The Power of One Word – 2/3 – 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



14. Choice of Bonds

August 4, 9:51 am

Having never been allowed to see Goblin magic before, Draco had no idea if these particular Goblin magi were exceptionally skilled or talented. He had to assume that they were. Silverclaw would never have allowed anyone who was under-skilled, uneducated, or lazy to touch Harry.

That didn’t make it any easier to listen to the Goblins drone their chants in Gobbledygook. He wished he’d never begged Mother to let him learn Gobbledygook. Then he wouldn’t have to know that the chants were full of prayers to their gods to keep Harry from having a heart attack and dying. Or the bit about spleens exploding. Or the bit where they held their hands up while staring at the ceiling with magic swirling all around Harry and screamed for help from the Goblin gods because they were just small creatures who couldn’t possibly do this by themselves.

Ritual.

It was ritual.

Draco kept reminding himself of that as he watched Harry pant and shudder. As much as Draco wanted to look away, to turn to Mother and Grandfather Arcturus, he couldn’t take his eyes off Harry. Not when Harry stared at Draco as though Draco was the only thing anchoring him to life and his body.

Just as Harry caught his breath and nodded once to Draco that he was fine, the magic of the ritual surged inwards at Harry.

It hit him full in the face, lighting up Harry’s eyes and mouth and nose and ears as it flowed into his body. Draco staggered and went to one knee, clutching his chest where the heart of their lovely, fragile new bond lay.

It hurt.

It hurt so much.

Draco panted and waved a hand at Mother when she shouted at him, some pointless question that he couldn’t focus on even if he wanted to. The spell was hurting Harry. That, they couldn’t hurt Harry. He’d been through too much already!

But it was and it did and there was nothing Draco could do but stare and pant and try to breathe through the pain that felt like it was tearing his heart out.

The bond that he’d glimpsed last night fluoresced into visibility. It was still so beautiful, shimmering and pulsing in time with their hearts which hammered away. Draco jerked as he realized that there was another presence in that bond, a grey, nasty horrible one that felt just like the monster that had tortured Father to death.

“The bond,” Silverclaw said, his voice barely coming over the roar of the spell and Harry’s gasping moans. “It may need to go.”

“I will never give up that bond,” Draco said. “He’s mine and I’m his and that’s all there is to that!”

“The soul anchor could contaminate your core!” Silverclaw snapped.

Draco raised his chin as Harry’s eyes widened. Of course, he would hear that. The idiot Gryffindor would hear and do the most inconvenient things.

“Yes,” Draco murmured, putting all his hope and acceptance and resignation to that into the bond between them. “If that’s what has to happen to save Potter, then I’m fine with it.”

It would cost him the Malfoy patriarch’s position. It might kill him. The wards were so very hostile to everything related to the Dark Lord now. Draco didn’t care.

Come what may, he would stay by Harry’s side. The risk to his soul and his magic wasn’t enough to make him reject this gift from the Lord and Lady of Magic. He would accept the soul anchor straight into his magical core if that were what it took.

“No!” Harry shouted.

Magic flared around Harry. Bright celadon green edged with lemon and swaths of forest green shot outwards as Harry’s magic shoved at the soul anchor in his scar. His hands clenched into fists on his knees which drew up towards his chest.

Harry kept his eyes locked on Draco as ebb and flow of his magic combined with the goblin’s ritual.

Blood welled up on Harry’s forehead.

Draco gasped.

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head at Draco so that Draco would stay right where he was.

Just that one word. Inside of it, inside their bond, a huge swell of determination, refusal to accept anything related to the Dark Lord, and a sort of need that brought tears to Draco’s eyes.

He’d thought Harry was desperate last night. That was nothing compared to what Draco felt now. As the blood flowed down Harry’s face, splitting to run like tears down the sides of his nose to the corners of his mouth and then onwards to drip off his chin, Draco shuddered over the loneliness.

Sorrow, fear, anger, rejection. Harry had been through so much! So much pain and misery. There was joy, certainly, especially as the goblins’ chant rose and rose until it rattled the dust in the corners of the room. Smoke rose from Harry’s forehead, boiling upwards as the soul anchor separated from Harry’s body.

Harry didn’t move.

His eyes stayed locked on Draco’s.

Their bond pulsed, color shifting between Malfoy blues and Harry’s greens.

No, Draco’s blues. It was his magic now, his legacy. His duty to purify it the way Harry was purifying himself. Harry smiled and nodded once more.

“Yes,” Draco whispered far too quietly for anyone to hear it over the chanting and the rising scream of the Dark Lord’s soul anchor.

The goblins directed the billowing miasma of the anchor away from Harry down into a chunk of crystal that sucked it in as it went from clear to smoky-black. The crystal rocked in place as the goblins’ chant shifted to a single note held longer than human lungs could sustain.

Silence echoed.

The crystal stayed perfectly still.

“It’s done?” Harry asked when no one moved, not even Draco.

“It is, Mr. Potter,” Silverclaw said from his place. “It is very well done at that.”

The lead goblin magi broke the circle and Draco rushed to Harry’s side even though Mother gasped, and Grandfather Arcturus choked. Amal, annoying man, laughed as Draco pressed his handkerchief against Harry’s still-bleeding forehead.

“Darling, let the goblins heal him,” Mother said from the sidelines.

“No, the boy is best for this,” Silverclaw said. “Their bond is… profound. Chosen as well as Destined soul bonds have deep effects on one another.”

Draco blushed but when he turned back to Harry, Harry did look like he wasn’t hurting so badly. The scar wasn’t open at all. It looked bruised more than anything, not like it had been cut open again when the soul anchor was removed.

“Ugly?” Harry asked.

“Hm-mm,” Draco murmured. “Bruised. I hope you don’t sleep on your stomach.”

Harry snickered. “Nah, mostly on my back or side. I’ll be fine. I do want to go collapse somewhere. And wash my face.”

“Oh, trust me, Potter,” Draco drawled as he plopped down shaking next to Harry, “you’re washing that face so thoroughly. That’s just nasty.”

Harry laughed. He leaned against Draco and put his head on Draco’s shoulder. It was the most natural thing in the world to put his arm around Harry’s back, to tug him closer so that they supported one another.

Their bond slowly faded out of visibility. The strands formed a sort of plaid as it went, like it was braided of their magics’ colors. Blues and greens mixed together so perfectly that Draco might have thought that their magic was merging into a teal. Perhaps it would over time. Perhaps not.

It had been long enough that soul bonds had been gone that Draco didn’t now a thing about them.

About their bond. About how they would come together, grow up, mature in magic and body and life.

“Tell them about the artifacts to be removed, Potter,” Draco reminded Harry. “Then we should go see if your library has anything about soul bonds. I know that Malfoy Manor certainly doesn’t.”

Mother choked on a laugh. “Oh, your father would have burned any such books long before you were born, had there been any.”

“My point,” Draco agreed.

“Almost forgot about that,” Harry mumbled.

He grumbled when Draco nudged him, but he reported what he’d seen in the wards and then did the spell for Silverclaw who snarled and marched right off to take care of the problem. His departure prompted an exodus from the ritual room. Mr. Swashlin scooped Harry up in his arms. To Draco’s embarrassment, Grandfather Arcturus carried him out of the ritual room as though he was precious and so very welcome.

They ended up tucked into blankets together on the biggest couch in the Potter Library. Between Dobby and Ivy, they had a mountain of food, plenty of tea in a specially charmed pot that would keep the tea properly hot without it ever going bitter, and a platter of biscuits that Harry started steadily eating his way through.

“When Dobby yells at you for not eating well,” Draco said as he took one of the very hearty beef sandwiches, “I’m not defending you.”

“I’ve had a bad day,” Harry protested as he took one of the roast chicken sandwiches to go with the half dozen biscuits he’d already eaten. “I can have dessert first.”

“That looked like first, second and only to me,” Draco said with a little grin.

Harry answered it with a smirk and a shrug. It was such a Slytherin response that Draco shook his head, laughing into his sandwich. They ate together in silence, watching the afternoon light slide slowly across the spines of the books opposite them.

More than likely, Draco should go out and make sure that Mother was all right. He should definitely talk to Grandfather Arcturus about how the Malfoy family would fit into the larger Black family, now. There were a dozen things that he needed to do back home at Malfoy Manor. Just the audit of their finances would probably take a full day’s effort when Silverclaw was ready for him.

Instead, Draco leaned against Harry’s side and enjoyed the quiet of the library.

“You’re quiet,” Harry commented.

“It’s been… I can’t remember how long its been since I got to just relax and not worry about anything,” Draco said. He frowned as he snagged a chocolate covered almond biscuit to nibble on. “Not since I left the nursery, I think. Mother protected me fiercely when I was still in her domain. Once Father took over my education and care, there was… nothing good.”

“Abuse,” Harry agreed. “I can’t remember ever being able to relax. In my whole life. It’s only since I stole Dobby and came here that I’ve started to relax.”

Their bond throbbed with pain for that. Harry’s remembered pain. Draco’s heartache that Harry had gone through it. And then Harry’s heartache for everything that Draco had experienced. Draco snorted.

“Enough,” Draco said, pushing the biscuits at Harry. “I will not descend into maudlin tears.”

“Maudlin?” Harry asked while snickering. “Really?”

“It’s the proper term,” Draco insisted even though now laughter bubbled inside of him like champagne shaken until the cork trembled.

Harry blinked. “We’re really influencing each other, aren’t we?”

Draco saw no need to reply to that given that it was blatantly obvious through their bond. It felt like Harry’s emotions poured straight into him. He was rather horrified that his emotions had to be pouring into Harry, too.

“You like the idea of having someone who knows you,” Harry said. He poked Draco’s shoulder. “Don’t try to lie to me.”

“That’s…” Draco started to protest but Harry just raised an eyebrow at him. “Fine. I wasn’t lying to you. I was lying to myself. I don’t… Sometimes it’s easier to handle things when I convince myself I don’t feel it. Or feel different.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, I get that. Used to do that a lot when Aunt Petunia would send me to my cupboard without meals. It never quite worked, though.”

“True,” Draco agreed.

They sighed in unison, turning back to their food. Both of them were hungry. And thirsty. Draco was far too tired given that he hadn’t been part of the ritual. Harry was quite justifiably exhausted.

“What do we do once we’re rested?” Harry asked.

“Fix Black Manor and Malfoy Manor,” Draco said immediately. “Purge all the dark magic and everything that Dumbledore left behind to give himself access. Contact other kids, other houses that Dumbledore undermined. Blaise. Pansy.”

“Neville,” Harry agreed. “Susan Bones. So, see if we can get allies? See if we can gather support before Dumbledore finds out?”

Draco shook his head. “That’s… probably impossible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dumbledore already knew. About both of us. The question will be how he’ll strike back at us to regain control.”

“I won’t let him control me anymore,” Harry declared. “I won’t let him control you, either.”

He said it so ferociously that Draco almost believed that Harry would succeed.

Almost.

15. Leader of Light

August 4, 12:49 pm

Harry jerked upright as the Potter Keep wards yelled at him. It felt a whole heck of a lot like if Dobby suddenly popped in, grabbed Harry’s shoulder, and shook him violently while yelling in his ear about danger.

“Potter?” Draco rubbed his eyes. “What…? Oh, the wards.”

“I, they’re so loud,” Harry complained. “What does it mean?”

Draco caught Harry’s hands, pulling them away from his face and hair so that Harry wouldn’t try to tear chunks of hair out of his head. When Draco sucked in a breath, it was with the clear expectation that Harry would do it too. They held the breath, let it out slowly, pulled in a second breath and then let that out slow too.

“That helped,” Harry said, blinking at Draco.

“Being calm does help,” Draco agreed. “Now, do the ward spell. Do you remember the words?”

Harry nodded. He pushed at the wards and then said “ostende mihi” in as firm of a voice as he could. The shimmering circles that appeared in the air were in English this time. That was a huge improvement over earlier. The runes had been really pretty, like blocky Islamic calligraphy done in complicated interlocking rings, but they hadn’t made a lick of sense.

“Someone’s trying to break through to the floo?” Harry said, frowning. “Who would be coming here?”

Draco didn’t need to say it for Harry to realize the next moment that there was only one person who would try this. Silverclaw had access. None of the other goblins would try it. Amal was here. So were Mrs. Malfoy and Grandpa Arcturus.

“Dumbledore,” Harry huffed.

“Pretty much has to be,” Draco agreed. He pointed at the ring that was flashing and rotating. “Touch that one and order it to identify who’s attacking.”

Harry reached out to touch it only to freeze as Dobby and Ivy popped in. He could hear footsteps pounding up the hallway. Draco frowned, then blushed as Mrs. Malfoy burst into the library with a wild expression in her eyes. Amal was right on her heels, looking just as alarmed. It took another few seconds for Grandpa Arcturus to run in, panting.

“Oh,” Harry said, blinking at them. “We should’ve called them, shouldn’t we?”

“Ah, yes,” Draco agreed. His cheeks were viciously red. “We should have.”

“At least Master should have called us,” Ivy said, hands on her hips as she glared at Draco. “You is not supposed to be fighting by youselves!”

“But I’m just checking the wards,” Harry protested as he tapped the violently buzzing ring that really, really wanted his attention. “I’m not doing anything. I mean, personally. Am I?”

The ring stopped buzzing and flashing and poking at Harry now that it had his attention. The name wasn’t Dumbledore. It wasn’t even Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Harry frowned as he turned to Draco who looked absolutely baffled.

“Who’s Remus Lupin and why’s he trying to tear the wards down?” Harry asked.

“Remus is doing what?” Amal asked. He came over to stare at the ward diagnostic thing. “Oh-kay. Huh. Did not expect that. He was one of your parent’s best friends. More your mom’s friend than your dad’s. Sirius was your dad’s very best friend. Remus and your mom were… huh, study buddies and pranksters together? Not sure how many people knew that, but they got away with some amazing stuff.”

Harry frowned, leaning back into the sofa while Draco leaned forward to stare at the fine print under Remus’ name. Remus Lupin, his mother’s friend, and a werewolf by what the wards were still grumbling about, was trying to break into Potter Keep.

That was… odd.

“Such interesting timing,” Grandpa Arcturus said with a scowl that could’ve stripped the paint off the walls if they’d had any paint. As it was, Harry was kind of worried that Grandpa Arcturus was going to set fire to the wood paneling any second now.

“So,” Harry said, staring at the wards while being deeply grateful that they’d upgraded the wards already, “is there a way to let him through and then seal the floo again? And, you know, to keep him from leaving the floo room?”

“Should be,” Amal said.

“Same spell, with different intent,” Draco drawled.

He laughed when Harry swatted him with a pillow, but he didn’t stop looking smug as all get-out over it. Harry rolled his eyes and did the spell again, discovering that yep, the wards really, really, really would be delighted to keep Remus from leaving the floo room, either by the doorway or the floo. Or the window.

“Right, any reason not to let him through?” Harry said. “I mean, we’re agreed that Dumbledore is using him, right? It’s kind of obvious in the timing.”

“I think we should let him in,” Amal said. He held up his hands when both Grandpa Arcturus and Mrs. Malfoy glared at him. “Look, seriously now, he’s Lily’s best friend. He’s not gonna hurt Harry. The wards are incredible. We can keep him out more or less forever or we can let him in and learn what’s going on. I think it’s worth the risk.”

“I agree,” Draco said.

“Darling!” Mrs. Malfoy exclaimed.

“We need to know, Mother,” Draco said. His eyes were grim, and his mouth had gone all pinched and narrow like he’d eaten an underripe lemon. “Dumbledore is the greatest threat we all face. Lupin is a chance to take one of his pawns. He’s also a way to get more information. I think we need to do it.”

Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Well, I don’t know much of anything about werewolves—”

“Werewolves?” Mrs. Malfoy gasped.

“Yeah, he got bit when he was like six or so,” Amal said. “He’s spent his whole life trying to deal with it.”

Mrs. Malfoy’s hands flew to her mouth. She shuddered, shaking her head like she absolutely forbid them to even consider letting Remus in. Harry thought about it for a second and then nodded to Dobby before tapping the ward spell to let Remus in.

“Dobby, make sure that he can’t get out,” Harry ordered. “Grandpa Arcturus, I’d bet that you can handle him, even with the fact that you’re still healing. I want to talk to him. You know, from the other side of the ward barrier around the floo room.”

Dobby and Ivy both popped away, but only after Dobby threw a sloppy salute at Harry.

“…Fine,” Grandpa Arcturus said through gritted teeth. “I still think this is a stupidly dangerous exercise.”

By the time they got down to the floo room, Remus Lupin was pacing back and forth while snarling at the empty room. Harry studied him as he slowly approached the doorway with it’s glowing wall holding Remus in.

Remus was tall and thin like Grandpa Arcturus, with that same sort of been sick for a long time feel to him. Despite that, he moved like he was dangerous and very, very strong. His wand was out. The snarl revealed elongated canine teeth. And his eyes glowed gold as he paced.

“He’s pissed,” Amal commented.

“I would be too if someone locked me in a room and didn’t let me out,” Harry said. Seemed quite reasonable to him to be angry.

Remus froze, staring at the door. His eyes didn’t focus but he’d clearly heard them. Smelled? Harry wasn’t sure. Either way, Grandpa Arcturus and Amal and Mrs. Malfoy wouldn’t let either Draco or Harry get close to the doorway. Dobby and Ivy wouldn’t let the grownups get closer to it, either.

“So,” Harry said to Remus, “did you hear me?”

“Ah, yes?” Remus said.

The snarl faded into the most puzzled frown that Harry had ever seen on anyone’s face before. Harry grinned, then laughed as Draco glowered at him. When Harry shrugged, Draco rolled his eyes.

“Good,” Harry said. “Mr. Swashlin said that you were my mom’s friend and my dad’s friend, too. The wards told me that you’re a werewolf. That’s why you’re locked in. Well, that plus all the grown-ups are overprotective, but I kind of like that. It’s nice after Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon.”

Remus shook his head like he didn’t want to believe what he’d just heard. “You… visited them and they were mean?”

“No,” Harry said slowly, frowning almost as hard as Remus was. “I lived with them. Dumbledore placed me with them when my parents died.”

Remus’ legs gave out underneath him. He dropped to the floor, eyes wide with horror. His eyes still weren’t focusing on anything, but he somehow managed to look directly at Harry. The horrified little keening sound made Grandpa Arcturus take a half-step back while Mrs. Malfoy frowned and tapped her bottom lip thoughtfully.

“So,” Amal drawled while staring at Remus like he was already exhausted, “what exactly did Petunia say? It couldn’t have been good if you reacted like this.”

Remus shuddered and looked away. “I don’t want to say it where Harry could hear.”

“Oh, was it the “should have smothered you when you were born” or the “you’re a freak from a line of freaks that should all be killed on sight”?” Harry asked.

The words tumbled out before he could think about it.

Predictably, Draco gasped and stared at Harry in horror. Grandpa Arcturus clapped a hand over his mouth so that his curses were muffled. A little bit. Not a lot. Harry could still make out exactly what he was saying. It wasn’t half as bad as some of the things Uncle Vernon used to say to him. Harry squawked as Mrs. Malfoy turned and enveloped him in a hug.

“They… said it… to him,” Remus said between clenched teeth.

As Harry flailed and tried to escape from Mrs. Malfoy’s very determined cooing and hugging and petting his hair, Remus stood up and started pacing in the floo room. This time the growling didn’t seem like a threat at all. The wards stopped poking Harry about Remus entirely.

“I’m fine,” Harry protested. He finally managed to make Mrs. Malfoy let go of him and darted behind Draco who snorted a laugh. “Really. I’m fine. Seriously. I’m free of them. I’ve got Potter Keep. I’m safe. I don’t ever, ever, ever have to see them again.”

Remus blew out a breath, shaking his head. “That’s not true, Harry. You have to go back. It’s the only place that you’ll be safe from Death Eaters and You-Know-Who.”

“That’s not true at all,” Harry said. He rolled his eyes when Remus shook his head again. “Seriously, Dumbledore is lying to you. Voldemort’s shade has been captured by the Department of Mysteries. The Goblins are working with them to find all his soul anchors. I’ve been purged of all the dark magic left behind, by Dumbledore mind you, when Voldemort tried to kill me. It’s fine.”

Remus stared at Harry without seeing him again, mouth dropped open and making garbled angry noises that were a lot like when Uncle Vernon would get so mad that his face went purple and he started spitting when he tried to speak.

Yeah, Dumbledore had definitely gotten to Remus. What Harry didn’t know was what to do about that. He turned to Grandpa Arcturus who was just red-faced and huffing now, not swearing a blue streak.

“Um,” Harry waved at Grandpa Arcturus because he didn’t exactly what to let Remus know who was there if he didn’t have to. “Is there some way we can make sure that Remus isn’t being controlled, spied on, I don’t know, having Dumbledore look through his eyes?”

“I’m a werewolf,” Remus said in a sort of strangled voice. “He can’t do that.”

“Which?” Harry asked.

“Control me?” Remus asked. He cocked his head to the side, blinking rapidly. “He could certainly rifle through my memories but only if he’s staring straight in my eyes. I rarely allow him to do that.”

“That jerk!” Harry shouted. “Every time I talked to him, he stared into my eyes like he was trying to see straight through my soul. You mean he really was?”

“Ah, probably?” Remus said. He slowly rose to his feet again. “Dumbledore is a noted Lelligimens.”

Grandpa Arcturus sighed. “Remus, why exactly did you come here? Especially with the intent you displayed?”

“Oh, well, Dumbledore told me that Harry was missing from his home,” Remus explained. His eyes were even more distant than before. “He said that he was afraid that Harry had been kidnapped. I was the only one who could survive going through Potter Keep’s wards.”

“…That’s just dumb,” Harry said to Draco. “Is that even a thing?”

Draco grimaced. “Werewolves can, in fact, survive almost anything which doesn’t immediately decapitate them. The part I find appalling is that Dumbledore was willing to sacrifice an ally on a suicide mission.”

“Nah, it’s not a suicide mission,” Harry said, waving off Mrs. Malfoy’s abortive reach for a hug. “It’s a warning. He knows that I’m not where he wants me to be and he’s decided to make it too scary for me to stay here by sending the big bad werewolf to bring me home again. Like that would work. I’m never going back to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s place ever, ever again.”

“Good point,” Draco said. He kept his eyes on Remus who was making those garbled noises again. “You’re right that we can’t let him go. Not until he’s been properly scanned, purged and certified as un-affected by Dumbledore’s machinations.”

“Goblins?” Harry asked not just Draco but also Grandpa Arcturus, Amal, and Mrs. Malfoy.

“Goblins,” Amal agreed as the others nodded grimly. “Open the floo up specifically to the bank and send him on through. I’ll write a quick note for him to give to your account manager. If all goes well, we can let him in tomorrow sometime.”

“Does that work for you?” Harry asked Remus. “I am sorry we can’t just let you in, but we gotta be careful about this. There’s too many risks to opening the wards and letting people in willy-nilly.”

Remus swallowed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I… don’t think I could go. I feel. I need. This is so odd. I need to be here, near you. It’s…”

“A curse,” Draco breathed as his eyes went wide. “Oh, damn that man! He could curse a werewolf, and no one would look sideways at him. Harry, check the wards. Specifically, have them look for curses that would bind a werewolf in unstoppable ways.”

This time the ward display swirled into life with barely a touch of Harry’s magic. Nice. It got easier the more you did it. He would have to spend some serious time with Draco practicing and learning just what his wards could do.

“Oh,wow. Not good,” Harry said as the wards helpfully provided a stored signature of Dumbledore’s magic on the curses designed to drive Remus to kill everyone other than Harry, who he was supposed to kidnap and return to Dumbledore. “Yep. The curses, plural, were cast by Dumbledore.”

“What?” Remus gasped.

Harry took in Mrs. Malfoy’s horrified expression, Grandpa Arcturus going way too pale and Amal’s terrified gulp and triggered the wards to knock Remus out, bind him so that he couldn’t escape even with all his werewolf-y wolfiness, and then nodded as Remus got one abortive scream before toppling like a felled tree.

“He’s a mess,” Harry announced. “I mean, even a worse mess than you were, Grandpa Arcturus. So. When Silverclaw gave us the tour of Potter Keep, he showed me some rooms in the basement that are super-extra-amazingly warded. Can’t see out of, can’t escape, but house elves can send food and water in style of warded. Put Remus there and get the goblins in to see if they can save him?”

Draco nodded thoughtfully. “It’s probably the best choice. There are so few things that will affect a werewolf in any permanent way. Hopefully between his natural resistance and Silverclaw’s assistance, he can be saved.”

Harry completely ignored the looks the adults exchanged as he called Dobby to transfer Remus to one of the holding cells in the basement. Dungeon? Eh, he was calling it a basement. There was racks and racks of wine, so it was a basement, unescapable cells notwithstanding.

All he could hope was that the goblins would have ideas of how to save Remus. Harry hated the idea of anyone being sacrificed against their will, no matter who they were. Dumbledore had a lot to pay for.

16. A Necessary Sacrifice

August 4, 11:23 pm

Draco supposed that it was a credit to Harry that he never gave up faith that Remus could be saved. It was horribly gut-wrenching to watch Harry stare at Mr. Swashlin or Grandfather Arcturus or Mother with those dark eyes so earnest and sad as they tried to explain that there simply was no way to remove the curses.

They’d gone back and forth between the dungeon and the library, searching Potter Keep’s records for anything that might remove the curses. Between what they found there, the goblin’s efforts and the suggestions from both Mother and Grandfather Arcturus, hours upon hours had passed in brutal tests that only a werewolf could have survived.

Harry pushed the latest stack of books away, thumping on hand on the oak tabletop as Grandfather Arcturus rested a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

Nearly twelve hours of constant effort had left Remus comatose, shivering in his cell and as weak as a new-born puppy. Draco wouldn’t have been surprised at all if Remus had shifted forms as his magic tried to save him, but it hadn’t happened.

If anything, his magic seemed to be at war with the curses and his own lycanthropy. Any time he started to shift, his magic revolted, shoving him back into human shape. It looked like agony. Remus shuddered and screamed in his sleep whenever it happened.

The battle between his magic and his lycanthropy was going to kill him if the curses didn’t.

“Harry,” Draco said as he rubbed his burning eyes, “they can’t save him. I know you don’t want to admit it but there is no way to free him from the curses.”

“There has to be!” Harry exclaimed. “I can’t let Dumbledore get away with just… throwing Remus’ life away. He as good as killed Remus himself but left it to us to stop his heart. No. I won’t accept that. I can’t accept that.”

Draco sighed and flopped back into the sofa he’d claimed two hours ago. It was sinfully comfortable, so much so that Draco sat back up immediately lest he fall asleep on the spot.

“Fine,” Draco said. “What are you seeing that we’re not seeing? For you to be so certain he can be saved, there must be a hint, a shred of hope. I can’t see it. I don’t believe Mother or the others can either. What is it?”

Harry pursed his lips before coming to the sofa and curling up against Draco’s side in a heart-stopping gesture of affection that Draco was not at all prepared for. That didn’t stop him from wrapping his arms right around Harry and holding him close. Nothing would have stopped that short of Father appearing and cursing Draco silly.

“Dobby,” Harry said.

“Master Harry needs to sleeps,” Dobby declared. He glared up at Harry with his fists thrust against his hips, tapping one foot impatiently.

“I have to save Remus,” Harry replied. “The curses aren’t solid on him. I can see it. Feel it? In the wards. Can you explain it? I don’t know enough magic to explain it.”

“Oh,” Dobby said, nodding so hard that his ears flapped. “Sure, is simple. Wolfy-man has never full-shifted. Is not full werewolf yet. Only if full-shifts and kills will werewolf curse be fully stuck in core. Then curses have full grip on him and poof, he dies unless he gets Master Harry back to bad Dumbles. Curses want to grab, can’t because not all werewolf yet. Can’t take curses off because is part werewolf so have some grab.”

Draco stared at Dobby. So did Harry.

Behind Dobby, Mother pursed her lips and shook her head sadly. Grandfather Arcturus looked dismayed, exhausted, and frustrated all at once. On the other hand, Amal had his head tipped to the side as he frowned at Dobby.

“Do you know of a way to cure lycanthropy, Dobby?” Amal asked even though it was blatantly impossible to do so. “I mean, the curses are designed to stick to a werewolf. If Remus wasn’t a werewolf, then we could get the curses off easy.”

“Dobby does not know how,” Dobby said. “If Wolfy-man was something else, elves could be removing curses. He is not. Is wolfy-man.”

“Would… transfiguration work?” Draco asked so slowly that he felt like an idiot.

Obviously, no, it wouldn’t because frankly, if you could cure lycanthropy by transfiguring someone into a teacup they would have been taught that in class. Dobby beamed at Draco and clapped his hands, stopping Draco’s heart in his chest. All the adults’ jaws dropped so at least it wasn’t only Draco caught flat-footed.

“Can take bad Dumbles curses off if Wolfy-man is not person anymore,” Dobby exclaimed. “Would be like cleaning. Elves is good at cleaning bad magic off things. Not off people unless are family.”

“Okay,” Harry said as slowly as Draco had, “if Remus was officially family, could you do more to help him? I mean, like help him with the whole werewolf thing.”

Dobby nodded again. “If is family, is easier for elf-magic to stick.”

Draco turned to Harry. Harry stared back at him, biting his lip.

“So we have a plan I suppose,” Draco said. “Someone transfigures Remus into anything inanimate and holds him there for… how long, Dobby?”

“…Dobby and Ivy would need help,” Dobby said thoughtfully while pacing in front of them. His boots thumped on the old oak floor like he was Hagrid’s size. “If bring Quinn and Vern and Blue, will be enough elf-magic. Need to make sure that Wolfy-man is family first, though. So make family, transfigure, we removes curse, transfigure back, then we is doing things to help Wolfy-man with shifty-shifting.”

Draco nodded while trying not to laugh. “Good plan. Do you agree, Harry?”

“Very good plan,” Harry agreed. “Let’s do it. It can’t fail any harder than all the other things we’ve tried so far.”

He offered Dobby a fist that Dobby enthusiastically bumped before popping back out. To Draco’s surprise, Mother and Grandfather Arcturus both looked as if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even Amal looked horribly discouraged.

“What are we missing?” Draco asked.

“Ah, we’re all exhausted,” Amal said. “I’m not great at transfiguration, either.”

“Potions and charms were my skills,” Mother admitted with a faint blush.

“I’m outright forbidden from working any level of magic beyond the most minor,” Grandfather Acturus said with a scowl as he threw himself into one of the armchairs. “Neither of you have the training or the energy to do it.”

Which was quite valid. Draco considered it for a moment, shrugged and turned to Harry who perked up.

“Do you trust Professor McGonagall not to turn you back into Dumbledore?” Draco asked. “She’s not at Hogwarts right now. I believe she has a home in Hogsmead. If anyone would be able to handle this transfiguration, she would.”

Harry wagged a finger at Draco, nodding. “Yeah, she could. She really could even though I don’t trust her all the way. I don’t want to get her in trouble, but she is the perfect choice. Can we trust her? I mean, we’d have to let her come here. The wards on Black Manor aren’t secure enough yet and I don’t think we could transport Remus anywhere without him breaking free and grabbing me.”

They turned to the adults.

Mother bit her lip, smoothing her hands over her skirt nervously. “I would not dare to approach her. She was quite disappointed in my when I married Lucius.”

“Frankly, I barely knew her at all,” Amal said. “I was in Hufflepuff and kept my head down all through my school career.”

“I would trust her only if she was willing to take an oath not to share what she learned here,” Grandfather Arcturus said. He stared at the bookshelves behind Draco and Harry, eyes distant. “The invitation would have to be delivered by house elf. The elf would have to witness the oath before she could be granted entrance to the floo. Elves can tell when you’re lying, not that a proper wizarding oath would allow for wiggle room.”

He kept staring into the distance for a long moment. Then his focus snapped back onto Draco and Harry, so abruptly that Draco’s breath caught and his cheeks went hot. Harry fidgeted next to Draco before grabbing Draco’s hand and clinging to it.

“You’re sure that you want to do this?” Grandfather Arcturus asked far too grimly. “It’s two more people who know where you are. They will both learn of you, Draco, and Narcissa. They’ll learn that I’m not ill and dying anymore. Every person who learns of this before we’re ready to act is a risk. I know you don’t want to consider it, Harry, but sometimes you have to make necessary sacrifices to ensure your safety and survival.”

“I know that!” Harry exclaimed. “Grandpa Arcturus, I get that. I really do. That’s not what’s going on here. If we can’t find a way to save Remus, I’ll be upset and angry, but it won’t destroy me. Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and Dudley already taught me how to cut my losses even when it hurts.”

Draco frowned at him. “Then what’s driving this?”

“I think Dumbledore is sacrificing Remus,” Harry explained with such fury and disgust that Draco found himself offended, too. “He threw Remus at the wards with every expectation that Remus would be driven to go straight through the wards. I can’t help but think that Dumbledore was testing to see if the wards would kill Remus right out. He’s a pawn being sacrificed like in a game of chess. I hate that. I won’t let Dumbledore sacrifice him. He was my parents’ friend.”

Harry huffed and shook his head before letting go of Harry’s hand. He started pacing just like Dobby had though Harry’s trainers made no noise at all on the oak floors. As he paced, Harry gestured and scowled and huffed.

“Dumbledore specifically picked someone who was dear to my parents,” Harry continued. “Remus means nothing at all to me but he does to Amal and he did to my parents. This wasn’t a test of me. It was a test of whoever’s with me.”

“He’s got to know I’m here by now,” Amal said. He nodded once, then several times harder and faster. “Yeah, there’s no way he doesn’t know I’m here. So he picked someone who would upset me to sacrifice.”

“To kill,” Harry corrected.

Amal went so pale his dark skin looked grey.

Mother’s hands flew to her mouth. “No, he wouldn’t. …Would he?”

“It’s what he did,” Harry said with a jerky, furious gesture towards the door out of the library. “Dumbledore sent Remus here to die. To be killed. By us. To test us all. And no. Just no. I won’t play his game. Remus deserves to live no matter what’s going on. So we have the elves contact Professor McGonagall to see if she’ll come rescue Remus.”

“Yes,” Draco breathed as a grin bloomed on his face. “Yes, of course! We don’t tell her that she’d coming to help you.”

“She’s not,” Harry said, grinning, too.

“We send, oh, Vern, our gardener,” Draco said.

He bounced on the couch as excitement built for the first time in hours. Days, maybe. How long had it been since Harry stole Dobby? Draco had no clue. As tired as he was, he didn’t know what time or day it was, not that it mattered.

“Why him?” Harry asked with a puzzled frown.

“No one outside Mother interacts with Vern,” Draco explained. “Professor McGonagall won’t recognize him. His magic is all wild and green with only a small thread of the Malfoy magic going through him. It’s buried deep enough that he’ll be virtually unidentifiable. Dobby radiates your magic now.”

“Okay, good point,” Harry said. “So Vern goes, tells Professor McGonagall that Remus has been horribly cursed, that the curses are anchoring on his lycanthropy and the only way to save him is to transfigure him into something inanimate until the curses can be removed.”

“She would come for that,” Mother breathed. “Even if it had been Lucius, Minerva McGonagall would come to save him for a situation like that.”

“Has the advantage of being a literal, absolute truth, too,” Amal agreed. “Okay, I’m for it.”

“I’ll write up the oath,” Grandfather Arcturus said with a frustrated growl. “But you boys need to understand that even this might not work.”

Harry nodded, dark eyes going so sad that Draco wanted to hug him. “I know. I do know. I think this is the last chance we have to save him. We have to try. I just… I can’t let Dumbledore win on this.”

Grandfather Arcturus hugged Harry, put a proud hand on Draco’s shoulder that took his breath away, and then strode out of the library while calling for his elf Cooper to bring him parchment, ink and a new quill.

Mother kissed Draco’s cheek and hugged Harry until he flailed to get free.

Then Amal ruffled both of their hair before following Mother out of the library. Draco flopped back on the couch, heart pounding. How odd to have that sort of approval out of adults. Mother was expected. Amal and Grandfather Arcturus?

Unheard of.

“I hope this works,” Harry whispered as he flopped on the couch next to Draco.

“I believe it will,” Draco said. “Professor McGonagall is a good woman. As long as Dumbledore hasn’t already gotten to her, it should be fine.”

Harry sighed and snuggled up next to Draco. “I hope so. I really, really do.”

17. Friends, Allies, Enemies

August 5, 1:24 am

Harry’s eyes burned. He never stayed up this late. This early? Aunt Petunia always worked him so hard that he dropped to sleep the instant his head hit the pillow. He’d never in his entire life stayed up until the early hours of the morning.

It was horrible. All Harry wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep until he felt better. Draco, sitting at Harry’s side outside of Remus’ cell, looked like he was about to fall asleep despite the rough stone wall, the hard wooden bench and Professor McGonagall cursing up a storm inside Remus’ cell.

She’d come.

Just like Mrs. Malfoy had said, Professor McGonagall had come to help Remus. Harry was trying really, really hard not to resent the fact that she would come for Remus, but she’d never even tried to listen to him or help him last year. The whole thing with the Philosopher’s Stone was the cherry on top of the awful sundae, but there were a dozen other things that had happened that made fighting his resentment super-hard.

“Breathe,” Draco murmured.

“I know, I know,” Harry said. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands, pressing until he saw stars. “I’m just… tired.”

“Very,” Draco agreed. “But if this works, it should save Remus. That gives us one more ally. Maybe two, if you can calm down.”

Harry grumbled as he leaned back against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. “Not fair.”

“The bond is there, Potter,” Draco drawled. “I can’t help that I feel things now. If you were paying attention, you’d feel things from me, too.”

Harry blinked at the faintly resentful tone. When he turned to stare at Draco, Draco’s expression was perfectly exhausted but there was a spot of pink on his pale cheeks. Okay. So he was missing something?

The moment Harry shut his eyes and paid the slightest bit of attention to the bond, Draco’s desperate fear and worry rushed into Harry. He was outright terrified of how Professor McGonagall was going to react to him. To Mrs. Malfoy. To their bond. To his father’s death which was a dark and nasty painful thing in the back of Draco’s mind that Harry really didn’t think he had the right to poke at.

“Hug?” Harry offered because seriously, he had no idea what else to offer to calm Draco down.

Draco snorted and nodded, slowly, cautiously, sliding his arms around Harry’s waist. He squeaked when Harry hugged him tightly. Being really hugged, good firm bearhug-hugged, felt so very strange through the bond.

Harry hugged him even closer, snuggling up with Draco in his arms and him in Draco’s arms and their bond humming with surprise and worry and slowly growing contentment.

And exhaustion.

Lots of that.

They were both so very tired. It’d been such a long couple of days and so long before that with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia treating him so poorly. Harry could’ve fallen asleep right there and not regretted it at all, other than the numb butt he was sure to get.

Draco snort-laughed. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Probably,” Harry agreed with a grin against Draco’s shoulder. “Still true.”

“I am getting… rather tired of sitting on this bench,” Draco admitted in a sly tone that made Harry snicker because he could feel, now that Draco drew his attention to it, the ache in Draco’s rear end.

Both of them bolted to their feet as the cell door opened. Harry hadn’t even heard the cursing stop. It must have tapered off sometime during the hug. Professor McGonagall emerged with Grandpa Arcturus, both of them scowling.

“Did it work?” Harry asked. He grabbed for Grandpa Arcturus’ hand. “Is Remus going to be okay?”

“We got the immediate curses off,” Grandpa Arcturus said as he tugged Harry into a hug that was almost as good as the one with Draco.

“Immediate?” Draco squawked. “There were more?”

“Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” Professor McGonagall said as she took off her glasses, pinched the bridge of her nose and then sighed. “There are. A great many more, all of them behavior modification curses that sculpt poor Remus into do exactly what the castor wants.”

“But he’s not going to go feral or kill me or kidnap me, is he?” Harry asked. “I mean, the immediate problem is dealt with, right?”

Grandpa Arcturus and Professor McGonagall exchanged the sort of dark looks that grownups always used when they were weighing just how much to tell a kid about bad stuff going on. Harry frowned at them, hands on his hips. There was no point to keeping secrets. Not now. How could they solve the problems if they weren’t sharing all the information?

A wave of reassurance came from Draco, washing over Harry like someone had just pulled a blanket up over him and tucked him in. It was so strange, so unlike anything he’d ever had until the last few days that Harry turned and stared at Draco who got those spots of color high on his cheeks again.

“We will be keeping him unconscious until we can transfer him to Gringotts,” Grandpa Arcturus said finally. “The spells are so deep-set, Harry. He’s been spelled and controlled since he was younger than you.”

“First year or earlier than that?” Harry asked. “If it’s first year, then it’s Dumbledore.”

“Mr. Potter!” Professor McGonagall huffed, her eyes flashing with her magic. “Headmaster Dumbledore is the leader of the light! Mind your words.”

Harry frowned at her before casting ostende mihi. “Oh, great. You’ve got control spells all over you, too. Grandpa Arcturus, we need to figure out a way to break anything like that before people get close to me. I didn’t check on it because I didn’t think he’d control someone so close to him.”

“…What?” Professor McGonagall whispered.

She’d gone dramatically pale. The wrinkles on her face seemed twice as deep all of a sudden as she grabbed for the doorframe. Harry didn’t reach out to her. Neither did Draco or Grandpa Arcturus. Both of them stared at Harry’s ward spell in horror.

“Okay, so, see here?” Harry said, pointing out the right spot to Professor McGonagall. “This says who you are. And it says what spells you’ve got going. Right now, there’s a whole slew of them, like, close to a dozen? No, eleven of them. There are eleven control spells on you affecting who knows what. My eyes are tired. It’s late.”

She stared at the spell, mouth working even though no noise came out. After a moment, Professor McGonagall thrust herself away from the doorframe and snapped her wand out, handle first. She passed it over to Grandpa Arcturus who took it as if she’d just given him a knife and commended him to stab her with it.

“Well, what are ye waiting for?” Professor McGonagall demanded. “Open up another of these cells and put me in it. I’ll not allow anyone to control me, not now that I know. Ye cannae let me go and ye cannae trust me to run free. In the morning, the goblins can work on me just as much as poor Remus.”

Grandpa Arcturus blew out a breath. He did a little bow, one hand pressed against his chest.

“As you wish,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “Cooper! Prepare a cell for Professor McGonagall. She’ll be staying the night.”

Cooper popped in and studied Professor McGonagall. “The Professor is calling her elf and making sure she knows not to fight this. Cooper is not fighting another elf. Neither is anyone else. Except Dobby, but Dobby is mad.”

Harry spluttered at that but both Grandpa Arcturus and Draco nodded as if that was the most obvious thing in the world. Professor McGonagall nodded and did just as Cooper asked. Her elf Lilac was a pretty little thing with a simple black and white maid’s dress and shiny lavender patent leather shoes. Lilac’s eyes went enormous when she realized that they were going to try to free Professor McGonagall.

“Mistress Kitty will be free?” Lilac breathed, tears welling up as she clasped her hands against her chest. “Lilac is so happy! She will bring Mistress Kitty’s favorite night things and a hot toddy. Mistress Kitty will rest and be better in the morning. Promise now!”

Professor McGonagall grinned at Lilac. “I promise. Now off with you. The night’s fleeing as we stand here jabbering.”

Lilac popped away. So did Cooper. Harry shook his head.

“What?” Draco asked.

“People really need to pay more attention to the elves,” Harry complained. “I mean, really? Lilac knew something was wrong. Dobby did, too. All I had to do was work with him and poof, a zillion problems started getting solved.”

Draco nodded thoughtfully, rubbing the small of his back and stretching until something cracked so hard that it echoed in the quiet hallway.

“True,” Draco agreed. “I couldn’t have handled… everything… without our elves.”

Grandpa Arcturus snorted. “Cooper kept me alive as much as your mother did, Draco. We really should pay more attention to them. Now. I’ll see Professor McGonagall settled. You two need to go to bed. You’re both exhausted. Don’t deny it. We’ll deal with all of this in the morning.”

Harry nodded and offered a hand to Draco only to flinch as Professor McGonagall gasped as if it was the most horrible thing she’d ever seen. She winced when Harry shook a finger at her, much to Grandpa Arcturus’ amusement. Draco waited until Professor McGonagall nodded an apology before taking Harry’s hand.

“That’s got to be one of the things that he’s trying to control,” Harry told her and Grandpa Arcturus. “The whole house rivalry thing is stupid.”

“Very overblown,” Draco agreed. “Do sleep well, Professor. We’ll see you in the morning. Late morning.”

She grinned. “Late morning sounds perfect, Mr. Malfoy. Off to bed with both of you before I’m tempted to take preemptive points from the both of you.”

Harry huffed at her for the threat. Taking points when they were trying to save people. That was rude.

To both Grandpa Arcturus and Professor McGonagall’s amusement, Draco rolled his eyes and hauled Harry off up the stairs by his hand. Given that he was taller than Harry and stronger, Harry didn’t have a chance to protest it.

Not that he did. Or would. He was way too tired to protest anything other than staying awake.

“So why do you resent her?” Draco asked once they were on the third floor heading up the hallway to their suites.

Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair, fingers catching on a million different knots that he should try to comb out. But wouldn’t. Not until morning. Or, more accurately, not until he woke up since it was already morning.

“She… she never believed me or tried to help me,” Harry admitted when Draco frowned at him. “So much stuff happened last year, and she just never, ever listened to me. I asked for help. Like, a dozen times. She ignored me. She ignored Hermione and Ron. It was…”

Draco frowned even harder. “And yet she came instantly to save Remus.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, sighing. “That.”

“Let’s talk to Mother,” Draco said. He rolled his eyes when Harry groaned. “No, that’s significant. She might have told Dumbledore that she was coming here. We can’t let them be sent somewhere else. Dumbledore might try and influence her, see her memories or something, if she leaves.”

“Oh,” Harry said. He shook his head to try and get rid of the exhaustion-cobwebs making thinking hard. “Right. So, this thing of coming to help is out of character for her.”

“Or not helping you last year was,” Draco said. “I don’t know which. Mother will look into it. She can work with Mr. Swashlin and Grandfather Arcturus on it while we sleep.”

Harry nodded and then sighed gustily. “Fine, but it’s a short explanation, right? Because I want to sleep.”

“Very short,” Draco agreed. “Don’t worry, Mother would never keep us up. She wanted us both to go to bed hours and hours and hours ago.”

18. A Surprise Bride

August 5, 6:02 am

Dobby’s special tea was so dark it lurked like a puddle of ink in the cup and tasted like the sludge from under the rocks in the Malfoy pond. It was heaven. Pure, unadulterated heaven. Draco hadn’t tasted anything better in his whole life.

Of course, he’d never stayed awake for a full twenty-four hours after killing his father, taking the Malfoy magics and saving his mother before. Oh, and discovering that he had a lifebond in his supposed worst enemy and that the man everyone regarded as the Leader of the Light personally wanted to destroy both Draco and Harry.

“It’s been much too long a couple days,” Harry complained as he added equal amounts of milk to his cup of Dobby’s special tea and then put in about eight sugar cubes.

“That’s obscene, Potter,” Draco complained. “Why bother to put tea in if you’re going to do that to it?”

Harry grinned and laughed even though the bags under his eyes had bags. Across the kitchen, Dobby snickered as he scrambled eggs, fried bacon, made a hash full of potatoes, peppers, sausage and more onion than anyone could tolerate. And garlic. So much garlic.

Enough that Draco was sure it would be inedible. Harry was full of anticipation for the hash. His hunger for it had Draco craving it even though he’d never been one for that much garlic. Or any garlic, really.

“Garlic is good,” Harry said, wagging his teaspoon at Draco. “You won’t know until you try it. Besides, it’s helping keep you awake.”

“This is true,” Draco said. “Mostly because I have to blow my nose ever few seconds.”

Which was a mild exaggeration. Not much of one but a mild one.

“That’s so odd,” Mr. Swashlin said from the kitchen doorway.

He grinned when Draco frowned at him. Of all of them, Mr. Swashlin looked like the only one with any energy besides Dobby. Honestly, Draco wasn’t sure that Dobby ever got tired. He was like those colorful little hard rubber balls that could you hit with a blasting curse and all they’d do is bounce and roll away.

“What is?” Harry asked while sipping his tea-flavored milk and sugar mess.

“The two of you are having a bi-level conversation,” Mr. Swashlin said. He came in and took a cup of the special tea from Dobby with a nod of thanks. “There’s the things you say and then there’s the things you’re communicating without saying anything.”

“We might need to control that,” Draco said.

He glanced at Harry who bit his lip and looked more than a little worried about people’s reactions to it. Oddly, the biggest worry that he got from Harry wasn’t Dumbledore or the teachers at Hogwarts. It was Ron and Hermione. Their faces were the ones hovering in Harry’s mind’s eye.

Later, Harry’s face said.

But do ask, the bond whispered where no one else could hear it but Draco.

Draco nodded and sipped his tea, wincing at the raw bitter edge of it. A second sip took that rawness down to a mild bite and then the third numbed his tongue enough that he could drink the rest without wincing.

“What’s happening with Remus and Professor McGonagall?” Harry asked Mr. Swashlin.

He took a big swallow of his tea, shuddered and stared into the cup in horror. The second, wincing sip got a considering look and then he drank comfortably as his tongue was numb to it. That was how Father had always drunk it, but Draco just couldn’t stomach that first gods-awful swallow. Sips worked better.

“Well, Lord Black and Mrs. Malfoy both agreed that we can’t send Remus or Minerva to the bank,” Mr. Swashlin said. “I’ve contacted Silverclaw and they’re sending a team to look at them. Apparently, Dumbledore’s been all up in their business over the last six or so hours, though, so they’re not sure if they can safely send someone here until afternoon.”

“Ugh,” Harry groaned. “He did let Professor McGonagall come as a test to the wards.”

“That is what we were afraid of,” Draco agreed. “We’re somewhat trapped here now.”

“Can’t go to Black Manor,” Harry agreed. “The wards there are compromised.”

“I’d have to do a great deal of work to ensure that Dumbledore couldn’t enter Malfoy Manor,” Draco mused. “I requested the Goblins to rework the wards so that they would exclude anyone touched by the Dark Lord’s magic and by Dumbledore’s magic but they’re not going to get that done until later in the month. It’s quite complicated spell work with a lot of preparation to be done.”

Mr. Swashlin hummed, nodding thoughtfully while taking a refill of his tea from Dobby who brought their plates to the table. Dobby popped away with the plates for everyone else. Draco would have to check that Mother ate properly later. After all her healing, she definitely needed to eat well.

“Dobby,” Harry called, “please make sure that everyone else eats all their food. They all need it.”

Dobby popped back in and nodded vigorously. “Dobby will do so. He will get Blue and Cooper and Lilac to help. We will all makes sure that they eat.”

“Thank you, Dobby,” Harry said, grinning. He offered a fist which Dobby proudly bumped before popping away.

Draco started eating the hash very, very gingerly.

It was wonderful.

Rich and delicious, not overpowered with either onion or garlic. The peppers added a bit of bite that worked wonderful with the sweetness of the onion and the pungency of the garlic. The sausage filled out the hash and the potatoes bound it all together into something gloriously unlike anything Draco had ever eaten before.

“Told you so,” Harry said, grinning at Draco. “It’s good. Everything about English cooking needs more garlic.”

“You probably enjoyed being around Professor Quirrell last year,” Draco complained even though he ate his hash quickly and eagerly.

“Eh, other than him setting off my scar and being unable to teach us anything useful, yeah,” Harry said.

Harry snapped his mouth shut, the bond going worried and fearful as Harry’s eyes locked on his plate where he pushed around his eggs instead of eating them.

“Oh, stop fussing, Potter,” Draco huffed. “Don’t play with your food. It’s terrible manners.”

“Yeah, well, I think I’m entitled to be worried about Voldemort coming back at me after last year,” Harry complained.

Draco flipped a hand. “Don’t be ridiculous. The Department of Mysteries already has his shade. Once they find the rest of his soul anchors, they’ll be destroyed. He’ll be sent to meet his fate with Death. He killed Father and then got trapped in my father’s office when the wards switched over to me. I locked everything down instinctively, keeping him from leaving. That was not fun.”

Harry nodded but didn’t say anything. They ate their breakfast. Drank more tea. Wandered out of the kitchen and then through Potter Keep. Mr. Swashlin left them to their own resources, marching off to help Grandfather Arcturus and Mother sort through what needed to happen to purge the control curses from both Remus and Professor McGonagall.

The view off the ramparts across Harry’s loch was gorgeous.

Summer’s heat had long since turned the grass brown around the Keep but there were wind-twisted pines and a swathe of ivy that clambered up the shortest square tower as if it intended to envelope the entire Keep. Below the cliff, the loch gleamed in every shade of blue as the morning sun turned its rippling surface into diamonds.

Harry sighed and leaned on one of the battlements, putting his chin on his hands while staring glumly off towards the distant sliver of sea that they could see.

“So,” Draco said. “Ron and Hermione? You wanted me to ask, yes?”

“Yeah.” Harry groaned. “I did. I do. It’s just hard. I mean, this is all hard. But…”

He straightened up, fingers tapping against the top of the battlements like Silverclaw would tap his claws against his obsidian desk when he was thinking hard. Draco waited, paying close attention both to Harry’s determined frown and to the way his thoughts tumbled about in the bond. There wasn’t anything distinct to focus on, just a rushing river of faces and emotions and memories until suddenly, boom, there was a clear, hard focus.

Harry turned back to Draco. “I need to know if I can trust Ron and Hermione. I really need to know if I can trust Mrs. and Mr. Weasley.”

“No, you can’t,” Draco said immediately. “The Weasley family are all huge Dumbledore supporters. They’d do exactly what he wants and not question it all, even if you swore up and down that you were in danger from their actions. Hermione? I don’t know. Would she listen to you long enough for you to explain what’s going on? Because my impression of her is that she makes up her mind and then won’t budge.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Harry said. He grimaced and pouted down at the loch. “I mean, I like Ron. He was nagging his mother to come and save me when Amal and I went to the bank the first time. She wasn’t listening, really, but then she doesn’t seem to listen to anyone any more than Hermione does.”

Draco nodded slowly. “Given what we’ve found with Remus and Professor McGonagall, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was profoundly cursed to obey, too.”

“He’s cursed everyone in Britain!” Harry exclaimed like the overly-dramatic Gryffindor that he was. “Why is he doing this? How? I mean, he’s supposed to be a good guy. Everything Hermione and I read last year said that he did good stuff in the past.”

“Books written by people loyal to Dumbledore don’t necessarily give an objective view, Potter,” Draco drawled. “Something I would have hoped that you understood.”

“Oh, I get that,” Harry countered as he started to pace along the parapet. “I really do. I just. What am I going to do, Draco? They’re my only real friends.”

He used Draco’s personal name so casually that it made Draco’s heart lurch. The idea of Harry feeling trapped with only those two as friends made his stomach lurch. Granted, Draco had been essentially friendless last year. There was Blaise who was so grey that he just did what he wanted with whoever he wanted and Pansy who…

Oh, no.

“What?” Harry asked so warily that Draco flushed. “What made you freak out like that?”

“I ah, just remembered that I might be engaged to Pansy,” Draco said.

“What?” Harry squawked with as much horror and outrage as Draco felt. “You’re too young! We’re both too young!”

“I think Father might have a betrothal contract for us,” Draco explained. “Ivy!”

“Is here,” Ivy said, popping in with a scroll of parchment that she passed to Draco with a frown of distaste. “Master must not marry little Parkinson. She is not good for him. Master Harry is good.”

“Agreed,” Draco said.

He unrolled the parchment, scanning it for clauses about breaking the betrothal, as well as what would make it stick no matter what Draco wanted. The key clause was hidden way down in the bottom of the contract.

“Grandpa Arcturus?” Harry said when Draco started hissing angrily.

“And Mr. Swashlin,” Draco agreed. “Plus Silverclaw. We… might be able to get out of it. I think we still have a couple of hours left before it’s too late. Maybe. If the contract isn’t cancelled within seventy-two hours of my father’s death, it’s considered to be ratified unchanged. Then the penalty clauses would be… quite horrific.”

“I’ll pay half,” Harry volunteered. He grinned when Draco frowned at him. “What? I don’t want to share you with Pansy. She’s snippy and arch and always has horrible things to say about me behind my back.”

“That’s because you dress like a ragamuffin and don’t know a thing about your station in life,” Draco said. “Come on. Let’s see what the adults have to say.”

What the adults had to say was lots of cursing, Mr. Swashlin counting hours and then running for the Floo to send a message for Draco, and Mother hissing in outrage that Father had dared to sign such a contract on Draco’s behalf without consulting her first. Not that she would have been capable of saying no, but the principle of it had Mother honestly enraged.

Draco and Harry left Mother to her outrage, following Mr. Swashlin to the floo. To say that Mr. Parkinson was displeased to receive notice through the floo was putting in extremely mildly.

“Why didn’t we receive notice immediately?” Mr. Parkinson bellowed. The green flames exaggerated his face.

Draco pursed his lips and sniffed disapprovingly before drawling at him. “I am so terribly sorry that you weren’t notified first. Goodness, how inappropriate of me. I certainly should have gone through Father’s papers before notifying Gringotts or the Ministry or having gotten a healer in to take care of my mother’s injuries after Father tortured her. Whatever was I thinking?”

Mr. Parkinson flinched. “I don’t. That wasn’t what I meant.”

“I’m sure,” Draco said. He firmly ignored Harry’s grumbles behind him, focusing fully on Mr. Parkinson. “Once we realized that there might be an issue, we researched it and immediately contacted you. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible for Pansy and I to marry. Had Father bothered to ask, I would have informed him that I’m completely and utterly gay. I’ve no interest in girls and I’ve no expectation that I would ever develop an interest in them.”

Mr. Parkinson’s jaw dropped open just a hair which was a huge response for a man like him. “He didn’t ask.”

“No,” Draco said. “He did not. Pansy is a brilliant young woman with a huge well of magic. I’m sure that she’ll make a very advantageous match. I would ah, how shall I put this? Well. I’ll be blunt. Pansy’s already learned the castration hex, sir. I recommend that you ask her about her preferences and pay close attention to her responses. The older girls made sure that every girl in Slytherin learned the hex within three hours of arrival at Hogwarts.”

To Draco’s surprise, Mr. Parkinson barked a laugh. “Her mother taught her that hex as soon as she got her wand, Malfoy. She made sure that I and my brothers all watched as Pansy mastered it.”

“Ivy,” Draco said to Ivy who popped in to properly bow to Draco even though she was outside the flames and thus not visible to Mr. Parkinson, “please help me choose a proper apology gift for Pansy and her mother. Something that will keep me from getting hexed.”

“Ivy will, Master Draco,” Ivy declared. “Something with emeralds.”

“Good choice,” Draco agreed. “I believe we’re just under the threshold that Father put on the contract, sir. That said, I wouldn’t object to adding to Pansy’s dowry. Perhaps an emerald and yellow topaz tiara? With a matching bracelet?”

Mr. Parkinson smiled at that. He nodded and looked much less annoyed about the whole thing. They discussed just how many emeralds versus how many topaz, finally ending the floo call as Mother arrived at the door to the floo room with Grandfather Arcturus.

Worryingly, they were accompanied by both Remus and Professor McGonagall who looked terribly shaky.

“I don’t like that you’re paying her off to be free,” Harry complained while eyeing Remus warily.

“Oh, I’m not,” Draco said as he stood and brushed himself off. “I’m paying her off not to curse your or my bollocks off, Potter. Pansy’s utterly vicious, completely racist and a terrible human being. I’d rather her be smug about the betrothal ending than upset.”

Harry opened his mouth, kept it open for a moment, and then shut it before turning to Grandfather Arcturus.

“How are they doing?” Harry asked with a nod towards Remus and Professor McGonagall. The bond made it utterly clear that he wasn’t ever going to bring the subject of Draco’s almost-betrothal to Pansy up again.

“We need to talk about it,” Grandfather Arcturus said with a sigh. “Lock the floo down again, Harry. This is only getting more complicated.”

Harry stared at Grandfather Arcturus, turned to Draco who shrugged because what did Draco have to do with Harry’s wards? Harry snorted and then locked the floo down with an authoritative snap that echoed through the room. And perhaps through the entire castle. When Harry strode off, Draco followed. The adults trailed after them.

“This is your favorite couch, isn’t it?” Draco asked as he settled onto the green velvet couch near the fireplace in the Potter Library.

“Yep,” Harry agreed. “Everybody take a seat. Do I need Dobby to bring you a different chair, Silverclaw? I’m sure he can find something if you need it.”

“Not necessary, Mr. Potter,” Silverclaw said as he claimed a spot by the fireplace, sitting on the hearth. “This is most acceptable.”

From the way Silverclaw wiggled and then settled back against the mass of cut field stone that made the fireplace, it was more than acceptable. Draco stared at him for a moment and then shrugged infinitesimally. If he was happy, so be it. Harry could be more forceful about it if he chose. Mother settled in the burgundy velvet armchair closest to Draco. Amal flung himself onto the brown couch and waved for Remus to sit next to him. Grandfather Arcturus and Professor McGonagall took the remaining armchairs, though amusingly, Professor McGonagall glowered until Grandfather Arcturus gave up the black leather covered one, switching to the aged gold velvet armchair.

“Right,” Draco said once they’d all settled. “Explain to me why Professor McGonagall and Mr. Lupin are free? I thought we’d agreed that they needed to stay in the cells.”

“That,” Harry agreed, pointing at Draco.

“The curses are more encompassing than expected,” Grandfather Arcturus said, sighing. He looked as though he’d not gotten a single bit of sleep overnight or all day. “They can’t stay there, or their hearts start skipping beats.”

“Can we send Pansy after Dumbledore’s bollocks?” Harry asked Draco far more seriously than he really should’ve.

“No, you are not sending my almost bride against Dumbledore, Potter,” Draco said over the sound of the men choking. Both Mother and Professor McGonagall snickered. “Her mother maybe, but not Pansy.”

“Darn,” Harry huffed. “I’ve gotta learn that spell myself, then.”

“I will gladly teach you, Harry,” Mother offered with a vicious smile that made Harry snicker. “Goodness, everyone should learn that one.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m sure it’s just one of a zillion things I should’ve learned but didn’t because Dumbledore thinks I need to be his pawn or something. So, they have to be allowed to run around?”

“I wanted to stay in the cell,” Remus said, rubbing his chest. “It wasn’t… They said no.”

“Dobby!” Harry called. He smiled when Dobby popped in immediately. “Okay, so are the curses on Remus and Professor McGonagall affecting the people around them?”

Every jaw, Draco’s included, fell open. Even Dobby’s. Harry seemed utterly serious though and as Draco traced the thoughts and emotions in the bond that hid behind his blandly curious face, Draco could see his point.

The way Harry had been treated did seem to expand out to new people who should have no reason to treat him poorly. Actually, the way that Professor McGonagall had refused to help Harry last year wasn’t quite so odd if you posited that there was a sort of curse that would affect other people’s perceptions of you.

“Dobby… is not sure,” Dobby said slowly. He cocked his head to the side, one ear standing up straight, the other drooping over his shoulder. “Master Harry had the bad man’s soul shard in his scar. Dobby thinks that maybe the curses is looking for that.”

Draco shuddered. “Right. Someone explain to me exactly what’s going on right now.”

19. Curse or Blessing

August 6, 2:03pm

An hour and a half later, after lots of cursing, lots of spells and tests and Silverclaw gouging furrows in the stone of the fireplace surround and then fixing it with his fingers alone, Harry had Dobby bring them all treats. Hot chocolate for him and Draco. Drinks of a bunch of different varieties for everyone else. Silverclaw’s drink was on fire.

He drank it without blowing the flame out and then blew several smoke rings while glaring at the ceiling far overhead.

That plus a lunch of sandwiches and crisps had all the adults calmer, if still not thinking especially clearly as far as Harry was concerned. They were all up in arms about what Dumbledore had done. In the past. You know, before now. None of them seemed able to focus on what to do to fix the mess they’d had dropped in their laps.

“So,” Harry said as he leaned against Draco and cradled his mug of hot chocolate, “from what everyone can tell so far, there’s a base behavioral modification spell that makes everyone very susceptible to what Dumbledore wants. It doesn’t really tell them to do anything. They just look at him and think he’s all amazing and wonderful and wise and all that.”

“Yes,” Grandpa Arcturus said slowly. He nodded hesitantly at first and then decisively once he’d thought about it. “That seems accurate.”

“And on top of that he’s layered a bunch of charms and potions and stuff that manipulates people into being just what he wants,” Harry said with a nod towards Remus. “The strongest and most frequent ones applied to Remus because he shrugs them off as a part-werewolf, the least on Draco and me because we’re kids and just had one year of being around him.”

“Accurate,” Professor McGonagall agreed while swirling brandy in her glass. “Your point, Mr. Potter?”

“Still working it out in my head,” Harry admitted much to Draco and Professor McGonagall’s amusement. “Okay, so the underlying spell. It’s not a curse. It’s not a charm. It’s not a potion. It’s not any sort of magic that any of you are used to. Dobby and Ivy and the other Elves can see it, but it doesn’t feel like a threat to them, other than all the ways that it interacts with the other stuff Dumbledore does.”

Amal nodded. “Yeah, that sums it up. So…?”

He waved at Harry as if trying to draw out whatever Harry was mulling over. Not that Harry’d figured out just what he had floating in his head yet. Really, the problem was that he didn’t know enough magic. If he were older, say a seventh year, he’d probably be able to list all the sorts of magic spells there were. Now he was flailing.

Draco chuckled at Harry, shaking his head while smiling fondly over the top of his mug. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Always,” Harry agreed. “I… don’t know enough here. If it’s not a charm or curse or a standard spell or a potion, what other sorts of spells are there out there?”

“Hundreds,” Silverclaw said. His eyes were distant as he tapped his gleaming claws against the fireplace surround, without digging holes in the stone this time. “It depends on the traditions. The spells you find among the native people of North America are drastically different from those from the center of Africa or the Pacific Islands. Or from South America, for that matter. There are some common spells that everyone learns. Most everyone learns European-style magic.”

“Colonization,” Harry said, nodding. “Yeah, duh. What we’re dealing with is a human style of magic?”

“Definitely,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “I’ve some familiarity with other traditions and it doesn’t match any of them.”

He leaned forward and put his empty glass of whiskey on the tray Dobby had left behind. It disappeared instantly. Remus did the same with his empty bottle of orange soda, nodding thoughtfully.

“I’ve seen a great many,” Remus said in a very professorial tone while rubbing the knuckles of his hands as if they ached just enough to bother him but not enough for him to notice. “This has… it’s familiar, vaguely. But not enough for me to tell what it is. There’s a sort of… gleam to it that I’m not sure of. I can’t remember encountering it before.”

“I would pray to Lady Magic for help,” Mrs. Malfoy murmured as she set her nearly untouched gin and tonic on the tray and watched it disappear, “if only I knew what to ask.”

Harry sat bolt upright, nearly spilling the remaining half of his hot chocolate right down his front. As Harry stared at her, Draco sighed and snagged his mug, putting it with his on the tray to be taken away. Then Draco raised an enquiring eyebrow at Harry.

“You’d pray,” Harry said. He pointed at Mrs. Malfoy whose cheeks had started going redder and redder. “Is that a thing? I mean, I don’t know much about religion. Aunt Petunia used to say that I’d burst into flame if I went into a church, but it didn’t stop her from dragging me and Dudley to services at Christmas. But only then. They didn’t do church most of the time.”

“Worship of the Old Gods does still exist, Mr. Potter,” Professor McGonagall said primly enough that Harry suspected that sometime soon, or as soon as she could leave Potter Keep, she was going to go and curse Aunt Petunia into oblivion. “There are songs, dances and celebrations that go back thousands of years. It’s a whole branch of magic that…”

She stopped. Her eyes went wide as she stared at Harry who started grinning. It took a moment longer before Remus gasped. Then Amal was on his feet, hurrying over to one of the bookshelves to pull of books that he tossed to Remus who started flipping through them urgently.

After another moment, Silverclaw was on his feet and heading for the note paper while Mrs. Malfoy start whispering prayers and Grandpa Arcturus cursed at the top of his lungs.

“Enlighten me?” Draco asked quietly enough that it was just for Harry’s ears.

“We’ve been looking for a curse,” Harry said. “Some strange, unknown curse that no one has ever heard of that doesn’t act like a curse at all. What if it’s not a curse? What if it’s not even a spell at all, Draco?”

Draco’s eyes went from pale blue to electric sapphire as he straightened up beside Harry. “What else could it be?”

“A blessing,” Harry said. “A prayer. I mean, I don’t know who the Old Gods are or what they’re like, but what if this spell is a blessing that’s supposed to help and protect you? What if Dumbledore took an old, old prayer of protection and turned it into something that functionally enslaves people when it was combined with a bunch of other stuff? It wouldn’t really be visible because it doesn’t do much. The magic doesn’t hurt you. It just sits there and collects other influences until suddenly you’re not you anymore.”

Draco stared silently. The thoughts ticking by in his head felt like a big, complicated old grandfather clock, the sort with the open face that let you see all the workings inside and a pendulum that moved with inexorable regularity.

All the pieces that Harry had fed Draco clicked into place as Draco ran it all through his marvelous mind.

“You’re terrifying,” Draco finally said. “Stunning and ridiculous and terrifying. How do you make these leaps?”

“I dunno,” Harry said, shrugging. “I don’t know how you do that fit it all together logically and strategically thing. I guess it just means we work well together.”

Draco’s smile was blindingly beautiful as he blushed and then leaned into Harry’s side in a cautious little invitation to a hug. Which Harry gladly gave him. They snuggled on the best couch, watching as the grown ups tossed ideas back and forth, researched from all the books in the library, and compared old songs, old prayers, old ideas that they’d learned when they were young.

“It would have to be an old prayer, wouldn’t it?” Harry interrupted when Remus and Amal got into a big passionate agreeing-violently-with-you argument about modern prayers, of all things, and how they could be infused with magic. Like that had anything whatsoever to do with the problem at hand.

Both Remus and Amal blinked at Harry like they couldn’t quite parse out the words he’d said because they were so far outside of the argument they’d been having. It took a moment before Remus to frown and cock his head to the side like a confused puppy.

“The blessing everyone’s been hit with,” Harry repeated. “It would have to be very old, wouldn’t it? I mean, we know Dumbledore is the one doing it and he’s been doing it for generations. Maybe since he was a young man, back in WWII. So it’s old. It’s not new. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe the same principles apply, but what we’re looking for is an old prayer, not anything new like you were talking about.”

“Ah, yes,” Remus said. He rubbed the scars on his cheek and then shook his head. “Quite so. Good point, Harry.”

That, thankfully, ended their violent-agreement fight. The gorgeous light from the stained glass windows of the library crept across the floor, up onto the table where dozens of books were spread open. It stained the blue, black, green and purple ink bottles red and gold before creeping across the table and towards the far bookshelves like a cat slowly pacing its way towards its favorite sleeping place.

The discussion was so far beyond Harry’s understanding that he snitched a piece of paper and a quill so that he could write a letter to Ron. Silverclaw should be able to get it to Ron. Or at least to Ron’s oldest brother Bill.

“Why write to him?” Draco asked quietly. He’d decided to read a book on the history of the worship of Lady Magic, which was quite logical of him. That was beyond Harry’s understanding, too.

“Because if he doesn’t know that I’m gone from Privet Drive he’s likely to get the twins to help him do something rash and stupid,” Harry explained. “Ron fancies himself my best mate. He’s very invested in me. I don’t doubt that he’d do something stupid and I know the twins would help him if only so that they could tease him about it later.”

He didn’t quite manage to make it through first paragraph without blotches but there were only one or two, so it wasn’t that bad. Draco shook his head over Harry’s terrible penmanship, carefully adjusting Harry’s grip twice. Once he did it, the blotches went way down, and his writing was way more readable.

“That’s amazing,” Harry said. “Why didn’t anyone teach us this?”

“Magical children learn how to write with quills when they’re tiny,” Draco said. “As for why Muggleborns and Muggle-raised kids don’t learn, well. I think you know the answer.”

Harry sighed, shaking his head as he continued writing slowly and carefully. “Dumbledore.”

“Dumbledore,” Draco agreed.

Seriously, Harry needed to figure out a way to get all of Dumbledore’s power taken away from him. He’d done so many terrible things to so much of Magical society. Once the letter was done and dry, Harry put it in an envelope and then slipped off the couch to go over to Silverclaw who’d retreated back to the fireplace with his notes.

“Um, can you see that this gets to Bill Weasley, sir?” Harry asked Silverclaw.

He was completely unprepared for the way everyone froze. They all turned to stared at Harry with a mixture of horror, thunderous frowns, and concern. Harry rolled his eyes at them.

“Ron will do something stupid if I don’t let him know that I’m not at Privet Drive,” Harry said. “Besides, Dumbledore already knows I’m not there. That’s the whole point of all this. I reckon that Bill will take this to Ron. He might, well, probably he’ll tell Dumbledore that I sent it.”

“It’s dangerous,” Amal said. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I know he’s your friend, Harry, but you can’t really trust him.”

“Oh, I know that,” Harry said with a wave of his hand. “I figured that out ages ago, this morning, really. There’s no way I can trust him or Hermione anymore. Which is irrelevant. Sending the letter will make Dumbledore think that I want to keep Ron as my friend. He’ll like that. He was very invested in our friendship last year.”

“…You’re surprisingly good at this sort of political maneuvering,” Grandpa Arcturus commented while nodding his agreement that Silverclaw should take the letter.

“One good thing that I learned from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, then,” Harry said. He smiled as Silverclaw took the letter. “Oh, have we heard anything about getting Sirius free?”

Silverclaw tucked the letter away into his jacket’s inside pocket. It had to be a magically enlarged pocket because the letter was easily three times the size of the pocket’s opening. He sighed and pursed his lips, tapping his claws together thoughtfully.

“We are being blocked by several forces within the Ministry,” Silverclaw said. “At present, our team working on the issue does not believe that they can get him out anytime soon.”

Harry frowned, well aware that Remus had gone stiff and wary again. Another set of behavioral spells, maybe? Or something else. Oh well, it didn’t matter. He looked to Draco who shrugged before turning to Mrs. Malfoy.

“We should be pushing for our Heir, should we not, Mother?” Draco said. “We are a cadet branch of the House of Black, after all.”

Mrs. Malfoy hummed and tapped her fingernail against her bottom lip in a gesture that felt remarkably similar to Silverclaw’s claw-tapping. Her eyes gleamed silver as she turned to Grandpa Arcturus who was grinning like a wolf. Next to him, Professor McGonagall shook her head, chuckling under her breath.

“That’s a very good point, darling,” Mrs. Malfoy said. “We should be working on that. Though I don’t know that it would be wise for us to leave until Malfoy Manor is properly secure.”

“Then can you get the warding team going on Malfoy Manor when you head back to the bank, Silverclaw?” Harry asked. “That would let Draco and Mrs. Malfoy work on the political side of things while we work on figuring out how to block this misapplied blessing of Dumbledore’s.”

“I can,” Silverclaw declared. “It would be a more profitable use of my time, as well. Escort me back to the floo, Mr. Potter. There’s money to be made. It profits no one to leave it sitting.”

Harry grinned and headed for the library door. Doing something was always better than doing nothing. The sooner they had Sirius safe, the better. He’d be one more person on Harry’s side, one more person freed from Dumbledore’s control.

That had to be a good thing. Though what they really needed was to figure out what the prayer-blessing was and how to keep Dumbledore from using it.

20. A Hidden Book

August 7, 6:07 am

Stepping out of the floo into Malfoy Manor was like leaping from a hot sauna into a snowy bank. The magic felt so incredibly different from Potter Keep that Draco’s breath caught for the force of it. He breathed carefully as Mother stepped through with Grandfather Arcturus on her heels, letting Mother clean the ash from his robes.

“All right there?” Grandfather Arcturus asked, one hand gently resting on Draco’s shoulder.

“It’s quite a different feel,” Draco said. He rubbed his chest. “And quite far from Harry. I’m surprised to feel the distance so acutely.”

Because he could feel every single mile between the two of them. It felt like their bond was a harp string that hummed after being plucked. The last twenty-four hours had changed so much that Draco was at a loss to get his mind around them all. Even Father’s death and becoming the Malfoy patriarch hadn’t been as big of a change as discovering his bond to Harry and the depth of Dumbledore’s duplicity.

At least the wards sang with their intent to keep Dumbledore and his minions out. There was no way that Remus or Professor McGonagall would be able to come here. They would have been thrown back by the floo. If they attempted to apparate in, they would be thrown off. Even portkeys would refuse them.

Harry would be fine, if a bit uncomfortable likely.

Amal might be all right. He did have some of Dumbledore’s magic on his soul but not like either Remus or Professor McGonagall. Actually, they all had some. Draco frowned, rubbing his chest as the wards tried to warn him of the magic deep inside of them.

“Darling, what’s wrong?” Mother asked. She knelt in front of him, gently cupping his cheeks. “You’ve not heard a word we said.”

“The wards,” Draco said. He shook his head slightly, as much as he could without dislodging Mother’s hands. “They’re warning me of the blessing Dumbledore used. Not violently but they do…”

He stopped and frowned up at Grandfather Arcturus. The blessing was all that Grandfather Arcturus had on him. There was no other trace of Dumbledore’s magic staining his magical core.

“Huh,” Draco said.

He studied what the wards were telling him and then cast ostende mihi so that Mother and Grandfather Arcturus could see it, too. Draco blew up the little notation that showed what spells were on each of them. Normally it was a minor matter that a patriarch would only pay attention to if the wards found something harmful.

This was not a normal time.

“The only bit of Dumbledore’s magic that’s touched you is the blessing, Grandfather,” Draco said. “Mother and I both have quite a bit more. You’re nearly pure, nearly untouched by his manipulation.”

Grandfather Arcturus’ eyebrows went up as he studied the display. “That’s… unexpected. Perhaps the ritual that freed me from the curse killing me wiped away anything else Dumbledore did to me.”

“It’s quite possible,” Mother mused.

She shook her head before taking Draco’s hand. He let Mother lead him away from the floo. The entire reason they were there was first, to go to check the Malfoy Library and second, to pick up a few things that would make life more comfortable in Potter Keep. Draco really didn’t see the point. Ivy could bring him whatever he needed. Mother, however, had been quite firm that there a few things that she wanted to get personally.

The library was cold. Both in temperature and in the magical feel of it. Draco snorted as Mother headed straight to the section of the library holding their ancient religious texts. When Grandfather Arcturus raised an eyebrow, Draco shook his head.

“I’m going to go commune with the wards,” Draco told him. “They’re… well. I need to spend some time with them in their new configuration.”

“Always a good idea,” Grandfather Arcturus said. “Make sure to bring your elf with you, lad. It’s never wise to bring an outsider in for a communion but I don’t want you to be there alone.”

“Ivy’s bond to me is very robust,” Draco said. He laughed softly as Ivy popped in and bounced at his side. “She’ll be fine. Honestly, I could take all of them, but I’d hate to take Vern away from the gardens.”

“I’ll check with him on my seedlings later, darling,” Mother called as she pulled book after book after scroll after folio off the shelves, passing them to Blue who levitated them over to the central worktable. “Don’t spend too long.”

“No, Mother,” Draco agreed.

He slipped out of the library and left them to their research. It wasn’t the real reason that they’d left Potter Keep, of course. Grandfather needed to put pressure on the DMLE to get Sirius free. Mother intended to help in Draco’s name. Getting some research done before their morning meeting was simply wise. There were books here that didn’t exist in Potter Keep or anywhere else, hopefully. It was quite possible that Father had destroyed the books in a fit after the Dark Lord punished him for not being sufficiently devoted.

While Father and his other grandfather had never been religious at all, the vast majority of the Malfoy family had been devout followers of Lady Magic going back to the founding of the family. Draco, personally, had always found the little rituals they kept in Slytherin to be comforting in the extreme.

Odd to discover that no other house did the rituals, not even the Candle Against the Darkness one that let you pray to grow up wise and magically powerful. Draco would have thought that Professor McGonagall would teach that to her lions for sure. Possibly with an added twist to make them good students and excellent Quidditch payers.

The ward stone pulsed as Draco approached it. He ran his fingers gently over the surface of the stone. It felt cool, a bit distant. Perhaps that was why one only had the wards repaired by outsiders once or twice a generation. It made the wards a bit standoffish.

“I am sorry for that,” Draco murmured to stone, to the spells that gave it a heart and a soul and a mind. “I would have come and helped but my soulmate needed me and, well, I’m yet very young for ward work.”

Ivy made a little squeaky noise that Draco ignored. He more than likely was breaking a dozen different protocols by actually speaking to the ward stone. Father had always said that one shouldn’t treat magic as if it was alive and truly aware.

But then, Father had been an idiot who’d willingly bound himself to a monster and then died at the monster’s disembodied hand.

The magic around the ward stone shimmered and then shifted as it gently wrapped around Draco. He let it happen, let the wards merge with him and his magic. Communion was a simple act, really. One opened up to magic, to Lady Magic herself, and allowed it to flow through one.

He laughed softly as the wards caught at the blessing embedded deep inside his core.

“I know,” Draco said, eyes shut. “Dumbledore put it on so many people. I’ve no idea what its supposed to do but he’s perverted it terribly. We don’t have a clue how to get rid of it. Or, perhaps, how to turn it to our own use.”

The wards pooled around Draco. They truly felt aware. The link to them was so much like his link to Ivy, to the other Malfoy elves. It wasn’t as deep as the one to Harry. That went right down to Draco’s core. He was fairly certain that their bond had started before they were born and would extend long after they were dead.

Still, the bond to the wards felt better and better the longer Draco communed with the ward stone. The coldness and distance fell away as he got the full shape of the newly reconfigured wards. Its wariness dissipated as it felt the nature and shape of Draco’s magic.

Of his soul.

It stayed firmly away from the varied bonds Draco carried, brushing over them and accepting them one by one. The only thing it kept coming back to was the blessing curled deep inside of Draco. That it plucked at from time to time like a toddler playing with the strings of a harp to make it sing atonally.

“Master, has been an hour,” Ivy called from the side of the room.

“Ah, then I should stop for a while,” Draco said. “Pity. This felt quite lovely.”

He sighed and opened his eyes. A gleaming image of a woman with ever-shifting hair and eyes the color of emeralds stood in front of him. Her dress was made of ivy and a cascade of water that faded into nothingness before it could hit the ground.

She smiled at him, nodded once, and then faded away.

Draco stumbled backwards, tripped, and landed on his arse.

“Master?” Ivy popped over to pat Draco’s shoulder. “Is Master Draco all right? You looks like you sees something.”

“I think…” Draco swallowed around a throat gone abruptly dry as sand. “I think I just saw Lady Magic, Ivy. She was sort of… over the ward stone? Maybe she was the ward stone? No, over it.”

Ivy blinked, eyes going extra wide as her ears went straight out. “That is very rare, Master Draco. Ivy is only hearing of it happening once. Dobby might know more of times it is happening. He is older and stronger than Ivy.”

Draco nodded as he pulled himself back to his feet and brushed himself off. “We’ll ask him once we get back to Potter Keep. Let’s see if we can catch Mother and Grandfather Arcturus. They should know about this. It might be a clue to what we need to do.”

Rather than run through the hallways like a little kid, Draco had Ivy pop him to the floo room. Mother and Grandfather Arcturus were there with Blue and Cooper who had stacks of books in their arms. When Draco appeared, Mother smiled and came over to brush her hands over his hair.

“You do look better, darling,” Mother said. “Was it a nice communion?”

“Ah, yes,” Draco said, blushing for no reason he could figure out. “But. Well. At the end when I opened my eyes, I saw a woman over the ward stone.”

Both Mother and Grandfather Arcturus looked confused. Cooper sucked in a startled breath while Blue squeaked and stared at Ivy who nodded proudly. That seemed to startle Grandfather Arcturus even more because he hummed as he came over to kneel in front of Draco.

“Tell us about it,” Grandfather Arcturus ordered. “The whole thing, everything you can share.”

As there wasn’t much to share, just the warming and personalizing of the wards, their curiosity and dislike for Dumbledore’s blessing and then the vision of Lady Magic, it didn’t take long at all. Once Draco was done, Grandfather Arcturus grunted.

“Odd,” Grandfather Arcturus said. “I’ve never heard of that happening.”

“Nor have I,” Mother said. She bit her lip. “Perhaps we should postpone our appointments.”

“No,” Draco said. “I’ll go back to Potter Keep. Professor McGonagall might know more. Silverclaw, when he shows up, most certainly will know more. Or he’ll know who we can contact to explain it, at any rate.”

Grandfather Arcturus snort-laughed and nodded. “That he would. And I wouldn’t begrudge him a single knut for arranging the meeting, either. Make sure you head right back, lad. I don’t want you here alone. Or just with elves, as the case may be.”

“No,” Draco said. He rubbed his chest. “I ah, want to get back to Harry anyway.”

He ended up getting kisses from Mother, a gentle hug from Grandfather Arcturus that set Draco’s cheeks to flaming, and another order to go straight to Potter Keep before they would go through the floo. Draco nodded for Blue and Cooper to pop over with the books. Then he took a deep breath and touched the wards around him.

“I’ll be back soon,” Draco promised. “Keep everything safe for me, please. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to introduce you to my soulmate. He’s a dreadful mess but then he’s a Potter, so what else could he be?”

Draco had the distinct impression that the wards laughed over that. He snorted a quiet laugh before tossing floo powder into the fire. Odd that it felt so very wrong to be away from Harry for this long. Odd and yet not odd at all.

“Potter Keep,” Draco declared. He stepped into the flames, magic already reaching out for Harry.

21. Deep Magical Communion

August 7, 1:27 pm

Harry frowned as he walked around the ward room at the base of Potter Keep. After what Draco had described, the whole warming up of the wards and his vision of the woman who might be Lady Magic, they’d decided that Harry needed to try the same thing. Well, Harry needed to commune with the wards, anyway. The whole open up and let them see him fully thing was a bit weird to think about but if it’d worked for Draco, maybe it would work for him, too.

Hopefully. Though Harry wasn’t at all sure about the whole visitation by a potential deity thing. After Remus and Professor McGonagall lecturing about the Old Gods for half the morning, Harry was a bit nervous about the concept of inviting one to show up.

Especially in the heart of his wards, the one thing keeping him safe from Dumbledore swooping in and carrying him off right back to the Dursleys.

“Okay,” Harry finally said after he’d walked the perimeter of the room twice clockwise, fingers trailing against the dark stone walls and then once counter-clockwise because he was still too nervous to approach the stone.

“Okay.” Harry bit his lip and cautiously approached the stone. When he barely touched the stone with his fingertips, magic shimmered over its surface. “Right. Sorry. Nervous. This is my first time doing anything like this. Bear with me as I figure this out, okay?”

There were no runes at all on the stone though they were carved all over the floor, walls and ceiling of the room. Weird that the stone had no runes at all. He could feel Silverclaw’s magic on the ward stone. Draco had said that his ward stone was granite, a big chunk that’d been inscribed with runes. Potter Keep had a whacking huge chunk of obsidian that had been carefully knapped until it was shaped like an oversized stone knife. It stood as tall as Harry.

Or as short as him. He really needed a good growth spurt or three.

There was a wash of amusement that startled Harry. It came right from the stone, its magic, which gentled and wrapped around Harry. It was a soft blanket, fleecy and warm and as lovely as the old blue blanket he used to have when he was tiny, the one that Aunt Petunia had thrown out when he turned six.

“Oh,” Harry breathed as he realized that yeah, that was the exact same feel as his fleece blanket. It wasn’t like the blanket. It was the same magic exactly. “They warded my blanket. Wow. I had no idea you could do that. Cool.”

Harry settled into the magic of the wards, of the stone, of the entire Potter family, really. Draco had made it very, very clear that wards built on the family magic as much as they did on the runes. His dad and grandparents and great-grands and all kinds of relatives that he’d never even learned the names of had fed magic into this stone. For generations and generations and generations.

“That’s a blessing I’d like to have,” Harry commented. His eyes had slid half-shut from the comfort of the wards wrapped around him. “Not like the stupid one Dumbledore put on me. That’s just trouble waiting to happen. Is there a way to take control of the blessing back from him? I wonder.”

The magic of the ward stone pushed Harry’s hand towards the knapped knife-edge of the stone. He blinked, starting as he realized that wow, yeah, that thing actually was razor sharp. He’d had no idea stone knives could be that sharp but then obsidian was basically glass.

“Silverclaw needed a little of my blood to fix the wards here,” Harry murmured while resting his index finger on the edge. He could feel the sharpness of it. A tiny push and his skin would part, blood would flow. “I need blood for this?”

The wards felt like yes. Very strong yes. Very, very strong yes.

Harry frowned. “Um, I’m not actually supposed to do magic, you know. Not without adults around. Or Draco at least.”

The wards laughed at that. It wasn’t a sound or any words or anything but yeah, that shimmer in the magic surrounding Harry was absolutely amused. He grinned, shrugged, and then reached out to Dobby.

“Master needs Dobby?” Dobby asked. He blinked and then wiggled happily. “Wards is nice, Master! Dobby likes them. They is much better than Malfoy wards. Ivy said that the Malfoy wards is better now, but these is better than them by far.”

“I bet,” Harry said, grinning at Dobby. “I asked the ward stone, or maybe I asked Lady Magic or something, if there was a way to take control of the blessing back from Dumbledore. The ward stone wants me to cut my finger on the edge here. Good idea, bad idea? Get an adult idea? Do it and ask forgiveness afterwards? What do you think?”

Of everyone in Harry’s life now that he was free, he trusted Dobby most of all. They’d saved each other. They’d made a choice and stolen each other from the respective hells that they’d been trapped in. Draco was second, especially as their magic and soulbond slowly drew them together.

Dobby was first. He would always be first. That’s just how it was.

Besides, elves saw things so differently that he might see or hear or know something that Harry didn’t.

“Dobby has not heard of ward stones doing that before,” Dobby said, head cocked so far to the side that he looked like Hedwig when Harry did something silly. “Is probably not ward stone. Is probably Lady Magic. Dobby can feel wild magic in ward room, wrapping about Master Harry and ward stone but he cannot feel what Master Harry is feeling.”

“Right,” Harry said as he nodded slowly. “Okay, I’m going to go deeper into the magic, see what I can figure out, Dobby. You watch. Pull me free if I go too deep. And if you can’t, go get Draco and Ivy and Grandpa Arcturus and Amal. Not Professor McGonagall and Remus. They’re too messed up.”

“Dobby will guard his Master Harry Potter!” Dobby declared as if he were ready to go into battle right that second.

Harry grinned before turning back to the ward stone and its razor edge. The magic wrapped around him was so very warm and welcoming. It was easy to close his eyes, breathing slowly, deeply, to a count that went slower and slower as his heartbeat dropped and his whole body went languid with relaxation.

Despite his eyes being closed, light sparkled all around him. He was suspended on a sea of stars that shimmered and popped around him. Harry smiled as a plume of stars drifted away from his lips as he breathed out. It was like his breath had become the smoke and rising embers from a bonfire.

He could feel his feet on the floor, his hand on the stone.

It felt like he floated though. He’d never been allowed to learn to swim. That was for good boys like Dudley, not freaks like Harry. The few times he’d been allowed a bath as a tiny child felt similar, though. Warm, suspended, floating and safe and free.

“Can we change the blessing so Dumbledore can’t use it?” Harry asked.

Thought he asked. Maybe he asked? He couldn’t tell. He didn’t even know who he was asking because there wasn’t really anyone there. Just him and the warm, wonderful sea of magic stars that held and supported and flowed right through him.

Those stars shifted so that they whirled into a vortex that plunged into Harry’s core. Well, not plunged. It was more like the vortex of magic reached gently in to brush over his core. Gentle and soft, not hard and sharp like being punched.

He felt the moment the magic brushed over the blessing buried deep inside.

Oh.

Oh wow. It was a blessing, but one put with a snarl and hate and nothing but meanness behind it. Harry frowned and cupped the warped blessing inside of him. How sad. It wanted to do the right thing, but it couldn’t. It wasn’t allowed to.

“Hey,” Harry whispered to the blessing. “It’s okay. You tried. You really did. You tried to gather things to make it better. I can see that. It’s okay now. You can rest. Here. Feel all the magic? That’s right. Come on. You can let go. The magic wants to help you. It wants to heal you.”

The blessing wasn’t really aware. Or alive. It was more like the newly-hatched baby snake he’d encountered early one spring while weeding Aunt Petunia’s garden. Instinct and impulses with not much behind it.

Harry coaxed the blessing free from his core in just the same way he’d coaxed the baby snake to go hide in the grass under Aunt Petunia’s huge old rosebush, the one with the inch-long thorns that would scratch anyone up if they got too close.

“No, you don’t have to stay,” Harry murmured. “You can let go now. Shhh. It’s okay. You can let go.”

Another long moment passed before the blessing abruptly unraveled under Harry’s persistent, gentle encouragement. He breathed in stars, breathed out a vortex of sad, confused blessing, and smiled as the wards slowly eased him back to his body.

To his hand.

To his finger that ached like he’d gotten a papercut right on the tip of his index finger.

Harry blinked. “Oh. I did cut myself, didn’t I?”

The ward stone’s magic released Harry entirely, letting his awareness bloom back out into the rest of his body. His stomach rumbled loudly. His knees and feet ached from standing still for too long. And wow, his head abruptly swam with exhaustion so bad that Harry would’ve fallen down if Dobby hadn’t grabbed him and held him up.

“Master Harry is all right!” Dobby exclaimed. “Dobby was worried. Master Harry went far too deep for a…”

Dobby stopped, staring at Harry. His head went to the left until it was almost upside down. Then to the right. And then he popped right up next to Harry to pat at his chest while making excited noises that made no sense at all.

“I think I fixed it,” Harry said. “Did you get everyone else?”

“Dobby was about to, Master Harry,” Dobby said as he grabbed Harry’s arm, draped it over his shoulder and then proceeded to drag Harry right out of the ward room. “Master Draco is waiting. He is very worried about you, but it had not been an hour yet. Master Harry should not have gone so deep, though. First time should be much less deep communion.”

The instant the door opened, Draco was there, grabbing Harry’s other arm. Ivy was there, too, vibrating with nerves as she wrung her hands and stared at Harry with worry. Harry let them lead him to the bench opposite the door, so very grateful that it was there.

“I’m so tired,” Harry groaned as he collapsed onto the bench. “Wow. That was a lot of work. Didn’t feel like it at the time. Um, can you fix my finger, Draco?”

Draco stared at the tiny papercut, a thunderous scowl forming. “What exactly did you do, Potter?”

“You only call me Potter when you’re mad at me,” Harry complained. “I think I removed the blessing. Probably. Maybe? Not sure. We should have the adults check.”

Draco did pull his wand and heal the cut with a whispered charm. Harry shivered at the feel of Draco’s magic working in his body. It was so much more… there… than before. The blessing had been blocking him, keeping him from feeling Draco properly. The poor blessing must’ve been worked nearly to insanity trying to make things right.

“But what exactly did you do?” Draco asked. He sat next to Harry, frowning at him with nothing but worry in his eyes.

“Um, well, got really nervous, then sort of talked to the stone,” Harry explained slowly as he tried to sort it out in his head. “Except Dobby said that there was a lot of wild magic in the room? So maybe I talked to that. Either way, the magic kind of grabbed my mind and pulled it in to the blessing. I… I guess I encouraged the blessing to let go because I was safe, and it’d done enough, and it didn’t need to keep trying to make things right despite the hate and anger and bad feelings behind it being laid.”

Ivy and Dobby exchanged looks that couldn’t’ve been more puzzled unless they’d held up signs like in Dudley’s Saturday morning cartoons, the sort with three or five or seven question marks. Thankfully, Draco didn’t look confused. He looked and felt worried as he took Harry’s hand.

“We need to talk to Amal,” Draco said. “And you need to describe this in much more detail.”

“Right,” Harry said. He sighed and sat up, groaning at how tired he was. “Food, too. I’m starving.”

Dobby and Ivy popped away, probably to get a mountain of food for Harry to eat. That was good. Fine really. Draco helped Harry up and then supported him on the walk up the hallway to the stairs out of the dungeon. How Harry was supposed to stay awake to explain all this, he didn’t know, but he’d try. Harry wasn’t about to let Dumbledore win and if he’d found a real way to make the blessing go away, well, they needed to figure out how to extend it to everyone else, too.

If they could.

22. Gentle Spell Removal

August 10, 10: 01 am

The truly amazing thing about Harry bloody Potter was that he flatly would not stop trying. He would not give up. He would not, under any circumstances, consider that something might be impossible.

Draco couldn’t ever remember thinking that anything was possible if you just kept trying. What with Father setting strict limits on what Draco and Mother could think or say or do or wear or eat, his life had been defined by the word “no”.

Harry’s life was defined by the word “yes”.

Yes, there was a solution. Yes, he could keep trying. Yes, it was absolutely worth it to go without sleep, to skip meals, to work himself to the bone and beyond if it would help the people he cared about.

It was such a foreign mindset that Draco could only stare and sigh and back Harry up over the last couple of days. Two very long, very full days that had included far too many experiments with the Potter ward stone, too many tiny cuts to Harry’s hands, and too many failures.

So many failures. Draco wondered, honestly and very privately, whether this was a Harry Potter Thing. He’d done what no one else had been able to do. Maybe it was just Harry.

“No,” Harry said with a little snort and a side-long look that was far too amused.

“It could be,” Draco murmured, blushing that he’d either not hidden his thoughts deep enough that they would stay in his head instead of radiating through the bond or he’d spoken out loud, which was worse.

He kept his voice down so that Mother wouldn’t ask what they were talking about while Remus and Grandfather Arcturus struggled to see if either of them could replicate what Harry had done without going into the Potter ward room.

Or making Harry do it.

Again.

“Nah, it’s not just me,” Harry insisted just as quietly. “It’s the magic. I mean, it’s gotta go very soft and very gentle and kind of… like encouraging something very small and weak and exhausted to rest? That’s what it felt like to me. It wasn’t… like that.”

He waved at Remus who was sweating and gritting his teeth while struggling with the blessing on Grandfather Arcturus. As the one person who had only the blessing, he made the perfect candidate. Mother had put her foot down in no uncertain terms about Draco being the test subject.

They’d given up on the ward room for this round of test. The library had made no difference. None of the rooms they’d tried made it easier or more successful, so Grandfather Arcturus had insisted on doing the latest test in one of the most comfortable parlors downstairs.

Decorated in deep blue and silver with hints of red and green, the parlor had matched sofas and chairs with thick plush velvet, a carpet that covered most of the floor in those colors that was nearly as soft as Draco’s bed, and curtains that kept the majority of the light reflecting up off the loch from entering the room. Dark, comfortable, relaxing, the parlor should have been the perfect place to do it.

“They’re trying too hard,” Draco said.

“A lot too hard,” Harry agreed. He shrugged. “They’re not listening, really. And I’m not at all sure about this do it for someone else thing they’re all stuck on. I did it for myself.”

Draco nodded thoughtfully. “You said it was… struggling?”

“Mhm,” Harry agreed, eyes locked on the sweat dripping down Remus’ face and his desperate panting. “Wanted to help so bad but it was just not gonna happen when it was placed with, wow, so much anger and, you know, malice.”

Draco nodded again. He leaned against Harry’s side, grinning when Harry wrapped his arms around Draco’s waist and put his chin on Draco’s shoulder. The simple joy of being held let Draco relax even further.

He shut his eyes against the failing battle going on across the room and allowed himself to commune with his magic. Nothing formal. Nothing too deep. Just gently letting his magic well up inside of himself like the tide filling a cave on the seashore.

There was the blessing, small and warped and, yes, desperate. It sat in the heart of Draco’s core struggling and hurting as badly as Dobby and Ivy and Vern and Yule and Blue all had before Father died. Actually, there was a lot of the same feeling to the blessing as there had been with the elves.

They’d wanted so badly to help but the Dark Lord’s Mark prevented them from properly serving Father. The way the blessing had been laid prevented it from doing what it needed to do, too. Draco hummed.

Gently encourage it to rest; that’s what Harry had said he did.

Draco mentally shrugged before tentatively touching the blessing inside his core with the same sort of welcome and love and sympathy as he’d had for Ivy when he stole her bond. It wasn’t alive in the same way as she was. It certainly wasn’t aware that way. The warped emotions behind it had made a huge difference in what it was and what it tried to do.

So desperate. The blessing ached to do the right thing, to find the right influences. It wanted nothing more, if a magic spell could want anything, than to do the right thing.

Yes, Draco thought at the blessing. Yes, I know. I understand. Thank you for trying so very hard. You’ve done so much and tried your best. I’m grateful. I’m safe now, here with my family and my teachers and my soulbond. You did it. You succeeded. You’ve done just what you should have.

You found my home for me.

The approval for the blessing, the gratitude, made Draco’s core twitch along with the blessing. There was a little surge of pain as the blessing seemed determined to do even more but then it abruptly let loose. As Draco blew out a breath, the blessing unraveled entirely.

Its magic washed out Draco’s core, leaving him gasping and blinking as he resurfaced to the gently pressure of Harry’s arms and total silence in the parlor.

“Darling, didn’t I say you and Harry shouldn’t do anything?” Mother said in a rather too sharp and too frightened tone as she stepped to their couch and knelt to scan Draco.

“Oh, Harry didn’t do anything,” Draco said. He sighed and shut his eyes again. “Goodness, that’s just exhausting. How odd. I didn’t take that long, did I?”

“Mmm, about four or five minutes,” Harry said. “And yeah, I didn’t do a thing. That was all Draco. Just like I was the one that freed myself. That might be a key.”

“The key is gentleness,” Draco said. He opened one eye and found every adult staring at the two of them. “It is. Gentle encouragement, gently telling the blessing that it’s done well, that it can let go. That you’re safe and free and happy, just as it was supposed to make you. That’s what made mine let go.”

“Same here,” Harry agreed. “I just kept telling it that no, you don’t have to keep trying. No, it’s all right. No, you did a good job. No, it’ll be fine. You can rest now. And after a while, it did let go and then it sort of fell apart.”

Remus wiped the sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief. He didn’t look like he understood that at all. Professor McGonagall frowned at them as if they weren’t making sense. Thankfully, both Mother and Grandfather Arcturus seemed to be considering it.

“Right, so magical communion with your core and your magic,” Amal said as he flopped into one of the chairs close to the fireplace, “find the thing and then be nice as can be while you tell it that it did good and it’s done working because everything is better.”

Draco looked over his shoulder to Harry who nodded. “That seems to be accurate. It’s certainly not a spell or a ritual or anything. Just… gentleness and acceptance and the blessing comes off.”

Amal nodded once before shutting his eyes, lacing his fingers together over his belly and dropping into magical communion.

His magic was a rich warm red with hints of gold. It played over his skin, just barely visible in the darkness of the parlor. To Draco, there was a hint of cinnamon in the air, perhaps a touch of cumin on his tongue. The room certainly seemed far warmer than it had a moment before.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Twenty. As the clock struck the half hour and Professor McGonagall started pacing and cursing under her breath, a shiver of lavender and puce magic cascaded up and out of Amal. It dissipated like mist torn to shreds by a strong gale, then Amal’s magic swept over the room in a surge that was warm and soft and laughing.

Amal laughed as his eyes drifted open. “You two.”

“What?” Draco asked, glaring at him.

“Just… you don’t know what you don’t know so you do these things, these amazing things, that no one could be prepared for,” Amal said. He stretched and yawned, shaking his head and grinning as Harry giggled into Draco’s shoulder. “I think they’re dead right, guys. No one else can break the blessing for you. It’s not even breaking. I mean, I tried making it let go. I tried order it. I tried praying to Lady Magic. It wasn’t until I did just what Draco said, accepting it and gently thanking it for helping me so well, that it let go. That’s what we gotta do.”

Mother huffed as she settled onto the sofa with Harry and Draco. She shut her eyes and then her magic welled up, silver and green, just as Amal’s had and Draco’s had. It took her a bare three minutes before the purple and puce magic blasted away from her. When she opened her eyes, she huffed before shielding a huge yawn behind one upraised hand.

“That does seem to be the solution,” Mother said while rubbing her chest. “Goodness, I feel so… strange.”

“Light,” Amal agreed. “Light and free and happy and bloody exhausted, pardon my language.”

Both Grandfather Arcturus and Professor McGonagall went next. They settled in at the same time, began to commune with their magic at the same time, but Professor McGonagall removed the blessing in five minutes while Grandfather Arcturus took nearly fourteen minutes.

“I have no idea how we’re going to do that for everyone else in Britain,” Grandfather Arcturus complained, yawning hugely in the middle of “Britain”.

“Remus?” Harry asked.

“I just…” Remus sighed and shook his head. “I don’t want to risk anything while loose. I’ll try it down in one of the cells. It’s… too dangerous. It might affect my lycanthropy.”

Which was as clear as could be a pure excuse. Draco didn’t challenge Remus on it. It was hardly his place to call attention to the lies Remus told himself. Besides, Remus did have a point. Everything was different for Remus because he was a werewolf, if not fully a werewolf.

“We should rest,” Draco said. “And consider if there is a way that we could transform what we did into a ritual that could free everyone else.”

“I kinda want to know if it might be something that Dumbledore would notice,” Harry said. “Not a ritual. I’m sure that’d be obvious to him. The blessings letting go, though, that’s what I wonder if he’s aware of. Could feel? I don’t know. I mean, I just don’t want him to arrive and try to batter his way through the wards or something.”

Horrifying thought, there.

Draco frowned. “Perhaps we should go to Malfoy Manor. The wards there are set to violently reject anyone who’s touched by Dumbledore’s magic. Remus couldn’t go, at least not until he frees himself from the blessing, but the rest of us could. It might be safer.”

“Different library, too.” Harry hummed, arms tightening around Draco’s waist. “Remus, let’s go downstairs. I’ll talk you through what I did. You can try it, see if it works, and then we’ll go to Malfoy Manor.”

“If I can get free,” Remus said as if he was convinced that it was impossible.

“Trust your wolf,” Draco said as he hauled himself upright and tried not to fall forward on his face in exhaustion. “Your wolf wants to be free. If you convince the wolf that the blessing is trying to help and protect you, but doing it really badly like a pup, that might help.”

Remus opened his mouth, frowning, and then slowly shut it again. He nodded once before standing and looking to Harry who grinned.

“Down to the basement,” Harry declared. “We’ll give it a try. If nothing else, we’ll have eliminated one more thing that doesn’t work. That has to help. Eventually we’ll find what does and then we’ll be able to figure out how to help everyone else so that there’s no more Dumbledore controlling everyone’s lives.

Harry didn’t take Remus’ hand. He took Draco’s hand, which was good. Draco was tired enough that he nearly fell down the stairs halfway down into the dungeon. Grandfather followed them. So did Mother. Amal and Professor McGonagall stayed in the parlor, both of them looking too tired to even get up.

It might work. Hopefully, it would work. Even if it didn’t, Harry was right. They’d made progress and that was a prize that Draco would’ve thought was impossible just a few hours ago.

23. A Wolf’s Soul

August 10, 11:01 am

Harry sat on the bench outside of Remus’ cell. The stone wall behind him was cold enough that goosebumps covered his arms. He didn’t move. Not when Draco had fallen asleep with his head on Harry’s shoulder. That was absolutely the most precious thing in the entire world and no way was he going to stir.

In the cell, Remus paced. Endlessly. Back and forth and back and forth, wringing his hands while muttering under his breath. Harry couldn’t hear was Remus was saying to himself but wow, it really didn’t look kind at all. If anything, it looked like Remus was yelling at himself.

Or maybe yelling at the blessing deep inside of his core.

Both Grandpa Arcturus and Mrs. Malfoy had moved off to the end of the hallway to talk in whispers about what to do when, not if, Remus failed to escape Dumbledore’s control. Rude. He could still do it. Maybe. If he stopped running in circles like a puppy chasing its tail.

“That’s not going to help,” Harry finally said because seriously, not working.

Remus stumbled to a stop, staring at Harry. “What isn’t?”

“Whatever you’re doing right now,” Harry said. “It’s not helping. Clearly. I mean, obviously because the blessing hasn’t let go. Did you remember the part about being nice and gentle and trying to encourage the blessing that it’d done its best?”

“Ah, well…” Remus winced as Harry glowered at him. “This. How can I believe that? You don’t understand, Harry. The Wolf is so angry at the blessing. Half of me is snarling at it. The other half is terrified that I’ll be no better than Fenrir Greyback once the blessing’s influence is gone. I can’t…”

He stopped talking abruptly, shutting his eyes, and tilting his head back as he struggled to breathe. Even from yards away, Harry could see the pulse pounding at Remus’ throat. Which, wow, meant that he was having one heck of a panic attack about all of this.

“Okay, so, let’s go in the opposite direction,” Harry suggested. “You’re not like me or Draco or anyone else. You’re you and you’re unique and frankly, we shouldn’t try to do things the same way for you anyway.”

Remus breathed a laugh that was more like a sob. “All right. What do you suggest?”

“What’s your wolf say?” Harry asked.

He carefully eased Draco down so that his head was in Harry’s lap. Easier on Harry’s arm which was going numb and definitely better for Draco’s neck which Harry could tell was going to have a heck of a kink if something wasn’t done. Harry was astonished that he managed to transfer Draco without waking him up but then Harry’d been flattened when he freed himself, so it made sense. It wasn’t like Draco had been sleeping all that well, anyway.

“My Wolf?” Remus asked. This time Harry could distinctly hear the capital letter. “Why would I ask?”

“Because we don’t know what your Wolf says,” Harry replied. “Duh. I mean, seriously, if your Wolf is snapping at the blessing, that means that your magic is snapping at it. Because your Wolf is part of you. Not a part you like, sort of like how I’m not all that happy that I have an explosive temper that goes off when people do things that remind me of Uncle Vernon and Dudley, but I mean, it’s still me. I want it to go away. I don’t want to be like them. But it’s still part of me. The more I know about myself, the more I understand why I blow up, then the safer I am and the safer everyone else is.”

His cheeks burned at admitting that he had a temper. All his life, he’d been beaten and yelled at and bullied and abused for ever speaking up for himself. Most of the time, almost all the time, it made him wince and give up and pull away to hide.

Not always though. Like with stealing Dobby, sometimes his temper flared up in weird ways. The longer he was away from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, the more obvious it was that his “inexplicable temper tantrums” were actually responses to the abuse he’d gotten.

“That’s,” Remus paused, swallowing down whatever it was he was going to say. His eyes flared gold, though, and his fingers went claw-like with actual claws growing on his fingertips.

“That was your Wolf expressing its opinion.” Harry wagged a finger at Remus. “So what’s he think of that? Of me and my temper and my relatives? I do actually want to know.”

Remus winced and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, well, my Wolf thinks that they need to have their throats torn out.”

Harry nodded. “Sounds about right to me. Though I’d love to see them thrown in jail. And Dudley to be raised by someone completely different. I mean, he got smacked around, too, though not as much as I did.”

“I really want to go talk to them,” Remus growled. Or maybe that was his Wolf because Remus’ eyes were very, very golden.

“What about the blessing?” Harry asked.

“It hurts,” Remus replied. His voice was even lower, deeper and more growly than before. “It hurts and hurts, and we can’t destroy it.”

“Huh,” Harry grunted, completely certain that this was more Wolf than it was Remus. “Can you stalk it? Chase it? Trap it in a corner and then let Remus grab it?”

“No,” Wolf said. Remus shook his head, eyes going back to nondescript brown. “No, we can’t. That’s part of the problem. We can’t get at it because it bites at us every time we do.”

Harry blinked. “Huh.”

That was a thing, then. Maybe Remus was the one person who couldn’t get the blessing to let go. Which kind of made sense. Magic was very aware in a more than sort of alive way that none of the grown ups seemed willing or able to acknowledge. Even Draco didn’t seem to see magic as really truly alive despite having had Lady Magic or something like it show up in his ward room.

But Dobby and Ivy and Cooper all saw magic as fully and totally alive. It was as alive as they were, or Harry was.

“Okay, so, thinking out loud here,” Harry said while not watching Mrs. Malfoy bury her face in her hands and Grandpa Arcturus put a hand on her shoulder with a devastated expression on his face. “Magic is way more alive than anyone admits. The blessing is supposed to keep you safe. It can’t. It’s created so that it can’t, but it still tries. You’re not quite a werewolf.”

“I’m… absolutely a werewolf?” Remus said, staring at Harry as if he’d just started frothing at the mouth.

“Nah,” Harry said waving Remus’ objection off. “Dobby and Ivy and Cooper and all the elves agree that nope, you’re not. You’ve never fully shifted and never fully accepted your lycanthropy. If you had, taking… the blessing off would be easy.”

Harry sat up straight, almost dislodging Draco who still didn’t wake up.

“Where did you hear that?” Remus asked, confused and frightened, and backing away from the door.

“Dobby!” Harry called.

“Master Harry should be coming to eat,” Dobby declared. He frowned.

“I know, I know, but can you tell Remus what you told us about the whole not quite a werewolf thing,” Harry said. “I think Remus needs to hear it straight from you.”

Dobby blinked at Harry and then shrugged. “If Master Harry said is needed. Is true. Master Wolfy has not accepted wolf. Needed to do that so that we can be taking the stupid blessing off. If accept wolf all the way, then is easy because wolf will help and no biting back and forth.”

“You’re biting yourself!” Harry gasped. “That’s what he’s doing. It’s not the blessing biting him. It’s confusing things and you’re biting yourself!”

That woke Draco up. It also pulled Mrs. Malfoy and Grandpa Arcturus from the other end of the hallway, all of them frowning at Harry as he jumped up and pointed at Remus. It startled Remus enough that he held his hands up as if to ward Harry off.

“I… that can’t be right,” Remus said, frowning.

“Is right,” Dobby agreed with Harry. “Master Wolfy accepts his wolf and all will be good. Dobby goes and makes plenty of food. Master Wolfy will need it if he ever accepts himself and stops being so mean to himself. Even Dobby did not punish himself as bad when he was still a Malfoy elf as Master Wolfy.”

Dobby popped away, leaving Remus with his jaw dropped open and Mrs. Malfoy with her hands over her mouth.

“You know, I’m still desperately glad that you stole Dobby,” Draco drawled. “He’s way too much for me to handle.”

Harry grinned. “I adore him. He’s awesome. Either way, Remus, that’s what you’ve got to do. It’s your path to freedom. Both for you and your wolf. You have to accept each other. If you do, then you’ll be free and you can be family and we can go to Malfoy Manor where Dumbledore’s completely, utterly, totally blocked from getting at us.”

Remus shuddered and turned away. He wrapped his arms around his waist, hugging himself the way Harry used to when he was locked in his cupboard and hadn’t been allowed to eat for a couple of days. Which, wow, that was not good.

Not at all.

Harry wasn’t sure what to say to get Remus to listen and try. It seemed so simple to him. Why did grownups have to make everything so complicated?

“Every wolf pack I’ve spoken to said the same thing,” Remus said in a sad, thin little murmur that Harry barely even heard.

“Well, maybe you should listen to them,” Harry said. He huffed when Remus leveled one of those “seriously?” looks at him that grownups used when they didn’t want to listen to a kid. “No, really. You keep getting the same advice from all sorts of different places. Me, Dobby, the werewolf packs. Why not listen to them?”

“I… never wanted to become the monster that destroyed my life,” Remus admitted. He plopped down on the cot in his cell. “Giving in, submitting, that’s just… I can’t.”

“Who said anything about submitting?” Harry asked. “Or giving up? I said accept. You are a werewolf. You’re also a wizard. Your wolf needs to accept the wizard side of you. The wizard side needs to accept the wolf. There’s no giving in there. Accept and agree to work together is not at all the same thing as submit to. Besides, both sides of you will get something out of it if you do it. You’ll be free from Dumbledore’s control. You’ll have family again. Heck, Grandpa Arcturus is pretty sure he can get Sirius free. You’ll get Sirius back, too, but only if you can get rid of that blessing messing you up.”

The sheer idea of accepting seemed to be impossible to Remus, at least until Harry started in on what Remus and his wolf would gain. That made Remus’ breath catch, and his eyes go wide. As soon as Harry mentioned Sirius, Remus’ eyes flared bright gold.

He would’ve thought that being free from Dumbledore would be enough to get Remus to try. Nope. Not at all.

“You’re trying to free him?” Remus asked Grandpa Arcturus with so much raw painful hope in his voice and eyes and face that Harry fidgeted.

“Yes,” Grandpa Arcturus said. “Narcissa and I made a start of it two days ago. We should see progress in the next day or two. If Croaker listens, we might have Sirius back in as little as six or seven hours.”

Remus shut his eyes.

He bowed his head and gripped the edge of his cot. There wasn’t anything to see. When everyone else had done it, Harry had been able to see their magic drifting over their skin. For Remus, there was nothing like that.

Just steady breathing, slow and deep. Just Remus tilting his head side to side a couple of times as if he were listening to something very far away. Harry bit his lip, reaching back to take Draco’s hand even though he hadn’t turned to see Draco offer it. He didn’t need to. Draco’s need to have his hand held was so clear that Harry did it before he consciously recognized the emotion coming from Draco.

Remus growled. Frowned. Snarled and then threw his head back to pant and shudder.

His scars stood out starkly against his skin. Harry counted six heartbeats and then magic ripped through the cell, startling Grandpa Arcturus into shoving Mrs. Malfoy backwards and away from the cell door.

The purple and ugly green magic screamed through the cell, making an electronic sort of screech that hurt Harry’s teeth as it fled from a golden wolf that erupted out of Remus. The wolf was connected to Remus by a golden cord that led from its tail straight back to his chest. Draco clutched Harry’s hand, shaking as hard as Harry did.

The purple and green magic dodged the wrong way.

Remus’ golden wolf bit down on it and the magic shattered with another horrible screech as light exploded in the cell.

Harry flinched and turned away. When he turned back, Remus was face-down on the cell floor, groaning. After a second, Remus flopped over on his back with an exhausted whine that would’ve done any wolf proud.

Or, you know, maybe not proud. It would’ve been perfectly appropriate coming from an exhausted wolf, though. Sort of.

Anyway.

“Um, that looked like it worked,” Harry said. He grinned at the way both Grandpa Arcturus and Mrs. Malfoy started. “Seriously, it did.”

“I think it did,” Draco said in a surprisingly steady voice for how hard he was shaking.

“It’s gone,” Remus whispered. “I think I’ll just sleep for a while.”

Harry grinned. “Let us scan you and then we’ll head through to Malfoy Manor. Or eat and then go. The sooner we’re all safe, the better. We still gotta plot to take Dumbledore down, you know.”

“That’s worth getting up for,” Remus muttered without budging at all.

Harry laughed and waved for Grandpa Arcturus to do the scanning. He certainly knew way more than Harry did. At least they’d freed one more person. They were getting kind of good at this. Food, safety and then, hopefully, he and Draco could figure out a way to save everyone else because one by one was going to take way too long.

Dumbledore wouldn’t be content to hide in the shadows forever.

They had to find a way to free everyone Dumbledore had “blessed”. And then they had to find a way to stop him from ever controlling anyone ever again. No way was Harry giving up, not when they’d finally made some progress.

24. In Connecting Rooms

August 10, 8:57 pm

“Wow…”

Draco smiled. They’d left the door between their connecting suites open. Mostly at Draco’s request but Harry had seemed pleased to do it. He wasn’t sure if that was because Harry wanted to spend more time with him or if it was because this was a new place and Harry found it comforting to have access to Draco.

Malfoy Manor had seemed immeasurably colder after coming back from Potter Keep despite his earlier work communing with the wards. That was fine. They’d welcomed everyone without a single bobble. It wasn’t the magic that was the problem. It was the Manor itself.

Where Potter Keep was warm and welcoming despite the stone walls and battlements, Malfoy Manor was cold despite the woodwork everywhere, the thick carpets, the heavy velvet drapes.

Father had taken such efforts to make the Manor as imposing as possible. Nothing had been allowed in that would make guests, or the residents, feel welcome.

He really needed to redecorate. Or, more accurately, he needed to give Mother and Blue permission to go raid the vaults for all the furniture that Father had tossed out in his effort to seem richer, more powerful, and more cultured than anyone else. And then to change the paint color, replace the carpets and drapes, and generally make the Manor a home instead of a set piece for intimidation.

Mother would probably be delighted to give the Manor some more warmth. Draco would certainly appreciate it.

“This place is amazing!”

Harry’s voice drifted through from his suite, tempting Draco to get up from the couch and go see what Harry found so fascinating. They’d napped after saving Remus, eaten a small mountain of food while Dobby watched them all with an eagle’s eye, then napped some more before coming to the Manor. Draco shouldn’t be tired.

He was exhausted.

Ridiculously, stupidly exhausted and it was so very odd. He couldn’t figure out why.

“Because you did too much magic too hard,” Harry called from his suite, the blue suite.

“True,” Draco called back. “What is so fascinating?”

Truthfully, Draco should be in the master suite. He was the patriarch. He was Lord of the Manor. It was only appropriate.

Draco violently did not want the master suite. Certainly, it was two suites connected to each other in a way that would be perfect for him and Harry, but the sheer thought of sleeping in the bed where Father died, where he raped Mother night after night after night, made Draco’s stomach turn.

Besides, he didn’t want to displace Mother, at least not until Mother said that she wanted something different.

He was somewhat surprised that she hadn’t already asked to move given everything that had happened to her in the master suite.

“All the cabinet drawers are full of stuff!” Harry exclaimed. “I mean, your stuff, not my stuff. Dobby’s got all my stuff in a trunk that’s got a full apartment in it. I didn’t even know they made trunks like that, but apparently it was in the Potter vaults. When I said I needed a trunk to carry everything, Dobby went and got it. It’s cool but it’s not as cool as these things.”

That finally got Draco on his feet. He groaned and stretched before sauntering through the door connecting his Slytherin green and silver suite to Harry’s very Ravenclaw blue and bronze suite.

Draco’s original suite at the far end of the hallway had no connections to other suites. He’d always been glad of that while Father was alive. It had made it impossible for any of Father’s less savory guests to get at Draco after he went to bed.

He’d always gone to bed as soon as possible when Father had guests.

That didn’t work with Harry being here, though. The instant they came back to Malfoy Manor, he’d had Ivy move his things into the connecting suites just up the hallway from his old rooms. The thought of not being able to get to Harry whenever he needed to had been unbearable.

Thus Draco had the Green suite and Harry the Blue, both of them connected by a door between the sitting rooms. Father used to put guests he didn’t like in these suites. They were smaller, stuffed with armchairs and heavy antique furniture that made the rooms feel oppressively crowded. The carpets, while still lovely, weren’t as pristine as if they’d never been touched.

That hardly bothered Harry who’d looked around the Blue suite with such delight that Draco had laughed as he opened the door connecting their suites.

Now, Harry was sitting cross legged on the floor in the sitting room next to one of the antique credenzas. Not the sleek and lovely half-circle maple one with the marble top but the hand-carved Spanish oak one that looked like it had been created in the fifteenth century despite Father having said it was made in the early nineteen hundreds.

“What do you have?” Draco asked.

“Not sure,” Harry said with enough manic energy and delight that for a moment Draco thought Dobby was feeding Harry energy. He grinned as he held up several goblets. “These are so cool. I mean, I wouldn’t want to drink from them. I think they’re pewter and that’s got lead in it but they’re super-neat. Look at the carving on these things.”

Draco chuckled as he plopped onto the armchair closest to Harry. “They are pewter and no, you won’t get lead poisoning from them. They’re charmed. That’s part of what the carving does. See the little circles around the snakes? Those are rune circles. My great-grandmother had them made back when she wanted to insult some pushy guests who wouldn’t go home after a three-month visit. The sheer insult of them sent them home in the middle of a winter storm.”

“…Pewter goblets are an insult?” Harry asked while blinking at Draco in confusion.

“They were back then,” Draco said. “Especially since they’d been eating on gold and silver sets up until that point. There’s plates and bowls and everything. I didn’t realize that the elves had put the set away in here.”

Harry shook his head before putting the goblets back into their place. He shut that door on the credenza and then scooted over so that he could check the next one. Inside there were books. Draco frowned and joined Harry on the floor.

“I didn’t think we had any books anywhere but the library,” Draco said as he helped pull the books out.

“Master should not be reading those!” Ivy popped in, snatching the book right out of Draco’s hands. “Is not for young wizards! You is waiting until you is grown up for these.”

“Oh!” Harry squeaked and slammed his book shut. His face was blazingly red as he gave it right back to Ivy who huffed and glowered at both of them. “Nope, not reading those. They’re porn.”

“What?” Draco squeaked just as badly as Harry had, staring at the books in horror. “Who brought those into the house?”

Ivy sighed as she put the books away and then charmed the credenza so that neither of them could open it. Without effort. Draco could open it if he really wanted to. And Harry was creative and stubborn enough that he’d probably find a way to open if he were inspired to. But the thought definitely counted with something like that.

“They is old,” Ivy said, mouth turned down in a dramatic frown. “They is being here for a long, long time. Longer than Ivy is alive.”

“All pictures,” Harry said, still bright red. “Moving pictures. I mean, paintings, not picture-pictures. You know what I mean.”

“I… right,” Draco said while rubbing his blazing-hot cheeks. “Thank you, Ivy. We’ll leave that alone. And be very cautious about any other books we find secreted away. Though if we’ve got any books hidden away about blessings and ancient religion and prayers, do please pull them out.”

“Blue is searching the attic and all the hidey-holes,” Ivy said with a firm nod. She pushed them both to the armchairs and away from the credenzas. “Master Draco shouldn’t be rooting around anyway. And Master Harry should know better than to peek in people’s drawers. Is rude.”

Harry groaned. “Sorry. It’s like I’ve got too much energy. I can’t settle down even though I’m tired.”

“Odd,” Draco said. “I feel extra tired, as if I can’t get any energy to do anything. All I want to do is sleep.”

“Is the bond,” Ivy said while patting Draco’s knee and Harry’s hand. “You is needing more time together. Ivy thinks you needs to cuddle up and talk and sleep. In morning, should have all the hidden holy books back. Grandfather Arcturus will have news. Professor Kitty should be awake again and Master Wolfy will not be biting anyone anymore.”

“What about Amal?” Harry asked with a grin.

Ivy rolled her eyes. “Ivy is just hoping he is getting some sleep. He is as bad as Master Harry, looks in every corner and asking questions non-stop. He is over-tired. Too excited to sleep. Will fall on his face, just see if he doesn’t. Ivy will point and laugh and then she will put him to bed. He won’t even notice.”

She huffed and popped away, leaving Harry snickering and Draco grinning despite his exhaustion.

“Your bed or my bed?” Harry asked. He cackled when Draco gaped at him. “She’s probably dead-on, you know. Elves are really good at knowing what we need. If Ivy says that we need to cuddle and talk and sleep together to get our bond to even out, she’s almost certainly right. They see so much stuff that we don’t.”

“All right, point taken,” Draco said with a sigh that came right from his toes. “Our bond was behaving differently after the charms and control spells were removed. Its not much of a stretch to think that removing the blessing caused things to get unbalanced, too.”

Harry nodded as he bounced to his feet. “So your bed or my bed? Because seriously, it’s way late. I’m normally in bed by nine and we’re past that now.”

“You go to bed very early,” Draco said as he let Harry drag him to his feet. “Your bed. I’m going to put on my pajamas. I’ll be right there.”

Unsurprisingly, Ivy had his pajamas waiting for him. Draco yawned as he changed clothes, rubbed his eyes as he shoved his feet into slippers and then almost fell asleep on his feet as he wrapped his dressing gown around his waist.

This was horrible. He was so tired! Draco stumbled back through his bedroom, through the Green sitting room, the Blue sitting room and into Harry’s bedroom where Harry was pacing and swinging his arms and generally looking so manic that Draco wanted to whine about how much energy Harry had. Or the Gryffindor red and gold pajamas. Those were hideous, so very bright and far too large for Harry since they puddled around his body.

“Whoa, you look terrible,” Harry said. He pulled Draco straight to the bed, which had the curtains pulled back and the blankets turned down. “Into bed. Come on. Off with the robe. Slippers, too. You can’t put slippers in bed, Draco. Ivy will have conniptions.”

True. She would. Draco still had to struggle to kick the stupid slippers off. He latched onto Harry’s wrist, keeping him from pacing around the room. It took a good bit of mumbling and tugging but eventually Harry gave in and curled up in the bed with Draco.

The instant Draco set his head on Harry’s shoulder, wrapped his arms around Harry’s waist while Harry wrapped his arms around Draco, he felt better.

Draco blinked.

Harry yawned so widely that his jaws cracked.

“Huh,” Harry grunted. “Ivy was right.”

“Yes, she was,” Draco agreed.

He pressed his forehead against Harry’s cheek and smiled as the exhaustion, the energy, the weird flow between them settled into something much more comfortable. Not all the energy leaving Draco and none coming back, but the two of them creating a pool between them that settled still and calm and warm around them.

“Do you think there is a way to save everyone?” Harry asked after a long couple of minutes where they just held each other and relaxed under the warm weight of the blankets.

“Yes,” Draco said.

“How can you be so confident of that?” Harry asked with a frown that Draco felt through the bond. “We don’t even know how to free someone else right now.”

“We’ll figure it out because you’re you,” Draco said. “You just don’t give up. You don’t give in. You keep hammering at a problem until you figure out how to deal with it. I don’t know how you do it, but you do. So yes, we’ll figure it out. Somehow. Tomorrow.”

“I just keep saying no, I won’t stop, until I get somewhere,” Harry said in a much meeker tone despite the pleased warmth coming through their bond.

Draco pulled up and away, leaning on his elbow to stare at Harry who blinked up at him. “You say no.”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “That’s how I got Dobby. I said no, I won’t fight you to get my mail. No, I won’t let you or me get hurt. No, I don’t want to stay with the Dursleys. And I kept on saying no and asking questions and now we’re here.”

“I said yes,” Draco murmured. He frowned, pondering it. “Yes, I would do what I had to. Yes, I would take the elves. Yes, I would save Mother and protect our family magic and everything. Yes, I would keep the Dark Lord trapped no matter what it took. It was all about yes for me.”

Harry grinned and tugged Draco back down into his arms. “It’s all about not giving up for both of us. So we’ll sleep and in the morning, I’ll be stubborn, and you’ll be brilliant, and we’ll ask all sorts of stupid questions because wow, we haven’t learned a single useful thing at Hogwarts so we don’t even know what we don’t know. And the grownups will be flummoxed and argue a lot and then the two of us will try something and set everyone on their ears.”

Draco laughed. “You’d best not have a gift for divination, Potter. I don’t want to deal with a prophet as a soulmate.”

“Eh, that’s just track record,” Harry said, snickering. “We’ll get through this. I won’t let you go, and you won’t let me make stupid mistakes. We’ll figure it out eventually.”

What was there to say to that? Draco nodded and let himself relax. The tiredness he felt was far more normal now than it had been before. Hopefully, their bond would sort itself out as they slept. If not, well, that was a problem for tomorrow.

For tonight, Draco felt safe and utterly happy in his own home for the first time ever.

25. Prayers and Blessings

August 11, 9:23 am

Someone, Harry had no idea who, had hidden an entire library’s worth of books in Malfoy Manor. Stacks upon stacks upon stacks of them, all about prayers and blessings and the Old Ways that magi used to follow back before Dumbledore’s day. Way before his day, actually, because from the dates on these books they’d fallen out of favor about fifty years or so before Dumbledore became Headmaster.

Which, come to think of it, meant that they hadn’t been truly before Dumbledore’s day. They’d been current and normal and just the way things worked when Dumbledore was a kid. So this was all what Dumbledore grew up with.

Why would he turn it into a weapon?

That was the bit that made absolutely no sense at all to Harry. A very powerful, very knowledgeable Light Magi who’d fought against Grindelwald and saved the world was running around putting twisted blessings on everyone and keeping them from ever finding their soulmates. It was so bizarre.

Granted, the blessings themselves made sense. Bless the kids, give them a little edge so that they’d do better in life, and maybe they’d make the world a better place. It was the malice behind the blessings that was so confusing.

Harry stared at the stacks and stacks and stacks of books wondering just how they were supposed to find anything substantive about the twisted blessing that’d been used on all of them. Reading all of these would take years. Well, Hermione could probably tear through them in about two weeks, but she was off on holiday with her parents. And Harry wasn’t sure he could trust her.

Except no, that was probably the blessing. Which if they could remove, then Hermione would just be her scary-smart self instead of the bossy domineering person she was. Maybe. Harry really didn’t know what Hermione had been like before Hogwarts. She hadn’t talked about it much, not that Harry’d talked much about his life before Hogwarts, either.

Still, that circled back around to the blessing and how to break it on everyone else without having to go coach them one by one by one by one.

“This is going to take forever,” Draco complained quietly enough that only Harry heard him.

He tossed a book back onto the closest stack. It teetered dramatically. Both Harry and Draco grabbed for it, keeping it from toppling over and setting off a book pile domino effect that would get them in trouble.

Across the ballroom that’d been turned into an impromptu library, Mrs. Malfoy was deep into three books at once, studying them and taking notes with a quill that wrote without her having to hold it. Amal was next to her, scribbling away on his notes while tugging at his hair as if whatever he’d chosen was completely confusing. Grandpa Arcturus had settled onto a couch that Cooper brought in. He looked utterly content to lounge there and read forever but he wasn’t exactly turning pages. Harry thought he was asleep with his eyes open.

Remus stalked through the ballroom with Professor McGonagall, cataloging the books and generating a magical card catalog that Harry desperately wanted to read over once it was done.

“Probably,” Harry agreed. “I mean, seriously, it’s probably going to take three quarters of forever, even if we could get Hermione in here and set her loose.”

Draco snorted. “She’d adore that.”

“Don’t I know it,” Harry agreed with a roll of his eyes. “Though I think she’d have a lot to say about the quaint old religious practices and how pointless they are.”

Harry didn’t need to turn to look at Draco to know that he was utterly scandalized by the thought of any of the Old Faith being “quaint” or “pointless”. The bond all but shouted it. Harry could see Hermione’s point. She, like him, had been raised more or less as an atheist. She didn’t know the first thing about religion and didn’t see how it applied to everyday life.

That magic clearly responded to faith and prayer wasn’t going to make a dent in Hermione’s firm rationality.

Draco sighed. “I can’t believe you know absolutely nothing, Potter.”

“Still only call me Potter when you’re angry,” Harry said. He grinned and leaned into Draco’s side. “And of course I know nothing. Why would Dumbledore give me the chance to learn anything that I might be able to use to get free from his control? He wants me weak and helpless against his plots and compliant with whatever he wants from me. Which is probably for me to be a good little soldier and die for whatever cause he was going to manufacture.”

“Huh.” Draco frowned at Harry.

Then pulled Harry to his feet. They headed across the ballroom, hand in hand, though Harry was following just because Draco seemed intent on whatever it was he was thinking. It was formless and dark in the bond, no details, or images to help Harry figure out Draco’s issue.

Grandpa Arcturus started and blinked several times when Draco cleared his throat. “What? Did I miss something?”

“Not really,” Draco said, still frowning. “Harry said something and it’s… It’s bothering me. I’m not sure why.”

“What’d I say?” Harry asked.

“Dumbledore wouldn’t want you to learn anything that might let you escape from his control,” Draco said slowly, frowning at the book in Grandpa Arcturus’ hand even though his eyes were so unfocused that he couldn’t be seeing it. “Because he wants you to die for his cause, whatever that is.”

“Well, sure,” Harry said even though Remus started growling and Mrs. Malfoy looked horrified. “I mean, Amal’s got reams of notes on all the stuff I went through. It’s pretty darn obvious that Dumbledore doesn’t care if I live or die long term. I think I’m supposed to survive just long enough to be a useful tool for him. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be useful for.”

Draco nodded once. His eyes abruptly focused, shimmering with his magic. It made Harry stand straighter and Grandpa Arcturus set his book aside so that he could focus on Draco properly.

“What is the most important thing Dumbledore does?” Draco asked. “Not his titles. His positions. His actual actions. What the most important action that Dumbledore takes?”

Grandpa Arcturus’ eyebrows went up as he considered the question, hands draped over his knees as he leaned forward to study Draco and Harry.

“Most would say that he fights for the Light,” Grandpa Arcturus said thoughtfully, “but I’ve never seen much evidence of that. Mostly, Dumbledore gathers power and control over people. People and institutions. No one since Merlin has held as much power over magi society as he has.”

“He wants power,” Draco murmured. He turned to Mrs. Malfoy who was very alert as she stared at Draco. “Mother, which is more powerful, a blessing or a prayer to the Old Gods?”

“Oh,” Mrs. Malfoy breathed. She blinked several times, stopping her quill and setting it aside. “That depends on what you’re attempting to accomplish, darling. A blessing will last longer. Much longer. It will be incorporated into the recipient’s core, as we’ve all seen. A prayer to the Old Gods, however, will have much more raw power. Especially if it’s given during a ritual at the proper times with the proper gifts.”

Draco nodded again.

Next, he turned to Remus who stared at Draco as if he couldn’t quite believe that he was standing there in Malfoy Manor trying to save the world. Which, fair. Harry couldn’t quite believe even now that he was here with Draco and that so much had changed. It’d only been eleven days. Eleven short days full of way too much stuff happening.

Wow. Seriously, time was flexible or something to get this much stuff done so fast.

“Remus,” Draco said, “what does your Wolf say about Dumbledore’s goals? What does it think he wants to do?”

Remus rocked back on his heels. “Ah, well, that wasn’t at all what I expected you to ask.”

“Your point of view is substantially influenced by Dumbledore,” Draco explained with a little shrug and a small noncommittal smile. “Your Wolf was not influenced by Dumbledore, so it probably saw things that you weren’t allowed to.”

“Okay,” Remus said. “I guess I can ask.”

He shook his head, closed his eyes, and then stilled. Even though Remus had so far refused to properly shift all the way into his Wolf, he didn’t seem as upset as he had been before the blessing was removed. In fact, his magic, warm gold and brown, shimmered on his skin for a moment.

Professor McGonagall stood next to him; the next book clutched to her chest. She looked impatient, not worried, or afraid. Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Professor McGonagall look afraid, not even when the Weasley twins got up to one of their really horrendous pranks.

“Blood,” Remus said with a growl in his voice that said Wolf instead of Remus. “He wants blood and power. He wants to be the Alpha of all the world. He won’t let anything stop him, not money or fame or even love.”

Remus blinked as his head came back up. His frown was far more puzzled than Harry expected. It seemed to say something to Draco because Draco’s hand tightened on Harry’s to the point that Harry winced.

“The love bit is important,” Remus said, shaking his head. “My Wolf is very, very clear that Dumbledore abandoned love, betrayed it, so that he could take over the world. Or something like that.”

“Take over the world,” Harry said, startled. “Really? That’s what Moony thinks?”

“Ah, yes?” Remus said. He rubbed the back of his neck, a sheepish smile on his lips though it didn’t reach his eyes which were glowing gold and very serious. Wolf looking out while Remus talked.

“Are we sure that Dumbledore is actually Dumbledore?” Harry asked.

Draco’s head snapped around. He stared at Harry, eyes all blazing blue. Amal jerked so hard that he nearly fell out of his chair. Which, really, seemed like a way bigger reaction than was justified to Harry. It was just an idea, one of Harry’s random ones.

“Potter, your random ideas tend to be the most powerful and dangerous ones,” Draco said with a tired sigh that seemed to come from the very bottoms of his feet. He tilted his head back and shut his eyes as if he were as exhausted as he’d been last night.

Harry hugged him. Of course.

“Well, if my random thoughts are so darn powerful,” Harry said, chin on Draco’s shoulder and arms around Draco’s waist, “are we sure that Dumbledore is actually Dumbledore? Who could he be if he weren’t actually Dumbledore?”

“Two options,” Amal said in an utterly serious tone of voice. “He’s either You-Know-Who or he’s Grindelwald. I’d bet on You-Know-Who somehow controlling him. Grindelwald’s been defeated and locked away for decades, so I doubt that it’s him.”

,

“I do not believe that he could be one of the Dark Lord’s agents,” Mrs. Malfoy said equally seriously. She rubbed her hands together, staring at her fingertips as they shifted even, past each other, even again, past again. “The Department of Mysteries was quite clear that they had located the vast majority of his soul anchors. There wasn’t enough of his soul left to effectively control a magi of Dumbledore’s strength.”

Grandpa Arcturus sighed and stood. “I’ll go to the Ministry. It has to be Grindelwald. There’s really no other choice.”

He strode out of the room before Harry could ask any further questions. Harry kind of wanted to follow him, to pester him with questions about why it had to be Grindelwald instead of anyone else, but there probably wasn’t a point to that. Especially not when Remus strode after him, calling something about watching for curses in the back as the ballroom door shut behind him.

“He should worry more about getting hit with another of those warped blessings,” Harry commented to Draco who just patted his hands.

“We know how to remove it now,” Draco replied calmly even though his whole body flinched at the comment. “I should let the wards know that there might be a residue on Grandfather when he returns.”

“Can I come peek in the ward room?” Harry asked. He grinned at the little huff Draco made. “I’m just curious. The Potter ward stone sounds so different from yours. It’d be neat to, you know, crane my neck and look in the room to see what’s different.”

Draco snorted a laugh, smiling all sly at Harry. “Fine. You’re not going into the room, but you can hover outside of it the way I did back at Potter Keep.”

“That’s fair,” Harry said.

He let Draco out of the hug and then promptly claimed one of his hands. It might be the bond, or it might not, but Harry just felt better when he was touching Draco. Which was going to make Hogwarts really darn uncomfortable given that they were in different houses.

“Hey,” Harry commented as the ballroom doors swung shut between them and Amal and Mrs. Malfoy and Professor McGonagall who’d taken up the cataloging project, “is there a way we can be resorted or something? I never have read the Hogwarts bylaws, but it makes sense that you should be able to shift around if something big happens. You know, like a soulbond.”

“I don’t know,” Draco said thoughtfully. “We’ll look it up later. It’s certainly easier to figure out that the whole prayer or blessing thing.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Anything is easier than that mess. I really hope we can figure it out because wow, I do not want to spend the rest of my life talking people through communing with their magic and being nice to that blessing on their cores. That’d take forever.”

They headed down into the dungeons, and yes, Malfoy Manor had dungeons, not a basement. Draco snickered all the way, swinging their joined hands while joy sang through their bond.


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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.

4 Comments:

  1. Ah! I got to comment here, this time! Woohoo!

    So I really like the way that Harry just doesn’t allow himself to be turned aside. He’s determined and if that makes him a Gryffindor and a bit reckless, that is entirely expected. He’s also super intuitive, which is also canonical and I like that.

    Your Draco is a darling. Fantastic portrayal of him.

    I think it’s great how you’ve got Remus confronting his Wolf. Very cool.

    I am so enjoying this.

  2. An awesome chapter with such an original plot.

  3. Amazing chapter … a blessing NOT a curse. Devious.

  4. greywolfthewanderer

    oh wow, this just keeps on getting deeper and better!! thankee, sai, for the great fun reading!! off I go to read pt. 3. w00t!!! this story kicks ass!

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