Title: In Memory I
Chapter 9: Malfoy Manor
The first time Harry had seen Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he'd felt there was something familiar about the magnificent castle. The magic had been warm and welcoming, encircling him to whisper, "You've come home."
Malfoy Manor greeted him in much the same way.
As he walked through the grand hallways of the manor, trailing just a little behind Draco, he found his senses overwhelmed. The magic of the building enveloped him, filling him with foreign desire. The floor beneath him urged him to take his shoes off and dig his toes into the sinfully plush carpet. The portraits on the walls silently enticed him to stop and chat with them, generations of Malfoys with tiny, aristocratic smiles, and steely blue eyes.
The walls around him beckoned and strangely his fingertips reached out of their own accord. The marvelous stone was warm to the touch, and he felt a ripple of amusement from the building itself. He sensed the love this household had for it's residents; he felt himself being drawn into that fold as he was recognized and marked as family, much to his surprise.
There were _stories_ inside of these walls, he realized with more than a little awe. Stories that stretched back to the instant the first cornerstone was placed. Stories that the building urged him to explore.
Ahead of him, Draco seemed to notice that Harry was no longer following. He turned and questioned, "Harry?"
"Just... hold on a second," Harry murmured in reply, and he closed his eyes.
The word brushed by his ear like a delicate caress, and sounded so very far away.
"Father," the child's voice called again, "Look what I've found!"
In his mind, he saw the same corridor where he stood, reproduced down to the smallest detail. There were subtle changes all around him, though – an ancient tapestry to his left that hadn't been there before, a flawless vase that had been chipped, a stain on the carpet that hadn't yet been removed.
And where Draco had stood, a young child with bright blue eyes the color of the morning sky, in robes just slightly too large to fit him properly.
The ghost of memory laughed, delighted, innocent eyes fixing on a point just over Harry's shoulder.
Harry felt a curious warmth spread through him as another ghost, another memory, stepped _through_ him. Lucius' long, blonde hair wasn't quite as long as it had been that morning, but the small, indulgent smile on his face was exactly the same.
The boy reached out and their ethereal fingers linked. The boy tugged insistently on Lucius' hand, digging his tiny bare feet into the carpet for support. "C'mon, c'mon! You're gonna' miss it!"
"Very well," Lucius said formally, but his smile belied the words. He leaned forward to scoop up Draco in his arms. "Show me."
Lucius walked further down the hall, and both memories began to fade away, blurring at the edges. Draco peeked over his father's shoulder. As guileless blue eyes met startled green, the child grinned widely and giggled, "You can come to."
Harry's eyes snapped open.
Draco's face was barely an inch away from Harry's. The blonde boy grinned. "Hello? Anybody in there?"
"Sorry," Harry replied softly, and he pulled his hand away from the wall.
Later that night, the two boys lay in their respective beds. Lucius had seemed surprised when Harry approached him and politely asked if they'd be allowed to put a second bed into Draco's room for the duration of Christmas break.
Samson shifted in his sleep on Harry's pillow, and Hedwig had already tucked her head into the crook of her wing, feathered breast rising and falling peacefully. There was no movement from Draco's bed.
It was strange, Harry reflected. Every night at school, Draco would knock on Harry's door and the two of them would talk with Samson until one of them yawned and they realized the time. Some days Draco would sneak back to his room, but as the school year progressed, more often than not the blonde just snuggled back into the plush bed and said he was too tired to go back to his room.
Now, even though Draco was still in the same room, Harry found it difficult to fall asleep. He'd gotten so used to being in the same bed, with Draco's arms and legs a tangled mess as he hogged all the covers. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd woken up without fine gold-spun strands of hair tickling his nose.
The torches on the wall flickered briefly, and Harry resisted the urge to turn fitfully beneath the covers. Finally, he whispered, "Draco?"
"Yeah?" came the reply, soft and instant.
"…" Harry paused, at a loss. He'd called out his friend's name, but he hadn't wanted anything. He'd just needed to assure himself that Draco was still there, within three step's distance. Finally he said, "You really... loved growing up here, didn't you?"
Draco laughed at the odd question, and from the corner of his eye, Harry saw the covers on the other bed quiver. "I guess." There was another pause, a silence that stretched, but not uncomfortably. Then, "Why?"
"Tell me," Harry whispered back, and his fingers moved against his will, grabbing fistfuls of the bedsheets tightly. "Tell me what it was like."
Draco sat up halfway, propping himself on one elbow to stare at Harry. "What do you mean?" the blonde asked curiously.
"Tell me... about your father. About your mother." Harry swallowed, the words threatening to stick in his throat. "About what it was like... growing up in this house."
The blonde fell back on his bed, and his mouth curved into a soft smile. "You're really weird sometimes, y'know, Harry? I mean, growing up is the same no matter where you are, isn't it?"
Harry's heartbeat seemed loud and unforgiving to his own ear. His fingers twisted the bedsheet, and his lips trembled, struggling to form a word he'd long since forgotten the meaning of.
Draco continued, "You'd probably be bored of it in five minutes. I mean –"
Draco paused. Hesitantly, he said, "Well. Don't say I didn't warn you." He cleared his throat, as if embarrassed. "Um... I guess I'd start with my mother. I don't know her, not really. She and my dad had a falling out after I was born. She still goes to social events with us and stuff, to keep up appearances, but I don't even remember the last time she's said more than two words to me."
The blonde paused, turning his head to glance at Harry. "It doesn't bother me any more. It used to, a little, but my dad is awesome and I think I'm happier with just him around. And you know my dad. I mean, you've known him for as long as I have, anyway." Draco snorted, reaching up to brush his hair from his eyes. "It's kind of embarrassing, but he used to tell me bedtime stories about you."
"Yeah." Draco snuggled back into his covers, tucking his hands behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. "Once upon a time, y'know?"
Harry didn't, but he kept silent, inviting Draco to continue.
"I guess I had a fun childhood," the blonde frowned thoughtfully. "I mean, Greg and Vince were always here, and I visited them all the time, too. We always got into trouble when our parents weren't around, but Dobby – he's my personal house elf – he always got us out and covered for us."
"I was worried when I found out he couldn't come to Hogwarts with me," he continued, "'cause I'm always getting into trouble. But then I met you, and you take better care of me than he does."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked softly.
"Well, Dobby always bailed me out of trouble, like I said... but you make sure I don't get into trouble, if that makes any sense." Draco shrugged. "I guess that's what best friends are for."
"I guess," Harry echoed.
"You know," Draco mused, "I had a lot of friends when I was younger – Greg and Vince, of course. And Pansy was all right, for a girl. Blaise was always a bit strange, and Teddy – Theodore – was shy, but both of them are good guys. I guess it's normal that we're in different houses at school, but I always figured we'd all be in Slytherin together." The blonde snorted softly, "Growing up kind of sucks."
Harry closed his eyes, remembering the simplicity of his garden, and replied quietly, "It kind of does."
The next day, Lucius, Draco, and Harry sat around the small table in one of the dens, enjoying a light breakfast. At first, Harry had been confused – why were they eating in a den and not the dining room? He'd hesitantly voiced the question, and both Malfoys had laughed.
Draco smiled from across the table and said, "You didn't get the full house tour, yet, so I guess you don't know. The dining room table is _huge_. Way too big for just three people, anyway."
Lucius continued, the corners of his mouth upturned slightly, "Indeed. We only use it for family dinners and social events, partly because of the size, and partly because it is adjacent to the ballroom." The older Malfoy reached over and tousled Harry's hair affectionately. "The dinner and dance for the Christmas Ball will be held there. Seeing both rooms decorated for Christmas is a sight to behold; I think you'll enjoy it."
"Christmas Ball...?" Harry repeated quietly.
Lucius' eyes held a hint of promise as he replied, "You'll have to wait and see."
"Speaking of Christmas..." Draco said suddenly, let the sentence trail off as he reached for a piece of buttered toast. His eyes shifted towards his father as he took a bite.
"Speaking of Christmas," Lucius echoed, amused. He didn't elaborate, but rather reached for a slice of toast himself. He took care to spread a bit of jam on one corner before taking a bite.
"Well," Draco said, "Christmas is coming, you know." He took another bite of toast.
"Indeed," Lucius agreed, "It is." He spread jam on another corner.
"Right around the corner, really," Draco continued. "And with Christmas comes all sorts of things." He took a third, big bite of toast, so that all that was left was a wedge of crust.
"Good tidings?" Lucius hazarded, lazily spreading jam on the rest of the toast before taking a bite to match his son.
"Presents," Draco said decisively, finishing off the toast. He licked the crumbs from his fingers.
"Of course," Lucius replied. He took his final bite and reached for a napkin.
Watching their playful banter, Harry's mouth curled up of its own accord.
"But, you know," Draco continued, reaching for his cup of hot chocolate, "Presents don't just pop out of nowhere, despite all that Muggle hype about a Santerclause."
"Oh?" Lucius said softly, lifting his teacup to hide a smile.
"S'truth!" Draco said, sipping his hot chocolate. "And you know, since Harry's here..." He trailed off, leaving the statement open.
"Ah," Lucius said, still smiling as he set his teacup down. "You do make a valid point. I suppose it's only proper, as it is Harry's first Christmas with us."
Smugly, Draco reached for another slice of toast.
After breakfast was over, Draco grabbed Harry's hand – a gesture that Harry had long since become accustomed to, though not entirely comfortable with – and dragged him towards their shared bedroom.
" – what's – the – rush – ?" Harry managed to get out as they dashed through the hallways.
"Didn't you hear father?" Draco called back breathlessly, "We're going to Diagon Alley today!"
Diagon Alley was bustling with people. Witches and wizards – a few of whom Harry recognized as Lucius called out and received greetings – milled about in heavy cloaks over their robes. Many of them were buried behind packages stacked so high that all Harry could make out were the tops of pointy hats. The streets and shops glowed with various decorative enchantments, and a recent snowfall had left a dusting of fine powder on the roofs and cobblestone streets.
Harry himself wore a simple, heavy cloak of wool, and Samson was wrapped up in the hood, snoring softly. The warm weight of the snake's body, Harry mused, was better than any scarf. His matching gray cap served a dual purpose – it kept his head warm, of course, but it also covered his scar.
Draco and Lucius, in contrast, had both donned fur cloaks that had been dyed white, and the younger Malfoy also sported a matching fur cap. The white fur, coupled with his blonde hair and pale skin, should have made Draco looked washed out, but instead it made him look like a china doll on a shelf, regal and untouchable.
"Well then," Lucius said as he walked behind the two boys, carefully making sure that no one bumped into them, "First we'll need to stop by Gringotts. Harry, did Dumbledore give you the key to the Potter vaults?"
Harry nodded, fishing the key out of his pocket.
"Excellent," Lucius said, and he ushered the boys towards the majestic white building that Harry had only ever seen from the outside. As they walked through the first set of bronze doors, the attending goblin bowed politely to them. Lucius and Draco ignored the gesture, but Harry paused and bowed politely back. The goblin blinked in surprise, giving Harry an incredulous look. Then the goblin smiled, just a little, and just the very corners of his mouth.
"Harry," Lucius called from beyond a second set of silver doors.
The goblin's smile widened a little. "Best be on your way, sir."
"What's your name?" Harry asked impulsively.
Surprise flitted across the dark-skinned, angular face, but the goblin replied, "Warnel, sir."
"Nice to meet you, Warnel," Harry said softly, and he bowed a second time before entering the building.
His feet ghosted across the white, marble floor. When he finally caught up with both Malfoys, Draco leaned over and whispered, "You're so weird sometimes, Harry. Nobody bows to goblins!"
The trio made their way past the rows of nearly one hundred seated goblins, all intent on their work. Many of them scribbled in ancient, leather-bound ledgers, checking and cross checking the smaller accounting books littering their desks. A few goblins were using small monospectacles to examine gemstones, and Harry noted that the goblins with gemstones worked in pairs. One would examine the gemstone, and the other would sketch measurements and notes on a scroll as they conferred.
Lucius stopped in front of a long counter at the very back of the room and one of the goblins behind it greeted him, "A pleasure to see you again, Mr. Malfoy. What can I do for you today?"
"I've come to pick up a bit money for Christmas shopping," Lucius replied. "We'll need to stop at two family vaults – Malfoy and Potter."
The goblin blinked, then swiveled his head to focus on Harry. After a cursory examination, the goblin turned back to Lucius and asked, "You have both keys, sir?"
Lucius nodded, pulling a key from the inner folds of his robe. He handed it to the goblin and gestured for Harry to do the same.
After examining both keys, the goblin nodded and returned them. "Everything appears to be in order." He waved to a nearby goblin and instructed, "Hurate, please take Mr.'s Malfoy, and Mr. Potter to their vaults."
"Thank you," Harry said to the goblin behind the counter, and he got halfway through a bow before Draco – rolling his eyes at Harry's bizarre etiquette – grabbed his hand and pulled him away.
Hurate, a stout goblin with a stoic face, ushered them through one of the many doors that lined the walls. Beyond the door, the walls and floor were made of stone, similar to the dungeons of Hogwarts. Lucius, Draco, and Harry followed the goblin down a slope, moving carefully so as not to lose their footing, and reached a series of railroad tracks at the bottom.
A small gurney rattled along the tracks and halted in front of them. After situating themselves as comfortably as they could – Hurate positioning himself towards the front – the cart took off, whizzing through narrow, convoluted passages that were just barely illuminated by the torches on the wall. The ride was bumpy and unpleasant, but Harry found himself enjoying the feeling of weightlessness as they turned corners at breakneck speeds; it reminded him of flying.
Beside him, Draco uttered a low-pitched moan. Harry glanced over and was surprised to see his blonde friend had his eyes tightly shut, and he clutched at the corner of the cart with white knuckles. Lucius didn't look much better himself, though the older Malfoy was more adept at hiding his discomfort; he seemed paler than usual, and his fists were clenched tightly at his sides.
In stark contrast, Hurate, the goblin, wore a bored look, and his foot tapped against the bottom of the cart impatiently. "Would you mind if we went a bit faster?" he asked casually.
"No!" Draco said, opening his eyes in his horror. At that moment, the cart lurched unpleasantly and Draco moaned again, closing his eyes again as he hunkered into the corner.
"This speed is quite acceptable," Lucius muttered.
"Suit yourself," Hurate sighed, and he leaned against the side of the cart leisurely.
Just as Harry thought Draco might lean over the side of the cart to vomit, they skidded to a rocky halt. The blonde boy was the first to climb out, followed quickly by Lucius. Harry waited politely until Hurate stepped off before following.
Draco leaned against the stone wall, apparently grateful that his feet were on solid ground. Harry watched him for a moment, then turned his gaze to the goblin who carefully unlocked a door in a nook in the wall. A puff of green smoke escaped through the door and dissipated into the air.
"Mr. Potter," Hurate said formally, gesturing to the open door. "Your vault."
Harry looked to Lucius, who nodded, and they both stepped inside. The vault was enormous, and the ceiling stretched up nearly twenty feet. Piles of galleons and sickles were stacked along the walls, and they twinkled brightly, like an ancient treasure hoard.
From the doorway, Draco gave a low whistle. "Bloody hell, Harry, you're loaded!"
"Language," Lucius reprimanded sharply. "Though I must admit," he added, "I didn't expect Lily and James to leave you quite so well off."
Harry's eyes scanned the rest of the room quickly. Toward the back of the vault were a few bookcases that housed ancient, leather-bound tomes. There were a few trinkets on the shelves as well – a murky bauble that Harry identified as a frozen pensieve, a small, jeweled box, a purple candle – and to the left of the shelves was an ornamental table, parchments and scrolls littering the surface.
Turning to the goblin in the doorway, Harry asked, "Are there any limitation on what I can take with me?"
Hurate frowned, puzzled by the question, and replied, "Everything in this vault is yours, Mr. Potter. You may take or leave whatever you see fit."
"Ah," Lucius said suddenly, "I'd forgotten." He reached into his robes and pulled out a leather pouch. He passed it to Harry with a small, apologetic smile.
After a second glance around the room, Harry knelt and scooped a few handfuls of galleons into the pouch. Then he moved toward the bookcases, glancing over a few of the titles. The tomes were quite old, and he'd only ever heard of two of them before. He decided that he'd have to come back and pick them at a more convenient time.
Harry sensed a few enchanted jewels scatted among the mounds of coins, and he carefully collected them. He also took the trinkets from the shelves and gathered the papers and scrolls on the desk. Then he turned to Lucius and said softly, "Mr. Malfoy, would you please shrink these for me?" He'd decided that addressing Lucius with his full title would be less suspicious than calling the man by his given name, because the goblin was still watching from his post at the door.
"Of course, Harry," Lucius replied, and it only took the older Malfoy a moment to reduce the papers, the pensieve, the jeweled box, and the candle down to miniature versions, which Harry slipped into his pocket.
When Harry was finished, Hurate sealed up door without preamble, and they proceeded to the Malfoy vault. The ride wasn't nearly as long, for which Harry was grateful because he didn't think Draco could stomach much more bouncing around.
Having collected everything they needed from Gringotts, the trio made their way back to Diagon Alley. As they walked, Draco suddenly suggested, "Should we spit up?"
Lucius paused, pondering the question at length before responding, "I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of both of you running around by yourselves, but it does raise the question of how to make our purchases without giving away the surprise of Christmas day."
"We wouldn't need to be apart for the entire day," Draco wheedled, glancing at Harry as if to say, "Help me out!"
"We could meet somewhere in an hour," Harry quietly proposed.
Lucius' mouth quirked a little, obviously seeing through their unsubtle attempt to double-team him. He relented, "Very well. We will meet at the Leaky Cauldron in two hours."
"Thank you, father!" Draco grinned. "See you then!" He dashed quickly down the street, as if he thought Lucius might change his mind, and disappeared into one of the shops.
"Silly boy," Lucius murmured softly, fondly. He glanced at Harry, a small twist to his lips. "He didn't even wait for me to give him his money."
Harry smiled. "I'll see you in two hours, sir."
The blonde man nodded, then headed in the direction Draco had run.
Now alone, Harry didn't know where to start. He glanced around, eyes shifting over the names of the stores. There were so many people for whom he wanted to get presents. Draco, of course, and Lucius, as well as several of his more prominent shadows. His thoughts turned to Hogwarts, and he remembered Hermione and Dean, and Neville and Vince and Greg. He also wanted to pick something up for the Bloody Baron, though he had no idea what sort of gift a ghost might appreciate.
Since he only had two hour apart from Lucius and Draco, their gifts were to be purchased first. Though, the longer he stood there and thought about it, the harder it was to decide what exactly to buy for them.
He toyed with the idea of buying Lucius something to match the first gift he had given, and subsequently, the first gift he had received. The silver ring Lucius had given him was a comforting weight around his finger, and he rarely took it off. Also, Harry had seen the serpentine paperweight he'd transfigured for Lucius in the study, coiled threateningly on top of a stack of parchments on the desk.
So, he mused to himself, some sort of silver snake.
He stopped at several jewelry shops, and while some of them did have silver pendants and broaches that bore the crest of Slytherin, none particularly appealed to Harry. They were beautiful, exquisitely wrought, and works of the finest craftsmen, but they were too impersonal. Many of them were also impractical, and he couldn't picture his first Shadow wearing the ornate pieces in public.
He browsed through the titles in Flourish and Blotts, pausing only to pick up the new autobiography of Draco's favorite Quidditch player, and spent some time perusing the shelves of a stationary store. He found a bottle of rich, green ink that Draco wrote his letters with – pricey stuff, for ink, but Harry knew that his friend was running low.
Thirty minutes later, Harry had a bag of curiosities and trinkets that he'd thought Draco would enjoy, including a full box of chocolate frogs, several packs of Quidditch trading cards, and a set of novelty potions that produced a variety of effects. One of them promised to turn a person's hair bright purple for an hour, and another said it would turn the whole _person_ purple.
It was as he was passing by a smithy that he spotted something. It sat in the window of the adjoining shop, surrounded by dragonhide armor and enchanted daggers. At first he believed he'd just imagined it, but as he walked closer to the display, he found himself smiling.
It was a simple black cane. The pommel was forged of silver in the likeness of a serpent's head, and there were two chips of emerald impressed into slitted eyes.
It was perfect.
He pushed the door of the shop open, a bell jingling above him to signal his entrance. The shop was unbearably hot, and the walls were made of thick mason blocks. There were two stone archways; one was behind the counter at the back of the room, and Harry could see it led to a spiral staircase. The other archway was in the middle of the left wall, and he assumed it led directly to the forge; great gusts of heat whooshed through the opening, and flickers of light and shadowy blurs contorted on the floor.
Glancing around, Harry didn't see anyone, so he moved forward to look at the merchandise. There were no shelves in sight. Instead, armor was displayed on mannequins that bowed to him as he walked by, and swords were hung on the walls with plain, wooden racks.
His feet led him closer to the counter at the rear of the shop, and he heard a deep, rumbling voice boom, "Be right wit' ye, lad."
It came from the forge, and he cautiously walked toward the voice. Suddenly, the room seemed to darken. Harry bit back a cry of fear as a veritable giant ducked through the door, wide shoulders barely squeezing through the confines of the archway.
He was in a different place, the door of his cupboard opening with a creak; Vernon shouldered through the opening, face twisting in anger. Harry backpedaled, bumping into something, and the leering face came closer, and "Your fault, freak, you made me do this," reached his ears but didn't fully register because Vernon's fist was already swinging –
A heavy hand touched his shoulder, and Harry flinched away. "Ye alright, lad?"
"Yes," Harry said automatically, "Sorry." Then he shook his head to clear it, and Uncle Vernon was replaced by a tall smith, soot and worry in equal measures on his friendly face.
"Ye sure?" the smith asked, brow furrowed up in concern. "Ye was shakin' like a leaf in the wind."
"I'm sorry," Harry said again, composing himself. "You surprised me."
"Ach," the man said, rocking back on his heels, "Ye'd t'ink after so long ah'd be used to scarin' the wits out o' pint-sized folk like yerself. Sorry, lad. Wot can ah do fer ye?"
"The cane. The one in the window," Harry said stiffly. "I'd like to buy it."
"Would ye, now?" The man lumbered to the front display, pulling back the curtain that separated it from the rest of the store, and lifted the cane carefully. It looked like a wand in his oversized grip. "This be the one?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said.
The man ambled behind the counter and set the cane down on the wooden surface. Up close Harry could see the spectacular craftsmanship that had gone into forging the snake's head, and he reached forward to touch it. The snake's mouth opened soundlessly and it made as if to bite him. Startled, Harry snatched his hand back.
The giant laughed good-naturedly. "Sorry, sorry, lad. Should have warned ye." He stroked the top of the snake's head with one beefy finger, and the mouth closed slowly. "That's twice t'day ah scared ye but ah couldn't help m'self. Seein' it fer yerself makes a deeper impression on clients, ye see?"
Before Harry could ask anything, the man explained, "This lil' beauty's charmed, o'course. Ye need to say the words 'fore she'll let ye touch 'er. If yer still interested in makin' a purchase, ah'll teach ye."
"Does the charm work for more than one person?" Harry asked, thinking it would be silly if he bought the cane and Lucius wasn't able to use it.
"'Course," the man replied, amused. "Be ye warned, lad, if some'un tries to pick 'er up without havin' used the charm, she'll bite 'em well'n good."
"Is..." Harry nibbled his lip, debating on whether or not to refer to the cane as a 'she.' Finally he asked, "Is she poisonous?"
The man nodded. "A bit more per bite, lad. She'll paralyze, ye see? One nip'll wear off'n jus' under five minutes. Three nips'll get ye 'bout an hour, but more'n that? Can't say."
"Is there an antidote?"
The smith looked both surprised and pleased by the question, and he reach forward and carefully twisted the snake's head off of the cane. He showed Harry the inside of the cane, which had been hollowed, and a small vial was snuggled inside the blackwood. "The vial's charmed too. Won't break, no matter wot ye do. That's an exact dose, there, an' it'll replenish after ye use it."
The man screwed the pommel back onto the cane.
Harry relaxed a little as he studied the cane. It really was perfect.
"I'll take it," he told the man, and spent the next few minutes memorizing the charm so that he could teach it to Lucius. He performed the charm so that he could carry the cane, and the man wrapped it in an inconspicuous brown tube. It was an expensive purchase, but Harry felt the price was fair, considering the quality and consideration that had gone into its making.
He also bought a stirring rod for Avery, which the smith promised wouldn't melt in even the most corrosive potions, and a matching set of ornamental daggers for Crabbe and Goyle. Each hilt had been carved with a parade of magical beasts, so beautifully drawn that they almost looked as if they were moving. Because of the cost, the smith had also thrown in a small scrying crystal that dangled on the end of a silver necklace; Harry decided it would be a suitable gift for Genevieve.
Harry couldn't think of an appropriate gift for Peter, and eventually settled on a book entitled Exploring the Gift of Anima by Joshua Redheart, which offered several interesting theories and uses of being an Animagus. When the cleric at the counter advertised a subscription to several magazines, Harry bought A Wizard's Garden for Zabini.
Satisfied with his purchases, Harry headed toward the Leaky Cauldron. He still had twenty minutes to spare and wasn't in any hurry. Turning a corner, he collided with someone, and the impact nearly barreled him over. Before he even looked up to see who he'd bumped into, his forehead began to ache.
Professor Quirrell stammered, "T-t-terribly s-sorry, Mr. P-potter. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Professor," Harry replied, taking a careful step back from the older man. "I'm sorry for bumping into you."
"Q-q-quite alright," Quirrell replied "G-g-glad you're not h-hurt." His voice became softer, barely above a whisper, and his eyes seemed to blacken as he continued, "Wouldn't want to damage the savior of the wizarding world, now would we?"
"Your stutter, Professor," Harry reminded him gently.
Not that it really mattered, Harry amended in his own mind. The people around them continued to pass by, busy with the task of Christmas shopping. No one paid any mind to the young student and his teacher engaged in what appeared to be pleasant conversation.
"How remiss of me," Quirrell said, sounding vaguely amused. He made no effort to correct himself, though, and he continued, "You're enjoying your vacation, I trust?"
"I am," Harry replied.
"Lucius' hospitality is impeccable, I'm sure."
At his answer, his scar gave a slight twinge that felt remotely akin to satisfaction, and Quirrell smiled – a dark, angry smile that made Harry shiver beneath his warm cloak.
There was a moment of silence between them, and Harry wondered why the older man was bothering to talk to him. It wasn't as though he could attack with so many witnesses present. And asking him about Lucius' hospitality, of all things! It was beyond stupid, but apparently Quirrell – Voldemort – didn't think that such a question would arouse his suspicion. If Harry hadn't already known of Lucius' former alignment to Voldemort, Quirrell's careless statement would have immediately roused his curiosity, his ugly little habit.
Only a child would fail to add up the facts. But then, Harry mused, people seemed to mistake him for such on a daily basis.
"Well, I must be on my way," Quirrell said finally. "I do hope you enjoy Christmas to its fullest, as I intend it to be your last. Good day, Mr. Potter." He turned away.
The headache sharpened, taking on a darker edge that made Harry wince. His palm came up to cover his scar, and he felt a thick stickiness through his cap. Politely he replied, "Merry Christmas, Professor Quirrell."
Taking a chance, he added softly, "Lord Voldemort."
The professor halted mid-step, and Harry heard a low chuckle, followed by a scratchy voice – distantly familiar to him, though he couldn't remember where he'd heard it before – which whispered, "Indeed."
Harry watched the man walk away, then resumed his trek towards the Leaky Cauldron. Lucius was already there, sitting calmly at one of the tables with a glass of port in hand.
Harry made his way over, carefully setting his bags down before he took a seat.
"Harry." The elder Malfoy greeted him with a smile. "I trust your shopping went well?"
"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "Thank you." He glanced around the floor of the table, and spotted a small bag of wrapped presents.
Lucius noted his gaze and said, "I haven't quite finished with my purchases, but the rest will be made another day." He lifted his glass to his lips and savored a slow sip.
"I bumped into Voldemort while I was shopping."
Lucius was an aristocrat; he did not choke. He did, however, spray Harry with a fine mist of port.
"I'm sorry," the elder Malfoy said almost immediately, and he cast a cleaning charm that dried Harry while removing the faint, alcoholic scent. Then he downed the rest of his port, tilting his head back to drain the glass. Following a deep, shaky breath, he said in a relatively calm voice, "Could you repeat that, Harry? I think I must have misheard you."
Softly, and only for Lucius' ears, Harry repeated the statement.
"Ah." Raising a hand, Lucius flagged down one of the servers.
The man, a young wizard in his twenties, appeared by Lucius' side and queried, "Another glass of port, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Scotch," Lucius replied. His eyes sidled to Harry, then shifted back to the server. "Double. No ice."
It wasn't until the waiter returned with the drink, which Lucius promptly downed, that he said, "Now, Harry, you were saying?"
By the time Draco arrived – carrying two large bags, brimming with decoratively wrapped parcels – Harry had run through his encounter with Quirrell twice. Lucius had absorbed the first telling silently, then asked Harry to repeat it. The second time, the tale had been riddled with questions from the older man.
His first Shadow had asked, only once, if Harry was positive he'd met the Dark Lord and not a relatively harmless – if radically disturbed – Professor Quirrell.
Harry had peeled up his cap with some difficulty, and some of the crusted blood from his scar had flaked off in the process. The mark was still throbbing from the encounter, and Harry wondered if it looked as nasty as it felt.
Lucius' hands trembled, just a little. He gently touched the scar, the pad of his thumb soft on Harry's forehead. He did not mention the question of authenticity again.
Upon entering the establishment, Draco spotted them immediately. As the blonde boy maneuvered his way to their table, Lucius said softly, "We will discuss this later."
Harry nodded his assent, and the issue was dropped.
"Father, Harry, I found the most spectacular gifts!" Draco was practically glowing with childish exuberance as he plopped down in a free chair.
"Draco," Lucius greeted, but his voice carried a steely undercurrent.
Before his eyes, Harry watched Draco transform. The exhilarated smile faded and was replaced by a bored twist of lips. The eyes, twin gems of amusement, hardened to cool glass. Draco's back went rigid as he corrected his posture, straightening from boyish sprawl to elegant poise, and his feet rested flat on the floor and did not move.
"My apologies, father," Draco drawled. "Please forgive my impertinence; I'd forgotten."
"Christmas has that effect, I've found," Lucius replied easily; Draco's shoulders relaxed slightly.
As Lucius proceeded to order a light lunch for the three of them, Draco glanced at Harry. He didn't smile, but his eyes softened a little, and Harry was left to ponder the bizarreness of Malfoy public decorum as they ate in silence.
The rest of the day was a blur as they leisurely explored the shops. Harry found a spool of ribbon called "Forget-me-Knots" and he'd snatched the curiosity up with Neville in mind. The instructions said to cut off a length of ribbon and tie it around one's finger while reciting what it was that needed to be remembered. As the event drew nearer, the ribbon would change from blue to purple to red. Finally, when the knot was touched, all the wearer had to do was ask, "What have I forgotten?" and the ribbon would play the message back.
Harry's second windfall of the day was a book called Ministry Occupations of Portentous Import by Cornelius Fudge. The book was so riddled with loopholes and obsolete policies that only an idiot would have it published – or in this case, the Minister of Magic – and Harry decided it would be a perfect way to introduce Hermione Granger into his fold of shadows. Having spent time with the Ravenclaw, Harry knew how intrigued she was by the ruling body of the wizarding world. If he could show her how ridiculous the Ministry was, how far it missed it's mark when it came to what a government was supposed to do, Harry was sure she'd be interested in helping him change it.
In the breaks between class, Harry had found that Hermione was a brilliant witch. She was intelligent, clever, and above all, fair. He knew she would be a valuable asset, if only he could show her what he and his shadows were trying to do.
The problem resided in that he couldn't simply tell her.
As he tucked the book into his bag of gifts, he was struck with a memory of his garden, of sowing the seeds during fiery autumn, surrounded by brittle leaves of red and gold. He remembered the care it took to tend them, coaxing them gently as spring breezed by. He remembered the curious feeling in his throat when he'd been rewarded by glorious shades of purple and blue as the flowers blossomed towards the sun.
He also remembered how that feeling had sunk to his stomach as Aunt Petunia clipped them, brutally scissoring the stems before shoving them in a bottlenecked vase.
Harry shrugged off the memory and pondered what to buy for Dean.
By the end of the day, both boys were exhausted but satisfied. Harry was especially pleased with the gift he'd found for the Bloody Baron, and he looked forward to when he would next see the ghost.
Lucius apparated them to Malfoy Manor, and actually had to carry Draco to the bedroom because the blonde boy was so tired that he'd tripped over his own feet. Harry trailed behind the pair, unable to look away from the strong, warm arms that enveloped Draco, and the tussled blonde head that rested lightly on Lucius' shoulder.
Harry liberated his pockets of the assorted treasures he'd found at Gringotts, unceremoniously dumping them into one of his trunk's compartments. He lifted Samson from around his neck, placing the lazy snake to one side of the pillow, then crawled into bed. Against his will, his eyes were drawn to the other bed, where Lucius had laid Draco, tucking him beneath the covers. Something stirred inside him as the man reached down and brushed his hand along Draco's forehead, tucking a lock of hair behind the curve of one ear.
The emotion swirled in his mind, black as blood, and for the very briefest of moments, Harry found he didn't like Draco much at all.
Alarmed at the irrational thought, Harry looked away, eyes darting around the room for something to focus on. They ghosted over Hedwig's perch, but the ebony owl wasn't there, and inexplicably – though he didn't want to look, though he didn't want to feel – his eyes found Lucius just as the older man knelt to press a kiss against Draco's cheek.
Lucius stood, a tiny smile on his lips, and took a step towards Harry's bed. The older man visibly started when his eyes met Harry's, and his smile fell. "Forgive me, Harry," he said softly, so as not to wake Draco, "I had thought you'd have fallen asleep as soon as your head touched the pillow."
Harry simply watched him and said nothing, partly because he had nothing to say, but mostly because he didn't trust his own voice.
The elder Malfoy shifted – not uncomfortably, not Lucius Malfoy – beneath the weight of Harry's gaze, and finally said, "You must be exhausted. Tomorrow, after dinner, we will talk."
"Yes, sir," Harry replied dutifully.
Lucius moved as if to stand by Harry's bed. But his footfalls shifted and he walked to the doorway of the room instead. He paused, then said gently, "Goodnight, my Lord."
"Goodnight," Harry echoed. He closed his eyes, resolutely ignoring the burning in his stomach as he told himself, over and over until he fell asleep, that Draco was his best friend.
The next day, Harry found that whatever illness had plagued him the night before had faded away as Draco led him through the magical menagerie that Malfoy Manor housed. The two boys spent their time exploring a variety of bizarre and gorgeous creatures, which had prompted Harry to ask why Draco didn't recognize a portion of the menagerie. Draco confided that his father often procured at least two or three new species each week, usually from the beasts that had been unfortunate enough to land in care of the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures.
The first section of the menagerie was a dark room, similar to a cave, but there were ovular sections of the walls that looked to have been carved out by a giant spoon, and glass sheets that covered them. A peek inside the first few "cages" revealed an assortment of insects – Billywigs and Dugbugs, Flobberworms and Lacewig Flies.
Further down were the reptiles, and Harry noted that all of these naturalistic cages had small pools of water to one side and magical fixtures that simulated the sunlight to the other.
"Look at that ugly sucker," Draco grinned, pointing to a huge Horned Toad. The creature in question blinked it's beady black eyes, giving them a cursory glance, then dove into the pool of water and disappeared from sight.
"I think you've offended him," Harry replied with a small smile.
Draco rolled his eyes. Then he grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him a little further into the cave. "Now for the best bit!"
"Best bit?" Harry echoed, the hated curiosity creeping into his voice.
"Well, yeah, Harry," the blonde boy stated, as if it were obvious. "I don't know anyone else who call talk to snakes, and father has a whole slew of them. The C.D.D.C. frowns on more species of them than anything else."
"C.D.D – oh." Harry nearly snorted when he realized what a silly question that would have been. And it was no wonder the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures didn't like snakes, considering their direct association to the Slytherin House, and subsequently several Dark Wizards.
As they drew closer to the section of snakes, Harry began to distinguish several sibilant hisses, and he paused to listen.
/ - thisss isss not a matter of dissscussion, Medusssa. /
/ Me thinksss it isss, Sssalomon. Me thinksss you are sssimply blinded by your misssplaced adoration of houssse Malfoy. /
/ Chill out, amiga. Sssal hasss - /
/ Sssalvador, if you addresss me ssso familiarly again, I ssswear - /
/ Massster is coming – no man isss my Massster – Ma... ma...sssssss... – /
/ Consssipio, Sssitus, pleassse control your other head. /
/ sssilence /
The last sentence was spoken by a snake Harry hadn't heard before. Something about the hiss was... different. It seemed softer than the rest, but carried a greater weight, and all of the other snakes immediately quieted, save Medusa who hissed sulkily, / Asssp, pleassse. Let me eat the houssse elf and – /
/ medusssa /
The rebuke in that one word was so thick that Harry swore he could taste it with his tongue. Medusa fell silent.
Harry became aware that Draco was waving a hand in front of his face. "Harry? Harry?"
"Sorry," Harry replied, and he took a few more steps until the tanks of the snakes he'd been eavesdropping on surrounded him.
The first creature that caught his attention was an Occamy. Harry recognized it from one of his books – a silver winged-snake that stood on two legs, with a fantastic metallic plume. Occamy were native to India and the Far East, from what he recalled, and they were carnivores.
The next cage housed a Runespoor, a dangerous snake with three separate heads. The cage after that didn't look like it held a snake at all; rather, it contained a giant red ball of fire, and Harry cheated and looked at the identifying plaque on the wall. It read "Ashwinder."
On the opposite side of the cave were two more tanks. The first held a relatively normal snake, and the plaque read "Boa Constrictor." The last tank appeared to be empty, but the plaque said "Asp," so Harry assumed that the snake was in there somewhere.
The snakes remained silent during his scrutiny.
Draco elbowed him suddenly and whispered, "Well, go on! Talk to them!"
Strangely bashful, Harry rubbed the back of his head with one hand and said the first thing that came to mind.
/ Um. Hello. /
All of the snakes jolted in their tanks, and Harry thought he saw a faint movement from the asp's cage. Almost as one, they breathed, / A ssskin-brother! /
One of the Runespoor's heads – the middle one – hissed dementedly, / Ma... ma... sssssss... /
The left head snapped violently at the middle head and responded vehemently, / No, Damnosssusss! No man isss my Massster! /
/ The Massster isss here, / the right head stated with calm certainty.
The left head bit at the middle head – Damnosus? – and Damnosus bit at himself.
/ Forgive them, / came a hiss from the ball of fire. Harry could just barely make out the faint outline of a small serpent inside the flames. / It isss... ssstandard... for their sssort to act asss sssuch. I am Sssalomon, ssskin-brother. /
/ Hola, amigosss, / the boa constrictor piped in. / Sssalvador, at your ssservice. /
Grudgingly, the Occamy added, / Medusssa. /
Salvador hissed again, angling his head toward the Runespoor, and introduced, / The left head isss Sssitusss. The right isss Consssipio. The loco ssserpent in the middle isss Damnosssusss. /
/ My name is Harry. / Harry greeted them, bowing politely to each tank. The words came to him, an echo of years passed, and he spoke them as he had once done to Samson. / Strength in the darkness, Medusa, Salomon, Salvador. / He paused to make sure he had the names straight in his own head and continued, / Situs, Damnosus, Consipio. /
And, very carefully, he turned to the last, empty cage, to the snake who hadn't spoken, and said, / Strength in the darkness, Asp. /
/ curiousss / came the reply. / well met, brother of my ssskin /
Harry couldn't see Asp, but it was comforting that he hadn't muddled the greeting up. Somehow he got the impression that Asp was the "leader" of these serpents, and that offending him wouldn't be a good idea.
Draco, practically bouncing on his heels, interrupted Harry's thoughts as he demanded, "Well? Well? What'd they say?"
"They introduced themselves," Harry replied, and he told Draco each of the snake's names.
When he got to Salomon, the fiery ball hissed, / It isss an honor to ssspeak with you, after ssso many yearsss, youngessst of houssse Malfoy. /
Harry translated, and Draco preened.
For the next few hours, the boys spoke at length with the serpents, and Harry translated for Draco. The interactions of the creatures with one another made him curious – Salomon, it seemed, was a pleasant snake who deeply respected the Malfoys, though Harry couldn't determine where this respect came from. Medusa was quite cynical, and some of her comments were off-putting and rude. Salvador seemed friendly enough, and had a unique brand of humor.
The Runespoor was most confusing. The right head, Consipio, continued to call him Master, and of the three, seemed the only one capable of real conversation. The left head, Situs, reacted violently whenever the word "Master" was mentioned, and whenever it spoke, it's voice was full of hatred and rage. The middle head, Damnosus, was clearly deranged, and would repeat choice words back, very, very slowly and with great pauses between syllables. For most of the conversation, though, Damnosus seemed content to gnaw at his own flesh.
Last, the self-named Asp, who said very little. When he did let out a soft-spoken hiss, the other snakes listened in reverent silence. Their behaviors were most curious, but he tried not to dwell on the details much, because Draco seemed to be having fun.
Finally, after they'd said their goodbyes and were ready to explore the rest of the menagerie, Asp hissed quietly, / come back sssoon, brother of my ssskin, come back and ssspeak with me again /
As they continued along the cave towards the exit, Harry heard Consipio murmur, / The Massster is going, / to which Situs replied gratingly, / No man isss my Massster. /
It was getting late by the time Draco and Harry made their way through the pens of magical horses, Abraxans and Hippogriffs. They still hadn't reached the birds or the fish, and had barely touched upon the larger mammals. Deciding that they would continue another day, they took a shortcut through the stables to return to the Manor.
Draco came to a sudden halt, starring at a pen with two giant, winged horses. "Huh," the blonde boy muttered. "That's odd."
Wondering what his friend was scrutinizing, Harry moved closer to the pen to examine the skeletal, black beasts. The two horses sensed him, apparently, because they cantered over, and Harry found himself staring into twin pairs of stunningly white eyes that reminded him of lightning.
"What's odd about them, Draco?" Harry asked curiously, resisting the urge to reach forward and pet the dragon-like muzzle, to see if it felt like velvet.
The blonde boy looked at him strangely, and pointed to the pen. "Well, father _never_ leaves a pen empty like that." Before Harry could comment, Draco trotted over and read the plaque aloud. "Thestrals? I don't think I've heard of them before. Maybe they're invisible."
"Draco," Harry protested quietly, "They're right there." He gestured to the creatures, who – disconcertingly – seemed to be staring at his forehead.
"Where?" Draco asked, scrunching his eyes up to scour the pen. Curious blue passed right over the two Thestrals, not registering them.
Harry pointed again. "There."
"You're not having me on, are you?" Draco muttered, and he looked right through them. After a moment, the blonde became bored, and he shrugged, "I'll ask father about it later. Anyway, dinner's probably ready, so we should hurry back."
With one last, fleeting look at the Thestrals, Harry followed Draco back to the Manor.
Later that night, a house elf guided Harry to Lucius' study. Draco had said he was tired from their day's adventure and retired to bed early. Lucius, looking somewhat haggard, though Harry couldn't imagine why, had asked if Harry could wait for him in the study.
So, Harry waited. He stood in the doorway, not sure enough of himself to enter the room completely. It was a small study, but comfortable, with two rosewood chairs that had plush, upholstered red cushions. There was a tasteful, oriental carpet, red with black and gray designs, and several bookcases leaned against one of the walls. The stone fireplace crackled merrily, casting shadows to dance in the corners of the room.
With a soft sigh, Harry closed his eyes and leaned up against the wall as he waited for Lucius to arrive. It happened unexpectedly – the cool stone blocks pulled him in, happily offering up their newest memories, their stories.
"Harry and Draco are playing today, exploring the menagerie, or so Draco told me." The words were a whisper, faint and echoing.
"Ah, to be so incredibly naïve," came the quiet reply from across the room.
A log in the fireplace cracked and broke, sending up a small explosion of red fairy dust, and Harry saw Lucius sitting in one of the plush chairs. The older man was hazy, blurring just a little around the edges.
Lucius sighed, leaning back in his chair. "What do you want, Peter?"
"I want a lot of things, Lucius." Peter stepped forward into the light, and the shadows played across his face as he starred into the flames of the fireplace. "I want to go back in time and kill my younger self before he betrays the Potters. I want Sirius Black out of Azkaban so I can offer him my life, if that's what it takes to make things right. I want to have been the one to follow Hagrid to the Dursleys all those years ago, so that I could steal Harry away to somewhere no one could ever hurt him."
Harry saw Lucius' jaw clench.
Plain, brown eyes shifted, taking in the blonde's tense shoulders. Peter's voice softened. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
"Was there something you wished to discuss?" Lucius asked quietly, dangerously.
Peter sighed, the tiny puff of air displacing his short bangs. "Don't be like that. You may be able to terrify everyone else with the broody act, but I've been by your side for nearly fifteen years."
"You used to be such a placid little rodent," the blonde said with a sneer. "Whatever changed?"
The reproach and hurt in Peter's voice was palpable. "Forgiveness does that to a man." He sighed. "I can see there's no talking to you today; I'll come back later."
Before Peter could step back into the shadows, Lucius asked suddenly, "Why didn't we save him, Peter?"
Peter paused, ruefully running his fingers through his hair. His voice carried the weariness of a man who'd had this conversation a thousand times before. "Because we didn't care, Lucius."
Lucius remained silent, moodily staring into the fireplace.
"Think about it logically," Peter continued gently. "For the first six years of his life, we didn't care about him. We wanted to know how he'd done it – how a mere baby had destroyed our Lord – but we didn't care about him. We knew he wasn't treated well, but by the time we learned to love him as a parent loves a child, he was so far withdrawn from the rest of the world that it's possible nothing we could have done would have helped."
"We should have rescued him, Peter. We should have taken him away from those... those Muggles and destroyed them for daring to lay a hand to him."
"How? Tell me, Lucius, how could we have rescued him? Even if we could have removed him from that house without immediately alerting the Ministry, how do you propose we could have kept him hidden? If he disappeared, the entire world would have searched for him. We'd have had a year, two at the most, but they would have caught us eventually."
"We should have tried."
"Should have. Didn't. It was a necessary evil. We both know what that boy endured, and we both know why it had to be done. While other children were playing Exploding Snap, he was unconsciously mending broken bones. As other children learned the joy of a loving parent, he learned the harshest betrayal this world has to offer. Where other children see black and white, he sees the shades of gray between."
"Those are painful lessons, Peter," Lucius murmured.
Peter slammed his fist into the wall, startling Harry with his intensity. "But he LEARNED them. He did not break. He did not falter. He learned, and because of that, he has the power to the mend the rifts in this world. He has the experience to guard against anyone who'll try to take advantage of him. He has the knowledge to differentiate between what lines should and should not be crossed."
"He is a child who believes that he is nothing more than a waste, a freak, and a good fuck."
"We've all made choices we regret, Lucius."
"Then tell me, Peter," Lucius breathed raggedly, "Tell me it's worth it. Tell me it's worth the scars on his body. Tell me it's worth the tears he doesn't know how to shed. Tell me it's worth the confusion in his eyes every time he laughs because he's so far removed from his own heart that he doesn't know what it is to feel."
"I can't," Peter replied softly. "But I swear to you, Lucius, that everything we have done, we did because there was no other way."
"How can I forgive myself, Peter?"
"Talk to him. Explain to him. He'll forgive you."
"Only because he never learned why he shouldn't."
There was a moment of silence, and Peter said softly, "He is our Lord."
Lucius did not reply, and Peter closed his eyes and stepped back into the shadows. For a long time, Lucius sat, staring blindly into the burning fire. Finally, he whispered to the empty room, "He is a child."
Softer still, he said, "He is my child."
Then he buried his face in his hands, and he wept.
Harry watched the man who had once sat beside him as he tended his garden, remembered the steely blue eyes behind the white mask, and the soft voice that had taught him of the wizarding world. He remembered the previous night and how the older man had paused because Harry was awake – had he been asleep, would he have dreamed the ghost of those lips upon his cheek?
He felt something in his throat tighten, not quite similar to what had ailed him the night before, but he didn't understand what it meant any more than he understood the purpose of Lucius' tears.
Abruptly, Harry snapped back into focus. He was standing in the same room, leaning against the wall, and the fireplace continued to burn. He noticed Lucius' concerned face floating in front of him and realized it had been the older man's voice that had pulled him from the memory.
"Lucius." Harry greeted the older man softly.
"Are you all right, Harry?" Lucius inquired gently. "You looked as if you were miles away."
"No, sir," Harry said. "I was right here."
"No need for formalities when it's just the two of us, my Lord," the older man teased with a grin. He gestured for Harry to sit in one of the plush, study chairs, and he took the other one for himself.
Once they were settled, the talk began.
Lucius revealed, "After your first letter reached me, I had a few of my contacts in the Ministry look into Quirrell. Apparently he had a rather acute case of wanderlust in his youth." The older man pulled a roll of parchment from inside his robe, handing it to Harry. "Mostly it's cut and dry – a few weeks in a variety of villages, spanning from Germany to the Far East. There is one noticeable discrepancy though, which occurred three years ago. He'd been in Romania for roughly two months, studying vampires, and he disappeared."
Harry unrolled the parchment, a map that detailed where Quirrell had been with bright, red arrows. The margin held notes, how long he'd stayed in each village and what he'd been studying.
Lucius continued, "The local authorities reported him missing, and it was believed that he'd had a run in with one of the nastier vampires in the area. They searched for him, found nothing, and he was presumed dead. A few month later, he showed up in a village roughly twenty miles away, wearing a turban that reeked heavily of garlic and stuttering apologies to his long dead mother."
Handing the map back to Lucius, Harry asked, "What?"
The elder Malfoy waved his hand absently, "Apparently she'd warned him that his wanderlust would get him into trouble and he hadn't listened. The authorities reported that after his appearance, Quirrell was most anxious to return to London to settle into a less dangerous occupation."
"A teacher at Hogwarts," Harry suggested.
"Not quite," Lucius replied. "He spent some time pushing papers for a small company that deals with the relocation of Boggarts. It wasn't until this year that he applied for the D.A.D.A. position at Hogwarts. Either he knew you were attending, or something else drew him there."
"Third floor corridor on the right hand side," Harry murmured under his breath.
Lucius blinked. "What?"
Harry shook his head. "Nothing. It's just... during the Halloween feast, I think he found whatever he was looking for. Headmaster Dumbledore warned the students at the beginning of the year – not to go into the Forbidden Forest, but also about a corridor in Hogwarts itself."
"Curious," the older man replied, looking thoughtful. "There was a break-in at Gringotts around that time, from what I recall. Quite an affair, considering the building is thought to be impenetrable. Tell me, Harry," he urged, "What exactly happened on Halloween?"
Harry relayed the events of Halloween, careful to detail Quirrell's ability to talk to trolls and his thoughts on the dark energy that had swept through Hogwarts' halls. Lucius seemed quite pleased when Harry explained how he'd incapacitated the troll, and startled as Harry couldn't explain exactly how he'd ended up in Draco's room.
"Not the wand or the words," the elder Malfoy had murmured, more to himself than Harry.
Back and forth, they tossed out theories – was Quirrell actually Voldemort? Had the man simply been possessed during his travels? Or was there a greater connection that they were missing?
Harry decided nothing more could be done. At least, not until he returned to school and there was a chance to investigate the man more thoroughly. Lucius wasn't satisfied with this, admonishing, "My Lord, you're much too important to place in such danger."
"Short of pulling me out of school, I don't see any alternative," Harry pointed out rationally. "And by keeping an eye on Professor Quirrell, I've got a better chance of avoiding any danger he plans to throw my way."
Seeing how troubled Lucius looked, Harry amended, "I'll have Draco send you anything I find out. And if I'm in immediate danger, I'll contact you myself."
"How?" Lucius asked, curious.
Harry blinked. He pointed to where the thin bolt of lighting was covered by Lucius' sleeve. At Lucius puzzled look, Harry explained, "I can signal you with that, just as you or any of my shadows can signal one another. Didn't you realize?"
The elder Malfoy shifted in his chair, looking decidedly uncomfortable when Harry used the word 'signal.' "No," he said, "I had not. I – we – had thought the mark was simply to verify who is part of our fold, and who is not."
"That's a silly reason to mark someone in such a visible spot," Harry replied, puzzled by Lucius' discomfort. Then he realized that Voldemort's mark had also been used as a signal, and that being 'called' with it had been painful.
Wanting to allay his Shadow's unvoiced fear, he activated the mark.
For no reason at all, Lucius smiled. A look of wonder spread across his face, and he rolled his sleeve back, awed as the lightning pulsed a gentle shade of violet.
As the signal faded, and with it the curious – but pleasant – tingle, Lucius glanced at Harry. "You said... I can contact others in this way?"
Harry nodded. "Just touch it and think about who you want to call. They'll feel it, and they can use it as a focus to apparate directly to you."
Lucius rolled his sleeve down, but the corners of his mouth were still upturned. Then he leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful look on his face, and said, "I know you've had a few problems at school aside from Quirrell. Is there anything else you needed to discuss?"
Off guard at the abrupt switch in conversation, Harry frowned and nibbled his lip.
Sensing his distress, Lucius expression softened. "Harry, you are my Lord. I'm here to advise you, because you're still so young, and I know that there must be more bothering you than what you've told me in your letters. Please, let me help."
Harry bit his lip a little harder.
"Tell me, Harry," Lucius said, and Harry looked at the carpet and opened his mouth and told him.
He told Lucius how everything was all mixed up, and while trying to blend in as a normal student at Hogwarts, he feared he'd only made himself stand out more. He told Lucius how he seemed to be tied up in trivial matters – Quidditch and class assignments, detentions with Snape and conversations with the Bloody Baron – that drained him of his all of his time and energy.
A house elf popped in briefly and relayed, "Master Malfoy, Master Snape is here and wanting to see you, sir."
Lucius waved the creature off, and turned his attention back to Harry, who continued to stare at the carpet.
He told Lucius about his conversations with Dumbledore – how the man seemed to already know everything – and about the controversy of his duel sorting – how it was impossible to balance himself in such a way that he could befriend members of all the houses. He told Lucius about Zacharias Smith, the Hufflepuff who had approached him with such zealousness that it almost disturbed him, and he told Lucius that keeping his own secrets was difficult enough without having to keep those of the children around him.
The same house elf, looking quite distraught, popped in again and said, "Melfy is so sorry, Master Malfoy. Master Snape is here and is wanting to see you, very badly, sir."
Lucius sighed and responded, "Severus can wait for a few minutes. Tell him I am otherwise engaged and will be with him as soon as possible." And he turned his attention back to Harry, who continued to stare at the carpet.
Finally, in a very soft voice that was barely audible over the crackling fire, he told Lucius about his library, the books that his shadows had so generously provided for him, and how he'd barely read through any of them. How, in his first three months at Hogwarts, he hadn't even been to Hogwarts' Library, his only real purpose in going to school at all.
He told Lucius, in a very small voice, that he was afraid of failing his shadows.
Lucius was silent for a moment. He slid out of his chair and knelt on the floor, his legs obscuring Harry's view of the carpet. "Harry."
Harry said nothing.
"Harry," Lucius repeated gently. "Look at me."
Harry bit his lip and raised his eyes hesitantly. Of all the things that he'd expected to see on the older man's face – disappointment, resentment, anger – none of them had prepared him for the loving smile that teased the corner's of Lucius' mouth.
"Harry," Lucius sighed. "How could you ever believe that I – we – could be anything but proud of you?" He laid a reassuring hand on Harry's leg. "You have seven _years_ to make use of the Library. Use this first one to settle in."
Suddenly, the door flung open violently and banged against the wall. Severus Snape stormed into the room, face red with anger. His sibilant, silky voice pitched low as he growled, "Malfoy, I swear–"
Snape stopped abruptly, as if he'd slammed into an invisible wall. Dark eyes took in the scene – the quaint fire – the shadows that danced on the walls – Harry perched awkwardly on the plush chair, a faint, uncertain blush staining his cheeks – and Lucius on his knees, elegant fingers splayed delicately on Harry's thigh.
Lucius stood smoothly, an innocent smile on his face. "Harry, dear boy, I think it would be best if you retired to your room for the night."
Unsure of what was happening, but mindful of the game he knew Lucius was playing, Harry stood immediately. He swayed on his feet as he replayed Lucius kind words in his head again and again.
Snape's eyes darkened as Lucius reached out a hand to steady Harry.
Harry looked up at Lucius uncertainly. How should he act? What would be the proper thing, in Snape's eyes at least, to say to the father of his friend?
He settled on a quiet, "Yes, sir. Thank you," and turned his attention to Professor Snape. The older man was actually _trembling_, his expression fluctuating between angry and horrified as his gaze darted between Lucius and Harry.
"Professor," Harry acknowledged politely.
"Mr. Potter," Snape responded in a tight, controlled voice. "If you will _excuse_ Mr. Malfoy and I, we have some rather pressing business to discuss."
Harry nodded, then headed to the door. He looked back at the two men – Lucius' apologetic gaze, though Harry wasn't sure what his shadow was sorry for, and the stiff set of Snape's shoulders – and said softly, "Goodnight."
Behind him, he heard Lucius purr, "Not as good as it might have been, Severus."
Harry closed the door with a faint click and walked away before he could hear Snape's reply.
The days before Christmas passed quickly, and on Christmas Eve several unexpected guests arrived. When Harry and Draco came down from the bedroom for the day, a house elf popped up and informed them that breakfast would be served in the dining hall.
The pair entered, and Harry was both surprised and pleased to see several of his shadows and their children animatedly conversing as they ate. As soon as Lucius noticed them, he stood with a smile, beckoning them to the head of the table where two seats on Lucius left and right were unoccupied.
As Harry passed by, Crabbe spoke up. "Ah, Harry, come here a moment." He gestured to the older, matronly woman by his side, and smiled, "This is my wife."
Harry bowed politely to her and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."
"Please," the woman replied, flustered but pleased, "My name is Prudence, Harry. It's an honor to finally meet you." Her voice was deeper than most of the women he'd met, but he found it both temperate and soothing.
"'Lo, Dray. 'Lo, Harry," Vincent said, and he reached for his fruit cup.
"Vince." Draco grinned and patted his childhood friend on one shoulder.
Before Harry had a chance to say anything, Goyle waved him over. His hand rested on the woman's back beside him, and he introduced her, "My wife, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth surprised him. She was a thin, regal woman, but her eyes were alive with mischief. "Harry Potter," she said as she extended her hand, "It's lovely to meet you, at last."
Uncomfortably, Harry shook her hand. As soon as she released him, he quickly tucked both of his hands into his pockets.
Gregory mumbled something around a mouthful of croissant, and Elizabeth swatted him lightly on the head. "Gregory LeMont Goyle," she said sternly, "Don't talk with your mouth full!"
There was a low chuckle of amusement from around the table, and Gregory turned bright pink. "Sorry, mum," he said contritely. Then he turned to Harry and muttered quietly, "Hiya, Harry."
"Hello, Greg," Harry replied, and he was whisked to another part of the table.
Genevieve Parkinson introduced her husband, a tall, lanky man whose expression bordered on sullen, and Pansy murmured a demure "Hello." Zabini nodded coolly in his direction, and Blaise was a bit more exuberant as he grinned and patted Harry on the back. Harry managed not to flinch, but just barely.
Avery Nott introduced his wife, and Theodore glanced up from his plate, then back down after he'd met Harry's eyes. The Bulstrodes, both shadows, greeted him warmly, and Millicent smiled, "Hallo."
Most of the Slytherin Quidditch team was present as well, seated alongside their parents – his shadows. He made sure to greet each of them personally – "Miles, Adrian, Cassidy, Terrance," – and they nodded to him. Only Marcus Flint made a move to touch him, a friendly handshake, and Harry bore it somehow.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Draco making similar rounds, though he did so much more smoothly. He was full of smiles and handshakes, and casual touches on shoulders, all of which he made seem painfully simple.
Finally, having greeted everyone, the two boys took their seats beside Lucius.
Conversation flowed around them, but Harry was only able to catch snippits –
" – Cannons in the running for the Cup? You must be mad!"
" – lovely, truly lovely. I never did thank you for that cake, did I – "
" – got full marks on his O.W.L.s, my boy did. Eight Outstandings! Bloody genius – "
" – friends with a Muggle-born witch, actually, but Pansy assures me she's brilliant – "
After he'd picked at his fruit cup and eaten half a piece of toast, he glanced at Lucius. When he had the older man's attention, he murmured, "Did everything go all right with Professor Snape, Lucius?"
Lucius' expression darkened for a moment. "As well as can be expected, I think."
Curiously, Draco asked, "When did he visit?"
"A few nights ago," Lucius replied. "It could have gone... better." Then he murmured to Harry, "You may have noticed that not all of us are present, for which I apologize. It would have been rather... suspicious... had I invited anyone who didn't have connections to me as a Malfoy."
Harry nodded in understanding, glancing around the table at the collection of Slytherin and pureblood families. It most assuredly would have drawn unnecessary attention to Lucius, which none of them needed.
Lucius reached for a muffin, plump with blueberries, only to find that Draco had snatched it out from beneath his fingers. The elder Malfoy smiled and waggled his fingers. "Here, now. None of that."
Draco smirked, balancing the muffin on one finger. "I'm sorry, father. First come, first serve, isn't it?"
Lucius actually laughed. "Scamp." Then he whipped out his wand and intoned "Accio muffin," before Draco could get a better grip on it.
The muffin smacked into Lucius' palm, and he unwrapped it casually. Draco pouted as his father took a healthy bite of pastry.
After breakfast, the adults retired to one of the dens, and Harry assumed Lucius would bring them up to date on the situation with Quirrell, as well as inform them of the true purpose of Harry's mark. At first Harry had wondered why it hadn't occurred to Lucius that he could contact other shadows through the mark, but then he'd realized that Voldemort had never shared that particular power with his followers.
"So," Draco said with a grin when he'd realized the adults were gone, "Anyone have any ideas on what to do today?"
Harry glanced around at the children of his shadows, seeing them together (and not under the watchful eyes of a Hogwarts teacher) for the very first time. They seemed so... relaxed, each of them letting down the walls of defensiveness and hostility that they donned during the school year.
Is this what it means to be Slytherin? Harry wondered, taking in each smiling face. To hide oneself so completely from the rest of the world that when the walls are let down, you're someone else entirely? Is this really what it means?
"Your family has a broom shed, doesn't it, Draco?" Marcus asked with a sly smile.
"'Course!" Draco said. "And we've got a pitch."
Adrian and Cassidy shared a knowing look, then grinned as one. "Quidditch match!"
Vincent counted heads and said, "Perfect. Thirteen people. Seeker, Keeper, two Beaters, and two Chasers per team, plus a referee. Volunteers?"
Miles raised a hand immediately, "Keeper."
Marcus, Adrian, and Cassidy said at the same time, "Chaser."
"Keeper," Theodore replied quietly.
Millicent smirked. "Beater."
"Referee," Pansy said after some consideration.
Blaise and Terrance shared a glance.
"Chaser," Terrance said quickly, at the same time that Blaise said, "Beater."
"And me and Greg are both Beaters," Vince concluded, "Which means Dray and Harry are Seekers."
The conversation had happened so quickly that before Harry knew it, he was perched atop a borrowed broom as the exuberant children of his shadows whooped loudly, dodging Bludgers and passing the Quaffle back and forth.
The game was interrupted briefly for a light lunch, during which Lucius asked if Harry would join the adults in their discussion. Pansy volunteered to play Seeker, and Harry agreed.
The minute he entered the den, he was surrounded by his shadows. The sheer volume of their questions was overwhelming – "School going well, my Lord?" "Any problems, my Lord?" "Enjoy the books we sent you, my Lord?" – and Harry answered them as best he could.
"All right there, Harry?" came a quiet voice to his left.
Harry spun and exclaimed, "Peter!"
A small smile touched Peter's lips, and the older man knelt down and hugged Harry lightly. "It's good to see you," Peter said as he pulled back.
Lucius invited Harry to sit beside him, which he did, and as he looked around at the familiar faces, he was surprised to see the spouses of his shadows – but not shadows themselves – still present. His curiosity was answered almost immediately as Genevieve Parkinson murmured, "My husband wishes to join us, my Lord. Would you give him your mark?"
"My wife wishes to join us, my Lord," Crabbe said, and Goyle echoed the statement.
"I..." Harry paused. "I won't mark them." There was a murmur of surprise before he continued, " I gave my mark to Lucius and Peter, who gave it to you. If you think that they're sincere, you mark them."
Genevieve looked as though she wanted to say something, but Harry raised his hand, struggling to express himself. "I trust you. To do what you think is right, I mean."
Lucius laid his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We treasure that trust, my Lord. But what I believe Genevieve intended to say was that it's _because_ they believe their wives and husbands are sincere that they wish you to mark them."
Confused, Harry asked, "Why?"
Peter, still leaning against the wall, replied, "We feel the mark carries a deeper honor when it's you who gives it."
"Oh," Harry said, and though he still didn't fully understand, he stood beside Genevieve's husband and asked, "What's your name?"
"Thomas," the man said.
"Thomas," Harry echoed quietly, and he marked him. He repeated the ritual with Prudence and Elizabeth. All three of the newly joined shadows looked at him, awed, and touched their marks reverently. It made Harry feel rather uncomfortable.
When he'd taken his seat by Lucius once more, the elder Malfoy cleared his throat, and the real meeting began.
That night saw one of the finest Christmas Balls to ever grace Malfoy Manor. The ballroom was as spacious as Hogwarts dining hall and a long table had been set up to one side, catered with festive holiday cuisine. Bowls of Christmas candies and elegant cakes sat beside platters of roast lamb and seasoned vegetables. Cleverly cut cherries and pineapples garnished plates of candied ham, and a fountain of rich apple cider had been set up to one side.
The house elves had outdone themselves, and the stings of silver and red ribbon sparkled from the light of a similarly decorated chandelier suspended from the middle of the ceiling. Sprigs of dried nettles and mistletoe were bound up in bows and pinned along the walls in intervals.
Against his will, Harry's eyes were drawn to the far corner of the room where a large Christmas tree had been set up and decorated with strings of beads and little white candles. Beneath it were piles of presents of all shapes and sized, glittering from the light of the chandelier.
"Come on!" Draco said, reaching for Harry's hand, and all the guests gathered by the tree as presents were passed around an opened.
All of Harry's presents for his shadows were already there, for which he offered a silent 'thank you' to the thoughtful house elves. Harry knew they were his simply because the quality of the wrapping was substandard to the other presents. He'd spent the night before, struggling to make sense of the papers and the ribbons, and had ultimately ended up with fairly passable presentations.
Or so he'd thought. He couldn't help but compare his pitiful efforts to the ornately wrapped gifts around him. Never having wrapped Christmas gifts before, he'd had no basis for comparison.
Draco picked up one of Harry's gifts – the bottle of green ink that Harry had wasted an entire roll of paper attempting to wrap – and teased, "You'd think you'd never wrapped a gift before!" before tearing into the paper. The blonde boy recognized the ink immediately, and grinned in appreciation before moving onto his next gift which turned out to be a Nimbus 2000 from his father.
The air was full of the tattered remains of wrapping paper and ribbon as the children of his shadows tore through their gifts. Theodore received an advanced potion kit from his parents, which he seemed inordinately pleased with. Marcus had also received a new broom, and Pansy and Millicent were comparing a set of sharp dress robes. Nearly everyone had a pile of Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.
Harry himself was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of presents that were pressed into his hands. In keeping with tradition, many of his shadows gave him new volumes to update his library. Avery handed him a gift certificate to the Apothecary, to replenish his potion ingredients, and Genevieve presented him with a gorgeous set of tarot cards "to continue to studies."
There were other gifts in his pile as well. Hermione had sent him a journal embossed with his name, "to keep your notes organized for when I want to borrow them," she teased in the Christmas card attached to the book. Neville's present constituted a small set of vials, filled with carefully dried leaves, clippings of stems, and powdered roots. His card said that he'd grown them all himself, and though none of them were particularly rare specimens, Harry appreciated the thought behind them. All of them were ingredients Snape had instructed them to have at the start of the new semester. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Gregory and Vincent had also received identical vials.
Dean had also sent him a present, in the form of an I.O.U. The Christmas card said that he'd reserved an extra ticket to a soccer game in the summer, something like the World Cup. He asked if Harry would be interested in joining him and his family to the game, and promised that he'd relay the date of the game as soon as it was set.
Harry fervently hoped that Hermione, Neville, and Dean enjoyed the gifts he'd owled out the night before as much as he appreciated what they'd given him.
Each of his shadows thanked him for his gifts to them. Crabbe and Goyle seemed inordinately pleased with the daggers. Genevieve appeared touched by the scrying crystal, and immediately had her husband fasten it around her neck. Avery complimented him on the quality of stirring rod, and Zabini thanked him quietly for the magazine subscription.
When Harry presented Lucius with the serpentine cane – making sure he performed the necessary charm – and relayed the information the smith had given him, the elder Malfoy had been stunned.
"Harry," Lucius murmured, "This is... magnificent."
Harry looked away, feeling awkward. "It seemed to fit you," he replied, and busied himself by opening another gift.
After all presents had been opened and the house elves had cleared away the mess, the ball commenced. An orchestra of instruments had been charmed to play themselves, and Harry watched as his shadows danced into the night, pausing only to chat amiably or serve themselves from the never-ending dishes on the table.
As the ball wore on, the number of guests began to dwindle. They thanked Lucius for a splendid party and said their farewells to both Harry and Draco. By the time the last guest had excused themselves, Harry was exhausted.
With a final "goodnight" to Lucius, Harry and Draco trudged back to their room and readied themselves for bed.
Harry glanced up, and was momentarily stunned as Draco kissed him on cheek. The blonde boy grinned, pointing to the middle of the ceiling where the house elves had inexplicable hung a single sprig of mistletoe.
"Merry Christmas, Harry."
Still stunned, Harry could do nothing but watch as Draco crawled into bed.
Harry touched his cheek, then echoed, "Merry Christmas, Dray."
Both boys were fast asleep, moments after their heads touched their pillows.
The night before his return to Hogwarts, Harry dreamed. He dreamed of black void, and though he couldn't see them, of Lucius and Draco.
"Tomorrow you return to Hogwarts, it seems. It was good to have you both here; the house is quite empty without you."
"Father," Draco murmured, "I've a few questions, tonight, if you don't mind."
"I have a few of my own," Lucius replied easily. "I will trade you – one answer for one answer."
"Of course," the boy responded, in a tone that implied it never occurred to him to have it any other way. "Well, first, you know those Thestrals in the menagerie?"
Lucius was silent.
"Why can Harry see them and I can't?" Draco concluded.
There was a sharp inhale of breath, followed by a lengthy, uncomfortable pause. Finally, Lucius answered, with something akin to sorrow in his voice. "Because Harry watched death court his family, and you have not yet met him."
"Thestrals are visible only to those who have seen death, Draco," Lucius explained gently. "You cannot see them now, and I can only hope that you will not see them for many years to come."
Draco took a moment to digest that, and then said quietly, "You can see them."
It was not a question, and so Lucius did not reply.
Lucius asked abruptly, "What are your feelings towards Harry?"
There was no hesitation as Draco replied, "He's my best friend."
Harry could practically hear the smile in Lucius' voice. "I'm glad. It might please you to know that you are likely his first real friend. Human friend, at any rate."
Draco murmured, "It doesn't please me, father."
"Because..." Draco paused, the slightly scuffle of his robes an indication that he was fidgeting. "Because if I'm his first real friend, who did he have before he met me?"
"Your next question, Draco?"
"He..." Draco sounded decidedly uncomfortable. "He's got... scars. On his arms. What are they from?"
"A sordid past that is not my story to tell." Lucius sighed. "And one that I would trade all the riches in this world to rid him of."
"Are you all right, father?" Draco sounded alarmed.
"You ask questions that make me recall certain... memories. One last question, Draco, and I wish to retire for the night. Which of his abilities has Harry revealed to you?"
"He's a parcelmouth," Draco replied promptly. "And he was brilliant in class, those first few days, before he started to hide it. He's Slytherin and Gryffindor, which I guess should count for something. Oh! And a genius Seeker."
At this, Lucius laughed. Harry thought it sounded forced, as if the older man was consciously trying to lighten the mood. "I will not answer that, my son, else you'd have to answer another of my questions to make us even, and I do wish to sleep tonight."
"Not true!" Draco protested. "You asked 'that's all?' so we should be dead even."
"You answered my question in the form of another question. Had you said, 'yes,' first, I would be obligated to answer you. Second, my question was clarification of a previous question, and not a new question in its own right, and so, by default, is not valid." Lucius sounded amused, but Harry recognized his tone of voice for what it was. Classroom-speak.
Draco was silent as he mulled that over in his mind. Finally, he responded, sounding a bit petulant, "It was still a question."
"Semantics, but my first point makes the second rather moot, doesn't it? A Slytherin leaves themselves more than one way out. Remember that."
The voices began to fade away, and the last thing Harry heard was Draco as he murmured, "Yes, father. Goodnight."
When Harry awoke the next morning, he knew he'd been dreaming, though for the life of him, he couldn't remember what about.
The pair of boys returned to Hogwarts, accompanied by Lucius Malfoy. Lucius hugged his son cordially, then rested his hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry flinched, a subtle shift beneath the robes of his school uniform, and he cast a bashful smile to his first Shadow, knowing that Lucius would recognize the unspoken apology for what it was.
Perhaps it was because of the start of the coming semester that his nerves were so frayed. After all, Lucius had hugged Harry before, had touched his forehead with a father's hands, and it hadn't bothered him. Much.
Still, Harry was fairly certain that Draco hadn't noticed his flinch, so he didn't worry himself about it.
From a darkened corridor across the way, Severus Snape watched this display through black, narrow eyes - how familiarly Lucius touched Potter, and how his hand lingered on the boy's shoulder. And, most damning in those eyes, the near imperceptible flinch, and the skittish smile on Potter's lips.