Houses Potter could claim was known only by a very few select families. Namely, the Malfoys and the Blacks. Families who had known better than to allow the secret out where men like the Headmaster could use it to the detriment of their world. But if that information was released and steered in the proper direction by one who did know, and could focus that power and influence in the correct way?

The work that could be accomplished with the backing of such Houses as beloved Potter and legendary Peverell was staggering. Especially if one took into account the influence the famous boy would automatically possess in his own right. And then there was the personal power of the child in question. Accidental magic could be more powerful than something cast purposefully if there was enough emotion behind it. But to Apparate through wards such as existed around the Malfoy property? And those in the maze as well? It was no wonder the manipulative old Headmaster had hidden the child away and planned to mold him to his own ideals once he entered Hogwarts and was under his control.

The blond wizard stared hard at the letter he had been reading with such frustration only half an hour before. Decision made, he turned to regard his wife with a steely gaze. “Have Dobby and Wobbly set up the room beside Draco’s.”

A twitch of her lips betrayed the smile she was suppressing, though it only lingered a moment. Then blue eyes drifted to the doorway and back again. “He will need a more thorough examination, I am sure the ankle is not the only injury he has suffered recently. Not to mention his size and weight. Neither is as it should be.”

Lucius nodded once, knowing exactly what it was she was asking for. “I will contact him. He will be here shortly to offer what aid you require.”

She did not suppress the smile that rose in response, and he returned it for a moment before exiting the room with a determined stride. As he turned into the reception room to use its floo her voice drifted to him.

“My, Mr. Potter, don’t you look handsome. Here, just let me charm up that hem a bit for you, dear.”

Chapter Three: Allies and Friends

“Well?” the wizard snapped as he stepped out of the fireplace. “What is it that necessitates my immediate presence? I am in the middle of a potion and have lessons to prepare for tomorrow.”

Lucius ignored the terse words and the glower of the other man with the ease of long practice. “You brought your medical kit as I requested?”

“Of course I did. Now what is going on? If Narcissa is ill you should summon your healer.”

“Narcissa is well.” Before he could say more, an even more fierce expression of annoyance was fixed on him.

“Then what do you need me for? Your wife is more than capable of handling whatever scrape Draco has gotten into. And if she can’t then you certainly need someone with more expertise than myself.” The clipped words did not entirely conceal a trickle of concern in the dark eyes at the mention of his godson being ill.

“Draco is also quite well and is currently entertaining a guest with his mother in my private study.”

The other wizard seemed to forget momentarily the reason for his being there in his disbelief at the idea of Lucius allowing children, even with his wife’s supervision, to ‘entertain themselves’ in his private study. Before he could ask why he would countenance such a thing, or repeat his demand to know why he had been summoned to the Manor on ‘a matter of urgency,’ his long time friend pre-empted him with the answer to both questions.

“Draco’s guest is a young boy who accidentally Apparated himself into the maze this afternoon. Draco brought him to me, as he seemed to be injured upon his arrival.”

Black eyes had gone wide at the thought of a child getting onto the grounds, let alone into the maze. He opened his mouth to ask who in Salazar’s name could have accomplished a feat the almighty Dumbledore himself could not have managed. The Lord Malfoy beat him to it yet again with an answer that had him literally rearing back in shock.

“The boy’s name is Harry Potter.” The experienced spy stuttered for several moments, unable to form a single word. The blond took the opportunity to finish his explanation. “Narcissa believes the child requires a more thorough exam and additional treatment, including potions for weight gain and any other nutritional issues he seems sure to have.”

Severus Snape stared at the other wizard, completely unable to formulate a reply for several seconds. When the words finally came they were in a tone of annoyed incredulity he couldn’t recall ever having used before. “You expect me to treat Harry Bloody Potter?”

Lucius said nothing, simply waiting for his previous explanation to no doubt replay in the other’s mind.

“What are you thinking? Do you plan to play host to the Boy-Who-Lived? Are you trying to get us all killed?”

“Indeed, I am endeavoring to save us.”

The Potion Master’s response to that calm statement was given with all seriousness. “You are insane.”

Again, the blond said nothing. He watched the younger man run his free hand through his hair, the other hand still holding his bag of medical potions as he paced back and forth for several minutes. Eventually he broke the silence, once more sounding irritated and confused. “This is madness, Lucius. Send the boy back where he came from and let the sainted Albus Dumbledore tend to his little hero before someone finds out and kills us all for not dealing with the brat on sight.”

A single strand of white-blond hair slipped free of the leather tie used to pull it back as he tilted his head slightly to the side. “Dumbledore has had care of the child for the last six years, or at least he claimed it when he placed him in his current situation. Yet the child appeared on my grounds today, having been desperate enough to do so that he Apparated himself through my wards. And in a state which speaks obviously of neglect if not outright abuse.”

Grey eyes narrowed and fixed on orbs so dark they appeared black. “What would people think if they knew their savior had been thus treated while under the supposed care and oversight of the infallible Headmaster?”

Dark eyes narrowed in turn as the taller wizard continued in an almost malicious voice. “What would happen to the old man’s plans and machinations if the Boy-Who-Lived were to not only escape such deplorable conditions but find himself in an environment which could see him raised properly and with all the social and practical training he will surely need to fulfill his role as a Lord and hero? How might opinions shift if the boy learned of the person responsible for his mistreatment and came to speak out against him?”

A calculating gleam brightened those dark eyes as the Lord of the House of Malfoy finished with a smirk. “And what might befall those who saved the boy and taught him the truth of his previous situation and provided him with the care and training to survive and prosper in his destined roles?”

Severus had spent the last half-dozen years keeping careful watch on his employer, sharing what he gleaned with his friend, and attempting to find a way out for them both. Neither had devised a solution other than to wait, watch, and hope. He knew the little brat was their best chance at escaping the Dark Lord. And for him, being free of his role as Death Eater spy, was the only way out from under the old man’s thumb.

Yet he also knew, or at least highly suspected, that actually training the whelp for the inevitable fight was not on the Headmaster’s agenda any time soon, if ever. He wasn’t even sure that the ultimate survival of James’ spawn was part of Albus’ ultimate goals. Certainly, teaching the child of his place in their society was not included in Dumbledore’s machinations. But if someone else was able to circumvent those schemes and guide the boy in a different direction before those plans were able to take effect…. Well, that could certainly change the game entirely.

Without a single word of agreement, the long dark hair swung on a sharp nod and Severus Snape followed the Malfoy Patriarch out of the reception room and down the long corridor to his private office.

The introduction and exam that followed was almost as enlightening as the conversation that had preceded it. For all that Lucius had told him of the famous boy’s condition and what it said of his current living situation, the Potions Master had assumed that his old friend had been exaggerating. Lord Malfoy was rather fond of drama, after all. Yet within minutes of meeting the scrawny little boy and following him into a nearby sitting room to assist Narcissa with the examination, he knew no exaggeration had been necessary.

The child was too short, too thin, and too reticent around adults to have been anything but mistreated. And the blonde witch had been correct, the ankle she had treated was far from his only injury, even without counting the older bruises that underlay it. That injury was compounded by the fact that the ligament in his leg that attached to the joint was badly strained, as if the child had often spent a very long time running as fast as he possibly could without any regard to the physical effects. Between the two of them, they were able to convince Potter to show them almost two dozen bruises of varying ages, some in the shape of a very large hand.

Bruises were not the only superficial injury either. Eight long abrasions on his back indicated he had been repeatedly struck with something, most likely a belt. Severus and Narcissa also found and treated two old hairline fractures in his ribs and one in each shin that had healed quite poorly. Plus approximately ten breaks in his right hand and fingers. His left arm had also suffered a rather severe break about a year before that the boy would explain only with the implausible “I fell” he had tried earlier with his ankle. In fact, that was what he said any time they asked about a specific injury so they had stopped bothering half way through the exam.

Diagnostics indicated that the child had received two to three concussions over the last five years and he had admitted in an almost inaudible tone that he had frequent headaches and problems with his sight that his outdated glasses did not address. And all this in addition to long term malnutrition that had impacted not only his height and weight, but his healing, bone growth, and the development of an infuriating number of his internal organs and systems. The number of nutritional, restorative, growth, healing, and strengthening potions he would be brewing for the son of his schoolyard tormentor would keep Severus busy for days.

Even as he diagnosed all the issues he could medically address with potions, balms, and salves, the Head of Slytherin could not suppress his conflicting emotions. His own personal experiences growing up left him feeling sympathy for the brat against his will. And yet that this had happened to the child of one of the men that had left him similarly bruised and beaten and humiliated over the years gave the bitter man a perverse sense of satisfaction. Why did he have to look so much like James? An extra stone or two and a few inches and the whelp would be his father’s twin.

Of course, he wasn’t the only one to notice this fact. As he was writing up a list of potions to brew, Narcissa joined him at the table, allowing Potter to put back on the white shirt and green jumper he had so recently been given. “He looks so very much like James, does he not?”

A few feet away, Harry sat up straighter as he finished adjusting the soft jumper. Neither adult noticed the movement, Severus simply biting out an agreement.

“Who’s James?” a timid voice asked, cutting into whatever comment the blonde would have made.

They both turned to look at the boy, causing his shoulders to hunch forward and his eyes to stay locked on the hands he had folded in his lap. The dour wizard started to scoff at the ridiculous query, and Narcissa to answer it, when a house elf popped into the room and requested his mistress’ attention. While the witch joined Knobby on the other side of the room, the Potions Master pinned a narrow black gaze on the figure huddled in the small chaise on the other side of the table.

“You have never heard the name James before?” Severus asked in clear disbelief.

Potter shook his head and hunched forward a little more, not raising his eyes as he responded in a quiet voice, the words tumbling over themselves in their haste to come out. “No. Honest. I’m not lying. I’m not.”

The fact that the child had refused to meet his gaze was unsurprising, as he had kept his eyes down from the moment the dark wizard had entered the room. This was the first time he had grown quite so obviously distressed, however. It had been plain, of course, that the scrawny thing was nervous to the point of frightened to have the adults looking him over for injuries. Every time they had found a new one he’d shrunk in on himself and apologized, his shoulders tensed as if waiting for an explosion. Or a blow. A question about the injury made him shut down almost completely and they had gotten nothing out of him but nods or head shakes since the last time he’d informed them he’d ‘fallen’. The question about James had been the first Potter had ventured the entire time Snape had been there.

Obviously, asking questions was not encouraged where he lived, and it would also appear that the boy had a strong expectation of being thought a liar. The Potions Professor wondered if he was often caught in a lie or just often accused of lying in order to cover up the mistakes of others. The wizard certainly knew from experience that victims of chronic abuse were often discredited by their abusers in order to lessen the chance that they might be believed if they spoke of the abuse. Merlin knew that was a favorite game of the Mauraders, playing a prank and blaming Severus in order to cause the Professors to label him a troublemaker.

But was that the case here? Perhaps if they knew with whom Dumbledore had left the child, they could make a more informed assumption. “Who do you live with, boy?”

The child flinched so much his arms made an aborted attempt to cover his head protectively. Black eyes narrowed further as he waited for a response. They had so far received some kind of response to each direct question they had asked, so it was possible asking outright would yield them an answer that their previous implied queries had not. Sure enough, after several seconds of silence, the Potter boy seemed to deflate in his seat, his arms wrapping tightly around his midsection as he spoke in a tone so subdued it was almost emotionless.

“Petunia and Vernon Dursley, sir.”

Severus Snape reared back, almost tripping over his own robes as he took a hasty step backwards. The words echoed in his head as he tried to process them.

“Your Aunt Petunia?” he asked in shocked disbelief, half expecting a negative response because surely, the old meddler wasn’t fool enough to leave an infant Magical with Muggles whom he knew hated magic. Not even Dumbledore would be that shortsighted or uncaring.

The tiny nod he received instead was like a small blow. The wizard had grown up with Lily and Petunia Evans. Lily had been his best and only friend until fifth year at Hogwarts when everything had crumbled around him. Petunia had been a jealous and nasty child and had grown ever more hateful after Lily was revealed to be a witch. The other Evans’ child had been a perfect example of every bad thing Pure-bloods had ever said about Muggles. Everything Lucius had said, everything he had seen in the boy in the last hour, suddenly made perfect sense. As did the fact that the child had apparently never even heard his father’s name before. Of course Petunia would not speak of the wizard who had married her sister.

Part of what Lucius had said earlier, about influencing and guiding the famous boy, resonated within him. There were many ways a young child could be guided. And to be steered completely away from everything that had made James Potter the wizard he’d been was a laudable start. “Narcissa, Lucius, and myself, went to school with someone named James. You look very much like him.”

The shaking that had overtaken the skinny arms at the mention of his caretakers stilled slightly as Potter focused on the unexpected answer when the man continued. “He was a troublemaker and a bully.”

The child flinched at the first descriptive, then placed a small hand protectively over his previously injured ribs in a very telling move. “I don’t like bullies,” came the soft response.

“Quite clever of you to think so.”

The little head jerked up, surprised eyes darting up to meet his for a moment before dropping back down again. The Potions Master would have seen a lot in the boy’s shock at being called clever, or being agreed with, but all he could see was green. Even after the gaze left his he could still see that vivid shade of green he had only ever seen one place before.

“Lily,” he whispered. His feet took him around the table and to the small chaise of their own volition. The dark-haired wizard didn’t even notice when he sat next to the boy, or when the child tensed and leaned back into the cushions instinctively. “Look at me.”

It was not a request, though it wasn’t spoken as the sharp command the professor would give in his classroom. Harry raised his head slowly, looking up towards the man but not meeting the black gaze. It was enough.

“You have Lily’s eyes,” Severus whispered on an exhale. The statement earned him a look of wary confusion and black strands spilled across his shoulders when he cocked his head to the side with his next question. “Do you know who Lily is?”

A silent shake of the head was the only answer the boy was able to give as those familiar green eyes dropped to his lap once again. “Lily Evans was your mother, and she had eyes just exactly like yours.”

Those verdant orbs widened and darted up and across the adult’s face with a look of hope so sharp it must have hurt. “My mum?”

As Narcissa returned to the table, she caught the soft words and the ever so slight twitch of the normally stern lips which she knew to be Severus’ smile. “Indeed,” the deep voice intoned before it continued almost hesitantly. “Lily – your mother – and I met when we were your age.”

Wide green eyes glistened with moisture. “You knew my mum?”

The dour wizard offered a single nod. “We were friends for many years.”

“Perhaps,” cut in a smooth voice, “Severus can bring a picture of Lily with him on his next visit,” the witch suggested.

The Potions Master glared at her briefly before conceding with a nod when the skinny boy caught his breath audibly and gasped, “Really?”

The smile that gesture garnered from the child was the first genuinely happy one either adult had seen on his pale face. “But for now, I believe Draco is waiting for you to join him. He is most anxious to show you his room.”

The two little eyebrows scrunched together in a look of confusion she would have found adorable if it wasn’t also obvious that the boy didn’t know how to take the fact that someone was anxious for his company. A single, slightly louder, call of the small blond’s name was all it took to have him bounding through the door and over to his new friend.

“Can we go now, Mother?” Draco asked impatiently the moment he entered the room. The instant she nodded slightly, the Malfoy heir grasped the smaller boy’s hand, though his enthusiasm damped just slightly when Harry flinched.

“Come on, let’s go. We can play in my room.” It took the full force of Draco’s excitement and a few encouraging words from Narcissa to get the Boy-Who-Lived headed out of the room.

The moment the door closed behind the young wizards, Severus turned to face his friend’s wife with a scowl. Lucius entered seconds later and they all exchanged heavy glances before Snape broke the silence. “It would seem we have much to discuss.”

They had so much to discuss that it was time for dinner before they had finished. The first thing they did was to carefully document each and every injury and physical abnormality that Severus and Narcissa had found on the boy. It took the judicious use of charms, a pensive, and the content of several surveillance charms from the private study and sitting room. But when they were done, they had the beginnings of a damning file to use against Harry Potter’s Magical Guardian to show endangerment, willful negligence, and abuse. Severus, having known Petunia personally, could well imagine the additional information they would no doubt glean from the boy over the next few years.

Even with showing that the Headmaster had placed the so-called savior in such a despicable environment and then not once checked on him, it would be difficult to erode the old man’s hold on power in their world. A multi-pronged attack would be necessary, but there was time to plan for that. For now, there were several more urgent matters to address. First and foremost, the one diagnostic result that the two medically knowledgeable adults had not yet discussed.

“The past concussions were clear, as were the signs of slight damage to the optic nerve that we can assume was the result of one of the head injuries. But there was something else not right on the scans.” Severus turned to Narcissa for confirmation. He may have received quite a bit of medical training through his work with Pomfrey and the medicinal potions he brewed, as well as the everyday issues with the students in his House, but the Lady Malfoy had been well on her way to a Mastery in Healing before Draco was born.

The Lady of a Most Ancient and Noble House would never work outside of the home, of course, and any type of academic degree was rare, but volunteer work was perfectly acceptable. Before her pregnancy, the blond witch had had every intention of volunteering at St. Mungo’s to further the Malfoy name and image. The difficulty of her pregnancy, however, had changed her mind and she had decided to stay home with the baby she had almost lost more than once. Even so, her expertise in healing magic would allow her to give a much more accurate diagnosis in this case than he would be able to offer.

“Yes, there was,” she agreed with a dainty sip of her tea. “I have never seen anything quite like it. It reminds me of the type of staining of the aura that results from long-term curses or permanent spell damage. Yet it did not show up on the aura scan, only the diagnostic of his brain. And being only seven years old he should not have had the time to develop such a stain, even from something as powerful as the Killing Curse.”

The Potions Master nodded absently in agreement. No other person had ever survived the curse and so there had never been an ability to study such an occurrence in the past, but it didn’t make sense for it to be the cause. The Killing Curse fractured a person’s Magical Core, causing it to essentially explode and destroy the person with their own magic. It was one of the reasons no spell had been devised to defend against it. Shield spells and the like worked against outside magics, but they were useless to protect a person from their own internal magics. But the abnormality did not show on the Core scan either.

“I am afraid we would need a specially trained Healer to look him over if we want to properly address the issue. Given his past, I think it is safe to assume that it is likely a result of something that happened when his parents were killed. It is highly likely that there were other spells and curses cast in his vicinity that night. I would recommend a specialist in Curse Damage.”

Lucius pursed his lips at his wife’s words. Their ability to keep the Potter boy with them would rest heavily on no one learning of his being in their custody. Therefore bringing in an outsider was a risky proposition. “No one must know we have the boy.”

“Or remember that we do,” interjected the dark-eyed wizard. The others looked at him for a moment before nodding in understanding. As a skilled Occlumens and Legilimens, Severus was naturally highly adept with Obliviation.

“Very well, I will find an appropriate Healer and notify you when they will be here.”

“I will make myself available to see them after they’ve treated the boy.”

The wizards nodded once at each other and then turned their attention to the other pressing concern. In order to succeed in their ultimate goals, they would need a Boy-Who-Lived that was properly trained in many more than the normal subjects covered even by the heirs of the most elite families. A game plan, and many lesson plans, would be required.

The adults formulated plans for those lessons, and several other tasks they themselves would need to undertake in order to ensure Potter’s success. Meanwhile, Draco began to teach his new friend something his parents and their friend would never consider adding to his upcoming curriculum.

The first time the blond boy tried to play with him, the brunette was at something of a loss as to what to do. Harry had never really had a friend before. The only games he had ever played were variations of Harry-Hunting and that had not situated him well to join in the games that Draco played. The dragon toys were pretty cool, though they startled him when they started moving and roaring and such. But after that they were fun, and Draco even let him touch them and move them around and make them breath fire as they pretended they were fighting each other. Harry didn’t understand the game the taller boy tried to play with a set of little toy people and brooms, but he had fun when they went outside and saw the birds.

There were a bunch of them a side garden, which featured a sizable pond. A few were pretty blues and greens, though most were white all over. Draco called them peacocks and said that when they grew up they’d have great big fancy tails and would be able to go anywhere on the grounds that they wanted. The blond even introduced the brunette to his favorite one. Its name was Polaris, but it was named after the north star, not the polar area where there was ice and polar bears like he’d first thought. The taller boy had been surprised he didn’t know the name of the north star, but he also said it was funny, because Polaris was white like ice and polar bears too.

The fluffy little bird must have been amused as well, because it flapped its wings a lot when Draco laughed and followed them both back to the house when they went in to wash up for supper. Narcissa didn’t laugh when she heard the story, but she smiled at both boys and didn’t say that Harry was silly or stupid for not understanding the name. She did, however, watch him a lot when he was in the same room with her. Draco watched him as well, but it wasn’t scary like it was when Dudley watched him to find the best time to attack or make a mess that he could blame Harry for. The blond boy looked more confused than anything.

Harry Potter perplexed the Malfoy heir. He didn’t talk very much, he jumped a lot when people touched him or got close to him, or asked him questions, and he seemed almost scared to touch any of the toys, or to even go inside the bedroom. It wasn’t just that, either. He, Mother, and Father, had to all tell him he could join them at the table for dinner before he would actually sit down. He barely touched the food until Mother gave it to him herself and even then, the skinny boy took forever to eat. It was fun to watch him once he started, though, Draco had to admit. It was like the other boy had never had any of the foods before, he was so surprised any time he took a bite.

The most fun to watch, however, was when they showed him the room that Mother had Dobby and Wobbly set up for him to stay in. It was connected to the sitting room off Draco’s own bedroom and had much in common with the taller boy’s in layout and design. The walls were a similar cream and pale green, and it had a small sitting area past the foot of the bed just like the blond’s did. The tapestry above the bed was smaller than Draco’s and the color scheme was maroon and ochre where the Malfoy heir’s was blue and indigo. Yet it was clear that they were part of the same suite of rooms that included the bedrooms, the sitting room and two en suite bathrooms.

Harry had never seen anything like it when they first entered. He stood frozen in the doorway, simply staring at the wall-to-wall carpet and the vibrant accent rug that he would probably ruin the second he stepped into the room. The walls had fancy shapes that stuck out a little, and painted details, and all the furniture looked too pretty to even touch. They weren’t really going to let him sleep here, were they? That couldn’t be right. The scrawny boy couldn’t help shaking his head as he looked from the lovely blonde lady to the room and back in confusion. The bed here was bigger than his whole cupboard at the Dursleys’ house. The attached bathroom was probably bigger than Dudley’s second bedroom, and it was huge compared to the space Harry had deserved.

He didn’t understand. What was he supposed to do? If he didn’t say thank you they’d think he was ungrateful, but if he did they would think he expected to actually stay in this fancy room. Harry could feel his eyes starting to sting and bit his lip to keep from crying like a little baby. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon hated it if he cried, they said freaks didn’t deserve to get upset about things and should just be thankful for what they got. The brunette tried to tell Draco’s mum that he could just stay off the kitchen so he’d be close to do the cooking and other things. Aunt Petunia sometimes said that’s why he stayed in the cupboard that was under the stairs instead of the shed in the back yard like Uncle Vernon wanted.

But he didn’t know if that would be right. They hadn’t let him make more of the biscuits he’d eaten with tea or help with dinner. Maybe he was supposed to keep Draco’s rooms clean instead. He could do that, he was good at cleaning and these three rooms were probably as big as Number Four was if you didn’t count the shed or the yards. That must be it. Harry sighed, relieved that he’d finally figured it out. He hoped that the Malfoys didn’t realize he had almost thought the bedroom was actually for him.

He looked around for the cupboard to keep his cleaning supplies in and wondered if that was were his bed would be too. No matter how small it was or how much they expected him to clean, this place would still be better than Privet Drive. The Malfoys had been so nice already, they’d fixed his ankle and seemed like they really cared that he was hurt, even if it was probably so he would be able to work better tomorrow. And they hadn’t yelled once, or called him a freak or anything.

The suspense was too much for the small blond and he bounced a little on his feet as he turned to his new friend. “What do you think of your room, Harry? Isn’t it great? We’ll share the sitting room and we can get more toys for in here and we can play every morning when we get up, and before bed, and it will be so much fun!”

The dark-haired boy jumped a little and looked even more uncertain. “M-My… but- but I-I don’t understand.“

Narcissa kneeled down gracefully in front of the clearly overwhelmed boy and spoke slowly and softly after fixing her son with a quelling stare before he could say anything else. “Mr. Potter,” she waited for the wide green eyes to look in her direction. “This is to be your bedroom. We would like it very much if you lived here with us from now on.”

The small boy simply blinked silently for several seconds so she continued in a gentle voice. “You would have this room to yourself and share the sitting room as Draco said. And we will arrange for you to take lessons with Draco during the day, but the two of you may of course play either here or on the grounds in your free time. Malfoy Manor would be your home, Mr. Potter, if you are agreeable.”

A single tear spilled down his cheek, though a skinny hand wiped it away quickly, despite the way the fingers trembled. “I don’t understand,” he whispered again.

“Mr. Malfoy and I wish to become your guardians, Mr. Potter, instead of your Aunt and Uncle. We wish for you to live with us now.” She saw the wisdom in her husband’s plans for the famous boy and wholeheartedly agreed with the plans she, Lucius, and Severus had begun formulating that evening, but she had also overcome her initial fears about taking in the Boy-Who-Lived for another reason.

Her voice softened further as she spoke. “I have long wanted another child, but I was blessed only with my Draco. Now, however, my husband and I have the chance to raise that other child. Will you stay here, Harry, and be our son?”

Draco watched, bewildered as his new friend nodded rapidly, and after freezing briefly, allowed the Lady Malfoy to gather him to her in a hug. Draco knew his mother gave very good hugs, so he wasn’t sure why Harry looked like he was crying, but he did his best to stay quiet until Potter stepped back a few minutes later.

“Mother, can we play now? Before we go to sleep? Please? Just for a little while?”

Narcissa gave her little Dragon a smile as Harry tried to wipe his face clean of tears. Once it seemed he had at least partially succeeded she nodded to both boys. “You may play for a short while. But it is late and you will both have to ready yourselves for bed and lay down for the night as soon as I return.”

Draco quickly agreed and led his friend into the sitting room before his mother changed her mind. The next half hour was spent explaining all about Quidditch as he moved the tiny players around on the play pitch he had received for his last birthday. And while it was difficult, he even managed to put the toys down and put on his pajamas with very little protest when it was time. Harry seemed to have a little trouble putting on the silken sleep set he was given to wear, but he didn’t say a word when the two boys were ushered off to their own beds minutes later.

He was so tired, that the dark-haired boy barely even flinched when both Malfoys came in to say goodnight. It was strange how Mrs. Malfoy adjusted his covers and smiled before she turned out the light, but green eyes were already falling closed when the door clicked shut behind the adults. He wondered briefly, as he drifted off, if he were already dreaming. Had he really gotten away from Dudley’s gang and Little Whinging and Privet Drive and the Dursleys? He had wanted it so very much, been so desperate to be away that it seemed like it must be a dream to be in this huge bed with its soft mattress and warm blankets.

A few hours later, when he woke in the dark, a bright green light still flashing behind his eyes as it sometimes did at night, he was sure he was back in his cupboard under the stairs and would get a terrible beating for disappearing from the school so freakishly. He didn’t want another beating because he was such a freak. He didn’t want to be back at Number Four. He wanted to be away again, like he’d dreamed. He wanted to be with the nice blond boy who said he would be his friend. The tears burned his eyes and stung the back of his throat before he even realized he was crying and a few sobs escaped despite his attempts to be quiet.

Several light thuds sounded in the dark and Harry was sure that he would be in for it now. Uncle Vernon hated when he woke them up with his freakish dreams. He started to burrow down in the blankets when he realized how thick and warm they were. His cupboard was never warm, except in the summer when it sometimes got hot and sweaty and there wasn’t enough air through the vent in the door.

“Harry?” called a voice he didn’t recognize. “Harry, are you okay?”

Someone was tugging at the blanket covering his head and he froze as it was pulled away to reveal a small, round face above his, topped with white blond hair and covered with a frown.

“Harry, wake up, it’s Draco, wake up.”

The brunette blinked wet green eyes. “D-Draco?”

The other boy nodded and scooted closer. “Are you okay, Harry?”

It was Draco, a little voice repeated in his mind. Draco was real, and so was the soft warm bed and the giant castle and the maze in the garden. He was away. It wasn’t a dream. More tears came and Harry had to turn away quickly to wipe them off before Draco saw. Dudley and his gang always teased him if he cried when they played Harry-Hunting. He didn’t want Draco to tease him, or see that he was acting like a baby; he probably wouldn’t want to be friends with a baby.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” The blond didn’t sound mad that he had been woken up, or like he was going to tease Harry for being upset and crying in the middle of the night. He sounded worried. No one had ever been worried when he had a bad dream before. Dudley only laughed and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia just banged on the cupboard door and yelled for him to shut up so normal people could sleep.

Draco didn’t do any of those things, instead, he stared at the other boy in the dark with a strange look on his face. “Did you have a bad dream?” the blond finally asked and Harry couldn’t help but nod just a little, not wanting to lie to his only friend and hoping the other boy wouldn’t laugh at him for it.

“Mother lets me sleep with her and Father sometimes when I have a bad dream. I never have another bad dream when I sleep with them. Do you want me to sleep with you so you don’t have any more bad dreams tonight?”

Harry didn’t know what to say, but the idea of not being alone or having to see the scary green light or hear the woman scream again that night was too much to resist. So the brunette nodded again and the other boy promptly wiggled under the covers next to him without saying anything until he was cuddled under the blanket right up against his new friend.

“Goodnight, Harry,” he said into the darkness with a yawn.

“G-Goodnight Draco,” the other boy whispered back before yawning himself. Within minutes both boys were sound asleep in the big bed.

Chapter Four: An Enemy Revealed

“Come on, Harry!” Draco cried, turning around to jog backwards so he could shoot the slower boy an encouraging smile.

Draco was always smiling, and for some reason, he was usually smiling at Harry. The dark-haired boy didn’t know quite what to make of it. The only people that smiled at him were the ones that hadn’t met him yet or had never spoken with the Dursleys about what a retched boy he was. But he had been staying with Draco and his parents for almost four days now, and he was still smiling, and laughing, and wanting Harry to play with him. The young blond was so often terribly excited to play with the smaller boy that Harry didn’t know what to do or say, other than to follow his first ever friend and hope that he didn’t do anything wrong.

All his life, no matter how hard he tried, he always did something wrong. Maybe the Malfoys just hadn’t noticed yet and that was why he hadn’t gotten in trouble once since he had been there. That had to be it, nothing else made sense. They were bond to notice some time though, and as the blond waved and called again for Harry to follow him, that time had come.

The large, ornate vase that was sitting on a narrow table along the curved wall of the hallway started to teeter back and forth the moment Draco’s arm brushed it. As if in slow motion, the dark-haired boy watched it tip over the edge of the table and start to tumble through the air. It’s going to break, Harry thought frantically. One skinny hand reached out instinctively to catch it, though he was almost a meter away and had no hope of doing so. Still, he reached, a frantic “No!” spilling out as he did so. And the vase stopped falling.

The no doubt expensive item hung, frozen briefly in mid-air, and the breath caught in his throat as he watched it drift gently down and onto the carpet. The outstretched hand jerked back to wrap protectively around his midsection as the boy heard a voice yell sharply from behind him.

“What is going on here?” Lucius Malfoy demanded as he came down the Round Gallery. The sound of pounding feet, laughter, and his son’s voice had prompted him from his office, but the sight that greeted him wasn’t exactly what he had expected.

“Father! Harry saved the vase with magic!” the young blond bounced on his feet in his excitement, unaware that his friend began to tremble fearfully in response.

“Why did it require saving, exactly?”

The bouncing stopped at that soft, level tone. “Well, it fell. On accident. Honest.”

“And how precisely did it accidentally fall, Draco?”

The heir to the House of Malfoy bit his lip, well aware that he could never get away with anything less than the complete truth when his father sounded like that. “I bumped it,” he admitted in a quiet, subdued voice. “But it really was an accident.”

“And how did you come to bump the vase?”

Draco sighed. “I was running sir,” he glanced away from his father’s stern face for a moment, then rushed on, excitement returning to his face and voice. “But Harry saved it! He used magic to make it not fall!”

Narrow grey eyes left his son to focus on the smaller boy where he stood, arms wrapped tightly around himself and shoulders hunched forward. “Is this true, Mr. Potter?”

Harry began to shake visibly at the question, his words tumbling out in a fearful whine. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry sir.”

The eyes narrowed further as the wizard recalled the other occasions he had seen the boy respond in such a way. Every instance had included the mention of him using magic. As he pondered that recollection, Lucius continued, softening his tone slightly as he did so. “No, I do not suppose you meant to do so. That is why it is called accidental magic, after all.”

The blond waited to see if the boy would say anything else, but he only flinched and seemed to fold further in on himself. “Even so, it is an impressive display of power, Mr. Potter. Well done. And my thanks for preventing any damage to the vase, my wife is quite fond of it.”

The small head snapped up, green eyes flying up briefly before returning to the ground. The shock in the wide orbs had been plain to see, and the wizard resolved to give additional thought to how he would conduct the lessons he planned to begin with the boy that afternoon. With this in mind, he gave them each a nod and returned to his office after reminding his son that running was not allowed within the Manor and that he expected them both to be on time for lessons after lunch.

Harry watched him go, unable to fully process everything that had just happened. When Mr. Malfoy had arrived he had been sure that he would be severely punished for what had almost happened to the vase. He had always been punished when something bad happened, even more so when he did something freaky like make a vase freeze in mid-air. But not only had he not gotten in trouble for being a freak, he hadn’t gotten in trouble for the vase almost falling. In fact, Draco had said he had knocked it over.

Draco hadn’t blamed him. The thought left a strange feeling in his chest. The blond was his first ever friend so he didn’t have anyone to compare him to, but he couldn’t imagine a better friend than Draco. Even Dudley’s Gang blamed each other when Harry wasn’t around to get in trouble for things, though they managed to blame him sometimes then, too. But Draco didn’t even try. It was almost more than Harry could comprehend.

Why was the blond so nice to him, why did he want to be his friend so badly? And why were Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy so nice to him? Sure, Mrs. Malfoy had told him the first night that he’d be their son, but she couldn’t have meant it. No one would really want him, his Aunt and Uncle had always made that very clear. Yet, they hadn’t yelled at him once. They hadn’t hit him or made him sit by himself in a dark cupboard, or made him cook or clean to earn his keep. They hadn’t even gotten mad when he was freakish and made weird things happen. Mr. Malfoy had told him he had been impressive. He’d never been impressive before. It didn’t make sense. Magic was evil and horrible and freaky like him, right?

Before he could confuse himself any more, his friend grabbed his hand with a huge smile and tugged him down the corridor and towards one of the rear doors that would take them out into the gardens where Polaris and the other young peacocks lived. They had then played amongst the white birds until it was time to go in to clean up for lunch. It wasn’t until the meal ended that Harry recalled what Mr. Malfoy had said about him joining Draco for lessons that day.

No matter how nice the Malfoys had been to him, or how far the Manor was from Little Whinging Primary School, it was all the brunette could do to force himself to take a seat beside the taller blond boy in what looked like a fancy library. Grey eyes watched every stilted move he made as they all got settled at the large oak table.

Lucius stood in front of his son and house-guest and spared a moment to contemplate the strange circumstances he now found himself in. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, was living in his house and he had appointed himself one of the boy’s instructors. The tutors that usually handled Draco’s lessons had been fired the day after Harry had arrived as the risk of having them in the house was far too great. The success of their plans hinged on several things, one of which was making sure no one knew of the child’s presence there.

Dealing with the Curse Damage specialist for the two days she had spent in the Manor had been stressful enough. It had been plain nerve wracking, to be honest, watching the Healer every second to make sure she didn’t talk to anyone before she had finished her task and was successfully Obliviated. It had taken days to treat and properly diagnose the problem with the Potter boy’s scar. It had been eerily reminiscent of his time with the Death Eaters during the war, with enemies everywhere and the ever-present threat of any misstep ending in disaster. It was what he was trying to escape, not rejoin.

He didn’t want to have to deal with that again. It was going to be difficult enough dealing with all the moving parts of their complex plans, including the two boys fidgeting in their seats across from him. It was essential that Potter learn everything he needed to know about their world and his role in it, and to do it in such a way as to ensure he developed the proper views and opinions. Soon enough he would need to learn combat magic and other skills.

He, Narcissa, and Severus had spent innumerable hours over the last few days structuring plans for the boy’s education that would provide the most effective framework for what came next. Though, things would be even more complicated than first anticipated. They had known there would be many possibilities to deal with before they reached that point, but at no point had any of them considered Horcruxes to be one of them. A basic introduction to magic and the Wizarding World, however, had been discussed thoroughly. And that was where he needed to focus first, especially after witnessing Potter’s reaction to the incident that morning.

With that in mind, the Lord Malfoy turned to his son and heir, hoping that involving him would help to put the smaller boy at ease. “Draco, as I believe Mr. Potter has received no such lessons before, perhaps you could explain for him the basic subjects we will be covering. I will provide a demonstration of each as you do so.”

The younger blond eagerly stood next to his father, his chest puffed out slightly and a wide grin on his face as he began speaking. Draco had often been given reasons to be proud of what he had learned or done. His parents always promptly told him when he did a good job with something or learned his lessons quickly. But standing up and explaining about magic to the famous Harry Potter, the boy who had brought down the Dark Lord, made him feel something all together more than he ever had before.

The last few days had been more than he had imagined when he’d thought of what good friends he and Harry would be at Hogwarts. It had been almost like what he thought having a little brother would be like. He’d taught the smaller boy about toys and brooms and Quidditch and peacocks and what fork to use for the salad course and all kinds of things. He helped his new friend every day, and every night too when the brunette had his bad dreams. The young wizard knew he could calm Harry when he got upset and reassure him better than even Mother could when he got scared or unsure. Harry Potter trusted him and needed him and liked him best of all. And now, he was the first person ever to teach him about magic!

“Every magical person, witch or wizard, has a Magical Core inside them where their personal power… gathers. That power is channeled,” grey eyes darted quickly over to his father to make sure he had used the correct word and he continued with a grin at the tiny nod from the wizard, “through a wand, which is officially purchased at the age of eleven before enrolling at a magical school. Before we learn to use a wand to focus our power, it can respond to strong emotions and cause uncontrolled magic called Accidental Magic,” Draco recited, proud to have remembered the speech he had received from his father several times since he turned five.

“To prepare for school, magical children have lessons at home from when they’re five to when they are eleven years old. Everyone learns basic maths, and writing of course. And the Old Families teach Latin since most spells are in Latin, not English. They also introduce magical subjects. Officially, only the ones that don’t require a wand are taught before school. Like Herbology, Potions, Magical Theory, and History of Magic. At school, they teach Charms, Transfiguration, and Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

As Draco said this last, his father waved his wand, said a funny sounding word and made a feather drift right off the table all by itself. The feather returned to its place and suddenly turned into a tiny duck that quacked once before turning back into a feather. Lastly, the tall blond made the feather explode, then made the pieces disappear.

Strange, freaky things had happened around Harry for as long as he could remember, always when he was scared or hurt. Those unexplainable things were frightening because when he was freaky it meant something was wrong and that terrible punishment was on the way. But hearing the strange things Draco was saying and watching the unbelievable things that Mr. Malfoy was doing seemed somehow different. He couldn’t help but jump every time Draco’s dad did something – magic – but it wasn’t really scary. And both blonds acted like it was completely normal and not horrible or evil or freaky at all.

Harry didn’t understand. Magic not only wasn’t a bad word, it was also real. And he wasn’t the only one that could do it. He almost didn’t believe it. He had seen the adults all do strange things with their sticks while he had been here, so the idea of magic wasn’t as completely unbelievable as it had been only a week before.

But he had assumed that even if magic was real that he was still a freak since he didn’t use a stick like the others and he had no real control over the strange things that happened around him. But even when he had somehow appeared in the maze, they had been surprised, but not disgusted by it. And Mr. Malfoy hadn’t been shocked about the vase. He’d even told Harry he was impressive for doing it. Like it was a good thing. Draco had certainly seemed to think that the strange things he had done while at the Manor were good things. He was pulled from those thoughts when his friend – his friend – started talking again.

“A long time ago, all witches and wizards learned at home, so some learned completely different things than others did. This made some families get really good at certain types of magic that were… were specific to their families. Eventually, in about the sixth century, Queen Maeve taught groups of children magic in the very first school in Britain. Her friend, Merlin often took private students as well, though they say he helped her too. Merlin and Queen Maeve helped set up the future of magical education once magical society was organized and center- no, centr-a-lized in Camelot, in the court of King Arthur.”

Draco took a deep breath, grinning widely when his father nodded again to show that he had done a good job remembering the facts he had learned two whole years before, only really stumbling over the one long word. His father didn’t get a chance to say anything, though, because a wide-eyed Harry blurted out a question, then bit his lip and looked down as if he expected to get in trouble for talking.

“You mean Merlin and Arthur like in the story about the sword in the stone? They’re real?”

No one got upset, however. Mr. Malfoy just nodded and responded to the question in a calm voice. “Somewhat like that, Mr. Potter. Merlin and Arthur Pendragon are both among the most important historical figures in our world. Some of the tales about them were repeated and developed into the stories you have heard, but Muggles did not retain the information accurately and some parts of their stories are not correct.”

“What-“ Harry ducted his head back down, but when nothing was said, he hesitantly continued. “What are Muggles?”

“Muggles are those without magic. People like your aunt and uncle.” Harry tensed, his eyes dropping immediately to the table as Lucius continued. “In the time of Arthur, there was contact between Magicals and Muggles, which is how they know some of the tales. However, as many Muggles hate and fear magic and outnumber us greatly, it was decided that we would be safer if we hid our world from Muggles entirely. In 1692, the International Confederation of Wizards instituted the Statute of Secrecy, which makes it illegal to reveal magic in any way to Muggles. While this has isolated our world to a certain extent, it has provided invaluable safety and security to all witches and wizards.”

The Lord of the House of Malfoy watched his new student closely as he spoke. He had spent some time discussing with Severus and Narcissa what angle to take when presenting certain facts to the Potter boy. He could readily admit that the environment he seemed to have been raised in thus far made it quite easy to impart the opinion they were looking to foster in the child.

“If Muggles discovered our world,” the blond went on, “it is feared that they could turn on us and cause great harm to our people simply through fear and ignorance. It has, by some elements in our world, been argued that Magicals and Muggles could coexist if that ignorance was dispelled through education and increased interaction. Many of us, however, have seen how Muggles react when faced with magic and the things we can accomplish with it. It is our belief that telling or showing magic to non-Magicals would only increase their fear and lead to hatred and violence.”

Harry had apparently lived with Muggles as long as he could remember. He had no difficulty whatsoever attesting to the fact that nearly every person he had met reacted badly to the freaky things he could do. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon certainly became violently upset whenever his freakishness was even referred to. And no adult he had ever met had even once acted like the Dursleys’ treatment of him was not deserved. Most outright agreed that he was a freak and shouldn’t be treated like a normal kid, the way Dudley and his friends were. The small boy shuddered at the thought of what could happen if everyone knew for sure what a freak he and those like him really were. He was shaken from his dismal thoughts by the sound of his only friend’s voice.

“King Arthur was long before the Statute. There were some Muggles in his court, but the famous and important people, like Arthur and his knights and Merlin, Morgan la Fey, Queen Maeve, and the Lady of the Lake were all witches and wizards.”

“Indeed they were,” added Mr. Malfoy. “In fact, the most prominent families in our world can trace their lineage back to a figure from Camelot.”

Lucius paused as he noticed the skinny child open his mouth briefly as though about to say something, then bite his lip in silence. What was the boy thinking? If he were to properly guide Harry, he would have to have an idea of how he looked at things. Deciding to see if he could prompt the boy to speak, he looked casually between the two boys. “Do either of you have any questions at this juncture?”

Draco tilted his head at his father in question. He had learned all this years ago, of course he didn’t have any questions. The way the tall wizard narrowed his eyes at his son and then shifted his gaze pointedly to the other boy was enough to make the young blond glance at his new friend, however. Upon seeing the hesitant but curious look on that face, he knew what his father had been trying to tell him.

“What is it, Harry?” the Malfoy heir asked, causing the brunette to jump slightly in his seat and look down at his hands. Draco smiled encouragingly at him and finally Harry spoke, hesitant and quiet.

“Are the families only important because they come from Camelot, or is there something about coming from Camelot that makes them more important?”

It took a moment, but Lucius was fairly certain he understood what the child was asking, and found himself mildly impressed with the insight the question demonstrated.

“There are several main things that set the Arthurian Houses apart from the rest of magical society. The fact that their lines trace back to the most notable figures of our history is indeed one of them. Because of the age of these family lines, the members have access to a higher concentration of family magic, the inherent power available to all members of a family, or House. The fact that the Old Families tend to marry within their own strata of our society means that the lines that started out at the top of our society, such as the Arthurian descendants, marry into other notable families. This results in most notable figures of our world having been born to one of those Houses which began at Camelot.”

The brow, beneath its black fringe, wrinkled in slight confusion. Before Lucius had a chance to see what part of the explanation was puzzling the boy, his son did so. “Important and powerful people don’t have as many equals. And for marriage to work, both members should be equal and know that their partner understands them and likes them for them and not how important they are and isn’t trying to take advantage or anything.”

The furrow smoothed out on the smaller boy’s forehead at his friend’s explanation and he nodded in agreement. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia loved to have people over to Number Four that they thought were important or rich or well known. They talked about them all the time and how they could use those people to make themselves look better. Harry could understand how important people wouldn’t like to be treated the way the Dursleys treated the ‘important guests’ that sometimes came over.

“For example,” Mr. Malfoy said, drawing his students’ attention once more. “After the Age of Camelot, the most notable period for the Wizarding World was the Founders’ Era, when Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was established here in Britain. The four wizards and witches that founded the school were the most accomplished, powerful, and influential figures of their day. It has been said that no one individual has lived in all the centuries since which could rival any one of the Founders for talent, power, or political prominence. Each of the Founders descended from a member of the Arthurian Court.”

Draco, at his father’s urging, opened a large book that was sitting on the table in front of them. He pushed it towards Harry so the other boy could see a drawing of two men and two women under the title The Founders. Gesturing to a red-haired man with a long sword, Lucius went on. “Godric Gryffindor’s line traces to Sir Gawain, a knight of the Round Table and nephew of King Arthur. Rowena Ravenclaw descended from Arthur’s other nephew, Ywain. Salazar Slytherin could trace his family to Merlin and Queen Maeve. Helga Hufflepuff was related to Sir Lancelot.”

As each was named, Draco pointed at the corresponding picture. “Their families,” said Lucius, “were the first to be designated Most Ancient and Noble. There were eventually seven Houses that could claim such distinction. Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Black, Malfoy, and Peverell. The only Houses which have ever held this place in our society are those which come to us from Camelot. The House of Black descends from Sir Tristan, a favored knight of Arthur’s who was said to have stolen his love Iseult from her husband in the black of night. The House of Malfoy can claim as its ancestor Vivien Lac, also known as the Lady of the Lake, whose granddaughter married into the Malfoi family of France in the early seventh century. Lastly, the Peverells were descendants of Arthur himself. The usage of that name ended in the twelfth century, however, when the last remaining Peverell, Iolanthe, married Hardwin Potter.”

Harry sat back in shock at the last name, only vaguely watching as Draco unrolled a scroll of parchment the older blond had pointed towards. When unfurled, it was a large chart of names and pictures. It took the younger blond a minute to get his friend’s attention focused on the Arthurian family trees that were illustrated on the scroll, but once he was paying attention, Lucius again began to speak.

“Each of these lines are held in the highest regard in the Wizarding World, and each has been entrusted with duties and responsibilities of equal importance. Based on public records, the Founders’ lines were said to have died out as well, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. However, the well known sources have been incomplete for hundreds of years. “

The blond wizard gestured to the scroll. “The Old Families – those who date at least as far back as the Norman Invasion of England in 1066 – have private genealogical texts, passed down through the generations, which are whole and undamaged. These more accurate sources show that the Slytherin line continued, through the Gaunts, until only a few years ago. The Gryffindor line married into the Stinchcombe family several generations after Godric. The Stinchcombes seemingly disappeared in the 1100s. What is not well known is that Linfred Stinchcombe who had been known as The Potterer, had a son who took on the surname Potter, and married Iolanthe Peverell.”

There was silence in the large room for several minutes as the small brunette looked with wide eyes at the document before him. Harry’s face was a mask of disbelief when he looked up, his gaze locking with that of his only friend. Draco nodded at the silent question in that gaze.

“The Potter family is considered Ancient and Noble, and they come from two Most Ancient and Noble Houses,” explained the taller boy.

His father nodded as well, bringing that still wide green gaze to him when he expanded on what his son had said. “Only one of these links is well known, but they both exist, and the status of the House of Potter in our world is quite high. Such Houses require respect from every witch and wizard, especially those within the House. Among the Old Families, one’s House is the most important aspect of a witch or wizard’s identity and as such, everyone’s first responsibility, their first loyalty, is to their House. In our world, Mr. Potter, family is the most important thing of all.”

Harry sat in silence. He wanted to disagree with what Mr. Malfoy was saying. He knew that technically his Aunt and Uncle were his family, but he couldn’t respect them, and he knew that they had never once been loyal to him.

“This is something that separates the Old Families, Mr. Potter. Some of the other, less established families in our world do not follow this doctrine as they should, I admit. But even they value their links to their family magic and their predecessors in a way that Muggles simply do not. It is one of the reasons witches and wizards have trouble when they marry outside of our world.”

Harry’s nose scrunched up as he thought that over. Hadn’t Mr. Malfoy said that the magic world was separate from Muggles? Before he could ask for clarification, Draco spoke up. “A little bit of magic is in everything, even the trees and the wind. So sometimes, there is just enough magic in a Muggle for them to have a baby that can be called a witch or wizard. They are called Muggle-borns. Your mom was a Muggle-born, that’s why the rest of her family, like your aunt, are Muggles.”

“Oh,” the scrawny boy whispered. His Aunt and Uncle were Muggles. And Muggles didn’t see family the same way magical people did. That made perfect sense to Harry. He knew they hated him because he was a freak and they had to take care of him even though he didn’t deserve it. But if Muggles didn’t value family like Magicals did, maybe part of the reason they thought he wasn’t worth anything was because they were Muggle.

Obviously, the fact that they were scared of freakishness and hated it so much had something to do with it. But so did the fact that they didn’t see him as family like they should. Maybe he did deserve the things they always said he didn’t and they just couldn’t understand that because they were Muggles. Maybe, he thought with a rush of understanding, maybe that was why the Malfoys were nice to him and let him live there without cleaning or cooking or anything, because they were magical and they understood what the Dursleys couldn’t.

Harry bit down on his lower lip as he considered everything he had learned so far. Mr. Malfoy had said that the rest of the Wizarding World respected the families like the Potters. Maybe the Malfoys really did respect him and like him and want to take care of him. If he was a Magical, that meant he wasn’t really a freak like the Dursleys said. It was almost too much to hope for. He didn’t dare say anything about him being part of the Malfoys’ family like Narcissa had said, not until he knew everything. He could tell that Draco’s dad wasn’t finished talking. Hoping to fully understand, he nodded briefly to show he was ready for the wizard to go on.

Lucius did just that, bringing the discussion back to the topic of what set apart the lines which descended from Camelot, other than the fact that they had an ancestor in King Arthur’s Court. “In addition to age and ancestry, over the many centuries, the oldest family lines have also developed talents that are not possessed by others. This is due in part to the accumulation of private family libraries.” The wizard gestured around him at the shelves of books that lined the walls.

“The original methods of learning which we have discussed also play a role. Since magic was first taught within the family, knowledge and skills often passed exclusively from parent to child and was not learned by any outside the family, as Draco said earlier. Once magical education was organized for all children at specific schools, a certain amount of knowledge was taught to all. The Old Families among us, however, still pass down specific skills in the original fashion. This is one reason it is considered such a loss when a family line dies out. The family magic, the House’s knowledge, and their unique talents are lost to us, and it is detrimental to our entire society.”

Harry was silent for a moment, then with a leery glance at Lucius, he quietly ventured a few words. “I’m the last Potter.”

Lucius nodded, once again pleasantly surprised by the speed with which the scrawny boy grasped the core concept of the lesson and applied it automatically to the new world around him. “You are. More so, because the Potter line descended from other lines that have otherwise died out, you are the last who can claim the family magics of three different ancestral lines. Any private libraries or collections that were passed down to the Potter family will most likely be in one of the Potter vaults. You will have full access to those once you have assumed your titles.”

“I have a title?” Green eyes had grown wide behind his glasses, and the question had tumbled out before Harry had given himself permission to speak. As soon as he realized what he had done, his mouth snapped shut and his shoulders hunched forward. Neither Malfoy said anything about him interrupting, however. Mr. Malfoy simply nodded.

“Your father was Lord Potter, and you will be the same, just as I am Lord Malfoy and Draco will become the Lord Malfoy after me. But the Potter family is somewhat different. Because the Gryffindor and Peverell lines died out after they merged with the House of Potter, the Lord Potter is also the Lord Peverell, and though it is not widely known, he is the Lord Gryffindor as well. This makes the House of Potter especially important in our society, and therefore it has special responsibilities to magic and the Wizarding World.”

The idea that he was worth something, that he deserved the things that the Malfoys had given him- their time and attention, medical care, good food, a big comfortable room with toys, a friend – that was hard enough for Harry to process. The idea that he was important, that he was in some way more important than this family in its fancy castle-like home, was just too much. And more than that, it didn’t make sense.

“If…” he trailed off, almost afraid to ask, afraid of the answer but needing it anyway. “If I’m important, then why didn’t anybody care before? Why was I just left there and no one ever-” the small boy choked back the words, not wanting to say it, or to feel the tears that burned the back of his throat when he tried.

The two blonds grew quiet, then Mr. Malfoy – Lord Malfoy – held his gaze for several long seconds. When he spoke, his deep voice was quiet but more serious than Harry had ever heard it before. “I was not involved in the decision to place you with your mother’s Muggle sister, and the wizard who made that choice has never explained it to anyone, but he has implied that you were hidden in the Muggle world to protect you.”

Harry reared back in his seat as if he had been slapped. “Protect me?” he asked incredulously. Lucius nodded gravely.

“He said that the Muggle world was the only safe place for you to be.”

“Safe? At the Dursleys’? Who? Who said that? Who put me there and just left me and didn’t care that…” the scrawny brunette swallowed hard, trying to shove down the sudden urge to scream.

“His name is Albus Dumbledore and he is a very powerful wizard who many look up to and believe automatically. He is the Headmaster of Hogwarts and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, our court.” Wide green eyes just blinked, the action only drawing attention to the wet shine growing in his eyes as he listened. “In the wake of your parents’ murder he took charge of your placement before anyone thought to ask where you had gone.”

“M-murder? Aunt Petunia said my parents died in a car crash.”

Blond brows drew low over grey eyes momentarily before the wizard shook off his confusion at the strange terms. “For many years, our world was at war, one side led by the Dark Lord. Your parents fought against him, and on Halloween of 1981, he attacked your home. He killed both of your parents and attempted to kill you as well.”

Shock, fear, and finally anger, filtered across the still gaunt face. Lucius absently reminded himself to have another word with Snobby, the kitchen elf. Mr. Potter had only been with them a few days, but he had not gained any weight as yet, and that simply would not do if they were to start his defensive spellwork lessons soon.

“You were the only one left alive in the house when others arrived, Mr. Potter. Even the Dark Lord disappeared that night. No one knows what happened to him, or how you survived.”

“You survived the Killing Curse, Harry,” came the hushed voice of his first and only friend. “No one has lived through that before. Not Ever. That’s why you’re called the Boy-Who-Lived.”

The smaller boy shook his head, confused and overwhelmed.

“You are famous in our world, Mr. Potter. You did the impossible in living, and when you did so, the Dark Lord disappeared, a wizard who’s name no one will even speak for fear of him. It is believed that you somehow were responsible, and for that you are revered in the Wizarding World.”

It was too much, the idea that he was famous, that he might have done something to make people think that way about him. He closed his eyes briefly to reign in the hundreds of questions forming in his mind. With a deep breath he forced himself to focus on the most important question.

“So if I am- am famous, why didn’t anybody magical want to take care of me?”

“I am sure many would have been quite eager to take you in, Mr. Potter. Your parents were well liked and had many friends. But by the time anyone started asking where you would go, you were already with the Muggles. Only your godparents would have had any legal standing to take custody of you, and by three days after the attack, your Godfather was arrested and your godmother had been attacked and confined to hospital. No one was left to question the Chief Warlock’s decision and few would have even dared do so. He is very powerful, as I said.”

Harry’s mouth hung open, too many questions again tumbling rapidly through his thoughts. He struggled to catch up with all that had been said. “I have a Godfather? And a godmother? Why was he arrested? Why was she attacked? Why- Wait!“

The seven-year-old grasped his dark locks in both hands. “Wait. When was he arrested, and when was she attacked?”

Lucius Malfoy rocked back slightly on his heels. The boy really did connect things quickly. “Sirius Black, your father’s best friend and your Godfather, was arrested November 3rd, 1981. It was said that he had something to do with that attack, but the Chief Warlock never called the Wizengamot to session to conduct the trial so I know nothing further about the situation. Your godmother is Alice Longbottom. She was very close to your mother. She and her husband were attacked on November 2nd 1981.”

“There wasn’t a trial? Is that legal?” He waved away any answer that would have been given and continued to speak. “So, so when he took me to the Dursleys’ my godmother was okay? She was attacked after that, right? A couple days after.”

“That is correct.”

Two small black brows drew low over the green eyes. “Then why didn’t I go to her after my parents died? That’s what my parents wanted, right? That’s why she was my godmother, isn’t it?”

A tinge of hysteria had entered the young voice, prompting the other boy to grab hold of his hand where it was fisted on the tabletop. The last remaining Potter took a deep breath and held that other hand tightly. Having Draco there helped him manage the out of control feeling inside him, just like he always did at night after a nightmare. Draco made him feel safe, he realized.

Mr. Malfoy had scared him the first few times he saw him, but the lessons that day hadn’t been nearly as bad as he’d been afraid they would be. Mr. Malfoy hadn’t yelled, or got upset with him for not knowing things, or for asking questions, or even for interrupting him. He took another deep breath and looked up at his friend’s father. As if he had been waiting for that very thing, as soon as their eyes met, the wizard answered the previous question.

“I would assume that was your parents’ wish, as the role of godparent grants automatic custody of a child in the event both parents die.”

“But I didn’t go automatically to either one of them. I went to Dumbledore. Why? Why did he decide where I went?” The growing frustration in the quiet voice was unmistakable. As was the bitterness in his expression when he was answered.

“That was the way Dumbledore wanted it.”

“And no one said anything? They just let him take me wherever he wanted? They just let him take me and leave me on a doorstep in the middle of the night, in winter, with a single blanket and a note?” Harry’s tone was harsh, almost as harsh as his Aunt’s and Uncle’s always were when they related to him how he had been foisted on them without warning or question. They had said time and again how they never would have taken him given a choice and how they wished they knew how it had been done so they could leave him to be someone else’s problem. He was pretty sure they had tried. They certainly talked about how his freakishness wouldn’t even let them get rid of him. Maybe magic had stopped them from tossing him out like they wanted. It would make more sense than them keeping him all these years.

“He is the Chief Warlock, and though such things are not inherent in the position, he makes many decisions on behalf of the Wizengamot without our input. He has also been the Headmaster of our only school for many decades and practically all his past students consider him to be very wise and nigh on infallible.”

The brunette clenched his teeth and tightened his hold on Draco’s hand yet again. When Lucius spoke again, the angry cast of the boy’s features hardened with resolve.

“It would take a lot of effort, and someone with a lot of power and influence in our society in order to effect the Headmaster’s position at the school, or in the court.”

“Someone like the Boy-Who-Lived?” Harry asked, green eyes fixed on the wizard before him. The Lord of the House of Malfoy tipped his head in silent agreement and the brunette gave a sharp nod in return. “I don’t know how to be a Lord.”

Draco placed his free hand on his friend’s shoulder, causing a hint of the tension there to ease. “I don’t either, yet. Father will teach us both, won’t you Father?”

One corner of the elder blond’s mouth twitched slightly upwards. “Indeed I will, Draco. I will teach you and Mr. Potter everything you need to know, you have my word.”

Chapter Five: Vows and Promises

Augusta Longbottom was a formidable witch and in the years since she had essentially lost her son and daughter-in-law in the wake of Voldemort’s demise, she had come to the opinion that she had seen it all. Yet that May morning she was proved quite wrong when one of her house elves came to tell her that Narcissa Malfoy was at the gates of Longbottom Hall requesting to meet with her. The meeting that followed only left her more shocked.

The Lady Longbottom had never trusted the Lord Malfoy or his family, and was especially distrustful of the man’s wife, the sister of one of the Death Eaters that had tortured her son and daughter-in-law to insanity six years before. Even so, her shock at the visit and the insatiable curiosity to see why the Lady Malfoy would come to the Hall, alone, to speak with her, prompted Augusta to allow the other Lady entrance. Not that the blonde’s reception was all that warm. The initial exchange over tea was in fact overly formal and quite chilly. The older witch’s response to the former Black’s request for a Vow of Silence was positively glacial.

Something about the young mother’s expression when she had asked, however, combined with the unprompted Vow the blonde had taken on her own magic that she was not there to threaten, harm or spy on the Longbottom family, had eventually convinced the widow to do as requested. Though the Vow she had spoken had been as limited and cursory as possible. There was certainly no way Augusta would place herself in a situation that might allow any harm to come to herself or her family at any point in the present or future. She made sure that the oath she took would only apply to the current meeting and would be negated by any action on the Malfoys’ part that went against Narcissa’s own Vow.

By the time she had read through the first foot of parchment the younger witch had handed her in the silence after the Vow had settled, the Lady Longbottom was distantly grateful that she had decided to take the risk of assuaging her curiosity. Only distantly, however, as the vast majority of her mental faculties were focused on processing the mound of evidence being presented to her. The obvious truth spells, pensive memories, and unsullied Healing test results that accompanied the several feet of parchment were overwhelming. It took a lot of concentration to make her way through them. Every other bit of her formidable self control was utilized to keep herself calm and collected amidst her building fury.

As hazy as the early days of November, 1981, were for the witch, she could easily recall more than one discussion between Frank and Alice regarding the custody of Harry Potter in the wake of his parents’ murders. Both had been adamant that they should have been given care of the boy and were quite vocal in their disapproval of, and frustration with, the Headmaster’s actions. She had in fact, wondered more than once, if the fate of the Boy-Who-Lived had had something to do with the errand Frank and Alice had needed to run the night they asked her to watch Neville. The night they were attacked. Yet, she would never know.

Neither Alice nor Frank were capable of telling anyone what happened that night. Nor were they capable of speaking out against the Chief Warlock’s control of the guardianship of Harry Potter. Their being permanently hospitalized had not only silenced their planned objections, but made such objections a moot point as regarded the placement of the orphaned boy. In her growing outrage, Augusta fought the urge to read more into that than was warranted and forced herself instead to focus on the matter at hand. Something had to be done. Immediately.

The witch almost stood to reach for the floo powder and contact her brother for his input. But she stayed in her seat and instead narrowed her gaze at the slender blonde. She had begun to rely too heavily on Algie over the last few years, she knew. Between the grief and anger over Frank and Alice, and the unexpected weight of caring for her young grandson, she had felt overwhelmed. But this was not something that could be put off until she felt capable of facing it, like Neville’s early tutoring. This had to be dealt with now.

“Where is he?” Augusta demanded.

Narcissa finished her dainty sip of tea before she answered calmly. “Safe from the so-called care of his present guardians. All three of them.”

The Lady Longbottom wanted to protest the implied slur against the well-known and well-respected wizard who had taken charge of the famous boy’s placement but for several reasons, simply could not do so. She took a long drink of her own tea. To find herself agreeing with Narcissa Malfoy, nee Black, was not something she would ever have envisioned possible. And yet, here she was, ready to not only agree with the blonde’s implication, but… Her thoughts trailed off. What was she to do, exactly? As she did her best to decide, she repeated her previous question.

The younger witch placed her cup delicately in its saucer on the nearby table and folded her hands in her lap. “The young Mr. Potter is currently attending lessons with my son, Draco.”

As this statement revealed nothing of the boy’s actual location, Augusta started to interrupt with an indignant, “Now see here, Malfoy!” but the blonde continued speaking and the older witch bit back the rest of her words.

“As the child did not even know his parents’ own names, one of the first things his tutor covered was the lineage of the House of Potter,” the aristocrat continued, her reference to one of the Pensieve memories the other witch had watched was enough to reawaken the associated anger and side track her audience enough from her previous question that the blonde was able to finish before being interrupted again.

“In the course of these studies, Mr. Potter learned that he had a godbrother, and immediately requested that they meet. I gave the boy my assurance that I would make that possible with all due haste.” The otherwise placid tone took on a hard edge, causing Augusta to raise one brow. As if she would prevent such a thing!

Legally speaking, with Alice’s incapacitation, Harry should have been given to her to raise alongside Neville as Lily had wanted, but her own overwhelming grief, her brother Algie’s advice, and the Headmaster’s insistence that Harry was in the safest possible location, had dissuaded her from pursuing the matter. The guilt she felt at having allowed herself to be convinced to not pursue custody of Harry weighed heavily on the aging witch and left her all the more eager to agree to the extended Vow of Silence that would protect the young hero from discovery which Narcissa required before arrangements were made for the orphan’s visit to Longbottom Hall. By the time the young Lady Malfoy returned to the Manor, however, the Vow had been given and a time had been set for the three future Lords to be introduced.

Both Houses were a flurry of activity over the next two days as the boys prepared to meet. For his part, Neville was more nerves than anything else. He had no friends his age, and in fact, rarely saw any other children at all. He was not the most social of boys and always felt far too awkward around other children. And it certainly did not help that they always, inevitably, asked why he lived with his grandmother instead of his parents.

As soon as he was old enough to understand the situation, Neville had learned to dread that question over any other. But surely, his godbrother wouldn’t tease him about not having any parents. Harry Potter didn’t have parents either, and he had asked to meet Neville. Surely that meant the other boy wanted to be friends, right? The thought of having a friend left the lonely wizard breathless as he awaited the arrival of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

The thought of meeting another wizard who would be like his real actual family left Harry too distracted to pay attention to the instruction Lord Malfoy had given him and Draco about how to make the fancy knot in the tie he was to wear to Longbottom Hall. For all that the Malfoys said he was like their son, Draco wasn’t really truly his brother, but a godbrother was as close to a real brother as you could get without sharing parents and Harry simply couldn’t wait to meet him. Neville was a wizard and while the Longbottoms weren’t one of the Old Families, they were an Ancient and Noble House, and they would understand the importance of family the way the Dursleys hadn’t. Neville would want to be his friend, he was sure, and then he would have two friends. Two! How was he supposed to pay attention to neckties in the face of that?

But the Malfoys all expected him to pay attention to such things and learn the proper way to dress and present himself as the future Lord of the Houses of Peverell, Potter, and Gryffindor. Appearance, according to Lord and Lady Malfoy was important to social standing. Even Draco said that they would have to learn fashion and comportment and formal presentation and behavior.

Draco had already started those lessons, though he would still be attending the ones Harry would need to catch up. He attended all his catch-up-classes, as Harry called them. The blond boy never even complained about going over stuff he already knew, just helped explain it to his friend and helped show him what his parents were talking about. Just like he was now as he demonstrated the correct knot while Lady Malfoy was laying out the rest of their clothing for the day.

The brunette always found his friend’s tuition helpful as the things he was being taught were so very different from anything he was used to. The fact that he needed to learn it all was rather intimidating, even the clothing stuff. Those particular lessons, in addition to being confusing, also made him realize how bad he had looked before. He had known, of course, that he had not looked put together. Comments from teachers and classmates had made that clear more than once. Aunt Petunia had always responded to them by saying that he was lazy and sloppy and everyone had always said she was right. What if Draco and the Malfoys thought that too? What if they gave up on teaching him how to look like a Lord? They all said it way something he had to learn to be taken seriously by Wizarding society.

Harry bit his lip and tried yet again to make his tie look the way Draco had, his hands shaking slightly as he watched his friend finish his own bow tie with much less trouble. When he was done and looked at the results in the mirror he felt a burning in the back of his throat and fought the urge to cry in frustration. He would never look like a proper wizard at this rate. Except he had to. With a deep breath, the skinny brunette started to pull out the knot to start again when another set of small hands took over.

“I will do it this time, Harry,” whispered Draco as he knotted the tie for his friend. “you just need more practice. I tied about a hundred of these the first week Father showed me. You’ll be able to do it yourself next time, I bet. There!”

The taller boy stepped away and turned so they were both facing the mirror. “Now you just need your waistcoat and handkerchief and you’ll look perfect!” he exclaimed with a wide grin.

Harry couldn’t stop the blush that formed at the words. No one had ever said he looked perfect before. He could count on one hand the number of times that someone had said anything positive about his appearance. And they had all happened since he had arrived at the Manor. Hearing Mrs. Malfoy say he looked handsome and having Draco say he looked perfect weren’t quite the same thing, though, and the latter left him with a strange feeling in his stomach. That difference was driven home only a few minutes later when both boys were fully dressed and the two adults were commenting on how put together they both looked.

Harry tugged self-consciously at the grey waistcoat that was now overtop of his blue button-down shirt and the navy and maroon tie that had caused him so much trouble. He did his best not to fiddle with the triangle of matching kerchief that peeked out of his waistcoat pocket as Draco stood next to him, giving his own grey waistcoat and trousers a minute adjustment. The blond boy’s bow-tie exactly matched his two-toned grey collared shirt with its tiny checkerboard pattern.

Before he could worry about how he looked in comparison to his friend, the future Lord Potter had arrived at Longbottom Hall, bedecked with perfectly manicured ivy. As the group of four made their way through the impressive entrance foyer featuring large portraits in gilded frames that stared down at the guests from above the marble fireplace, Harry unconsciously gripped Draco’s hand in his. Neither boy let go as they were led up a carpeted staircase with yet more portraits, though several of these smiled at them as they passed.

The trek through the stately home only increased his nerves and Harry was fighting the urge to shake when they finally made it to the parlor where they would be having tea with the Longbottom heir. While the Manor walls were predominately shades of green or blue, the Hall was white, and made even brighter by its large windows and gleaming wood floors. Harry couldn’t help but notice that Neville matched the décor when he came into the room with his stern-faced grandmother in a white collared shirt and tan linen suit pants and waistcoat with a matching tan bow-tie.

Introductions were slightly stilted as Lady Longbottom watched her daughter-in-law’s godson with a strange, fixed expression, and Neville stuttered through a formal greeting. The smallest of the three boys likewise struggled to remember the correct wording that he had been taught the day before. Draco, possibly the most relaxed of everyone in the room, stepped in and finished off the initial exchange, even subtly prompting the third boy to offer them seats in his role as host. The shy young wizard flashed a smile at that, as it allowed him to finish his duty without his grandmother stepping in to take over. Once the children were all seated, the adults excused themselves and a small percentage of the tension in the room left with them.

Even so, conversation wasn’t as smooth as Harry had hoped or Draco had expected. The blond was sure the entire day was doomed when only minutes later, the teapot exploded after Draco had tried to start a discussion about the types of lessons they were each currently being given. Neville’s rounded cheeks darkened and he snatched back the hand that had been reaching towards the tray of biscuits next to the teapot. The chubby boy stuttered out an apology and begged the other boys not to tell his grandmother what had happened.

“Why? It’s just accidental magic, surely you’ve had accidental magic before?” the blond asked in confusion.

Neville looked down at his lap for a moment before glancing nervously up at the other boys. He nodded once, just a little, before speaking in a whisper. “O-once. B-but Grandmother doesn’t know. I-I didn’t tell her.”

Blond brows furrowed over wide grey eyes. “Why not? You’re a wizard, of course you have accidental magic. It’s not a bad thing,” he insisted. First Harry, now Neville. It just didn’t make sense why a wizard would see accidental magic as bad.

Neville blushed, then continued hesitantly. “I-I don’t want to b-be a wi-wizard.”

Draco reared back in shock. “Why?” he asked incredulously.

“Grandmother says m-my father was a great wizard, she says I will grow up to be like him. B-but I don’t w-want to be like m-my father.”

“Why not?” Harry asked, his tone and expression so open and sympathetic it was obvious the query was made without any hint of judgment.

“M-my parents w-we-were Aurors. They were h-hurt by D-Death E-Eaters,” he admitted quietly.

The information was hardly shocking to the other two boys, both of whom had been told by Lucius about the Longbottoms being confined to hospital when he had explained what happened after the Potters were killed. It was different hearing it from the shy son of the couple in question, however. Harry especially, had a hard time listening to his godbrother’s admission. The black-haired boy scooted his chair closer to him, reaching out to place his hand atop the other boy’s on the small table. Draco found himself scowling at the sight, despite feeling sorry for the boy himself. He was a Malfoy, he knew how important family was, and to hear his only friend’s godbrother talk about losing his was not easy. With a deep breath, Draco forced the scowl from his face and watched the Boy-Who-Lived speak softly with the boy he should have been raised with.

“I miss my parents every day,” Harry whispered.

“Me too,” Neville whispered back. “Grandmother takes me to see them at St. Mungo’s sometimes. They don’t know who I am.”

Draco finished the last bite of his biscuit and tried to imagine what it would be like if he saw his parents and they didn’t recognize him. “That must be scary,” the blond said into the silence that had fallen.

Neville nodded, darting another shy glance at each of the two boys. “I don’t want to be sick and forget everyone like they did. If I’m a wizard like my father I m-might have to be an A-Auror like him. I don’t want to b-be an Auror. They g-get h-hurt.”

“It’s okay, Neville” Harry assured quietly. “We won’t tell about the teapot. But I don’t think just because you’re a wizard like your dad that you’d have to be an Auror too.”

Green eyes shifted over to grey, asking silently if that was true. Draco sat up a little straighter and shook his head, suppressing a smile at the thought that Harry trusted him to know the answer. “No,” he agreed confidently, “that would be silly. You can be a great wizard without being an Auror. Your father was a Lord, and you’ll be Lord Longbottom too. Surely there will be more important things to do as a Lord than be an Auror all the time. Harry and I are going to do really important things on the Wizengamot once we’re Lords. You can help us fix things on the court, if you want.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide in his rounded face. “Really?” he asked as he looked from one to the other. Both boys nodded and Neville slowly started to smile. “O-Okay. I wouldn’t mind working on the court. That doesn’t sound scary at all.”

“It’s not,” stated the young blond.

Harry nodded again. “It’s real important though. We’re going to make lots of stuff happen to help people.”

Neville relaxed and reached for another biscuit, prompting his friends to do the same. His friends. He smiled wider at the thought. Not only had he learned a way to be a wizard and make his grandmother proud without being an Auror, he had made two friends today. His smile only grew as his godbrother turned to him and said that he was going to start taking defensive spellwork lessons soon.

“If you want, maybe you can take some of the lessons with me and Draco, so if anything bad happens we could all protect each other so none of us get hurt.”

After a brief hesitation, Neville agreed and soon all three were talking about what types of spells they wanted to learn most before they started at Hogwarts.

Harry was able to follow through on his promise sooner than he’d expected as two days later, Severus Snape arrived to conduct the defense lessons. From then on, those lessons took up most of every weekend. The smallest of the three boys learned almost faster than his friends, despite having the smallest amount of magical knowledge. Learning the things Mr. Snape was teaching was a lot easier than he had expected it would be.

In fact, Harry actually found it more difficult to learn why the adults were so insistent that he master defensive and offensive spells and tactics. Mr. Malfoy had, of course, told him that an evil wizard had killed his parents in a war. Discovering the history of that war, and who had fought it, however, was rather harder to swallow than the nasty tasting potions he still had to take twice a day. The potions made more sense, as well. He understood that the Dursleys had treated him badly and that the treatment had damaged things that would take a long time to fix.

He also understood that he was finally gaining weight and had even grown a bit taller. But Dumbledore fighting the Dark Lord, Dumbledore as the leader of the ‘Light’ side, Dumbledore as his parents’ friend and mentor? The man who had abandoned him on a doorstep? The man who had left him with the Dursleys and never checked on him or come to help him when he was locked in his cupboard with bruises and no food for two days? It didn’t make sense. Neither did the idea that these people, who had taken him in and healed him and were nice to him, and taught him and fed him and gave him his first friend, that they had been on the side his parents had fought against. The side that had killed his parents and tried to kill him.

Yet they were, Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Snape had shown him the ugly tattoo and everything. He could still see the snake and the skull as clearly as if it were right in front of him. The Dark Mark, they had called it. It was the sign of the Dark Lord and those who followed him. And it was on the arms of two of the only adults who had ever been nice to him. Harry shook his head, his steps speeding up to match the pace of the thoughts rushing through his mind.

Within moments he was running, racing down the long pathways and around the many corners of the hedge maze he had first arrived in when he accidentally Apparated himself onto the Malfoy property. He had been out here many times with Draco, but no matter how many times the other boy led him through the maze to the center, he couldn’t remember how to get there.

Even so, he made it there eventually, after so many wrong turns there was no way he would recall how he had gotten there. The path he’d taken was the last thing on his mind, however, as he rushed into the gazebo formed of hedges that served as Draco’s fort. The blond had indeed added a second fancy lawn chair he called a throne for his new friend to use when they played castle and dragons together as he had promised that first day. The brunette didn’t sit on it today, though, simply curling up on the soft grass in the back of the structure. He stared up through the arching green columns that formed the open roof of the gazebo, but all he saw was that tattoo.

He tried as hard as he could to see the green leaves and the blue sky beyond, but even half an hour of effort left him only seeing a black snake and a gaping skull. It was the sound of a voice that finally redirected his attention as Draco suddenly appeared in the door of the fort.

“Harry?” he called softly. The blond had been there for the explanation of the war as he had for all of their other lessons and had watched his only friend flee the room after his father and Godfather had shown the boy their Marks. He’d wanted to go after him right away, but Uncle Severus had said to give Harry some time. And he had. But when he’d gone to look for him an hour later, he’d been nowhere in the Manor. It had taken his mother casting a Point Me on her wand to show the young wizard where to look. Now, seeing the other boy curled up in the grass with dried tear tracks on his face, Draco didn’t know what to say.

“Harry, are you okay?” he asked, hoping his friend would tell him what to do to make him feel better.

Normally Draco knew. He was proud that he always knew what to do to help. When Harry had a nightmare, he knew to crawl in and lay next to him and talk softly of fun things until they fell asleep. When Harry got upset because he didn’t know something in their lessons or was frustrated because he didn’t understand something or was unsure about what someone else had said or done, he knew to explain things simply and encourage him to try again and tell him how good he was doing and that he would learn it all soon enough.

But now he didn’t know and it bothered the Malfoy heir that he couldn’t make things better for Harry. He had decided the first day that Harry had spent at the Manor that it would be his job to take care of his dark-haired friend, but right now he couldn’t even do that. The future Lord Malfoy made his way into his fort and started to sit down next to the other boy, thinking maybe if he sat with him kind of like he did at night that it would help. Before he had lowered himself fully onto the grass, Harry flinched and rolled away from him.

Draco froze, halfway between sitting and standing. Harry had never moved away from him like that before. He still flinched or jumped but he’d never tried to get away from him. A cold feeling settled in the taller boy’s stomach and he stood back up, grey eyes locked on the smaller boy. When the brunette didn’t turn back or say anything, he said his name, once, softly, his voice breaking a little on the word.

“Harry?”

But his first real friend still wouldn’t look at him. Harry didn’t trust him anymore. It felt like the world froze for a single second, then started spinning around him, faster and faster, until Draco thought he might lose his balance, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe.

Harry screwed his eyes shut as he heard his friend move behind him, afraid to turn and look at the other boy, not wanting to see that horrible Mark overtop of the one face that had never done anything to hurt him. He didn’t open his eyes, despite hearing Draco call his name. He kept them closed until he heard a strange sound, like a cross between a gasp and a sob. He listened closer as he stared at the wall of leaves that formed this little section of the fort. What he heard next made him twist quickly around to look at the first friend he’d ever had.

“You don’t want to be my friend anymore.” The words were quiet, toneless, as Draco fought to catch his breath against the cold that was seeping into him despite the warm day and he stumbled backwards into the gazebo wall. Harry didn’t trust him. Harry didn’t like him. The thoughts grew so loud in his head he didn’t notice the other boy glance up at him in surprise.

Harry was his only real friend, though now there was Neville too. But Neville was only friends with him because Harry was his godbrother. And Harry didn’t like him anymore, so Neville wouldn’t either. Grey eyes fell closed, the cold grew stronger and the spinning sensation returned. The sensation of hands grabbing his arms in a rough grip startled his eyes open again, and when he did, Harry was looking back at him, green eyes large and wide behind their lenses.

The brunette didn’t remember deciding to stand, but he did, so fast that he almost fell as he scrambled around the thrones and grabbed the blond’s arms. Draco was hunched over slightly, his face completely white. “No!” he shouted as he shook the taller boy, unable to understand what his friend had just said. Why would he say something like that? The Malfoy heir opened his eyes and looked at him, grey eyes shiny in the afternoon sun.

“No, Draco, I don’t-” before he could say anything else to explain that he didn’t think that at all, tears began to fall on the blond’s pale cheeks and Harry grew all the more confused and alarmed. The taller boy stumbled back through the opening that was the fort’s door.

“You hate me,” he said on a sob and Harry followed him, trying to grab hold of him again, to hold him still so he could explain. In his panic the image of the Dark Mark disappeared entirely, all he could see was his friend, crying.

“That’s not true!” the brunette cried.

Draco stopped backing away and looked at the Boy-Who-Lived, eyes wide and hopeful in his tear-stained face. “B-But you don’t like me anymore, you don’t trust me.”

The plaintive whisper was shocking to hear from the boy who was always so confident, who could always tell Harry the right thing to do, or explain things when the smaller boy didn’t understand. Draco was always the one to make Harry feel better when he was sad or scared and the brunette didn’t know what to do with things the other way around. But the look on his friend’s face made Harry sick to his stomach, even more than the sight of that scary tattoo on Lord Malfoy and Mr. Snape’s arms had.

Once again he was moving before he’d decided to do so, the brunette covering the distance between them as quickly as he could, throwing his arms around the blond and hugging as tightly as he could. “I do like you! I do trust you Draco! I promise. You’re my very first friend. You’re my very best friend. I trust you more than anyone!”

Two thin arms wrapped around the smaller boy, squeezing so tight it hurt, but Harry didn’t complain as Draco whispered in his ear. “You moved away Harry.”

The future Lord Potter shook his head as hard as he could without letting go. “I’m never going away. I’ll never go away from you Draco. I promise. We’ll always be best friends. I promise.”

As the blond’s tears tapered off, another sound echoed in Harry’s mind. He heard again what Lord Malfoy and Mr. Snape had said, what they had explained about the war and Dumbledore and the Dark Mark. They had explained that they hadn’t wanted to help the Dark Lord. They had explained what kind of group they thought they were joining, all the things they meant to do and how those things would help their world. And they explained how the Dark Lord went crazy and everything changed and they were trapped with him just like Harry had been trapped with the Dursleys with no way out because no one on Dumbledore’s side would trust them or help them.

He wouldn’t be like Dumbledore, he promised himself as he hugged Draco against him. He would trust them, he would help them. He, Harry learned the next day after lessons, would have to. Because he was somehow the only one who could defeat the Dark Lord for good. It was a scary thought, and he didn’t want to believe it, but even Draco said it was true. And Draco never lied to him. Draco was his friend and would always be there for Harry like Harry would always be there for him. They’d promised. And even when he wasn’t allowed to participate in some of the lessons the brunette received from Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Snape, the blond boy still helped him change out of his sweaty dueling robes when he was too sore to do it himself, and he still, every night, woke him and talked to him and held him when he had nightmares.

Harry still heard the screams and saw the green light. And now that he knew what they were, they were even worse. Even worse than the ones where he was all alone and fighting a big monster and couldn’t get away. Having Draco there after those nightmares was extra helpful because the taller boy always reminded him that they were best friends, and they would always be together and fight together, and save each other from any monsters. And that made all the difference.


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Sunfire

I have been writing fanfic since I was twelve and after my sister forced me to read the first Harry Potter book in 2000 I have been addicted to the fandom. Despite my love of the books I have found plenty over the years to twist to my own purposes so this theme is going to be a blast. I love turning things on their head and looking at canon from a completely different direction and making it totally different without changing the core. I have been branching out in my pairings the last few years and finally have enough of my existing stuff finished to start playing around in a new ship or two.

8 Comments:

  1. I usually only comment at the end of a fantastic story, but I just had to comment at the beginning of this one–because it’s totally awesome, right from the start!

  2. Great Start

  3. Oh man this is a fantastic read.

  4. I just love the way you portrayed Harry. Too many stories and definitely cannon ignores how being abused would influence a child. And of course I love the fact that he got away sooner rather than later. Thank you!

  5. This is…I don’t even know how to tell you how much I’m loving this , and I’ve just finished part one!

  6. This is so wonderful and heartbreaking. You’ve really captured what abuse looks like in a child that hasn’t known anything but. I laughed and cried. The Wizarding World won’t know what hit them once the Malfoys and Snape are done with him!

  7. Little Draco is so precious. Always there. My heart hurts for Harry, but is so hopeful that he will rise above with the help of his new family. Neville was so sweet and heartbreaking. Thank you

  8. Oh my heart. Mini Harry, Draco, and Neville are so sweet. I am so happy too, for Harry having support. I love your characterization of the Malfoys. Pragmatic. Looking forward to the next part.

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