Part 16

The rain had not let up since their meeting, and Draco began to suspect that the constant storm was not natural. Black clouds covered most of Europe, most intently focused on Scotland and England, hammering their coasts. Did the Ministry suspect that the dark wizards or the Order might try to summon reinforcements from other countries, bringing them en masse in great ships on the beach? Draco chuckled at the thought. Who would join him or Lupin, the only two players who might oppose Fudge? And who would join with Fudge while Draco and Lupin remained on the vast chessboard?

No, the rest of the world would watch on the sidelines until the mess was sorted out. Even if he could summon help from his friends in America, they would not arrive in time.

The fight had to be decided quickly, within the week, before Fudge had time to prepare and dig in for a siege. The Ministry was too full of traps and corridors, too labyrinthian beneath the ground, and any attempt at a fight would be like chasing snakes into their dens. Rather they must be drawn out into the open and then slaughtered, given no recourse but to die.

Perhaps Lupin would demand the Ministry forces be allowed to surrender. Draco would simply make sure Fudge and his forces had no time to try.

With that in mind, Draco came to Givry-on-Avon, making his way to the opera house. He was not surprised to see the town much changed. Lupin had said something about Order members being arrested, and he doubted they had gone without a fight. Surely Fudge was about the business of clamping down on his enemies. Streets were deserted, kept empty by a curfew, and working streetlamps were far and few between, leaving the roads dark and quiet.

Even so, Draco stayed on the grass, a single knut in his mouth as he slithered under leaves and around stones. As he darted across pavement, he doubted that anyone spotted the little white snake flashing like moonlight between the raindrops, but all the same he half-wished he was a rat or a crow instead. At least those were more common in England.

At last he was across the street from the opera house, and he lifted his head slightly for a better look. The door and windows were still boarded up, the glass still unrepaired. He heard the caw of an anxious crow somewhere above him, and he took heart that Vaisey still stood sentinel in his animagus form, keeping a lookout for danger.

Up the steps, one after another, laboriously stretching his small body up the staircase. The rough stones were made slick with rain, easing his route as he slithered up and inside, pausing beneath a toppled chair to take a look around.

Grass had grown on the carpet as far as the rain would allow, and vines had begun working their way in through broken windows. A hole in the ceiling let in water, forming a large puddle on the floor, and Draco eagerly slipped into the puddle, swimming across and following the water's current down the hall and down the long aisles of the main chamber. The chairs were still shredded and the metal frame of the fatal chandelier stood crumpled in the center of the room.

Now he heard voices, and he darted behind a scrap of fabric dangling from a seat as he listened. Too far away to make sense of the words, he recognized Lupin's voice, and soon after him, Kingsley, Nymphadora, Dumbledore. They were all waiting on the stage with their lumos charms, hiding from the rain under a shield spell as they stood around a wobbly transfigured table with a map between them.

He had a sudden wish to go back to Germany and tell his family they would leave the ministry and the Order to devour each other. One more battle...what more could another war do for them that a thousand years had not? Only his sense of duty and his parents waiting for word made him go on.

First he shed his snake shape, wincing as his body shifted and left him kneeling on all fours, naked, with the knut still in his mouth. He put his hand to his lips and took the coin, whispering "covren" to activate the spell inside.

Black ribbons whipped out of the coin and curled around him, forming a loose pair of pants and long-sleeved shirt, boots, gloves, his cloak with its hood. The sensation was odd, as if he was still exposed and shivering as cold wind touched his skin. Perhaps it was because he was without his wand, left with a handful of hopefully useful spells locked within the coin.

"-if he'll even show up," someone said. "The Draco I know is a whining, scared little brat."

Draco frowned. Nymphadora never could keep her mouth shut. He straightened his cloak and stood, coming around the seats and carefully stepping over long shards of broken crystal.

"You do him a disservice," Dumbledore said. "Boys do grow into men."

"Well, he's not here yet, is he?" Nymphadora snapped.

"Actually," Draco said, pausing at the foot of the stage, "I am."

He kept his hands beneath his cloak to hide the fact that he had no wand. Standing in a bunch on the stage, Lupin and his handful of trusted confidants turned in surprise, their own wands out and ready, aimed at him. Masking how he froze, he tilted his head with a disdainful glance around them.

"Is this all of you?" he asked. "Tell me you each represent an army somewhere. If this is all you could muster, we should quit while we can still run."

For a long, awkward moment, no one answered him, glancing at each other as if they were really going to work with him. And then Dumbledore took a step, waving the others wands down.

"Young Malfoy," Dumbledore said, giving Shacklebolt one more firm look before the man put away his wand. "We were beginning to lose heart that you would appear."

"Getting here was harder than I thought it would be," Draco admitted, coming up on stage and coming under Lupin's shield spell. Although he was already soaked, he pushed his hair back and tied it with a ribbon. "Fudge's curfew makes it easier for any aurors to spot us."

"So how did you get here?" Lupin asked. "Unless you borrowed Harry's invisibility cloak?"

"No," Draco said, then looked over his shoulder and nodded. "He has that."

A flutter of cloth followed, and Harry came up from the other side of the stage, folding his cloak and tucking it away. Equally as drenched as Draco, he came beside his husband and put one hand on Draco's back, facing the rest.

"Harry," Nymphadora said softly, a look of betrayal in her eyes. "How long were you standing there spying on us?"

"Long enough to make sure it was you," Harry said levelly, "and not someone transfigured to look like you."

"You've really thrown your lot in with them then," she said, taking in the picture they made standing together. "Do you cast dark spells, too?"

"Tonks," Lupin said, turning towards her. "Enough. We have other matters at hand."

"Indeed," Dumbledore said. "To answer your question, young Malfoy, we are not the only ones left. Though we have lost a handful of our Order, most of us remain ready. That is about twenty battle hardened wizards and witches. Then there are the werewolves-"

"'Werewolves'," Harry echoed, looking at Remus. "Not Fenrir's old pack?"

"Some of them," Lupin nodded. "Most of my pack is made up of registered wolves. The ones who escaped when Fudge...well. He's rounding anyone on the registry."

"Round up for what?" Draco asked. "Giving them a free pass if they hunt you down?"

"No," Dumbledore said. "The vampires, werewolves, hags...the ones Fudge collects simply disappear."

"The ones that run," Shacklebolt added, "the ones who don't make it in time-they're just killed in the street."

"Ah," Draco said in understanding. "Light wizards dragging down dark creatures. The same tired refrain we know so well."

"You said werewolves," Harry said, putting a hand on Draco's before he said something irrevocably offensive about history. "What about vampires and hags? What about any of the magic creatures, actually?"

"My pack is about twenty-five werewolves," Lupin said. "That's all that's made it to me so far. As for the others, not enough to make much of a difference either way. Both are beginning to starve for blood or human flesh."

Harry startled, and Draco gave him an amused look but said nothing. Did he never listen to the fairy tales Draco told him? Hags ate children. Without the ministry to provide naturally dead corpses, of course the more cannibalistic creatures would go hungry. He doubted any of them had ever had to hunt their own food in their whole lives, like muggles who ate pizza and never knew where the sausage came from.

"I have my entire community," Draco said. "They all stand with us, down to the last man. That will be about fifty wizards and witches. But against the ministry, we will need more."

"I took the liberty of sending for one other," Dumbledore said, but he did not look confident about it. "However, while he said he would attend, he refused the portkey I offered. I admit, I am not entirely sure how a centaur will reach this place."

A low murmur went through the group, quickly drowned out be the rain again.

"A centaur," Harry echoed. "I thought they didn't care about wizards."

"They don't," Dumbledore said. "As a rule. Poor Firenze was ostracized after he taught at Hogwarts. And yet one approached me about this meeting, so I suspect that they already knew what we were planning."

"This doesn't make sense," Draco said. "Why would they bother? They can see the future. They already know how this is going to turn out."

A soft thump came from the side of the stage. They all turned, again raising their wands but then standing slowly, lowering their hands as they spotted the movement from the curtain hanging limping against the wall. Horse hooves clopped on the old floorboards. Soaked but looking as if the rain didn't bother him, a tall centaur, black maned with his head held high, walked into glow of their lumos charms.

"Not quite." The centaur looked over each of them in turn, standing several heads above them, slowly circling them. "This little war between your kind is not so little, it seems."

"Magorian," Dumbledore said, tipping his head. "You honor us with your visit."

"Indeed," the centaur said, coming to a halt and pacing one hoof impatiently. "Is this all of your secret cabal?"

"Only our commanders," Lupin said, standing as straight as he could. "We each have our own forces, but we meet here to plan our attack."

"I see that," Magorian nodded, but his lip curled as he narrowed his eyes. "Humans plotting with humans."

"And werewolves," Lupin pointed out. "And vampires, and hags—"

"Werewolves against your will," Magorian chuckled humorlessly. "Beings are not beasts, nor 'filthy half-breeds' as I recall. I'd hoped to see goblins or elves, but even with the odds so stacked against you, you show no willingness to ask help from those you would call animals. I have wasted my time here."

He turned sharply, cantering up the aisle and smashing broken crystals underfoot. The others made a noise of loss and Lupin took an ineffective step forward, but Magorian showed no sign of turning. Draco felt their best chance for success slipping away and called out before he stopped to think better of what he was about to do.

"We prefer to ask half-breeds who don't run off so quickly," he called out.

Magorian came to a halt so fast his hooves slid, and he turned with a look of angry disbelief.

"What did you say?" he asked, incredulous and redding, his shock turning to a snarl.

"Couldn't hear over your own clip-clopping?" Draco asked.

Behind him, Dumbledore made a strangled sound that couldn't quite form into words. Harry turned and stared at him, jaw hanging in shock, mirroring the rest of their reactions. As Magorian came slowly back down the aisle, stomping his hooves for effect, Draco went and jumped off the stage, walking up to meet him.

"Oh God," Harry whispered behind him. "He's going to make me fight a centaur for him."

"No one calls me a half-breed," Magorian snarled, looming over Draco. "I have killed for less than that."

"But would you kill an unarmed wizard?" Draco asked as he held up his empty hands. "I've no wand. Let them write that down in your list of great deeds. Slaughtered one undersized Malfoy."

"Some would consider that an act of charity to the world at large," Magorian threatened. "Why should I not stomp you into the ground?"

"You're here for a reason," Draco said. "I want to know why."

"I will not deal with a filthy wizard," Magorian said, putting weight on his haunches as if he meant to rear up and slash at Draco, "who deals in slurs."

"I always thought," Draco said as if he didn't have a centaur towering over him, "that half-breeds used the term fondly, as a way of reclaiming the word from the ministry."

"Yes, amongst ourselves—"

Magorian stopped in midsentence, and his lifted hooves came down mere inches from Draco, planting safely back on the ground. He looked askance at him, staring as if he might see past an illusion charm.

"Explain yourself quickly," Magorian demanded. "I am out of patience."

Putting his hands up to his cloak, Draco untied the clasp and let the cloth puddle around the boots he was already toeing off. His shirt landed next, and then he put one hand on the hem of his pants. He froze.

"You better appreciate this," he muttered. "This is...damned revealing."

"It's all right," Harry said, coming up behind him. He spread his own cloak over Draco, hiding him from the wizards. "I'm right here."

"Good," Draco said between grit teeth.

As he shed his pants, he took a deep breath and forced the change over himself. His legs fused into a slender tail, his arms and torso grew slightly longer and from his fingernails curled gleaming claws. His teeth ached with newly sharpened fangs and his eyes tugged at the corners, creating slitted pupils. Most agonizing was how his skin rippled over twisting sinews, and he arched his back in the mad rush of sensation, held only by Harry's arms.

Magorian breathed in sharply at the final sight, half human and half snake, completely covered in mother of pearl scales. Limp and panting, Draco lay in Harry's arms, his head hanging from exertion. Unable to resist, Magorian nudged one hoof at the tip of Draco's tail just to make certain it was real.

"Half-breed wyvern," the centaur whispered. "We suspected you dark wizards had done something irrevocable to yourselves, but we could never see for sure."

"Unlike the rest of you," Draco said, not looking up, "we wanted a hand in government. So we kept it secret."

"How?" Magorian asked. "Centaurs see by the stars and planets. Your own petty actions cannot hide the celestial machinations, yet we could not see you do this."

Draco would have answered, but he heard the wizards coming slowly after them. "Can we talk about this another time? This isn't the spectacle I wanted to make of myself tonight."

Giving him another look, Magorian grudgingly nodded and stepped back. "We will talk about this again," he warned Draco, "but for now I will listen to you. This, at least, answers some of my questions."

Though it cost him seconds in staying a snake, Draco leapt at the chance comment. Answers were why he had changed at all.

"What questions? You said you couldn't see the outcome of this battle, 'not quite'." Draco shifted on the cold floor, putting his arms around Harry's neck.

Before Magorian could answer, the witch with the eyepatch gasped sharply.

"Merlin, it's true," she said, gawking at him. "Dark wizards are—"

"—more complex than we realized," Dumbledore cut in over her. "Shall we return to the stage? We have much to plan."

None of them wanted to talk about the war, suddenly distracted by a pearlescent Malfoy draped in Harry Potter's arms, but a stern look from the headmaster and Lupin's duty-bound nod had them moving back up onto the stage. Magorian snorted and stepped around Draco and Harry, jumping up onto the stage with such ease that they felt the power in his frame as he made the walls rattle.

"You can change back," Harry said softly. "I think Magorian'll talk to you if you do, and I'll keep them from seeing you."

Draco nodded once, but he closed his eyes and lay still for a moment, curling against Harry. His husband was warm, cradling and covering him, and Draco had a flashback of resting in Harry's hands, curled comfortably in his palm. It didn't help that he'd slithered halfway across the town. This last transformation had taken a lot out of him.

Perhaps too much. He frowned and concentrated, but nothing happened. With cold panic creeping up his spine, Draco tried to shed his snake shape, then tried again.

"Oh hell," he whispered.

"What?" Harry looked around in case Draco had spotted something.

"I want to go home," Draco muttered. "Right now. To hell with the war, I want to go home."

Stunned, Harry stared at him and tightened his grip. "What? Wait, do you really...Draco, do you really mean that?"

To the bottom of his heart, yes, Draco thought. He pulled Harry's cloak, black and long enough to cover most of him, around himself like a shield. No one had ever seen him like this, save his closest friends and Harry, and then to reveal himself so brazenly... He felt sick, in freefall, as if he'd hurled himself off a cliff and dragged everyone he knew with him.

"Carry me," Draco said, hugging Harry tight. "There's glass everywhere."

"But aren't you going to...?" Harry's voice trailed off as he figured it out. "You're stuck?"

"Too much being a snake lately," Draco said, forcing a half-smile. "Probably have to shed my skin soon, too."

"You picked a damn fine time for this," Harry said, but he smiled to soften it. "At least you're lighter this way."

Hefting Draco into the air, Harry waited for him to adjust the cloak over his tail, then pull the cloak up towards his chest as if cold. With the hood over his head, only a small amount of skin showed, and his eyes glittered out of the darkness under the cloth.

"You look like a black silkworm," Harry chuckle once, then nuzzled Draco's hair. "Were you serious about going home?"

Under his breath, Draco mumbled 'yes' and wished Harry could take over talking with the annoying bastards still staring at him. Home was warm, home meant tea and little cakes and civilized conversation, if his parents weren't flinging those little cakes and teas at each other. Home, even in wintry Germany, was far more pleasant than a leaky opera house, half-flooded and half-frozen.

"No," Draco grumbled. "Let's go plan this war out."

Smiling in relief, Harry hugged him and carried him back, holding him without complaint. The others looked on with obvious questions, but Magorian paced self-consciously.

"You need not carry on so," the centaur said. "I will not force you to stand on ceremony now that I know you are like us."

"I appreciate the gesture," Draco said, doing an admirable job of keeping annoyance from coloring his voice. "But I must spend the foreseeable time in this shape. This isn't mere animagus shifting. Revealing this body has a price."

"Then I regret forcing you to change," Magorian said. "You are clearly no Melusine, and this is a poor time to be locked in an aquatic body."

How radically the centaur's manners changed, and only for Draco himself, he noticed, as Magorian refused to so much as snort at the wizards. Draco shrugged it off. A plan began to form in his mind, but he would have to keep from looking into his husband's eyes. Somehow Harry always spotted his schemes, and Draco could not let this opportunity slip away.

"We need to figure out our strategy," Lupin said, and he spread his hands over the map to flatten it better. "And most important, I think, is where we force Fudge to face us. Not the ministry, certainly. Hogwarts, perhaps?"

Harry groaned. "No offense, but I don't think the school can take another fight. All the magic's out of it. One more fight and it'll probably fall over."

"There is that great chamber you two found," the witch with the eyepatch said. "Couldn't we trap them inside like you did to Bellatrix and her followers?"

Despite that his aunt had tried her best to kill him, Draco flinched and turned his head. Bellatrix had died the way he'd been meant to, drowning in an ever deepening cage of black water, and the memory still rattled him. Thinking about her meant imagining her body cascading out with the waterfall over the edge of a broken wall, her bulging eyes staring at him in hate.

"That was before the castle lost its magic," Draco murmur. "All of its magic spilled out into the lake."

"Hogsmeade then?" Shacklebolt suggested. "Although I hate to fight among civilians..."

"Not good. Fudge knows that place," Lupin said, then slammed his hands on the table. "Hell, everyone knows that place. And Hogwarts, and Hogsmeade, and the ministry and...damn. We need someplace that they won't know where to suspect ambushes or traps."

"I don't suppose," Dumbledore said, looking up at Magorian, "that the centaurs might overlook a battle in the Forbidden Forest?"

"Destroy our forest for your war?" the centaur scoffed, stomping his hooves gingerly on the warped floorboards. "Fight your battles on your own land."

As the other wizards argued, Draco held silent a moment. He'd already discussed this long into the morning with his parents, and they'd received word back from the various families in approval. He was unsure, though, of how eager he should be to offer help or material for this war. Still...he looked around at the opera house.

"Here, I think," he said, breaking into their conversation, "will be the besst place."

He winced, ducking their stares. He couldn't suppress his hissing tongue, and Nymphadora flinched at the sound.

"Oh, thank Merlin," she breathed, hugging herself and turning away to press against Lupin.

Thank Merlin that she had no half-blood in her, he was sure. Better hope you don't give birth to a litter of wolves, Draco thought, but he had the good sense not to say it out loud. Let the idiot chain herself to a poor werewolf. Being the snake everyone thought him to be had its uses, and Harry, at least, loved his scales.

"Thiss opera house," he said. "It's big enough to fight in, easily set with traps, and...its paths run deep."

"'Paths'?" Shacklebolt echoed. His eyes widened before they narrowed, and he sighed in resigned frustration. "Merlin, this is a dark place, isn't it?"

"It used to be," Draco said. "Your lot took it centuries ago, but the old tunnels remain."

The wizards looked around at the broken ceiling, the overgrown walls, and the look in their eyes clearly said they wanted more time to examine the opera house now that they knew it was not entirely theirs. But there was no argument, no other suggestions, and discussion quickly gave way to tactics and strategy.

"We will need time," Dumbledore said, voicing everyone's thoughts. "To gather our forces and prepare."

"We can't take forever," Shacklebolt said. "Fudge is cementing his power as we speak. We have to move fast before he manages to entrench himself."

"Has he taken Hogsmeade?" Draco asked. "Just taking Knockturn Alley should have proved costly."

"With all the curses your lot left behind, you mean," the witch with the eyepatch said. "They lost a few wizards, but then they just burned the stores down. There's nothing left there, just ashes."

Ashes of a thousand dark ingredients, Draco thought, and the next person to walk through that mess would probably suffer some terrible transformation or deadly curse. If the rain didn't clean it out, they would have to clear it away-

Later, he told himself. Win the war first, then think about rebuilding.

"If there's nothing else," Draco said, "then I need to go. We have a lot of preparations to make."

"I don't like attacking all of them at once," Shacklebolt said. "I would really like to split up Fudge's aurors."

"I don't think any of us will argue," Lupin said. "Think of a distraction. The next time we meet, we prepare for battle."

Saying it made it sound more final, more true. A heavy silence fell on them, each of them wondering in their own hearts what they would have to do and what the fight would bring. All of them knew people in Fudge's army, old friends or acquaintances who would have to fall for them to win.

Magorian, however, did not have that problem. Once assured that their planning together was done, he turned and began heading down the aisle once more. Draco flicked his tail against his husband's side, quietly nudging him to follow.

"Got another scheme up your sleeve?" Harry whispered, carrying him after the centaur.

"Something like that," Draco murmured. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to—"

"—leave you alone with a grouchy centaur?" Harry said. "Not bloody likely. I'm not sure which of you is more dangerous."

"I'm not planning anything bad," Draco hissed. "Not really."

"Your definition of bad," Harry said with a long suffering smile, "and mine never seem to match."

At the door leading to the grand staircase, Magorian turned and waited as if he didn't feel the rain, looking more at ease among the long vines and grass that sprouted in the ruined carpet. He watched them come closer, scowling until Harry stopped at a respectful distance. Lifting his head proudly, he gave a dismissive glance at the other wizards to make sure they weren't coming, then stared at Draco.

"You are lucky your gambit worked," Magorian said. "I did not lie when I said I have killed for less insult."

"I forget how proud some people still are," Draco chuckled drily. "I've taken so much abuse for my dark nature and half-blood that the insults don't sting as much."

"That half-blood earns you some respect," Magorian said. "But not enough for my kind to join your battle. Dark wizards are a different breed of wizard, nothing more."

"I don't expect you to join the battle," Draco said. "I don't think any of them do. We certainly didn't think any of your kind would attend, especially not...well, your feelings about humans are well known."

Magorian snorted. "The forest is ours, and the land your school stands on, too. If both sides in your conflict kill each other, so much the better."

"Then why did you come?" Harry asked, interrupting Draco's planned flow for the conversation. He didn't notice his husband's glare from under the cloak.

Magorian frowned, staring up through the cracked ceiling at the stars. The rain had not paused, but here and there, breaks in the clouds showed a sparkling field of black. Harry followed his look, and he wondered what the centaur saw in their faint light.

"Normally your future is clear," Magorian said softly. "Your destinies move hand in hand with the world's, charted and understood as much as the future can be. But once in a rare while, even though we can read the rest of the world, your destiny runs off-kilter, and each time the reason is veiled so we cannot see why."

"You came to try to understand it," Draco realized. "Something's hidden from you again."

"Yes," Magorian nodded. "The last time was many centuries ago. The last time your two sides waged war, I believe."

Draco grew very still. "The battle of Camlann. Between Mordred and Arthur."

"That is the one." Magorian looked back at him. "Did you follow me for a reason?"

"I have something to ask of you," Draco said, raising his clawed hand to forestall Magorian's immediate refusal. "Something in your interest, and it isn't for the sake of this fight at all."

Magorian turned to completely face them, interested despite himself. "And that is?"

With a quick glance at Harry, warning him to be silent and praying he would be, Draco took a deep breath.

"While the dark and light wizards are distracted with fighting each other," he said, "the centaurs and anyone else you can get should attack and destroy the ministry headquarters."

"What?" Harry breathed, staring at him in shock. "But...but that..."

"'But' nothing," Draco snapped. "The wizengamot nearly locked both of us up. Quiet."

Turning back to Magorian, he found the centaur turning a surprised circle, then calming down again. His tail flicked back and forth, betraying the excitement sparked in him, and he wordlessly considered Draco's offer for several long seconds. As he turned the thought over in his head, he then bent low to gaze intently at Draco as if he might study him.

"Why would you ask this of me?" he demanded. "I want your reasons."

"My kind hate the ministry," Draco said, "and the world will be better with it gone. What more reason do I need?"

"You ask me to attack the stronghold of the wizarding world itself," Magorian snarled. "There better be a stronger reason. You want the artifacts inside, no doubt."

Sighing as if put upon, Draco shook his head. "They would be a nice bonus, but no. The ministry has hounded the dark community far worse than yours. You are not nearly extinct. We are. And if you won't, then if I survive, I will do it myself. One way or another, I will not see dark wizards die only for the ministry to rear up yet again."

His snarl fading, Magorian stood straight and regarded him for a long moment.

"You would complete Morgan's work," he said, glancing at Lupin and Dumbledore still on the stage. "The end of her war against Merlin. Will you turn on the light after your ministry has fallen?"

"No," Harry said over Draco, glaring at him so he didn't argue and holding him too tightly. "We are not fighting Lupin. He's our friend."

Draco's cocked eyebrow meant he didn't agree, but Harry had not crossed him about the ministry. He would not contradict Harry on this. His heart sang in triumph. Oh, but Fudge had created a powerful enemy when he had harassed Draco's husband.

Magorian turned an anxious circle, looking at Draco for a long time, then turned again and walked quickly toward the stairs, vanishing before he had to take a step. Whatever magic the centaurs used to travel carried him away, and if he would fulfill Draco's hopes went unanswered.

"We need to talk," Harry snapped.

"No," Draco said, putting his hand on Harry's cheek. "We need to plan. Scold me later if you want, but we need to prepare first."

"Fine," Harry said, and his face grew hot under Draco's palm. "But when we're done..."

The threat hung over them. As Harry flung the invisibility cloak over them both, Draco hung onto him with both arms and clung close for warmth, shivering as the cold wind and rain struck them full on. His husband's grip was angry and tight, pressing hard enough to bruise, but as Harry carried him across the street and down the sidewalk, he soon readjusted his hold so that Draco sat more comfortably in his hands.

"Do you hate me?" Draco asked in a small voice.

"Of course not," was the immediately reply. "But you...you really make it hard sometimes."

Draco didn't answer. He wrapped his tail around Harry's waist, closing his eyes. His husband would hold onto his anger for the rest of the night, no doubt, and he hated to push him further. Push too hard, he knew, and Harry might balk and call it all off, but Draco needed to know.

"You won't tell them, will you?" he asked.

"Draco," Harry started, then broke off with a sigh. "No, I'm going to let you destroy my friends' world because of a thousand year old grudge."

"That's not fair—" Draco started, wounded that Harry would reduce everything down to a mere spat or tiff.

"I know," Harry snapped. "I know, I know—I get it. Just...don't talk to me right now. All the little weapons and charms your family is making now are vicious, just damned vicious, and then all this about the Ministry, and then lying to Lupin and...just be quiet. Please?"

Feeling more sick to his stomach than when everyone had seen his snake-like body, Draco nodded once and lay his head on Harry's shoulder. The walk to the portkey took only a moment, but they had to take multiple portkeys through to France and then to Germany, and Draco gently dug his claws into Harry's shirt to hold him close. To his relief, even while grumbling, Harry ran one hand in circles on his back, warming him against the cold.

TBC...