See earlier chapters for warnings and disclaimers.
Chapter Eleven: Skin
Harry handed Hermione a list of things that he hadn't noticed about himself before. He watched as she perused the paper, stopping at some points before nodding and moving on. When she looked up at him and smiled, he released a large breath of air.
"Don't worry, Harry, most of these are just signs of having come into your magical inheritance. Usually we experience it when we come of age, but I can only assume that the…when you…" she trailed off and bit her lip.
"The abuse? When I was kidnapped and raped? You can say it, Mione…the sooner I face up to it, the sooner all the noise in my head will hopefully go away."
"Yes well," the prefect struggled for a moment. "Your abuse must have accelerated the powers. It's really nothing to be worried about, I think."
"You think? I feel all warm and fuzzy inside."
Hermione swatted at him before returning to the list, pulling a big book towards her. Harry took that as his cue to start his potions essay, having been horrifically behind in almost all his subjects.
"Hey mate," Ron said as he and Hannah walked into the library. Harry watched Hermione's mouth tighten before he gave the couple a small smile.
"We just came to ask if you wanted to go watch the team practice?"
After Harry's abduction, Ginny had taken up the position as Seeker and as Harry was nowhere near ready to be exposed to the big crowds that Quidditch matches were likely to draw, he had refrained from taking over. Much to Ron's disappointment, of course and the red-headed boy made it his mission to get Harry to come and watch the team practice, hoping it would restore some of his zest for the game.
Looking at Hermione, who suddenly seemed very small behind her books, Harry shook his head.
"No thanks guys, I'm really far behind with work…I don't think it's a good idea."
Ron scowled, but nodded.
"Fair play…you know where we are, if you want to join us."
Hannah gave a small smile when they left and Hermione's shoulders dropped. Harry took her hand, and squeezed it briefly.
"I know," he said and tactfully didn't notice Hermione brush at her eye before returning to her book.
Harry turned around and saw Narcissa Malfoy descending from a staircase and walking towards him. So far, because he was still not attending classes and catching up on work, he had managed to avoid her, but it seemed she had caught up with him at last.
"Mr. Potter, a word in my office please?"
Chagrined, he nodded and let her pass him as he followed her to the Defence classroom and up the stairs to the professor's rooms. She gestured at him to sit down, but he hovered near the door until she turned around.
"Mr. Potter, I assure you, I do not bite nor does my furniture. Now, sit down. Please."
He chose the chair nearest to the door, crossing his arms as he saw the blonde woman smile at his chosen position.
"I would hardly attack you on school property, Harry."
He jumped and frowned.
"Then you admit you would attack me?"
Narcissa Malfoy narrowed her eyes.
"Do give me the benefit of the doubt, Potter. I understand you may have been unfavourably treated by my son, but really…"
"It is not your son, Mrs. Malfoy…excuse me, Professor, that bothers me."
Narcissa looked at him and walked two steps to the door. She shut it and whispered a spell Harry hadn't heard before. When she sat down near him, he moved away a bit.
"Come now child," she said, as she watched him change positions. "Have I done anything to cause you to doubt me?"
"Again…it is not you I doubt…but the people you are affiliated with."
"And how do you know for certain I am affiliated with them?" she snarled, before smoothing her face and placing her hands in her lap.
"Then you deny it?" Harry said, leaning back. "Can you swear to me that you didn't know I was kept in some dungeon, maybe even yours and repeatedly beaten and…and…sexually abused, by the group of people who stand closest to Lord Voldemort and who your husband is most certainly a member of, seeing as he didn't mind partaking in some of the activities that went on."
By the time he had finished speaking, he was shaking and clenching his hand. His face was white, and his scar stood out; a red streak on his forehead. Narcissa Malfoy had paled as well, her perfectly manicured hand in front of her mouth.
"I confess, I did not know." Her eyes hard and clear.
"You'll excuse me if I don't believe a word you're saying." Harry bit out, trying to centre himself. He stared as the woman stood up and put two cups on the table, a small vial in between them.
"Veritaserum. Brewed by Professor Snape himself. I cannot convince you of my innocence, yet here is a way for us to overcome certain prejudices. What do you say, Harry?"
Harry looked at her.
"How can I be sure it is really Veritaserum?"
"You could take it yourself." Narcissa suggested with a smile and Harry glared.
"Well, yes, but how do I know you haven't countered it with something in your drink, or have immunity to it?"
"My my Harry…so suspicious. I'd think you were a Slytherin."
Harry said nothing and Narcissa Malfoy sighed.
"It is a truce I am proposing, perhaps even, an alliance. Neither Draco nor Lucius know that we are here. No one does. You may obliviate me afterwards, if you feel it prudent."
Harry weighed it in his mind. Maybe Narcissa Malfoy thought he wasn't good enough to cast a proper obliviate and thought she had nothing to fear. Maybe she was being genuine. Harry frowned. It wasn't a very Slytherin thing to do, offer someone, a student, namely Harry Potter, such a powerful choice.
"How about," he said, choosing his words carefully, "we have tea, without the Veritaserum, and I will think about it and let you know at a later date if I decide to take you up on your offer."
Narcissa Malfoy looked at him.
"Are you sure it will still stand, Harry Potter?"
"You would not have made it only to retract it. Of that much I am certain."
He watched her smile and felt his heart beating in his chest.
"Very well," she said and lifted the teapot to pour whilst Harry took the little vial.
"Just in case," he said as he pocketed it, watching her raise her eyebrows.
They spoke very superficially about the coming DADA year and the lessons Harry had missed. Narcissa offered to tutor him or find him a tutor and he said, as before, that he would think about it. She had smiled. They had discussed the castle and even went as far as to talk about the DA, in which Narcissa showed great interest. That was the deepest subject they touched, both wary of disrupting the precarious balance they had created in the office.
When he left, Harry felt he had much thinking to do and much to tell one bushy-haired witch who would be able to confirm whether the vial was really Veritaserum.
"You had TEA with HARRY POTTER?"
Narcissa Malfoy watched as her son worked himself into one of his astounding rages. They happened less and less frequently now that he was growing up, but she had forgotten the sheer power behind his anger. She called up a shield to protect her, not a moment to soon, for Draco had started throwing stuff in his anger.
"I can't BELIEVE YOU! How…how….UN-SLYTHERIN, mother! I just…"
She watched him vent and shook her head. It was times like these that reminded her how young Draco still was and how much Lucius had messed up their son with his ideas on politics and alliances. It was time for Narcissa Black to re-emerge.
"Draco Lucius Malfoy, you will control yourself at once. This behaviour will get you nowhere. It is childish and un-productive. If you cannot behave like an adult then I shall deign not to treat you as such."
Draco deflated and sank into a chair; the same chair, Narcissa smirked to herself, that Harry Potter had occupied nearly three hours ago.
"I just don't understand why, Mother?"
"Because I believe in the ability to choose my own fate rather than have it carved out for me simply by association. It is time I started taking the reigns again in this family, seeing as your father has made a piss-poor job out of it."
Draco looked affronted but she ignored him and hummed whilst cleaning her office. It felt good to have an office. It felt good to have a job and to teach children and to start taking a more active part in changing the wizarding society. It was time for the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black to regain their bearings.
Harry stumbled into his room and Percy, who was reading on the bed, sprang up and caught him before he fell. He gently laid the boy on the bed and removed his glasses.
"You okay?" he asked, brushing the hair away from Harry's face.
"Yea I'm okay, I'm just a little out of breath. I think I overexerted myself today, on top of which I had to relive some rather painful memories."
"Does it get easier?" Percy asked.
"Yes," Harry said. "I just wish the noise in my head would go away."
"Is it still like a quiet distorted radio signal?"
Harry smiled and nodded. He'd explained to Percy what he was (or wasn't) hearing and Percy hadn't understood until Remus had dug out an old radio and demonstrated. Now Percy acted as if it had been in his vocabulary all along.
Harry closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, content to have Percy watch over him.
"We're fucked," Nott said as he cowered in the hall of Malfoy Manor. "The Dark Lord has been too calm. There have been no summonings! He KNOWS about the brat's escape…we're all doomed! And it's all YOUR fault!"
Dark raised an eyebrow and flicked some dirt off his nail.
"Really now, Nott, calm yourself. You won't get anywhere if you're so excitable all the time."
Nott glared and Lucius Malfoy levelled a smirk at him.
"I wouldn't be so confident, Lucius…after all, you seem to have misplaced your wife, recently, haven't you?" Dark hissed, but Lucius shook his head.
"Really, you astonish me…the Dark Lord does not scare you, but my wife does? I know where she is. She is teaching at Hogwarts - collecting information, since Snape is, regrettably, no longer reliable."
"We don't know that."
Lucius rolled his eyes.
"Believe what you will. In the meantime, stop having your impromptu gatherings in my front hall; it's an abuse of hospitality. And Nott, stop dirtying up my house."
"But we need to DO something! Capture him again! Anything, to show the Dark Lord that we repent and that we are sorry. He's going to kill us!" Nott frothed at the mouth. The other two men looked unimpressed.
"Come now, Nott, he can't kill all of us." Dark smiled and Lucius shook his head.
"He'll probably just pick off the weaker ones, if anything." The Malfoy Lord added. Dark sneered.
"Looks like you're still fucked, Nott."
"It's him. Take him and go."
Harry twisted in his sleep. Not this dream. Please.
"Are you sure? He looks…"
"Of course I'm sure, take him - quick!"
Harry frowned and clawed at the bedcovers.
"Ssh, I've got you. Merlin look what they did to him!"
"I know. I tried…I know."
"We can't bring him back here."
"You have to! If they notice he's missing, who do you think they'll look to first?"
"Well that's not my concern, is it?"
"He can hardly speak - he might not survive the spell."
"He's strong. Just like his father. We're almost there."
"Secure the wrist straps. Tighter."
"Hurry, they could check on him any moment."
The shapes became less blurred and Harry saw two people standing over him. He was lying on a stone slab, tied to it. His eyes widened. No please - not this again, oh god no please. PLEASE. He thought he recognised their faces but he couldn't put a name to them. The taller shape pulled two sticks from their robe. They were long, and silver.
"Mithril…where did you get that? HOW?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"No, you're right. Come on, the sooner this is done, the better."
The taller whispered a few words and Harry felt his skin turn to liquid. He screamed. He was going to fade away - just, disappear.
"Quickly, we're losing him. His heart rate is…shit I hear them! HURRY UP!"
"DO NOT RUSH ME, YOU FOOL!" the taller snarled, and took one of the sticks. Suddenly fingers were digging into his skin and it felt like he was going to die. Someone was rooting around in his flesh, burrowing deeper and it hurt it hurt it hurt nonononono stop please stop please please please stop let me go let me go but the claws embedded themselves in his flesh that seemed to float all around him and he was going to be sick he knew it and then something cold dug into him and it felt wrong dirty nononononononono please NONONO PLEASE NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO
"MUM!" Harry woke up and he was screaming and tied up in his sheets and he was screaming screaming and he thought it was better but it was worse much worse and he didn't remember, he didn't remember at all and it hurt it hurt it hurt. He clawed at his arm furiously and bits of skin settled beneath his fingernails and spatters of blood landed on his nose, his eyebrows off off off off
"HARRY! MERLIN - stop! Stop it!" Percy wrenched his hand away from his arm but was it really Percy really really Percy? It was a trick! A trick! Harry scratched Percy's face and kick out. Percy lost his balance and let go of Harry's hands. Harry scrambled off the bed, but tripped on his sheets and fell facedown onto the stone. His nose hurt. He hurt. Again. He hurt. He crawled into the furthest corner and rocked himself back and forth. He hurt. Please let it stop. Please.
"Harry?" Percy took a few steps in his direction but the scream made him stop. He wrung his hands. He needed to treat Harry; that crack had sounded painful and Harry was too agitated to be reasonable. He clenched his wand behind his back.
"I'm so sorry, Harry," he whispered, "STUPEFY!"
Harry slumped forward and Percy ran to catch him. As he cradled the small boy in his arms, the door flew open and Remus stood in the doorway.
"WHAT HAPPENED!" he cried, running forward. Percy shrugged, a miserable expression on his face.
"I don't know." He petted Harry's hair. "I don't know. But it wasn't good. A nightmare, I think. He was clawing at his arm, shredding it. I had to stupefy him - he wouldn't let me near him."
Remus closed his eyes and sank to the ground. The two men spent a few minutes with their head bowed before Percy rose.
"I'd better take him to the infirmary."
The werewolf snarled as he looked at his cub. He was going to tear those who did apart. Slowly. Meticulously. And he was going to enjoy it.
"Hermione, what are you doing here?"
Hermione looked up as Professor Lupin - Remus, she corrected herself - walked out of the hospital wing.
"I heard Harry was in the hospital wing again. I just wanted to know if he's all right."
The werewolf rubbed his eyes, and shook his head.
"We don't know. It was a bad nightmare. He's being kept unconscious while his arm heals…he should be fine in a few days or so."
Hermione bit her lip.
"A few days? It's already been a week."
Remus looked past her.
"These things take time, Hermione. I know you want to be there for Harry - I know that, but I don't think there's anything you can do right now. I wouldn't want you to spend your days worrying."
Hermione's eyes became misty.
"There's not much else I can do."
She turned to go when Ron came running up.
"Hermione! There you are! What's this I hear about Harry being in the hospital wing? Why didn't you tell me? How is he?"
Hermione looked at him coldly.
"I did tell you. I think you nodded and mentioned studying in the library with Hannah."
"That's a lie. I would've never- "
"What? Ignored me? Thought I was rambling about homework? I do have my priorities straight, you know. Unlike someone."
There was an ugly look on Ron's face.
"Don't ever think I don't have my priorities straight - Harry means just as much to me as he does to you. If you had bothered to ask - Hannah and I have been in the library looking for ways to help Harry. What have you been doing? I hardly see you there."
"BECAUSE YOU'RE ALWAYS WITH HER!" Hermione cried, throwing her bag down. Ron stopped and stared and Hermione turned away. Remus stooped to pick up her bag and handed it to her. She nodded her head in thanks, and turned to Ron.
"I…sorry. I have to go." She hurried down the corridor, leaving Ron to stare blankly at her back. After a minute he turned to Remus.
"I didn't…I didn't know. I didn't think she ever…not that it matters now, but…I didn't know." In a daze, he walked off down where Hermione had disappeared. Remus smiled at himself, thankful that Harry didn't have hormones to deal with on top of everything else.
"Hello, Pansy darling. How're you today?" Draco threw himself over the couch in the Slytherin common room and landed gracefully next to her. Pansy, who was bent over some Arithmancy, looked up and blew a strand of hair out of her face.
"Oh hi Draco. I'm fine…why do you ask?"
Draco frowned. She seemed fine. Nothing suspicious, really. He gave her a big smile.
"No reason - can't I ask how one of my very best friends is doing?"
Pansy rolled her eyes.
"We're only very best friends when it suits you, Draco. What do you want?"
Draco dropped the smile.
"Just to know if everything is all right."
Pansy kept her eyes on her work now, hoping Draco wouldn't notice the slight tremor in her hands.
"Honestly, I don't know where this is coming from - everything is fine. Your mother as a Defence professor is brilliant - finally what this school needs, a little bit of intelligence." She added a sneer to her voice for effect, and breathed deeply as Draco relaxed next to her.
"Yes it is rather good, isn't it?" There was a smug grin on his face. "Now if only that prat Potter would drop dead, everything would be perfect."
Pansy couldn't hold back the sigh that escaped her, and Draco jumped on it immediately.
"What? What is it? You're not going soft on Potter, are you Parkinson?" He glared at her and she put down her pen.
"No, Draco, of course not. It's just…you're obsessed with him. It's really very unhealthy. We're in our sixth year, don't you think it's time you focused all that attention on something else, like your career or whatever?"
Draco beside her was working himself up to a frenzy.
"OBSESSED? I AM NOT OBSESSED WITH FUCKING POTTER! I- "
"NO, how can you even SUGGEST that? And my career…Pansy, you know as well as I do what BOTH our careers are going to be."
Pansy grabbed her homework and jumped up.
"Well maybe I want something different, Draco," she snarled. "Maybe I don't want to follow anybody. Maybe I want to make a name for myself, and go my own path and see what the future brings instead of having my life planned out for me. MAYBE I DON'T WANT TO MARRY YOU!" She stormed off and Draco's hair ruffled when she slammed the door. Pansy didn't want to marry him? But…but they were betrothed. They were supposed to get married - it was a legally binding contract. She couldn't just back out of that. Could she? And what was all that rot about creating her own path? She knew as well as he did that there was no other path but the Dark Lord. Right?
Draco bit his lip. Would he have to tell his mother? Pansy really was one of his closest friends, and he didn't want to rat her out. But she had as good as committed treason. In the Slytherin common room no less - where anybody could have heard her! Luckily there were only a few first and second years, but you never knew. Would he have to turn her in?
Draco stared at the fire for a long time.