The Power of One Word – 1/3 – Meyari McFarland

Title: The Power of One Word
Author: Meyari McFarland
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Dystopian, Family, Fantasy, Hurt/Comfort, Kid!fic, Mystery
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: PG
Warnings: Major Character Death, Slavery, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Past abuse, current physical and emotional abuse, extensive mind control, magic as religion, minor character death, major character death (off-screen), ritual magic, Dumbledore Bashing, Dursley Bashing, original characters, soul bonds
Beta: batspit
Word Count: 87,200
Summary: The day of Harry’s twelfth birthday had set all-new scores for worst ever. Between Aunt Petunia’s abuse, aching hunger and his horrible family deciding to have a dinner party that he most emphatically was not allowed to interrupt, he didn’t think it could get worse. Until it did. Discovering that his friends actually did care, that their letters had been stolen pushed Harry to the very edge of disaster. He needed those letters, no matter what Dobby said or did. But… …It was a trap. Saying “no” to that trap has a power beyond anything Harry has ever known. There’s a greater freedom in “no” than in anything Harry has ever learned. For Draco Malfoy, though, saying “yes”? Changes everything.
Artist: Daze Ventura



1. The Worst Birthday

July 31, 1992: 7:27 pm

Harry’s heart pounded as he stared at Dobby. The little creature stared right back, a mixture of sly determination and fear twisting his ugly face into a mask. It was the trembling ears that gave away the fear. Not the smirk or the narrowed eyes or even the way that Dobby held himself as if ready to leap away with the letters he’d stolen from Harry all summer long.

His letters. Proof that he wasn’t crazy. That he did have friends.

Downstairs, Uncle Vernon finished his joke and the house rang with the laughter of his Very Important Clients. If Dobby did anything, anything at all, Harry was doomed.

For one crystalline moment, Harry could see it play out. Harry grabbing for Dobby, Dobby dodging and then causing trouble downstairs. Spilling the wine or toppling the dessert or something. They wouldn’t see Dobby. It would all come back on Harry and the next four weeks would be even worse than the last had been.

“No.”

Harry sat on the floor in the middle of Dudley’s second bedroom, because it always had been and always would be Dudley’s bedroom as far as everyone else was concerned. He crossed his arms over his chest.

“Master Harry Potter does not want his letters?” Dobby asked.

He took a hesitant step closer to Harry, holding the letters out, and then skittered away again as if expecting a lunge. It was logical to try and grab them. To go for a wand, which Harry didn’t have, to get them back.

It wouldn’t work. Harry already knew that. Dobby was too fast, and he had magic, which Harry couldn’t even touch this summer. Not to mention how exhausted he was after working like a slave all day.

“Of course I want them,” Harry said, pitching his voice low so that Uncle Vernon wouldn’t hear him and letting it come out as hurt as he felt. “They’re everything. It’s my birthday, Dobby. All I’ve gotten all day is abuse and scorn. To get to hold even one of those would be… It would be such a gift. But I don’t get that, do I? I guess that’s to be expected. I mean, you’re just one more person to hurt me in a long line of horrible, abusive people. Another terrible thing happening on another horrible birthday.”

Tears welled up in Dobby’s eyes. He plopped down on the bare wood floors, too, clutching Harry’s mail to his chest. In her cage, Hedwig chirruped as she tilted her head to the side until it was nearly upside down.

“Dobby does not want to hurt the Great Harry Potter,” Dobby whispered as the tears flowed down his cheeks. “He does not. He wants to save the Great Harry Potter.”

Harry sighed. “You can’t. No one can. Look around. This is all I’ll ever have. I can’t escape. You saw me today. You’ve seen it for a while now, I guess. I’m a slave and that’s all I’ll ever be.”

“No!” Dobby hissed. He scooted forward on his knees, letters held tight to his chest.

“Yes,” Harry said and then laughed breathlessly. “Wow, it feels kind of good to actually say it. I mean, I couldn’t say it to Ron or Hermione. They don’t understand. Dumbledore sent me back here. I asked, I really did, whether I could go anywhere else. And he sent me back here. I guess he doesn’t know.”

“No, Dumbles knows,” Dobby said, glaring at the floor. “He knows. Is on purpose.”

If a glare could scorch wood, Dobby’s glare would have set the floor on fire despite his tears. Harry frowned and then sighed, letting his arms flop down so that his wrists rested on his knees.

So.

That was that.

Dumbledore had him here deliberately. He’d set Harry up to be abused his entire life on purpose. Did it really matter why? Whatever his reasoning was, he’d condemned Harry when he was a toddler. Harry couldn’t imagine Dumbledore changing his mind after this long, if ever.

It also meant that Professor McGonagall and the other teachers had to have some idea, too. Professor McGonagall sure hadn’t been kind at all when Harry went to her for help. She’d pretty much ignored everything Harry, Hermione and Ron had to say. Snape? He loathed Harry so he was probably delighted that Harry was abused. None of the other professors or prefects or students had cared at all about Harry’s horrible hand-me-down clothes or how skinny he was or anything at all.

“Oh.” Harry sighed and reached out to pat Dobby’s bowed head. “Right. Well, one way or the other, it doesn’t matter. Do whatever you’re going to do, Dobby. I can’t leave without Dumbledore’s approval and Uncle Vernon can’t keep me here indefinitely. When Dumbledore wants me back, he’ll come get me even if Uncle Vernon locks me in the cupboard and throws away the key.”

Dobby raised his head to stare into Harry’s eyes. His tears slowed, stopped. After a good minute of silence, other than Uncle Vernon telling jokes and Aunt Petunia laughing in that horrible high-pitched falsetto of hers, Dobby sniffed and set the letters to the side.

In reach if Harry tried for it. If he was fast.

Harry didn’t try for it.

Harry watched Dobby’s eyes as they searched Harry’s face. The irises of Dobby’s eyes were such a weird color. Set of colors. Dark green around the rims, pale celadon green like Aunt Petunia’s very best teacups, with flecks of lemon yellow near the pupil. As Dobby stared, the yellow and celadon and forest green shifted and moved.

“Dobby was told,” Dobby whispered. He bit his lip. “He was told to keep the Great Harry Potter safe. Master laughed when he ordered Dobby, laughed and laughed, but still. Dobby was told to keep the Great Harry Potter safe.”

“Told.” Harry blinked and then shook his head. “They sent you on an impossible mission, then. I’m sorry. You can’t keep me safe. This is my life. I suffer here. Dumbledore jerks me out of this place and plunks me down in Hogwarts where everyone stares, and no one actually tries to get to know me. And, you know, dangerous stuff happens. Or happened. This year might be better.”

“No, sir,” Dobby said so sadly as he shook his head and his ears drooped even further. “Will be worse. Much worse. The Master said so. The Mistress tried to stop him, but she could not. Master hurt her until she gave up. And the little Master…”

Dobby sighed and curled around his belly like he was starving. Or maybe like he felt sick to his stomach. Harry patted Dobby’s shoulder again, giving him a little squeeze.

“You tried,” Harry said. “It’s not your fault you’re up against people stronger than you. So am I. I mean, I can’t fight Uncle Vernon. He locked my wand in the cupboard with all my books and my trunk and broom and everything, so I’m helpless. We’re just stuck in the middle. It’s okay, Dobby. At least I know I’ll have to face something dangerous again. It’s the best you can do.”

When Dobby lifted his head, his eyes were nearly all dark green with only lightning bolts of yellow and celadon shot through them like lightning bolts cutting across the sky at night.

“Dobby wants to help the Great Harry Potter,” Dobby said. “But Dobby must serve. He must. To not serve is Bad. To go crazy and die. Dobby does not want to be Bad.”

“Can you… choose… who to serve?” Harry asked as his stomach clenched in knots around the horrible cheese sandwich dinner he’d been given. Or was that nerves?

“No,” Dobby said as he wrapped both of his hands around Harry’s wrist. He moved Harry’s hand so that it rested against the dirty pillowcase Dobby wore. “But a great wizard can steal Dobby. If Dobby helps, if the great wizard tries with his whole heart, if Dobby and the Great Harry Potter wish with all their hearts, the bond can… move.”

“Wish…” Harry whispered. “Wish magic? Like accidental magic?”

He scooted a little closer to Dobby, staring into those lightning bolt-struck eyes.

“The Ministry will know if I do magic,” Harry whispered even more quietly.

“No,” Dobby said. “Is the wand. All young wizard and witch wands have the Trace. They is not able to check anything else. Would not know that magic happens here unless Dobby tells them with his magic that it happened. If is quiet wish, just us, just here, just this, is safe. Master does not know. His blind to all but his Bad Master. Mistress may feel if she is not potioned. Little Master will not know but may dream of it. Ministry cannot feel Master Harry Potter’s magic if no wand. They is able to tell Elf magic from wizard magic. Especially young wizard wish magic.”

His body shook under Harry’s hand. Something was building between them. Tight and hard and desperate, the magic between them crackled quietly. So very quietly. Harry’s panting and Dobby’s chattering teeth were louder.

It could…

Yes. It could! Harry huffed a silent laugh, grinning at Dobby.

He could feel the bond tying Dobby. It led away, out of the house, somewhere else. It was weak and frayed and patchy like that two-inch thick nylon tow-rope Uncle Vernon had won at a work picnic that Dudley had unraveled into an enormous pile of white frothy thread.

Dobby’s bond frayed away the same way under their combined magic.

The bond raveled under Harry’s hand, ghostly white strands flying away one by one. He could see them from the corners of his eyes. Harry focused on Dobby and started catching the strands that led back into Dobby’s core.

Dobby laughed, eyes wide and grin wider, as the white-gold of the fraying away bond thread shifted to red-gold then deep, rich red the color of fresh blood.

There was no snap.

No click.

No sense of something new falling into place like a puzzle piece finding its mate.

Instead Harry focused and Dobby laughed and the bond between them grew strand by strand. There was fear and pain and loss. Both of them felt it. Both of them had endured it.

Joy. Laughter. Power. Fierce determination.

“You want to be free so much,” Harry whispered or maybe that was Dobby. It was hard to tell with their magic mingling and surging between them.

“Master does, too,” Dobby agreed.

“Can we…?”

He turned and looked at Hedwig who was craning her neck and then scrunching back down, wings flapping as much as they could inside of her cage. Dobby nodded. One of his fingers glowed and the lock popped open.

“Oh!” Harry breathed as a brilliant smile bloomed on his face. And Dobby’s, too. “Hedwig!”

Hedwig flew down to land on Harry’s shoulder. She cooed and groomed his hair, loving on him as if she was as desperate for their time together as Harry had been.

“She is, Master,” Dobby whispered. “Hedwig is Master’s familiar. She has needed you.”

“I think I needed you, too, Dobby,” Harry said.

They all froze as people started moving around downstairs. Uncle Vernon started talking loudly about drills while Aunt Petunia chattered about her garden. As if she did any of the work to keep the garden up.

And Dudley came tromping up the stairs.

“He will not come in,” Dobby announced as Harry’s heart tried to leap straight up his throat.

Dobby’s fingers glowed. He waved at the door. Instead of flinging the door open to say something cruel about Harry’s birthday and the pure lack of anything good happening for him, Dudley stomped onwards to his room.

Harry blew out a breath and laughed shakily. “Thank you, Dobby.”

“Master does not have to thank Dobby,” Dobby said.

He stopped when Harry frowned at him. His wide eyes, dark irises shot through with lightning bolts of lemon and celadon, shimmered with magic. And then with tears that welled up as their bond shared what Harry meant before he said the words out loud.

“Yes, I do,” Harry said very seriously. “I don’t know how things were for you before. Maybe when you feel comfortable you can tell me. No rush. But. I’m so very thankful for you, Dobby. I have to say it. And do whatever I can to help you. I mean, um, a pillowcase? Really?”

“House elves is not allowed clothes, Master,” Dobby said, blushing as he smoothed on hand over his grubby pillowcase. “That is for Masters.”

“Then,” Harry said, biting his lip, “I want you to have clean pillowcases. Or a uniform or something. You know, like a servant. Maybe a uniform made from a pillowcase or tea towel or blanket? Can that work? With shoes? Because…”

Harry’s breath caught as the memories of being too little and Aunt Petunia refusing to give him shoes. His clothes had been as sloppy as Dobby’s grubby pillowcase. Cold. He’d always been so cold. His feet had been cold, and he couldn’t go anywhere outside without hurting his feet, and Aunt Petunia had hit him whenever he’d tried to ask for something warmer. Something better. Until Harry stopped asking and just suffered.

No. Not for Dobby. Not for either of them. Not anymore.

Dobby leaned his forehead against Harry’s chest. Both of them were breathing hard. Tears trembled in Harry’s eyes.

“Dobby sees, Master,” Dobby whispered. “Dobby understands. But if Dobby must have a good uniform, a warm uniform, then Master must have good clothes and good food. A safe place to live.”

“I don’t have any money, Dobby,” Harry said. He grimaced. “I mean, I have money. I don’t know how much, but I have money at the bank. I just can’t get at it. I don’t have my vault key.”

“Dobby knows,” Dobby said. “Dobby will make sure Master Harry has access to his money. And he will find a way to get Master Harry a safe home with people who take care of him.”

“Quietly,” Harry said, heart stopping with the fear of what Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall and all the others would say if they knew. “They’d send me back here if they could. It has to be done very carefully.”

Dobby nodded. His eyes were still dark, dark green with lemon and celadon lightning bolts through them. Odd that the colors were that instead of the red of the magic that bound them together. Harry reached out and touched Dobby’s chest. The bond throbbed between them, especially after Dobby put his hands over Harry’s.

“Dobby will be very careful,” Dobby promised. “First food for Master Harry. Then rest. In the morning, Dobby will have news.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, smiling at Dobby. “If you need me, let me know. I’ll… find a way to help somehow.”

Dobby’s grin was brilliant. Harry’s felt nearly as wide.

He wasn’t alone now. He had an ally. Better than an ally. He had Dobby on his side and that, hopefully, should make all the difference as the summer and the next year went on.

2. A Secret Plot

July 31, 1992: 7:59 pm

Draco strode up the long, dark hallway leading to the grand parlor where the biggest fireplace was; the only one linked to the Floo system in all of Malfoy Manor. Father had locked the floo powder away. Draco couldn’t escape through the floo, but it was better than anywhere else in the manor right now. At least here, Draco could imagine that he might be free someday.

Screams echoed around him. Mother’s screams had come first, high and piercing. Then her sobs. He’d abandoned the library at that point, all but running down the great staircase to escape the sound of her pain and sorrow.

Then father’s screams had started.

The animal sound of his agony was worse than even Mother’s cries of fear. There was nothing human in those bellows, no language in his babbling, his begging, his occasional wails as the Dark Lord tormented him.

Tortured them all.

Mother hadn’t managed to remove the Dark Mark. Again. If she’d succeeded, if Father was free, Mother wouldn’t have been tortured. And Father wouldn’t be tortured by the Dark Lord right this instant for daring to dream of a life free from that monstrosity’s control.

“He doesn’t want to be free,” Draco whispered as he shoved the grand parlor door open and then shut it quietly, carefully. He’d never said it out loud before.

He leaned his forehead against the blond wood door, shaking. Father served that monster willingly. He had always served willingly. Maybe if Father had truly wanted the Dark Mark removed, Mother would have succeeded.

But he didn’t and she hadn’t and they were all trapped.

The carvings dug into his flesh, sharp-edged and painful as he pressed. Draco nearly pulled his head back so that he could slam his forehead against the carved grape leaves and wands.

Nearly.

Father would hear.

Draco couldn’t harm himself. He wouldn’t. There was too much torture in this house for Draco to inflict it on himself, much as he wanted to sometimes to make the internal pain visible for once.

Mother’s plan had failed. Her very last idea, her only remaining chance to free them all, was done for.

Father was doomed.

“He doesn’t want to be free,” Draco whispered again as he turned and then went to curl up in a ball on the wing chair set before the blazing fire.

Who could he call? If he had floo powder, the floo would connect him to anyone in the Wizarding world. The Aurors? No, they’d let Father go when he should have been in prison since Draco was a baby. Professor Snape was no help. He was as much of a Death Eater as Father. Perhaps more so given that Professor Snape had taken the Mark willingly and Father, so he claimed, had not.

Headmaster Dumbledore had smiled benignly when Draco delicately questioned him before the end of term about sanctuary. Draco’s wrists and back and shoulders still ached from the beating Father had given him once he got home.

“You do not need sanctuary!” Father had bellowed as he beat Draco bloody, healing each stripe between blows so that Draco would hurt and scream and beg but never succumb to shock or unconsciousness. “You are my heir, and you will behave like it!”

No, Headmaster Dumbledore couldn’t care less whether Draco and his mother were tortured daily.

The other professors were equally blasé about abuse. Draco had cataloged all the students at Hogwarts who showed signs of abuse. It was over half the half-bloods and close to three quarters of the purebloods. The muggle-born, damn them for their luck, generally weren’t abused. Bullied? Oh, yes, certainly that. But not by their parents. Not by the people who should love and protect them.

Father’s screams died to gurgling groans that slowly faded away until Malfoy Manor was deathly silent. Draco rubbed his face. His eyes were dry. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried. After everything that had happened, especially since the end of term when the Dark Lord’s spirit returned to torture Father and Mother, Draco didn’t have any tears left.

He did have plans.

“Dobby.”

Draco uncurled, feet going back to the polished marble floor when Dobby didn’t appear before him instantly. Seconds ticked by with only the sound of the fire crackling away in the fireplace. Draco’s heart began to beat wildly.

“Dobby?” Draco called just a little louder with a bit more intent.

Still nothing.

“Ivy.” Draco held his breath and then blew it out a moment later when Ivy, his personal elf, appeared in front of him.

She twisted her hands in the pale green pillowcase-dress he’d given her when she was assigned to him last year. Her ears were shaking. So were her knobby knees under the hem of her dress. When Draco waved her closer, right up to his knees, Ivy hesitated but she approached.

“Dobby didn’t answer,” Draco whispered.

“No, Master Draco,” Ivy agreed. Her eyes were huge as she stared at him, huge and pale watery blue instead of the electric blue they would be if Father weren’t so weak.

“Nod for yes,” Draco whispered. Her hands clenched in her dress at the same time Draco’s clenched on his knees. “Dobby will never answer me or Father again.”

Ivy nodded. Not a hesitant nod, not a doing what you ordered me to do nod. It was a firm, certain, absolute sort of nod as tears welled up in her eyes. Draco blew out a breath and collapsed back into the wing chair, staring at Ivy as hard as she stared at him.

Father was losing control of the Malfoy family magic.

There was no other explanation.

Draco paused and then leaned forward to take Ivy’s shaking hands. “Is Harry Potter stronger than Father?”

“Will be,” Ivy said, biting her lip and glancing towards the door beyond which lurked silence and the madness that was the Dark Lord. “Is not yet. Has not hit magical maturation.”

Draco’s breath caught all over again, this time because his heart pounded so hard that the world went grey and Ivy’s face was a distant blob viewed through a long, echoing tunnel. He wheezed, sucking air into his lungs as he held Ivy’s hands. She clung to him as desperately as he clung to her.

Father was losing control. He actually was! The Malfoy magic was pulling away from him, seeking for someone strong enough to lay claim to it. Mother couldn’t do it, not even as his regent, not after Father had beaten, potioned and cursed her.

That meant Draco had to do it.

“Is my magic mature enough?” Draco whispered once he pushed back the faint that had nearly caught him.

Ivy nodded urgently. “Little Master is. Little Master is strong enough and mature enough. Just barely. Just barely!”

Draco bit his lip. Then he had to act. But carefully. It wouldn’t do to give Father an excuse to torture and kill him. Then again…

“Is Father unconscious?” Draco asked.

Ivy nodded, firmly. Hopefully, her ears coming up and a tiny smile curling the corners of her mouth.

“Mother?”

Draco wanted so badly for her to be awake, to be able to ask before he did this. Not that he could. Father would have known. Their marriage bond ensured that Mother was all but a slave to Father’s desires in every single way.

Ivy nodded again, more sadly.

“Good,” Draco said. “I need… I need them both to stay asleep, Ivy. Father until morning for sure, Mother probably that long. This. I need to act. And I can’t let them interfere.”

“Mistress’ elf Blue can ease her sleep,” Ivy suggested. “Blue does so many, many times. Will keep Mistress asleep.”

Draco nodded. “Tell her to do just that. Father…”

He shook his head and huffed. Ivy couldn’t do anything to or about Father. Yet. If someone else could steal Dobby, that meant that Draco could steal not just Ivy but all the house elves. And then, once he as strong enough, he would steal the Malfoy family magic, too.

Not steal.

Claim what he was due. That’s what he was doing. It wasn’t theft. The Dark Lord was trying to steal their magic and their money and their lives. Draco was taking back what he and Mother were both due.

Hopefully.

“Ivy, will you be my elf?” Draco whispered. The words came out a bare sliver of sound. Even with this plan, mad as it was, he was too afraid to speak loudly.

“Ivy wants that!” Ivy replied.

Her grip on his hands was so tight that it made his bones ache. Draco nodded and reached for her bond. At the same time, Ivy shoved her bond at him so hard that it fluoresced into visibility.

It was frayed.

Horribly frayed, patchy, with spots that looked barely a few threads while others were thicker, more robust but still the same bloodless silver as tendons that had been picked free from a piece of meat prior to cooking it.

Draco made a noise, high in his throat, as he pulled at the weak spots in Ivy’s bond. It unraveled, the magic spinning away like silver cobwebs which was just so very wrong. The bond’s threads should be red like blood.

The bond was a house elf’s very lifeblood. For Ivy to have been surviving on those bare little scraps of magic was horrifying. Draco poured his magic towards Ivy, feeding it into the bond and pulling the loose ends his way.

She pushed her magic towards him, too, crooning as the bond swelled and filled, going from ghostly pale to golden-red and then into a thick cord the color of blood cut straight from an artery. Bright, so bright, so beautiful and perfect. Draco laughed as the final few ghost-strands flew away and their bond settled in between the two of them.

“Master is so strong,” Ivy murmured. “Master can do this. Master will do this?”

Draco smiled as he nodded. He was shaking. So was Ivy. Both of them had earned it, honestly.

“Yes, I will,” Draco promised. “Call the other elves, Ivy. Bring them here. I’ll free them all from Father and let them bond to me. Every single one of them.”

Father’s elf Quinn popped in first, staggering over to Draco with tears running down his cheeks. Then the cook Yule popped in right at Ivy’s side. She held Ivy’s shoulder with one hand and Draco’s wrist with another. Then Blue and Vern popped in, Blue from Mother’s side and Vern from the gardens. They both grabbed for Draco, desperation writ large on their faces.

“I think… one at a time?” Draco said. He bit his lip and then shook his head. “No, too slow. All of you, follow Ivy’s bond to me. We’ll get this done now. Then we’ll figure out how to deal with Father and his stupid Dark Lord.”

He shut his eyes as all the elves bowed their heads, even Ivy. Draco took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. First the Elves. Then Father. He would figure this out.

He would.

No matter what it took.

3. Safety Comes First

August 1, 1992: 9:21 am

Sunshine leaked through the battered, stained curtains that covered Harry’s window. He stretched and rubbed his eyes, wondering why he was so comfortable. Then Hedwig hooted quietly at him and Harry sat bolt upright on his bed.

His comfortable bed. The third thing Dobby had done last night was to replace the mattress with one that had no lumps or bumps or saggy places. Dobby had done wonders making the new bed look like his old bed. The frame looked the same as the original one Aunt Petunia had fished out of the rubbish bin, but it didn’t squeak or wobble under Harry despite the apparently broken leg. Dobby just made it look broken to keep Harry from getting in trouble.

Across the room, next to Hedwig’s now-open cage, Harry’s trunk sat waiting. The second thing Dobby had done was to pop all Harry’s belongings out of the cupboard. Harry had nearly cried in relief just from getting his wand back. Having pants that weren’t hand-me-downs from Dudley had brought real tears to his eyes.

There was a silver tray with a cover on it sitting on top of Harry’s trunk. The very first thing Dobby had done, a fierce scowl on his face, was to bring food for Harry to eat. He’d promised that Harry wouldn’t go hungry again. Ever.

Harry eased out of bed and went to kneel on the floor next to the trunk. With the cover on, he couldn’t smell anything.

Dobby had promised that no one but Harry would be able to see his trunk or anything on it anymore. His trunk was invisible. Any food hidden under the silver cover gave off no smells, too, which meant…

“Oh wow,” Harry breathed as he lifted the cover and revealed sausages and toast, perfectly browned, with thick porridge that had raisons and nuts and a big spoonful of brown sugar melting away in the center.

He ate as fast as he could. There was no telling when Aunt Petunia would yell for Harry to come down and start his chores. She never let him rest or slip away to have fun by himself.

Harry frowned at the window.

“Come to think of it, why hasn’t she been up to yell at me already? It’s the middle of the morning.”

When Harry peeked out the window, barely daring to twitch the curtains open an inch, the sun was high in the sky. It looked like mid-morning, maybe eight which was ridiculous. Aunt Petunia never let Harry sleep this late. Even Dudley got rousted out of bed long about now. Despite that, he didn’t hear Aunt Petunia doing anything more than humming downstairs.

“Dobby?” Harry asked. He put just a little bit of power into the bond that pulsed happily between them.

A little pulse came back and then Dobby popped into Harry’s bedroom. The grubby old pillowcase was gone, replaced with a military-style uniform in Dobby’s size with cargo pants and a long-sleeved shirt like something a soldier might wear. Dobby had rolled up the sleeves, which had tiny cargo pockets on the biceps, and secured them with those little flaps that buttoned to keep sleeves from falling back down as he worked. He even had on combat boots that were shiny and black.

“Your… uniform,” Harry said as he tried not to laugh out loud because as awesome as Dobby’s uniform was, the fabric it was made from was a hoot. “You made it out of a flowered sheet. Aunt Petunia’s best guest sheets, the ones with the yellow cabbage roses and stupid banana leaves. You used Aunt Petunia’s best sheets!”

“Dobby did,” Dobby agreed, grinning at Harry. “Master Harry said to make a uniform. Dobby chose best sheets possible for his uniforms. They have all sorts of pockets!”

“Pockets are important,” Harry agreed and then sat on the floor to laugh and hug Dobby who giggled and hugged him right back. “Oh, and you have a little badge, too.”

Dobby nodded much more seriously. “Is Master Harry’s crest. Potter on top. Gryffindor on left and Peverell on right. Slytherin bottom since Master Harry’s mother defeated last heir to Slytherin.”

“She did?” Harry asked, blinking at Dobby.

“Oh yes,” Dobby said. He reached up to gently touch Harry’s scar. The celadon and lemon lightning bolts in Dobby’s eyes gleamed with magic when he did it. “When Master Harry got the scar. Is how Master Harry survived. Mistress Lily Potter did ritual and sacrificed herself for Master Harry.”

Harry stared at Dobby, mouth open. A thousand different questions whirled in his mind, garbling anything that might come out his mouth until the shock, amazement and awe that his mother was that incredible resolved into one very big, very important question.

“Do rituals leave behind traces that people can find?” Harry asked. The sausages felt like lumps of iron in his belly.

Dobby sighed and nodded as his ears drooped. “Yes, Master Harry. They do. Is still traces of ritual.”

“He lied,” Harry said, shutting his eyes and gritting his teeth against the need to go punch Dumbledore in the nose. “He lied and made me a target. Damn it. Right. Okay. I knew I couldn’t trust him. It’s fine. I’m fine. Okay, so, what progress have you made? And why hasn’t anyone come to wake me up?”

“Dobby made them think that Master Harry is not here,” Dobby explained with a little shrug. “They is horrible people, Master Harry. All three of them. Dobby has found Master Harry’s parent’s seneschal. If Master Harry goes to him, he should helps. Is part of oaths he took to Master Harry’s parents”

“Huh, good idea,” Harry said. “Okay, can I slip into the bathroom without messing up what you did? I’d like to get cleaned up. And, you know, change into clean clothes.”

“Master Harry can,” Dobby said. “Dobby can pack Master Harry’s things?”

Harry looked around the dingy little room. The only things he cared about were Hedwig and his trunk. Everything else in the bleak room was just there. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon hadn’t allowed him very much stuff. They’d begrudged him the most basic things, honestly. So he didn’t have very many things to pack.

“Sure,” Harry said. “Can you get Hedwig outside without them seeing?”

“Dobby can do that,” Dobby promised. “She be happy to leave here.”

“Me, too,” Harry agreed. “Be right back.”

Harry crept across the hall to the bathroom, washing up as quickly and as quietly as possible. Even with Dobby’s reassurances that he was safe, Harry didn’t want to take chances. By the time he’d cleaned up, brushed his teeth, and attempted to wrangle his hair into something less than a rat’s nest, Dobby had the bedroom stripped of everything that said Harry.

Even the bed sagged and leaned the way it had before.

Hedwig was gone, out the window or something. One of Dobby’s pants pockets bulged a little, so he must have shrunk the cage and Harry’s trunk. Dobby took Harry’s hand and they snuck down the stairs together since Dobby had already checked the wards, last night, and seen that he couldn’t pop Harry in or out without letting Dumbledore know exactly what had happened.

Aunt Petunia was humming. Humming and smiling as she dusted the living room. There was no sign of Dudley or Uncle Vernon which would explain why Aunt Petunia looked so happy. She always seemed happiest when there was no one around to mess up her house or expect things out of her.

Dobby pulled Harry through the kitchen and then out into the back yard. They took the back gate and then ran up the alley until they reached the little park up the block from Privet Drive. Before Dobby even reached out for Harry’s hand, the bond told Harry that he was about to be popped away from Privet Drive forever.

Maybe Harry should feel guilty about never coming back. Or afraid. Or something. All he felt was excited. He hated Privet Drive, his relatives, and everything associated with living here. The sooner he was gone, the better.

“Let’s go!” Harry said to Dobby.

“Yes, Master!” Dobby said.

They grinned at each other as they held hands. The bond sang between them of excitement, anticipation, hope and fear, and so much determination that Harry couldn’t figure out which of them was angrier about how he’d been treated.

No more.

He was free and he’d never go back again, no matter what Dumbledore said.

Popping wasn’t like taking the floo. It was kind of like squeezing a foam ball and then releasing it so fast that the ball jumped, except that Harry and Dobby were the balls and they jumped from Privet Drive right to London.

They landed in Muggle London, much to Harry’s surprise. He’d expected to be somewhere along Diagon Alley, maybe in one of the side streets where the little, lesser-known shops were. Given everything he’d been told about his father, that was logical. Instead, they landed just outside of the historic brick magnificence that was Blackwell House.

Their class had gotten a trip into London when Harry was eight. They’d been taken to the Guildhall Yard and shown around the looming historic buildings. His teacher had been as impressed as Harry, telling them all about the incredibly powerful people who lived and worked in the area. He’d all but said that there was not a hope in hell of Harry ever being worthy of so much as breathing the air here.

Everyone had laughed.

Even now, after finding out just who he was and getting magic, Harry cringed at being here of all places.

“This… this the City, Dobby,” Harry whispered, tugging Dobby off to the side so that the many, many men in suits wouldn’t run right over them. “Uncle Vernon said that this is the heart of all banking in London!”

“Yes,” Dobby agreed. “Master Harry’s seneschal be here. Has suite here in Blackwell House. Dobby made sure. We is not added to the floo network, so we has to go in this way instead of easy way.”

“No one can really see us?” Harry asked. A twelve-year-old boy shouldn’t be here. Dobby definitely shouldn’t.

“They is seeing two young men, Master,” Dobby said with an indignant little huff. “Dobby is very good at his job!”

Harry laughed as he rubbed his free hand over his hip, trying to get rid of the sweat pooling on his palm. “Okay. Right. This is fine. It’s all fine. Okay. Well, lead me to him. Do we have an appointment or anything? I mean, you need appointments, right?”

He followed Dobby into Blackwell House, doing his best not to ogle the late Victorian elevator with its gold-painted open metal grill work or the beautiful ironwork on the stair railing leading up to the next level. They took the elevator, which had big round buttons set high on the side of the elevator and a sliding grate for a door, all the way up to the fifth floor.

Not the top floor. That was probably reserved for really rich and powerful people. But still. High up, and in this area of London, and oh Merlin, Harry was going to hyperventilate right there as he walked up the hallway to his seneschal’s office if he didn’t stop fretting about how badly he did not fit in.

Discreet gold paint with delicate swirls picked out the name on the door, Amal Swashlin. Underneath, it said Accountant. That was it. Nothing else to show how powerful or important Mr. Swashlin was.

You know, except for the office’s location. It couldn’t be cheap to have an office here of all places.

“We goes in now, Master Harry,” Dobby said, pushing Harry towards the door. “Is much to do.”

“I’m going, I’m going,” Harry said with a nervous laugh that he cut off immediately because he could feel it sliding right towards tears and panic attacks that he couldn’t afford right now.

The outer part of the office was like a very nice parlor with big comfy leather-clad chairs and a kitchenette with a gorgeous silver tea set that Aunt Petunia would have cheerfully murdered for. There was a low desk with an older woman sitting behind it. She raised an eyebrow at Harry, lips pursing, and then looked at Dobby.

Her eyebrows both went up the instant she spotted Dobby’s badge.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Um, my name is Harry Potter,” Harry said. “This is my Elf, Dobby. We need to talk to my parent’s seneschal, Mr. Swashlin. Is he available? Did you set up an appointment, Dobby?”

“Yes, he did,” the woman said with a little snort that seemed mildly amused. “Mr. Swashlin has been eagerly waiting for you to arrive. Please go right back. I’ll bring tea in momentarily. Would you like lemon or chocolate biscuits?”

“Oh, chocolate,” Harry said. “Thank you very much, ma’am.”

“Go on now, dear,” she said, pointing towards the door that was right behind her desk.

Dobby had to push Harry again to get his feet moving. Mr. Swashlin’s office was just what Harry would expect from such a place. It had cream walls and big bookcases full of books and Mr. Swashlin’s computer had three monitors that were all flat as a painting, unlike the big bulky one that Dudley had on his computer.

“You’re here!” Mr. Swashlin exclaimed as soon as Harry stepped inside. “Thank goodness. Come sit down. I’ve so many questions. You have been getting my letters, right? Emily will be bringing tea, I assume. She always does, especially for my more important clients. No one’s more important than you, though. Goodness, you’re the image of your father with those glasses but those eyes are all Lily.”

Mr. Swashlin was about forty, maybe fifty years old. He had dark brown skin and curly black hair that was a lot like Harry’s. His chin was covered with stubble. His smile was so bright and welcoming that Harry settled into the comfortable armchair in front of Mr. Swashlin’s desk without apologizing for taking his time.

“Um, no,” Harry said and then grinned as Dobby perched in the other chair and wiggled proudly as he straightened his uniform. “I haven’t gotten any letters from you. I don’t think my aunt and uncle have, either.”

Emily, the lady from outside, came in with that lovely silver tea set and a plate piled high with chocolate biscuits. She chuckled when Dobby huffed at her, letting Dobby take over serving. Thankfully, she shut the door behind her when she left because Mr. Swashlin spluttered and made outraged gestures as if he wanted to shout but couldn’t quite get the words out.

“Um.” Harry bit his lip and then sighed. “All right. Let me lay this out. Dumbledore placed me with my mother’s sister, Petunia Dursley and her family. They hate magic. They hate me. They’ve treated me worse than a house elf my entire life. I’ve been beaten, shouted at, starved, and worked until I passed out since I was four or so. Dumbledore knows that. I asked him to be placed somewhere else and he refused. None of the professors at Hogwarts seem to care. They certainly didn’t help. Voldemort is trying to kill me. He’s not dead. He’s kind of a ghost? Sort of? And he possessed Professor Quirrell last year until I sort of killed him at the end of year. I need help. I need a safe place to live. I need protection against Dumbledore and his agenda. Dobby thinks that you can help. Will you?”

Mr. Swashlin leaned back in his chair, eyes wide and cheeks going ashy-pale. When Dobby offered a cup of tea, Mr. Swashlin took it so absently that Harry wasn’t sure that even knew that he had tea at all.

“Mr. Potter,” Mr. Swashlin said as he set the tea aside without even sipping it. “I am at your disposal. Let me set up a few things and then I’ll have you tell me everything. Absolutely everything. Whatever you can tell me will help us make sure that Dumbledore never touches you again.”

4. Wards Come Second

August 1, 1992: 12:03 pm

Blue bit her lip as Draco carefully sat on the edge of his mother’s bed. “Mistress is not waking, Master Draco. Is not waking for hours and hours and hours yet. Blue made very, very sure.”

“I know, Blue,” Draco said. He breathed a ghost of a laugh, smiling as Blue’s ears perked up and she stopped wringing her hands. “Honestly, I shouldn’t be awake either. But Father.”

“He is waking soon,” Blue said.

She glared towards the door that connected Mother’s bedroom to Father’s. By the time Draco had claimed all the elves from Father, it was two o’clock in the morning. It had taken half of forever to calm their magic and his down. But he hadn’t fractured his core and the Malfoy magic had swirled around Draco constantly now.

Not in a way that said he controlled it, no, but definitely in a way that suggested he might yet be able to wrest control from Father.

Blue had been very gentle putting Mother to bed. She’d spelled what few and weak healing potions they had into Mother’s stomach and made sure that she was comfortable, well-hydrated and warm. Quinn had been far less careful with Father. Where Mother was in her nightgown, hair brushed and braided, Father was still in his clothes from yesterday. Even his shoes were still on his feet.

Draco brushed his fingertips across Mother’s cheek. Her magic fluttered under the touch, then stilled when it realized that it was Draco.

Not Father.

How bad had her abuse been in private that Mother’s magic responded to the mere presence of another like a threat?

Draco sighed. “Right. Time to work on the next part. Is Ivy ready? And Quinn?”

“Yes, Master Draco,” Blue said. “Vern and Yule is ready, too. We be here, protecting Mistress while you does what you needs to.”

“Thank you,” Draco said. He put a hand on Blue’s shoulder, smiling at the way she beamed at him. “Be careful. I don’t want any of you hurt. I doubt that Mother will stir, but we can’t count on that.”

The real question was how strong Mother’s marriage bond to Father was after everything she’d been through. If it was too strong, this was going to hurt her along with Father. There was little that Draco could do about that.

Yet.

To fix it, he had to have control of the Malfoy magics.

He’d slept until ten. Dragged himself out of bed by eleven. Now it was a few minutes shy of noon, the next-to-perfect time for what he had to do. The best-best time would be midnight, the witching hour, but Draco didn’t dare wait that long. Father would be waking any time now. He would feel the Elves’ absence in his magic.

Draco couldn’t allow them to be punished.

Nor could Draco let Father punish him.

Father lay sprawled on his bed. His hair straggled across the comforter like spiderwebs. When he was awake, his cheeks were pale but there was a sort of blush to them as he responded to the world. Now his skin was so pale that Draco could see the blue of his veins under the skin. There were bags under his eyes and his stubble had grown to the point that it looked as though he was halfway through growing a beard.

Draco raised an eyebrow at Quinn. “You took off his beard suppressant spells?”

“If he wants them,” Quinn said with a little sniff of disdain, “he can puts them on himself, Master Draco. You is sure this is wise?”

“Oh, no,” Draco said with a little laugh that was all nerves and no humor. “I’m quite sure it’s very unwise. It’s necessary though. Be ready to shield Mother. I have to protect her. I may be able to claim the magic, but the Ministry will never let me claim the title at twelve. If I can take the magic though, I can revoke their marriage bond and throw Father out. Or get him arrested for his abuse and for following the Dark Lord. That would be perfect.”

The truth of that made Quinn mumble complaints against Father under his breath as he stomped into Mother’s bedroom and slammed the door. Magic flared along that wall, blocking everything and anything that might happen in Father’s bedroom.

Ivy popped in. She patted Draco’s hand and then gently nudged him towards Father. Draco swallowed down the acid curdling up the back of his throat. Father smelled of vomit and alcohol mixed with stale sweat. His wand arm twitched as Draco approached.

The Dark Lord had marked Father’s wand arm because of course he had.

No wizard would willingly remove his wand arm even if he wanted to escape the Dark Mark. Draco shook his head and then put his hand on top of the Mark. He couldn’t help but be grateful for the heavy sleeve of Father’s robe between Draco and the Mark. Even with that barrier, the thing felt wrong.

Nasty, magic twisting inside of it like a slime eel caught in the base of a bucket, the Dark Mark was aware.

Awake.

And angry.

It felt like a shade, a soul, an angry ghost haunting Father through the Dark Mark. Who knew? Maybe that was how the Dark Lord tortured Father for all of Mother’s attempts to save him.

Draco glanced at Ivy who nodded once. “Be ready.”

“Ivy is!” She held her hands up at the ready and nodded once more.

Draco pushed his magic into Father’s Mark, probing it as harshly as he could with every intent of tearing the thing right out of Father’s magic. If he could tear Father’s arm off to make it go away, he would. Because of that damnable thing, Draco had never had a proper father. He’d had a taskmaster, a madman, an abusive slave-driver, not a father.

The Dark Mark surged, exploding outwards to drive Draco away. Ivy’s magic caught Draco before he could be flung into the wall. Barely. The surge still nearly knocked Draco out. He panted and struggled back to his feet, determined to try again if that was what it took to start another round of the Dark Lord’s torture.

He had to ensure that Father was completely distracted. There was no other way that Draco could possibly steal the Malfoy family magic, short of murder.

As Draco stalked closer, Father’s eyes flew open and he screamed like an animal as the Dark Mark tortured him for daring to attempt to be free. Draco shoved his magic at the Mark, prompting the Dark Lord to do even more. Father convulsed on the bed, eyes blank as his screams took on that horrible animal tone that said he was lost to the pain, unaware of anything else.

“Now!” Draco told Ivy.

She popped them out of Father’s bedroom and down to the ward stone in the dungeons under Malfoy Manor. The ward stone wasn’t much to look at, a simple chunk of granite that had been inscribed with runes generations ago, but the magic swirling around it made up for it. The wards surged and tested Draco, probing at him for an instant before shimmering and stilling.

The darkness disappeared as torches took flame around the room.

“It’s welcoming me,” Draco whispered to Ivy.

“Is, Master,” Ivy agreed. “But Master must hurry. Before old Master Lucius passes out.”

“Right,” Draco agreed.

He stepped forward and put his hands on the ward stone before bowing his head. Draco pushed his magic into the ward stone, feeling for the wards. There was a key to them. Father had said many times that a proper ward complex had a key to them. He’d never allowed Draco to learn what that key might be.

“Needs blood, Master,” Ivy said from a half-pace behind him.

“You’re sure?” Draco asked.

“Very sure, Master,” Ivy replied. “Wards is needing Master Draco’s blood. Master Lucius never added his blood. He was not being able to. His magic is being tainted so he is not welcomed by ward stone. Could not even enter room.”

“Cut my hand,” Draco said, holding his wand hand out to Ivy. She stared, horrified. “Hurry! I don’t have a knife, Ivy. We don’t have long before… He’ll come looking for me. For Mother!”

Ivy bit her lip and then drew one finger along the base of Draco’s thumb. There was no pain, but blood still welled up. Draco slapped his bloody palm against the ward stone.

Screams echoed in the ward stone room tearing at Draco’s throat.

Draco shuddered as the wards’ magic lanced straight through him. Electric blue lightning bolts arced away from him, striking the walls, and lighting up rune circles that lay dormant in the stone walls. They bloomed, the electric blue light flaring brighter and brighter as more and more of the circles activated.

He couldn’t see them. He couldn’t see anything. His eyes were open, but his eyes didn’t see.

His magic saw.

Draco saw the wards that his ancestors had put on Malfoy Manor. They covered the land and the house and the people, the books and the peacocks who stopped their strutting around the gardens as the wards shifted and moved. The peacocks screamed, wings and tails spread, as the wards accepted Draco.

Not just the wards.

The Malfoy family magic hummed happily at Draco despite the things disturbing it.

There were pockets of darkness in his Manor.

The library had one very dark thing, a lurking, viscous object that felt far too much like the Dark Mark on Father’s arm. Draco snapped warding circles around it, one, two, finally three to ensure that its nasty influence couldn’t spread. More circles snapped into place around a dozen artifacts in Father’s office.

A very strong one snapped into place around Father who still convulsed under the Dark Lord’s torture. Not good. Very not good. The torture couldn’t last too much longer, or Father might have a heart attack.

The Malfoy family magic hummed underneath the wards, underneath Draco’s feet and his hands on the ward stone, underneath the whole of the estate. He could feel the wards shifting like tides, drifting back and forth between Father and Draco. That drift flowed more and more towards Draco as the seconds ticked onwards.

Yes.

The family magic wasn’t locked into Father. It wasn’t trapped inside of him by the Dark Mark. Could Father even feel the family magic? Draco couldn’t tell. That Mark was so horrible, so jealous, that he would be surprised if Father had touched the family magic since it was placed when he was seventeen.

Which meant that his grandfather hadn’t been able to touch the family magic either.

Draco was the first Malfoy heir to feel this in three generations.

Please. Please let me save Mother. Please let me save the Elves, the Manor. We can’t let the Dark Lord control the Malfoy family!

This has to end.

Please.

The tides of electric blue shifted into a tsunami that roared straight at Draco. He opened himself to it, opened himself to the wards and the Elves and everything that truly mattered. His family. His mother.

His honor.

The family magic filled Draco until his hair stood on end. Until his breath came in pants and huffs that sent bolts of blue shooting across the ward stone room. He could feel Ivy pressing against his thigh. Blue and Vern and Yule were kneeling on Mother’s bed, keeping her safe as the family magic flooded the Manor.

Quinn popped into place next to Draco, pressing against his other thigh.

No magic remained in Father’s bedroom.

The Dark Mark was gone.

Dead.

So was Father.

The wards told Draco why. The only thing that had kept Father alive was the weak support he got from the family magic. Once that left him, Father’s entire body, all his organs, collapsed and his core fractured under the Dark Lord’s punishment.

Tears welled up in Draco’s eyes as the family magic settled into his core. His knees gave way despite Quinn and Ivy supporting him. He ended up with his forehead pressed against the bloody ward stone, crying for the father he had never gotten the chance to know.

“I can’t… let anyone know… that I did this on purpose,” Draco panted once the magic calmed to the point where he wasn’t blazing with light anymore.

“We is taking you to your bedroom, Master,” Quinn said. “Just as we agrees before. Then we is waking Mistress Narcissa. She is going to be calling aurors. It is going to be okay.”

Draco nodded. “Get rid of my blood. And get me to my bedroom. This… people will have noticed. And make sure that Mother knows that the wards have locked down several… very dark artifacts.”

“We is telling her,” Ivy told Draco.

They popped him back to his bedroom on the far end of the family wing. Mother had insisted that Draco’s suite be as far from theirs as possible. He understood why, now. The wards knew that she’d been raped repeatedly, that Father had forced himself on her over and over again to try and create another heir.

Draco would need heirs, wouldn’t he?

Oh, Merlin, he was going to have to have heirs! Draco shuddered, curling up on his bed as Ivy patted his hand and Quinn popped away to help wake Mother up. She was already stirring. The end of her marriage bond would’ve burned off most of the sleeping potion she’d been given. By the time she talked to the aurors, it should be fully out of her system.

Bloody hell, he was going to have to take a wife. The family magic already pressed on him to provide an heir or four or five, even though he was far too young for that sort of thing. The thought of kissing a girl, having sex with a girl, made Draco shudder.

There had to be another way to have an heir because there was no way that Draco was doing that with a girl. Ever.

The wards told Draco when Mother woke properly. He felt her scream, heard her sobs. They told him that it was tears of joy, relief, not grief. He slowly worked his way to sitting up on the bed as Mother ran down to the floo with the box of floo powder that Quinn supplied. By the time the aurors arrived, Draco was back on his feet, if leaning on Ivy’s shoulder.

“I can do this,” Draco whispered to Ivy.

“Master can,” Ivy agreed. She smiled at him. “We is all helping, Master. You is the Master now. You has magic and wards and us. We is going to be fine now.”

Draco nodded. “We will be fine. I’ll deal with this and then we’ll… figure the rest of it out later.”

He hobbled towards the stairs, meeting Mother halfway with aurors on her heels who stared at Draco in a mixture of awe and horror. Draco flung himself into her arms. It would be okay. Everything would be okay now.

Mother was safe. So was Draco. He could deal with everything that came afterwards just for that.

5. Allies Come Third

August 1, 1992: 4:17 pm

It was four in the afternoon by the time Mr. Swashlin, who insisted that Harry should call him Amal, finished taking notes. He was still making indignant noises, kind of like an angry goose, but he was done taking notes.

Finally.

Just the questions he’d asked had told Harry how terrible his life had been. There were wizards and witches whose whole job was to make sure magi kids were safe and well cared for (and how come they hadn’t been told at Hogwarts that the term for wizarding folk in general was magi?) There were magi pediatricians (and Harry should have seen at least a Muggle pediatrician every year, preferably a magi pediatrician twice a year). Harry should have gotten vaccinated for dragon pox before going to school (and he shouldn’t have been allowed in school without it by law).

That didn’t even cover the money that should have been coming to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. It didn’t cover the tutors that should have been paid for by his trust fund. His Aunt and Uncle should have had a live-in nanny, probably human because Harry just couldn’t see Uncle Vernon allowing a House Elf in his home, who would have taken care of both Harry and Dudley.

Food (he should have had three to five times as much as he was getting), sleep (same), exercise (less, a lot less, and no household chores), stress (wow, just wow).

Every single thing that could have been done wrong had been done wrong.

“I can’t believe this happened,” Amal finally complained as Dobby refilled their tea and pushed the remaining three chocolate biscuits at Amal. “You’ve the worst luck I’ve ever seen, Harry.”

“Luck,” Harry said as he added a drop of lemon and a half cup of milk to his tea. “Hm.”

Amal’s face went ashen. “You believe it’s deliberate.”

“I can’t see it as anything else,” Harry said with a sigh. He sipped his tea and added a little more milk, only another couple of teaspoons though. “Dumbledore put me there. He’s apparently my magical guardian. You said that there’re ways to track how kids are doing. He must have them. Or he deliberately chose not to use them for some reason for me.”

Amal shuddered before shoving a whole biscuit in his mouth, chewing like he was trying not to scream or get sick right there on top of his notes. Harry slowly sipped his tea, staring at those final two biscuits, not because he was hungry but because he needed to focus on something.

“Not that it really matters,” Harry said. “Now that we know how many things have gone wrong, we need to do something about them. I need a safe place to live. I need allies who will actually help me instead of just doing whatever Dumbledore decides is good. I might need a new place to go to school. And I need to learn all kinds of things, all the stuff that Dumbledore decided I didn’t need to know. Probably starting with why Voldemort thinks I’m his mortal enemy.”

“Yeah,” Amal agreed. He downed his tea in three quick gulps and then flipped to a new piece of paper where he started making lists. “We’ll need to see if you can claim your family magic. You can’t take the title, of course. You’re too young. That has to wait until you’re sixteen. But you can get your heir’s rings.”

“Title” made a knot form in Harry’s stomach. He hadn’t any idea that he had some sort of title waiting for him. That was… not good. He might have to spend time around Malfoy and that would be a recipe for disaster. The two of them could barely be in the same room together without starting a fight.

“Wait, rings?” Harry asked. “Plural?”

“Certainly,” Amal said. He blinked when Harry made the angry goose noises of dismay, turning to Dobby who stared back at him. “He doesn’t know about his godfather? No, what am I saying? Of course, he doesn’t know about his godfather. Right. Well, you’re the Potter heir, obviously. But you’re also the heir for the Black title. Sirius Black adopted you, with your parent’s permission, when you were just a couple of days old. He’d taken a curse and couldn’t father kids, so that was their way to make sure that the Black family magic wouldn’t go to a cadet line when old Arcturus Black finally kicks off. I got invited to that. It was a really sweet little ceremony.”

Harry stared at him. “More words, please. Who’s Arcturus Black? Where is he? Can I make him an ally? What cadet lines? Who are they? What’s family magic, for that matter? No one said a thing about that at Hogwarts.”

“You should’ve had an intro class that told you all about family magic,” Amal said slowly while his frown went from confused to thunderous to about to make angry goose noises again.

“There were no intro classes at all,” Harry said. “We were just tossed into our classes and expected to survive.”

Angry goose noises. Lots and lots of angry goose noises. Harry leaned back in his chair and let Amal mutter fury-garbled curses in languages that Harry didn’t need to know to realize that they were bad words. By the time he was done, it was almost four-thirty. Amal rubbed his face with both hands and then stood, eyes locked on all the paperwork.

“You don’t have a safe place to stay, right?” Amal asked.

“Nope,” Harry said. “I mean, if I can get some money from the bank, I know Dobby and I could go stay in a hotel in Muggle London, but I’d really rather have a place that’s warded and secure and, even better, unplottable. Hermione found out about unplottable locations last year and spent a whole week studying how they’re made unplottable. I… kind of listened? I mean, I don’t want to make them. I just want to have one.”

“You do have one,” Amal said, grinning at Harry. “I’m with you on the studying side. I just use them. I don’t need to know what makes them go. But then, I’m a seneschal, not a warder or curse-breaker. Come on. We’ll floo over to the bank and get you all set up: heir rings, keys to your vaults, yes, plural, and your castle. I’ll contact Arcturus Black and see if he’s interested in meeting his heir before he dies.”

There were a whole class of questions that Harry wanted to ask about how long wizards actually lived on average, whether or not there were ways to extend lifespans that didn’t involve Philosopher’s Stones and how old Arcturus Black actually was. Harry didn’t ask. His brain was too busy running in circles because, apparently, he had a castle.

Instead, he nodded to Dobby to follow them and then went through the floo with Amal.

Gringotts was quiet. It looked like a lull between the afternoon rush and the dinner rush to Harry. He was grateful for it because they got to walk right up to the clerk who eyed Harry like he was a bug, curled a lip at Dobby who glared defiantly back at him and then nodded respectfully to Amal.

“I need to talk to Silverclaw,” Amal said. “It’s regarding the Potter and Black accounts.”

“One moment please,” the goblin said.

He wrote something on a piece of paper, setting it in a box on his counter. The paper flashed away, and the goblin nodded for them to move off to the side. Amal led Harry and Dobby off to the left where a long hardwood bench stained black like it’d been coated with soot stood. He didn’t sit and shook his head that Harry and Dobby shouldn’t either.

“Come with me, please.”

Harry started because he’d been poking the bench to see if it was actually covered with soot, not paying attention to the goblin approaching them.

As they left the lobby, Molly Weasley marched in with Percy, Ron and Ginny. She didn’t seem to see Harry off by the dark corridor leading further into the bank. Ron certainly didn’t. He was too busy tugging Mrs. Weasley’s sleeve.

“Come on, Mum,” Ron whined. “Why can’t we go check on Harry? We haven’t gotten a single letter from him. Not even a Muggle one. You know that’s not right.”

“Oh, leave off, Ron,” Mrs. Weasley huffed as she pulled her sleeve free. “I’ve told you and I’ve told you; Headmaster Dumbledore is certain Harry’s quite safe. He can’t take any mail right now. It’s fine. Now, if we don’t hear in a couple of weeks, yes, more forceful methods will be used. But it will not be something you’re involved with, young man. You leave this to the adults, you hear me?”

“But Mum!” Ron groaned. “Harry could be in trouble!”

Harry didn’t get to hear anything else because Amal pulled him away and down the hallway. They went down a long flight of stairs with torches lit not quite often enough for Harry to be certain of his footing, down a long hallway that was carved out of solid rock and then through six huge vault doors separated by caverns that had doors leading in every direction. Even up.

Silverclaw had a nose like a pickax, long silver hair pulled back into an old-fashioned queue, and claws that were in fact very long and covered with silver that had been engraved with tiny runes. The goblin that led them to Silverclaw stared at him with furtive desire that Silverclaw glowered at, flicking his fingers to send the goblin away as if his interest were profoundly insulting.

Weird. Maybe Silverclaw was good looking to goblins? Or maybe that one goblin was being inappropriate. Harry would have to ask Amal later if he knew what was going on with that.

“Silverclaw,” Amal said with a tight-lipped smile and a short bow. “I hope your gold is flowing like rivers and your enemies lie dead in unmarked graves.”

“Swashlin,” Silverclaw said with a similarly tight-lipped smile. “Thank you. They are, though my gold is not as free-flowing as it should be. Mr. Potter. I see you finally decided to answer my summons.”

“I, ah, never got one,” Harry said, blinking at him. He turned to Dobby who slowly shook his head. “You didn’t steal any bank correspondence, did you?”

“No, Master Harry,” Dobby said. “Dobby would not. Is very good way to die. No Elf would ever steal goblin mail.”

Silverclaw stiffened, the corners of his mouth turning down as he frowned at both Harry and Dobby. When he turned to Amal, Amal sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He offered the file full of notes to Silverclaw who took it with the very tips of his claws as if he didn’t want to sully his fingertips with ordinary magi paperwork.

That lasted until Silverclaw flipped the folder open and started skimming over the notes.

Goblins didn’t make angry goose noises. They made sounds like gravel being crunched into smaller bits before being added to a cement mixer. Silverclaw’s cursing had Harry hiding behind Amal and Dobby hiding behind Harry. It took quite a while before Silverclaw huffed and smoothed his hands over his very tightly braided hair.

He tapped his claws against this desktop, setting off little sparks against the shiny black obsidian stone. Finally, he sighed and nodded for the three of them to sit down.

“I begin to see why you have not been to see me, Mr. Potter,” Silverclaw said. “This will need a great deal of effort to repair. Where did you wish to begin?”

“Um, well, I kind of stole Dobby’s bond last night,” Harry said and then waved his hands when both Amal and Silverclaw gaped at him. “He wanted me to!”

“Dobby did,” Dobby declared. He crossed his arms across his chest and glowered at Silverclaw. “Dobby is very proud to be the Great Harry Potter’s elf. Very proud!”

“I… Okay,” Amal said, shaking his head. “I should’ve asked about the elf earlier. And um, the uniform.”

Harry grinned and offered a fist to Dobby who cackled before bumping it back. “I told Dobby he was to make himself uniforms. He chose my Aunt Petunia’s very best guest sheets for his uniforms.”

It took a second but both Amal and Silverclaw laughed at that. It seemed to help, thankfully, because Silverclaw stopped setting sparks off as he tapped his desk. And Amal relaxed in his chair, ruffling Harry’s hair fondly.

“So, anyway,” Harry said, hoping that his blush for the affection didn’t show too much, “I need to have a safe place to stay. I think an unplottable location with the best wards the world has to offer would be good. I need allies. Amal suggested that we contact my godfather’s … patriarch?”

“Patriarch and grandfather,” Amal confirmed.

“How long to magi live, anyway?” Harry burst out because he just couldn’t stand not knowing that.

“A powerful wizard or witch will live on average two hundred and twenty years, Mr. Potter,” Silverclaw said. “There are methods to extend one’s lifespan much farther than that, but they have consequences.”

“Okay, so Sirius is, what forty? Fifty?” Harry asked.

“He’s thirty-three,” Amal said very sadly indeed. “He was just twenty-two when he was sent to Azkaban for betraying your parents.”

Harry wagged a finger at Amal because he needed way more information on that, but Dobby tugged at Harry’s sleeve.

“Did not betray Master Harry!” Dobby huffed. “Dobby can tell. Is still Master Harry’s godfather so did not do it. Is a lie!”

He would’ve laughed at the way Amal’s jaw dropped and the way Silverclaw stared at Dobby, claws poised over the desktop as if he’d been frozen, but no.

“Right, that’s another thing we’ll need to investigate,” Harry said. “Not the most important thing, but it does need to be investigated. Maybe with the aurors? Anyway. No, the other thing I need is to somehow contact Arcturus Black. He’s, what? Close to two hundred or something? If magi live that long, and he’s dying, he must be, right?”

“He is ninety-one years old, Mr. Potter,” Silverclaw said. “And no, he would not normally be close to death. He was cursed and there is no way to raise the curse without the blood of his heir.”

Harry blinked. Okay. Right. Well.

“Um.” Harry stared at Silverclaw, then at Amal who looked sad for some stupid reason. “Right. Well, the other thing we need to do is get my heir rings. The Potter and the Black ones. And, you know, any others I might have that Dumbledore didn’t bother to tell me about. But especially the Black and Potter ones. You know, the ones where I’m, actually, an heir?

It took about three seconds before both Amal and Silverclaw to process that.

They both launched into action.

As Silverclaw sent messages to have every single heir ring that Harry was due brought in, Amal babbled about how to get ahold of Arcturus Black as he scribbled notes on his list in the file. Harry sat back in his chair and waited. If there was a better way to get an ally than saving their life, Harry didn’t know it.

After all, it’d worked super-well for Harry and Dobby. Hopefully, it would do just as well for Arcturus Black, too. And having an actual grandparent whose life he’d saved was sure to be better than having Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon as guardians. It sure couldn’t be worse.

6. Seeing it Through

August 1, 1992: 5:58 pm

Draco let his eyes flutter shut as he slumped back in the chair he’d been given in the grey parlor off of the floo room. His whole body thrummed with the power of the wards. They didn’t like having the aurors here though, honestly, that might be Draco. He was so very done with their endless questions that probed at things that Draco couldn’t and wouldn’t tell them.

Just a little longer.

He had to hold on just a little longer and then he could sleep for a week and eat twice his weight in food, and call their favorite Healer from Saint Mungo’s to take care of Mother’s curse damage. It scratched away at Draco’s awareness like a sliver under your fingernail that you couldn’t quite pull out.

“Falling asleep on us, Malfoy?” Alastair Moody asked.

“No, just trying to shift my awareness of Mother’s curse damage so that it stops… distracting me,” Draco said as he waved one hand towards the door. He didn’t open his eyes. “She’s in a great deal of pain.”

Moody frowned. They’d separated Draco from Mother about half an hour after they arrived. The entire investigation had been nothing but questions and doubt and Draco attempting to hold his temper. Between his hunger and exhaustion, Mother’s pain, and the lingering aura of those horrible dark artifacts in Father’s office, Draco wasn’t sure just how much longer he could handle this.

“Curse damage,” Moody said as if he didn’t believe it.

“You winced when you saw her,” Draco said, shaking his head. “Father cursed mother regularly. Daily. Potioned her into compliance for public events. Raped her nightly even though he knew he couldn’t father more children. What the Dark Lord did to him prevented him from siring more children, not that it mattered to Father. Or, apparently, to you.”

Ah, there went Draco’s temper. He’d never been good at keeping control when he was tired, hungry, or embarrassed. Or afraid. All of them at once? Draco was going to get himself arrested if he didn’t rein it in.

“How d’you know that?” Moody demanded.

Draco stared at him; lips pressed together. “Wards? They landed on me like a ton of bricks when Father died. Not to mention that Mother flatly insisted that my suite be on the absolute other end of the family wing from Father and Mother’s suites. Distance did nothing to stop her screams from carrying down the hallway.”

Moody flinched. His fake eye rolled away from Draco while the real one shut in what looked like pain.

“Sorry, Malfoy,” Moody muttered.

“Don’t mention it,” Draco said, waving off his apology. “Literally. I know how horrible my family is. I can hardly avoid it with the damn wards telling me every detail of what Father and Grandfather did over the last few decades. I’ll get Mother a healer as soon as you’re gone. For now, will someone, please, go take care of the dark artifacts in my father’s office? The wards will not stop screaming about them and it’s giving me a headache.”

Moody snorted. “What sort of artifacts? We don’t handle most of that garbage.”

“There’s a soul shard wrapped up in a spelled diary,” Draco said as he rubbed his temples. “That is the worst of them. Three glory hands that need to be destroyed immediately. And two grimoires that steal your soul as you work with them. Several others, too, but those are the worst.”

Moody’s eye snapped back around to Draco as he stood straight. “That’s auror business there.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed slowly while glaring at Moody. “I know. That’s why I’ve been trying to get you people to come to Father’s office with me. How many times do you have to ask how Father died? He was tortured to death by the Dark Lord. His core fractured and his heart stopped. Everyone’s agreed on that. All your spells show that. Mother agrees. I agree. You agree. Can we please go take care of those artifacts now that we all agree?”

“You’re giving them to us,” Moody said. He waved for Draco to follow him and then grabbed Draco’s elbow when his knees gave out from under him. “Kid, you need to be resting, not moving around.”

“Yes, well, that’s not possible right now, is it?” Draco snarled at him. “And no, I’m not “giving” them to you. I’m expecting you to do your job and properly seize and destroy the horrible things. Or the Department of Mysteries. I don’t know who does these things. Father never taught me that and they certainly don’t mention it in your first year at Hogwarts. We barely learned a thing in DADA last year.”

Moody nodded as he waved about five or six of the aurors waiting outside of the grey parlor to follow him. He supported Draco all the way up the stairs and to Father’s office. Even with the wards fully active and the door shut, Draco could feel the evil black magic seeping out. As soon as they got close, Moody cursed under his breath, flicking his wand out of a hidden wand holster on his wrist.

“Oh, I want one of those,” Draco said, staring at Moody’s wrist and blinking so that his eyes stopped blurring and crossing on him. “That’s brilliant.”

Moody snorted. “You really need to rest, kid.”

“After we get rid of these,” Draco agreed.

“Uh, sir?” one of the junior aurors who looked only five or six years older than Draco asked. His face was so pale that he looked green. “What is that?”

“Black magic of the worst kind,” Moody said. He nodded to Draco. “Keep your grip on the wards, kid. Then open the doors for us.”

Draco braced himself, gripped the wards firmly, and then wobbled his way forward to open the doors to Father’s office. Father had, of course, claimed as his office a room with big double doors of carved ebony. The snakes that ran around the edges of the door’s panels had all been given emeralds for eyes. They glittered like a real snake’s eyes as Draco pushed the doors open.

He nearly fell flat on his face.

Moody caught the back of Draco’s jumper, hauled him back upright and then passed him off to the green-faced junior auror whose hands shook as he held Draco up. Amazingly, Moody nodded approvingly to Draco even though he’d almost fallen down in front of everyone.

Inside, Father’s office was dark other than the blazing light of the wards that Draco held around the journal, glory hands and grimoires. The runes of the ward circles slowly rotated around each object. Even with the wards, the aura inside Father’s office was bleak, oppressive. It smelled like death even though Father had died up on the third floor.

The ward circle around the journal was three layers deep and the innermost layer flickered like open flame as the soul shard trapped inside tried to battle its way out.

Every flicker matched with a spike of pain in Draco’s head.

Moody cursed. “Okay, send for the Department of Mysteries, boys. This is beyond us.”

“You’re sure?” Draco asked.

“Malfoy,” Moody said so gently that Draco stared and the aurors froze. “You’re holding in an active soul shard. Plus a shade. I recognize the soul. There’s no wonder that you’re exhausted. Or that your daddy died. This is You-Know-Who’s shade, trapped right here in your wards.”

Moody’s whirling eye disappeared down a grey, echoing tunnel. He dove in and caught Draco’s shoulders, shaking Draco until Draco wheezed and glared at him. There was sweat on Moody’s forehead and his magical eye didn’t whirl at all as he stared at Draco.

“Don’t pass out on us now, Malfoy,” Moody said entirely too gently for Draco’s fraying nerves. “You’re the only thing keeping You-Know-Who here.”

“I won’t,” Draco promised. “I just… I’m so tired. And so hungry. And it all weighs so much!”

“Get the damn Unspeakables in here right now!” Moody bellowed at the junior aurors. “Move!”

He scooped Draco up in his arms and carried him like a baby right back down to the first floor. All along the way, Moody yelled at the aurors, at the elves, and then at Mother who descended on them to snatch Draco out of Moody’s arms so that she could hug him and kiss his forehead and murmur nonsense promises that it would all be better now.

“Get a healer for Mother, too,” Draco told Moody who nodded and stomped off to do just that.

“Darling, I’ll be fine,” Mother protested.

She stilled when Draco met her eyes. And then went very red when he kept right on staring into her eyes. Eventually she sighed and let him stand on his own two feet though only for a few seconds. Draco’s knees went right out from under him.

“Oh, what have they done to you?” Mother whispered as she held Draco up and then guided him to one of the stiff-backed sofas that Father had decreed to be “appropriate” for the grand history of the Malfoy family.

“It’s Father’s office,” Draco corrected. “The artifacts in there are… They’re vile. I’m using the wards to keep them from causing problems. I’m afraid it’s taking all I have to keep… a specific one… under control.”

He didn’t dare say exactly what he was containing. Honestly, Draco was stunned that he’d been able to hold the Dark Lord’s shade in with the journal. Or was part of his soul trapped in the journal? Draco didn’t know, couldn’t tell, and frankly didn’t care as long as someone came to take it away soon.

Mother frowned at Draco, straightening up only to flinch minutely as the injuries that covered her body twinged against the wards. She would have said something comforting probably, but the sound and feel of the floo flared, pulling Draco’s attention away.

“Where is he?”

The person who’d arrived was beyond the ward’s ability to detect. Draco could feel that they were tall, probably masculine though whoever it was could also be an exceptionally tall and muscular woman. Their voice was a harsh distortion of a mid-range tenor.

“Next door,” Moody said. “Malfoy senior is dead. Tortured to death by You-Know-Who. The kid’s taken over the family magic, activated the wards and… caught something you lot need to handle.”

“Help me up,” Draco said to Mother.

“Darling, you need to rest,” Mother said, hands fluttering as she almost touched his shoulder but not quite.

Draco caught her hand, kissing the palm. It made Mother’s breath catch and tears well up in her eyes. Fortunately, it also calmed her dramatically.

“I will,” Draco promised. “But I can’t rest until those damned artifacts are gone. Literally. I will lose control over the wards if I relax too much. Stay here. And let the healer help you. That’s an order.”

Mother’s chin came up, but after a second, she sighed and nodded. “Very well, darling. Do be careful. Don’t touch them.”

“I’ve no intention of going anywhere nearer to them than the door to Father’s office,” Draco said.

He turned and Moody was there with an Unspeakable behind him. No, with a whole team of Unspeakables in their hoods and bland grey robes. Behind them was a healer who glared and pushed at shoulders to try to get through.

“Let the Healer through!” Draco snapped.

“Did specifically ask for one, Croaker,” Moody said as he stepped aside.

The healer finally shoved his way past the Unspeakables, glaring at Croaker as he passed. Draco told him what to look for even though Mother tried to hush Draco and then sat blushing furiously as Draco ignored her and told the Healer just what he was looking at.

“Do your best,” Draco said. “If you can ease Mother’s pain, that’s enough. I’m… struggling to focus between all the things demanding my attention. Your pain is the second most important thing the wards and family magic are screaming about, Mother. Please. Let him help you so that I can focus.”

Mother huffed as if asking that was cheating, which it was. “Very well, darling.”

Her stern look said that he was going to get a long lecture about being less openly manipulative after everyone was gone and both of them had recuperated. Draco would gladly sit still for it. He deserved it and now it wouldn’t be followed by Father torturing him.

“You could do with some healing too,” the healer commented.

“This is all the wards,” Draco said as he reached out for and then clung to Moody’s hands. “It’s… it’s just too much. Let’s go. The sooner those monstrosities are gone, the sooner I can collapse and cope with… everything.”

Let them assume he meant grief. Draco wouldn’t mourn his father. There was nothing there to mourn. He might just throw a little party with the Elves once Mother went to sleep.

Moody scooped Draco up in his arms like a baby again, grinning at the way Draco squawked. “Takes less time this way, kid.”

“I utterly loathe you,” Draco complained, arms crossed over his chest as he pouted.

He didn’t struggle. Moody was right. This trip up to Father’s office took a quarter the time it had before. Croaker strode at their side like a living shadow. He didn’t say a single word until they reached the doors. Father had spelled them to close automatically. The protections on them were ferocious, lethal.

“You need us to break them down,” Croaker said with a thoughtful nod.

“Oh, no,” Draco said as Moody set him down and then gripped the back of his jumper. “I can stand!”

“No, you can’t, kid,” Moody said. He grinned at Draco’s glare. “Open the damned doors. Croaker needs to see what’s in there.”

Draco nodded and pushed the doors open again. Once again, he nearly fell on his face. Moody’s grip on his jumper kept him from falling over. Barely. Behind them, Croaker cursed, low and vicious, as he saw the triple ward circle around the journal and its vicious shade.

“The doors close automatically,” Draco said as he rubbed his forehead. “Please. For the sake of my splitting head and my Mother, get those things out of there. Especially that journal. There are a great many other dark artifacts that my father collected, but the wards don’t object to them so strongly. Just these. Make them go away, any of them that you see that are illegal or dangerous. Destroy them. Whatever you have to do, but please, do it soon.”

Croaker nodded slowly. “Now I understand why you called me, Moody. The boy needs to stay. The doors won’t stay open without him here. Keep him safe while we work.”

“Got it,” Moody said.

He flicked his wand out of his wrist holster, grinning when Draco eyed his arm to try and see what sort of holster it was. Moody helped Draco off to the side and then made sure that he stayed vertical as the Unspeakables moved in to trap the Dark Lord’s shade and box up the artifacts.

Just a little longer. Draco gritted his teeth and kept his grip on the wards as tight as possible. He only had to hold on a little longer and then he could finally relax.

7. Blood is Thicker

August 1, 1992: 7:23 pm

Even after a year at Hogwarts, magic was a wonder. Maybe especially after a year at Hogwarts. It wasn’t like Harry had done all that much studying. Or like he’d been taught anything truly complicated.

Nothing like family magic that felt like being wrapped in a big soft blanket and hugged until he wheezed. Or like family rings that resized automatically and merged together so that Harry had just one family ring with a crest that matched the one Dobby sported.

Or healing magic like what Lord Arcturus Black was suffering through.

Getting Lord Black to the bank had taken Dobby and Silverclaw together going and submitting proof that Harry really was the heir to the Black family as well as the Potter family. They’d helped Arcturus Black back through the floo, not to the one in the lobby but one lower in the bank closer to the healers’ caverns.

Which was good because Lord Black had collapsed, pale as the ghost he was about to become, as soon as he came through the floo.

“Do I need to give more blood?” Harry anxiously asked Fangtooth, the head Healer assigned to Lord Black. “He’s so pale. Shouldn’t he be looking better with a transfusion?”

Fangtooth snorted. “Go sit down, Heir Potter-Black. He is alive and that, in itself, is a miracle. The man is too stubborn to die, or he would’ve been dead before Yule last year.”

Dobby pulled Harry back over to the bench where he’d been told to sit. It was another soot-colored wooden bench. It was not, actually, coated with soot though it apparently had been seared rather than being varnished. Harry tried not to dig his fingernails into the wood as he watched and waited and fretted.

He had a grandfather.

A grandfather who’d been cursed and maybe poisoned, who was on the verge of dying just when Harry found out about him. But still, Harry had a grandfather and that was… everything.

As long as Lord Black survived. And liked Harry enough to be his guardian until he was sixteen. Or at least tolerated Harry until then.

Anyone had to be better than Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and Dumbledore.

Lord Black certainly couldn’t be worse.

“Okay, so,” Amal said as he came in and flopped on the bench next to Harry, “you want the good news or the infuriatingly bad news?”

“Bad news first,” Harry said. “Why would anyone want the good news first? Seriously, that’s never made any sense.”

Amal grinned. The grin faded as Fangtooth started chanting in the goblin’s language Gobbledygook. A glow surrounded Lord Black, pale rose with hints of silver and green. Then it was shot through with emerald green, lemon yellow and celadon green at the same time that Fangtooth added Harry’s blood. There was a deep tug at Harry’s magic that he promptly encouraged, though, really, he hadn’t realized that his magic had those specific colors.

Harry blinked.

“Your eyes are the same color as my magic?” Harry asked Dobby.

Dobby laughed. “Yes, Master Harry. Is one way peoples knows who elves belongs to.”

“Huh,” Harry grunted. He shook his head and turned back to Amal. “So? Bad news?”

“Your godfather Sirius Black never got a trial and probably wasn’t guilty,” Amal said. “At all. Near as Silverclaw and I can tell, it was a plot to get control of you. If Sirius was out of the way, if Lord Black was dead or too sick to do anything, then controlling you would be easy.”

Harry stared at him for a long while and then shook his head. “I really don’t like Dumbledore.”

“We don’t know it was him,” Amal said with a snort-laugh that turned into a real laugh as both Harry and Dobby stared at him. “Okay, fine, yes. It probably was him. Is him. Either way, that’s the infuriatingly bad news. If we can save Lord Black, then he can deal with it though.”

“Okay, good news?” Harry asked because he’d be perfectly happy to leave it to an adult to fix the problem. It shouldn’t be his job to fix at all.

“The good news is that Silverclaw has locked down your vaults, recalled everything that was ever taken from them, ensured that Potter Keep is completely intact and ready to move in with newly updated wards that would keep a full army out,” Amal said while bouncing on the bench with as much excitement as Dobby who was clapping his hands, “and he managed to keep it all secret as we went. We’re pretty sure no one knows that you’re not at Privet Drive.”

That was a huge relief. Harry blew out a breath, turning back to Fangtooth and the healing. Still lots of chanting and lots of magic that looked like Harry’s swirling around but no progress that he could see. Or feel. Yet.

Maybe?

There was a kind of tug right under his breastbone that was getting stronger as the healing went on so hopefully that was a good thing. Now that he was looking at Lord Black, it was really hard to look away. And to stay on the bench.

Harry really wanted to rush over and make sure that Lord Black was all right.

“Is Black Manor safe?” Harry asked Amal without looking his way. “I mean, safe for him to go back to.”

“I… doubt it,” Amal said as he wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders. He also took one of Harry’s hands, squeezing firmly.

“He was cursed there, wasn’t he?” Harry asked as a twin surge of fury and sorrow surged up inside of him. “He was cursed in his own home.”

The magic swirling around Lord Black was getting thicker and thicker. As it grew, Harry found himself panting. And then whining. Not because he hurt. He didn’t. He wouldn’t whine if he did hurt. You only got hurt worse if you whined or cried.

No, it was because Lord Black’s face twisted as the magic grew brighter around him. Even unconscious, it was hurting him. His hair had been black at one point but now he’d gone silver at the temples. His beard was longer, ragged and streaked with silver from the corners of his mouth nearly to the tip of the beard. There were wrinkles like craters around his eyes and the one between his brows said so much about pain, pain that went on and on and on and on.

“Breathe,” Amal told Harry. “Come on, Harry. Breathe for me. Breathe for him. The stronger you are, the stronger the magic will be. Breathe. Count for me. Count to four. In for four, out for four.”

Harry snarled at him because that was impossible, but Dobby nodded that it was true. So Harry breathed in, slowly, and out, slowly. He locked his eyes on Lord Black, on Great-Grandfather Arcturus, and refused.

No, he would not let go. No, he wouldn’t let Arcturus die. No, whoever had done this was not going to win.

No.

The stubbornness that had gotten Harry through Uncle Vernon’s beatings and Aunt Petunia screaming at him straightened Harry’s back. The sheer determination not to yield that had let Harry deal with Dudley’s Harry Hunting and the disapproving looks at school slowed his breathing.

And the need for… for family, for love, for a home with people who cared for him, that let Harry push more magic towards Fangtooth and Arcturus.

Fangtooth’s voice faltered for a second and then his chanting picked up strength and speed. Arcturus shuddered, his lips curling back in a snarl as the pain-filled frown turned into a furious snarl that made Harry laugh as he shook and clung to Amal’s hand. Dobby seized his other hand and the three of them stared at Arcturus and the healing.

The magic grew. And grew. And grew until Harry could barely force air into and out of his lungs.

“No!” Arcturus shouted as his eyes flew open.

Something shattered.

It sounded like glass and felt like jumping into the ice-cold waters of Hogwarts’ lake early in spring. The fury left Arcturus’ face. Wonder, shock, and then laughter that Harry echoed.

The magic settled into dark quietness again, leaving Fangtooth panting and Amal laughing along with Harry and Arcturus.

Alive. He was alive. He was going to live!

Harry could feel it thrumming through his magic, the strangely augmented magic that had spun a bond between him and Arcturus. When had that happened? During the healing?

“Sirius?” Arcturus asked, turning his head towards Harry. “You’re not my boy.”

“No, I’m Harry,” Harry said. “But we’ll get Sirius back. I mean, once you’re stronger. Amal has news about him. It’s bad news, but, you know, it’s news. There is good news though.”

The wrinkles around Arcturus’ eyes deepened but they were bright and smiling wrinkles instead of pain or anger or anything. The silver-streaked beard hid his smile. The wrinkles gave it away entirely.

“I’ll gladly take any good news right now,” Arcturus said without moving. “Including that I’ll live.”

“Oh, you’ll live, Lord Black,” Fangtooth said with a snort. He waved one hand and diagnostic spells like the ones Madame Pomfrey used flashed into place above him. “You’ve a great deal of healing yet to do, but you’ll live thanks to Mr. Potter. The Potter magic is what saved you.”

“Yay,” Harry whispered to Dobby who giggled. “It worked!”

“Did, Master Harry,” Dobby agreed. His joy was pure delight flowing straight through their bond.

Arcturus shook his head slightly and then looked more closely at Harry. “How in the world did you get one of the Malfoy elves, young man?”

“I kind of stole him,” Harry said, rolling his eyes Fangtooth and Arcturus stared at him. “He wanted to be stolen! It’s a long story. Either way, he’s happier with me now and that let me get to Amal and he got me to the bank and that’s what led to you being saved so it’s good. Which is not my good news.”

“All right then,” Arcturus said with those smile wrinkles blooming around his eyes even as Harry heard laughter in his voice. “What’s the good news?”

“Potter Keep is intact, has new wards and you can recuperate there where you’ll be safe,” Harry said. He blushed as he realized that it was kind of sudden. “I mean, if you want to. But it would be safer than Black Manor.”

“That it would,” Arcturus said much more seriously. He still hadn’t tried to move, other than his head and his right index finger tapping against the altar he’d been laid out on. “That it would, my boy. All right. Once I’m freed from here, we’ll have a talk and then we’ll go. I think a safe place might just be the most important thing right now.”

The pure relief that Arcturus would come to Potter Keep, that he did seem to want Harry, was enough to make him sag back into Amal’s arm. All of a sudden, Harry was so tired that he could barely see straight.

He hadn’t been sure, deep inside, whether this would work. Yes, it should have. But when had Harry’s luck ever been that good?

Never, that’s when.

Harry bit his lip. “Um, I’d really like to get to the Keep as soon as possible. I mean, I did steal a Malfoy Elf, even if he wanted to be stolen. And I’m kind of missing, though not really. I mean, I know where I am and I’m doing just what I want to be doing, but Dumbledore’s going to be really mad at me for not being at my aunt and uncle’s place getting abused. So, um, maybe we could go to Potter Keep first and then eat and talk? If you don’t mind?”

Fangtooth waved his hand and Arcturus took a deep breath as if he’d been held down so tightly that he could barely breathe. To Harry’s surprise, Fangtooth stepped back and let Arcturus sit up without assistance. Harry pulled free from Amal and ran over to help Arcturus.

He was bigger than he seemed lying down, easily six foot plus. Very skinny, though, like he hadn’t been able to eat enough for a long, long time.

Like Harry. And maybe like Sirius, too, since he was in prison.

“Dobby will make lots of good food,” Dobby promised as Harry helped Arcturus stand. “He goes now and does it, Master Harry. Will start the fires and make Potter Keep ready for you.”

“You can find it?” Harry asked, biting his lip.

“Is part of Potter magics, Master,” Dobby said so confidently that Harry relaxed a little bit. “You is helping yous great-grandfather. I is taking care of Keep. And you,” he wagged a finger at Amal, “you is coming, too. Is not safe for yous to go home. Dobby will brings yous clothes and books and things. Bad Dumbles would hurt or curse you if he found you. Makes you do bad things to Master Harry.”

Amal opened his mouth to protest and then slowly closed it.

“Okay, yeah, that’s fair,” Amal said. He nodded to Harry. “If you don’t mind, I’ll do just that.”

Harry grinned. “You’re welcome. For as long as you want to stay. I mean, you’re the first grownup to actually help me. Go on, Dobby. But be careful. Don’t let anyone see you and don’t get caught.”

“Dobby is very stealthy commando!” Dobby exclaimed before leaving in a dramatic pop that cracked like a firecracker.

“I haven’t seen him that happy in, oh, at least fifty years,” Arcturus said, shaking his head. “Well. Let’s go and then I expect a very lengthy explanation of everything that’s happened.”

“Amal took notes,” Harry said. “Lots and lots of notes. You can read all of them and then ask all the questions. Once we’re safe.”

8. Healing the Pain

August 2, 1992 8:03 am

Draco sat very still as Healer Smethwyck ran diagnostic spells over him. He’d far rather that the spells were pointed at Mother. They’d made it through the night, barely. Mother had spent the evening as the Unspeakables worked to trap the Dark Lord’s shade alternately weeping silently and sternly lecturing Moody about getting the job done more quickly so that it would lessen the strain on Draco.

Frankly, Draco had wished quite ardently that she’d pass out from shock and exhaustion more than once.

He couldn’t blame her for it, though. The wards were very, very clear about the sheer amount of damage Father had inflicted on Mother. A junior Medi-wizard with only a limited spells at his disposal wasn’t going to be able to do more than ease Mother’s pain temporarily.

He wished that the wards weren’t that clear about everything that was wrong with Mother.

Another wish that simply wasn’t going to be met.

Yet.

Either way, it was after midnight when the Unspeakables finally gathered up the last handful of less dangerous dark artifacts from Father’s office. They’d expected, obviously from their blank-faced stares, Draco to protest. Instead, Draco had gladly given them permission to take the lot away with no demands for compensation, return of the artifacts or any questions.

They needed to be gone. The sooner, the better. Until they were, the wards weren’t going to quiet down enough for Draco to be able to think straight.

The instant they all disappeared through the floo, Draco had quite literally fallen down in relief.

Yule had popped in immediately, shoving a hot chocolate into Draco’s hands and then returned a moment later with a sherry for Mother. He’d then shoved firewiskey at Moody and Croaker who’d stared as if stunned.

“Is a celebration,” Yule declared. “Short celebration. Master Draco needs his sleeps.”

Then he’d popped away. Draco had drunk his hot chocolate while sitting on the floor exactly as a Malfoy never, ever did, and the three adults had had a little toast to the entire ordeal being over.

Also to the Dark Lord’s shade having been captured along with one of his soul anchors, but really, all Draco cared was that the wards weren’t screaming at him. He’d fallen asleep right there. Ivy had woken him at six in the morning with the news that Mother had barely been able to sleep from the pain wracking her, so Draco had summoned their healer, much to Healer Smethwyck’s displeasure.

Healer Hippocrates Smethwyck was sternly grandfatherly, with white hair he kept above the collar line, faded blue eyes and a wit that could flay you alive even as he healed every hurt you’d ever had. Draco had been terrified of him as a baby, afraid of him as a young boy, and now as Lord Malfoy, found that he still found the old man horribly intimidating.

“You’re handling the weight of your new duties remarkably well, young Lord Malfoy,” Healer Smethwyck said finally. “Expect your magical maturation to occur in the next month or so. Your core is already starting to open to cope with the family magic pouring into you.”

“Oh, lovely,” Draco said with a tired sigh. “I suppose I should have expected that. Please see to Mother. The wards simply will not stop screaming about her condition.”

“Darling, I’m fine, truly,” Mother protested.

He stared at her along with Healer Smethwyck whose frown somehow made Draco want to squirm with second-hand embarrassment for Mother’s attempt to lie. She pursed her lips, folded her hands in her lap, and then raised her chin at Draco.

“I am your mother, Draco,” Mother started to say. She stopped when Draco held up a hand.

“I’m not joking when I say that the wards are screaming, Mother,” Draco said. He grimaced at the second round of diagnostics Healer Smethwyck directed at him. “They are quite literally telling me every single thing Father did to you, every injury you’ve ever had and all the curse damage you’re laboring under. As well as moment by moment notices about your general and specific pain levels.”

Healer Smethwyck snorted. “That has to be annoying. I’d have thought you’d turned the notices down.”

“…When would I have had the time?” Draco asked, more than a little annoyed. “Father died yesterday just after noon. The wards landed on me as he died because I was the only Malfoy nearby who didn’t have the Dark Mark. There hasn’t been a Malfoy with the ability to interact with the wards in two full generations. Perhaps three. On top of that, the aurors and the Unspeakables didn’t leave until after midnight.”

“Fair enough,” Healer Smethwyck said. He turned to Mother. “You stay right there, young lady. I suspect that we’ll be at this the rest of the day.”

“Please, Mother,” Draco begged and didn’t even attempt to make it sound like an order. “You know I have so many things to do. Relatives to notify, the Ministry, Gringotts. I can’t do this alone. Please, I need your help and I need you to be as strong and healthy as possible.”

Her little sniff said that the blatant manipulation was unworthy of a Slytherin, but she nodded her head and gestured for Healer Smethwyck to set to work. Draco gladly retreated to let her have the illusion of privacy. He would know what happened automatically, but he didn’t need to be rude about it.

There really was far too much to do. Draco hadn’t lied about that. He had so many things that he needed to get done that Draco wasn’t at all sure where to start.

Except for one thing.

Draco made his way down to the wardroom, not surprised that Ivy popped in when he approached the ward stone. No sign of blood remained. Ivy smiled and nodded once, firmly, when Draco patted her shoulder in thanks.

“Healer Smethwyck wasn’t wrong about adjusting the wards a bit,” Draco murmured as he touched the stone and watched the many, many spell circles embossed on the wall, ceiling, and floor of the chamber light up.

“Master is going to stops watching over Mistress?” Ivy asked. She didn’t even need to frown to make it clear she thought that was a bad idea.

“Oh, no,” Draco said. “Turn the vehemence down a touch, yes. It’s rather like having Dobby yell in my ear constantly.”

“Ouch.” Ivy tugged one of her ears in sympathy.

It was simple enough to turn down the loudness of the notifications regarding Mother’s issues. He didn’t adjust anything else on that. If someone, anyone, was hurt on his land, Draco wanted to know.

The real point was a bit harder. Properly set up and maintained wards could forbid undesired people access to the property either by foot or floo or Apparation or broom. Even portkeys could be blocked. Draco struggled for a bit to get the wards to refuse access to anyone who had the taint of the Dark Lord’s magic on their core.

“That’s… I can’t quite get it,” Draco complained. “The Mark is easy. But he left so many unmarked.”

“Maybe Master should asks the goblins?” Ivy suggested. “Blue says Mistress is done with this round of healing. She be looking for Master Draco now.”

Draco blinked, surprised that he hadn’t noticed it. He’d apparently turned the wards down just a bit too much. He adjusted them again and there it was. Mother was looking for him. She did feel much better, thankfully, though her magic had a long way to go before she was properly healthy.

They found each other, or more accurately Draco found her, in the floo room.

“Where have you been, Darling?” Mother asked. “I looked everywhere.”

“Down in the wardroom attempting to give you some level of privacy, Mother,” Draco said. He blushed when she raised an eyebrow at him. “I really don’t need to know all of that. The wards were… intrusive. Extremely intrusive. I apologize for that.”

She smiled and pulled Draco into a hug that he melted into. Draco couldn’t remember the last time Mother had hugged him. He must have been less than five or six. After that, as his magic started to settle, Father had taken over Draco’s “education”.

Father’s version of education had consisted of throwing tests at Draco without giving him books or tutoring or explanations and then punishing him when he failed. Draco remained astonished that he’d managed to learn anything at all at Hogwarts. He’d spent a huge amount of time trying not to flinch every time he made a mistake or someone else performed better than him.

“How are you handling this, darling?” Mother asked. “Tell me the truth. The wards must be a disaster. Your father and grandfather refused to allow anyone else to touch them.”

Draco snorted. “Mother, they couldn’t interact with the wards. No one has changed or updated or even listened to the ward notices since Grandfather was marked. The Dark Mark blocked their ability to interact with or control the wards.”

To Draco’s shock, Mother’s jaw dropped open. She paled and then turned and grabbed some floo powder.

“Gringotts!” Mother said.

The flames roared up and Draco followed her through with a handful of floo powder of his own. Security really did have to come first. So many of his cousins, aunts, uncles, and more distant relatives followed the Dark Lord. They needed to have a secure place. No matter what else might be going on, safety came first.

The lobby of Gringotts was busy, as was to be expected in the middle of the day. Draco had spent more time with the wards than he’d intended. It was approaching noon already. Despite that, Mother got them an appointment with their account manager Silverclaw with no delay at all.

He’d never been comfortable going deeper into the bank. The carts were a terror and the caverns with their many vault doors hiding who knew what were worse. Doing it now, after claiming the Malfoy family magic?

It was different.

Draco could feel so much more of what the Goblins had done. There were wards and watching spells, monitors and message systems. Each vault door had a specific identity to it, one that Draco could see but not understand. Silverclaw’s vault door, once they reached it after going through a maze of tunnels, stairs, and other vault doors, felt like it might just bite Draco.

“Silverclaw, may your gold flow freely and your enemies die painfully at your feet,” Mother said with a little bow towards the ridiculously fussy old goblin.

“So mote it be,” Silverclaw said, one eyebrow sliding up as he stared first at Mother and then at Draco. “I see that your enemies have already died. Is it time for an accounting of your gold?”

“Oh yes,” Draco said before Mother could demur. “Please. We need a full audit and all funds frozen for everyone who isn’t Mother and I. Oh, and our elves. They can draw funds. No one else can. Well, Dobby can’t but he’s no longer one of ours.”

“What?” Mother gasped and stared at Draco.

“That was the first thing I noticed after Father started losing control of the family magic, Mother,” Draco said. He most certainly was never, ever going to admit that he’d noticed it well before Father died. “Dobby has been claimed by someone else. Probably Potter. Father did send him to make trouble for Potter. I imagine Potter’s done something ridiculous and Gryffindor-ish and stolen his bond right out of Father’s hands.”

Silverclaw hummed, tapping his long, ornamented claws against the onyx of his desktop. No sparks so he wasn’t angry. That was a relief. Draco wasn’t sure what he’d do if he offended the Goblins the way Father always did.

“You are correct, Lord Malfoy,” Silverclaw said. “Young Lord Potter-Black has already been to the bank for several important items he was lacking. Dobby is now his elf.”

Draco huffed and shook his head. “Well, I wish them both much joy together then. Dobby was always a handful. A very loud, very energetic, very slippery handful.”

Mother put a hand over her mouth though it did nothing whatsoever to hide her laughter. It did shield her teeth so that she wouldn’t offend Silverclaw by displaying fangs at him. Silverclaw’s lips curled in a tight but wide smile.

“That would be my assessment of the elf,” Silverclaw agreed. “Was there anything else?”

“Yes,” Mother said as she sat opposite Silverclaw. She gestured so Draco came to sit next to her even though Silverclaw’s chairs were made of stone and completely without padding spells. “According to my son, my husband and his father were both unable to interact with the wards due to the Dark Mark. We need to have them renewed and updated, please.”

“I do not want Dumbledore or any of his people to have access. Also, I want them to forbid access to anyone who has the Dark Lord’s magic staining their core access to the property,” Draco said. He took a deep breath and then bit his lip. “This is confidential, Silverclaw. The Ministry has not put this out and probably won’t for quite some time. My father died because the Dark Lord’s shade was torturing him. In our house. He’s created soul anchors. At least one but more than likely many of them. I will not have anyone stained by the Dark Lord’s magic on Malfoy property. Nor will I have anything stained by that monster in our vaults.”

Silverclaw sat up very straight, staring at Draco as if he was seeing straight through to his soul. Perhaps he was. Draco had no idea what gifts Goblins had. Father had considered them annoying vermin and Dumbledore was nearly as bad. It was the only explanation for why Dumbledore let a racist old ghost teach History of Magic.

Actually, he would have to make sure that the wards rejected anyone tainted by Dumbledore’s magic, too. It was the only way to be absolutely sure that they were safe.

“Tell me everything, Lord Malfoy,” Silverclaw said as he scribbled a note on a scrap of paper and dropped it into his message box. It flashed away. “Spare no details.”

Draco sighed. One more time. Hopefully, it would be last time he had to tell all of this before he could get to work on setting everything else to rights.

9. Warding the Space

August 2, 1992 4:24 pm

Harry stood in the middle of Potter Keep’s smaller circular tower and stared up. His mouth dropped open further as he looked up and up and up. The walls had bookshelves. So many bookshelves. They went up not just the five stories you could see outside, but twelve or thirteen, maybe fourteen stories inside.

Because of course the library was bigger on the inside than the outside.

He’d giggled about that so hard when Amal said it the first time. That had been when Silverclaw showed them into the Keep’s wardroom and then keyed the wards to Harry in particular and Grandpa Arcturus as his backup. Amal got access to the keep but not to the wards. He wasn’t family, really, though Harry sort of felt like he was.

After Silverclaw left, Harry and Amal had made Grandpa Arcturus go lie down and take a nap in the suite right next door to Harry’s suite. The Master suite which meant that his bedroom was the size of Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s entire ground floor, plus a little bit of the yard outside. It was enormous with a humongous bed that Harry could have had a slumber party on and invited most of his fellow second year Gryffindors.

He had his own bathroom with a big black claw-footed tub and a wardrobe as large as Dudley’s second bedroom and a sitting room with three comfy armchairs, two couches and his own fireplace that was not, thankfully, connected to the floo network.

Only one fireplace downstairs on the main floor off in one corner of the Keep, away from the living quarters and kitchen, was connected to the floo.

The goblins had put up special wards that prevented anyone from forcing their way into the floo. They’d updated all the wards so that they were one hundred and eighty percent secure in every way possible. They’d called them war wards, which sounded just about right to Harry given that Voldemort’s shade was still skulking about somewhere causing problems.

None of which compared to the library.

“Hermione would faint,” Harry finally said, shivering at the sheer number of books he had available to him. “There’s more books here than in Hogwarts’ library. I want to move in here and never leave.”

“I’m halfway tempted to,” Amal said, summoning law books and accounting books and history books off the higher shelves which all floated around him patiently. “This is amazing. Silverclaw said something about the audit pulling back all the entailed books that were taken elsewhere.”

Harry frowned. “If this place is so secure, how could someone get books from it?”

“As I understand it,” Amal said, letting the books fly back up to their spots on the shelves, “your father gave Dumbledore access to the library before he died.”

“He…” Harry stopped and shook his head. “Dobby!”

“Dinner is almost ready, Master Harry,” Dobby exclaimed as he popped in. “Dobby has to make dessert yet. Roast is almost perfectly roasty.”

He was wearing an apron covered with tiny, embroidered strawberries connected by pale pink ribbons stitched down by hand. The ruffles were huge compared to Dobby’s scrawny frame. On Aunt Petunia, they were perfectly perky and highly stylish. Or at least that’s what Aunt Petunia would claim when she had a bridge party or when Uncle Vernon invited someone from work over to have dinner.

“You stole Aunt Petunia’s best apron,” Harry said in a squeak before he burst out laughing.

Dobby preened, tugging at the too-large ruffles over his shoulders and making them stand up even more. “Dobby needed a good apron. Cannot be using something old and ugly for first meal in Master Harry’s new castle.”

When Harry pulled Dobby into a laughing hug, Dobby giggled and hugged Harry right back. He was a lot stronger than he seemed, picking Harry up off his feet for a second before setting him down and then wiggling his ears happily.

“What can Dobby do for Master Harry?” Dobby asked.

“I wanted to know how many of these books were in Dumbledore’s office until the Goblins called them back,” Harry said.

“Ohhhh, not many, Master,” Dobby said thoughtfully. “Was only thousand or so. Is many, many more here. But all best ones was there. Most expensive and rare ones.”

Harry huffed and shook his head. “I really don’t like Dumbledore anymore. Not at all. Go on and finish dessert, Dobby. We should go get Grandpa Arcturus up, anyway.”

Dobby nodded, ears flapping, and then popped away. As they headed upstairs in the bigger round tower, Harry couldn’t help but go through all the terrible things in his life to see how they related to Dumbledore.

He’d been sent to live with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon because of Dumbledore. That was his fault. The whole no vaccinations and medical care was Dumbledore, too. So was Harry not knowing about being from an Ancient and Noble family, or that he was heir to two lines. Well, four, really.

“Why did my parents go into hiding?” Harry asked Amal. “Dumbledore said that there were reasons but that I was too young to find out.”

Amal snorted as he wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders. They stopped on the landing just below the floor with all their bedrooms. The curving stairwell was beautiful, lit from overhead by a huge magical skylight that showed clouds drifting across the sky, and from the windows that pierced the walls ever few yards.

“Dumbledore shared a prophecy with them,” Amal said. “James was… He was upset when he came to set up all the account protocols for them to go into hiding. Your mother just about scorched the paint off the walls with her cursing. She had a bit of a tongue on her when she was really angry.”

“Wow,” Harry said. He laughed. “No one’s ever told me that.”

“Oh, Lily was perfectly polite most of the time,” Amal said with a sad smile that faded into a worried frown. “Not when she was furious. She’d go up like a grenade and then she’d go cold. You had to watch out once she went cold. And, well, Dumbledore made them swear an oath not to share that prophecy with anyone before he gave it to them. From what they were able to tell me, you or Neville Longbottom were destined to destroy You-Know-Who. That’s why they had to hide, so that You-Know-Who couldn’t get at them.”

Harry tilted his head to the side, fingers clenched on the gracefully carved railing so hard that he vaguely worried about breaking it.

“Dumbledore gave them a prophecy,” Harry said slowly.

“Yeah,” Amal agreed.

“How’d they hide?” Harry asked.

His breath was all shaky with fury and he could see just how his mum would have gone cold. The anger was hot, sure, but there was an icy certainty underneath that he wasn’t seeing everything and that when he did, it would show him who his real enemy was.

“Sealed this place up,” Amal said with a wave of his free hand, “went to their cottage in Godric’s Hollow because it was the newest and least-known of the Potter properties, and then Dumbledore cast the Fidelias on it.”

“Only the Fidelias?” Grandpa Arcturus asked from the top of the stairs. He looked just about as angry as Harry felt.

“As I understand it,” Amal said with another nod and a firmer grip on Harry’s shoulders, “yeah. Lily was… not flattering about that being their only protection. I never understood why they didn’t update the wards here and hunker down. You could send entire armies against Potter Keep and never get through. People have tried multiple times over the centuries.”

Harry blew out a breath and rubbed a hand over his face.

“Tell me,” Grandpa Arcturus said. It was request, a gentle one, not an order despite the phrasing.

“Dumbledore made my parents hide,” Harry said, ticking things off on his fingers. “Dumbledore is Voldemort’s greatest enemy, the one person he fears, but he’s never tracked him down and stopped him. Dumbledore was Supreme Mugwump, right? Chief Warlock, too. He could’ve gone after Voldemort with all the power of the Ministry and the ICW behind him.”

Harry’s hands shook as he tried to breathe through the rage. There was so much. So many things that he really hadn’t been paying attention to. He’d been outright desperate for anything that would let him stay in the Magical world so he’d kind of refused to even look at everything that made him twitchy about Dumbledore.

“Couldn’t he,” Harry continued even though his voice shook, “shouldn’t he have seen that Sirius got a trial? Dobby swears that Sirius is innocent. Any Elf could’ve told him. And, you know, he knew that Sirius wasn’t the one who held the secret, right? Since he cast the spell. He knew!”

Grandpa Arcturus slowly came down the stairs to stare into Harry’s eyes. He sat on the stairs, grey eyes utterly serious as he nodded for Harry to continue. Between him and Amal, Harry had two hundred percent more adult support than he’d ever had before.

Harry took a deep breath and let himself rant.

“He stole my books,” Harry exclaimed, “dumped me in a home where I’d never learn anything about magic and where I’d be abused. He hired Voldemort to teach at the school! I mean, from what Silverclaw said, there’s no way he couldn’t tell that Voldemort had possessed Professor Quirrell. Hogwarts has wards. We were all told we were perfectly safe there because of the wards. Then there’s the whole thing with the Philosopher’s Stone and the unicorns and the maze. How is hiding the Philosopher’s Stone behind traps that three first-years can get through a good way of protecting the Stone? And, really, how do we know that prophecy that started it all is real? There’s… so… many things!”

Words spluttered out, leaving Harry red-faced and furious and flailing his hands like Uncle Vernon when his face went purple with rage at something Harry had done. Hopefully, his face wasn’t purple like that. It would be so embarrassing.

Grandpa Arcturus breathed slowly, eyes shimmering with his magic like he was as angry as Harry was.

“You’re not wrong,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “I was poisoned not long after a… disagreement I had with Dumbledore. I’d intended to go find out just what testimony Sirius had given. Then in the middle of the night I was struck ill and could only struggle to survive. Narcissa Malfoy visited often. I suspect that she’s the only reason I’m still alive. She brought me so many potions and purging draughts.”

“She helped?” Harry asked.

“I believe she may have saved my life despite being… cruelly abused by her husband,” Grandpa Arcturus said. He sighed and shook his head before standing back up. “We can discuss it at dinner, I think. Now that we have a secure place to work from, we need to decide what we will work towards.”

“Well, supposedly I’m destined to destroy Voldemort or something,” Harry said. He grimaced at the horrified looks Amal and Grandpa Arcturus gave him. “I don’t know if I believe that. Dumbledore wouldn’t say much. It was…” he waved his hands while making a face, “all implication and my dear boy this and enjoy your childhood that, even though he was sending me right back to Privet Drive.”

Amal snorted. “I always hated that. He treats everyone like they’re little kids and the really sad part is, I’m pretty sure that he hates kids.”

Grandpa Arcturus nodded. “He does.”

“What we really need,” Amal said as they went back down the stairs, all three of them side by side because the staircase was wide enough for four to climb it together, “is more information. Is there anyway you can get Narcissa alone?”

“I doubt it,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “Lucius is paranoid and quite vicious to her and Draco both. I certainly wouldn’t invite them here.”

Harry frowned at the news, to him at least, that Draco was abused, too. He hadn’t realized that. Draco had always acted so proud of his father and the Malfoy family that he’d assumed that Draco was spoiled rotten. Maybe he acted like his family was perfect so that no one would suspect how bad it was?

That made sense.

And it made Harry feel bad for all the ways he’d poked at Draco last year. Still didn’t feel a tiny bit of guilt for stealing Dobby, but he probably shouldn’t have been such a prat to Draco. Even if he’d been a massive prat first. Several times.

“We need more information,” Harry said as they reached the small dining room near the kitchens that Dobby had decreed as the family dining room. The formal dining room was a good eight times bigger and way more formal. This was more like Aunt Petunia’s kitchen table, just without the kitchen around it.

“A lot more,” Amal agreed.

“And a place where we can talk to Narcissa while keeping Lucius away,” Harry continued, thinking about it. “The Goblins were going to work on Black Manor, right? That’s where Narcissa expects you to be. If the Goblins fix it up, repair the wards, you can keep control of Lucius, right?”

Grandpa Arcturus’ eyebrows went up as the considered it. “That would work. I’ve no interest in staying there at the moment, but it makes a good base to work from. We’ll have to link the floos securely, perhaps set up special portkeys that would take us to and from that no one would be able to stop or steal. But it could work.”

“I’ll contact the Goblins about it after dinner,” Amal promised.

He pushed Harry into the dining room and then did the same for Grandpa Arcturus even though Grandpa Arcturus’ eyebrows went way, way up and then he glared at Amal with magic sparkling in his eyes.

“Now,” Amal said, hands on his hips, “the two of you need to eat. You’re both underweight and not your best. I expect you both to eat everything Dobby puts on your plate. If he thinks you need it, he’s probably right. Elves are very good at that.”

Harry blushed. When he peeked at Grandpa Arcturus, his cheeks above his silver-streaked beard were red, too. That set Harry to giggling. After a moment, Grandpa Arcturus shook his head and laughed as well.

Then it was fine. Dobby popped the food in, grinning and holding up a fist for Amal to bump which Amal did with pride. It was fine. Truly fine, not the making do fine that Harry’d had most of his life.

They’d talk to the Goblins, summon the Malfoy family to Black Manor, and see what they learned.

Tomorrow.

Tonight was for celebrating safety with his new family.

10. A Patriarch’s Call

August 3, 10:03 am

Draco licked his lips as he studied the invitation from Lord Arcturus Black. The owl had already departed, winging off the instant the invitation was in Draco’s hands.

The handwriting was firmer than Draco expected. Mother had been working for most of a year to save Lord Black’s life. She’d been clear in all her letters to Draco over the school year that she didn’t expect to succeed. In fact, she’d expected to get a call from Gringotts anytime that Lord Black had died.

He definitely wasn’t dead.

To Lord Lucius Malfoy and Family,

Your presence at Black Manor is requested today at 10:30 am. There are matters which need to be discussed that have been much delayed due to my recent ill health. I expect your reply by elf shortly.

Lord Arcturus Black

Black Manor

Shockingly informal, but not dead. Draco shook his head and went to find Mother out in the conservatory. He could remember her spending time there when he was a tiny child, not yet out of a baby’s dresses. She hadn’t spent any time in the conservatory since Draco was turned over to Father for his training.

“Mother,” Draco said and then stopped, appalled. “Oh, Merlin, you’ve got to change your clothes!”

She looked down at the dirt smudges, green streaks across her skirt and sleeves and then raised an eyebrow at him. Her hair was dark again, fully dark instead of partially spelled blond to suit Father’s idiotic insistence that everyone wearing the Malfoy name had to have blond hair.

“Darling, we agreed that we were having a quiet day at home to recuperate today,” Mother said with a little frown and a gentle smile that was so beautiful to see.

Draco hated to destroy that peace, that wonderful smile. He passed the letter over.

“That was before Lord Black sent a message asking us to visit,” Draco said. “At 10:30. In… oh, fifteen minutes.”

Mother stared at the letter, mouth open, and then flung it back to him. She apparated away, up to her quarters where the wards told Draco that she yelled for Blue to help her get cleaned up and changed immediately. Draco picked up the letter, let Vern read it, and then laughed as Vern set to work potting the plants that Mother had been working with while muttering about rude demands upsetting the poor baby plants.

Draco made his way to the floo room, completely unsurprised when Ivy appeared with his best semi-formal robe, the open front dove-grey one with the silver-thread dragon embroidery around the collar. When Mother apparated into the floo room, she was wild-eyed but very respectably dressed in a gorgeous silver and green gown, an emerald robe and her hair pinned up with some beautiful old combs decorated with narcissus that Draco had never seen before.

Mother brushed a hand over the combs and smiled as if it might break her face. “They were a wedding gift from Lord Black. Lucius… never liked them.”

Both Draco’s eyebrows went up. “I’m glad you managed to hide them away then. They’re lovely. I’d hate for him to have destroyed them.”

Given how Father had ranted about Lord Black’s refusal to recognize Draco as his heir after Sirius Black was thrown in Azkaban, Draco was astonished that Mother had managed to save anything from Lord Black. Father was always… had always been quite violent when confronted with things that he didn’t like.

Or which represented any level of disapproval.

They went through the floo together, hand in hand. Draco clung to Mother, not so much for his own sense of balance but for Mother whose breath caught and whose knees went weak for a moment as they emerged from the floo. The spells on the fireplace whisked away the soot that automatically covered one, leaving both Draco and Mother clean.

Cooper, Lord Black’s personal elf, stood waiting for them. He was rather pale, a bit too pale, really, but he looked much better than the last time Draco had been to visit. His ears weren’t sagging right down to his shoulders. His uniform was clean and properly pressed, the black tea towel fabric no longer wrinkled and worn looking.

And his eyes were bright silver instead of dull slate grey.

“We is waiting for Lord Malfoy?” Cooper asked.

Draco sucked in a breath, surprised that the whole world didn’t already know. Mother’s grip on his hand tightened, then released so that she could put her hands on Draco’s shoulders in support. Which just made utterly embarrassing tears clog Draco’s throat for a moment. He cleared his throat and then attempted to smile at Cooper.

It felt wrong on his face, so he stopped immediately.

“I’m sorry that notice hasn’t gotten here yet,” Draco said. “I’m afraid that Father died yesterday morning due to… health issues related to the last war. The family magic chose me as Lord, though of course, Mother is my regent until I reach my majority.”

Cooper’s eyes went wide. He nodded once, slowly, eyes glimmering with Lord Black’s magic. Goodness, that was so good to see! Draco could just barely remember a time when Lord Black had been able to support a dozen elves but over the years, as he’d gotten sicker and sicker, they’d all gone to other masters until only Cooper remained.

“Little Lord Malfoy and Mistress Pretty is coming with Cooper,” Cooper said.

Mother made a noise like a kitten sneezing. When Draco turned to stare up at her, there were tears in her eyes. She shook her head at him, a fond smile on her lips. It wasn’t until they were heading up the grand staircase with its onyx treads and ebony risers and railing that Mother leaned down to whisper in his ear.

“I was Mistress Pretty when I was your age,” Mother said. “Andromeda was Mistress Starry and Bellatrix was Mistress Scatter.”

Draco blinked and then laughed quietly even though his stomach tied itself into a knot at Aunt Bellatrix’s nickname. He was relatively certain he knew how she’d gotten it. She’d been insane most of her life, after all, and vicious all of it. The Black family elves had to have lived in terror of her.

The master bedroom was still dark, as it always was. Heavy ebony couches and armchairs with black leather in the sitting room competed with silver, slate grey, and black carpets. The curtains were heavy black velvet. All of them were drawn. Draco had never seen them open, not once. When he was tiny and Mother had brought him to see Lord Black, Draco had been too afraid to even touch the curtains. He was halfway convinced that there was solid stone on the other side of them, that the curtains were for fashion’s sake, not to keep light from the windows out.

Lord Black reclined on one of his couches, just as he always did. He had a heavy bearskin rug over his legs. On top of that were several folios and two leather-bound books. He’d managed to put on a proper shirt today though Draco wondered how much it had cost him. His eyes were mostly closed as they were shown in, the silver of his eyes barely gleaming at them at all.

“Grandfather,” Mother said in a soft-pitched voice as if she was afraid that he was asleep. “We’re here.”

Lord Black grunted, eyes narrowing even further. “Where’s that idiot you married?”

Draco sucked in a breath, wondering if it would ever get easier to say this, especially with Mother’s breath hitching and her hand clamped down like a vice on his hand. “I’m sorry that we didn’t get notice to you sooner, sir. My father died yesterday morning due to… well, complications from the last war. We spent the day dealing with the Ministry. There were. Hm. Artifacts that needed to be removed and the wards needed to be updated.”

It was as if the air had been sucked out of the sitting room. Lord Black went absolutely still. Even his hands, too thin for a man in his prime, went still on the folio he’d been holding. Then his eyes opened all the way and Draco jerked Mother back a step as he realized that no, those weren’t Lord Black’s eyes.

They were too brown, a warm amber-yellow brown that darkened towards black at the edges.

The silver must have been a glamour.

Draco’s heart pounded in his chest as he pulled on the Malfoy magic instinctively. He didn’t know who this was, but he must have done something to Lord Black which meant that he was a threat to both Draco and Mother.

“Well, if that isn’t a kick in the pants,” Lord Black said from behind the curtains next to the fireplace.

He flung the curtains open, letting sunlight flood into the sitting room. The man pretending to be Lord Black shook his head and then pushed the blanket off his legs. That man was fully dressed, if in casual slacks and a simple button-down shirt with no robe whatsoever. As soon as the bearskin was off him, his skin went warm brown and his hair turned into a black mop of curls that would’ve done Harry Potter proud.

Lord Black was properly dressed for the first time in Draco’s memory, standing tall and strong in the sunlight. The grey tinge to his skin was gone. The ever so faint smell of sickness was gone, too, though Draco only noticed it once he realized that he’d been fooled.

Harry Potter peeked out from behind Lord Black to stare at Draco.

“What are you doing here?” Draco demanded in the most hostile tone imaginable even though he really wasn’t angry. Stunned, yes. Not angry. “What did you do to Lord Black?”

“Oh, um, figured out how to break the curse on him,” Harry replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “And, you know, a lot of other stuff. Are you okay? I mean, you dad did just die.”

“Well, yes, but that’s not a problem,” Draco said. He waved away Harry’s frown, very aware that the adults were staring at the two of them with amusement. “Did you steal Dobby? I know he’s gone, but I wasn’t sure if it was you or not.”

“He’s mine now,” Harry said with such ferocity that Draco rolled his eyes.

“Yes, thank you, that’s what I wanted to know,” Draco said. He sighed. “Seriously, it’s not that hard to just confirm it.”

“Boys,” Mother said as she put her hands on Draco’s shoulders. “That’s enough now. Grandfather, are you truly better?”

Lord Black’s smile was broad, bright, and somehow more real than any other smile Draco had ever seen. “I am. Harry and Amal saved my life. There’s a great deal to discuss now that I know you’re not chained to that idiot anymore. I’m launching the war wards. I’d suggest you do the same for Malfoy Manor, Narcissa.”

“I’m afraid she can’t do that,” Draco said and then winced as Lord Black and Harry both glared at him. “She doesn’t control the wards. I do.”

“Don’t let Dumbledore in,” Harry said so quickly that Draco stared at him. “I mean, keep all of Voldemort’s people out, definitely, but you absolutely can’t let Dumbledore in, either.”

Draco frowned at Harry, astounded that he’d realized that Dumbledore wasn’t trustworthy. All last year, Harry seemed to be in Dumbledore’s back pocket. Whatever Dumbledore said, Harry and his idiot friends sucked up willingly.

“I’ve already sealed the Malfoy wards so that he can’t get in,” Draco said. “That was, oh, Merlin, the fourth thing I did? Maybe fifth. I had the Goblins make sure it would hold against him no matter what that abusive old man tried.”

Harry’s head went back at the word “abusive”. For a second, Draco expected that Harry was going to start shouting denials of the truth that Draco had seen with his own eyes. But Harry didn’t.

Instead, Harry nodded slowly as if he was reassessing everything about Draco.

“Huh,” Harry said. “I didn’t think he hurt anyone but me.”

Draco barked a laugh, patting Mother’s hand when she squeezed his shoulder. “Oh, it’s far more wide-spread than that, Potter. Dumbledore’s abuse is spread right across the magical world. I suspect it goes back generations.”

Harry’s eyes went wide. He looked up at Lord Black who was frowning at Draco as though he wasn’t at all sure what to make of Draco. The other man, Amal, bit his lip and switched his stare between Lord Black, Mother and Draco while fidgeting nervously. If he weren’t Muggleborn, Draco would eat his favorite pair of dragonhide boots. No one raised in Magical society would ever fidget that way. It showed too much weakness.

“That… makes sense, actually,” Harry said finally. “Um, is Voldemort going to come after you and your mom? I’m pretty sure we can get you somewhere safe.”

Draco’s laugh this time was entirely too hysterical. He leaned into Mother’s embrace, letting her pet his hair and coo softly reassuring words that meant absolutely nothing. Other than that she loved him and wished that he hadn’t had to deal with all of this.

“Potter, the Dark Lord’s shade has already been captured,” Draco said once he managed to stop laughing. His voice shook but Draco couldn’t stop it.

“What?”

Harry’s jaw dropped open. So did Lord Black’s and Amal’s.

“He tortured my father to death and then got caught in the wards when the Malfoy magic chose me over sustaining Father’s life,” Draco explained. “The Ministry has the Dark Lord’s shade and one of his soul anchors.”

“One of?” Lord Black demanded. He grabbed for the back of the sofa as his legs went out from under him. “He made multiple?”

“Croaker said that he believed that the Dark Lord may have created as many as six,” Mother said. “The Unspeakables are working to discover and capture them all.”

11. A Soul Anchor

August 3, 7:43 pm

Harry flopped down into the purple velvet covered armchair in the Black Library. It wasn’t as comfy as the chairs in Potter Keep but it was nice and warm. Draco perched on the forest green armchair across from Harry, as much of a prat as he always was at school.

At least until he sighed and slowly collapsed back into his armchair with his eyes shut.

Then Draco just looked wiped out. Exhausted. The bags under his eyes were purple-blue. His skin looked way too pale even for him. Harry could see the faint blue tracks of veins under his cheekbones. And his hands hadn’t stopped shaking since Grandpa Arcturus revealed himself that morning.

“A zillion books to read,” Harry commented quietly, “and I’m too tired to even peek at them.”

“I was under the impression that you didn’t read, Potter,” Draco said without opening his eyes.

“No, I like reading,” Harry said. “I used to get beaten up for it so I’m always careful who I let see me reading. And, well, Ron’s really bad at reading so I feel bad reading around him.”

Draco opened one eye, frowning. “What does “really bad” mean?”

“I think he’s functionally illiterate,” Harry said. He winced when Draco opened both eyes and sat up again. “I mean, he can read. Kind of? It’s hard for him. I get the impression that he had to sound everything out and he traces every line as he reads it as if the words are going to escape off the edge of the page.”

“He’s…” Draco tipped his head sharply to one side, then shook his head. “I was about to say that I’m astonished that Madame Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall didn’t catch that he has a learning disability, but then I remembered who we’re talking about. They probably didn’t even check. Why would a son of a pureblood line have any problems with learning?”

“Wait, like dyslexia?” Harry asked, stunned. “I thought magi didn’t have that. Hermione certainly seemed to think so.”

Draco seemed almost impatient with Harry’s ignorance, frowning at Harry, but he waved off Hermione’s beliefs readily enough. Draco huffed as he scooted back so that he could hook his legs over the arm of his chair, leaning back into the corner made by the arm of the chair and the seatback with his arms crossed over his chest.

“It’s not the same as what you’d see in a squib or Muggle,” Draco said. “Father used to rant about it. He claimed that it’s a matter of the magic in a person’s core being slightly out of alignment with their bodies. Mother always got this pinched look when he said it, so I doubt that’s true. One of my distant cousins had the problem, though. There’s a spell that they can do at Saint Mungo’s that eases the problem for three to four years at a time.”

“Huh,” Harry grunted as he sat cross-legged in his chair. “I wonder why Mr. and Mrs. Weasley didn’t have it done for Ron, then.”

“Money,” Draco replied. “It’s not cheap. The Weasleys are an old family but they’re poor. Painfully poor. I’ll have to do something about that. Father was systematically ruining them. Every chance he got to destroy Arthur’s prospects, wages or increase his taxes, he took. I probably owe them a life debt now.”

“…Your dad was a jerk,” Harry said.

“He was an abusive monster, Potter,” Draco said in such a tired tone that Harry almost got up to go make sure he was all right. “Oh, stay put. I’m just stating a fact. When I took over the wards, they told me all the horrible things Father did. It’s… I knew he was a terrible person. He tortured Mother and the Elves and I regularly. I just. I didn’t realize how bad he was. The world’s better off without him in it.”

Harry leaned back into his chair again, biting his lip. “Hitting?”

“Daily,” Draco said entirely too calmly.

“Yelling and calling you terrible things?”

“Every time I saw him,” Draco agreed.

“Getting everyone else to hurt or pick on you, too?” Harry asked, rage starting to build under his breastbone.

Draco rolled his head to stare at Harry with a snide little smile. “It’s like you lived in my house.”

“No, I was describing my Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon,” Harry said.

He was quite aware that he was shaking with fury. He just wasn’t sure how to stop being so angry that he wanted to go set his relatives, Draco’s relatives, and Dumbledore on fire. Preferably from the inside out so that they couldn’t stop it.

You know, like Professor Quirrell had died.

Draco just nodded. “I could see that you’d been abused. Huge rafts of our schoolmates are abused, Potter. Three quarters or more of the purebloods. More than half of the halfbloods. The Muggleborn aren’t abused, generally. They are bullied mercilessly, though.”

That doused the fury right off. Harry stared at Draco who just raised an eyebrow at him.

“You could tell?” Harry asked.

“It shows in the behavior and the magic,” Draco said. “Your Muggleborn friend Granger was definitely bullied viciously. She wouldn’t be so determined to impress the teachers if she weren’t. Your Weasley, though, he’s not been abused or bullied. His magic is completely clear of any sort of abuse which only makes his behavior regarding Granger that much more appalling.”

“Well, unless you count the twins,” Harry said. “They’re kind of… a lot. I mean, even more than what you see in public. In Gryffindor Tower they’re, um. Yeah. Not so good. Especially to Ron and Percy.”

“Point,” Draco agreed with a graceful nod. He sighed and shut his eyes again.

Everyone at school was hurt. Hurt or doing the hurting. It kind of made a lot more sense out of Draco’s behavior last year. If he’d spent his whole life being beaten up and yelled at by his dad, then his dad would be the ultimate threat. Except that no one else saw the same things so Draco had ended up sounding kind of childish.

“Why were you such a prat?” Harry asked. “I mean, you’re fine now. We’re sitting here and not at each other’s throats at all.”

“Father got regular reports from Snape about my behavior,” Draco replied, still without opening his eyes. “Any time I showed behavior that wasn’t properly Slytherin, by Father’s definition of the term, Father would show up the next day to correct me.”

Harry gritted his teeth. “And I thought I couldn’t hate Snape any more than I already did.”

Draco snorted a laugh, finally looking at Harry again. His eyebrows went up as he sat up properly. Harry didn’t even realize that something was wrong until Draco held up a hand as if to shield his eyes.

“I’m glowing?” Harry asked.

“Very brightly,” Draco agreed. “You might want to stop that. The wards at Black Manor might have issues with you blowing up the library.”

“Um, maybe?” Harry said, biting his lip as he fumbled with his magic and his link to the Black Manor wards. “Grandpa Arcturus did introduce me to them as his heir, or, you know, his heir’s heir. They might let me do whatever I want.”

By the time Harry figured out just what he was doing, Draco was kneeling in front of Harry with a worried frown on his face. It wasn’t so much that Harry’s magic was reacting to his fury. The Black Manor wards were reacting. They were all stiff and angry along with him, like they were expecting someone to assault the Manor at any second.

Which, honestly, Harry kind of expected.

“Okay, so, how do I tell the wards that yeah, I expect an attack, but not right now and they shouldn’t be reacting to me this way at this moment?” Harry asked Draco.

“You know not one single thing about wards, do you, Potter?” Draco said with a tired sigh and a little smile far too wry for his narrow face.

“Nope,” Harry agreed. “I know pretty much nothing about magic. Dumbledore did his best to make sure I didn’t learn anything last year and my relatives would beat me if anything “freakish” happened before that. We couldn’t even read fairy tales when we were kids.”

Draco stared, mouth open, and then shook his head. He tentatively put his hand out, hovering over Harry’s for a long moment before Harry nodded that yes, it was okay to touch. Hopefully. Harry really wasn’t sure what would happen.

Against Harry’s vaguely rage-sweaty hand, Draco’s fingers felt as cool and dry as a snake’s. Sort of appropriate given his name. Harry had just two seconds to register that before Draco’s magic touched his magic.

Everything went away.

The wards. Harry’s worries. The Potter magic and the Black magic and even the happily pulsing bond to Dobby.

Not like it wasn’t there. Harry sucked in a breath as he stared into Draco’s eyes, watching Draco’s pupils expand out and out and out until the black of the pupil nearly consumed the blue of his irises. He could hear someone, very far away, saying something. No idea who because all Harry could see and feel and hear and taste and smell was Draco.

Hands pulled Draco away.

The weird nothing-everything-ness between then stretched and then snapped.

“Harry, I need you to breathe for me,” Amal said right in Harry’s ear. “Come on, deep breath. Suck a breath in for me, Harry, please!”

Across from Harry, Mrs. Malfoy was desperately patting Draco’s cheeks while two girl elves with pretty little blue dresses and kerchiefs on their heads tugged at his hands.

“What was that?” Harry gasped and wheezed.

“I have no idea, Potter,” Draco said, wheezing just as badly as Harry.

“That was the two of you nearly forming a soul bond,” Grandpa Arcturus said.

He was standing at the door to the library, arms crossed over his chest and a weird little smile quirking one corner of his mouth up. The wrinkles between his eyebrows didn’t look amused, though. More than anything, Grandpa Arcturus looked like he was half a second from hugging them both to pieces because he’d been terrified a moment before.

“A what?” Harry asked.

“You can’t be serious,” Draco asked in a much more shocked tone. “There haven’t been any soul bonds in Britain in decades.”

Harry turned to Draco, wagging one finger at him. “Did it stop sometime around when Dumbledore got to be the Supreme Mugwump? Or when he took over the school? High Warlock maybe?”

“Potter, despite your well-earned paranoia, Dumbledore is not, in fact, the creator of every single terrible or inconvenient thing in your life,” Draco snapped.

He did not look confident at all about it, though. In fact, Draco bit his lip and looked to Mrs. Malfoy who knelt down next to his armchair. Her hands were shaking. She turned to Amal who turned to Grandpa Arcturus who laughed while running his fingers through his beard, messing it up amazingly, and then up into his hair which stood on end in loopy messy curls that were almost as bad as Harry’s hair normally was.

“It tapered off after he took over Hogwarts,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “Though how he could have done that, I don’t know. He’s never had any power over the Book of Souls.”

“Well, he doesn’t need to control the Book,” Harry said. “He needs to keep people from touching magic like Draco and I did.”

“Which reminds me,” Draco said as if he was desperate to talk about anything other than the white amazing whatever it was that had happened between them. He wagged a finger at Harry just like Harry had wagged a finger at him. “I felt something when I touched your magic. It was… Deep breath, Potter. You’re not going to like this.”

Harry blinked and then did take a deep breath the way Draco wanted. He let it out slowly. Only then did Draco continue, biting his lip and gripping Mrs. Malfoy’s hand.

“It was centered in your forehead,” Draco said. “I think in your scar. It felt… It felt exactly like the soul anchor my Father had in his library, just quiet instead of alive and vicious and attacking. It felt like the Dark Lord. There’s something very wrong with that scar, Potter.”

“I have Voldemort in my head?” Harry squeaked and wow, no amount of deep breathing was going to calm him down. His armchair shook with the force of Harry’s trembling. And from his magic swirling around him and Amal.

“No, you have a soul anchor in your head,” Draco said. “Not the same thing. It’s a link back to the Dark Lord, not the Dark Lord himself. And trust me,” Draco smiled such a broken, trembling smile that Harry found himself calming down despite the fear hammering away at his heart, “I know the difference between the two. I spent most of a day holding the Malfoy wards around the Dark Lord’s shade.”

Harry nodded. Then nodded again as he rubbed his hands over his thighs to get rid of the sweat. He turned to Grandpa Arcturus who was pale as the white in his beard and clutching the doorjamb like he could barely stay on his feet.

“So, um, do Goblins know about soul anchors?” Harry asked Grandpa Arcturus. “Because I kind of want to pay them however much it takes to get this thing out of me and then have it destroyed.”

Grandpa Arcturus laughed hollowly and nodded. “I agree, Harry. Let’s go to the floo room and find out, shall we?”

12. A Shimmering Cord

August 3, 11:54 pm

Potter Keep shimmered with magic. Quite literally. They’d summoned Silverclaw, who amusingly enough was the Potter and Black account manager as well as the Malfoy’s, to check on Harry. The fussy Goblin hadn’t been terribly pleased to be dragged out of his safe little vault-office, but he’d only curled a lip once and that was when Mother had tried to explain that Draco had noticed something about Harry’s scar.

Silverclaw had lowered that lip and gone very still when Draco explained just what about the scar was familiar.

Then they’d been treated to a truly marvelous example of Gobbledygook swearing as Silverclaw cursed Voldemort in every way imaginable. He’d expanded out to include Dumbledore for not taking care to check the scar for soul anchors and then the Ministry for being, essentially, the Ministry.

The team that Silverclaw summoned in had refused to work on Harry at Black Manor. Malfoy Manor was rejected as well. Justifiably, given that Draco had not had the time or the intelligence to ask to have all the dark magic staining the manor and the wards purged entirely. Yet. He did the instant he realized it needed to be done.

That left Potter Keep which had taken Draco’s breath away.

It was small, ridiculously so for a place that was renowned for being one of the best and most secure magical castles in the world. Where Malfoy Manor was huge with three wings and four stories, Potter Keep had ten bedrooms. Total.

It was four towers, three round, one squarish, tied together by a training yard surrounded by a high stone wall. Potter Keep stood on a cliff overlooking a loch, Draco didn’t know which, with the sea just off in the distance. The hills around it were covered with brilliantly green scrubby pines sculpted by the wind and grass that had gone brown in the summer’s heat.

Inside, it was warm and welcoming. The walls were whitewashed, yes, but everything tended towards lovely deep sapphire blue, ruby red, emerald green. Most of the furniture was covered with old leather that had worn as soft as silk with time. The rug in Draco’s bedroom was so plush that he’d stopped and just stood there, letting his feet sink into it.

“Master Draco should be sleeping,” Ivy said. She glowered at Draco as she passed him a mug full of warm milk with cinnamon. “Tomorrow is being coming soon. Master Draco needs to be strong for his soul mate.”

“We didn’t… do that,” Draco said as he sipped the milk more because he didn’t want to disappoint Ivy than because he wanted it.

Ivy snorted. “Master Draco is not usually stupid. Of course is bond. Bond always was. You is made for Master Harry and he is made for you. Is only that you notices it for the first time. Ivy is angry at old Master Lucius. She would hit him if she could, she really would!”

Draco closed his eyes and sighed.

Father had done something to ensure that Draco wouldn’t notice the potential bond. Actual bond? From the way Ivy talked about it, Harry and Draco were already soul bonded. They just hadn’t noticed it.

Well, Father would do that. Anything that took away from what he thought Draco should be had to be eliminated. Honestly, Dumbledore probably did something, too.

“Can we get the soul anchor out of Harry?” Draco asked. She poked his elbow and gestured towards the milk. “Fine. But I do want to know.”

“Ivy does not know, Master,” Ivy said. She climbed up on the bed and sighed. “None of us is knowing. Not even Dobby.”

“Is he all right?” Draco asked more out of habit than any real concern. “I know Harry wouldn’t hurt him, but Father didn’t inflict any lasting damage, did he?”

“No, Dobby is doing great, Master,” Ivy said with a giggle. “He is very, very, very happy being an only Elf. Dobby did not like sharing duties. He brags about how he does all the things for Master Harry. Ivy would not want that. Ivy likes doing clothing and personal things for Master Draco. She does not want to be doing shopping and cleaning and gardening and library and everything else, too.”

Draco grinned across the top of his mug. “Well, Dobby did always have a ton of energy. Burning it all off working for Harry is probably good for both of them.”

Merlin knew that Harry desperately needed someone to look after him. The few things Harry had said about his life shouted how much he needed care. Draco had to wonder whether Dumbledore had wanted to cripple Harry. Even Draco hadn’t been treated that poorly.

At least Draco got medical care when he needed it.

“I am not going to be able to sleep,” Draco said once he finished the milk.

“Ivy is not expecting it,” Ivy said. “Master Draco will fuss and fume and pace and be very cranky in the morning. Ivy will bring the strongest tea. Master Draco will drink it and be jittery and very cranky. Master Draco and Master Harry will have a screaming fight. Then will be ceremony time and will all be over.”

Draco pursed his lips, staring at Ivy who nodded like she wasn’t cheating to get Draco to lie down. Sneaky damn Elf. She always did this. Even Mother wasn’t as good at making Draco behave. Probably because Mother had been so badly hurt and controlled by Father, but still.

“Fine, I’ll sleep,” Draco complained as he flopped back on the pillows and crossed his arms over his chest.

Ivy grinned and used her magic to tuck Draco in. “Master Draco is trying to sleep for at least one hours. If he is not sleeping by then, can get up and pace all he wants.”

She popped away before Draco could sarcastically thank her for her so-generous permission. He snorted as he rolled onto his side. He really should know better than to argue with Ivy. She always got her way, no matter what. Father might have thought that he ruled Malfoy Manor, but he wasn’t the reason things got done. That was all the elves.

He rubbed his cheek against the pillowcase and bit his lip. Ivy wasn’t wrong, no matter how manipulative she’d been in saying it. If Draco didn’t sleep, they really would end up in a horrible row over nothing.

Breathing slowly and deliberately didn’t slow the worries rampaging through Draco’s mind. There were so many things that could go wrong. Harry could be horribly hurt. He could die. The Goblins might betray him. Dumbledore might attack Potter Keep. Worse, the Dark Lord could escape the Ministry and come after them both.

All right, no, that wasn’t going to happen.

Croaker had been very, very clear that he had the Dark Lord fully contained. There would be no escapes. Dumbledore might have noticed that Harry escaped but, stunning as it was, it had only been two days. The gossip network in Hogwarts had said that Harry hadn’t been checked on once for a decade. They could probably go three days before Dumbledore noticed.

Probably. And, honestly, even if Dumbledore knew that Harry had escaped his aunt and uncle, even if he knew that Draco had gotten his father killed and taken over as the Malfoy patriarch, he couldn’t get into Potter Keep.

The place was warded as tightly as Gringotts. Maybe more tightly. The Potter ancestors who had built the place had put in some amazing wards. They glimmered in the corners of Draco’s eyes.

Wait, what?

Draco sat up and stared across the room. Nothing. No shimmering green and blue light. He didn’t see a thing.

When Draco lay back down and stared it was the same. But staring towards the window in his bedroom, a narrow arrow slit that had been glazed with blue and cream stained glass in a simple diamond pattern, the not-wards shimmered in the corner of his eye.

Not a ward. Definitely not. It was narrow and long, like a braided rope. Wards were created in circles, not ropes.

Which meant that Ivy was right, yet again.

There was a bond. He and Harry were already bound together, soul to soul. Draco licked his lips as he rolled onto his back.

There had to be some way to feel it, right? Some way to sense Harry who had to be fretting himself to pieces, too. Unless, of course, Harry had dropped right off after he went to bed.

Draco snorted.

Yeah, no, there was no chance that Harry was sleeping peacefully. Draco was fussy. He’d always been fussy. Mother, whenever Father wasn’t around, used to tease him about how picky he’d been as a baby. He’d wanted the right blankie and the perfect toy and exactly the right amount of warm milk before he’d curl up and sleep.

This time when Draco controlled his breathing, it wasn’t to try and force sleep. That wasn’t going to work, no matter what time of night it was. Instead, Draco worked on sending as peaceful and supportive thoughts as possible through his bonds.

The Elves’ bonds pulsed back to him, full of joy.

Something else, something dim and distant, something that felt so very far away that it might as well be Australia but so close that it might be right under his fingertips quivered, too.

That.

Draco focused on the quiver as he let his eyes drift open slowly. A blue-green shimmering rope rose up off of Draco. It came from everywhere on him, yet nowhere. He didn’t see a cord diving into his belly the way he would if he’d astral projected. That had happened once during one of Father’s beatings. This was different.

The blue-green bond-rope came from everywhere. His head and his chest and his fingers and his knees and his toes; the blue-green glow rose up out of every part of Draco, spinning into a rope that stretched off through the wall towards Harry’s bedroom suite.

It was Draco and he was it.

It was Harry and Harry was it.

The quiver from the other end was like watching Father torture a pygmy puff, all agitated jerks and the sensation of pain that wasn’t Draco’s. He focused on the bond-rope and directed all his soothing thoughts through it.

When Harry’s magic pulsed back up it, it was a wave. A tsunami of fear, worry, surprise.

Dobby popped in, his ridiculous uniform looking less ridiculous in the darkness of Draco’s bedroom. It was actually perfect camouflage against the shadows and dim light coming from the window. If Draco hadn’t watched Dobby pop in, Draco wouldn’t have spotted him at a glance. Maybe not even with a longer, closer, look.

Draco had to hand it to Harry. That was a remarkable uniform. He might have to see what he could do for his elves, though he would never let them use a print like that monstrosity.

“Master Draco should be sleeping,” Dobby said, hands on his hips.

“So should Harry,” Draco agreed. “I was… I know we can’t do anything about the bond, Dobby. Not until he’s free of the soul anchor. I just. I wanted him to be as calm as possible. The bond’s there, you see. I couldn’t see it or feel it, but it’s always been there. This. I can’t do anything else so maybe I can help him sleep before the ceremony tomorrow.”

Dobby’s frown shifted from disapproving to confused for a moment. Then he clambered up on the bed, patting the air around Draco’s body. After a few seconds, Dobby nodded. A few seconds more and Dobby grinned and bounced on the bed just like he always did whenever Father wasn’t around for a few days or weeks.

“Dobby sees!” Dobby exclaimed. “He will explain to Master Harry. Master Draco should expect Master Harry to be lecturing him for a long, long time about taking care of himself and sleeping. He is very concerned that peoples get enough sleep and eat well and are not hurting.”

“I completely agree with him,” Draco said. “Harry needs to sleep and eat and be tucked in nice and warm, too. Go on and tell him I’ll get Mother and have her tuck him in if he doesn’t go to bed instead of fretting.”

“…Master Draco cheats!” Dobby gasped, staring at Draco with his ears straight out and quivering with shock.

It wasn’t easy not to laugh at how earnest Dobby was. No matter how skilled and valuable Dobby was, and he was the most valuable of the Malfoy Elves given that he had the longest bloodline and the most expansive training, Harry was welcome to him. Draco was so incredibly glad that he didn’t have to deal with all of Dobby’s overflowing energy.

Just being around Dobby was exhausting sometimes.

“It’s not cheating,” Draco said with his best Slytherin smirk. “It’s using the proper tool to the job.”

He sighed and shrugged.

“It would probably help Mother, anyway,” Draco said. “When Father died, he’d just finished torturing her until she passed out.”

Dobby grumbled at that. Some of the muttered curses were a little too close to accidents that Father had experienced over the years. Which, apparently, might not have been accidents at all. Yes, he was very glad to leave Dobby to Harry. He was far too much of a handful for Draco.

“Dobby will be telling him,” Dobby said. “But Master Draco must sleeps, too. You cannot be helping tomorrow if you do not.”

“I promise,” Draco said.

That was enough to get Dobby to pop away to Harry’s suite. Draco shook his head and settled back into his bed, focusing on the bond once more. It was easier to find this time than it had been last time. To Draco, it felt like finding it once made the bond much more visible than it had been before.

Who knew? It might be true. Draco certainly didn’t know how Dumbledore had interfered with the soul bond. He just knew, right down to his core, that Dumbledore had done it. Somehow.

Which was a problem for another day.

Draco breathed slowly and did the meditation exercises he’d learned from Mother when he first began manifesting his magic as a child. They’d always worked wonderfully to calm his magic and his mind. The simplest was breathing while counting each breath. That had never been Draco’s favorite.

His favorite was picturing the colors of the rainbow one by one while soothing his magic and then his body and his mind by picturing the color seeping into him, filling him up and then washing away. It always left him peaceful, calm, and contented.

Sending waves of that meditation exercise down the bond to Harry quickly soothed the bond-rope until it wasn’t quivering. Instead, it pulsed in time with Draco’s heartbeat which had gone slow and languid as his arms and legs became weighted with sleep.

13. Deep Dark Ritual

August 4, 9:41 am

Potter Keep had a room with a ritual circle.

Harry wasn’t sure what to make of that. He hadn’t been sure when Silverclaw show it to him the first time. Seeing it today, full of goblins and Silverclaw and Grandpa Arcturus and Mrs. Malfoy all working together to purify and ready it, Harry still wasn’t sure.

Except that he was very, very glad that he didn’t have to go somewhere else to get Voldemort out of his scar. Potter Keep felt like home. It felt more like home than anywhere else that he’d ever been. It was the home that he used to dream of having back when Uncle Vernon bellowed at him, punched him, and then locked him in the cupboard.

So having a place that could be used to save Harry from Voldemort tainting his mind and his magic was good.

Really good.

“Really, Potter,” Draco drawled from his spot sitting on the long, padded bench opposite the open door to the ritual room. “You need to calm down. The more tense you are, the harder this will be for you and everyone else.”

“I know,” Harry said as he stomped over and flung himself onto the bench. “I know. I just. Would wards feel this soul anchor thing? I haven’t figured out how to read what Potter Keep’s wards are telling me yet.”

“The soul anchor is probably keeping you from understanding them anyway,” Draco said. Despite his telling Harry to calm down, Draco’s eyes never left the work everyone else was doing. It was like he was just barely keeping himself from charging in and bossing everyone around.

“Oh, great,” Harry complained. “So I don’t actually have control of the wards?”

“Probably not,” Draco said. He flickered a glance over at Harry, then went back to staring at the ritual room. “I was… instantly aware of the damned anchor at Malfoy Manor. It was one of the first things the wards screamed at me. I couldn’t avoid being aware of it. It was honestly rather like having Dobby yelling in my ear and pulling at my sleeve for hours on end.”

Harry snorted and then laughed despite everything. “He can be a bit enthusiastic. But I like it.”

“You’re more than welcome to him, Potter,” Draco said with every indication of sincerity. He shook his head and laughed, too. “Seriously. I’ve always found Dobby overwhelming. He’s worth a huge amount, actually. Father would have been so furious that you stole him. Either way, what are the wards telling you?”

“Um, that there are strangers here,” Harry said thoughtfully as he kind of poked magically at the wards. “That there’s stuff that needs to be done, but I can’t figure out what it is. Something… I guess it needs to change? Or go away? I can’t tell. The wards aren’t clear about what they want.”

Draco grunted, finally turning to face Harry fully. “They can show you what’s wrong, Potter. Visually. The spell is ostende mihi. Focus on the wards. Focus on the warnings they’re giving you. And then say the words. You’ll get a visual representation of the wards with information on what’s bothering them.”

“Oh, well, that’s helpful,” Harry said, delighted. He did as Draco instructed, specifically targeting all the confusing messages that the wards were pushing at him. “Ostende mihi!

The spell spun, deep green and celadon and lime yellow, in front of Harry for a moment. Then it spiraled out into a set of five interlocking rune circles. Harry blinked and then beamed as he realized that each of them represented one of the towers, plus a bigger one that covered the yard and the cliff that the Keep sat on.

Draco hummed and stared at the runes, obviously reading them easily.

“I’ve got to take runes,” Harry complained. “What does it say?”

Draco grinned at him. “Touch it with one finger, Potter. Think about it being in English. For Merlin’s sake, you’re the Patriarch. They answer to you. Though yes, you absolutely do need to learn runes. Both ancient and modern. They’re terribly useful.”

When Harry touched the display, it shivered and then became English. Not one of the warnings was for Harry and his scar which made him stare. Draco nodded before pointing at the warnings near the main doors, the castle gates and at the floo.

“It looks like you’ve got objects here that are trying to break down the wards so that people could get in,” Draco said. “That’s what needs to be removed. The goblins can find and remove them easily enough. Or, once you’re secure, you can get the Department of Mysteries to do it. Expensive either way.”

“All of those things… feel familiar, Draco,” Harry said, frowning. He tapped the display again and yes, all of them had the same magical signature. “That’s… I’d swear that it’s Dumbledore.”

“Again, Dumbledore is not the architect of every bad thing in your life,” Draco repeated. His cheeks were a little bit red as he bit his lip. “Probably.”

“Would the wards at Hogwarts tell Dumbledore if dark objects were brought in?” Harry asked.

“Of course,” Draco said. He stared at Harry and then frowned. “Why?”

“Would they tell him if a student or teacher was possessed?” Harry continued. “Or if someone let a troll in, for example? I mean, I can tell where everyone here is. Shouldn’t he be able to tell exactly where everyone is at Hogwarts?”

“Ah,” Draco said. He grimaced. “The question is whether or not he’d care. I don’t think that Dumbledore actually likes children all that much.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, I don’t think so either. But my point is, Quirrell was possessed by Voldemort all last year. The troll? That was Quirrell. And now I’ve got a soul anchor in my scar? Wouldn’t the wards at Hogwarts have told him about that? Supposedly there’s wards on my aunt and uncle’s place. Dumbledore said he put them there, building on the protection my mother gave me when she died. Shouldn’t he have felt the soul anchor then? Or at least the abuse I got? I’m not so sure that “everything bad in my life” isn’t exactly what Dumbledore is going for.”

The way Draco paled and then looked away told Harry that no, he wasn’t crazy for suspecting that Dumbledore wanted him to suffer. When Draco looked back at Harry, his face was blank, reserved, formal, despite the way magic swirled in his eyes and his lips pursed. If it had been Aunt Petunia, Harry would’ve gotten a severe scolding, a beating with a wooden spoon and then been sent to his cupboard without meals for a week.

Thankfully, none of that anger seemed to be directed at Harry. From the bond that still beat between them, all Harry felt was protectiveness. Worry. Fear, just a little bit, but that might be Harry’s own feels reflecting back at him.

“You may have a point,” Draco said.

“I think I probably do,” Harry said. “I wish I knew why he’d want me to suffer.”

“Or me,” Draco agreed. He shrugged when Harry frowned at him. “Dumbledore knew that Father regularly punished me, Potter. He knew that Mother was being tortured. I know that he knows about the abuse three quarters of the Hogwarts students endure.”

Harry crossed his arms over his chest, glaring into the ritual room. “If it’s that many, then that’s the point. One or two? That’s chance. A few, that’s just statistical variation. We learned about that in primary last year during the election. With that many? He’s doing it on purpose though I’ve no idea why.”

“All right, Harry,” Grandpa Arcturus said as he came out of the ritual room. “We’re ready for you. Draco, you’ll be part of the ritual, as well. The bond between you two should help immensely to keep Harry safe.”

Draco nodded immediately. “I’m honored to be allowed to help, sir.”

Harry poked Draco’s shoulder. “He’s your grandfather, too, you know. Well, great-grandfather but still. You can call him Grandpa, not sir or Lord or something.”

“I wouldn’t dare!” Draco squawked, face going so red it looked like he was about to burst into tears.

Grandpa Arcturus grinned as he gestured for them to follow him into the ritual room. “I would like it, actually. I lost so much time with all my descendants, Draco. Stupid decisions on my part and then the damned curse trying to kill me. I’d be honored if you would give me the title of Grandpa rather than Lord.”

Harry spent the whole time being ritually purified with spells and special water and mist and things giggling over Draco’s gobsmacked expression. Off on the other side of the room, Draco kept spluttering about it more, from what Harry could feel through the bond, because it was making Harry laugh than anything else.

He seemed hugely honored by getting to call Grandpa Arcturus “grandpa”, far more than Harry had been when he got the offer.

“All right, Harry,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “You come here, to the center of the circle. You’ll be sitting in the middle, right in this circle. As soon as you sit, the spell circle will engage. You won’t be able to leave. That’s by design. We’re going to pull the soul anchor up out of you and into the outer layers of the ritual circle. By keeping you here, you’ll be safe inside the inner circle and we’ll be safe outside.”

Harry nodded. He grabbed Grandpa Arcturus for a bear hug that made him wheeze, then looked over at Amal who was a little bit pale but who grinned encouragingly at Harry while holding two thumbs up. Mrs. Malfoy smiled gently at Harry. She had her hands clasped in front of her chest like she was praying.

The goblins, Silverclaw included, waited silently for Harry to work up his nerve.

“Oh, do get on with it, Potter,” Draco snapped. “The sooner this is done, the sooner we can go check out your library. I’ve heard great things about the Potter Library. I’d hate to be disappointed by it.”

His little snarl was just the right side of demanding and impatient to push Harry past the fear and the worry and all the anxiety that had been holding him back. Harry blew out the breath he’d been holding without realizing it and deliberately rolled his eyes at Draco.

“I don’t know,” Harry said in the same tone of voice because it was better than admitting how nervous he was. “I’m not sure you’re smart enough for my books, Malfoy.”

He watched Grandpa Arcturus take his place at one end of the room, directly opposite Draco who stood like they were back in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, sizing each other up before a meal. The bond between then was almost visible if Harry squinted just right and turned his head to the side. He didn’t need to see it to feel it, though.

Harry wasn’t alone.

He was never, ever alone again.

There was Dobby, who’s bond hammered hard in Harry’s magic with Dobby’s worry and his faith and his frantic desire to be there even though Elf magic might mess up the ritual circle the goblins had set up.

Beside Dobby, there was Amal who bounced on his toes and bit his lip. And Grandpa Arcturus and Silverclaw and, well.

Draco.

Who nodded when Harry turned his way, calm and sure and only a little bit pale. Like last night, the calm flowing through their bond washed through Harry, soothing his fears just as well as Draco’s snippiness had.

“I’m ready,” Harry said as he stepped into the inner circle. “Let’s get this taken care of.”

“We await you, Heir Potter-Black,” Silverclaw said from his spot on the sidelines. “Be seated and we will begin.”

Harry gulped, nerves nearly sending him right back out of the ritual circle again. It was going to hurt. He just knew it was going to hurt. They all looked way too nervous for it not to hurt like crazy.

But no.

Draco raised his chin and nodded firmly at Harry like he had absolute confidence that Harry could handle this. He even smiled a little bit, a proud smile that sent a shiver up Harry’s spine. So, maybe? Maybe Harry could handle it. He kind of had to. No way was he going to leave a bit of Voldemort in his scar, even if Dumbledore seemed to think it was no big deal.

Yeah, no.

Dumbledore didn’t care if Harry lived as long as Harry did what Dumbledore wanted. So no, that soul anchor was going away. No, he was not going to be the desperate, scared, ignorant kid Dumbledore wanted. He wasn’t going to be alone.

No more of that.

Harry took a deep breath and sat down cross-legged in the middle of the inner ritual circle.

“I’m ready,” Harry declared, locking his eyes on Draco. “Get this thing out of me right now.”


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MeyariMcFarland

I am an indie publisher who started out in fandom until my canon (DC comics) got so bad I took my toys and went home to play with my own characters. If anyone is going to destroy my characters, it's gonna be me! ...Except that Keira sucked me in and here I am writing fanfic again. All credit for that goes squarely to her.

11 Comments:

  1. I love how this started! I love Harry stealing Dobby and Draco stealing the Malfoy elves + family magic. Really fantastic!

  2. What an awesome first part. I am enthralled. I especially like the organic nature of how all of them finally got together. It didn’t feel forced or rushed. I also simply adore Harry’s cynicism. Occam’s razor says everything does in fact lead back to Dumbledore. Harry’s one smart cookie 🙂

  3. Harry’s little “yay!” after Arcturus got healed was so cute. My brain really latched onto it.

    I love everyone’s voices. And the little bits of world building makes this even greater.

    Can’t wait to read the rest. Thank you for sharing!!

  4. Katie Eatherton

    Oh I love this! I read the whole thing and came back here to comment. I love how perfectly draco and Harry align, how well you’ve taken their characters and showed how they complement. Just love it all! And amal!! What a great character!

  5. This is absolutely wonderful. I love how you write these characters. I especially love how much more detail you’ve given to the magic performed in your story. So vivid and engaging. Looking forward to reading the rest!

  6. I absolutely love this! The first few chapters made me cry. Such challenges and hardships for these two. I’m delighted to see your wonderful OCs, Amal and Silverclaw in this story!

    I’m excited to read the rest!

  7. That’s a great action-packed chapter as they deal with all the urgent issues, but it was lovely that both Harry and Draco have real adult help and support for the first time as well as love and care.

  8. greywolfthewanderer

    oh, this is freaking great!! I am enjoying the hell outta this! 😀 😀 😀

  9. greywolfthewanderer

    dunno where my post went, but this is a kickass story!!

  10. This was an amazing beginning. I was crying before I even finished chapter two. I love your concepts with the house elf bonds being able to be transferred and all the other world building you’re doing. Just a lovely story and I am excited to see what the remainder brings.

  11. This is fantastic, I’ve been on the edge of my seat reaching for every next scene. I honestly forgot for a moment that there are multiple chapters, it was such an excellent place to end….painful, but excellent. 🙂

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