Thou Shalt Get Kings
Sorry for the long wait—I've recently started a new job, and it doesn't leave me a lot of free time. I wish getting this done and posting new chapters was my only obligation, but alas, my real life is a busy one. It's taken me a while to get all the editing finished on this, but I tend to spend my lunch hours writing, so the result is this monster of a chapter. Enjoy!
IN VERY SHORT order, Dumbledore had been summoned, and only a moment later, he was in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place—without Snape this time. Sirius immediately drew the Headmaster into a corner and told him everything he could of what had happened. By then Harry had recovered from the painful vision, so once Dumbledore had spoken with Sirius, the Headmaster drew Harry aside and had him recount what he'd seen.
Draco had stood quietly out of the way. He wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but he knew it had something to do with Voldemort and the splitting pain that had ripped through his skull when Harry had collapsed.
The pain had been sharp and sudden—more intense than the worst headache he'd ever had. His vision had blurred and he'd had to shut his eyes tightly against the accompanying dizziness. The pain had increased for one agonizingly long second, and the face of Voldemort had flashed in front of him, as if burnt on the inside of his eyelids, and then…then it was gone as if it had never existed, and he had opened his eyes to see everyone hovering over Harry, who was sitting on the floor. People started babbling about visions and calling the Headmaster, but Draco had only been able to stare in confusion at his brother, and wonder what in the world had just happened. Had he really seen the Dark Lord, or had that been his imagination? He felt a cold shiver roll over him. Voldemort's face had been twisted with terrible rage, and when he thought about it, he had the uncomfortable feeling that that rage had been directed at him.
Harry had finished with Dumbledore and now was back at the table, picking at the remains of his breakfast. Every now and then Mrs. Weasley urged him to eat, but he hadn't done much more than push the food around on his plate.
The Daily Prophet that had caused so much uproar lay forgotten on a chair.
Draco sat down opposite Harry next to Ron, as Ginny had plunked herself in his chair at Harry's side and shoved Draco's plate across the table to him. Draco didn't touch it. He, like Harry, had abandoned the idea of breakfast.
Fully up to date now, Dumbledore took a seat at the head of the table. He cleared his throat once, and everyone in assembly stilled.
Harry wondered why Dumbledore wasn't insisting on a private meeting, but then looked around the table. Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Neville, Luna, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Sirius, and Remus…Harry realized they were all people who were fully trustworthy…even Draco. And surely Dumbledore knew if he tried to kick the DA members out, Harry would tell them everything anyway.
Everyone waited for Dumbledore to begin, but their attention turned to incredulity as the Headmaster neatly flipped his long beard over one shoulder to reveal a plump drawstring bag hung on a cord round his neck. He removed the pouch and teased it open, examined the contents, and then reached in and withdrew a yellow candy. He tipped the bag in silent offering towards Luna, who was seated closest to him near the end of the table, and she took one of the proffered lemon drops and tucked it into the folds of the knotted scarf she was wearing as a belt.
"Very wise," Dumbledore approved. "As you can see, I am forever trying to find a convenient place to keep them safely."
The bag was passed about, and everyone who was inclined to selected a lemon drop. Dumbledore replaced the bag around his neck and settled his beard back into place.
He steepled his fingers in front of him, now content to begin. "Harry has described his vision for me, but before I share any of it, I would like to ask you, Draco, what you experienced?"
"Probably just faking to get attention," Ron muttered under his breath.
Obviously he wasn't ready to be completely gracious. Hermione berated him with an elbow to his ribs.
Draco really wanted to retaliate with some sort of snarky comment, but Dumbledore was peering at him expectantly, so with nothing more than a glare at the thick-headed Gryffindor, he turned away haughtily and directed his attention down the table to the Headmaster.
"It was like pictures flashing in my head," he tried to explain. "I think I saw Voldemort, and maybe a dark room for just a second. That's all I know, except that it really hurt. It felt . . . intense." He looked at Harry. "Did you see that too?"
His brother gave a kind of terse nod.
Sirius scrutinised Harry's face. "Except I think you saw a bit more, didn't you?"
Dumbledore answered for the young wizard. "He did indeed."
Draco squinted. "This is to do with that prophecy thing you mentioned before, isn't it?"
"In a way," Dumbledore acquiesced. "Your brother's scar connects him to Voldemort."
Harry squirmed uncomfortably in his seat as Draco looked at the scar like he was really examining it for the first time.
"When Voldemort is experiencing strong emotions, Harry is occasionally privy to what he is doing, seeing, and feeling through this link."
"Like looking out of his eyes and hearing what he hears?"
Neville looked horrified. This was the first time he'd heard the details of Harry's connection to You-Know-Who. No wonder his dorm-mate had nightmares.
Ginny had clutched Harry's hand and was squeezing it tightly. Draco knew enough about Harry to know that he probably hated people showing him pity or having attention drawn to the more unusual aspects of his life, but Harry didn't pull his hand away. Draco smirked. The school rumour mill had the youngest Weasley spending time in broom closets with Dean Thomas, but he wouldn't be surprised if that didn't last much longer.
"Okay," allowed Draco. "I understand that, but why did I catch the show? Even if only part of it?"
"Harry and Voldemort's connection is a variable that hasn't been seen before," Dumbledore mused, "but I believe we're seeing the result of something fairly simple. The twin bond."
It came from both Harry and Draco together.
"Many muggles believe that twins have a special connection with one another. When the magical gifts of Wizarding twins are brought into the picture, that bond becomes more significant. Of course, it varies with each pair of siblings. Some are never overtly influenced by it, while some magical twins feel indescribably close and become quite inseparable. There have even been twins who claim such a strong magical bond that they say they can feel one another's pain and communicate telepathically."
"So that's how Fred and George do it!" Ron exclaimed. "I knew they had to be reading each other's minds or something like that!"
Mrs. Weasley shook her head. "No dear, the twins aren't telepathic. They just have a very close bond."
"To have a bond that strong is rare indeed," Dumbledore asserted.
"But you think Draco and I have one like that?" Harry blinked.
"Not necessarily—and quite frankly it's not very likely. You do have a bond, that's clear, but I believe it was the intensity of Voldemort's feelings in your mind that allowed Draco his glimpse. The stronger your emotions, the more easily they are shared through the bond."
"Why hasn't it ever happened before?" asked Draco.
"The same spell that disguised you was likely suppressing it. If it happens again for any reason, don't resist it. It could be a great asset in times of trouble."
Without knowing it, Harry and Draco were in fact having the same thought.
As if our lives could get any more complicated.
Hermione looked thoughtful. "I understand why Draco felt the effects of Harry's vision, but Harry, what did you see?"
Harry scratched at the wood grain in the table in front of him. "Not much," he murmured. "Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy, and a Death Eater called Macnair. They…weren't happy about losing Draco. Voldemort wants him back, and Malfoy said he had a plan"
Dumbledore looked seriously through his half-moon glasses over everyone in the room. The twinkle in his eyes even dimmed a bit. "Tom is angry that his plans have been foiled, that is clear. There will be retribution, and Harry's vision tells us that we may expect it sooner rather than later."
"But we have no idea what or when it may come," Remus clarified.
Sirius snorted. "It'll be devious and evil, and it'll happen when it's most inconvenient. Does it really matter? We'll be watching. The bloody tosser won't be laying one slimy hand on Draco again."
Molly frowned at Sirius' language but didn't say anything. Ginny raised her eyebrow at the black-haired Animagus. "Do you mean You-Know-Who's slimy hand or Malfoy's?"
"Either," he grinned. "They're both tossers."
A few light laughs dispelled some of the tension in the room, but Hermione still looked solemn. "Voldemort doesn't have a use for Draco anymore, does he?" she softly asked. "He just wants him dead. Like Harry."
Gloom descended again as Draco paled. No one seemed to want to answer until Remus sighed.
"Yes," he acquiesced. "That's likely the case."
Sirius ran a suddenly weary hand over his face and bowed forward in his chair. Harry watched his godfather. He'd spent enough time with the man to notice that Sirius adopted the light-hearted and teasing personality of his youth to cover his stress and worry on occasion. Sirius took the safety of James' son, now sons, very personally, ever since he'd escaped from Azkaban and had an opportunity to do so. It was one reason Harry was reluctant to share the full details of the prophecy – how would Sirius deal with knowing Harry was the one who had to fight Voldemort in the end? And now Voldemort was gunning for Draco as well. No wonder their godfather was trying to keep up a brave front.
Dumbledore frowned. "I fear we shall need to exercise greater caution in the coming weeks. Even were we lacking the insight of young Harry's vision, we would expect Voldemort's anger over losing Draco—still, it appears now that the Death Eaters' retaliation will be swift. I suggest taking several Aurors with you to retrieve the children's school things, and not allowing anyone to wander away alone whilst you shop. Hopefully they will not be so bold as to attack in such a public area, but Diagon Alley is where the boys will be most vulnerable until they return to Hogwarts."
"Chaperones?" Harry looked dismayed, but then his face relaxed in resignation. "I guess so."
Draco wondered if Dumbledore had really been giving Harry any choice in the matter, but Harry looked like he'd objected in similar situations in the past, and was beginning to resign himself to being looked after—at least for now.
"Now," announced Dumbledore, pulling his own copy of the Daily Prophet from within his robes, "I knew we would have some decisions to make regarding Draco's return to the school, but it seems that at least part of the matter has been taken from our hands."
It was with an abrupt twist of dread in his stomach that Draco recalled what had caused such a fuss before Harry's debilitating vision. The Daily Prophet had revealed his new identity to the entire wizarding world.
"How could they print that?" He asked angrily. "Couldn't we get them to say they lied?"
"What for?" wondered Harry. "It's true that we're brothers."
"I know, but—" Draco let out a frustrated breath and tipped his chair back on two legs, feeling incensed without knowing exactly at whom or how to put it into words. "Oh! That other stuff about the Malfoys taking me in out of the goodness of their hearts; that was a lie. And it's not anyone's business anyway!"
He punctuated his annoyance by letting his chair slam back onto four legs with a bang.
Remus stepped away from the hearth, his arms crossed, but a sympathetic look on his face.
"You have every right to be upset, Draco. It's awful to have your personal life printed for the public."
Harry snorted in full agreement of this, and Remus continued.
"But I think in the long run it's just as well that we let the article go uncontested."
"Uncontested?" Draco sounded puzzled.
"Remus has a point, Mr. Potter."
Draco and Harry both blinked and took a moment to deal with the strangeness of hearing Draco addressed that way, then re-focused on Dumbledore.
"As your identity has already been 'outed,' as I believe the Muggles say, it spares us the difficulty of deciding whether to return you to school as Jacob Potter, Draco Malfoy, or with some other entirely new disguise to protect you. I think it is best now that you remain officially Harry's long lost brother …remain family." Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling once again.
"Wait, Professor," cut in Hermione. "You mean you could have made him look like a Malfoy again?"
The former Malfoy's eyes widened at the question. It was a possibility he hadn't really considered, and he eagerly looked to the Headmaster for the answer.
Harry was frowning at the idea of it, imagining his twin blonde and cruel once more, despite knowing that they were brothers.
"It would be possible, of course," Dumbledore mused. "With a bit of effort we could devise glamours to mask Draco's real features with the illusion of his former appearance. However, they would need to be very powerful, and therefore would have to be renewed daily. Very inconvenient. We would never be able to reproduce the more permanent familial glamours that were used to disguise him the first time. Those must be cast by the person whose genetics the spells are meant to mimic, and must be sealed with a drop of their blood, willingly given. In other words, only Lucius Malfoy could renew those particular charms."
As the others nodded in understanding, and Harry looked relieved for some reason, Draco wondered if he should be disappointed. He was still startled for a minute whenever he caught a glimpse of his reflection, and he suspected it would be a little while longer before that tendency completely faded away. Surely it would have been a relief to have his old familiar face back?
He'd always been quite pleased with his Malfoy good looks, and he didn't have a problem admitting it. Not that he was exactly lacking in the looks department now—his biological father had been rather handsome.
At any rate, it appeared he would be going back to school just as he was. Might as well embrace it. He decided to make his thoughts known.
"If everyone knows now anyways, I don't want to put charms on every day. I'm a Potter now, and I don't want to go back."
Draco said this very decisively, and although most people in the room exhibited no surprise, Ron's mouth dropped open and snapped closed again. Until now, he'd supposed Draco would have jumped at the chance to return to his Malfoy lifestyle. Maybe Harry'd been right, and he had misjudged the situation.
"I must say, I'm glad to hear it," said Dumbledore cheerfully. "Unless you have any objections, you will be added to the Hogwarts rolls as Jacob Evan Potter. Of course, your friends may refer to you in whatever way you feel most comfortable with, but for the purposes of our professors, you will be Mr. Potter."
So that was it. Draco Malfoy, as he had been, would never again enter Hogwarts.
"Will I need to be resorted?" Draco asked uncertainly.
"That won't be necessary. You may have grown and changed since the Sorting Hat first put you in Slytherin, but the experiences you've had up until recently in your life will always remain a part of who you are. If you were to be sorted now you may still be in Slytherin, or you may not. But even those students whose lives are not radically altered are likely to be fundamentally different from their first year to their sixth. Though we may not want to admit it when Quidditch season comes around, there is a little bit of each house in all of us."
Harry thought about his own sorting and how the hat had mentioned qualities Harry had that fell in with each of the houses, especially Slytherin. For perhaps the first time, he realized that if he had been put in Slytherin, it would not have meant he was a bad person. What was the first defining characteristic of Slytherins? Being ambitious? Most people would consider that a virtue. It certainly wasn't evil. Maybe it made one more vulnerable to the lure of power, no matter who offered it, but hadn't Wormtail—a Gryffindor—fallen victim to that same desire?
Harry had a brother in Slytherin now—a brother who had turned out to be capable of formulating a boatload of opinions that didn't fall in line with Voldemort's. …Maybe Harry ought to consider giving more Slytherins the benefit of the doubt. How many had joined the Death Eaters for lack of a better option?
He'd have to talk to Draco about it.
Harry looked up and wondered if Dumbledore knew what he was thinking about.
The headmaster had that twinkle in his eye and a pleased expression on his face—probably already imagining a Hogwarts with complete house unity led by Harry and Draco. Perhaps Harry was starting to understand Slytherins a bit more, but he wasn't yet as optimistic.
"Well then," Sirius chirped brightly, "Now that we know how much danger the boys are in, and what name everyone's meant to be called by, how about a trip to Diagon Alley for school things?"
Before anyone could rise from the table in agreement, a sharp rebuke stayed them.
"Sirius Black!" snapped Mrs. Weasley. "Did you not just hear Professor Dumbledore say we have to be careful! We can't just let the children waltz into Diagon Alley to be attacked!"
Mrs. Weasley happened to be standing behind Ginny's chair, and she clutched her daughter's shoulders protectively as she said this. Ginny made a pained face and squirmed lower in her seat, trying to loosen her mother's grip.
Sirius didn't look daunted by the reminder of danger, and was nearly hopping up and down with impatience. Harry suspected someone had told his godfather about Fred and George's new shop.
"I believe what Dumbledore said was that we should make sure no one goes anywhere unescorted. We have a room full of competent adults, including Aurors, which I think would make a pretty splendid escort party."
"That's right!" Ron blurted out indignantly. "And stop calling us children. You make it sound like we all just got done wearing nappies or something. S'not like our lives have been peril-free up to now. We can handle a shopping trip!"
"Ron's right, I think we've all proved we can handle ourselves—and we know Draco knows plenty of hexes," Harry smirked at his brother. "He's used most of them on us."
Draco made a face.
"The point is, just let Voldemort himself go ahead and attack!"
Harry sounded very bold, but to those who knew him well, his eyes held plenty of tension. Dumbledore eyed the young wizard, concerned about how the boy he had come to care for was dealing with his knowledge of the prophecy.
Mrs. Weasley looked like she wanted to object, as if she wished she could prevent her children from ever appearing in public as long as there were Death Eaters living, but Mr. Weasley stepped in and spoke up.
"The students do need supplies, Molly," he said calmly. "We can't exactly send them off to school empty handed."
Molly looked to Dumbledore for support, her worry clear in her expression. The venerable professor addressed the Weasley matriarch, but his eyes were still on Harry.
"Children grow up, Molly." He said affectionately. "Though we wish we could protect them always, the world creeps in and takes them from us. We merely must be proud at how capable these seven have already proven themselves to be. Take them to Diagon Alley, stay together, and keep your eyes open. I will be returning to Hogwarts myself, but a speedy message by Patronus will bring me to you at once if you encounter trouble."
Ron obviously considered Dumbledore's word to be law, because he gave a whoop and pounded up the stairs to retrieve his small stash of sickles.
No one argued any more, so as Mrs. Weasley kept frowning, and Dumbledore said his goodbyes and departed, Harry, Draco and the rest followed Ron at a more sedate pace.
Even after the claims that they were ready for anything, Draco felt a little nervous entering the most popular British Wizarding marketplace.
He was part of an enormous group consisting of Order-Members-on-duty Mad-Eye Moody and an excitable wizard called Dedalus Diggle, Remus (as Draco was trying to get used to calling his former professor), Mrs. Weasley and Mr. Weasley—off work as it was a Saturday—Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and lastly, Sirius Black in dog form, as he had absolutely put his foot down against being left behind and could not be dissuaded. No one had raised too great a fuss at this issue, but Draco noticed Remus and Harry casually attempting to keep Sirius between them.
In the end, the large party was the very definition of safety in numbers, so Draco thought his nerves were less about the Death Eater threat, and more to do with the stares and whispers that had swept like a wave through the Leaky Cauldron the moment the two identical Potters had stepped out of the fireplace. Draco'd felt a flare of embarrassment at being seen in the company of so many Gryffindors. The superior scowl that bloomed on his face felt defensive. So, Potter or not, his pride was undiminished, at least.
He noticed that the two gossiping witches from the other night were still huddled over their corner table, and wondered briefly if they ever left. Surreptitious glances to either side of the pub revealed that at least no one in his year was there.
The group managed to ignore the pub's curious patrons and to make its way out the back of the Leaky Cauldron and through the wall by the rubbish bins into Diagon Alley with minimal crowding and stepping on of toes.
Diagon Alley didn't look quite as cheerful a place as they all remembered.
The shoppers—fewer than usual—all seemed to be scuttling along against the storefronts, slipping in and out of the doorway openings nervously. This did not appear to be because they were window shopping as much as that they preferred staying in the corners rather than moving freely down the centre of the street.
The Wizarding population had been dealt a nasty shock when finally faced with the truth of Voldemort's return, and now most witches and wizards were being much more cautious when out in public. Harry scoffed inwardly at the futility of supposing a public street was the only place one could be in danger from Voldemort.
Harry and his companions were too large of a group to slide unnoticed along the shadows of the shops' eaves and awnings. Staying close together, however, they moved as one and made their way to each of the necessary stores.
Mrs. Weasley, still displeased with what she saw as a foolhardy outing, was determined to hurry everyone through their shopping as quickly as it could be done. She immediately herded anyone that strayed or dawdled back into the group and onto task. There was grumbling, but as none could truthfully claim that she had no reason to worry, they let themselves be corralled and sped along. They trundled from one shop to the next, their arms filling with paper-wrapped packages. Mad Eye limped along a few paces ahead of the troop, and his muttering to himself about likely places for ambushes and his wildly swivelling false eye may have been the best defence they had, against at least curious onlookers, for fellow shoppers stepped out of their way just to avoid him.
As the day's shopping wore on, however, and there was nary a Death Eater in sight, even Mrs. Weasley began to relax. It was when they stepped out of Madam Malkin's after waiting wearily for nearly an hour while Ginny was fitted for new robes that Draco groaned at remembering that the specialty kit of ingredients sixth year students had been required to order for Advanced Potions was of course being owl-delivered to Malfoy Manor. He would need to stop into the apothecary for a new set.
The other sixth years going into the class had already gotten their orders, so when Draco announced his need to buy the potions supplies, Mrs. Weasley looked reluctantly from Draco to the rest of the very tired and hungry shoppers.
"It's alright, Molly," offered Remus. "How about I go with Draco while the rest of you head on back to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch? There's no sense in all of us traipsing back down the street."
"Just you and the boy, Lupin?" Mad-Eye barked. "With who knows how many of You-Know-Who's minions lurking about?"
Surprisingly, it was an exhausted Mrs. Weasley that relented. "They'll be alright, Alastor," she conceded. "It's just a quick trip down the Alley and back, and Remus can handle himself. We'll meet back at the Cauldron."
"And then to Fred and George's after lunch, right, Mum?" Ginny asked hopefully. They had been eyeing the busy store with the garish orange sign all day.
"Fine, dear. After lunch."
Draco and Remus broke away from the others and the two parties headed in opposite directions.
As they hurried down the street, it occurred to Draco that it was the first time he'd been on his own with the soft-spoken werewolf. He watched Lupin surreptitiously before he got up the nerve to blurt, "I'm sorry about the stuff I said about you when you were teaching—after everyone found out about...you know, you being a werewolf and all."
Remus looked at him, startled, and then smiled. "Don't worry about it, Draco. But thank you for your apology."
Draco gave a short nod and they continued walking through the hazy sunshine in silence for a minute.
"You know," began Remus gently, "Sirius and I both love you very much. And we knew your father and mother probably better than anyone else did. I know they would be very proud of you, Jacob."
Draco had no time to think of how he should respond to being addressed that way, for Remus' tone lightened and he announced cheerfully, "Ah. Here we are."
They were indeed standing at the door of the Apothecary. Draco opened the door, which gave an aching creak even as a tiny bell jingled. Lupin touched his shoulder before he entered, and he turned to see the older man regarding the threshold with trepidation.
"The full moon is next week," the werewolf confided. "Do you mind if I wait for you here just outside? The smells of all those potions and ingredients will give me a headache."
"Sure," Draco agreed. "I'll be fine."
The young wizard stepped into the cool, dim shop, letting the door groan and jingle shut behind him. He wandered slowly through the tall shelves that made a maze of the small emporium, looking curiously at some of the rarer ingredients for sale. He rounded the last of the shelves to reach the counter at the back of the store and froze.
There stood a Death Eater.
One he was not at all keen to confront. It was Professor Snape.
He wondered if it was too late to retreat, but the shopkeeper had looked up at his approach, causing Snape to turn and notice him there.
"Mr. Potter," he greeted with a stoic half-nod.
Draco swallowed. The professor seemed intimidating in a way he never had before, taller than Draco remembered him from his Malfoy-disguised height—a pillar of draping black robes topped with narrowed eyes. "Um, it's me, professor. I mean, Draco."
Snape pursed his lips. "Yes. Of course."
Draco's face burned and he started to wish that he had just run out of the store despite Snape seeing him. The Potions professor had always been his favourite teacher, and he hated feeling so uncertain in front of him. He willed himself to move forward to the counter. He placed his order with the proprietor quickly and without looking at Snape. Maybe it was the lack of eye contact that made him bold.
Every subtle question he'd been trying to devise in order to probe Snape's feelings flew from his head. Instead, to his embarrassment, he blurted, "Do you hate me now . . .sir?"
He immediately cringed and wished he hadn't asked it.
If Draco had been able to see Snape's face he may have taken some pleasure in seeing the expression of shock and frustration that betrayed just how ruffled the man was at the unexpected query.
Snape was quite uncomfortable, and did not want to admit how confused over that very question he had been since the Death Eater meeting at Malfoy Manor.
Draco was shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, awaiting an answer—afraid to hear what it was, but needing to know the truth.
"I do not…hate you," Snape finally said with difficulty, feeling foolish. "However distasteful the truth of you birth may be. Snape was unable to keep quite all of the disdain from his tone.
Draco looked relieved; it was clear that his professor was not fully at ease, but it wasn't an outright rejection. He felt like as long as he knew that Snape was as conflicted as he was that the residual animosity between Snape and the Potters wouldn't be as hard to take.
"I was worried a bit," he babbled, "I mean, you don't like Potters much, and now…with everything…"
With keen inference borne of years of being a spy, Snape realized what the boy was seeking was assurance that his changing identity didn't mean that he was losing everything in his old life. But Snape couldn't be sure that wasn't true. How could his relationship with this student possibly be unaffected? He'd spent too many years hating the Potters with every ounce of emotion that he could spare—bottling up everything else. Just a glance at a Draco now sparked that loathing to life.
It was only because Snape considered himself an intelligent man that he could make the effort to suppress that automatic reaction. He knew that Draco suffered from a lack of trustworthy mentors in his life, and underneath the exterior, this was the same child that he'd protected through the last five years of Hogwarts. In respect of that knowledge…well, Snape could make an effort.
"My favour for you remains, Mr. Potter, as a student and as a member of my own house. Perhaps I must rethink laying my feelings towards James Potter against his…sons." He choked out, not sure he felt as resolved as he sounded, but offering what he could to the boy he really did care for.
Draco nodded, sensing that Snape was putting an end to the matter.
"Thank you, professor," he finished politely. "I'll see you back at school."
The shopkeeper returned to the counter with Draco's wrapped purchase. Draco handed over one galleon and seven sickles in payment, and returned to the street with one last half-bow of goodbye to Snape. He found Lupin pacing under the shop's hanging sign.
"Finally! I was about to go in after you!" Remus told him. "Did you have any trouble?"
Draco looked through the shop window, where he could just see Snape still conversing or haggling with the shopkeeper. He allowed himself a small smile.
"No. No trouble at all."
Snape's mind was half on convincing the unimpressed merchant that selling pre-sliced boomslang skin was catering to laziness and a poor business practice, as the skin was only at full potency immediately after being sliced, and half on the short but significant conversation he had just had with his favourite student.
From the moment he'd seen Draco's true face revealed, Snape hadn't had time to digest much. He'd raced about with Lucius on their hunt for the boy until the end of the search had him going directly to Dumbledore and then with the Headmaster to the Order Headquarters yesterday evening. At last he had been allowed to return home to Spinner's End, but then, as tired as he had been, he could not fall asleep. His mind was too full of the memory of watching the face of Lucius Malfoy's son melt away in favour of that of the progeny of James Potter. Severus found Lucius to be a distasteful sort of person, but within the constraints and pretences of his spying they had managed a wavering, distrusting sort of mutual respect.
He got on reasonably better with proud Narcissa, which might be because she knew that he too despised her cousin Sirius. She had encouraged her "son" to seek him out at school, and at first Snape had been annoyed, and secretly wished to wring the neck of the spoilt brat. Then Draco had decided Snape was his favourite teacher and began taking advantage of Snape's position as his Head of House to come to him for guidance or help with his schoolwork, and Snape had realized that the boy was really quite intelligent, and not so annoying when not surrounded by his peers. Snape had decided not to deter him. The Malfoys were powerful, so having the favour of their heir was a wise move, and it pleased him that favouring Draco got under Harry's skin.
After Voldemort's return, it became about using Draco to keep tabs on what Lucius was up to, but somewhere along the line the professor began to recognize in his student a young man that was being shunted along a path that only ended at the heel of the Dark Lord, and he wondered if he would ever have the opportunity to direct Draco away from that life—subtly, of course.
And now the young wizard no longer needed any help in that regard. He had made his decision, and it wasn't what Lucius had imagined for his ward. Except Snape had never suspected that things would have transpired the way they did. Draco was a Malfoy, and he cared for him in his own way. Harry was a Potter, and for that sin there was no redemption.
But Draco was a Potter too.
Could he hate this young man now, knowing it would be punishing Draco for nothing more than who his parents were? And if he didn't hold that heritage against Draco, could he continue holding it against Harry?
He tried to tell himself that his every action towards Harry Potter from their first meeting was justified. Before the fateful Death Eater meeting, that surely had been without question. James Potter had treated him abominably, and Snape's quest for payback, even after the man had gone to his grave, was all-consuming, and certainly both understandable and excusable.
Yes. The fault could not have been his. Harry Potter was a spoiled good-for-nothing.
And then he was seeing Draco's transformation again in his mind. But no, his hatred certainly couldn't be tied to a simple physical resemblance between a boy and his father.
He knew he'd been deluding himself.
He wished he didn't.
Snape had tossed and turned, revaluating for the first time what it was about Harry that really drove him to a fury. Harry did not respect him, that was true, and the boy wizard was reckless, and made no secret of his dislike for the Potions professor and Head of Slytherin House. But who hated whom first?
In all honesty, Snape knew he had begun the feud himself, when he remembered the nervous first year he had come down on so hard in Harry's first Potions class. Seeing the boy in front of him, living, while Lily did not, had enraged him. Besides, he had hated James Potter, Lily had chosen James, and Harry was the proof of it. Now Draco was as well.
Still…he'd known Draco a long time, and could not now treat the boy ill. Applying the same restraint to Harry, however repugnant an idea it was, would perhaps come slowly—it would take time to adapt to seeing the boy without prejudice—his loathing came to him as an almost physical reaction at the mere sight of the teen—but Snape, above all other things, was a man of discipline. He couldn't bear to find weak-minded traits in himself that he despised in others.
He would adapt.
Back at the Leaky Cauldron, the others had commandeered a long table. Food had been ordered and was just arriving, so Draco and Remus tucked in with everyone else.
The mood was light-hearted; they were having a splendid time and there had been no attack. Draco was encouraged to find that the conversation flowed even easier than it had at breakfast, as the others were getting used to having him around. Determined to make an effort, Draco tried to take the same approach with Ron as had seemed to work that morning, and a few comments on the newest accessories they had seen in Quidditch Quality Supplies had the ball rolling and Ron, while a little cautious, was soon behaving as if they had always been friends. Where the youngest of the Weasley sons was concerned, Quidditch could work miracles.
Hermione had bought a book on ancient family charms and was quizzing Draco for everything he had experienced when the family glamour had been lifted. Neville still seemed a bit nervous around Draco, but that could have just been his personality, and Luna … well, no one could really be sure if Luna noticed any of them were there. Ginny and Harry seemed the most laid back. He and Harry had managed to move past most of their issues thanks to their morning conversation, and Ginny was quite willing to accept Draco and move on.
After lunch was cleared and the last tumbler emptied of butterbeer, Ginny held her mother to her promise to let them visit Fred and George's new shop.
They trooped back into Diagon Alley and towards Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, Sirius bounding ahead, forcing Remus to call him back repeatedly with a sharp "Snuffles!"
When they moved through the doorway, Mrs. Weasley looked startled at the crowds squeezed into the cramped building. This shop was bustling with activity where others had been quiet and empty. She swept her gaze across the people eagerly pouring over the shelves and counters filled with brightly coloured candies, packages, and gag toys, until she spotted Fred and George, dressed in outlandish matching outfits and fielding customers. Her mouth opened in a small 'o' and something like pride began to cross her face.
Mr. Weasley was openly beaming, and the way Sirius was quivering, it was clear he desperately wanted to shift back to human form to investigate and congratulate Hogwarts' most recent prankster team. Moody remained by the doorway, glowering from one eye, the other spinning in every direction.
Remus and Padfoot moved off to peruse the garish displays together, even as Fred and George spotted them. George snatched something off the counter from beside an enormous old-fashioned cash register painted purple, and the two headed over. The crowd parted for them.
George was waving the object from the counter at them, and they now saw it was a somewhat crumpled copy of that morning's Daily Prophet front page. "Right nice of you all to let us in on this," he huffed, immediately spying Harry and Draco together in the group.
Their jaws dropped in amazement. "Why it's bloody true then, eh," said Fred. "They look more alike than we do!"
"And thick as thieves by the look of it. Malfoy's made a turnabout, then? Siding with the good guys, abandoning his evil ways and what?"
"Ahem," Mr. Weasley cleared his throat, "well, I suppose you might say that. Sorry we didn't tell you ourselves boys, but you understand we'd just been thrown a bit of a loop."
"Draco's left home, you see. He's staying with us now," Hermione explained. "He was kidnapped and Mr. Malfoy never told him a thing until he removed the charms disguising him the other night on Voldemort's orders."
"You-Know-Who, eh?" George nudged Fred. "I knew all that rot in the paper about the Malfoys taking in the unwanted babe and needing their confused little boy back was rubbish."
"Cheers to Draco, then! We'll make nice with anyone that doesn't hold with Ol' Snakeface," Fred nodded in Harry and Draco's direction.
Clapping Draco on the back, he exclaimed, "How's it feel to have a twin, Harry?"
"I'm not Harry," Draco said indignantly.
George stepped beside Harry and scruffed him on the head as Harry tried to duck and smooth his hair back best as he could. "Nah, Fred, this one's our Harry. He's wearing his specs, see?"
"Ah, right, that's a bit of bad luck, eh?" Fred sympathized. "S'pose it makes it easier to tell you apart though. You don't need 'em?"
Draco shook his head. "Either I never did or Lucius had my eyesight corrected. I don't know which."
"Sorry," began Fred, "Sensitive topic? Anyway, why don't you let us—"
"—Show you around the place?" George finished.
Harry was paying more attention than normal to the way Fred and George seemed to operate with one mind. Was that the result of being wizarding twins? It certainly fit with what Dumbledore had been telling them. He thought of the other set of twins he knew at Hogwarts, Padma and Parvati. Despite living in different houses at school they seemed to wear matching outfits an awful lot. Maybe that wasn't a planned thing, as he'd always supposed. Harry hoped he and Draco wouldn't be affected that way. Oh, Merlin, if we ever show up in matching sweater sets, I'm packing it all in and moving away to the States where no one knows me.
The Weasley twins had both thrown their arms wide in gestures meant to encompass the store.
"—What do you think?"
Ron beamed. "I think it's wicked!"
"Much better than Zonko's," Ginny agreed.
Luna nodded. "It's very colourful," she complimented. "Have you any pillywiggle repellent? We've been experiencing an infestation."
"None of that; sorry, no."
"It is splendid, boys," effused Mr. Weasley. "Looks like it took a lot of hard work, eh, Molly?"
Mrs. Weasley took a long look at the giggling and enthusiastic crowd of shoppers. "It appears you've done quite well for yourselves." Her face softened. "Very well indeed."
Fred and George looked extremely pleased.
"Thanks, mum," said Fred. "Really."
"Say," George proposed, "Would you and Dad like to handle the customers a bit while we give this lot a tour of our newest products?"
Mrs. Weasley wavered. "Handle the customers?"
"Sure! It's simple—there's a list of prices for everything in the store on the counter. You just take their money and put it in the till."
"You'll manage fine," Fred breezed in agreement. "This is Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and you are Weasleys, after all!"
While they left Mr. and Mrs. Weasley dubiously regarding the purple cash machine, as well as the throng of excited young customers, and wondering if they'd just been had, the twins proudly showed off their shop and the many prank products and sweets practically flying off the shelves. In front of them was a large display advertising Skiving Snackboxes. A group that looked like it consisted mainly of excited first years were ogling the colourful packages.
"Betcha they each buy one," Fred said, looking them over like a proud parent.
George looked just as pleased. "Skiving Snackboxes are absolutely our most popular product, you know—"
Hermione's gasp of horror interrupted them.
"What," she demanded, "is that?"
"What?" George asked. He and Fred turned to see what Hermione was pointing at.
A house elf was tip-toeing through the door from the back room, clutching at arm's length a box of U-No-Poo. The elf looked younger that the others Harry had seen, although he was a wee bit taller than Dobby and slightly plumper. He was wearing a sort of toga made from a length of vivid orange cloth stamped with a large 'WWW.'
It scuttled out into the crowded store, stocked the U-No-Poo on a depleted shelf, and dodged back through the rear doorway.
"Oh. That's Twitch. We got him to help us out a bit."
"Twitch?" Ron raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah," said Fred. "He's a might jumpy."
Like a confirmation, a muffled crash came from the back room, and George tilted his head in consideration, seeming unconcerned by the destructive noises coming through the door.
"But then, we think he may have overheard us talking about testing some of our new products on him."
Harry hadn't thought Hermione's frown could grow any deeper, but there you were.
"How can you possibly think that's okay?" she screeched, prompting the Weasley twins to usher their huddle in the door the elf had gone through when some of the customers looked round.
"Where'd he go?" Ginny looked curiously for the elf.
"Probably hurried out on a supply errand," Fred gestured to a rear exit. "It's one of his jobs. Between us blowing up experiments and his clumsiness, we go through a lot of potions ingredients."
Hermione was growing red in the face—she had been sure that at least no one in the Weasley family would ever stoop to owning a house elf.
Ron and Harry grimaced; Hermione had been leaving off of the SPEW stuff lately, discouraged by lack of results in what the two boys considered to be a futile campaign. Now they sensed a tirade coming on, and wanted to be elsewhere.
"I'm sure they treat the thing nicely, Hermione," Ron cajoled. "There's no need for a spew intervention."
Draco leaned over to whisper in Neville's ear. "What's spew?"
"Um, it's really S-P-E-W," Neville whispered back. "It's an organization Hermione started to get more rights for house elves. She's been putting up notices all round the school for ages."
"How come I've never heard of it?"
"It never really caught on. Even with the house elves."
Fred and George had left them standing in the centre of the room. It appeared to be both a workshop and a stockroom. The walls were lined with shelves stuffed with WWW products, and two large worktables stood to either side of them, littered with a couple simmering cauldrons and the remnants of potions ingredients—some of which were either very rare or really perhaps should not have been found in a sweet shop.
The red-headed twins were rummaging through a cupboard in the corner with their backs to them.
"Now where the devil did it go," they heard one of them mumble.
The twins emerged triumphantly from behind the cupboard door holding up a sheet of parchment.
They handed it over to Hermione with great flourish.
"We knew you wouldn't fancy the idea, Herms," Fred grinned.
"And we couldn't have you angry with us—"
"—Bloody scary, that would be—"
"So there you go! It's Twitch's employment contract!"
It was indeed.
They all crowded round to peer at the 'contract.'
At the top of the parchment it proclaimed in an extravagant calligraphy:
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes Contract of Fair and Lawful Employment
Below that followed the body of the contract.
'This Very Important piece of paper does hereby establish the employment of:
Here a line had been drawn across the page, and on it, in significantly less neat handwriting—probably the elf's own—was filled in:
Twitch the House Elf
'The benevolent and most intelligent employers do swear to provide the above party
With bed and board and to pay in exchange for duties three sickles each month.'
"Only three sickles a month?!" Hermione was ready to fire up again.
"He talked us down from five."
"It's a fortune to him, believe me," Fred hurried to explain for his brother. "He didn't want to bear the shame of being a free elf earning wages, so it's a miracle we even convinced him to take that."
"We have a hard enough time keeping him from spending his wages on cleaning potions for the shop. Go on, read the rest." George tapped the parchment with a finger.
Ginny plucked the paper from Hermione's hands and finished reading the contract aloud.
'Employment shall also include, as benefits, a free sampling of any new WWW products
so long as the employers shall not be held responsible for any unexpected growth of
hair, swelling of body parts, temporary loss of speech or other senses, unforeseen
time spent as small feathered or furred creatures, or any other unmentioned symptoms,
be they unpleasant or rather funny.
The employed may also expect that he will not be mistreated in any way,
Including, but not limited to: burns, maiming of limbs, intentional poisoning, tripping,
kicking, and general pummelling about the head.
Fred Weasley and George Weasley
There was a moment of quiet. Then—
"That's bloody brilliant!" Ron guffawed. "See, Hermione, Twitch is in good hands."
The rest of them snickered at the overwrought contract, and even Hermione began to look appeased.
"Well," she allowed, "I suppose he is a lot better off here than he would be with some family like the—um, with someone else." She cast an awkward glance at Draco.
He scowled but pretended not to notice.
In a moment of bad luck, the exit into Diagon Alley at the back of the workroom bumped open, and the elf in question sidestepped through, and in a solid stream of movement that looked like it could have come from a Muggle silent comedy, the top parcel on his stack, which was quivering slightly of its own accord, slipped off the pile onto the floor. Twitch immediately bent to fetch it up, and of course promptly dropped the rest of his armload of packages and cracked his head on the door, which was swinging shut again.
There was a sound of shattering.
The elf looked up, saw his audience, and his eyes went wide and apologetic.
"Twitch is so very sorry, great masters!" He squeaked. He frantically tried to move forward, presumably to gather up the brown-paper bundles that were tumbled across the floor, but his foot was now caught in the door. "He is not seeing you there! Twitch is so embarrassed he is clumsy and making such a mess! He will clean it up right away and go get new ingredients for the most handsome and clever Weasleys!"
The mortified house elf gave a great yank that freed his foot but sent him flying into the room in a somersault. He recovered and began hastily re-building the spilled packages into a tottering stack.
Hermione's stern look was back, and the rest of the group raised eyebrows.
Fred and George reddened.
"We never told him to call us that!"
They were saved by Remus, who poked his head through the door from the shop, Padfoot's head also appearing from behind his knee.
"There you are! Moody's getting nervous that he can't see you anymore." He and the big black dog stepped through the door and shut it behind them.
Sirius immediately transformed back to himself and began perusing the supply shelves.
"Padfoot!" hissed Remus. "Change back right now! We're in the middle of Diagon Alley—you don't want to be seen, do you? You're supposed to be on the run, not shopping."
"We're in a closed room, Moony," Sirius rationalized calmly. "I think I'll be safe looking around for a couple of minutes. You know, some of this stuff is pretty brilliant!"
Sirius picked up a fake wand and gave it a trial wave. The wand plucked itself from his hand, turned about in midair, and spurted Sirius in the face with a jet of cold water.
Everyone laughed, for Sirius couldn't help looking shocked for a moment, but then he laughed too, and looked past the fake wand gleefully, his hair still drenched and dripping. "See," he crowed. "Brilliant! I wouldn't mind sending one of these to You-Know-Who."
He took out his own wand and dried himself, causing little clouds of steam to puff from his shoulders.
Remus chuckled. "Not bad, boys," he congratulated, turning to Fred and George. "Boys?"
The Weasley twins, who were never without words or jokes, were pale and straight-faced, their intent stares swinging between Sirius and Remus.
Harry and Ron exchanged confused looks.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Sirius Black," George intoned.
"And Remus Lupin," Fred added solemnly.
The two adults in question looked at each other, puzzled, and each answered warily.
"At your service."
George blinked at Sirius. "He called you Padfoot."
Fred's face was still just as blank. "And he called you Moony."
Harry smacked himself on the forehead. Had no one ever told the twins exactly who their idolized map-makers were?
Sirius frowned. "I still don't understand. They're nick-names from school. What's the big deal?"
Ron snorted. "They're fans."
"We have fans?"
"The Marauders have fans," Harry laughed.
A cocky sort of smile began to spread across Sirius's face. "Heard of us, have you?
The twins came alive again with an alarming stream of dialogue.
"I don't believe it! We've known you for ages!"
"You taught us!"
"Are you really the Marauders?"
"We found your map in Filch's office first year. How'd you make it?"
"Do you really like our store?"
There followed a very animated discussion during which Fred and George quizzed an amused Sirius and Remus relentlessly on the spells and tricks they had used to wreak occasional havoc in their school days. The others tried to sneak off unnoticed back into the public part of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, but the flabbergasted twins rounded on them to express their displeasure that their own brother and his best friend hadn't felt the obligation to let them know that they knew two of their idols personally. Harry had felt it prudent to go ahead and sheepishly tell them that not only was the traitor Pettigrew 'Wormtail,' but 'Prongs' was his own father. The pranksters were once more struck dumb.
Draco knew he would have to question Harry later about what the Marauders were. He was amused to note, however, that the other set of twins was apparently more upset about being denied this information than being left out of the loop regarding the events at Grimmauld Place the last couple of days.
In the end, it was nearly half an hour until they rejoined the rest of the group in the main shop.
They found Mr. Weasley looking like he was having the time of his life playing shopkeeper, grinning in fascination at the cash machine every time the till popped open with a clunk and a ring. Mrs. Weasley was maintaining a sort of harried control over the counter, but she couldn't hide the pride on her face as the streams of happy customers kept coming.
Ginny leaned in to murmur to her twin brothers. "Looks like you've finally won mum over on the joke shop."
Fred and George just beamed.
The twins relieved their parents at the counter, and they all said their goodbyes and congratulations on the successful store.
Diggle was starting to look a little bored, and Moody was tapping his peg leg impatiently by the door, but at last everything had been said, those making purchases finished, and the starstruck young businessmen had pressed free samples into the hands of the two Marauders; well, into Remus's hands at least, as Sirius was in dog form again. This earned a glare from Ron, who'd been a bit affronted at handing over money to his brothers for the goodies he'd selected.
With a few sighs of relief that the day had gone smoothly, they were on their way out of Diagon Alley and back to Headquarters.
For the remainder of the waning afternoon, they busied themselves with unpacking all the new school supplies. Draco, unwilling to ask for help but realizing he had to since he still wasn't old enough to use magic outside of school, got Sirius to come up to the room he was sharing with the other three boys and unshrink all the clothes, textbooks and other supplies he would be needing to take to Hogwarts so he could re-pack them properly in his trunk, and they managed to shorten the legs of most of his pants. 'Most of' being the pairs that Mrs. Weasley had helped them with after discovering Draco and Sirius and the mangled results of their clumsy first attempts.
They filled the bottom drawer of an empty wardrobe with the rest of the still-shrunken contents from his bedroom at Malfoy Manor. Sirius had questioned Draco on the unusual packing job, and he explained about his overly eager-to-please elf. Draco's newfound godfather got a laugh out of it, imagining Lucius finding not only his son gone, but the room stripped to the bare walls.
Mrs. Weasley called them downstairs for another of her delicious dinners, after which they dispersed for a quiet evening. No one mentioned it, but they knew that even though the trip to Diagon Alley had been trouble-free, it didn't mean Voldemort didn't have something planned. The evil wizard wasn't going to let Draco escape his clutches that easily, no matter if his plans for him were now ruined. They still couldn't afford to let down their guard.
Still, the Gryffindors were certainly used to falling into dangerous circumstances, and Draco had become good at putting aside his personal fears in favour of a cocky exterior, so they managed a relaxed mood as they settled into the parlour to play games.
It was reminiscent of the first day Draco had arrived, and, sloughing off his own standoffishness, he was truly falling into the easy camaraderie with them that he had experienced when they thought he was Harry.
The next two weeks passed much the same way, with the seven students spending what was left of their holiday entertaining themselves with games and finishing summer homework together. With the bad blood between them forgotten and in the past, Draco fit well into the group. The girls were kind to him and more than willing to let bygones be bygones; Neville finally lost his nervousness around the former Malfoy heir and Draco was surprised to find pathetic, bumbling Longbottom could be a quiet but very loyal friend. Ron tried to cling to his doubts about Draco's intentions, but the discovery of a kindred Quidditch fan with a passion for the game that rivalled his own broke down the last of those barriers, and the two of them had come to an understanding. Draco wouldn't antagonize Ron with his former cruel comments, and Ron would pretend that he'd only ever known Draco as Harry's brother. Allowing that, they actually got on surprisingly well. Harry wondered good-naturedly if he was in danger of losing his best mate to his own brother.
As inevitably happens when people pass time together, Harry and Draco drew closer, sharing stories about their lives at night sitting on one or the other's bed, and finding what they had in common now that their hatred for each other had faded away. Draco wanted to know everything Harry knew about their parents—discussions that Remus and Sirius joined on occasion—and Harry came to understand Draco better after hearing about Draco's life growing up in the Malfoy home. Neither of them had the childhood they should have had, but they were family now in every sense of the word.
Dumbledore had shown up one morning to take Harry on an errand, and when he returned, Harry told the others about the nervous Horace Slughorn, whom they had persuaded to take the post of potions master. The simultaneous discovery that Snape had at last secured his coveted post in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom had the Gryffindors grumbling, but it was only a small disaster, all things considered.
The time passed quickly and peacefully. There were still no signs as to what Voldemort and Lucius may be planning, and Harry hadn't had any more visions on the subject. They were still maintaining their watchfulness, but it looked like they might make it back to Hogwarts without major incident.
The last couple of days before they were due to catch the train at King's Cross were mild chaos as the students gathered up belongings that had become scattered around the house, and spent as much time as possible with Sirius, Remus, and the other adults they would miss while they were away at school.
The morning of September first, Mrs. Weasley outdid herself with a feast of a breakfast.
Draco was alarmed when he casually mentioned that he wished his surrogate mum had been able to cook like this, and a suddenly teary-eyed Mrs. Weasley had smothered him in a warm hug.
Despite the urge to languish around the table, they soon had to hurry and fetch their trunks downstairs to the front hall. Hermione talked Ron into helping her get Crookshanks into his travelling cage, and the two headed to the third floor, where the enormous orange cat had most recently been seen hunting mice. They returned a few minutes later, Hermione carrying a cage full of unhappy Crookshanks, and Ron sporting several nasty scratches. Ron's tiny owl, Pig, was fluttering excitedly about their heads, until Ron's hand snapped out with near Seeker-like reflexes and snatched the bird up in one fist and stuffed him unceremoniously into his own cage. Neville and Draco came down with their trunks, and Harry was helping Luna with hers as Remus called for them to hurry up.
"The car's arrived, you lot," He beckoned. "If you don't leave now, you'll miss the train."
They all spilled out onto the stoop chattering happily, until Harry, in the lead, ground to a stop, causing the others to pull up as well.
"Hey, Harry," called Ron, "what's the—oh."
For in the street in front of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place sat the sorriest excuse for a car any of them had ever seen. The car looked as if it was barely being held together by a few straining bolts, and there wasn't one inch of the thing that wasn't dented or chipped. It was very difficult even to say what colour it was, because of a nearly solid coating of rust. Not one of the four doors looked like they closed properly. Draco even spotted a length of twine holding up one side of the front bumper.
Sirius came out the door behind them. "What are you kids staring at?"
He looked to the curb.
"Ah. I see the transportation is here."
"I thought you said the Auror department was sending us a car," said Harry, looking doubtfully at the beaten old thing that made Mr. Weasley's Anglia look like a Rolls Royce.
"Harry," scolded Tonks, stepping suddenly out of the rust-covered contraption. She held open the door behind her, which dangled crookedly on one determined hinge, so they could all see the comfortable, clean, and very spacious interior. "Surely by now you'd remember that with magic, everything isn't as it seems!"
"You can't be too sure You-Know-Who doesn't know exactly how we're getting to King's Cross," explained Moody gruffly. "But who'd ever suspect this pile of scrap of belonging to the Ministry's transportation department? Constant vigilance!" He finished with a bellow.
It was actually quite a clever ruse when one thought of it that way.
They all loaded their trunks into the deceptively cavernous boot, and Tonks returned to the driver's side door.
"You know how to drive?" Hermione asked Tonks.
Tonks flashed them a huge grin and told them cheerfully, "I think I can figure it out."
Harry was sure Voldemort would be pleased when he heard about the mangled automobile wreck that finally did in the Boy Who Lived.
Goodbyes were said all around, as only Tonks, Moody, and Remus were accompanying them to the station. Draco was inwardly pleased when Sirius clasped him in a hug just as affectionate as the one he'd given Harry. He hadn't been able to help growing to fiercely like Sirius—the man was one of the first people to care about him unconditionally and show it. When the man scruffed his hair though, Draco scowled in mock anger. Unlike his brother, who still tried on occasion to tame the unruly hair they shared, Draco was perfectly aware of how attractive that mop could be when carefully ruffled. He had developed the habit of running his hand through it occasionally, unaware of how Remus and Sirius smiled behind his back at the gesture that so reminded them of James.
At last they piled into the heap of a car, which was indeed much nicer on the inside, and were on their way to King's Cross.
Tonks didn't handle the car too badly, and there were only a couple of near misses on the way. Luckily it was a short drive. They found parking near the station, by which time Harry was rethinking the cleverness of the car's outward appearance. They quite probably would have drawn less attention in a Ministry limousine, because as they sputtered and banged noisily to a stop, many muggles were staring at the car as if wondering how it could possibly run.
Moody and Remus helped unload their trunks and the group made their way into the station and through the crowds of muggles to Platforms Nine and Ten. They stuck close together, for their large company couldn't help drawing some attention, especially with seven large trunks, two owls, a cat, and a toad.
At the barrier before Platform 9¾ they lined up to go through one at a time, Tonks keeping an eye out near the wall, and Remus and Moody bringing up the rear. Luna, Ginny and Ron had already slipped though, and Draco was next in line, waiting for a tall muggle businessman to step a bit further away, when Harry's heart stilled.
Was that? No, he had to be imagining things.
For a moment he swore he'd gotten a glimpse of Macnair, the Death Eater with the black moustache, his face flashing for a second in the crowd. Harry tried to tell himself that it was nerves, and he was getting wound up over nothing—but no! There!
Harry saw him again, seated on a bench not far away, peering around a muggle newspaper; and where there was one Death Eater, there were likely to be more. But why were they sneaking about? Draco was about to step through onto Platform 9¾—if they'd come for him, which surely was the case, wouldn't it have been safer to grab him on this side of the barrier, where the thick crowds of muggles would confuse any pursuit and make using defensive magic difficult? The fact that Harry wore glasses and Draco did not would have made it a simple thing to grab the right twin as they had been heading into the station and quickly disappear again.
But they hadn't.
Which meant they weren't going for subtle.
Harry suddenly knew with absolutely certainty that there were at least two Death Eaters waiting on the other side of the barrier.
All this had passed though his head in barely five seconds, but now the tall muggle had turned away and Draco was moving forward.
"Stop!" Harry cried out, and he lunged forward towards his brother, but his fingertips only brushed the back of Draco's cloak before the other boy disappeared through the wall.
"Harry, what is it?" Hermione yelped in alarm.
At his shout, Moody's eyes had narrowed, and both he, Tonks, and Remus had their wands out in under a second. Harry's wide eyes met Remus'. He pointed to Macnair, who had stood and discarded the newspaper in favour of his wand at Harry's shout.
"Death Eaters!" Harry hissed. But he wasn't worried about Macnair right now. He felt shock and fear wash through him, and he realized with a start that it wasn't his—that had come from Draco. The twin bond. They have him!
Harry narrowed his eyes. But they certainly won't for long! There was no way he was losing his brother again this soon.
Harry thrust his trunk and Hedwig's cage towards Neville, Hedwig squawking in consternation as she abruptly changed hands. Remus had begun to follow Mad-Eye, who was storming dangerously in Macnair's direction, but he saw Harry's movement out of the corner of his eye and turned back. "Harry, no, wait!" he shouted.
Harry levelled a fierce gaze on the remainder of the group, Remus fighting to reach him, Tonks rushing to join Moody in apprehending Macnair, Neville looking confused, and Hermione struggling to pull out her wand and still hold onto her trunk and Crookshanks.
I don't have time for this! He thought, his worry and Draco's fear consuming him. "They have Draco!" He yelled, and without any more waiting, he drew his wand and plunged through the barrier.
Well, that's it for now! Thanks to all who reviewed the last chapter, and I hope you're still around!
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