DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter and all other characters and locations belong to J. K. Rowling.
Chapter One - Closing Doors
Harry paused at the top of the main stairs, hand twisting on the warm wood of the banister. His fingers clenched on the dark wood as he glanced down the hall. The corridor was lit brightly by the windows at either end of the hall, their curtains pulled back so the fading sun could shine through the sparkling panes. He smiled as a roar of laughter reached his ears, rising up the stairs from the crowded hall below. His smile turned sad as he began to walk slowly down the corridor, halting next to a pale wooded trunk resting just outside an open door. Leaning against the doorframe, he looked over the empty room.
Two beds were made neatly, the silver and black duvets pulled tautly across the mattresses. Dust was already settling on the dresser and night table, the outlines of packed possessions the only reminder that people had recently resided there. Pulling the door closed, Harry moved onto the next room. Trunks beside the door and beds made, this room whispered the same sorry story as the others.
They were leaving. All of them. Within the hour the Lion's Pride would be on their way back to Hogwarts. Ice Manor would sit empty and silent. Unused and alone.
His boots reverberated on the floor as he passed through the hall slowly, closing doors and reminiscing. Sighing, he paced slowly toward his own chambers, weaving around packed trunks and the bags piled atop them. Extending a hand, he pressed the doors of the room open and stood there.
The room he had occupied at Ice Manor resembled the rooms of his friends. Two trunks rested at the end of the bed he had shared with Draco. His fingers slid over the wood of the door as he prowled slowly across the room. He fingered the grooves of a sleek statute perched atop the dresser, smiling slightly as a portrait hanging on the wall offered him a consoling grin.
"Why so sad?" A soft voice asked, pale hands slowly creeping around his waist and interlocking over his abdomen.
Grinning slightly, he settled his own hands upon Draco's and leaned back against the blond. "We leave in ten minutes." Harry answered quietly, interlacing their fingers. He rubbed the cool metal of the ring Draco wore, warming the silver absently.
"It's only for a couple of months, not several years." Draco murmured in amusement, pressing his nose against the nape of Harry's neck and inhaling. He chuckled as the Gryffindor shivered, fingers massaging the raven-haired wizard's abdomen.
"I know." Harry mumbled, loosening his grip on Draco's fingers and turning within the blond's arms. He settled his hands firmly on the other wizard's hips and drew him closer, rubbing their noses together before drawing back. "That still doesn't make it less sad."
Draco grinned and let go of Harry, setting himself on the edge of the night table as he watched his companion pace around the room. The raven-haired wizard stopped and ran his fingers over various things throughout the room, smiling in remembrance before moving on. He was staring at the bed with a smirk on his face when the sound of feet pounding up the stairs echoed through the empty hall.
Hermione appeared in the doorway, Hogwart's cloak settling around her body as she came to a halt. She raised an eyebrow at the expression on Harry's face and shot a look at Draco, shaking her head when she saw the smug smile the blond wore. "We're ready to go, Harry. The portkeys have been distributed and everyone is gathering on the lawn."
"Hm, thank you." Harry said, turning slowly and resting his hands on his hips. He smiled at the sight of the Gryffindor cloak hanging from Hermione's shoulders. Walking forward, he pretended to straighten the red and gold tie she wore. "Excellent, we'll be down in a second." He watched her disappear out the door before turning back to Draco and extending a hand.
"Shall we?" He asked suavely, bowing as the blond placed his hand within his own. Pulling Draco to his feet, he led the blond silently from the room. Halting in the hall outside the room, he shot one last look over his shoulder before letting Draco close to the doors.
The Lion's Pride stood impatiently on the green lawn of Ice Manor. For the first time in several months, they wore the colours of their Hogwart's houses. Except here, standing before a manor of white stone, they were a confusing jumble of colours. Red and gold cloaks brushed against green and silver, blue and black rubbing against brown and yellow. The prejudice of their houses was lost amongst the Pride, they were no longer four but one house.
House elves gathered to one side, their black and gold pillowcases damp with their tears as they prepared to see their masters and mistresses off. Draped around several of their thin shoulders, snakes of various colours and breeds flicked their tongues.
Harry and Draco stepped out onto the front steps, pausing as they peered out at the assembled Pride and household. "Good luck, luv." Giving his lover's hand a comforting squeeze, Draco released him and walked down to join the crowd, vanishing with startling ease among the Pride.
Sighing, Harry raised a hand and rubbed the back of his head. A choked sob had him closing his eyes as one of the small house elves burst into tears. "The first thing I would like to remind you all, is that we are not heading off in separate directions never to see each other again. We're all going to Hogwarts and will be in constant contact with each other. We will see each other in class, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, in Hogsmeade, and in the halls. I consider all of you friends and would not give any one of you the cold shoulder. Even if it is what is expected of me by my house."
"In two minutes, your portkeys will activate. You will all land in Hogsmeade together and walk to Hogwarts. I have a meeting with Professor Dumbledore and won't be able to arrive with you. I wish you the best of luck in dealing with your houses and will see all of you at breakfast tomorrow morning." He finished calmly, chewing his bottom lip as murmurs rose in the group.
Before he could move down to say a few last words to his Pride, his legs were encircled by the arms of three house elves. Patting them carefully atop their glistening skulls, he hissed soothingly to the snakes stretching their angular heads up to him. He raised his gaze in time to see the first portkey activate, one of his departments disappearing.
"It wasn't that hard, was it?" Draco asked softly, smirking as Harry was dragged slowly backward by elf clutching desperately at the cloak he wore. Grinning, he raised a hand and blew the raven-haired wizard a kiss before his portkey shimmered into life. With one last flick of his fingers, he vanished to join the rest of the Pride waiting in Hogsmeade.
With a sad expression on his face, Harry stared out at the empty lawn. Freeing himself of house elves, he turned and stared into the empty foray of Ice Manor. The grand entrance whispered invitingly, beckoning him to come back inside and settle himself before one of her many fireplaces. Grabbing the door handles, he pulled the doors closed and peered at the wood for several seconds before raising a hand and caressing the smooth surface. Reaching into his pocket, he drew forth a key and slid it into the lock, closing his eyes at the loud click.
"Be a good girl while I'm gone." He whispered, giving the door one last pat. His cloak whirled out behind him as he turned around and stalked down the steps. Halfway down the front walk, he vanished with a pop.
Hogwarts buzzed with whispers, soft hisses making the halls ring with the constant chatter of many voices. Students not in class lingered around the front entrance, hoping for some glimpse of the returning sixth years. Today was the day, after all. The day that the members of the Lion's Pride resumed their schooling. Debates and arguments raced through the student population.
It was assumed they'd enter with a bang. Arriving on the front lawn in their billowing black cloaks, lions parading proudly across their chests. They'd sweep up the stairs and sneer at the teachers in anger over their present situation before vanishing into the shadows of the school. Or perhaps the Pride would drop from the sky on their sleek black brooms, arrogantly stalking through the castle to their houses.
As the clock chimed the hours by and the sun slid slowly through the sky, all patience vanished. Teachers sat stiffly through dinner, speaking to each other softly and keeping a close eye on the pouting students. Neither hide nor hair was seen of the sixth years until the sun had set completely and curfew was minutes away. Gliding through the front doors wearing their schools robes, they calmly separated into four groups and drifted in the direction of their houses. No words were spoken. No flashy entrance was made. It was all together a very disappointing day for the students of Hogwarts.
Harry walked down the halls of Hogwarts, the simple Gryffindor cloak he had donned moments ago swaying with every step he took. His hands were shoved deeply into his pockets, his strides unhurried. He halted in front of the statute guarding the headmaster's office, staring at the Griffin thoughtfully.
"Chocolate Licorice." He whispered, glancing down the hall as the statute shuddered before beginning to move slowly aside. His eyes fell to half-mast as he considered the stairs rising from the floor and vanishing into the shadows. Placing his foot on the first step, he began the climb to Dumbledore's office.
The older wizard was sitting before his large desk, the fiery phoenix resting on its perch behind him. His twinkling blue eyes regarded the younger wizard standing in the shadows before him. "Hello Harry." He murmured, raising a trembling hand and gesturing the Gryffindor forward. The scars on his wrist were visible as his sleeve rode up, drawing the raven-haired wizard's gaze.
"Professor Dumbledore." Harry said softly, bowing his head before walking forward and claiming one of the wing-backed chairs before the headmaster's desk. He twitched his cloak out of the way as he sat down on the red fabric of one of the chairs, straightening his tie and clearing his throat. "I hope you're feeling better."
"Indeed I am, my boy." Dumbledore responded, offering the raven-haired wizard a small smile as he picked up a small dish of candies and held it out for the younger's inspection. Accepting the slight twitch of fingers dismissing the bowl, he replaced it on his desk. "I was wondering how you're feeling, Harry. I know that this is not what you wanted but you must understand the council thinks it best you all finish your educations."
Harry tipped his chin up and eyed the wizard who had once been his mentor. "We're feeling fine, considering the circumstances under which we came to be here. The decision of the council has already been discussed completely. We agreed to finish our sixth year, those who want to continue their education after that will have the support of the Pride."
"You're a fine leader, Harry. You've done well and have the respect of many people, but are you sure this is what you want from life. Do you want to be a soldier for the rest of your life?" Albus Dumbledore asked, his face serious. His eyes lost the twinkle they usually bore as he stared at Harry, seemingly searching his soul.
"I make a good soldier. It is one of the only things I've been encouraged to do with my life. If that's all you wanted to ask me about, I'd like to go now." Harry replied simply, rising to stand before the desk. He waited for the nod of dismissal before whirling around and heading toward the door. Pausing with one hand on the wood of the door, he turned slowly and looked back at Dumbledore. "You may not see it, but I'm happier now then I was three years ago. I have friends and a family I would die for if asked. Maybe I'll never know what I did to deserve them, but I'm glad I've got them."
Nodding his head in acceptance of the response, Dumbledore glanced at the phoenix sitting behind him, dark eyes blinking curiously. "Good night, Harry."
"Good night, sir." Harry said softly, already sliding down the stairs. Pausing at the bottom, he allowed his fingers to travel the length of his wand before heading in the direction of Gryffindor Tower.
Harry stood in the center of the sixth year Gryffindor dorm and looked around. The round room sparkled from a recent cleaning. Drapes and curtains had been freshly pressed, swinging softly as the five wizards moved around. Beds were made neatly, red and gold comforters lying wrinkle free upon the dark wooded frames. Dean and Seamus walked through the room, methodically opening every window so the night breeze could seep in. Inhaling the fresh air, they glanced about before nodding in silent agreement.
"Slightly depressing, isn't it?" Seamus said, flopping onto the edge of his bed. He ran a hand over the Gryffindor comforter and grimaced, fingers clutching at the lion lying still upon the fabric. Sliding his wand from it's sheathe, he waved it around and eyed the duvet thoughtfully.
Dean smirked and drew his own wand, sketching a quick design in the air with it before aiming the glowing tip at the bed. "A tad less colour and a little more life." He murmured, flicking the wood and whispering several words quickly. He grinned as he watched a wave of black sweep over the cloth, consuming the garish gold and red. A pale lion bloomed to life, circling once before yawning and curling into a ball. "Much better."
"It won't hold." Harry whispered, smiling as he unsheathed his own wand and whispered the incantation. In moments his own bed was draped in black, relieved only by the gold lion sprawled across the end. "Hogwarts won't let us erase our house colours. We'll wake tomorrow and be surrounded by the red and gold of Gryffindor."
"How do you think everyone else is doing?" Neville asked, smiling at the lion pacing across his bed. Running a hand over the dark fabric, he chuckled as the large feline chased his fingers and pounced in a hopeless hunt.
Curling a lip, Harry dropped onto his bed and huddled deeper into the cloak he wore. His eyes narrowed as he thought about the mob that had been awaiting their arrival in the Gryffindor Common Room. Cheers and questions had been thrown at the sixth years, dozens of voices demanding answers. "They probably received the same welcome. It's why I decided to postpone our departure from home. Could you imagine what would have happened if we arrived earlier? We'd have been swamped." He bit out, hands fisting the cloth of his blankets.
"It'll only get worse." Ron predicted, flipping his trunk open and rifling through the contents. Grinning triumphantly, he held up a bottle of aged scotch thieved from the library of Ice Manor. Pulling the cork, he took a swig and made a face before passing the bottle on. "We've gotten to use to being in the company of each other. At home, we associated with everyone without thought."
"They won't like it, that's for sure." Seamus muttered, sniffing the mouth of the bottle before grimacing. Taking a quick sip, he slid the cork into place and tossed it over to Seamus. "How will it look when we go to breakfast tomorrow? The Professor's will expect us to sit at our House tables and so will our house mates."
"The Pride struggled to become unified. We're not going to let anyone destroy that." Harry growled softly, snagging the scotch and taking a mouthful. Shaking his head and wincing at the bite of the liquor, he corked it and walked to the end of his bed. Opening his trunk, he froze for a minute before settling the bottle into the shadowed depths. His fingers brushed the fur of his cloak, making his lips curl into a smile. "They'll try and separate us. Put us at each others throats as if nothing's changed."
"What do you want us to do?" Ron murmured, raising his eyebrows as he began to get ready for bed.
Harry turned and smiled slowly, fingers rising to brush the faint bruises circling his throat. "We give them a show. They want to see the Lion's Pride in action, so that's what we'll give them." He snorted softly as he stared out the window next to his bed, watching the pale moon hover silently in the sky. "A pride of lions."
Snickering at the thought, the wizards changed for bed. Crawling beneath their black comforters, they all snuggled deeper into their beds. The curtains hung unused at the foot of the beds, dark red slowly crawling back into existence at the bottom of the black fabric. Sighs and sleepy whispers of good night filled the air before silence settled upon the dorm.
Terry sighed and leaned back against the closed door, his huff of relief was echoed by the other wizards in the dorm. The Ravenclaw Common Room had been packed with students, all clamoring and demanding answers. The lady Lions had hissed and spat in distaste, pushing through the crowd brandishing their wands. Terry and the rest of the Lions had followed the lionesses example, forcing their way past house mates and seeking refuge within their dorm. Or lair, he thought with a shake of his head. Raising his hands, he rubbed his temples while looking around the shadowed room.
The Ravens of the Pride seemed to be in a state, all sitting silently on their beds. One of them was running a hand over a black cloak, fingers combing through the thick fur around the hood. Another was mournfully caressing the keys of his laptop, staring at the blank screen sadly.
"That was nasty." He commented, his voice breaking the quiet and drawing the gazes of his dorm mates.
"Understatement of the year." Muttered one of the wizards, flopping back onto his bed and placing his hands over his face. Groaning dramatically, he toed his shoes off and rolled over, burying his face in his pillow.
"It'll get better once we're back out in the school, circulating with the rest of the Pride." Terry said softly, frowning as he stared down at his bed. He glanced down at the uniform he wore and shook his head, plucking at the blue and fabric. "Everything seems . . . bluer then I remember."
Glancing up at the pounding on the door, he smirked and ran a hand lovingly over his wand. The silencing and locking charm was strong enough to keep the rest of the house out until it was taken down, which most likely wouldn't be for several months. Sighing at the thought, he flopped down onto his bed and glared up at the canopy.
Justin Finch-Fletchley smiled as a fifth year witch cooed at him, one of her hands combing through his hair. Sighing in pleasure, he slouched deeper into the chair before the fire and raised a hand to gain the attention of his chattering House. "So there I was, in the middle of nowhere protecting three witches while trying to sneak into Death Eater headquarters. I, of course, came up with the clever plan of sending them all into hiding while I went up and knocked on the door."
"You're so brave." The fifth year cooed, clutching tightly at his hair.
Ignoring the rolling eyes of the sixth year witches, he grit his teeth and freed his hair while winking charmingly at a blonde seventh year. Smiling at the attention he was being smothered with, the epic tale of Justin Finch-Fletchley was spun into the night.
Draco pushed his bangs out of his eyes and pressed calmly into the Slytherin Common Room. The murmurs of the Slytherin Pride quieted as they carefully gathered in the center of the room. Wands were held lightly in their fingers, the tips peeping out beneath their trailing sleeves. The students seated around the room took them in silently, eyeing the cloaks they wore and the defensive stance they had taken.
Fingering his wand, Draco ran his cool eyes over the group before nodding in greeting and gliding in the direction of the sixth year dorms. The presence of Blaise and Theodore at his heels was comforting, as was the knowledge he had the protection of the entire Lion's Pride.
The sixth year boy's dorm was eerily quiet. Green and silver hangings swaying with the suction created by opening the door. A flick of his wand had candles around the room springing to life, flames dancing as they inspected the room cautiously.
"It's clear." Blaise said, sheathing his wand and running a finger over his desk. He raised an eyebrow and nodded in approval upon finding no dust clinging to the surface. Rubbing the digits together, he flipped back the sheets of his bed and fluffed his pillow.
"There are so few." Draco mumbled, dropping onto his bed. He ran a hand over the green silk, wishing for the thick blankets that had occupied the bed he had shared with Harry at Ice Manor.
"They made their choice." Theodore mumbled, digging through the trunk at the end of his bed. He frowned as he pulled out several empty chocolate frog wrappers. Narrowing his eyes, he shot Blaise a murderous lock and slammed the lid of his trunk down. Pointing his wand at the chest, he whispered a spell and watched as a glow consumed the wood before fading.
"I know they did. I just never realized how many Slytherins were actually on Voldemort's side. To walk into the Common Room and find only a handful of students gathered there. . .strangely saddening." Draco said softly, rising and heading to the trunk that rested at the bottom of his bed. Flipping the lid open, he eyed its contents before withdrawing a pair of warm cotton pajamas and a long piece of black fabric.
"Tell me you're not going to wear those." Blaise hissed in aghast, gesturing at the golden lions prancing proudly across the red cotton. He closed his eyes and shook his head when Draco merely nodded. "You've been with Potter for what? Three days? How the hell did his bad taste in clothing manage to rub off on you in that short period of time?"
"Feel free to freeze your balls off, Blaise." Draco replied cheerfully, already pulling the top on and doing the buttons up. Theodore's snort of amusement had him grinning and winking at the other wizard. "Besides these are Harry's, and they're warm. Very warm."
"He's right, you know." Theodore said, dragging on his own pajamas. He smiled when the dark-haired wizard shot him a disgruntled glare and waved a pair of green silk pajamas in the air. "Though I suppose he has gotten used to having Harry keep him warm at night."
"Don't be crude, Theo." Draco said in amusement, crawling into bed and pulling his blankets up. The black Pride cloak Harry had presented to him was tucked under the blankets with him, the cloth warming quickly under his hands.
"If we don't make it through the night, I just want you all to know . . . I love you." Blaise said dramatically, flinging his arms wide open before dropping backwards onto his bed. He held the position before wiggling around and settling himself properly under his blankets, chuckling softly at the unamused snorts his friends made.
"I highly doubt anyone out there would even think about attacking one of us. With the whole Pride minutes away they'd have to be stupid to try it." Theodore muttered, his voice muffled by the blankets he had drawn over his head.
"I think we can safely assume anyone supporting Voldemort has fled the country." Draco mumbled, burying his face in the soft fabric of the black cloak and closing his eyes.
Candles were doused around the room, their flames flicking slowly out of existence. The creaking of wood and shifting of mattresses filled the air as everyone settled down. Hogwarts dorms were very different from the semi-private rooms they had had at Ice and it took them all longer then usual to fall asleep.
A/N: Well, here it is, the first chapter of the Dying Flames sequel. I know it's long but the reason for that is the irregular updates. This story will not be updated weekly. I'm assuming right now that it will be ten chapters in length, focusing mainly on the return of the Pride to Hogwarts. Hope you enjoyed it.