Somewhere near the house, a spell flashed like white lightning in the sky . Harry was the first one at the window, ignoring Tonks and Lupin who both told him to get away for fear someone might see him. Which was nonsense, of course, since no one could see the house, let alone a window, so he paid no attention to them but instead watched a second light explode above the houses two or three streets over.
"Signal flares," Lupin said softly, standing over him. "Two white...the next one should be--"
Red sparks burst overhead, making the night sky look scarlet as they faded.
"It's a call for help," Tonks said, mostly for the younger members of the Order who'd never seen the old signals before.
Hermione and Ron both edged in close to the window, nudging Harry over so they could take a look, but without magic flashing in the sky, the streets looked as dark and dismal as they did every night. The streetlights flickered constantly, unable to work properly with the amount of magic swirling around them.
"I don't trust it," Lupin murmured. "Anyone in the Order could just apparate to the sidewalk."
"Maybe they're too hurt," Hermione said. "Or maybe there's a lot of them and they can't all get away--"
"Too many 'maybes'," Lupin said, closing the curtains again. "We can't risk going out until we know what we're facing."
"One of us has to go look," Tonks said. "I'll go."
Lupin looked up sharply at her. "There's no way you can sneak up on them. I'll go."
"Don't come after me unless you see another flare," he said over her, walking towards the front door. "I'll send up my own signal if it's not a trap."
They all watched him walk out and then there was an awkward silence as everyone carefully looked at anything but Tonks. No one wanted to mention how limp or faded she seemed again. No one said much of anything now, even to anyone in the Order. After Dumbledore's death and the recent assassinations of several more high Ministry officials, no one spoke about much except Order business, and even that was only on a need to know basis in case anyone was caught. To Harry, vital to the Order but too vital to be exposed to danger, even less information was given.
"Maybe it's best if you three head upstairs to wait," Tonks said.
"But what if it's a trap?" Ron said. "Someone should be down here--"
"I'm still a bloody Auror!" Tonks snapped, glaring out the window instead of at Ron. "Even if he's forgotten."
"But what if--" Hermione started.
Tonks cut her off before she could wind up, knowing that the young witch could be frighteningly tenacious if allowed to really get going.
"No what ifs. If there's trouble, we'll handle it. You can be of more help learning spells so you'll be ready when you come of age, so you should get upstairs and get back to studying."
Their mutual frowns made her sigh and drop the facade.
"Look, I know you want to help, and if I was in your shoes so would I. But even if you could, I can't let you out. It's too dangerous, especially for you, Harry--Harry?" She looked up and around the room. "Harry?"
"Oh, hell," Ron muttered, already knowing Harry was gone without looking. "Hermione, I thought you took it away from him?"
"I did!" She glared at him, managing to look wounded and annoyed at once. "Twice. I don't know how he keeps finding the stupid thing."
She looked back out the window, straining to spot any sign of him and knowing she wouldn't be able to see him if he was standing right in front of her.
Despite being invisible, Harry hugged the walls of the houses as he moved closer to the source of the lights. Spells flashed over and through the street, but these were no mere flares. Mailboxes were incinerated, chunks of the pavement blown out, streetlights snapped in half. Curious muggles lay prone on the sidewalk, caught by stray curses as the wizard war spilled out of control. The rest of the houses were dark with drawn curtains. Harry had no doubt that he'd hear police sirens soon. In the recent months since Dumbledore's murder, the Death Eaters had grown bold in their targeting of muggles. The police wouldn't have a chance.
He didn't see Remus, but he did see a group of hooded figures scouring the street, levitating and fling aside cars and dustbins and setting fire to houses. Harry frowned. The Death Eaters didn't look like they were destroying things for fun. They looked like they were searching for someone.
Something exploded far down the street, but he knew that curse didn't come from a Death Eater's wand. A green afterimage lingered in his eyes and he followed it back towards a dark space between two houses. He crept closer and looked into the narrow walkway. To his surprise, he found three figures crouched together behind a rusted gate, two of them sitting up with a third huddled in one's lap, and all of them covered in long cloaks with deep hoods. When one of them looked up to see if the Death Eaters had followed the distraction, Harry froze.
"A few more minutes," Severus whispered, staring at the hooded wizards as they headed towards the explosion. "We'll move when enough of them go."
"I don't think we have a few minutes." As the second one looked up, her hood fell back and revealed several locks of blond hair framing Narcissa Malfoy's face. "The potion's weakening. He could turn any moment now."
Harry edged closer, crouching low in case Severus decided to cast another spell, and he drew his wand as he prepared to stun them. He came so close that he was able to see the wizard in Narcissa's lap. Trembling as if he was freezing, Draco lay huddled in his mother's arms, his eyes squeezed tight as he bit down on his lower lip. Harry paused and stared down at him for several seconds, wondering if perhaps Draco was cursed or poisoned. Whimpering in a spasm of pain, he grasped his mother's hand and drew closer, as if her touch could protect him.
"I won't," Draco whispered. "I can hold it back."
A lone howl somewhere in the distance made them all freeze. At first Harry thought it was a stray dog but the second howl came closer, sounding more like Remus when he'd turned into a werewolf. Harry frowned. Tonight wasn't a full moon. How could any werewolf be transformed?
"How did he find us so quickly?" Narcissa breathed.
"We can't wait any longer," Severus said, extending his arm to her. "We'll have to run for Grimmauld and hope they don't spot us."
She took his hand and stood up, dragging her son to his feet. Draco stood bent over with his arms around his stomach, but he didn't look sick. He looked like he was holding something inside himself. With a deep breath, Harry aimed his wand at Severus. If he stunned Snape first, he could stun Narcissa and Draco easily
But before Harry could cast his spell, before any of them could take a step, a huge shadow fell over them and they all looked up. He froze. Fully transformed and much bigger than Remus, Fenrir Grayback looked less like a wolf and more like a demon. Fresh blood dripped from his jaws and he crouched down, snarling at the three wizards beneath him and preparing to leap in amongst them.
Gasping, Draco shoved his mother aside and ran from the alley, hitting Harry on the shoulder and stumbling into the street. Fenrir's head snapped up and he bounded after him. Narcissa shrieked and aimed at Fenrir, but her spells missed as the huge werewolf lunged across the rooftop and leaped to the street, landing hard enough to crack the pavement under his paws. Draco stopped so fast he nearly fell forward, unbalanced as he looked up. Fenrir towered over him, his fangs glistening and blood stained. Death Eaters and Harry alike stared at the pair, too startled to act. Even Severus drew short at the gate and watched, less in startlement and more in the certainty that he was going to see his godson ripped to pieces in front of him.
Taking a step back, Draco faced Fenrir with wide eyes, wincing as the wolf dropped to all fours and slowly stalked towards him, savoring the impending kill. Fumbling at the clasp holding his cloak, Draco finally tore it off and dropped it on the ground, backing up all the while. As Fenrir passed it, he snuffed the cloth, never taking his eyes off Draco, and once he was sure the cloak wasn't a trap, he kept coming.
Then Draco stopped backing up and brought his hands up to his shoulders, curling his fingers as he pressed his nails against his skin. Breathing so deep he seemed to be gasping, he hesitated for a second more before digging what Harry now recognized to be claws into himself, tearing off both clothes and human skin, revealing flashes of white amidst the spray of blood as his scream of pain turned into a howl until finally he fell to all fours. In place of the small Slytherin stood a gleaming white wolf.
Even transformed, the fight looked completely one-sided. Draco's wolf form was much slimmer and smaller than Fenrir's. His fangs, though impressive, couldn't match the larger wolf's and no matter how sharp his claws, Fenrir's looked like they could puncture steel. Harry wondered how Draco could even stand up to him, let alone hope to fight him.
"Get up, Narcissa," Snape hissed, grabbing her hand and yanking her to her feet.
"He's buying us time," Snape said. "The faster we go, the sooner he can run."
Severus led her down the dark alley and they disappeared. Harry didn't watch them leave, too entranced by the wolves before him. Fenrir began circling, his massive paws thudding on the ground as he paced around Draco, who slowly turned to always present his fangs, never his side. Draco snarled with every breath while Fenrir moved silently, his jaws grinning wide as he started snapping at the white wolf, taunting him.
Without warning, Fenrir leaped, trying to slam Draco into the ground, but with his smaller size Draco crouched low and bounded beneath him, landing lightly on his paws and whirling around so that he could lock his teeth around Fenrir's back leg. Blood spurted around his fangs and he fought to stay on his feet as Fenrir whipped back and forth, trying to reach around far enough to bite Draco. He's frantic kicking and bounding dragged Draco off his feet and flying around like a kite tail, but the white wolf never let go. Despite the danger, Harry laughed as the much smaller wolf made the bigger one howl.
At last Fenrir had the presence of mind to simply reared up on his haunches. Now he easily twisted and slashed with one massive paw at Draco. The claws caught the white wolf's shoulders, knocking him so hard that he lost his grip on Fenrir's leg and slid across the ground, rolling once and hitting the curb. He got to his feet again, but not with the same bounding motion as before. Blood colored the white fur of his shoulder and leg, and he reared up as well, his right front leg hanging limply from a broken shoulder.
With a snarl that sounded more like a satisfied laugh, Fenrir crouched low and sprang forward, claws extended, jaws wide. The white wolf snarled and crouched as if to take the hit, but instead he yipped in fear and scooted out of the way with his tail between his legs as Harry's incendio spell suddenly turned Fenrir into a ball of flames. The huge werewolf slammed into the ground and flailed around, in too much pain to think straight. Sparing Fenrir one last look to make sure he wouldn't follow, the white wolf limped away on three legs, heading into the darkness after Severus and his mother.
Lost in the muggle streets, Draco slowed to a slow limp and crouched in the shadows behind a parked car, turning his head and licking his wounds as he whimpered. Harry watched him for a few moments, wondering how much of Malfoy was in the wolf or if the wolf completely controlled Malfoy like it did Remus. But this white wolf looked nothing like Remus' form. Draco's white fur looked thick and healthy, and his body, though small, didn't have the starved and straggled appearance Remus' did. Most tellingly, Draco hadn't run off until he was sure Severus and Narcissa had safely disappeared, and no mindless werewolf would have had the presence of mind to wait.
As Harry walked closer, Draco's head snapped up and he sniffed the air, perking his ears. Although he couldn't see anyone, he growled and raised his hackles at the empty space. Harry realized the invisibility cloak was useless and slowly took it off, keeping his wand in hand as he looked at the wolf.
"Malfoy," he said softly.
The white wolf blinked but he didn't stop growling.
"Draco," Harry tried again. "Are you in there?"
The wolf got to its feet again, its growls steady and growing.
"I think I know where Severus and your mum went," Harry said quickly. "I can take you there...if you don't attack me."
He backed away as Draco came closer.
"Look, I know you don't like me but please, don't make me stun you. I don't think I could levitate you all the way back without the Death Eaters noticing."
Draco stopped moving when he mentioned Death Eaters and fell silent, but he didn't come any closer. Hearing Voldemort's followers attacking muggles and blowing up things in their search, Harry winced and looked back at Draco, wishing he had some kind of treat to give him to earn a little trust.
"We have to go before the Death Eaters look here," he said. "Do you want to see your mum? Narcissa? Then you have to come with me."
Harry didn't think it would work. If Hermione or Ron was standing next to him, they'd have stunned Draco by now and given him a harsh scolding as they took him back, if they didn't kill him outright. But there was something in Draco's eyes, an absence of bloodlust and a touch of something human, that made him think that he could reason with him, at least like he would with a child. And come to think of it, that was probably the only way anyone reasoned with Draco anyway.
If it was his kind voice or the Death Eaters' voices getting louder, Harry didn't know, but Draco dipped his head and limped towards him, sitting down at his feet. He didn't try to give him his paw or lick his hand, but from his labored breathing and the blood still flowing from his shoulder, Harry supposed even as a wolf Draco wanted a bodyguard. Harry smiled and nodded his head.
"Good, you're much easier to get along with when you can't talk. Now don't panic."
He spread out his invisibility cloak over himself, holding the edge up so Draco could still see him, and then dropped the rest of the cloth over the wolf. Walking bent over let him cover most of Draco but his tail swung free and Harry's feet were quite visible.
"Okay," Harry breathed, "let's go."
Despite all the dark wizards looking for him and a werewolf at his heels, the walk back to Grimmauld was surprisingly uneventful. He walked in the front door and gently took off the cloak, lest he startle the wolf. To his surprise, he heard Remus' voice matched with Snape's and Narcissa's, indistinct as they rose in anger.
Harry didn't notice Draco moving down the hall until he spotted the white tail waving in the air as he turned the corner and heard Remus' startled yell. He ran after Draco, hoping he wouldn't attack anyone, and breathed a sigh of relief when the wolf walked straight to his mother and leaned against her. His weight knocked her backwards, fortunately into a chair, and he put his head in her lap. Immediately she smiled and bent over him, completely forgetting her anger. Beside her, Severus also looked relieved but he remained standing, acting like a shield between them and Lupin.
"Merlin..." Remus whispered, staring at Draco open-mouthed. "You said he was a werewolf, not a wolf animagus!"
"He is a werewolf," Severus said, looking down at Remus. "Bitten by Fenrir Greyback himself nearly a year ago."
"But...but that's no werewolf," Remus said. "He's too...too..."
"Docile? Healthy?" Narcissa asked as she lightly touched her son's head as if he were human. "Of course he is. Unlike your kind, we take care of our bitten children."
The comment visibly stung Remus, and he glowered at Snape.
"How is this possible? It's not even the full moon."
At first Severus ignored the question, looking past him to Harry, who stared back with all the remembered animosity of Dumbledore's murder a year ago. Harry scowled and put his hand on his wand. Why was Remus letting him stand there and talk? Then Severus slightly inclined his head.
"Thank you for bringing Draco here," he said softly.
Harry blinked. And then Severus looked back at Remus, and Harry wondered if he'd imagined that.
"You've been taking wolfsbane," Severus explained as if Remus were Neville in a first year potions class, "like a good little Ministry-registered werewolf, holding the dark magic in check with poison. It's left your form more rat-like than wolf and exacerbated your bloodlust because your form is so starved and emaciated."
"Draco, on the other hand, takes a potion of my own creation. It calms him and gives him greater control over his dark instincts. And of course, there are the obvious differences between his form and yours." He looked down at Draco and focused on the blood-stained shoulder. Where the blood had once run freely, the skin had mended and the bones slowly but visibly moved beneath the skin, healing themselves.
"Why didn't you ever mention this before?" Remus demanded.
The glimmer in Snape's eyes told everyone exactly why he had left Remus poisoned and miserable, but Snape chose a more tactful lie. "After taking wolfsbane for so long, you are no longer capable of taking a different potion," he said simply. "And now, Lupin, shall we get to business? We have information, some of which will become useless shortly."
"I'd be a fool to trust you," Remus said. "I didn't bring you here to make you partners. Dumbledore said you were a loyal member of the Order, but you showed just how trustworthy you were."
"You have no idea what happened that night," Severus said, his voice tightening. "If I hadn't acted, I would have died, the dark lord would've killed Narcissa and Draco, and Dumbledore would still be dead."
"If you were in that much trouble," Remus scoffed, "why didn't you come to us for help?"
At her seat, Narcissa sighed and put a hand to her head. "Oh, this is such a long story. Harry, dear, could you possibly bring tea? And a bowl of milk for Draco, please?"
His immediate refusal faded as he thought about the second request. "Milk?" he gaped. "For a werewolf?"
"Don't be too surprised," she smiled. "He'd take bloody meat if you had it, but I think it best not to give him something that would excite him right now."
Harry hesitated, then looked at Remus who gave him a clipped nod. Wishing he'd kept Kreacher around, he went into the kitchen, moving as quietly as possible so he could hear Severus laboriously explaining some kind of vow, the dark lord's intention of punishing the Malfoys, and how Draco had been bitten by Fenrir. While they were talking, Harry wondered where Hermione, Ron and Tonks had gone and decided that the auror had probably forced them upstairs and refused to let them come down while there were two Death Eaters in the house. Since Hermione and Ron could both be extremely willful, Tonks probably had to sit on them upstairs.
With a tray of tea in one hand and a bowl of milk in the other, he went back up and set the tray on the table. Narcissa took the bowl from Harry and set it before her son.
"Could you warm it up, please?" she asked. "I'd do it myself, but...well..."
With a slightly downcast head and wisps of her long hair floating around her face, Harry thought she acted humble and exhausted quite well, but he'd seen her face twisted in haughty disdain before and she'd looked wide awake in the alley a few minutes ago. Before he could say anything, Remus cast the spell, seemingly fascinated to watch a werewolf lapping up milk. After a moment he looked back at Severus.
"We do need any information you have," he conceded, "and your skills even more. We still have a supply of veritaserum here. If you're not lying, you can stay. Don't expect a warm welcome, though."
Snape gave a small nod of his head. "We never do."
Administering the veritaserum went faster than Harry expected, and he wondered if Narcissa had asked for tea simply to expedite how quickly they could prove their semi-good intentions. They both answered Lupin's questions about the Death Eater plots they knew about, the recent disappearances of Ministry officials that were really assassinations, and especially the Ministry officials slated for assassination within the coming days. During the questioning, Draco finished his bowl and sat straight, watching both Remus and Harry. Unlike Fenrir's or Remus' eyes when they transformed, Draco's held a light of self-awareness more acute than a normal dog's. As he grew bored watching Remus, Draco slowly turned towards Harry and stared at him with his silver eyes. Harry swallowed reflexively but he stared back, never breaking his gaze until Draco finally looked away again.
During the interrogation, he also wondered why Remus let him stay here so long when he normally sent Harry upstairs whenever something interesting happened. Perhaps even Remus didn't want to be alone with two Death Eaters and one werewolf. That thought was confirmed when Tonks finally appeared in the doorway, tripping over the rug as she came in, and Remus looked over at Harry.
"Harry, please take away the tea and then head up to bed."
With an annoyed sigh he didn't bother to hide, Harry picked up the tray and was halfway to the door when Narcissa spoke up again.
"Oh my. I merely asked him for tea because he didn't look tired. I never imagined you treated the Boy Who Lived as your house elf."
For a moment he felt even more annoyed that she thought she could so easily worm her way into his good graces, but then he remembered that she was under veritaserum. He wasn't quite sure what to think.
"He's hardly a house elf," Remus snapped. "And now perhaps it's best to see you three to your room. I suggest you stay put until well after I've let everyone know you're here so no one hexes you."
"Stay under lock and key?" Severus asked softly, noticing that Remus had never put his wand away.
"For our own protection, of course," Narcissa said, staring at Remus out of the corner of her eye.
"Of course. The fourth floor bedroom is this way." Remus stood, but Severus waved his hand dismissively at him.
"We both know where that is," he said. "And I suggest that you not try to force your way in later, since we'll have our own locking spells on the door from our side."
Narcissa stood up and followed after Snape. With a tired huff, Draco followed at his mother's heels and passed Harry without a glance, heading upstairs behind her. Harry watched them go, not moving when he felt Remus come up beside him.
"I haven't forgotten that you followed me against orders," Remus said. "But we can deal with that tomorrow. Go on up to bed now."
Annoyed by the dismissal, Harry scowled and headed upstairs, but instead of stopping at the room he shared with Ron and Hermione, he kept walking. Glancing over his shoulder once, he threw his cloak back over himself and quietly went up the next flight of stairs, spotting Draco's tail as he went into the spare bedroom. The door clicked shut and locked, and then he heard several locking charms and even a few curses placed on the door. Harry crept closer and knelt by the door, wishing he had one of the special listening devices the twins had developed.
"I admit, I'm impressed you got us this far," Narcissa whispered. "But do you really think they'll..." Her voice faded as she walked further from the door. Harry strained to hear, but he only caught the words Draco and Azkaban. After a few minutes, the sounds stopped and Harry figured they had gone to sleep. With a frustrated sigh, he walked back downstairs and into an ambush of questions the moment he stepped into the room he shared with Ron and Hermione.
Like every night since Voldemort punished the Malfoy family for Lucius' failures by cursing the only heir, shrieks and howls and slaughter filled Draco's dreams. Through unfamiliar forests he bounded over fallen trees, raced over the dying grass, splashed through brooks and turned sharply on one paw as his prey darted this way and that, running from his teeth.
Pine needles, upturned dirt, broken branches and his prey's fears mingled with a hundred other scents in the night air. Crickets fell silent as he passed, the entire forest became as quiet as a grave. His paws hitting the ground echoed his prey's wild heartbeat. He dashed forward and pounced, heard a scream cut short. With a mouthful of blood, he turned the body over to get at the throat and looked into his own grey eyes.
Like every night since the start of his curse, Draco bolted upright on the floor. As his heart slowed and he breathed deep, he looked around, trying to remember where he was. In blurry snippets, he remembered fighting Fenrir, limping after someone he didn't recognize, and then drinking warm milk before going to sleep. A blanket covered him and a pillow lay on the thick rug beneath him. Perhaps they had made it to Grimmauld place after all.
He stood up and scanned the room. Though dark, the moon gave him enough light to see his mother and Snape asleep in two beds. Reassured by their presence, he crept by and opened the closet in the corner, picking out a spare robe and pulling it around his shoulders. It smelled dusty and fit too big, the sleeves ending several inches over his hands, but at least he wasn't naked. Almost swallowed up in the robe, he walked over to the window and sat down on the sill, staring at the muggle houses and electric lights.
He stayed there until the sky turned blue with the dawn. As light trickled into the room, Snape woke up and stepped out of bed almost fully dressed. Glancing at Draco once, he took his wand from beneath his pillow and cast a couple of charms to properly fit and clean the robes.
"Is anyone else awake?" Snape asked.
Draco shook his head. "I haven't heard anyone. Who am I listening for?"
"Members of the Order of the Phoenix. Several of them are here, but we should especially be careful of Remus Lupin."
"Lupin?" Draco looked up at that. "The werewolf? I assume he saw me. How'd he take it?"
"Better than I would have liked," Snape said, but he smiled faintly as he said it. "I'm afraid he saw you drinking milk last night. He probably imagines that you're some kind of watered down wolf cub."
The thought irritated him but at least if they thought he was a tame wolf, then they wouldn't insist on locking him up.
"Let him," Draco said. "There may come a time when we need them to underestimate me."
"It's already benefited us. Lupin administered veritaserum on us, but as you were a wolf at the time, you escaped his notice. If you keep up a pretense, they will assume you are still a spoiled little coward."
"'Still'?" Draco only smiled and let it pass. "Fine. I'll play the childish Malfoy. Won't be too hard, really."
"Draco," Severus said softly. "You are of age. Without your father present, you are the head of the Malfoy family. We need you at your best. We can't do this without you."
"You mean, 'don't screw this up.' Don't worry, I won't. I want father back more than anyone."
An hour after dawn, Lupin brought up their breakfast and informed them of their expected duties. He mentioned the Order's need for more potions, poisons, and healing draughts and explained that while ingredients were hard to come by, he would procure whatever they needed. While he spoke, he could not help stealing glances at Draco, looking for signs of fatigue, depression or plain moodiness. Instead he looked well rested if somewhat nervous, almost hiding behind his mother.
"--the greenhouse," Narcissa said.
Remus looked back at her with a furrowed brow. "I beg your pardon?"
"I said," she repeated, smiling a little too nicely, "why not use the plants in the greenhouse? I'm sure they're still--"
"What greenhouse?" Lupin asked.
"Why, the one behind the house, of course."
"But there is no greenhouse here."
"Oh, Remus dear. This is the house of the most noble and ancient family of Black. Surely you didn't think that the main building is all there was?" She set her plate aside and stood, giving Draco's sleeve a little tug so that he followed close at her side. "Shall we show you?"
She led them downstairs, ignoring the door to the kitchen and the sounds of several Order members speaking inside. Inside the living room, however, she found Harry sitting alone on a couch, as if waiting for them. Harry met Draco's gaze and blinked at the confidence there until Draco looked away quickly.
"Good morning," Narcissa said, inclining her head slightly and not paying attention when he nodded back.
Instead, she stepped up to the window that looked out over the backyard. Running her hand along the windowsill, she found a second latch that was little more than a piece of metal stuck over what felt like a stripped screw, looking more like a broken hinge than a latch. She flipped it and the wall shimmered, revealed the window to really be a hidden door. It opened not into the backyard but into a glass greenhouse covered in long overgrown vines.
"Merlin," Lupin whispered. "This was here the whole time?"
"It takes a dark wizard to find out a dark wizard's secrets," she said. "I suppose you never let Severus examine the house."
From Lupin's look, they hadn't. Severus smiled and walked inside the greenhouse, already mentally cataloging the supplies that he could see. Narcissa sent Draco in after him, but she paused when Lupin called her back.
"We found infestations of dark creatures in the rest of the house when we came here," he said. "We should clear the greenhouse before you use it. It looks even worse than the whole house did before."
"Clear it?" she asked. "Remus, it's always looked like that. It's the garden of dark wizards, remember? Or did you want to look through to make sure there was nothing we could use against you?"
"I told you not to expect us to trust you," he said.
"I didn't expect you to get in our way of creating poison for your war effort," she said, her smile never faltering. Her smile never turned sugary or devious. She simply looked like a good wife hosting a particularly troublesome party guest. "If you like, you can watch us and look over the place, but we really do have work to get to. The potions you want are quite time consuming. Even with all of us working, we won't finish the first batches before nightfall."
Loathe to trust her and loathe to delay her work, Lupin looked about to walk into the kitchen to draft someone to watch over them when Harry stood up.
"I can watch them," he said.
Lupin shook his head. "I'm afraid that's out of the question. I simply can't trust them with you."
"Why not?" Harry asked. "They already took veritaserum. If they wanted to hurt me, they'd have said so."
"It's not like I'm doing anything here," Harry said. "Except fetching tea. Or would it be all right if I played house elf all day?"
"I think tea is a wonderful idea," Narcissa said. "Darjeeling if you have it, please. And perhaps breakfast for yourself? I don't think you've eaten yet and I shouldn't like to put you out."
"Right," Harry said, and went into the kitchen before Lupin could say anything.
The werewolf turned and glared at Narcissa. "Don't think you can talk your way through everything. You are only here because we need you. If you become more trouble than you're worth, you'll be in Azkaban before you know it."
"You shouldn't blame us because the boy stifles under a short leash. In any event, when he comes out safe and sound tonight, you'll see your fears are groundless. We don't serve the dark lord or intend to hurt the boy. Or don't you trust your own veritaserum?"
While they waited, the sounds from the kitchen died away to an awkward silence. No doubt Harry had told them who the tea was for. When he came back, he pointedly did not look at Lupin but rather followed behind Narcissa. No one was surprised when Lupin also followed them in.
The Black greenhouse was as might be expected after letting the plants and creatures within have free reign for years. Vines grew up and around the tables, shelves and ceramic pots, even curling through the broken glass until the entire greenhouse looked like a jungle cave. Black flowers bloomed along the vines, matching the deep blue flowers that had completely taken over the middle table. Scattered across the tables against the wall were several racks holding glass vials, a few of them toppled over and spilled as the plants grew around them, but most of the racks were still upright holding whatever the last person inside had left.
"Draco," Severus said, "we'll need those midnight orchids ground into a pulp. Get to it."
With a small nod, Draco turned and picked up a knife lying on a cutting board, its edge a little rusty and covered with a line of mold. "Um, Severus? Could you clean this off?"
A quick scourgify and sharpening charm made the knife serviceable again and Draco began working, neatly slicing off the blossoms within reach. After a few minutes he couldn't reach any more. He wasn't that short, but he had to lean across the wide tables to reach the walls. He pushed a hand down on the table and winced as it creaked. It didn't sound like it could take his weight.
"Not tall enough?" Harry smirked, coming next to him.
Draco brushed a few strands of hair from his eyes before he looked up at Harry. The Boy Who Lived had certainly grown an inch or two, even if his hair was still an unkempt bird's nest and his glasses were as unbecoming as before. Draco acted like a helpless and frightened boy, certainly not like the head of the family Malfoy. He didn't try to act spoiled, though, afraid of reminding Harry of what he'd done to him over their school years.
"They're too high for me," he said softly, opening his hand and holding the knife in his palm, offering it to him. "Could you get a few for me please?"
Harry blinked once. Draco had said please? And looked so deferential that he hardly looked like the same Slytherin who'd fought him in the bathroom. His smirk disappeared as he turned and started cutting off blossoms. His own cuts were not as precise as Draco's. The stems were thicker and stronger than he first thought and needed a firm hand to take each flower off.
Holding each blossom in his left arm, he finally turned when he couldn't hold anymore and spilled them into Draco's waiting hands. Their dark coloring against Draco's pale skin and eyes made the Slytherin look like a ghost.
"Thank you," Draco said, putting the flowers on the table. "You can set the knife aside. I don't need it now."
"What are you doing?" Harry asked, looking over his shoulder.
"I need to pluck off their petals and grind them up. We just throw away the stems."
He paused. Harry wasn't moving.
"If...if you'd like to help," Draco said, "you could help me take the petals off."
From his spot in the corner near the door, Lupin cleared his throat.
"Malfoy, I don't think that would be wise. Harry is not a potions expert."
"He can handle ingredients well enough," Draco said. "I worked with him in potions class for years."
"The boy will not turn dark or be poisoned from handling flowers," Severus said. "And it's true, he's vaguely competent if he's only handling ingredients. Even he can pull a few petals off a flower."
In her own corner directly opposite from Lupin, Narcissa kept her back to him to hide her smile. Best to keep her mouth shut for now, after she'd won getting Harry inside here. And she didn't have to speak this time anyway. Her companion and her son were doing fine enough without her. So was Remus, although he didn't seem to realize how his behavior was pushing Harry towards them.
"You don't have to worry about crushing them," Draco told Harry as he pulled a large white bowl towards himself. He had to wipe the dust from it, but after a moment it was clean and usable again. "Just try not to tear the petals. We'll need every last bit."
Harry nodded once and began working, dropping the petals in by the handful. It was easy work and far more interesting to watch the dark wizards than to sit in the living room staring at the wallpaper.
"Malfoy? Why didn't you use your wand to clean the bowl?"
Draco paused, then slowly continued pulling apart flowers. "I don't have my wand. Fenrir bit it in half."
"Fenrir?" Harry whispered. "When he--?"
"When he bit me," Draco said in a low voice. "The dark lord sent me to him. During the attack, I lost my wand."
"You-Know-Who gave you to Fenrir?" Lupin asked. "Why didn't you come to us for help?"
"Either I went to Fenrir or he would have killed my family. There was no choice."
"What happened when he attacked you?"
Draco slammed the orchid in his hands on the table, twisting it between his fingers.
"What do you care?" he said, not looking at him. "Want to compare notes? Show off scars?"
Lupin sat back in his chair and held a hand up in way of apology.
"Sorry. I shouldn't have...I suppose I've simply had more time to adjust to it."
In a way, he felt a little better. Snape's new potion could not be such a panacea if Draco reacted so harshly to his question. Usually werewolves were moody or depressed, but Draco looked like a jittery cat.
Focusing solely on his work, Draco ground up a handful of petals at a time, nodding when Harry could dump another bunch into the bowl. When they needed more flowers, Harry immediately cut more from the vines and offered them up.
"I think this will be enough," Draco said when he had thin layer at the bottom.
He looked around the table for a moment, pushing aside plants and broken pots until he found what he wanted, a curved metal plate on four small legs. His hand automatically went to his side, and he closed his eyes. So many months afterward and he was still reaching for a wand. He glanced at Lupin and looked away quickly when he realized Lupin was staring at him.
"I need you to cast a spell for me," he murmured to Harry. "Seadwefyr."
"What's it do?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"It just lights a fire on the plate here," Draco said, tapping the metal dish in front of him. "But it has to be a specific fire. Please?"
"What was it again?"
"Seadwefyr," Draco said and hoped that Lupin wouldn't hear.
Unfortunately Harry had never outgrown his habit of calling out his spells, so his incantation echoed through the greenhouse and probably in the living room, too. In an instant, Lupin was at their side, one hand wrapped tight around Draco's arm, jerking him forward.
"You may be a dark wizard," Lupin said lowly, almost sounding like a growl. "But Harry is not."
"It's just one spell," Draco winced.
He leaned back, trying to squirm out of Lupin's grasp. He couldn't, but in doing so he made himself look even smaller. Without a wand, he seemed helpless.
"It can't hurt him!"
Narcissa whirled, already reaching for her wand, but Snape's hand on her shoulder stopped her. She looked at him in surprise and, when he slightly shook his head once, waited beside him.
"Remus, what's wrong with you?" Harry demanded, standing between him and Draco. "Ever since they got here you've been treating them like dirt."
"You know what they're capable of, Harry. Snape killed Dumbledore, for Merlin's sake! You more than anyone else should understand why you mustn't trust them."
"Of course I don't like them, but you put them under veritaserum." Harry tilted his head. "Why bother if you weren't going to trust them anyway?"
"Just because they didn't lie doesn't mean they told us the truth," Lupin said. "And you must not cast dark spells. You don't know the risks."
Harry paused and stared at him for a moment. "If one dark spell was enough to put me at risk, I wouldn't be asking you to let go of him now."
Draco didn't look anywhere except the floor, but he heard that and considered it. Harry and Lupin were having a different conversation now and he wasn't sure what it might be. Whatever it was, though, he wanted to know.
At last Lupin released his arm. Draco drew back and rubbed the spot where Lupin had held him, certain that it would bruise. It wasn't hard to act like a frightened child with the older wizard still towering over him and he shied away, bumping into Severus. He looked up in surprise. His godfather never came close enough to touch him in front of others.
"If you are quite done intimidating a wandless wizard much smaller than you," Severus said, sneering at Lupin, "I suggest you let us get back to work."
"Which would be done much faster without you supervising us," Narcissa said, all pretense of being nice stripped away. "So quit breathing down our necks."
"If you think I'd leave you to your own devices--" Lupin started.
"I'll stay," Harry said.
For a moment no one said anything. Lupin stared at him, wanting to argue but loathe to do so again in front of the Slytherins.
"Harry," Lupin said, clearly choosing his words carefully. "Are you sure? Veritaserum aside, they have not earned our trust."
"Believe me," Harry said, "no one hates Snape more than me. But I'm sick of sitting around. At least here I can sit around and do something."
Wordlessly Lupin glanced up at Snape, who glared back.
"The boy could not learn basic potions or spells in six years," Severus said. "I doubt he will learn our evil dark magic in a few hours."
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Lupin ignored him. "I'll be back at lunch time. Harry, don't let any of them out without an escort, understand?"
"Yes, Remus." Now that he'd gotten his way, Harry saw no reason to antagonize the older werewolf.
"I'll lock the door. You know the password." Remus gave one last warning glare to Severus and Narcissa before walking out and closing the door behind himself.
"Finally," Narcissa muttered.
With a huff, she turned back to her work, cutting into stems with a severity that betrayed her ill humor. Severus noticed and kept his mouth shut. He didn't want to attract her attention while she was upset, but he also wanted to hear anything that passed between Draco and Harry.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked, coming back to Draco's side. "I don't know what got into him."
Draco turned towards Harry, then slowly raised his face until their eyes met. "He's just worried about you. Your kind doesn't know much about dark wizards except hearsay, and--well, sometimes we aren't very nice, either."
Making a show of being nervous, he brushed a stray wisp of hair from his eyes and looked down again. "Potter, I...I want to..." He sighed and started again. "I'm sorry. If I'd known then everything I know now, I would've been so different. I wouldn't have..."
"Treat me like shite?" Harry asked, an edge creeping into his voice. "Get the newspapers to say mean things about me and my friends? Help that bitch Umbridge nearly ruin Hogwarts?"
Draco winced as if struck. "I didn't know," he whispered. "I believed what I was told. I didn't know they were afraid of him, that they told me everything just to keep me safe from him."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, then looked up as Narcissa looked over her shoulder at him.
"The dark lord used our children to watch us," she said softly. "Children slip so much easier than adults. If Draco had known how afraid we were, that we served out of fear, the dark lord might have seen our disloyalty."
"So instead you killed people," Harry accused. "You killed Dumbledore to save yourselves."
"We had no choice," she said, her voice breaking slightly. "I don't know why you aren't afraid of him, but he terrorized us for so long. When he came back it was like a nightmare I couldn't wake up from."
"Right," Harry said. "And why should I believe you?"
"Because Remus distrusts us so much," Snape said, "that we are still under the effects of the massive dose of veritaserum he gave us."
"And you're compelled to answer, aren't you?" Harry asked. "Why did you kill Dumbledore?"
"Because he ordered me to," Snape said readily as if he'd expected that question. "He didn't believe he would survive to the end of the year, and he told me that his life was worth keeping my duplicity against the dark lord a secret."
"We were surrounded by several Death Eaters and Dumbledore was already dying," Severus snapped. "Even though I don't know what he was dying of. I couldn't have done anything else."
Harry tilted his head. Snape couldn't have known he'd seen everything. If this was a lie, it was a damn good one.
"I know you'll never think of us as friends," Draco said, careful not to look up but to rather project a feeling of repentance. "But perhaps we don't have to be enemies?"
Harry gave him a wary look, glanced at Narcissa and Severus who were back to working on their own potions, and then stared back at Draco. Six years of hell and then Dumbledore's assassination to top it all off did not convince him of Malfoy's good intentions. But then Draco had no wand and was trapped in this house amongst members of the Order who hated him. He couldn't even get away from Remus when the older werewolf started to hurt him. In fact, neither Snape nor Narcissa had gone to his aid. Perhaps they really were afraid. And Draco was such a docile, tame wolf that Harry thought for sure it had to reveal at least a little of Draco's true character.
"No," Harry murmured. "We don't have to be enemies."
Draco looked up with a surprised smile, but he couldn't help a flinch as Harry took purposeful steps toward him. Every time Harry had come toward him like that, something painful had happened. As Draco leaned back, raising one arm as if to defend himself, Harry stopped just out of arm's reach.
"It's all right," Harry said. "I won't hurt you."
I'll believe that when I see it, Draco thought, but he kept that thought to himself. He lowered his hand and let his smile return naturally, knowing that if he tried to force it, it would look fake. With Harry still watching him, Draco found that he wasn't quite sure what to do next, so he cleared his throat and motioned at the flowers overhead.
"I'll need more of those," he said. "If you don't mind, that is."
"Not at all."
And while Harry sounded confused by the dark wizards' collective behavior, he didn't snap at them for the rest of the day. He did trade several barbs with Severus, but none of them expected any less.
When noon rolled around, Harry left them to retrieve their lunches, finally giving Draco a chance to turn his back to the door and grin. He couldn't give into the urge to laugh, not with Harry and the Order so close, but he saw his mother and Severus smiling softly in kind.
"Masterfully done," Severus whispered.
"I take it back," Narcissa said to Snape. "This plan might actually work."
Still smiling, Draco went back to mixing his poison. The plan had to work if he had any hope of seeing his father again. For that, he'd risk anything, even the ire of the Order of the Phoenix and the rage of Harry Potter. His hand motions lulled him into a reverie as he considered their subterfuge. Everyone knew that snakes could be charming, but lions always arrogantly assumed themselves to be above such seduction, even when they knowingly invited in vipers.
Poison covered the living room table and the floor, slowly piling up as Draco and Harry carried the results of three days worth of a marathon of brewing out of the greenhouse. Draco was careful to keep close to Harry, always watching the Weasleys who stood nearby taking stock of their new arsenal. Arthur was distantly hostile, refusing to sully himself by trading barbs with a dark wizard, but Draco mostly worried that Ron or Ginny or especially the twins might try something despite the presence of their parents. Even Molly, so nice to everyone else, glared at Draco like a mother bear defending her cubs.
"You sure this is all legitimate?" Ron asked, pausing as he counted a set of squat little jars. "Malfoy might be passing off a whole lot of snake oil."
"It looks legitimate," Hermione said as she held one to the light.
Biting back an insult, Draco bore the slur to his abilities and set a box down by the greenhouse door. There was barely any space left in the small room, especially with so many red headed children taking up valuable space.
"I watched them make it," Harry said, looking around for a spot for what looked like two wine bottles. "It's good. Well, bad, I guess."
"Then why's only the little snake out here?" Fred asked, glancing at Draco as if he'd like to do something vicious to him.
George nodded once. "The other snakes didn't want to do any real work?"
"They shouldn't have a choice," Ginny muttered.
She set down a jar of white adder's tongue so hard that Draco winced. That poison burned like acid. If she broke the glass, it would splash into her face and hands and eat her skin down to the bone before anyone could help her. So he kept his mouth shut and hoped she would indeed get too careless.
"Careful," Granger muttered, rushing to her side in a blur of bushy hair and grabbing Ginny's hand.
"I already told you," Harry said, picking his way over stray jars towards Ron. "They're sick. They breathed in something while they were brewing and they're still in bed."
"Think they'd like visitors?" Ron asked with a grin.
Molly whipped her head around to glare at her son. "You won't go near that room, you hear me? If I find out any of you have snuck by, I'll have your hides!" With a shudder, she stared at the rest of her children and loomed over them. "Bad enough there's dark wizards in the house, but to think my own children might go looking for trouble--"
"It's all right, mum," George said, his voice rising above his siblings' voices as they swore obedience. "We wouldn't do that."
Draco set down the last bottle, a heavy globe full of a swirling blue liquid, and sighed as he stood. "That's it," he told Harry. "We can't make anymore unless you get--"
They all turned as Remus came into the parlor, his arms full of a box that clinked as he walked. The werewolf smiled and picked his way over the rows of vials, almost losing his balance among a batch of Basilisk's Breath. Draco felt himself tense in anticipation. If Remus smashed one, his werewolf blood probably wouldn't heal a leg suddenly gangrenous, but as much as Draco would have loved to see that, he knew he would bear the blame as well. To his relief and disappointment, Remus came through without accident.
"Here you are," Remus said, pushing the box into Draco's arms. "Like I said, we'll get everything you need. Well, you already have our next list. Go on, back to work."
Draco looked inside at the jumbled assortment of glass containers. It looked like Remus had rummaged around for every empty bottle--was that a vase?--that he could find. He sighed. He'd have to arrange them and see what he had before he could start making batches to fill them. With a mumbled reply, he turned and headed back to the greenhouse.
"Fred, George, can you keep an eye on him?" Remus asked behind him. "Give Harry a break from it for awhile?"
Draco didn't drop the box, but he nearly crushed it and everything inside as he clutched it tight like a shield. He spun around to face them with wide eyes and took a step back, bumping into the doorframe.
"Remus!" Molly started. "It wouldn't be safe for them to--I mean, I just told them not to go near any of those dark wizards and Harry already has him well in hand..."
Her voice trailed off as she looked at Draco and saw him glance away at the floor. His fear was more than obvious.
"Believe me," Remus said. "I wouldn't risk the boys' welfare. Of the three of them, Draco is the least dangerous."
"Oh," she murmured. "Well, I suppose if you're sure he won't try anything."
"He's a timid little thing," Remus assured her. "Even his werewolf shape is docile."
"You shouldn't underestimate him," Harry said. "I really should stay. Being scared just makes him that much worse when he does fight."
Not sure if he should be grateful or insulted, Draco kept his mouth shut. Begging to have Harry stay would be suspicious. Begging not to be under the twins' heels would make them more eager. And pleading that Remus had given them veritaserum to ensure their service would remind the older man that Draco had never taken any in the first place.
"You've watched him for three days," Molly said firmly. "You need a break. And besides, it's Fred and George. I'm sure they can handle one dark wizard together if need be."
She took another look at Draco to reassure herself of it, but she didn't change her mind.
"But--" Harry said.
"I need your assistance with a project of mine anyway," Remus said. "Well, mine and Arthur's. We're trying to charm a few muggle items and your experience with the muggle world would really make things go faster."
Draco knew there was no hope of swaying Harry then. At the offer of doing something useful, Harry's eyes lit up and he followed Remus out of the room without another word. Why would he want to bother watching Draco? He watched Harry vanish up the stairs as Molly organized her children into moving things.
Stung that his plan had stumbled, Draco ducked back into the greenhouse and set the box on the table. One by one, he emptied out every bottle and began sorting them by size. It would be all right, he consoled himself. Clearly Remus only made the offer to Harry to separate them. When Harry realized that Remus and Arthur didn't need his help, he'd come back out of indignation. And be twice as reluctant to leave again. And maybe even feel a little camaraderie with him?
"And while I'm wishing," he sighed, "I'd like my wand and my broom back."
"Hey, ferret," one of the twins snapped behind his back. "You're s'posed to be making poison, not playing with the bottles. Quit stalling."
The room seemed to shrink as they came up behind him and he hunched his shoulders, tensing in case they hit him. He hoped his hands wouldn't shake as he lined up rows of glass, but of all the Weasley's, the twins frightened him the most. All of Slytherin had been glad to see them leave Hogwarts, but even before then he'd had Vincent and Goyle and his Inquisitors behind him for support.
"I have to know what I have here before I can make anything," Draco said, stumbling over his words.
He put his fingertips to his face trying to rub away his growing headache. If Harry had been here, he could've given him a clear explanation about potions needing certain size containers. Little bottles were for quick, individual use. Large bottles were for wide open spaces. And wine bottles...he sighed and pushed the handful of wine bottles to the corner. Those just meant you were running out of bottles.
But Harry was not here, and his words tangled up in his mouth, and the twins loomed over him as if they wanted to eat him. He tried to sort everything in front of him but he heard them breathing behind him. Their shadows made the room turn cold and dammit, why did they have to be so damn tall? He put his hands on the nearby knife just so they wouldn't have it.
"C'mon, you little snake." One of them, he could never tell them apart, shoved his side. "Get to work."
"Yeah," said the other. "I want to see how a dark wizard works. Think he uses his own blood?"
"If he can't get anyone else's. Why, you donating?"
"No, but I could help him donate his own."
Why did he have to be so scared of everything? As Draco cut small red flowers from a vine hanging low from the ceiling, he fantasized all the ways he could hurt them. Slit their throats. Spill poison on them. Turn into a werewolf and rip them to pieces. Steal one of their own wands and set them on fire. He knew he could probably pull that last one off, too. Years of Quidditch had honed his reflexes.
But he wouldn't. He knew he wouldn't, even if it wouldn't jeopardize his family's plan for rescuing his father. They were bigger and meaner than he was, and he was alone. The thought paralyzed him. At least being mauled by Fenrir had been quick and straightforward. The anxiety here felt like thick, suffocating smoke.
Hours went by with their idle comments providing the only sound in the greenhouse. Draco worked as silently as possible, afraid to draw attention to himself. If Harry had been here, Draco would have felt comfortable asking him to cast spells to light his cauldron fires or mix a potion properly. He would never ask anything of the twins. Instead he harvested all the ingredients he'd need as soon as Narcissa and Severus were well again.
When the sun set, the half moon didn't provide enough light to work by. Draco picked up the lantern standing on the corner of the table and hung it over his workspace. Fortunately it didn't require a wand to work. The flame inside ignited and sprinkled light in a crescent around him. In the soft glow, his pale hands looked warm and his reflection in the glass looked healthy and threatening again. Shadows played over his eyes, blending with the vines creeping across the greenhouse. He touched his fingertips to the flowers along the glass. Within the darkness, he felt a little more secure.
As he ground up belladonna petals in a mortar, he glanced over his shoulder at the twins. They'd both jumped up on one of the emptier tables and leaned against the glass wall, their legs drawn up as they took turns trying to toss mistletoe berries into a spare flowerpot.
"Never knew Colin had it in him," one said. "Sneak in, take pictures of a Death Eater stronghold, and sneak out again."
"It was his own house," the other pointed out.
"Yeah, but that's even worse, isn't it? Lose your parents and try to sneak around the bastards that took your home to top it off." He sighed and tossed another berry. It missed and landed by Draco's foot. "Think he's still alive?"
"Dunno. Dunno if him being alive would be a good thing. You heard what they do to prisoners."
"Yeah, but then I also heard Death Eaters really were skeletons, and come to find out they're just wearing masks. Who knows what's true and what's just rumor."
"Hey, we could ask the little snake. I'm sure he'd know."
Only surprised that it'd taken them this long to start demanding answers, Draco put aside the mortar and pestle and picked up the knife beside the cutting board. Several squirming, dry lengths of tanglevine needed to be sliced into small sections, and they provided a good excuse to keep the knife in his hand.
"Hey, Malfoy! What happens to people Death Eaters catch?"
Draco didn't turn to face them, but he stood a little straighter and raised his head. Best to answer quickly so they wouldn't feel like they had to intimidate the answer out of him.
"Depends on if he knows anything," he said. "They might use veritaserum, but crucio and imperio would probably get the information faster. If the prisoner is strong-willed or--" he almost said good at hiding under veritaserum, but stopped himself in time, "--angers the dark lord somehow, they might be kept for weeks or months to wear them down."
The twins grew silent as they thought about that. Draco remembered Colin Creevy with distaste. An annoying boy with a disgusting fetish for muggle cameras, he knew that the Gryffindor was still alive in the Grinset basement. The homes of Voldemort's followers often served as prisons, and those of followers who were as yet unknown to the Ministry were the safest. Draco felt no urge to reassure anyone in the Order of Colin's survival. For one thing, Colin might have been killed shortly after their escape. More importantly, he didn't want to give them any satisfaction. The Grinset family had seen their heirlooms seized and their mother and eldest brother thrown into Azkaban before the dark lord's return. Voldemort couldn't claim his loyalty, but neither could the self-serving, arrogant Ministry or the damn Order.
"What else?" one of the twins asked.
"What?" Draco asked, interrupted from his thoughts.
"What else do Death Eaters do?" The red-head leaned forward eagerly. "What does You-Know-Who do when he punishes someone?"
Send their children on suicide missions and have them bitten anyway, Draco thought. Even when I got Death Eaters into Hogwarts when no one else could for hundreds of years.
"He'll kill someone who displeased him," he said, keeping his voice level. "And make their family watch. Or he'll send them to Fenrir Greyback. I know he's had people give up pieces of themselves for potions or rituals. He particularly likes throwing the occasional prisoner to his Dementors."
Perhaps I should add a few more examples, he thought. He didn't think he could make them feel sympathy towards him, but if he fed them the gory details they wanted then they might hold off on hurting him just for the fun of it.
"Does he only use Unforgivables when he kills?" one of them asked. "Or does he always have someone else do his killing for him?"
"He can be very practical," Draco said. "He favors Unforgivables, but he won't do more work than he has to. Death Eaters can be called upon to execute a prisoner, especially to prove their loyalty."
No one spoke for a moment. Outside he heard plates and murmuring voices as Molly prepared dinner and ordered her other children around. He sighed. Dinner meant that he would be escorted upstairs with three meals and then locked inside for the night. Molly's cooking wasn't bad, although he missed the fare his house elves had provided, and he had to check it for added sleeping powders or such before he ate, but at least the night was nearly over.
"Who did you have to kill?"
Draco grew still and didn't reply.
"C'mon, Malfoy," and the twin spit out his name like an insult. "You took the mark. Who'd you kill to prove you were a good little Death Eater?"
"No one," he whispered.
"What? Speak up--"
"No one," Draco forced himself to say.
To his family's shame and his humiliation. Faced with the thorn in his father's side for years, practically given the headmaster on a platter, and he still couldn't do it.
"I didn't kill the person I'd been ordered to. That's why I was given to Fenrir. That's why my family ran."
A disbelieving snort from Fred. "Don't expect me to believe that. You're a coward, but even cowards'll kill if their victim can't fight back."
"Or was that the reason?" the other twin said. "Your victim wasn't a prisoner?"
Draco knew he shouldn't say anything, even a clue might send the twins into a rage, but he answered their questions more for himself, whispering the same questions he'd asked himself ever since the end of sixth year.
"No, he wasn't a prisoner, but...he was dying anyway. I would've just been hurrying along the inevitable."
He gazed at his reflection, and in the firelight he looked like a true dark wizard with shadowed eyes. So why hadn't he been able to act like one?
"All that trouble to get in, so why couldn't I kill the old fool?"
The twin's outline moved in the glass so quickly that Draco didn't have time to turn. Something burst across his face and the cold floor struck his head. As he pushed himself up, a shoe came down on his hand and pivoted, grinding his knuckles into the stone. Draco yelled, and someone else kicked his stomach to shut him up.
"It was you," one of them said, his voice floating above him. "You did it, you son of a--"
"We knew you were there," the other growled, "but you're the reason they got in, aren't you? Everything that happened to Bill--"
Bones cracked and broke. Another kick hurt something deep in chest and took his breath away before he could yell again. Draco turned on his side and kicked as hard as he could, missing the twins but connecting with the closest table. The rusted iron leg bent and the whole side collapsed, sending half of the bottles and several ingredients tumbling. Glass exploded and smoke coalesced on the floor as the dry ingredients accidentally combined. The twins startled back with a shout, climbing up on the nearest table to safety.
That left the way to the door clear. Draco felt like he was moving in slow motion as he lunged forward and thrust the door open. The twins' enraged shouts followed him, but Draco had no intention of staying to be hurt again. All his family's plans and machinations crumbled as he ran through the parlor to the front door. He heard the rest of the Order alerted from dinner, but compared to a frightened Malfoy, they wasted time just trying to organize themselves while he hurled the door open.
Something sparked as he went by, some kind of ward he imagined that had been set up against his escape, but he passed it with less than a singe on his hands. Then he was back in the cold night air, the wind wrapping around him like a familiar blanket, and he was free.
Free unless they caught him. He didn't stop running, but his steps sent heavy jolts to whatever was broken inside him. With his good hand pressed against the throb in the side of his chest, he turned right and ran along the sidewalk until he was out of the muggle streetlights, then cut across an alley to the next street.
A crowd of laughing muggles froze him in his tracks. He nearly fell forward as he stopped, but before they could see him, he pressed back against the black brick wall and waited for them to pass. Afraid they might spot him and attack, he held his breath as they walked by without even a glance down the alley. Once they were half a block away, he exhaled and started moving again.
He couldn't run anymore. Forced to walk slightly hunched, he wondered if he'd also hurt himself when he'd kicked the table. His ankle throbbed when he put weight on it. If only he had his wand! He cursed Fenrir once again and wished his werewolf healing worked when he wasn't a wolf.
Fenrir. He stopped again and listened. No heavy thudding paws, no deep panting or growling, no furtive whispered spells, but he couldn't be assured that the Death Eaters were not out tonight. He still had a heavy price on his head. If he remained out too long, he knew they would find him. But he couldn't turn around, either. Return to the Order after running away? They'd never believe him over the twins.
Draco put his hand on the wall, only to stumble when there was no wall. He looked up in a panic. Scattered trees ringed a grassy expanse with a small, sandy lot with an assortment of metal equipment he didn't recognize. Long planks balanced in the center with handles on either end. A large metal circle with bars that turned lazily in the breeze. Seats suspended on chains. It looked vaguely ominous in the cold light even though it offered no hiding spots.
As he turned to go, however, his ankle twisted and his leg gave out from under him. He turned in time to catch himself with his good hand, but once he was on ground, he found that he couldn't rise again. The grass was cold and damp, but he hadn't lain down once and his body demanded rest. After a few minutes of catching his breath, he sat up again and looked around. There was a tree a few feet away, a short elm with crooked branches where the light didn't reach, and he scooted beneath it.
So tempting to sleep. He leaned against the rough bark and looked up at the sky. Damn muggle lights blocked out the stars, but at least he could see it now. He wanted his broom so he could fly crosscountry away from here. His eyes half-closed. If he fell asleep now, eventually the Order or the Death Eaters would find him, but what other option did he have? Both would probably kill him on sight now, if they didn't torture him or ship him to Azkaban.
Wiping away tears on his sleeve, he coughed a few times and hoped his mother and Severus would forgive him for screwing up this badly. His father would not be rescued. They would not all escape and disappear as hoped. All because the head of the Malfoy family was the same frightened child he'd been on the tower, trembling and afraid.
"Now that's strange," a familiar voice came from thin air. "Everyone told me that dark wizards can't cry."
Afraid of what he would see, Draco looked up. Harry had his wand, but he hadn't aimed it at him. He seemed more focused on Draco's hand, obviously broken and cradled in his lap, and the blood on his lip.
Injured and lost in front of his old rival, humiliation stacked upon humiliation until Draco barely noticed anymore. He closed his eyes and turned his head away. Even drawing enough breath to speak hurt.
"Are you going to hit me, too?"
"I haven't decided yet," Harry said without any emotion.
When he was sure Draco wouldn't try anything, Harry took his eyes off him and looked around the park and surrounding homes. They were alone for the moment, but he didn't know how long that would last. Although they stood in the shadows away from the streetlamps, he felt dangerously exposed. He knelt beside Draco and put his hand on his shoulder, frowning when he felt the bones too prominently.
"Geez, Malfoy. Don't you ever eat?" He slowly edged closer, trying not to startle him as he looked over Draco's injuries.
"Don't like eating," Draco murmured.
He glanced at Harry to make sure the Gryffindor wasn't glaring at him, but his intense look made Draco look away again.
"Part of me never wants to stop."
"The werewolf?" Harry asked, expecting Draco's nod. "When you transform, how much of you is still--"
He cut himself off as Draco winced and covered his hand. Harry sighed. He hadn't thought Draco had noticed him sneaking closer to look at it. But now that he was only a few inches from him, he saw how tense and hyperaware Draco was, even when he wouldn't look at him.
"I won't hurt you," Harry promised. "I want to fix it. I know how much broken bones hurt."
"They'll just break it again," Draco muttered.
"Fred and George?"
Draco glanced sideways at him. "You'd believe me?"
"No, they admitted it," Harry said. "While Arthur and Tonks went after you, Remus demanded to know how you got by the two of them. They said you got them angry enough to hurt you and that you ran faster than they could follow."
Normally Draco would have scoffed. He forced them to hurt him? But these good little wizards all but worshipped Dumbledore. It was like killing a saint.
"What did you say that made them so angry?" Harry tilted his head and tried to see Draco's face beneath his disheveled hair.
"If I tell you," Draco whispered, "you'll hate me."
"I promise I won't hurt you," Harry said again.
"But you'll hate me."
Why was that so important to him? Harry wondered. He and Draco had gone through school hating each other. They'd joined sides in the war bent on destroying each other.
Then again, they weren't trying to kill each other anymore.
"We don't have to be enemies," Harry said. "Whatever happened in the past...we can change that."
"I can't change what I am," Draco said bitterly, as if he'd been insulted. He curled in as far as he could until pain shot through his side, making him tremble. "I'm a pureblood and a Malfoy. I won't change any of it for your stupid Order."
To their mutual surprise, Draco's little show of defiance made Harry snort in amusement. Wounded and facing punishment from whoever captured him, Draco still let his pride run away with his mouth. And that mouth curled in a faint pout that would've been even more amusing if it hadn't been speckled with blood.
"I mean we can change by not fighting all the time," Harry said with an exasperated sigh. "Now quit whining and tell me what you did."
Draco mumbled something that ended in something like 'bore'.
"What? Speak up."
"I said I...killed Dumbledore."
Harry blinked. "No you didn't. Snape did."
As Draco looked up at him with wide eyes, Harry seized the opportunity to lift his hand and flick away the breaks and cuts. The sudden relief stole Draco's breath almost as much as when the twins smashed it. Only as Harry began pressing his fingers gently along Draco's side did the blonde regain enough of his voice to reply.
"But--it's still my fault."
"Because you let them into Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
The surprise on Draco's face would've made Harry laugh if the blonde didn't look so sick.
"You knew?" Draco whispered.
"I figured it out," Harry said, slowly sliding his hands along Draco's ribs until he felt a soft spot and heard the other boy hiss. "Damn. It's pretty deep. Do you think you can walk or do you want to side-along?"
Side along apparate? Draco considered it, but the thought of the magic pressing against him until he vanished from existence, even for a second, made him shake his head.
"You'll let me walk back?" Draco asked, expecting Harry to argue and trying to convince him. "It'll heal as I go, and I never did like side-alongs. They don't feel right. I feel like I'm being crushed."
Harry's mouth quirked into something like a smile. "You, too? I hate that feeling, like I'm gonna pop."
Although he'd healed the damage in Draco's hand, Harry still took the arm that hadn't been injured at all and slung it over his shoulders, helping the blonde to his feet. Draco shuddered as he was forced to stand straight.
"Oh geez, sorry." Harry bent his legs enough to let Draco walk slightly stooped.
"Not your fault," Draco muttered. "You got a few inches over me."
"Yeah, shot up a bit over the last couple years." Harry turned him back out of the park and towards the houses, keeping his eyes on the shadows between the buildings.
"Never be as tall as the rest of them," Draco couldn't help but add. When he felt Harry tense, he realized how badly that sounded and tried to amend it. "Neither of us."
"I was malnourished most of my childhood," Harry snapped. "What's your excuse?"
The sudden confession didn't startle him. So that Draco had every advantage in their plan, Severus had told him everything he knew about Harry's upbringing. It only confirmed what Draco had suspected about Dumbledore, a ruthless wizard willing to exploit a child for his own ends. Little different than Voldemort, he thought, just better public opinion. Knowing all that in advance meant he'd had time to think up answers for Harry's questions.
"Weak blood," he said. "Even Severus couldn't do more than take the edge off."
"'Weak blood'?" Harry repeated. "What's that?"
"Nothing. Just means there aren't enough purebloods left."
A nicer way of saying inbred. Draco heard enough jokes and sneers behind his back to come to hate the word. Everyone assumed it made this latest generation of pureblood children stupid. No one ever thought that it would be a relief to be stupid, to think that he was normal. To forget how he needed a potion to keep his hands from shaking, a potion to soothe his irritable stomach, a potion that kept his headaches away, a potion that meant he didn't wheeze with every breath.
Or at least he needed potions before Fenrir's bite. In a sick way, the werewolf's bite strengthened him so that he could live without the long line of medicines. Now he only needed one potion to keep his werewolf blood calm.
"Doesn't sound like nothing. What is it?"
Harry's voice turned demanding. Draco felt his stare, even though he couldn't see it. If he didn't answer, he didn't think Harry would give up or forget. No, he'd probably take him straight to the veritaserum when they arrived, and Draco couldn't afford that.
"Severus..." Draco took as deep a breath as he could manage. "He mingled his blood with mine after I was born."
"But he's a half blood," Harry said, pausing in his step. "I thought you hated 'mudbloods'."
The way Harry spit the word made Draco quail inside. There was so much damage to undo between him and Potter before he could hope to control him at all.
"It's complicated," Draco mumbled. "He gave up his muggle blood. Renounced it."
"That doesn't change what he is," Harry argued. "He can't change what his parents were."
"In our eyes, it does. You cling to wizarding culture and give up half of your family as if they never existed."
The only sounds were their shoes scuffing the sidewalk, splashing through a puddle in the alley. Draco wondered if muggle streets were always this quiet. Overhead one of the streetlamps flickered unsteadily, and Draco stumbled as his foot caught on the broken sidewalk. He winced as Harry tightened his grip and kept him straight.
"How could he give up his family?" Harry whispered, speaking less to Draco and more to himself.
"It's not so hard when they give you up first." Draco forced himself to keep talking. He hated dwelling on something so uncomfortable to his master, but the chance to make Harry feel a tiny bit sympathetic to Severus was too good to pass. "Do you know anything about his father?"
Harry glanced sideways at him. "A little bit. He wasn't very nice."
"One way of putting it," Draco muttered. "The muggle bastard used to beat them both. Snapped his mother's wand and Severus couldn't defend himself or else they'd both be thrown in Azkaban."
The lack of a response gave Draco hope. If Harry didn't answer, that meant he didn't know what to say.
"He hated leaving his mother behind, but Hogwarts was like an escape. Well, not a very good one. The Gryffindors made sure of that." He coughed a few times, turning his head away. "They always make sure of it."
Harry didn't argue the point. Perhaps living with the Weasleys had shown him prejudice ran both ways. Maybe he just didn't care.
"So how'd he do it?" Harry asked.
"You said Snape mingled his blood with yours. How?"
"Oh." Draco coughed again, leaning more and more on Harry. "He cut his hand, I cut mine, and we pressed the cuts together."
"That's it?" Harry asked. "You made it sound like a big deal."
"It is. The magic in our blood makes it flow through us, and since mine was weaker, I drew in his strength."
"...weak blood means what I think it does, doesn't it?" Harry asked. "Cousins marrying cousins over generations."
Draco didn't answer for a moment. When he walked through Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, or strolled through the gardens and forest paths kept safe from muggles, the stones and trees hummed with their own energy. Something vital of the earth, something only they were privileged to feel, filled the air and gave the wind a voice. Colors shimmered. The world played back.
The more he saw of the muggle world, the more he hated it. Dingy, grey, washed out, this world was a shadow of the one he'd left behind. He didn't see fairies playing with fireflies. There were no mermaids swimming through London's rivers. The lights flickered like insects buzzing overheard, and the world stagnated like a dying body.
"Yes," he whispered. "In trying to save ourselves, we destroyed ourselves. As more and more muggleborns invade our world and ignore the old ways, we tried to protect our traditions. Instead we're fading faster."
Harry didn't answer, and Draco wondered if that was out of pity or apathy.
"Fenrir did me a favor," he said. "I had a potion for everything. Couldn't breathe, couldn't write without shaking, got sick every time I ate. It's evil to call muggleborns mudbloods, but inbreds, oh, that's fine to call to our faces."
"Shouldn't say either," Harry murmured.
"Evil dark wizards," Draco said as if he hadn't heard. "We don't care about anyone or anything anymore, right? Too lost to hate and anger and fear and whatever else they want to say about us? Because there's nothing to be angry about, nothing to be afraid of."
The more he spoke, the more his emotion choked him until he started coughing again, doubling over until Harry helped him to the ground to rest. Sitting on the curb under a broken lamp, Draco coughed what he was sure was blood, hugging himself to hold his body together. When he finally got himself back under control, he sniffled and leaned against the lamp, eyes closed.
"Oh God..." he rasped. "Our world's dying. Why doesn't anyone else notice?"
Beside him, Harry watched helplessly. He hated the feeling, used to believing he couldn't change anything for so long that he'd risked his life, even as a child, to fight what he'd believed was a good fight. The only fight. Kill Voldemort, stop the dark wizards, restore the Ministry and save the world.
But although killing Voldemort was still important, and stopping Death Eaters and werewolves and the dark lord's other creatures hadn't changed, he'd seen too much of the Ministry to think it was the cure to the world's ills. In a way, it was as rigid in its beliefs as Voldemort. A hierarchy with human wizards at the top, corrupt officials in love with their own power, and justice that saw children and the innocent imprisoned for life. And dark wizards so in love with the world that they mourned its passing with more tears than anyone else.
"It isn't dead," Harry whispered. "We can still save it."
Draco looked up at him, his face lit by moonlight. "How could we possibly save it?"
Harry stared at him. He'd always been pale, but now his skin looked marble white, except for the dark circles hollowing his eyes. Any more exhausted, and Harry thought he might fade away like a ghost. But for his eyes, burning like white hot ash.
"Together," Harry said, as if the answer surprised him. "We'll save it together."
He held out his hand. Draco looked at it for a moment, studying the calluses and scars on Harry's skin. Knowing what he'd see, he raised his own hand to contrast. Soft, smooth, untouched by work any harder than cutting petals. It seemed like such a poor offering in return.
Nevertheless, he grasped Harry's hand and let him pull him back to his feet. As he stumbled, again Harry slung his arm over his shoulder and began the walk home again.
"Thought you were supposed to heal as you walked," Harry grunted. "I think you're getting heavier."
"Healing or not," Draco replied, "I'm damn tired. Didn't get much sleep last night taking care of mother and Sev'. Come to think of it, I didn't get dinner yesterday either."
"I'll get you something to eat when we get back," Harry said. "Something hot."
"Promises," Draco murmured.
"No, really. I'm starving, too. Remus didn't stop to eat."
"What did he have you doing? Or is it secret?"
Harry snorted. "Hardly. More like busy work. Just charming things to explode or let out poison. They didn't need my help."
The night hid Draco's tired smile. So he'd been right, and Harry would be twice as stubborn. Having dark wizards in the house must have thrown Remus off his center badly. He couldn't imagine that the werewolf mismanaged the Order like this all the time. They'd have died by now if he had.
In a few minutes they reached the house, and Harry waved off Remus and Arthur with a glare for good measure. Draco heard the Weasley clan all thundering towards him, and he flinched, turning his face towards Harry and closing his eyes.
"Don't touch him," Harry snapped, pausing when they wouldn't let him go forward. "You've already done enough damage."
"He ran," Arthur said flatly. "He should be prepared to take the consequences."
"Then Fred and George should be prepared to take their own consequences," Harry said, and he took a step back when Arthur reached a hand out for Draco. "Everyone here should. You all share the blame, even if it's just for goading them on."
Hermione pushed her way forward, nudging Ginny out of the way. "Is he all right? Harry, he looks like he's going to fall over."
"He will if I let go," Harry said. "He's too sick to fight back. He would've been easy pickings for Death Eaters, and then what? Without him, you think Snape or Narcissa would do anything we asked? And that's if they can." He glanced at Hermione again. "You're probably the only one who could figure out what antidote to keep giving them."
"I..." Aware that everyone watching her, Hermione shook her head sadly. "I don't have access to Hogwart's library. I just have what I could save. I don't have any books on poisons or potions. I can't learn what I don't have."
She stamped her foot as she said that, snapping in frustration. Draco heard the futility in her voice. They couldn't give her the tools she needed, and they wouldn't let her fight any other way, so her talents rotted on the vine.
"Then I'll teach her," Draco whispered.
His weak voice cut through the room. A brief silence followed, and then Lupin's not unexpected voice.
"Out of the question."
Hermione looked up at Remus, wearing indignation like a second skin. "You want to win this war? Then you'll get off my back and let me learn enough to win it."
"I went into that greenhouse," she cut him off, "and I didn't recognize half those plants. You want more potions, but you're working the only one who can make them into the grave. I'm almost convinced you'd rather see one dark wizard dead than let him help kill Voldemort."
Before he could respond, she turned and marched up the stairs, her footsteps echoing through the entire house. Not waiting for the argument to start again, Harry began to follow her but stopped as Draco dragged his feet.
"Not there," Draco said. "No extra bed. Might as well sleep in the greenhouse."
"You don't even have a bed?" Harry huffed, taking him through the parlor.
"Not so bad. The rug's good enough for a wolf."
To Draco's surprise, the greenhouse had been swept and cleaned in his absence. Probably by Hermione, he thought, when she came in to examine the herbs. Harry set him down in the corner and excused himself to the kitchen. In the meantime, Draco glanced around at the damage. The table leg had been repaired, but the end remained a centimeter above the floor. It would wobble, and fortunately it had plants to wobble on it. She had put the spilled plants into new pots, hopefully saving a sixth of their ingredients.
"Here," Harry said as he returned, holding out a steaming bowl and dropping an afghan on Draco's lap. "Beef stew, piping hot like I promised."
The warmth spread throughout Draco's hands as he touched it, and he slowly worked his way through the thick broth, drinking from the edge when his hand refused to grasp the spoon. When he set it on the floor and lay back on the glass wall, he sighed in deep satisfaction. For once the wolf inside him agreed and didn't demand more.
"Thank you," he sighed.
"You're welcome," Harry said with a small smile. "You really gonna sleep here?"
"Isn't that bad," Draco said. "It's quiet. And dark. And you could lock me in, right? So no one can get in?"
Harry nodded. "I think I'd rather sleep on the sofa, but I'll set an alarm in case the door opens. You sure you'll be all right?"
"I think so," Draco said. "Dunno if I'll get up early, though."
"That's all right. I'll wake you for breakfast."
Gathering their dishes, Harry stood and walked out of the greenhouse, giving Draco one more look before closing the door. The lock audibly clicked, and then Draco heard Harry call out a particularly strong alarm jinx. If Harry was as powerful as Snape said, he didn't think anyone else in the Order would be able to take the spell off.
Draco let out a sigh. Disaster narrowly avoided, but his mistake had a happier outcome than he could have begged for. Harry was slowly coming to trust him, and Hermione had further destroyed Lupin's credibility. With any luck, none of the Weasleys would be allowed near him again.
Curling up in his corner, Draco wrapped the afghan around himself and watched the moon through the glass. Clouds drifted lazily by, blown along with the slight breeze. He wondered if his father could see the moon from his Azkaban cell.
The next day passed easily. As if the Order of the Phoenix had decided to wash their hands of him, none of them did more than stare. Draco woke, tended his mother and Severus, returned to the green house and spent the day teaching Hermione and working himself into Harry's good graces. Then dinner, a smile at Harry, and then sleep. The house was tense but quiet. The routine lasted for a week, then two weeks. Three.
No one noticed the tiny changes Draco made.
"Don't be satisfied with what you think you see," Severus always told him. "Look at what people actually do."
He doubted this was exactly what Severus had in mind, but he'd learned a lot spending so much time around Harry. The hero of the wizarding world would never make any hero-worshipping witch happy with wedding bells. Harry did his best to hide it, so much so that at first Draco had wondered if he was simply imagining things.
But no. Harry never noticed any of the girls in the old magazines lying about. Draco caught him lingering over the quidditch players, the photographs of globe-trotting wizards defeating banshees and dragons. The photospread of several handsome aurors had been dog-eared, and the pictures of their female counterparts ignored and visibly envious of the attention lavished of the men on the opposite page.
Unlike Ron's bedroom or those of the other Weasley boys, there were no posters of witches on Harry's walls. Harry never commented on girls the way the others did. If he did, it was prompted from the twins who expected him to agree that a witch was beautiful or not. Draco, listening in from the greenhouse, could tell a bad lie told by an amateur.
So day and night, Draco listened to every word Harry said. His smile with Harry lasted a half-second longer before he turned away shyly. He needed Harry to reach the petals high overhead and Draco needed to guide his hand, never minding as Harry pressed against him. No one noticed as he whispered to Harry, trusting him with secrets and little fears he'd never confessed to anyone else.
He began keeping his hair bound loosely. From the way Harry's eyes turned distant whenever Bill was mentioned, Draco assumed he preferred longer hair. Judging by how the boy watched him, he guessed that Harry's denied hunger could give the appetite of Draco's wolf a real run for its money.
Draco knew he wasn't handsome, too marred by hunger and fighting and his curse, but he doubted Harry had ever given into his urge with any boy. Harry was starved for attention, and Draco was not too proud to use that. Every night Harry lingered a moment longer. Every night Draco slid deeper into Harry's confidence.
And every night Draco added poison to Narcissa and Severus' potions.
Not enough to hurt them, not really. He knew they would have approved. He needed them to stay out of the way while he worked into Harry's good graces. Not only would their presence have set Harry on edge, but having Harry's mudblood friend nearby would have made them draw back from her touch. Every day he answered her questions, found the rare ingredients she wanted tucked in the recesses and corners of the greenhouse. A clump of angel mushrooms along the floor, white clover growing in the sunny patch near a clear window--she gathered her ingredients alone and kept out of his way, only asking him how to process them. He knew she was making things in secret, but he didn't expect the Order to let him in on their plans. None of her ingredients worried him. She was probably working on instant fog or poison rain, enjoying her foray into dark potions.
It was hard enough not to gag in her presence, not to sneer if she came too close. If her skin touched his, he could mask his revulsion as a nervous flinch, but being on guard all the time was exhausting. At the end of each day, his eyes drooped and his shoulders slumped and his words began to slur into each other.
He hated to poison his only family, but he had no choice. If he could barely stand Hermione, he knew his mother would be physically ill next to her. He had to fight himself to sit next to her for so long. She sat at his left hand, pouring a silvery white concoction of feverfew and cobwebs into a pitcher and covering it before the resultant smoke could escape. Wisps of her hair brushed his hand and he leaned aside to grab another handful of foxglove petals, moving conveniently away from her touch.
"Almost finished?" Harry asked.
Draco blinked and shook his head to wake himself up. Harry's voice cut through the creeping fatigue and the smothering fumes of his cauldron. He'd spent most of the day feeding the flames and stirring, and his head was spinning.
"Wonderful," Draco mumbled. "Is it evening already?"
"You've been working hard," Harry said, standing next to him. "I'm sure the days are flying by for you."
"On the contrary," Draco said with a yawn. "Felt like months crawling."
He looked up at Harry, knowing exactly how his hair fell across his eyes. Another good reason to keep his family poisoned upstairs. If they saw him acting like this with Harry, they'd never look at him the same again. He knew they wouldn't try to stop him, but to lower himself like this would have been too humiliating for them to bear.
Should he have felt humiliated? Fenrir had already violated him more deeply than anything he could imagine. His very soul had been tainted. What did it matter if he sold himself so cheaply?
Harry touched his shoulder. Warmth spread from beneath his fingertips to Draco, who let his head tip towards his hand. His eyes half-closed and he sighed.
The days of living in the Slytherin dorms seemed a lifetime away. He hadn't lain with anyone since he'd been bitten. Cheap or not, having Harry this close made being alone easier.
If he was honest with himself--and Snape had trained him to be honest with himself if no one else--then he knew it was his own weakness. Harry showed him kindness, shielded him from the Order. Everyone else had given him pain. Harry alone had healed him and even given him hope. In just a few weeks, Draco found his disdain softening until he was glad for the other boy's company.
And because he was honest with himself, he knew it was his loneliness and fear that made him find a little relief in Harry's presence. Pathetic, but he justified his neediness with the hope that he might convince Harry to help save his father. He would worry what Lucius said about his affection for Potter afterward.
"I'm done here," Hermione said, gathering her pitcher and her notes. "Going upstairs to finish it. Night, Harry, Malfoy."
Making a small noise that could be taken as goodbye, Draco watched her leave, then breathed out in relief. His shoulders relaxed now that he didn't have to be on his guard around Hermione.
"Thank you for teaching her," Harry said. "I know you don't like to."
Draco half-shrugged. "She learns quick. Stays out of the way."
"Does that make it easier to be near her?"
Silence. Draco glanced up and found Harry staring hard at him, his green eyes unblinking. Harry was getting better at restraining his anger.
"She..." Draco looked over his shoulder at the door to make sure they were alone. "She saved a lot of spilled plants that would've died."
The answer didn't satisfy Harry. Draco could feel it simply in the way he stood, leaning over him and watching without moving. It felt horrible. Draco hated to feel things looming over him. He turned away, adding another handful of crushed leaves to his potion and then covering it.
After a moment, Harry sat down beside him and didn't say anything, quietly helping Draco clear the table. Petals and stems went back in their jars, jars went back in their nooks. The cauldrons were cleaned out and a handful left to simmer.
The pressure faded with Harry's anger, and Draco became antsy as the exhaustion crept up on him. How late was it? Moonlight filled the greenhouse around the small circles of candle glow. The Order must have all been asleep by now. They were alone.
Draco stiffened. They were alone. He was alone with Harry. He glanced sideways and Harry was staring again, but not with anger. Several seconds passed before Draco's drowsy mind recognized that look. Hogwarts wasn't so long ago that he didn't remember the exhilaration of flying with Harry, their brooms side by side as they reached for the golden snitch. And the look on his face then--focused determination. Harry wasn't flying through cold wind and heavy bludgers, but the look was the same.
"I haven't done anything wrong," he blurted suddenly. "Just the potions you wanted--I haven't tried to leave, you know that."
"I know," Harry said, startled by his outburst. "It's all right. Calm down."
Taking a breath, Draco look around again to see if they were really alone. "Is Lupin watching? One of the Weasleys?"
"No. No one's here but me." Harry winced at how that came out. "You're safe, Malfoy. I didn't want anyone down here when I did this."
Glancing away for a second, Harry reached into his pocket, then slowly withdrew a smooth, pale stone as large as his palm. He held it out for Draco to see, holding it still as Draco leaned close. Milky white with clear streaks, it looked vaguely familiar, and he brushed the surface with his fingers. The moment he touched it, he drew back.
A veritae charm.
Draco eyed the stone as if it were a snake about to bite. They were deathly hard to make and with veritaserum so readily available, no one ever bothered with charms anymore. They weren't easy to use. They couldn't be slipped into people's drinks. They had to be in the open, directly between the two people using it.
"Quartz and white clover," Draco said softly. "That's why Granger wanted those. She was making this for you."
"Why now?" Draco asked. "Why alone like this?"
"Because Remus forgot to question you," Harry said, half-smiling as Draco turned his head. "I didn't want to remind him. He can't think objectively around you or Snape. But I need to know."
Refusing to look at him again, Draco studied the cracks in the floor tiles. The silence stretched, and he realized that Harry expected him to say something.
"You won't like what I say," Draco warned him.
"I don't imagine you're a saint," Harry said. "But I meant what I said before. We can fix the world together, but only if we can trust each other."
He would have felt insulted if he hadn't felt panic seizing his heart. Draco knew he didn't have a choice. Harry tapped the stone to activate it, then set it on the table between them.
"What is your name?"
"Draco Draconis Malfoy," he answered, not bothering to hide his discomfort.
"Draconis?" Harry repeated.
"Just a charm," Draco said. "Like asking for protection from a saint."
"Oh. Um, okay. Do you still work for Voldemort?"
"No, and please stop saying his name."
Harry blinked. "You're really afraid of him?"
"My whole family is afraid of him," Draco snapped. "Mother told you that herself. Why is it you aren't afraid? The whole world can't even say his name and here you are trying to get his attention."
"What?" Harry asked. "How could I get his attention? He's not here."
Draco opened his mouth to snap again, but Harry's confusion was too obvious. His answer, dragged out of him by the stone before he could collect himself, came without heat or mockery. Sometimes he forgot how much muggleborns grew up without learning.
"His name is a word of power," Draco answered. That was all the stone required, but he continued to explain, gratified that Harry was listening. "Names give you power. They sum up everything about you. A name is--it's you. It's like a spell."
"But no one treats any other name like it's special," Harry said.
"Because other names don't belong to powerful evil bastards. And because they don't use people's full names. It's always just Draco or Malfoy, rarely both. But the dark lord, he only has one name. It's stronger."
He watched Harry and sighed impatiently when he didn't appear any less skeptical. "Look, don't you sometimes get a chill up your spine? Haven't you heard that it's someone talking about you?"
"Well, yeah, but that's not real," Harry said. His eyes widened slightly. "Is it?"
"It's real. Even just your first or last name is strong on its own," Draco said.
Harry thought about that and looked like he might ask more about it, but Draco couldn't stifle another yawn. Harry glanced a this watch and sighed.
"I'll have to ask you more about that later. Tell me, why did you come here?"
Relief flooded Draco. If this was as specific as Harry could make his questions, dodging them would be easy. Remus had asked pointed, detailed questions about Death Eater plans, things that had happened to Severus and Narcissa during their school years, things that he could verify quickly and continue to verify as time passed. Only his family's cunning had kept their plans concealed. Harry, however, didn't know how to frame his questions.
"To escape from the dark lord and his death eaters," Draco said. A good answer, broad and general.
"To escape Fenrir," Draco added. It was part of the first answer, Voldemort's chosen method of execution for them, but Harry didn't know that.
"To help stop the dark lord," Draco said.
Harry paused. Draco's relief began to fade. He'd seen Harry's style of magic, powerful and single-minded. Harry's quidditch style was the same, based on powerful flying and deadly focus. It seemed Harry's interrogation technique was similar, less a technique and more of simply plowing straight ahead.
A cold knot welled in his stomach.
"Because the rest of the world isn't safe," he said. "There's no where else we could go."
Draco squirmed. The real answer filled his mouth, desperate to leap out, and at the last second he thought up another reason to take its place.
"So I can make the potions that keep me from turning into a monster," he said.
Tilting his head slightly, Harry visibly mulled that over. Draco wondered if that would be enough. If he confessed his hopes for freeing his father, he was sure Harry would balk. There was too much hatred and anger there to bridge.
"Are you really safe when you're a wolf?" Harry asked. "I saw Remus as a werewolf once. You don't look the same."
"I'm safe," Draco said, leaning on the table and resting his head on his arm. At least Harry seemed satisfied with his previous answers, but he desperately wanted to get to sleep. "You heard Severus before. I'm not poisoning my wolf. It's calm. The potion takes away the pain and the bloodlust, the fear."
"Do you remember anything afterward, when you become human again?" Harry asked.
"Sometimes, bits and pieces. I'm still me when I'm a wolf, I just can't think very well."
"Like an animal," Harry said.
It wasn't a question, but Draco nodded anyway. "Dark wizard, Slytherin, Malfoy...werewolf just finishes the picture."
"'Picture'?" Harry echoed.
"Evil," Draco said. "I guess pureblood fits, too. They hate us, you know that, right?"
"Who hates you? Wizarding society?" Harry asked, then cut him off before he could answer. "You mean for wanting to kill muggleborns?"
"They'd hate us even if we didn't."
"A stricter view of life." Draco half-shrugged and sighed deeply. "Potter, please, I'm very tired."
A lock of hair fell over his eyes, and before he could move, Harry was already leaning and reaching out to push it back. Draco flinched, and Harry paused, his hand in midair.
"It's all right," Harry murmured. "I won't hurt you."
It wasn't a question so Draco didn't respond. He let Harry smooth his hair aside, returning his look if a little sleepily. He found he liked looking into Harry's eyes. They were so clear he could see his reflection if he looked close enough.
"I believe you," he said. "I won't hurt you, either."
It was the wrong thing to say. He knew it before he saw Harry's suspicous look. Lucius needed rescuing. He needed Harry to help rescue him. If the two met, he knew there would be a fight, that he would have to choose his father's side. Would cursing Harry with an imperio count as hurting someone? Surely Harry thought so, and yet Draco had been able to say he wouldn't hurt him. Either Draco was confused, or the stone was.
Across from him, Harry also knew something wasn't right. Draco never looked confused if he could help it. Confusion meant weakness, and Draco did everything he could to seem in control. Maybe Malfoy had lied and was surprised he'd been able to.
"I--is this thing working properly?" Harry looked at the stone as if he expected it to turn colors or spit out smoke like a broken muggle machine. "Damn, I can't--Malfoy, lie to me."
"What? About what?"
"I don't know--um..." He remembered a few conversations overheard in Hogwarts, snatches of information about Draco that he hadn't found a use for until now. "Favorite quidditch player? Famous wizard?"
The chair slammed sideways on the floor as Draco threw himself backwards, moving blindly until he hit the glass wall. He pressed his hands against his face and turned his back, muffling Harry's name in his sleeve. What kind of luck did Harry have, asking questions with his name as the answer? Or did he know already?
To his relief, Harry only sounded surprised. When Draco looked over his shoulder at him, he was still sitting at the table, although his hand had fallen to his wand at his side.
"Malfoy, what's wrong?"
Harry's questions turned stern. Leaning heavily against the glass, Draco turned sideways to see him easier. He faced him for a moment, then lowered his gaze to stare at the floor.
"Please don't ask me those things."
"But isn't it just Transylvania's..." Harry's voice trailed off as he understood. "It's not Verzeni or Morgan le Fey, is it? It's--"
"It's not the dark lord," Draco hurried to say. "It's not any death eaters. It's no one bad. Please, leave me some secrets."
Bewildered, Harry pocketed the stone. The easiest questions had became the most intriguing.
"I'll see you tomorrow morning," Harry said, still puzzled.
"Tomorrow," Draco nodded, retreating to the corner beneath one of the tables.
He had a small nest of two blankets and a pillow now, and he curled up there as if going to sleep. The door clicked locked, and then all he heard were crickets outside and the wind blowing over the greenhouse, whistling through a tiny crack in the ceiling.
Damn, but he knew Harry would speak with Hermione about his reaction, and she was smart. She'd analyze the conversation, comb through his replies, and unless being a mudblood blinded her to the less mentioned aspects of wizarding culture, she would guess. And she'd tell Harry.
Could he poison her too, like he poisoned his mother and Severus? He shook his head. No, he'd never be able to without getting caught. Arguing that the poison wasn't lethal didn't seem like a good idea. He pulled the blanket around himself like a shield and tried to think of how the next day would unfold, wondering what he could do if Hermione guessed, if she didn't guess, if Harry guessed, if Harry began questioning him again and found out his plans to save his father.
His mind ran in exhausted circles all night, and he finally fell asleep as the sky turned pale.
His paws dug into the earth, carrying him past trees and over a stream. Water splashed underfoot and leaves crunched, and all the smells of the forest were alive and heady like strong liquor. His prey ran on two legs, painfully slow, but flinging back spells that sprayed fire and exploded in sparks, making Draco leap through the splashes of dirt and mud.
The chase was short. Draco lunged, fangs bared, and his prey turned with a scream that cut off as his jaws closed over the soft throat. As they crashed to the ground, Draco swallowed mouthfuls of sweet blood as he stared into his own panicked, pain-filled eyes.
Something touched his shoulder--he shrieked as he woke, slamming his head into the table above him. Groaning, he put one hand where he'd struck the wood and blinked at the boy kneeling in front of him. Harry stared at him with wide eyes, not sure if he should comfort him or stun him.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked in a low voice, afraid he would scream again.
"I'm..." Draco heard his voice shake and took a deep breath. "I'm fine. I'm all right."
"You look white as a sheet," Harry argued.
He put his hand on Draco's forehead to feel for a fever, then touched the side of his neck to check his pulse.
"Maybe you're getting what Snape and your mother have."
Tempted to say that poison wasn't contagious, Draco merely lay his hand on Harry's, not trying to push him off. It wasn't just a ruse. After losing himself in the wolf inside him, being near someone soothed his fear.
"Just a nightmare," Draco said, looking into his eyes. "I get them every night, that's all."
As Draco gathered his legs under himself, Harry offered his hand. Draco took it and rose, using it as an excuse to wobble slightly and lean against Harry. He had only slept for a few hours so the mornings were always uncomfortable. The cool air lingered, giving him a chill, and Harry was warm and firm.
"'Every night'?" Harry repeated, putting a hand on Draco's shoulder. "Is that why you have those circles under your eyes?"
Draco nodded. He knew he should let go of Harry and step away, but he'd felt nothing but hard floors and broken bones since he come here.
"I have nightmares of hunting," he explained. "Every night when I catch my prey, it turns out to be me."
"You're the prey?" Harry asked, putting his hands on his shoulders and gently holding him a few inches back, trying to see his face. "What do you mean?"
"In my dreams, I'm a wolf," Draco said, glancing aside.
He couldn't look Harry in the eye when he thought about it. Years of learning that werewolves were nothing but berzerk animals made him sick with shame, even though his family hadn't shunned him. He knew he wasn't to blame for being a werewolf. He didn't enjoy it like Fenrir did, didn't slaughter out of bloodlust. It didn't matter. He never looked anyone in the eye about it.
"I'm hunting someone in the forest," Draco murmured. "And when I catch him, just as I bite down on his throat, I see my own face."
"No wonder you woke up screaming," Harry said, touching his hair and sweeping a stray wisp from his face. "You never have a good night's sleep?"
"Not since the bite."
Draco smiled faintly at the touch. He was still drowsy, and Harry's hand was soft against his face. It seemed that his nervous smiles and coy glances were paying off. He'd guessed right that Harry liked his boys shy. If Harry was letting him get this close, the interrogation under the veritae charm had worked wonders in his favor.
"I don't think Remus has those kind of dreams," Harry said. "Is it the potion Snape gives you? Maybe it's having some weird side-effect?"
Shaking his head, Draco sighed. If only it were that simple.
"It isn't that. Fenrir--he had me for a long time. He makes his pack more wolf than wizard." He half-shrugged, still not entirely sure of Fenrir's motives. "I think he wanted us dreaming things like that. When someone stopped screaming at night, they weren't the same anymore."
Was this getting him sympathy? Draco hoped so. Being like this made talking about it so much easier. Harry touched his hair, and Draco half-smiled. Harry felt good, so calming to have him lightly gather his hair in his fingers. It had grown while he was on the run with his family, falling to his shoulders with ragged ends, and it had fallen loose as he slept.
"You're afraid of that, aren't you?" Harry asked. "Turning into someone like Fenrir."
Draco didn't answer. Much nicer to let Harry play with his hair, touching his face. When his hands cupped his face, making him turn up to him, he looked into Harry's eyes. The coy glances were over, it seemed. Harry's gaze burned into him, mesmerizing him like a snake would a mouse.
The kiss that followed seemed like second nature.
When Harry let him breathe again, still holding him only inches away, Draco didn't know what to do next. Prompt another kiss? Hold Harry's hand? Let him hold him tight?
"So I was right," Harry said, breathing a sigh of relief. "You're like me. I wasn't sure you were coming on or not."
"Just--just testing the waters," Draco gave a short humorless laugh. "Didn't want to get hit again. You hate me as it is."
"I don't hate you," Harry said. He put his fingers through Draco's hair again, holding his head upright. "Not anymore. You're not bad at heart. You're just...very wrong about things."
"I could say the same about you," Draco said with a tight smile.
"Of course," Harry said, accepting it without arguing. "I don't suppose you'd--"
As he put his hand firmly on Draco's waist, Harry froze as the other boy flinched. The motion was small, a tiny pull away from his hand and a quick tilt of his shoulder, but he recognized it for what it was. Harry tried to smile reassuringly.
"I won't hit you," Harry said. "I'm not Hermione. Although you did kind of deserve that one..."
His voice trailed off. Draco closed in on himself, lowering his eyes and hunching in his shoulders. He shook his head once, but offered no explanation. Harry put his hand under Draco's chin, trying to tilt him to look up. Draco turned his head and avoided his look.
"I'm sorry," Draco said, swallowing once. He didn't meet his eyes, but he did try to force himself to sound lighter. "Old injury there."
Harry tilted his head. "You're a werewolf. You heal instantly."
"It isn't..." Draco put his hand against his mouth, steadying his voice before he spoke again. "It isn't physical."
"I don't get it," Harry said. "What's wrong?"
"Do I have to say?" Draco asked, finally looking at him. "I don't want anyone to know. Even Sev' and mother don't know. I can't ever tell them."
Harry was silent for a long time. He didn't frown, but he didn't give in to Draco's request, either. He stared into Draco's eyes, sliding his arms snakelike around Draco's back and holding him still. Draco squirmed once, then harder, but Harry wouldn't let go. Worse, Draco started to feel pinpricks in the back of his mind, something poking at the edge of his memory until he realized that it wasn't nerves making him feel anxious. He cried out in surprise and shut his eyes.
"Legilimens," he gasped, and he fisted his hands in Harry's clothes, leaning the few inches back that he could. "You're a legilimens."
Harry loosened his grip enough to let Draco stumble away and back hard into the glass wall. Draco winced as he knocked his head against the glass, but when he stood straight, Harry's face was unreadable. Not angry, not suspicious, not even regret for trespassing without Draco's permission. Draco tried to glare, but he knew he was too nervous to do it properly.
Did Harry know that Draco was poisoning Severus and Narcissa? Did he about their plans to save Lucius? Did he guess how they had done their best to manipulate Lupin?
No. Draco's jaw tightened when he saw Harry's face soften. After stealing into someone's mind, Severus always took a moment to gather his thoughts and understand what he had seen. Harry was figuring out what he'd seen, and the pity flashing over his face galled Draco's pride.
"Don't you dare tell anyone," Draco snarled. His fingers curled like claws against the wall, and the wolf rasped his voice. "How dare you look at me!"
"Draco..." Harry started.
"No one was supposed to see," Draco cut him off. "No one knew!"
"Calm down," Harry said, glancing at the door to see if anyone was coming. "Quit shouting."
"Why?" Draco demanded, although his voice dropped despite his anger. "Why shouldn't I? Afraid of someone bursting in? I wish they would. I wish the damn twins would...would..."
No, he didn't. Draco cursed his weakness, but he'd rather be stuck in here with Harry than anyone else. Anyone else in the house hated him. Harry might hurt him, but it was a familiar hurt, a pain that Draco knew how to deal with.
"That's not it at all. I don't want them thinking you're attacking me," Harry said. "They're afraid you might bite me."
Draco laughed once, a bitter hiss. "Oh yes, of course. Of course this is all one big plot to get me in here and bite you, because one bite makes you evil."
When Harry didn't answer, Draco glared sideways at him--his breaths came so fast and broken that he had to fight to talk. He gasped for air, one hand on his chest as if his heart would pound its way out.
"I wish it did," he said hoarsely. "I wish--but of course you saw. The bite doesn't do that. That's all Fenrir."
Draco climbed onto one of the rusty stools and sat slumped over, laying his hands on the table and hiding his face in his arms. Memories that made him sick--Fenrir pinning him as he buried his fangs to the hilt, shoving Draco's face into the leaves and dirt as he grasped his hips, glorying in his pain as Draco screamed and wondered why he couldn't cry for help around his long muzzle and sharp teeth, and above all the torture was Fenrir's barking laughter as he brought Draco into the pack.
Memories that Harry had seen. Draco groaned and closed his eyes. Every wound and old ache seemed to flare to life, and he felt a hundred years older.
"He really hurt you," Harry murmured.
Harry sorted through the images in his mind, the sounds and smells that accompanied the thoughts. Gnawed bones in a pile on the forest floor. Rain striking naked skin. Heavy claws raking his back and thighs in punishment. Dark nights lit not by comforting fire but by the cold moon. And everywhere blood--spilt on the dirt, torn from his body, rushing furiously past his victim's heart, falling hot down his throat.
The forest was an abattoir, a butchery, and sometimes Draco was the meat.
"You fought it," Harry said. "You were starving."
Starving while surrounded by food. Harry felt Draco's disgust for the carcasses Fenrir threw to his pack, even the runt of the litter still struggling not to accept the change. Fenrir tried to rub the gore against Draco's white snout, but the raw tissue only made Draco sick to his stomach. Draco sneezed, dug his muzzle into the earth to drown out the stench, and shivered as he lay alone, his human screams turning into yelps as he slept.
"Wait," Harry said, looking up. "Wait a minute."
He stepped quickly to Draco's side and put his hand on his shoulder, trying to see his face. He managed to make Draco face him, although the other boy shut his eyes tight.
"I'm not going to look again," Harry said. "I promise."
He wasn't surprised when Draco didn't trust him, but at least he stopped trying to squirm free. Harry dragged one of the stools closer so he could sit with him.
"You were wolf when you wanted to be," Harry said.
"I never wanted to be," Draco ground out.
"I mean you could choose," Harry said. "You stayed a wolf when the sun was out. You don't--when Remus changes, he attacks anything nearby. Why don't you?"
"We told you," Draco said wearily. "Sev makes a--"
"This was before his potion," Harry insisted. "Hell, he hasn't made anything for you for weeks, and you don't seem to make anything for yourself. Remus can't transform at will. Why are you different?"
Draco glanced at him, barely opening his eye wide enough to see, and he sat up when he decided that Harry wasn't going to stop asking. Shoulders slumped, head bowed, Draco stared at the cut flowers in front of him.
"You won't believe me," he said. "And you'll hate me for it."
"I won't hate you," Harry said. He lightly touched Draco's hair, brushing it from his eyes as he spoke. "I'm past that."
"Past it?" Draco laughed with no humor. "What do you want me for, then?"
"You," Harry said simply. Then added "and whatever you can tell me that will end the war."
Draco shook his head. "Won't happen. I don't know anything that great."
"You don't know what's going on outside this place," Harry said. "Trust me. Your potions have been a great help. That's why Hermione was able to yell at them about you."
"No," Draco said, shaking his head again. "I don't believe it. They're just a few smoke potions, a few acids--"
"It's more than they had before," Harry said.
"It's nothing like you do," Draco argued. He sighed and put his head in his hands. "All I can do is brew and mix--you're the one dueling and fighting. You're the one killing Death Eaters. I'm not even a decent werewolf. Fenrir said I was pathetic."
"I'm glad Fenrir doesn't like you," Harry said. "It means you're not a monster like him."
"I should be," Draco said. "Everyone thinks I am. I should be."
"But you're not," Harry said. "You're the best potions master in the world until Snape gets better, and you're the only reason some of my friends are still alive. Neville would've died if he didn't have that smoke potion you made. Luna was getting a bunch of kids out of a Death Eater's chop shop and only that snake's acid got them out."
Snake acid? Draco tried to remember anything like that. Did Harry mean the white adder's tongue? He grimaced. The fighting must have been desperate for her to use it. Or not. She was a ravenclaw, and those types could be brutally cold when it came to war. The best solution to a problem, they always went for, no matter how cruel.
He wondered what was left of the Death Eater when the acid finished burning through them. If she'd splashed their bodies, it would have eaten them in half. If the acid touched their faces, chewing straight into the bone--the thought turned his stomach.
"You're far more valuable to the war in here," Harry said. "Not out there in the fighting. You're right--you're a damn small wolf."
Draco laughed at how deadpan Harry's voice was.
"I know," he said, smiling sadly. "All the other new wolves were so big, and when they'd given up fighting and ate people and--I really was the runt of the pack."
His smile faded. "There was a kid smaller than me, about ten or eleven. He was there as punishment to his parents. Vicious little bastard. He was small, but he felt bigger."
Neither spoke. Harry pushed the stolen memories aside, willing the ugly memories out of mind, and he touched Draco's shoulder.
"Fenrir does that to everyone, doesn't he?" Harry asked. "Brings them into his pack."
Draco nodded once. "Teaches us everything he knows. He's actually nice if you do what he says."
"And if you don't?" Harry asked.
"Lays you open," Draco said matter of factly. "You bleed out onto the ground until you heal. Or sometimes he'd..."
With that, Draco fell silent. Harry waited, but he soon realized he wasn't going to get an answer. Giving up on that question for now, he returned to his first.
"You're different," Harry said. "You're fighting it. Is that why you can change when you want?"
Draco sighed, very tired and wishing Harry would stop asking questions.
"It's blood," he said, irritated that he was answering. "I'm pureblood. Lupin is half-blood. The magic works easier in me than him."
As Draco had expected, Harry's lips pressed into a thin line and he glared. For all his talk, Harry could never control his anger. Normally Draco would bristle and glare back and insult Harry's supposed intelligence. Instead he just felt tired.
"Why do you keep asking questions?" Draco asked. "Especially after I tell you that you'll hate the answers."
"Because blood isn't an answer," Harry said readily. "I'm a half blood and I'm pretty bloody powerful."
"You don't believe that," Draco said. He met Harry's look, met the irritation and surprise head on. "If you did, you wouldn't let Lupin keep you cooped up here. This war would've been over ages ago."
"Is that why you came here?" Harry growled. "To seduce me out of here? Where Voldemort can find me?"
Flinching at the dark lord's name, Draco smiled bitterly.
"Seduce you? Really, Potter? Tell me, what did you fall in love with first, my broken hand, my caved in ribs, the way I stand up so manfully to Lupin?"
"Or maybe it's how I bear up under my curse," Draco said. "Yes, I'm such a catch. Can't take care of my family, cocking everything up, so damn pathetic you lot guard me with children. It's a wonder you didn't fall in love on the first night."
Draco's laughter came harder, rougher. He couldn't stop them, and he couldn't tell if they were real laughs or harsh sobs. As he spoke, he leaned more and more on the table as if he might fall without it.
"Draco--" Harry tried to cut in.
"Of course Vol-Vo--the dark's lord's brilliant plan was to send the broken Malfoy whelp to lure out the hero." Draco cradled his head in his arms, muffling his voice. "That's it! I'll turn into a wolf and carry you back to him, and he'll let my father out of Azkaban and give back our house and...and..."
The shout didn't make Draco stop, but his voice had dwindled to nothing anyway. Harry sighed and leaned back, annoyed at himself. After all the times that his temper got him in trouble, he still hadn't learned to manage himself better.
"All right," he sighed, "I admit that was a stupid idea. Tell me what you meant by your blood being better than Lupin's."
With a deep breath, Draco turned his head just enough to see Harry from the corner of his eye. He didn't answer.
"I won't get angry," Harry said. "I promise this time."
Snorting despite himself, Draco sat up and turned towards him, although he still sat slouched in exhaustion.
"Half blood is different from pureblood," Draco said, not believing that Harry would really listen. "Half bloods can be powerful, but the magic doesn't move in you the same as us. With pure blood, magic has been part of us for generations back. It flows through us."
Harry didn't look any more convinced, but that he hadn't grown angry gave Draco a little hope. He tried another way to explain.
"When I change," Draco said, "it doesn't hurt as bad as when Lupin changes. His muscles break and reshape and he goes mad. He's fighting the wolf."
"Aren't you fighting the wolf, too?" Harry asked, but without any heat. "You still scream at night. You don't like eating."
"I'm afraid of it," Draco nodded once. "But I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm not fighting the wolf. If it wants something, I give in. I don't starve it, I don't fight the transformation when it happens."
"I saw you hold it back," Harry argued. "When you first came here. Just before you fought Fenrir, Narcissa was holding you and you were trying to hold it back."
"You saw that?" Draco grimaced. "I have some measure of control because of Sev's potions, but the wolf knew I was going to give in soon enough. Besides, it wasn't a full moon. Fenrir was calling to me. That's why it hurt so much."
"One wolf can call another wolf to change?" Harry asked.
"Fenrir's the pack leader," Draco said. "Unless I can find a new alpha."
"Can't you be your own alpha?" Harry asked.
Draco paused. His eyes widened slightly, but he ended up shaking his head.
"No...no, I couldn't. I'm not brave or strong enough."
Harry tilted his head. "I know you don't like him, but we could ask Lupin. It'd be better than Fenrir--"
"No way," Draco said, shaking his head once. "Alpha means more than just taking orders. It's...it's bad if you don't want it. It's very bad."
Harry's gaze flicked down to where Draco dropped his hand, lightly covering the spot on his hip that he'd shielded before. There was no injury there, nothing that should have hurt, but Harry felt the warm flush on his face as he thought about holding him there, and he imagined why Draco wouldn't like anyone to touch him like that.
Fenrir had done a lot worse things that just that bite, Harry thought.
"Could you change right now?" Harry asked.
Draco tensed. "Why?"
"'Cause I'm not cooped up down here," Harry said. "It's reassuring that you think I am, but I'm not. And I'd like someone with me that's been in a real fight before."
"A fight?" Draco shook his head in dismay. "No no no, what happened to me being more important here? You don't want me in a fight."
"Your senses are better," Harry said. "Especially in the dark. And that's where I have to go next. If I have to be sneaky, I'd rather have a wolf than one of the twins."
"Your Order has..." Draco tried.
Harry shook his head.
"They've been in a few duels, some running fights," Harry said. "Nothing like breaking into a castle that no one's ever been able to get into before. Nothing like facing Fenrir in a one on one fight."
"I ran away from both of those," Draco reminded him.
"Because you aren't a murderer," Harry said, "and you only ran when you knew Narcissa and Severus were safe. Not many people would volunteer to be a distraction."
"I'm a werewolf," Draco insisted. "Why would you want me along?"
"A werewolf that can control himself," Harry said. "Why wouldn't I bring you along?"
Draco stared at him, not convinced. This was some kind of trap. It had to be.
"Why would I go with you?" Draco said. "I'd end up left behind if this isn't some trick in the first place."
"You'll come with me," Harry said. "Because it's a favor. And if you do me a favor, then I will do one for you."
Draco's breath hitched. Rescue his father--Harry could storm Azkaban, Draco knew he could. If Draco helped him, then nothing would stand in their way. Not dementers, not guards, not even the dark lord if he tried.
Something in his face warned Harry, because he immediately turned wary.
"Within reason," Harry said. "You've already got something in mind, don't you?"
"Yes," Draco said quickly. "Nothing bad, I promise. Well, you wouldn't like it much, but he'd help us. I'd just have to convince him first but I'm sure he would."
"Your father. I should've known." Harry sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, then agreed. "Fine. You help me with this, and we'll get Lucius out of Azkaban. Deal?"
Hoped welled up within him. Draco looked in Harry's eyes for any trace of deceit, but there was nothing but that maddening honesty and determination. He couldn't stop himself--he leaned forward and kissed him, pushing forward so much that Harry had to catch himself on the table so he wouldn't fall.
When he remembered himself and drew back, Draco felt himself burn red with embarrassment, especially when he saw how Harry laughed behind his smile. Draco groaned and turned away.
"Don't tell anyone I did that."
"Sure," Harry said. "S'long as you don't tell them about this."
This kiss wasn't desperate or wild--it was something Draco didn't expect and wasn't sure how to react to. Harry's hand on his arm didn't grip with bruising strength and Harry didn't push him toward the floor. Draco blinked as Harry pulled away, smoothing his blonde hair back and looking him up and down vaguely like a prize.
Draco didn't mind that. Prizes were protected. He couldn't count on his mother or father to protect him, not from the dark lord. Certainly not when he was poisoning them, he reminded himself. But Harry--he could protect him. Draco believed it, even if deep in his heart it still annoyed him.
"You really want a scared, tame werewolf on your side?" he asked, just to be sure.
"'Scared'?" Harry echoed. "Draco, no one's ever faced Fenrir like you did."
With that, Harry stood up and went to the door, turning before he left.
"I have to go get ready, but I'll make sure Hermione brings you dinner. Sleep in late tomorrow. We'll be leaving in the afternoon."
Draco nodded once. "Who else is going with us? Can I tell mother and Sev'? What are we going to do?"
"Just Hermione. And we're going to Paris to find something that Voldemort misplaced."
"Paris?" Draco whispered.
As Harry left, locking the door again, Draco found his exhaustion twisting up with anxiety. Tired as he was, he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep for awhile, and he started to pace the room. The stools got in his way, so he ended up pushing them all into their places under the tables and tidying up the ingredients, putting away the tools and putting out the lumos charms in the corners.
The moon was more than enough light for him to see by, and Hermione was used to giving him his meals in the dark. She knocked once so that he knew it was her, then delivered dinner while assuring him that none of the Weasley's had poisoned it. She also escorted him upstairs and made him take a pillow and a blanket.
"I don't care if you sleep on the floor," she said, pushing him into his room. "But Harry said you're coming with us, and I don't want you sore or stiff 'cause you didn't sleep on something comfortable."
Forcing himself to take the bedding and nod a goodnight to her, he went in and dumped it all on the rug. She had a point, but the floor was comfortable enough after nights spent on dirt and rocks. And the floor was dry, too. He yawned and started to unclasp his robe.
The lumos charm ignited, lighting the room. Draco startled and looked up with wide eyes at his mother and his master sitting up, glaring at him with their daily medicines left untouched on the nightstand. Draco had the good grace to look sheepish that they had realized they weren't really sick.
"Glad to see you're feeling better," he offered. "I can explain, I swear."
"If you weren't the bloody heir," Severus said, measuring his worlds deliberately, "you would be in for a good thrashing."
"He may still be," Narcissa said, looking darkly at her son. "Start talking, Draco, and I better like what I hear."
"I think you will," Draco said with a faint smile. "Harry's agreed to help me free father."
They both stared at him in shock. A moment passed as they collected their thoughts, and then Narcissa looked back at him.
"In return for what?" she asked warily.
"I have to help him find something," Draco said. "In Paris."
"Paris?" she said to herself. "There's nothing magical about Paris. Except--oh dear."
"Indeed," Severus said, realizing what she meant. "The catacombs."
In the living room, flanked by Narcissa and Severus, Draco sat quietly still and tried not to look directly at Lupin, Arthur or any other of the Weasleys glaring at him. He felt a measure of safety having his family at his side, but he knew it was false security. They were outnumbered and alive only at Lupin's whim. The knowledge of this still galled Draco, and he knew it rankled his mother and Severus as well. If only they weren't outnumbered, if only they didn't need Harry, if only Lucius had never been imprisoned.
"So good to see you well again," Lupin said as they waited. "I was starting to worry that you wouldn't survive."
"Yes," Arthur added. "Now that Harry's taking Draco with him, how convenient it is that you've recovered."
"I'm sorry our sickness inconvenienced you," Narcissa said as if she were hostess of the party. "But if you don't need any more poisons, then we'll be safe from breathing any more fumes."
"Purely for the war effort, of course," Severus added.
They didn't reply and the room fell silent again. Draco glanced at the stairs, wondering why Harry and Hermione were taking so long. He wished he could've waited in the shape of a wolf-at least the Order of the Phoenix feared him when he was the white wolf-but at the same time, he felt more in control of himself as a human.
He often wondered what it would feel like to stalk through this house as a werewolf, ripping off Molly's head, crunching the twins' throats in his jaws, facing Lupin...
He frowned. In a fight, could he kill Lupin? The other werewolf was completely mad, and Draco wondered if that was an advantage or not. He shook his head to himself. He didn't want to find out.
Draco and Lupin heard the footsteps on the stairs before anyone else. Draco felt a spike of worry drive through him at seeing Harry's outfit so reminiscent of Quidditch. Severus and Narcissa had already explained the Parisian catacombs to him, but to see the Boy Who Lived dressed for combat made this expedition feel all the worse.
Beside Harry, Hermione wore her Hogwarts uniform with a hooded cloak. Draco wondered if she was trying to look mysterious or hide in the shadows, but as they came closer, he spotted the runes sewn messily along the edges of the cloth. The work looked amateurish but Draco didn't doubt the power of the spells she had written into the material. Her fingers looked red and chewed, mostly likely by clumsy needlework, and if she'd bled for her magic, they were so much the stronger for it.
He felt a little stab of pride that she had listened to his explanations about the importance of blood. Why should he be happy that she'd listened to him? She was just a mudblood. But he felt gratified all the same.
"You turning into a seamstress?" George asked her. "Need a bit more practice before we can hire you."
Fred laughed with him. Hermione gave him a look, then turned as Molly spoke up.
"Hermione dear," she said, after she'd glared Fred down into the couch. "Why didn't you mention you wanted runes sewn in? I could've done it for you."
From the pitying tone in her voice, she clearly meant that she could have done a neater job, but Hermione held her head high.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," she said, smiling in a manner Draco recognized but couldn't place. "But you've been so busy and I didn't want to bother you with all the pages of runes I had to go through."
As Hermione turned back to Harry, effectively ending the conversation, Draco suddenly realized where he'd seen that overly polite dismissal before. Hermione was copying his mother.
He smothered his grin before it became obvious. The little mudblood was a clever copycat, learning from everything around her. He could see why Harry kept her around.
"We're ready," Harry said, tightening the leather gauntlet around his left hand. "Draco, do you need anything before we go?"
A wand, a wand, he would do anything for a wand-Draco shook his head.
"Then let's go."
Lupin exhaled in clear aggravation. "Harry, reconsider. You're far too important to risk on a mission like this. Surely Fred and George-?"
Draco spotted Molly's furtive glance away and the tightening of her hand. Lupin had no allies in this fight to keep Harry safely in the Black house. She wouldn't volunteer any of her children for a dangerous trip to Paris, and none of the Weasley brats looked eager to volunteer.
"It has to be me," Harry said, "unless you can sense it's location?"
Lupin glanced at Draco. "You can't trust him."
"We've been over this," Harry said. "Draco won't hurt me."
"This is foolishness," Lupin said. "I can't let you-"
"I'm tired of hearing that," Harry said, walking past him to the fireplace and grabbing the floo powder. "I'm sorry, Lupin. I'm not letting you keep me here anymore."
Draco kept silent, moving only as Hermione passed him so that everyone's focus was her poorly embroidered cloak and not the thin, drawn boy at her side. He wondered what had passed between Harry and Lupin to cause such hostility and foster Harry's rebellion.
Now he had two tantalizing snatches of information-Harry's comment days ago about being at risk from dark magic, and now his offhand mention that he could sense whatever their target was. Something was amiss with their savior, something that Lupin couldn't stop and that Harry didn't seem afraid of. The balance of power had turned and only the dark wizards seemed mystified as to why.
"Coquille d'escargot, Rue de Sorcellerie, Paris," Harry said loudly, tossing the powder into the flames.
As the fire changed color, he stepped through. Hermione followed swiftly with Draco at her heels. The trip through the floo lasted longer than usual, and Draco grabbed the edge of Hermione's cloak so he'd feel her stepping into the proper exit. Magic hummed under his hand, but she only turned to see him holding it, smiled reassuringly, and watched for the coming hearth.
They landed in a mouldering stack of stones that had once been an inn, but had been left to crumble. The second floor had broken and collapsed, leaving the front door blocked. Heavy dust and grime covered the windows. Scant daylight came from the cracked roof, leaving the ruin in a dim yellow gloom.
"What is this place?" Draco whispered.
"One of the old places that the world's forgotten about," Hermione whispered back. "Grindelwald destroyed this street and the French Ministry didn't bother trying to clean out the magic he left behind. They just left it here."
She bent suddenly, picking up an old black coin, trying to polish off the tarnish. "Is it a galleon?"
He looked over her shoulder at it. "No, it's a jaiet. I haven't seen one in years."
"What's a jaiet?"
"Old dark currency," he said. "The front is the raven with its wings spread, the back is the candle. Don't rub it. It's supposed to be black. It's made out of jet."
"Oh..." A thought struck her. "Why is there a dark coin here?"
"This used to be one of our places," Draco said softly.
He walked up to the counter where several broken wine and liquor bottles lined the shelves. The mirror behind the counter was huge with a crack in the middle, and black strings of mildew spread out from behind it.
"No wonder they let this place rot. It's dark."
"See anything useful?" Harry asked, coming back to them from around the broken roof. Plumes of dust wafted up from the floor. "The entrance has to be here somewhere, but I can't find it."
"There aren't any cellar doors?" she asked. "I would've thought-I mean, to go beneath the street, you have to go down."
"You're thinking like a muggle," Draco said idly, not noticing their looks as he leaned against the bar. "Are you witch or not?"
"What are you talking about?" she asked, rankled at hearing that for the second time in her life.
"You're looking for a way into the catacombs?" he asked. "All the other doors are broken in. If the door was made of wood, we'd of seen it by now."
"The door's not a door?" Harry asked.
"Not one a muggle would notice." Draco nodded at the mirror. "Can you repair that crack?"
Hermione nodded and cast a reparo spell. The mirror shuddered as the glass crept over the crack like ice, sealing it up smoothly. An emerald sheen flickered over the glass.
"That's the door," Draco said. "Bet you anything."
"So how do we open it?" Harry asked.
"No idea." Draco shrugged. "Could try blundering through, but you don't always know where you're going to end up."
"Hermione?" Harry asked, turning toward her. "Any ideas?
"Well, I have a guess," she said. "I don't think it's a good one, but..."
"But it's all we have," he said. "Go ahead and try."
Nodding once, she took a deep breath and raised her wand. "Accio skull."
There was a faint rush of air, the scent of dust and mold and decay, and then the mirror rippled like water as something pale yellow flew out at her. She yelped, startled even as she caught it, turning it right side up. A yellow skull grinned back at her.
"Must be the catacombs," Harry said. "I'll go first. Hermione, wait a couple seconds, then follow me. Draco...are you going to change first?"
Draco hesitated, then nodded and started to undo the top of his robe. After a moment, he grew self-conscious of them watching and went behind the counter, kneeling out of sight and letting the robe fall to the floor.
The change was bad enough, but the anticipation made it all the worse. He crossed his arms, putting his hands on shoulders, hesitating as he dug his fingers into his skin. He took a deep breath, clothed his eyes tight, and suddenly his nails were claws that ripped his skin to shreds in one motion.
Blood splattered the floor and wall, his shriek of pain became a howl, and he fell forward onto his hands-his paws. His front legs absorbed the shock and caught him, and as he climbed to his feet, he realized that he was on all fours, panting hard, and his breath was a harsh growl.
"Are you sure he's safe?" Hermione whispered.
"It's fine," Harry said. "We can stun him if we have to."
Draco heard their voices over the whoosh of their hearts beating, the blood pushing through their bodies, the faint whisper of their breath. He turned, padding out slowly as he reaccustomed himself to this body, and sat down facing them.
"Can...can he understand us?" she asked.
"I think so," Harry said. "I got him to follow me back to Grimauld Place. Draco, do you know what we're saying?"
It was easier to predict their movement than to understand their speech. He caught a few words, Grimauld, his name, but the complex sounds were difficult to discern. He didn't bother to try. He walked to Harry's side and snuffed his ankles, learning his scent.
"All right," Hermione said, turning to the window but keeping Draco in the corner of her eye. "Let's go then."
Harry went to the mirror and touched it. The surface dimpled under his fingers, and he put his whole hand through, then drew it out quickly.
"What is it?" Hermione asked in alarm.
"Nothing," Harry assured her. "Just cold."
He climbed up on the counter and stepped through, swallowed by his reflection. Hermione waited a moment as if expecting him to rush back, but as the seconds passed and he didn't reappear, she steeled herself and went through.
Left alone in the silence, Draco whined once, giving vent to the fear welling up in him, then followed.
The chill ruffled his fur and his breath misted, but the catacombs were no more uncomfortable than the forest at night. The light from Harry's wand lit up the stacks of bones surrounding them. Arranged in decorative rows, hundreds of skulls watched them with silent black gazes. The air was still, punctuated only by the steady drip of water somewhere in the darkness.
Hermione cast her own lumos charm. The effect was that of two pitiful candles against a sea of shadows. She and Harry moved close together, clinging to each other's light, and only as they backed towards Draco did the wall come into view.
"It feels like we're in a cave," Hermione whispered. "A huge cave I can't see the ends of."
"It's all right," Harry said. "If anything really bad happens, you can just apparate back to the other side of the mirror."
"I don't think so." She touched the thick stone. "There's no way to tell how far that door took us. If we tried to apparate, we could end up splinched into the ground."
She took the jaiet coin and scraped the wall with it, leaving a black mark pointing the direction they were going. It would be their only map. She picked up a skull and tried to transfigure it, but the bone was too old and disintegrated at her spell.
"Should've thought to bring yarn," she said softly.
Draco gave her a cursory sniff and sneezed at the magic sewn into her cloak. The runes formed spicy spells that made his nose twitch, and he left her side, coming up to Harry and then walking ahead, exploring the smells of the catacombs. The bones were far too old to smell of flesh or blood. There was only dust, stone, and the damp.
Too busy studying the room beyond what they could see, Draco at first missed what Harry said. He looked over his shoulder as Harry called his name, and while he didn't understand the mess of Harry's voice mixed with his heartbeat and blood and breath, he caught a few words.
Jar. Voldemort. Beast.
Did Harry mean for him to sniff out a jar, fight death eaters or watch out for a monster? Draco couldn't tell, and he worried that he might face something down here, something that wouldn't think twice about attacking a werewolf. Or would they come across death eaters, Voldemort, Fenrir-?
His heart quailed, and he retreated to Harry's heels, looking out from behind his robes. Behind them, Hermione sighed.
"Figures," she said. "Our werewolf's a 'fraidy cat."
"He'll fight when he has to," Harry said. "You didn't see him attack Fenrir."
She frowned skeptically. "No one would fight Fenrir straight on."
Harry smiled back. "He did. Turned tail and ran the moment he could, but-you should've seen it. Half Fenrir's size and hanging onto his hind leg by his teeth."
Draco felt something gently touch his head. He stopped and looked up, finding Harry patting his head. His first instinct was to crane his neck back and bite the hand off. The hot blood would warm him against the cold. But the touch was pleasant, and he liked the person doing it, and Draco consciously nudged the wolf to enjoy the patting rather than the screaming and searing revenge that would come if he gave into his hunger.
Besides, perhaps they would meet a monster or enemy down here and then Draco could eat his fill. Nursing that happy thought, the wolf walked on, silent with ears straining, nose twitching and jaws slightly agape for the hint of living flesh nearby.
"Careful," Hermione whispered. "Don't treat him like a dog."
"He won't bite me," Harry said. "Relax."
They came to the first corridor, a cramped hallway with a low ceiling that nearly brushed their heads. Their small circle of light seemed to grow tight, a little white ball with darkness ahead and behind. Watching Draco for any whimper or growl, they ventured deeper into the catacombs, and with their conversation held over his head, Draco was left to his thoughts, blunted by the wolf's primal instincts, wondering what was down here that had them so worried that they would want a werewolf for protection.
After an hour of the curving corridors, the stacks of bones no longer looked so ominous. Draco was tempted to take a long bone and gnaw on it as he walked, purely to give his teeth something to do. The longer he stayed in this shape, the more he wanted to turn on his companions. He didn't feel the same pain maddened hate that fueled Lupin's wolf. Rather he was simply hungry and hadn't eaten breakfast.
The growling in the distance came as a relief. As they came to a juncture between two other tunnels, the faint rumbling of something alive came from somewhere far out of sight. Hunger overcame Draco's cowardice and he kept walking until he realized Harry and Hermione had stopped. Half in shadow, Draco looked over his shoulder at them, head cocked quizzically.
"Is that it?" Hermione whispered in an impossibly small voice.
The growls sounded like they were miles away, echoing all around them.
"Probably," Harry breathed back. "I can't sense it."
"It might not be dark," she said. "Could just be big."
Harry cursed in frustration. "Dammit, there's no way of telling where it is."
"Think it knows we're here?" she asked.
The growling sounded louder and a faint smell of putrescent ichor swelled through the corridor.
"I think so," Harry said. "We need to find an open place to fight."
"There was that chamber awhile back," she said, but he shook his head.
"It'll be on us before we can reach it." He nodded forwards. "We'll just have to hope the tunnel opens up before it reaches us."
They hurried along the path, careful to stay behind Draco. His tail thumped Harry's legs as they jogged.
Deep rumbling followed the growls, a violent shaking that brought sifts of dust from above. The stone trembled under their feet. Heavy footsteps echoed all around them, but all too soon they could sense it coming from straight ahead. The stench of dried blood and rotted meat grew so overwhelming that they gagged.
To Draco, however, the scent was of easy meat, long dead and ready for devouring. He growled in satisfaction and plunged forward, leaving Harry and Hermione behind.
"No!" Harry yelled. "Draco!"
"He can't kill the beast," Hermione said, "not by himself!"
They sped as quick as they could through the tunnels, but the ground was uneven and the walls were so cramped that they had to slow down instead of slamming themselves against the rough stone.
Up ahead, Draco saw nothing. He'd outrun Harry's light, but he ran without worrying about hitting the wall. Although the catacombs were pitch black, the smell of meat was so strong that he tasted it in the air. The scent alone would lead him, and he followed it so fast that he slammed his shoulder into the beast's snout before it could attack.
By the impact, he knew he was smaller than the monster he couldn't see, only half its size if that, but the speed and force of his strike left his shoulder cracked and its snout bloodied. He heard it spit out teeth.
Limping backward, Draco snarled and kept his fangs bared. His human thoughts fought with the wolf, forced himself to remember what little his mother and Severus knew about this creature. A devourer of women and children, a punishment from God on the those who placed too much faith on worldly answers, and a demon in an animal's skin-little was known about the monster that had slaughtered dozens of muggles and wizards before vanishing underground. It had no name, but everyone knew it as the Beast of Gevaudan.
Could it smell him? The stench was thick all around them. It stumbled through the darkness, roaring so loud that his ears hurt. He snarled back, knowing he couldn't intimidate it, and made an exploratory lunge that would have bitten a person's arm off.
His teeth found skin stretched tight on bone and ragged fur clumped with dirt. A burst of blood filled his mouth even as he jumped back, followed by its howl and a violent swipe of its own. Something whipped against Draco's shoulder, dragging fire that dripped wetly down his front leg. The scent of blood warred with the rotten meat.
Draco jumped at the pain, hitting his head against the low ceiling. The walls suddenly cramped up tight against him like a cage. He couldn't tell where the tunnel opened or where the beast was. The roar and darkness and blood was everywhere.
Panicking, he howled as the beast found him again and slashed, bit, slammed its body against his as it roared again. Draco stumbled sideways, tumbling along the floor. His wounded shoulder crushed against the stone. The beast stepped on his leg, snapping it clean through.
Draco bit wildly at anything he could get his mouth around-stone that hurt his teeth, bones that exploded into powder, fur and skin that shredded under his fangs. The beast jerked back and pulled Draco up with it, wrenching the small werewolf up hard against the ceiling.
Pressed against the wall, Draco had no way to run and a world of pain driving him mad. As he dropped back to his feet, he reared up on his hind paws and slashed wildly with his claws. Fur-skin-blood-deep into flesh he tore. The beast's jaws clenched around his hind leg like knives, stabbing like his whole leg would shear off.
Draco fell forward onto the beast's bony shoulders, and he locked his fangs down on its neck. The beast flailed as its spine cracked under the pressure, locking down harder on Draco's leg in desperation. As Draco felt his leg start to come apart, he bit with all his strength, crushing the beast's backbone between his teeth, and the beast suddenly went limp. Its jaws opened and its teeth slid out of him.
As the body fell under him, Draco leaned against it, waiting until he heard the heart stop and the breath rattle out of his throat before he let go. Whimpering, he twisted and arched in pain as his wounds mended. His shoulder blades knit themselves back together. The flesh of his thigh crawled into place. His breaths came too shallow, and he started to shiver. His eyes started to close.
He raised his head. In the stillness, he heard distant voices calling his name. There was no way they'd find him. How many forks and branches did these tunnels have? The voices grew louder, then began to fade as they turned aside.
"...draco, where are you..."
That was Harry's voice. Draco tried to draw breath to howl, but his chest shuddered. Transform back into a human? Who knew what damage he'd do to himself if he transformed now. But he wanted to be found.
With his uninjured arm, he reached out and scraped his claws against the wall. Like steel dragged down chalk, the high pitched screech traveled through the catacombs. In a moment, he heard their footsteps running close and saw the glimmer of light coming towards him.
"Oh Merlin...look at that thing. All that blood-"
"I don't think it's all his," Harry said. "Look, he's healing up."
Draco raised his head slowly. In the cool air, he felt the heat of Harry's body coming close. So much healing had left him ravenously hungry, and Harry's blood would be warm and sweet...
"Don't get close to him," Hermione warned. "He's still a werewolf."
"It's fine," Harry said. "It's just Draco-"
Harry leaped back just as Draco's jaws snapped shut on empty air. He raised his wand, ready to cast a spell, but he hesitated as Draco sank to the ground with a groan.
"You can't trust him," Hermione said, coming to Harry's side. "Not when he's like this."
"Right..." Harry said slowly. "He's a werewolf. And he's hungry."
"And he's been hurt," Hermione said. "He's almost healed up. Make him transform. If we need him to be a wolf again, he can always turn back."
Nodding at her, Harry turned and knelt in front of Draco, wand at the ready. With childish cajoling words, he whispered soothingly just out of arm's reach.
"Can you turn back for me? Draco, can you be human for me? Can you? Please turn back?"
Draco watched him through half-lidded eyes. At first Harry didn't think Draco understood him, but then the fur faded and white skin appeared. Too white. He looked as white as chalk, as if every drop of blood had been lost.
Harry took off his cloak and put it around Draco's shoulders. "That's my good werewolf. Are you okay?"
Draco blinked slowly. "Harry...it hurts."
"I know," Harry said, sweeping Draco's long blonde hair out of his eyes. "It'll be all right. We're almost there now."
"Where?" Draco mumbled.
"Very close," Harry said. "Can you walk?"
Draco closed his eyes and lowered his head.
"He can," Hermione muttered. "He just doesn't want to."
"He doesn't have to," Harry said. "I'll carry him."
"Harry, what if-"
Draco felt Harry slide close, putting his arm over his shoulders. He refused to let Harry get an arm under his legs, though, smacking his hand away.
"Okay, okay, no carrying," Harry said, but he was smiling as he stood, helping Draco back to his feet and refusing to let him stand on his own.
"How much further?" Harry called over his shoulder.
"Can't be much," she said. "The lithopaedion is supposed to be in the beast's chamber." She shone her wand down two tunnels that branched out. "But how we'll find that in this maze..."
"Straight ahead," Draco slurred, resting his head on Harry's shoulder. "Can't you smell it?"
"I can't tell any difference," Harry said. "It all smells the same."
"Well," Hermione said. "His nose would know different."
She kicked the dead beast as she crept by to make sure it was dead. Now that they could see it clearly, it looked less like a beast and more like an overgrown rat, a werewolf that had probably lost its way in the catacombs. Its claws and teeth were wet with Draco's blood, but the teeth were yellowed and chipped with age. The skin stuck to its bones and its stomach clung to its back. Dead skin mouldered on its body. The stench of rotting meat had been its own.
"Now I'm really glad we brought him with us," she said. "I wouldn't want to face that thing in the dark. It must've starved down here."
Draco wanted to comment that even half-starved, it had nearly killed him. Instead his thought died in his throat as they stepped over a layer of crushed and splintered bones, finally coming to a large chamber where the walls were too far out to be seen by their light charms.
"There!" Hermione said, running forward.
Harry brought Draco along slowly, giving him time to move his feet. Soon enough they could see Hermione standing before a broken altar. The beast had obviously stepped on it and gnawed off chunks, but the heavy wood had resisted most of its efforts at destroying it. On the floor beneath the altar lay the item they'd come for, long fallen behind its place of honor and revealed only by the gouge in the altar's top piece.
It was a stone lump no bigger than Hermione's hand. Yellowed ivory in color, it stood out from the rock catacombs. The shape was obscured by layers of calcium built up over its surface, but the edges were unmistakable. Draco froze. He hadn't seen one of these in his life, but he had heard much about them from Severus.
A lithopaedion. A stone baby.
Hermione took off her cloak and covered the stone, wrapping it up safely. The cloak hummed again, clearly meant for holding this object. She turned and nodded at Harry.
He nodded back. It didn't seem proper to speak in this place. Hermione came around Draco's other side and let him put his arm over her shoulders. Wordlessly they started walking back, following Hermione's marks on the wall.
If Draco had been a wolf, his fur would have stood on end with his ears cocked perfectly towards Harry. Instead, he leaned against the greenhouse door, arms folded, staring intently at a mottled patch of carpet as Harry and Lupin shouted at each other. He didn't dare move. The Weasleys all sat in a row on the couch or stood on either side, watching him with dour frowns, and beside him, Severus and Narcissa quietly glared back. Draco knew that if he moved at all, if he turned his head, coughed or even breathed too loud, someone in the room would take offense and take out their wand.
Really, it wasn't his fault.
"You don't have a choice," Harry said in the other room. "If you try to lock me up, I'll blast the door off its hinges."
"I would hope it does not come to that," Lupin responded.
If anyone had asked him, Draco would have said it was impossible to keep Harry prisoner when Harry wanted to be somewhere else. Harry had to be talked into things, lured and manipulated. No wonder he hated manipulation and lies, becoming so good at ferreting them out. And if Harry said that breaking Lucius Malfoy out of Azkaban was a two person job and no more, well then. That was what Harry said.
It really wasn't Draco's fault. He hadn't even talked him into it.
The argument dwindled down to soft voices that Draco couldn't hear, and then Lupin burst out loudly
"I agree you shouldn't take the other dark wizards, but at least take me or Tonks or..."
His voice faded again. In trying to maintain some weird facade of unity in front of the Malfoys, they instead seemed like bickering children. The only person who looked relieved that Harry would only take Draco was Mrs. Weasley who didn't want to lose any children. Azkaban was no easy target. That Harry would think he could break in, even with all his power and with cowardly Draco as an anchor slowing him down...
"I promised," Harry said. "And admit it-Lucius will know what to do with that damn thing."
"Hermione can't make heads or tails of it," Lupin argued.
"Hermione isn't a dark wizard."
"We already have three dark wizards."
"But Lucius is different," Harry said. "He'll know why it's important. He's known Voldemort for years."
"Strangely, that doesn't make me feel better," Lupin said, sarcasm following Harry up and out of the kitchen.
Harry stopped, glanced around at everyone in the room, then soundly ignored them and went up to Draco, putting one hand on his shoulder and squeezing once.
"You ready for this?" he asked. "No turning back."
Aware of them all watching, Draco nodded once. "D-did you want me to change?"
"No," Harry said, shaking his head once. "You need to be able to talk to him. And to me. Your senses are sharper than mine. I'll be counting on you to keep us from running into guards or dementors."
Draco grimaced. "I'd probably be a lot more useful as a wolf."
Severus, with his eyes shut as if he could ignore the world around him, snorted. "Less apt to whine at least."
"Or bite the hand that feeds," Narcissa muttered, crossing her arms as she looked away.
From Mrs. Weasley's appalled look, no doubt she thought that Draco's family was mean and petty, like all dark wizards were mean and petty, and Draco could do nothing to reply. No matter how much he explained, they had not yet forgiven him for poisoning them for days on end.
When he thought about it, Draco sometimes thought that the dementors would be less intimidating than his angry mother.
"You'll be fine," Harry assured him. "I can handle anything that comes our way. I just want to avoid as much trouble as we can."
"The two of you aren't exactly good at avoiding trouble," Hermione said from the doorway. "Oh, Harry, are you sure you won't take at least one of us with you?"
"You have your own work to do with that stone thing," Harry said, shaking his head. "And Draco will be enough. Really, I could get in and out of there on my own. I just don't want Malfoy zapping me in the back."
They all glanced at Narcissa and Severus, who made no protest. It was a valid fear, and they felt no need to defend Lucius when there was a good chance he would have attacked Harry no matter what.
"Harry-" Lupin tried one more time, taking a step closer.
"No," Harry said, pulling Draco after him. "We're going. Now."
Whatever Lupin said drowned as Harry tossed a handful of floo powder into the fireplace, calling out "Mittigan's Way" and taking Draco with him into the flames.
This trip through the fireplace was not the usual blur of potential stops. The world rushed by in a dizzying whirlwind of sound and cold wind, and Draco grabbed Harry's arm, hugging him close as the noise grew louder, the whole floo network shuddering around them.
Worse, though, was when the floo turned darker, with no lights, no fires, only the constant drone of wind as they hurtled through shadows. This was not the floo network he was used to, and rather than moving through the world, he felt as if they were flying down into the earth, plummeting deeper into an open grave.
"Here we are," Harry said, his low voice sounding like a roar in the silence, and then they were stepping out, coming to a halt in a cold, grey hearth made of stone. A burst of dust followed them, lit by moonlight streaming in from the bare windows.
Still clinging to Harry, Draco looked around, his senses straining for the slightest sound or smell. The night breeze carried the scent of salt water and wet stones, damp leaves and dying grass, and the sound of wind blowing over an empty field. It also brought a chill that cut through his clothing and made him shudder.
"Sorry it's so cold," Harry said. "Can't use a warming spell here. Or any magic, not really."
Though he wasn't happy to hear that, Draco nodded once and didn't argue. He watched Harry bend and pick up a muggle lantern at their feet, lighting it with a spark he struck in his palm. Curious as to how magicless light worked, he looked over Harry's shoulder as he moved the flame from the tiny stick to the lantern, wordlessly huddling closer to the warm glow.
As Harry stood, the light spread out and revealed the small stone ruin, little more than four walls and a roof over a hearth. Draco recognized it as a traveling stop, nothing more than a sheltered fireplace to serve for floo travelers, and so many of them fell into disuse or were forgotten that sometimes four or five stops were created for the same place.
For a moment they paused at the door, an empty frame blocked by such tall grass that the ruin was nearly swallowed up, and Draco saw tower of Azkaban rising up before them. His breath caught in his throat and he backed up a step, only as far as he could go without letting go of Harry.
"How...?" Draco whispered, looking up. "We're right here!"
"Some excavating," Harry said with a grin. "Found out it was here, but we had to dig it out. Wasn't easy, though."
"'Not easy...'" Draco echoed, cringing as dementors swooped around the top of the prison. "How are we...?"
His voice trailed off as he watched Harry, who crouched at the door taking in the sight of dementors moving in and out of tiny windows, spotting the light of a lone guard. Harry looked eager to break into the wizarding world's worst dungeon and brave the terrible monsters lurking within, daring what no other wizard had ever done. He looked more alive now than he had in weeks, and Draco wondered if Harry was insane.
"There's only one guard," Harry said over his shoulder, never glancing away from the prison. "And he's gone half the time. Too many dementors to stay on, I guess. We can move in a few minutes. Can a werewolf fight a dementor, you think?"
"I don't know," Draco said, clutching Harry tighter. "I don't know if the wolf can feel sad."
"Well, we'll find out," Harry said. He reached into his robe and pulled out a cloth that shimmered as he unfurled it, draping it over both of them. "This'll only get us so far before the dementors start to notice us, but I think I can cast a pretty good patronus now."
"Had a lot of practice?" Draco mumbled. He held the cloth to his face, rubbing it between his fingers. An invisibility cloak...one of several rare artifacts that he would have sworn was mere legend. Figured that Potter had it.
"Yeah, actually." Harry chuckled. "Voldemort likes using them sometimes, but once you know the counter spell, they're easy to handle."
"Not so easy when you don't have a wand," Draco said softly.
Harry didn't reply. As much as Harry had said about trusting him and valuing him, Draco felt keenly aware that the other boy had never offered him another wand. He didn't want to risk bringing it up and losing all of Harry's trust, but Draco was beginning to wonder if he had wormed his way into Harry's heart not as a potential lover but as a pet on a short leash.
"Come on," Harry said, stepping out into the tall grass. "And stay quiet."
Though small, the island was rough and craggy, and they made slow progress climbing over the wave-battered foundation of the tower. The invisibility cloak could not block the ocean spray, and soon Draco was soaked with salt water. Shivering with cold and fear, he felt when they reached the prison door, slipping inside with no trouble.
Of course the door was unlocked, Draco knew. Azkaban did not mind letting people in. It simply refused to let them out again.
"Keep a sharp lookout," Harry whispered. "Dementors are fast. They won't give us much time when they spot us."
But as they went up, climbing narrow, spiraling stairs past tiny cells, Draco only caught the dull scent of dementors long past, like faded footprints. The tower smelled of decay and dust and mildew, but not of their living despair. He heard moans and shrieks, heard the ocean crashing against the walls, but nothing of ghostly fabric sliding over stone. Occasionally he heard steel slamming shut, but it was always high above them, or far below. Still they kept climbing.
"I think a lot of them are gone," Draco whispered. "I'm not sensing many nearby."
"Figures," Harry said. "Voldemort called a lot of them away. Most of them left, I think."
They passed a cell, no different than others, but Draco could not help a curious glance inside. He saw a shadow that had once been a man, its skin blackened with grime and dust and stretched tight over emaciated bones. The hair was thin, the eyes staring directly at him without seeing. It should have been a corpse, but it turned its head, staring at the wall, and it dragged in a wheezing breath.
Suddenly light headed, Draco grabbed Harry and pressed himself close, eyes squeezed shut, burying his face in Harry's birds nest of hair.
"Are you all right?" Harry whispered.
Several seconds passed before Draco gave a tight nod, and then another moment before he could step back, one hand still on Harry's shoulder. He put his other hand to his face, covering his eyes, afraid to look either left or right again.
Azkaban's display of cold justice was enough to make him wish Voldemort would triumph. Death Eaters killed their victims, or occasionally tortured them into insanity. The ministry's methodical, lingering death was no better than being buried alive, devoured slowly by monsters and left in a shell with no hope of the torture ever ending.
Something screamed beside him, tearing away the cloak and bashing his head against the stones. Off balance, he stumbled and landed hard on his knees, blinking away tears of pain. The scream came again, followed by the sound of Harry casting a spell that he didn't recognize.
And then the fear vanished in a blur of pain and a sudden spray of blood. Draco could barely see, as if he was looking through a long tunnel, but he knew what he was doing, slashing wildly with claws and snapping anything he could get his mouth around.
His jaws closed with a satisfying bite into something mouldering and weak, fluttering uselessly in his mouth, and when he jerked his head one way, keen wolf ears heard cloth rip. He spit the mouthful out and went back for another bite, only to find his prey collapsed on the floor, a useless puddle of cloth.
"Lupere sedere," Harry said nearby.
As quick as it had come, the hunger left, so abruptly that Draco stood frozen as he came back to his senses. He looked down at his hands, surprised that he did not see claws. His robe looked worse for wear, torn open along the seams and hanging on by his shoulders. Had it been a hallucination?
No. At his feet lay the shredded remains of a dementor, and there were torn threads in his mouth. He spat them out, disgusted, and looked at Harry in dawning realization. Harry held his wand out, his expression wary.
"What did you do?" Draco whispered.
"I had to," Harry started. "There were three of them all at once—we weren't going to be able to take all of them if—"
"What did you do?" Draco repeated, louder.
"Lupus ravin," Harry said. "Hermione came up with it. It makes you change."
Draco paled, taking a step back, his hands over his mouth. The look of betrayal in his eyes made Harry shake his head, trying to explain in a rush, but his voice turned into a low rumble like distant thunder, and everything was wind blowing around his ears.
"Of course," he breathed, not realizing he was speaking out loud. "We're in Azkaban. You meant to leave me here. You meant to leave me—in one of the cells—forever forgotten..."
Harry had him around the shoulders, shaking him, yelling something that couldn't cut through the panic. Draco tried to lash out at him and found his hands caught and pushed back against the wall. Yelping as his arms bent too far, he made a weak snap at Harry's arm with his teeth, biting on empty air as Harry jerked back.
"What the hell?" Harry snarled at him. "Are you trying to bite me?"
"I'm not a dog!" Draco yelled, disgusted at how his face turned hot. "I'm not your pet—I'm not your—I...don't leave me here, please!"
He ended in a keening wail that sickened him and made him crouch down, sure that Harry would push him into an empty cell and abandon him out of sheer disgust. Instead he felt Harry putting an arm around him and flinging the cloak over them again.
"I'm not leaving you here," Harry said, pulling him back to his feet. "And I know you're not a pet. I'm sorry I didn't warn you about that spell."
Furiously wiping his sleeves across his eyes, Draco nodded once and wouldn't meet his look.
"I think that answers that question," Harry said. "Werewolves do get sad."
Harry grabbed Draco's hand, tangling their fingers together, and pushed his hair from his face. As Draco's breathing came back under control, Harry leaned against him, holding him firmly against the wall until the blonde stopped fidgeting under his hand.
"We're going to get your father out of here," Harry murmured in his ear. "And then we're all going back to Grimauld place. All right?"
Draco didn't respond.
"All right?" Harry repeated. "We're going back, and we're going to kill Voldemort. And then we don't have to fight anymore, all right?"
Hesitating, Draco looked up at Harry, then nodded once.
"You won't cast that spell on me again?" he said. "Promise. You can't do that to me. You just can't."
Harry stared at him for several seconds, considering.
"If we get attacked again," he said, "you being a werewolf may be our only hope."
"That's not fair," Draco said. "If I had a wand, I could've..."
"Draco," Harry sighed. "Have you ever cast a patronus?"
That's not the point, Draco wanted to argue. But it was. As cold blooded as Harry was, Draco had never cast such a spell, and even if he had, he could not think of a happy memory. Was that because of the dementor's attack?
"I want a wand," he said. "When we get back."
Harry nodded. "Come on. Let's go get your father."
Though he noticed Harry hadn't promised anything, Draco held silent and walked with him. He had little choice. Only once his father was safely away from here could he begin to plan some sort of escape, and he resigned himself to more forced transformations before they could leave the prison.
The rest of the rescue, however, was anticlimactic. His father's cell was on the next floor, and when Harry broke the lock, Lucius was nearly unresponsive, eyes open but unfocused. Draco knelt beside him, taking his hand, but his father seemed oblivious in his own world. He hoped it was not catatonia or insanity.
Without wasting time on asking questions, Harry took Draco's hand, touched the top button on his robe, and activated the portkey spell within. In a flash, they were back inside the living room, kneeling on the floor, and Severus and Narcissa were instantly beside them, first checking to make sure Draco was in one piece and then busying themselves with Lucius.
Draco couldn't bring himself to help. His image of his father was one of haughty confidence, not this oblivious automaton that merely looked like him. Draco backed away, letting them bring Lucius to his feet and taking him slowly upstairs, whispering things he couldn't hear. Not whispering to Draco anymore.
Oh, he thought, watching them go. He's head of the family. Not me.
Watching the last of his authority going upstairs, Draco tried to remind himself that this was what he had worked for the better part of a year towards. He should be happy. His father was home and they were that much closer to winning the war, or just escaping with the family intact.
Harry stood up, to follow them or find someone, Draco didn't know. Without Harry at his side, however, the room suddenly swam around and tilted to one side. Draco groaned, felt himself topple backward across the carpet. Someone's hand touched his face, but everything had gone black by then.
Somehow he knew that he was asleep, that he couldn't wake up, and he didn't want to wake up. The darkness was safe and reassuring. He didn't need to do anything here, didn't need to save anyone or fight, didn't need to endlessly worry or plan for every outcome. And if he stayed asleep forever, he would not have minded.
When he woke up again, he was in Harry's bed.
At first he didn't know where he was. Sunlight came through a high window, lighting the dust particles slowly floating through the air.
But there was no sunlight when they moved, no windows and certainly no soft mattress or safe bedroom. Where was Sev' and his mother? It didn't sound like there was anyone else sleeping nearby. He would have heard them—quiet, yes, but nothing slept quietly enough to fool a werewolf. Comfortable as he was—he thought he might sink into the mattress, weighed down like sleepy lead—he turned his head to the right.
Harry sat on the mattress beside him, gently pushing the hair back from his eyes.
"It's all right," Harry said. "You're safe."
Waking up like this—was he naked? he certainly didn't feel any clothes on him—in someone else's bed didn't make him feel safe. Not after...oh. That was where the fear was coming from. He still felt the sick dread from yesterday, the slow climb into Azkaban and the dementors swarming around him.
He flushed, closing his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I didn't mean to panic. Yesterday, I mean."
"S'funny how you have to say when," Harry said, smiling faintly. "You panic so often."
Draco refused to look up.
"Then again," Harry said, "I suppose you usually have a really good reason."
"In my defense," Draco said, "I didn't panic when I was biting Fenrir."
"No," Harry laughed, "you were hanging on for dear life and flying in a circle."
"But I didn't panic," Draco insisted, peeking at him through one slit eye.
"No, you did not." Harry nodded grudgingly. "And you handled that monster in the catacombs pretty well, too."
"Got near torn in half, you mean."
Draco smiled faintly, but as he moved, he felt a deep twinge in his side and a soreness in his back and thighs that he had hoped to never feel again. He winced, more and more aware of the aches and pain as he adjusted. Even under the covers, he was cold, shaking even. Where was his wand? He could at least ease the worst of it. Or the garden and its ingredients could help—
"Don't move too much," Harry said, pressing his hand flat on Draco's chest to set him back on the bed. "We won't have more pain killer until Snape makes more of it."
"'Pain killer'?" Draco echoed. "But for what? I didn't get hurt."
"You tore apart several dementors," Harry said as if that explained everything. When Draco still looked confused, Harry half-shrugged. "I didn't understand either 'till Hermione explained it. She said they pulled open old wounds on you."
Draco immediately put his hand down at his hip, feeling the deep scars there.
"Not really," Harry said quickly. "Not open for real. Just...kind of open in your head."
Not sure how to feel about that, Draco tried to lay still. If he concentrated, he could feel each familiar wound flaring up. His body's favorite places to tear his skin as fur erupted through. Fenrir's gouge on his side. The beast's terrible bites. The claws digging deep into his hips—
He squeezed his eyes shut.
He did not want to remember this.
"How's my father?" he blurted. "Sev', mother, have they said anything? Father looked completely mental. I didn't try to say anything to him before, and..."
"He's well physically," Harry said. "Mentally...I don't know. Your parents are with him, and they're talking to Hermione to get ingredients and things for him."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "My parents? Talking to her?"
"Lupin's kind of realized that without you up and about, he doesn't know all the different things that go into potions or poisons. So she's kind of okay'ing what they ask for."
"Oh, that'll make them so much easier to deal with," Draco snorted. "You don't know how spiteful they can be. Probably end up giving me absinthe instead of nepenthe."
Harry frowned. "Why would they give you alcohol?"
Draco glanced at him. "What?"
"Absinthe. Why would they give you any? And what's ne-pen-thay?"
"I don't know what you're on about," Draco said, "but absinthe's nothing like liquor."
"Sure it is," Harry said. "Fred and George had some hidden under the bed."
Harry cut himself off too late.
Draco grunted, readjusting as he felt Fenrir's claws loosen just a little. The more he woke up, coming out of what had to have been a deep sleep, the more aware he was of just how many of Fenrir's hands were on him. Furred claws on his sides, heavy hands on his shoulders, a sniggering mouth at his ear—
No. If he could just keep focused on Harry...
"So the terrible twins are hiding it from mother?" Draco said and smiled wanly, taking satisfaction in how this small distraction was loosening Fenrir's grip. "Figures. This war'd drive anyone to drink."
"You can't tell anyone," Harry demanded, but his stern voice was at odds with his wide eyes. "I wasn't supposed to tell."
"They promise not to hit me again," Draco muttered. "Sure. What's a little poison between such grand friends?"
"'Poison'?" Harry said. "It's just a drink."
"I've never heard of a drink called absinthe," Draco said. "The stuff I make has wormwood and fennel, touch of anise and a few drops of fairy's blood. Potent stuff. See monsters that aren't there for days."
"Huh," Harry mused. "I wonder if muggles got their hands on some of that before."
"Tell you what," Draco said, coughing as his throat ran dry. "I'll make it my way and see how the twins like that?"
"I think you could do with some water," Harry said. "Can I sit you up a bit?"
"Think you might have to," Draco said, closing his eyes. "Room's spinning a bit."
Harry gently reached beneath his back, bringing him up while Draco pushed against the mattress, forcing himself to sit against the pillow Harry propped behind him. Laying back on that felt like he'd climbed Azkaban on the outside, and he felt deep relief that Harry was putting the cup to his lips, letting him drink as slowly as he wanted.
"Don't understan' it," Draco murmured as he finished. "I got back here all right. Why's it only hurting me now?"
"...it's my fault," Harry said. "I didn't...I shouldn't have made you turn into a wolf. It worked, but not in the long run."
Draco grimaced, turning his head slightly away, glancing at the drab brown wallpaper and exposed brick under the thin patches. There were no other beds, which surprised him a little, cramped though the room was. The Weasleys were so pressed for space and here the Boy Who Lived claimed his own room? Did Hermione have her own as well? Perhaps there were other nooks and crannies that the Weasleys stuffed their children. Lord knew—
Fenrir's snickering in his ear grew louder, familiar breath of blood and bone whispering across his face. "Give in, whelp."
Clenching his teeth, Draco forced his attention back on Harry.
"Talk to me," Draco whispered. "Please."
"Uh..." Harry blinked. "Talk?"
"Please," Draco groaned. The pressure at his back was growing into a fierce flame. "Distract me."
"Oh!" Harry looked around the room as if for inspiration. "Um, right. Distraction. Um. Right. I shouldn't have forced you to turn. When I told Hermione, she about blew a gasket."
Draco murmured something under his breath, wincing as pressure built on his shoulders, pressing him down into the mattress like a heavy weight.
"And she said I would've been smarter to teach you how to cast a patronus yourself," Harry said quickly. "But that took me ages to learn, and Lupin said...well, he said that not all wizards can do it. That sometimes it turns back on the caster. Some dark wizard tried and it turned into maggots that ate him."
Draco's face drew tight.
"Figures," he hissed. "Stupid light magic...pure of heart this, unworthy that..."
"You probably wouldn't have been afraid if you'd gone already as a wolf," Harry said. "You're fearless in that shape."
"Show's what you know," Draco said with ill-humour. "I just run faster is all."
"Yah, whelp." Fenrir's voice burned in his mind. "Run faster, but not fast enough to outrun your pack, huh?"
Harry saw Draco tense, saw the fear in his face turn to pain. Although several solutions flashed in his mind—call Hermione, call for that nepenthay stuff, even ask Lupin if there was a spell he could cast, obliviate maybe—his enemy, bodiless but all too real, lay in front of him.
What was a Gryffindor to do but put his hands on Draco, cool fingertips against Draco's hot skin, bringing a flush to Draco's throat as his hand fit perfectly, curving along the other boy's collarbone. Draco gasped as if for air, struggling to cool himself.
Harry took his wand and cast a glacius spell on the remaining water, chilling it until ice flakes floated on the surface.
"Here, drink," he said, putting the cup to Draco's lips again. "It's colder."
"Can feel it, thanks," Draco grumbled, but he drank obediently anyway. "God, that is better. Keep it ready, won't you?"
As Harry put the cup back on the nightstand, he looked down at himself, finding that in his rush to help Draco, he'd come to sit beside him, arm around his back to hold him steady. The position was comfortable despite the other boy's weight on his arm, and Draco leaned more and more against him until Draco's head fell comfortably on his shoulder.
"Keep talking," Draco murmured. "This...this is better."
"Is it?" Harry said uncertainly. "Seems awkward for you."
"Not that bad," Draco said. "You're comfortable. And..."
And touching Harry meant that he could separate the Dementor's touch lingering in his mind. Fenrir's hand couldn't be on his shoulder because Harry's was there. Fenrir couldn't be clutching at his hip because Harry's bony pelvis was pressed against him.
"God, Potter," Draco breathed. "Eat something, will you? You're as thin as a broomstick digging into me."
"Uh...right," Harry stumbled, adjusting himself with a faint hint of color on his face. "Eat something, sure. I'll do that. Um. You sure you're okay? Need me to get more water?"
"Just conjure the water," Draco said. "You do remember how to do that, right?"
For some reason, Harry flushed further. "God, right, yes. Sorry, a bit distracted."
"Oh?" Draco laughed once, wearily. "Are my moans boring you?"
"Not quite," Harry mumbled. "God, when I thought I'd get someone in my bed, this isn't how I imagined it would go."
Draco chuckled again, asking for and receiving another sip of iced water. As he lay back again, staring at the ceiling, all too aware of Harry against him, the calloused fingers on his skin, how Draco wore nothing beneath the blanket...he forced his mind away from the werewolf's voice in his head—it was beginning to fade anyway.
"What are we going to do? If my father isn't...if my father can't help."
"You were really hoping he could, weren't you?" Harry asked.
"My father knows a lot of things," Draco said. "Secrets from the Ministry. The dark lord. Everyone. I thought he could...I thought...I mean, I'd never seen the inside of Azkaban before."
And it hurt. Seeing his father like that had hurt, and he hadn't known it would. He'd always looked up to his father, idolized him, saw him outsmart the Ministry and the dark lord alike over and over. He hadn't considered that his father would be a casualty.
"He might still help us," Harry said quickly. "And even if he doesn't...you saw what we took out of the catacombs, right?"
Draco closed his eyes. "Sure, but let's pretend I'm exhausted and feeling like utter shite and can't remember."
"Sorry," Harry said. "It's a stone baby. There's not many of them, and that was the only one Hermione knew about."
"So?" Draco asked.
"So Hermione says it's something we can use against him." Harry shrugged. "I don't really understand all of it. She's the brilliant one."
"Sure," Draco said, yawning. "A little lump of stone will save the world."
"Really," Harry said. "She explained it all one night, but then the Death Eaters were attacking, and then later we lost contact with Luna and Cho, and then...well, then you showed up. I'm not lying when I say that you and your potions started to turn the war around for us. It felt like we were just breaking even. And then Ron tossed that first bottle of white snake's tongue, I think you called it. And suddenly we were winning all over again."
Draco smiled faintly, pressing his face into the crook of Harry's neck. This was a position no sane wizard would let himself in, a werewolf's jaws so close to his skin, let alone his throat. And if Voldemort hadn't treated his family so poorly, he might have taken a bite. But Harry was warm and firm against his side, and Fenrir's voice was just a faint echo in the past. The hands on his side once more the same faint ghosts that they always were.
"I just wish..."
Draco's quiet murmur was more to keep Harry talking than to hear anything else.
"I wish I knew where the others are." Harry sighed. "I wish I knew where Colin was."
"Colin," Harry said again. "Creevy. You remember, the one with the camera? Hermione says we can get by, but she had that look on her face that said she really, really wished she didn't have to."
Draco closed his eyes again. No. He just could pretend he was asleep—he was close enough now anyhow. A minute more and—
"It'd make the plan with the stone thing a lot easier," Harry said.
Draco screwed his eyes tight. It was so quiet now, so comfortable. The pain was all but gone. And he was going to go and ruin it, and for what? To make Harry happy. Oh, sure, to end the war, but that didn't seem nearly as important as making Harry happy, and how out of his gourd did he have to be to put Potter's feelings ahead of his own comfort?
Oh, whatever. He hadn't been in his right mind ever since Fenrir's bite anyway.
"Colin," Draco said slowly. "If they haven't moved him...then he might be at the Grinset house."
He felt Harry turn, then lean back just enough to see him.
"You know where he is?" Harry said. Too flat, too emotionless.
"It's been months," Draco said quickly. "They just showed off how they'd hurt him to scare us."
"You didn't tell me," Harry said.
"I figured they'd already taken him away," Draco said. "We were going to bring him—"
"We didn't know where to go and he might have—"
"Stop it." Harry took a long breath. "Stop."
Harry breathed out. "I need to think."
Draco didn't move. The room grew so silent he could hear the ticking of the clock downstairs, the one showing the Weasley family. Such a ridiculous thing, constantly ticking, counting every second, and he tried to listen to Harry's breath instead.
"Who else do you know about?" Harry asked.
"...maybe Hannah Abbot," Draco said. "At least, I saw her when they were taking her from the Grinset house. I didn't hear anything else about her afterward."
"So she was alive then?" Harry said. "Hermione will be a little relieved."
"I don't know that she's still alive," Draco said. "It's been months. And they weren't telling us anything. We were just as much prisoner as they were."
"It's more than we knew before," Harry said. "Draco, listen. Do you think you could get us there—?"
There was a knock on the door, swiftly followed by Hermione backing into the room. She turned around, a basket of bottles and lavender blossoms in her arms, and kicked the door shut behind her.
"Harry, they finished up Draco's—"
She stopped, her jaw still dropped as she saw Harry holding Draco, the blanket down to his waist. Her head tilted as Harry had the decency to look sheepish. Draco just kept his eyes shut and hoped the embarrassment would go away.
"Well, that explains a few things," she said.
"Hermione—" Harry said, trying to get up and wincing at how Draco gripped his arm with surprising strength. "Ow, bloody little—it's not what it looks like."
"Right," she said, dropping the basket on the bed. "Two teenage boys in bed together—you know he's sick, right? Draco, you don't have to do anything you don't want to."
"I haven't forced anything—" Harry started.
"He's practically a prisoner here," Hermione said. "I should hope you haven't."
"It's all right," Draco said, hoping he wasn't as bright red as he felt. "Is that...is that the nepenthe?"
"Hm?" She glanced at the basket, then started and fished out a bottle. "Yes, yes. They just finished it. But, well, they said not to use it unless you were in pain, and you don't seem like you're in pain."
"Harry helped it go away," Draco said. "But I don't think there'd be any problem with making sure."
"Mm." She looked at the bottle doubtfully, but she uncorked it and handed it over, watching him down it in one go. "I suppose, but that's kind of odd. I mean..."
Her eyes widened, and she looked back and forth between Harry and Draco.
Draco had the feeling that she'd figured out something he didn't, and from the look on her face, he wanted to know.
"Right. Okay." She nodded once to herself. "Don't tell anyone about this."
"About what?" Harry asked.
"About this," she said, waving her hand at them. "About you two. They'd all go nuts. For different reasons, of course, but either way, just don't."
"Wasn't planning on it," Harry said. "Listen, Draco said he knows where Colin is."
Hermione stopped, looking from Harry, then at Draco, who didn't look up. Her mouth pressed into a firm line, and she turned and locked the door, sealing it with a spell.
Harry looked down at Draco, who refused to lift his head. He gave Draco a nudge, then a harder one that made him grumble and readjust.
"All right," she said, coming and sitting down at the foot of the bed. "Tell me everything. And don't leave anything out."