Part Six

Escorts Entangled

Prologue

In memory of the fallen, the editors of the Daily Prophet proudly reprint this article each year on the anniversary of the demise of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. We feel it is particularly important to remember those who gave their lives in order to maintain our freedom and uphold the principles that govern our world, particularly during these trying times, and given the recent upheaval at the Ministry of Magic. (See Page Two for related article.)

POTTER VICTORIOUS!

The war is over! He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated at last by The Boy Who Lived! The final battle took place on the desolate plain of Dartmoor. Sources close to the action describe some of the details. "Harry seemed to go mad when Ginny fell," one participant said, referring to Potter's long time love-interest, Ginevra Weasley. "He stepped up and unleashed magic like I've never seen. It took You-Know-Who by surprise. I'll never forget the sound when he fell. Merlin, we thought Harry was dead, too."

The Boy Who Lived survived the battle, although his condition is not known at this time. He was hastened from the field by his constant companions, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Members of the Order of the Phoenix were questioned, but they had little to offer. Remus Lupin provided an accounting of the fallen, which included Order members Alastor Moody, the renowned former Auror, Dedalus Diggle, and Hestia Jones. Also among the deceased are Seamus Finnegan and Dennis Creevey, prior schoolmates of Harry Potter. Ginevra Weasley was joined in death by both of her parents, Arthur and Molly Weasley.

Many of the Death Eaters were destroyed, including Bellatrix Lestrange and her husband Rodolphus, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, Alecto and Amycus Carrow, and the infamous Severus Snape, alleged murderer of the famed Albus Dumbledore. "Neville took him down with one hit!" one of the surviving Weasley twins told us. "It was amazing!" the other added. Neville Longbottom is the son of the famed Longbottoms tortured after the first war by the Lestranges. Longbottom's tragic story and final triumph is described in detail on page six of this issue…

Chapter One

"I'm not going to have another fucking row with you over the goddamn Ministry!" Draco yelled.

"In case you hadn't noticed, we're already having a row!" Harry snarled.

"That's because you keep bringing it up!" Draco bellowed. He was nearly to the point of picking up a nearby object and hurling it across the room. Unfortunately, the nearest object was his silver wand holder and he liked it far too much to risk damaging it.

"I only bring it up because I need your help," Harry said softly, but Draco was not swayed by his wheedling tone. He made a sarcastic noise.

"You certainly do not need my help, Potter. No one but you can break the Dark Magic and you know it. I'm just as useless as your little Auror friends. You only want me there so you can keep an eye on me."

The emerald eyes flashed. "It's not a crime to want you with me. I miss you, I'm not trying to keep an eye on you."

"Like hell you're not. You've become as possessive as a paranoid wife. I can't even go to the fucking pub for a drink without a goddamn permission slip."

Harry reacted as if slapped. "That's not true," he said. "I'm just concerned. You've been taken so many times, I just… I guess I am a bit paranoid."

Draco sighed heavily. "In case you've forgotten, Potter, we are bonded now, so you can find me anywhere I fucking go, all right? There is no escape."

Draco nearly bit his tongue in half, wishing he could call back those words, because Harry's face reflected the depth of the wound they inflicted.

"You want to escape, then?" Harry asked softly.

Draco put out a hand. "No, wait, Harry, I didn't mean that—"

"I didn't realize my presence had become so stifling and distasteful. I'll just leave you alone, then."

Before Draco could stop him, Harry Disapparated.

"Fuck!" Draco yelled into the empty room.

ooOoo

Harry Apparated straight to his office at the Ministry and threw himself into his chair before burying his head in his hands. He had known it was coming, but he had been powerless to stop it. He swore softly and wondered—not for the first time—what the hell was wrong with him. He had been acting like a clingy, overprotective idiot for the past month. Either that, or he was contemptuous to the point of rage. Harry thought he might be going crazy. He knew his behavior was driving Draco away. Lately the blond had been making up excuses to avoid intimacy. Harry knew it was the death knell for their relationship. Sex between them had always been spectacular, but now it seemed more like a battle of wills. Harry had always enjoyed the give and take process of their lovemaking, but now he only seemed satisfied when he dominated Draco.

Harry always felt guilty afterward, to the point of nausea more than once. Draco held him and crooned that it did not matter, that everything was fine. Draco could lie when it suited him, and those particular small lies had allowed the fractures to grow, fractures that now threatened to crack them apart.

Harry should have sought help a long time ago. He left the Ministry and went to see Hermione.

ooOoo

Draco sat cross-legged on the thick rug before the fire. He had left Grimmauld Place as soon as Hedwig had delivered a message stating that he would be spending the night at Ron and Hermione's. A message by owl. That, above all, clued him in that the Gryffindor was still upset. Normally Harry would send a Patronus, or hell, tell him in person.

Unwilling to face the pitying expressions of the Lupins—which had been happening all too frequently, damn it all—Draco had gone to his London flat to be alone. He had poured a large glass of wine and sat before the fire, tapping his wand idly against his palm.

He needed to seriously consider the repercussions of what he was about to do. He might actually make things worse. Draco touched his wand to his index finger. Point—Harry had been acting strangely ever since… well, ever since he had begun using wandless magic almost exclusively. Draco could not even remember seeing Harry with a wand in the past three weeks. Draco touched the hawthorn to his next finger. Point—what the fuck was the wandless magic about, anyway? Why was Harry so damned powerful? Did it have something to do with Voldemort, or the Dark Magic Harry was constantly dispelling? Or something else entirely? The wand moved to his ring finger and Draco felt a pang when his eyes caught the platinum band there. He ignored it. Point—Harry's whole personality was growing darker. He was more possessive, angrier, and more prone to violence and selfish behavior. All of it most un-Potter-like. Point—the wand dug almost painfully into Draco's pinky—Draco was fucking sick of it and he wanted his Gryffindor back. This Slytherinesque Potter had to go.

Draco's hand clenched around the wand tip. That was the crux of the matter. Despite Harry's growing incomprehensible behavior, Draco loved him beyond all reason. Potter was slowly turning into someone Draco could no longer love, and he refused to let that happen. Draco would save Harry from whatever curse now gripped him. No matter the cost.

He aimed his wand at the fire and cast.

ooOoo

Hermione waved her hand absently and Harry picked up a shrivelfig from the table. He dropped it into her waiting hand and she tossed it into the cauldron as Harry resumed peeling another. He had already forgotten what potion she was brewing. Something to do with wrinkle-removal, or hair-removal, or spot-removal. Women seemed to be obsessed with removal, if Hermione's mail-order potion business was any indication. She had amassed a small fortune selling cosmetic potions and beauty products.

She was not thinking of cosmetic potions at the moment, though. Her analytical mind was chewing over Harry's words even as she stirred the cauldron. Harry felt relief just knowing her brain was working on his problem.

"You've definitely noticed a personality change, then?" she asked.

"Hermione, I broke the bloody table fucking Draco into it. In the kitchen. While the Lupins were home."

Hermione blanched. "More information than I needed, thank you, but I see your point."

"It's like I turn into a completely different person sometimes, like something dark takes over my mind. It isn't that I don't know what I'm doing—" He laughed sharply. "Oh no, I'm perfectly aware, and I like it. I think it's fucking great. Until the strangeness fades, and then I'm mortified out of my mind. It seems to happen most often when I'm… turned on." He flushed.

"Only then?" Hermione asked. "Only when you're aroused, or does it happen other times, as well?"

Harry pondered the question, glad for her clinical demeanor. "Well, it happens when I'm in the field, mostly when I'm taking down Dark creatures of breaking Dark Magic."

Hermione nodded thoughtfully and stopped stirring long enough to take another shrivelfig from Harry. "So, it seems to be triggered by heightened levels of excitement? Adrenaline, maybe?"

Harry sat back, stunned. He thought of the times in the past month when he had felt most out of control. Fighting with Draco, having sex, blasting dementors, and once while racing Draco on brooms… Harry forced his mind away from that particular memory.

"Yeah. Yeah, now that you mention it, the craziness only takes over when I'm keyed up."

"All right, that gives us a starting point. And speaking of starting points, can you remember the very first incident? Even if it seems insignificant?"

Harry answered immediately. He had spent far too much time analyzing the possible beginning of his problem. "The night we took Draco back from Umbridge." The night I murdered Maeve, he added to himself, although he had never disclosed that to anyone. Only Draco knew his culpability in Maeve's death, and Draco had never brought it up.

"Nothing prior to that?"

Harry shook his head.

"Maybe it was the shock of losing Draco so soon after you bonded?" she suggested.

Harry shrugged. He had tried to trace it back a dozen times, but so much had happened during that time, now it was all a crazy blur. Draco's birthday and arrest, the trail, Draco sentenced to Azkaban, Harry breaking Draco out of Azkaban, hiding out in London, Umbridge incarcerating his friends, bonding with Draco—he swallowed hard at that memory—sneaking into the Ministry, Draco's capture… Harry shook it off.

"All right. Why don't you get some rest? I'll start looking up your symptoms and possible causes tomorrow. Are you certain you don't want to go home?"

"I'm sure," Harry said quietly. "I think Draco has had enough of me for a while." He must have looked as depressed as he felt. Hermione left her potion and hurried around the table to give him a hug.

"Maybe a little space will do you both good. It hasn't hurt Ron and I, for certain. I can hardly wait until he gets home; I miss him terribly." Ron was playing Quidditch for the Chudley Cannons, his dream job.

"Maybe," Harry agreed halfheartedly. He missed Draco already, but he was almost positive Draco did not miss him. "'Night Hermione."

"Goodnight, Harry," she said in a worried tone.

Harry walked down the hall to the guest room and was immediately assaulted with images of Draco. They had spent more than one passionate night in this room, draped in Silencing Spells.

"Accio buttons," he whispered on a whim. A lone button whizzed into his hand from its hiding place beneath the bureau. He looked at the tiny reminder of Draco and nearly Apparated straight home to beg forgiveness, but he knew his distress would most likely trigger whatever madness possessed him. It would only make things worse. Far better to stay away from his lover until Hermione could locate a solution.

Harry undressed and climbed into bed, holding the button like a talisman of hope.