Title: Bard of Morning's Hope
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa
Warnings: Minor character death, violence, angst, gore
Summary: The Bard of Morning's Hope is a seemingly unstoppable murderer stalking former Death Eaters and former Slytherins, enacting vengeance on them in an untraceable way. In the wake of Lucius Malfoy's savage death, Harry Potter becomes the Auror assigned to guard Draco and Narcissa Malfoy from a similar fate.
Author's Notes: This is based on a prompt by Kain, who requested, among several other things, Harry being hired to guard Draco and Narcissa from a killer who was murdering Death Eaters in revenge, Harry having a good relationship with the Weasleys, and a slow-burn romance between Harry and Draco. This story should be somewhere between twelve and twenty chapters, and will be updated every Saturday.
The Bard of Morning's Hope
Chapter One-Ice Crystals
Draco was proud of himself for retaining control when the Aurors asked him through the fireplace what had happened to his father. There were no words for the horror he'd felt on stepping into his father's bedroom and seeing Lucius Malfoy lying on his bed, turned to ice, and then seeing the ice melt the instant he touched it with his hand. His father would have no burial, no true funeral. His essence had soaked into the sheets of his great bed, the bed where his mother had slept soundly beside his father for decades, and he would never return.
But the impatient Auror asking for details wouldn't want to hear about that, and Draco managed to speak calmly.
"Your father is a victim of the Bard of Morning's Hope?" The attending Auror darted his eyes back and forth from the parchment he held to Draco with an air of someone who had other matters to attend to.
"Yes," said Draco.
"Are you sure?"
Draco clenched his hands. "As sure as I can be when I saw that bloody title emblazoned on the wall with ice," he said sharply. He'd seen it the minute he turned around from his father's melting body, and immediately cast a Preservation Charm on it so that it wouldn't melt in the heat of the fireplace beneath it.
If he'd thought to do that when he walked into the room, if he'd thought to do that before he touched his father, maybe Lucius would still be alive. Or not alive, but capable of restoration.
Just what I needed. A new nightmare.
"Yes, that does narrow it down," said the inane Auror, still scribbling furiously. "What was the method of killing?"
"He was turned into an ice statue, and he melted into the bed the minute I touched him," said Draco baldly.
That at least made the Auror's hands tremble a little, and while his eyes were incredulous when they locked on Draco again, he was paying attention now instead of thinking about something else. "Ice statues don't usually melt, they usually shatter when they're tipped over, but otherwise, the wizard can still be recovered-"
"I know that." Draco shut his eyes, but he did feel part of him unclench. That was true. He knew the spell for turning someone into ice, because Death Eaters had used it during the war, and the magic used was supernaturally cold. It wouldn't have melted at the mere touch of a hand, and so Draco wasn't the one responsible for his father's ultimate dissolution.
"So this must have been a different kind of ice statue?"
That was a new voice, and Draco opened his eyes and leaned in. Harry Potter was standing beside the first, incompetent Auror, his voice steady and his gaze locked on Draco's face as if he could see every secret hidden in Draco's mind.
It's good for him, then, isn't it, that I don't have any secrets left after the war, Draco thought in irritation, and nodded. "Yes, Potter, it was. However did you figure it out?"
Potter ignored him and turned back to the Auror who had taken the notes. "Get Grimstone. And Adbar. And alert Minister Shacklebolt."
The other Auror bowed and took off, which made Draco sniff. Potter turned a professional face back to him, though, and Draco reckoned he could put up with this idiocy a bit if it meant he would get justice for his father. No one had accused Potter of failing to solve cases or capture the criminals. Draco was a bit surprised they hadn't put him on the case of the Bard of Morning's Hope already.
"Can you tell me what you found?" Potter was drawing what looked like large lines down the center of the piece of parchment. Perhaps splitting it up into categories, Draco thought. At least Potter would probably be able to read his own notes later, which Draco couldn't have said for sure about the other idiot.
Draco nodded tensely and began to speak. "My mother got up early this morning to attend a party given by a friend of hers. I usually eat breakfast with my father, but he was late getting up. I finally went to wake him up. If he sleeps-slept-too late, he'll be angry for wasting the morning."
Draco heard the change in his own voice, and put his hand over his eyes. The sight of the ice statue finally whirled and diminished in his mind, replaced by something else: the fact that he would never see his father again, that he was dead, that Lucius had survived the war and his sentence in Azkaban only to have this happen.
"Malfoy? Are you all right?"
There was a tone of genuine compassion in Potter's voice. Until Draco heard it, he hadn't realized how badly he needed to hear it. Draco managed to raise his head and nod, although it felt as if his neck had a dozen creaking joints. "Yes. I am. I can describe what I saw to you. Just-give me a minute."
Potter waited, with an iron patience that supported Draco more than he had realized patience could support someone. He breathed in a few times, then drew his head back and nodded at Potter. Potter nodded in return, and began to ask questions that Draco could answer with an unwavering voice.
"Had your father received any threats from enemies recently?"
"No." Draco shook his head. "Not even a Howler. The last one came more than a year ago."
"Could he have received threats that he might not have shared with you or your mother?" Potter paused and looked up. "I'll need to interview her, too."
"Of course," Draco murmured, and then realized, when he saw Potter start to write down his words, that Potter had taken them as the answer to the wrong question. "No, I meant that of course you can interview my mother. I know that Father would have shared anything with me. He was much less secretive after the war," he added, when he saw Potter opening his mouth.
Potter considered him with shrewd eyes for a second, then nodded. "Your knowledge of your father takes precedence," he said, and went on to some other item on an invisible list. "One of the Bard's other victims had in fact received a package in the post shortly before his death, a portrait that no one else in the family knew he had commissioned. The portrait never came to life after he died, and then it went missing. Did your father receive anything else like that?"
Draco snorted. "No. He didn't-he didn't have a portrait of any kind made." He felt a moment's sheer, dizzy sickness overcome him. He had lost his last chance to talk to his father, the way he could to some of his ancestors. But he cleared his throat and continued. "He always said that no artist could capture the true lessons he had learned, and he wouldn't want to have any portion of his awareness return in a portrait unless it could know everything he had learned."
Potter gave a small smile, which didn't look mocking no matter how many times Draco studied it, and nodded. "All right, then. There's nothing else in the house that might have been a gift from a hostile enemy?"
Draco shook his head. "No. The Aurors still check his post, make sure that he's not writing to anyone they disapprove of." He lifted his aching head and squinted at Potter. "You're one, you should know."
"It's not a duty that I've ever been placed on," said Potter, and Draco controlled the surge of resentment making its way up his chest. Of course they wouldn't place the Great Harry Potter on a duty like that, in a position where he could have actually made a difference when it came to Draco's father. "But, all right. We don't think it was that." He made another note, and then stood. "I'll be over soon, Malfoy. Please don't touch anything in the room. There are clues that could be important, but only if they're left in exactly the right place."
"Too late," Draco sneered, and Potter looked alarmed. "I already cast a Preservation Charm on that bloody title the Bard is always leaving everywhere."
But now, Potter's eyes shone as they widened. "You did? That's great!" At Draco's stare, he explained, "We haven't seen any of the signatures in a physical state before. They always get incinerated or melt or tatter or blow away before we get there, depending on what material they're made of. We've had to rely on Pensieve memories. You've already done something that might help avenge your father, Malfoy."
Draco was still grappling with that praise when Potter looked him dead in the eye, and his voice softened. "And I know that I might not sound like it right now, with how professional I have to be, but I am sorry for your loss."
Draco started to lift a hand, started to shape a retort with his lips to ask what Potter could know about it, but then he stopped himself. If there was something Potter did know, it would be the loss of a parent.
"Thank you," he said a second later, because Potter was looking at him with a ridiculous curlicue of hair falling into his eyes and waiting for an answer, and the sooner Draco replied, the sooner Potter could be over here and making himself useful.
Potter inclined his head, and then turned and hurried away. Draco shut the Floo and sat back, his eyes shut. He wanted to sit there and do nothing, until the tears finally overflowed and he lost the impulse to kick and scream and break things.
But now that he wasn't speaking anymore, he could hear his mother weeping in the next room. She had to be blaming herself nearly as much as Draco. While Draco had thought his touch had melted his father, Narcissa had probably slept through at least part of the Bard's attack on Lucius. A ritual or spell that changed a wizard to ice, combined with the penetration of the wards, would have taken too long to start only after she'd left the bedroom.
Draco stood up and went to comfort his mother, his mind turning on some grim statistics. This Bard of Morning's Hope was responsible for ten murders now, including Lucius's: Crabbe's and Goyle's fathers, both Lestrange brothers, Fenrir Greyback, Theodore's father, Yaxley, Montagu, Lucius, and a Slytherin sixth-year Draco had never paid much attention to, but who had fought with the Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts. The girl and Montagu had never been formally Marked. That made it seem as if the Bard wanted revenge on everyone who had fought on the Dark Lord's side.
And while Draco knew the depth of the loathing he'd felt for the Dark Lord by the end of the war, and how his mother had only done what she needed to keep her family alive, he doubted anyone else would know that. Especially not a crazed, murdering fanatic.
He had to wonder how long it was until his name, and his mother's, turned up in the papers, if this Bard-who struck through the strongest wards, inside locked rooms, through personal protective spells of any kind, and always without a struggle-couldn't be stopped.
"I intend to take this one personally."
Kingsley sat up a little and frowned at Harry. Harry frowned back. He knew that he would win any argument with Kingsley if he had one, but he preferred not to argue. He would prefer Kingsley acknowledge what was happening right in front of him.
"I see," said Kingsley. "And the dragon-egg smuggling case?"
Harry, his arm planted along the back of his chair and his body twisted to the side so that he could cross his legs, shook his head. "What about it?"
Kingsley sighed hard enough to make some of the people in the photographs on the walls look out at them. "You know very well that I counted on you to make some sort of difference in it, Harry."
Harry leaned forwards and tapped a finger on Kingsley's desk. No one else would have been able to get away with that kind of informality in front of the Minister, but then, no one else had the kind of old, tested bond with Kingsley that Harry did. "And you know very well that the Aurors have gathered all the evidence they need of who was doing the smuggling."
Kingsley shut his eyes and turned his head away. "It would cause a political firestorm to arrest Dennis Creevey right now," he muttered. "He's the Speaker of the Muggleborn Legion, and their position is delicate-"
"Strongly supported and delicate are not the same thing," Harry said, shaking his head. "And I know a few other people in the Muggleborn Legion who would be better choices for that Speaker position. Dennis is a fanatic. I understand why, and I respect his loss, but other people suffered losses in the war and didn't take up smuggling rare dragon eggs and possibly causing the extinction of a species."
Kingsley looked so unhappy that Harry decided more honesty about that subject at the moment wouldn't do any good. "Anyway. I think I can provide better protection to the Malfoys than a lot of the other Aurors could." He left unspoken, as well, his general opinion about his colleagues, which Kingsley knew all too well.
Kingsley gave him a steely gaze that told Harry he could hear the words anyway. "Even given your old rivalry with Draco Malfoy? You think you could provide unbiased protection?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Your time in politics is showing, Kingsley. It's not unbiased protection that's important. It's effective protection."
Kingsley leaned forwards, and he was in earnest now, if the direct look of his eyes was any indication. "I'm trying to protect you as much as anyone else, Harry. If something happened to the Malfoys while you were protecting them, you know some people would point to that rivalry and say-"
"Nothing is going to happen to them while I'm protecting them."
"You also know that this Bard can find his way past the strongest defenses, and there seems to be no way of stopping or slowing him down-"
"Right," said Harry, and he was the one who held Kingsley's attention this time. "His existence offends me. There ought not to be any case that we can't solve. We've failed to solve this one. People who ought to be arrested and tried by us if their prison sentences weren't enough justice for their crimes, or if they've never served one, are instead being executed by this bastard. I want to stop that."
Kingsley paused for a long moment, and then said, "All right. Yes. I can understand your point-of-view."
Harry smiled and stood up. "Fine. Then I'll go over and conduct the initial investigation of Lucius's room, and then I'll inform the Malfoys that I'm staying on to guard them. I think I might move them to Grimmauld Place. The Manor has already been proved vulnerable, and my wards have that little special something I've added to them-"
Kingsley lifted his hands and clamped them over his ears. "If you don't tell me about anything illegal, then I don't have to pay attention to it," he said, and began to hum.
Harry laughed, bowed to Kingsley, and went to find the right Auror partner to take with him to Malfoy Manor. He couldn't take Ron, much as he would have liked to. Not for this. Ron could handle some of the investigating, like the comparison of this murder to the others, out of Malfoy's sight. But he would raise the tension of the situation too much right now.
At least Harry knew he could count on Ron to do the investigation properly, if not to speak to the Malfoys without his temper getting the better of him. Some previous evidence in the Bard's cases had got "lost," and Harry didn't think it was the result of carelessness so much as political sympathies.
But Ron had matured a lot, and Harry trusted him not to let his dislike of Death Eaters influence the investigation, no matter how much he might have thought some of the Bard's victims deserved what had happened to them.
Harry lost his smile as he walked, and his eyes narrowed.
I'm going to catch this bastard. He won't stop on his own. It's too obvious that he thinks he's right, and some people don't even want him stopped.
But so far, he hasn't run into me.