Chapter 23

Draco practically dropped the slender witch onto the bed, eager to be away from her body. He stepped back, trying not to dig at his arms where she had been against his bare skin. Merlin he needed a bath!

"Tibby." There was a faint pop and a diminutive house elf stood before him. "Tell my father to come to my room at his earliest convenience, but don't tell him anything else."

"Yes sirs. Tibby will be doing as young master says." She winked out of existence and Draco sighed.

Now… what the hell was he supposed to tell his father when he got there? He dropped into the chair at his desk, drumming his fingers against the dark cherry wood as he pondered the girl on his bed. Her face was still just as pale as it had appeared in the shadowed alley and dark smudges that looked almost like bruises were present beneath her eyes. Her hair was tousled, giving her an unkempt look that was not normal for the bossy witch.

Her eyes when they had been open had been haunted, a look that he was unaccustomed to seeing from Gryffindor's know-it-all. What had she meant 'to make things right'? Did she want to fix things between her and Harry? He snorted slightly. She had almost succeeded in killing Harry's baby. He didn't think Harry would just accept an apology and go on with things. But then this was Harry, who had proven to have seemingly no restraint on the forgiveness he gave.

And yet there was something off about Granger. He could feel it in her very aura and the magic that clung like a cloak around her shoulders. He scratched absently at his tingling arms before realizing what he was doing and jerking his hands down into his lap. He needed a bath and he needed a bath now.

Harry hesitated outside the door. He'd marched down here fully intending on stating what he needed and getting what he needed, but now that he was here he was confronted with the memory of his last run in with this man. He shifted on his feet uneasily before inhaling to gather his courage and knocking on the mahogany door in front of him.

"Come in, Mr. Potter."

He grimaced slightly, biting back the first words on his tongue, to point out that he was not a Potter. He stepped through the doors, glancing up at the dark head bent over a slim book.

"Hello, Sssspeaker-child."

He jumped slightly, turning his head to the fire in the corner. "Hello, Nagini."

"Your ssccent isss changed. You ssssmell asss the dark one doessss."

Harry blinked at the question in her tone. Then smiled. "I am the dark one'sss." He answered, not managing to keep the blush from his face. Nagini's answering hiss was easily discernable without words as 'I told you so' and Harry nodded. "Yesss, you did tell me, Nagini. You're sssmarter than I."

"As fascinating as this is," and it was fascinating watching the ease with which Harry spoke the snake language, "I wonder if there's an actual reason for your presence Mr. Potter or if you just wish to speak with my snake?"

"Mannerssss Marvolo." Nagini hissed warningly, the end of her tail twitching with an annoyed snap the reminded Harry rather of a mad cat.

Voldemort merely arched a dark eyebrow at his familiar. "Well Potter?" He demanded, reverting back to English.

Harry blanched a little at the coldness in the Dark Lord's voice. Maybe he was crazy but he could have sworn that at one point the man had warmed up to him. Actually, he knew he had. He needed to think only of the Christmas breakfast, mere days before, to know it for sure. A spark flared in the back of Harry's mind. If he wanted to be an arse then so be it. He'd had enough of cowering at the feet of his so-called betters.

His shoulders straightened, his spine stiffened, and he lifted his head until he met and held the ruby red gaze, something he had failed to do since coming to the manor. His jaw line hardened and in that moment Voldemort caught a glimpse of what all Harry's friends must have seen to put such faith and trust on one man's shoulders.

He was the epiphany of Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor. The hard face and posture were that of a warrior, the shrewd calculating eyes filled with cunning knowledge. He was the perfect blend of Lily Evans and Tom Riddle. His breath caught in his throat.

"Get out, Potter." Harry didn't budge. His only reaction was to blink and tilt his head. "GET OUT POTTER!" Parseltongue when he was pissed had always sent even Severus and Lucius scrambling from the room, but still the boy didn't move.

"Why?" He demanded softly, his original reason for coming shoved to the back of his mind. "Why can't you accept who I am? Who you are to me?"

"Because it's not true!" Voldemort near shouted, coming up from his chair and turning his back on Lily's son. Unable to look into those emerald eyes any longer.

"Isn't it? Then why do you deny it so vehemently? Is it truly such a retched idea that you cannot even begin to fathom the possibility?"

"You don't know what you're talking about."

Harry snorted. "Ya know, ever since I've entered this world I've had it shoved down my throat that you killed my parents. It was your fault I'd never had parents. Your fault I was left with the Dursley's to be neglected, starved, beaten for every little thing that went wrong in their lives." He hadn't intended to say that part. He drew a deep breath to reign in his emotions and continued. "It was you that kept coming after me year after year and therefore because of you that I had to keep returning to that house every summer. It was you who caused the only family member I had who gave a damn about me to be taken away. But it wasn't you. I figured that out for myself so why the hell can't you get over whatever your problem is with me!"

"Because it was me!" Voldemort's angry hiss drew Harry up short and Voldemort laughed, a cold mirthless laugh. "Didn't exxxpect that did you, Harry? Didn't exxxpect me to ssssay that? Well it'ss the truth. It wass me! I'm the reassson you didn't have Lily to hold you growing up! I'm the one that took her away from you! It wasss me! I killed her! It wasss my fault she died. It wasss me!"

Voldemort's magic was reacting to his anger and Harry could feel it rolling off the man in waves. Harry shook his head. He could feel their magics colliding and mingling together - the same yet different. If he could feel it then he knew his father could as well. He turned his back to leave but paused as his hand rested on the door. "Self pity does not suit you Father." He slammed the door behind him and slumped at the sound of several things breaking in succession.

Lucius stared. His training kept him from openly showing the shock he currently felt, but it didn't stop him from feeling it. He'd been in the midst of helping Severus with an incredibly complicated and tedious potion when the house elf had come, and now he couldn't help but feeling grateful that the creature had been unable to tell him exactly why Draco wanted him. If Tibby had told him he would have more than likely blown the potions' lab up in his shock.

Nothing in the world could have prepared him for the sight of Hermione Granger lying on the bed of the guest bedroom that was connected to his son's bedroom via a shared bathroom. Oh he supposed there were worse things… but this was Granger! The very girl who continued to beat his son out of top ranks in every class he shared with her!

The bathroom door opened and Draco stepped out, wet hair dripping onto the carpet. "Father." He seemed to sigh in relief upon sight of his sire.

Lucius turned and arched an elegant eyebrow at the sight of his son dripping wet and wearing only a pair of pants. Draco shrugged. "I wasn't sure who had come in." He said simply."

"Yes, I can see why you would be nervous of who might stumble in. What in Merlin's name is she doing here Draco?"

"She followed us into Knockturn Alley." As though that explained everything. Clearly Lucius didn't believe so if the arch of his eyebrow was anything to go by. Draco sighed. "She spotted us in Diagon Alley and followed down onto Knockturn. I grabbed her, threatened her, she blabbered something about making things right, and passed out."

"And you thought you should bring her here?"

Draco almost froze on the inside, but it never showed on his mask. "I thought it might present an excellent opportunity to gain information. If not willingly then there are always alternative methods."

Lucius smiled. "Very wise decision, Draco. Very wise indeed."

Draco grinned.

Long, slender fingers reached into the crib, gently lifting the newborn boy and cradling him to a strong sturdy chest. The whimpers and thrashing stopped and large emerald eyes blinked up at him. He smiled, swaying slightly as he rocked the child. A small hand curled around his finger and he chuckled, kissing the top of the infant's head. How in the world Muggles could be so stupid as to presume a newborn could not see. -

A gurgle filtered through the small manor in Godric's Hollow followed by the sound of splashing. He stepped into the bathing chamber and smirked at the sight of his beautiful wife, soaking wet down the front, and his infant son giggling as he kicked his little feet in the tub, splashing more water onto his mother who shook an admonishing finger at him even as she laughed. –

He leaned up on his elbow, running his fingers through her long hair softly. He could see her eyes glittering in the dark, silent tears running down her face. "What troubles you?"

She shook her head slightly, her hand lifted to his on her shoulder and she knotted their fingers together. "I'm tired, Mark. I just want to be with you like we're supposed to be." She inhaled as he drew her up snug to his chest, wrapping their arms over her waist. "He cries for you when you're not here. Wakes up screaming and calling for you and he's inconsolable." She turned, burying her face against his chest. "Sometimes I just break down and cry with him." -

The one year old slept, though his rest was not peaceful. He began to wonder if the infant couldn't perhaps sense the turmoil surrounding his life. He whispered a soft spell of comfort and peace as his fingers threaded through thick black locks of hair. The baby sighed and shifted, nuzzling into his hand and slept deeply. -

He burst through the main doors, by passing James' dead body. He had to reach them. Had to save them! "No! Not Adrian! Take me instead, Dumbledore! Not my Adrian!" He heard his precious Lily's voice begging.

A laugh, cold and chilling reverberated through the second floor. "How about I take both instead?"

Tom shoved through the door in time to see the first wave of acid green light strike his loved one's heart and she fell lifeless to the floor. Dumbledore turned his wand on the infant in the bed and Tom's mind screamed in rage. He was too late, the wave of green was already heading in his son's direction and the baby was screaming holy terror. He threw out his hand even as he flung himself bodily at Dumbledore. Time seemed to slow almost to a stop. White flashed from Tom's fingertips, racing to the baby and surrounding him in blinding white light seconds before the killing curse struck. His scream was abruptly silenced and he fell over limp as a rag doll at the same moment that Tom himself began screaming. He could feel his soul literally being torn from his body as the killing curse traveled up the channel of magic he'd left trying to protect his son. He struggled to hold on but the last conscious thought he had was of Dumbledore standing over him and his infant son, pale as death, and unmoving in his crib.

Glowing red eyes stared sightlessly into the fire and slowly the hatred that lit them faded until the red was gone replaced by broken sapphire. Two clear crystalline tears fell down his face, unnoticed and unchecked as the most feared Dark Lord in history lost himself in the memories of his beloved Lily and his precious Adrian.

"If you don't stop scratching you're going to make your arms bleed, Draco."

Draco sighed. "Sorry, Father."

Lucius looked up and a slight smile touched his lips. It seemed the moments he got to spend with his son were few and far between despite being in the same manor. Draco was growing into a fine young man, but unlike Harry Draco was still in part a child. He still needed to mature. It was something that Lucius thanked Merlin for that he had been able to shelter him enough that he hadn't had to grow up as fast as some of his peers had. His eyes darkened from their usual silver to storm gray. If someone had even thought of doing to his son what Dumbledore had done to Harry… He would have taken great personal pleasure in gutting them open and letting them hang in the forest to be eaten alive.


Draco's voice pulled him from his thoughts. His fingers were clenched in an effort to keep from digging at his arms. "Hold your arms out." He instructed as he finished grinding the leaves.

The relief on Draco's face was instant as the paste was spread over his arms. The redness began to fade and he sighed softly. "It's not natural." Lucius hands paused slightly, glancing up at him, one eyebrow lifted in question. "The magic I can feel on her. It's not natural. It's…" He hesitated, struggling to find the right word for what he had felt, for what made his arms sting and burn as though being bitten by a thousand ants. "…twisted. Like a memory charm but it's not. It's been darkened, warped and defiled with lust." He shuddered slightly and as Lucius straightened he squeezed his shoulder.

Dumbledore was going to die, very slowly and very painfully for what he'd done to these children.

A whimper came from the bed and both blondes looked up, edging closer as the girl's eyelids began to flutter. Slowly, mahogany eyes slid into view, an even slower awareness edging into them as Draco spoke beside her bed. "Granger?"

Her eyes blinked rapidly, a hand lifted to push her mushed and matted hair away from her face. "Granger?" He repeated.

Hermione's head swung in his direction, eyes widening with first alarm and then relief. "It worked. Oh thank Merlin! It worked. I found you. Where's Harry? Please I have to talk to him - I have to explain... I have to!"

"Miss Granger if you would kindly calm down before I make you calm down." Lucius' cold voice cut in, succeeding in silencing the girl. "Better. Now - if you would kindly start from the beginning?"

Harry walked silently along the hallway, one hand resting on his belly, the other clenching and unclenching as he struggled to control the many emotions running rampant through his mind. He wasn't really paying much attention to where he was going, but his feet followed a well-known path toward one of the cozier studies of the manor. He paused just inside the door as a head came up from being bent over the desk.

"I'm sorry, Rudolphus. I didn't know anyone was in here."

Rudolphus merely waved a hand. "It's been made clear that you have free run of the manor same as we do." He rose, slipping the book he'd been pouring over shut and into his pocket. "I'm finished anyways, so unless you need something?" He was at the door and just past Harry's shoulder before the boy finally spoke.

"Actually… there is something you could do for me." His voice lilted at the end, turning what could have been a demand into a gentle request.

Quibbler - Special Evening Edition!

It seems as though a day doesn't go by that something isn't said about one Harry Potter anymore. Everyone is questioning just exactly where the wizarding world's most famous teenager is hiding and why. Questions have also been aroused about our young celebrity's private life, and after much deliberation, we here at the Quibbler have the answers. I've decided to simply post the entire conversation, unedited so that nothing would be left out.

Lovegood: Good evening Harry. It's a pleasure to see you again.

Harry: Good evening, Mr. Lovegood. It's nice to see you again as well.

Lovegood: I must say you're looking much better than the last time we met.

Harry (blushes): Thank you, sir. I'm feeling much better as well. I have some really great people taking care of me that I can thank for that.

Lovegood: I, and everyone else who cares about you, am very glad to hear that, Harry. We didn't get into it much last time, but these last months must have truly been trying for you, and add on to that the recent death of your uncle –

Harry (cuts in gently): My uncle is dead, Mr. Lovegood. Simple as that. I feel no sorrow over the fact. My life at No. Four Privet Drive was not an easy one to live, and Vernon Dursley was the main cause of that. If anything I must confess to feeling relief that there is no way he can cause such strife in my life again. My entire life at Privet Drive was nothing but a lie. (Harry looks down at his lap, suddenly very interested in his fingers before looking back up through the fringe of his bangs, and when he next speaks his voice is very soft, almost inaudible.) I grew up in a cupboard. My Hogwarts letters were even addressed to the cupboard. They had four bedrooms… two of which were occupied, yet they chose to put me in the cupboard and keep me there. Out of sight out of mind, I suppose.

Lovegood (has to swallow to regain his voice): Do you think it was because of their fear of your magic?

Harry: Not then. I didn't know magic existed then. I only knew what the Dursley's told me. That I was a worthless freak.

Lovegood: You most certainly are not! (blushes) Forgive me my ire, Harry, but to think of a child being locked in a cupboard…

Harry: I quite understand, sir. Though, it took me along time to come to a place where I could agree with you. Being told for all that you can remember of your life that you're a worthless freak who came from worthless drunken freak parents… it's hard to put such lessons behind you. (takes a breath before he continues) But back to your question, when I finally found out about magic, yes, I thought that to be the reason for their treatment. But as I said, my entire life at the Dursley's was a lie – from what I was told about my parents to the lies I was forced to tell the neighbors. I recently found out that Vernon Dursley, who told me magic was not real, that everything about me was abnormal and freakish – he was a wizard. Moreover he was a wizard using his magic to keep his wife and son subdued into treating me the exact same way that he did.

Lovegood: How exactly was he doing that and is that why there was no one at No Four when the Prophet went to the house?

Harry: Yes, sir. My aunt and cousin were both removed from the premises after my cousin contacted me informing me that he suspected his father had struck his mother. We are in the process of getting to know each other for who we truly are.

Lovegood: Do you see them having a place in your child's life?

Harry: Oh yes. (His hand goes to his swollen stomach, stroking softly.) I intend to give this child everything that I lacked growing up, and that begins with a proper family. My child will have two parents, godparents, grandparents, and a plethora of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Lovegood: Two parents, Harry? You would not speak of the second parent last time.

Harry (smiles fully for the first time): You should understand better than anyone that people and their roles in life change, Mr. Lovegood. The second father of my child now is a man of great strength and knowledge. I believe I would have fallen apart through the first stages of my pregnancy had it not been for his care.

Lovegood: I think I'm missing something in your explanation.

Harry (chuckles as he stands): I'm sure that you'll figure it out sir. After all, you do have one of the most brilliant witches I know for a daughter. (He fastens his cloak and bows.) Good day to you, Mr. Lovegood. And when you see Luna, be sure to tell her I said hello.

Lovegood (standing and returning the bow): And to you, Harry. If I don't see you again before the birth of your child, then may I say I hope fatherhood is as good to you as it is me.

After Harry's departure I took it upon myself to go visiting in Little Surrey. I asked several different neighbors if they could remember Harry Potter – all of them said no, but when he was referenced as the Dursley's nephew it sparked an instant memory. Most of the neighbors referred to him as 'a dirty little boy' 'always in trouble' and 'criminal'. When asked about the last I was informed that it was a well-known fact in Surrey that Harry Potter had attended St. Brutus' School For Incurably Criminal Boys.

It is said that Albus Dumbledore is one of the greatest wizards of our time, and after his defeat of Grindlewald certainly it is true, but is he really one of the wisest? To leave a one-year-old infant with someone and then apparently never go check on him is not just insane it is magical neglect. One could almost say that the magical neglect is equal to the physical neglect that Harry Potter received at the hands of his relatives.

Severus couldn't help staring. First from the article to the young man sitting in front of him smirking and back again. "Been busy, have you?"

"Only a bit." The corner's of his lips were tilted upward with amusement.

"You seem awfully confident considering how much information you gave."

Harry nodded, still smiling slightly. "A lot of information yes."

"You think that was wise?"

"Of course, Severus. After all, the information I gave to Leviticus Lovegood is exactly what the wizarding world wants to hear. All about their tragic little hero and his tragic little life. They're already doubting, this will only solidify those growing doubts in the Ministry and Albus Dumbledore."

Severus' mouth hung open slightly in shock before it snapped shut with an audible click. "Merlin help us – you are a Slytherin."

Harry laughed, eyes shining. "I learn from the best, I assure you."

The door to Severus' private study creeped open and a familiar blonde sidled in. He took a deep breath, eyeing the youngest of the two nervously. In a very un-Malfoyish gesture he blurted out his missive so fast that he was only barely discernable. "I'm-not-sure-if-I-should-tell-you-this-but-Granger's-in-the-manor-and-requesting-to-see-you."

blink I couldn't help it. Ihad to do something to make Draco less Lucius..ous. Besides, if someone were to relax and act out of character even for a second... I think it would happen around Harry.