Chapter 1: Into the Fire
Harry Potter sits with his knees drawn up in the window seat, his fingers unfeelingly folding a small creased square of parchment — the same parchment which cost Albus Dumbledore his life. Harry feels the fake locket like it's a dead weight against his chest, but he refuses to take it off, because it's the only object which reminds him to focus, and it helps his head stay clear even when the memories it brings try to wrench him apart.
Two stories below him, through the fog and dappled rain drops on the window panes, he can see the cloaked figures of the enemy. Death Eaters —watching, waiting. They stand still in the quiet damp court of Grimmauld Place, and their threatening and unwavering presence makes Harry's stomach twist.
Harry sighs, stretches his neck from side to side, and shoves Regulus's note back into his pocket, where it will hopefully stay for the next few hours, immune to the itch in Harry's fingers, and hidden from his need to obsessively reread it and understand.
The sudden tinkling of a piano from the next room interrupts his thoughts, followed by a low bout of laughter from Ron. He hears Hermione say something, and her voice is laced with both sarcasm and humour. Briefly, Harry wonders when the two of them will stop dancing around eachother in their uncertainty and snog already.
But then the thought is shattered by a loud banging and screeching downstairs, and Harry doesn't have time to question things, because he has his wand in his hand and he is ready.
The dark and dusty hallways of Number Twelve mock him as he runs, trying not to trip, until he collides into Hermione, her eyes wide and frightened as she rushes from the drawing room, Ron right behind her. Harry doesn't stop to see if Ron is gripping her hand, not only because their closeness does strange and lonely things to his insides, but because there is no time, and the portrait of Sirius' mother is screaming — shouting filthy insults and curses, and Harry thinks his ears might bleed.
His head is pounding hard, his heart harder, and Harry can barely hear the sound below of other voices yelling and arguing over the hurried thuds of his own footsteps.
The stairs creak and shudder beneath their weight, and once they reach the bottom step Harry throws out an arm to halt the other two. He can feel Ron breathing on his neck, and Hermione's hand as she pulls his jumper, waiting to be told what to do, but despite everything — all their cautious planning, they never once discussed what they would do if the Death Eaters got inside.
Harry reminds himself to breathe, especially when the voices pause and there is a loud whooshing noise, recognisable as the drawing of curtains, and immediately the portrait stops wailing. His head spins, his mind reeling at what to do, and his fingers tighten around his wand. His right arm is warmed by the tingling of magic — the familiarity that comes with defence, with the willingness to fight. He inclines his head, just a little, in hopes that Ron and Hermione will catch the wordless command he tries to convey. They see, Harry knows, because he hears Hermione inhale sharply, and he can almost feel the way she shakes.
He moves. Fast. Something in his back cracks, and he rounds the corner, his wand pointed — ready — and his jaw clenched.
He freezes, his arm falters, and for a second he is almost overwhelmed with relief to see Remus Lupin's tired and dishevelled face looking back at him, but then Harry's eyes land on the person who the man has pinned against the wall, and Harry's knuckles turn white with the urge to hex and curse and kill.
"Harry —" Lupin sounds urgent, but Harry doesn't let him continue.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING HERE— WHAT'S—"
"WHY THE FUCK IS MALFOY —" Something bitter clogs Harry's throat and he almost chokes. His eyes sting and if he says another word he will fall apart. But that doesn't matter, because he points his wand at Draco Malfoy and is about to speak an unforgivable — but then something sudden and painful hits Harry in the sternum.
Remus has stunned him, and Harry can't move, can't swallow, and for a moment his vision blurs and his ears ring, but then someone — Ron, probably — grabs his shoulders and steadies him, helps him stand, because without the support he would be falling.
Anger, confusion, betrayal — the emotions war against eachother. Hermione moves next to him, and thank god her wand is still raised, because Harry doesn't think he could handle it if his friends weren't with him on this.
His eyes are stuck and focused ahead of him, on the way Remus heaves his chest, runs a trembling hand through his hair, and tucks his wand away. Harry can't believe what he's seeing, and if he could move he knows he would be vibrating with rage, gnashing his teeth together and demanding to be told what the fuck is happening. Because Remus should not be putting his wand away when the enemy is standing right next to him.
From the corner of his vision Harry sees the tall, darkly clad figure of Malfoy, with a contrasting cap of near-white hair. His hands are behind him, bound no doubt, and Harry knows the blond is looking — glaring, at him, can feel it in the way it makes his face burns, the way his whole body burns, and he wishes he could glare back, push every ounce of hatred into the force of his gaze.
"Remus — what's going on? Why is he here?" Hermione's hiss is low, but deadly, and Harry wants to hug her. He can feel Remus's stunner slipping, can start to identify a buzzing in his body that demands he move, and as soon as it wears off he will dive straight for Malfoy — wrap his hands around his throat and squeeze.
Remus looks ragged, and the scars on his face are bolder than usual, stark against the worn and sickly hue of his skin. If Harry weren't so livid, he would contemplate whether the full moon is close, he would ask him how Tonks is, and ask if the Weasley's — and everyone else are okay.
Ron, however, gets there first, before Remus can answer Hermione. "My mum and dad — Ginny — everyone, are they okay?"
Remus flicks his eyes above Harry's head, where his taller friend still holds him up, and gives Ron a tight nod. Then Remus's lips thin, and his expression as he looks at Harry is sympathetic. "Harry, I — I'm sorry, but I need you to listen to me. I promise I'll explain as much as I can, but it's very important that you listen, and refrain from raising your voice — and your wand. There are wards hiding this place, but that does not mean the Death Eaters outside can't hear us," He pauses, angling his body towards Malfoy, "and nothing, is worth compromising this."
Harry wants to tell him there already is a Death Eater inside, but unwillingly his breathing has slowed, and he hates to admit the fact that he has calmed down. He wants to frown when he realises Malfoy hasn't said anything, hasn't even made the slightest sound, which leads Harry to think that the Slytherin must be under a silencing charm. Harry feels the snort waiting to escape his throat, but just like his ability to move, his humour is taken from him.
"You need to understand, Malfoy is not the boy you knew last year — things have changed, and —"
"Bullshit!" Ron, who marginally relaxed after hearing his family was okay, stiffens and seethes.
Harry vaguely sees Hermione rest a hand on Ron's arm, and figures he needs one too, because what Remus is telling them is a load of crap, and it can't be true —
"He's being hunted — there's a price on his head —"
"Good, let's hand the bloody tosser over!" Ron moves forward, shoving his sleeves up to his elbows as if he's about to do just that, and leaves Harry swaying on his feet. Harry's shoes scuff on the beaten wooden floorboards, and his shoulder hits the wall with a thud. He is still mostly immobile, but he's becoming aware of the weight of his body, and the edges around his vision are sharpening.
"Ron, wait." Hermione grabs Ron's elbow, draws him back, her voice hesitant, "Remus, what do you mean — what's happened? And — and how'd you find us?"
The man's face turns soft, just for a moment, as he stares at the three of them, "I can't tell you exactly. But I had a feeling you'd be here. I can't stay — I have to leave, very soon, in fact —"
Harry's arms twitch, his spine straightens, and Ron is exasperated as he spits, "You can't just leave us with that — with that fuck —"
Remus cuts his hand through the air, his face stern, "Ron, enough. You need to trust me — trust The Order. Malfoy's been through trials and tests —"
"That's not enough!" Hermione's voice is shrill, but she remembers to keep it down, and Harry mentally applauds her. He manages to roll his shoulders, feels the rush of warm blood begin to flow through his veins.
"It needs to be enough! There is a war going on, and right now we need every fighter we can get —" There is movement to Remus's right, the shuffling of a black cloak, and Malfoy, who has been completely still for the whole time, fidgets, as if he finds the idea of being called a 'fighter' utterly repulsive. And that is enough for Harry, enough for him to regain control over his body and to make his legs move, to launch himself and his hatred straight at Malfoy —
Harry collides into him, and Malfoy is all angles and hard lines and he is freezing, but the cold does not bother Harry as his hands fist around material, grapple against collarbones. He digs his fingers into Malfoy's shoulders, aiming for his neck, but he is too groggy, too wobbly after being stunned, and they both sag against the wall. There is a lot of noise — shouts and growls — and Harry is startled to find the growls coming from him, as though he's an animal — starved for bloodshed and revenge.
There are hands on his back, trying to pull him away, but Harry only shrugs them off, his desire to throttle his enemy stronger than anything he's ever felt before. And dully, Harry thinks that this is what the others want too, because they are not trying hard enough to stop him, they don't stun him. Maybe Malfoy needs it too, maybe that's why he's not fighting back, why his head falls back against the wall and why his long pale throat is suddenly bared to Harry's intense rage. It does not cross Harry's mind that maybe Malfoy is incapable of fighting him.
The punch he lands is sloppy, sliding against the corner of Malfoy's jaw, and when Harry looks up there are two red-rimmed and ice-filled eyes boring into his soul — and Harry has never felt so violated and dirty — so absolutely enraged, in his whole life, and the strength of it sends him to his knees, dragging Malfoy down with him.
They fall and struggle, and Malfoy is useless because his hands are tied, but his face is deathly white, almost grey, and his mouth is set in a livid line of pure loathing. Harry is going to crush Malfoy with his weight while he destroys every inch of his nastiness, while he punches his own hate into Malfoy's jaw, and digs his knees into Malfoy's ribs and hope that it hurts — but then someone is finally pulling him away, and strong freckled arms — Ron's — curl around Harry's chest, restraining him as he growls and writhes.
"Harry — stop this!" Remus yells, but his wand is not drawn, and Harry's earlier suspicions are confirmed. He wonders why Ron bothered stopping him.
Harry's chest is heaving, constricted by Ron, whose grip soon slackens and drops, and Harry has to physically battle with the urge to continue what he started. Malfoy is still lying on the floor, his cloak smattered with white dust and crumbling wood, and a harsh bruise is blooming on his jaw. His eyes are closed, like he's defeated or dead, and for a second Harry is ecstatic, because he thinks he's killed Draco Malfoy. But it's short lived, because then the blond thrashes his head to the side, the tendons in his neck straining as he swallows and opens his mouth around unheard words.
"I have to go. I'll be back in two hours unless —" Remus falters, but they all know what he was going to say. Unless I'm dead. He looks at each of them in turn, his expression a weary plea, landing on Hermione for an extra second, as if begging her to be the glue that will keep holding them together. Her lips purse and she nods. Remus seems to hesitate, but then he pulls something out of his coat pocket, a hawthorne wand, and places it in Hermione's hand. Harry isn't offended that Remus entrusts Hermione with Malfoy's wand instead of him — in fact, he's glad, because there would be no greater temptation than hexing Malfoy with his own wand.
Remus lays his hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezes, and then leaves. The door hardly makes a sound behind him, and all they hear after it closes is the faint snap of apparition.
Harry can't focus, his glasses are hazy, and he thinks he might keel over. He needs air — he needs to think, to scream — he also needs to kick Malfoy, but at the same time get as far away from him as he possibly can.
"Stay with him." Harry says, and it sounds like an order, foreign to his own ears. It makes him sick, but he still shoves past Ron and rounds the corner. He knows his two friends share a look behind his back, and he knows they are all scared and confused, because Draco Malfoy has just been forced into the only place that gives them a semblance of safety, and now it feels all wrong — tainted.
But right now, Harry doesn't care. He needs to be alone.
Draco Malfoy squeezes his eyes closed, presses his skull back into the uneven floorboards, and listens as the Mudblood whispers furiously to the Weasel. He wishes he were deaf, or unconscious, but right now all he can do is pretend, because he just got assaulted by fucking Potter, and his dignity, along with his energy, is nonexistent; and the last thing he wants to do is lie there while Scarhead's bloody friends debate over what to do with him.
If he could, Draco would yell at them, tell them to piss off and stop staring at him — because even though he refuses to open his eyes, he can feel their glares of incredulous suspicion digging holes into his forehead. But he can't. The bloody Wolf made sure of that, gagging him magically as soon as they entered the house, as soon as Draco knocked over an insanely hideous umbrella stand and sworn, expressing how pointless all this was. Then the portrait started screaming like a banshee, and everything got ten times shittier. Potter sped around the corner with all the finesse of a confounded troll, his lackeys in tow, and the expression of enraged shock he wore after spotting Draco was priceless. And then the werewolf had even stunned Potter; not silenced, stunned, and in that moment Draco had thought that maybe all this was worth it, if only to witness the way Potter stiffened like a plank and fell back into Weasley.
"—can't just leave him there!"
"He's out cold, 'Mione—"
The Mudblood huffs, "Honestly, Ron! You're impossible."
Draco hates to agree with either of them, let alone both, but while the Weasel is the definition of impossible, he would rather die than let the Mudblood touch him.
"We can't bring him in, he'll see stuff — what we're up to — plans, that sort of thing. Harry wouldn't —"
"Weren't you listening when Remus said he's harmless?"
"Harmless? Harmless my ass—"
Draco never wants to hear Weasley mention his ass again.
"For heaven's sake — he doesn't even have a wand!"
"So? You saw how he attacked Harry —"
"Please, Ronald. Anyone with eyes could see that Harry was — well — a little unstable."
"Unstable? What the hell's that s'posed to mean? You reckon that git didn't deserve everything he got?"
"No — yes — but Malfoy didn't even retaliate and —"
"What the fuck did he expect? A welcome party?"
There is a shattering from above them, and Draco expects it'll be Potter breaking things, with the anger management of a two year old. By the sound of Granger's groan, she agrees, and after a long sigh, Draco hears her footsteps retreat.
Beneath the many layers of pain, nonchalance, and humiliation, Draco is mildly pleased. Two down and one to go. But then any sliver of satisfaction disappears as a fist abruptly clenches around the neck of his robes, and when Draco cracks his eyes open, the very unpleasant and too-close face of Ronald Weasley is a few inches from his own. His eyes are an intensely creepy shade of blue, and Draco wants to spit at him, but all he can do is try not to bite his tongue as Weasley shakes him and mutters darkly, "You better fucking watch it, Malfoy." Then he releases Draco, who falls back to the floor with a thud, arms useless and crushed beneath him, and leaves.
Draco's head throbs, his mouth is dry and bitter, and in the stagnant air of the dim entryway, unwanted thoughts begin to flit through his mind — like why he's here, what he's doing, and what will happen to him. He's thankful when a loud and apparently heated argument ensues above him, but regrets his relief a minute later when a thundering series of footfalls plunder downstairs. They're determined, heavy, and Draco just knows they belong to Potter. Fuck. His face hurts enough as it is — his entire body aches, and he has a feeling that if Potter wants to fight, Draco won't have the will-power to just sit there and take it for a second time, and rebelling will ruin every carefully constructed decision he has made in his defection.
Draco struggles into a sitting position just as Potter strides towards him — his fists balled and his face wild. Glasses crooked, nostrils flared, and his black hair atrociously mussed — Potter is everything Draco has tried to forget about Hogwarts, about the memories that haunt him, and right now the Boy-Who-Won't-Fucking-Die looks murderous.
Draco doesn't think cowering is something that can apply to a Malfoy, but he makes it to the wall before he changes his mind, because he wishes the plaster would swallow him whole, wishes his hands weren't tied together so that he'd be able to do something. But it's too late — Potter is there, in front of him, and the fire in his unnaturally green eyes is the last thing Draco sees before something hard is slammed into his skull and he is consumed by blackness.
"Harry, mate —"
"Don't act like you didn't want to do that just as much as I did," Harry throws over his shoulder, feeling strangely light and free, as if every bit of his stress has been channeled into the punch he aimed at Malfoy's cheekbone.
Harry kneels with his legs on either side of Malfoy's outstretched ankles, eyeing the now unconscious blond, almost expecting him to jump awake and attack. Harry feels better now though, still distantly angry and confused, but better, despite the way his knuckles are bleeding — cut from a shard of the vase Harry launched into the wall upstairs. He stretches his fingers, curls them inwards, and is about to have a muggle moment and wipe the blood on his jeans, but then Hermione is there, pulling him up and healing his hand.
"Thanks," he murmurs. She smiles tentatively in return, and then looks down at Malfoy. Harry sees something in her eyes, something like pity, and is about to blow up in a rage, because Malfoy doesn't deserve sympathy, but then he catches the revulsion that's also there, and he breathes a sigh of relief.
"What are we going to do?" Hermione asks quietly, and Harry looks from her, to Ron. He feels a lot of things within that moment. He's thankful, because Hermione is using her brain in a time Harry wishes he didn't have one — she's thinking ahead like she always does. Mostly, he's overcome by a bitter wash of self-loathing, because the word 'we' is like a stab to his gut. He has dragged his best friends into this, and even though they wouldn't take no for an answer, Harry will always feel like it's his fault — whatever happens to them — will be his fault. And it's a burden he knew he'd have to carry since the golden afternoon atop the Astronomy tower, when Ron and Hermione had told him they would be coming with him to find Voldemort's Horcruxes.
Harry pushes the feelings away, and instead focuses on Malfoy. Malfoy has always had a way of occupying Harry's thoughts, with being an outlet for his anger and hate, and Harry is mildly grateful, because it's easier to hate Malfoy than it is to hate himself. He rubs a hand over his face, narrows his eyes, and when he looks back down Malfoy is still very much knocked out. If Harry hadn't been so furious, he might feel an inkling of guilt.
He sighs. "I dunno."
"Let's tie him up," there's mirth in Ron's voice, like he's excited, and it makes Harry think of two boys beneath an invisibility cloak, chasing Filch's cat.
The corners of his mouth beg him to smile, but then Hermione interrupts, "He already is tied up."
"Yeah," Ron shrugs, "I meant — to a chair — or something. You know? Blind fold him?"
Hermione snorts, and not for the first time, Harry wishes Ron's humour wasn't so contagious. "I doubt Remus will appreciate —"
"We don't owe Remus anything," Harry interjects resentfully. Hermione wants to argue, Harry can tell. "'Sides, we don't want Malfoy seeing the plans or anything."
Hermione gives them both a disapproving look, but there's a twitch to her lips which tells Harry she won't stop them.
Harry turns to Ron, "I'm with Ron. We'll take him to the drawing room?"
Ron's face breaks into the widest grin Harry has seen in days. "Drawing room."
Harry finds his own expression trying to mirror his friend's, and for once he lets it. They approach Malfoy as if he's something dead Hermione's cat brought in, and after baiting eachother and turning something otherwise unpleasant into a competition, they each grab an arm, and haul Malfoy upright.
Hermione watches with her arms crossed, but after being exposed to a lot of swearing and loud exclamations of Malfoy being heavier than he looks, she bursts out laughing, suggesting they make things easier by levitating him.
Ron groans, Harry feels like an idiot, but somehow he doesn't mind.
They levitate Malfoy, his head lulls back like a dead weight, pale hair falls out of place, and no one minds when they accidentally bump him into furniture.
They have much more fun than they should.
There's a low murmuring of voices, soft crackles, and a faint orange hue which brushes against his eyelids. Draco groans at the aching in his skull — and reels when he realises that he made a sound — the silencing spell has evidently worn off. Then, abruptly and sickeningly, like another one of Potter's punches, he remembers where he is, what just happened, and who the voices must belong to. His eyes snap open — only to encounter more blackness. There's little gaps above his cheekbones, though, so whatever shoddy blindfold Potter and his gang have subjected him to proves somewhat ineffective. That same orange light licks his cheeks — it must be a fire — the smell of burning wood confirms it.
Upon hearing his groan, one of the voices immediately hushes the other two — Potter, by the sound of it. "Co-operate, Malfoy, and we won't silence you again. And if you're lucky enough we'll even untie you."
Draco panics for a second, then scoffs. He would laugh, but thinks it'd leave him too open, too vulnerable. He tugs at his wrists and tries to move his ankles, just for good measure, incase Potter is bluffing. Unfortunately, he isn't. To hide his discomfort, Draco aims for sarcasm. "Merlin's balls, Potter, you've tied me to a chair. What's next, a bed?"
He hears Potter growl, and someone to his left makes an indignant yet amused snort — Weasel probably.
Potter must have been working on his stealth, because Draco doesn't hear him coming until it's too late and there's a wand digging into his throat.
"Shut up Malfoy, and tell us what you're doing here, unless you want your tongue hexed in half." Draco isn't afraid of Potter's chilling words, in fact the whole intimidating act is quite laughable.
"I would shut up, Potter, if you hadn't just asked me a question and threatened me with violence — not that you haven't already been violent this evening—" Draco chokes over a snarl as Potter kicks his shin. "My point exactly. What am I doing here? Why not ask your favourite Ginger Growth and the Mudblood? I'm sure they'll know all about how you cowardly bound me to a chair and stole my vision. And they say Gryffindors are brave." He ends his reply with a derisive sneer, but is suddenly surprised when the material is ripped away from his eyes, exposing him to a glare of emerald green from behind wire rimmed glasses. Draco has never known how much he hates green until now, and he twists his face into a scowl, ignoring the way it twinges in pain. "Ahh, Potter — always one to rise to the bait."
Potter ignores him, which only irritates Draco more, and takes a step back, his jaw square and heavily set as he nods over his shoulder. Without a word, the Mudblood steps forward, a vial of clear liquid in her hand, and Draco tries to recoil in his restraints, the hardness of the chair most likely gouging out chunks of his back. "What the fuck do you think you're —"
The last word turns into an incomprehensible slur as Potter roughly grabs Draco's chin and shoves his head back. "Don't spill any," Potter warns Granger, and Draco struggles even harder because that can only mean that it's either a valuable substance, like veritiserum, or it's toxic, like acid, and will burn holes into the floor — not to mention, Draco's face. Draco sincerely hopes it's the former.
He resigns himself to his fate, because Potter's hand is oversized, unrelenting and smells like blood and soot whenever it gets too close to his nose.
The Mudblood stands next to Potter and leans forward, but retreats when she sees that Draco is anything but compliant.
"Open!" Potter orders firmly, and Draco stubbornly narrows his eyes, flaring his nostrils in defiance.
It's Draco's own fault he's too obstinate to keep quiet, because as soon as he opens his mouth to retort, "I'm not a bloody door, Potter," his offender jams his fingers into Draco's mouth, prying his jaw open.
"Now — quick 'Mione!"
Granger darts forward, shoves the glass between his lips, and Draco feels the potion unwillingly slide down his throat. He tries to spit it back up, but all he manages to do is to bite down on Potter's fingers.
"OW! Fuck!" Potter yelps, shaking his hand.
Draco doesn't have time to feel satisfied, because as soon as the peppery, recognisable taste of the truth serum sticks to the roof of his mouth, he hurriedly begins to occlude his mind. This way, he has a chance of being spared the humiliation of spilling his secrets against his will. But abruptly, a frightening and unwanted thought enters his mind. Wouldn't it be better to tell them what they want to know, to make things easier? Perhaps the pretence of the potion is a good thing after all — maybe Draco can use it to his advantage.
He looks from Granger's anxious expression, to Weasley's displeased frown, and finally to Potter, who is nursing his injured fingers and sending Draco withering glares. "Why are you here, Malfoy?" He asks with a certain finality, as though completely unaware that Draco might lie to him.
Draco's face spreads into a sly smirk, and for the first time in months, he feels like a Slytherin again.