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
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
26. Lost Broken Hero
August 11, 10:46 am
Grandfather Arcturus sat on the armchair in the floo room. Shaking. His eyes were shut. His breathing was steady, calm and slow.
But his whole body shook. A fine tremor that made Draco’s stomach clench in worry. Harry’s hand tightened on Draco’s. They’d still been down in the ward room when Grandfather Arcturus returned. Or, more accurately, Draco had been in the ward room. Harry had been outside of it, asking chirpy questions about the rune circles on the wall and pestering Draco to ask the ward stone all manner of odd questions about the Malfoy magic and history and what it thought of the whole soulbond thing between them.
Draco had felt Grandfather Arcturus’ agitation the instant he came through the floo. Harry had felt it a moment later through their bond. No one was ever going to get the drop of the two of them, at least not if they were sufficiently focused and aware of what was happening around them.
“What’s wrong, Grandpa?” Harry asked even though Draco absolutely wasn’t sure it was a good idea to disrupt Grandfather Arcturus’ concentration right then.
“Ah, I should’ve known the two of you would come straight there,” Grandfather Arcturus murmured. He opened his eyes and Draco flinched at the harsh silver light of his magic beaming out his eyes. “If I’d had a lick of sense, I’d have stayed at Black Manor until I had some control over myself.”
“What did you find?” Draco asked.
He let Harry drag him over to Grandfather Arcturus’ side despite the churning of his stomach making him a bit light-headed and queasy. At least there weren’t any remnants of Dumbledore’s magic on Grandfather Arcturus.
“You were right,” Grandfather Arcturus said straight to Harry. “The man we’ve all been calling Dumbledore isn’t. He’s… Grindelwald. I didn’t bother with the Ministry. I went straight to Nurmengard myself. Remus came along. The man imprisoned there all these years was Albus Dumbledore. Grindelwald has been running around, using his name all these years.”
Looking at his face was painful because of how bright his eyes were. That his roiling magic only showed there was stunning. It said a lot for just how much control Grandfather Arcturus had over his magic, despite having been weakened so dramatically.
“Polyjuice?” Draco asked. He clung to Harry, desperately afraid but not willing to show it any more than he already was.
“At first, yes,” Grandfather Arcturus said. He laughed and shut his eyes again. His hands clenched on his thighs. “The first decade or so, yes, he used Polyjuice extensively. We found several journals full of notes of how he accomplished it without being obvious about it. But after that, it really wasn’t necessary. He grew his beard, wore bright obnoxious clothes, used his warped blessing to control people’s perception of him. He didn’t need to… to keep Dumbledore alive after that.”
Harry opened his mouth to ask something. Something horrible and terrifying, or that he was terrified by. He shut his mouth again when Draco urgently shook his head no.
This wasn’t something they could handle. Neither of them were adults. They hadn’t reached their magical maturation. They didn’t have the training or skills to handle this. It was an adult matter and Draco was more than happy to let Grandfather Arcturus, Amal, Remus, and Mother deal with it.
“We’ll go get Mother and Amal,” Draco said. “I assume Remus will return when he’s regained control of his temper?”
Grandfather Arcturus breathed a laugh and nodded without opening his eyes. “Yes. Thank you, boys. You should… go study something. Else. For now.”
“We will,” Draco promised as he hauled Harry away.
“Wow,” Harry breathed once the door to the floo room shut. “Does that mean that the real Dumbledore is dead or was he tortured and imprisoned all this time?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t think I want to know,” Draco said. He tugged at Harry’s hand. “Come on. We’ll let the adults deal with it. We’re too young and much too untrained to do anything with that problem.”
Thankfully, despite the questions echoing through the bond, Harry didn’t protest after that. They ran to the ballroom, told Professor McGonagall, Mother and Amal, and then watched as they all ran from the ballroom together. Professor McGonagall’s cursing echoed despite the shut door. Draco sighed, looking at Mother’s notes. None of them made sense to him.
“You know, I haven’t been outside since we went up on the battlements,” Harry commented. “Maybe we can go out in your gardens or something?”
“Oh,” Draco said, blinking as he looked out the ballroom windows. “Yes. That would be… nice. Vern does a very good job on the grounds. He’d probably be happy to have someone new admire his work.”
The side door out of the ballroom to the wide back porch that ran the length of the ballroom was unlocked. Harry gasped once they stepped outside, running to the heavy stone railing that overlooked the gardens. His delight was such a relief after all the worry and fear.
And really, Harry had reason to be delighted. Potter Keep was beautiful and warm and homey but it didn’t have much in the way of land around it. Cliffs and the loch and wind-swept pines, yes, but not formal gardens and a hedge maze and a Quidditch pitch. Harry pointed at the peacocks, laughing with delight at their grand white plumage.
“They’ve been here for generations,” Draco said, leaning against the railing next to Harry. “Them and the hedge maze.”
“It’s not much of a maze,” Harry commented. “I can see that there’s no wrong turns. It’s not even that high. In a year or two, I’d be able to see over the top of the hedges without standing on my tip-toes.”
“Well, we call it a maze but it’s really a traditional labyrinth,” Draco explained. “The way Mother explained it was that you walk the path of the labyrinth while praying or meditating and it… brings you enlightenment. Or power. Or something. She’d never done it. I don’t think anyone has walked the labyrinth since, oh, goodness, probably when my grandfather was very young.”
“Huh,” Harry grunted.
The excitement shifted from delight in the grounds to a sort of speculation that made Draco narrow his eyes at Harry. Which only made Harry grin at him as he pulled Draco right back into the ballroom. To Draco’s surprise, Harry pulled his wand out of his pants pocket and bit his lip for a second.
“Accio books on labyrinth prayer ceremonies,” Harry said.
Six books flew across the room to hover in front of Harry. All six of them were slender little books. Harry grabbed them and started flipping through them. Draco looked at the titles and then frowned as he realized that they weren’t six separate books. They were six copies of the same book, bound in different colors of leather.
“It’s the same,” Draco said. “All the titles are the same.”
“Huh?” Harry stopped skimming and checked. “Huh! They are the same. Why have six copies? This one is all full of scribbled notes.”
“So is this one,” Draco said as he flipped through the next one on the stack. “Odd.”
They laid all six books out and went through them page by page. The books were short, only about thirty pages. There were eight blank pages at the front that the long-gone owners had used to record notes on the ceremonies, none of which made much sense though they seemed to be notes from different ceremonies spread over a long period of time.
Then each book had two facing pages that had a labyrinth that was an exact match to the one on the grounds. Then ten pages of prayers, one prayer per page, followed by the remaining blank pages.
“Prayer for a healthy baby,” Harry murmured as he compared the notes on each book. “Whoever the blue book belonged to really wanted that healthy baby. Huh. There’s two men’s names as the people to do the prayer. Maybe that’s related to gay couples having kids together? Is that a thing?”
“I certainly hope it is,” Draco said, studying the prayer much more closely. “I have to have an heir for the Malfoy magic, and you need two heirs, Harry. One for Potter and one for Black. If the spell works then we don’t need to worry about bringing in a girl as a surrogate for us.”
Harry gulped and promptly started studying it intently. “We’re gonna study the heck out of that one.”
“Yes, we are,” Draco agreed. “A prayer for mourning. One to celebrate a new marriage. One to… call down the moon?”
“No idea,” Harry said. “Maybe Remus might know? Sounds like a Remus thing.”
Draco’s heart all but stopped as he flipped to the next prayer. “Oh, my. That’s… interesting. A prayer to break an enemy’s power over you and all your allies.”
Harry’s head snapped up. He flipped pages and read that prayer with even more attention than he had been the one on making babies. Draco bit his lip as Harry read it once, then twice, and then so slowly on the third time that Draco wasn’t sure if he was memorizing it or falling asleep as he read.
Other than the wild, desperate hope pounding through the bond.
From both of them.
Harry didn’t know a thing about magical prayers.
Neither did Draco, despite the little prayers that Mother had taught him. This was so much more than the candle ritual, so much more than lighting the Yule log or midsummer rites.
This might be exactly what Fake Dumbledore had wanted to destroy.
“I think it is,” Harry whispered. “I really do. It makes sense.”
“We should get the grownups,” Draco said though he didn’t move from the table and the slim little labyrinth prayer book.
Harry shook his head. “No, I don’t think we should. Look. The ritual is supposed to be a secret one. Says so right at the top. It’s done quietly, in hiding, with no one the wiser until it’s done. The more people who know, the less likely it is that it’ll work.”
Draco studied the prayer the way Harry had, biting his lip as he read over the warnings and instructions. It was ridiculously simple to do the ritual itself, but he could see that arranging things so that no one would know what was going to happen was virtually impossible. The only complicated part of it was that you had to have one person walk the labyrinth while another person worked with wards around the labyrinth to make sure that the wards amplified the prayer and sent it out.
“It has to be done here,” Draco said.
He flipped to the notes at the beginning of the sapphire blue book he’d been studying. There were notes on this one which looked like the person doing it had abandoned it after he’d been discovered. When Draco checked, none of the other books had similar notes on performing the ritual.
“You’ve got the labyrinth,” Harry agreed. He looked to the door of the ballroom and frowned. “Did Remus and Professor McGonagall get these books cataloged yet?”
“…No.” Draco frowned, trying to remember where they’d come from. “No, I don’t think that they did. No one has seen these yet.”
“Good,” Harry said.
He gathered up the six little books and then looked around for a place to hide them. Draco snorted, reaching for them to give them to one of the elves to hide. Then he froze when Harry frowned.
“I’d trust Dobby to hide them,” Harry said. “But the fewer who know, the more powerful the prayer is. We have to get the entire world, Draco. Not just Britain but everywhere. There’re so many people all over the world who’ve been affected. You know how long he’s been doing this. We gotta get everyone, everywhere, if we can.”
Draco nodded. “Just us, then. We’ll run them up to the Green suite, hide them in with the pornography.”
He put one hand on the top of the stack, one hand underneath, cupping Harry’s hands. This wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be safe, really. Draco would have to be in the ward room because that was the only place that he could work with wards. They didn’t have the training to set up proper wards around the labyrinth so it would have to be the Malfoy Manor wards.
Which meant that Harry had to walk the Labyrinth.
“Tonight?” Harry whispered, eyes shimmering electric green with his magic.
“Tonight,” Draco agreed, seeing blue highlights skittering over Harry’s warm brown skin from the magic in Draco’s eyes. “Let’s go out into the garden, duck around to the stairwell at the end of the wing. We should be able to avoid everyone that way.”
“Lead on,” Harry said.
Despite the excitement and fear battering the bond, Harry nodded with the same determination he’d shown during the ritual to remove the Dark Lord’s soul shard. Draco nodded back. His heart echoed with the refusal to give up that had gotten him through taking the elves and the Malfoy magic.
They would do this.
But they would do it.
27. In the Dark
August 12, 12:02 am
Harry hugged Draco. They’d hidden the prayer books. Spent the afternoon listening to the grownups speculate about Grindelwald and his goals. Asked about the cataloging of the books and told the elves to make sure everyone slept and ate and didn’t spend all night fretting themselves into pieces.
Dobby had known, without question, that he and Draco were up to something.
So had Ivy.
Neither of them said anything. There’d been a couple of sidelong looks at dinner when Harry kept asking questions that derailed the grownups into explanations and arguments and debates. But what Harry got through the bond to Dobby was that he knew it was important.
He trusted Harry.
Right down to his tiny combat booted toes, Dobby trusted Harry. If his beloved Master Harry Potter, best and greatest master ever known, did not wish to tell Dobby something, well then, Dobby didn’t need to know it. Harry got the feeling that Dobby was going to do his level best to not even look at their bond tonight so if anything went wrong Harry was going to have to really haul on it to get Dobby’s attention.
“This is… not safe,” Draco finally whispered. He pulled back, holding Harry’s hands like they were lifelines. “I really shouldn’t go to the ward room alone.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Harry said with a little laugh that tried to go all hysterical on him. He bit his lip to stop himself from dissolving into tears or cursing or hiding under the covers. “I don’t even know who or what I’m praying to.”
“It might not work.” Draco seemed grimly certain that it wouldn’t.
“No, none of that,” Harry said, wagging a finger in Draco’s face. “It will work. We’ll do it. We’ll free at least some people. Then we’ll do it again and again and again until we free everyone.”
Draco blew out a breath and nodded. “We’ll do it.”
“That’s right, we will,” Harry said. “I won’t let this fail. You’ll do your part in the ward room and you’ll be awesome at it because you’re just that good at this stuff. And, you know, you saw Lady Magic already. I’ll creep through the labyrinth without being seen because man, I’m really good at that.”
“Without being seen?” Draco protested. “Are you crazy? Of course you’d be seen. You’ll need your wand, a lumos, something to find your way.”
Harry grinned and went to his trunk. When he pulled out the invisibility cloak, Draco frowned at it as if Harry were being ridiculous. That lasted just as long as it took for Harry to sling it over his shoulders and cover his head. Then Draco gasped and stared at the spot where Harry had been.
“How do you have an invisibility cloak?” Draco squawked.
He slapped his hands over his mouth because that came out way louder than it should have. Harry flipped the hood back and grinned.
“It used to belong to my father,” Harry said. “I got it last Christmas, Yule, from… Huh. Well. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t use it.”
“Who gave it to you?” Draco asked so fiercely that Harry pulled the cloak off and held it away from his body.
“Dumbledore had it,” Harry said. “He wanted me to sneak around Hogwarts so that I found the Mirror of Erised. Which, you know, I did. That was, well, not good. It shows you your greatest dream which was to have my family around me. Fake Dumbles said that he saw getting a nice pair of socks when he looked in it.”
“You can’t use that,” Draco said with so much horror that Harry groaned. “He must have put tracking spells on it.”
“Well, check with ostende mihi,” Harry said. “If it’s touched by Fake Dumbles’ magic, the wards should show it.”
He’d really hate it if he couldn’t use the cloak anymore. Or at least if he couldn’t use it until they brought Fake Dumbles down. It was one of the few things that Harry had that was a link to his family. To his parents. The thought that Fake Dumbles might’ve tainted that one thing from his father made Harry sick.
“Ostende mihi!” Draco snapped with his wand pointed straight at the cloak.
It took another two attempts before the wards saw the cloak. And then another three attempts before they could see any magical influences on it. Harry frowned at how weak and flickering the ward results were.
“Um, if there’s ever been a tracking spell on this thing, I don’t see any remnants of it,” Harry said.
“Neither do I,” Draco admitted. He sighed and dismissed the ward spell. “All right. I suppose you should use it. Do you think both of us could fit under it? It would be much easier to get downstairs to the ward room if you could bring me to the stairs under it. Once there, there’s not much chance of anyone seeing me going down.”
“You bet,” Harry said. “It fit me, Ron and Hermione under here last year. The two of us should be just fine.”
And they were. Slipping out of their suite was easy. Going down the stairs was scary as anything because all the grownups were still up and around. Remus was in the ballroom. Mrs. Malfoy nearly walked into them as they went down the grand staircase. She had stacks of books in her arms and Blue at her side with even more books.
Blue’s eyes flicked their way and then went firmly away when Draco bit his lip.
Harry heard Amal and Grandpa Arcturus arguing tiredly. Professor McGonagall called for more tea. At least it looked like they were all in there. If they were prowling around the Manor, sneaking out would be much, much harder.
“Be careful,” Draco whispered once they reached the nondescript little stairwell that led down into the dungeons where the ward room waited.
“You, too,” Harry said. He started. “You brought a knife, right? It’s gonna want blood.”
“I have a knife, Potter,” Draco drawled. “Now go. I’ll be in place well before you get to the labyrinth. Just… be careful, please?”
Harry hugged him so tight that Draco wheezed. And got hugged back so hard that his back popped. Letting go was so very not easy but eventually they did. Draco slipped out from under the cloak, pale hair bright against the darkness of the stairwell.
He slipped silently down the stairs, leaving Harry to sneak to the side doorway that they’d used to head upstairs earlier. Thankfully, lumos under the cloak still worked to light Harry’s steps. Vern did an awesome job on the lawn because Harry didn’t step in any mole holes or trip on any lumpy spots as he made his way to the labyrinth.
The entrance was on the far side of the labyrinth. Harry bit his lip and then walked clockwise around it. The prayer book hadn’t said which way was correct to approach the labyrinth, just that you had to do it secretly and that you had to set up wards to amplify the magic of the prayer.
The closer he got to the entrance, the more nervous he got.
How would Draco know that it was time? No, no, wait. Draco controlled the Malfoy Manor wards. He was right there in the ward room. It was fine. He’d feel it for sure. Except, no, wait! Draco had barely been able to see the invisibility cloak. Harry was properly invisible, even to Draco.
No, wait. It wasn’t Harry that Draco needed to track. It was the magic Harry was going to raise. So that was fine. It was good. Everything would be fine. He was fine. Draco was fine. They’d both be just fine.
Standing at the entrance on the starting stone, Harry looked back across the grounds to Malfoy Manor. His heart nearly stopped as he realized that the ballroom was on this side of the building. Panic flailed inside of him until he really looked at the lights coming from the ballroom.
Dim. The curtains were closed.
“Right,” Harry whispered as he shook his head. “Stop being a coward and do this. Simple prayer, walk through the labyrinth. Get Lady Magic or whoever to help us save everyone. Or at least prove that this works. Or not. Either way. Walking. One foot in front of the other. I can do that. Yeah.”
It still took Harry a good thirty seconds of pep-talking to get his feet to move. He was really glad he hadn’t eaten since their early dinner. If he’d had anything in his stomach right now, he might’ve thrown up.
Who knew if you could wash an invisibility cloak? Maybe it might destroy it?
Harry laughed at himself once he realized what he was thinking.
“Lady Magic,” Harry said as the prayer required, “grant us aid that we might save our friends, our allies and even our enemy’s forces from, from the warped blessing nestled in their cores.”
Not the most eloquent way to put it but hey, Harry was just twelve. If he wanted eloquence, he’d have sent Draco. Harry just wouldn’t tell Draco exactly what he said in the prayer invocation. It’d be fine.
The instant Harry stepped off the first stone onto the white gravel path between the hedges, the gravel began to glow. Harry nearly skittered backwards in shock. Part of him hadn’t expected it to work. That it did was stunning, especially after a lifetime with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s profound distrust of all things religious.
Maybe this would work?
He kept walking, whispering “please help us save them all” under his breath. Each step brightened the gravel. After the first turn, Harry dispelled the lumos and put his wand away. After the second, he pushed back the hood of his cloak.
The hedges looked like solid black walls around Harry. They didn’t look like hedges anymore. He almost reached out to brush his fingers across the hedge wall, but he was afraid it would be black obsidian the way it looked instead of a living hedge.
Glowing white gravel, no, stars, crunched under Harry’s feet. He flipped his invisibility cloak around entirely, rendering it a regular cloak made of extraordinary fabric. Harry gasped as his steps began sending up showers of stars that drifted upwards like embers.
They coated the cloak. Danced over Harry’s hands, tangled with his hair. When he passed the last bit of the first quarter of the labyrinth and began the long, curved bit that swooped around to the other side of the labyrinth, the sky overhead went sapphire and forest green. The stars there danced, moving along with the stars surrounding Harry, the stars under his feet.
This wasn’t “Lady Magic”.
This was Magic itself. Raw, wild, pure magic answering Harry’s call, answering the prayer that wanted nothing more than to save everyone.
Just like Harry.
It was like the communion in Potter Keep’s ward room. Magic, wild and pure and beautiful, shimmering around Harry as he gently worked to make things better.
Two quarters done and Harry groaned as he turned into the third quarter’s twists and turns. His legs seemed to be five times heavier, ten times heavier than before. Every breath weighed on his chest. He had to fight to breath in, then fight to breath out.
He wouldn’t stop. He wouldn’t give in. This was too important. They had to stop Fake Dumbles. They had to save everyone. Draco was waiting for Harry. He wouldn’t fail Draco, no matter how hard it was to drag a foot up, push it forwards, set it down and then drag the other foot up.
Turning the corner into the final quarter was like straddling a broom.
All the weight went away. Harry gasped and nearly laughed. He wanted to dance and sing and laugh because he felt so much better. It was diving after the snitch and feeling those delicate wings brush his fingers. It was hugging Dobby and laughing after their bond stabilized.
It was holding Draco as the two of them read.
Harry swallowed down the euphoria and paced onwards. The problem now was not running instead of walking. No wonder the notes in Draco’s blue prayer book warned about going too fast. Despite being so careful, Harry could barely keep himself from running through the last bit of the labyrinth to the heart.
He knew the moment he turned the last corner.
Harry stared up the long straight away that led to the heart of the labyrinth. The walls seemed twenty feet high now, still obsidian instead of hedge. Far, far ahead, miles it seemed, a warm golden light pulsed as if it was waiting for Harry.
“Grant us aid that we might save our friends, allies and even our enemy’s forces from the warped blessing at their cores,” Harry recited as he walked up the towering black corridor. “Grant us aid that we might save our friends, allies and even our enemy’s forces from the warped blessing at their cores.”
He kept repeating the prayer as he slowly paced towards the golden light.
There was no way to tell how much distance each step covered. Harry couldn’t tell if it was miles or inches. He couldn’t feel the gravel under his feet. Breathing seemed to have stopped. Honestly, he wasn’t sure his heart was still beating. Or maybe he was suspended between one second and the next.
It didn’t matter.
Harry kept going, kept praying to the magic that had saved him from the Dursleys, that had saved Grandpa Arcturus and Amal, that had given him a home in Potter Keep.
The magic that had given him Draco.
As he took those last few steps into the heart of the golden light, the bond to Draco flared alive after being silent since they parted on the stairs. Draco’s faith was there, pulsing in the bond. His hope, his belief, his trust of Harry was right.
Harry laughed at last, opening his hands and lifting up his chin as he walked out of the labyrinth and into the heart of magic that lay at its core.
28. Mirror of Infinity
August 12, 12:32 am
Magic simmered in the wards.
Draco didn’t let himself pace. He so desperately wanted to. Harry was out there, by himself, doing a ritual prayer when he’d never even lit a candle to Lady Magic before. Who knew what could go wrong?
Or right. Something was clearly going right. Draco had only the barest sense of what Harry was doing through their bond. There was so much wild magic surging through the wards that Draco simply couldn’t keep track of what Harry did.
He didn’t really need to know, though. The wards told him. Old rune circles slowly lit under Draco’s feet. When the first circle began to glow, Draco thought it was a trick of light. The runes were so very faded that he couldn’t see them when he looked straight at them. But as Draco focused on the magic Harry was generating and paid attention to what the wards themselves sang, he realized that yes, there were ancient rune circles here.
So very old. They’d not been renewed when the Goblins came through. Draco could feel just how long it had been since anyone had touched this magic.
Generations. Six or seven, maybe eight generations. So many Malfoys who had left this magic alone.
So many who had not asked Lady Magic for help.
Draco poured his magic into those rune circles, strengthening them. The runes brightened, filling out as Draco felt out their contours and intent.
This was why the labyrinth existed on the grounds. This land had been sacred, once upon a time. Long before modern magi build the Manor, this ground had been holy ground. Draco started as he realized that no Malfoy had ever touched these rune circles.
They predated any Malfoy in Britain. He laughed as he pushed more magic into them and rings upon rings of rune circles formed around the ward stone. These circles might go back to Camelot, to Merlin.
They might be older.
“Yes,” Draco breathed as the final circle formed and lit with a shimmering golden glow. “Yes, please. Lady Magic, bless our purpose. Grant us aid that all might be saved.”
The wards, the normal wards sang with the wild magic Harry had raised. Draco could almost see Harry as he walked up the final straight away into the heart of the labyrinth. It was time.
Draco pulled his mother’s athame and carefully drew it across his palm.
Blood welled up in his palm. It seemed shot through with stars. Wild magic. So much magic.
So little direction.
He tucked the athame away, cupped the blood in the palm of his hand, and as Harry took the final few steps, turned his hand over to let the blood drop down onto the first of the ancient rune circles.
Draco’s head went back. His breath caught. His eyes were open, but he couldn’t see.
There was too much to see.
Magic like stars filled everything. His hair, his eyes, his body, the world, everything was magic. Draco shuddered and bit his lip. Stars erupted from the pain and drifted upwards towards the sapphire and forest green sky with its millions upon millions of dancing stars.
A darkness. A spot of desperation and pain and magic working against itself.
Draco recognized it. As soon as he saw that one, another appeared like a blotch of ink in the glowing night sky surrounding him. Then more, dozens, then hundreds, then thousands more.
So many warped blessings. So many bits of magic desperately working to do the right thing even though it was impossible.
“Yes,” Draco whispered as he pushed the wild magic shimmering and dancing around him outwards. “It is impossible. It is. You did your best. Harry was so right. You tried so very hard. It’s okay. You can stop now. See? We’ve brought help. We’ll make it right. Let go. You can let go.”
The ward circles under Draco’s feet flared into dramatic, blazing life.
They pulsed in waves, radiating Draco’s prayer, his and Harry’s prayer, out into the world. He couldn’t tell how far it went. There was no way to know.
Not that it mattered.
Draco prayed and focused and tried to direct the waves of wild magic that flowed like stars in a river going out to sea, like waves in a pond that had a rock thrown into them. His breath slowed. Deepened.
Draco put his bleeding hand on the ward stone. Dropped to his knees. Pressed his forehead against the stone.
The magic swept through him. Out and out and out, touching all the magi, all the warped blessings.
Explosions of light erupted wherever the prayers hit the warped blessings. Draco laughed as he panted. Each explosion was a blessing letting go.
Some instantly. Some slowly. Some with a jerk and surge. Some so softly that it was as gentle as a baby’s sleeping breath flowing out.
Deeply entrenched, those blessings resisted everything Draco pushed at them. He bit his lip and prayed again, wordlessly begging Lady Magic to help. To save them. To free them. To let the world be free and whole and happy.
To make it better.
Darkness snarled like a werewolf shifting and whirling to attack. A lurking blotch in the center of a pool of shimmering wild magic rose up and roared as loudly as any dragon might. It wasn’t a dragon. Draco shuddered. He didn’t know what it was.
And yet he did.
Dumbledore, fake Dumbledore, Grindelwald sitting in Hogwarts where the confluence of ley lines supported the magic of the castle, roared his fury at having his blessings destroyed. Released. Completed.
Harry’s joy surged through the bond, capturing Draco’s attention. It pulled his mind away from Fake Dumbledore and back to the waves of magic radiating out from Malfoy Manor’s labyrinth.
So happy, Harry was so very happy. Draco raised his head, laughing along with his soulmate. How could he not?
They hadn’t gotten everyone. They couldn’t. But so many were free already. The longer they held this, the more magi were freed. It was beautiful. So much love and joy and pure euphoria that it had worked.
They’d done it.
Together, Harry and Draco had found a way to save everyone.
The wards warned Draco that Mother was running down the hallway towards the ward room. Grandfather was on her heels, as was Professor McGonagall. Remus and Amal turned and headed for the back door out to the grounds.
Draco locked the doors so that they couldn’t interrupt Harry.
He shut the door to the ward room and then gently asked Ivy and Dobby and Cooper if they would guard the door while he and Harry worked.
The elves popped into place.
“Lady Magic,” Draco prayed as his hand bled against the ward stone and the ancient wards under Malfoy Manor beat in time with his and Harry’s hearts, “help us. Please help us. Grant us your aid that all might be saved, friends, allies, enemies. Help us save everyone!”
Harry’s prayer echoed in the wild magic surging around them at the same time that Draco’s did. Their hearts sang the same song of love and freedom, redemption, and release. When Draco tilted his head back to stare up into the emerald and sapphire sky overhead, Harry did the same. While Draco knelt, Harry stood, arms outstretched in a plea so open that awe filled Draco.
There was no humility in Harry’s prayer. There was only trust and love and joy. So strong, so beautiful. Draco could never be that way.
Harry laughed and sent a wave of pure appreciation for Draco’s ability to accept his failures and try to be better.
A hand brushed over Draco’s cheek at the same time that magic swept around Harry.
“My sons,” a voice didn’t say. “My beautiful boys. Will you sacrifice your very souls to save the world?”
It wasn’t a voice. There were no words. Draco knew what had been said without hearing the words or seeing a face. It was Magic, pure and simple and so alive that Draco’s eyes drifted mostly shut. Harry moaned and swayed, his eyes drooping, too.
Together, they bowed their heads.
Together, they laughed quietly.
Together, they raised their heads once more and smiled into the wild, beautiful sea of stars that was Lady Magic herself.
“Yes,” Draco said. “We belong to you, fully.”
“No,” Harry said and laughed so brightly that joy bubbled inside of Draco’s chest. “Of course not. That’s why we’re asking for help. We can’t do it alone. We need you. We need the grownups. We need everyone. And they need you.”
“Help us,” Draco pleaded though he wouldn’t be surprised or even particularly upset if Lady Magic withdrew. “Help us do more.”
The magic laughed all around them. The stars danced and flashed through the colors of the rainbow. The runes under Draco’s knees flared so bright that if he’d shut his eyes, they would still be visible, burning with magic so strong that nothing human could have channeled it.
Through the wards and the prayer, Draco felt a tsunami of magic roll outwards from Malfoy Manor.
The stubborn blessings dissolved. Further off, far away from Malfoy Manor, more and more blessings unraveled like bonfires flaring up into the night. The sky went brighter and brighter until it was teal with bright gold stars spinning waltzes across the night.
The lump of darkness that was Fake Dumbledore screamed and curled inwards, disappearing into the pool of darkness underneath Hogwarts.
“Rest, my beautiful sons,” Lady Magic murmured as the waves and waves and waves of magic swept across the world. “Rest. It is done and done well.”
The stars began of fade.
Under Draco’s knees the rune circle blinked and then faded, faded, faded.
Through the wards, Draco felt Harry flop onto his face in the heart of the labyrinth. Draco collapsed next to the ward stone. It hummed and wrapped him in protective spells.
“Ivy,” Draco whispered.
“Master is so foolish!” Ivy exclaimed as she popped in next to him. “Mistress is sobbing she is so upset, and Master Arcturus will not stop cursing.”
“Ivy,” Draco whispered even as he and Harry laughed because Dobby had popped straight to Harry’s side once the spell collapsed. “Fake Dumbledore isn’t gone. He’s still there. Still in Hogwarts. It worked. But he’s there.”
Ivy huffed. “Master is too young to be scaring Ivy this way. You is supposed to wait until you is sixteen or seventeen before risking yous life in stupid ways. You is both going to bed. Ivy will tell the others, but you is getting scolded good because you deserves it!”
He couldn’t deny that. Ivy opened the door, letting Mother, Grandfather and Professor McGonagall into the room. Mother ran straight to him, heedless of the ancient circles still slowly fading underneath Draco. She promptly healed his hand while dressing him down in words he barely heard between the exhaustion dragging him to sleep and Mother’s sobs.
Grandfather and Professor McGonagall stood at the doorway, staring the ancient rune circles.
“We found a way,” Draco whispered to Mother when she picked him up. “Have Ivy show you the blue prayer book, Mother.”
Dobby popped Harry straight back to Remus and Amal who scolded him just as Mother seemed to be. Draco didn’t truly hear it. The magic thrumming through the wards was too strong. Harry’s delight was too loud.
As his eyes slid shut, Draco leaned his head against Mother’s shoulder. He was safe. Truly safe. Fake Dumbledore couldn’t get at him. Lady Magic had wiped the majority of the warped blessings away. His family was here. His friends, the elves, too.
They were safe.
The exhaustion was a riptide pulling him under that neither he nor Harry could resist, no matter what might come in the morning.
29. Red Skies Dawning
August 13, 4:03 am
The bed shuddered.
Harry started and stared at the window. Another shudder, more violent this time. Draco woke with a gasp, clutching his chest. Through the bond, Harry could feel the wards screaming that they were under attack.
Despite the war wards being up. Despite the wild magic still rumbling outwards from the labyrinth. Despite everything else that they’d done to keep everyone in Malfoy Manor safe.
“Dumbledore,” Harry whispered.
“Yes,” Draco agreed. He tugged at Harry, pale and shaking. “We have to go. The wards will keep him out but—”
He got no farther before Mrs. Malfoy flung open the door and ran in to check on them both. She was fully dressed, hair wild and loose, but she’d obviously been awake all night. The bags under her eyes were almost purple and her eyes were really badly bloodshot.
“Darling!” Mrs. Malfoy gasped. “You need to rest.”
“No, we need to go to Potter Keep, Mother,” Draco said. He hissed when she opened her mouth to protest. “No! We have to go. It’s Dumbledore. Grindelwald, I suppose, but he’s worn Dumbledore’s name longer than his own by now. He’ll break through the wards if we stay here. He’ll disrupt the spell.”
“It’s still going,” Harry explained as he scrambled out of Draco’s bed since that was where they’d ended up last night. “And Potter Keep has way better protections than Malfoy Manor. Well, the same protections but around a smaller space so they’re super-duper thick and heavy. We’ll be much safer there.”
Dobby popped in with clothes for Harry. Instead of waiting for Harry to strip down and change, Dobby snapped his fingers and swapped Harry’s pajamas for the jeans, T-shirt, and casual open robe in sapphire blue that he’d chosen for Harry to wear.
“This is sacred ground, Mother,” Draco said as he got out of bed, batting her hands away. “I won’t let him desecrate this place. We must go so that he follows us. The spell will fade as soon as we leave, but that’s all right. We can always do it again sometime. Or have you and Grandfather do it. We can discuss it.”
Draco barely even paused when Ivy popped in and swapped Draco’s emerald green silk pajamas for a dreadfully stylish set of greenish-grey trousers, a silver-grey shirt and an open robe in a faintly yellowish green that was the exact same style as Harry’s.
“The secrecy of making the attempt is important,” Harry said as he ran on wobbly legs and got the thin little prayer books. “We can take these with us. Dobby, can you pack up everything we’ll need? And are you sure he’ll follow us, Draco? I mean, we could summon the Goblins, couldn’t we?”
“Not without leaving a chink in the war wards that Dumbledore could go through,” Draco said with a huff and narrowed eyes that promised hours upon hours of Draco lecturing him on wards and what they could and could not do.
“Teach me later,” Harry said.
He grinned as Dobby and Ivy popped around their linked suites, grabbing everything that they could possibly want or need. There were pops echoing through the Manor, so the other elves had to be doing the same thing for Grandpa Arcturus, Mrs. Malfoy, Amal, Remus and Professor McGonagall.
Good. The sooner they could leave, the better off they’d be. Harry could feel the dark, angry energy that Dumbledore used to attack the war wards. It was so strong, so mean, that Harry urgently didn’t want to be anywhere near it. Like, he’d rather be on the other side of the planet instead of just a half-mile or so away from Dumbledore.
As big as Malfoy Manor’s grounds were, they felt way, way, way too small right now.
Draco led them down the stairs at a near-run, even though Mrs. Malfoy spluttered and fretted about them both the whole way. He was way too focused to even notice that she was worried, so Harry caught her hand. She stumbled and stared down at Harry.
“It’ll be okay,” Harry promised. “Draco’s just worrying about everyone. He wants us all safe. You can cuddle him when we get there. He’ll want that.”
“Potter!” Draco hissed as his cheeks violently went red.
Mrs. Malfoy swallowed a surprised laugh that was really close to a giggle. “Very well, I’ll claim my cuddle once we’re all out of here.”
They all paused in the hallway leading up to the floo room as the Manor shook so hard that the paintings rattled on the walls, startling the occupants into screaming. Dust drifted down from the ceiling as the peacocks outside screamed in terror.
“Hurry!” Draco shouted at them.
They ran to the floo room, arriving before everyone else. Grandpa Arcturus arrived a moment later, holding Cooper’s hand and wild-eyed with fury. Remus ran in, skidding on the slick marble floor. Amal ran into him a moment later and nearly knocked the two of them down.
“Already sent Mistress Kitty through,” Professor McGonagall’s elf Lilac said as she popped in. “Yous is all to hurry! Bad Dumbles is very mad. Very, very mad. He is using Fawkes even though Fawkes does not wishes to attack this place.”
“Right,” Draco said. “Remus, Amal, go! No arguing, you idiots! I’m the one holding the wards up. The sooner you’re gone, the better.”
Remus and Amal exchanged a wary look and then went through the floo together. Nearly at a run. Grandpa Arcturus waved for Narcissa to go next.
“No, you next,” Draco snapped at him. “You’re not part of the matrix as belonging here. Go! Harry, go with him.”
“But!” Harry protested even though his feet were already running over to Grandpa Arcturus’ side.
“I need you to anchor me there,” Draco said. He huffed and rubbed his head. “I’m suddenly very, very glad I had the chance to hold the Dark Lord in. It’s making a lovely practice run for keeping Dumbledore out.”
“Oh, darling…” Mrs. Malfoy whispered.
Her words nearly got lost in the next impact on the wards. Grandpa Arcturus flung the floo powder in and then scooped Harry up before Harry could protest.
They spun off through the floo. For the first time ever, it wasn’t dizzying. Harry could feel the twist of the magic as it spun them around and whipped them off to the fireplace in Potter Keep. Better still, he could feel Draco’s magic through the bond.
“Where’s Narcissa?” Professor McGonagall snapped as soon as they arrived.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Harry shouted before Grandpa Arcturus or Remus or Amal could answer her. “I gotta concentrate so that I can anchor Draco. He’s gotta do something special to close his wards and keep Malfoy Manor safe from Dumbledore.”
Professor McGonagall snapped her mouth shut, eyebrows going right up to her hairline and shoulders going tight with surprise. Good. Harry didn’t need the distraction of grownups being stupid and not listening right now.
He had Draco to take care of.
Harry plopped down on the floor right there by the floo’s green flames. Not in front of it. He didn’t want Draco and Mrs. Malfoy to trip over him when they came through. That’d be painful. Off to the right where Silverclaw had sat when they’d sent messages back and forth to Gringotts was good enough.
The bond opened up to Harry as he shut his eyes and focused on Draco. It was so much easier to find Draco now. Not just because the warped blessing was gone, but because of what they’d done last night. The wild, pure magic that’d flown through the two of them had done something nice to open their bond and deepen it. He could feel Draco’s worry and fear.
Easy. It would work. Draco could do this. Harry couldn’t. He didn’t know enough. Not nearly enough, but Draco did, and he could, and his wards adored him. They’d do exactly what Draco wanted, even if it was locking up tight until Draco was sixty. Or two hundred.
Half the island away, Draco laughed into the bond, abruptly relaxing in ways that made Harry’s magic flow more smoothly towards Draco to support him.
Yes, Draco said through the bond. Yes, he could do this. He would do it.
Harry sucked in a breath and let it out so slow that it hissed between his teeth like a snake. There wasn’t anything for Harry to do but feed power to Draco so that Draco could lock Malfoy Manor’s wards down entirely.
Even this far away, Harry could feel the wards shuddering under Dumbledore’s attack. It hurt. Not hurt-hurt like Uncle Vernon punching Harry but aching-hurt like a toothache or prodding an old bruise. Draco sent a tiny pulse of reassurance to Harry just as the fire in the floo flared right up the chimney.
The snap as Draco locked the wards down came at the same instant that he and Mrs. Malfoy flung themselves through the floo. Harry jerked, gritting his teeth, and refusing to let go of Draco, of the magic flowing through their bond, even as the waves of wild magic from the labyrinth abruptly cut off.
That thrum, that heartbeat of magic that had filled them in their sleep and carried them through the night was gone.
Tears burned in Harry’s eyes, but he didn’t let that stop his focus on Draco.
The floo didn’t want to let them through. It wanted to keep them there, locked inside Malfoy Manor. Harry snarled and pulled hard.
Draco, he needed Draco. They belonged together. The wards couldn’t keep Draco, not when Harry needed him. Harry wasn’t going to let go of Draco.
The fire in the floo billowed up and outwards, sending Grandpa Arcturus scrambling backwards with a shout that Harry utterly ignored. Professor McGonagall threw up a shield. Remus shouted to Harry to get away but that was stupid.
“Draco,” Harry said, gritting his teeth and pulling as hard as he possibly could.
Something popped. Like Dobby popping Harry except not, the pop pulled Draco and Mrs. Malfoy out of the edges of the ward which wobbled dramatically under Dumbledore’s attack. The next instant as Draco and Mrs. Malfoy tumbled out of the floo on to the floor, the wards around Malfoy Manor went stone solid.
Opaque. As smooth as the Potter Keep ward stone. Nothing, Harry couldn’t see anything there.
“Harry!” Draco gasped. He scrambled on hands and knees, catching Harry’s face. “Let go! The wards are locked. We’re here. Focus on me, not them.”
Harry nodded, panting, and then started as his mind snapped back from Malfoy Manor into his body.
Everything hurt. Every single inch of his body ached. His hair hurt. How could his hair hurt? That was ridiculous.
Draco breathed a tearful laugh as he cupped Harry’s cheeks. “You pulled us through locked wards, love. Of course everything hurts. I locked them a smidge too soon. You’re the only reason we got out.”
The shout came from every single adult.
Harry groaned and curled up in Draco’s arms. Great. They were gonna get another round of yelling at and this time Harry absolutely didn’t think he deserved it. He’d just saved Draco. That was worth praise, not scolding.
Either way, Harry poked the Potter wards and triggered them to war status before putting his face in the crook of Draco’s neck. They were at war. That’s what those wards were for. Tomorrow, or probably later today once Dumbledore figured out that he’d been tricked, Harry would have to do what Draco had.
Hopefully, he’d be as good at holding wards up under attack as Draco had been, though he really didn’t know what they were going to do to stop Dumbledore for good now that they didn’t have access to the labyrinth on Malfoy Manor’s grounds.
30. Mystery Blue Phoenix
August 13, 7:03 am
Draco rubbed his hands over his face as he carefully eased onto the bed next to Harry. The bedrooms at Potter Keep were so much smaller and warmer than Malfoy Manor. He huffed and shook his head. He really did need to set Mother and Blue to updating the Manor. It didn’t need to be so formal and cold.
Harry sighed and rolled over to wrap his arms right around Draco once he was fully on the bed. Draco smiled. Maybe it wasn’t the decorating. Maybe it was just Harry. Merlin knew, Harry didn’t seem to have the slightest concept of distance, formality, or proper manners.
Bless him for it. Outside, in the hallway, Mother’s voice was just audible. From the higher tone answering her, she must be talking to Professor McGonagall about what to do next. None of them had felt safe enough to leave.
It was simply too dangerous. Dumbledore had retreated nearly instantly after Draco locked the Malfoy Manor wards. There’d been one rather tentative hit against them and then nothing. Not a hit, not a spell, not even a finger brushing over them to test their lethality. The sheer lack of reaction had Draco twitchier than if Dumbledore had kept pounding on the wards.
To Draco’s relief, Dumbledore had not immediately come after them here in Potter Keep. He’d disappeared again, more than likely straight back to Hogwarts. No reason for him to give up his own fortress, especially not when he had the confluence of ley lines to pull power from.
Harry had fallen asleep instantly. Grandfather Arcturus had been the one to send messages to the Department of Mysteries. He’d sent a message to Gringotts as well, not that anyone could send a message back with Harry asleep.
Potter Keep’s war wards made Malfoy Manor’s wards look like a joke.
They were thicker, more powerful and layered on so many levels that Draco’s eyes had crossed as he studied the ostendi mihi display Grandfather Arcturus had pulled up just after Harry passed out. He’d had no idea that one could layer war wards that thick or put so many separate prohibitions into them. Updating and reinforcing them must have cost an absolute mint, not that Harry was lacking in funds.
At least he understood how important a secure base was. Draco hadn’t had to explain it to him.
Then there’d been nothing to do but give the adults the prayer books, explain what they’d done and let Dobby put Harry to bed. Three hours later, Draco had finally just gotten up and announced that he was going to sleep since neither he nor Harry had gotten more than a couple hours of sleep overnight.
“Master,” Ivy whispered just after Draco closed his eyes.
“No,” Draco groaned. “Ivy…!”
“Ivy is sorry, Master,” Ivy said and she did sound sincere about it, so Draco opened his eyes again. “There is blue phoenix who is wanting into the wards. It is saying that it is sent by Department of Mysteries with message for Master Harry.”
“A… blue… phoenix?” Draco asked even as he shook Harry awake.
He pressed his head back into the pillow to dodge the flailing arm Harry whipped around as he came awake with a startled shout. Harry stared around his bedroom, clutching Draco’s pajama shirt, blinked several times and then turned to stare at Ivy.
Who, not surprisingly, had ducked down so that only her eyes and ears peeked above the edge of the bed.
“What happened?” Harry asked.
“You fell asleep,” Draco said, patting Harry’s side and relaxing under his grip, “Grandfather sent messages to Gringotts and the Department of Mysteries, and a blue phoenix is waiting to talk to you.”
Harry blinked a dozen times, very fast, as Ivy stood back up and giggled at the two of them. “Phoenixes can be blue?”
“Apparently so,” Draco said. “I would assume that it’s a message from either Gringotts or the Department of Mysteries. Phoenixes can’t go through war wards without permission, but they can get in and out without disrupting them once they have it.”
Harry frowned at that before rolling out of bed and grabbing his dressing gown. “I’m one hundred percent never, ever letting Fawkes in here. I mean, if he’s serving Dumbledore willingly which seems kinda weird now that we know who Dumbledore originally was.”
Draco dragged himself out of bed, too, though he sighed as his feet sought out his slippers. He’d really wanted a couple of hours of sleep before anything else happened. Ah, well. He’d just have to get some very strong tea and endure until they could steal some time to themselves.
The couple of hours Harry had gotten had clearly done a lovely job restoring him. He strode out of his bedroom and ran down the stairs as if he’d gotten a solid ten or twelve hours of sleep. Ivy shook her head, the image of Dobby at his most manic forming in their bond. Draco grinned and nodded. When Ivy offered her hand, Draco took it and let her pop him down to the kitchen where everyone else had gathered.
“Darling, I thought you were going to bed,” Mother said the instant he walked into the kitchen hand-in-hand with Ivy.
“Oh, I was,” Draco said. He grinned as Harry ran in and did a double-take to find Draco already there before him. “I was, but then Ivy brought word that there’s a blue phoenix waiting to talk to Harry.”
“Blue?” Grandfather, Mother, Remus, and Amal all asked as if they’d never heard of such a thing.
“Oh, thank goodness,” Professor McGonagall said as she sagged in her chair. She slugged down whatever was in her teacup as if it was whiskey. “Ye can trust that one. I know who she owns and he’ll nae allow any o’ ye to be hurt.”
Draco stared at her. So did Harry. The strange part was that both Grandfather and Mother had smug little smirks as if this meant something more than a simple reference. Which… well, maybe it did. Professor McGonagall didn’t lapse into brogue all that often, only when she was furious or profoundly relieved.
“I guess we trust it?” Harry asked Draco.
“I think we should go up to the battlements,” Draco said. “There was a pocket in the war wards up there, like it was a spot for taking messages or something? I saw it when Grandfather was setting the floo to allow a single message to the DOM and Gringotts.”
Harry called up ostende mihi and nodded slowly when Draco showed him the spot. It was almost the exact same spot where they’d had their conversation about whether or not Ron and Hermione could be trusted.
“You do realize that we have to reevaluate everyone now,” Draco murmured.
“Oh, sure,” Harry agreed. “I mean, yeah, that’s totally obvious. Right. Grandfather, you’re down here maintaining the wards. Remus, Mrs. Malfoy, you’re with Draco and I. Amal, you’re with Dobby.”
He grinned as Dobby popped to stand right next to Amal who looked confused.
“Dobby, if the phoenix does something like try to grab me or Draco, I want you to go straight to the goblins,” Harry explained. “Take Amal with you. He’s got all the authority to act with everything I have as a Potter and as a Black. He’s the Seneschal. He can go to the ICW and get so much help. Don’t let anyone grab him or hurt him or spell him or anything that might compromise him.”
Amal’s frown went surprised, then awed and then downright determined in a grimly serious way that Draco wouldn’t have expected out of the genial, smiling man. Mother nodded thoughtfully as if that made total sense. It did.
“Mother, I’d like you to do the same with Blue,” Draco said. He waved for Mother to stay and Professor McGonagall to join them instead. “You’re my regent. You hold the power of the Malfoys right now. I can’t use it. You’re the key person right now so you have to stay safe.”
“Oh…” Harry stared at her and then nodded. “Yeah, good point. I didn’t think of that.”
Mother hugged Draco and then Harry, even though Harry flailed in surprise at first. She had tears in her eyes as she took her post next to Amal. Blue popped in and held Mother’s hand. Just like Amal, the sheer determination and seriousness of Blue’s face was a surprise.
But then her loyalty to Mother had never, ever been in doubt.
The battlements felt different this time. Not only because of the war wards but also because deep grey clouds had blocked out the sun. The loch looked dangerous far below. Wind whipped through the pine trees, stripping away needles as Draco watched. A storm was coming, rain slashing downwards off to the east. It wouldn’t be long before it arrived to drench Potter Keep.
Would it bounce off the war wards or fall through?
Draco shook his head and turned to Ivy who pointed to the tallest pine tree out beyond the war wards. It was a quarter mile away but even so Draco could see the blue flame of the phoenix. She was huge, easily as tall as Draco. Her tail was a grand long one that would have made any of the peacocks back home jealous. Her flames were shades of blue mixed with icy white, but he thought he could make out a hint of purple at the tip of her extravagant tail and about her head.
“Wow, big,” Harry commented. “Right, so how’s this work?”
“You give the wards permission to allow that particular phoenix and only that phoenix through them,” Draco said. “Make it as specific as you can. To this place, this time, no more. No blanket permissions or wiggle room.”
Harry nodded slowly before closing is eyes and touching the wards. It wasn’t visible but Draco felt the shift in the energies around them. Back on the stairwell just out of line of sight, Remus shifted and growled. Professor McGonagall must have swatted him because Draco heard a quiet yelp and then an even quieter “sorry”.
The blue phoenix screamed like the peacock she resembled.
“What the–?” Harry asked.
“Peacocks,” Draco sighed.
They both skittered backwards as the blue phoenix flamed away from the pine tree and appeared in a great gout of blue flame on the battlement five feet from the two of them. Despite the bonfire of blue flame, Draco didn’t feel any heat.
No heat, no icy cold; just a wash of air as the phoenix arrived and flipped her five-foot wings into a neat “v” around her body. Her enormous tail flared behind her in a blaze of fiery points that only vaguely resembled the normal peacock “eyes” before settling down behind the battlement. Little sparks of blue flame drifted upwards off her tail, caught by the wind blowing the storm ever closer.
“I didn’t realize phoenix flame separated like that,” Harry commented while staring at the rising blue flames.
“Neither did I,” Draco agreed. They didn’t last long, fading away before they got more than ten feet from the phoenix, but it was very different from Fawkes.
“Right,” Harry said with his normal forceful determination. “You have a message for me, right?”
The blue phoenix trilled, low and thrumming like a cello string that had been plucked. She nodded once and then held one foot out. There was a small tube on her leg, about the length of Draco’s hand. Draco caught Harry’s arm, keeping him from striding right over to take it.
“Do have some common sense, Potter,” Draco drawled.
“Oh, stop it,” Harry huffed as he pulled himself free. “We’ve taken precautions and frankly, I don’t think she’d have waited if she was a threat.”
As much as Draco didn’t want Harry to take whatever message it was, Harry clearly didn’t want Draco to do it either. Their bond vibrated with their mutual reluctance to let the other one take the risk, at least until Professor McGonagall put her head around the corner of the stairwell to glower at them both impatiently.
Draco sighed and let Harry’s arm go. “You’ve had more sleep, Potter. You get it.”
“Thank you for admitting it finally,” Harry said with a little sniff of disapproval that would’ve done Mother proud during one of the old, terrible balls Father used to throw.
He strode right over to the blue phoenix who was truly enormous. She was bigger than Harry by a good bit, possibly heavier than he was. Draco’s stomach went to knots just looking at scrawny Harry next to the huge, powerful, and completely unknown phoenix.
She trilled again, rubbing her beak against Harry’s hair, and then grooming him like he was a chick.
“What is it with you and birds, Potter?” Draco huffed. “That owl of yours is just as bad about grooming you.”
Harry grinned, petting the blue phoenix’s chest. “I guess they think I need the help, just like you do.”
Professor McGonagall cackled. So did the blue phoenix who trilled at Professor McGonagall encouragingly. She came out of the stairwell, one hand back as if to keep Remus from showing himself.
“Good to see you, Aquila,” Professor McGonagall said. She was much more open about petting the blue phoenix. “You tell himself that I’m doing much better, you hear me? Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy have done a lovely job.”
Aquila trilled again, nodding. She nodded towards the note in Harry’s hand and then flamed away off the battlements and back to the pine tree. Professor McGonagall shook her head before gesturing to Harry to open the message.
“Well, let’s see what it says,” Professor McGonagall declared. “She’ll not leave until we have some sort of reply for her person.”
Draco turned to Harry who bit his lip as he carefully unrolled the message and began to read.
31. Department of Mysteries
August 13, 7:41 am
Dear Lord Pottter,
Merlin but it’s weird to write that to you, Prongslet! You probably don’t remember me, but I was your father James’ best mate in the whole world. Dumbledore got me arrested and thrown in Azkaban for betraying your parents to Voldemort even though I wasn’t and never had been the Secret Keeper for their Fidelus.
Oh, we’d wanted it that way. Sure, it would’ve made me one hell of a target, but Dumbledore wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted that our friend Peter Pettigrew had to do it, despite Peter being timid, prone to snapping when cornered and, oh, I don’t know, completely untrustworthy when anything like money, power and women were waved at him.
Lily and James fought him on it, but Dumbledore had his way, and after I had a whole thing set up where I’d do the Fidelus and then go hide in Black Keep with my grandfather. I hear you saved his life and then set the goblins to getting me out. Thanks for that, by the way—all the thanks!
I can’t ever thank you enough for that given that I was going utterly batty in there with the Dementors.
Anyway, Aquila is the phoenix of Croaker, head of the Department of Mysteries.
Apparently he and Professor McGonagall have been carrying on a torrid affair behind Dumbledore’s nosy back for more than twenty years. He can bring a message back to us so do let us know just what you need. Ask Grandfather. He’ll have wonderful ideas of what to do. The man’s been a political powerhouse for half a century.
Anyway! The Department of Mysteries and the goblins are working together. If you need anyone to help you out, any supplies, you can have Aquila bring them to you. Or we can work something else out. Go talk to Grandfather. Be careful. I love you and I’ve got a thousand stories I want to tell you when we get to see each other.
But not yet. You stay safe behind the Potter wards. We’ll take care of Dumbledore, I swear it.
Your loving Godfather,
Harry stared at the note for a long moment before passing it to Draco even though Professor McGonagall held her hand out to take it. Draco read it, frowning. He saw the exact moment that Draco reached the crossed-out torrid affair bit because Draco went beet red as his eyebrows flew up towards his hairline and then he slapped the letter against his chest.
“What did that man write?” Professor McGonagall snapped.
“Who?” Remus called without peeking around the corner.
“It was Sirius,” Harry said. “And um, well. There’s some… bits. That aren’t um, quite appropriate.”
Professor McGonagall scowled. Remus groaned and finally looked around the corner. He looked so incredibly tired that Draco just sighed and walked down the stairs to pass the letter to him. Harry saw the moment that Remus got to that crossed out bit, too. The first crossed out bit made Remus moan very quietly. The second bit made him splutter and blush.
“Ah,” Remus said, staring at the letter. “Well. Hm. I see not even Azkaban can change Sirius.”
Professor McGonagall rubbed her forehead. “What did he say?”
The way she asked was so very stiff and formal that Harry rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. When she opened her eyes to glower at him, Harry caved.
“Um, he kind of had a crossed-out bit that mentions um, a… torrid affair,” Harry said, stumbling over actually getting the words out his mouth.
“There’s nothing torrid about our affair,” Professor McGonagall immediately declared while tossing her head the way Lavender did when she was being especially determined and flirtatious with Ron. “That man wouldn’t know romance if it bit him on the ass.”
“Sirius?” Harry asked, startled.
“Of course not,” Professor McGonagall said. She rolled her eyes which Harry stared at. Seriously, he was not used to the idea of Professor McGonagall acting like Lavender Brown. “Croaker. Not a drop of romance in that man’s soul. Damn good thing, too, or I wouldn’t have put up with him all these years.”
Draco frowned at her, biting his lip before visibly bracing himself. “If neither of you want the romance, why… have the affair?”
Professor McGonagall shook her head and patted Draco on the head. “You’ll understand when you’re older, dear. Come on, now, both of you. Let’s go talk to the others. Is there an offer of help? A bazooka to blow that rotten no-good bastard pretending to be Dumbledore to smithereens would be perfect.”
She marched right down the stairs into Potter Keep, leaving Harry staring after her and Remus clutching the letter to his chest like he was terrified to let it get too close to Professor McGonagall. Harry opened his mouth and then shut it slowly. He was pretty sure that she’d been not-saying that it was a sex thing. Which, um, yikes. And eww. And wow. And…
“Yeah,” Draco agreed.
His eyes were huge as he stared at Harry, but the bond was full of his reluctant amusement. Either way, Harry was glad that she wasn’t cursing Sirius out and threatening to string him up by his bollocks. He’d kind of expected that she would when he saw that crossed out bit.
Either way, Harry waved to Aquila who trilled, audibly despite the distance, and flipped a wing in a wave that was distinctly human. Sort of. You know, in a very bird sort of way.
Pretty much everyone reacted the same way to Sirius’ crossed out commentary. Horror and horror, of two different varieties, prompting a ton of eye rolling and disgusted huffs from Professor McGonagall. Harry prodded Draco to go back to bed, then dragged him out of the room and up to bed, tucking him right in with Ivy backing him up. Ivy even pushed a glass of warm milk into Draco’s hand and made sad puppy eyes at him until he drank it.
Despite his disgust that the blatant manipulation, Draco still dropped asleep the instant he put his head down. Harry rubbed the back of his neck and nodded to Ivy to keep an eye on Draco.
“Let me know if he wakes up soon,” Harry said.
“Ivy will,” Ivy promised, shooing him out of the bedroom. “Master Harry goes and does brave scary things. Is your turn now.”
Harry grinned. “I suppose it is. Thanks, Ivy!”
She giggled as he ran back down the stairs to the kitchen. And then to the library because the grownups had left the kitchen by the time he was done tucking Draco in. They already had a zillion books laid out and Mrs. Malfoy was pulling even more of them down when Harry came in.
“Okay, Grandpa Arcturus,” Harry said and then smiled as Grandpa Arcturus lifted an arm for Harry to hug him around the waist, which of course he did. “What are we gonna do? Draco’s sleeping, which wow, he really needs. But, I mean, if Sirius is up to something with Croaker, should we help? Or stay put? Get the Wizengamot up in arms? What do we do?”
“First, we need to get information from Gringotts,” Amal said, “and direct messages from Croaker. The phoenix—”
“Aquila,” Professor McGonagall interrupted with a gimlet glare that made Amal wince and shuffle his feet.
“Can carry them but you can set up the floo to allow messages to specific parties,” Amal continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.
“I wouldn’t actually recommend that,” Remus said as he took one of the books Mrs. Malfoy offered. “Yes, it can be done but that’s what Charlus did and Death Eaters got through Potter Keep’s wards. That’s how he and his wife Dorea died. We can’t risk that, especially since we don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Harry cocked his head to the side as everyone nodded sadly. Even Dobby nodded though from the expression on his face, Dobby didn’t agree with them. He was just nodding because all the humans were nodding.
So of course Harry turned to Dobby who bounced and clapped his hands with delight that Harry was consulting with him, first.
“Is that how they got through?” Harry asked.
“Oh, no, Master Harry,” Dobby said. “Was not that. All the elves knew about it. No one was asking us though. Was the phoenix, Fawkes, plus fake Dumbles had weakened wards, much like did with Malfoy Manor. If had not had Fawkes and had not weakened wards, they would have been safe-safe.”
Well, that simplified things a lot, even though everyone other than Grandpa Arcturus looked like Dobby had to be outright wrong. Grandpa Arcturus hummed and summoned Cooper who popped in with a damp dishrag in his hands.
“Is that accurate?” Grandpa Arcturus asked Cooper.
“Yes,” Cooper said with a little snort of disgust and a dramatic roll of his eyes when Remus opened his mouth to protest. “Is not the wards which was problem. Besides, wards here have been all redone, completely new. Weaknesses fake Dumbles put in are no longer there. Should not be a problem at all now.”
Remus shut his mouth again, eyes a little wide as he fidgeted with the book.
Harry offered Dobby a fist to bump and laughed when Dobby enthusiastically did just that. That simplified all the plotting the grownups were doing. Apparently, they’d all decided that they had to find a way to keep Aquila from getting into the wards too far, even though there was a special spot just for letting him in. And other flying people, too, not that Harry really thought anyone was going to ride their brooms all the way out here.
Either way, they spent about an hour or so debating just what to ask Sirius and the Department of Mysteries for. Harry spent the hour writing up a detailed explanation of what he and Draco had done and explaining that it wasn’t something that could be easily replicated without access to a properly pure labyrinth, really strong wards and people who were willing to risk their magic on a secret request that no one else would know about or be able to praise them for. He made sure to tell Croaker which book they’d used for their ritual and wrote down the entire thing so that Croaker had as much information as Harry could give him.
After all, weren’t they supposed to handle mysterious magical things in the Department of Mysteries? It was their title. That just seemed like logic.
Harry didn’t suggest that Croaker go find another place to do the prayer ritual, not outright, but he did make sure to give Croaker everything that he could to replicate it. It might work. It might not. One way or the other, more people doing it would keep Dumbledore from stopping them and it might just save more people.
“Are you sure you want to give them this?” Amal asked quietly when Harry had him proofread the letter.
Harry shrugged. “Well, sure. I mean, we can’t get back into Malfoy Manor to do it again anytime soon and it’s sort of their job, isn’t it?”
He turned to Professor McGonagall who looked up from the letter from Grandpa Arcturus that she was proofreading and extensively editing, much to Grandpa Arcturus’ outrage. Apparently, he didn’t like the way Professor McGonagall all but graded his efforts.
“That it is, Mr. Potter,” Professor McGonagall agreed as she shook her head and clucked her tongue. “Your handwriting is as bad as Mr. Potter’s. That’s appalling.”
“It is not!” Grandpa Arcturus huffed. “Give that back! It’s fine the way it is.”
He didn’t snatch the letter away from Professor McGonagall, but Harry thought the only reason why was that Professor McGonagall looked like she’d stab Grandpa Arcturus with her quill if he tried it. Fifteen minutes later, after Grandpa Arcturus redrafted his letter, grumbling the whole time about bitter old biddies who’d been teaching for far too long, Harry carried both letters up to the battlements.
This time, Professor McGonagall and Remus came up with him. When Aquila flamed in, cooing, Professor McGonagall laughed and gave her a good scritch under the chin and then behind Aquila’s head despite the blue-white flames that flickered like a crest there.
“Please give these to Croaker,” Harry said as he passed over the letters. “If you can, tell Sirius that we’re all doing just fine. He should stay safe. Dumbledore isn’t really Dumbledore, after all. He’s Grindelwald pretending to be Dumbledore. So, you know, they all need to be ready for that. Either way, Draco and I are pretty sure that we’re gonna have to go after him at Hogwarts. It’s not going to be easy but if we can all work together, I do think it can be done. We’ll need all the armed forces possible to distract him and attack him once we move against him. Soon. Ish. I think. We’ll see.”
Aquila trilled, took the letters with her foot, and then nibbled Harry’s hair before flaming away. That was that. Now all they had to do was eat, rest, and wait to see what Croaker and Dumbledore did. Harry blew out a breath and then shook his head.
He really hated waiting.
“Time to go get the wards set up to allow incoming messages,” Harry declared, much to Professor McGonagall’s amusement and Remus’ dismay.
He marched off down the stairs, pretending not to hear Remus asking Professor McGonagall if Harry ever stopped to breathe for more than a few seconds at a time.
Professor McGonagall’s reply carried down the stairs. “Oh, no, Mr. Lupin. That boy takes after his mother far too much for that.”
“Lovely,” Remus sighed. “Right. Well, I’ll go have the elves make some food. Merlin knows Lily wouldn’t stop until her stomach started screaming at her.”
Harry shook his head and ran on down the stairs. If there was a bit of warmth blooming under his breastbone to be compared to his mother, well, only Draco needed to know that.
32. Red-Haired Brigade
August 14, 5:23 pm
Draco frowned. There was a rumbling sound that he couldn’t quite place. He’d never heard something like that before, not at Hogwarts or at Malfoy Manor and certainly not here at Potter Keep. It sounded… loud. Brassy. Oddly out of place in the faintly humming silence of Potter Keep’s war wards.
“Oh, my god,” Harry gasped as he dashed into the library and then flung open the drapes to stare out the window. “Oh, wow. Draco!”
Draco got up and then cursed in a way that would’ve made Father proud, but which would’ve had Mother scolding him for being uncouth.
“What is that thing?” Draco gasped as he carefully approached the window to stare as the blue automobile flew by well outside the wards.
“That’s a Ford Anglia,” Harry replied as if that would make sense of the car whipping around outside of the wards.
“Yes, but why’s it here?” Draco asked a good bit more snappishly than he should have.
The thing looked old and battered, white roof dented in places and the baby blue sides of it looking like it’d gotten scratched up multiple times. Draco could just see several people inside of it as they whipped by a third time. The thing had to be absolutely screaming through the sky which was just the most bizarre thing.
“Who in the world would spell a car to fly like a broom?” Draco asked.
Point two seconds later, both he and Harry were running for the battlements because really, who else would do such a thing? Only Arthur Weasley would. He was the one person that Draco could think of who would not only consider breaking the law in such a fashion but also who would consider leaving the car where someone else could get at it.
“Dobby, let everyone know!” Harry shouted as he ran up the stairs, covering three steps with each bound.
Draco contented himself with two steps at a time, but he didn’t go much slower than Harry did. Once on the battlements, it was easier to see that there were a host of redheads in the Ford Anglia. It must have expansion spells on the inside because Draco thought he saw seven redheads and a bush of brown hair that had to be Hermione.
“Where can they land?” Harry asked.
“Only here,” Draco said. He shrugged when Harry stared at him, aghast. “Unless you lower the war wards entirely, which would be idiotic, they’ll have to hover here and carefully get out onto the balcony. I don’t know what to do about the car, though.”
“Right,” Harry said with far too much determination. “Okay then, help me get their attention and… I don’t know, somehow signal them to come here.”
It took ten minutes, thirteen trips of the Ford Anglia around the wards and three small heart attacks for George Weasley to pilot the car to the battlements on the right path and trajectory to allow them to unload their passengers. Which were Ginny, Neville, Ron, Hermione, Percy, Charlie, Bill and then Fred, all of whom carried bulky bags that they all but flung down the stairs while gabbling about threats, their parents and what in Merlin’s name Harry thought he was doing.
Fred reached back across the battlements to grip the passenger door of the car. “Now, Forge!”
“Be ready to let go!” George shouted back while hitting six different knobs and buttons on the dash of the Ford.
He then flung himself across the seat into Fred’s arms while Charlie and Bill grabbed the two of them and hauled like their lives all depended on it. An instant later, Draco screamed along with Harry and Neville as the Ford Anglia disappeared entirely, leaving George dangling from his twin’s arms. The three brothers got George over the battlements where he sat laughing and shaking as Percy whispered curses and prayers that Draco would never have thought would fall from the prissy prefect’s lips.
“Well, that was fun,” George said with a shaky laugh. “What’ll we do for lunch?”
“Uh, figure out where you lot are going to sleep?” Harry said. His laugh was more rueful but just as shaky. “We’re kind of out of spare bedrooms unless you want to sleep in the dungeons.”
“Wicked!” Ginny squealed. “I want a dungeon cell!”
The way she stared at Harry, all stary-eyed worship, made Draco bristle. And then Hermione and Ron bristled, which got the twin’s glowering before Harry threw his hands up and slapped the wards around everyone. Including Draco.
“All right, that’s enough,” Harry announced. “Ron, Hermione, knock it off. Draco’s my soulmate. Be polite or I’ll, I’ll, I’ll sick Professor McGonagall and Grandpa Arcturus on you.”
“Oh, that’s just cruel,” Draco said even though he was glaring at Ginny who had her hands in fists as she glowered at Draco as though she wanted to beat him to a pulp.
He almost thought that she could do it. Ginny was ferocious, rather like Charlie who looked as though he wanted to join in the battle. Thankfully, Charlie and Bill had been caught in the same ward circle, while the twins were with Percy who’d firmly collared both of them to keep them from doing anything stupid.
“I didn’t think anyone had been given a soulbond in generations,” Neville commented entirely too neutrally.
“There’s a reason for that,” Draco drawled.
“The reason is named Dumbledore,” Harry agreed. “Seriously, Ron. He’s my soulmate. I will drop you like a hot potato if you keep this up.”
“But… we’re best mates,” Ron protested a good bit more weakly than it looked like he was going to just a moment before. He was clearly a master of the hurt puppy eyes because Harry winced when Ron stared at him sadly.
“Harry, you can’t know that,” Hermione said as if she knew more about everything that had happened than they did. “The Event’s just confused you.”
Draco stared at her. Harry did, too. They looked at each other and then Harry sighed before waving all of them to follow him downstairs. Draco made a point of walking at Harry’s side because he was damned if he’d let Ginny steal his place. Thankfully, Neville somehow managed to block Ginny who ended up with Bill’s hand on her shoulder, keeping her from pushing Draco away. Or down the stairs, possibly. The glare was quite ferocious when Draco glanced back over his shoulder.
Hermione huffed. “Harry!”
“You’re not going to listen to me,” Harry said with a shrug, “so I figure you need Professor McGonagall to tell you that you’re wrong.”
“Wrong about what?” Hermione asked with no small amount of panic. “The Event? No one knows what caused it or why it changed people’s personalities or anything.”
“Nope, we know,” Harry said just as they found all the adults in the parlor looking at books. “Hey, the Wesley kids are here with Neville and Hermione. They don’t know about the ritual we did.”
“What ritual?” Hermione asked in a screech that might have broken glass. “Harry! You can’t do rituals! You don’t have the training!”
“I do,” Draco said, glaring at her as she bristled even more. “And yes, we absolutely do know what happened, why and how. As we were the center of it.”
He’d never been very well disposed to Harry’s best friends. They worked far too hard to isolate Harry from everyone around him, first off, and worse, they never did a thing to educate him on magical society and his place in it. Listening to Hermione screeching that he’d done something to Harry and then getting all flustered and angry when Professor McGonagall scolded her for it gave him little reason to improve his opinion of her or Ron.
Especially when Professor McGonagall casually mentioned the soulbond and both of them reacted as if they’d been slapped.
“Mate, you can’t be serious,” Ron said to Harry in a pleading voice but with a threatening face and clenched fists.
“He’s my soulbond,” Harry said. He shrugged completely calmly, even though Draco’s stomach was in knots of nerves that were reflected through the bond to and from Harry. “Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Magic herself bonded us before we were born.”
“Then why didn’t it show?” Ron scoffed. “That slimy snake—”
Ron didn’t get to say another word because Harry was suddenly in front of Draco, his arm finishing a swing. No, a punch. That knocked Ron on his arse and left him spluttering and staring up at Harry as he pressed a hand to the bright red fist print on his cheek.
“Knock it off, Ron,” Harry said. The Keep rumbled around them all. “This is my home. These are my wards that respond to me. You’ll shut up about Draco, Slytherin and everything else like that or I’ll eject you from the Keep and forbid you from ever returning. That goes for you, too, Hermione! Knock it off!”
Both Ron and Hermione had opened their mouths to protest. They snapped their mouths shut as Grandfather Arcturus moved to stand behind Draco and Harry. To Draco’s surprise, Bill and Charlie collared Hermione and Ron, dragging them towards the door.
“We’ve got a tent, Lord Potter,” Bill said. “Mum and Dad sent us here because they knew this was the safest place we could be. There’s talk of attacking Dumbledore.”
“But he couldn’t be behind it!” Hermione protested with tears blooming in her eyes. “He’s a great man!”
“He’s Grindelwald,” Draco said. When Hermione turned to him, eyes uncomprehending. “He kept Dumbledore alive for about a decade, to use his hair in Polyjuice. After that, he’d been established for long enough that he felt secure in killing Dumbledore. The man you knew last year at school, that we knew, wasn’t Dumbledore. It was Grindelwald pretending to be Dumbledore while casting control spells on everyone and putting potions in our food to keep us from disobeying him.”
“That’s what “the Event” was,” Harry continued as Draco stopped, too nauseated by the whole idea of living in the same castle with Gellert Grindelwald to continue. “Draco and I found a super old, really rare ritual that we could do. We asked Magic itself to help us free everyone. We didn’t get everyone and honestly, no surprise. The man’s had decades to sculpt society as he wishes.”
Harry turned to Bill and Charlie, both of whom had gone white as sheets, their freckles standing out vividly blood red against their cheeks. Bill stood taller, more like a soldier looking at his general than a young man looking at a twelve-year-old kid. Charlie got a firmer grip on Hermione’s arm because she was shaking her head no and making little horrified noises while tears poured down her cheeks.
“Have they changed at all?” Harry asked Bill.
“No,” Bill said. He shut his eyes. “No, they haven’t. Neither has Ginny and Dumble… Grindelwald had a lot of access to her. Mum let him spend whatever time he wanted with Ron and Ginny when he visited, even when they were babies.”
Draco winced and then started when Grandfather Arcturus gently patted his shoulder. “Ah. Well, they’re likely still under the control spells. We can explain how to break free. Harry and I both managed it without the ritual. It’s largely a matter of allowing your magic to break the spells while in a deep magical communion.”
To Draco’s surprise, Bill and Charlie exchanged surprised looks of comprehension. The twins, even more stunningly, started and turned to each other with awed grins. Huh. Apparently, most of the Weasley family had freed themselves.
“I don’t know how to do that,” Hermione protested.
“It’s not hard,” Harry said. “Seriously, you just kind of… focus inwards on the way your magic moves through you. Like when you’re learning a new spell and you need to feel the way the magic flows through you? That sort of thing. But instead of aiming at learning something you’re just feeling the way the magic moves in you. For me, it’s kind of like a river that flows.”
“A pool,” Draco said with a wry little smile. “A deep pool with a current under the surface that can’t be seen until you sink down into it.”
“Stars that drift around me,” Remus commented from the back corner of the room.
“Heh, wind flowing through my hair,” Amal said with a huge grin. “It’s different for everyone. You just… meditate on your magic, let it well up in and around you. The magic finds the blocks and breaks them.”
“We’ll go set up the tent and work with them,” Bill promised. “Then maybe you can explain everything over dinner.”
“Absolutely,” Harry promised. “There’s a ton to go over, trust me. Just, wow, so much stuff.”
Bill and Charlie pulled Hermione, Ron, and Ginny away, leaving the twins and Neville there. No surprise at all, the twins immediately started asking a million rapid-fire questions, too quick to actually get answers. Neville sighed and perched on a chair as if he were hoping everyone would ignore him for a while.
He did look better than before. Less hesitant and afraid. Hopefully, the ritual had freed Neville, even if it hadn’t done a thing for Hermione, Ron and Ginny. Draco settled into one of the chairs to listen as Harry did his best, along with Amal and Grandfather Arcturus, to answer the twins many questions.
Allies were good but the more important thing was going to be getting at Dumbledore in Hogwarts. If they didn’t act soon, who knew what he’d do?
33. Center of Power
August 15, 8:03 am
Harry bit his lip, staring at the very, very unimpressive Weasley tent. It was a pathetically small thing, plain white canvas that showed its age with raveling edges and stains along the grass line. At best, optimistically, it could hold two small children. Even Aunt Petunia would’ve hesitated to shove Harry into it. It was just that small and pathetic and ancient-looking.
He should’ve found space for the Weasleys. And Hermione. They could’ve made it work. Somehow.
Except that he might’ve punched Ron in the face and thrown Hermione off the battlements if she kept scoffing at him and implying that he was too stupid to know what he was talking about. So no, not a good idea.
“Hm,” Draco hummed, leaning past Harry to frown at him. “Problem? Bill did say that Hermione and Ron had figured out the blessing. And that Ginny was close. They more than likely won’t be quite so… abrasive now.”
“No, it’s the tent,” Harry said, blushing. “I should have asked Dobby to set up beds for them or something. That’s…”
Draco blinked at Harry and then sighed. “You Muggle, you.”
He reached out and pulled the limp fabric of the tent flap open, giving Harry a good look into the interior of the tent. Which was huge and beautiful with yellow and burnt orange wall hangings, couches and multiple rooms that had a Middle Eastern feel to them. Harry blinked and stared, shaking his head.
“Oh,” Harry said as he blushed even harder than before. “It’s bigger inside.”
“Of course,” Draco agreed, amusement humming in their bond to match the little smirk on his lips. “What? You though they were piled like cord wood in here?”
“Shut up,” Harry groaned.
The two of them went in. No one was in the first chamber of the tent. Harry stared around, delighted by the contrast between the inside and the outside. It was a proper home, really, full of squashy furniture and warm curtains that all but shouted that it belonged to the Weasley family. Off to the right there were windows that let in beautiful shafts of golden light. A chandelier hung from the peak of the tent. Better still, there was a wonderful old pot-bellied cast iron stove in the middle of the tent and steps that led up into other rooms in the tent.
“Anyone home?” Draco called.
“Harry?” Hermione stuck her head out from one of the other rooms which had been curtained off with a white sheet. “Harry!”
She ran over and tackled Harry with a hug that almost knocked him flat on his back. Harry staggered, holding Hermione who shook so hard that it felt like she was either freezing to death or going to lose her teeth from them chattering so hard. Draco put a hand in the center of Harry’s back, making sure he didn’t end up on the floor.
“I’m so sorry,” Hermione muttered against Harry’s shoulder. “I’m so, so sorry!”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Harry said. “You didn’t realize you were being manipulated.”
“No, not that!” Hermione exclaimed. She pushed back out of his arms, hands gripping his biceps hard enough that it hurt. “I mean, yes, absolutely, I’m sorry for that, but no, that’s not what I’m sorry for.”
“What is it?” Draco asked with a tired sigh that Harry felt all the way down to his toes. Not just because of the bond, but because Harry was as tired of this whole stupid Dumbledore mess as Draco was.
Hermione’s warm brown cheeks went pale enough that Harry pushed her over to one of the squashy sofas. She collapsed onto it, clinging to Harry’s hands. Her teeth were chattering, dramatically chattering, and her hands were like ice.
“What happened, Hermione?” Harry asked more gently than he would’ve normally.
“Molly, she, I knew about it, but I didn’t really see what was wrong with it,” Hermione said. “She set up some betrothal contract for you and Ginny. It’s supposedly iron-clad. There’s no way out of it.”
“Well, sure there is,” Harry said, confused that this was even a problem. “It’s called money. I’ve got lots. They don’t. I’ll either pay them off or sue until they’re ground into the dirt. Come on, now, don’t be silly.”
Draco choked on a laugh while shaking his head at Harry’s straight-forward approach to the problem. “While you’re quite right that it will likely come down to money, there may be an issue if your magical signature has been assigned in the contract.”
“Is my magical signature the same now as it was before the blessing was broken?” Harry asked.
Draco stared at him. Hermione stared, too, mouth dropped open as she made incoherent little noises. At least she’d stopped with the chattering teeth and her hands had begun to warm up. That was good. Kind of horrid that she’d been so frightened by that betrothal contract that she’d more or less gone into shock.
“I… have no idea,” Draco said, blinking several times. “Ivy!”
“Master Draco needs Ivy?” Ivy asked. She smiled at him, patted Harry’s knee and gave Hermione a little curtsey. “What does Master Draco need?”
“Harry may or may not have been trapped into a betrothal contract,” Draco started only to wince as Cooper and Dobby both popped in to start patting Harry’s face, knees, hands, and chest along with Ivy. “We’re not sure his magical signature was gathered and added to it? If not, it’s a matter for Amal and a lot of money. If it is, well…”
“What we need to know,” Harry said, grinning and letting the elves do just what they felt was necessary even though Hermione’s eyes had gone as wide as saucers, “is if my magical signature has changed since the blessing is gone. If so, then whatever is on the contract won’t match me anymore and it’s all good.”
Ivy stopped patting first. Then Dobby. Finally, Cooper pulled Harry’s head down by his ears so that Cooper could stare into Harry’s eyes for a long, unblinking while. He heard people come in behind him but trusted that Dobby would protect him, and that Draco would say something if Harry needed to pull free.
“Is different,” Cooper said with a firm nod. “But the nasty contract was not made with magic. Has no link, ever, to you, Master Harry.”
“Oh good,” Harry said, rubbing his ears. “Thank you very much for checking, Ivy, Dobby, Cooper. Can you guys bring food? And tea, too. Oh, and I think Hermione needs a nice warm blanket. She was kind of in shock.”
“I’m fine!” Hermione protested in vain because the elves popped out and then a blanket popped in on her lap and a tea service with a full meal showed up on the coffee table between the squashy sofas a moment after that. “Oh, seriously, I’m fine.”
Ginny stood half behind Bill who smiled sadly at Hermione as Draco served tea and pushed it into her hands. Ron had flopped onto one of the other sofas. He already had a sandwich in his hands. The twins leaned against each other over near the entrance to the room with the big windows, firmly distancing themselves from their siblings as if they didn’t want to be caught in the blast radius when Harry, or maybe Draco, went off.
“Right, so, Mum’s been mad on the idea of you joining the family,” Charlie said as he pushed Percy down next to Ron and shoved tea into his hands. He had to help Percy drink because Percy was as shaky as Hermione had been. “She already thinks of you as family and we’ve, Bill and I, been trying to figure out where that came from.”
“Eh, probably Dumbledore,” Harry said. He rolled his eyes as Percy huffed and muttered ‘Grindelwald’ into his teacup. “Come on, he’s lived as Dumbledore way longer than he has as Grindelwald. I’m not going to try and convince people to call him anything else. It’s a waste of time.”
“More than likely,” Draco said smoothly as he perched on the arm of the sofa next to Harry, “Dumbledore set it up and enforced your mother’s expectations because he wanted to control Harry. The Potter and Black families both have a great deal of power and could have made things quite difficult for him if he hadn’t taken… steps.”
“That,” Harry said. He looked at Ginny who blushed and hid behind Bill fully. “Sorry, Ginny, but we’re never, ever going to get married. I’m totally gay and I have a soulbond with Draco. I’m sure you’ll find someone perfectly suited to you, though. You know, now that the whole world isn’t all messed by Dumbledore’s nonsense.”
“Thanks,” Ginny said so quietly that Harry barely heard it.
She went as red as her hair when Bill pushed her over to one of the sofas and made her get some food and tea. Neville was still in the Keep, which kind of made Harry feel bad because he didn’t want to leave Neville out of the discussion, but well, explaining what had happened, how he’d ended up here with Draco, was important.
They ate all the sandwiches, half the second batch that popped in, and had three big pots of tea before Harry and Draco had filled them in on what’d happened so far. The twins joined them pretty quickly, snagging sandwiches out of their siblings’ hands and getting snarled at by Ginny and cursed at by Ron who didn’t manage to save his sandwich from the twins despite trying to hide it against his chest and then trying to fight them for it.
“Not nice,” Harry said, pointing at the twins who froze. “Now I know why Ron eats that way if you literally snatch food out of his hands.”
“I know a lovely little charm that will make lightning spark between your hands if someone removes whatever you’re holding,” Draco offered with a smirk that was pure evil.
“…You’re on,” Ron said after considering for a long moment. “I mean, you’re an evil Malfoy git, but you’re Harry’s evil Malfoy git so I’ll take it.”
“I’m the first Malfoy in three generations to touch the Malfoy wards,” Draco said with a tired sigh. “And the first in three generations not to be enslaved by a dark lord. Who we were before Grindelwald and Voldemort is… very different from who my grandfather and father were. I’d agree that Father and Grandfather were actually evil though.”
Harry could see the questions in all the Weasley’s eyes, especially Ron’s as he took another sandwich and started eating as fast as he possibly could. The twins didn’t try to grab it this time. They both looked kind of ashamed of themselves which was good. As often as Dudley had done that to Harry, no way could he let it go on for Ron when it was so easy to speak up.
“Guys!” Neville shouted. He flung open the tent flap and ran inside. “Harry, Draco, your family wants you inside. We gotta hurry—Hogwarts has been sealed and there some huge spell brewing inside of it that has the elves in a tizzy.”
“What spell?” Harry asked at the same time as Draco even though neither of them expected Neville to be able to answer them.
To Harry surprise, Neville went grim-faced. He looked much older, much fiercer as he squared his shoulders and shook his head. For a second, Neville looked like a seasoned warrior instead of the chubby-cheeked, buck-toothed kid he actually was.
“Cooper says that it feels like the warped blessing,” Neville said, raising his chin and nodding to Harry and Draco. “He said that it feels like the exact opposite of what you two did. Dumbledore is trying to reverse what you did, Harry, Draco. He’s trying to make it all go away so that he can enslave us all for good.”
34. I Solemnly Swear
August 5, 9:41 am
The Potter Keep library did not grow when more people entered it. Pity. They had so many people in the library that it felt claustrophobic. Draco kept his breathing even despite the way his skin crawled at being crammed up against the table by the hoard of Weasleys.
While Professor McGonagall and Grandfather Arcturus questioned Cooper and Ivy in detail, everyone else listened with bated breath. Hermione and Remus both took notes of the entire discussion which was helpful. Draco was going to want to review those notes in detail once he had the space to breathe again.
If he ever got to breathe properly after all this.
Harry was right at Draco’s side. They were pressed together from knee to shoulder, but the contact did nothing to reassure Draco’s very unhappy nerves. If anything, Harry’s presence seemed to make Draco feel worse.
He froze, then cursed under his breath.
“What?” Harry frowned at Draco.
“Dumbledore’s done something already,” Draco complained. “I’m more comfortable not touching you than I am pressed against your side. He’s already reactivated the warped blessing in some way. The spell he’s working right now must be to extend his control spells over everyone once more.”
Both of Harry’s eyebrows flew up. “Oh. Oh! Huh, yeah, I hadn’t consciously noticed that yet, but you’re right. Not good. We really gotta get in there and stop whatever he’d doing.”
“Getting in there is precisely the problem,” Professor McGonagall complained. “Not even the elves can get in through the Hogwarts wards, Mr. Potter. They’re not bonded to the castle.”
“There are ways in,” Remus said thoughtfully before sighing and shaking his head. “The tunnels are extensive, as are the secret passages. The problem is knowing if anyone is waiting in them. If we could see what’s in there, it would make planning this much easier.”
To Harry’s surprise, Professor McGonagall fixed Remus with a gimlet glare that had him blushing violently while ducking his head. That was more than an idle wish. Remus had a way, or used to have a way maybe, of knowing who was where in Hogwarts.
“We… can help with that,” Fred said slowly. He grimaced as George rubbed the back of his neck. “But we’ll get in an epic amount of trouble with Mum and Dad when they find out about it.”
“You’re helping fight the war,” Harry protested. “How could it be a bad thing? I mean, if you have something, we need to use it. And quick, before this gets any worse.”
Fred and George exchanged looks. Bill snorted and patted Fred’s shoulder while Charlie draped an arm over George’s shoulders. The two of them smiled, eyes bright and smiles firmly determined.
“We’ll deal with Mum and Dad,” Bill promised. “Show us what you’ve got.”
“Thanks, Bill, Charlie,” Fred said.
George was the one to pull a piece of parchment from his pocket. He opened it up and spread it out on the table, ignoring Remus who sat up very straight with a delighted grin and Professor McGonagall who groaned and rolled her eyes while muttering under her breath.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” George said.
The parchment bloomed with a map of Hogwarts that showed every single room, every floor, every inch of the castle including tunnels and secret passages that Harry’d had no idea existed. Fred shrugged one shoulder and waved at the map.
“We found it in Filch’s office,” Fred explained. “It was created by Prongs, Padfoot, Mooney and Wormtail, not that we’ve any idea who they were. They’re… right snarky when you try and ask too many questions about their secret identities. But it’s never been wrong that we’ve seen. Granted, we can’t exactly whip it out and look at it all that often. Don’t want to get it confiscated so we only use it when we absolutely have to.”
“Most pranks do not require the map,” George agreed. “This. This does. Right, so Dumbledore is there, and it does call him Dumbledore. Interesting.”
“I told you,” Harry said much to Draco’s amusement, “he’s been Dumbledore way longer than Grindelwald. Might as well call him by that name.”
Percy was dead-white, freckles standing out against his pale skin. “Is that thing why you pestered me about who was visiting my room last year?”
Fred and George both nodded.
“Well, yeah,” Fred said.
“When our big brother has someone named Peter…”
“In his bed every night…”
“We tend to think it might be important.”
“Peter?” Remus snarled, jumping to his feet.
“The only one in my bed was me,” Percy huffed.
“You always sleep with Scabbers,” Fred said. He shrugged. “We figured that someone’d named Scabbers “Peter” before you found him and that’s what was setting off the map.”
Remus’ eyes flashed gold. “Where is Scabbers?”
“Back at the Burrow. He ran away after the Event,” Percy said, glowering at the map and not noticing at all how everyone had edged away from Remus. Even Hermione was backing off, though Draco wondered whether it was because she understood that gold eyes like that meant werewolf or not.
“Damn it,” Remus huffed. He plopped back in his chair, pouting as he refused to meet everyone’s eyes.
Draco licked his lips and decided to let that one go for now. He could feel Harry’s curiosity about what Peter / Scabbers meant to Remus, about what could make Remus lose control in such a dramatic fashion, but they did have a bigger problem to deal with.
“You said that there are secret passages and tunnels,” Draco said to Fred and George. Will any of them get us underneath the Hogwarts wards? We will need some method to get in and that’s likely the only thing that will do it.”
“Yes!” George said. “See here? This one goes from Hogsmeade back to Hogwarts. This one might work, too, but it’s not underground most of the way. It goes from the Shrieking Shack to the Whomping Willow. You have to be careful, press just the right knot on the Willow or it’ll brain you.”
Draco nodded. “Good. All right. Grandfather, where would Dumbledore be doing this ritual?”
“The only place that would work would be the Hogwarts ward room,” Grandfather Arcturus said thoughtfully. “It’s got the ritual room, the link to the ley lines across Britain, and it’s fully under Dumbledore’s control. There should be a ritual circle in the Forbidden Forest, but it’s not been used in decades. Possibly two or three hundred years.”
“Easily that,” Professor McGonagall agreed. “The last record I found of it being used was over two hundred and fifty years ago. It’s likely sadly degraded. The next closest ritual circle is over a hundred miles away. It has to be the ward room.”
“Can we get to the ward room through the secret tunnels?” Draco asked the twins.
“Probably,” Remus said, startling the twins and Draco, too. “I, ah, well. I’m Moony. My friends and I created the map.”
Both Fred and George sucked in sharp breaths as they stared at Moony in awe. Draco rolled his eyes and pushed the map closer to Remus who seemed somewhat reluctant to touch it at first. He brushed one finger across the corner of it, eyes sad, before sweeping his hands over the surface.
The map shifted, showing the secret passages in greater detail.
“If you take the Honeydukes entrance,” Remus said, tracing it on the map and smiling as various warnings about dangers appeared on its surface, including one that flashed red about the Hogwarts wards being set to dangerously high levels, “you’ll be deep enough that the wards won’t immediately kill you. I could take the Shrieking Shack entrance. I don’t think anyone else could. Perhaps you could, Minerva, but I don’t trust that he wouldn’t have set the wards to recognize you.”
“No, he would have,” Professor McGonagall agreed. “All right, you children will stay here. We’ll attack as soon as we get changed.”
Draco huffed while Harry squawked with outrage. Both of them were drowned out by the shouts of protest from the Weasleys, Neville and Hermione. None of the adults looked as though they were going to listen to a single word of disagreement from the children.
Appropriately enough, really.
“It won’t work,” Draco shouted.
Silence fell. His cheeks went hot as Mother frowned at him. Draco squared his shoulders and put his hands on the table, carefully not pressing so hard that his knuckles went white. Confidence. He needed to show confidence on this.
“It won’t?” Harry asked, approval and amusement at Draco being sneaky coming through the bond even though his face was a study in beetle-browed confusion.
“No,” Draco said. “The problem with your so-called plan is that you’re going in this like you can win a fight against Dumbledore. But you can’t. He’s Grindelwald, one of the deadliest wizards the world has ever known. He’s in his place of power, raising a web of defenses that no one can counter. Not if you go straight at them. You’ll be caught and not realize it. If you manage to resist the traps, he’ll just use Hogwarts’ wards to incinerate you.”
“Oh,” Harry breathed. “Oh! They’re already getting caught, aren’t they? That means he’s already done it. It’s just slowly gaining power instead of being all boom like what we did. We have to stop it before it gets too strong. It’s the don’t-touch thing we’ve got going. They don’t feel it because they don’t have the bond there to highlight the effects of the spell like we do.”
Draco nodded. “I… don’t know if our bonds to the elves might function well enough. I suspect not. We’ve had to be very specific asking the elves things. Dobby might have the independence and force of will to be able to tell Harry if there was something influencing the bond, but I don’t know that Ivy and the other Malfoy elves would even think to mention it to me. It’s not part of their training.”
“Is affecting,” Ivy admitted, hands knotted together as she bit her lip. “Ivy didn’t think she could say anything. Is very hard to…”
Cooper sighed and nodded. “Is very hard to speak of it. Started in the night, actually, midnight exactly. We did not notice it at first. Dobby was the first this morning, early.”
Ivy giggled as Dobby popped in by Harry’s side to hug his waist tightly. “Dobby is always best at that. Dobby is like a great big storm. Nothing stops Dobby.”
“Much stops Ivy,” Ivy whispered.
“Oh, Ivy,” Draco said. He held out his arms and Ivy popped straight into them. “It’s not your fault. I’m sure that Dumbledore’s done this deliberately. All the elves have made such a huge difference. We couldn’t have done the ritual without your help and protection.”
“Yeah, it had to be deliberate,” Harry agreed as he hugged Dobby back. “He’s messing with our soulbond. He’s messing with our bonds to the elves. And he’s messing with our minds so that we don’t notice anything happening. That’s all deliberate.”
Grandfather Arcturus grimaced. “I hate that you’re making so much sense. I don’t want you boys in danger.”
“Ivy, can you bring me the ritual book we used?” Draco asked.
Ivy nodded and snapped her fingers. The little blue book appeared in her hands. When Draco set her on the table, Ivy swung her feet and cocked her head to the side as Draco flipped through the rituals.
They’d broken Dumbledore’s power with one of the rituals in the book. Maybe there was another that would help. Hermione came over to read over Draco’s shoulder, pursing her lips when Harry grinned at her. Ivy giggled and popped the red copy of the book in so that Hermione could read that one with Neville reading over her shoulder.
“Oh, Gran has this,” Neville said, surprised. “She says they’re obsolete but that they used to be very popular. You have to be stupidly strong and open to Magic to make them work.”
“Sounds quite accurate to me,” Draco said. “Hm. There’s one here to bring the light of hope in to purify dark places. That… I wonder.”
He passed it over to Grandfather Arcturus and Mother who both studied the ritual carefully. It was a more complex one, the very last in the book. Draco knew, just from scanning it, that it would be horribly difficult to accomplish.
“We’d need teams,” Hermione murmured. “At least two teams, maybe three. I mean, where are we going to get a rival circle? And how do we get two sets of twin focals?”
“Ah, we’re twins,” George said, craning his neck to look at Hermione’s copy of the book until Ivy laughed and popped the purple copy in for the twins. “We can use twin-magic pretty well. Oh. Yeah, that’s…”
“We can do that,” Fred agreed with such confidence that Draco’s heart leaped. “I mean, not the spearpoint bit where you take the light to the heart of darkness. We’ve not managed to figure out how to call our magic as twins and move at the same time.”
George nodded. “But we can call the magic in the old Forbidden Forest ritual circle while someone else goes into Hogwarts.”
“That will be Harry and I,” Draco said, rolling his eyes when everyone, especially Mother and Professor McGonagall opened their mouths to protest. “There’s no one else who can do it. No one else has the bonds necessary. Between Harry, me, Fred, and George, we should be able to take the spell straight to Dumbledore himself. We’ll just need the rest of you to distract him until the moment we can strike. As soon as we can, we’ll need to message Gringotts and the Department of Mysteries so that they can muster troops to keep Dumbledore fully distracted. It’s the best chance Harry, Fred, George and I have to break his power for good.”
35. Under the Surface
August 5, 11:03 am
Honeydukes’ brightly colored storefront had children clustered around it, pointing at the various bins of candy. Harry didn’t recognize any of them. No surprise really. It was August. All his fellow students were at home. No one who knew Harry was anywhere near Hogsmeade right now.
It felt really wrong for anyone to be in the street right now. Super, incredibly wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. Harry bit his lip as he crept through the perfectly normal crowd sauntering through Hogsmeade’s streets between the steeply peaked buildings that all seemed to lean just a little off true. He’d call it a perfectly normal day if the air didn’t crackle with something really uncomfortable that no one else seemed to notice.
His invisibility cloak billowed around Harry as he slipped into Honeydukes with an indulgent mother with a little girl who bore a disturbing resemblance to Dudley about to pitch a fit. The girl immediately ran off to start grabbing candy just like Dudley would have.
Seriously, just like him. Harry stared at her, and at her mother who even called the girl her “darling diddly Daisy-kins” in an extra layer of what the heck for Harry. Did Dumbledore actually designate certain kids to be like that? Pick them out and craft their families?
He shuddered. No, not thinking about that. Not right now.
It took no effort at all to get behind the counter and then into the back room where the twins said the entrance to the secret tunnel was. The cellar stairs were steep enough that Harry looked around and pulled his cloak off before hurrying down them. He’d trip and break his neck going down them with it on.
The doorway in the cellar was just a little door set on the wall back behind a barrel of sugar. Harry shook his head and then braced himself.
“Dobby,” Harry whispered and before he’d even finished saying Dobby’s name, Dobby was there.
“Dobby has it,” Dobby whispered.
He popped back out, the quietest pop that Harry had heard out of Dobby yet. Then a moment later Draco and Ivy popped in with Dobby by their sides. Draco immediately grabbed Harry’s hands, clinging to him and shuddering.
“Do not ever do that again,” Draco hissed at Harry. “Do not leave me behind.”
“It was your idea,” Harry huffed right back at him. “So that you had a clear feeling for what the twins magic felt like and strong link to them while I got us in position to start.”
“Irrelevant,” Draco replied. “We need to hurry. The twins said that the passageway takes about an hour to cross on foot.”
“Uh, we’ve got less than thirty minutes,” Harry said. His voice came out as a squeak and he didn’t feel the least bit ashamed for that.
Draco smirked and pulled out two shrunken brooms that he returned to full size. “Aren’t you glad that Grandfather Arcturus planned ahead?”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Harry said, sagging a little as he took his broom. “Okay, Ivy, Dobby, you’re to stay here and listen for us. Once we cross the line under the wards, one of you goes back to the twins. The other stays here.”
Ivy leveled a stern glare at Dobby who pouted. “Ivy is staying. Dobby is going. We is agreeing on this already. No take-backs!”
“Dobby is going,” Dobby grumbled.
“I’d like it that way,” Harry admitted.
They all froze as one of the Honeydukes workers came into the back room upstairs. Thankfully, whoever it was just grabbed some candy and carried it back to the front where Harry could hear the girl-Dudley whining that she wanted that candy and that one and Mum, that one, too! Harry shuddered. Seriously, that was just nightmare fodder there.
Harry shook it off, putting a hand on Dobby’s shoulder. “I need you there with the twins so that I can link to you and you can link to them. Our bonds are important too, you know. Draco’s to Ivy and mine to you. It’s part of it. Probably.”
“It’s at least a backup insurance plan,” Draco agreed. “We’d best hurry or we’ll be late, Harry.”
Dobby nodded, as did Ivy. Harry opened the door and slipped down the steep, worn old stone stairs. The tunnel was brick-walled along the stairs and went down about two flights before it flattened out into a long, straight hewn rock tunnel with an arched roof overhead.
“This is such a bad idea,” Harry murmured to Draco while stuffing his invisibility cloak into his pocket. “Do we even know where it comes out on the other end?”
“Third floor behind the statue of Gunhilda de Gorsemoor,” Draco said. He was already mounted, cool and calm and controlled if you didn’t have a link to him and couldn’t feel the sheer magnitude of his worries. “We’ll have to sneak through two other passages to get down to the ward room. It’s underneath the library somewhere.”
“Right,” Harry said. “Let’s go.”
Flying in a tunnel was the exact opposite of flying normally. The walls felt horrifyingly close. Harry’s heart pounded in terror of twitching the broom the wrong way and smashing himself into the walls. The ceiling loomed. The floor threatened.
And then they hit the wards and Harry nearly did crash into the walls as the wards clawed at him, trying to keep him out.
“Harry!” Draco shouted but they were both past the ward line already, scorched and shaking and brooms vibrating alarmingly.
“I’m fine!” Harry shouted back.
He wasn’t. He most definitely wasn’t fine. He wasn’t even the sort of fine that he claimed back at Privet Driven when Aunt Petunia starved him, and Uncle Vernon bellowed at him, and Dudley beat him. But he hadn’t crashed into the wall and his broom was still flying.
So yes, he was fine. It was fine. Everything was fine.
They zoomed onwards up the long, straight tunnel until they reached the other end. Then it was climbing stairs up to the third floor and carefully peeking out from behind the hunchbacked statue of Gunhilda de Gorsemoor.
“I don’t see anyone,” Draco whispered.
“Let me check the map,” Harry replied.
There were exactly three people in Hogwarts: Harry, Draco and Dumbledore sitting in his office doing who knew what. Even the map called him Dumbledore, so Harry didn’t feel at all bad about continuing to do so. He licked his lips and did the second check that Remus had taught them, the one that said where the elves were.
“No elves wandering around. They’re all in the kitchen,” Harry whispered as he showed Draco the map. “No one at all.”
“Hopefully,” Draco murmured. “I still don’t believe that Dumbledore’s unaware of this thing. We’ll use the cloak, as we planned.”
“Agreed,” Harry said.
He took a deep breath as he folded the Marauder’s Map up and tucked it away safely. His heart hadn’t stopped pounding since they passed through the wards. The weird effect where he didn’t want to touch Draco was gone, thank Merlin, but there was a biting edge to Hogwarts that made his knees shake.
Draco shrank their brooms, pocketing them. He looked and felt as nervous as Harry, peering around the statue as if he expected them to be attacked at any second.
Honestly, Harry sort of expected it, too.
“Can you feel Ivy?” Harry whispered.
He caught Draco’s hand, sucking in a breath when the contact abruptly calmed his racing heart. Draco’s eyes went wide as he sagged a little, fingers so tight around Harry’s hand that it hurt. Okay, so yeah, the wards were absolutely doing something to them. Dumbledore might be aware of them.
Maybe? Maybe not. It sort of depended on how deep he was in that ritual he was creating. Which, frankly, Harry hoped he wasn’t too deep into because that would mean that they were too late. And he didn’t want to be too late.
“Me either,” Draco whispered. “I feel her. She’s sending the message to the other teams to attack the wards. I… believe she’s got Remus going through the Shrieking Shack tunnel now.”
“Then we don’t have much time.” Harry bit his lip. “Cloak and then down to the ward room?”
Draco nodded. “And perhaps a look out a window as we pass. Just to be sure we’re not doing this on our own. We really need the aurors and everyone fighting Dumbledore to get down to the ward room safely.”
“Oh, please don’t say things like that,” Harry moaned.
He pulled out the cloak and covered himself and then pulled Draco under its shimmery veil. The world always looked a bit odd from under the cloak. It was heavy enough to hang well around the two of them, but his eyes were convinced he was looking through spiderwebs that had been coated with tiny drops of dew. Small ones that just barely caught the light when it hit just right.
The contrast between the weight of the cloak and the near nothingness of seeing through it, made Harry’s stomach lurch a little.
“This is amazing,” Draco whispered. He wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders, taking part of the weight and fall of the cloak from Harry. “I’ve never seen one so well-made before. I’d think it was Death’s cloak like from the stories.”
Harry blinked at Draco. “You’re going to have to tell me those stories later. I’ve no clue what you’re talking about.”
“Harry,” Draco huffed, fond and dismayed at the same time, “really, don’t say things like that. It makes us look bad that you’re ignorant of everything important. Comment later, in private, and I’ll explain whatever you want.”
“Berk,” Harry said, grinning at Draco whose eyes sparkled with amusement. “Come on. Let’s get moving.”
Going about with Ron and Hermione under the cloak had been horribly awkward. They never moved as one and were constantly jabbing each other with elbows or treading on heels. Half the time they’d been under the cloak had been spent squabbling and struggling to even move an inch.
Draco fit with Harry under the cloak like they were one person.
If Harry went right, Draco moved smoothly with him. They ghosted through the hallways to the stairs like they were dancing in an old Fred Astaire movie, perfectly synched to each other and always properly covered by the cloak. Harry’s heart sang at how easy it was to move through Hogwarts with Draco.
“I must teach you how to dance,” Draco whispered as they passed the library and found the second secret tunnel that would take them down to the proper passage into the bowels of Hogwarts.
“I think I’d like that.” Harry smiled, well aware that his cheeks had gone vividly red. His face was so hot that he felt like he was radiating. Even his ears were hot.
They passed a window that looked out towards the Shrieking Shack just before the entered the second secret passageway.
Magic crackled across the lawn, whipping the grass and trees like a gale was coming in. Draco froze so Harry froze with him. It took him a moment to see what had stopped Draco in his tracks, but then he saw it.
The Hogwarts wards rippled out near the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Harry could see magic impacting them, hammering away on them, but the attack obviously wasn’t doing a bit of good. But wow, there were a lot of people outside the wards trying to get in. Croaker and Silverclaw must’ve brought in a literal army of people to try and bring the wards down.
Several bodies lying on the grass near the Whomping Willow. One had greying red hair. Another had Grandpa Arcturus’ white streaked hair. And a third was shaking his head as he struggled to get to his feet, snarling, even as the magic rained lightning down on him.
Remus. Professor McGonagall. Grandpa Arcturus.
Harry’s heart leaped into his throat.
“He’s distracted,” Draco hissed. “Come on. We have to hurry! Dumbledore is distracted attacking them with the wards.”
“Right,” Harry said as he chanted “it’s fine they’re fine” in his head. “Let’s go.”
They would be fine. They would. Remus was tough. Grandpa Arcturus was way healthier than he had been. And Professor McGonagall had a link to the school. She should be able to deflect some of the wards magic.
So yeah, they would be fine. They had to be.
Which didn’t stop Harry’s hands from shaking as he pulled the secret entrance open. It didn’t stop his heart from pounding like a jackhammer in his chest. And it certainly didn’t stop the worry and fear from echoing between Draco and Harry.
Down this passage. Down the next one. To the ward room.
And then they would link through the wards to Ivy and Dobby who would link to the twins and they’d channel the magic the twins and the Weasley family and Mrs. Malfoy and Amal and everyone else had summoned to stop Dumbledore for good.
They would do it.
Because Harry would not accept failure.
Dumbledore would not win. No matter what it took, they would stop Dumbledore and free everyone.
“Yes,” Draco agreed as they started down the stairs as one, hidden under Harry’s father’s invisibility cloak. “We will win. Together.”
36. Sneaky Gryffindor Plot
August 5, 11:37 am
The ward room at the very base of Hogwarts was sealed. Draco knew he should have expected that. The door was a heavy stone slab that more than likely took special spells and knowledge to open. Or at least the proper bloodlines.
“How do we get in?” Harry whispered.
“I don’t know,” Draco hissed, wracking his brains for any hint of anything Mother or Grandfather Arcturus or any of their teachers might have said that would help.
A simple Alohamora wasn’t going to do it. Draco tried it, of course. No reason not to but he had no expectation that it would work, and he wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t. Harry bit his bottom lip, all but vibrating next to Draco. Thank Merlin for the cloak. It was probably the only thing keeping the two of them alive.
“Are there other spells to open doors?” Harry whispered.
“Many,” Draco said, running through each of the ones he’d learned from Mother and from watching Father make his way into places where he wasn’t wanted. “But I doubt that I know any strong enough to actually get us in there. We are talking about the Ward room for Hogwarts.”
“Darn it,” Harry said.
He shut his eyes, bowed his head, and went totally still. Draco held his breath as he waited for Harry to ask Dobby whatever it was. Probably a simple question about what Dobby thought might work. Draco was tempted to do the same with Ivy but frankly, Dobby was worlds more creative than Ivy would ever be.
Ivy loved her rules and orderly life.
Dobby was very close to being the house elf incarnation of chaos.
If anyone had the capacity to think creatively enough to get around a locked, warded door so that they could attack Dumbledore in his lair, Harry and Dobby were the ones to do it. Just look at how they’d gotten into Hogwarts.
The sheer idea that you could fly so quickly through a ward that had been attenuated by passing through the earth wasn’t something that Draco would have considered. He’d expected that they would fly cautiously until they reached the edge of the wards, test them, and cross if possible. Flying straight through at full speed?
Effective madness but then that was what Harry excelled at. He was so very in tune with Lady Magic at her wildest that he did things that no one in their right mind would ever consider and made them work. He’d stolen Dobby, found his seneschal, saved Grandfather Arcturus, forged an alliance with Draco out of nowhere, saved most of the magical world and now all of this.
“I’m not that amazing,” Harry muttered as he straightened up.
“Harry, you’re stunningly, confusingly, amazingly creative,” Draco replied. His tone came out as dry as a desert despite the love he sent through their bond. “It’s terrifying and ridiculous. No wonder you get into so much trouble. Everyone expects you to turn left, and you go up instead.”
Harry grinned. “Well, let’s do it again. That’s what Dobby suggested, anyway.”
“Go up?” Draco asked.
“Mm-hm,” Harry murmured. He headed back up the stairs towards the dungeon proper. “To the kitchens. We don’t have much time. Dobby says that the Hogwarts elves don’t like Dumbledore and they’re not tied to him. They’re tied to Hogwarts’ magic. They might help us get in to get back at Dumbledore.”
“…That’s brilliant,” Draco said. “We’d best hurry. We don’t have much time before noon.”
The entrance to the kitchen was less than a dozen feet from the secret passageway down into the ward room, much to Draco’s relief. He tickled the pear and then they slipped into the kitchen together. He’d been to the kitchen a couple of times last year, mostly for nights when Pansy decided that they had to study in their common room. If Pansy was going to study somewhere private, she required treats and she was never, ever the one who went to get them.
Not after the first time when Pansy ate all the good treats before she got back to the common room, anyway.
Usually, the kitchen hummed with the squeaky voices of house elves. The stoves and fireplaces were always busy, full of food being prepared; roasts being cooked. Every worktable, set at the proper height for house elves, was covered with bowls and cutting boards, baskets of fruit and stacks of eggs.
Not now. The kitchen was silent, no food being prepared, no voices, no movement at all. The dozen or so house elves huddled underneath the centermost workbench, hugging each other and shivering in terror. Even Father at his worst hadn’t scared the Malfoy elves that badly.
“Hey,” Harry said, opening the cloak just enough that he could be seen peeking through, “we’re trying to destroy Dumbledore before he can enslave everyone. Can you guys help? We just need to get into the wardroom somehow and Dobby suggested you might help.”
“Potter, you can’t just ask…” Draco started to huff only to stop when one of the elves popped right under the cloak to stare up at them. “Well. Once again, you do impossible things.”
The elf’s eyes wrinkled in a smile that didn’t reach his lips. “Tippy wants to help. What can Tippy do?”
“Can you pop us into the ward room?” Harry asked. “Or pop us past the door. Through the wall? Is there a secret passageway? We just need a way to get in there, fast, because we’ve got to be in position to destroy Dumbledore before noon. There’s not much time.”
Tippy’s ears came up. His eyes went wide. Then he nodded towards the cloak.
“Masters must hang onto cloak,” Tippy said. “Cannot pop it if Masters are not holding on tight.”
Draco gripped the cloak in two places while Harry wrapped an arm around his back and closed the gap again. Tippy nodded and then put his hands on their chests. His eyes gleamed with magic that zapped through Draco like he’d been hit with lightning.
It didn’t hurt. If anything, Draco’s magic surged to meet Tippy’s, singing with excitement that came through Harry who was echoing the same sensation through their bond.
For a moment, Draco felt the twins, too. The twins and Dobby and Ivy and Grandfather Arcturus who was up on one knee, shielding Remus and Professor McGonagall who were casting some sort of spell that he didn’t recognize.
Then they popped so sharply that Draco almost lost his grip on the cloak.
They materialized in a room full of junk. Utterly and completely packed with junk that looked like it might come from every era of Hogwarts’ history. It might, once, have been a grand and beautiful space. The columns supporting the huge room arched up into an arched ceiling, each rib of the fluted columns becoming a ridge of the roof. Draco stared up and up, heart in his mouth because he’d rarely seen such beautifully precise and mathematically perfect construction before.
Rowena Ravenclaw had to have had a hand in creating this room. The room itself screamed of her touch. The magic that gently rippled around the edges of his mind certainly spoke to her too.
The stacks of junk? Draco really wasn’t sure what was up with that. Off to the left was a stack of chairs that reached twelve, fourteen feet high. A lovely harp of gold stood near it, all but a handful of the strings broken. Someone had stacked books between cracked teacups and saucers to the right and a mountain of shoes of every era lurked next to neatly stacked lanterns on top of a battered old chest that was the proper size for Hagrid.
“Is Come and Go room.” Tippy nodded firmly, ears up and mouth smiling along with his eyes now.
“Masters can ask Come and Go room for a way down into ward room. Bad Master Dumbles cannot stop that. Cannot block it. Hid the Come and Go room long and long ago but we elves remember. We tells those who needs Come and Go Room. Good Masters goes and kills him. Wish for what Masters need, wish very, very hard. Come and Go room will make it be.”
“We will,” Harry promised. “You and the other elves need to get out of Hogwarts if you can. Go help Professor McGonagall and Grandpa Arcturus and Remus and the others. They could use your support. Just don’t get hurt. We don’t want any of you to be hurt if at all possible.”
Tippy’s eyes filled with tears as Harry overwhelmed him by caring what happened to him. “Tippy will tell the others. We is not wanting to stay but had nowhere else to go.”
“Go to Professor McGonagall,” Draco agreed. “She’s Deputy Headmistress. She’s got more right to give you orders than anyone else. And I know she’ll find lots of things for you to do to help.”
Tippy popped away.
Draco’s heart lurched. All right. They were here. It should give them what they needed, if Tippy was telling the truth. Draco would simply have to trust that Tippy wanted to be free as much as Draco and Harry did.
Harry took a deep breath. “Wish for what we want.”
“Right,” Draco said, shutting his eyes and clearing his mind so that he could touch his magic and wish for all he was worth.
“We need a way to stop Dumbledore for good,” Harry muttered.
“We need a way to destroy the heart of his power for good,” Draco prayed with all the strength in him.
“Help us save everyone,” Harry said at the same time Draco did.
Draco opened his eyes to find that the two of them were glowing. Not much, not yet, but the twin’s prayer was growing in power. They had so little time left, less than fifteen minutes. Damn it all, they needed to get at Dumbledore somehow!
“There,” Harry hissed, jerking his chin towards the open place that had appeared at the center of the mounds of junk.
Where there had been narrow paths between the piles of junk, wandering randomly around the fluted support columns, now there was a straight path to an open area that looked so very much like the heart of the Malfoy labyrinth that his heart beat faster, and his stomach churned with nerves.
“That looks familiar,” Harry whispered. “Really familiar.”
“It feels familiar,” Draco agreed. “Let’s go. There’s no time to think, no time to plot. We’ll have to use Gryffindor brazen stupidity to get through this.”
Harry snickered. “Yeah, I guess we will. Good thing all your plotting and planning got us here. We’re just the lightning rod. Once we get to the right place, it’ll be everyone else doing the hard work.”
Draco nodded and didn’t add “we’ll just have to survive it all”.
The knowledge that this might be lethal hung between them as they hurried up the clear, beautifully illuminated path. The lanterns that Draco had spotted now sat along the path and then around the outer edges of the circular area at the center of the Come and Go Room. All of them were lit.
The flames within shimmered through the colors of the rainbow, pulsing invitingly.
Once, when Draco was very small and not yet out of a child’s dresses, Mother had done an old magical prayer with him. She’d lit a candle and helped Draco pray to Lady Magic, holding his chubby little hands together as he sat in her lap, both their skirts spread around them. The candle flame, ordinary yellow, had changed to a rainbow flame.
Just like this.
“That’s… different,” Harry murmured.
“Lady Magic approves,” Draco explained. “Tell you later. Look! There’s a stairwell going down!”
It opened in the center of the room, stairs simply sinking into the floor. No door, no gate, nothing to keep them out or prevent them from going where they needed to. And that was what they’d asked for, wasn’t it?
They’d asked for what they needed which might not be Dumbledore himself. Draco could only hope that it wouldn’t be the horrible old man. He’d rather break a prayer circle or something than fight a grown man who’d caused thousands upon thousands of deaths all across the magical world.
For one wild, terrified moment, all Draco wanted to do was run away.
But Harry took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and then looked down that dark stairwell with determination.
“We won’t let him win,” Harry said, voice grim. Their bond carried his absolute determination to see this through.
Draco sucked in a breath, pushed all his fear down the same way he did when dealing with Father at his worst, and nodded. “You’re right. We won’t. Let’s go. We need to get into place as quickly as we can.”
They started down the stairwell into whatever hell it was that Dumbledore, Grindelwald, had created to allow him to control the magical world forever.
37. Dark Prayer Circle
August 5, 11:47 am
Harry bit his lip as he eased down the stairs with Draco at his side. The sense of dancing through Hogwarts halls was gone as utterly as mist in a strong wind. His skin prickled with nervous sweat and his mouth was as sour as one of Dumbledore’s favorite lemon drops. Worse even.
The stairs went down about four floors, jogged to the right about twenty feet through a brick-lined passageway, and then went down another four floors. There was a jog to the left through a secret passageway with stone instead of brick, and then down another two flights of stairs.
To a door.
This one was wood, just common, ordinary wood like any other door in Hogwarts. The brass doorknob was bright and shiny like it had just been installed. Harry stared at it, stomach churning.
“Think it’s safe?” Harry asked.
“No, of course not,” Draco replied. He swallowed and Harry realized that the stomach-churning nerves were at least three quarters Draco’s nerves getting to him.
“All we have to do is focus on the prayer,” Harry murmured more to remind Draco than himself, but he needed a bit of reassurance, too. “Pray to Magic to let us bring light to the heart of darkness.”
“End the reign of night,” Draco agreed.
The nausea eased a bit as Draco breathed slowly and deliberately. Harry breathed with him, slightly surprised by how much the little meditative trick helped calm him down. After a few rounds of slow breathing, Harry reached out of the cloak and touched the doorknob.
“I’ll go through first,” Draco offered even though he blatantly, obviously, clearly did not want to.
“Pfft, no, don’t be silly,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “I’m the Gryffindor. You’re the Slytherin. I’ll go first and you be ready to pull me back through if something gets me on the other side.”
“Oh, well, I can do that,” Draco said much more confidently. “Don’t get killed.”
“You either,” Harry agreed.
He eased the door open, watching for a spell or an attack. Nothing came. To his surprise, the room on the other side of the door was a library of sorts. It was built kind of like an auditorium, one built in the round. There were bookshelves all along the walls of the room, then four levels that stepped down into a central area with what looked like an altar, a potions setup and something that, even at twenty or so feet of distance, looked like a butcher’s table covered with drying blood.
Harry really didn’t want to believe that there were very small fingers scattered on that butcher’s table, but it sure looked like it.
“I am very unhappy about that table,” Draco whispered.
“Me, too,” Harry agreed.
But there was no sign of Dumbledore so they didn’t have much of a choice but to sneak down into the library that must have been put in place by the Founders. Harry didn’t look at the books. No time, no interest, too afraid of what would happen when Dumbledore realized that they were there.
He could feel the magic rising from the Twins. It was the perfect counterpoint to the dark magic rising off the altar at the center of the room. Draco’s eyes had started to glow as Harry opened the door. This had to be the heart of darkness, the center of Dumbledore’s prayer circle.
“How long until noon?” Harry whispered. His fingernails were glowing, faintly, like he’d painted them with phosphorescent paint.
“Eight minutes,” Draco replied. His hand glowed brighter, so much so that his bones showed through the pale flesh.
They paused before stepping down into the center of the auditorium where Dumbledore’s horrible altar, bubbling potion and butcher’s table waited. Harry hissed because there was a black, glowing labyrinth carved into the stone floor surrounding the altar setup.
Not a big one. It was pretty simple, actually, with broad lines to walk down and only a few right-angle turns before you got to the center where everything waited. Dumbledore must not have wanted to go through a big process before he got to work.
Which he had.
Because the thing shimmered with magic. Harry could feel it pushing against his mind, his soul, his bond to Draco. They were too late, really and for true, because Dumbledore had already done his prayer and started to counteract what he and Draco had done.
Except not. Because if they did this right, they would be able to stop Dumbledore and his dark magic prayer / ritual thingie.
Once they got through his short, simple labyrinth.
But that was still a problem because simple and short or not, it was a good twenty feet across.
“Damn it,” Draco hissed. “We have to get to the center properly or the counter-prayer won’t work, Harry.”
“Tippy,” Harry called.
Tippy popped into the circle of the cloak, immediately wrapping his arms around Harry and Draco’s legs. “Tippy does not like it here!”
“Neither do we,” Harry said. “But we have to get into the center of his labyrinth, Tippy. Where is he?”
“Bad Dumbles is out fighting,” Tippy said, eyes wide. “Is laughing. Is saying that no one can stop him, that is all wasted effort because has already done his spell. He is not able to see the cloak. Is not able to see what is under it. Is not able to see you.”
Harry nodded slowly.
That was good. He’d hoped that the cloak would keep them safe and it had. But it wasn’t enough to keep the two of them safe now. They needed to head into the labyrinth and that meant following the prayer and they couldn’t be hidden to do that.
“Can we give Tippy the cloak?” Harry asked Draco because Draco was way better at tactics. “He could take it, go hit Dumbledore from behind or something and stay hidden. Or maybe use it to hide the elves. They’d all fit underneath it.”
Draco shuddered, blue eyes like neon lights now. “We certainly can’t use it. It would disrupt the prayer we’re doing. Tippy, you can’t fight Dumbledore, can you?”
“Is Headmaster,” Tippy said sadly. “We is not liking him, not trusting him, but we is not able to hurt him.”
“Then take the cloak and all of you go hide in the Come and Go room,” Harry said. “You should be safe there. It’ll keep you all away from him and the cloak will hide you. This should be over in like five, ten minutes. Come out after fifteen minutes or run away if we don’t win. But we’re not going to lose!”
Tippy bit his lip and then nodded, taking the cloak in shaking hands when Harry and Draco slipped out from under it. He held it to his chest, tears welling up in his eyes. Then Tippy bowed to them very, very formally, the sort of bow that Grandpa Arcturus and Amal said was best used for rulers and meeting foreign dignitaries.
“Tippy thanks Masters,” Tippy said.
“Be safe,” Harry said. He took Draco’s hand and smiled. “We’re gonna kick his butt. You’ll see.”
Draco laughed and shook his head fondly at Harry. “Yes, we are, though you don’t need to say it that way.”
To Harry’s surprise, Tippy giggled before he disappeared. With the cloak. Harry’s stomach lurched.
Right. Okay. It was fine. They’d do what they planned. They’d go through the mini-labyrinth, smash the altar or something, and then channel the magic the twins had raised.
“Let’s go,” Draco said.
“Yep, time to do the thing,” Harry agreed.
Dumbledore’s dark labyrinth had lines just wide enough for one grown man to stride through it. Two twelve-year-old boys couldn’t quite walk side by side, not as they were. But when Harry looped one arm around Draco’s waist, that gave them just enough room to step down onto the stained black line together.
Draco draped his arm over Harry’s shoulder, lips twitching with amusement. “It’s a good thing you’re so short, Potter.”
“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry huffed at him, amused despite the stern tone. He’d been thinking the exact same thing.
They took a breath in unison, put their right feet out in unison, and then stepped down onto the line as one.
Harry moaned as dark, bitter, bloody magic clung to his foot. “Oh, it’s awful!”
“Cut…,” Draco said, shuddering, “Cut to the heart of darkness, that’s what… what the prayer says. We won’t just walk.”
“We cut our way,” Harry said, straightening his spine and, by necessity, Draco’s too. “Right. Well, we’ve done worse. Let’s get to it. We only have a few minutes.”
“Three,” Draco agreed. “Best hurry.”
They took the next step, both glowing and gritting their teeth at the anger and pain and misery throbbing through Dumbledore’s labyrinth. Harry made himself breath slowly, forcing the air through his teeth. Every breath was a grimace, a punch to the gut. Every step was hauling himself forward after a Harry Hunting.
Beside him, Draco dragged his feet forward with the grim, cool determination that had let him… Oh.
Let him kill his father by goading Voldemort and thus trap Voldemort’s soul in the Malfoy Manor wards.
Huh. Kind of like how Harry and Dobby had saved each other by pure desperation and the refusal to give up.
Neither of them would give up now.
Too much was at stake.
Everything was at stake.
They looped around the altar at the center of the amphitheater, so close that Harry could have reached out to touch it if he dared. The magic crackling around it, black and red and evil, made that altar as far away as the moon despite its physical proximity. Where he’d gone around the outside of the Malfoy labyrinth and worked his way inwards, Dumbledore’s labyrinth was the exact opposite. They started at the center and looped their way outwards through four turns before they took the last straight approach to the heart.
Draco grunted when they reached the first turn of the labyrinth and the misery and pain turned into a surge of pure fury at the world.
“It changes,” Harry growled through his gritted teeth.
Draco just nodded. Their magic, the magic linking them back to Ivy and Dobby and the twins, dimmed a bit but Draco shut his eyes. His breath hissed through his nose because his lips were pressed together really tightly. Through the bond, Harry felt Draco reaching out to Ivy and the twins, accepting their magic, accepting their help even though he hated being weak, hated needing to show that weakness to others.
“Oh,” Harry breathed.
He flung his whole heart into it with Draco, pulling at the twins’ magic, pouring his thanks and love to Dobby who gasped and laughed off in the Forbidden Forest. For a moment Harry felt Dobby, saw what he saw, but then they hit the second turn.
Exhaustion landed on them.
Harry groaned and nearly fell to his knees. It was only Draco’s arm around his shoulders that kept him on his feet. Two steps later, Harry held Draco up when his strength gave way. The shimmering white magic that beat in time with their hearts, with the twins’ hearts, pulsed in their joined hands like a lighthouse seen from very far away.
It was so hard to keep moving.
“Last turn,” Harry gasped to Draco who nodded and wheezed.
They hobbled along together, dragging the light with them. It weighed so much. Harry had been forced to do chores as little boy, including mowing the lawn. Every time he dragged the overburdened bin of grass clippings back to the compost heap, it felt like this. Like dragging the whole world behind him, body aching, arms cramping, feet slipping on the ground.
But every step got them closer to the final turn that would take them to the heart and the altar.
They stumbled around the corner to the straight shot towards the altar, both of them gasping for air as the weight and exhaustion dropped into ice-cold determination that felt nothing at all like Harry or like Draco.
Ten slow, deliberate steps with the light rising around them to beat back the dark walls that rose up into a sky that was white with black stars.
Harry clung to Draco and made himself keep on pacing, keep on praying that this would work.
They were a spear bringing the light of hope into the darkness. They were twined souls working to save the world. They prayed, together, silently, lips moving and feet pacing as one towards the monstrosity that Dumbledore had created underneath Hogwarts.
“Lady Magic,” Draco whispered as the reversed sky trembled overhead and the black path cracked and showed gleaming rainbow ribbons of light below their feet.
“Grant us your aid,” Harry continued. He could hear the twins saying it, too, could feel Dobby and Ivy with their hands clasped tightly as they prayed along with them.
“Help us purify this place,” Draco said.
“Let us bring…”
“The light of Hope…”
“Into the heart of darkness…”
38. Hope and Light
August 5, 12:00 pm
“Lady Magic, give us your aid. Help us purify this—”
“Let us bring the Light of Hope into the Heart of Darkness.”
Draco shuddered as he heard the echo of Fred and George and Harry’s prayers fracture around him. Together. They had to pray as one. Perfectly as one. There could be no confusion, no division, no difference.
“Magic,” Draco said, knowing that they heard him as if they’d said the word themselves.
Ivy’s magic pulsed in time with Draco’s as she pressed her hand against the wards around Hogwarts. She’d gone down into the tunnel to get as close to Draco and Harry as she could. Tippy and the other Hogwarts elves were there, too, with Harry’s cloak.
They pressed their hands against the wards, reaching with the strange, shifting magic of the house elf out to Ivy who nodded and nodded and nodded.
“Yes,” Harry agreed.
He sucked in a breath that filled Draco’s lungs while Fred blew the breath out and George nodded. George pressed his hands to Fred’s, palm to palm. Around them the Forbidden Forest was dead-quiet, not one bird singing. Draco could feel the tiny mice and spiders and grass snakes, the acromantula and centaurs, the unicorns and thestrals, all frozen and trembling as the twins’ magic rose up once more.
“Lady Magic,” the twins said along with Harry and Draco who’d moved, somewhen while Draco’s mind was off in the Forest, so that they stood on opposite sides of the altar just as Fred and George stood on opposite sides of their old, worn, moss-covered altar.
“Give us your aid. Help us purify Magic. Let us bring the Light of Hope into the Heart of Darkness.”
The magic surged around them.
It burned and danced along the lines of Dumbledore’s dark labyrinth. Draco wheezed and shuddered at the weight of the magic, gritting his teeth along with Harry who panted and glowered at the altar which had blood stains coating the surface of it.
Blood stains and chips where a heavy blade had smashed down through something living, ending its life.
The altar burned with black, bloody magic, shoving Harry and Draco half a step away from it.
“Again!” George shouted.
“Yes,” Draco agreed.
He reached across the altar to Harry, linking their hands together. Not just palms pressed together this time. No, they laced their fingers together, braced their feet and pushed hard against each other, determined not to be dislodged this time.
“Lady Magic,” Draco/Harry/Fred/George said as one, words thundering around them, “help us purify Magic. Let us bring the Light of Hope into the Heart of Darkness!”
This time the altar screamed.
Draco/Harry/Fred/George saw Dumbledore’s head whip around, heard him yell “no!” They dismissed that as the bright/white/hot/wild magic rose in them. Around them. Through them. Draco’s bones flashed as bright as the sun. Harry’s teeth were searchlights as he grimaced and snarled and fought to stay right… there…
The altar screamed and screamed and screamed.
Baby’s screams. Animal screams. The screaming bleat of a sacrificed kid goat. The squeal of a dying piglet.
The sobbing screams of a girl.
“No!” Dumbledore shouted as he turned to run back into Hogwarts.
Draco/Harry/Fred/George watched, only watched because they had to hold the prayer, hold their plea to Lady Magic no matter what, as Professor McGonagall rose up on her knees and threw a cutting curse straight at Dumbledore’s back.
It shattered against a shield, but Dumbledore stumbled.
Remus howled like a wolf as he charged at Dumbledore on all fours, awkward and terrifyingly wolf-like despite being mostly human.
“No!” Dumbledore snarled.
He rolled and green light, Adava Kedavra, shot at Remus.
Tippy popped in the way, the dreadful green light hitting him in the chest. He fell to the ground, limp, eyes staring.
“Lady Magic,” Draco/Harry/Fred/George said around the tears rising, the pain, the desperation, “help us purify all Magic of His influence! Let us bring the Light of Hope into the Heart of Darkness!”
The altar rumbled underneath Harry and Draco’s arms.
All sense of individuality disappeared.
There was magic. Light and bright and wild and beautiful.
There was magic. Dark and bloody and painful and twisted with hate.
Two sides of the same thing. Wild and harsh, like a shifting, rag-clothed wolf hunting his prey, tearing its throat out, like blood spilling onto the grass while the wolf howled his fury at the clouds rumbling overhead.
Warm as blood, as the press of palms against one another.
As warm as a mother who screamed for her sons, restrained at the edge of a ritual circle overgrown with moss and flowers and grass and weeds.
Breath flowed into lungs.
Cracks snapped like thin ice fracturing under the weight of a tentative footstep, spreading across the blood-black altar.
It flowed out, warm, and moist like the blood slowly dripping down knuckles, falling onto a moss-green / blood-black altar.
Four drops hit the green/black altar(s).
Draco floated, hands aching.
Why did his hands ache? Had Father…? No. No, Father was dead. Draco had killed him to free himself and Mother.
…a ritual, Harry answered.
Damn good one, George said, laughter echoing even though there were no bodies, no voices, no eyes, nothing but the gentle white supporting the four of them.
Quite true, Forge, Fred replied. Worked pretty well for half-assing all the prep work.
Draco’s hands clenched despite the spike of pain from his hands. And…
“Harry!” Draco gasped.
He pulled, pulled as hard as he could with his broken hands and his magic and his soul, dragging Harry back out of the wild magic that was the heart of the ritual. At the same time, Draco felt Dobby pulling on his bond to Harry and Mrs. Weasley shouting as she tried to rouse Fred and George.
Best wake up, I suppose, Fred said with a sigh.
Woman just does not know when to let a man rest, George agreed with an identical sigh.
They faded away and the white/bright/warm/wild magic spluttered into shimmering motes that rained down around Draco.
And Harry, who lay in front of Draco on a pile of rubble that had once, very recently, been a blood-soaked altar. It was desperately uncomfortable to sprawl across it but that hardly mattered, not when Harry lay so still, and Draco hurt so very much.
Their hands were still joined.
“Harry!” Draco said, trying to work his hands free so that he could check for a pulse. “Damn it, Potter! Wake up!”
The instant Draco’s fingers loosened, Harry frowned and gripped harder despite the strange, wrong, way the back of his hand flexed. Draco could see bones shifting there, feel them grinding against one another.
“No,” Harry muttered.
“Damn your stubborn hide, wake up!” Draco bellowed. “That hurts!”
Harry gasped. His eyes flew open, the brilliant green barely visible because his irises had dilated so dramatically that his eyes look black. He peered at Draco, squinting, and then groaned as he slumped back against the rubble.
“We’re not dead?” Harry asked.
“We’re alive,” Draco said, laughing. “Could you possibly let my hands go, please? We broke each other’s hands.”
Harry peeled one eye open, looking at his arms with so much squinting that Draco resolved to get him to an eye Healer to see if he could have his eyes fixed. Later. Much later. After they were sure that Dumbledore was properly dead.
“Can’t feel my hands,” Harry admitted.
“Be grateful,” Draco muttered. “Right. Well, don’t fight me.”
Harry lay still, squinting, as Draco flinched and hissed his way through loosening one hand. Only after those fingers were free and Harry’s poor, misshapen hand flopped to the rubble did he yelp and let go of Draco’s other hand.
“Oh wow,” Harry whined, voice much higher than normal. “Ow. So much ow. Where’d my glasses go?”
“No idea,” Draco said.
He shuffled a little closer to Harry, hands clutched to his chest. They lay there together on the pile of rubble, just breathing as they worked to gather enough energy to get up and out of here. Draco dearly hoped that the others would make their way in here once Dumbledore was properly dead.
Or was he…?
“Did Remus rip Dumbledore’s throat out?” Draco asked, blinking at the torch-blackened arches of the ceiling as he tried to sort out if that’d been real or imagined or some sort of magical allegory that he would have to study for the rest of his life and leave reams of notes for their heirs to figure out.
“I… think so?” Harry said, humming. “Not sure. I mean, maybe? I didn’t know anyone could run like that. I think that part was real.”
“Which means…” Draco paused, heart lurching as he decided to test it. “Tippy!”
“Damn it.” Harry sniffled. “He was good. And brave. He shouldn’t have had to die.”
“No one should have,” Draco agreed. “Ivy!”
They both started as twin pops echoed in the Founder’s library. Ivy stared down at Draco. Dobby stared down at Harry, bottom lip trembling as if he were about to start sobbing.
“Master Draco is alive!” Ivy wailed, flinging herself on his stomach and clinging to him. “Ivy wasn’t sure that Master Draco would live!”
Draco wheezed and silently blessed the house elf ability to instinctively know what not to do. If she’d flung herself at his chest and hit his hands, Draco might have vomited all over everyone. He made soothing noises as Ivy wailed, but all his comforting noises did no good whatsoever. When he tried to sit up, Ivy shoved him right back down again and wailed harder.
“Master Harry,” Dobby said.
His voice came out hard, cold, angry. Draco’s head whipped around to stare at Dobby. Ivy stopped wailing, peeking up at Dobby with tears running down her cheeks.
“I know, that was really scary,” Harry agreed in a voice that was… was…
It was like the moment when Draco realized that Father was going to beat him, that Mother couldn’t stop it. The moment where he’d begged Dumbledore for sanctuary and realized, during Dumbledore’s twinkly-eyed reptilian smile, that he would never ever get it.
The moment where Harry stared at his hand on the train and looked back into Draco’s face with nothing but scorn.
That moment. That heart-stopping, sickening moment where you knew destruction was coming and there was nothing, not one single thing, you could do to avoid it.
Except that Draco’s bond to Harry echoed with the fear and love and pain that reverberated between Harry and Dobby. They were so very close to each other, so deeply bound to one another. Willingly. They had chosen one another. Where Draco and Harry were soul bonded by Lady Magic herself, Harry and Dobby had chosen one another.
And then almost lost each other as the wild magic pulled Draco, Harry, Fred, and George into it.
Dobby plopped down next to Harry, waving one hand, making all the rubble go away. In its place were two stretchers that lifted Harry and Draco off the floor smoothly. Only a few inches but it was definitely better than the rubble had been.
“Dobby wants to ask Master Harry to never, ever do that again,” Dobby said in that too-hard voice that didn’t wobble at all despite the wobbly desperation ringing through the soulbond to Draco.
“I’d promise but we both know me,” Harry replied way too calmly for his contrition, his relief, his exhausted joy that they’d survived.
“Potter, if you decide to go haring off to save the world again, I’m going to be very annoyed with you,” Draco snapped at him. “We’ve more than done our part. Let someone else, an adult this time, save the world. We’re going to go to school, figure out how to make babies together, and do nothing whatsoever dangerous ever again besides Quidditch matches. At which, I will absolutely slaughter you, thank you very much.”
Harry grinned. Ivy giggled.
Dobby sighed and shook his head so hard that his ears flapped. There were grass stains on his ridiculous yellow cabbage rose cargo pants’ knees. His shirt looked as sweaty as Draco felt. And he looked so tired, so very exhausted.
But he smiled, finally, patting Harry’s hip with a bloody, grass-stained hand.
“Who died?” Draco asked.
Someone had to have. He could feel it. He knew it. He just didn’t know who.
“Bad Dumbles is dead,” Ivy said. She let Draco go and levitated Draco’s stretcher. “Tippy died, too. He was saving Master Wolfy. Master Wolfy is very sick from Bad Dumbles’ blood and very upset about full change, but is alive. Professor Kitty is alive. Her elf Lilac isn’t. Lilac was taking a curse for her Mistress.”
Dobby levitated Harry. “Is Aurors who came and fought. They is hurt, too. But only a few dead here. Maybe others elsewhere. We is leaving now? Dobby is not looking too close at that potion. Dobby is really not looking at the table.”
“Uh, no,” Draco agreed. “Right. Well, can you get us back to the dungeon at the least? Or maybe the Hogwarts elves can help.”
“We is taking care of our masters ourselves,” Dobby snapped, glaring at Draco so fiercely that Draco instinctively held his hands up to ward the glare off.
Only to gasp and nearly pass out from the pain.
He dimly heard Dobby grumbling all the way up to the Great Hall, but most of his attention was on the throbbing in his hands and how utterly exhausted he was. The world narrowed down to a long, echoing tunnel along which Dobby’s voice carried.
Harry’s worry and exhaustion were right there with Draco at the end of the tunnel. It was hard to believe that it was done.
Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, was dead. Together, Harry and Draco had succeeded in stopping the most powerful Dark Wizard the world had ever known.
Draco wasn’t entirely sure.
“It means that we’re free,” Harry murmured to Draco as his eyes cleared enough to let him see the floating candlesticks overhead and the magically charmed ceiling which showed the thunderclouds slowly parting to let in beams of light that lanced down into the Great Hall like spears.
“To do what?”
Harry laughed quietly as Amal shouted and ran over to throw diagnostic spells at them. Professor McGonagall was right on his heels. Grandfather Arcturus had Fred in his arms while Mrs. Weasley had George half-draped over her despite Bill trying to get her to let him carry George.
“Whatever we want,” Harry said just to Draco as if the chaotic excitement wasn’t falling at them like an avalanche. “Whatever we want.”
“Sleep,” Draco said, sighing and relaxing back into his stretcher. “That’ll do for a start.”
“Agreed,” Harry said.
They couldn’t reach out to each other, not with broken hands, but that didn’t matter. The soulbond pulsed between them, strong and bright and beautiful with all the colors of magic. There were a million things that needed to be dealt with. Healing and cleaning up Dumbledore’s messes. Unlocking Malfoy Manor. Making sure everyone was freed from the warped blessing, all across the globe.
It could wait.
They were alive and free, now and forever. Everything else could wait now that they’d accomplished that one thing.
Draco shut his eyes and let himself drift off into sleep, the music of their soulbond humming around him with Harry’s contentment.
And his own, too.