Felix Felicis-1/2 -Izzy Hound

Title: Felix Felicis
Author: Izzy Hound
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Action Adventure, Het, Menage or More, Pre-Relationship, Romance, Slash
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Hermione Granger Pre-relationship Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Canon level violence and attitudes. Swearing.
Author Notes: Thank you Daisy May for helping me wrangle the plot, all the remaining mistakes are mine. Thank you Keira Marcos for letting me use the Dverger and a huge thank you to my artist CoCo for the lovely art.
Beta: Daisy May
Word Count: 62,000
Summary: Harry decided if one day he got bored enough to write his memoirs, he was going to call it “The lion, the wizard and the wardrobe that helped save wizarding Britain” and then dedicate the whole book to his house-elves. But first, they had to finish saving the country.
Artist: CoCo



Chapter One

Hermione had said not to, that the Felix Felicis wasn’t worth wasting on Malfoy, that they’d find evidence of him being a Death Eater one way or another. But Harry had time, the three hours of potion he’d taken had seemed like a small dose considering he had to get a memory from Slughorn. But with luck on his side, it turned out he had at least half an hour still to go, even if he felt slightly less lucky than he had earlier.

Harry slipped up the stairs still under his invisibility cloak, there seemed no need to keep himself hidden, Filch had left the castle door conveniently unlocked and he’d not seen a soul, dead or alive as he walked towards Gryffindor tower, but he was enjoying the moment.

Turning the corner, towards the common room, Harry wondered if maybe he had time to get Ginny to see him as boyfriend material too. Relationship problems weren’t beyond the potions scope Harry figured after how the Lavender mess had been playing out earlier although he did feel a bit guilty leaving Hermione in the middle of it. Lavender’s screaming accusations of Hermione sleeping with Ron just because they had walked down from the boy’s dorm together had caused Harry to flee under the invisibility cloak making him accidentally knock into Dean and him into Ginny. Of course, Ginny had then blown up at Dean and possibly started to spell the end for that relationship too if the argument he heard brewing was any indication.

Honestly, the end of both relationships was for the best, at least now the little Gryffindors would stop stumbling out of the common room looking so traumatised after coming across either couple. Molly’s rather puritan belief towards relationships obviously didn’t extend to her children, even if she was also quick to accuse Hermione of being a scarlet woman. Harry frowned; he had no idea why anybody would say such things about Hermione.

But as he drew closer to Gryffindor Tower, he drew to a stop, the same feeling that had drawn him towards Hagrid’s after he first took the potion was now encouraging him away from the portrait. Trusting the potion that had yet to steer him wrong Harry let his feet carry him the way Felix wanted.

As the bells struck midnight Harry’s smile dimmed, the password changed at midnight, how was he supposed to get back into his dorm now: sleeping on the window sill like Neville had occasionally done in years past didn’t appeal. Maybe Harry shouldn’t have trusted the potion. Yet Hagrid was happy that they had attended Aargog’s funeral, Slughorn had his potions ingredients also due to the acromantula and Harry had the memory he needed for Dumbledore’s next lesson: it’d been a good day for everyone so far.

But it’s a new day, and there’s a reason the potion isn’t more prevalent even without its toxicity, and nature likes balance, pride before a fall, a voice sounding remarkably like Hermione’s whispered in his mind. Harry shrugged it off and kept going; he was committed now if nothing else.

He was getting closer to the Room of Requirements Harry realised, maybe the potion was acting on the unspoken wish to catch Malfoy, much like it had with his others. Harry drew his cloak tighter around him making sure there was no sign of him sticking out to alert Malfoy.

It was Harry’s chance to prove to everyone he wasn’t a liar like the Daily Prophet had claimed last year and that Malfoy was a Death Eater. Honestly the fact that Malfoy flinched when the pin had touched his arm in Madame Malkins was a clear sign that and the way Malfoy had threatened Borgin.

But nobody had listened, not Lupin who was busy grieving and telling Harry to just listen as if Harry was to blame for people not telling him things. While Dumbledore just twinkled at him and said he had every faith in Mr Malfoy. Molly just fused and called him a boy and let the adults handle things as if he didn’t know anything. As if he was safe in the school where he routinely met Death Eaters and even Voldemort as if the war hadn’t broken out amongst the students the first time in the 1970s.

Harry shook his head to clear the angry thoughts, he’d get evidence and then that would prove him right. Maybe after that, they’d start trusting him rather than belittling his efforts. Even better Harry had a spare vial from Dumbledore for storing memories in as Slughorn had only needed one. All he needed to do was see what Malfoy was up to and remove the memory to give to the Order as evidence. He even knew the spell after watching Slughorn and after his earlier success at managing the replenishing spell, Harry had no doubt he would get it right.

Feeling confident Harry strolled towards the tapestry of the dancing trolls, all he needed was to figure out the right way to ask for the room, surely the potion would help with that. Malfoy was done for; Harry grinned the war was finally going his way.

“Even better,” Harry breathed out, the door to the Room of Requirements was slightly ajar just like the castle’s main door had been earlier. Harry gently pulled the door open wider and slipped inside shutting the door behind him so that nobody else could disturb them. Still grinning Harry glanced around the room only for the smile to falter slightly.

The room was huge, far bigger than the Great Hall and more like the muggle cathedral, he’d once visited with his primary school. What’s more, it was full of things, books and cauldrons piled on top of chairs and tables haphazardly draped in robes and other fabrics. He walked further into the room dodging a pile of empty bottles and stared at the mess in front of him.

What was Malfoy up to in all of this? Harry on impulse headed to the left and stopped before a pile of books, they were all at first glance the same but when Harry looked closer, he realised that some were much older. Carefully picking one up Harry flicked it open and nearly dropped it when he saw the date, 1825. He picked up another and then another some were younger, but a few were older.

It was a room of things. Generation after generation of things, maybe they had been lost, maybe they had been hidden but nonetheless, they were all here. Centuries worth of student and teacher paraphernalia all collected into one place. Was it by the house elves or by the magic in Hogwarts or the room itself?

Harry gave up looking around for further clues about Malfoys intentions in what was in essence a jumble sale of magical items on steroids. Who knew what was in here, a needle in a haystack would be easier, no wonder Malfoy looked such an exhausted mess. Harry walked further into the room. While before the potion had guided his path, here Harry couldn’t feel it, although at the same time he could still sense the potion in his system.

“Damn,” he muttered; Hermione was right the magic in the room was counteracting the potion’s effect. Still no need to panic he’d got this far he could manage the last part on his own, he was after all a semi-competent wizard under an invisibility cloak.

Harry startled out of his musing when he heard a solid thump. Heading towards the likely Malfoy induced noise he carefully cleaned his glasses on the inside of the cloak to make sure there was no possible way he missed Malfoys actions.

He sidled sideways past a precarious stack of old portraits, their occupants still and unmoving and nearly got hit in the face by a lampshade when he turned into a dead end.

Carefully backtracking he worked his way through the items. Some beckoned him to touch and others repulsed his magic so much that he struggled to walk past them. In many ways the labyrinth he was in made the maze from the third task seem easy.

He shook his head to clear his mind from the memories of what the maze led to. Malfoy obviously hadn’t cleared a path either through laziness or to hide his intentions. Harry stumbled on a rug; he hadn’t seen but managed to catch himself.

Heart racing, he took his time watching where he put his feet, it wouldn’t do to alert Malfoy of his presence and give him time to hide any evidence. Yet he could feel his luck fading further and further.

What had the book said about the potion when it faded, Harry couldn’t remember, but he had a feeling he should have read up on it more. The fact that he couldn’t recall the facts after the past few hours of magical insight was a sign that it probably wasn’t going to be great for him.

But still, he was here and how could he guarantee he would manage it again before it was too late: for all they knew Malfoy could have nearly finished whatever he was doing. Desperation to catch Malfoy pushed him onwards.

“Well fuck you too.” Or maybe not, if whatever Malfoy was doing was making him swear like that. Another thud which sounded much like a kick against wood sounded and Harry pushed his doubts away and moved onwards.

After a second stumble, Harry found himself falling to his knees at an opening to a narrow clearing, but his fading luck held it was the one Malfoy was in. Even better he hadn’t distracted Malfoy who was pacing in the small space insulting the parentage of whatever he was working on.

The clearing was on one hand an overstated description, the space narrow enough that you’d be lucky to fit a cat in alongside you let alone swing it. But at the same time, it had been quite obviously cleared by Malfoy.

The stacks of books were organised, and the rugs and cushions were laid out to form a low seating area, Harry was tempted to consider calling it a nest. Within the area were more bottles and wrappers from food and drink. This was where Malfoy was spending his time.

Some books that were spread open, seemed to be covered in runes, Harry bit back a sigh of frustration. He wished he knew what they meant but he figured Hermione would know if he found a way to show her the memory, he doubted he could memorise them well enough to draw.

Malfoy turned and kicked the wardrobe which stood by the area Malfoy was in. The doors swung open making the piece of furniture rock on its broken front leg, leaving the whole piece looking jaunty.

Malfoy crouched down and shoved a few books under the broken leg straightening it up. That was when Harry realised, he recognised the wardrobe, its black and gold design was similar to the one Peeves had dropped in his second year to distract Filch on Harry’s behalf. In fact, Harry reckoned it was the same one, the broken leg from the impact with the floor.

He hadn’t bothered to wonder where the thing had come from or gone but now at least he had one answer. Although it also had a striking resemblance to the wardrobe described by Fred and George that Montague had been shoved in last year making him disappear and then reappear in the toilet a few weeks later.

Maybe it had been moved after that, or maybe it was another cabinet entirely. Harry wasn’t here for furnishings he was here for Malfoy who was sitting down now in front of the open doors head in his hand and sleeves shoved down to the elbow.

If Harry shuffled to the left, he might have a good view of Malfoy’s arm, enough to confirm if he had the Dark Mark. Crawling with the cloak half stuck under him from where he fell was harder than he thought and just as he was getting to a good position Harry realised the cloak was snagged.

Frustrated, Harry pulled on the cloak trying to get it free, then with a sudden wrench the cloak released, and Harry fell forwards along with a tallboy stacked high with plates. Harry watched the cabinet fall; the plates smash unable to stop it.

“Who’s there? Crabbe? Goyle?” Malfoy demanded in the silence following the fall. “I say who’s there?” Wand in hand Malfoy scanned the area getting to his feet, eyes darting around.

Harry held his breath, there was no use pretending he wasn’t there for long. Malfoy wouldn’t buy it not after the collapse that just happened. But at the same time, he couldn’t be caught or even risk a duel. He had Slughorn’s memory to think of.

Harry glanced down his body, it was still covered by the cloak. But the way he had come was blocked, the collapse of the cabinet had brought down other items behind it, he had to get past Malfoy to getaway.

“Revelio” Malfoy hissed. The spell glanced off the cloak, but it wouldn’t help if Malfoy started throwing out more dangerous spells. If Harry could get his legs under him, maybe he could rush Malfoy, tackle him, maybe even wind him. That would give Harry time to get away and he could always collapse other passageways, although he would need to know which ones so that he didn’t become trapped as well. As a last resort then, Harry decided.

If he kept his cloak around him, he would be able to keep his identity secret, he wasn’t wearing his robes so Gryffindors wouldn’t be accused. That’s if Malfoy bothered to report it. He probably would to Snape and Harry would be considered prime suspect because of their history, but Malfoy wouldn’t be sure so he may let the matter drop. Malfoy might even think it was Peeves if Harry was able to remain completely hidden.

Mind made up for his plan of attack all Harry needed to do was get up. Slowly would give away his location as the debris shifted around him, so quickly it was. Taking a deep breath Harry scrambled up, and keeping his shoulder low, charged into Malfoy before he finished casting his next spell.

The small space was a miscalculation Harry hadn’t accounted for; his shoulder hit Malfoy’s stomach then the pair of them were tumbling into the wardrobe. Harry had landed on top of Malfoy who between gasped breaths was trying to push Harry off. Harry shoved Malfoy back down so he could try and get up and away from the other boy, who seemed to be mostly within the wardrobe.

The force of Harry’s push caused Malfoy to hit the backboard of the wardrobe accidentally knocking the cabinet off its book perch making it suddenly tilt backwards. Harry scrambled to get a foot under himself, but he still slid further into the cramped space landing on top of Malfoy once again.

The doors swung towards them blocking out the light before one of them clicked shut. The other door was held open by Harry’s foot which was still outside the wardrobe and the only part of him that wasn’t snagged in his cloak. Fed up, Harry rammed his elbow down trying to subdue Malfoy enough that he could get up and out, a move he’d learnt from Dudley.

“Just stay still, you bastard,” Harry snapped as Malfoy knocked his glasses askew.

“Fuck you, just fuck you.” Malfoy wheezed out, clawing at Harry pulling at the fabric of the cloak. Harry tried to hang onto the cloak but part of it slipped over his head.

“Oh, bloody typical you just have to fuck things up don’t you Potter,” Malfoy spat; his lip bloodied from what Harry could see in the small gap of light. Malfoy rammed his knee up and Harry twisted trying to stop the knee from connecting with the memory vials. They clinked anyway but sounded undamaged.

“Shut up, Death Eater,” Harry snapped, grabbing a handful of his cloak tucking it into his waistband hoping to secure it and get his hands free so he could curse Malfoy and getaway. Malfoy was scrambling trying to get his wand which had fallen from his grasp during their tussle. Their struggle causing the wardrobe to tilt further back, making the second door dig into his ankle. Harry jerked his leg to try and get it free.

“Don’t let the door close,” Malfoy snapped, suddenly more interested in the door than fighting Harry.

Harry felt Malfoy kick out trying to knock the door open with his foot, but he only succeeded in knocking Harry’s shoe off his foot. The force of the impact made Harry flinch slightly, drawing his foot closer, away from the door and Malfoys kicking.

“No” Malfoy shouted looking panicked trying to lunge at the door even with Harry still half on top of him, but it wasn’t enough. The door was closing, and it went dark.

Chapter Two

Harry blinked awake groggily, he was lying on his stomach. He rolled over and collided with another body. He pushed away and straightened his glasses from where Malfoy had knocked them. It was too light to be in the wardrobe, maybe they had fallen out.

Harry sat up. Malfoy was the body lying beside him, on his back. From where he sat Harry could clearly see the Dark Mark. But Malfoy still seemed out of it, not an immediate threat. He looked away, trying to figure out where they were and if they were alone.

Harry frowned and looked down, Malfoy with a fat lip was beside him, the cloak half-tucked into his waistband and one shoe missing. The wardrobe had happened. But then why were they sitting in the Forbidden Forest. Not that far from Hagrid’s pumpkin patch if Harry had to guess. One of the trees looked very much like the one Hermione and he had hidden in while waiting to rescue Buckbeak in their third year.

But how had they gotten there? Harry glanced around. He couldn’t see anybody, or even a lamppost, apparently, they hadn’t gone full Narnia. Maybe it was a time turner. It could explain why Malfoy was so exhausted like Hermione had been in third year.

But how had Malfoy got it? Had he found it in the room? And what was he using it for? Also, how had they got to the Forest? Especially as it seemed later than when Harry had been there an hour before; there’d been no mist an hour ago but now Harry couldn’t see much further than a few yards.

“You let the fucking door close didn’t you Potter?” Malfoy’s question brought Harry’s attention away from the swirling mist.

“Well, your time turner or whatever got us here,” Harry snapped back not wanting to take the blame for whatever Malfoy thought had happened, if he hadn’t been working on something for Voldemort nothing would have happened.

“It’s not a time turner,” Malfoy replied, draping an arm over his eyes. “Where are we?”

“You could open your eyes and look, I’m not one of your servants,” Harry retorted looking around for any hint to what was going on. “And what the bloody hell was it then?”

“A Vanishing Cabinet.”

Harry was surprised how easily Malfoy was replying; it wasn’t what he’d come to expect, and that made Harry suspicious. “A Vanishing Cabinet,” Harry repeated doubtfully. “So, what, it’s vanished everything around us including Hogwarts?”

“Maybe, it was broken. Who knows where we are? Montague had no memory of where he went, and he was able to apparate out; still nearly killed him though.”

“What?” Harry demanded. “You mean you have no idea where it goes, why are you messing about with it, I mean do you have a death wish?”

“Oh, I know where it should go, it has a partner, they should be linked but as I said it’s broken. And really Potter you’re hardly one to lecture on death wishes, or do you actually just blunder about with no ideas in your head unless Dumbledore and his cronies put them in for you?”

“Better Dumbledore than Voldemort.” Malfoy flinched as Harry said his master’s name. “But for the record, I have my own ideas thanks.”

“You really think Dumbledore’s no different to the Dark Lord? Well maybe he doesn’t throw cruciatus around but he’s hardly a paragon of virtue and you and I were just pawns to them. Fucking pawns,” Malfoy hissed finally showing an emotion other than exhausted apathy.

Harry stared at Malfoy. Admittedly they hadn’t had a passingly friendly conversation since the first one in Madam Malkins, but he was honestly surprised at how open Malfoy was being or at least pretending to be.

“Dumbledore cares, he’s working for the light, he’s fighting for us all against scum like you and your lot,” Harry muttered.

“Oh, I won’t deny he’s working for the light, but tell me, Potter, give me one example of him fighting or how he cares and where he’s not just moving people into places to further his campaign with no regard to their welfare?”

“He…” Harry trailed off. When had Dumbledore last shown him true care? He’d done more than the Dursley’s yes, but not to the degree that Molly showed her children, and even if you considered Molly an extreme overreaction of parental concern, what about Neville’s Gran, Luna’s Dad, Cedric’s parents? All of them had cared about their children’s achievements, but more so for their child.

Dumbledore hadn’t ever shown Harry that, but Harry wasn’t his family, so he had no right to think that he’d be entitled to such care from the man. Harry had no reason to consider Dumbledore like a grandfather. Hadn’t he just the other day been frustrated by Dumbledore not teaching him to fight? By only having time for matters to do with Voldemort on his terms? By keeping knowledge quiet and pulling away all of last year.

“He represented me at the trial for one,” Harry answered, not wanting Malfoy to think that he had no examples.

“If he cared he could have got you off with no trial, or a simple hearing. No, he let the show go on and let the whole of the Wizengamot see that you depended on him. Hell, you could have used your family name and fortune to get off.”

“Politics…” Harry tried to argue.

“Can be bought and sold.” Malfoy interrupted sitting up. “Your Godfather could have bought his freedom; Dumbledore could have brought him to trial. He wanted Black’s money and property, but not with Black in power. Poor bastard was too insane to get it without prompting though.”

“No. Dumbledore wouldn’t, he…Sirius couldn’t get a trial. Why do you even care? Your aunt killed him,” Harry snapped.

“He was family, probably one of the few decent ones I had so forgive me for being bitter that he’s gone along with the avenue of escape he represented.”

Harry stared at Malfoy looking flummoxed. “You want to escape? Then why are you helping Voldemort?” Malfoy flinched again. “Why are you marked?”

“Because I didn’t have a choice,” Malfoy shouted. “Join or die in an assortment of horrible ways. That’s the way it was put to me. You think Bellatrix likes me? She killed her cousin. I’m no more family to her than Sirius was, and she actually knew him, grew up with him. Her lord orders it and Bellatrix obeys, happily. Or what about Greyback? What fun that would be to be turned and then killed, probably by my Father for the shame of it or my Godfather because of his fear. Or what about any other number of Death Eaters who want the prestige of bringing my Father down and earning favour by disposing of the Malfoy disappointment. What about that fucking snake of his that happily eats muggles whole in the middle of Mother’s parlour for the fucking bastard’s perverted pleasure.”

“I get it,” Harry said, cutting Malfoy off.

“But you don’t. You met him here and there in fights. You haven’t been stuck under the same roof as him day and night waiting for him to strike, watching his pleasure in the horrors he inflicts knowing that the smallest of his whims will take you down in screaming agony. You know he’s trying to kill you then and there you can react, I can’t. I’m trapped, I just want to live. That can’t be asking too much.”

It sounded like living with the Dursleys. But Dursleys with magic and no care about the judgment of the neighbours. In some ways anticipating the attack the fatal misstep that would bring you pain was worse than the pain itself. The pain was known, it came with rules. The unknown could get to you after a while. Had got to Malfoy.

“Dumbledore could have helped,” Harry pointed out.

“How. He doesn’t care about Slytherins or Death Eater spawn, our parents yes, he wants to fucking redeem them but us, no, he couldn’t care less. Five years of his benevolence has taught us all in Slytherin that.”

“He could have gotten you out or…” Harry trailed off trying to think of an alternative.

“Or what Potter? I could have hidden for the rest of my life and that’s ignoring the likelihood of being disowned, which is admittedly preferable to death. Or I could have been a spy. Great idea, risk my life, still get the abuse and deal with the fact that Snape, who is a spy I know, would be after me to protect his own interests, Godfather or not. I have no one, so forgive me for doing what I did.”

“Yeah, no that’s not great,” Harry admitted rather lamely. “It’s not like a lot of people would help or trust you either after hearing all the hateful stuff you’ve said over the years, plus you believe all the blood superiority crap. I mean I don’t trust you, but I get where you’re coming from with being trapped and no great way out,” Harry offered, he didn’t want to push Malfoy too hard and a cornered animal was a dangerous one after all.

“I don’t believe it, or well not in the way you think I do,” Malfoy said startling Harry. “The Pureblood supremacy crap. It’s more I get supremely pissed off that people come into our culture and try to change it without bothering to learn, and the people doing so tend to be Muggleborns with their morals and ideas which don’t mesh with a society made up of magic.”

“That’s still…”

“No, don’t interrupt,” Malfoy said, giving Harry a firm look. “Let me finish. Would you go to another country and tell them everything that makes up their identity is wrong? And try to erase it and replace it with the one you brought with you even if bits can’t, won’t fit, no matter how you try to shoehorn it in? Would you? Because it’s that cultural erasure that Muggleborns bring about. It’s that which causes the problems. What about you, Potter, how much about our world do you know?”

“I… I’m still learning but you can’t say all of your culture is great either,” Harry defended rather than admit that he hadn’t looked in years. Rather he’d taken to relying on what Hermione and Ron told him.

Malfoy gave him a sad look. “Oh, it isn’t and cultures, societies must change, or they stagnate, I get that, and some bits need to change but not at the cost of everything, and I used to think you were one of those who wanted to change it all. But now… now I don’t think you know enough to know how offensive your behaviour is. I imagine we can thank Dumbledore for that, after all, he is the champion for cultural genocide.”

Harry took a deep breath and fought back the urge to shout at Malfoy, accuse him of knowing nothing, but the sinking feeling in his gut told Harry that actually, it was likely him that knew nothing.

“What do you mean?” Harry eventually asked. “What has Dumbledore got rid of, what is so terrible that I’ve done?”

“Apart from insulting most of your political allies’ children by ignoring them? Or by not acknowledging your position in society thereby undermining centuries of tradition and oaths? By being utterly muggle in your dress when custom dictates otherwise? Or how about you not doing your duty to magic? Do you need me to go on?” Malfoy asked scornfully.

“I fight Voldemort, isn’t that enough, plus what allies? The public turns against me more often than not. And what do you mean I haven’t done my duty to magic?” Harry argued back.

“Fighting him really shouldn’t be on you and I’ll give you that, but that’s not what I meant. You haven’t claimed your magic, it’s all around you, it leaks in a remarkably childish way almost as if you don’t want it.”

“Leaks?” Harry asked, looking around doubtful.

“Yes, leaks. Most people can control their aura and magics, it helps with passing through wards and using magical transport. Also, it can hide your power levels and make a statement if you let it flare. Yours on the other hand leaks: it’s like you have no control and you probably let it brush up against others and broadcast your emotions to them. Most people get the hang of it by the age of eight or nine. It’s why we don’t start magical education till eleven when theoretically you have established control over your magic,” Malfoy explained albeit in a condescending way.

“I don’t. Do I? I never noticed.” Harry blinked trying to recall ever doing what Malfoy was accusing him of.

“Well at least we know it’s not deliberate,” Malfoy sighed. “But the fact is you do, and you have ancient family magics it leaves quite the impact, an impact that Muggleborns with their newer magical lines don’t have. It’s also a weakness, it leaves you open to be read and honestly, I’m surprised nobody’s corrected you.”

“Nobody said anything, can everybody see this? Merlin, have I been wandering around like a fucking mood ring for years?” Harry snapped, pissed off and trying not to show although his bloody magic already let Malfoy know.

Snorting Malfoy shook his head. “No when I said it can be seen, it can be, but you need enough magic to see, or continued close contact to do so. Your friend Weasel probably doesn’t have enough magic but rooming with you it breeds familiarity and with your feeling of friendship, you probably keep him up to date. Granger probably has enough magic though; you ever notice her being good at reading your mood?”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded at the question because honestly, he had although he thought that was her being empathic not him leaking at her.

“Exactly she’s reading you, probably doesn’t know it as she’s also remarkably ignorant about magical society for all that she purportedly reads. What about Snape? Ever noticed he needles you extra hard when you’re having a bad day? That’s not bad luck, it’s deliberate. Or Longbottom giving you space on those same days?”

“So, what do I do to make it better? And why did nobody say anything?” Harry asked, it was a weakness one he wanted gone now that somebody had bothered to point it out. And wasn’t it a mind trip that Malfoy was the one to do so?

“Why did nobody say anything? Most of us don’t know you well enough Potter to correct your manners. You’re distant, you ignore everyone but Granger and Weasley, even Longbottom, Lovegood and Weaselette rarely get a look in and they marched off to die beside you. The distance is why people turn on you because they don’t know you.”

“So, I have to tell the world everything, schedule a couple of tell all’s with Skeeter and maybe they’ll like me. Nah no thanks,” Harry muttered kicking the pinecone by his socked foot in frustration, he just wanted to live his life.

“No, Merlin, you are dramatic,” Malfoy sighed, earning a glare from Harry. “Do you see me giving exclusives, or Bones or Abbot? No, because we present a good enough front that most people with social skills can read the cues we give and they tell the others, even you, although most people call it gossip.”

“Like Bones and Abbot being together and their families approving but taking it slowly due to the loss of Madam Bones and how Susan is breaking with family tradition and leaning towards healing?” Harry clarified.

“Yes, exactly but have they told anyone that? Probably their close friends but the rest of us know because they showed us through their dress, their accessories and even their magical capabilities. Not everybody needs to repeatedly squelch together in a mockery of affection in a corridor like Brown and Weasel,” Harry snorted at Malfoys description of that particular romance.

“Good news, that relationship is over,” Harry said thinking of the earlier drama. “But you’re saying dressing better will make the public like me, isn’t that incredibly shallow?”

“It’s not just dressing better although that will help, it’s more dressing deliberately, letting the items you adorn yourself in speak for you. Like a ring on a certain finger saying you’re engaged or married. It’s all about taking part in the unspoken social cues. Right now, you say I don’t care about me and I’m muggle all the way. Which is offensive especially as you have a hereditary seat in the Wizengamot, one with enough votes that certain people feel slighted by your lack of care about the magical world. When your votes could make things better for them, unluckily for you Dumbledore made out to a lot of people you’d be their saviour.”

“And then I rock up looking like this and not engaging with them and they resent me for it even though I didn’t ask for it,” Harry sighed flopping back down onto the forest floor, thankful it was neither wet nor cold, which was a bit odd now that Harry thought about the mist should have made everything damp. Maybe they were still in the Room of Requirements but that didn’t fit either he glanced over to Malfoy who was giving him a pleased look like he’d just learnt a new trick.

“Exactly,” Malfoy said, seemingly pleased that he’d gotten through to Harry. “So, instead they look to Dumbledore for leadership and guidance.”

“Wait? What? That’?” Harry spluttered sitting up forgetting about the lack of dampness, too pissed up with what Malfoy had been leading him towards. “He set me up, he’s not told me any of this. I’m a fucking fool.”

Malfoy was giving him a knowing smirk. “I told you pawns. But guess what he’s giving you private lessons now and I bet everyone will be thinking he’s taken you into hand, to shape you up before you become an adult.”

“You know about the lessons?” Harry asked, he’d been told to keep them quiet. Had they been overheard when discussing things? They weren’t about what Malfoy was talking about but the war. Yet at the same time, Harry wasn’t learning anything about how to defeat Voldemort just about the past.

“Everybody knows, it’s how it goes, somebody in detention overhears Snape and Dumbledore discussing it and the whole school knows. Which we both know is a setup but hey gossip is gossip and that was a tasty morsel, you should count yourself lucky nobody thought it was anything less than above board,” Malfoy said with a shrug.

Harry looked down and started to move the pine needles around with his foot; he didn’t want to look up and see Malfoys knowing smirk. That he was right, they were pawns, they were being played and only one of them was aware. Only one of them looked at the bigger picture rather than their over-emotional leaky magic.

“How do you stop it leaking? how do you tell the world what you want?” Harry eventually asked looking Malfoy in the eye.

“Do you honestly trust me to answer that?” Malfoy said, tilting his head to the side in query.

“Maybe, I guess I was going to talk with Hermione and research the hell out of it, but I can see what you’re saying it makes sense. I don’t trust you, but do you trust me after everything that’s happened? But you’re not being you so maybe it’s a cunning trick, but the information isn’t hurting me,” Harry replied after thinking about it.

“Even what I said about your precious leader?” Malfoy asked with a challenging stare.

“I’ve been angry with him for a long time, since first year if I’m honest, too many unanswered questions and pieces that don’t quite fit can throw you. Him just not listening, it’s why I’ve been desperate to prove you’re a Death Eater, prove to them that I’m not a simple idiot to be trotted out to fight when told,” Harry said with a wry grin. “But I’m not going to the dark side.”

“Oh, Dumbledore knows, probably even before I took the mark, but it’s good to know you’re not changing sides as it were, you’d be lonely there for the brief amount of time they let you live. Probably in a lot of pain too. But to answer your question do I trust you? No, you’re naïve but you have good intentions, a cause I mostly support but your allies leave a lot to be desired. About what I said in the past, did you never say anything just to fit in to fill a role you felt you needed to be in to survive? Not very brave I admit, but then coward is my raison d’etre according to most of you. As to why I’m being nice? Well, Montague was gone for weeks and he knew how to apparate. I didn’t fancy having to watch my back from your curses, or fists for that long, better to clear the air.”

Harry nodded; he’d hummed agreements to Vernon’s toxic mutters rather than risk being accused of them. He’d nodded along with Ron when he was being vitriolic rather than risk his friend leaving him.

“I think Malfoy that I get you and sometimes surviving is a cost that others can’t understand. But you and I, I think we get survival. So, this isn’t trust, but a pact of survival we’ll get out of here and maybe build on this later,” Harry waved his hand vaguely between them trying to put their past conversations into some kind of context with their current one.

“Fair enough. About the magical leakage you’ll need to be careful, suddenly getting better will throw people off, most won’t mind but others will wonder where you’re getting, you’re information they don’t want you to have from,” Malfoy warned. “But when you do want to gain control most people do it by meditating to draw their magic in, occlumency works well for that, also protects your thoughts from intrusion.”

Harry sighed in frustration, “I tried occlumency, but it didn’t work.”

“You did?” Malfoy asked, looking intrigued. “When and who with? Maybe they can help us out of our pawn status.”

“Snape last year,” Harry said and saw Malfoy’s face fall. “He assured me that I’m crap at it.”

“Well fuck there goes that idea then but was he actually teaching you and again why?”

“I was having bad dreams, visions almost of Voldemort,” Harry noticed the flinch Malfoy gave again at the name. “Are you scared of the name after meeting him really?”

“You can’t stick to a topic, can you?” Malfoy said with judgement. “But first of all, did Snape actually teach you or just exploit your mind when vulnerable, no offence but I’m thinking the latter. And no, I’m not scared it just hurts the mark when you say it. Why do you think all this You Know Who nonsense goes on? It’s to stop the Death Eaters giving themselves away and to scare the masses into not fighting back as well I suppose. Although it’s not as bad as normal, it still stings like hell.”

“Really?”

“Really it hurts or really it hurts less?”

“Both I suppose, I mean why would you give your minions such an obvious tell.”

“I imagine he didn’t plan to lose,” Malfoy pointed out.

“Right, I suppose that’s true. And just, where are we? Because the forbidden forest shouldn’t be any different to the castle so why does your mark hurt less?”

“You’re only asking where we are now?” Malfoy asked with a raised eyebrow.

“You mean you know?” Harry asked doubtfully.

“No, but I do know we’re far from where we were and getting back isn’t going to be easy. Especially as we have no idea how to apparate beyond the few pamphlets we’ve seen from those doing the test today, yesterday whatever. The three D’s.”

“Having read those pamphlets, I don’t want to experiment, not with sudden dismemberment as a common side effect and no idea how to reattach limbs,” Harry agreed. The instructions had been unusually explicit on why not to do so. The only other time Harry had seen such an attempt at a magical exploration deterrent was the Animagus and other human-animal transformations. Otherwise, magical education seemed to take the approach they’ll learn through experimentation and most of them will get to adulthood.

“So, how do we get out of here?” Harry asked. He held his wand out to see if he could summon the Knight Bus. Nothing happened, Harry wasn’t that surprised but figured it was worth a try. “Should we walk or wait?”

“Wait for now,” Malfoy said, getting up wand in hand. Harry decided he’d had enough time sitting down got up too. “Definitely wait, seeing as you’re a shoe short. Sorry.”

“Thanks,” Harry muttered. He flicked his wand trying to cast Lumos, nothing happened, he tried again. “Can you cast anything?” Harry was slightly hesitant admitting his magic wasn’t working. He didn’t want to be vulnerable to Malfoy, but he didn’t want to be any more vulnerable if they both couldn’t.

“No,” Malfoy admitted. “Isn’t that interesting.”

“Less interesting, more concerning,” Harry corrected.

“But it does limit the number of places we could be,” Malfoy said, glancing around the still misty forest. “And none of them have trees.”

“Even more concerning, anything else or are you enjoying being cryptic?”

“Not cryptic, I’m not any of those arseholes. More I’m thinking aloud and not liking what I’m concluding. Which is we’re not necessarily in the right realm anymore. A pocket dimension of sorts.”

“What?” Harry asked, eyes frantically darting around. “Like Moody in the trunk, or a magical tent?”

“Something like that. Maybe or maybe more like Gringotts and how the bank is in its own territory but can be accessed from surface portals the world around,” Malfoy suggested.

“Wait what, the banks elsewhere?” Harry asked looking shocked, how had he not known that.

“Yes. But interspecies relations are a long way down your education list yet,” Malfoy said absently. “Also, trees are not known to grow well in caverns. So, we can rule that out. I imagine it’s somewhere with a great well of magic which is both good and bad, it will sustain us but also trap us.”

“Magic well’s on that list as well?” Harry asked, he hadn’t felt this lost since the first time he walked into the magical world, Malfoy had confused him then as well.

“I’ll write it out when we get out of here,” Malfoy promised. “But they will be. But for a brief summary they are pools of natural magic they gather where ley lines interact or where a great amount of magic was split through battles most often but sometimes just where magicals have lived for a long time it’s why ancestral properties are so guarded. Some wells are small enough that they can be worked with to make protected spaces like Hogwarts and Gringotts; others are too immense and overwhelm all magical users. Unfortunately, the way humans use magic means we get overwhelmed by magical wells the easiest out of all the magical races due to how we interact with magic.”

“So, they built a school on one? Despite the risk of being overwhelmed?” Harry asked incredulously.

“Yes and no. They built on top of a minor well where ley lines crossed and magic pooled to make a protected space, but they didn’t think or realise that in training a lot of young magical students a lot of magic would become entrenched in the land and make the well grow. It’s why the castle can maintain so many house-elves let alone ghosts it’s why there are merfolk and a giant squid in the lake and the forest holds so many sentient magical creatures as well. Within the castle, it’s why the stairs move, and hundreds of portraits are awake and interacting it’s possibly even why the room of requirements exists. There is so much magic that can be drawn on that it makes a lot more than normal possible,” Draco explained.

“That’s not normal?” Harry asked.

“Not really, it’s more so in ancestral properties and settlements where magic has had time to pool over the centuries but in most magical homes, no. But the problem with magic pools is you can become trapped in them if you’re very unlucky. Mostly in magical transport accidents where not enough caution was involved, I think they discuss that in the apparition class we didn’t get to take. Thankfully the one below Hogwarts is deep and well protected from intrusion but in the same vein it’s also too big these days to tame and if you get stuck in it like we possibly are, you’re not likely to get out. The sheer amount of magic in them will mask our presence to any scrying magics so we won’t be found. We also can’t cast as the ambient magic is higher than our own, so it cancels our own out. So, we can’t go out or make food and water. But the magic here is bolstering us as we are magical, part of the reason the school was built on a well is it keeps us healthy and magically robust as we learn, but even a muggle would last longer here than elsewhere.”

“So, more slow starvation rather than fast, not my first time,” Harry muttered thinking of those days stuck under the stairs, even when he was allowed out food was kept from him.

“How disturbingly encouraging, I suppose we could wait it out or we could ask the figure that’s disturbing the mist over there if they have any suggestions on where we are and how to leave,” Malfoy said pointing slightly to his left.

Harry spun around wand in hand ready to cast despite being unable to bring his magic forwards. Malfoy was right. The mist was swirling differently at the edges of the vision as if it had been walked through recently.

“I suppose I could, if you’ve finished bonding,” Sirius said strolling out the mist.

Harry started forwards only to be pulled away by Malfoy. “What are you doing?”

“It’s Sirius,” Harry gasped. He could get Sirius free from the veil if he was stuck here too, surely the place beyond the veil was a magical well.

“Is it him though? I know you’ve seen boggarts, Polyjuice and metamorphmagus, there is more than one way for things to assume the shape of another. Don’t be so naïve,” Malfoy hissed while still restraining him.

“Listen to him,” Sirius agreed. “I am Sirius and yet not, more an avatar if you will.”

“Then what are you?” Harry demanded. He ignored Malfoy telling him to be polite that whatever it was, was at home here and likely able to take them down if offended. Well, who cared he was offended, furious, in fact, that whatever it was would use Sirius against him.

“I’m Death, more or less, if you excuse the repetition from before an avatar.”

“Then why do you look like Sirius? Why did you say you’re him?” Harry shouted despite how close the not Sirius was to where they were standing.

“Why am I like him, because my true form would doubtlessly cause you such horror that you would be trapped with the screaming void of your mind until it became time for us to meet again, I’m saving you from that,” the Sirius avatar said with a smirk Harry that had seen adorn his Godfather more than once. “Why I look like him is merely, he is the person you most associate with death.”

“What should we call you then?” Harry didn’t want to call the being, avatar, whatever it was Sirius, not when it wasn’t him.

“Oh, Death will do, my true name is not for mortal tongues,” they said as they strode closer to them.

“So, I take it we’re dead,” Malfoy asked, sounding resigned to the fact.

“Perhaps,” Death said, and Harry had to take a calming breath, Dumbledore only wished he was as cryptic as the entity. “A choice shall need to be made before you journey on.”

“Like Montague did?” Malfoy asked while Harry tried to figure out what Death could ask of them.

“The deals of others are not your concern, only your own fate can be decided,” Death rebuked.

“How did we get here, wherever it is?” Harry asked after the silence stretched thin between them.

“We are in a Limbo, a liminal place neither here nor there as it were, a place between places.”

“Between life and death,” Malfoy murmured, finally letting go of Harry. “The Vanishing Cabinet killed us.”

“More or less,” Death agreed. “An interesting combination of events that are doubtfully ever going to be repeated but interesting nonetheless.”

“And Limbo is the Forbidden Forest,” Harry said while Draco seemed lost in the thoughts of their death.

“No, it’s a choice of places, it could be anywhere, it could be nowhere. It’s merely here as you associate this spot with death.”

“I do?” Harry asked, looking around puzzled, he’d never consciously thought about it.

“It was from here you first walked into the forest with the same companion in hunt of fallen unicorns and met one who cheated me and yet caused so much. It was here you witnessed the sounds of an execution of a beast that happened and did not. It was here that you interacted with those that are omens of my realm. It was from here you this very night witnessed a funeral. It could have been from here that in a path now un-walked you recalled those who fell before you and walked out to join me as your ancestors did before. Here on the edge of your comfort, you have always encountered me.”

“Well, then…” Harry didn’t know what he could say to that, but he’d never quite be able to look at the same patch of land the same way, if he ever got to see it again that was, he was apparently sort of dead.

“It need not be here,” Death said, and the landscape blurred into a stately garden with peacocks, roaming free, Malfoy gasped, and Harry realised it must be his home. But then it blurred again becoming Kings Cross Station. Then the Burrow, then the Tower of London, a mountainside, a lake bed until they stood in the Great Hall.

“Err right,” Harry said glancing around, the room was empty, the tables stood silently and the mist from the forest was still there swirling around them. But on the floor, there was a small mound, like a baby, but spindly almost like something Harry had seen before, but the memory eluded him. “What’s that?”

“That is part of the unique circumstances,” Death answered. “Or perhaps it would be better to say they, Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

That’s where Harry had seen it before or something similar to the resurrection ritual, the thing that Pettigrew had dropped in the cauldron.

“How did they get here?” Malfoy asked, but he didn’t react to the name, so Harry concluded he didn’t know about Voldemort’s half-blood status or true name.

“They travelled with you, that you did not look around with care in our previous locations means you did not see not that they were not there,” Death replied giving the huddled form an inscrutable look.

“I think we would have noticed that coming with us though,” Malfoy said carefully.

“Not you, your companion, he has carried them for over fifteen years, but that journey has come to an end.”

“Me,” Harry stared at Voldemort. “I was possessed? All these years…”

“Not possessed, inhabited. A fragment of a soul, not yours embedded deep within your vessel,” Death corrected him.

“A Horcrux, he made a Horcrux. That’s how he came back,” Malfoy hissed giving the form a disgusted look.

“A what? Are they on the list? Dumbledore wanted me to ask Slughorn for memories about them?”

“No,” Malfoy answered. “They’re foul magic, black sacrificial magic, they’re utter evil. First attributed to Herpo the Foul as a way to become immortal. I don’t know the details of their making; I don’t want to. But I know they involve the sacrifice of another and the splicing and binding of souls. They are an irredeemable step to take. Don’t mention them, don’t look for information on them, they’re banned, not just here everywhere, and you’d be persecuted, likely thrown through the veil for even trying. I only know from what my Father told me once.”

“A sufficient summary for the situation,” Death added. “But it is worth knowing that none who makes one find peace beyond this, they have no salvation. Too broken, too different from a life half lived, the pieces of soul never realign.”

“So, Potter was a Horcrux, that’s what brought us here?” Draco asked.

“In part, the transportation magic sent you to a place of deep magic, a well you called it. The soul potion within Mr Potter affected him and the Horcrux and both of them brought about your entry to Limbo. You Mr Malfoy travelled with them due to the binding on your soul to the one who made the Horcrux. Three is a powerful number…”

Death trailed off and Harry didn’t know what to say. “What soul potion?” Malfoy asked, interrupting Harry’s spiralling thoughts.

“Felix Felicis, it brings luck, you remember I won it in Slughorn’s class a few months back. But I’m not sure how lucky dying is?” Harry replied.

“Ahh, but where would you have been without the potion?” Death asked.

And while Harry knew they were referring to the deep magic wells Harry kept hearing about he couldn’t help but think he’d have been in bed; it was only due to the potion he’d been at the Room of Requirements. “In bed, not dead,” he muttered.

“A Horcrux though,” Malfoy pointed out. “At least you’re now a single soul occupancy within your body, no squatters.”

“But following your metaphor I’ve only got the deeds to the house, not the sodding key because we’re dead and not in our bodies. I’m homeless, so are you. Also, I don’t think Mr let’s make Horcruxes, so I don’t die, was, forgive the pun, dead keen on coming here,” Harry pointed out.

“Oh, you’re both still in your bodies for now. But your unwanted companion is not and he did want to come here, or perhaps he mis-phrased his desire,” Death said interrupting Harry. “He wants to be whole; he wants to be at peace. A fruitless wish as I said before, he can never be again, but maybe he will get peace here.”

“What of me?” Harry asked, after all, Death seemed to have some interesting insights into his character so far.

“You wished for answers you wished to know, and now you do, I gave you time to speak with your companion and speak you did, and much did you learn. Mr Malfoy wished for freedom and he has had a taste of it, you all got your wish.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Malfoy sighed looking around. “But what do you gain from this for I doubt you extend this courtesy to all who have come to be in places between.”

“Quite right Mr Malfoy, the opportunity was one that I decided could not be missed. Fate has their games and I have mine. We often agree to the outcome, how it is brought about is more their interest than mine but I’m not without interests of my own.”

“And the Horcrux interests you?” Harry speculated.

“Of course, they do. They all make their way here eventually, but an early arrival is always appreciated. No, another matter interests me more.”

Harry looked around but he couldn’t figure out what it could be that Death looked almost gleeful about. “Harry?” Malfoy asked, obviously as confused as him.

“What he carries.” Harry glanced down, he didn’t have much, his clothes, the memory in his pocket still, his cloak and his wand.

“The memory?” Harry said, pulling it out his pocket ignoring the curious look from Malfoy.

“No,” Death replied bluntly.

“My wand?”

“Try again.”

“My cloak,” Harry guessed, tightening his fingers in the cloth.

“Yes. But it was mine first.”

“A Hallow?” Malfoy asked, eyes wide.

“Exactly,” Death said.

Harry looked between the two of them not sure what was going on. “Can we use more words please?” Death and Malfoy exchanged a look.

“It’s a child’s story or a fable really,” Malfoy began to explain after Death gave no indication of speaking. “Told to us in the nursery. There were three brothers, Peverells some stories claim.”

“They were Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus,” Death interjected.

“Right, so the brothers came to a chasm and rather than risk swimming or other methods of crossing they chose to conjure a bridge and as they crossed in the middle, they met a hooded figure, Death. Some say Death was angry about being cheated from their soul, others say that by bringing stone from the earth to make a bridge they dabbled in necromancy and Death sought them out.”

Harry glanced towards Death who seemed to be enjoying the telling of a story he was a key player in, but he wasn’t giving any sign which version was true. Malfoy seeing the same pushed on.

“Nonetheless, Death for reasons known only to them gave them each a gift, one of their own choosing. The eldest Antioch wanted an unbeatable wand, so from an elder tree, a branch was taken, and wand fashioned, the elder wand. Cadmus wished a way to commune with the dead, so a stone was plucked from the bank and it became a beacon for the dead to be drawn on whim, the resurrection stone. Ignotus asked for something which would hide him from Death and so Death handed over his own cloak. And there they parted ways.”

“Oh,” Harry looked down at his cloak. No wonder it had shielded him from spells, why it hadn’t faded like all the other ones he’d heard about.

“The eldest brother then went to a town to duel a man he had quarrelled with and struck him down. Bloated with his success he drank and became boastful telling all of the wand that could not be defeated. That night he passed out and a jealous wizard snuck in and slit his throat and stole his wand. A few hours later Death and he were reunited.”

Harry noted Death was smirking.

“The second brother he called forward the soul of the girl he had been to marry, but the dead have no place amongst the living, and she suffered, she blamed him, but still he did not let her go. They both became stuck in their torment until the stone slipped from his fingers and he finally fell to his death in his madness and she became free. The third lived a good life but always in the cloak hidden. Until he grew old and decided to meet Death again, he took it off and passed it to his son and Death took him.”

“But the cloak didn’t come with him, it has remained out of my sight ever since. Until today. You carry with you to the afterlife that which you have on you at the time. None have carried the Hallows in their last moments, technically not even now.”

“You wish to have your cloak back?” Harry guessed.

“Yes and no. Finish the story, Mr Malfoy.”

“Right, the err Hallows are rumoured to be still out there and some believe that if you ever gain all three you will become Master of Death. Some believe that only a Peverell can unite the Hallows, others believe the Peverell blood is diluted enough that they could wield the three Hallows. But some care not for the Peverell blood and seek power regardless of familial claim.”

“What happened to the Peverell’s?” Harry asked.

“They married into the Potters and passed the cloak down the line it would seem,” Draco said looking at Harry and the cloak.

“Oh,” Harry said. “Did you know? Is this another thing I should have known some mystically fairy-tale tangent linking me to Death? Is that why Voldemort came for me and my parents? He wanted the cloak?”

“Maybe, the Peverell’s to Potters is known to those who study genealogy, but not remarked on often. The tale of the three brothers is never directly confirmed to be about the Peverells. Mainly it’s used to teach children not to be overly boastful or dabble in necromancy, that sort of thing,” Malfoy explained.

“Riddle did not know,” Death added. “While he fears me his attempts to master me are done in such a way that he need not interact with me, to face his own mortality. His soul is now to broken to wield the power of the Hallows, to do so would damn him to this domain. But others are not so affected.”

“You wish to break the Hallows to have one returned to you so that you can be free,” Malfoy said with a look of understanding either for the wish of freedom or of Death’s intent.

“Yes.”

“And this is where the choice you mentioned comes in?” Harry guessed.

“In a sense. You have a few choices at this moment; more will come or go depending on what you chose. You may stay here with the Horcrux for now or forever. You may if you stay here eventually choose to travel on to the lands of the dead and all that awaits you there. You may travel to those lands now. Or you may return to the land of the living as long as your payment is given, to live out your life by the whims of Fate and free will.”

“The Hallow is the payment you ask?” Malfoy guessed looking strangely resigned.

“One Hallow for one soul, as per the story,” Death agreed.

“Wait that’s not fair,” Harry shouted. “That means one of us has to die.”

“Potter, it’s the cost of it, don’t be an idiot you can hand over the cloak and go back to be the hero.”

“No, you take it,” Harry said, holding it out Malfoy.

“Look you self-sacrificing fool with a hero complex. What happens when I go back and you don’t, they find your corpse and either it’s in the Room of Requirements where everybody knows I spent time this year and I get blamed. Or I move your body and leave magical trace evidence. I get blamed and short story even shorter we see each other again far sooner than later. Either way with our history and my mark I’m fucked if you’re a corpse.”

“But you know more than me, I’m just a socially blind, leaky disaster, you know magic, you know runes, you know people and you can actually stand a chance of getting through to people. I just rush in like normal and fuck up and that get people killed,” Harry glanced at Death who still looked like Sirius.

“May I suggest an alternative,” Death offered after they argued back and forth getting nowhere. “I take a Hallow each for your souls, but you have a week of living before the debt comes due.”

“What would the cost of such leniency be?” Malfoy asked. Harry could see him trying out different scenarios in his mind trying to predict the angle of such an offer.

“It would mean Fate has no quarrel with me, your passing would be through your actions or inactions alone. I will still have no master and at least one of you will live on.”

“Is there anything else that you can tell us?” Harry asked, wizards had been trying to find the Hallows for centuries and they had a week. Hopefully, Death would be eager to give them information, surely having two Hallows would be better for them even if one meant they were safe.

“They came from one source of magic, they are drawn to each other, where there is one the other will be drawn near.”

Harry glanced at Malfoy standing beside him. “How will we die if we don’t succeed?” Malfoy asked.

“You Mr Malfoy would die where once you may have lived, taken at a point of departure bleeding out on the floor from magic hastily cast with no thought of consequence, beside one who was sacrificed to make a Horcrux. Mr Potter, you would be lost to a curse thought conquered in an act of curiosity from one who has no intention to see you flourish.”

“Okay then” Malfoy nodded, and Harry joined in. They were going to take the deal.

“Very well then,” Death accepted his non-verbal answer. “Pass through the doors and you will return to life and bodies although be warned the magic of this place has purged them of all spells and magics within you. Know we will meet again in a week hence in the chamber where Mr Potter came closest to death and the skeleton of his conquest still lies.”

As Death spoke the doors to the Great Hall swung open the mist swirled towards it slipping into the darkness beyond. With his head held high, Harry walked through not looking back, not wanting to see the Horcrux again. Hopefully, Malfoy wouldn’t offend Death or renegade on their deal and come back too.

 

Chapter Three

Harry stumbled, missed his step and fell face first out the wardrobe, his lost shoe was beside his face. A moment later Malfoy fell on top of him driving the wind from him before rolling off him.

“It’s nearly half twelve at night.” Malfoy interrupted the silence looking at the Tempus he’d just cast. “I don’t think time happened the same, almost as if here was frozen until we returned. Nobody missed us.”

“Great. That’s something at least.” Harry gasped out when he was able to catch his breath again.

“It also means Death has given us a bit more time to find the Hallow. Which makes sense considering how much they want it back,” Draco mused.

“I’ve still got some liquid luck in the vial, we can maybe use that to find a Hallow, not in here though I felt it acting different, but it might help us when researching.”

“Hold off on that. Or maybe not, maybe we need to use it as a way to get around years of rather public hatred. Most people will assume I’ve potioned you if you suddenly start willingly sitting near me.”

“Potioned not spelled?”

“Your ability to throw off the Imperious is well known. Although our bigger problem is that your magic already seems less leaky almost as if it’s happy to be within you…”

“Almost as if I’m not hosting a Horcrux,” Harry finished rolling over and sitting up. “It’s notable is it?”

“Yeah, there’s no way you’re hiding that from the headmaster,” said Malfoy after scrutinising him for a while.

“Do you think he knew about the Horcrux in me?”

Malfoy shrugged, “You know him better, does he? We know he knows of them if he had you looking around and that he was willing to sacrifice you to find out about them, he didn’t go asking about them. But in your ignorance perhaps it could be believed you’d stumbled across the term,” Malfoy looked speculative.

“He set me up again didn’t he. Merlin just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse,” Harry sighed.

“Oh, I think I’m about to make it worse. Remember what Death said about the Forbidden Forest. How you recalled the dead to you before you walked to your death. Well ignoring the fact you at one point in a life lost to choices unmade you had two Hallows the stone and cloak. Why would you walk to meet Death at the hand of Voldemort unless you felt your death would gain something? In this case victory.”

“You’ve lost me,” Harry admitted.

“How do you destroy a Horcrux?” Draco asked.

“I don’t know. Dumbledore only touched on their existence, not how to get rid of them. You’ve told me all that I know.”

“You destroy the vessel they’re contained in,” Malfoy said almost gently.

Harry stared at him trying to figure out what Malfoy had meant before it hit him. “I had to die to lose the Horcrux.”

“Yes.”

“I was never going to be taught anything because I was never going to live. I had to die so Voldemort could be defeated every last bit of him, and nobody can rely on a bargain with Death. Fuck, I just fuck.”

“It makes sense. And it makes sense to never teach you, it’s kept you isolated, more willing to prove people right but not having any grand attachment, somebody who it would make you hesitate over leaving.”

“I become a martyr, somebody to rally behind probably under his banner.” Harry got to his feet and paced in frustration like he’d seen Malfoy do earlier. “I … he cautioned me against a relationship with Ginny although honestly, I don’t feel like having one with her now at all. Guess he didn’t want me to get attracted. Attached. What do we do? I have a meeting with him in a few days and all I want to do is kill him?”

Malfoy snorted. “Sorry, just the fact that I’ve been tasked with killing him by the Dark Lord. Hence my evil shenanigans. Although I am sorry others got hurt. He’s hard to kill when you can’t get near him, that and the fact I’m not trying all that hard.”

“I’m willing to do it for you, but he is what’s keeping the school safe from Vold…” Harry trailed off not wanting to hurt Malfoy through the mark. “Sorry Mouldy’s fear,” Harry finished to a snort of laughter from Malfoy.

“I like that name better or Riddle, why let him hide behind his make-believe name,” Malfoy laughed.

“It’s even better than that, you know how I said I’d do a Rita Skeeter expose when frustrated in Limbo well maybe I will after all just for Riddle. The son of a squib and a Muggle conceived under love potions. That’ll take away support.”

“Is he now,” Malfoy murmured, looking delighted. “Talking of love potions, I do wonder if that’s…”

“You’re thinking Ginny’s trying her luck as it were with a potion?” Harry guessed.

“Possibly, although I was expecting strident denials and defences of Weaslette. Just the fact that you mentioned her negatively in your little rant when before you’ve been insanely defensive, suggests she was influencing you somehow. Either that or it was the Horcrux liking her. I mean the girl spent a year submerging herself in the magic of another of his Horcrux. It may have noticed and been drawn to her; it did want to be whole after all,” Draco mused.

“I’ve heard Molly and Ginny giggling about love potions and how Molly used to make them. Then there was the whole Ron and Vane situation with the chocolates, bought from the twin’s shop. So I’ve been on the lookout, but I guess we can’t know which if either. I mean part of me is utterly furious with the Weasleys with how little they’ve actually told me so maybe that’s affecting my judgement too. Who knows? I’m not talking about girls with you anymore Malfoy.”

“What about Boys? No? Well, let’s get back to your media plans, do one on Dumbledore as well let it be known his Father went to prison for murdering muggles, in such a way it broke the statute of limitations. Neither are quite what they say they are. Maybe she can dig out more uncomfortable truths. But before then we need to hide that you know, occlumency will help with that and the leaking.”

“But it’s suspicious still,” Harry sighed, to suddenly change wasn’t great, most would probably believe the tutoring from Dumbledore but those who mattered wouldn’t.

“How much do you trust Granger?” The question was slightly out of the blue, but Harry figured there was a point to the question.

“With my life,” He answered simply but honestly.

“Good,” Malfoy smiled. “She may well be responsible for it and we’re not done talking about your love life Potter. One way for leaking magic to settle which I didn’t mention as it’s a long shot is when the person settles down themselves such as in a relationship.”

“You want us to fake date,” Harry asked scandalised.

“You and Granger, yes, it solves more than a few problems. Tell her everything, she’ll need to know or else she’ll spend all the time figuring out what you’re hiding and not helping us progress. If you’re dating you then have an excuse for the magical change and then she and I can do the term joint project together in runes. Suddenly all three of us are together at a table because you’re not trusting me near her.”

“Nobody will question you partnering?” Harry asked doubtfully.

“We’re top of the class, working together is a sacrifice I’m willing to make to get good grades. Known fact. Also, if people on the Mouldy side question it, well I can claim I’m using it to get close to you for information or whatever,” Malfoy waved his hand vaguely rather than focus on the detail.

“I’d have to tell her this morning, shouldn’t be too hard, she’ll be avoiding Lavender and Parvati by association. If Hermione’s with me,” Harry blushed. “Lavender might relax and take back Ron which will keep him out of our way because there’s no way he’d keep this quiet. We just sacrifice the innocence of the Gryffindor children to that horror fest.”

“With Hermione out of play, Lavender might settle down, be less desperate to keep Ron’s attention. While you tell Granger, I’ll look through here for books that’ll help,” Malfoy started to suggest before Harry interrupted.

“Don’t be stupid get rest, we’ll need to be on top of our game. The chance of you finding anything is slim, we’d need a tireless army. Or a house-elf.”

“The ones here are sworn to school and thus Dumbledore won’t help,” Malfoy pointed out.

“But Dobby could, he’s been here when not bound to the school, he’s loyal and willing to help,” Harry said getting excited. “He could do what we need out of sight. Keep people from this room when he’s in here and whatever you’re doing in here with that death trap of a piece of furniture.”

“Fixing it, I’m sure you can figure out the reason why.”

“Invasion. Dumbledore knows, doesn’t he, because Snape does. They don’t care this is a school, do they?” Harry said looking defeated.

“On the upside, they don’t plan to attack till just before the summer break. This is a months away problem that I may not be alive to deal with so at least you’re forewarned now,” Malfoy said with fake cheer.

“We’ll find a Hallow we’ve got this,” Harry found himself promising. He snorted and sank down into the nest beside Malfoy. “You know this evening I planned to expose you and here I am now making plans to save you.”

“We did die together; I was about to say we shared a small death together but the connotations there…” Malfoy trailed off; eyebrows arched at Harry’s puzzled expression. “Le petite mort, the small death, they’re euphemistic terms for orgasms Potter.”

Harry blushed. “You’re still a git Malfoy. I hope you know that.”

“On that note, summon my former family elf and set him to work and we’ll go to bed, can you let me know how the talk with Granger goes before our runes class first one after lunch.”

“He’s not a slave to do my bidding,” Harry warned, not wanting Dobby to be abused.

“No, but he is an elf, your bound house elf. We grant them access to the magic wells through bonding to our magic, don’t ask how it’s complicated in the extreme. In turn, they help us, don’t think I’m not aware of Granger’s actions, they’re terribly insulting to the elves and most families. The elves are honourable and don’t want to be seen as freeloading.”

“My, elf? Dobby’s free,” corrected Harry with a frown.

“But he’s not. If you believe he’ll come when you call, it’s because you have a bond maybe not a reciprocal one but enough of one to sustain him. It’s possible the Horcrux induced magical leakiness was enough to form a partial connection.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“Part of you did and honestly it’s for the best or else he’d have started to fade and obviously you’re who he wants,” Malfoy shrugged.

“Right, something else to deal with then,” sighed Harry.

“But not anything too difficult for tonight. Summon him, set him off and then get some sleep and deal with it in the morning. It’ll make for a better conversation if you’re awake for it.”

It was decent advice and exhaustion was beginning to make Harry’s vision blur. He sighed and called Dobby. The elf turned up with a small pop and looked around slightly confused.

“Dobby, are you busy because I need your help.”

“Dobby be able to help master Harry Potter sir,” Harry hid a wince. Dobby had been calling him master all this time and he hadn’t managed to catch a clue that he was his actual master.

“Right, great do you have enough magic?” Harry hoped his question would give an answer to either prove or disprove what Malfoy had been saying. By the other boys’ quirked brow, he knew what Harry was doing.

“Oh, yes. Master Harry Potter sir’s magic is all settled and happy now,” Dobby gave him a delighted smile. “It be making the magic in the bond be less bumpy, magic be better too. Dobby, be very happy for you.”

Harry smiled back. “Err thanks. Could you look through the books here we need them on…” Harry trailed off looking at Malfoy for support.

“Anything to do with Deathly Hallows, Horcruxes and mind magics like occlumency, please put them in separate piles though. Actually, if you can please throw in things to do with etiquette and basic magical theory,” Malfoy said, giving Harry a considering look.

“They be dark magics, you should not be knowing of those things,” Dobby snapped, staring hard at Malfoy.

“We know Dobby, we don’t want to make them, we want to destroy them, the Horcruxes that is, not minds… We think that’s what’s keeping the dark git alive,’ Harry added trusting the elf’s devotion to him. “We’ll talk more tomorrow, sort out the bond Malfoy says we have and explain why we’re doing this, but please be careful searching and keep others out if they come here.”

Dobby gave them a considering look. “I can be doing that, is it you both being allowed in.”

“Yes, and Granger,” Malfoy said, getting up. “Don’t put anything in the wardrobe or go in yourself, but otherwise put your piles here. Do you need a hand getting out of here?” the last was said to Harry.

“Err, yeah I wasn’t paying much attention on the way in and after everything I doubt, I’d get out,” Harry said looking at the still toppled tallboy.

“This way then,” Malfoy said, leading Harry off in a direction he hadn’t been in yet.

Silently Harry followed Malfoy out not bothering to try and remember the route. He was trusting Malfoy. He was trusting Malfoy, Harry let that thought sink in. He was in league with a Death Eater, albeit a reluctant one. He was also making deals with ancient and otherworldly beings. His luck even with the potion was one of a kind.

“Right here, we are,” Harry realised they were in front of the door. “Put the cloak on and for Merlin’s sake do not lose it, put it in your trunk behind wards if you can or get Granger to do it,” Malfoy advised.

“I’ll go first you follow in a few minutes, keep yourself covered and don’t trust the portraits, they report to the headmaster and he may have questions you can’t answer.”

Harry nodded and watched as Malfoy disillusioned himself before he opened the door and disappeared down the corridor. He couldn’t wait to get back to the common room. Harry froze, he’d forgotten the passwords had changed, how would he get back in.

After Malfoy’s warning, he wasn’t going to risk asking the Fat Lady or else Dumbledore would be alerted and there was no way he’d be able to keep his temper long enough to not give everything including his magical changes away. What he needed was somebody to open the portrait from within for him to then slip through.

Without a plan Harry opened the door and went into the corridor, what he needed was something like Sirius’ communication mirror, but that was broken, and its partner lost. Or a phoenix that would carry him away, but Fawkes would alert the headmaster. But Hedwig wouldn’t, Harry realised, all he had to do was send a letter to Hermione. That way he could get her to let him in and then he could let her know what was going on.

Checking his pockets Harry grinned when he found a scrap of paper and a pencil stub, glad he didn’t take Molly’s advice on cleaning out his pockets every night. Carefully under the cloak, Harry made his way up to the owlery.

Pulling off his cloak when he was sure that he was alone Harry held out his hand to Hedwig who was thankfully there, a school owl wouldn’t be as likely to do what he wanted as easily.

“Hey girl, can you take this to Hermione,” Harry said passing over his hastily scrawled note. “She should be in the tower you may have to wake her up but keep at it will you?” Hedwig nibbled at his fingers in reply and took off.

Throwing his cloak back on Harry headed down to the corridor outside the common room and sat down on the window sill. Hopefully, they could do this, find a Hallow and save Malfoy.

He may not have been friends with the guy and honestly, Harry could admit that he had hated him and his attitude for a while. But Harry didn’t want Malfoy dead, especially when Malfoy might be less of an arse than he thought. But rather trapped with no way out.

Malfoy’s death would honestly make everything worse. It would alienate the Slytherins, probably drive more of them into Voldemort’s arms and take away an ally for Harry. After all, Malfoy was the first to tell him what was going on. Maybe he was being played, but the facts were all relatively easy to check out if you knew you should.

Mind made up that he would cautiously trust Malfoy but verify at every opportunity and take Dumbledore with a pinch of salt. All he needed to do was sell the whole thing to Hermione and make sure they didn’t lose focus on the hundreds of research tangents that the whole evening had created.

The portrait swung open and Hermione stuck her head around the frame. “Harry?” she quietly hissed out.

“I’m here,” Harry whispered as he got off the sill lifting the cloak enough, she’d be able to see his feet.

Harry brushed past her and she pulled the door shut. The fire in the common room was banked and nobody else was around. Their favourite armchairs in the coroner had a pile of books and a blanket over one arm. Pulling the cloak off Harry headed over that way.

“Harry, what happened? Where’s your shoe?” Hermione following behind him asked. Harry glanced down, he was still missing the shoe, he’d forgotten to put it back on. Maybe he could get Dobby to bring it over in the morning.

Sitting down in the chair without the blanket Harry turned to Hermione who’d sunk into the other one.

“It’s a long story, but to cut it short….” Harry trailed off; how could he explain what happened so glibly. “Right now, this needs to be more in-depth, this can’t be done quickly. So, first, let me say thanks for letting me in and sorry for waking you before we get too distracted.”

“Harry,” Hermione sounded unsure as if she had picked up that something momentous had happened in the past few hours. “You didn’t wake me, I was here, keeping my head down after everything that happened with Lavender. It was uncomfortable so I’m giving her space,” She gave him a small rather sad smile.

“Right. Guess that blew up more after I left.”

“Yes, and Ginny and Dean, they’re not sounding too good either.” While that would have made Harry’s heart sing at dinner now Harry noticed he still only felt dread. What if Ginny started flirting with him? Why hadn’t she or her family said anything? They were Dumbledore’s people through and through but just how far did that mean their betrayal of Harry ran. Was it even a conscious betrayal?

“Right. Fuck. Well after I left.”

“To Hagrid’s?” Hermione interrupted.

“Yeah, I ran into Slughorn, managed to get him drunk and get the memory from him. And don’t judge me for compromising his consent that man helped make a monster he needs to own it or at least help get rid of him.” Hermione’s eyebrows raised at his vehement tirade against their teacher, but she’d get it once he explained.

“So, let me get this right,” Hermione finally said after Harry had finished his explanation. “Dumbledore has failed in his education of you and let’s be blunt every other Muggleborn and raised, therefore fostering a societal discontent while acting like our saviour? I mean he let me inadvertently go around campaigning for elf genocide rather than just better rights, so who knows what else he’s allowed to go on.”

Harry nodded. Hermione had at first been furious that he’d bonded Dobby but after he explained the need for the bond and that in his ignorance, he’d been partially starving the elf she’d relented. Although Harry was now slightly concerned at how well Kreature was considering his reluctance to bond when Dumbledore had prompted him to in the summer.

“Malfoy is a git but a scared git playing along with tyrants because he wants to survive and he’s probably not the only one in that situation. Rather than help him the teachers in the know, Snape and Dumbledore are damning him and by extension an entire school full of children,” Hermione continued ticking the points off on her fingers as she went.

“I mean I doubt the Order knows, Molly would have lost her mind if she did and McGonagall may be a yes man where Dumbledore is concerned but not to the point, she’d risk children, so she can’t know either.”

“The Astronomy exam proved she’d fight for us,” Hermione agreed. “But moving on there is a whole nuanced magical world of etiquette and behaviour that’s never been explained but probably is why we get judging looks. Part of the reason you were so bad at it all was because you were a Horcrux which you didn’t know but Dumbledore likely did as he knew to look for them.”

“Yeah, but he was cagey, probably because they’re seriously dark and he doesn’t want his name tarnished by being associated with them,” Harry added. “Not that he cares about me and my reputation.”

“Because you have to destroy a vessel and teaching you would make you less likely to trust and comply or worse, you’d find an alternative option where you only have to die a little bit like you and Malfoy achieved.”

“Not that it was intentional,” Harry pointed out.

“No, but we could have stopped your heart and restarted it the muggle way, which we know works because Penny Clearwater, do you remember her? Well anyway she got into a terrible car accident as a child and they managed to resurrect her with defibrillators, she told me once when we were talking about being petrified. But there must be other options too.”

“So, you think Dumbledore was setting me up to die and become a martyr too?”

“Malfoy may be right, even with his biases. I doubt the library has anything that will back up his claims on the vessel being destroyed but I imagine the Black library does. That’s probably where Dumbledore did his research and why he’s so keen to keep the place, he wouldn’t bring the books to his office in case the Ministry turned up again.”

“The Black library probably has something to say about magic wells and etiquette too if you think about it. If only we had time to look through it rather than tidy the place up,” Harry sighed.

“I imagine that was deliberately done. I mean not for Ron to whom books are his personal nemesis but you me and the twins. Molly probably had nightmares, possibly encouraged by Dumbledore,” Hermione frowned. “You know they probably have something about House Elves in there too which I could have been pointed towards rather than be sneered at because nobody bothered to educate either of us.”

“Honestly, it was probably part of the plan to isolate us and make us look ignorant and repellent to those who may have wanted to help. The more I think about it I just don’t know how far we can trust them; they must have known something up with the way I was and how we behaved but they never said not even Molly who’s all about propriety. And Dumbledore is their hero,” Harry sighed. It may be time to put away the childish dream that the Weasleys would become his family.

“But not our hero, now, I’m not saying we all out hate him but trusting him isn’t serving us, so we play along and hope we make it out the other side. As to the Weasleys, I think we get some distance, the twins are the most intuitive and they’re gone so distracting Ron and Ginny isn’t too difficult.”

“Dean and Lavender are doing that for us,” Harry agreed.

“And we will in the future appropriately thank their sacrifice for the greater good. But first, the Hallows and how to find them, what have you and Malfoy come up with because we never quite covered that seeing as your death was a bit of a distraction.”

Hermione hadn’t taken the news of his temporary death well. Harry was honestly surprised that they hadn’t woken anybody before Harry managed to cast Muffliato. After calming her down and assuring her there was no damage Harry had managed to tell at least that part of the story.

“Nice to know you care, but mostly we’re working off the hint that they’re drawn to each other and I have the cloak. So, now we need to find a stone or a wand, which let’s be honest there isn’t a shortage nearby,” Harry sighed.

“True but just think Dumbledore had the cloak for nearly a decade while he left you with the Dursleys so that’s fifteen years or so that they’ve had to be drawn near to the castle.”

“Do you think Dumbledore knows it’s a Hallow?” Harry asked he’d often wondered why it hadn’t been in the cottage, especially as his parents knew they were being hunted by Voldemort.

“I mean, part of me wants to say no, but Harry he might. We really don’t know that much about him and that’s now a horrifying oversight in my mind. We were told by the world that he was good and like fools, we believed them, I didn’t even look him up, not really, and I researched everything.”

“He had long enough to set the stage Hermione don’t beat yourself up,” Harry didn’t think it would help her that much because he was just as annoyed with himself. They sat and watched the embers flicker for a while letting their talk of death and betrayal settle.

“You know Harry, it’s really weird because I can’t tell what you’re thinking anywhere as easily as I could before,” Hermione said. Harry turned and found her watching him intently. “I used to be able to read your emotions so easily, almost like magic, I’d know what you felt and now I can’t. I guess Malfoy was right about the magic over spilling.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, don’t be if anything I should be the one apologising after violating your emotional privacy all these years. I don’t mind not knowing, I mean I do a bit because part of me thought it was a sign of what a good friend, I was but still, I know you well enough that you’re not a complete mystery.”

“Well you’re my best friend, you’ve stood by me. Even when I was a right tosser to you and everybody else,” Harry said. And she had, Ron was fickle, if his pride was hurt, he’d turned on them. If he found a distraction such as a girl, he gave the new focus his all. The single-mindedness of his focus had made him a good friend but not a consistent one and Harry needed consistency and trust. Now more than ever.

“Thank you, but I imagine we’re going to have to get used to calling me your girlfriend for the next little while,” Hermione said blushing.

“I mean that’s just one idea, we could come up with others if you’re not comfortable with it,” Harry said in a rush he didn’t want to push her into anything or use her because she was available.

“Oh, Harry. Yes, I’ll go out with you it’s the best solution, and it’s not like you’re using me,” Hermione smiled at him and pulled the blanket over her lap. Harry wasn’t sure if it was because she was cold or trying to protect herself.

“Brilliant, but you do know I like you don’t you,” Harry asked earnestly. “And respect you and part of me hates putting you in this spot because you’re not the kind of person who deserves it but will do it anyway.”

“Shush. Stop being so honourable, having you carry my bookbag and hold my hand isn’t a hardship Harry. If anything, you’d have a huge list of candidates, boy or girl if you so much as hinted, you’re interested,” Harry gave her an incredulous look.

“Yes, Cho turned you down because you were both grieving, and Ginny is trying to play a long game and make you jealous in a frankly childish and emotionally immature way. Take note that her default behaviour is to manipulate and play people against each other. But anyway, you’re a catch not because you’re the boy who lived or rich, and maybe some people can’t see beyond that, but I can see Harry and Harry is who I chose to be friends with. He’s a great guy so stop talking him down.”

Harry was blushing and trying not to catch Hermione’s eye. He didn’t know what to say. Did Hermione really think he was that great? Had he not noticed if she had feelings for him? Or was he reading too much into what she’d said? Merlin Sirius wasn’t wrong when he said relationships were complicated.

“So, no I don’t mind being seen to be your girlfriend.” It was too much, and Harry had to remind himself throwing his cloak over his head to hide was a bit dramatic. Taking a deep breath Harry looked up at Hermione to find her blushing but smiling at him.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, Harry. I really am. If it makes you feel better, I’m getting something from this too. I mean it’ll make things in my dorm so much better and I totally expect a date at Hogsmeade at your expense.”

“I can do that,” Harry agreed. “Right might as well do it properly. Hermione will you be my girlfriend?”

“Yes, Harry I will.” She got up from her chair and walked over to him and kissed his cheek. “Just practising. But Harry just so you know, whatever happens, we’ll always be friends. I promise. Now let’s go to bed, we have a week that will make OWLs look like a breeze coming up.”

She held out her hand and Harry reached out to take it as she pulled him up. Normally they’d let go but instead, she tangled their fingers together.

“How did your apparition class go?” Harry asked not moving his hand away and instead walked hand in hand with Hermione across the room.

“It went really well; I think I’ve got the hang of it. Ron’s not doing so well and getting frustrated, it didn’t help Twycross remembers the twins and how well they did. I think you’ll get the hang of it easily, especially as you managed it as a child.”

They were standing at the stairs. Harry hesitated should he kiss her good night; she’d initiated everything else so maybe it was his turn. He caught her eye and indicated his intention giving her room to decline, she didn’t. The kiss was much better than the one he’d had with Cho. Harry could see the appeal; careful he drew back to find Hermione smiling. He hadn’t messed it up.

“Night Harry,” she let go of his hand and went up a few steps before turning and blowing him a kiss before disappearing upstairs with a delighted laugh. Grinning Harry headed up to bed. He could do this; he wasn’t going to lose his best friend and who knew Malfoy may become one too. They’d even made major inroads on how to get rid of Voldemort.

Chapter Four

The morning turned up too quickly in Harry’s opinion, with it came the first of many problems. Although thankfully how to retrieve his shoe wasn’t one of them. He’d found it tucked under his bed beside its partner.

When deciding to form a relationship with Hermione Harry hadn’t considered Ron. Ron had his own romance drama to deal with, but would Ron get that. He’d taken badly to Hermione and Viktor so would he do the same. The last thing they needed was Ron hanging around while they disappeared off with Malfoy.

Luckily it seemed his roommates didn’t notice Harry’s quietness or his absence last night. Seamus was consoling Dean who couldn’t figure out what to do with Ginny. While Neville tried to escape from Ron’s incessant question about what type of flowers would make Lavender happy. At least that meant he hadn’t given up on the relationship with Lavender.

Slipping out the room after making sure his cloak was secure Harry reached the common room where he met an uneasy silence. Hermione was standing waiting by the stairs on one side with Lavender on the other and everybody else was watching. Waiting to see if the drama from last night was going to be repeated.

As soon as she saw him Hemione smiled and Harry reached out to take her bag as she’d sort of suggested last night. Smile growing Hermione handed it over and then took his hand. With a delighted laugh, she led him out the portrait hole before anybody could stop them.

“Did you see their faces?” Hermione laughed. “You know I think I’m starting to get why Sirius and the twins like pranks so much, not that I’m going to start doing them,” she quickly added.

“Yeah, kind of nice to blow their expectations out of the water in a non-negative way,” Harry agreed.

“Plus, by the end of breakfast, everybody is going to know we’re together without us saying a word. The added benefit is Malfoy will know that I know and the adding of him to the research group will appear more organic,” Hermione said as they waited for the stairs.

The portraits were staring, and Harry was sure that one or two were pointing. Considering how often they must have seen couples holding hands he assumed that he must have been pointed out to them.

“Guess Dumbledore will know too, don’t give it away but the portraits are in a tizzy,” Harry said once they were safely on the stairs and swinging away from the paintings.

“I know. It does seem Malfoy has been honest about everything so far. Well, let’s hope he keeps it up. We are his ticket to life and freedom. He’s smart enough to keep us sweet till then at least,” Hermione agreed before hopping off and heading towards the Great Hall.

Their entrance didn’t manage to garner much attention so Harry, feeling bold, walked further down the table, by the time they reached the middle of the hall people had begun to notice. Pleased with his efforts Harry led them to the bench and with their backs to most of the room they started to eat.

The bench around them filled up far quicker than normal and despite all the unsubtle glances at them, nobody said anything, not even Ron. Although that could be because a rather giddy Lavender was making out with him between bites. Honestly, the girl had an iron stomach that Harry could only fear but also admire.

Classes that morning followed the same pattern as breakfast. People definitely were believing they were a couple if the giggles and more than a few scowls directed at them in the corridor were to be believed.

Hermione insisted that it was normal, most people didn’t confront new couples to demand information. In this, they were being afforded the same courtesy as everybody else and that set Harry on edge. Why did he start getting the respect now?

It was only as they were leaving after lunch that Ron finally realised something was going on. His attempts to demand why Harry was carrying Hermione’s bag were however quickly silenced by Lavender sitting in his lap.

While Harry was pleased that the situation was stopped before coming a public spectacle, he was also acutely aware Lavender wasn’t always going to be able to save him from Ron. Taking a risk Harry pressed a kiss to Hermione’s cheek as they parted for their separate classes. Hopefully, Ron caught the hint.

Hermione was planning to try and use runes to recreate the communication mirrors if Malfoy agreed to the project. She figured it would help them with their plans but would further cement a reason for Harry to be seen with them both.

Harry however had a free period. Technically it was for independent study, but most people didn’t use it as such. Or at least not for any topic which they could sit an exam for.

Making sure that the cooing crowd didn’t follow him Harry slipped away to the Room of Requirements to see how Dobby was doing and hopefully make sure the little guy took a break.

Getting into the room was easy enough, but before he could call out Dobby appeared before him looking wild-eyed. “Master Harry Potter sir, you be here. Dobby be finding something that not be on the list, but it be bad and should not be, let alone in a school.”

“Right, did you put it somewhere safe then?” Harry asked, unsure just what it could be, the amount of clutter in the room could be hiding any number of horrors, hopefully, none living though.

“Dobby put it in a spelled box in the hidey spot yous be having. It be’s safe as can be, best it be gone for good though.”

“But it can’t be touched?” Harry decided to check after all Dobby’s history didn’t exactly lend itself to being rational about threats.

“It be sealed with elf magics,” Dobby said, looking as earnest as he could. “I be showing you?”

“Thanks,” Harry took up the offer and found himself following behind the elf who was chattering away about the vast number of socks he’d found and if he could keep them. Harry agreed as long as they were clean.

The route they took Harry was fairly certain was different than that of last night. Most of the stacks they walked past were neatly arranged and didn’t seem in danger of toppling on Dobby who was excitedly bouncing along ahead of him.

“Here you be seeing Dobby’s been busy.” Dobby had been very busy. The clearing had tripled in size and several distinct piles of books filled the space like the columns of an ancient temple.

The nest of pillows had been replaced with a few slightly suspicious-looking armchairs placed in a circle on a mishmash of rugs. Lamps sat on side tables beside each one and a dinner service was carefully placed in a dresser as if in anticipation of use.

“This is great Dobby,” Harry said enthusiastically. It would be better than the library by far.

“Dobby be organising books into those he be thinking best at the top and not so good at the bottom,” He said proudly.

“Even better, is that the box with the bad thing in?” Harry asked when he saw another table all alone with a small box on, near where the fallen dresser from last night had been.

“Yes.” Harry glanced at the elf, the exuberance was gone, and Dobby had an almost menacing air about him as he looked at the table.

“What is it?” Harry asked uncertainly just what it was or if the house elves had certain cultural dislikes.

“It be like the bad diary old master had. It be having the same magics.”

Harry froze, there couldn’t be a Horcrux in the school could there? But the more Harry thought about it the more he realised that there could be.

Dumbledore had shown Harry how much Riddle had loved Hogwarts comparing it to Harry’s love for the place. But it wasn’t Voldemort defiled the place with the Horcrux and possibly a curse, but Harry cherished the school and wanted to protect it.

Maybe the comparison was Dumbledore trying out his Harry Horcrux theory, maybe, either that or it was to do with the prophecy trying to make them match in all the ways he could. Harry shook his head in disgust, he was nothing like either of them, he was his own person.

“Leave it there and don’t touch it, whatever it is,” Harry ordered. “We can destroy it in the chamber when we go down to hand over the Hallow, the basilisk venom should still work.”

“Dobby not be touching. Or wearing it. It be, Ravenclaw’s diadem, Dobby not be into sparkles only socks,” he reassured Harry. “Old snakey venom be just as nasty; the school elves not be knowing how to find it so not be giving it to them who be asking.”

“Who asked?”

“Snape be wanting it but he not to be getting it Dobby feels nasty magics on him.” The Dark Mark Harry figured.

“Can you feel nasty magics on others?” If Dobby could point out Death Eaters to him it would make his life so much easier, but also raised the question of why others didn’t do so.

“Mhh, they be like bad old master. Little master Draco has small bit of dark magics, mostly they be all hurty and not happy. Dobby thinks he not be wanting it.” It confirmed what Malfoy had said again.

“Dobby do you want to confirm our bond?” he asked, Dobby was being a font of useful information and Harry wanted to ensure the safety of them both and the bond would likely mean that he couldn’t be ordered to give it away like with Kreature.

“You be wanting Dobby now magic is all happy? Please Dobby be very happy to be Master Harry Potters elf.” His ears were waggling with excitement.

“Right, you’ll have to tell me what to do, I’ve never bonded with an elf before. Well, apart from Kreacher and I’m not sure how well that went,” Harry said when it appeared Dobby was waiting for him to do something.

“You be pledging on your magic that you’ take Dobby as your bonded elf to shelter and share magics with, then I do the same.” Dobby said carefully putting his hands behind his back like a Victorian schoolboy reciting facts, it was oddly charming.

For all that the bonding was a significant act, it was also incredibly simple, there were no great flashes of light or crackle of spells. Harry knew it worked though, he felt the bond settle and then retreat not distracting him in the least. That and the fact that Dobby was vibrating with energy.

“Thank you, Master Harry Potter sir. This be the best bond. Dobby be knowing you’s had magic but not so much. It be making Dobby feel full of energy.”

“You didn’t overdo it do you Dobby?” Harry asked. He knew he should have checked on Dobby sooner but the attention from the rest of the school had made getting away hard.

“No.” He shifted slightly guilty. “Dobby be doing enough to help take down bad wizard, that be what we are doing?” Harry sighed he was going to have to put his foot down and make Dobby take care of himself.

“Yeah, that’s the plan but we can’t if we’re exhausted,” Harry argued deliberately ignoring the hypocrisy, although he didn’t think Dobby would let him get away with wearing himself down.

“We be both be reasonable.” Yeah, Harry was right he was being called out.

“Yeah, we both will,” He agreed. “So, get a snack and let me get you up to date. This is all secret though you can only tell Malfoy, Draco Malfoy that is and Hermione Granger.”

Harry settled into one of the chairs and summed up all he knew. By the time they were finishing up, Malfoy and Hermione turned up.

“It’s quite the junk pile in here, isn’t it? But Malfoy says it’s cleaner than it was. So, thank you Dobby. Well how do we want to do this, one topic each or just go for what catches our fancy. I grabbed some extra notebooks, one each.” Hermione reached into her bag to pull them out as she said this.

“One pile each, I think. Potter, I recommend you do the Deathly Hallows seeing as you have one. Granger, do you want Horcrux or runic ways of searching?”

“I think runes, you at least know what a Horcrux is,” She said, picking out her own chair and pulling the top book of the pile before she sat down.

“About that, Dobby found one a Horcrux, that is, it’s in the box on that table, we think we can destroy it in the chamber with the basilisk venom, same as the first,” Harry said pointing to the box. He got startled and then horrified looks as he pointed at the table.

“Harry remind us to work on your tact,” Hermione muttered, still staring at the table as if worried the Horcrux would attack.

“There was one in here, Merlin I don’t know if that’s ballsy or insane.” Malfoy sighed, sinking into the left-over chair. “So, we destroy it in a week,” He held up his hand when Hermione started to protest. “We need to do more research if we destroy it and he can tell he might move others beyond our reach. So, we do it in a week if not later.”

“You think they’ll be reachable?” Harry asked startled from what he’d gathered from Dumbledore and the trips down memory lane he thought they’d be impossible to find.

“Well this one was just lying around in a room which has evidently been found at least a thousand times before and since he gave one to my Father, I doubt he was the only one either. They’re meant to be near indestructible from most things I’ve heard and drawing attention to them through traps likely makes them a bigger target. Human curiosity and all that.”

“That and they’re high stakes items, well apart from the diary but that was the first we think due to the age. But according to Dobby that’s Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, most people would hesitate before they destroy it. So, I imagine more of the same.” Harry said even if he didn’t feel the same reluctance.

“We may not have to destroy it all, depending on what Malfoy figures out. The soul bit is likely trapped in one part, a stone or setting, we destroy that one bit and get the bank to cleanse it and it would be mostly intact,” Hermione suggested.

“It makes sense the Horcrux was in your scar, probably only on one page of the diary?”

“I stabbed it all the way through,” Harry admitted.

“So, we just need to get rid of that bit. But we might also be able to use it to track other bits down. Death said the Harry bit wanted to be whole, maybe the others do too, intent-based magic scrying could see them located, or at least indicate how many there are,” Draco said looking speculative.

“We know of three, the diary, the diadem and scar. It’s likely the scar was an accident so he could have decided to split into three parts and made a fourth by accident.” Hermione theorised.

“I think he went for seven. I think Dumbledore found and destroyed one in a ring, the one he’s wearing on the withered arm,” Harry said after thinking about the ring something about it had caught Slughorn’s attention when they’d visited.

“So, seven with Harry as the accident or intended seventh which he may not know about so could have made yet another. Merlin, he really is soulless,” Hermione said with a shudder. “Let’s get looking the sooner we get answers the sooner we can get rid of them.

They settled down and Harry started to read the first book, it was the tale of the three brothers, more moralistic than what Malfoy had said but then he wouldn’t want to be slanderous in front of Death either.

Putting it down Harry moved on to the next book. It was a list of people who, in the author’s opinion, could have had a Hallow but they gave no evidence to justify their opinion. Harry wrote the names down anyway.

The second and third book were much the same and from what Harry could tell the books the others were reading were equally as unenlightening, if the frequency of them thudding closed was counted.

Dobby was busy still searching the room and occasionally bringing more books to be slotted into piles. Discarded books were taken away presumably to a secondary area.

Harry sighed and picked up another book, this one a more modern historical account of Grindelwald’s rise to power. Unsure Harry flicked through and started to read a couple of pages in.

“Is you be wanting dinner?” The question from Dobby startled Harry and by the look of it the others too.

“Is it that time already?” Harry asked, he hadn’t realised time had passed so quickly. Thankfully he had no classes this afternoon, and he didn’t think the other had either.

“Yes, they be starting to serve in the Great Hall, Dobby can be getting food from there for you if you be wanting to stay,” the elf offered, ears flapping in nerves. Harry glanced up to see if the others had opinions to offer.

“I think that’s a good plan, we’re a new couple so nobody will be overly surprised we fail to make it dinner, and Malfoy is rarely seen these days, so most people won’t notice. So, as long as it doesn’t cause a problem yes please,” Hermione said with a smile.

Dobby took their orders once and popped off, Harry went back to reading chasing down the tantalising clues in the text. Only paying attention when the smell of steak pie wafted past.

“I think we need to look at Grindelwald,” Harry said between mouthfuls. “He by several accounts was obsessed with the Deathly Hallows and some suggest he had one in his possession at some point.”

“Not an easy topic, there is very little about him in the school library,” Draco mused. “Odd really seeing as Dumbledore defeated him, but maybe you can look it up, seeing as you’re the prophesied defeater of the current dark lord. Looking up past ones isn’t entirely out of the ordinary.”

“Something to think about I doubt you’ll get anything from Dumbledore, so we’ll have to try foreign publications. Which brings me to the next point,” Hermione said, giving them both a heavy look over her glass. “Tomorrows a Hogsmeade visit.”

“Okay, I know we sort of said we’re going together, but what does Malfoy have to do with things?” Harry asked.

“Dumbledore or more accurately his brother Aberforth he runs the Hogshead. Let’s go see what he says, Malfoy can come to see if he catches something we don’t as he actually knows societal gossip for the past few decades at least.”

“Oh, centuries worth of gossip, family feuds are a thing of beauty and just keep giving,” He said with a smirk.” The Dumbledore brothers by all accounts don’t get on despite living on each other’s doorsteps. Something to do with a sibling if I recall, I would write to Mother but best not all things considered,” His smirk slipped and became more of a wry grin.

As they ate, they discussed what they had come across so far, Hermione had yet to find anything which would locate linked magical items such as Hallows or Horcruxes, but it was a long shot that they would. Draco was making better progress on Horcruxes, apparently, they liked natural materials, not alloys so stones and pure metals were favoured, but natural fibres like leather and parchment could be used.

Dinner passed and they continued working through, thanks to Dobby, the never shrinking pile of books. It had been years since Harry had spent so much time pouring over texts and maybe because he wasn’t expecting an exam at the end, he was sort of enjoying himself.

“They keep mentioning a symbol that represents the Hallows, but none of them describe it,” he finally muttered in frustration. Malfoy who was looking through his notes glanced up.

“It looks like this,” He quickly sketched something out the page and passed it to Harry.

The Symbol was a triangle, within that sat a circle and from the apex to the baseline bisecting the two shapes. “The triangle for the cloak, circle for the stone and line for the wand.”

“You know I think I’ve seen this before,” Harry said as he racked his brain as to why it seemed so familiar. “Have you Hermione?”

Taking the paper, she carefully studied it before shaking her head. ‘Sorry, it doesn’t ring any bells. Maybe Luna had something on it in the Quibbler; it’s the kind of thing she’s interested in.”

With a sigh, Harry went back to chasing ghosts in the tales of Grindelwald. It would come to him sometime probably in the middle of the night, these things always did.

“Argh,” Malfoy groaned, pressing his face into a book. “It’s just hints, tantalising unsubstantial hints.”

“I know,” Hermione agreed, and they shared a commiserating look. “It makes sense if you think about it though, we’re still in a school and though these books were hidden there’s still a limit on what you can get away with bringing in.”

“What we need is a proper library like my fathers, but that would give away the game.”

“What about the Black one?” Harry asked. He had inherited it and it should go to use he figured.

“I’m sure it would help but we can’t access it. Unless… Can Dobby as your elf bring books here, I never tried but it makes sense that he could as everything here had to be brought in.”

“We’d have to be extra careful so that we weren’t caught but it could work. We’d need a place to store them, leaving them here doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“There might be a library trunk. Dobby could look through them at,” Hermione’s nose wrinkled as she tried to work around the Fidelius Charm. “That place and bring them back for us to look through.”

“Dobby could you do that?” Harry asked not wanting to make a plan only for their hopes to be dashed.

“Dobby can be doing that but if he be doing that, he’s not being able to watch the nasty tiara.”

“Damn, he has a point,” Malfoy sighed, looking dejected. “I doubt we can be in here long enough for you to manage a decent search of the Black properties and I’m loath to leave the Horcrux and cabinet unattended. We need another elf. Any of the Black family ones survive?”

“Kreacher.”

“He’s not well, he was alone with Walburga’s portrait, he’s unfortunately not very trustworthy. A bit too fond of Bellatrix,” Hermione explained.

“There be Winky. She be fading with no bond, she be happy to help,” Dobby was wringing his hands as he explained, looking nervous about offering but wanting to save his friend.

“Oh. Then she needs a bond and an apology from me,” Hermione said. Last night Harry had explained what he could about elves and Hermione had been willing to admit she was wrong about her approach. They both agreed the elves needed more protection though.

“Is she here?” Malfoy asked. “And who would be taking the bond?”

“If she wants to I would. I mean I can’t think of a better way to show how sorry I am for how I treated you all but don’t let her feel forced into accepting me if she doesn’t want to be.” Hermione offered, Harry and Draco also let their offers be known.

Dobby popped off to find Winky and the two returned quickly. Winky looked unsteady on her feet like she was quickly sobering up via a potion, she was still drinking it seemed. Harry felt guilty that he’d forgotten about her, he’d let his grief blind him about her welfare, Hermione’s campaign was desperately needed, just in a revised format.

Winky looked around desperately hopeful. “Dobby be saying there be a bond for me. But I be a disgraced elf.”

“Winky. You can have a bond with any of us,” Hermione explained. “We can’t replace the Crouch’s, but we can give you a new family and we trust you.” Winky burst into tears and threw herself at Hermione.

“Please be giving Winky the bond. She be a good elf.”

“Excellent, we’ll show them all Winky you and I, that is if you want me and not one of the others?” Hermione promised.

“Winky be wanting a witch,” the elf said firmly.

They talked Hermione through the bonding process and Winky seemed like a new elf once the claiming was done. She no longer looked downtrodden and as if she wanted to disappear. She stood tall and proud.

Once they’d explained what was going on Winky strode over to the table and turned her back on it with a fierce expression on her face. “I not be letting anybody be touching it,” She vowed.

They left just before curfew, they quietly slipped out leaving Dobby to get some rest before he took on the house of Black in the morning and Winky guarding the Horcrux. In the Common room, they received a few raised eyebrows but still, they weren’t approached.

***

The next morning Harry got up early. It was a Hogsmeade weekend and normally he threw on whatever would keep him warm. But this time he had a date. It may have been a sort of fake date but that didn’t mean he wanted to embarrass Hermione. No, he’d do her justice and that meant wearing some of the few casual clothes he’d bought for himself instead of Dudley cast-offs.

He was relieved when he got down the stairs to see Hermione had put in a similar effort, a fact that others hadn’t missed. Lavender gave him a quick hug as she passed him and wished him good luck with a wink. Harry watched her go startled.

“She’s thrilled for us you know, wouldn’t stop talking about it all night, I think it’s partly less competition for Ron but also she gets to impart wisdom to me. It was nice though not condescending or full of judgment. She and Parvati were happy to help me pick out my outfit and do my hair.”

“It looks great, honestly,” Harry assured her.

They had a leisurely breakfast where they saw Malfoy sitting with Crabbe and Goyle, he didn’t react, but Harry hadn’t expected him to. Ron kept giving them confused looks and Ginny increasingly dirty ones, but otherwise, they kept to themselves.

Maybe their date wasn’t a textbook lunch at Madam Puddifoots, but it suited them, they went to the bookstore, then the sweet shop before wandering down to the shrieking shack. Only when they heard the bell chime for half eleven did they return.

The Hogs Head was just as dirty and sticky as before. Experience had taught them not to trust the bar, so they slipped into a booth and ordered a butterbeer and gilly water each as well as several chip butties and a few plates of sides, so Malfoy had the chance to eat something when he turned up.

After their order was delivered Harry felt a slight disturbance as somebody brushed past him before Malfoy materialised in the shadows of the corner.

“Charming place,” he said in greeting before nabbing a gilly water and plate. “Any luck getting anything from the old man?”

“Nope, he’s not shown his face, I’m beginning to think we should have tried our luck with the Felix, it’s weeks before we can get back and they’re weeks we don’t have.”

“Who knows with your luck Potter Grindelwald himself would probably rock up.”

“Oh, no my dear Gellert’s all locked up,” an old lady who’d been shuffling past replied.

“Err, that’s great to know,” Harry replied politely hoping the old lady would get the hint and keep on going to the bar. Instead, she spotted the empty seat by Malfoy and shuffled over and sat down with them.

“Do you know Gellert? Friends of his from school?” The old lady asked, looking at them in a remarkably lucid manner for all that she seemed to be confused.

“No ma’am we’ve heard of him though,” Malfoy said, offering her a smile.

“That’s a shame he’s my nephew through marriage you know. I do hope he makes the right sort of friends he’s far too caught up in that Dumbledore boy.” Harry struggled to keep his expression calm, they were sitting at the table with a dark lord’s aunt and she was implying he knew Dumbledore or was it just that she was getting his defeat mixed up.

“Dumbledore?” Harry asked, hoping that explaining would help her sort out her memories.

“Yes, son of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore. There was a terrible business torturing young muggles to death, I doubt they meant to harm young Ariana so, but there you go they both got caught up in their family business and dragged Gellert along with them and that poor girl.”

Malfoys brows had shot up, obviously, something the lady had said had resonated with him. “They sentenced Percival to life in Azkaban, didn’t they?”

“Yes, terrible business all round. What were your names, I do wish you’d meet my nephew much better influences I‘m sure?”

“I’m a Malfoy, that’s Potter,” He pointed at Harry before turning to Hermione. “And that’s Granger.” Considering how addled she was it was likely that their first names wouldn’t matter and if she told anybody they’d not link it back to them.

“Of the Dagworth Grangers?” The old lady asked.

“A minor branch, and yourself good lady?” Harry had to admit Malfoy was good at being charming when he wanted to.

“Bathilda Bagshot.”

“Oh,” Hermione gasped. “The author.”

“You’ve read my books, how delightful,” Bathilda gave them a happy smile. “Some people say that writing about history is nonsense, but it educates society I say.”

“It does, but can you tell us more about Dumbledore and Gellert? We haven’t been taught about it,” Hermione asked, looking eager.

Something in the old lady’s eye sharpened and she gave them an assessing look. “It was a seedy business,” she warned.

“They often are, but history is beginning to look like it’s repeating itself and we don’t want to be caught up,” Malfoy explained cautiously.

“Nasty business with the Potters, poor things, they lived just by me, used to watch the little one some nights and they don’t tell that story properly either but best to start at the beginning.”

Harry froze, this was somebody who knew his parents and was likely less biased than teachers and friends, maybe when he had time and he’d probably need a lot of it he’d be able to find out more about his mum and dad.

“Well let’s see we mentioned the Dumbledore Father and poor daughter tortured to squibhood; lucky she didn’t become more. Powerful thing that she could have been. But then the brothers always at ends, one wanting her gone, Albus for you always with his reputation and a squib would drag him down, and Aberforth wanting to cling to his family.”

“Well Gellert and Albus got together and wanted to change the world, as you young things always do, and they saw the muggles as the problem wanted to do something about it and they spent their summers dreaming. Then they had the fight a great big nasty thing, spells flying so much Aberforth waded in and that only made it worse. Wasn’t till little Ariana hit the floor dead that they stopped. None of them knew who’d done it not wanting the blame I guess; they say it was my nephew but that’s an easy blame to give.”

Harry sat gobsmacked unable to interrupt if he wanted to Dumbledore had been working with Grindelwald till his sister died possibly by his hand. Suddenly his desire to absolve the Death Eaters seemed much more personal.

“The greater good, that’s what they used to say,” Bathsheba sighed, not noticing the effect her words had on Harry, lost in her memories as she was.

Dumbledore still went on about the greater good, Harry had heard him say it. Was Dumbledore still trying to bring about the childhood visions through other means. Like sacrificing children to the altar of his ideals by making the Muggleborn detested. Was the war an accident that got out of hand or was Voldemort a deliberate creation? They could only speculate Dumbledore would never admit anything.

“Well they parted ways; I think Gellert was rather shocked at how the Dumbledores’ reacted to their sister’s death. Relief at the passing of her though both would deny it. Indeed for a few years, Albus said Gellert was scared of his duelling strength when people brought it up. They do that less now, but I suppose most who knew are dead and gone in this war or that war. Always a war around Albus.”

“Was Gellert a match to him?” Harry asked. He’d seen how Albus had duelled Voldemort to a standstill in the Ministry atrium but apparently outmatched Grindelwald. Most took that to mean Voldemort was a stronger Dark Lord but maybe Grindelwald had held back, he’d been taken alive and imprisoned. Something that nobody was suggesting they try and do with Voldemort.

“Oh, they were both the same, when it came to flinging curses around. They’d often joke one would have to have the elder wand to become the winner. They’d spend many days researching the Perverells trying to find out where the fairy tales went.” Harry felt his jaw drop, Dumbledore had sought the Deathly Hallows, he probably knew that Harry had one.

He glanced at Hermione who was looking equally as shocked. Malfoy thankfully was keeping his composure; it said a lot about the benefits of a pureblood upbringing.

“They said that Gellert had the wand you know, fear-mongering I imagine, rumours that were quickly hushed up once Albus defeated him. I suppose he didn’t fancy facing off every glory seeker who wanted the death stick, even if the story was never true, some would be willing to believe. Didn’t help that he got a new wand after the duel claimed the old one was damaged.”

Malfoys composure slipped. Was it possible that Dumbledore had the Elder wand? It seemed ridiculous and yet horribly plausible. Was Dumbledore seeking to be the Master of Death? To what end?

“How interesting?” Hermione managed to say. “I would have thought the resurrection stone would appeal to Dumbledore to set the record straight on Ariana’s death?”

“Oh, no doubt, they may have been foolish boys, but the stone’s curse was more than they wanted to risk. Drives people mad if you listen to the stories, not a quick madness either. The last anybody heard the Gaunts had it, but they’re long gone, driving themselves to ruin. No Death’s Hallows are Deaths alone and mortals shouldn’t be fooling with them,” Bathilda said with certainty.

It was good advice. Too late for them seeing as they had already met Death and gotten caught up in the whole sorry saga. But maybe they could bring it to an end. But then what she said hit Harry the Gaunts. Voldemort was a descendant of the Gaunts.

Was the whole prophecy thing tied up with the Hallows, they seemed to have one each and a third in play possibly with Dumbledore. But if Dumbledore had one, why hadn’t he beaten Voldemort, or did he not try.

“But nobody cares for history these days all caught up in the moment as if the past doesn’t shape us, educate us if we let it.” Bathilda trailed off morosely. “Thank you, for letting an old lady ramble and share your meal.”

“No, it was great, really lovely to hear stories of the past. In fact, maybe you should write it down in another book. Get all the facts before they’re lost and just because current administrations ignore their content doesn’t mean future ones will. But by then it could be too late, knowledge shouldn’t become forgotten,” Hermione encouraged.

“You’re a good girl, let me worry about the past and you let your young men court you,” Bathilda patted Hermione’s hand and gave her an encouraging smile. “It’s nice they took you somewhere quiet to chat, not like The Three Broomsticks where elbows and knees would be knocking you all over the place. Good choice my dears. But I have taken up enough of your time.” She gave them a smile and ambled off to the bar.

“Well then, that wasn’t what I expected,” Hermione said after they’d watched Bathilda settle down.

“Which bit, the part where she thinks we’re all together, the part where the headmaster was in on it all with Grindelwald. The part where he likely has a Hallow,” Malfoy looked deeply uncomfortable as he said this. “Or the part where Dumbledore may have killed his squib sister and didn’t seem to mind apart from the uncertainty of just who did it?”

“All of it,” Harry admitted.

“Well, I think we can chalk it up as a good information-gathering trip. But how do we verify? We can’t steal the headmaster’s wand, or do we take it anyway and offer it to Death on the chance that it is? It’s too risky.”

“I’m glad you’re so invested in it Granger; I mean it’s my life balancing on if it’s the wand or not. You’re being awfully quiet there Potter?”

“Tom Marvolo Riddle is the name of,” Harry glanced up at Malfoy. “You Know Who. Marvolo was his grandfather’s name, Marvolo Gaunt. Riddle for the muggle Father. But Dumbledore showed me a memory of Merope, his Mother, selling Slytherin’s Locket. There’s something there in my mind but I can’t sort it out,” Harry admitted.

“I can see what you’re getting at but not quite the final piece either. But this isn’t the place, we’ll discuss it later,” Hermione consoled.

“I agree, I’ve got to get going, meet in the room after dinner?” Malfoy asked but didn’t wait for the reply before he got up and walked off.

“I wonder what’s up with him? that’s the most shaken I’ve ever seen him,” Hermione said after they watched the door close behind Malfoy.

The pair of them picked through the rest of the food for a while but both their appetites were lessened by what they’d heard. They caught an early carriage back to the castle rather than linger and become a target of opportunistic Death Eaters.

The common room when they got back was abuzz with gossip apparently Ginny and Dean had broken up. The reason why varied but Harry heard more than one theory it was jealousy over his and Hermione’s relationship. A few braver members of the house asked them for details on their relationship and what Ginny thought of it but apart from a few glares, she’d done nothing that he knew of.

Chapter Five

They hadn’t seen Malfoy at dinner, but he also wasn’t in the room of requirements when they arrived, neither was Dobby. Hermione assured Winky that they’d keep watch while she took time to rest and eat.

“Do you think it’s odd that Ron hasn’t said anything?” Harry asked once Winky had popped away.

“Not really I mean with Viktor he didn’t have anything positive to say and honestly I think he was jealous that I had Viktor not him. Not that I think he was attracted to him more that Ron wanted the association with fame. This time he has Lavender.”

“He wanted to break up a few weeks ago though,” Harry pointed out.

“He wanted to break up because relationships take work and he’s, let’s be honest, lazy intellectually and emotionally if he doesn’t think it will benefit him. You and I have done the heavy lifting in the past soothing the hurt and forgiving him. And well Harry I think he used your emotional overspill to read the room and half-heartedly manipulate you. I mean he worked so hard, for him at least, to keep everybody away from you.”

“He was my first friend.”

“And he knew that. He also I think knew after last year that you were letting other people like Neville and Luna close. You pushed them away a bit this year to try and protect them and I think Ron took that as his out, he doesn’t want to be in a war and you, unfortunately, are pivotal in it. Ron can hide behind Molly’s skirts; you and I don’t have that kind of safe shelter.”

“Plus, Lavender gives him something new to focus on, I guess,” Harry sighed.

“Exactly. I mean it sounds harsh, but Ron hasn’t been there for the conflicts, getting knocked off the chess piece in first year he never got close to Quirrell and then the fallen masonry in the Chamber kept him from the basilisk and Horcrux. Next, a broken leg stopped him doing much in the shack and he was in the hospital wing for the rescues and I’ve got to admit I’m glad we never told him about that as I doubt, he’d keep quiet and it was highly illegal. Both Ron and I weren’t near the dragon and we were unconscious in the lake and again not in the maze or the graveyard fourth year. They were just exciting adventures with the Boy who lived like in those awful stories. I think that the reality of what’s going on hit him in the Ministry and he wants to do, like a great many of Wizarding Britain does and push it away, on to you. To let you sort it out.”

“Then he sweeps in as my best friend and reaps the benefit. Or is that me being cynical and bitchy?”

“More like observing known patterns from over the years. But I think we let him go, bringing him in would make working with Malfoy impossible and risk too much. Plus, Ginny is still after being the girlfriend of the boy who lived.”

“Jealous Granger?” They both spun around and spotted Malfoy leaning against the wardrobe. “Although I appreciated your concern over my survival.”

“No, I mean we’re not like that, and you dying would be an inconvenience,” she spluttered.

“Ginny and her brother can remain distant friends as far as I’m concerned,” Harry said. He didn’t want to alienate the Weasley family. He actually liked the older members and he was grateful for what they’d done even if he was now concerned with what they hadn’t done. “You want to tell us what you had running off earlier.”

“Right,” Draco walked forward and claimed what was fast becoming his chair. “So, Potter, you recall what I said about killing Dumbledore? Did you tell Granger?”

“No, he didn’t,” Hermione gave him an annoyed look. “But given what he was telling me it makes sense that detail got missed. He did tell me that you’d been given a task to complete though.”

“Well just before I got back to school, I was given the task of killing Dumbledore. Along with the task of getting the Death Eaters into the school. I made an attempt or two, the necklace and the mead. Unfortunately, people got in the way and they got hurt.”

“Did you mean to hurt them?” Hermione asked her face blank in a way that told Harry she was withholding judgment.

“Merlin no. I even picked methods that would be painless. I don’t want to kill. Believe me on that but I really don’t want to make them suffer, I’ll leave that to my relatives. But it’s not as easy as you think, especially as I can’t get near the man. But I had to be seen as trying or else who knows what would happen and who would die.”

“You think Riddle would do something drastic?” Harry guessed.

“You’ve met him too, he’s a dramatic bastard. I could imagine him attacking Hogsmeade and taking a third-year hostage to draw out Dumbles. Anyway, I got a sternly written letter from my Father after the Bell incident. Apparently, the Dark Wanker was annoyed, he didn’t want me to curse or poison Dumbledore but to take him out in person in a duel or at least stab him in the back with an actual knife in hand.”

“Coming from a man who uses minions that says a lot,” Hermione muttered.

“I mean I figured it was to set me up to fail and punish my family for Father getting caught but after everything, I think it’s to do with the Hallows. He wanted me to bring Dumbledore’s wand as a trophy of his success.”

“He wants the elder wand,” Harry said. It made sense Voldemort seemed to be partly shaped by Dumbledore so them having the same obsessions wasn’t a surprise. Unfortunately, yes but what could they do. “But from what I read the previous owner needs to be defeated or dead. Dead being better as the wand has only one master.”

“Yeah, Dumbledore took it from Grindelwald, but he still lives or at least he did. I don’t know if that’s changed yet. The order came after Voldemort went away for a week in August. He said he was going to Europe and I doubt it was on holiday.”

“He went after Grindelwald’s notes,” Harry guessed.

“Either that Potter, or the man himself although I doubt, he was cooperative, Dark Lords don’t take perceived competition well. Either way, Riddle now wants the Deathly Hallows which makes sense if he wants to conquer Death what better way than being master. An unbeatable wand I imagine sounds great.”

“Fuck, so no matter what Dumbledore is drawing Voldy to the school,” Harry swore. It was a catch Dumbledore kept Tom away even as he drew him close.

“Yeah but if I took him out the wand would be mine and I doubt he’d risk a split loyalty from the wand. So, I wouldn’t have lived to make my majority, even if I had succeeded,” Malfoy swallowed looking queasy. “I guess I wasn’t so great at hiding my dislike as I first thought.”

“Does anybody else know what’s going on?” Hermione asked. “Do we have to factor other players into us getting the Hallows? I mean we have less than a week and nothing major is going on at the moment, but I don’t want the chance to slip us by and I certainly don’t want anybody getting hold of the wand. Even If things go wrong with the deal, we have to get rid of it later. That Hallow should not be left in play.”

“Oh, I agree and I’m strangely happy that my life’s going to be traded against the death stick that would have cost me my life, there’s a nice poetry there. But in answer, I know that Snape, my Mother and Dumbledore know about my tasks.”

“How much? What about Crabbe and Goyle?” Harry asked. Snape was likely the biggest problem.

“Crabbe and Goyle know nothing, they still think I’m working on the cabinet and that’s all they’ll know. They’re on watch for me out there so always make sure I leave first to draw them away. Snape knows as my mum made him swear an unbreakable vow to help me kill Dumbles.”

“So, he’s dead either way,” Hermione muttered. “And he knows about the vow, probably about your attempts as I guess Snape was involved so he let Katie get hurt.”

“Yeah, Snape knew so I imagine he did too. But unless Snape dies Dumbledore will be killed and I can’t see Snape knowing about the wand because he wouldn’t risk painting a target on himself like that, survival is all that motivates him. Plus, Dumbles isn’t known for sharing information and Hallows is need to know as far as I’m concerned.”

“But we can see Dumbledore setting Snape up, especially if he thinks it’s for the greater good,” Harry agreed. “But I doubt he’s expecting the wand to be stolen let alone so soon.”

“The only question is how do we get the wand from him?” He likely has it in an Auror grade holster and enough security that we couldn’t just pick it up,” Hermione pointed out as she settled into the chair to write up notes.

“We can’t take it before Thursday evening,” Harry pointed out. “If we do, there’s no way that Dumbles won’t turn over the castle stone by stone to find it. Not when he knows it’s a Deathly Hallow and unbeatable.”

“So, we have to make a plan for Thursday night, five days, that’s doable.” Hermione pointed out. “We know the wand has loyalty, but it changes to who won it? So, what we need to do is make sure that it can’t get back to the one who it currently perceives as the master. Which I’m sure it will try like how Harry got his cloak back; I doubt Dumbledore parted from it as willingly as seems to want you to believe.”

“We need to look up wand law, I mean we know it’s not a regular wand but if my memory serves there are a few books on wands and their quirks, I’m supposed you don’t know more Potter. My Father said your wand had an unusual reaction when it came in contact with Riddles, part of why Ollivander was snatched and is currently living in our basement,” Malfoy said, the last part looking slightly guilty.

“But at least he’s living because he’s useful and it does further the whole elder wand thing seeing as we currently have brother wands. Our wands have the same core, a feather from Fawkes. Ollivander said the wand chooses the wizard. Is it possible that we can convince the Elder wand to come with us?”

“If you’re wearing the cloak, possibly if you bring another Hallow into play it may be happier to change allegiances without a violent defeat. They do want to be together from what Death said,” Draco said speculatively looking at the pile of books on wands.

“So, we need to define what, within wand law, constitutes a defeat,” Hermione said writing notes as she went. “Harry has the best chance of taking it I think as a Peverell descendent as long as he has the cloak that’s two things tying the wand to him.”

“So, we’ve got a time and likely a place as we’re all in agreement that his quarters are the best bet?”

“He’s not a dinner reliably enough for us to try and get it then. Wand holsters are charmed against pickpocketing when being worn so you’d have to hit him with Expelliarmus or something similar and that’s hardly what you’d call subtle or having any chance of success.” Malfoy agreed with him.

“So, do you know the layout of his quarters?” Hermione asked but she didn’t look very hopeful.

“Nope, just his office. I doubt the password that gets me in there will get me much further plus he always seems to know when somebody is coming up the stairs.”

“What about the phoenix? Will it help?” Malfoy asked, looking frustrated. Harry got it they were so close but not quite close enough and Malfoys life was on the line.

“Fawkes? Maybe, he cried for me and saved me from the basilisk. I also have his feather in my wand. But he’s still with the headmasters and after all, we know about what the man’s done it suggests Fawkes is either trapped or a really bad judge of character.”

“Or he’s the headmaster’s Phoenix and inherited the position, rather than owned outright. Dumbledore’s been in power since the 1940s more or less hasn’t he. So, how many people can recall Dippet let alone if he had a phoenix? Or if previous headmasters had them?” Hermione shook her head. “That’s not currently the point, sorry.”

“More selective education and propaganda you reckon. I could see that,” Malfoy agreed. “Still they’re meant to be relatively smart but maybe not smart enough to understand the complexity of the Death stick.”

“What about one of the elves? I know they can hold them as we saw Winky do so at the Quidditch world cup,” Hermione suggested.

“That’s harder to say. Technically giving them a wand is borderline illegal; they’re prohibited to carry a wand like most other magical races. So, asking them to take one may put undue stress on your bonds especially as they’re so new. I wouldn’t risk it. Winky didn’t take it from Potter, Crouch did from what I’ve heard, and then gave it to her to stay hidden and she didn’t move so carrying it vs holding it on orders. The nuance is murky, but the wand is why she was given clothes; it made her look like she was breaking the bonds and Crouch had little control over a feral elf.”

“It’s not worth risking them and the bonds. Plus, I don’t want to put them in a difficult position where they stress their morals for me,” Harry agreed.

“Which leaves us with the problem of how do you steal the wand from a Wizard who likely spent most of the last fifty years anticipating such a theft?” Draco asked.

“I mean he might not be. He could be thinking he’s the one who’s finally mastered it after all he’s carried it for nearly half a century. He’s certainly arrogant enough to believe he’s that powerful,” Harry pointed out.

“Possibly,” Draco sounded doubtful. “But I think we should see if we can get it from him when he’s not wearing it, less risk to us if we nearly get caught.”

“But when does a wizard put down their wand?” Hermione asked before wrinkling her nose.

Harry couldn’t help it; he started to laugh, setting off Draco and then Hermione.

“I didn’t think that sentence through,” She managed to say through giggles. “Stop laughing you two. It’s not even that funny,” she gasped.

Eventually, they managed to get control of themselves and stop laughing. Hermione was right it hadn’t been that funny, but they had apparently needed a break from the tension and planning. Before they could start again Winky returned to let them know it was half an hour to curfew. They asked her to see if there were any books on wand law in the room while she kept watch, which she was happy enough to do.

They bid Malfoy good night and made their way back to the common room, as they came down the stairs Harry realised, he was holding Hermione’s hand. He couldn’t remember when he took it, but it was comfortable. He decided not to say anything, even though he reminded himself that it didn’t mean anything, it was just pretend.

The common room was busy enough that they decided not to linger and instead head to bed, it had been an exhausting day. Harry kissed Hermione’s cheek as they parted, reminding himself once again it was pretend and headed up.

Rather than go straight to bed Harry ended up in a discussion with Dean and Seamus about the Quidditch league standings. Harry was surprised at how distracted he’d been recently that he’d missed so much. But he was also pleased that Dean wasn’t holding a grudge after the rumours about Ginny and her reasons for breaking up. If anything, Dean looked happier than he had for a while.

***

As much as Harry enjoyed his Sunday morning lay in, he had to get up, he had quidditch practice. He was captain, he had to turn up, they only had one game left but with Katie still not back he needed to get the team playing well and after the Dean, Ginny drama it may not work. Ugh, Oliver had been right dating a teammate never went well.

Harry was right to be worried; Ginny was refusing to pass to Dean and kept flying close to Harry as if she was the seeker as well. He was honestly tempted to swap out their positions just so he didn’t have to put up with her attempts at flirting.

“What was that?” Harry demanded as they walked back to the castle. At first, he’d considered calling her out in the locker room but after she wandered past three times in an increasingly shorter towel Harry had enough and told her he’d meet her out front.

“What do you mean Harry,” She smiled innocently at him. Merlin she was going to make him spell it out wasn’t she, how did she think this was charming, not annoying. He sighed and looked at her again. It was then he realised just how young she was.

She was young for her age, sheltered by her parents and brothers, both of life and presumably of consequences. Raised with only Luna as a friend from what he could remember and told stories of the boy who lived. She was a naïve fan of a fantasy character, with no idea of what it was like for him despite being in the best place to learn the truth. She hadn’t wanted Harry; she wanted to live her girlhood fantasy.

The silence stretched between them, she wasn’t going to own up; rather she was trying to cosy up to him, putting his bag between him as a clear dismissal of her attempts to take his arm, he turned to her. “I mean not passing to Dean and hanging off my tail the whole practice.”

“I just wanted to fly with you, I mean Dean broke up with me, I don’t want to play nice with him when he’s so horrid,” She pouted. Merlin, she was actually trying to pout and play the victim.

As if she didn’t routinely Bat Bogey her brothers into compliance. As if she hadn’t gone with him to the Ministry to fight Death Eaters. No, she was acting like a soppier version of Cho, Harry realised. She was trying to be what he’d been last publicly attracted to, not realising it was an infatuation brought about by guilt over Cedric.

“Yes, exactly that. I mean come on Ginny we’re trying to win the cup not get dates or whatever. Pull yourself together and put the game first or you’re off the team,” Harry said in his best Oliver impression. He ignored her shocked look and hurried up to the castle.

If only the Quidditch cup was all he had to worry about, but it wasn’t, and she wasn’t what or who he needed. Rather than dwell on Ginny, Harry rushed to drop off his bag and make it back before breakfast was all gone. He needed more than toast with the day he had planned. Malfoy and Hermione were already in the Room of Requirement going through the books on wand law, or at least he hoped they were.

However, as he sat down an owl perched in the rafters flew down and dropped a note on his lap. The note was in Dumbledore’s hand. I feel like having gummy bears this evening at seven, hopefully, they will bring back good memories.

Cryptic fucker, Harry thought. How was he supposed to keep his composure long enough not to give things away? But maybe he could use the opportunity to see what information he could get. He’d have to act clueless and steer clear of hot topics like the Hallows or Grindelwald.

But maybe he could get more on the prophecy or the Horcruxes. Watch what Dumbledore did with his wand. He’d ask Malfoy and Hermione when he got up there if they had any ideas on what to do.

***

They hadn’t made much progress on their plan to steal the wand. Instead, they had worked on reinforcing Harry’s basic occlumency shields. From what they could tell Snape through sheer brutality had trained Harry to be able to detect an attempt to probe his thoughts.

The settling of his magic also seemed to be helping, with his magic within him it was able to create a shield, he wasn’t a master, but he wouldn’t give them away either. It was also believably natural, a reaction to his magic maturing and him being settled.

As Harry got closer to the office, he drew his magic close as they had been practising all day to see if he could detect any wards. Knowing the security of the place would help significantly with their planning.

Harry felt the edge of the ward as he reached the gargoyle, it was subtle, a bit like the feeling he’d had when he’d entered Ollivander’s all those years ago. It was assessing, judging, probably an intent ward from what Harry had learnt about in the very intense crash course he’d just been given. There had been many times Harry regretted his choice of electives; this was just another.

“Gummy bears.” The ward flared ever so slightly and then faded as the statue moved, not wanting to linger suspiciously Harry stepped onto the stairs. He kept checking carefully but he couldn’t sense anything else by the time he reached the door. Taking a deep breath and trying to be as gullible as possible he walked in.

“Ah, Harry my boy, I do believe you were successful in achieving our little mission. Dear Horace, hasn’t been able to look me in the eye all weekend,” Dumbledore beamed at him in exaggerated pride over his desk.

Harry forced a smile. How dare he imply they were in it together when Harry was going to be the one to take the fall if he’d gone about it wrong.

“Ah, Hagrid was very happy if a bit poorer in Fire Whiskey the next morning. It’s amazing what a bit of luck can achieve,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled at him. “But my dear boy I hope I need not remind you that relationships formed under the auspicious of potions never are true and thus do not last.” The twinkle in his eyes dimmed and Harry frowned. What was Dumbledore getting at?

“Err, yes sir.” Harry didn’t have to fake the confusion in his reply.

“Not to say those relationships that are formed in the frantic days of our youth last any better,” the sparkle in his eye was still absent. “Take poor Miss Weasley and Mr Thomas, I do hope it doesn’t affect your chances for the cup, something’s sadly do boil down to luck but not everything.”

Harry blinked, was the headmaster implying that he was using the Felix Felicis to seduce Hermione? It sounded like it. The potion may have led to them talking but they may have done so anyway that night. And was he implying relationships don’t last?

Was he trying to make Harry doubt the relationship when he’d shown no signs of guilt over potion use? It seemed that way, was it because he wanted Harry single and more likely to die or concerned a relationship would distract Harry from his task like Ginny had been over Dean?

“Did you ever have a relationship?” Harry blurted out before wincing. Grindelwald had been on the no go conversation list.

“Alas not, but that is not to say the future for you is so bleak,” he smiled at Harry as if he wasn’t planning Harry’s death. Harry ducked his head as if bashful as he struggled not to show his anger. “But let us focus instead on another young man, the memory if you will.”

Again, with the comparison between him and Voldemort. Now he knew to look for it Dumbledore was hardly being subtle. But then Harry had been rather dense up to this point, blinded by grief, rage and duty.

Harry reached into his pocket and drew out the potion. He was tempted to pretend that he’d forgotten it in his dorm just so he could go through the wards again but decided not to risk it. “Here,” Harry handed the potion over, watching carefully to see what Dumbledore did with his wand.

However, Dumbledore took the potion with his good hand as he got up wand not in sight. And moved over to the pensive gesturing for Harry to follow. He did eagerly.

“Now let me see,” Dumbledore put down the vial and flicked his sleeve, the wand appearing in his hand.

It was a long wand, it looked like it could have been from a branch but then so did a great many of the wands including Harry’s own. None of the stories described it in any detail nor did the wand give off an aura but neither did his cloak.

Dumbledore used his wand to release the cork from the vial before it disappeared back into his sleeve. He then carefully tipped the vial letting the memory fall into the pensive. “After you.”

Harry leant into the pensive and let the memory play out before him. The start was the same but where before Slughorn had decried Horcruxes this time he explained, he did more than explain he confirmed.

They were right there were seven Horcrux, two they knew for sure and one accidental one, himself. But this meant there were others they had to find before they could get around to killing him off for good. Harry surged out of the memory, his fury and frustration played on his face.

“This was worse than I thought,” Dumbledore whispered, staggering back dramatically and sitting on the stairs looking forlorn.

“Sir?”

“You have questions, no doubt. But my boy I beg you for a moment. Please, you have done a great thing getting the memory, but it is worse than I feared. No wonder Horace put such effort into denying the memory.”

“To do with the Horcruxes, what are they?” Harry asked, playing his role.

“They are, as Horace said, soul vessels made from splitting the soul. To make one is to cleave the soul in half but to do so three times let alone seven… As to what they are? They are anything often protected by their simplicity, they could be anything.”

Dumbledore sprung up with more vigour than his earlier staggering suggested. “A book,” He produced the diary from Harry’s second year. “A ring.” He produced the same one he had been wearing in the summer.

“Sir. That’s…” Harry said, staring at the table in horror.

“Yes, my boy. The diary you gave me in your second year. I knew it held great evil but not what, I have been searching for answers and now I believe we have them. Horcruxes.”

Harry stared at the table. There was no way Dumbledore didn’t already know. By his admission, he’d had those memories for years in some cases, probably including the fake one mentioning Horcruxes. That alone would have been enough. Only a fool would think Riddle would give up especially after a reaction like the fake memory suggested.

He’d had the diary long enough to confirm that there was a Horcrux. Riddle’s resurrection would have meant another existed from what little Harry had learnt over the past few days. Dumbledore must have felt the same as he’d managed to find another, a ring.

Maybe the confirmation that they were after seven shocked him or more likely he was playing Harry. Making him a pawn. Harry decided to play along for a while longer.

“That’s where you’ve been going to find out more about them?”

“Yes, there is a lead I have but I’m afraid that it’s too soon to confirm, we mustn’t play our hand too soon. But I fear when it’s time I shall need your help Harry, though I have already asked too much of you,” Dumbledore looked forlorn as he said this, and Harry fought the urge to applaud such a performance.

Harry nodded and moved closer to the desk. He picked up the ring and promptly dropped it going pale. Shit, he hadn’t meant to do that, but his shock was too much. He glanced up and saw Dumbledore giving him a considering look.

“The ring?”

“I destroyed it, but the darkness lingers, a terrible curse was placed upon it. You recognise it, the Gaunt ring I believe Tom is using items that have significance to him. I hope he also left them in places with similar importance.”

Harry nodded, not paying attention. The ring was a Hallow. It was marked with the symbol and looked like any other river stone for all that it was encased in gold. A darker line almost like a crack ran down it, but it wasn’t the stone was intact.

Dumbledore had two Hallows and Harry had the third all within one building. His hands were shaking so he shoved them into his pocket. “How do you destroy them?” Harry asked when he realised that Dumbledore was expecting some kind of reply.

“You must destroy the vessel; I fear before the end of this war many items of great value shall be lost because of the mad greed that consumed Tom,” Dumbledore gave him a sorrowful look as if the loss of such items was what pained him. Maybe it did, it was people that seem disposable to Dumbledore.

“Where do you keep them? Are they safe? does Riddle know that we’re hunting them?”

“Fear not, they’re safe in my desk, Professor Snape reports that Tom gave no indication that the ring has been taken from him. We have time my boy to get this right, focus for now on your lessons and don’t let even the sweet temptation of romance distract you.”

Harry huffed out a shaky laugh and bid Dumbledore a good night. He went straight back to the common room, the portraits watched him go. He slipped up to his room and grabbed the cloak before slipping back out after a group of second years.

Keeping an eye out for Crabbe or Goyle, even Polyjuiced as they were, Harry made it back into the Rom of Requirements and pulled off his cloak before he reached the other two.

“Harry!” Hermione cried out when she saw him rushing towards them. Malfoy stood up looking alarmed but stayed by his seat “What happened?”

“He has two Hallows,” Harry gasped out. “He has the bloody ring in his desk. Riddle the fucking fool turned it into a Horcrux.”

“Fuck,” Malfoy whispered looking as horrified as Harry felt. “Well fuck.”

“Right I know. It’s destroyed, not the stone; it looks like it was damaged but has healed itself. I mean I don’t know, it’s a stone touched by Death that can bring back the dead, who knows what it can do.”

“It suggests a sentience doesn’t it like we theorised with the wand,” Hermione said, grabbing his hand and pulling him over to the chairs. “Hopefully we get them both and can give them to Death.”

“Yeah about that, Potter can’t grab them or else he’ll unite the Hallows and piss of Death.” Malfoy pointed out, he was sitting down, the book he was reading abandoned as he ran his hands through his hair.

“Oh, Merlin I didn’t even think of that,” Harry whispered.

“We take one each then,” Hermione declared. “So, if somebody needs to hand one off for whatever reason they don’t all end up with one person.”

“But how do we take them in the first place?” I know the password for this week and there was only a minor intent ward. I could probably get the stone by Thursday and then we have two.”

“But leave the most dangerous in play. No, Harry, the wand needs to go. Plus, the loss of the stone will make Dumbledore suspicious.” Harry nodded Hermione was right they just had to make sure they did it carefully.

“I think we may be sort of in luck,” Malfoy said. From what we can tell there is a minor sentience in the wand, and it can, to a certain degree, pick its master. Well from what Snape’s been saying about Dumbledore’s days being numbered and the different potions I have seen him brewing I think Dumbledore’s dying. The curse in his arm is likely contained but not gone.”

“The withered arm, he was wearing the bloody Hallow on that arm and said that it had been cursed. You think he put the ring on and fell afoul of Tom’s trap?” Harry speculated. It made sense. “He wouldn’t be able to resist a Hallow would he.”

“Exactly. But think about how we know he’s dying so that’s why he doesn’t care about my orders or Snape’s help. He wants to be a martyr. Snape’s been gloating about how good his potion brewing has been, how effective, but if he has two Hallows that’s got to be influencing him, keeping him alive maybe.”

“Two-thirds of the master of Death,” Hermione whispered. “Yes, I can see that. But that means he plans to die and let the Death Eaters into the school, sacrificing himself and securing his legacy as the only one Riddle feared. The utter monster.”

“I think he miscalculated though, I think he thought there were three Horcruxes, the ring, the diary and something else that he’s still searching for and accidentally me. He said Riddle used significant things to his family and past, but the diadem isn’t. So, the fact that memory Riddle confirmed there were seven left him scrambling. He looked sickened for a moment before he regained composure,” Harry explained.

“He’s realised he has to do more work when he was busy setting up his immortal legacy. Well what a shame for him,” Hermione hissed.

“Right, but the Horcruxes can wait, the point I was trying to make before we got distracted by our headmaster’s megalomania is the wand is sentient, and it knows its master is dying and from what we can tell it’s never in somebody’s possession when they die,” Draco said.

“So, it will be looking for a new master,” Harry said, getting what Malfoy was saying. “We just need to set it up so that it’s one of us.”

“That’s the hard part, honestly, I’m tempted to say take a small dose of Felix Felicis it’s helped us so far, but let’s hold off for a bit, we have a few days yet to plan,” Hermione said.

“Could we ask the elves to stalk him, figure out his patterns and what he does?” Harry asked. “I mean he keeps his wand up his sleeve but otherwise I can’t think of much, I got a bit distracted.”

“Understandable Potter, I’d have struggled not to panic after finding a Horcrux Hallow,” Draco admitted.

“Should we ask Winky or Dobby to be our spy or get them to take shifts?” Hermione asked.

“Maybe ask Dobby,” Harry suggested. “Winky seems to be doing well guarding here and Dobby’s had more time in the school. He might be less obtrusive unless he gets creative.”

“Summon him back then, I think the Black library can wait for a few days. The longer he has to watch the more likely it is we’ll get something we can work with by Thursday. “Malfoy said.

After calling for Dobby a few times the elf popped into the room with a small box in his hands and a few bleeding cuts on his arms and face.

“Dobby what happened? What do you need”? How can we help?” Harry shouted rushing towards the elf.

“Master Harry Potter sir should not be bothering himself. Dobby will be better soon, just bumps and scrapes. Kreature no match for Dobby.”

“You fought Kreature?” Harry asked, shocked. Did the other elf really object that much to them taking books out of the property?

“He be not wanting me to have this, but Dobby not be taking no for an answer. They may have been biting but Dobby has it now.” He held up the little box triumphantly.

“Err that’s great Dobby but what is it?” Harry asked looking at the box, it was small, wooden and had ornately decorated hinges but otherwise didn’t seem worthy of getting into a fight over.

“It be Salazar Slytherin’s locket,” Dobby smiled proudly. Harry’s heart sunk it was one of the objects that Dumbledore had shown him memories of. So, far, all the others had been Horcruxes.

“Dobby!” Harry gasped out.

“It be another of Dark Twit’s Horcrux.”


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Izzy Hound

In an attempt to escape from my academic writing I took up a hobby ... writing. Like all crafters, no matter the medium, I soon found myself getting buried under the products of my creativity. So in the time honoured practice of all crafters, I started sharing my work. Whether you want it or not, you're getting it and just be thankful you don't know me in person or else you'd be getting another handmade scarf for Christmas.

5 Comments:

  1. You make a story that we’ve read a hundred times in various incarnations seem totally organic. Nothing seemed forced to me, just a good amount of serendipity, intelligence and opportunity. I’m really enjoying it so far and I’m excited to read the next chapter.

  2. This is just grand! I love the cryptic comments from Bathilda! 8 love the burgeoning relationships between these three. I love it all!

  3. Dobby is the best! Dumbles is the very worst.
    This is lots of fun. Thank you

  4. This is such a ride! I’m enjoying the teamwork happening and how all their brains are engaged.

    Go, Dobby!! Dashing off to Part Deux!

  5. Gripping story. It was fascinating to see difference it makes having Malfoy’s knowledge and help.

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