EPILOGUE: THE THORNY PATH
Harry had been in the Hospital Wing for nearly five days when they brought him in. As the night drew on, he found himself staring frequently at the curtain that concealed the other bed, feeling distinctly uneasy with this whole thing.
He hadn't expected see the other boy face-to-face again. It unnerved him all the more the next morning when he awoke to the sight of Draco Malfoy staring down at him.
Harry was upright and flattened against the headboard before his mind caught up with him. Draco was smiling in a friendly manner that looked entirely wrong on his sharp, pale features.
"Having some bad dreams? It certainly looked like it. My name's Draco Malfoy."
Harry struggled to catch his breath. Draco was studying him thoughtfully, his pale skin bleached white by the sunlight.
"You already knew that, though, didn't you?" he said, his keen, gray eyes intent. "I know you, don't I?" His brow furrowed. "Yeah, I'm sure of it. I must know you."
Harry hadn't realized he'd been holding his distance until he felt the headboard press against his back.
This is stupid. Why am I feeling so nervous?
He forced the tension from his shoulders, trying to act casual. "Yes, I know you."
"Who are you?" Draco pressed.
"Harry…" Draco's brow furrowed. "Harry… It doesn't sound familiar… Harry…"
I should have told him my name 'Scarhead'. He'd probably remember that.
He tried not to show the dark thoughts stirring inside him. Draco had no memory, after all. He was a completely different person, wasn't he? That's what Dumbledore had told him.
This wasn't the same person who'd handed him over to Lucius to be tortured to death.
"My last name's Potter," Harry supplied, feeling a bit ashamed of his resentment. "You, er, you always called me 'Potter'. Does it sound familiar? Harry Potter?"
Draco's eyes shot wide open. "Harry Potter?" he cried, delighted.
Harry was mortified when Draco's eyes flew up to his forehead, and a bright grin flashed across his lips.
Draco scrambled across the room, seized a book lying on his bed, and then abruptly returned and flung himself up next to Harry, bouncing in place with excitement.
"Even I've heard of you!"
He flipped through the book quickly—a History of Modern Magic textbook—and proudly showed Harry a picture captioned, 'The Boy-Who-Lived mounting his broomstick during the Tri-Wizard Tournament.'
Harry cringed; the other boy was too excited to notice.
"See? I read this two days ago! I knew you looked familiar!"
Harry stared at this bizarre stranger with Draco's face. He was torn between irritation and a vague awareness that this was too much. He couldn't handle this... Too much, too soon…
"I'm going to sleep," he announced flatly.
Draco stared at him uncomprehendingly until Harry elaborated,
"I'm going to sleep now. I can't sleep with you here."
"Oh!" Draco said brightly. "I'll go, then!"
Harry huddled down into the blankets as the other boy slid from the bed, hoping one or the other of them would recover soon. Recover tomorrow. A single night was one too many in the Hospital Wing with Draco Malfoy.
But unfortunately, it was merely the first of many visits from Malfoy. If Harry hadn't been recovering from what Snape termed 'severe neurological damage', he probably would have fled to the Forbidden Forest just to escape the irritating, one-sided conversations.
"Did I have a lot of friends here?"
"Yeah, I had a feeling I was popular… Was I really great at magic?"
"You often said you were."
"Ha! I knew that, too! I just knew I was good… So, were we really good friends? We must have known each other well."
"I often thought too well."
Harry's days of recovery were a jumble of foul-tasting potions and equally detestable visits from Draco. The other boy, for his part, veered sharply between the bright, happy child who inflicted himself on Harry—so irritatingly cheerful Harry almost longed for the old Draco who wanted to kill him— and a moody, sullen introvert who sobbed piteously beneath the sheets of his bed, screaming at Madame Pomfrey to get away from him and 'take her bloody potions with her.'
"Harry, could you calm him for me? You're the only one who can do it," the flustered mediwitch asked him on more than one occasion.
And of course, Harry was always forced to drag himself over, question Draco about why he was upset, reassure him that Madame Pomfrey only wanted to help him, and convince him that if he wasn't going to take his potion he should at least go back to sleep.
As he lay in bed at night, the bitter taste of healing potions lingering on his tongue, he shut his ears to the sound of Draco weeping.
Bloody little prat just wants attention.
He couldn't summon even the faintest stirring of pity.
"Why is he even here?" Harry complained one day to Lupin as they played cards. "Shouldn't he be in Saint Mungo's?"
"They've already determined that there's nothing they can do for him, Harry, and the only relatives in a position to take him are refusing," Remus explained gently. "It's better for him to be here. He could still have some recollection of this place—whether conscious or not."
"Oh, well, as long as it's better for him."
Harry gazed sullenly at the curtains shielding him from Draco's view. There was a silencing spell on them, but some spiteful impulse made him wish Draco could hear this.
"It's not fair that I have to put up with him. Everyone expects me to take care of him and keep him company. It doesn't matter that he tried to kill me."
"We don't expect you to do anything, Harry… But you have to realize, he's alone and confused," Lupin said quietly. "Whatever he did to you in the past—he's not that person anymore."
"Fine. I get it!" Harry snapped. "He's a poor little victim and I'm just being a bastard!"
Harry carelessly tossed his hand onto the sheets and sat back in his bed.
Lupin studied him thoughtfully for a long moment, then set about gathering up the stray playing cards.
"You have every right to be angry with him, Harry," he said, sounding puzzled. "I'm just a bit surprised. I've never known you to hold a grudge against someone so—someone so—"
Lupin seemed too kind to say the word, so Harry supplied snidely, "Pathetic?"
A troubled look stole over Remus's face.
Lupin managed to guilt him into hiding his irritation a bit longer, continue the outward show of good will, but the older wizard could do nothing to quell the dark anger he felt whenever he beheld the other boy. For the sake of not being a despicable prat he tried to ignore it.
It wasn't until Harry tried to pass the time by teaching Draco how to play Wizard's Chess that he noticed it, really.
Draco's was reaching out to grasp his piece, and his thin hand trembled uncontrollably. Pale against the hospital sheets, his entire arm vibrated as though an electric current traveled its length.
Harry's limbs still shook a bit from what Bellatrix had done, especially when he was tired… But not like Draco's.
Not nearly like Draco's.
His mouth suddenly felt dry, the ugliness twisting in his gut.
"What?" Draco said, catching the look on Harry's face.
He followed Harry's gaze, and an embarrassed flush stole over his face as he realized Harry could see his trembling limbs.
"Oh…" Draco shrugged, embarrassed. "They do that." He gazed at them mournfully. "I try to hold them still, but I can't."
Harry held his breath for a long moment, fighting the urge to be sick, or maybe to hit the other boy.
"What is it? What's wrong with you?" Draco's voice nagged at him like some relentless pest.
"Get away from me," Harry said, when he was able to open his eyes and speak.
Harry shoved Draco off the bed and yanked the curtain closed behind him, ignoring the pained yelp.
"I SAID, GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!"
Harry was furious at all of them—Lupin, Dumbledore, McGonagall. Snape. Sticking him in there with Draco... Expecting Harry to pity him… Trying to make Harry feel awful about what had happened to him…
He simmered with anger, stirring restlessly beneath the sweaty sheets, ears stinging with the sound of Draco's pitiful tears of rejection.
And then he tore the blankets away and lurched to his feet.
He couldn't stay there. He couldn't bear another second of it.
Harry was still in his pajamas when he settled down on the cold earth by the lake, his wand clenched in one fist, his breath misty in the night air. There was enough anger boiling within that he didn't even notice the chill, and when a dark figure emerged from the woods, he greeted it with a sneering smile.
"Record time, Snape. You better not have hung some magical bell on my neck,"
"I cast a spell to alert me if you left the Hospital Wing," Snape replied smoothly. "I knew it was only a matter of time before you did something monumentally stupid such as flee in the middle of the night."
Harry glared out at the lake, the chill wind whipping through his hair like talons of ice.
"Sneaking out when your body is still recovering…" Snape said scathingly, "Did Lestrange inflict brain damage, or do you merely wish to sabotage your recovery?"
Harry was in no mood for the usual pleasantries.
"I didn't leave school grounds. It's safe here. Just leave me alone."
Snape watched him for a long assessing moment in which he suspected the man was attempting to legilimize him.
"This is about Draco Malfoy, isn't it? Lupin informed me you were having some trouble with him."
Harry wanted to say it wasn't, but found himself unable to move his lips. He felt guilt and self-disgust brimming inside him, almost ready to burst from his skin.
"You blame me for his condition," Snape said after a moment.
"Not you," Harry said, his voice bitter. "You were cleaning up my mess."
And that was the gist of it, wasn't it? Harry's shoulders slumped as all the anger he'd been feeling towards the other boy dissolved into the very real horror Harry felt every time he beheld what had happened to him... All because of Harry.
Snape's expression darkened. "Must we discuss yet again your penchant for assuming misplaced guilt?"
"It's not that!" Harry protested, raking the ground with his numb fingers, his frustration suddenly breaking into real despair. "It's just that… God, he's wrecked— and I was just trying to help him! Everything I touch turns to shit!"
Snape was unmoved. "Draco Malfoy chose his path a long time ago. This is its natural culmination… He's fortunate to have escaped with his life."
"Yeah, fat lot of good that does him." Harry wanted to hit something. Nothing was in reach, so he dug his fingers into his thigh. "He's like a—a vegetable. Or a three-year-old. If he still had some personality, I could have lived with it. Or if he'd been taken by one of his rich relatives and spoiled, fine! But that… that…"
He fell silent, choking on his words.
"If he still had his old personality," Snape said dryly, "then he would be spitefully attempting to sabotage anyone superior to him in personal appeal or magical ability. At this point, that encompasses everyone and most especially you, so we are all fortunate not to have that annoyance on our hands." He watched Harry closely, speaking carefully as though measuring each word. "Had his relatives reclaimed him, it would only have been a matter of time before he was set back on the path of serving the Dark Lord. Luckily they have no need of a near-Squib with a besmirched reputation… His total destruction was perhaps his only means of redemption. Who are you to question fate?"
Harry glared down at the frozen lake. He didn't want to accept that. "It's cruel."
"Life is cruel," Snape replied coldly. "You know that as well as I. Draco Malfoy has lost only his memory. I cannot say the same thing of a great many others."
Harry's gaze slanted over towards Snape. With all that he'd learned recently about Snape, he still found it hard to believe that he didn't care even a little bit about what had happened to Draco.
And then he closed his eyes and remembered those flashes he'd seen of Voldemort and his servants; the evil and cruelty Snape witnessed—participated in—every single day.
He can't afford to feel pity, he thought numbly. The world he inhabited—that deadly world of Dark Lords and darker magic—Snape would never have survived it if he indulged in the luxury of guilt.
Maybe Snape really believed Draco was better off. The other boy had returned, however painfully, to that oblivion of innocence that didn't exist for a Death Eater. The mark on his arm now was nothing more than a meaningless tattoo. Snape would never have that luxury until Voldemort was dead, and even then...
In reality, he was trapped on the very same thorny path as Harry.
Harry felt suddenly very young and very foolish. He lurched to his feet, ashamed he'd given into the impulse to flee.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left the hospital wing," Harry mumbled. "Especially after you've gone to so much effort for me."
He couldn't read the expression on Snape's face, but there was something softer in his tone when he said, "I will allow you several minutes more to sulk, if that is your wish."
Harry stared at his father for a long moment, thinking of those persistent feelings-- guilt, self-disgust, regret… They were useless in the face of the task lying ahead.
Snape wasn't indulging his doubts at the expense of everyone else in the world. Not while he still had a duty to perform. And Harry wouldn't do that anymore, either.
"No. I'm done here."
Between brewing a seemingly endless batch of potions, and his new responsibilities for the Dark Lord, Snape's idle time had practically vanished in the last two weeks. The power rupture following the destruction of the Dark Lord's two most prominent henchmen had left Severus in a prime position of influence.
"They were both rash. And foolish," the Dark Lord whispered to him. "Now I can trust only you. My faithful, cunning Severus…"
Snape's lips curled into a contemptuous smile and he pressed them to the hem of the Dark Lord's robe.
"I'm honored to serve you, Master."
As the most trusted figure liaising between the general ranks and the Dark Lord, Severus was in a unique position to filter the information reaching his master's ears… Due to his efforts, the Dark Lord remained entirely ignorant of just how staggering a blow Lestrange and Malfoy's mutual destruction had been to the ranks of the faithful.
Legilimency upon individual Death Eaters, after all, could never capture the pervasive fear spreading through his minions like a contagion. And Voldemort himself had fostered the climate of repression that disguised it even from himself.
But Snape saw it.
That the two most infamous Death Eaters had murdered each other was shocking enough. That the Boy-Who-Lived had apparently manipulated them into doing so— that was terrifying.
The Death Eaters respected power above all. And according to the rumors carefully nurtured by some knowledgeable persona—(here Snape was careful to conceal his hand, directing any suspicious minds towards Pettigrew)—the Boy-Who-Lived had been in the custody of Malfoy and Lestrange shortly before their deaths. Somehow, the teenager had bewitched, deceived, or otherwise coerced his captors into turning their wands upon each other. An icy wave of fear was creeping through the ranks of Death Eaters, and Severus was in a position to enjoy it all.
He could sense them—the many who cast sly glances at one another, eyes unseen beneath their masks. The ambitious just beginning to wonder if they'd backed the wrong leader, terrified lest they were the only ones to harbor such treasonous thoughts.
Snape hung back as always and maintained a careful foothold on both sides… One was degenerating steadily beneath his manipulative touch.
And as always, his influence remained entirely unseen.
He stood now in the Hospital Wing, glaring at his son suspiciously lest the boy do something stupid like neglect to imbibe the entire potion.
"I know that look," Harry said, returning his glare as he took a last big gulp. "I'm drinking it. See?"
He wiggled the empty vial before Snape's eyes, and Severus plucked it from his fingers before the young idiot could drop it.
"That's it, then?"
"Almost," Snape said, watching him through narrow eyes. "I'm considering administering a tonic to ward off hypothermia. You were out there for a lengthy period of time."
"You know, I'm starting to think you're a bit of a hypochondriac," Harry complained, flopping back onto the bed. "And you're just projecting it on me. I'm fine. That warming charm took care of everything. I'm not even tremb—"
He trailed off when he held his arms up, holding them completely steady in the air above him.
Snape smirked inwardly and leaned back, feeling quite smug.
"I thought the, uh… nerve damage thing was irreversible," Harry said, surprised and pleased that they weren't quivering in the slightest. Madame Pomfrey's initial prognosis had unearthed permanent damage from the Cruciatus Curse.
"It was irreversible a short time ago," Snape replied delicately, settling on the side of the bed and glancing with distaste at the boy's dirty trainers, resting on the covers beside him. He restrained the urge to yank them off. "There is a reason I am Britain's foremost Potions Master.
Harry glanced at the curtains dividing his bed from the next one. "Can you—did you give some to Draco?"
Snape had expected the question, but it was still difficult to answer.
"I intended to use him as the first test subject," Snape said in an off-hand voice that he hoped disguised the real uneasiness he felt, "but I could hardly administer a potion and monitor its effects when the boy succumbs to hysterics if I so much as look at him."
Harry's eyes flew up to his, a shadow passing through them.
"He… remembers?" Harry asked in a slightly choked voice.
Snape had never revealed to his son what transpired with Draco, but he had a good idea the boy had guessed. He had inherited at least a portion of Severus's intellect.
"His memories are gone," Snape said flatly. "His… deeper impressions have remained. He cannot tolerate my presence. I am told that whenever he is so much as offered a potion, he starts screaming."
Harry swallowed hard, staring down at his sheets. "Oh. I didn't realize what the potion thing was about. Guess he... uh, associates it with you."
Severus studied his son's carefully neutral expression for a long moment. "It's quite odd, really. His visceral emotions have remained intact; he's operating entirely by instinct. Yet he trusts you, his sworn enemy."
"He's gone nutters," Harry muttered.
"Perhaps." Snape contemplated the matter, snapping closed his Potions case. "Or perhaps on some level he recalls your compassion towards him. You attempted to save him. You still wish to do so. That's a power in itself… when even your enemies respond to the goodness in you. It's one of which the Dark Lord will never boast."
Harry snorted. "I doubt any Death Eaters are going to throw their lot in with me because they 'respond to my goodness.'"
Snape paused for an instant, hand resting on the curtains, poised for his departure.
"I hardly believe it will become a mass impulse... But Harry, I did."
Harry knew what he had to do. Nothing would truly make things right; there was no way to undo the past. But at least he could help now.
The other boy sat up, squinting at Harry in the dim light through reddened eyes. His face was blotchy from sniffling.
"I'm sorry about earlier." Harry drew closer, relieved when Draco didn't flinch away. "I was upset. Someone…" Harry fell silent a moment, needing to draw another breath. "Someone hurt me, too. I just, uh, felt awful seeing that."
The other boy visibly relaxed. "You seem fine."
"I am." He smiled faintly. "I'm mostly better now."
"Good." Draco hesitated a moment, then curled his legs up, giving Harry room to hoist himself up on the foot of the bed. "Professor Lupin says I'll be better soon, too."
"You will be," Harry promised softly, bracing himself for Draco's reaction. "I have something that can help you."
He opened his hand, and Draco's eyes locked immediately upon the potion. He went deathly pale, his eyes bulging with panic.
"It's okay…" Harry said quickly, raising a hand to calm him. "It's okay. Look at me, Draco!"
He caught the other boy's frightened gray eyes with his own, willing him to listen.
"It's a potion. It's safe," Harry whispered. "I know it gives you, uh, a bad feeling to see it, but believe it or not, you loved potions before…"
Draco mewled and tried to scramble back, but Harry inched forward.
"You were one of the best potions students in school," Harry said. "You and I sometimes made potions together in class. Um, one time you even hurt your arm and my friend Ron and I chopped ingredients for you because you couldn't do it."
Draco's chest heaved with his frightened gasps for air, but Harry sensed that he was listening.
"Sometimes in class you'd throw stuff in my cauldron… As a joke. We were—we'd do stuff like that. For fun. Sometimes the potion would get on us and do crazy things—like make us float or change our hair color."
No need to tell him the context. No need for Draco to ever know about their awful clashes.
"We dealt with potions all the time, you and I. And you know me… This is just like any other potion we made in class…" Harry registered relief that Draco no longer seemed ready to flee. "The question is," he said, watching Draco intently, "do you trust me? Do you understand that I'd never give you something to hurt you?"
A part of Harry still couldn't quite believe that Draco might genuinely place faith in him. But when the other boy nodded slowly, the fear fading from his eyes, Harry realized then that Snape had been right.
Draco's hand trembled when he took the vial from Harry. His eyes remained fixed upon his when he swallowed it in one gulp.
"Good," Harry said soothingly. "Now go to sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."
He waited for Draco to lie down before retreating to his own bed, and didn't close his eyes until he heard Draco's breath fall into the easy rhythm of sleep.
Snape's potions healed even the damage inflicted upon Draco, though the other boy would never know it. And Harry no longer felt haunted by the pale blonde face that lurked in his nightmares.
However much he warmed to the new Draco over the next month and a half, it still seemed a gross injustice when Harry was sent back to the Dursleys while Draco was spending his summer with Remus Lupin. The only comfort he derived was from Snape's dry observation that Lucius Malfoy would be rolling in his grave if he knew his pureblood son was for all intents and purposes being adopted by an impoverished werewolf.
Remus had grown fond of Draco, and Draco had come to adore Remus. A lonely man, and a rootless teenager… The arrangement worked rather nicely for them both, although occasionally Harry was disturbed to find he and Snape wore identical looks of displeasure while watching them. Harry remained close to Remus... it was just strange sharing him with Draco Malfoy.
The two weeks at the Dursleys were not in themselves so awful. Just boring. An offhand mention that he could now legally practice magic this summer sent them falling over themselves to be polite.
Last summer with the Dursleys, Harry would think over and over again. It became a rather unconventional, yet surprisingly effective means of clearing his mind at night, one he suspected might even appease Snape. All his troubled thoughts seemed to recede when he focused upon that single, undeniably wonderful fact.
Then his door abruptly opened one evening to reveal Snape, who nodded coolly before kicking the door closed behind him.
Harry stared at this strange mirage. Snape. In his room. At the Dursley's. He'd probably had nightmares about this.
But they weren't nightmares now.
"Tell me you've come to get me," Harry pleaded.
Snape smirked, drawing his wand. "It depends… Have you been practicing your Occlumency?"
Harry rather doubted Snape was making his escape from the Dursleys conditional upon how well he did in an Occlumency lesson, but he decided to put his full effort into blocking him anyway.
"You've made progress," Snape said later, as Harry lay on the floor panting, silently cursing his father.
"Yeah, I'll be better than you soon," he replied flippantly.
Snape rolled his eyes, reached down and hoisted him upright.
"Very well. Pack your belongings." He cast his dark eyes around the bare room. "And do it quickly. I take little pleasure standing in this pestilential hole."
A wave of Harry's wand sent his belongings flying into his trunk.
"Do me a favor and say that to the Dursley's," Harry said with a smirk. "I'd love my last sight of them to be the look Uncle Vernon will get on his face when you call his wonderful house a pestilential hole."
Snape eyed him, dark amusement playing across his features. "Oh, I think you'll enjoy the look on his face well enough," he said softly.
The words made Harry pause. "What?" At the nasty smirk on Snapes' face, he pressed, "What did you do, Snape?"
A horrible smile played across Snape's lips. He levitated Harry's belongings and wordlessly left the room. Harry followed, wondering if he should be horrified or not. He really hoped Snape hadn't killed the Dursleys.
His father must have guessed his train of thought, because his voice floated up the stairs, "Nothing fatal… I merely disliked their... discourtesy upon greeting me at the door."
Snape halted at the foot of the stairs and Harry quickly scrambled down them, following Snape's gaze to the hated cupboard. An elegant wave of Snape's wand sent the door violently crashing open.
"I truly did not think the cramped space would accommodate their mass," Snape noted dispassionately, "But you'd be surprised what can be accomplished with a minor remolding spell."
Another jerk of his wand sent a pile of flailing limbs and flab tumbling from the cloistered space, and suddenly the Dursleys were piled on the carpet, goggling up at Snape and Harry, gibbering with terror.
"You… stuffed them in there?" Harry said, looking back and forth between the Dursleys and the tiny cupboard. "They must have been—we were up there for hours!"
"Yes. Three hours, I'd say." Snape drew closer to them with a menacing glitter in his eyes, seeming to enjoy how the Dursleys all cried out and scrambled to their feet. "I would say they had a lengthy period to appreciate the discomfort of such accommodations."
"Boy," Uncle Vernon ventured shakily, clutching Petunia and Dudley to his flabby sides, "Will you kindly ask this… this fine gentleman to leave our house?"
Snape's eyes flickered with contempt. "With pleasure," he sneered. "I have what I came for. Now leave my sight!"
He raised his wand menacingly at them, and the Dursleys shrieked and ran terrified up the stairs, Dudley tripping on nearly every step. A bedroom door slammed, and Harry could hear furniture being scraped across the floor to pile against it.
Harry stared in their wake, feeling absolutely no need to bid them a last goodbye. He felt Snape's eyes on him.
"It seemed a fitting end to your time under their care," Snape said, although his tone was questioning, wondering whether he'd miscalculated Harry's response.
Harry made an effort to smile.
"Yeah, I suppose it is."
He didn't know if it was merely because he was leaving, or if it was his knowledge that he had a family of his own now… But for some reason, he didn't feel that old hatred for the Dursleys.
Once he'd resented the mistreatment by the very people who were supposed to love him. Now that he had a family and people he loved… They really meant nothing to him now; their importance was gone along with their power.
"It's a pity," Snape said, sounding bemused by his lack of response, "that I cannot allow them to retain a memory of me."
"I understand," Harry said. "It's too much of a risk."
"I cast a delayed memory charm to erase their recollections." Snape eyed him for a long moment, then suggested softly, "However, while they must forget me, they need not forget their… ordeal."
Snape stood there watching Harry closely, unfortunately rather certain what the boy's answer would be.
Harry glanced up the stairs, then his eyes drifted over to the cupboard. A slow smile crept across his lips.
"Let them remember it."
Snape felt pleasure flood his chest. Sixteen years trapped in this Muggle home, but at least the boy had allowed him to make up for some of it.
"I should have been here years ago," Snape said. Immediately embarrassed by the sentimentality of his words, he added quickly, "Such a show of Muggle posturing is quite amusing when followed by such cowardice… Very diverting."
Harry smiled. From the knowing look in his eyes, he knew the boy had guessed the truth behind his words.
"I wish you had, too."
It was as close as either of them would dare approach to voicing genuine affection, but it was enough. As they apparated from the Dursleys for the last time, Harry and Severus both understood that whatever rocky future they faced, or however difficult the path ahead, they faced it together as father and son.
My apologies. A day or two turned into a ridiculously longer time.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed. Without the motivation you gave me, I would never have (however slowly) finished this story.
And just to answer a few questions that have been arising:
There will be no sequel. I tried to write the story so it alludes to what will happen next (Malfoy & Lestrange's mysterious destruction destabilizing the DEs, lending an intimidating new mystique to Harry among his enemies and a great deal more power to the double-crossing Snape). I also attempted to weave into the story a very loose interpretation of the prophecy.
As for Voldemort: the true villains in this fic were Lucius and Bellatrix. The battle with Voldemort I will leave to people who find him vaguely interesting to write about. I'm just not into him.
The end of this story saw Snape becoming his most powerful and trusted Death Eater. I think that's indication enough Voldemort's days are numbered.
And just to address a few other questions from earlier in this story.
The Harry-Tonks thing was mostly one-sided (she was nowhere near as serious about him as he was about her). She believed he'd get over her by the time he left Hogwarts... or at least he'd be a bit older so she wouldn't feel uncomfortable about what she'd done anymore.
Although Snape tortured Draco mercilessly, he did come to pity him afterwards because Draco resisted giving up Lucius for so long; like Snape, he was ultimately devoted to one person. Snape could both respect that and identify with it, so he stripped Draco of the knowledge he'd been the one to give Lucius up.
I like Lupin, Ron, and Dumbledore. In no way did I intend to characterize them negatively... Sorry if it came across that way.
I can't remember who mentioned it, but Re: the name "In Blood Only". I do think "In Blood Alone" would have been a good alternative, but the title was originally a play upon the phrase "married in name only" that I'm sure I saw in some trash romance novel. In retrospect I wish I'd named it something a bit less generic, like "Fun Times with Har-Har and Snapey!"
... Or maybe not.
Thank you again to everyone who has read, recc'ed or reviewed this story! It's been a great experience.