Disclaimer: I don't own anything of Harry Potter, and I don't claim to, so don't sue me!
Pairing: H/D (I love them together)
Plot: What if it isn't Draco who's the veela, but Harry? And what if Draco isn't the mean bastard he's portrayed in the books/films, but rather leader of his own resistance group? - one out of many resistance groups. Then add underhand dealings, secrets, kidnappings, and romance…stir, and see what you get!
Entire second half of story – Reworked and completed!
Chapter 21 : Mysteries unravelling
Looking down at the blonde head resting against his chest, Ron frowned at the lost quality Pansy's normally-confident voice had taken on.
"You guys have taken on these kinds of problems before and managed - why are you so nervous about this time?"
Wry blue eyes lifted to meet his serious expression, and Pansy seemed mildly surprised by the total confidence he had in her abilities.
"I know, rationally, that we can probably handle the situation - but that's ignoring all of the interfering factors we have. The Order of the Phoenix are being mysterious, withholding vital information. We haven't been able to pinpoint all of the enemies at Hogwarts yet - and this situation…" Sighing, Pansy shook her head before wearily resting it on Ron's chest again.
"We've never had to deal with a maturing half-veela before."
Absorbing her doubts, Ron comfortingly rubbed her arm, letting her know he was there to help.
After their initial 'meeting' in the library, Ron had been delighted by how easy it was to get close to Pansy. Gaining her interest had been the first step, and once they'd done some speed bonding - afterall they had to work to a time schedule - Ron had decided it was time to reveal his own allegiances.
Distrustful at first, Pansy was smart enough to see the benefit of liasing with one another - as Ron had suspected she would be - and it was amazing how quickly they had got used to searching each other out for information updates and opinions on things.
Discovering from Snape, with the help of Pansy, that Harry was part-veela, it hadn't taken much research to discover how Harry's 'condition' could be triggered. And from there it was mere, yet accurate, guess-work that Draco Malfoy was Harry's 'mate'.
Keeping an alert eye on the spaces between bookshelves, Ron gave the blonde-Slytherin the time she needed to regroup, weighing the pros and cons of the latest information himself.
After finding Harry, Draco had rushed off a hasty coded note to spread the news, not only of the 'boy-wonder's' returned sight, but also of his imminent introduction to the Circle of Light - before bundling the green-eyed veela off to see Dumbledore for a medical check.
So quick had Draco been that Pansy had been unable to get word to him about the nature of Harry's 'condition'. Settling for spreading it throughout the ranks of the Circle members', she had then sought out the counsel of Ron on the matter.
"Supposing we're right in our assumption that Draco is Harry's mate - something all the evidence points to - then the next step is to make them realise it."
Murmuring his thoughts aloud, Ron felt Pansy's restless movement and knew she was carefully considering his words. She'd learnt very quickly that Ron Weasley tended to be right when it came to planning throws of the dice.
"We can't just go up to Draco and blurt it out though - same with Harry, although I'd hazard a guess that Dumbledore has already done exactly that. Incompetent idiot that he is. You need to talk to Hermione about this; not only is she close enough to Harry that he might just confide in her about his changes, she's also smart enough to notice things others might miss - and by being Draco's right hand, she can work to nudge the two of them together…"
"Hmm," Moving so she was standing next to Ron, no longer leaning on him, Pansy tilted her head so she could see his shaded blue eyes clearer. "What did you just realise?"
Seeing the purple haze beginning to swirl through her sky-blue eyes, Ron recognised her subconscious use of personal power - that of hypnosis - but didn't hold it against her as he knew how instinctive it must be.
"The players are positioned perfectly for an attack."
Quickly shrugging off her disconcertion, Pansy made the switch from girlfriend to spy instantaneously; narrowed eyes showing Ron he had her complete attention.
"Everybody is caught up in different issues right now. Harry is with Draco, and they should be perfectly safe where they are. Hermione is always far too sharp to get caught out. You're with me. Blaise and Neville however, are caught up enough in each other that they'd make perfect targets right now,"
"If I was planning to harm one from your group, it would be Neville. He's good, but right now he's distracted by the change in his and Blaise's relationship, and out of the two of them he's the least skilled combat-wise."
Giving his analysis in an even, emotionless tone, it wasn't until Ron had finished that his emotions kicked back in and he realised what he'd just said. Neville was likely being kidnapped or worse, as he spoke!
Unable to do anything, Pansy stared at him mutely, blue eyes pleading with him to change his verdict.
A moment later she snapped out of her strange paralysis, and ran for the library door.
"You contact your superiors' - I'm going to gather the Circle!"
Chapter 22 : All the things in my head
Falling to the cold stone with a bone-jarring thud, Harry remained there a moment, wearily resting his pounding head on the floor, ignoring any dirt in favour of the healing cold proffered. No groans of pain issued from the prone figure, nor were there any signs of further movement.
A gentle hand cautiously rested on Harry's back, a soft, "Are you okay?" accompanying it.
Strangely enough, whilst Harry craved the soothing cold of the stones, the warmth emanating from Draco's hand also served to chase away the pounding that was currently turning his brains to mush. Harry lay a moment longer before acknowledging that he didn't actually feel physically ill, it was more the fact that he'd just been overloaded with information. Pushing himself to his feet a moment later, Harry wobbled slightly as he tried to process all that he had seen and heard, whilst maintaining his balance at the same time.
Understanding some of what Harry was going through, Draco guided the boy over to some stone steps, urging him to sit and reacclimatize himself before trying to move again.
"Circle of light, huh? Nice name, although it was more like a hurricane than a circle from where I was standing."
A startled laugh fell from Draco's lips, and he shook his head in amazement. Trust the boy-who-lived to react to the Acceptance like that. Firstly, it occurs faster than ever recorded, and secondly the boy treats it with such a blasé attitude; you'd think he'd just been told all frogs were green, rather than had some miraculous truth laid bare to him.
"It's traditional," Studying Harry, Draco noticed he was looking quite drawn and sombre, despite the joking. "Do you want to talk about what you saw? People find it helps them understand things better when they confide in another member of the circle."
Harry's eyes glazed over, moving as though they were trying to track something Draco couldn't see. "I saw…Death."
Standing up abruptly, Harry turned a level look on Draco, green eyes suddenly brighter than the Slytherin could remember them ever being. "You're right, that did make it easier to understand."
Half reaching out a hand to the other boy when he turned, giving Draco his back, Draco wondered why his heart was clenching in his chest. Leaving that unwanted puzzle for the moment, he tried to assimilate Harry's reaction with other members when encountering the truth shown by the circle of light. Draco was unable to find anything similar.
All members experienced different things, which linked in with their individual personalities and powers. The light showed them things they would normally have picked up eventually, but magnified by infinity.
As keeper of the Light, only Draco could escort others to the Light itself. However, the Corridors' which the Light protected were open to any members of the Circle, and they could be opened up to anyone who needed a santuary - but the Light only embraced someone once. The Light had the ability to choose whether or not to embrace those brought forth, and this depended on whether or not they were, to put it bluntly, 'good' guys or not. Those who were 'good' had to go on alone and see what was theirs to see, but afterwards they could choose whether or not to share that truth with others. Any 'bad' guys who were brought forward could wander in the Corridors forever, and still not find the entrance. Only those who brought them to the Corridors in the first place could bring them back out again, if they wanted to.
Harry's reaction hinted that he had seen something of great magnitude, either for himself or for everyone. The abrupt changes in his emotions though; one minute drawn, the next dryly sarcastic - didn't fit in with Harry's personality, which should have remained unchanged by what he saw.
If it was indeed 'Death' Harry saw, that would fit in with his being drawn, as that is a sad thing. Yet, for whatever reason, he didn't seem to want to share the burden and instead turned away from Draco as though he were angry about something. If only he would tell Draco what was wrong…whose death he saw, then he could try and help Harry through it…
Reaching out once more to the boy with his back to him, Draco's fingertips just grazed Harry's shirt, and Harry had started turning back to face Draco, when several things happened at once.
Hermione appeared at the other end of the dungeon corridor, a book smugly tapping against her thigh when she observed the two boys before her. And Pansy came tearing down the other end of the corridor, cheeks flushed with exertion and fright.
Immediately switching into leader-mode, Draco turned to Pansy first, as she was trying to say something through her panting.
"What is it? Calm down, Pansy, breath…that's it, nice and slow. Okay, now tell me?" Leaning against the wall, her blue eyes rested on Draco desperately, as she frantically tried to get her breathing under control.
"They're taking Neville!"
Three voices simultaneously demanded, "What!".
"I said," Her breathing grew more even, but her eyes narrowed at them in annoyance, "They've taken Neville!"
When silence, and an exasperated gesture from Draco to continue, met her pronouncement the second time, Pansy decided it might help to elaborate. "I completed my mission with Severus, and had told the others what I found out, when someone pointed out that now would be the optimum time to take one of us - that one being Neville! So I went to find him, and got everyone else to look as well…but there's no sign of him anywhere!"
"Eventually I went to Dana, and she 'saw' him being led out of Hogwarts, by a group of students, who were met at the door by a black-cloaked man."
Silence again met her, as everyone thought their own thoughts.
As Draco's mind rushed through every possible course of action, Hermione left the planning to the experts, and instead kept looking from Harry to Draco with an idea of her own blooming - related to her new knowledge that Harry was part-veela.
Harry slumped against the wall as he tried to compartmentalise all of the new data floating around in his head. He knew Hermione and Pansy were members of the Circle of Light. Actually, he knew who all the members of the Circle of Light were, and their abilities. Like he knew Dana was a member, gifted with the ability to track people's position, both in the past and in the present. Unfortunately, she was only able to do so if she was actively trying to, which meant - if any privacy was going to be afforded to people - she only did it when requested.
Harry had also been gifted with the knowledge of Draco's withdrawal, which he'd been too preoccupied before to truly notice. Now, that had stung. Granted, he and Draco had been enemies up 'til…well, they weren't anymore, in any case. And even if their 'hatred' had been a ploy to keep the bad guys from thinking they were working together, like the Light had suggested, it was still no surprise that they didn't know each other all that well. They had, in theory, only truly met when Harry and Draco had…erm, you know…And even after sharing that Draco didn't trust Harry enough to open up to him even slightly…!
It's not like Harry had actually bought into what Dumbledore was saying about Draco being his mate, and all that 'perfect love' crap, but still…it had been nice to dream, if only for a short time, that there really was someone who loved him for himself, and not for his 'fame'.
Aside from the depressing thought that Draco was still hiding, the Light had been very helpful concerning Harry's new talents - which it apparently thought were distantly related to the powers its other members had access to - and as such it had literally filled Harry with knowledge about the things he was now able to do.
"Right, Hermione, go and assemble a team for search and extraction. Pansy you go and get Dana to locate him now, me and Harry will head out and start canvassing the immediate vicinity." Tuning into the fact that Draco had come up with a plan, Harry managed to catch the end of his orders, and tried to brush aside the pang he felt when he heard Draco call him by his given name, as opposed to 'Potter'. Sure, he had been doing it a lot lately, but it still gave Harry a warm feeling, which now translated into a pang, thanks to Dumbledore, the Light and Draco's reaction to their intimacy!
Splitting up quickly, Pansy darted back the way she'd come - determined to fill Ron in as well as reach Dana - and Hermione quickly flipped open the book she was carrying, the pink glow of her personal power latching on to the object and sending a message through it to all the Circle members near a book at the time. That done, Hermione headed for the owlry to send off a message to the remaining members.
The jog to the entrance was quiet for Harry and Draco - the majority of students already in bed, or else gathered in their common rooms. The day had passed in a blur for Harry, entering the Light nearing lunchtime, then staying there for most of the day. Yet, for what Harry had seen, it felt like he should have been there a lot longer.
Easing the front door open silently, Draco guarded Harry's back as he slipped out, then followed after him.
Harry lightly leapt down the front steps, then turned and waited for him to catch up. Once Draco had pulled the door shut again though, he remained standing at the top of the stairs. It was on the tip of Harry's tongue to ask what he was waiting for, but the noise answered the question for him.
To begin with all that could be heard was the wind rushing through the grass and trees, but that gradually changed. Whispers of sound slid amongst the wind, the rustling of clothes, and the sliding of skin. The natural noises of the night slowly filtered out, leaving sinuous secrets whispering into the silence, and careful rushes into danger.
Harry turned in a slow circle, heightened senses spreading out to encompass the area. With his new eyesight colours rose out of the darkness, like flares - marking where people were. A clump of trees vanished from Harry's view, a long, blue shape slinking towards them appearing in its place.
One by one, members of the Circle who had been contacted appeared by the front steps. A lion reared up on its haunches - a third year Hufflepuff appearing in its place. A ripple ran through the stone steps, forming a bump in the concrete, which then grew and grew, until another student stepped out of it, straightening their robes as they did so.
The regular night-time noises rose up again, as the circle of figures converged on the steps. Turning back to face Draco, Harry allowed himself to soak in the sight of the blond Slytherin, commanding the circle's attention with the ease of long practise. Draco's orders were simple; find Neville, retrieve him…subdue any and all who got in the way.
Pansy ran up as they were about to move out, red-faced and panting, but with an excited grin on her pretty face. A pleasant-faced brunette followed closely after her, and immediately gasped out that Neville was due east in the Forbidden Forest.
Ron was following behind, slightly more cautiously, blue eyes taking in the gathering with a carefully-neutral face. The sight made Harry pause, which in turn stopped Draco from issuing the order to move.
Pansy's grin faded slightly, at the look Draco directed at her, but she remained unrepentant.
"It's okay - he's a member of the Cotsden secret society, and you know that this kind of thing falls right down their alley. To summarise; he wasn't allowed to approach the Circle directly until now, but the recent events mean the society has given him clearance to act on his own initiative and help us as he sees fit."
Eyeing her in stunned amusement, Draco obviously didn't know what to think. It was clear Pansy truly believe what she was saying, but the Cotsden society was extremely secretive, and so underground that everyone thought it had disbanded long ago. To be told it was still very much active was hard enough to take in - but that Ron Weasley was a member…possibly a prominent member as well, given the amount of trust they'd put in his hands…well, let's just say Draco definitely wasn't that trusting.
"…What proof does he have?"
Glaring at her leader, Pansy glanced sideways to see how Ron was handling the mistrust, and was unsurprised by the even look he returned to her. Evidently his planning had taken into account this reaction.
"He told me whilst under my mesmer. When he approached me and offered to help the Circle, of course I didn't trust him immediately - so I put him way under, and you know nobody can lie when I'm 'persuading' them. He was originally told to connect with a one of us and offer help - and it was Ron who told me about Neville being taken."
A nudge from Harry made him take in the hands planted on hips, and the stubborn expression on her face. Draco capitulated. "Fine - we'll accept his help for now, but after this is over we're going to have a proper talk,"
"You can wait here for Hermione and the others to arrive; Ron, join the rest."
Ron hastily covered his laugh up by coughing, gratefully moving towards the other members of the Circle when Pansy turned her baleful stare his way.
Following Draco's suggestion that they all spread out to make it less likely they were spotted prematurely, Harry hung back slightly from the group. Once certain nobody was watching him, Harry turned to the grainy tree trunk on his right.
One hand lightly traced the gnarled bark, then a sudden warmth pulsated from his palm - partially merging his hand with the tree. Taking a moment to appreciate the new control he had over his powers, thanks to the Light, Harry quickly leapt into the tree.
Following the dark trail of people moving beneath him, like a series of trickles spreading out beneath his feet, Harry launched himself towards the next tree branch. Lightly landing on the balls of his feet, he again checked that he hadn't made any noise - unwilling to be caught and raise unwanted questions - before continuing on his way, picking up speed as his body caught onto a certain rhythm.
Nearing a large clearing the members of the Circle slowed down - cautious of the lack of cover.
The closer they got however, the more the magically sensitive ones in the group were able to feel a strong power gathering. Their unease quickly filtrated through the rest of the Circle, and they flexed their own powers in preparation of danger.
Sliding out from the trees to encircle the gathering of Death Eater's, a few of the shifter's had already slipped their human form, and many others were holding glowing balls of power - a murderous Blaise in particular.
At Draco's signal, they all poured into the clearing from every direction, the guards being the first to be disposed of. A group headed straight for Neville, who was bound and gagged on a large boulder in the centre of the clearing, and the rest sought to deal with the other wizards in the area.
A Death Eater shot a blaze of fire at Draco, forcing the boy to duck and roll. Motioning sharply with his hand, a trail of gold sparks whipped towards the hooded man, striking at the face. Twisting out of the way just in time to avoid disfiguring his face, the man was unable however to save his hood from the energy. The black material was forced back, revealing a long flowing mane of silvery blond hair, identical to that of his opponent.
A sadistic smirk twisted the other man's face, rendering him too cruel-looking to be considered beautiful.
"Yes my darling son, I lied when I told you I wasn't a Death Eater. Ironic, isn't it, since it appears you have lied about something as well, now, haven't you? Afterall, who was it that told me they weren't a freak?"
Draco winced at the cruel comment, his concentration faltering as he struggled to maintain his mask. Seeing the opening for what it was, Lucius pointed his wand at his only son, muttering "Bloodcut," under his breath.
Harry's sensitive ears picked out the slight sound from the other noises of battle, pausing in his movements to perch on top of a recently bloodied Death Eater. Letting his red-stained hands lie on the cloaked-man's motionless chest, Harry lifted his green eyes in time to see an arc of blood spurt from Draco's chest. The curse didn't stop there though. Only after seven more arcs of blood were torn from the now kneeling Draco did it then stop.
Rising up on one leg, Harry was unable to tear his eyes from the bleeding figure lying on the forest floor. The sound of confident footsteps approaching the supine figure eventually drew his attention, and Harry's narrowed green eyes watched as the elder Malfoy pointed his wand to finish off his son.
Cut off mid-curse, Lucius Malfoy watched in astonishment as his wand went hurtling off to the right. "What the…?"
A fist to his jaw cut off the question, swiftly followed by a blow to the stomach. Winded, he bent over, disbelieving that someone was getting the better of him.
As the man righted himself, Harry darted back in, a roundhouse kick to the groin viciously gaining a scream before he went down again. Dancing back a few steps on the balls of his feet, Harry waited until the man looked up again. Waited until the man saw his opponent's eerie green eyes.
Clenching his right fist tightly, Harry visualised his hand going right through Lucius Malfoy's head and coming out the other side with bits of brain and shattered skull sticking to it. Holding onto the thought of the satisfaction such a sight would bring him, the boy-who-lived channelled all of his territorial rage into his next swing, sending the other man smashing into the ground.
Leaving the trash unconscious among the crushed pine needles, Harry hurried over to Draco's side. Carefully flipping the boy onto his back, Harry winced at the eight horizontal cuts covering his front, running from one arm, across his chest, to the other arm.
Watching a trickle of blood seep from one of the deeper cuts, Harry suddenly realised he was kneeling in a pool of Draco's blood. Casting several hasty sealing charms, Harry let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding when he saw the bleeding stop, at least temporarily.
Just as Harry was beginning to feel relief, an evil chuckle sounded from behind him.
"So…Mr Potter, you managed to take care of my loyal Lucius. Now, I believe it is my turn to take 'care' of you."
As far as two-liners went, Harry had heard better. Sure, the better ones had come from this same man, but for some reason Harry was no longer as scared as he had been in the past. In fact, he felt almost…lazy.
A smug grin slowly appeared on Harry's face, as he rose from Draco's side and turned so he was half facing Voldemort.
Peering at the 'evil wannabe-Lord' from underneath lowered eyelashes, Harry embraced the animalistic side of himself. It was a different Harry who turned the rest of the way around. It was a dangerous Harry who took a step towards Tom Riddle.
But it was a pure animal that leapt the rest of the way - slamming into the body before it could so much as raise its wand, then lowering its head and…sucking at the very air above the body. A quiver travelled through the stunned man's frame, then another, and another. Eventually the body was wracked by great shudders, each one occurring faster and faster, as the pitiful man who used to be the feared Lord Voldemort screamed out in pain. The screams gradually died down to pained whimpers, as the man had trouble drawing in the breaths needed to create noise. And even they stopped after a while.
Finally lifting his delicate face, Harry tilted his head to the night sky - eyes closed, pale skin glowing and silvery scar glinting: basking in the rush of power procured from the violent feeding.
Verdant eyes slid open, and he gradually became aware of the sensation of eyes on his skin. Not lustful or hateful - like all the stares had been recently - these felt stunned, and the oddity of that was enough to make Harry take a look around him.
From his position on top of what appeared to be a shrivelled bag of bones, Harry could see Draco lying still in the dark pool of his own blood - but the person who'd inflicted the damage was long gone, having woken up and slipped away whilst Harry was otherwise occupied.
Looking back at the silent members of the Circle - the recovered Neville being cradled by a stunned Blaise, and the bloody-faced Ron - Harry waited to feel shock or horror at what he'd apparently done to the Dark Lord. Yet all he felt was a quietly warm sense of satisfaction, as the beast within him curled up to sleep - content from such a big feeding.
Unable to keep himself from doing the same, a suddenly-sleepy Harry slipped off of Voldemort's body, and curled up on the pine floor next to the unconscious Draco - trusting to the Circle to take care of the clean-up he was soon fast asleep.
Chapter 22 : Surprised Council
The murmur of voices rose gradually - so subtly that it was unnoticeable at first, but the end result of everyone talking over each other was inescapable.
Peering down either side of the conference table, Albus Dumbledore truly felt his age. Next to him, Mad Eye Moody was the oldest, but apart from them the members of the Order of the Phoenix were all around human mid-age. Young.
Examining the line of chairs on his right, Albus amended that thought. Compared to the Circle of Light members, those from the Order were positively decrepit.
Made up entirely of Hogwarts students, it was rather ironic that the quietest person in the meeting was the youngest Circle member; Drake Main, a Ravenclaw who wasn't as absorbed with learning as the rest of those in Ravenclaw. That might have had something to do with the fact that his 'talent' was for sensing other people's emotions, and this made him a lot more human in some respects than his knowledge-driven housemates.
Hermione headed up the right side of the table, with Pansy next to her - then Blaise Zabini, Lucy Goldfin and Drake Main. Usually Draco was present, but his current state of unconsciousness meant he'd had to be temporarily replaced by Pansy who was one of his lieutenants, in order for there to be an equal number of people from the Circle and the Order. Not counting Albus himself of course, as he was the one who organised the meetings.
The Order members were currently trying to get the meeting going, by yelling for an explanation as to why it was called, and what the hell had happened.
Bill Weasley occupied the seat mirroring Hermione's, but on the left of the table, and was worriedly asking after Severus, who had been unable to attend due to ill health.
Then came Minerva McGonagal, Severus' temporary replacement, who was exclaiming about the huge usage of magic she'd felt from the direction of the forbidden forest a while ago.
After Minerva came Sophie Darlton, Mad Eye Moody and William Haigh.
Out of the Circle members only Lucy and Pansy were yelling for information; Blaise and Hermione were attempting to get everyone to calm down, whereas Drake was wisely staying out of it entirely.
By comparison, all the Order members were demanding to know something - and appearing like immature, impulsive children.
The role reversal made Albus sad, as it illustrated just how big an impact the war and their different abilities had already effected the Circle children.
Albus' mind began to wander down the oft-travelled route of whether or not there were any adult members of the Circle - something he had no clue about, but seemed unlikely, given the sheer quantity of members who were at school, and the fact that Draco Malfoy was their leader. Afterall, surely an older leader would be best, if the option were available. Cutting himself short before he began examining all of the oddities about the Circle of Light, Albus stood up from his position at head of the table.
Silence gradually settled around the room, a few last mutters from Mad Eye being ignored by everyone.
Glad to have their attention, and ignoring the slight pang he felt at the sign of trust in him, Albus started to recount the events for the Order members who were unaware of recent happenings.
"This evening, our young Mr Longbottom was kidnapped by Death Eaters. A rescue was orchestrated by Draco Malfoy, leader of the Circle of Light, and Mr Longbottom was successfully retrieved,"
"During the fight, Mr Malfoy was injured by a Death Eater, whom witnesses identified as his father. Luckily, Mr Potter was also present for the rescue mission, and was able to incapacitate Draco's father before Draco was killed. This is when reports get a bit vague."
Tired blue eyes sought out Hermione, catching and lingering on the sheaves of paper she was restlessly straightening on the table. The reports each member of the Circle who'd been present had written, all done neatly and handed in barely two hours after the event itself. More efficient than the Order could ever hope for.
"Whilst young Harry was tending to the Circle's fallen leader, Voldemort made his appearance. When, exactly, he arrived is unclear. What happened next is also unclear. Some state Mr Potter launched himself at the Dark Lord, others' argue a huge animal charged him - still more claim a dark cloud swarmed the man."
"What is clear is the result of this. Voldemort, the Dark Lord, is now dead. All that was left of him was a few crumbling bones."
Immediately gasps issued from the Order members, and stunned expressions covered their faces. All members of the Circle who were present remained unmoved, all having heard it before.
"But, Albus…what does this mean?"
The earnestly worried expression on McGonagal's face almost made him smile. Almost.
"Umm, Headmaster? May I respond to this question?"
Jerking his gaze over to the young Hufflepuff, Lucy Goldfin, Albus took in the timidly polite expression on her face which perfectly matched her querying tone of voice - and wondered why he suddenly had a slightly sinking feeling. "Of course, my dear."
Turning a calm blue gaze on the Head of Gryffindor, Lucy's expression soon turned arctic, as she unleashed her disdain on the teacher.
"It means that the bastard is dead, and now all we have to worry about are those annoying boot-lickers who call themselves 'Death Eaters'. Oh, and of course, make sure none of them attempt to take control of Voldy's ex-followers in the coming turmoil. That answer your question?"
Shaking her head in disgust, in case the acerbic answer hadn't been clear enough, Lucy hammered in her disbelief that a supposedly intelligent person - who had served the Order of the Phoenix for who-knows how many years - had been incapable of reaching that conclusion themselves. The woman's brainless turn to her leader had also made her blood boil - sure Lucy was loyal to the Circle and Draco, but that didn't mean she suddenly wasn't capable of thinking for herself.
And people thought Hufflepuffs were dim!
Hiding his amusement with difficulty, Albus took in Minerva's flush of embarrassment with a glance, then arched a questioning eyebrow at the frown on William Haigh's normally-cheerful face.
"It seems too easy." William easily responded to the silent question, speckled green eyes taking in how the others would react to his statement.
Ah. He'd wondered how long it would take someone to pick at that. Even with a prophecy indicating one would kill the other, there was still no long, drawn-out battle, as had been expected…rather the killing seemed almost…offhand - happening in a minor skirmish, and very quickly, no-matter that nobody seemed to agree on how it had happened.
"I know. However, I don't believe this was a trick on Voldemort's behalf. Nor do I believe things are truly over. As Miss Goldfin pointed out - at the very least we still have the other Death Eaters to deal with, and preventative measures must also be taken to ensure another Voldemort doesn't appear."
"To share my belief in this…abrupt, turn of events, I think there is something you should all be aware of. This is, as always, strictly confidential - there will be no talking of this to other people, and magic will see to it that nobody, other than those who already know, will hear or overhear anything relating to this that you might say."
"Harry has recently come into his inheritance. Turns out Mr Potter is half veela. With this shift in status, comes a simultaneous shift in magical ability. Is My Potter now capable of taking on the Dark Lord? - yes. I find I have to struggle to imagine something he would have difficulty doing now. Also, the exotic abilities he now has at his disposal would account for the mismatch of accounts we have from the other Circle members; they would never have seen anything like it before, and their different abilities would have meant they'd see it from different perspectives in any case."
"I don't, however, believe that his new abilities will keep him safe from everything. My main reason for this is the fact that he's still acquainting himself with his abilities, and the majority of what he is doing is based on instinct. Another reason is that he had yet to bond with his mate, or even acknowledge that he has a mate - both of which would help him feel more settled, and as such better able to determine his own strengths and weaknesses."
"Since you obviously believe the boy still needs aid, do I take it you wish to root out the remaining Death Eaters as we have been doing before now? With the utmost subtlety, and without informing the public what has been happening?"
Looking over at Sophie, Albus found his eyes met and held by a pair of dark brown ones. Disconcerted, as always, by the odd sensation of being measured which he always felt when he met her gaze, Albus was quick to redirect his stare to a point above her shoulder. Absently noting that with her pale colouring and long black hair, she looked like a muggle goth, Albus thought about her question for a minute.
"Yes, I do believe that to be the best method. Not just to prevent panic in the wizarding community - or premature celebration, such as we had before - but also to keep the Death Eaters in question as unaware as possible that we are still actively trying to track them down and imprison them. Hopefully they will be sufficiently distracted by the death of their leader, but, in case they are not, we don't want them to go deeper into hiding."
Idly tapping a long, tanned finger on the table, Bill Weasley appeared to contemplate what Albus had just said before posing his own question.
"Given your avoidance of what has befallen Severus, I'm going to assume it's nothing dangerous as opposed to embarrassing and temporarily incapacitating. Correct me if I'm wrong." Dumbledore remained silent, so Bill took that as permission to continue.
"In that case, what is Severus going to do - once he's recovered from whatever is wrong? Are you still going to ask him to spy, and if so, on whom? Or are you going to pull him out - on the basis that his Lord is dead, and he isn't interested in taking over the world on his own?"
"In this instance I believe it to be prudent to do nothing immediately. It is my wish to pull Severus out, however, to do so too quickly would raise suspicion on his loyalty amongst the remaining Death Eaters - and until we are sure there won't be a repeat of Voldemort, it would be unwise to generate such an impression. Even if another Dark Lord does rise further down the line, if Severus has made a show of hesitating to abandon his 'cause' at this point in time, that will afford him some protection, and gift us with a possible foothold in that Lord's organisation."
Settling back in his hard wooden chair, the frown on Bill's face showed he wasn't happy, but he was satisfied enough for the time being not to pose anymore questions. His main concern had been addressed, and there was nothing further that could be done on the matter yet. Mentally acknowledging the fact that he'd have to have a word with his lover as soon as possible, Bill Weasley set his brown gaze on the young Slytherin who was currently talking.
"You mentioned something about a mate. If finding his mate will make Harry more powerful, as you insinuated, shouldn't we be attempting to track down this mate?" Moving his gaze from Dumbledore's wizened face, Blaise looked around the room, gaining agreeing nods from everyone.
"I know such a search would be a drain on our resources, but, following the theory that there will be a lull in Death Eater activity due to Voldemort's death, surely the possible gain far outweighs the vulnerability it will place us at."
"Umm, actually," Hermione spoke up hesitantly, pausing to look at Dumbledore before continuing. "As a half veela, Harry could only have transformed in the manner he has if he had already met his mate at least once. Taking that into account, the search for his mate is actually less far-reaching than you might think. In all probability it's someone attending Hogwarts."
"How did you…?" Smiling smugly at the surprised Blaise, Hermione gently patted the small leather book she held in her lap. Drake quietly chuckled.
"Yes, exactly as Miss Granger said. In fact, on the basis of their interactions together, I feel it's safe to say Mr Malfoy is in fact Harry's mate. However, broaching this topic with Mr Potter I garnered a definite denial - even if it turns out the two aren't mates, it would still be prudent for us to encourage Harry's interactions with others, in an attempt to find his actual mate."
Darting a brief look in Hermione's direction after feeling her delight, Drake quickly spoke up. "The Circle will tackle Harry's reluctance in this matter - and search for Harry's mate if it turns out Draco isn't the one."
Albus nodded agreement, and was about to assign the Orders members' new people to watch, when the door to the room burst inwards, and Sirius Black and Shacklebolt raced in, panting.
Jumping out of his seat, William ushered the sweating Kingsley into it, hovering in concern as the other man gratefully collapsed into it. Waving off Bill's offer of his own seat, Sirius marched up to the head of the table where Albus was.
"We've got bad news."
"Wait a s…I thought you were meant to be dead?"
Ignoring Sophie's bemused question for the moment, and deciding to work a way out of answering it later, Albus gestured for Sirius to continue.
"Me and Shacklebolt were shadowing Fudge, as ordered, right? To eavesdrop on his arranged meeting with Voldemort. Well we got there fine - strange, dingy alley, sinister air of gloom - standard op. Then the bastard doesn't turn up for hours - nobody does. So there Fudge is, beginning to sweat over the wait, and me 'n' Shacklebolt are getting mighty suspicious,"
"Anyway, Fudge doesn't dare leave, right, so we stay there as well. Eventually, after about three hours, who shows up but Lucius Malfoy himself! All bruised and limping - nothing at all like he normally looks…"
Gesturing impatiently, Albus impatiently conjured up a glass of water for both men, and Sirius drained his before continuing.
"And Lucius kills him. Just like that - appears out of no-where, big green light, then vanishes again - leaving Fudge, puffed up windbag that he is, lying there with a blank look as his death face."
Message delivered, Sirius topped up his glass, then leaned against the table, sipping it slower now. Finishing his glass with a gasp, Shacklebolt roughly wiped his mouth with his hand and nodded to corroborate with Sirius' telling.
Looking down at his wrinkled hands, Albus pondered this new news grimly.
Bill was the one to say it, and everyone, except Dumbledore, looked at him in astonishment. Not used to such vehemence from the man, or the use of a muggle swear word.
"It's too late - they're already organised. Someone, probably Lucius, has already taken control of the Death Eaters. I wouldn't be surprised if Voldemort had arranged it as a contingency plan - if anything permanent happened to him, Lucius was to take over and carry out his dream. Or, if there was such an option, bring him back again!"
Amid the dismayed voices, Hermione Granger spoke up.
"Yes, and I'd go one worse. By killing the Minister, they've created the very chaos we assumed the Death Eater ranks would be in. In short, we are now at the disadvantage, because we don't truly know what's going on behind the scenes, and we no longer have the ability to predict Voldemort's moves - as Voldemort is no longer in control."
Chapter 23 : Poisonous Chickens?
"I am going to kill that dog!" Remus Lupin fumed, as he stalked down the corridor - doing a passable imitation of Professor Snape, however unintentional it might have been.
Reaching his destination, an uncharacteristically furious Remus marched up to the Headmaster's office and slammed the door open. Ignoring the fact that it had been enlarged into the formal conference room, and that members of both the Circle of Light and the Order of the Phoenix were present, and staring, Remus stormed over to a certain ex-convict - and gave him a sharp rap on the head.
Sirius Black winced at the smack, and employed his best puppy dog look in an attempt to get his friend to calm down. Seeing the amber eyes begin to swirl with black flecks, he realised that tactic wasn't going to work this time. Time to face the music.
"Nice to see you too, Moony. Had a rough day?"
"Yyo…yyou!" For a second Remus just spluttered, and Sirius was very tempted to grin. Luckily he saw the werewolf's eyes begin to narrow again, and squelched the impulse before he could act on it.
Waving his arms and shaking his head like a very pissed off, or just pissed, chicken, Remus began to lecture Sirius. Or so Sirius thought.
"I know you don't like the man, but this is taking things too far Sirius! I don't know what you did, and frankly I don't care - but you've made him seriously ill, and I demand you reverse whatever curse it was, right now!"
Beginning to frown himself, and slightly surprised by the reaction, Sirius wracked his brain for information on the curse, to verify what he already knew. He might be a slacker in some departments, but Sirius Black always made sure he knew his curses inside out.
"You mean it hasn't tapered off yet?"
At the calm question, Remus almost brained the man. Mastermind of pranks he might be, but remorseful, Sirius was not.
"Of course it hasn't tapered off yet - it's only just started!"
"Only just…" Pausing mid sentence, Sirius frowned again, then broke into a broad smile. "It's not mine then. I set my prank off ages ago - just after you came back in fact!"
"What?" Was all a bemused Remus had time to say, before Dumbledore interrupted their reunion with a small cough.
Pulling a chewy toffee from the depths of his robes, and popping it into his mouth, Albus waited until he had the full attention of two of his brightest ex-students.
"Remus, perhaps if you explained what is wrong with the dear man - I presume it is Severus you are talking about, yes? - we may be able to figure out who may have played this trick on him. Afterall, we all know how proud Sirius is of all of his jokes - if it were one of his, I have no doubt he'd own up to it!"
"Yeah, if only to piss Snape off even more…" A snickering Moody elbowed Shacklebolt in the ribs to get him to shut up. Despite that, everybody present heard his comment, and several smiles appeared on the faces of the previously grim members of the Order, although the Circle members remained solemn.
"Well…as you know he was covered in those itchy red spots for ages, and he became a bit more…temperamental than usual, probably because of the spots. Then, a while ago, he started feeling nauseous. Well, a couple of minutes ago he started vomiting - and he has yet to stop!"
"Hmm…Sirius? Can you think of anything?" The Headmaster played with his beard as he mulled the information over, looking at Sirius to see if the symptoms rang a bell.
"Nope. Definitely not one of mine! I can't think who would have done it to be honest - it doesn't sound like any of the styles I know of."
Shrugging the problem off, Sirius' brain moved onto his next problem, now that he was absolved of the crime. If he wasn't getting any more accusations hurled at him, that must mean his plan had worked, and Remus hadn't figured out it was him who'd done the other thing.
"Well, I suggest you get him installed in the infirmary. I'll be along momentarily, given Poppy has yet to return, and Felicity won't be arriving until Poppy does."
Flicking a chiding glance at Sirius for his lack of manners, Dumbledore never-the-less answered him. "She's a new medi witch who's coming to help Poppy with her job. As Poppy was recently hospitalised I believe the extra help will do her good."
Evidently deciding that was the most that could be done for now, Remus nodded to the Headmaster and exited the room. But not before darting a brief, sympathetic look over at an unusually-stony Bill.
Accepting the fact that he wasn't going to get an apology from Remus, Sirius couldn't help but start grinning once the door had shut behind the werewolf, who knew him too well for his own good.
Catching sight of the mischievous expression adorning the face of one of his best agents, Dumbledore quickly brought the meeting to a close - leaving Sophie Darlton's question deliberately unanswered - and waited for the last Order member to leave before turning to face the ex-convict, a twinkle of his own appearing in his eyes.
Recognising the evasive tactic for what it was, Sophie's dark eyes briefly sparked with curiosity - a curiosity which was quickly damped when she met the strangely discerning, golden stare of the quietest Circle member; Drake Main.
Eventually his office door slid shut behind the last person. "Well, Sirius, what is it that you did do to Severus?" Pinning a mock-stern look on his face, Albus patiently stared Sirius Black down.
Keeping a straight face, Dumbledore carefully lifted one eyebrow. "Chicken pox? Ah, I see - using muggle problems to confound a wizard. Rather inspired, even for you, don't you think, Sirius?"
Looking down at the floor, Sirius bit his lip - hard - trying to control his chuckles.
"Okay, okay, I admit it - I got the idea from the Weasley twins before I left!"
Letting his laughter run its course, Dumbledore waited 'til the humour had completely left his system, before turning things more serious.
Settling down onto his chair behind his desk, Dumbledore carefully transferred a stack of parchments on the desk top to one of his magically expanding filing cabinets. Gradually recognising the fact that he was either about to get harangued, or told something he wasn't going to like, Sirius flopped down into one of the chairs in front of Dumbledore's desk.
"Chicken pox; creates small, itchy, red spots. Annoying, can be soothed by calamine lotion to some extent, and leaves no lasting damage - unless you scratch at the spots, in which case it can scar." Straightening things which didn't need to be straightened; pens, parchment, ink well, Dumbledore ignored his ex-student's questioning expression for the moment.
"I understand you and Severus will likely never get on - I dislike it, but I understand it. I am even capable of finding humour in both of you're antics upon occasion. However, since you've been back from behind the veil - a feat which even I was unsure your…unique powers could handle - you've both been forced to work together, and as such each of your pranks have been carefully constructed so as to avoid handicapping. I find the fact that you deliberately made it so Severus was out of commission with this latest prank, disturbing."
Looking up, Albus pinned Sirius with a pair of blue eyes that seared through him in intensity.
"You are perfectly aware of the fact that we are at an extremely delicate stage in our plans right now. Voldemort is dead now - thanks to Harry - and now is the time to destroy the Death Eater organisation once and for all - although the fact someone has apparently already taken the Dark Lord's place makes this slightly more difficult,"
"Our ties to the Circle of Light are tenuous at best, on the verge of severance at worst - due to the way I in particular have handled their treatment. We can not afford to have even one of our agents out of order, so I want you to tell me what made you do it. Why did you put Severus out of commission? Tell me."
Focusing his gaze onto his lap, Sirius idly tapped his fingers against his thighs. He knew his reasoning was…unreasonable, and he had been perfectly aware of the danger he had placed everyone in due to his prank, but he just couldn't…
"…I couldn't stand the thought of them alone together!"
Anxious, and strangely urgent, dark blue eyes snapped up to meet the Headmaster's gaze head on, and when Albus read the reasoning behind the emotion, he found he'd unwittingly triggered a ticking bomb.
"Ah. I see."
Clearing his throat quietly, Dumbledore fervently wished he'd left the matter, or maybe even turned it over to Minerva. She seemed perfectly capable of handling such a thing, but he himself…? Not so much.
"Well, I can see where you might have gotten worried…but, if you feel that strongly about it, you really should talk to Remus about it. You can't just keep putting Severus out of commission every time you have to go away and leave them here. Alone. Together. Besides! With the amount of trouble we have, they'd never have a chance to do more than work!"
Pretty sure that the heat in his cheeks meant he was blushing, Albus firmly shut his mouth and laced his fingers together. Honestly! Discussing such things with Harry, that's slightly different - for one thing, the poor boy needed to have such things explained to him in light of his new self, but to be having this discussion with a grown adult - who should already know how to handle such matters…!
"I know - I can't put the git out anymore. But, I can't tell Remus! I just can't Albus! Can't you just send him with me on all the trips? That should do the trick, and it's the easiest solution really."
Pinning an earnest gaze on the Headmaster, Sirius tried to pour all of his recent turmoil into his request, feeling he just might burst if he couldn't pin his jester's face back on soon.
Taking in how deadly serious Sirius was being for a change, Albus had to accept the fact that this wasn't an issue he could simply fob off on McGonagal - nor could he let it go the way he had before. As proven by Sirius' recent actions, the man simply felt too strongly about it to leave it alone, and Dumbledore had no doubt he'd do something more than momentarily incapacitate the Potions Professor, if he found himself with a similar situation in the future.
"Alright, for the time being I shall do my utmost to ensure you and Remus remain together for missions. At the moment, however, the two of you shall be staying at Hogwarts, and I strongly suggest you try to sort things out with Remus while you have this brief lull in activity!"
"Meanwhile," Albus sighed, as he leaned back in his chair, and attempted to broach the reason why Sirius and Remus would be staying at Hogwarts. "Our current task is of the utmost importance, and far more delicate and undertaking than we've ever done before."
Hearing Dumbledore speak so gravely, Sirius tensed in anticipation - afterall, what could be more important than his last mission?
"We need to get Harry and his mate together."
Chapter 24 : Disturbing Bedside Help
The first thing Draco became aware of upon awakening was a strong burning pain encompassing the entire front of his body. That, and the sound of someone throwing up in the distance.
Ignoring the pain in favour of wrinkling his nose in disgust at the noise of vomiting, Draco carefully inched his eyes open, glad to see the light didn't hurt his eyes, even if that was about the only thing not hurting. The sight that greeted him however, was not something Draco had ever expected to see and made him jerk in surprise.
The hospital ward was as sterile and falsely cheerful as always, although the absence of Madame Pomfrey's bustling presence served as an acute reminder that Draco still hadn't found out what happened to her after the scary 'sexual harassment' incident. The person throwing up turned out to be none other than Severus Snape, who was looking distinctly green as a concerned Remus Lupin patted him on the shoulder in sympathy. As Draco was watching though he saw something which he just knew would scar him for life.
Albus Dumbledore came strolling into the ward, and headed straight for the two Professors with a potion in his hand - dressed up in Madame Pomfrey's nurse uniform, with his long hair and beard plaited and flung over his shoulder like some kind of scarf.
That wasn't just disturbing, that was seriously wrong. Who cared if Madame Pomfrey was a dangerous sex-crazed woman, better her than a weird Headmaster, who fancied himself as a cross-dressing wet dream from the look of it!
Eyes rolling up to the back of his head, Draco let out an involuntary groan as he lost consciousness again.
Spinning to face the bed caused Albus' skirt to flare out, but the Headmaster ignored his rather daring fashion statement in favour of checking on the patient. "Did he just wake up?"
A pained snort came from the potions master, and even as he was lurching for the bin he managed to look sarcastic. Remus was much more considering with his answer, as he thoughtfully examined the evidence in front of him; fresh blood seeping through Draco's bandages from moving too quickly - the Headmaster wearing what could only be called a dress - and the rather stunned expression on the unconscious patient's face.
"Yes, I rather think he did wake up, however briefly it might have been."
Frowning thoughtfully, Dumbledore tugged on his plaited beard, unaware that what once looked scholarly and intellectual now looked girly - what with the ribbons in said beard. "Doesn't he know I'm dressed like this for sanitary reasons? And this was the only way to keep my hair safely back?"
Finished with his current bout of vomiting, Snape mentally cursed a certain Weasley's forgetfulness, even as he prepared to drag his dry sarcasm out of the closet.
"Given the outcome, I rather doubt he got that far in his thought processes."
Chapter 25 : Hermonic Inquisition - part one
Narrowly dodging the hardback book flung at his head with vicious intent, Harry barely managed to pant out a "Hi, Ron!" to the bemused redhead as he sprinted passed. Taking the stairs to his dorm room three at a time, Harry had unfortunately forgotten the minor fact that the stairs to the boys dorms didn't turn into a slide when girls tried to go up them.
Flinging the door open, Harry was preparing to jump under his bed, when something wrapped itself around his legs, clamping them together and sending him to the floor with a crash.
Peeking behind him, Harry was unsurprised to see Hermione standing there, wand still pointing at him. Calmly replacing her wand up her sleeve, Hermione surveyed the prize before her with a satisfied gleam in her eyes. Walking up to the prone boy, she raised her foot with a kind of fiendish glee, before gently placing it on Harry's back. The stance symbolic of victory.
"Now. No more running. No more hiding. And, definitely, no more subversion!"
Closing his eyes tightly shut, Harry wished he could block out her voice as well, but the paralysis she'd hit his legs with had crept up to his shoulders, and Harry couldn't so much as wiggle his pinky fingers.
"So, tell me Harry, what is going on with you? And Draco. Oh, and just so we're clear, that was a command, not a question. You are going to tell me."
Drooping to the floor, Harry relaxed, as he realised a way he could answer Hermione honestly, without actually letting her know everything i.e. all of the stupid things Dumbledore kept coming out with to do with him and Draco, which were sooo stupid they weren't even true. At all. Ever.
"He showed me to the Circle of Light, and dropped the animosity act. So, I guess you could say we're…friends now? At the very least we're working on the same side now. But, you already knew that, since you also work with him. There, I've told you, now can I get up please?"
For a minute Hermione stared at Harry's back in disbelief, the green flecks in her eyes standing out in frustration. Removing her foot from Harry's back, she let Harry breath easy for a second, before bending down and putting her head next to his on the floor.
"I know what you are Harry."
The sudden declaration caught Harry off guard, and he was helpless to keep his body from tensing in defensive reaction. Noting his response, Hermione hurried onwards before Harry blocked her out completely.
"The way your looks changed. The way you lost your sight. The way people react to you. Everything. Dumbledore had to tell the Order and the Circle what you are in order to explain how you managed to handle Voldemort. After that it was easy to do some reading up and find out the rest."
Carefully leaving out the fact that the Circle had already been aware of Harry's new status…after Pansy had found out what Harry was from Severus, Hermione paused to see if Harry was planning on denying it for a while. When there was no response from the incapacitated boy, she quickly moved on.
"None of us are capable of leaking your secret to anyone - not just because we have no wish to hurt you, but Dumbledore's magic also prevents it. Even eavesdroppers won't be able to hear about it. But, please Harry, tell me this at least…is Draco your…?"
Green eyes wide with panic and pain glared at the carpet. Why did people have to keep jumping to that conclusion? What was the point in dredging up the idea all the time, when it was so obviously not the case?
Hermione looked at Harry in concern when she heard the pain and weariness coating his voice. Hmm, if that's the case, then why do you seem so upset about it? Deciding she needed to step back and re-evaluate the situation before taking any action, Hermione released Harry from the creeping bodybind and helped him up off the floor.
Blushing slightly when he turned his large green eyes on her, Hermione was curious to note she remained slightly awed by how potent his looks were, even though she now understood what he was.
"I shouldn't have pushed you so hard. It's your personal life, and curiosity shouldn't come before courtesy. I just, wanted to help, or at least be able to share the knowledge with you,"
"For years, I had to keep my secret from you and Ron. That I was something considered abnormal, even by the wizarding community's standards. I didn't want something else to come between us all,"
"So, from now on, I won't ask you anything about your heritage or love life, unless you question me first of course. But, if you ever want to just talk…I'm here, and might even be able to help, who knows?"
Casting his eyes down to his hands, the motion caused a lock of his hair to fall across his forehead, momentarily covering his silvery scar from view. With the absence of that minor imperfection, Hermione's breath was literally stolen from her, and for a moment it was all she could do to just stare at this person who looked like some kind of statue, perched motionless on the bed as he was.
A slight shake of his head made the curl fall back, and the scar was again visible. Green eyes fringed by black darted up to her face, and just like that the statue had come to life.
Seeing the look on her face, Harry hesitated, recognising the hunger he'd seen from Madame Pomfrey when she accosted him. Tensing his muscles in preparation, Harry couldn't stop the slight flinch he made when she placed her hand on his arm.
"I do have some control Harry, no matter how pretty a picture you might make."
Focusing on the slight indignation in her voice, Harry nodded, instinctively knowing she understood his reaction and was only put out by her own reaction to him.
"I know you do. You're one of the most controlled people I know, and I'm…glad, to know that I can discuss stuff with you. It's…a relief."
Smiling, Hermione dipped her head in acknowledgement. Understanding how hard it was for him to discuss his little 'oddity', and having had similar experience with her own brand of weirdness, Hermione hesitated to put Harry through anything else, but some things needed to be addressed.
"Have you talked to Ron yet?" Noticing Harry bite his lip, and take on the same cornered rabbit expression he'd had when she first accosted him about Draco, Hermione waited patiently for Harry to work things through at his own speed, this time. Afterall - there are only so many times you can put a bodybind on your friend in one day.
"Not yet. I think we'd all better sit down and have a talk. I mean, he knows about you and the Circle now, and he probably knows about me. I know about you and the Circle, but I don't understand the thing with Ron. You probably know everything, as always, but I think, in this instance, it might be a good idea for us all to come clean about our various 'secret's', right?"
Knowing Harry wasn't expecting her to answer that, Hermione just smiled slightly when he looked at her. Despite being scared of telling them what she was when they all first became friends, it now looked like her secret was the most mundane out of all of them!
Leaving it to Harry to corner Ron and arrange a proper talk, Hermione decided to see where Draco stood on the subject of Harry. Besides, he was already laid up in bed, meaning no bodybind's would be necessary.
Chapter 26 : Harmonic Inquisition - part two
Pushing open the door to the infirmary, Hermione was met with the rather unusual sight of Headmaster Dumbledore in a nurses' uniform, feeding a rather flustered looking Draco a potion for pain, whilst Snape sat on another hospital bed, a bucket in his lap and a rather doleful expression on his face.
Dumbledore looked up when Hermione entered, and a brief moment of eye-communication ensued.
Dumbledore nodded, a satisfied expression crossing his face.
Moving away from the now gobsmacked Draco, Dumbledore went and helped Professor Snape off the bed, guiding him to the door as one would an infant.
Shaking her head at Snape's odd compliance, Hermione smoothed her robes down and took a seat next to Draco's head.
Despite his paler than normal complexion, due to the loss of blood, and the swaths of bandage covering his torso, Draco looked remarkably well for someone who had almost died.
"So…what've I missed?" The expectant look in Draco's grey eyes caused a flash of amusement to go through the girl. It was just so typical of Draco to demand an immediate update even though he'd only been out of action for seven hours maximum.
"You were the worst injured, everybody else has already been discharged from the infirmary. None of the Death Eaters were captured: those that weren't killed were the smart ones who ran when they saw you lot."
"You were out the rest of last night, and all of this morning. It's just coming up to lunch time now, and given it's Saturday nobody has noticed your absence, the majority of them have headed off to Hogsmeade anyway…"
"Your father was the one who attacked you, as I'm sure you remember. He slipped away some time after that."
Pausing to let Draco take that part in, Hermione carefully watched his face for his reaction to her next bit of news.
"He almost killed you, and would have. If Harry hadn't intervened."
Taking in everything else she'd said with the calmness typical of Draco, even though it was his own father who had tried to kill him, at the mention of what Harry had done, he went utterly still. Slight widening of his eyes indicated his surprise, and the emotions which flashed over his face were almost too fast for Hermione to catch. The fact that they were actually visible for once as well, spoke highly of Draco's lack of control over them.
Shock, happiness, worry and wonder were among the many emotions Draco experienced, but dominant in his mind was the fact that Harry had cared enough to notice what was happening to him during the middle of a fight. Draco himself had hardly been aware of what was going on, even with his powers helping him track curses and such aimed at him. What if Harry had gotten hurt looking out for Draco? As far as he knew Harry had never participated in a full out magic battle, and he definitely didn't have the kind of ruthlessness needed for such an event! What had Draco been thinking when he'd let the boy-wonder join the Circle for the fight in the first place? Had he been trying to get the person-he-was-supposed-to-protect killed, and then doom the whole wizarding world to the insane Voldemort's rule!
"Is…" Clearing his throat to get rid of the annoying crack it contained, Draco raised cautious eyes to Hermione. "Did he get hurt?"
Managing to refrain from raising an eyebrow, barely, Hermione found it interesting that even though she'd already told Draco there had been no severe injuries other than his own, and everybody except him was already healed, he still checked to make sure Harry was all right. As if she wouldn't have said if he'd been injured!
"No, he was fine. If anything you should worry about what he did to Voldemort - now that was impressive!…scary, but impressive."
"I'll worry about who I want! Besides…wait a - Voldemort!"
Seeing the normally cool ice-prince sat there with his mouth hanging open, and an expression of such blind panic on his face that there was no room for any other emotions, was just too satisfying for Hermione, and she evilly decided to drag the explanation out slightly.
"Yes, okay - sorry. I was just trying to make the point that Harry can handle himself, although apparently I did it very poorly."
Grey eyes snapped back to his main source of information, a fervent light in their dark depths. Studying her carefully down-turned face, a sly thought made itself known to Draco. Shutting his mouth carefully, he registered Hermione's lack of anxiety, and let the spark of gold unfurl as he rolled that fact around his head.
"So…he killed Voldemort then?"
Veiled eyes noted the sudden shift in Hermione's behaviour, the spark that had infused her with eagerness vanished and her entire body slumped downwards, as he took away her edge with one sentence.
"Yes. What clue did I give that aided your powers?"
"You were too calm. So, tell me what happened - and don't try to scare me like that again!"
Hermione's eyelashes lifted and almond-shaped brown eyes looked out at Draco, the returned gleam in their depths making him feel distinctly nervous. He recognised that look - what had he said that had given her back her edge?
"After dealing with Mr Malfoy, Harry went to check on you. Voldemort zeroed in on him and went to kill him, but Harry beat him to it. Whilst Harry was killing Voldemort your…Mr Malfoy escaped. From all accounts Harry was very…efficient about how he handled Voldemort. One things for sure, Voldemort never stood a chance!"
"How'd he do it? It can't have been as easy as you're making out - if that was the case someone else would have done it ages ago!" Draco frowned slightly, sure he was overlooking something…
Tilting her head to the side, Hermione considered him silently for a moment, hoping his brain was working at a slower rate than normal due to a certain dark-haired teenage half-veela, and not the wounds he was recovering from. With anyone else it would have been the wounds, but with Draco it took a lot more to keep him down…
"Yes, Pansy succeeded in her mission of making Professor Snape talk. Turns out Harry is part-veela. He killed Voldemort by, basically, drawing all of the bastard's life energy out of him - there's a whole scientific explanation for the occurrence, which will be in my report, but I figure you'd want a concise response right now. Point is, Voldemort wasn't so much killed as his life was…erased. No way of coming back from that, and even if there was, he wouldn't have known to prepare for such an event,"
"There was a council meeting about half an hour ago - Dumbledore had to tell us all about Harry being half-veela, in order to explain how he managed to kill Voldemort. There was, of course, a spell woven into his words, meaning we can't tell others - luckily though, the Headmaster is unaware of the fact that the Circle can circumvent such spells. Still, anybody who's eavesdropping won't hear what we're talking about, so it's still useful. Dumbledore, however, is lacking as much information as we have - such as the way Harry managed to kill Voldemort, in that respect he's just guessing. All but minimum information and aid has been withdrawn from the man, as per your request,"
"Harry himself is fine - Voldemort literally didn't have time to lay a finger on him, as it turns out half-veelas are pretty fast on their feet…and strong…and incredibly beautiful, once they come into their heritage. Which comes in useful when feeding on the general population…"
Letting herself taper to a stop, Hermione wondered if that would be enough of a lure to grab Draco's attention. Jealous attention with any luck.
"Good, about the Dumbledore thing, but what do you mean, 'feeding on the population'?" At the worried tone of voice, Hermione leaned further forward, feeling she was finally about to find out how at least one of the boys felt about the other.
"Turns out half-veelas have to feed on…sexual energy. Generally that's their mate, but for a veela who hasn't found their mate it's often too dangerous to feed on only one person, so Harry's going to have to spread his feedings around a bit, otherwise he risks sending some people insane."
Turning his head sharply, Draco's piercing eyes locked onto Hermione's with the directness of a heat-seeking missile. Gulping, Hermione wondered if she'd gone too far.
"Well…that explains what happened to Pomfrey at any rate."
Huh? Had she lost the plot or something? Hermione could have sworn she'd been talking about Harry, not Madame Pomfrey - yet that was the direction Draco had turned the conversation in. Maybe she'd been wrong in thinking Draco was interested in Harry for more than his potential as an allie.
"Right after Dumbledore gave Harry's protection over to the Circle, you know how Harry came to the infirmary because of his blindness? Well, whilst we were here Pomfrey tried to make a play for Harry - and me as well, once she realised I wasn't going to leave him there with her. Afterwards, with some prompting, Harry admitted he'd had a similar incident with her already,"
"From what you've just told me it's clear she was his first feeding, and from the sounds of it it got slightly out of hand. Then of course, there's all the kidnapping attempts the Circle have had to 'interrupt'…"
Glad that Draco was so obviously focused on Harry, Hermione never-the-less had some less-than-pleasant news to impart.
"Whilst in the council meeting, we gained some new intel from Black and Shacklebolt. Your father went straight from the battle to meeting Minister Fudge - who he killed. This indicates the Death Eaters were prepared for the possibility of Voldemort dying, and someone else is already in control of the Death Eaters. We have no way of knowing what they'll do next, and we won't be able to even guess until we know for sure who's taken over."
Thinking the matter over, Draco quickly tapped into his powers to see if he had enough information to figure out who had seized control.
A bright gold blaze temporarily lit up the room - but, all too soon, Draco was back to his normal self. Grey eyes slightly lighter than usual, but shaking his head in negation.
"I didn't get anything. Until they make a move, or some new information comes to light, we'll just have to be extra careful. I want a member of the Circle to be by Harry's side constantly. We'll set up a less-obvious guard during the day and night as well - possibly on a shift rotation. Dispatch the telepaths around the school, and get Michelle Warren to put a tracer on as many of the known Death Eaters as possible. Did Drake pick anything of use up during the meeting?"
"Interestingly enough, yes - Bill Weasley appears to be in a relationship with your Godfather. William Haigh remained as circumspect as always, but Drake managed to get a grip on the woman, Sophie Darlton, for the first time,"
"She was predominantly satisfied. A bit scathing towards McGonagal, and - to some extent - Dumbledore as well. But the strongest hit Drake got off her was towards the end; extreme annoyance and concern that the Death Eaters already had a new leader, and deeply curious as to why Dumbledore evaded her question about Sirius - Drake's going to try and talk to her separately; get her to open up even more if possible."
Looking up abruptly, Draco frowned as he focused in on one of the points.
"You mean he hasn't informed anybody about Sirius Black's ability to teleport! What does he hope to gain from keeping that secret? I can understand him not sharing it with us - afterall, he keeps as much as he can from us - but to hide such a strength from the Order…"
"He is still unaware Sirius belongs to the Circle. He appears to be working under the assumption that there are no adult Circle members, and in all likelihood is trying to keep Sirius out of the spotlight - for fear of discrimination maybe. Dumbledore has also hidden the knowledge about Black's animagus form from the Order. It's only because of his need for Sirius to be an active member of the Order that he even told people about Pettigrew's role in the Potter's deaths."
"True. Still, I dislike that Dumbledore is keeping so much to himself. It makes me distrust the man even more than I did before - quite a feat that. Tell Sirius to keep a close eye on the old coot, and to inform us as to any changes. Other than that, same drill - don't acknowledge his connection to us, and use the obscurer members of the Circle, on a random rotating basis, for contact points. For today I want you and Ron to guard Harry - don't leave him alone for a moment - and work on a schedule of guards. I should be back in action tomorrow, and I want to look it over before it's implemented."
Satisfied that Draco had just handed her the keys to manoeuvring him into spending a great deal more time with Harry, and, confident that from there she'd be able to prompt their 'relationship' along, Hermione left the infirmary to carry out the various tasks issued to her.
Chapter 27 : Something's got to give - part one
Quick footsteps reverberated on the stone floors, to be found running throughout the castle. Rustling cloth brushed against a hastily taken corner, before the voluminous material was hastily gathered up once more.
Harsh breathing grated in an attempt at control; muffled, gasping sobs managing to break free on occasion.
Wild eyes darted to every shadowy corner and in the direction of every slight creak, terror in their depths as they made split second decisions on directions.
Feet tapping out a wearier tune, slowing down as they approached their destination, and safety.
A strange whooshing noise filled the corridor, like that of a thundering waterfall, and the figure froze for one, crucial, instant. By the time they'd sprung back into action, feet pounding out a frantic tune, it was too late. Concrete vines whipped out of the floor, wrapping round the struggling figure with a speed unexpected from something made of stone.
A brief crackling noise accompanied the stone solidifying, shortly followed by the same whooshing noise heard previously, as the desperately running figure was yanked into the floor, caged in tendrils of solid stone.
Polished, black shoes, better suited for a formal dinner than school, stepped out of the shadows. Cautiously approaching the spot on the floor where the other person had once stood.
Circling the spot with carefully measured steps, the owner of the shoes examined the area for any evidence, a small 'hmm' of…surprise? approval? satisfaction? the only noise in the corridor.
"And it works like that every time? You're positive? That speed, that inescapable? It won't just…collapse or something, right?"
The designer of the trap stepped forward, black cloak hiding shoes from sight. Eager to close the deal, the figure struggled to repress their sigh of impatience. Typical - should have known this type of person would want to know absolutely everything there was to know about the actual procedure.
"I assure you, the spell works perfectly. Every time. The whole point of this practical demonstration was to allow you a chance to view it for yourself. If, however, you find this was not to your satisfaction, then I was obviously mistaken to think this was what you were after…"
"No! I mean," Nervous hands smoothed down an impeccably positioned purple tie, as the buyer reminded themselves what type of person they were dealing with.
"This is exactly what I want, no doubt. I just…needed to be sure it would work exactly the same. You assure me it does, and I'll take your word for it. We never settled on a price, so how much do you want for it…?"
"Oh, never mind money." An airy gesture showed who had the power, as the figure casually dismissed that type of payment. "Just consider this a…favour. And in return, expect a call for your services at some point."
"I'll make sure the exact workings of the spell are delivered to you at the required time, but, if you'll excuse me, I have some other business to attend to."
Considering the deal closed, the cloaked figure moved to go away.
"Oh, yes, of course. That girl. Wwwhat…did you say you were planning to do to her again?"
Hearing the give-away tremor in the other person's 'casual' voice, the figure allowed a sly smile to grace their features. Turning back to look at the person remaining by the spot of disappearance, a malicious gleam entered their eyes.
"I didn't say, and it would be in your best interests to keep your…curiosity, in this matter to a minimum. Understand?"
Nodding hasty agreement, the person managed to stutter out a 'yes' eventually, but the other had already left.
Chapter 28 : Something's got to give - part two
Holding back a sigh, Harry cast a slightly nervous glance over at Hermione. Luckily the brunette witch didn't seem to have noticed his almost-slip, something that rather surprised the half-veela, given her recent propensity to observe all of his mannerisms and try to distinguish which ones originated from his once-secret heritage.
Well, in a way it was still secret. Afterall only Dumbledore, the Circle, and Ron knew what he was. So, yeah, it was still a secret to the rest of the school…and the wizarding world. Oh, yeah - and Ron had of course informed his superiors in the Cotsden society about it…and Harry still wasn't entirely clear about that side of things.
Dumbledore knew because - well, he'd discovered Harry of course. The Circle had found out due to Dumbledore telling them - and likewise the Order knew for the same reason.
Ron had had to be told, not least because he'd already figured out most of it from Hharry's behaviour, but also because if Ron was really going to come 'clean' about the Cotsden group, and properly help Harry and the Circle, he'd argued it was only fair that they be completely clear with him as well.
Cotsden apparently was a heavily secretive secret society. Was, because, until Ron's revelation, everyone had believed it to have been disbanded generations ago, with the members' dying out or making an escape while they still could. Apparently, people hadn't taken well to the idea of people spying on them, and an air of suspicion and anxiety had arisen - the result of which being that any members of Cotsden were treated with hostility and violence. However, instead of disbanding, the actual members of the society had gone even further underground, stamping out any whispers of their presence in an attempt to maintain the society, and prevent any such events from occurring again.
Cotsden's main aim was to maintain the balance in society - in all societies; wizard, muggle, veela, elf, dark creatures, etc. In order to do this they kept track of current affairs in all the societies - something which they found absurdly simple to do, given they had members in all of them - and they occasionally stepped in to regulate situations. In Voldemort's last rising there hadn't been much they could do except put some members into the Order of the Phoenix, and leak information about Voldemort to Dumbledore.
This time though, they'd decided precautions needed to be taken to prevent another uprising - and this time they had something to focus their energies on. Harry.
Membership to the society was highly exclusive, and, whilst the majority of people were recruited when they were older - due to the fact that their personalities and beliefs were less prone to change then - some people did get recruited at an earlier age - if they demonstrated extraordinary skills or the kind of commitment Cotsden required. Ron was one such prodigal child, and had been an active member of the society since he was just a toddler, when he'd exhibited signs of great intelligence, not to mention out-of-this-world strategic skills.
Hearing that part, Harry had felt rather doubtful - after all, how exactly can you recruit a toddler for a top-secret society. Apparently, it's very easy when they're as intelligent as Ron was. Kidnapping a willing child is easy enough - kidnapping a willing child and replacing it with a believable doppelganger, for the society at least, is simplicity itself.
Several 'tea parties' later, and the society had managed to explain their ideals in a manner which a highly intelligent toddler could understand - and since then they'd been secretly training him to hone his skills. Carrying such a burden, and having to become a consummate liar from such an early age, meant that Ron had long perfected his mask before he even met Harry.
The society had never ordered Ron to befriend Harry, merely watch over him for them - Ron's aim had been to offer subtle aid when Harry needed it, and keep a general track of Harry, but almost immediately he'd found himself becoming close friends with him instead - something which he'd never truly had as a kid, what with being a great deal cleverer than the other kids his age, and having so many things he couldn't share with them.
And whilst Ron still had to keep secrets from Harry and Hermione, he'd suddenly had other secrets he could share with them - secrets they'd made together.
Harry would have had to be a donkey to not realise Ron was expecting Harry to blow up at him - or to hate him for keeping such secrets from him - but, faced with the truth, Harry found he couldn't react like that. To be perfectly honest, Harry was rather glad it turned out his friends had both been keeping things from him, as it showed that none of them were ordinary. It wasn't just 'Harry-the-celebrity' anymore; now it was 'Ron-the-spy', 'Hermione-the-Circle-member' and 'Harry-the-half-veela'.
And that felt kind of nice.
Hermione had since put herself in charge of 'Project Harry', and as such Harry'd been forced to find out many helpful things about himself, like; the fact he unconsciously purred when eating grapes (a delicacy for veela's apparently), sniffed the air when hearing someone approaching, and took every subtle chance he could get to rub himself against others. Draco in particular.
Then again, this was Hermione making all of the observations, and she appeared to be enamoured with the idea of him and Draco getting together, so maybe it was worth taking everything she said with a touch of scepticism.
Granted, all of the other facts were true, and even the rubbing thing - loath though he was to admit it - but he hadn't noticed himself seeking Draco out for such a thing. If anything it appeared as though Draco was trying to minimise their contact. Not that Harry cared or anything.
Risking another glance up from his textbook, Harry's eyes automatically darted across the room, landing on the tow-headed boy currently bent over his own book, and apparently sharing none of Harry's difficulties in concentrating.
At the table next to the window in the abandoned classroom turned study room, Pansy and Ron were laughing together softly, gaining some kind of amusement from the astronomy chart spread out before them both. The way those two had hit it off made Harry feel happy - he'd always wanted Ron to be happy, and it looked like he finally was. Plus, Pansy looked perfectly capable of keeping Ron in order, which even Hermione had trouble doing sometimes.
Speaking of, Hermione was perched on the transfigured couch next to Harry, mindlessly turning pages. Seemingly going through the book at a pace Harry wasn't used to seeing even Hermione use. A brief look up at her face showed her gaze focused on something other than the supposedly-gripping book though, and, catching the sadness dwelling in their depths, Harry's green gaze followed the path hers trod.
Only finding Pansy and Ron at the end, Harry's brows drew together in a frown. Okay, so maybe he'd briefly suspected Ron and Hermione would end up together, but his brief foray into the Circle of Light had let him know that Hermione and Ron had never shared those kind of feelings. So why would Hermione be feeling sad if she wasn't even attracted to him? Something to ruminate over later at any rate.
Watching as the normally-graceful girl slumped back in her seat, a sigh falling from her lips as she returned her attention to her textbook, Harry decided to make use of his 'keeper's' distraction. Even though he knew she'd hate to be thought of as such, and the label made even him cringe, that was exactly what Hermione had become. And the constant surveillance and attention was getting on his nerves.
It had been three days since Draco had woken up in the hospital ward. Neville had been unharmed in his abduction, and he'd immediately insisted that his boyfriend teach him to better defend himself magically and physically. Despite protesting originally, Blaise soon acquiesced, and the two now spent almost every spare minute training together, and enjoying the chance to see each other more often.
Madame Pomfrey had been reinstated as nurse, and was almost fully recovered. She still got dizzy spells occasionally, and was now helped out in her daily work by another medi-witch, but other than that was perfectly safe to be around, and had absolutely no memory of the things that had led to her hospitalisation.
Draco's order of constant vigilance for Harry had been taken to heart by everyone, and Harry's 24/7 guard turned out to be Hermione - who, whilst logically best-suited for the task, had been strangely reluctant to take it on at first.
Now, Harry was actually physically itching from the tension. It felt like tiny ants were crawling under his skin and all the hairs on his arms stood on end, as the sensation put him distinctly on edge.
Easing himself off the couch, Harry gratefully noted nobody in the room had registered his slight movement before silently moving around the furniture, heading towards the door. Once in the empty corridor, Harry gave a rough shake, trying to shake away the creepy feeling of walls closing in, before drawing a deep lungful of air in an attempt to relax himself.
Heading off to the Astronomy tower to sit and try to shake the image of sparkling grey eyes from his thoughts, Harry was only halfway there when the sensation of eyes watching him overcame him. And those eyes definitely didn't feel grey.
Modulating his walk as best he could, Harry refrained from changing his destination, despite knowing how much more dangerous it would be to fight so high up. Instinct overpowered reasoning, and something in him urged him on higher and higher. Reaching the stone steps to the isolated tower, Harry climbed.
Eerie satisfaction seemed to flow up the stairs after him, and Harry allowed himself to speed up. Opening the door to the tower with a bang, he headed for the middle of the room and turned to face the door, which was swinging shut.
Harry had only just spread his legs slightly in preparation of a confrontation when a strange whooshing noise filled the small chamber, and something big rose up behind him, its odd-looking shadow on the stone floor sending a chill of premonition down his spine.
Chapter 29 : Something's got to give - part three
Something about being kept in a cage was making Harry antsy.
Maybe it was the unfeasible smallness of the cage, which rendered standing impossible, and caused him to hunch over even sat down. Or maybe it was the fact that there were people outside the cage, shadowy figures who were watching him as though he were some kind of exotic creature, and giving him an unpleasant idea of how animals at a zoo must feel.
Or maybe it was simply the bars of the cage, and the fact they represented his separation from freedom. Something every new-found instinct in Harry's body was clamouring for.
Shifting slightly in an attempt to relieve the crick in his back, Harry winced as his movement triggered off pangs of pain from the injuries he'd sustained from the stone monstrosity that had effectively 'grabbed' him in the tower. Blood trickled from a gash on his head, the red tinting his restored vision as though everything were awash with gore.
Rather apt, considering what Harry was going to do when he escaped. If he escaped.
Just as Harry was berating himself for doubting such a thing, one of the dark figures in the room decided to step forward.
Trailing cloak sweeping along the dust-free floor, the slight figure moved forward until they were close enough to reach through the bars and touch Harry, if they so chose. 'And if they did they'd be in for a shock', Harry thought as he clenched his sharpening teeth in anticipation, hidden behind the shielding coverage of his lips.
"Well? Are you satisfied with our services?"
The suddenness of the voice would have made Harry jump - if there were room for it. Thankfully the imposition of his bars kept him from that final humiliation.
Finding the voice unexpectedly familiar, Harry tilted his head to the side in curiosity. Green eyes unwittingly beginning to sparkle, and attracted unwanted attention.
"Although, now that he's here, I have to admit he seems almost too fine a prize for one such as you. Maybe it would be best for all if I kept him for my own means - afterall we have yet to receive your money…still time to break the bargain…"
A nervous voice sounded from the darker rim of the as-yet unseen room. "No!"
Recoiling as though slapped, the person's hood slipped down as they turned to direct an astonished glare at the person who'd spoken out of turn.
Seeing the material slide away in almost slow motion, Harry's enhanced vision drank in the gleaming russet locks as though they were lit by the brightest of lights, not the dank dimness of reality.
Smooth ivory skin flowed down from the top of their head, the perfect arch of their nose rising like the moon slowly lifting out of a still sea at sunset. Normally placid eyebrows were arched incredulously above the emotionless blue ovals that served as the windows to this person's soul. Soul-less.
Perfect, pink lips were formed into a cupid's bow of astonishment, and as they moved into a frown, Harry's own lips mouthed the name of his captor with a confusing array of emotions running through him; disappointment, hurt, shock, disgust and anguish to but mention a few.
"We had an agreement! You said yourself that you had no interest in what happens to him…there is no reason for you to go back on your word."
Stepping away from the others, who parted as though making way for a leper, yet another familiar figure made his way forward.
Recognising the acid green aura that preceded the person, Harry let out an involuntary gasp. Unfortunately this only seemed to please the Ravenclaw, as Ben's face creased with a very-white smile at the sign of recognition from his captive.
A petulant expression crossed Ginny's face, rendering her even more distant from the girl Harry had thought he knew.
"True, it makes no difference to our plans what happens to him - but I find myself remembering a certain instance where I was rejected by him, and it occurs to me - this is the perfect opportunity to correct that."
Sparing a scathing look at the spluttering Ravenclaw, Ginny allowed a minor concession. "You may have whatever is left."
For a minute it looked like the Ravenclaw was going to give in, if the way he hunched in on himself was any indication. But at the last second, a new voice rang out.
"Now, now, Ginny darling - a deal is a deal. And this one happens to be one I made, meaning you have no say in whether it gets broken or not."
Back-peddling frantically, Ginny's blue eyes widened innocently. "Of course…I apologise for my insubordination. Inadvertent though it may have been."
Slipping in the implication that she hadn't done anything wrong, even as she hastily backed away from the cage, seemed a bit contradictory to Harry. Afterall - if she hadn't done anything wrong, why was she so quick to move away?
This newcomer hadn't come from those in the shadows, but rather from a doorway - previously unnoticed by Harry - just to the right of his cage. Noting the subtle rustlings as everybody moved from slouching to practically at attention, Harry was rather interested to find out who was commanding such respect, and…yes, that was the acrid scent of fear he smelled.
Reaching Ben Sriften's side in three easy, almost languid steps, the figure slowly reached up and pulled down the hood of their cloak, revealing…Millicent Bulstrode.
Green eyes watched as that familiar pig-like face swept over the assembled congregation, obviously ensuring all attention was centred on herself before continuing. Green eyes followed her short, stubby hands, as they smoothed down her cloak with the imagined grace of someone three times thinner, and four times more polished. And it was green eyes that narrowed in anger as they took in the proprietary air with which she then leaned her chunky bulk against the cage.
But it was a pair of milky-white eyes that met Bulstrode's stare challengingly, when she finally deigned to look the 'prisoner' in the face.
Obviously taken aback at the sight, Bulstrode was nevertheless quick to brush it off, and continue with her 'tantalising' performance.
"We kept up our end of the bargain, and I hope you'll ignore the minor mishap with Ginny - she's a Weasley afterall - and keep to your end of the bargain. Your services, whenever, for whatever - agreed?"
Watching the dancing acid green which was now all Harry could see of Ben, he was amazed that the glowing green lights barely hesitated before bobbing in acquiescence. You'd have thought he'd ask for some more details than that!
"Good." The sound of a clap echoed in Harry's ears, making him shake his head sharply in annoyance of the harsh sound.
"What are you shaking your head for? In case you missed the point, you have been kidnapped - thus you have no say in the matter!"
Waiting for the muted clapping, and Bulstrode's laughter to die down, Harry welcomed the hot simmer of anger like a long-lost friend. When in reality he'd found it again the other day, when he'd seen Draco struck down by Lucius Malfoy.
"That's where you are wrong - I do have a say in the matter. And I say 'no'."
Silence greeted his words, and Harry watched as the different coloured lights all stilled as one - his statement obviously shocking them. Good. A dangerous smile tugged at the corners of his lips, and it was with the feeling of coming home that Harry surrendered himself to his veela half.
What occurred next was a blur to Harry. He recalled harsh laughter; snarls; screams - someone crying in terror. All about him whorls of colour sparked and shimmered, flaring and fading, coming nearer, then farther away. Finally it stopped.
The milky blindness slowly faded from his eyes, and a gasp tore from his hoarse throat.
Harry found himself standing in the middle of the room, bloody bodies littering the floor around him. Some had obviously tried to run away, and it was their blood that had sprayed up the walls to form a macabre art piece.
Looking behind him he saw the jagged remains of his cage - bars ripped in half, bent over double - as though some fierce creature had exploded out of it. Yet there was no sign of Ginny or Millicent Bulstrode. A whimpering form was still there though, and a closer examination showed it to be Ben Sriften - curled up in a foetal position, and clutching at his mangled privates.
Judging from the ripped flesh, still dripping copious amounts of blood, Harry felt it safe to say that nobody would ever have to fear an attack of that nature from the Ravenclaw, ever again.
A quick sniff of the air produced the metallic scent of something missing - the smell that resulted from use of a portkey. Making it highly likely whoever was controlling Bulstrode and her cohorts was aware by now that there was something 'different' about Harry. Great.
Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, Harry could already feel the burn from his expenditure of energy, and he didn't think the hunger would be satisfied with minor feedings this time. Maybe Draco would stop avoiding him long enough for a repeat of what happened in the bathroom…? Unlikely, but if he didn't, it looked like Harry would have to take Dumbledore up on his suggestion. Here's hoping Ron and the others never found out and decided to hate him for it.
Stalking over to the door, Harry found it opened out into a corridor in the dungeon. Praying he didn't get lost - the last thing he needed was to see Snape - Harry exited the room, the groaning forms within already far from his mind.
"These corridors are like a bloody maze - only the 'stick to the left' rule doesn't apply!"
Muttering angrily under his breath, a faint flicker of awe surfaced as he realised just how far the stone cage had dragged him, but he quickly squashed it down with more irritation.
Noticing his hands glowing faintly, Harry lifted one up for closer examination, entranced by the way it looked like his hand was almost translucent. If past experience was anything to go by, he had until his temperature started to fluctuate before he went completely schizo, and jumped anything, still…couldn't hurt to hurry up a pace.
Another three turns came and went, but still nothing familiar. Giving up on familiarity, Harry was about to take a left, when the sound of crying reached his enhanced ears.
About to ignore it, the sound held so much pain and despair in it, that he found himself turning back almost against his will.
Heading unerringly for the next door down, he pressed his body against the wall, so he'd be partially hidden when he opened the door, and he quickly unlocked it with the wand he'd re-acquired at some point in his rampage. Giving the door a gentle push, it swung open with an ominous creak. The crying stopped.
Peering round the doorframe, a sight met Harry's eyes that he would never forget.
The entire room was done up like an old-fashioned dungeon - with authentic chains, and instruments of torture hung up on the walls. In the centre of the room, immediately in sight once the door was open, stood a large, wooden monstrosity, whose purpose was immediately obvious - due to the fact that it was in use.
Three long wooden poles, were leaning against each other - joined at the top, and looking like something a kid had made in an attempt to make a pyramid. On each of the separate poles were two wooden boards, equal distances apart. Attached to the poles and boards were leather straps, obviously used to tie someone down with.
Attached to the pole nearest the door, was a young girl. A leather strap went from one side of her head to another - pinning her head to the pole. She'd been strapped, spread eagled to the boards - the top board held her arms, and the bottom one her legs. Yet another leather strap was wrapped around her waist, no doubt to keep her from moving.
She still had her clothes on - what was left of them - so Harry was optimistic she hadn't been raped. Judging from the cuts and burns littering her flesh, not to mention the old blood staining the floor beneath her, that wasn't much to be thankful for though.
Long brown hair hung limply over the pole, and hazel tear-glazed eyes pleaded with Harry to help her, or at the very least not hurt her.
Incapable of resisting that plea, Harry stepped into the empty room. Moving to stand by her head, he gently undid the leather strap around her head, passively noting the indentation and burn marks on her forehead - indicating she'd fought against the binding.
"It's okay, I'm not here to hurt you -I'll get you out of here. Would you like that? Could you tell me your name? Here, let me get these nasty straps off."
Keeping up a constant stream of soothing chatter, Harry pitched his voice lower, noticing the calming effect it had instantly. Her eyes maintained their wary look, but her body relaxed against he bindings, making it easier to undo them.
"I'm Dddiana. Please…ddon't let them…hurt me…"
Noticing the effort it took for her to eke out that much, Harry didn't ask her anything else. Instead he carried on reassuring her she'd be all right, that he was going to help her, and telling her how helpful she was being.
As he worked on the straps it occurred to Harry that with Zabini as her surname, it was highly likely she was a sister or cousin of Blaise's. Now Harry had someone to take her to for immediate help, and Blaise would likely be better at keeping her calm.
Finally she was free, and it seemed that whoever had been torturing her had also been doctoring her, as all of her more serious wounds had been treated with something to stop the bleeding, and then bandaged.
Glad she didn't need any emergency treatment before they set off, Harry gently lifted her into his arms, and vacated that foul room as quickly as possible.
Once back in the endless corridors, Harry enlisted his damsel in distress's help in finding his way to the rest of the castle, and from there, Draco. Making sure she rested her screamed-out throat, and his own rather sore one, Harry asked her to point which turns he should take, and she proved to be rather knowledgeable on the dungeon corridors.
Eventually they exited into the entrance hall of the castle, and Harry hurried to find Draco and co, praying Diana's captors wouldn't notice her absence immediately.
Chapter 30 : How many secrets are in your wallet?
Watching as Draco gently pulled the dorm room door shut, Harry couldn't shake the image of a crying Zabini comforting the little girl who'd turned out to be his younger sister.
A visit from a member of the Circle who specialised in healing - Lucy Goldfin, from Hufflepuff - and Diana Zabini was physically back to the shape she was before she was taken, but only time could heal the mental traumas she had suffered in her captivity.
Harry had found Draco and co as they were leaving the classroom they'd been in before he'd been caged, and it was with distant surprise that Harry realised only an hour, two at the most, had passed since he was last there. Strange to realise you could discover so much in such a short amount of time. Even stranger to think what you now knew wasn't portrayed on your face, for everyone to see.
Draco had leapt into action, herding everyone to his own rooms, seeing how he was a prefect and had a common room and bathroom all to himself. Getting Hermione to contact Lucy, the healer had arrived within minutes, the healing commencing soon after arrival.
Everyone had accepted Harry's babbled explanation of finding Diana down in the dungeons, and thankfully they'd then been too concerned with Diana's condition to think to question what he'd been doing down there in the first place. Another major concern for them was also the fact that Blaise hadn't known his sister had been taken - meaning they'd trained someone to act like Diana closely enough that Blaise had been tricked by polyjuice. This was not a good sign, given how close Blaise and Diana were, and it was only through sheer luck that Blaise never shared any secrets about the Circle with his sister.
Turning to face the anxious cluster of people filling his modest common room, Draco rubbed a hand through his blond hair before managing a wry smile at the sight they all made.
"She'll be fine. Right now, the best thing for Diana is to be with Blaise. Everything else can come after, okay? So, why don't you all head off to your own rooms? It's getting late." Looking briefly in Harry's direction, Draco's eyes momentarily paused, a foreign emotion flitting through them too fast for Harry to determine, before continuing around the rest of the group.
Various grumblings could be heard about being rushed off, but people gradually began leaking out the door - understanding that it might raise suspicions for them to all be grouped there together.
As Harry was about to make his own leave, giving one last, forlorn, glance at the closed bedroom door, he found his arm suddenly being held lightly by Draco. He hadn't even seen the other boy move, yet felt no urge to flinch in startlement. Probably because he needed to feed soon.
In any case, the area Draco was holding immediately flooded with the familiar tingling Harry now associated with feeding, as he automatically drained off excess sexual energy from the other boy. The light glow that had lightly encompassed his body slowly faded away, and Harry soon looked back to his reasonably ordinary self - luckily the glowing had been so slight none of the other's had picked up on it.
Confused by how quickly the glow had been satiated, Harry almost missed it when Draco spoke to him.
"Not you. You and me still need to go over the events of this evening."
Ignoring the uncomfortable urge to gulp like a nervous idiot, Harry obediently watched as his friends exited the room in cautious groups of two or three. Checking the coast was clear before they each slipped out, so as to avoid any curious Slytherins.
Eventually it was just him and Draco - the closed bedroom door completely soundproof, and masking any of the crying Harry thought to be going on within.
Watching Draco's movements with a veiled gaze, Harry slowed down his breathing and ignored his racing pulse. This was Draco he was with! There was no need to be so nervous. Still, sneaking a glance at Draco's angry expression, Harry decided it was probably wise to be slightly cautious.
Sitting down on one of Draco's armchairs, Harry realised his mistake a second too late, as he suddenly found himself hemmed in by Draco.
Propping his hands on the arms of the comfy chair, Draco slowly leaned in until Harry had no where else to look but at him. Taking a deep breath to control his temper, Draco steadfastly ignored the effect those wary green eyes were having on him.
"So…mind telling me what you were doing in the dungeons in the first place? You were gone far longer than it would take for you to just 'stumble across' Diana. I know this for a fact, as I noticed you were missing a whole hour before you came for help!"
Squirming in his seat, Harry tried to lie to Draco, but one sharp glance from those silvery eyes and he found himself spilling the whole story.
"…So I just happened across the room after I escaped. I heard her crying, and I went to see what was going on."
Managing a casual shrug, Harry downplayed the incident, and was quite pleased he'd managed to be vague over how he managed to escape from the cage. The fact that Draco was now giving him a highly suspicious look barely registered, as the stretched veela tried to analyse his newfound honesty with a clinical mind - something that was proving next to impossible at the moment, especially when his mind kept helpfully pointing out how nice and warm Draco felt, even from this distance.
"Okay, now my next question…"
Dragging his attention away from Draco's cloth-covered chest, Harry raised an inquisitive eyebrow at the hesitating blond.
Looking back at Harry, Draco's eyes glittered suspiciously.
"Why weren't you going to tell me that you'd been kidnapped? And why were you so…stupid! I mean, for crying out loud, Harry - sure, you killed Voldemort, but you know he still has followers around and they're still after you, and yet you deliberately snuck out of the room on your own! Were you trying to get yourself killed!"
Face twisting in anguish, Draco quickly dropped his eyes down to Harry's knees, but not before one lone tear trailed down his cheek. Flabbergasted, Harry froze, not sure how to handle this situation.
That Draco was scared for Harry's safety wasn't something the dark-haired boy had ever really thought about, even with their newfound truce. Harry had just assumed Draco's extra vigilance were a part of the boy that he normally kept covered up, or even because he felt obligated to protect the boy-wonder. To actually want to keep Harry from harm though…? No, that wasn't something he'd expected the blond to feel.
Tentatively resting his hand on Draco's shoulder, Harry could feel the tension radiating from the silent boy. Trying to figure out how to comfort the kneeling figure, Harry eventually resorted to how he'd act if it were Ron or Hermione crying over his actions.
Apologising; "I'm sorry, Draco. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Explaining; "I just felt it wasn't something that needed to be discussed - it happened, and…I'm fine! You know? I didn't get hurt or anything, and its over now. Besides, telling people what happened would only have upset people and made them more paranoid than they are already - which is the main reason I snuck away like I did."
Pausing for breath, Harry noted Draco was now looking at him - confused, but no longer crying.
"I'm not good with so much attention. And the constant company…I needed to get away, be on my own for a while. I know - it didn't turn out so well! But, even locked in a cage felt better than being guarded like some…sacred relic or something!"
Feeling his old feelings of frustration beginning to rise again, Harry quickly cut off his train of thought. The last thing he needed to do was lead Draco to believe he was going to wander off again - he'd probably end up hog-tied in a cupboard somewhere, with the entire circle guarding the entrance.
"So, anyway, I'm sorry…I didn't mean to get into trouble, and it won't happen again. No more wandering off alone for me!"
Still trying to treat Draco like he would Ron and Hermione, Harry reached forward and gave the still-silent boy a hug.
However, unlike with Ron and Hermione, their hugs never turned into a kiss.
Sitting bolt upright, with his eyes wide open, Harry wondered how the hell that happened. Feeling Draco's hands rise up and rest on his shoulders, Harry was tensed to pull away, until he felt Draco's lips moving gently against his own.
A stirring in Harry's mind sent a bolt of lust through his body, and he found himself relaxing into Draco's touch, mouth opening to receive Draco's dominating tongue. A low rumble of approval fed into Draco's mouth, even as Harry fought with beast inside of him.
Just as Harry was gaining ground over the urge to devour Draco, he felt one of the blond's hands lift to slide into his hair.
Draco's hands gently slid through Harry's hair, ruffling it slightly and tugging Harry closer. The beast now firmly in control, Harry moved on to Draco's neck. At the sweet sigh from the other boy, all precautions in Harry's head shut down, and he bit.
Understanding flashed through the child hero as soon as the blood touched his tongue, and he tore his mouth away from the pliant neck. The beast within him roaring its outrage.
Staring at Draco's expression of languorous contentment, Harry felt another jolt of attraction tear through him - not helped in the slightest by the fact that Draco's eyes had gone a very light grey, with a thread of gold running around their outer rim - a look Harry recognised from somewhere, and found highly sexy. The bemused blond was still too caught up in the kiss to realise he was staring at Harry with affection, something Harry knew hadn't occurred since they'd gone slightly further than a kiss.
Although the exact happenings were a bit blurry, due to Harry's 'condition' at the time, he was perfectly capable of remembering the difference between Draco when he'd first stumbled across Harry in the bathroom, and afterwards. The difference being the amount of emotion Draco had shown him. In fact, his reaction to Harry's reckless behaviour had to be the only time he'd shown him something other than lukewarm friendship.
Confusion running like a rampant rabbit through Harry's torn mind, he realised rather belatedly that Draco had overcome his befuddlement, and was looking at Harry with eyes that were once more a darker grey.
Staring right back at him, it took Harry a moment to find his voice.
"You're going to keep hiding from me?"
His tone of calm detachment was apparently obvious to Draco, given the number of slow blinks the other boy indulged in while he tried to figure out what to say, or how to react.
"Hide?" Honest puzzlement filled the grey eyes, and yet they remained the same, dark, colour.
"Ah, you've decided to go for the puzzled denial. Good choice by the way - but not good enough."
Frowning slightly in concentration, Harry slowly lifted his right hand. Focusing on the limb until it began to glow, he then reached out to touch a carefully-still Draco's cheek. Letting Draco feel a little of his hunger.
"The Light showed me many things. Death - yes. But so much more besides. It showed me the end…and it showed me you."
He let that sink in for a moment, then abruptly withdrew his hand - glow dimming down. "So tell me if you don't want this - but don't give me half of yourself, just because you don't think you should refuse me, or whatever crap you keep telling yourself! I'm done being played with."
Jumping to his feet, Draco tried to grab Harry as the other boy made his way to the door, but he was easily evaded.
"One thing you might want to think on, Draco - the Death Eaters know what I am now, and they have Ginny…who knows who else they have?"
Refusing to look back, Harry left the Slytherin's rooms, knowing for sure now that what Dumbledore had told him was true. Draco Malfoy - leader of the Circle of Light - was his mate. Blood didn't lie.
And so, by refusing to look back, Harry missed seeing the torn expression on his ex-rivals face…or the white-grey eyes which glinted with golden tears.
Chapter 31 : Shattered masks - part one
Idly tapping on his book, Ron smiled distractedly at his girlfriend as she exclaimed over something of interest she'd found, before running off to cross-reference it to another book.
Girlfriend. One of the many problems he was currently juggling with, Ron was torn between grinning like a buffoon and frowning in concern - which led to him smiling when expected, with a distracted air. Neither fully participating, nor fully excluding himself.
Pansy had noticed of course, she was far too clever to not have, but she understood, to some extent, what the problem was, and was content to let him work it through on his own.
He'd never anticipated having a girlfriend. As he had when he was a child, Ron had difficulty interacting with people his age. Sure, his mask of Ron Weasley - slightly dim, loyal, good fun - enabled him to blend in with others in school, but never actually gain any proper friends. It was different with Harry and Hermione though; they were both a lot older than their age as well, and even when he'd been playing Ron Weasley he'd still found it…easier around them.
When Ron had first approached Pansy he'd allowed his mask to slip, in order to prove to her he was who he said he was - he'd let her see Agent 09321, and now he had no idea what to do.
Even if his superiors approved his girlfriend, or, even better, allowed her entry to Cotsden herself, he'd be asking Pansy to live a triple life. She already held her Circle personality separate from her school persona, if she did join the society she'd have yet another manufactured facet to hide. And if she didn't, she'd still have to put up with him having different facets; pieces of himself he could show her in private, which he couldn't show in public.
Ignoring the personal problems for now though, Ron was having trouble with his mission.
New orders had asked he generate possible scenarios, now that; Voldemort was dead, Fudge was dead, Harry was half veela, and the Death Eaters already had a new leader.
Normally, that would be easy for someone like Ron to do - unfortunately, whilst the number of pivotal events that had occurred would normally provide an even more accurate picture of what was to come, the number of unknown elements had also increased. Rapidly, and in too short a space of time. This indicated detailed planning, and other than generating some rather dire events, Ron had eventually been forced to backtrack and try to map out the events which had led up to this moment.
Now his contact was running three minutes late, which for anyone else would be negligent, but for this person in particular was dire.
"09321. 09326 reporting."
Shifting his eyes to the right, Ron casually moved the book towards the middle of the desk in the same motion.
Opaque brown eyes met his own, questioning, gaze, and a sooty eyebrow lifted on smooth chocolate skin - enquiring how much time they had.
"Five minutes, so make it fast."
Chuckling slightly at the brusque tone, Dean Thomas nevertheless acceded to the orders of a higher ranking agent.
"New orders from head office have me making my own in-roads. At the moment I'm still in information gathering mode. Went into effect two days after you were given clearance. So far; Ginny, Seamus, Daffodil, Brian and Andrew from Gryffindor. Diana, Millicent, Avril, Harriet, Stephanie, and the two heavies, from Slytherin. I haven't managed to find any definite supporters in the other houses yet, although there are a lot of people who owe favours."
"That doesn't sound good."
Grimacing at Ron's over-simplification, Dean let his professional mask slip slightly, showing intelligence and true fear for the first time in the meeting.
"You've got that right. I was late because Seamus was asking questions. Not just about me - about all of you. Damnit, we need people of our own in that nest - instead they're practically weeding us out in our own houses, and the one spy the Order have is pregnant!"
"Huh?" Gaping for a minute, 09321 quickly shrugged off his persona, translating the gawping into helpful questions. "Is it only us who know that? You'd think Bill would choose a better time for fatherhood! When you report to Cotsden tell them I recommend all our sleepers be woken. From the sounds of it we'll need them."
"Yeah, that was my own recommendation, but I'll be sure to add your seal of approval to it."
Rubbing a hand across his jaw, Dean darted a sloe-eyed glance down the aisles, able to make out his friend and co-spy's new girlfriend making her way back. Five minutes almost up.
"As for knowing - so far even 'mum'-to-be is unaware, merely suspicious. Agents' 04832 and 05260 in the Order are aware of course, but they have no orders to interfere, and are instead focused on keeping track of the Order's actions and information - no clearance to reveal themselves as of yet, due to Dumbledore's reticence even with his true agents. I'll be using Granger as my contact point, and use her to help run interference against Seamus. Other than her, my status will be secret. Stop tying your mind in riddles, musing about your girlfriend - enjoy it for what it is now, and make damn sure it doesn't interfere with your mission,"
"And I really hope your brain managed to come up with something Cotsden can use, otherwise we may all die."
Mumbling the last under his breath, Dean swiftly rose from his seat - casually sliding the book Ron had been playing with earlier into his hand - and was gone from sight mere moments before Pansy stepped into view.
Eagerly waving her find at her boyfriend, Pansy was quick to accept his offer of a lap to sit on, and immediately launched into an explanation of why it was important to have a muggle knowledge of physics. Giggling, when Ron suddenly tightened his arms around her waist and brushed a kiss against her neck.
Chapter 32 : Shattered masks - part two
The room was dark. Sparse, but what furnishings it had were obviously expensive. Dark walnut wood, and rich reds with muted greens, provided the theme of the room.
Flickering torches in sconces on the walls provided the only illumination, and as a result shadows were rife throughout the chamber.
A large bed took priority in the room, positioned dead centre, and that which first drew the eye upon entry - a four poster, with billowing sheets of material falling in drapes from the top: reminiscent of an older design. Rumpled black sheets resembled inky water, and continued the room's theme of slinky, sinuous shadows.
Amongst the covers lay a young girl. The ivory perfection of her skin stood out in contrast to the sheets, giving her the appearance of bleached bone. Smooth, adolescent limbs were sprawled shamelessly in slumber, and this pleased him.
Going to the bed, he was intent on rewarding her for the picture she made…until he found something that spoiled it.
Her face, slack in slumber; cruel blue eyes hidden by thick lashes, and perfect pink lips no longer pulled into a practised pout… - ruined!
Marring her perfection, an angry red wound, running from her left eyebrow to end, just to the right of that normally-so-perfect mouth. The blatant evidence of something, of someone, daring to scar…spoil…desecrate that which was his…
The anger boiled up in him as it always did.
"It was Potter, my Lord. We were lucky to escape with our lives. The others were not."
The hasty voice reminded him of the outer world, and - calming the trembling mirrors with but a thought - he turned to assess the young worshipper's body with a critical eye. "You are unharmed."
A shiver racked her body once before she brought herself under control. She had done nothing worthy of punishment - yet. Not that that had ever saved her from it before.
"He recognised her. It must have enraged him; with the others he went to kill…her he intended to destroy. His distraction enabled me to activate the portkey, but also cost us this wound. - It can be healed, my Lord."
Dismissing the mere acolyte from his mind, he returned to her side. Avoiding the harsh mark, his gaze traced the slender, half-formed, lines of her body with a kind of reverence. This was his. To touch, to mark…and, yes, to heal.
Ginny was roused with a gentle touch, and her lips immediately formed her practised, beautific, smile. The fact that it never reached her eyes didn't matter to him. It was enough.
As her dark red hair blended further with the black of the sheets, he leaned over her - bending to whisper in her ear. As he always did.
"You're grateful, aren't you, Ginny? He couldn't save you, now, could he, hmm? Couldn't give you what I have?"
Lean white hands traced her flesh, searching for any more imperfections through touch alone. He liked to touch his possessions.
"You were sooo clever, thinking up a way for us both to survive. Who'd have thought - me, feeding off of my future self, would not only give me the power I needed to come back, it would also give me the power and knowledge to avoid falling into the same trap Voldemort did…and give me you as well."
Green eyes glinted maliciously, and a velvet grin crossed his face, as Tom Riddle taunted his mental image of Harry bloody Potter. Uncaring who saw or heard what he said. Afterall - he was powerful enough that nobody could do or say anything against him. More powerful than he'd ever imagined.
"He was too late, that precious hero. You gave up thoughts of rescue and turned to survival - all thanks to him!"
Hesitating at the foreign feeling of being interrupted mid-rant, Tom absently noted the strained feeling of contained magic weighing oppressively in the air, as the cloaking field he'd had Malfoy create struggled to hide the magic welling due to his anger.
The hiss was barely recognisable as a civilised question, and Millicent immediately cursed her runaway tongue. Now she could only hope her information was enough to distract him.
"Potter isn't human anymore. Before he attacked us his eyes went white…and he growled…and, well, his magic…he just didn't feel human anymore. He tore through the cage like it was paper!"
"Really?" Tom's sitting up abruptly gifted Millicent with a view of the Weaslette once more.
Gasping for breath, the naked girl's face was once more flawless - courtesy of the insane Lord who'd claimed her as his own - and was yet another reason why Millicent hated her, as if having her Lord's favour wasn't enough, the damn girl had so enamoured the Dark Lord that he wanted to make her his Lady. And legally as well! The Dark Lord was trying to destroy the wizarding world and create a new order, and yet he was still waiting 'til the Weaslette was old enough to marry him!
Ignoring the way the sight of those bared limbs made her own breath hitch in her chest, Millicent refused to acknowledge she herself could see the allure of the girl, and determinedly turned her attention back to the elegant creature perched on the edge of the massive bed.
Long fingered hands toyed absently with the open throat of his black shirt, and the tailored black trousers showed the true origin of his feelings for the Death Eater in his bed.
"Well, that should certainly prove interesting."
Standing, Tom inspected Ginny's renewed looks with the air of an artist. Sly smile voiced his approval, and he quickly began shedding his clothes - eager to reaffirm her ties to him.
Already half-forgetting about Millicent Bulstrode, he absently called over his bare shoulder to her.
"Inform the others that we attack Hogwarts in two days. The Ministry is in complete disarray thanks to Fudge's death, and now is the time to put the Order in disarray with Dumbledore's death. Put Lucius in charge of the main assault - he may finish what he started with his son last time, and I'll deal with the Potter brat once and for all. It should be good fun."
Bowing her head in an unseen gesture of obedience, Millicent headed for the door, doing her damnedest to pretend she had no clue what they were doing on the bed behind her.
As soon as the solid wood door clicked shut, Ginny let loose the moan that had been building in her throat. Chuckling slightly at the sign of her continuing modesty, Tom trailed his hands down her feather-soft skin, intent on eliciting more of the grudgingly-given sounds of appreciation.
Sensing that his Lady was reaching the end, he hurried up the pace - all attention narrowing down to the person he was with. The movements she made, the way her cheeks flushed with blood and her cold skin heated with passion. Most of all though, he delighted in the way her determined blue eyes clouded over - a true sign that he had power over her here as well.
As soon as she began arching up, crying out her release, he bore down on her. Sinking his retractable fangs into the delicate skin of her neck. Injecting his particular poison into her blood, soon her cries of satisfaction were transformed into screams of pain.
Letting her body writhe in pain - her own nails inflicting damage on her frail body - Tom withdrew and settled down to watch as the agony morphed her beauty into something beyond that. Brought her cold shell to life in a way no amount of pleasure ever could.
As the pain ebbed, Ginny calmed once more, the remainder of her orgasm taking the edge off and making her eyes close in languorous contentment.
Idly licking one of his fangs clean of blood, Tom Riddle allowed himself to feel some satisfaction - afterall; the ultimate way of controlling someone may be through pain, but, in order to have a true consort, you needed to be able to balance it out with pleasure. So that, eventually, your chosen one came to crave the combination only you can provide. And that, was the work of a true artist.
Chapter 33 : Danger Rising
Following his instinct for information - that which had first brought him to Cotsden's attention - Dean Thomas had been spending the last couple of days keeping a very close eye on Sirius and Remus. Something which was actually quite hard to do since both were currently hiding around the school, and he wasn't supposed to even know about their presence there.
Unfortunately, the information Dean had been able to give his superiors - coupled with Ron's own estimations and recommendations - hadn't yielded any good news. Cotsden was unsurprised, and had even gone so far as to admit it had been anticipating something of the sort, so, with this further support, it had put all agents on alert and made them all activate their tracking signals.
'Accidentally' bumping into Hermione a few times per day, Dean had imparted as much information as he could to the brainbox - knowing that it would be enough to make her suspicious about his own allegiances, and sources.
Which was how, after spying on Sirius and Remus for a while, Dean found himself wondering if it was time to break the news to Hermione.
Just as he was about to go though, something interesting finally happened.
"…So, you thought I was interested in Snape…?" Clearly Remus' voice.
"Well, yeah. I mean…you're always sticking up for him, and I just thought…"
"Wrong! You obviously didn't think. I am not, nor have ever been, interested in Severus. He's in a relationship with Bill, for crying out loud - he's pregnant, you imbecile!"
Ah. So somebody had apparently figured it out. 'Bout time.
"Wha…? Why wasn't he taking precautions…Hey! - you didn't know he was pregnant anymore than I did, you accused me of doing something to him, remember?"
Dean heard an exasperated sigh come from Remus, but it was the following 'thud' and abrupt silence that then fell which triggered the radar on Dean's spy-sensor like a red, blaring, siren. More concerned for the moment that something bad may have befallen them, than about his cover, Dean shifted from his position against the wall - again, noting the faint tingle of castle magic that indicated a recent change had been made to the castle structure.
Peeking through a gap in the door to the room he'd finally tracked the two down to, Dean paused a moment. Blinked. Blushed. And hastily backed away from the door.
Okay, yep, they've figured out they like each other then. Good.
Deciding that nothing major was going to happen with those two anytime soon - other than stuff Dean definitely didn't need to know about - he quickly made his way to Gryffindor tower to find Hermione.
Only one more turn away from his destination, the dark-skinned boy turned a corner and almost fell over an ex-fakefriend. 'Ex' because he was now a Death Eater, and 'fakefriend' because Dean, unlike Ron, was more interested in his position in Cotsden than making school friends.
"Hey, Seamus - what are you doing here?"
Allowing a slight frown to crease his normally-ambivalent face, Dean easily left the persona of 09326 behind, and switched gears to that of a friendly acquaintance. The greeting and question perfectly phrased to suit such a mask.
"Just walking. Where've you been, Dean? You've been around a lot less than normal…I miss us hanging out together."
The persistent tone in Seamus' voice, coupled with the hard light in his eyes alerted Dean to the fact that something was wrong. Either the Death Eaters had been ordered to move, in which case an attack was imminent, or Seamus had somehow figured out what Dean was, or thought he'd figured out what Dean was - any of which meant that the other boy was now spoiling for a fight of some kind.
"I've been working on something that's very important to me, that's all. And, actually, it seems to finally be coming together. I should be seeing some definition results soon." Taking some satisfaction in the abrupt unease that flashed through the red-head's eyes at the way he phrased that, Dean decided it would be worth scaring the paranoid Death Eater a bit more.
"I wasn't going to tell anyone, but…given how close it is to coming together…I'm trying to get Hermione to go out with me."
Pretending to take Seamus' relief as support, he continued - laughing lightly to further dispel the other boy's worry.
"Yeah, I know - it seems impossible, doesn't it? But I've been working harder lately, spending more time with her, talking with her about stuff. I'm just on my way up to ask. I think she might actually say yes. Say, do you know if she is up there? Otherwise I'll have to go trailing around the school looking for her, and I might wimp out by then!"
"Uh, yeah…yeah, she's right up there. Reading. I'll let you get to it then, but - remember Dean, don't be a stranger!"
Hearing the minute warning, Dean plastered a friendly smile to his face and turned to casually continue on his way. As soon as he deemed Seamus was far enough away though, he started flat-out running.
Pounding up the stairs, uncaring of the noise he was making, Dean barely spared the thought to be glad no-one else was about. Gasping out the password, he helped the portrait to open, then bolted to the fireplace - skidding to a stop at Hermione's feet.
Looking up from her book at the gasping person who'd just raced over to her, Hermione's expression instantly morphed from enjoyment to that of worry.
Jumping up, the brainy girl immediately tried to get him to sit down, asking what was wrong, and did he need water?
"Hermione." Stopping her talk with a firm word, Dean carefully put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him.
"The Death Eaters are scrambling…there's going to be an attack on Hogwarts. Now! I'm with Cotsden - Ron can verify that - and I need to contact my superiors. Whilst I'm doing that, I strongly suggest you inform your own people."
Covering the hands on her shoulders with her own, Hermione didn't seem aware of her action as she put her fast brain to use processing the deluge of information. Studying her down-turned face for a clue, Dean waited as patiently as he dared for her to decide on her course of action, but was very aware of the quick passage of time.
"How do you know?"
Deep brown eyes snapped up to meet his, asking for his own verification of who he was, as well as information relevant to the immediate crisis.
Smiling slightly, Dean didn't bother hiding the wry expression from her. Afterall, she had, in effect, just asked to be introduced to Cotsden agent 09326, and for that Dean needed to drop his mask.
"Seamus. One of the few Death Eaters in Gryffindor, I was just witness to him going somewhere in an uncharacteristic hurry. In short conversation with him he appeared anxious, suspicious and eager. I therefore drew the conclusion he had either become aware of my own standing, or there was an attack imminent. He did not call me on my status as an agent, therefore I believe it would be prudent for us to proceed as though an attack were pending. Better safe than sorry and all that."
Smiling slightly in reply, Hermione appeared to relax briefly, before snapping back into efficient-mode.
Moving back to the chair she'd been sat on before he'd entered, Dean watched, confused, as she reached out with one hand and delicately touched the cover of the book.
For a minute he was worried she'd snapped, but, as a dusky pink glow began to emanate from her hand where it touched the book, Dean realised he was finally witnessing a member of the Circle using their power. Though, what kind of power you could have associated with a book, he couldn't work out.
"There," A brief, satisfied, look darted across her focused face, before Hermione sobered once more. "I just alerted as many members of the Circle as I could reach. They will ensure the message is passed along. Draco wants you to come with me to meet him, and once all the bases have been covered you can contact your superiors. Our priority right now is to secure the school as much as possible."
Acceding to her demand, Dean mentally acknowledged the fact that the delay in contacting his own superiors would be unacceptable, were it not for the fact that he knew she was manipulating it in such a way that action could be taken quickly, and his claims verified by Ron in the process.
Chapter 34 : Stone, a prison maketh
"…Remember; once the spell is cast, only true Death Eaters will be able to leave the castle, so if your prey runs - don't be a fool and lower your guard to chase it, just let it run as far as it can, then go and fetch it."
The strident voice of Lucius Malfoy caused several of the cloaked Death Eaters to tremble slightly. Obvious amateurs, since at any other time, such a sign of weakness would have drawn the man's attention like a vulture to death. Luckily for those few, Lucius was currently occupied with thoughts of family honour and revenge.
That son of his would soon pay the price for being a freak, and daring to lie about it to him - and as for Harry Potter, the nerve of the boy for stopping Lucius from killing his son, well…the boy was lucky Tom wanted to take care of him personally. Still, if the boy somehow managed to escape his Lord again, Lucius would take extreme pleasure in rectifying that - nevermind the punishment he might face afterwards for depriving his Lord of the chance.
Gesturing to a number of Death Eaters to the right, the head of the Malfoy family watched impassively as they obediently peeled off from the rest. Merlin, but he loved the feeling of power he'd had since his Lord had delegated more responsibility to his most loyal follower!
"You lot are to cast, anchor and protect the spell," Nodding to another portion of Death Eaters, he quickly issued the rest of the orders. "All of you have to take care of anybody in the House room's; peel off amongst yourselves and search each House. Once that is done you are to patrol the corridors, and search out any other students or teachers."
"The rest of us will take the Great Hall, where everyone, barring our younger Death Eaters, will be readying for dinner. Everyone is to be destroyed. I will personally deal with Draco and the Headmaster. The Potter brat is our Lord's - everyone else is free game. But! No playing with them - our aim is to be fast and deadly, no-one is to survive. Understood?"
Silent nods were issued, with a few eager ones calling out agreement, only to be hastily silenced by their companions.
"Good." Nodding his satisfaction, Lucius looked over to where his Lord was standing, with his future 'Lady' by his side.
Feeling a slight shiver of his own at Ginny Weasley's cold blue eyes raking him from head to toe, as his Lord gave his own, approving, nod, Lucius hastily decided he was going to have to get in the 'Lady's' good books before she truly rose up in the ranks - otherwise it looked highly likely that his own recent rise in status would be taken away.
With barely a hushed murmur, the cowled group of killers began their descent on Hogwarts. Moving out from the cover of the forbidden forest like a swarm of black ants.
Luckily, the way around the castle's wards had been discovered early on - through a favour one of the Death Eater students had managed to bargain out of a brainy Ravenclaw. In exchange for the chasing-cage spell they had recently developed, the Death Eater had gained the use of the Ravenclaw's impressive brain in figuring out the wards. As it turned out the boy had seen a similar ward before, and the way around it was to have someone who was accepted by the ward hold onto the person who wasn't accepted, and pass through the ward together.
Once that had been done, the other person was accepted by the wards and able to pass through them whenever they wanted.
Of course, as soon as that had been known, the Dark Lord had had the Death Eater students take all of the Death Eaters' through the wards with them. By doing this over the course of a week, in small groups, it had been incredibly easy to hide the activity - and meant they didn't have the wards to worry about for the main attack.
Grimacing slightly at the misty rain that had begun to fall, Lucius tried to ignore the fact that his cloak was now getting damp, and just hoped the whole 'creep forward-stop-creep forward' method of movement would get them to the castle fast enough that he could avoid getting his shoes muddy.
The main door to the castle opened soundlessly, and the trio of scouts sent ahead soon returned and motioned that the entry was clear.
Once inside the echoing entry hall, Lucius did his best to ignore the feeling of awe and envy he always associated with Hogwarts, with its walls which practically vibrated with magic. Afterall - if all went to plan, soon Lucius would be living in Hogwarts himself and bending that innate magic to his own will - a fitting reward for exemplary service Tom Riddle had decided, and the fact that it was Lucius' innermost desire didn't hurt any either.
Standing in the centre of the hallway, the pivotal spell-casters began a guttural chant: practised flicks of their wands interspersed with the words in a, seemingly random, pattern.
Almost immediately the spell began to take effect - a silent upheaval from outside made the air practically vibrate with pressure, and - looking out the still-open door - the Dark Lord was satisfied to see a huge stone wall rise up and block everything from view. Soon the entire castle was encased in a stone cage, its giant grasp causing everything, from windows to cracks in the walls, being blocked. No way in, and no way out…unless you happened to be a bad guy.
Knowing how important it was that the spell be replenished on a regular basis, due to how large a thing it was covering, several of the Death Eaters circled the spell-casters and stood guard. Ensuring no tampering could be done to the original spell.
Next to peel off was the group of Death Eaters the elder Malfoy had singled out earlier. Drifting like black wraiths they slid out of sight; up the stairs, down to the dungeons, and around the branching corridors - seeking out the different houses and silencing anybody they might find.
Steadily the main group headed for the ultimate target of the Great Hall - in no hurry, since no one knew what was about to happen. Several latecomers were dispatched easily. No need for wands yet, when a quick grasp and twist dealt with them easily enough. These were the runts; they wanted to conserve their energy for the Professors.
Grabbing for the cleverest student they'd run into so far: one who actually knew enough to run - Lucius took great pleasure in throttling her neck. Watching with hungry eyes as her face turned a mottled purple and she tried to claw his hands off her, Lucius felt the same thrill of adrenaline he always did upon committing violent acts. However, the girl suddenly stopped fighting for breath and appeared to focus on something else.
Angry at her seeming dismissal of his actions and her imminent death, Lucius gave her a harsh shake. Rolling her brown eyes back in his direction, the girl almost appeared amused for a moment, and the Death Eater watched in bewilderment as her dull brown eyes suddenly froze over.
Lucius realised a couple of minutes later that they hadn't in fact frozen over - that instead they had rapidly changed to a frosty light blue colour - but he was too stunned to move, and could only stand there, staring, as the girl's hands suddenly turned into razor-sharp claws and tore chunks out of his own, pristine, hands.
Loosening his hold in pain, but managing not to cry out, Lucius registered his Lord's angry command for him to kill the girl and reacted to it - but was too slow to prevent the girl from letting loose a loud howl in the brief moment that her throat was free.
As the girl's body convulsed one last time, Lucius hastily yanked his dagger out of her stomach and wiped the blood off on her uniform. Darting a hesitant gaze in Tom's direction, Lucius was unsurprised to see an expression of cold fury on the man's face. What did surprise him was the lack of immediate punishment…then again, now really wasn't the time for Tom to lose any of his troops, especially since their arrival had just been so obviously announced.
Chapter 35 : Facing Fears - part one
As the howl began to fade, Draco moved from his frozen position by the fireplace. Recognising the pain, rage, and half-stifled 'fuck-you' attitude in-laid into the sound, the Circle leader cursed at losing such a talented member.
"Dana, can you locate where Sabre was just now?"
Looking up from the chest she was currently rifling through, a girl with shocking blue hair and dark brown eyes nodded in response. Abandoning her current task immediately, Dana set herself aside from the piece of storage and assumed a cross-legged position on the floor.
Brown eyes turned white, and her piercings glinted slightly in the dim lighting of Draco's common room, as the Gryffindor searched for Sabre's location immediately before her death.
"Next to the landscape painting of Harbour Point - five corridors from the Great Hall."
"Right, looks like we've run out of time to prepare." Moving over to the couch, Draco gestured for all the Circle members gathered to join him.
"Lucy; as head healer it's your job to organise and prepare those who can't fight to look after any injured. Stay hidden - we want to avoid as many injuries and fatalities as possible."
Nodding her understanding, the short, brown-haired girl studied the floor with her eyes, and clutched at her own arms briefly, as if chilled.
Next was Blaise. "Send out all the fighters now, and use Hermione or one of the others' to alert those that are already in the Great Hall - just in case Sabre's death scream wasn't enough."
"Pansy…" Shaking his head slightly, Draco sighed and moved away from the couch. The other Circle members accepted that the two main points had been dealt with and moved away to do their jobs; fight and heal.
Coming to a halt in front of the stubborn blond, Draco rested his hands on her shoulders and let her see for a moment how worn down he really was - eyes lightening to an odd silvery-blue. "I know you want to help, Panse. But, honestly, the most you can do is interrogate the Death Eaters we come across. I'm willing to let you do that, and help us pinpoint where exactly they are - but when it comes to fighting, you must, must back away. If any come after you, use your powers of persuasion to distract them and retreat! Understood?"
Darting a reluctant look at his face, her blue eyes closed briefly in minor defeat as she nibbled slightly at her lips.
"Okay - but I want you to know I'm only agreeing so I don't put any extra stress on you, and I disagree with your orders."
"Agreed." Draco allowed a wry smile to quirk his lips. "You disagree with my orders, now scram."
As soon as the bubbly Slytherin had merged with her fellow Circle members, the blonde-haired leader turned to the most mysterious pair of spies he'd ever met…which was saying something.
"What do you make of the situation?"
Sharing an unreadable glance with his equally inscrutable colleague, Ron Weasley, or, 09321, as he'd introduced himself, appeared to be searching for the right words.
"This scenario was one of the approximations I sent my superiors. I managed to generate this specific approximation following the belief that Voldemort's replacement had been planning to replace Voldemort for a long time. That he was an unknown degree more powerful than the Dark Lord ever was. And that he is actually more aware of the placement of the players in this game than Dumbledore is…"
"Basically," Dean interrupted smoothly - the facade he'd worn throughout the years dropping away to reveal the dryly sarcastic person which lurked beneath. "What Ron here is saying, is that this is bad news, and we could, very possibly, be extremely screwed."
As Ron made a noise of disagreement, Dean quickly continued.
"Oh yeah, but don't worry - because Ron also believes your Circle's degree of power is unknown to this newcomer, and he is still unaware of the fact that Cotsden is still a player - much less that it has any active members in Hogwarts."
Wrestling the analysis from Dean, Ron finished as positively as he could under the circumstances.
"Therefore, whilst the new bad guy is more powerful than the last, and may be justified in the confidence with which he is now attacking us head-on - he is still underestimating our own power, and, if handled carefully, we may be able to turn this attack into an ambush on him - and kill him."
"Right." Eyeing them both dubiously for a moment, another flare of pain in his head reminded Draco that lives were at stake.
"Okay, Ron, I would really appreciate it if you'd lend your strategic skills to Blaise - you can stay out of the fighting as much as possible if you wish, although any input in that direction would also be appreciated, but it would really help if you'd help him to organise the troops - and free him up to kill more 'bad guys' as well."
"Sure - that is what I'm here for after all. Dean here can probably help more in the area of searching out Death Eaters and possible escape routes, as that's more his area of expertise."
"Great you two, that would really help. I have to go…"
"…find Harry, yes, we know."
Blinking over at the two who'd just spoken in synchrony, Draco didn't bother trying to hide the unnerved expression on his face. And, mumbling about insane spies who saw too much, he quickly made his way across the room to where the dark-headed boy in question was organising bandages and medicine into the rucksacks that had been turned into medical kits, with the intent Hermione working at his side.
A quick exchange of glances, and Hermione was on her feet, moving away with a murmured excuse that she was needed elsewhere - leaving Harry staring after her with an amused look on his face, before turning to face Draco.
"You know, for a spy, she's really not very good at being subtle."
"Only when she's around people she knows she can trust." Seeing the pleased flush that appeared on Harry's cheeks, Draco wondered over how quickly a situation could go awkward.
Remembering the last time he and Harry had been on their own, and the abrupt way in which the other boy had departed, Draco swore to himself he would avoid that landmine for the moment.
"Before we go and help the others in taking out the Death Eaters on the fringes, there's something which I and another believe you have a right to know." Harry's green eyes darted up to look at him, and the spread of colour on his skin disappeared as his attention was sufficiently diverted elsewhere.
"Now, bearing in mind this information is classified in the extreme, I'm hoping you won't get too mad about it."
Swallowing briefly, Draco momentarily debated the wisdom of dropping a bombshell this big on Harry right now, but a golden pulse in his head prompted him on. "You already know your Godfather made it back from behind the veil, and you were fobbed off with the same story Dumbledore told everyone - that he didn't die, he just wandered around for a few days trying to find the exit,"
"That's a lie. Your Godfather did visit the 'land of the dead', or whatever you want to call it - but, because it wasn't a proper death, so to speak, he was able to teleport out of there. Dumbledore is aware of Sirius' ability to teleport, but he is unaware of where this ability comes from. Sirius told him it was genetic - which was also a lie. A lie he told on my orders."
Bracing himself, Draco forced himself to look Harry in the eye and tell him the plain truth. "Your Godfather is a member of the Circle, and, as with all adult members, I have hidden his true allegiances from Dumbledore so that he, along with everyone else, believes Circle members can only be children, and therefore misjudges the Circle's influence."
Gradually the full-blown laughter died down, and the 'boy-who-lived' grabbed Draco by the wrist to drag him towards the entrance. Apparently having deemed that enough time had been wasted on such a petty thing as 'coming clean'.
"Draco, when I was accepted by the Circle I told you I'd seen 'death'. And I did - but that's not all I saw. I also said I saw you - and I did. But, again, that's not all I saw. I also saw every member of the Circle. I saw their powers, their feelings for others…so much."
Frowning briefly, Harry's green eyes drifted away from the boy in his grasp, focusing on something in the distance.
"Too much…" Abruptly remembering his destination, he continued talking. "I already know about Sirius; what he is, how he feels for Remus, and most important of all - how loyal he is to you. So, you need to stop acting like you're about to break my heart and focus more on what actually needs doing."
So saying, Harry suddenly pushed Draco forward.
Hitting something fleshy and bouncing back off it, Draco looked up to see the black, faceless, head of a Death Eater.
Reacting with the lightening reflexes which had helped him gain the status of leader of the Circle, Draco kicked out with his foot, taking the Death Eater even more off-guard than his running into him had. Then, turning to the side, Draco whipped out a knife from the sheaf on his back and lunged forward - taking the bastard out with one stab.
Leaving the body in the middle of the corridor, Draco finally took note of where they were, and was rather surprised to note they were no-where near where the main battle would take place, and that they'd actually come quite a distance already.
The boy-wonder stepped lightly up to his side, and then carried on past, leaving Draco to gape at his back.
Darting a look back, Draco saw two more motionless figures who Harry had obviously dealt with, and he also realised he had no idea where they were going, so hurried to catch up with the infuriating person in front of him.
"Where, exactly, are we going?"
An amused look was his immediate answer, but Draco failed to see the humour in the situation - especially as another throbbing stab took hold of his head, the sharper pain letting him know more of his people were down.
As Draco let out a small cry at the pain and bent over slightly, Harry immediately came to a stop and placed a soothing hand on his back - instantly realising what was wrong.
"I'm sorry - I forgot about your connection to them!" One look at Harry's remorseful face and Draco knew the other boy meant it. "Given their method of infiltrating Hogwarts, it is highly likely they have come up with a way to keep people from escaping the castle. The most likely place for such a spell to be wrought would, ideally, be the exact centre of Hogwarts - but, the next best place is the entrance. If Dean is to be successful in finding any escape routes, they will need to be freed up first, and to do that we need to go and take out the Death Eaters who are casting the spell."
"Agreed - but such a task is more fitting of a small group of my people. We're needed at the main figh…How did you know what Dean was doing?"
"Umm…" Looking suddenly sheepish, Harry waved a vague hand in the direction of his head. "Good hearing."
"Right." Letting it go for the moment, Draco ducked out of the way as Harry quickly snapped the neck of another Death Eater, and then they resumed walking.
"I'd suggest an alternative to your original, single-minded, plan."
"Yes - single-minded. Why don't we first find where this spell is being cast from - if indeed there is such a one - and then, once we know where it is. we can go to the Great Hall and send some of my people back to handle it, and take their place in the fighting. How does that sound - any better?"
Growling lightly, Harry began to walk faster. "Yes, fine! There's no need to rub in your 'superior' planning skills." Mumbling under his breath, "Show-off."
Smiling at how riled up he'd managed to get the young man, Draco calmly shoved his elbow back into the stomach of a 'stealthy' Death Eater - following it up with a swift knife through the throat - before continuing after the grumpy half-veela.
Afterall, given how worked-up Harry had left Draco a couple of days ago, turnabout was fair play - and now that Draco knew how Harry felt about him, he intended to get some of his own back.
Chapter 36 : Another puzzle, another piece
Miles and miles of grey stone. That was all Dean had seen for a while now. Well, that and a few cobwebs - no spiders though, oddly enough.
Shivering as yet another damp breeze washed over him, the Cotsden agent shot another glance at his companions.
Members of the Circle of Light whose powers either lent themselves to healing, or just weren't suited for fighting. Boys and girls of a variety of ages, from all the different houses, and yet all of them were still young enough to be considered children. All marching along at a cautious, yet hurried, pace; rucksacks filled with medicine and as much food as could be found, hastily slung over their backs.
The weary expressions on their faces aged them greatly, and worried the normally-sarcastic boy. Checking to see where Hermione had got to, Dean saw she'd gotten a bit ahead of him and quickened his speed to catch up.
Drawing level with her, he noted the grave cast to her features, and, from the way she insisted on marching ahead of the young boy called Martin - whose sole power appeared to be the ability to generate balls of light in his hands - Dean drew the conclusion that she'd slipped into ferocious 'mother' mode, and was fully prepared to die, or kill, for them.
"Is there an actual destination in mind, or are we just trying to get distance right now? Because, whilst I agree the dungeons have lots of escape routes in them, you seem pretty determined to have bypassed them all, and the others appear to be tiring already…which isn't a good thing."
Jerking her gaze to the left, Hermione appeared momentarily surprised to see him there, and Dean knew she'd been concentrating on whether anyone was coming from the front.
"We set up some safe places a while ago." Pausing as if internally debating something, Hermione then continued. "Draco became aware of the possibility of a frontal attack a while ago, and determined what actions we should take in such an event."
Brown eyes ran over him assessingly, and Dean automatically dropped any 'Dean' mannerisms he was still holding onto - letting her see all of his cynicism and intelligence.
"You're probably aware of this already, but Draco's ability is one of the more diverse of our kind's. He can use it in the form of pure power, which makes him an even stronger fighter than he is without it, and he can also use it to piece clues together. Innocuous bits of information are slowly gathered in his head, and then his power fits it all together - often filling in some of the gaps in order to create a complete picture,"
Pausing as she ran into a cobweb, Dean waited patiently as she pulled it off her face and then glanced round to check nobody else was listening - understanding that he was about to be told something not every member of the Circle knew about.
"When we first returned to Hogwarts after the holidays, Harry was already here, and…changed. In reaction to these changes, Dumbledore had placed some kind of wards around Harry's bed - keeping others out, as Ron no doubt informed Cotsden,"
"Well, when Harry went blind, Draco helped him to his room, and due to the fact he helped Harry onto the bed he was accepted by the wards and didn't get thrown across the room like Ron had. Then, one morning, Ron discovered a tie which didn't belong to anybody in your dorm. On Draco's orders to watch out for anything unusual, Neville stole the tie from under Ron's nose."
Realising he knew something about this, Dean butted in, "Yeah, Ron reported that to Cotsden. Before, I had been assigned to watch the other houses for suspicious activity, and Ron was to look out for Harry only - but, when that happened in the general area of the dorm, I received new orders to go over my own house again. That's how I first became aware that Seamus was a Death Eater."
"Right, well, even having those pieces of information Draco wasn't getting anything. It was only when Harry, whilst blind, reacted oddly to a Ravenclaw called Ben Sriften, that his power had enough to kick in."
Here she leaned closer to Dean, brown eyes shining with excitement over a revelation, even in the dim light of the corridor.
"Turns out the ward on Harry's bed was a miniature version of that which protects all of Hogwarts. Same way of breaking it; touch someone who the ward is there to protect, as they go through the ward, and you'll then be accepted by it as well. Sriften was enamoured of Harry, and had snuck into the dorm room one night in an attempt to get at him - but was foiled by Harry, who didn't fall for whatever trick he tried to use, which is where the hastily abandoned tie comes in,"
"The Ravenclaw had obviously done his homework before he went after Harry, and he found out about the wards, figured out how to get around them…and he also discovered the secret tunnels in the wall - which Draco had also recently discovered when trying to find out how the Death Eaters were getting around the school without being seen. Harry's reaction to the Ravenclaw drew Draco's attention to him, and the tie was identical to the one Neville had got from your dorm,"
"The only problem being that when Draco got the Circle to seal up the tunnels, Ben Sriften turned to the Death Eaters in his attempt to get at Harry - bargaining his information about the wards for them to kidnap Harry Potter for him."
Frowning slightly in discontent, Hermione looked away from the spy and continued walking.
"So, whilst Harry managed to survive the kidnap attempt, and even rescued Blaise Zabini's sister in his escape - the Death Eaters then had the key to entering Hogwarts."
Thinking back to the tingle of magic he'd felt in the walls, Dean realised that must have been from the tunnels being sealed up. As for the rest of it; Draco was obviously as formidable as Ron had speculated - meaning the git had been right as usual - and the Death Eaters could have attacked any time they wanted, after gaining the information off that bastard of a Ravenclaw.
Hesitantly taking Hermione's hand, Dean tried to offer what little comfort he could: knowing it wasn't her fault, and that, equally, she wouldn't accept any verbal platitudes. Still, if there was one thing Dean didn't like, it was being toyed with - and that was, in essence, exactly what this new evil prat had done.
Just as he was wondering why the girl next to him was slowing down, a blinding flash of light enveloped the corridor before them, and the floor dropped out from beneath him.
Letting out a cry of startlement, the last thing 09326 was aware of was the light sound of someone chuckling next to him.
Chapter 37 : So it begins to end - part one
From his position on the floor, Sirius could see practically all of the Great Hall. Granted, most of what he could see was feet, but it was still a lot of feet.
A shiver of premonition ruffled his fur, but he quickly choked down his rising growl - glancing up at Remus' face to gage how audible it had been. Luckily enough, the face of the man he loved was perfectly serene, indicating the sound hadn't gotten any further than making his own chest vibrate.
Peering up over his new boyfriend's lap, his doggy brown eyes could just about see down to where Dumbledore was sat; Hagrid on his left and Minerva on his right. The fool of a Headmaster had no clue about the horror that was about to burst in on them all - instead he was busy making odd shapes out of his hands under the table with Hagrid. Quickly rifling through his memory, Sirius soon remembered where he'd seen the like before - Hermione had tried to teach it to him and Harry before, apparently it was a muggle game called 'rock, paper, scissors'. Something you played to pass the time when you were bored, and didn't have any cards or anything else with you.
Muffling his snort of disgust in his paws, Sirius almost purred when Remus' gentle hand reached down and scratched him behind the ears.
An hour ago, all of Sirius' favourite dreams had come true, when Moony had run out of patience and slammed him up against the wall, snogging his brains out - he gave a doggy grin in fond remembrance. Then, a couple of minutes ago, he'd received a firecall from his leader, alerting him to the situation with the Death Eaters about to launch an attack…and all of his worst nightmares had come to life as well.
Shifting to animagus form, it had only taken a sufficiently love-struck look in Remus' direction to avert the Headmaster's suspicious gaze - and seeing the elderly man blush and look away had been enough to alleviate any guilt he'd felt at using the man's known 'weak-spot' and his own feelings in order to get his way.
As he was idly wondering if there would be enough time before the attack for him to beg a piece of sausage, the sound of a tormented howl coming from outside the Hall brought Sirius' head up with a jerk. Evidently not.
Pawing at Remus' robes, Sirius employed all of his doggy tricks; whimpering, whining…puppy dog eyes, and eventually managed to get the stubborn man to bend down.
"What is wrong with you? Padfoot, you know you'll be sent out if you…"
A thunderous crash heralded the door to the Great Hall being broken down, and several whining 'zings' accompanied the curses shot off in the direction of the teacher's table.
Cautiously raising his head from beneath the table, Remus cast a quick look at the scorch mark on the wall directly behind his seat, so fresh little crackles of magic still danced along the surface. Another glance at Sirius' pleading brown eyes, and he quickly ducked back under the table, crouching next to the one he loved and drawing his wand in the same motion. "I hope you know more about what's going on then I do, otherwise I think we're a bit screwed."
Giving a brief, comforting, woof, Sirius licked the wolf on the cheek, then darted out from under the table.
Racing under the Hufflepuff table, the dog jumped over legs, and wove around feet - tongue lolling as he heard sounds similar to a food fight start up. Only, instead of the laughter normally associated with such an activity, there were screams of terror and pain.
There were also a few cries of disgust - more the nearer he got to the doors, indicating the Death Eaters hadn't expected the children to be so resourceful as to use food to fend them off.
Hearing a particularly scandalised cry, Sirius changed direction and leapt out from under a tablecloth at a shaking Lucius Malfoy.
Flicking a piece of spaghetti off his hand, the elder Malfoy shook with rage as he pointed his wand at the student who had dared ruin his cloak. Before he could cast the killing curse however, a monstrous beast attacked him from behind - ripping a chunk out of his left leg, and causing even more damage to his outfit.
Glad to have distracted the man long enough for the student to escape, Padfoot turned his attention to the other Death Eaters - aiming to incapacitate them; either biting their arms or their legs, depending on what he could reach first.
Amused at the look of impotent rage on Lucius' face, Remus left Padfoot to it, and instead started firing curses of his own back at the intruders. Some of his former students had paid attention to his teachings and actually brought their wands to dinner with them, and they too went on the offensive, whilst the unarmed students were quick to flip their tables over and use them as shields of a kind. The wood wouldn't last for long though, given how fiercely the black cloaked adults were blasting away at it.
Even as he fired off several mobilicorpus curses, Remus could only watch as a first and third year Ravenclaw were dropped with the killing curse. The stench of death quickly became rife in the air.
Watching his adopted cubs fall, one by one, the wolf in Remus began to creep to the fore, increasing his reflexes and ruthlessness to the point where he was ducking curses before they were even fired his way, and snapping back his own, darker, curses simultaneously.
A quick turn to the right, a duck and a shove, sent a Death Eater crashing into a splintered table - a shard of wood spearing through their chest.
Distantly surprised they'd gotten so far in, Remus took the time to look around the Hall - ducking behind said table for a brief respite.
At some point, the students in the Hall had been joined by Circle members, and their bolstered spirits added more strength to their defense - particularly as the Circle had brought a ton of spare wands with them and liberally handed them out. Despite this there were still far too many bodies down, yet, even as Remus watched, one of the lying-wounded began to glow a strange orangey-blue, before vanishing.
Over by the doorway, Draco and Harry were a blur; cutting a swath through the Death Eaters as they waded through those who were still on the outskirts, obviously intending to work their way in.
Sirius had apparently given up on running all over the place, and, as Remus watched, the dog vanished from one point, only to appear at the other side of the Hall and rip a man's throat out with one bite.
The only one who didn't appear to be doing all that much was Dumbledore, and he was currently engaged in a very showy one-on-one duel with Lucius Malfoy, while clutching at a bloody wound in his side. Briefly raising an eyebrow at the sight, Remus jumped back into battle, this time orchestrating his kills to aid Harry and Draco's own efforts.
Unfortunately, Remus' survey of the battle had failed to take account of a shadowy corner, within which stood the new Dark Lord and his Lady - patiently waiting for their moment.
Chapter 38 : So it begins to end - part two
Leaving the young boy with a jagged tear all up one side of his body, Lucy knew he'd be healed next time she looked over - the faint orange glitter of her power dancing along his body ensured that - and yet she still couldn't contain the shiver she felt upon seeing the wound. And that was one of the minor victims.
Blue eyes briefly scanned the white walls of the Circle chamber's, and settled upon the familiar blue head of Dana, who was currently surrounded by Circle summoner's.
It had been over an hour already, and despite the obvious taxation to her powers, Dana insisted on continuing to observe what was going on in the Great Hall. All the scouting Death Eaters had been dealt with, as had the ones casting the spell to contain everyone in Hogwarts. Unfortunately, they'd managed to recast the spell once more before being killed, and a team of Circle members were still trying to figure out how to break the wall down: Hermione had become almost surgically attached to her book, eyes and hands disappearing into a pink haze as she searched for details on the spell they'd used.
"Another, to the left. Young female…Emma Purton."
The vague voice of the seer prompted the summoners into action, and Lucy quickly looked away as their unusual brand of orange-blue power began to appear - knowing that soon another critically injured student would be transported into the safety of the Corridors.
A gentle hand guided her off to the side, and Lucy was only marginally surprised to see the hand belonged to Drake Main. The empath had been hard at work, manipulating people's emotions so that they were calm enough not to question what was happening - and even managing to soothe the odd few into a healing sleep.
The fact that he was currently urging her to sit and drink some of their stashed butterbeer showed he was also monitoring the mental state of the Circle members.
"Thanks." Accepting the drink, Lucy held it to her forehead briefly, then took a quick sip, so as to avoid his gentle stare as he leant against the wall next to her.
Unfortunately, his probing eyes were currently in their golden state; a true sign his powers were in full use - and it was impossible to refuse a question from them.
"I'm just worried. I mean…yes, we were prepared - so we can cope with the wounded and stuff…but, even if Harry managed to kill Voldemort, how can we know he can defeat another Dark Lord?"
"Why wouldn't he?" As he asked the question, Drake let his eyes slip back into their more-natural brown state: giving himself a rest as well.
"At the combined meeting, Dumbledore said Harry hadn't reached his full potential - that he wouldn't until he either got together with his mate, or at the very least acknowledged he had a mate. Hermione is normally right, which means the likelihood is extremely high that Draco is Harry's mate, right?"
Nodding, Drake started to see where she was going, and completed her thought on a sigh. "And they haven't exactly been acting very coupley - in fact, they've almost been avoiding each other."
"Exactly." Blue eyes flashed with worry, as she admitted her fears out loud. "Add to that what the other Cotsden member, Ron, said - and we don't even know if Harry would be able to take on this new Dark Lord if he was at his fullest strength."
"Lucy, the best I can give you is a piece of knowledge and a piece of advice."
Letting his brown eyes flash gold as a reminder, Drake continued.
"Draco and Harry are definitely in love with each other, whether they've admitted it yet or not - that is a certain. And, even if you doubt our abilities, never doubt the origins of them. The Circle of Light has been around for millennia, as have we all, in one shape or another. She will never let a tyrant rule."
Seeing the healer register the words, and feeling her understand the meaning behind them, Drake gave Lucy's shoulder a quick, reassuring squeeze, before heading over to someone else who desperately needed some emotional guidance.
"Dean, how are you doing?"
Dark brown eyes looked up too quickly, and the flash of surprise Drake felt emphasised the dark-skinned boy's preoccupation with his task. Which appeared to be re-dressing a girl's burn wounds whilst sketching out some kind of map.
"Oh, hi - Drake, wasn't it?" Quirking an eyebrow in question, the Cotsden agent patiently waited for the empath's confirmation before continuing with his self-appointed tasks. Talking as he did so.
"Yeah, I'm doing all right. Did you need my help with something?"
Probing as deep as he could, all the brown-haired boy could sense was calmness, a sincere wish to help, and mild curiosity.
Deciding to try and rattle the cage slightly, Drake posed a question on his own. "Actually, I was just wondering…why haven't you told Hermione you like her yet?"
A flicker of surprise, and a flare of something deeper…fear.
"You've got to be kidding, right?" Looking up once more, Dean's eyes showed none of his actual feelings as the boy searched Drake's own face. "I don't think now's really the time - we have slightly more important matters on our hands."
"I don't know," Following as the other boy finished up the bandaging and stood up to move away. "Seems to me the best time for such revelations is during times of stress - or, at the very least, before one or both of you die. And you could, y'know - we all could. Die, that is. Afterall, it was your pal who predicted this Dark Lord is going to be uber-powerful; we might not make it."
Setting his drawing down on one of the makeshift tables that had been provided by the Light, Dean raised a troubled stare to look over at Hermione. Eyes mapping out the picture she made, with her uniform eschew and her attention completely merged with the book in her lap, through the aid of her bright pink power.
Momentarily blocking out the sounds of people rushing about, the quiet crying of the injured, and the sporadic instructions from Dana as she guided the summoners in who to bring down, Drake focused all of his being on two people - determined to bring one, positive, change about.
Hermione's powers blinked and vanished - leaving a bewildered brunette staring over at Dean, feeling all the things he was currently feeling. Thanks to the direct link Drake had just managed to establish between them.
It would fade in a moment, but for now he left the two to revel in what the other was feeling. Giving Dean a subtle push in the right direction, he quietly walked away, leaving them to their brief break from work.
Wandering over to the table Dean had left his map on, Drake picked up the sketch of all the possible escape routes from Hogwarts and carried it over to Neville - passing the group of summoners just as another body popped into existence in the middle of them. Giving the poor student a little jolt to knock them out as they began to bleed all over the floor, Drake otherwise ignored it as several other healers rushed up and hoisted the prone form onto a makeshift stretcher. Neville would be able to pass the map on to his boyfriend, who could then get Ron to analyse the possibilities.
Musing over his most recent piece of work, Drake decided it was officially odd how playing matchmaker never failed to give him a happy buzz - and even now, in the middle of a crisis, he had an undeniable urge to start humming. Must be the glow of first love.
Chapter 39 : So it begins to end - part three
A shattering curse tore a chunk out of the wall, and Ron automatically ducked as shards of stone rained down on him - a raised arm protecting his head and face from the sharp edges. A brief lull in curses sparked his strategic mind, and the Cotsden agent immediately put his training to use.
Diving and rolling, he managed to put enough space between himself and his previous position that the tidal wave of water which suddenly slammed into the wall missed him completely - although he did get a bit damp from the spray, the important thing was that his body and skull remained intact.
Tripping a Death Eater with one foot, Ron braced himself on the other, and flipped the off-balance person around - putting them directly in the path of the next curse headed his way.
A sudden turquoise glow from Blaise's general direction indicated Neville was contacting him once more, and a few seconds later the dark-headed boy himself appeared and started to fight in Ron's direction.
Seeing the danger before the other boy did, Ron flung himself to the ground, sweeping Blaise's feet out from under him as well with a quick flick of his wand; just in time to avoid a charmed plate decapitating them. Ignoring the resulting swearwords, Ron grabbed the piece of parchment Blaise was holding and quickly scanned it - immediately recognising Dean's style of drawing.
"The front exit will be held by those who took out the spell-casters. That leaves the dungeons and the owlry as the two main exit points. We need to send a group to guard the entrance to the dungeons, as well as the owlry - station them here," Ron quickly drew a couple of harsh lines onto the parchment with his wand. "And here. You only need to send about two strong fighters with each group - we need the rest of them here still, and as long as they hold their positions, they should be able to cope with only moderate fighters."
Knowing better than to question Ron at this point, Blaise merely nodded and moved away to issue orders.
Not liking the vague sense that he was missing something, Ron shifted to automatic fighting, not really paying attention to how he was killing people, as he tried to figure out what he was neglecting.
Just as he realised the problem - there had been no bulk of attack - Ron heard a terribly familiar roar of outrage. Jerking his gaze in the direction of what remained of the head table, his blue eyes widened in horror as he saw what had occurred.
Making a move to kill the Headmaster, now that he had been sufficiently weakened by the elder Malfoy, Ron's little sister hadn't paid any mind to the feeble-minded half-giant. Until he'd shoved his way in front of her killing curse; absorbing that which had been meant for Dumbledore.
"Apparently I have been negligent in my duties - I'll remedy that now."
Turning at the familiar voice, Ginny's ice-blue eyes attempted to melt at the sight of her brother, trying - vainly - to turn on the water-works and give a convincing portrayal of someone who'd been controlled by the Dark Lord.
Even as she tried to bend her features into the appropriate expression, the black-hearted girl could tell it was too late for that. If not for the blank expression on her brother's face, then for the fact that a killing curse was already flying towards her as she turned around to face him.
With her last second of life, before the curse hit her, the young girl turned her eyes to her Lord. And smiled.
Moving on before his sister's body had even begun to fall, the last player slotted into place in his head, as the information Ron had already had was so brutally reinforced. Seeing his sister's soul-less eyes, his fast-working mind had raced back to the beginning.
A dank, musty tunnel. His sister's face appearing; smudged and bruised, between the rocks Lockhart had disrupted. Hearing the tale of the diary, the manner with which Voldemort's younger self had 'attempted' to come to life…and that he hadn't succeeded.
But now, Ron saw it for the set-up it had always been. Saw the way his sister's eyes had been hollow when peering out from the rocks - how she'd changed since then. Not because it was so traumatising, but because she'd lost her faith in the boy-who-lived, and, at the last minute, had joined forces with the memory of Tom Riddle.
Darting through the people who were still fighting, jumping over broken tables, and skidding in dropped food - Ron desperately raced to find Harry, and tell him the horrible truth of who he would now have to face.
For now it was all too obvious - Harry was going to be facing a young version of Voldemort, with, not only the full power of his hey-day, but the powers he'd undoubtedly drained from his older self…right before sending the practically-empty shell out on a death mission in a ploy to throw the Order off-guard.
Finally catching sight of the half-veela, Ron was just in time to see the boy get buried under a hastily levitated table. Putting on a final burst of speed in desperation, the young strategist was dismayed to feel something wrap around his ankle and yank!
A thud heralded his meeting with the floor, and next he knew he was slamming into a dog-shaped Sirius, who let out a pained yelp at the contact - matted red fur showing he wasn't unscathed from the battle.
"Well, well, look what I caught."
A gloating Lucius was never a pretty sight - particularly when he was levelling a long stick of wood at the two magically bound figures at his feet, an evil gleam of sadistic delight in his eyes.
"The annoying mutt who's been plaguing me all evening, and the killer of my Lady. Quite a prize. Aveda K…Oomph!"
Feeling the invisible cage falter, Ron quickly sat up and tugged Sirius away - looking over briefly in time to see Draco slam a fist into his father's precious face. At the blood that spilled, Ron was rather surprised he himself didn't wince - especially when it was followed up with a knife to the groin.
Fortunately though, Ron wasn't feeling particularly forgiving, even if he was slightly worried about Draco.
With that thought in mind, the red-haired boy gave Lucius the gift the man had tried to give him. The killing curse.
"What did you do that for!"
The rage in Draco's voice was enough to justify Ron's actions, so he left the Circle leader to calm down, and continued on his interrupted effort to reach Harry.
During the brief time Ron had been down, the boy-who-lived had managed to shove the table off himself - but he'd also managed to be grabbed by Tom Riddle. A bit late for Ron to warn him then.
Feet dangling in the air, Harry was gasping for breath in the Dark Lord's grasp. From a distance they looked like two dark-haired young men.
One had hair that was black and falling in extremely tangled curls; green eyes spitting sparks at the person holding him. The other had impossibly smooth brown hair, and deadly-calm eyes, which were also green, and yet a much-duller, moss-like colour.
Upon closer inspection, it was clearly obvious that the one in tailored clothes harboured malevolent intentions, whilst the spitting-hissing boy he was choking was actually the more even-natured one of the two. How the hell it was possible to tell, Ron couldn't figure out; all he knew was that the evil was practically pouring off of the Dark Lord, though why the man was so pissed off he didn't know - afterall, he finally had Harry Potter in his grasp, didn't he? Wasn't that all he'd ever wanted?
"She's dead. Now you will all pay the pri…Ouch!"
Abruptly cutting off his mounting dire threat, Tom Riddle looked up at the blood welling from his hand, and then lifted his incredulous gaze even higher - so that he was looking directly at the sharp green eyes glaring at him.
"You little snake! Got fangs, huh? - I'll show you fangs!"
Letting out a maniacal laugh, which sounded half-hysterical, the Dark Lord made as if to slam the dangling boy against the wall.
It was a quiet, gasped out, word, and yet it stopped the most evil person in the world in his tracks. "Huh? What did you say…?"
"I said - 'No'!"
Yelling the last word, Harry let go of Tom Riddle's hands and kicked out as the man's torso.
A small bit of pulverised stone drifted down to land on the tailored shirt of the Dark Lord, who'd just been blasted straight across the Great Hall. Then a huge slab of stone gently detached from the wall and slammed down on the man's head.
Straightening up from the crouch he'd landed in when he'd been dropped, Harry calmly took the time to shake his hair back before making his way towards his life-time nemesis. A gentle glow throwing his features into sharp relief and showing his true heritage to all.
Knocking the stone off Tom Riddle, Harry studied the limp form for a moment, then reached down to grab the back of his expensive shirt. Casually lifting his arm up, Harry rotated his wrist, then flung his arm down - Tom's limp body following.
Standing by the head of the now-groaning form, Harry ignored the suddenly silent Hall in favour of tilting his head to the side. Patiently waiting for something.
Luminous green eyes slowly lifted and flickered around the room; taking in the chaos, the dead bodies, and not to mention the wounded. Finally landing on the blood-soaked form of Draco Malfoy, who currently had an eyebrow raised and a question glimmering in his white-grey eyes. A brief flash of white blocked the green from view, but it was only very brief, and when the blindness lifted the boy-who-lived studied the world out of eyes which now had elliptical pupils. Like a cat's.
Apparently finding what he'd been waiting for, the veela turned back to the task at hand, reaching down and ripping the man's head off. A geyser of blood sprayed, but he stepped to the side, out of reach.
Juggling the head from one hand to another, Harry spun around to face the staring group of Death Eaters, students and teachers. Eyes back to normal, and amused expression lighted on his face at the way everyone was looking at him.
"Anybody got a light?"
Chapter 40 : Clean up
Funnily enough it had been a regular student who had taken Harry's question at face value; producing a muggle lighter from one of his many pockets, and handing it over without comment.
Putting the lighter to actual use had taken a while longer. First, they'd had to clear up the remaining Death Eaters; tend to the wounded, and gather the dead. It was after those tasks had been completed that Harry had grabbed Tom Riddle's body and lugged it outside - still cradling the head in one hand.
Small twigs had been piled on top of large branches; a pyre of sorts. Harry had dumped the dead flesh in the centre with no fanfare. The lighting of the wood he'd done with a smile on his face.
Those that could be moved had been brought out from the Circle hideout and placed in the infirmary, whereas the rest were left where they were - with warning spells cast on them in case they went into critical zone again.
Nothing could be done for Hagrid, Ginny, or any of the Death Eaters. In fact, any survivors they found had been executed on the spot.
All the bodies were being held for the family to come and take away; for the Death Eaters it would be ministry officials. Harry hadn't trusted to leave Riddle's body - the bastard had managed to come back from the dead a few too many times for him to be comfortable leaving any remains behind. Thus, the bonfire that was currently going on outside the wards - not even his ghost would be allowed entrance to the school.
Harry had left all the details to Dumbledore; who to notify, how to calm the remaining students, where to store the bodies, etc. Now, backing carefully out of the room he'd just been about to walk into, he almost wished he'd taken on the monumental task of picking Hogwarts back up again himself.
It had started with shy glances, whispered comments, surreptitious touches. And now he'd just walked in on Pansy and Ron kissing one another brainless!
"Definitely an aphrodisiac." Harry muttered to himself, deciding to go see if the owlry was a couple-free zone.
"What's that, Harry?" At the unexpected voice, the veela nearly clocked the newcomer one, but managed to curb the impulse and slowly uncurled his hands from fists.
Looking over at Drake as he drew level, Harry was momentarily scared by the cheerful gleam in the other boy's eyes. "I was just thinking that fighting must be an aphrodisiac or something: I keep bumping into new couples wherever I turn."
"Ah," Gold eyes gleamed, as Drake allowed himself a small chuckle of amusement. "And yet you haven't paired off with someone yourself yet?"
The floor suddenly seemed very interesting to the Gryffindor, if the way he suddenly started studying it was any indication.
"I take it you…'read' me then?"
"Yep, but with the display you put on in there, I'd say it was pretty clear to everyone you've found your one. Unfortunately for you, Ron was right about everything else, which means the likelihood he was wrong about Riddle's amount of power is very low. I doubt anyone will buy it."
Green eyes were caught and held by gold, and suddenly Harry was overcome with the irresistible urge to blurt out all his problems.
"I just don't know what to do! When we first met - we were enemies. Then, when this all started, it looked like we could become allies, or friends. But before that could happen I was told we were mates!"
Sighing, Harry looked away at a wall, face unhappy.
"It just seems to be going too fast. As soon as I think we can become one thing, I find out we're meant to be something else. The fact that Draco keeps trying to hide how he feels about me doesn't help any either!"
Withholding his laughter, lest it put the young veela off, Drake clapped a friendly hand on Harry's shoulder. Talking to distract the boy enough that he wouldn't notice the minor touch of magic.
"I don't think you need to worry. As you said; fighting is an aphrodisiac. In your case however, I think it might be just what you two need to get you to actually talk to each other. Why don't you go find him now? There's nothing else that needs doing, and from what you said it sounds like everyone else is a bit busy anyway."
Mumbling an acknowledgement, the boy-who-never-dies wandered off feeling slightly light-headed. Unable to see the faint sparkle of gold magic soaking into his shoulder.
Content to drowse in yet another happy buzz, Drake let go of his grip on his amusement, and soon his raucous laughter filled the corridors. Out of place with the recent battle maybe, but considering all the matchmaking he'd done in recent hours, he definitely needed to unleash the energy overflow somehow.
"Honestly! And I thought you said you weren't, and I quote; 'strong enough to effect major emotional changes in a person'. How do you explain away what I just witnessed you do, then?"
Turning to face the shadowy corner the voice originated from, Drake refused to wipe the satisfied smile from his face.
"I'm not strong enough - but that was just a minor prod in the right direction. And that, Sophie my darling, is something I am strong enough to do."
Stepping out of the darkness, a familiar woman appeared. Black hair framed an ivory-pale face, and brown eyes burned with a curious glow. Almost hypnotising.
Sophie Darlton chuckled quietly to herself, allowing the rare flash of her fangs, which showed how comfortable she was in the young wizard's company. If Dumbledore were to see such teeth, he'd immediately know the reason for his instinctive discomfort when meeting her eyes - he'd also immediately ban her from the Order most likely. And that was something her Cotsden superiors wouldn't be happy with.
"I take it you were able to break Riddle's ties with the vampires then?"
"Oh yes," She purred, gliding up to Drake, and pressing a light kiss to her young love's cheek. "That was simplicity itself, although I hear William had slightly more trouble dissuading the werewolves and other shapeshifters from joining Riddle's forces. Which is almost a shame, since I appear to be too late to join in the fighting here."
"Hmm…that is a shame, although Draco will be pleased when I tell him your news…" Golden eyes faded to a brown which darkened suddenly, as Drake let the glow of matchmaking drift away to be replaced by something equally as potent.
"Since he's now going to be a bit busy himself for a while, why don't I make it up to you…somehow?"
Letting her red lips curl into a smile, Sophie gripped her contact with the Circle's collar with a slender hand, and slowly pulled him back, into the shadows, with her.
"I'd like that."
Chapter 41 - Epilogue
"Are you just planning on looking at me, or are you going to come in?"
Staring at the blond boy who was curled up in the centre of his bed, Harry absently wondered why Draco had decided to hide in Harry's own bed. Distantly, because he was having a bit of trouble concentrating due to the picture Draco made; blond hair tousled, and perched there in his briefs. And of course there was something important Harry was meant to say…
"I love you."
Judging from the squeak Draco gave, he was as surprised to hear the declaration as Harry had been to have it issue from his mouth. Not that it wasn't true…he just hadn't been planning on saying it any time soon.
"…Harry…do you mean that?" Bringing Harry back to the present, and stopping him from frowning at himself, Draco's question voiced the other boy's insecurity, and was once again answered without Harry's full consent - in the form of a heartfelt nod.
Lowering his blue-grey eyes to the dark-green and black sheets of Harry's bed, Draco appeared to digest that for a moment.
"I should have turned up on your bed like this sooner. If I'd known you'd react like that it would have saved a lot of time!" Saying it in a jokey manner, Harry was rather surprised that Draco's eyes were deadly serious when he looked up again. They were also the lightest grey Harry had seen them yet - indicating Draco was finally ready to let Harry see the real him.
"I know I haven't acted like it - when we were enemies, when we were allies, or even when we almost had sex! - but I really do care for you Harry…I think I love you too."
The haze that had been dictating Harry's actions until then abruptly lifted, leaving the green-eyed boy blinking bemusedly at the floor of his dorm room. His declaration of love ringing in his ears, and momentarily blocking out Draco's reciprocation of his feelings.
Obviously taking the silence to mean his admission wasn't enough, Draco began to babble - determined to keep the half-veela now that he knew his feelings were returned.
"…I mean, I know I love you, it's just… - I haven't been in love before, and, I didn't know how to act! I'm the leader of the Circle, and, in order to get there, I've had to limit the amount of emotions I show people, in order to be strong. So that's why I've been acting kind of, weird, recently - but I definitely love you, so…give me a chance…?"
Trailing to a halt, Draco implored Harry to make the next move with his eyes; a half-scared, half-determined look on his face as he waited for Harry's reaction.
Still blinking, Harry's brain finally latched on to something. 'I love you'
Grunting slightly as the full weight of the veela knocked Draco over, the Slytherin was quick to regain control of the situation - wrestling his mate under him and making him pay for that long hesitation.
Their happy, desperate kisses gradually simmered down, and, more confident that the other one wasn't going anywhere, they just indulged in the other's presence by their side for a while.
"Now, I know this is sudden," Harry suddenly spoke up, eyes focused on watching his own hands idly stroke Draco's bare chest, "And because of that, I think we should take things slowly; make sure this is what you want…"
"What I want? - what about you, don't we need to make sure this is what you want as well?"
Flashing Draco an annoyed look at his interruption, the veela didn't pay much attention to his own response to that ridiculous question.
"Noo…you're my mate, so of course I'm sure this is what I want. Now then, as I was saying; since you have a choice in the matter, I think we should just 'date' for a while…make sure you aren't going to change your mind or anything."
Only able to manage a slight choking sound, Draco fixed on to the first thing Harry had said 'you're my mate', and vaguely wondered if he was dreaming.
Okay, yep, the pinch had hurt - definitely awake.
"I love you!" Pinning Harry onto the bed, Draco proceeded to dot mini kisses all over the boy's face, muttering his feelings into the soft skin beneath him.
"That's nice, really," Cautiously patting Draco on the shoulder, the veela wondered what had happened to the normally-reasonable boy he knew. As the Circle leader neared a particularly sensitive spot on his neck, Harry gave the oblivious boy a quick poke to get his attention.
"But you still haven't answered me - do you want to give this…us, a trial run?"
Levering himself upright, Draco gaze down at the dishevelled face beneath him. White-grey eyes twinkling with tenderness and amusement.
"I have a confession to make,"
"The Circle of Light has been around for thousands of years, and it has always had a leader. That leader has always been me, in various reincarnations…"
"That's nice, but what does that…"
Shutting Harry up with a gentle hand over his mouth, Draco was determined to continue his story, once and for all.
"There is a prophecy about me, and about somebody referred to as my 'other half'. Whenever I've reincarnated I retain all my memories, from all of my previous lives, and in all of those lives I've searched for the one mentioned in the prophecies,"
"I've never found them. When I first met you, I liked you - even when pretending to hate you - and I've fallen in love with you. To begin with I was hopeful you would be the one; you had all the characteristics mentioned in the prophecy, and you have the ancient power they speak of. But there was one thing missing,"
Gazing into worried green eyes, the gold of his power slowly spread to the other boy, sharing the prophecy he knew by heart as it did so.
"My other half was to be someone who also had a strong, unbreakable, link to me. You say I am your mate. That's it! - that is the link which shows you are the one I've been waiting for all these lifetimes."
A reverent kiss was gently pressed on Harry's mouth, and the raven-haired boy returned it slowly, a gentle tear sliding down his cheek as he digested what Draco's words meant.
"You needn't worry about providing me with space, or time - or having to cajole me to open myself up to you. The only thing preventing that was my worry of falling for the wrong person; someone who wouldn't be able to walk the Corridors with me for eternity…but you will be able to do that, because you are my other half."
It's finished! Not too sure about the cheesy ending; I tried to tone it down and make it more palatable, but I also wanted to get it all up and posted. So, just let me know what you all think, and I might redo it at a later date if Ii can be bothered, or can think of a better ending.
R&R please, and thank you everyone who has remained interested in this fic - despite my looong absence from writing! Despite the fact that I liked being able to post so many chapters all at once, I don't think I can do that with the rest of my fic, although I will be writing some new chapters soon. Might even attempt some mini off-shoot oneshots for this fic; a glimpse into Blaise/Neville's relationship maybe…or I might go into more detail about Severus/Bill's 'problem'.
Despite being finished this fic is probably still quite open-ended, due to how many different plot threads I tried to put in there, so if you're confused by any of it, or have any questions, just review or email me and I'll answer them as best I can. Thanx for reading!