Summary: Draco hasn't been an Auror in the same office as Harry for more than three days and he's already making trouble. Suddenly, Harry's feeling like he's being watched, things are going missing in his office, and he's somehow acquired an extra shadow, a very large, talking one at that. But Harry is about to learn that all is not as it seems, all are not as they seem, and Harry's future is not as he'd planned it ever to be. Ignores DH (Humour/Crack, Romance/Fluff, Angst).
A/N: Dedicated to Alaina the Goddess, because she is a bright spark in what can be an otherwise dark and dreary world. Plus, she encourages me to write more; a past-time that is severely worrying for her but wonderful for me. Go, you goddess, you!
A problem named Draco
Prologue: Fear of extinction
One day, when Harry Potter had been in the final months of his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, something decidedly odd happened.
He woke up mid-way through a History of Magic class.
Even more startling, he proceeded to listen to Professor Binns' droning diatribe for around five minutes.
At first when it had happened, he'd been utterly confused. He'd taken a moment to glance around in a mild daze, wondering what had roused him. It couldn't have been Hermione and her annoyingly sharp kicking-foot, for – Oh, my…. Even she was asleep at that point in time! He frowned. And, apparently... snoring! Quite loudly, too. He quirked an eyebrow amusingly.
His eyes quickly sought out the front of the classroom to help him unravel this growing mystery and, instantly, he knew why all of this had come about.
For there, up in the air, by the teacher's side, was a moving golden ball. A Snitch.
Professor Binns was teaching Quidditch.
Well, the, er, history of Quidditch at least, anyway.
But he even appeared to be using devices! To - to assist his teaching!
Blimey, Harry thought. He never thought he'd 'see the day.' Of course, he and just about everyone else had been sleeping through most of Binns' classes for years, so it was always possible that Binns had improved his teaching style long ago, and no one, with the exception of maybe Hermione Granger, had even noticed.
But Professor Binns' 'teaching style' had only improved so far. His ghostly face was still just as expressionless as it had always been and his tone of voice hadn't altered a fraction from that far away day when Harry had first attended his class:
"Of course, Quidditch provided a welcome distraction for the warlocks at the time, who were failing in their attempts at diplomacy with the highland trolls, many of which were spreading even further south, causing much death and destruction. But poor warlock-troll relations were not the only factor affecting the uptake of Quidditch. In the following three decades, a number of other significant events contributed to its growing popularity, most notably…"
Harry watched the Snitch hover beside the professor's transparent head and pieced together what had just happened. The Seeker in him must have sprung to life; like a bird of prey, his finely tuned senses had, against all odds, detected the whisper-soft fluttering sound of the Snitch over the low rumble of his classmates' snoring. And, somehow, Harry had stirred.
He blinked several times, smirked at the uniqueness of the situation, and then sat upright.
"…and other historical records tell us that Quidditch game play has changed dramatically over the course of history. The diary of Gertie Kettle outlines a game originally consisting of fewer balls…"
He watched the Snitch zip about in the air a little with a tiny smile, and... he found himself listening.
His hand sought out his quill; he dipped the hungry tip into the black ink and began to scratch some words across his parchment.
"…and it was at that point that the Bludgers, originally known as Blooders, were eventually added…"
Harry'd flicked through a number of Quidditch books before, but he'd never taken much interest in the actual progression of Quidditch through time until now. He suspected that his 'extremely fun life' of late might have something to do with: Umbridge, his nightmares, his gut-wrenching concerns about Voldemort... 'Crazily', the history of Quidditch seemed like a worthwhile, enticingly-lighthearted distraction from all of that now.
"It was in 1269 when the Snidget bird was first introduced to the game… "
1269. Snidget bird. He wrote that down.
A whirring sound then grabbed his attention. He looked upright as a magical photo projector was activated. A bewitched moving picture, illuminated and bright against the darkness of the surrounding classroom, suddenly appeared on a large screen beside Professor Binns' desk.
Harry widened his eyes, instantly captivated.
The moving picture was of a golden Snidget bird in full-flight; the image had been slowed to ensure the bird's brilliant motion through the air could be more easily appreciated by the human eye.
"The Snidget was incorporated into the game rules. A game was not declared over until the Hunter - or the Seeker, as they were later called - had caught the Snidget bird and killed it…"
They killed it…?
Harry Potter stared at the repetitive, moving image of the yellow, tiny bird, batting its wings madly against a strong wind and darting from the bottom right hand corner to the upper left hand part of the bewitched picture.
At that point, the strange moment of listening in Professor Binns' class got even stranger for Harry. He became less interested in Quidditch and more interested in the plight of a tiny bird, a bird he'd never really thought much about before.
"Due to the threat of extinction, the use of the bird in Quidditch games was outlawed. The Golden Snitch, a bewitched metallic ball with wings developed by Bowman Wright in the early 1500s, took the place of the bird in Quidditch…"
He leaned forward in his chair and watched the bird in action over and over again: first, it hovered, and then it zoomed forward, up and into the air. Its eyes were bright, its beak long and pointed, and its body: tiny and round.
The bird was so small, so – so fragile.
It was so beautiful.
And all it wanted was to be left alone, to be free. To fly wherever it wanted, and to live, to just live.
But they used it.
They hunted it. They caught it. They held it. They squashed it.
They killed it.
And they nearly wiped the entire species off the face of the earth in the process.
"In the following century, the game of Quidditch then spread to the continent, and then, one century following that, historical records indicate that the game reached as far east as…"
Harry sank low in his chair and sighed. He put his quill down and rested his chin glumly on his hand. He watched the bird take to flight again – he almost wanted it to escape the four walls of the picture, to zip through an open window, and to rise into the big open sky beyond the school - and he felt something in his heart finally lift.
In spite of the odds, the Snidget bird, according to Professor Binns, had survived. Even better, the species had begun to flourish again, growing stronger in numbers with each passing day. They were still a protected species, but the future was looking good, very good.
"Troll relations worsened over the course of the following century. Several Muggle villages were destroyed along the Torriden ranges. Goblins at the time were also growing in numbers along the northern shores of…"
And just like that, Professor Binns was back onto goblin wars and blood-thirsty trolls, and Harry Potter was again fast asleep. But unlike his usual experience, his dreams that day (and for several weeks after) weren't filled with a large slithering snake, fiery-red slitted eyes, and an ominous feeling of what was yet to come.
Instead, he dreamt of lightness and air and sun.
He dreamt of a future, a time when he had wings – bright yellow, rapidly-fluttering wings; a future where he was not in danger of being crushed by those around him, by those who needed him for their own ends.
A future in which he was free.
When he woke later, he considered sharing this strange and unexpected experience with Ron and Hermione on the way to the next class, but he decided against it. Something inside of him urged him to keep it secret, to keep the event as something special just for him.
Just like something inside of him now desperately wanted to attain and hold, more than anything, the sort of future he'd experienced in his dreams. Well, he could probably do without the actual wings. But a future where the sky, the whole world was his; where nothing held him back? He wanted that life, he wanted it. And he was beginning to realise why, in greater depth, he'd been so angry about everything and everyone all year.
He'd been a caged bird all his life, and either that cage was growing smaller or he was growing too big for it, and right now, it was beginning to stifle him more than he could possibly express.
In the following two years that were to come, Harry Potter didn't hunt Snitches or Horcruxes - not really. He hunted Snidgets, or at least the life they too should have been gifted with. He was determined that, one day, he'd catch it.
Harry was yet to know it, but he went on to do just that. He ended a war, shunned the shackles of others' expectations, and carved out a new life for himself in which he felt utterly free. From the age of twenty until the age of twenty-four, he lived in a manner that he'd, at times, never thought possible. So unburdened, so peaceful was he.
But when you're Harry Potter? Peace never lasts. Calmness always precedes a storm. And problems? They tend to follow you.
As he found out eight years after that Snidget day.