Title: Between the Rising and the Setting of the Sun
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione.
Word Count: 20,000
Warnings: DH spoilers, ignores epilogue. Profanity, some angst, references to sex, a touch of horror and violence.
Summary: Draco, for some reason, is receiving visions about James and Lily Potter. He wants them to stop. Harry wants them to continue long enough for him to understand what they're trying to tell him.
Author's Notes: Written for misszazlx, as a congratulations gift for getting her degree, and to the prompt: either Harry or Draco keeps having flashbacks to the other man's parents' pasts. (I don't mind if it's truly trivial flashbacks or something massively important related to buried gold and the cure for X). As such Harry (Draco) ended up contacting Draco (Harry) to try and unravel the mystery before Molly (Pansy) drags them to St Mungo's and a rather invasive barrage of mind-probing spells. The title comes from the quote by Augusta Jane Evans: "Life does not count by years. Some suffer a lifetime in a day, and so grow old between the rising and the setting of the sun."
Between the Rising and the Setting of the Sun
"Potter! Potter, wake up and get out here this instant!"
For some reason, Harry could only remember one thing as he hazily opened his eyes in the dawnlight streaming through the window. He'd let Hermione persuade him to put wards on his small house on the outskirts of Hogsmeade that would interfere with visitors who intended to harm him or who had come because of his celebrity, but would permit free access to all others. He had thought it was a good idea because then his house could become an unofficial gathering place and refuge for good friends and the Weasleys, who sometimes endured the same sort of harassment he did from people who wanted the "real story" of what had happened during the war.
Now he was certain he must have been drunk when he agreed.
Sitting up, he spent a moment chewing the sleep from the corners of his mouth and rubbing at the fluff in his eyes. The pounding hadn't stopped, but Harry didn't intend to let it hurry him. He'd been hurried through enough of his life in the past three years, especially on the quest for the Horcruxes and just before he'd finally decided to give up Auror training. If slowness was good enough for him, it was good enough for the person who had come to visit him.
Who sure didn't sound like one of his dearest friends, anyway.
Harry ambled out of his bedroom and across the small room beyond that was meant to be a sitting place but had become the home of broken brooms, Neville's experimental plants, pranks George needed to keep out of the shop for a while until "things had cooled off," robes that Ron liked but Hermione would banish him from the house for wearing, and anything else that was useful and couldn't find a place in its owner's home. Harry stumbled twice over the chairs he had bought when Hermione still insisted they would sit in that room and talk seriously about politics. It figured, he thought grimly as he dragged himself upright and made it to the small corridor immediately in front of the door. He never stumbled on any of the other rubbish, the same way he hadn't been in the habit of tripping over trunks and clothes in the Gryffindor boys' bedroom at Hogwarts, but make some attempt to set the place in order and he was hopeless.
The knocking had paused when he stumbled, as if the person outside would take his stumble as vengeance for the long wait, but now the hammering began once more. Harry waited until the shouting voice had found a good place to pause and then tugged the door open.
Draco Malfoy stood on his front step, blinking. His face was flushed, and he wore a set of robes that bunched around the waist. Harry raised an eyebrow. "It must be an emergency, for you to have emerged from the Manor looking like your mother didn't dress you," he said.
Malfoy barreled past him and whirled around to face him in the middle of the corridor. Harry shut the door and examined him curiously through the light of the small glass panes set in the door; they were grimy but served well enough, and Hermione tended to shut up about the dirt whenever Harry suggested having Kreacher clean them.
Malfoy was changed since the war, everyone said. Harry didn't know himself, because he rarely ventured out in public due to the imminent threat of death by autograph-seeking mob. He hadn't seen Malfoy since he testified at the other boy's trial, telling the Wizengamot that he was basically a pathetic weakling who hadn't been much good to either side and deserved to go free. In the end, the fact that he had used Malfoy's wand to defeat Voldemort seemed to carry more weight with them than anything else. (Or just the fact that Malfoy's wand had been involved somehow; no matter how patiently Harry explained the circumstances that had led to his being master of the Elder Wand, most other people were still baffled by it).
But Malfoy had changed in outward behavior. He was full of energy, and of projects half-taken up and then abandoned. He had been an apothecary one day and an artist the next, and then there had been a rumor he was hunting Fawkes, for some reason. That obsession had lasted two whole weeks. Harry privately thought that Malfoy had wanted the excuse to hang about Hogwarts a lot and try to find the Elder Wand.
Now he pointed a finger at Harry and advanced a step. He had grown unfairly tall, but the wrinkled robes and the hair standing out around his head like a hedgehog's quills rather detracted from any dignity that might have given him. The large red handprint on his right cheek didn't help, either.
"I know you did this," he said. "I know you cast this spell to torment me. Now take it off."
"Is it a spell that dishevels you whenever you get dressed?" Harry frowned at him. "I wish I could claim credit for it, but unfortunately I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about the spell that makes me have visions of your dead parents!" Malfoy clapped his hands together sharply, as if he would startle the truth out of Harry, and leaned forwards, frowning. "Take it off."
And Harry found himself staring, with no idea of what to say.
Draco snapped his fingers in front of Potter's face, and then sighed in annoyance. The idiot had gone slack-jawed. Of course he had. He'd made two attempts at wit since Draco showed up at his door. That had doubtless drained the power of his brain for the day.
But Draco didn't care how long it took. He didn't even care that it had meant waking up at daybreak in order to be sure that he would catch Potter still sleeping and alone, without annoying Mudblood defenders around him—although he hadn't managed to avoid Pansy. He'd lived with these visions in his head for a week now, and they were obstructing his attempts to live a real life.
He'd had many ambitions since the Wizengamot had declared him free to go. What he hadn't been able to stand about the war was the way it got decided far away from him. He'd tried to spare Potter's life, and it got him his wand stolen. He'd tried to capture Potter in the Room of Hidden Things and bring him to the Dark Lord, and it meant he owed his life to the bespectacled git, yet again. He'd hoped he might get some respect when it was revealed that his wand had saved Potter's arse in the final battle, but of course everyone looked at him vaguely when he mentioned it and went on to ask what it was like to share the school with a real hero.
No, he was going to make a real contribution to wizarding society. He was going to force everybody to sit up and notice him.
He didn't know what it was yet, but he could feel the great idea brewing beneath the surface of his mind, shifting back and forth, awaiting its moment to burst into the light and dazzle all those who had ever doubted him. And the visions of Potter's parents were interfering.
In more than one way, Draco thought, shuddering. Pansy had threatened to drag him to St. Mungo's to figure out what was wrong if he didn't do something. Pansy had, for some reason, got married to a Ravenclaw immediately after the interrupted seventh-years all managed to sit their NEWTS and then divorced him in a spectacular courtroom battle that the papers covered breathlessly whenever they could refrain from discussing Potter for a moment. She'd acted as her own solicitor and won so many Galleons that she could fill her house with them and go swimming if she wanted. And those triumphs had had made her a more formidable person than Draco was prepared to deal with right now. He had to show that he could get rid of the visions on his own, rather than by letting someone save him.
Besides, they were no doubt a curse that Potter had put on him because he was jealous of Draco's talent and energy, moldering in his house in Hogsmeade the way he was, and the best course would be to have him remove the spell, not to have the Mind-Healers at St. Mungo's pry into Draco's head. Draco shuddered again. No one had a right to pry into his brain right now. It was very…private in there.
"What do you mean, you're having visions of my dead parents?" Potter sounded strangled.
Draco frowned. But he'd had personal experience of dealing with Potter, which most of those people pressing their fat faces against the wards out there couldn't say, and he knew how to handle him. Be firm. Professor Snape had understood that lesson better than any professor at Hogwarts, and he got the results he wanted: Potter failing his Potions classes.
Draco felt a sniffle trying to come on at the thought of Professor Snape, but he managed to stifle it in time. Mourning for Snape was very private, too.
"Just what I said," he snapped. "I learned how your father started courting your mother yesterday. Very innovative, I have to admit, dumping water over her when they were both fourth-years, but hardly likely to win him attention. And then the night before that there was the dream of the first time they visited Godric's Hollow together as a married couple. I did not want to see what they were about to get up to, so I ended that vision early, but I can't stop having them."
Potter took a step forwards. His eyes had started to glow with the most disturbing light. "Malfoy," he said. "I know almost nothing about my parents."
Draco snorted. "Unless you were a one-year-old with an unusually good memory, I'm not sure why that's supposed to surprise me."
Potter's voice sharpened and his face turned red. Ah, this was the Potter Draco remembered, stammering and scowling sulkily in Snape's class. (And that was a rather good feat of alliteration, if he did say so himself).
"I want to know what the visions are," Potter said.
"And I want you to take the curse off."
Potter stared at him as if Draco were someone he could pity, which Draco didn't enjoy at all. "Has it occurred to you," he said, "that I could have hardly cast this curse to flood your head with visions of my parents when I don't know anything about them?"
"You're a liar," Draco retorted instantly. Have an answer for everything, his father had taught him. Half the time, it becomes the answer of the person asking you the question. "You probably did learn it from all the people who fawned on your parents during their schooldays. I had to watch McGonagall laughing at your father's 'incredible' pranks half the night on Wednesday. Why she thought they were incredible, I don't know. Your father was a disgusting little wanker."
For some reason, Potter smiled tightly. "That actually is one thing I did already know," he said. "But—Malfoy, you don't understand. I want you to tell me the visions you're seeing." His eyes were big with childish yearning. "I want to know what my parents were like."
"And how do you know they're real?" Draco asked.
"You just said—"
"They feel real to me. But I could be lying." Draco folded his arms and regarded Potter condescendingly. Really, it was a miracle that the Dark Lord hadn't managed to finish him off, naïve as he was. And if he persisted in living behind such weak wards, some successor to the Dark Lord would manage it sooner or later. "You could at least give me credit for trying to pull off a plot like that. Assuming I'm telling the truth from the beginning is simply insulting."
Potter closed his eyes and spoke with great restraint. "You're making no sense."
"Yes, but you're insulting me. That means I don't need to make sense."
Potter shook his head as if flies were buzzing in his ears, then said, "Why would my parents choose to give you visions?"
"Why do you assume they're the ones doing it? It's likelier that this is the result of a curse, even if you didn't cast it." Draco peered closely at Potter, but reluctantly had to give up the notion that he'd cast the curse and was lying about it. Potter had never been good at lying. "Now I have to figure out who cast it."
"But I still want to know what the visions are like," Potter said, opening his eyes. "The part about my Dad being a wanker makes me think they're real."
"You have strange standards for truth, Potter," Draco said, and cocked his head to the side as he surveyed Potter critically. "Do you regularly believe that something must be true because it hurts?"
"Yes, actually," Potter said, and his eyes began to spark and shine with temper. "Pity you've never done the same thing. When people told you you were a pathetic weakling who would never find the Elder Wand, you might have had the sense to believe them."
Draco flushed. He wanted to ask who had told Potter, and then remembered that he had no friends, or enemies either, who were stupid enough to do that. Potter was simply making an educated guess, which meant Draco could ignore it.
And then he had a brilliant idea. It was a bubble breaking off the buried brilliant idea, he was certain, a premonition of the thoughts that would someday make him the most famous and beloved man in the world.
"I'll tell you what the visions are like," he said.
"If?" Potter said.
Draco wanted to protest. Potter thought him honest about the visions instead of laying a trap, and now he wanted to think that Draco was scheming to get something in return for telling him the visions? Of course, Draco was. But Potter should make up his mind about how he was portraying Draco to himself. Really, Draco had no idea how he slept at night, with such muddled standards.
"If you come with me to find out who cast the curse," he said, "and help me take it off."
Potter thought for long minutes. Draco could practically feel his mind working, battering against the sides of his skull. Or, hmm, no, it wouldn't do that, would it? That would imply that Potter's head was too small to contain his mind. Instead, it was probably flipping over and over in the middle of a vast empty space, like a Galleon rolled on the floor in the Weasleys' vault.
Harry controlled his trembling. He was sure Malfoy would laugh at him if he noticed it, and Harry couldn't afford that. This was too important to him.
He had been missing, he thought, the sense of a past. So long as he had an immediate future to concentrate on, a destiny that would lead to the killing of a great villain and was all arranged by prophecy and everything, he'd been able to ignore his own lack of roots. He had a place in the world, solid and waiting for him whenever he thought about something other than Quidditch and homework.
And then he'd defeated Voldemort and found himself without a future and without a past. He'd gone in for Auror training, the way everyone expected him to, but he found that he didn't really enjoy it, and he'd started wondering if his father would have expected him to be an Auror just because James had been one. And then he'd looked at Ginny one day and realized how much she looked like the pictures of Lily in his photo album minus the green eyes, and he'd also started wondering if he was only dating a redhead because his mum had been one. He wanted to know more about his mum than the fact that she'd had red hair and been good at Potions and Snape's friend.
He'd tried to go back to the Muggle world for a little while, but he didn't know basic things about living there; the Dursleys hadn't taught him when he was a child, and then he'd spent his adolescence in the wizarding world. And so he was living here near Hogwarts—no coincidence—and it seemed now that he'd spent three months trying to work up the courage to go and ask McGonagall and Hagrid for details about his parents.
That was weak.
Malfoy could offer him some answers, probably, and he was at least a spur that would get Harry out of the house and working to know his own past. Then he could move on, and maybe he could even start being an Auror again and marry Ginny, if he had a good idea about how his parents would have regarded those things.
"All right," he said, and then thought his voice had faltered too much as he cleared his throat. "I'll—I'll go with you, Malfoy." He paused, and his sense of the fitness of things came back to him. Malfoy might have showed up at his door with a disturbing tale concerning his parents, but that was no reason to go blindly trusting the prat. "Do you have any idea who might have cast the curse on you? Not to disparage your instincts, but your first one was that I did it."
Malfoy sighed. Harry thought he might have rolled his eyes, except that he didn't wish to use up his day's worth of dramatic gestures on just one incident. "Of course I do," he said. "Who hates me more than anyone else in the world? Except you, of course."
"I don't hate you—"
"Yes, you probably call it loathing or some other fancy word you didn't know before Granger entered your life—"
"But I would reckon it was your father, if I had to make a guess," Harry said, determined to override Malfoy's words and score a hit that would make the other boy listen to him. "You know, for generally letting down the family name during the war."
Malfoy's mouth fell open, and Harry winced in spite of himself at the look that filled his eyes. Yes, he'd wanted to hurt him, but he hadn't thought that Malfoy would show his pain. He'd tried never to do so, at school.
"How dare you," Malfoy said, and his voice had gone high and queer. He folded his arms across his chest. "My father loves me."
Harry coughed and looked away. "I know," he whispered. "I saw. The way he hugged you in the Great Hall after the battle."
"At least I know my father loves me," Malfoy said. "You don't know that about your parents."
"Who's the one having visions of your father?" Malfoy folded his arms again, but now it looked less like he was trying to hold in his guts and more like he genuinely felt smug. "And I won't ever tell you what I saw in them concerning you unless you apologize."
"You saw me as a baby?" Harry asked, scandalized.
"Of course." Malfoy stared at him. "These visions aren't chronological. They show me your birth, you as a baby, your parents in school, and sometimes them puttering about that horrid small house they bought."
"Whatever Mudbloods do," Malfoy said. "Now apologize."
Harry choked back his anger. If he insulted Malfoy again, it was possible he'd never get to hear what his parents had said and done in the visions. And this was the closest he'd come to them since he saw his mum in Snape's memories. Oh, yes, he could drive Malfoy away and still listen to stories from people who'd known them. But he didn't think that would be as satisfying as hearing them described by someone who'd seen them in his head. Hagrid and McGonagall and the rest had all had eighteen years in which to forget the way his mum smiled, or the way his father looked when he was sleeping.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Malfoy cupped a hand around his ear. "I don't believe that you've quite said that loud enough for me to hear," he said.
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
"Now say it and bow."
Harry gritted his teeth, but managed what he thought was a passable bow, waiting until he had lifted his head to say, "I'm sorry," again, so Malfoy couldn't accuse him of mumbling the words whilst looking away from him.
The last of Harry's sympathy drained away. "Who hates you the most after me, then?" he asked. If he pandered to the few of Malfoy's delusions he could stand indulging, then he might get him to tell the visions and leave sooner than he would otherwise.
"The Weasel, of course," Malfoy said, and grabbed Harry's wrist. "We're going to find him, and then you can reason with him. If rabid animals respond to reason."
But the words got Splinched as they Apparated. The last coherent thought Harry had before he vanished was that he was going to kill Hermione for suggesting he leave anti-Apparition wards off the inside of the house.
Draco knew he was a powerful Apparater. It had saved his life a few times during the war, when he needed to get from one part of the Manor grounds, where Bellatrix or the Dark Lord was raging, to another. He'd found Potter's house on the first try, though he'd only heard descriptions of it and never seen it. But even he hadn't expected his gift to be strong enough to tear down the wards around Weasley's pathetic little house.
A moment later, he rather wished it hadn't been.
Someone shrieked. Draco flung an arm frantically across his face, but that didn't stop the sight of naked flesh, frizzy brown hair, and nasty freckles from entering his eyes, and it certainly couldn't block the memories.
"Mate, warn us—" said a deep voice that he remembered belonging to the Weasel as he mumbled his way through early morning classes.
"Ron, make them go away until I can put some robes on!" And that was Granger. Draco had never known anyone else to get that shrill when she was upset, even Pansy.
"Mate, is that Malfoy?"
Draco dropped his arm, but turned his face firmly in another direction, so he wouldn't be confronted with the sight of that again. "I demand you take the curse that you put on me off immediately, Weasel," he said haughtily. "You've already traumatized me enough with the sight of your girlfriend."
"I'll give your ears a good cursing, you little—"
And then another vision gripped Draco and forced him to his knees, which started an unfortunate train of associations. Gasping, he tried to shove the thought of the Weasel or Granger being on her knees out of his head, but that left him with less concentration for fighting the vision.
Now he could see a woman standing in front of a small house, in the middle of a riotous garden of flowers that his mother would have turned her nose up at and ordered the house-elves to discipline. He had learned from hearing James Potter address her that this was Potter's mother—and there was no mistaking James Potter. She had the same intense green eyes as her son, too, just to make the identification easier. Draco had been forced to admit she was uncommonly pretty for a Mudblood.
She cradled something in her hands, staring at it with a puckered brow and pursed lips. Draco tried to see what it was, but he couldn't. That was part of the frustration of the vision. Unlike a Pensieve memory, he couldn't move in any direction and view things from every angle. He had to stand at a certain distance, by the garden's front wall in this case, and see and hear only what happened within the immediate vicinity.
The door of the house opened, and Potter's father leaned out. "Lily?" he asked, his voice gentle. "What's the matter?"
The woman turned and looked at him. She had shoulder-length red hair that blazed in the sunlight. Draco sneered. It was no wonder that Potter had fallen for a Weasley. If Draco was pressed, he would admit that Lily Potter didn't look quite like one of those carrot-tops, that her hair was a little closer to auburn, but he failed to see who would be able to press him that much.
"I'm worried about this thing that Sirius gave us," she said. "Is he sure his mother won't notice it's missing?"
Potter laughed and stepped out to put his arm around her. He might be a good-looking man if one's taste ran to messy mops of hair and wild looks around the eyes, Draco thought critically. "Sirius explained that," he said. "It used to be a Black family heirloom, but the moment he took it out of that bloody house—"
"James!" Lily put a hand on her stomach. Draco hadn't noticed before because of her shapeless robes, not at all in a proper style, but it did bulge a bit. "Such language in front of the baby!"
Potter kissed her cheek and went right on. "It's lost its power. He provided me with the spells that would make it a Potter heirloom instead, bonding it to anyone who has our blood or takes up our name by marriage. I just haven't performed them yet."
"Then do it!" Lily pushed the thing she held at him. Draco rose to his toes but still couldn't make out what it might be, to his frustration, though it sparked so brilliantly in the sunlight he knew it must have metal pinned to it somewhere. "Within three days. Otherwise I'll bury it in the back garden. I don't want it in the same house with our child."
"Really," Potter said. "You're so protective now that I shudder to think what you'll be like when he's born." He bent and assumed a grave expression, peering at his wife's belly. Draco shuddered. He was certain his parents hadn't played such games with him when he was in the womb; pure-blood pregnancies were too important and rare to be treated like toys. And even if they had, they wouldn't have giggled like morons whilst they were doing it. "Do you hear me, little Prongs?" Potter asked. "You're to grow up and become a good Marauder, and ignore all your mother's fussing."
Prongs? For the first time in several days, Draco experienced a doubt as to the authenticity of his vision. That didn't sound like a detail that fit into any version of the Potters' legend as he'd always known it.
Well, I should mention it to Potter and see if he recognizes it, then. That might convince him I'm telling the truth.
Lily giggled again and swatted her husband's head. He hurried back into the house, taking the artifact, whatever it was, with him. A moment later, the woman smiling after her husband and the flower garden and the little house dissolved into a whirl of color and were gone.
Draco slowly opened his eyes and shook his head, feeling hands on his shoulders for the first time. Potter yelled his name in his face, and he reared back, saying irritably, "Yes, yes, I'm fine, I just had another vision."
Potter immediately let his jaw fall, then snapped it back up and stared at him expectantly. Weasley and Granger, both luckily with some clothes on, peered cautiously over his shoulder.
Draco stood and made a great show of brushing the dust off his robes. They would expect him to be fussy in any case. He was really thinking furiously about the vision he'd just had and how much of it he would be wise to trust to the Three Idiots.
A Black bloodline artifact! Draco had no doubt that was what the object was, and not just an ordinary heirloom, from the way Potter had spoken. Bloodline artifacts were enormously powerful weapons that had the most strength when inside the family's ancestral home, and did indeed respond to both members of that family by blood and members by marriage. Draco had never heard of a spell that would take them away from one family and bond them to another, though.
So Potter might have been lying on that head to soothe his wife, or he might have misunderstood the Sirius—Sirius Black, it must be—who'd given it to him. And who was to say he'd ever completed the spells if they did exist? Perhaps that artifact was still lying in the ruins of the house Godric's Hollow, waiting for an heir of the Black line to come along and claim it.
And Draco would certainly count. It would even explain the visions. The artifact had obviously sought someone worthy to wield it, and it had sensed the brilliance waiting in Draco's mind, only needing the right circumstances to flourish. His father was too old and had too many failures, and he was a Malfoy by blood anyway, which outweighed the marriage tie. His mother was too passive; even when the Dark Lord threatened her family, she'd sought for help with Unbreakable Vows instead of fighting. The artifact would disdain the Mudblood side of the Black family. No, he was the rightful wielder of it; he had to be.
But he would not tell any of that to Potter. Doubtless he would misconceive the artifact as something left over from his family that he wanted and was entitled to, and would try to claim it. And he would die if he tried that, and his death would be blamed on Draco.
He gave Potter a brilliant smile and began to lie his head off about the vision.
Harry eyed Malfoy with some distrust. He was so wide-eyed and smooth-faced and innocent that he had to be lying. Why he'd wish to start now, though, instead of doing so from the beginning so he could lure Harry into a convincing trap and kill him, Harry didn't know. He only knew that none of these same signs had appeared when Malfoy had been telling him the story of the visions and the curse before.
"I saw your parents at what I assume is the house they were killed in," Malfoy began. "The house was rather small. Your mother was in the flower garden. She was holding a dove in her hands. Apparently she meant to use it as a messenger instead of an owl. Or maybe she intended it as a symbol of something. I'm sure I have no idea." Malfoy sniffed. "She opened her hands, and the dove flew away. It had a trailing green ribbon on one leg."
"A green ribbon?" Hermione asked thoughtfully. Harry dared a cautious glance at her. She had on a jumper, and if she wasn't wearing anything below the waist, at least the sheets of Ron's bed firmly concealed that. "That's a symbol of fertility and springtime in some magical traditions. Muggles used to wind ribbons around a Maypole."
"She was pregnant with you, Potter," Malfoy suddenly added. "I'm sure the ribbon was a symbol of fertility."
"And I'm not," Harry said. "You said you saw my parents. What was my father doing?"
Malfoy's smile curdled. "Just hugging her and whispering nonsense to you," he snapped defensively. "It's a good thing they died when they did, or their own soppiness would have melted them."
Harry reminded himself that strangling Malfoy, no matter how emotionally satisfying, would probably bring him into conflict with the Aurors, and Ron would feel some sort of public duty to try and stop him, since he'd remained in the training. Besides, the reporters would find out and write all sorts of clever and stinging insults about him that would get to Harry like the bites of gnats, no matter how many times he told himself to ignore them. "Right," he said. "Then why are you having these visions at all?"
"I don't know." Malfoy struck a pensive pose. "But maybe your parents just want to talk to you, only you don't have the sensitivity, so they reached through me instead."
Harry swallowed. He liked that explanation, probably too much. He had always wanted to know more about his parents, and maybe they'd sensed that, but because they hadn't lingered as ghosts, they couldn't communicate with him directly. Wouldn't it be pleasant if they had found the nearest messenger and given him messages until he was overflowing with them and carried the visions to Harry? Not because there was any destiny mixed up with it, or because they needed him to perform some task for them, the way all the Muggle stories of the restless dead had it. Just because they missed him and had finally found some way to tell him all the little anecdotes they would have whispered to him if they survived.
"I don't believe you, Malfoy."
Unsurprisingly, Ron was speaking. Harry looked up and blinked. Ron had his wand out—when had that happened?—and aimed at Malfoy. Before Harry could protest, he saw that the wand glowed red at the tip.
He narrowed his eyes and turned on Malfoy. Harry didn't know the spell himself, but all the Auror trainees had learned it the week after he left, and Ron had bragged about it enough for him to have a good idea of what it did. It would detect large and obvious lies, though unlike Veritaserum it couldn't force the truth from the person it was cast on, and it wouldn't catch mild misdirection or lies of omission. If Harry had been smart, he would have coaxed the incantation from Ron himself weeks ago and then used it on Malfoy the moment he started claiming to have visions of Harry's parents.
"It's true!" Malfoy insisted. He glared at Ron's wand. "What does that mean, anyway?"
"It shines red when you're lying, white when you're telling the truth," Ron said smugly. "It shone white through part of that telling, but turned red the minute you mentioned the dove Harry's Mum was 'holding.'" He pitched his voice high in imitation of Malfoy's. "I had the wand under the sheets so you couldn't see it."
"Believe me, I have no desire ever to see your wand—"
Harry drew his own wand and cast a spell that produced a thunderous booming concussion from the rafters, one of the tricks he'd mastered to send reporters scurrying out of the way when they'd upset him. Both Ron and Malfoy turned to stare at him with open mouths. Harry lowered the wand and said, "So you saw my mother at Godric's Hollow in the flower garden. Tell us the truth about what happened after that." He felt better now, strong and confident. Yes, this had been what he needed: someone to stir him out of his self-imposed apathy and set him up facing the realities of the world again. Obviously Malfoys would always lie. It was a good job none of them had chosen to testify at their own trials, or they'd probably be languishing in Azkaban by now, Harry's words notwithstanding.
Malfoy stared at him for a moment with his lower lip stuck out. Harry found himself choking back laughter with an effort. Malfoy might have a bustling energy and grand ideas that would make him a genius if he ever managed to put any of them into practice, but he was a boy at heart still. He believed the world was fundamentally fair to someone with his last name and that he could earn some of that fairness if he looked pouty enough.
"I'm not Snape, and I'm not your mother," Harry said, aiming his wand casually at Malfoy. "I'm just someone who wants some answers. Tell me what happened after my mother went into the flower garden."
"She was holding something in her hands," Malfoy said sulkily. He had folded his arms across his chest now and was gazing moodily off into the distance, which was apparently his way of trying to recover as much dignity as possible. Harry saw now why certain members of Slytherin House were apparently fond of him, especially the girls. There was an endearing quality about him, though Harry didn't know the right word for it. Perhaps simply endurance. He kept going and pushing and whinging even when he should have known that it was his own actions that had pulled the falling wall down on his head; he kept trying to stand up under the tumbling stones. "I couldn't see what it was. The visions don't let me see everything."
Harry shot Ron a glance, but the light on the tip of his wand was white.
"Then your father came out and had a confusing conversation with her." Malfoy shrugged defensively when Harry glared at him. "Half of it was soppiness, like I said. The other half was about some gift they'd got from Sirius—Sirius Black?" At Harry's tight nod, he continued, "And there was something about spells to make the gift really theirs. I didn't understand that part. But your mother didn't want the artifact in the house with you," he finished on a rising, hopeful note.
Harry understood him perfectly. Malfoy didn't want to be dragged into danger the way he thought he would be if Harry went after the artifact. But of course Harry was going to look for it. If it survived, it would be something his parents had touched and handled—something his mother had touched and handled. He couldn't be sure of that concerning either the Marauders' Map or his Invisibility Cloak.
"You can stay here if you want," he said.
"Not here, mate," Ron said sharply.
"Well, then, somewhere in the general area." Harry rolled his eyes. "I don't care. But I want to see what my mother thought was so dangerous."
"We'll go with you," Ron said at once. Harry smiled at him. He knew part of the reason Ron sounded so eager was that he was envious Harry and Hermione had visited Godric's Hollow without him, but any motive that brought him along was welcome to Harry.
"We can't," Hermione said, and leaned forwards to rap the back of Ron's head with her knuckles. "We promised that we would take care of Victoire today, remember?"
Ron groaned. Harry chuckled. Victoire was Bill and Fleur's daughter, only a few months old now, but already more of a menace than most wizarding children because her accidental magic had manifested unusually early. Toys whizzing across the room were the least of it. Hermione reading a book in a calming tone often put the little girl to sleep, but she still needed someone in the room with her in case things got bad—and even Victoire's exhausted parents wouldn't leave her unless there was that guarantee of a second person.
"I'll go then," Harry said. "I can't imagine there's anything as dangerous there as what we already confronted." He touched his wand, and his and Hermione's eyes met in a silent passage of understanding.
"I want to go," Malfoy said suddenly.
Harry turned to glare at him. He had hoped the news of something dangerous potentially lurking in his parents' house had dissuaded Malfoy from accompanying him. "What? Why?"
"Because you promised to help me find out what was causing this curse," Malfoy said stubbornly. "And because that's not the only vision I had." He gave Harry an uncomfortable smirk. Of course he would take pleasure in the suffering of others even if it meant his own suffering was involved, Harry thought irritably. "If you don't take me with you, then you'll never find out what the other ones are."
"Oh, let him go," said Ron, and flipped a hand. "He'll never best you in a fight, failure that he is."
Harry suspected Ron only wanted Malfoy decisively away from the Burrow, but the scowl Malfoy gave Ron in return for his words made him forgive his best friend. Harry himself spent a few minutes studying Malfoy, trying his best to imagine whether he would be more trouble than he was worth. Malfoy promptly widened his eyes and tried to look innocent again.
God, he's so hopeless at most things, but he just keeps on trying. Harry had to admire that quality whether or not he liked an enemy possessing it. It was the same one that had kept him going even when the Horcrux hunt had seemed hopeless.
"All right," he said, and seized Malfoy's hand. "You're coming with me to see my parents' graves after we visit the house, though, and if you make one disrespectful remark, I'll hex you to bounce so hard all your brains will leak out your ears."
"You don't know me very well, then." Malfoy lifted his head until his nose pointed at a decidedly slanted angle. "I'm never disrespectful in graveyards."