Author's Note:Hello, everyone! This is something of a departure for me. I don't usually write Harry Potter fanfic, and I don't usually write Slash. But I felt like doing something just for fun, and for reasons that pass my understanding, I find Harry/Draco slash fun. So here is Chapter 1 of my "just for fun" Harry/Draco Angst-Ridden Romance, Action-Adventure, Evil-Creatures-Are-Attacking-Hogwarts and Stuff Happens fic.
The story begins in the winter of Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. It starts right in the middle of a crisis, so if things aren't making heaps of sense just yet, give me some time to get in all the exposition. This chapter is fairly standard stuff - no swearing, sex, violence or stuff to make your mothers cringe. But consider yourself warned... THIS WILL BE A SLASH STORY. A tame one, but slash. I may raise the rating to R for violence later.
I hope you enjoy it. -- CC
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Thicker than Blood
Chapter One: The First Breach
"There's another one over here!"
"No, Harry, come back!"
"I'm telling you, there's another one!" Even as the words left his mouth, Harry's foot caught on something soft and heavy, making him stumble in the pitch darkness. He fell to the grass, landing on his outstretched hands, and immediately scrambled around to find the body on the ground.
Hermione's footsteps padded nearer on the thick grass, and he could hear her ragged breathing. She was scared. They were all scared, Harry included, but he knew he had a responsibility to find all of his classmates, no matter how frightened he was. Dumbledore had given them a section of the outer wards to check, and he meant to check every foot of it before he ran back to the safety of the dungeons and the inner wards.
His hands found the body, and he began to search upward, looking for the face of the dead child.
"Dumbledore said to be back in half an hour. No longer. It's already been..."
"This one's alive!" Harry gasped, as his hands touched bare flesh and he felt warm, fresh blood under his fingers.
"What? That's impossible! We're right up against the wards! The blow must have been right..."
"Shut up, Hermione, and help me!"
Her voice muttered "lumos" and a wan, blue light sprang up in her cupped hands. Then she knelt beside him and held the light where it fell on the face of the unconscious student. Both Harry and Hermione gasped at the same moment.
"It can't be..." Hermione protested.
"I've never seen anything so awful, Harry! His face..."
Harry stared down at the face of his arch enemy and felt his stomach contract in horror, but at the same time, he knew a certain morbid fascination. Unlike Hermione, he had seen worse. Much worse. But then, he had stood face to face with Lord Voldemort when he rose from the dead, and one mortally wounded teenage boy was nothing in comparison. But whatever had happened to Draco Malfoy, he looked like none of the other students they had found on the grounds that night - dead or alive.
Draco lay sprawled on his back, his head tilted up and his fingers buried in the thick grass as though he had been trying to anchor himself against a terrible force. His face, always pale, was dead white with a ghastly grey cast to it, his eyes sunk in purple-black shadows. His lips were drawn back in a grimace of pain and looked almost black in the eerie blue light from the wand. They were stained with fresh blood, also showing black, and more blood ran from his mouth with each slow, labored breath. As Harry knelt there, staring, he thought he saw a gleam from beneath Draco's eyelids. He reached up to lift one lid and saw that his eyes were glazed over, nearly opaque, and the pupils dilated hugely.
"He can't be alive," Hermione said.
"He is. He's breathing."
"What do we do?"
"Take him back to the dungeons with us and let Dumbledore figure out what happened to him."
"He looks like a... like a zombie or something."
"He's bleeding, Hermione. If we don't hurry, he'll die."
Harry saw her face twist with indecision, and he knew that she was fighting the urge to say, 'This is Malfoy we're talking about. Just let him die, and let's get out of here.' It's what he was thinking, in between thoughts of how important it was to get just one person - even this person - back to the castle alive and know that they saved someone from the horrors of this night.
Hermione, being Hermione and too honorable for her own good, controlled the urge and got to her feet without saying anything. Handing Harry the ball of wand fire, she shook out her sleeves and waved her wand over Draco's body.
The body floated gracefully upward, halting abruptly when Draco's fingers refused to let go of the grass. Harry quickly grabbed his right wrist and pulled, freeing his fingers from their death grip on grass and earth. Then he lifted the arm and crossed it over Malfoy's body. The left hand came away with a tug, but Harry found it strangely heavy, and he dropped it twice before he finally managed to fold it over the right one. He frowned over this but said nothing to Hermione. In a moment, they were hurrying over the grass, their way lit only by the blue glow of the wand fire, the night gibbering with unseen terrors all around them.
By the time they had delivered Malfoy into the hands of Madame Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore, then given Snape a careful list of those they had left behind on the grounds - and where to find them - Harry was beginning to shake with reaction. The dungeons were well lit and warmed by large fires, courtesy of the staff's powerful wands, but he felt chilled to the bone and sick to his stomach. McGonagall fixed him with a piercing stare and told him he was in shock. Madame Pomfrey ran a harassed eye over him and ordered him to lie down before he fell down. He looked round for some place to sit and relax.
Hermione was huddled in the corner, talking to Ron and Neville, both of whom looked as bad as Harry felt. Had they found anyone alive, he wondered? Ginny and Lavender Brown had been sent to clear the upstairs dormitories, and they had come back with a large group of traumatized but mostly unhurt students. Harry couldn't help wishing that he'd been given such an assignment, but he knew that Dumbledore had sent his best students - the oldest, the most well-trained, and the most powerful - along with what teachers he could spare to search the grounds for stragglers. It was the more dangerous job, farther from help and the safety of the inner wards, and it required a stronger stomach. Luckily, most of the students had been inside the castle, so Harry had been forced to locate and identify only a handful.
Onlya handful. It was an appalling comment on what had been happening over the last year or so, and on what had happened here at Hogwarts tonight, that he was able to think of only a handful of students lying dead on the grounds with relief. And he had found one alive. He'd found Draco. But what had Draco been doing at the edge of the school grounds, close up against the wards, at the moment of Voldemort's attack? And what on earth had happened to him to make him look so ghastly? So terrifyingly and grotesquely dead, when he miraculously wasn't?
Harry gave Hermione and Ron a wan smile but did not join them. He could see Dumbledore, Pomfrey and McGonagall huddled around a makeshift hospital bed and guessed that they were examining Draco. When Snape strode over to the table and fell into conference with Dumbledore, Harry knew he was right. Figuring that he had a right to know what was going on with the fellow student he had personally retrieved, Harry padded over to the group of teachers and moved up close to Dumbledore's side.
They were all leaning over Draco, with their wands in their hands, their faces lined with worry and something more unsettling. Something like fear. Harry bit his lip and willed his own fear away. And he listened.
"It is a summoning charm, no question," McGonagall said, "but I've never seen one with so much power behind it."
"It must be very old," Dumbledore mused. "Perhaps carried since earliest childhood. See how worn the silver is and how closely it fits to his wrist."
"I'll swear I never saw that on his arm before tonight," Snape said.
Dumbledore ran a hand over something on Draco's left wrist and murmured to himself, "Very old."
"An invisibility charm?" Snape asked.
"So it would seem. It remains unseen until activated. At that time, a charm as strong as this one would not be able to keep itself hidden. It takes far too much power."
"Do we take it off?" McGonagall asked.
"No. Not yet."
"That charm is a direct link to Voldemort's people!" Snape protested. "Only Lucius Malfoy or Voldemort himself could have given it to him. If you leave it on his body and leave him free in the castle, it's the same as letting a Death Eater run free among us!"
"Now Severus, you know that is an exaggeration. For one thing, young Mr. Malfoy is in no condition to run anywhere. For another, there is no saying how he will react to its call when he awakens."
"It took him out to the wards tonight," Snape insisted. "It must have. Lucius knew the attack was coming, and he used the charm to summon his son, to get him out of Hogwarts before it fell to Voldemort."
Dumbledore sighed. "That does seem likely."
"But why is he still here?" McGonagall demanded, "and how was he so dreadfully hurt?"
"He did not answer the call fast enough, perhaps, or he could not get through the wards and was caught in the onslaught. My guess is that he was near the very point of attack. There is much dark and foul magic about him. These injuries were not made by physical blows."
"Whatever they were made by," Madame Pomfrey interrupted, "they must be treated, now, or the boy will die. I have no medicines with me and only the most basic of first aid supplies. If you will give me leave, Albus..."
"No, Poppy, not yet. The castle is not safe beyond the inner wards. We must find the means to save Draco with what we have in the dungeons."
"My potions supplies are at your service, Headmaster."
"Thank you, Severus. I think we will need them. But we will also need some of your equipment. I think Mr. Malfoy needs blood. Do you have the means to draw some from a donor - assuming we can find one - and give it to Draco?"
Snape thought for a moment, then nodded. "I do." He glanced around at the crowded, noisy dungeon with its huddled groups of sobbing students and added, "Might I suggest that we move Malfoy into the potions classroom, or perhaps into my office, where we can do this without the entire school watching?"
"We must find him a comfortable and protected place to rest, somewhere he can stay once the transfusion is complete. What of the Slytherin dormitories?"
"Packed with students from the other halls, I'm afraid."
"Can we set up a bed, or beds, in your office?"
Snape nodded. "We'll manage something. How many beds?"
"Two. Whoever gives him the blood will need a place to rest afterward. And I fear..."
The teachers all leaned forward earnestly when he hesitated, their eyes gleaming in the firelight.
"What is it, Albus?" McGonagall urged.
Dumbledore shook his head, brushing away whatever thought had been plaguing him. "I fear we have little time. Let us find someone whose blood is a match and perform the transfusion as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Poppy and I will try to mend some of the damage inside him."
As the group of teachers scattered to their appointed tasks, Harry faded back into the dimness of the dungeon, trying to be unobtrusive. He did not move away quickly enough to miss Dumbledore's final words to Snape as he prepared to leave. Catching Snape's arm, Dumbledore drew him close to murmur, "Sixth and Seventh year students, Severus, only the strongest and the most well-trained. Bring them to me before you test them."
"How much blood do you plan on taking?" Snape asked, tensely.
"Only a pint or two, but this may not be the end of it. Choose carefully, Severus. Very carefully."
Harry did not stay to hear more. The veiled message in Dumbledore's words made knots in his stomach and started his mind spinning in dark, troubled directions. When Professor Dumbledore said 'this may not be the end of it,' he was not talking about more blood transfusions. Of that Harry was sure. But he couldn't imagine what else Dumbledore had in mind or let his thoughts wander too far in speculation.
He hurried over to where Hermione and Ron still sat huddled together and plopped down next to them. He had only begun to tell them what he had overheard when, not at all to his surprise, Snape loomed over them. The Potions Master's dark eyes studied their faces, his own features frozen in what passed for an impassive mask on Snape - a cold sneer.
"Potter, Granger, report to Professor Dumbledore in the Potions dungeon."
"Did we do something wrong, Professor?" Hermione asked, before Harry's elbow to the ribs could stop her.
"Just do as you're told, Miss Granger."
"Yes, Professor," they both mumbled, climbing to their feet.
Once Snape had moved on, Ron tried to stop them, to ask Harry what was up, but Harry didn't hang around long enough to explain. He knew what Snape wanted, and he knew why both he and Hermione had been selected. The strongest and the most well-trained. He felt the knot form in his stomach again and wished he'd had time to get Hermione's take on all of this.
They filed into the Potions dungeon to find a dozen students there before them. All were from their own class or the seventh year, and all were people that Harry recognized as among the top group of students in each House. To his surprise, he found Neville Longbottom among them, sitting next to Dean Thomas and looking terrified.
Harry walked over to the two Gryffindors and sat down next to them. Neville gave him a tight smile.
"'lo, Harry. Any idea what's going on?"
"My guess is there's been another attack," Dean muttered, "another breach in the wards. They need students to help shore them up."
Harry looked startled. "What makes you say that?"
"Look around, Potter. Who d'you think is here?"
"Who?" Neville asked, swallowing painfully.
"The very strongest wizards in the school. Not a one of us is below Master Class, and we know it, even if we don't admit it."
"What about me?!" Neville squeaked.
Dean gave him an exasperated look and rolled his eyes. "You're as strong as the rest of us Neville, when you're scared enough to use it."
Was that why Snape chose him?Harry wondered. Is Dumbledore picking students for a task so frightening that it would scare even Neville into using his full powers?
Neville was staring at Harry, his eyes begging for reassurance. Harry tried to smile at him. "I don't know about the wards or why Snape wants the strongest students, but I do know why we're here."
Hermione turned accusing eyes on him. "You didn't tell me that!"
"Snape didn't give me time. It's about Malfoy."
"Malfoy!" the others chorused, indignantly.
"Hermione and I found him on the grounds tonight, alive but badly injured. Madame Pomfrey can't get to her stock of medicines, and from what Dumbledore said, they probably wouldn't help anyway. Malfoy's been hit by dark arts spells - bad stuff - and he's dying."
"Serves him right," Dean muttered. "I hope it was his father's spell that got him, the ferret-faced little bugger!"
"Dumbledore's looking for a blood donor."
"A what?" Neville asked.
"It's a Muggle thing. A person who gives blood to someone who's sick or hurt, to keep them alive 'til they can heal. Malfoy's bleeding internally and needs blood, and if one of us has the right kind of blood, we'll be asked to give him some."
Neville looked more frightened than he had at Dean's talk of breached wards and Death Eater attacks. "I don't think I want my blood in Draco Malfoy's body."
"You're not the only one," Dean retorted. "Why don't they ask one of the Slytherins to do it? They'd be happy to bleed for that..."
"Dean," Hermione said, severely, "don't be crude. Draco will die without the blood, and we can't just... I mean..."
"Can't we? I can."
"You wouldn't say that if you'd seen him out there on the grounds. He may be the biggest beast in nature, but he's still just a boy, really."
"He's sixteen, like the rest of us," Dean interjected, "and like the rest of us, he's old enough to know better. If he's gonna hang around with Death Eaters, he deserves to get fried by one of their spells."
Hermione sighed but made no further argument. She, like Harry and Neville, knew that Dean would not truly refuse to give Malfoy his blood, if it turned out he was a match. But he would be thoroughly obnoxious about doing the right thing, if only to make himself feel better about helping a Slytherin and to cover up his fear.
The entrance of Professors Dumbledore, Snape and McGonagall silenced any further discussion of the matter. Dumbledore made no open announcement of the reasons for them being there but paced quietly through the room, gazing into the face of each student. When he reached Harry, he paused and smiled, a twinkle creeping into his eyes.
"Have you filled in your classmates yet, Mr. Potter?"
Harry swallowed nervously. "Uhh, no Professor."
Turning away, Dumbledore nodded to Snape. "Excellent, Severus. Please proceed."
Snape moved quickly among the students, McGonagall following behind him with a large tray in her hands. It took him only a moment to swipe a piece of gauze over a student's fingertip, pierce it with the tip of a sharp knife, and let a few drops of blood fall into a stone bowl he took from the tray. Harry couldn't see what happened to the blood in the bowl, but he saw the frown on Snape's face and the concern in McGonagall's grow with each try.
At last they came to where the Gryffindor's sat. Hermione stoutly offered her hand first, and Harry watched curiously as three drops of dark, thick red blood fell into the bowl. It appeared to be full of water, but when each drop struck the surface of the liquid, it made a slight spitting noise and an oily sheen of color spread away from it. Hermione's blood turned the liquid pink with green ripples. Dean's did the same, and Neville's turned it a purplish blue.
Harry was last. He held out his left hand and set his teeth, determined not to flinch when the knife blade bit into his skin. Whatever his failings as a human being, Severus Snape was a deft and skilled technician. The gauze wiped something cold onto his fingertip - not alcohol, as it would have been in a Muggle hospital, since it made him go numb - then the sharp blade cut him swiftly and painlessly. Blood welled up from the cut when Snape squeezed his finger, then it ran slowly around the curve of his finger and plopped into the bowl. Harry watched, fascinated, as a sheen of gold spread across the surface of the liquid.
He did not need the relief in Snape's face or to hear him turn and call to Dumbledore, "We have a match, Headmaster," to know what that shining, oily puddle of gold meant. It had been inevitable from the moment he overheard Dumbledore talking to the teachers. He was Harry Potter, and everything really unpleasant that happened at Hogwarts happened to him. Why would this be any different?
Professor Dumbledore did not look any more surprised than Harry felt, but the smile was notably absent from his face. He gazed down at Harry kindly, his lips pursed in thought, and nodded his head once.
"Come along, then, Harry."
"Excuse me, Professor," Hermione piped in.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Doesn't... doesn't Harry have the right to say no?"
Dumbledore turned to gaze intently at Harry. "Well, Harry? Do you want me to find someone else?"
"Is there anyone else, Professor?"
"Undoubtedly, but not with your qualifications."
His calm unimpaired, Dumbledore turned once more to Hermione. "Yes, Miss Granger?"
"What qualifications could you possibly need for a blood donor, except that he have blood of the proper type?"
"Wizard blood is a bit more complex than Muggle blood, Miss Granger, so it is not simply a matter of type. But that aside, what I may require of Harry is something I will discuss only with him."
Hermione grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him close, hissing in his ear, "Don't agree to do it, unless they tell you the whole plan, Harry! Dean's right that there's more going on here..."
Harry jerked his arm away and muttered back, "I don't want to think about that. I just want to get this over with, do what I can to save Malfoy's rotten life, and then never have to look at his ugly face again."
Hermione bit her lip and said nothing, but Harry knew her well enough to tell what she was thinking: It doesn't work like that.
Of course not,Harry thought, glumly, it never works like that for me.
Turning back to Dumbledore, he said, "I'll do it, Professor, if you think it's best."
"I do think it best, Harry, and I think it long past time we got started. Come with me."
With that, Dumbledore swept him out of the dungeon and into the dank, low-ceilinged corridor. Harry followed and was grateful to see that Snape and McGonagall had remained in the Potions classroom, at least for now. He wanted a minute to talk to Dumbledore privately.
Quickening his pace to catch up to the taller Headmaster, he asked, "What is it you really want from me, Professor?"
"For the present, only a pint of your blood, Harry."
"What about later?"
"I, umm... I heard you talking before, in the dungeon."
"I know you did." Dumbledore stopped at a large, heavy wooden door and waved his wand over it.
"You asked for the strongest and best trained students. And you didn't even let Snape bring any of the teachers in for testing. But Neville was there, and Neville can barely cast a spell unless he thinks his life is in immediate danger."
"You are very observant, Harry."
The door now stood open, revealing what had once been Snape's dark, dank, oppressive office. All the furniture had been pushed aside and a cheerful fire lit on the hearth. Candles were dotted about to light the room, and in their yellow glow, the jars and bottles that lined Snape's shelves did not look quite as gruesome as usual. The office looked almost inviting, until Harry glanced down and saw two pallets laid out on the floor, with a collection of needles, tubes and bladder-like bags on a table between them.
"So what horrible, life-threatening thing are you afraid I'll have to do?" he asked Dumbledore.
"Nothing, I hope."
Harry followed Dumbledore into Snape's office and sat down on the chair he indicated. "You hope, but you don't really believe it, do you?"
"Let us worry about one crisis at a time, Harry. I will ask you to do nothing without your full understanding and consent, and not unless it is truly necessary."
"Which means you won't ask until there's no way I can back out."
Dumbledore smiled. "You are distressingly adept at second-guessing me, for such a young man."
"I may be young, Professor, but I gave up being innocent a long time ago, and I've had lots of practice at figuring out what adults are really saying when they don't tell you anything."
"So you have. But you do trust me, don't you?"
"Of course I do," Harry answered, promptly.
"Then you must relax and take events as they come. There is nothing else to do in such a crisis."
Harry tried to follow Dumbledore's advice. He submitted to Madame Pomfrey's various orders, dressing himself in his pajamas and lying down on the pallet nearest Snape's desk, and he allowed her to fuss over him without complaint. When Snape arrived, things got really unpleasant. They stuck a needle in his arm and hooked it up to one of the bladder bags. Before long, Harry could see the bag turning a sinister shade of brown through its membranous casing. His blood, pouring into the bag. His blood, which would soon be given to Draco Malfoy, of all unlikely people.
Watching the blood flow into the bag made him dizzy, though Snape told him, in his most caustic tone, that they were not taking enough to weaken a good-sized rat. Madame Pomfrey assured him that it was a natural reaction to watching his own bodily fluids run out of him, but this explanation didn't help any. Harry had to close his eyes and turn his head away to still the queasiness in his stomach.
After only a few minutes, Snape tapped the tube with his wand and sealed it closed. Then Madame Pomfrey pulled the needle from Harry's arm and wiped the puncture wound with something cold that smelled of burnt feathers. It made his arm stop hurting instantly, but it didn't make his stomach stop churning.
He was still trying to convince himself that the sickness was all in his head, when the door banged open and Hagrid ducked through it. The enormous gamekeeper had a bundle of blankets in his arms that he carried without noticeable effort. It wasn't until Hagrid laid the bundle down on the pallet next to Harry that he realized it was Malfoy. The other boy was still unconscious, his head hanging limply back over Hagrid's arm, his long white-blond hair coming loose from its usual ponytail and lying in a snarl around his face, his skin a ghastly shade of white that seemed untouched by the warm candlelight.
Harry stared at him, shocked to see him looking so ill after all the most gifted wizards in the school had worked to help him. As Hagrid settled the lifeless body on the bed next to Harry's, one hand slipped from beneath the blankets and hit the floor with a dull thud. It was Draco's left hand - the one Harry had struggled to lift, that had seemed so unnaturally heavy. The hand looked like a claw, lying there on the floor. The fingers were still curved to hold a fistful of grass and earth, the nails showing a bruised purple in the dimness of the dungeon.
Around Malfoy's wrist was a curious kind of bracelet. It was made of pale, polished silver, fitting close to his arm, and it had no clasp or opening that Harry could see. Across the top, where the face of a watch would be, was an oblong of purple crystal that lay, pulsing gently, against Draco's skin. And all around it, in a wide, angry swathe that circled Draco's wrist, the white skin was burned a livid red.
Harry shuddered at the sight and looked away, but it was too late. He had seen Malfoy lying there like a child's broken toy - like something Dudley had smashed and discarded - and it was too late to forget. Against his will and against all reason, he felt sorry for Draco Malfoy.
Shaking his head at his own stupidity, Harry lifted a hand to cover his eyes. He wouldn't look again. He wouldn't watch them jab a needle in Draco's arm and pump Harry's blood into it. He wouldn't think about the burns on the other boy's wrist or how he had gotten them. He wouldn't remember the dull, dead thud Draco's hand made when it hit the floor. He would think only of the six years he had spent in this castle, being tormented by that vicious, rotten, cheating, hateful, evil little git and try to be glad that he was finally getting his just deserts.
A shadow fell across his face, and Harry opened his eyes to find Madame Pomfrey bending over him with a cup in her hand. "Professor Snape brewed this up for you, Potter. Drink it, like a good boy, and get some sleep."
"I'm not a boy," Harry mumbled automatically, as he took the cup and wrinkled his nose at the contents. It smelled better than he had expected, coming from Snape, and he felt a sudden, overwhelming desire to drink the potion and escape from this horrible night for a while. Smiling at Madame Pomfrey in apology, he lifted the cup and downed the potion in a few gulps.
It wasn't nasty at all. Snape must be losing his touch, Harry thought. He's been almost nice to me tonight, and he didn't try to poison me or fry my tastebuds. Setting down the cup, he rolled onto his side and pulled the blankets up around his ears. He felt immensely tired and oddly warm, as though the potion had lit a comfortably banked fire in his stomach. With a sigh, he closed his eyes. He's probably so worried about that rat Malfoy that he didn't remember the arsenic, was Harry's last thought as he drifted off to sleep.
To be continued...