Chapter One

Harry was livid.

"No! Absolutely not!" he yelled. "There has to be someone else!"

"He's the best," Remus insisted. "And he checks out."

"Draco Malfoy checks out? By whose standards? The bastard has done more to make my life a living hell than anyone other than Voldemort!"

"He was a child, Harry. He regrets his actions and has redeemed himself time and again. For God's sake, Harry, he lost everything to Voldemort!"

"SO DID I!" Harry bellowed. "At least Malfoy got to grow up with parents! He had a fucking decent childhood!"

"Don't you think that would make his loss even harder to bear?" Remus yelled back.


Remus threw up his hands.

Harry glared. "I'll go alone," he decided adamantly.

"You can't." Remus' words were like a slap in the face, though true.

"Watch me," Harry gritted.

"I can't talk to you when you get like this," Remus snapped. "Call me when you retrieve your maturity."

Remus stalked out. Harry made a rude gesture behind his back and then sank down into a chair. He propped his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands in frustration. After a moment, he got up and took the stairs to his room.

Number twelve, Grimmauld Place had changed markedly in the four years since Harry had inherited it. After a year of cleaning, polishing, and stripping the place nearly bare, it hardly resembled the former dark, gloomy residence of generations of Blacks. One day in a fit of overwhelming rage Harry had taken a sledge hammer to the wall that held Mrs Black's portrait. He had pulverized wall, frame, and painting, hammering away long after the shrieks of Sirius's mum were silenced forever. Remus and the Weasley twins had found him sitting in the rubble, exhausted but satisfied.

He had left the wall open and later removed the one separating the kitchen and dining room. When time allowed, he removed as much of the dark wood in the house as possible, replacing it with pale oak or painting over it in white. He knew Sirius would have approved.

The master bedroom had been completely redone—floors, walls, curtains, furniture and bedding. The room gleamed with pale neutral colors and creamy bedding accented with Gryffindor burgundy and gold. Harry threw himself on the bed. He glared at the ceiling as he thought of Draco Malfoy. The only person he had ever hated more was Severus Snape. Even Voldemort had come in a pale third to those two. Things had changed so much in the wizarding world since Dumbledore's death three years prior.

The war had begun shortly thereafter. They already referred to it as The Great Wizarding War, although there had been nothing great about it except the scale of destruction.

Lord Voldemort's motives had not been clear. He'd seemed content to wreak carnage and destroy everything he could find. Werewolves and trolls had multiplied like rabbits. There were so many werewolf attacks that the Muggles branded it some sort of disease epidemic. Death Eaters had killed every Ministry member they could locate. Those that were left had fought a losing battle trying to contain the werewolves and keep Muggles in the dark about the wizarding world.

Harry had concentrated on finding and destroying Voldemort's Horcruxes, leaving a handful of demoralized Order members to try and stop the Death Eaters. None of them had understood why the Chosen One had deserted them in their time of need—none but Remus, to whom Harry had finally confided.

Excited by victory after victory, Voldemort had become giddy with power. He'd recruited new Death Eaters to the cause and somehow they had discovered a way to control the Floo Network. Travel by fireplace had halted nearly overnight when one chance in four would send the traveler to a fireplace in Timbuktu, or Siberia, or to a cave in Peru.

Voldemort had set his sights on Apparition, next. It had taken a year, but he'd finally managed to contaminate the very forces of nature—not just those used to Apparate, but nearly every magical factor in existence. Pockets of dark magic hovered over many areas, especially those with a large number of wizards. It had become dangerous to cast spells in those regions—the effects would be nullified, magnified, or twisted. Wizards had been blown to pieces, sent hundreds of miles from their intended destination, or Splinched into objects.

As transportation had become increasingly impossible, the Ministry had fought for control by trying to regulate the creation of Portkeys—the only remaining method of instant transportation. Rufus Scrimgeour and the remaining Ministers had cast a nullifying spell around all of London to prevent entry or exit by Portkey. They had done the same to every common destination in Britain, under the guise of keeping Voldemort from tampering with Portkey transportation. It had worked. Voldemort had seen no need to disrupt Portkeys once the Ministry had made them nigh unto useless.

Much diminished, the Order and all others opposed to Voldemort had fought a pitched battle near Hogwarts, which Voldemort had been determined to destroy. After throwing giants, trolls, and magic at it, he had managed to breach the walls and invade the castle.

Harry and his friends had arrived at last and the battle had ranged far through the empty halls. The school had closed to students—after the derailment of the Hogwarts Express had killed five students prior to Harry's seventh year—it had been the act that had officially begun the war.

Harry and Voldemort had confronted one another, but Harry had left childhood behind. He had learned much during his search and destruction of Horcruxes. He'd thrown every spell in his arsenal at the evil incarnation of Tom Riddle, and he hadn't been alone. Ron and Hermione had been beside him, tossing everything they had. They'd been joined by others—Neville, Luna, Dean, Angelina, and most of the other surviving members of Dumbledore's Army. During the battle, Ginny Weasley had thrown herself in front of a killing bolt meant for Harry. Holding her broken body, he'd gone completely mad.

By unknown means, Harry had absorbed the magical energy from everyone and everything around him before blasting Voldemort into pieces so small he'd resembled powder. Harry's last conscious recollection had been of Voldemort's laugh. They had always assumed Voldemort had created seven Horcruxes, seven that Harry had known were destroyed. They had been wrong.

The strange and lingering effect of Harry's spell had left him drained. He could barely produce a simple Light Spell. They had all believed the effect would be temporary. After six months, they'd stopped relying on it.

With Voldemort returned to vapor form and the Death Eaters either dead or imprisoned after the battle at Hogwarts, everyone had tried to go back to their lives. It hadn't been that simple, however. The dark magic had lurked and it began to grow. Apparition was beyond risky. The Floo Network was abandoned. Horrible creatures multiplied and spilled out from the forests and swamps.

The school had reopened, but the Hogwarts Express ran only twice per year, closely guarded by an army of Aurors. The Ministry had stayed locked away in London, safe and isolated.

Harry, practically a Squib, had continued his obsessive search for the missing Horcrux, praying that there was only one. His friends had humored him for a long time, but eventually they'd deserted him to live their own lives. Ron and Hermione had married and moved to Ottery St. Catchpole near the Burrow, now the home of Bill and Fleur and their brood, after the deaths of Arthur and Molly in the war.

Remus Lupin and Tonks, also married, had moved in with Harry. To keep him from getting lonely, they'd said, but he'd known it was to keep an eye on him. To keep him safe.


Harry shook off grim thoughts of the past. He finally had a lead on the last Horcrux, but he didn't dare tell anyone—they would all forbid him to go. Instead, he had told Remus he wanted to return Gryffindor's sword to Hogwarts, which had sparked enough controversy on its own. Remus had insisted he wait until school began so that Harry could take the train. Harry had fought bitterly until Remus had agreed he could go by broom, but only with an escort. And now this.

Draco Malfoy had survived the war. His parents and his house hadn't been so lucky. Malfoy Manor had been seized by the Ministry, who had summarily burned it to the ground. Snape had killed Lucius, for reasons unknown, and had accidentally murdered Narcissa when she'd gone wild with grief. Neville Longbottom had killed Snape during the final battle.

Draco had turned on the Death Eaters in the end. He had single-handedly brought in Mulciber, Avery, Nott, and McNair. He had killed Bellatrix Lestrange, who'd gone even crazier than usual after Voldemort's apparent destruction. After the war ended, Malfoy had started an escort service—guiding those who traveled by broom through dangerous areas, bypassing pockets of dark magic and eliminating threats. Several others had started similar lucrative ventures, but apparently none of them were satisfactory enough for Remus.

Still, even being stuck with that pompous, arrogant jerk was better than being stuck in London one more day. Harry pounded his fists on the bed a few more times and then went to find Remus.