Author's Note: 99% of this story was completed before the publication of Deathly Hallows. To my own shock, some of the happenings in that novel do seem very similar to parts of this story. This was purely coincidental. I have recently gone back to correct only some grammatical errors in my constant strive toward perfection. Everything else remains how I originally wrote it.
Summary: There was time to turn back. Now, Harry's friends faithfully stand by his side as they hunt for the last Horcruxes and face danger, adventure and hopefully, the end of the war. Continues where HBP left off- not DH compliant, obviously. SLASH. HD Rated M Eventual major character death.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry. Don't sue me. (I do however own a very twisted fantasy world in which Harry and Draco are my slaves who wear nothing but very tight black leather pants... ah, never mind...on with the story)
No Turning Back
Chapter 1- Dursleys, Horcruxes, and… Malfoy?
To Petunia and Vernon Dursley, being normal was essential to life, almost above oxygen. They had suffered for years with the knowledge that there was a very abnormal boy living in their home, but had kept him and raised him, not as one of their own, but perhaps as a pet. It was with great reluctance that they drove to London, to King's Cross station, to pick the boy up for his final summer under their roof. They received quite a nasty shock when, instead of only one abnormal boy, they were greeted by his two friends as well.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley," the girl began. She was a neat-looking girl in very clean jeans and blouse that wasn't at all what one would expect "those people" to where. If not for her frizzy hair, Petunia may have found her quite agreeable. The girl ignored the appraising look from the older woman and continued in a most business-like manner. "I'm Hermione Granger." She pointed to a scowling red head, whose clothing looked as if he'd just put on the first things he found at a second-hand store. "This is Ron Weasley. We are Harry's friends from school and we'll be accompanying him to your home for the next two weeks."
Vernon puffed up his chest, ready to argue, but she began talking over him.
"I understand that this may be an inconvenience, but I assure you our presence will barely be noticed. We are more than capable of taking care of ourselves in regards to meals and we are prepared to do whatever chores are necessary. We will do what we can to make this painless for you, but we are coming with Harry and you do not have a choice in the matter."
"Listen here, you can't just invite yourselves over for the summer. It's enough that we have to put up with the boy and that bloody pigeon, but we are not running a house for freaks!"
"Like I said, you'll hardly notice us."
"We don't have room for you lot! All the bedrooms are already in use!" Vernon wore a sort of smug smile, clearly thinking he had won the debate.
"That's fine. We're staying with Harry in his room."
"There's not room in there for anymore people," Vernon sputtered, his face getting purpler by the minute. "There's only one bed—Wait just a minute! We're not perverts! You're not sleeping all together! I don't care what you do at that bloody school, but you're not bringing your immoral practices here!"
Ron wore a look of shocked disbelief while Harry tried desperately to stifle a laugh. Hermione, being the only one to remain calm, merely looked disgusted as she answered.
"You're making a scene with your yelling. And no, we are most certainly not sleeping in the same bed. I have every intention of enlarging the room and conjuring two more beds."
There was a small whimper from Petunia before Vernon very nearly exploded. "You're not doing… THAT in my house!"
"Now you're really making a scene. I suggest we leave and discuss this later, perhaps when you've calmed some."
"There's nothing to discuss. I won't be having you do you-know-what in my home."
"So let me get this straight, sir. You'd rather have three teenagers sharing a bed than me use a couple simple and harmless spells?"
"Well… you can't do that outside of school!"
"Ron and I are already seventeen, therefore legally allowed to use magic whenever we feel like it. A fact I suggest you remember. As long as you do, the next two weeks will pass painlessly and you'll never have to see us again."
Vernon had lost.
"So this is where you live, Harry," said Hermione, as they got out of the car in front of Number Four, Privet Drive. "It's nice."
"Yeah, mate. I never saw it in the daylight."
"Or without bars on the windows," muttered Harry. "C'mon, I'll show you around."
He took them around the house, pointing out the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and of course the cupboard under the stairs. Finally they dragged their trunks up to Harry's bedroom.
"And I thought my room was small!" said Ron.
Harry shrugged. "Hey, it's bigger than the cupboard."
"I can't believe people could be so cruel as to keep someone locked in a cupboard for their entire childhood," Hermione said as she pulled out her wand to get to work on making the room more comfortable.
"Well, that's my aunt and uncle for you."
"They should be locked away for doing something like that. It's child abuse, Harry."
"What can I say? I'm more of a house elf than a nephew to them."
"And having said that, I hope you'll change your mind and fully support house elf liberation measures." Harry rolled his eyes and threw a pair of socks at her. "But seriously Harry, it's amazing you turned out normal. Most children would be scarred for life."
"I am scarred for life. I just get the satisfaction of knowing that no matter how horrible they've treated me, I can get away from it and move on. They, however, will always live with the knowledge that there's a wizard in their family. Well, you saw how he reacted to the thought of you using magic; that scares them more than physical pain. And now the two of you are here to make it even worse for them. We'll get Dudley going too by using his computer."
"I've never seen a computer. That would be bloody brilliant!" said Ron. "What about that picture box thing that muggles watch? Can we see that too?"
"Yes. And it's called the television. You'll be an expert in the muggle world by the time we leave."
"I hardly think that two weeks is enough time to become an expert, Harry. Besides, we all have to be working on more important things. We have loads to learn about horcruxes. We have to figure out where the other ones are and what they are. There's too much to do to be exploring all the details of the muggle world."
"Dad would never forgive me if I didn't have tons to tell him about muggles when we go back for the wedding."
"Ron, there are more important things we need to think about right now than your silly fascination."
"Let him be, Hermione. He's never lived in the muggle world. Let him have some fun. We all need a little bit of that once in a while. And I don't expect it will be too common."
Hermione went about getting the room ready. She conjured the beds and put a curtain up to separate her side from the boys' and then began unpacking books from her trunk.
Hermione spent much of her time over the next two weeks traveling to Hogwarts' library. She had owled Professor McGonagall to request access to the library and the restricted section. McGonagall had reluctantly agreed, but with stern warnings about not getting in too deep and her own opinion that they should let the Order of the Phoenix handle whatever it was that they were doing. Hermione of course ignored the warnings and set about her research.
As it was most inadvisable for Harry to travel very far from home, he and Ron stuck to short walks around the neighborhood and worked on the chores Aunt Petunia gave them. Ron, being eager to explore the muggle world, added a bit of magic to make things go a bit faster. Although Aunt Petunia was suspicious that you-know-what was being used in her home, she was none too eager to confront a grown wizard about the issue.
On the night before their scheduled trip to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, Ron and Harry were running out of things to do and began passing their time playing exploding snap in Harry's room while they waited for Hermione to return from her research. Harry decided to take this opportunity to get some answers out of Ron, who had been making eyes at Hermione for some time, but had failed to actually do anything about it.
"So why don't you just ask her out and be done with it?"
"Wh- What do you mean?"
"I mean the way the two of you look at each other every day and then bicker because you don't know how to say what you really think. It's driving me crazy, mate."
Ron looked incredibly uncomfortable. Despite his relationship with Lavender, he still couldn't bring himself to the talk about girls (or at least Hermione). But Harry wasn't exaggerating. From the moment Hermione appeared, dressed, from behind her side of the curtain every morning until the moment she disappeared behind it again in the evenings, there was no peace. They had become more comfortable in some ways. They could brush hands at the table without blushing, or give the occasional hug, as they had during Dumbledore's funeral. But Harry could tell they hadn't taken the next step and it annoyed him that his friends could be so stubborn.
"It's not that easy. It's Hermione."
"You're right, she's not easy. But she likes you and you like her, so it's not that hard either."
"You think she likes me?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "I've thought she's liked you for a couple years now."
"Really? But what about that McLaggen bloke?"
"You can't possibly be that dense, Ron. She went out with McLaggen to make you jealous because you were with Lavender. Did it work?"
"Yeah, a little," admitted Ron sheepishly. "But then why didn't she just tell me she liked me?"
"Why didn't you just tell her you liked her?"
"It's not too late."
"But it's Hermione," he repeated. "What if we get together and she decides that... I don't know. That I'm a bad kisser or something."
Harry snorted. "I didn't hear Lavender complaining...Come to think of it, I don't think you guys came up for air long enough for her to."
"As if you and Ginny weren't just as bad."
Harry only shrugged at that. He didn't really want to talk about her.
Just then, Hermione apparated into Harry's bedroom out of breath and red faced, clutching an ancient book. Harry and Ron looked up in panic.
"Was there an attack?" It was unlikely, as she had been at Hogwarts, but anything was possible these days. In the days following Professor Dumbledore's death all hell had broken loose. The one wizard Voldemort had feared was now out of the way permanently and there was nothing to stop Death Eater attacks from escalating. More people had been killed or injured in those two weeks than had the previous year since Voldemort's rebirth had become known.
"I ran all the way to the end of Hogwarts grounds so I could disapparate. Harry, that locket from the memories you saw, did it look like this?" She opened the book to a page she had marked. There was a very detailed drawing of a locket on a gold chain. The rest of the page bore very old writing that Harry couldn't read and a drawing of the Hogwarts crest.
"That's it! Salazar Slytherin's locket."
"But we already knew whose it was," said Ron. "We need to know where it is."
"I know where!" cried Hermione. "You do too. Both of you. We've seen this before. In Grimmauld Place. Remember? When we were cleaning for the Order two summers ago we found it in some dusty old room. None of us could open it. I didn't think of it when Harry described it, but when I saw it I knew!"
"But why would it be at Grimmauld Pla...?" He trailed off, realization dawning. "R.A.B. is Regulus Black– Sirius' brother! The one who was killed for trying to leave the Death Eaters."
Hermione nodded. "Before he was discovered and killed he found out about Voldemort's immortality. After he stole the Horcrux he took it back to his home. It makes sense. Now all we have to do is go back to Grimmauld Place and find it."
"Mundungus." Ron said quietly. "What if he already found it?"
Mundungus Fletcher had been stealing trinkets from the house all year. Harry had seen him with items bearing the Black family crest in Hogsmeade not long ago.
"It could be anywhere now," said Hermione, horrified.
"We don't know yet if it's gone. We're going there in the morning anyway and we'll look for it then. And then new wards are going in place to keep him out."
"He wouldn't still be taking stuff now that you know, would he?"
"I don't put anything past him, Ron. The sooner I have it in my hands the better I'll feel about all of this."
Harry slept fitfully that night, his mind replaying the events surrounding Dumbledore's death. He had the occasional nightmare since they left Hogwarts, but now, with the location of another Horcrux discovered and knowing that his journey was truly beginning, his sleep was filled with all the horrors he had seen. He saw Voldemort reborn, Sirius falling though the veil and Dumbledore fall to his death. Harry's subconscious recalled the events leading up to the doom on the Astronomy Tower. The hideous green liquid that Dumbledore drank and the terrified screaming that followed. Then he moved on to the tower and the blonde Slytherin who Harry had been right about all along. Or had he? Malfoy had begun to drop his wand when the others came in. Harry knew that he would have switched sides. But it didn't really matter now, did it? It was done and that was it. Morning brought a very unrested Harry Potter.
"Harry, you look like shit. Did you sleep at all? ...Harry?" Ron looked across the room at Hermione, eyebrow raised. They had all been working on packing up their trunks for the move to Grimmauld Place when Harry was pulled back into his dreams.
The young man shook as if waking from a deep slumber and gazed around at his two best friends.
"What were you thinking about?"
"Yeah, mate. You were staring off into nowhere...You weren't thinking about my sister again, were you?"
Harry cast his eyes down to stare at a pile of his dirty clothes. He couldn't tell them his thoughts about this. He could just hear Hermione: "Really, Harry! This obsession with Malfoy!" But he couldn't help it. He'd never trusted or liked Snape, so nothing really changed there. But instead of hating Malfoy as he always had, Harry found that night that he pitied the boy. People with a lot of money were often said to have had all the opportunities in life, but perhaps opportunity isn't as good as having a choice. Malfoy's life was decided for him. Follow the Dark Lord or die. It wasn't much of a choice. He and his mother would always pay for his father's allegiance. Harry never answered Ron's question. Let them think that he was upset about the break-up with Ginny.
Hermione and Ron shared a look, but said nothing. They threw themselves back into the task of packing. When they were done Harry said his good-byes to his family, who weren't very sad to see them go. Then, standing in the kitchen on Privet Drive, they apparated to a rarely used alley three blocks away from Grimmauld Place. They walked the rest of the way, keeping watch for signs that Death Eaters had been there. The house was just as it had been left, minus the items Mundungus took. Harry guessed that Dumbledore or someone from the Order had been there to close it up after Sirius died.
"Remember," said Hermione. "It could be a trap. We'll check every room before looking for the locket."
From one room to the next Harry remembered something about Sirius.
"Is it clear, Hermione?" asked Ron when the last room had been searched. "Or should we check under the dust too?"
Hermione had been very thorough in her inspection, using detection spells she'd read about during her extracurricular reading. She glared at him in her typical Hermione fashion.
"I think that's good enough. The sitting room we found the locket in was downstairs, on the first floor, but Sirius threw it in a sack with other garbage. I saw some of it while we were down there just now, but I don't know if any of it ever got thrown out or not."
"Then that's where we'll check first," said Harry. "If it's not there then...I don't know."
On the way down the stairs Harry thought he heard a noise from below. Although he figured it was just a rat, he made a point of walking far enough in front of his friends to protect them. He was careful to look in all the corners for anything or anyone they may have missed.
The drawing room still held many boxes left from their cleaning nearly two years before. In the corner there was a pile of antiques and trinkets taken from various parts of the house and looked to have been rifled through by someone.
"Mundungus' left overs," stated Harry in disgust.
"Let's hurry," said Hermione. "I don't know why, but I don't feel safe. We still need to set the new wards for our own use while we're here. We'll each take a sack and start in. Be careful, you know there are a lot of Dark objects in this house."
"Yes, mother," Ron muttered.
They sorted through bags and boxes for what seemed like hours, and, Harry, having not heard any more suspicious noises, relaxed. When they were nearing the end of the boxes Hermione let out an excited squeal that made both boys jump and begin reaching for their wands.
"I've got it! This is it!"
Ron and Harry rushed over to her to examine the Horcrux.
"That's it," said Harry.
"Can you even believe that this simple piece of jewelry holds a piece of a soul?" commented Ron.
Hermione scrunched her nose. "It's a little creepy holding it, now that you said that."
"Does it still contain his soul though? Or did Regulus destroy the magic in it before he got caught?"
"There's so much we don't really know about Horcruxes, Harry. We need to find out if Dumbledore left behind any notes. Maybe we could get his pensieve. I haven't managed to find anything on them at the library even with access to the restricted section, but I'm not even half-way through yet."
Ron snorted. "Not half-way yet? You're losing your touch Hermione." Ron couldn't duck in time to escape her hard slap on his arm. "Ow. I'm sorry. Professor McGonagall is going to be at the wedding. We can ask her who inherited Dumbledore's possessions. Maybe we can talk to them."
"Right. Until then, we'll have to ensure that the locket stays safe," said Harry. He then hung the gold chain around his own neck and tucked the locket into his t-shirt. "You're right, it is a little creepy."
Suddenly there was creak of floorboards from the doorway that they all could hear. Wands out, they faced the source of the noise, which appeared to be nothing.
"Show yourself," said Harry. "Your invisibility cloak won't protect you from my hex."
Slowly, feet emerged as the cloak was lifted. Higher, and higher it went until the intruder was revealed.
"Drop your wand, Malfoy!" yelled Ron.
Surprisingly, his right hand released the wand immediately and the cloak fell to his left side.
Was this a trap? Did Malfoy bring other Death Eaters with him? Why was he there? Obviously, they would have to question him. But how and where? Leaving the house could be even more dangerous than staying in it. Deciding that the room they were in was as good as any, they began, Hermione taking the lead. However, it was not a very productive session. Every time Hermione got on a good thread, Malfoy, who had been uncharacteristically quiet with his eyes cast down at the table, said something that sent Ron in to screaming fits.
"Were you going to alert the Death Eaters to our presence here?"
"That's a bloody lie! I know you're lying because you've never told the truth in your pathetic life!"
And so it continued much like that. At one point Ron had to be restrained from physically assaulting the prisoner.
"That's enough," said Harry. "I'll do this alone."
"It can't possibly go any worse than it is now."
"OK, Harry, but if you need us we'll be in the hall. You better not try anything, Malfoy, or I'll hex you to so many pieces your slimy father won't be able to find them all... if he ever gets out of Azkaban."
"That's enough, Ron," Hermione scolded.
Draco narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth as if to snap back a reply, but caught sight of Harry's eyes on him and thought better of insulting the man's best friend. In fact, Harry's eyes never left him while Ron and Hermione made their exit. The steady gaze made Draco uncomfortable, mostly because it was unreadable. Potter didn't really look angry, but there was something foreign to Draco in his eyes. Mistrust? Of course. Pity? The thought of being pitied made Draco feel ill. Normally, Draco would have just stared the person down until they ran away in fear. But he knew that wouldn't work this time. At school Draco always had the upper hand, now, alone and without his wand, there was no question who was in charge.
Ron shut the door with one last glare at Draco. Harry didn't say anything for several long moments, but only stared. Draco chanced a glance up at him, but couldn't look him in the eye.
"What do you want, Draco?"
The blonde looked up at Harry then, but didn't answer right away.
"You're here. You claim you're not spying on us. You must want something."
"I... I'm not with them. With the Dark Lord."
"But you're responsible for the Death Eaters making it into Hogwarts last month."
Draco flinched at that. He had led them there and, unintentionally, the werewolf, Fenrir Grayback. He had heard that one of the Weasley boys had been injured as a result. Draco knew how this must look to everyone. Although he didn't think anyone actually saw him do anything wrong, they could figure it out. Death Eaters got into the school somehow. Dumbledore's dead under the Astronomy Tower. Draco and Snape fled. Would they believe him now if he told the truth? Perhaps that's why he sought out Potter instead of going to anyone else. The Ministry would toss him in Azkaban without second thought. He could share a cell with his father. But when Potter caught him in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom Draco was sure that he must have overheard some of what he said to Myrtle. Maybe that would be enough for Potter to give him a chance.
"I was. I had a mission...from the Dark Lord. It was my chance to save my family and make our name mean something again. I worked all year on it, but deep down I knew I wasn't going to make it happen. I couldn't even if I'd wanted to. It was an impossible task."
"To kill Dumbledore."
Harry could see the surprise on Draco's face. No one at Hogwarts besides Snape had known.
"I was there. On the tower." Seeing Draco's puzzled expression, Harry stood and began pacing the room as he explained.
"He and I had been out... on a special mission. We saw the Dark Mark from Hogsmeade when we returned and flew to the tower. Dumbledore was weak– he'd been poisoned. I was going for help under my invisibility cloak when we heard you on the stairs. He hit me with Petrificus Totalus so I'd be safe off in the corner out of sight. Making sure I was safe cost him too much time and that's when you disarmed him. I heard and saw everything that happened."
Draco was pale and drew a deep breath. "The other broom I saw was yours. So you know..."
Harry nodded. "I know what he offered you. And I want you to confirm what I already believe. If the Death Eaters hadn't come in then what would you have done?"
Draco looked away from Harry and hesitated in answering. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, "I would have gone to your side. Don't think it's because I like mudbloods, because I don't! But my family... The Dark Lord was willing to kill me, whose family has always been loyal, just because my father couldn't beat you! The Dark Lord himself has never been able to beat you–even when you were a baby– and he's the most powerful wizard alive, so why does he expect anyone else to be able to?"
By the end of the rant Draco was red in the face and Harry was leaning back against the wall, arms crossed, smirk firmly in place.
"What's so special about you, anyway?"
"Look, I'll take veritaserum if you want. If that will make you believe me."
Harry shook his head. "Even if we had it, it's not fool proof. You're an occlumens, so you can probably overcome the effects of veritaserum too."
"How do you know that?"
Harry smiled. "I know a lot of things. Malfoy, I'm not here to convince you that you need to like muggles or half-bloods. I just want your assurance that you're done with Voldemort. Regardless how you feel about blood, killing people is not the answer. I want to keep Dumbledore's promise because he couldn't. He believed in second chances and, although sometimes they backfire, everyone deserves one."
"You trust me, then? After everything I've done?"
"No, I don't trust you, but I'm willing to give you a chance to win my trust. You'll have to agree to our terms while you're here. First of all, obviously, you'll have to tell us everything you know about the Death Eaters and their plans. Second, no more 'mudblood'. I don't think it really bothers Hermione because she wouldn't let a little thing like a word destroy her. But it will save Ron wanting to hex you and it shows that you are at least trying. Third, you won't go anywhere or speak to anyone else without our permission. And you won't carry your wand unless we decide the situation calls for it. Remember, we don't have to trust you and we don't have to help you. We're the ones taking the risk here."
Draco nodded and agreed. Harry then let Ron and Hermione in, but still handled the questions himself.
"Where is Voldemort camped out?"
"I don't know. We never do. When the Dark Mark burns we are to disapparate to wherever he is. As I'm sure you know, normally apparition would require knowledge of the exact location, so the Mark itself works as navigation for that."
While Ron and Harry merely took this information for what it was, Hermione made a faint sound, indicating that she thought the Dark Mark to be one for the most ingenious things she'd ever heard of.
"How many Death Eaters are there?"
"Only the Dark Lord knows them all. There are many who actually have the Mark and many more who support him. For example, the werewolves are his supporters, but the only one I know of who has the Mark is Greyback. I can give you names though, as many as I know."
"We'll take the names, but later. Is there any logic to the raids and who is taken? Some make sense, like Ministry workers, but others just seem pointless."
"He's got a list of people he most wants. If we have the opportunity we are to take them. Sometimes it's planned, sometimes not. There isn't always reason to his madness."
"Where did you go the night you left Hogwarts?"
"Snape apparated us to a house. I think it was his place he stays at during the summer. He immediately started ranting about how stupid I was and that it wasn't supposed to happen this way. He's always so composed. I've never seen him that upset. Then he seemed to realize that I was still there and that I'd be in some trouble after failing my mission. He told me that the Dark Lord would most likely kill me to set an example and my best chance was to find you and help you, give you whatever information I could. It was like he wants you to win. I don't know why."
Harry frowned and shared a glance with Ron and Hermione.
"That doesn't make sense. He'd just killed Dumbledore. He used the killing curse. It's not as if it were some terrible accident he could feel bad about."
"He told me that my mother made him take an Unbreakable Vow. He was to help me and complete my task if I couldn't. Maybe he didn't really want to do it."
"It doesn't matter," said Harry. "He should have died for the cause rather than kill the man who trusted and believed in him. There's too much history between me and Snape for me to believe that he's anything but evil."
Malfoy shrugged, not wanting to really discuss it.
"Harry, I hate to do this, but it's going on three o' clock and we haven't got anything done here. There's no food in the house and everything is covered by several layers of dust. Not to mention, we have to get the Floo reconnected and reassure Mrs. Weasley we're all still alive and healthy."
"You're right. There are four rooms on this floor. We can make them into our bedrooms without having to use upstairs. You'll have to set the wards on the house, Hermione. No apparating in here. We didn't need that before because of the Fidelius, but I'd rather not use that. The only people I trust to be a secret keeper are those I don't want to endanger. I'd rather not use this house at all, but I don't know if the one at Go—"he broke off with a glance toward Malfoy. It probably wasn't a good idea for such a new ally to know about the plans to go back to Harry's parents' house. "Er, we don't know if the other place will work."
Hermione and Ron nodded that they understood and soon they all were fast at work cleaning up the house. Harry did what he could without magic, as he was still underage. He considered a few times doing it anyway, but decided he wasn't going to give the Minister any more reasons to visit him. Hermione set the wards right away. No one could go in or out without an alarm going off and there was no apparition permitted at all. The Floo was a bit trickier. In general, a Floo connection allowed any kind of communication. However, spells existed to limit the type of travel. One could make it only one-way or block certain locations. Like the ones at Hogwarts, Hermione set theirs so that it could only be used for communication and not travel. In addition, the floo powder was kept locked up. They weren't taking any chances with Malfoy around.
Harry felt a tad overwhelmed by the presence of Malfoy, especially so soon into the summer. He'd been looking forward to getting into the search for the Horcruxes, but Malfoy, despite his numerous tips and insight, presented many problems. They couldn't openly speak of the Horcruxes with him in the house, which became an even bigger problem when it came to their research. Harry wanted to involve him, but they had to tip-toe around the actual subject. They told Malfoy to look for any important relics of the founders, particularly Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, that may still be in existence. He had asked a few questions about the reason for it, but when it was apparent that they didn't trust him quite that much, he stopped.
Harry also felt that he had to postpone his trip to Godric's Hollow until after they all felt a little better about "the Malfoy situation." That's what they called it. He wasn't an informant or an ally, but a situation. Maybe it was a good thing the situation existed, Harry thought. For it helped to keep them all on their toes. They didn't dare get lax in their security with Malfoy in the house.
But perhaps the biggest problem was Ron. When he wasn't bickering with Hermione, he was picking fights with Malfoy. The normally vengeful blonde swallowed a good amount of pride in his first few days at Grimmauld Place by not answering Ron's attacks. Indeed, to his credit, he only said "mudblood" once and only called Ron "Weasel" under his breath. There was one time Harry thought he saw Malfoy mouthing "Avada Kedavra," but it was only after a particularly vicious insult from Ron that left even Harry wondering why the redhead was his best friend. In fact, that night Harry and Ron had a long talk about "the situation" and found that many of Ron's problems stemmed from the fact that Malfoy was responsible for both Ron's poisoning and his brother, Bill's near-fatal attack by Fenrir Greyback.
"No matter what he's done in the past, directly or indirectly, he's on our side now," Harry had said.
Ron had eventually agreed that he would do better to behave, and after that there was an uncomfortably tense silence whenever he and Malfoy were in a room together. In fact, Ron tried his best to not be in the same room and mostly stayed with Hermione, even when she had her nose buried in a book. As a result, Harry became Malfoy's official babysitter. Surprisingly, they managed to not kill each other right away. Perhaps living with your sworn enemy wasn't so bad after all.