"Sister." The auburn-haired witch greeted Narcissa formally with a slight inclination of her head. It was clear that she had been expecting the blonde witch's call. "How goes your quest?"
"Not well. I fear that my emotions overrode common sense and I pushed too hard." Narcissa replied worriedly. "Harry and Draco know the truth-the full truth." She told her friend and confidante of the confrontation in the workroom.
Regina sighed, tucking a lock of chestnut hair behind one ear. "So be it. There's nothing to be done about it now. I take it that they have not yet accepted the truth as it stands?"
Narcissa shook her head. "No. Harry was more willing to believe that he and Draco are half-brothers than he was to accept that Molly Weasley is a traitor to the Light and an indirect cause for the reason that his parents and Sirius are not alive and with him today. Albus has laid the groundwork well. Place Harry into a home with people whom knowingly hate anything and anyone having to do with magic, and then tell him that he is in possession of said magic, and he will leap at the first show of kindness offered to another so called 'freak' like him." She clenched her fists as anger at the treatment her godson had experienced at the hands of the Dursleys streaked through her once more.
"Focus, Sister. Your anger may burn brightly upon his behalf, but it does Harry no good at this point. You need to be clear minded if we are to find a solution." Regina cautioned.
Narcissa took a deep breath and nodded, harnessing her anger.
"How did Draco respond? I can't imagine he is rejoicing over the fact that he and Harry share the same father, the same blood."
Narcissa snorted inelegantly. "That's an understatement. I have no doubt that he would be running to Bella or one of the other remaining Death eaters with the news, were it not for my wards and the fact that being Harry's half-brother potentially makes him a bargaining chip and liability. The Dark Lord would stop at nothing to destroy him if he knew Draco had such a connection to Harry. At least, that's what Draco believes in the back of his mind." She smiled triumphantly.
Regina shook her head. "You and your shades of grey, Narcissa. A coercion spell-even a subtle one-like that could very well be considered Dark, yet you insist that it is not the spell itself; it is the intent behind it. I don't particularly agree, but I understand your need to protect your child."
"Children, Regina," Narcissa corrected quietly. "Harry is mine now as well." She waited a heartbeat, then continued briskly. "I noticed that you were a bit distracted earlier. What are you thinking?"
Regina's reflection rippled slightly, as if the other witch had shrugged. "I was wondering if you checked the both of them for compulsion spells when you were placing that one on Draco It is very likely that Lucius, in his narrow-minded view of the 'perfect heir', may have placed spells on Draco to compel him to act and respond a certain way. And Dumbledore may have done the same to Harry."
"I didn't find any on Draco, but Harry…" Narcissa frowned darkly and turned to her friend. "Please excuse me my friend; I'm going to follow up on this little theory of yours. And after that I'm going to call in some reinforcements."
"Who?" Regina asked curiously.
Narcissa smiled grimly. "What better way to deal with a couple of young wolves than with an old Alpha?"
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to his mother, Draco had not remained in his room for very long. After all, why sulk alone when there are others to share the misery with? Opening the door to his room, he sauntered out, acting as if he had every right to be strolling the hallway, which, technically, he did. Narcissa never actually forbid him to leave his room until dinner, although it had been very much implied.
Harry stared morosely at the ceiling, painted to match the night sky at its peak. He was idly going through the constellations, with the painting obligingly rearranging itself to show different sections as needed, when there was a sharp rap at the door. Before he could rouse himself enough to answer, it opened and Draco strolled in.
"What do you want?" Harry snapped exasperatedly, turning his attention back to the ceiling. He really was not in the mood to deal with the other boy at the moment.
"I just wanted to reflect on the ironies of this day." Draco replied, gesturing expansively. "It's amazing, really, how quickly the tides can turn."
Before he could continue rubbing the fact that he had been right about the Weasleys all along and now the best friend of the Boy-Who-Lived was truly a blood traitor to both sides, he noticed Harry's wrist was glowing faintly. Distracted, he gestured at the source. "Potter, is there a particular reason why your bracelet is glowing?"
Harry sighed impatiently. "What are you on about now?" He still refused to call his nemesis Malfoy because he knew how much pride the other boy had taken in being the heir of a Death eater.
Draco rolled his eyes. "The cheap piece of string someone had the gall to call a bracelet or something." He elaborated. "Who gave it to you?"
Harry glanced down at his wrist and frowned. "As much as I'm probably going to regret answering your inane questions, Ron did. What of it?"
"Because Potter," Draco drawled, pulling out his wand. "There's at least three compulsion spells on it."
"Give it up Draco." Harry scoffed. "I would be able to tell if there were compulsion spells on me."
"Not necessarily. Let's conduct a test, shall we? Take the bracelet off." For some reason, Draco had a perverse need to prove to Potter once and for all that Weasley was bad news. Maybe then the stupid git would realize that appearances could be deceiving.
"This is stupid. I'm not playing this game with you anymore."
"Fine. We'll go about this another way then. Tell me; are there three beads on your bracelet? A white one, a red one, and a black one perhaps?"
Harry examined his wrist and was stunned to discover that yes, there were three beads just as Draco had described. "So?"
"Those are focus beads. The caster can cast a spell upon them, and they will retain the essence of the spell for as long as the caster specifies. In this case, I would say that the white bead is for a blind faith spell-so that you would trust the caster and his-or her-relations completely. The red bead..." Draco frowned thoughtfully, caught up despite himself. "Red is usually for passion, for love, so perhaps a love spell or potion of sorts. Have you had any girl show unnaturally keen interest in you since you met the Weaselys?"
Ginny Weasley immediately flashed through Harry's mind, and the way that both Molly and Ron had always laughed her crush off. Now he had to wonder: was it by her choice to act the way she did, or was it their doing?
He clenched his teeth and said roughly, "and the third bead?" he asked, instead of answering the question posed him.
Draco could see that his theory was really starting to strike home, and had no qualms about continuing-especially about the third and final bead. "Black stands for sickness and eventual death." He waited a moment for that to sink in before continuing. "You're no featherweight Potter, no matter how you try to hide what muscle you've got under those horrid rags." He shuddered delicately. "I wouldn't even give those to a house elf." He sneered for a moment, then composed himself. "Anyway, you could potentially weigh more than what you do now, and you are probably supposed to be taller than you currently are. Without doing more extensive tests, I would say that the caster meant for you to be restricted-physically and magically. I'd bet a hundred Galloens that you're actually at about half the magic potential you should be." The sneer reappeared. "It might explain why you're so remedial at potions when your mother was apparently excellent at them. Even if she was a...muggle-born."
"Come on Draco." Harry fell back on his bed. He couldn't believe he had nearly fallen for the blonde Slytherin's trick! "Why would Molly Weasley-if it was even her-put a spell on me to keep me from gaining weight, and then try to stuff me like a pillow every time she sees me?"
"Appearances?" Draco shrugged expansively. "To reinforce the spell work through potions? I would hope that you don't wear that thing all the time, so she has to do something to cover the time periods when she doesn't see you. As for why, well...what better way to reinforce trust and loyalty than by giving you what you need? Food, companionship-even you can't resist those, Potter."
Harry opened his mouth to retaliate, to say anything in defense of those he had come to think of as his family over the years. But he couldn't. Everything Draco had said, everything Narcissa had revealed earlier, whispered insistently in the back of his mind, eating away at his doubts. Still, he fought to ignore them-they were the wife and son of a Death eater, after all! The doubt nibbling around the edges of his heart caused the white bead on his bracelet glow insistently brighter, unknown to him, reacting to the it's bearers feelings. Unnoticed, Draco began to move closer with this wand, murmuring under his breath.
"There's an easy way to find out." Draco pointed out after a moment, lowering his wand. "Take the bracelet off, and set it on the table."
"Call your mother in here first." Harry ordered grimly. "I don't trust her, but I trust you even less. Let her confirm what you've just said, and then we'll see."
"Typical Gryffindor. Afraid the big bad Slytherin is going to eat you?" Draco mocked. "I've had my wand the entire time, you fool, and I haven't tried to curse, hex, or maim you for the past ten minutes. Surely that earns me something."
"Ten minutes does not make up for nearly six years of torment." Harry retorted. "And how do I know that you won't just put another spell on me after these ones are off?"
Grumbling, Draco threw his hands up in the air. "Bloody sodding Gryffindor! Emmy!"
The house elf appeared with a pop! "Yes, Master Malfoy?"
"Tell my mother I wish to speak with her, in Potter's room."
Emmy quivered but nodded. "Yes sir." She disappeared, and Narcissa made her entrance after a couple of moments.
Before she could scold him, Draco quickly gave her the basic rundown of what they had learned. She examined the bracelet and confirmed his discovery-with one omission. "The restriction spell was not cast by Molly. The components involved are much too complex and powerful, especially when made strong enough to last over the entire summer. No. Only Albus Dumbledore or someone of his caliber would have the power to create such a thing."
Draco snorted, his expression deceptively smug to hide his surprise. It wasn't that he didn't think the old man was capable of such a thing, him and his preaching's of the "greater good" and all, but still. He had been so sure all these years that the Head Master had made Potter out to be the Golden Boy because... well because he actually believed in him. He would never admit it, but it was one of the reasons he had been so jealous of Potter after their initial meeting.
Harry, however, could not think past his suddenly raging emotions. He was suddenly caught between the explosive need to defend Dumbledore, and the unbearably acute feeling of betrayal. He reacted physically, tearing at the clasp of the bracelet until it broke open. It fell off of his wrist with a clatter, hitting the stone floor.
Narcissa acted in tandem with the sound, putting a tight shield around it and levitating it to a nearby table. "There." She said quietly. "How do you feel?"
It was as if thick, stringy cobwebs were slowly clearing from his senses. Everything was beginning to feel brighter, more vibrant. The constant aches and pains that he had associated with sleeping in his cramped bed at the Dursleys and being hit with multiple Unforgivable curses were leaving him. He could feel his magic surging through his body, giving him strength.
"Wow," he breathed, as the part of his mind that had argued so vehemently against Narcissa's and Draco's accusations died a quiet death. Everything they had told him made perfect sense, and not just because it came from the mouths of silver-tongued Slytherins. Molly working with Wormtail, Dumbledore's manipulations… But before he could adjust to this latest allegation against those he had trusted most in his life, Draco struck, hitting directly at Harry's vulnerable state of mind.
"You know, the irony in all of this is more than a little amusing. Just about every person you've ever trusted has been repeatedly stabbing you in the back. At least those Muggle relatives of yours had the guts to be blunt about hating you. But the best part of it all is that even your precious Dumbledore could care less about what you need or what you feel, as long as he can keep you in the flock with the rest of his sheep. But mores the pity for blind Gryffindors who wear their hearts on their sleeves." Draco's smirk widened just slightly, his expression condescending. "Face it, Potter. You're a pawn, and you always will be unless you grow some back bone and stop following orders. Just look at how Dumbledore and the Dark Lord are moving you around, manipulating you to whatever position they see fit in their game of Wizard's Chess."
Harry stepped up until they were nearly nose to nose. Green eyes bore into silver. "I will if you will, Potter."
Surprised, Draco stumbled back a step. "What?"
Harry followed him. "You say that I should grow some backbone and stop following orders. Well, you're right. It's about time I take control and start doing things my way. But only if you do the same."
"I am not a sheep!" Draco sputtered.
"Baaa! Oh He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, we are not worthy! Baaa! Please, brand us and order us around and think for us, for we are too gullible and stupid to do it on our own!" Harry mocked, clasping his hands together. "Give me a break. Slytherins are supposed to be ambitious and cunning. Since when is having a snake-faced-hypocrite tell you what to do ambitious and cunning?"
Draco didn't respond, so Harry pressed harder. "Oh and before you go spouting off about your precious Lucius, let me point out that he's the biggest sheep of all. He's the crotchety old ewe with the bell around his neck. Last year, at the graveyard? He was right there with his nose in the dirt, groveling at the feet of his master with the likes of Crabbe and Goyle. Just another white mask in the herd. Faceless and expendable. Just. Like. You. No Death Eater has a mind of his own, none of them can make a move without ole' Tommy boy knowing about it. He says "jump" and they all scamper about like rats to do his bidding either to win approval or for fear of being tortured just within an inch of their lives. That's the flock you're so eager to become a part of, just so you can say you're some great and powerful wizard. Tell me, Draco, where's the power in being stripped of your own free-will?" Harry smirked. "So like I said, you grow a backbone and maybe I will, too."
Silence stretched between them as they glared at each other again. Finally, Draco spoke. "What did you mean by calling the Dark Lord a hypocrite, and who's 'Tommy'?"
"Exactly what I said. Voldemort is the biggest hypocrite out there. Did you ever have detention for Filch where he made you polish all the trophies and badges in the trophy case?" Harry replied, slightly calmer. Draco groaned and nodded. "Did you see a badge for 'Special Services to the School', awarded to Tom Riddle?"
"Riddle?" Draco repeated. "Of course. He was a Slytherin, at the top of his class, and Head Boy. Plus he saved the school."
"Tom Riddle was a half-blood; his father was a Muggle and his mother a witch by the name of Maurope Gaunt. He was sent to an orphanage at an early age and discovered his magic on his own. He detested his 'filthy muggle father' for his non-magical blood and set about becoming the most powerful wizard the world, taking out his revenge on innocent muggles, muggle-borns, and half-bloods like himself."
Harry took Draco's wand and wrote the words 'Tom Marvolo Riddle' in the air. "It's an anagram-it changes to 'I am Lord Voldemort'. And the service he provided to the school involved the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. It killed Moaning Myrtle—a Muggle-born, I would assume—and he blamed it on one of Hagrid's pets and got him expelled. So." He crossed his arms defiantly. "Next time one of your fellow Housemates starts bleating about the mighty Salazar Slytherin and his pure blood heir cleaning the school of the 'impurities', tell them that it will never happen, because the first one the heir would have to cleanse would be himself."
Draco was again stunned to silence. It was a day of revelation for both of them. "Well," Narcissa said, stepping back into the room, "if you two are willing to call a mutual truce for a bit, dinner is ready. Shall we adjourn to the dinning room?" During their heated exchange neither boy had noticed her slipping quietly out the door.
She had ordered Emmy to stay, hidden in the shadows, to keep an eye on things and immobilize them if need be, but had had the feeling that it wouldn't be necessary. Shock can work with you or against you, enabling you to open your senses to things that you may have been blind or deaf to before. Such was the case with these boys.
She waited as their gazes held for a moment longer. Before, the emerald and silver eyes had been filled with impotent hatred. Now, with everything they knew to be simple truth shattered before them, they were re-evaluating, both themselves and each other. Their bodies were no longer tense and poised for attack at a moment's notice. Rather, it was their stubborn will that held them in place, neither really ready to give up the last familiar thing in their lives. It was pure irony and yet fitting, Narcissa thought, that even though everything had shifted and changed forever, the one thing that remained constant was their connection to each other. She could see them clinging to their emotions, fighting to stay angry because that was familiar. Harry Potter hated Draco Malfoy and Draco Malfoy hated Harry Potter. End of story.
But now the slate was clean, and there was room to start anew.
Neither of them said anything as Draco turned away first, Harry following silently a moment after. Narcissa sighed in sagging relief. It was a step; a small one, but a step nonetheless. Maybe now, there would be peace in this house.