Harry shivered. Malfoy spoke so casually of Dark magic, as if it were a weapon like any other, rather than the festering sore on his own soul Harry had felt since he'd cast the Cruciatus and Imperius Curses.
Didn't Voldemort say something like that? There's no evil or good, only power?
And this is the point at which Hermione would advise me to reconsider what I'm about to do.
But Hermione wasn't here. Malfoy was. And he sat with his face even and cold and calm, staring at Harry as if the decision to be made was no more important than what they should have for breakfast in the morning.
He wasn't quite emotionless, though. His eyes gleamed now and then, with a bit of hope. Here was someone who needed Harry to save him, or at least work together with him so they could both save themselves.
Harry responded to that call as he hadn't been able to respond to much in the past few years—not the expectations for the work the Auror training program had hoped to get out of him, not the temptation to repeat his past victories again and again to the Prophet's reporters, and not the perfect love he had always assumed he would find in Ginny. Here was a person who needed him. Here was a person he could work with and for.
Harry had not realized how much he missed that part of being a hero.
"All right," he said.
Malfoy blinked at him, and Harry had to swallow a smile at the absolute stunned shock he saw crossing the other boy's face. He gulped and shook his head, then said, "No complicated inner moral debate, Potter? I thought you would keep me waiting for an hour at least."
"As you remarked on more than one occasion," Harry said dryly, "Gryffindors don't have sensibilities that keen. I had a moral debate, but it was very simple."
Malfoy laughed, and then clapped a hand over his mouth, eyes widening. Harry grinned at him. It felt good to smile, though he didn't dare laugh in case Malfoy thought Harry was indulging in a joke at his expense. And it was interesting that he could make his rival laugh at his jokes. It occurred to Harry, the revelation drifting gently into his mind like the mist that had risen in the garden, that making him laugh might be an even better way to win a contest than pinning him to the ground and punching him in the mouth.
Although pinning him to the ground sounds interesting, too.
Harry shook his head to clear it of distractions and then said, "All right, where do you suggest we go to look for the bloodline artifact?"
Malfoy forced his way to his feet. "One vision showed it in the flower garden, and the second had your mother telling your father to take it out of the house. The garden is the best choice."
Harry nodded gravely. "Even I can see how that makes sense," he said, and startled another little laugh out of Malfoy. He stood in turn and regarded the door that led back to the kitchen for long moments, his hand tightening on his wand. A plan had begun to stir in the back of his mind, but he wasn't sure that Malfoy would go along with it.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
Malfoy looked at him rather snidely. "Of course, Potter. I'm going to be putting my hands inside your magical core, after all."
"No, that involves me trusting you," Harry said. "I want to know if you trust me to do something silly that might let us cross the kitchen with our sanity intact."
"It's still a better chance than we have right now," said Malfoy, in the tone of someone who refuses to debate with himself. "Go ahead."
Harry nodded. "Then keep behind me, and keep moving, no matter what you see happen out of the corner of your eye." He opened the door of the kitchen and darted into the other room before Malfoy had the chance to speak more than his last name in a tone of suspicion.
Draco followed, because he didn't have much choice.
The moment they stepped into the kitchen, the screams started again, but they were at a higher volume and pitch this time, and Draco knew it would take much less time before he would join them. Eyes streaming with tears, ears running with blood, he lowered his head and plowed on. Of course, his feet would barely rise and fall. The air was thick with Dark magic, humming with currents of it. The bloodline artifact wasn't very far away, and it controlled every magical occurrence in this house.
Then Potter lifted his wand and touched the side of his temple. Long silver strands of memory collected about his wand, and he flung them out in front of him.
The strands pinwheeled. Draco stared as they began to burn with silver flames; the bloodline artifact was trying to consume them and prevent whatever defense they represented, Draco knew. But the memories only grew brighter, and then they formed the image of a younger Potter calling a silver stag.
The stag charged about the memory, then suddenly broke into the middle of the dark kitchen and filled every corner with its light. When it reared, Draco caught more of a look than he liked at the sharp tines of its antlers and the killing edges of its hooves. But what it battled was darkness, and he heard the screams die away as if in shock. A protesting shriek rose instead, which Draco thought was the voice of the bloodline artifact itself.
The stag whirled and came back to them, then knelt and bowed its head. Potter promptly climbed onto its back, seeming not to care that his arse sat on transparency and his feet dangled a few inches above the floor. Then he turned and threw Draco both a commanding look and a reaching hand.
"Come on, Malfoy! You said you would trust me!"
Draco took a deep breath—the air went down his throat as cold and stale as the air from a tomb—and flung himself at Potter. Potter caught his hand and then caught him, cradling him in a half-hug, and pulled Draco to sit in front of him. The stag rose and bolted towards the far side of the kitchen, which was warping and bending around them. The bloodline artifact again, Draco knew, trying to prevent them from escaping.
Then he lost track of things like the size of the room, in favor of the warmth of the body behind him and the tight clasp of Potter's arm around his waist. He leaned backwards. This was better than the hold he'd had on Potter when they flew through the Fiendfyre. And the view in front of him was more interesting, bobbing silver antlers cutting the murk like the streak of a falling star through perfect night.
The light fought the darkness, and won. The stag bolted through the last of the kitchen and then through a room that Draco recognized from his visions as a place Potter's father had used for a study. Then the silver legs arched and bent, and they were through that room and into the drawing room.
And then the stag began to burn with glimmering, unnatural blue flames. Draco didn't know why he was so surprised. Everything that had happened since they arrived in Godric's Hollow was unnatural.
Potter's arm curled more tightly around his waist, pulling him so close to that incredible warmth he lost his breath, and then he sprang off the stag and rolled. He was putting his body between Draco and the ground, which was generous of him. Draco went along with the motion and tried to be as little trouble as possible when he flopped on the ground. He lay with his head on Potter's shoulder and had to ignore the temptation to bury his face in it, trusting to Potter to take care of him.
But it was a good thing he didn't. It occurred to him that Potter was lying too still, rather than dragging Draco up and making for the flower garden. Draco lifted his head slowly.
Another stag stood in front of Potter, its head lowered to menace him. It was made of shadows, and the silvery stag that had carried them had entirely faded. The black stag stepped closer and closer to them, and Draco flinched as he looked at the obsidian edges of its tines. But it had a pair of brown eyes encircled by spectacles that he'd seen before, and the fur around its neck ruffled up like messy hair.
"Dad?" Potter whispered.
The stag reared, and Draco lost his shock at Potter's address to the stag in the realization that it was about to stamp on them and cave their heads in, or gut them with its antlers. He grabbed his wand and reacted.
Harry didn't think he could move. He had forgotten why that was a bad thing. Here in front of him was his father, the real form of the stag Animagus that James Potter had once been, and it had his father's eyes. They stared at him and seemed to shine with sorrow for all the years he had been without him. Harry found his head extending, even when the stag reared.
Perhaps it was about to hurt him, but Harry couldn't hurt him.
But Malfoy was aiming his wand, and light flooded the room. It was the Eternal Sunshine Charm, which they had learned in Charms third year and almost never had occasion to use; Flitwick had insisted on teaching it to them anyway, across a long and weary week. Harry found himself blinking and squinting desperately, trying to see the stag through the sudden wash of light.
The stag caught fire.
It screamed, not the piercing screams that had swamped the kitchen but like them, and backed up, shaking its burning antlers. Harry surged to his feet and ran after it. It had lost his father's eyes, but it was still surely the ghost of his father, and he wanted to—
Arms seized him around the waist and dragged him towards the far door. Harry lashed back with his head, trying to butt whoever had him in the face, but the person dodged, and then Malfoy's voice said into his ear, "Remember, Potter, your father's dead. That's only a violent memory of him the artifact's summoned. I gather he was a stag Animagus?" He twisted, and Harry heard a sharp sound of cracking wood or stone. Malfoy must have forced the door into the next room open.
"Yeah, he was," Harry said, stunned into answering the question instead of trying to get away, and then the door crashed shut in front of him and cut off all sight of the stag, which was dwindling to a fire-edged pinpoint. He recovered and pulled sharply away from Malfoy, so sharply that he sent him staggering into the edge of what sounded like a table. Harry whirled around, his wand raised high. "You bastard!"
Malfoy didn't try to stand or run or fight back. He just gave Harry a distinctly unimpressed look and spoke in a slightly winded voice.
"Nothing here is real, Potter. You said you saw your parents' shades. They're at rest. They want the best for you, besides. Only violence lives here, and the house probably summoned that stag to counteract the Patronus we rode."
Harry opened his mouth, and then looked away. He knew Malfoy was right, and he was ashamed of himself for having forgotten even for an instant. What kind of hero did he make, if Malfoy had to save him?
Someone who has to depend on the git anyway right now, to destroy that damn artifact that's doing this.
He sighed and rubbed his face. "You're right," he said. "I'm sorry."
Malfoy stared at him for a moment, then grinned savagely and cupped a hand around his ear. "What did you say? I don't think the ghost of Professor Snape heard that."
"No, he never did," Harry said sadly, recalling the man who had died before he could receive anything more from Harry than a glimpse of Lily's eyes. "But I'll say it again if you'd like. You were right, and I'm sorry." He sighed and looked around the room they had just entered; it seemed colder than the others. He saw a shadow shift near the outline of what might have been a door, but as yet it didn't try to come nearer. He tightened his grip on his wand anyway. The bloodline artifact would probably try to defend itself if it realized that they were coming to destroy it, and with stronger magic than what they had faced so far.
"Why did you think of using light to destroy the stag?" he asked. "That was bloody clever."
Malfoy shrugged and looked away from him. "I was thinking of the fire that it used to burn up the stag we rode. That was obviously coldflame—one of the Dark magic spells you can use to frighten someone without doing serious damage. And I thought that perhaps ordinary fire might destroy the ghost stag in the same way." He shifted about as though something under his back was prickling him, perhaps a splinter of old wood, and then straightened. "I'm more interested in how you thought of summoning the silver stag in the first place."
"That's my Patronus—"
"I know, I've been chased by the bloody thing," Malfoy said, his unenthusiastic voice recalling to Harry clear images of a Quidditch pitch where Malfoy had dressed up as a Dementor. "But Patronuses fight Dementors. How did you think of calling one here?"
Harry began to grin in spite of himself. "Why, Malfoy," he said, "is that admiration I hear in your voice? How interested Professor McGonagall would be."
Malfoy growled and repeated, "How?"
If Malfoy could keep from fighting, then Harry could do the same thing. "I didn't know for certain it would work," he admitted, and ignored the soft snort that followed his words. "But I thought the Patronus in general is a good weapon against dark things, and since the bloodline artifact is attacking us with memories, maybe the memory of a Patronus could fight it. And that worked, didn't it?"
"Rather well." Malfoy held out his hand, and Harry clasped it without thought and hauled him back to his feet. Malfoy stepped nearer so that he was staring into his eyes, and Harry blinked. Their faces were so close he didn't need the light of the Lumos charm to make out the expression Malfoy wore. It was mingled fear and determination and bloody-mindedness. Harry thought he must look the same way.
"We're close to the artifact now," Malfoy whispered. "Can you feel that cold?"
"Yes," Harry hissed back. He had the strangest sensation they were vanishing into a world of their own. The darkness and gloom had pulled back, and he stood in a tiny circle of light with Malfoy. The air they were breathing tasted like pure stubbornness. Malfoy's hand tightened on his until Harry winced, but even the pain seemed to travel into him and make him stronger.
"Once I begin casting the spell that requires access to your magical core, I can't stop," Malfoy said. "If you hesitate or try to pull back from me, then I'll be destroyed, and you—well, something unpleasant will happen to you. One description said you would dissolve into bloodied bits of flesh. Not a good thing."
"I can remember certain times of your life when you probably would have thought it was," Harry said, barely moving his lips.
Malfoy laughed darkly. "No. I wanted you alive to suffer, and bloody bits of flesh don't hurt all that much after the initial pain." His hand tightened again. "I want you to say one more time that you trust me, and you won't pull back when I begin using your magical core, no matter how painful it is."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "You didn't say anything about painful."
"As if I would."
Malfoy smirked at him, and he was perfect and arrogant and triumphant and unbearable standing there, and Harry doubted the artifact would be able to resist him any more than he could in that moment.
He lunged forwards and smashed his nose into Malfoy's. Malfoy yelped and nearly went over backwards, fumbling for his wand. And then Harry righted him with an arm around his shoulders and managed to target what he'd been reaching for in the first place, Malfoy's lips.
Malfoy yelped at him again, which only afforded him the perfect chance to lean forwards and deepen the kiss. Harry's head spun with delight as he tasted Malfoy's tongue, sharp and hot as a needle dropped in a fire. It swept away from Harry and then back, as if Malfoy were trying to work out the perfect position for him to issue a shout of outrage without actually touching Harry. And then it trembled and fell still. Harry could only hope the same overwhelming taste had finally caught up with Malfoy.
Or maybe it was the memories, Harry thought hazily, clinging to Malfoy until the world rippled around them and the light expanded, becoming the brilliant fury of leaping flames. Did he remember that they'd ridden through the Fiendfyre as they rode through the darkness on the back of the silver stag? Except that Harry had been in front of Malfoy on the broom, and behind him on the stag. Both positions were good, Harry thought, and clamped his fingers down so that he would leave bruises on Malfoy's shoulders. He wanted to leave bruises, to make Malfoy acknowledge him. Hadn't he always wanted that? Hadn't both of them? Malfoy wanted to make Harry think about him because Malfoy couldn't do without the attention of the most famous person in the school, and Harry had insisted that Malfoy understand his swaggering and dastardly plots wouldn't go unchallenged.
They pressed closer and closer and closer, Malfoy no longer trying to escape but clawing at Harry as fiercely as he had ever clawed for the Snitch, until Harry ripped his mouth away to whisper heated words because the sensation of the kiss was no longer new enough.
"I trust you. That should be enough proof."
Malfoy hissed in satisfaction. He had a faint trickle of blood emerging from one corner of his lip, Harry noticed, making its way down his chin in a dark trail. But that sight reassured Harry. Malfoy was alive, and so was he, and that would be enough to match the cold presence of the dead.
"It is," he said, and this time he was the one to yank Harry close. Harry expected another kiss, but Malfoy bit his neck instead, slightly above the collarbone. Harry jerked in pain and desire, hands rising to thread through Malfoy's hair and keep him still, but Malfoy had already moved away. He licked his mouth carefully instead of wiping it.
"We're both mad," he said.
"I think only madmen could survive here," Harry said, and took the lead as they headed for the far door and the shadow guarding it.
The shadow reared up and turned to them, more silvery and solider than the phantom of his mother they had confronted in the kitchen.
Its face was infinitely more familiar than his mother's, a fact Harry loathed about his life but had learned to accept long ago. He gripped his wand and gave it a smile. He had defeated it before and would defeat it again.
"Hello, Voldemort," he said.
Draco felt his legs locking whilst his body shook as if he were a dog confronting a werewolf. He wanted to vomit, to bolt, to curl up and shrivel in on himself. That would only delay death by a few minutes, but he didn't care. He had never known how to face or refuse the Dark Lord in the past. How could he do it now?
But Potter spoke fearlessly and lifted his wand. Draco, shakily, lifted his, too, because they had to confront the bloodline artifact together, and he wouldn't allow Potter to say that he'd been outdone by a Gryffindor.
The silvery figure swept towards them with the grace of a snake. In fact, Draco didn't think it had legs. It opened its mouth wide, jaw unhinging, and Draco knew it would try to swallow them. He flinched desperately back from it, a wail rising from his lips.
But his wand remained steady all the time, as if his hand knew something his brain didn't.
Potter drew a deep breath, and Draco knew what spell he was going to say, inevitably, because he'd been there when Potter defeated the Dark Lord. And he dug deep down and found the courage that had sustained him during that terrible year he was battling for his family's lives, and he used it.
"Expelliarmus!" he and Potter cried together, and their voices rang sweet and strong, the cries of the living in a place of the dead.
The figure wavered and tore apart, one silvery half flying towards Potter and one towards Draco. He braced his feet and leaned his side against Potter, a line of burning warmth. He lifted his head, trembling, and understood that it was possible to know when you were doing the bravest thing you'd ever done in your life.
The silvery magic slammed into and clawed at him, but Draco reminded himself again and again that Voldemort was dead, and that even the remnants left here had little power to affect the living. They were not his ghosts. And they weren't Potter's, either. Potter had survived and moved on. Both of them had emerged alive from the war, an experience more scarring than any this artifact could create.
They were alive.
Draco opened his mouth and breathed in the ghost's eyes, and the wisps clinging to him blew apart. He turned triumphantly to look at Potter, who promptly moved close to him and raised a hand to cup his cheek.
The expression on his face was pure awe and hero-worship.
And a wound that had been festering in Draco's soul for nine years, since that morning on the Hogwarts Express when the famous Harry Potter had insulted his family, ceased to ache.
They stepped into the garden.
Harry saw it at once. A deeper blackness than the night that had covered them from the time they ventured into the house beamed from a hole at the base of the crumbled stone wall. The ivy near it had died, and the dirt was scuffed as though an animal had dug up the object and then fled. Harry could smell lightning and dead roses, poison and heartache.
He lifted his head and looked above them. The sky was starless.
He stopped Malfoy with a hand on his shoulder and turned him in the right direction; he'd been pointing his wand at a dead rosebush. He put his mouth close to his ear. Maybe it was a silly precaution, but Malfoy hadn't said the artifact couldn't hear them. "What do you have to do to cast the spell?"
"Access your magical core first," Malfoy breathed back. "And you have to drop anything you have representing another magical conduit that could interfere with the process."
Malfoy rolled his eyes, then gave Harry a single challenging stare. "Drop your wand, Potter."
Harry took a few deep breaths, and did so, keeping in his mind the memory of what Malfoy had looked like when they banished Voldemort's ghost together. Malfoy moved closer to him, a soft smile gracing his lips for a moment. He gave Harry a kiss as brief and cold as the touch of a belladonna leaf, then said, "Down on your knees and face the artifact."
Harry knelt, and shivered anew. A metallic energy was beating up through the earth, making the dirt as comforting to kneel in as moondust. Malfoy took up a position behind him, hands resting on his shoulders.
"Think about what it's done," Malfoy whispered to him, his breath a welcome tease against the side of Harry's neck. "Focus on your hatred for it and how much you trust me."
Harry stared at the bloodline artifact and imagined it trapping memories of his parents here for eighteen years. Even if they weren't the "real" memories of his parents, even if Lily and James Potter had been at peace all that time, the artifact had something of them. It could force those images to go through existence, to keep repeating their stories, to never fade away.
His whole body went warm with his hatred. Hadn't his parents suffered enough? They'd died so young, and for a future they would never see, for a son they would never see grow up. They had fought in a war and endured months living under the Fidelius Charm, their lives in constant danger and their marriage under strain. Wasn't that enough?
At the same time, he remembered standing beside Malfoy as they defeated Voldemort, and how he had burned the ghost stag, and how, when Harry and Hermione and Ron were captured and dragged to Malfoy Manor, he hadn't given them away. Malfoy's hawthorn wand was warm and friendly in his hand. His lips were soft and parted beneath Harry's.
He felt as though the skin of his back had parted, warm and wet, and Malfoy reached a hand through the gap and closed it into a fist around his heart.
No, it was something more intimate than a heart. Harry came to startled attention. Malfoy cradled and surrounded all that he was, a center of energy and power Harry had never known about before. When Malfoy moved, Harry could feel him twanging the cords of Harry's soul. His memories swirled, concentrated down to a single point. His magic swung and coiled, but couldn't find an escape from Malfoy's encircling hand.
Harry had never pushed away a fear so pervasive as he did in that moment. Malfoy could destroy him if he wished, and Harry couldn't do anything to stop it. He only had to close his hand, and he would crush Harry out of existence.
But Harry trusted him. He repeated the memories to himself and focused on the artifact, glittering with Dark magic, ahead of him. That was the thing he hated. That was the enemy here. He thought about it, and thought about it, and his hatred sharpened into a shining weapon in Malfoy's hand.
When Malfoy began to speak the spell, each word went through Harry like an earthquake.
Draco had not known such temptation existed.
When he touched Harry Potter's magic, he swelled to more than twice the size he had been before. Potter outmatched him in power. And it could be his if he pulled the right direction—the direction that was in his head like a Floo address suddenly remembered. He could have it forever, and command Potter's body as a living puppet. No one would suspect; the most sophisticated spells would not detect this special form of possession.
He could use Potter's magic to control and contain, instead of destroy, the bloodline artifact. And then he would have the might that he had come to Godric's Hollow hoping to possess. He would do the great things he had dreamed of. He would have purpose and direction aplenty. He had only to lean on the artifact and Potter, and he would be the next Dark Lord in five years. Or the Minister, if that was what he wanted. Or he could leave Britain and live on a decadent hidden estate with his Muggle slaves.
The artifact, which indeed had remained a tool of the Black family, hailed and welcomed him, and yearned only to be used against Draco's enemies.
Draco knew he might have fallen then, gazing into the abyss and seeing the bottom not so far away, had Potter not looked at him with awe after they defeated Voldemort.
If he destroyed Potter's soul, he would never see that look again. If he kept that body without Potter animating it, he wouldn't hear the little grunts and cries of pain forced between clenched teeth the first time Draco pushed inside him, and he wouldn't see the mad look he would wear the first time he made love to Draco. (Ginny Weasley notwithstanding, Draco was sure Potter was a virgin).
Potter had to be the one to give him those things, rather than Draco taking them. And he would have them. He would make sure of that.
Compared to the absolute lure of power over Harry, the power over the world the artifact offered him was a weak and paltry thing.
Draco laughed, and then he dug deep and began to chant the spell, wielding the magic in Potter's core as he would wield a wand. He saw his hands folded before him, small shining spots in an endless void, backlit by the power they cupped. And then the golden power began to climb his arms, and the darkness screamed and fell back, sliced as if with many swords.
Draco lifted his head and focused on the artifact crouching in its hole before them. He could sense the chill tinge of worry to its aura, the sudden wavering in the black glow it shed. The glow bent away from them, and then faded. The artifact was trying to make itself look harmless, so they would go away and leave it alone. It was utterly bewildered that someone of the Black bloodline was attacking rather than using it.
Draco laughed again and built the chant, repeating it. The golden ropes of light had climbed to his shoulders and turned to face the weapon. They had manifested as golden serpents, though Draco couldn't be sure if that was in response to his imagination or Potter's. The serpents had brilliant scarlet tongues and eyes now a rich green, now a pale gray. They hissed and flicked their tongues, and then they lunged from his shoulders, growing longer like vines, straight at the half-open box that contained the artifact.
Their jaws unhinged as they flew like the jaws of the Dark Lord's ghost, and they each covered half of the box, dragging it up and swallowing it. The artifact spilled to the ground, unprotected now and throbbing frantically. Draco could sense its magic building, and knew it would probably use some last grand strike to defend itself.
"Try," he breathed, and repeated the spell for the third and last time, his voice pure and firm and unmoving. His hands had sunk more deeply into Potter's magic. He luxuriated in the feeling. Potter trusted no other person alive in the world like this.
And Draco was confident of his superiority to the dead in every respect.
The artifact grew a long blade and chopped at him. Draco watched the strike falling without fear. The spell was dancing through his veins now, leaving golden sparks that broke through his chest and fell over the kneeling Potter, illuminating his face. He wore an expression of exaltation, without pain or fear.
The golden serpents reared like cobras dancing to the magic of the charmer and fell themselves, coiling around the artifact and sinking in their glowing fangs again and again and again. The light fighting the darkness, Draco thought as he watched them. And if they have the shape of snakes, let it never be said that Slytherins can't fight on the side of good.
Another wound in his soul that had endured since the final battle and the utter ineffectiveness of his part in it vanished.
The falling sword crumbled apart into strips of darkness that tasted like iron when they fell on Draco's tongue. The artifact screamed again and again, making Draco's heart beat faster as his Black blood responded to the call. But he had destroyed it of his own free will, and he stood there with his arms around what he most wanted whilst the weapon vibrated and splintered and was swallowed.
The golden serpents rose when the artifact was gone, swaying back and forth. Draco had expected them to return to Potter's core at once, but instead they entwined their necks and rolled across the ground. When they came up again, their flickering tongues touched, and he choked to see that one had gray eyes, one green.
Then they turned into formless streaks of light, streaking back home past Draco's hands, and Draco took a deep breath and removed himself from Potter's core.
The world around them began to spin as if they'd been standing on the wrong side of a trick bookcase. Draco blinked and tightened his hold on Potter's shoulders, wondering if he should make him stand up, but the spinning motion faded and they were back in the garden behind the house, in the daylit summer world of Godric's Hollow. The sun was in the west, Draco noted absently, and streaks of red and orange radiance struck past him and blinded him momentarily as they glinted off a harmless heap of silver and steel and emeralds in a half-dug hole.
Draco jerked his head up with a gasp. Potter was standing in seconds, his arm around Draco's waist. "What is it?" he whispered into his ear.
Draco could only shake his head. Floating towards him was a pair of glittering figures, hand in hand: James and Lily Potter as he had seen them in the visions, clad in the robes they had worn in the memory where little Harry flew on the broom. There was an aura of serenity around them that made Draco's eyes run with tears. He leaned on Harry for support and said, "Why am I seeing you?"
"We're free now," Lily Potter said, and looked fondly at her husband for a moment. "That horrid artifact which James thought he could tame—"
"Oi!" Potter glared back at his wife.
"—Kept a portion of us here," said Lily, and looked at Draco. He shivered. Seeing Harry's intense green eyes in another face was an experience nothing could have prepared him for. "Our souls were partially split, too, on the night when the Killing Curse backfired and turned Voldemort into a spirit. Most of us went to rest; most of us was dead. But some parts of us lingered here, and the artifact enslaved us." She sighed, as though she were only speaking about a cracked vase and not torment that had lasted for eighteen years. "We wanted to call for help, but at first we didn't want to distract our son whilst he battled Voldemort, and then we found out he has no sensitivity to the dead at all."
"He possessed the Resurrection Stone," Draco muttered, feeling absurdly as if he were defending Potter.
"That gives access to the dead for a time, and makes one Master of Death." Lily Potter shook her head and looked at her son with eyes so hungry Draco would have faded away and given them a moment alone if that were possible. "It cannot convey the ability to hear us. You have that, Draco Malfoy."
"But why reach out to me to contact him?" Draco asked. "You could have found someone else, a necromancer or—"
"You have always been able to attract Harry's attention," said James Potter, who looked as if he didn't know whether to approve of that or not. "We knew you'd go to him and get him involved somehow." He paused, then added, with the air of someone giving a great compliment, "That part of the plan was foolproof."
"Then you didn't know that we'd manage to defeat the bloodline artifact?" Draco looked askance at the broken pieces of the weapon.
"Not for certain," Lily said. "Being dead gives one a few great certainties, but it tends to take away the others."
Draco shook his head and decided he wouldn't pursue that line of conversation when it could only end in shouting. Besides, he could feel Harry shifting restlessly beside him. "Well, what should I tell Harry?"
"The truth," Lily said. "That we love him and miss him, but he did the best thing for us he possibly could have."
"Yes," said James. "Tell him to keep up the legacy of the Marauders, and of Prongs." He grinned fiercely. Draco thought he could see the glitter of stag's antlers above his head, and he nodded, no longer curious about where the "Prongs" nickname originated from. "Tell him to find some nice girl to make him happy."
The way he stressed girl and glared at Draco left no doubt of what he was thinking on that score. Draco lifted his chin and looked haughtily back. His grip on Harry tightened, and James's eyes flashed. Well, let him think what he liked. He was dead and had no right to an opinion.
"You might consider using your gift for hearing the dead to raise yourself to great heights," Lily added suddenly, "since the bloodline artifact didn't serve."
"How did you know I was thinking that?"
"As I said," and she smiled at him, "being dead gives one a few great certainties." She glanced down at the arm Harry had around Draco. "And there's another of them." Her husband opened his mouth as if to protest. She elbowed him in the ribs. "Go in peace and love, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter."
Draco rolled his eyes as they faded. Such a Gryffindor thing to say. He shouldn't have been surprised.
Mind you, there might be something in her words about using his gift to hear the dead. Magical powers shouldn't sit around and gather dust.
"What did they say?" Harry demanded.
Draco turned to face him. Harry looked back at him, face set in as stubborn and fierce an expression as his parents had looked at each other with. Draco felt his own eyes widening. Maybe her last words hadn't been so daft after all.
"Well?" Harry poked him in the chest.
Draco reached out and caught the back of his head, drawing him near. Harry was the one who gasped this time as Draco gave him a kiss, rubbing his tongue back and forth along the sides of Harry's mouth and his palate. But he yielded much more easily than Draco had, letting his eyes flutter shut and breathy little moans escape through his nose. He looked thoroughly dazed when Draco pulled away, which satisfied Draco.
And so did the ideas growing in his mind, another burst of sheer brilliance, and so did the fact he could do something Harry Potter couldn't and would never be able to best him at.
"I could set up a shop," he said dreamily. "No, a mysterious dark tower that only people who were really worth my time would approach. And I could demand a good portion of the Galleons in their vaults for talking to their dead."
"Plans," Draco said. "Ambitions. You know, the sort of thing foreign to you." He watched happily as Potter's face contorted. "And anyway, you'll find out soon enough, because I'll need your magic to set it up."
"What makes you think I'll help you?"
"I know what your parents told me," Draco said in a high, singsong voice. "And besides…" He licked his lips. "Refuse me and there's no more kisses."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're a tease."
"I object to that designation," Draco said, and leaned forwards to speak with his lips just brushing Harry's. "I fulfill my promises. Eventually."
And then he showed how he could and began to kiss Harry again, whilst his mind plotted and whirled busily.
Maybe I can get him to tell me where he dropped the Resurrection Stone. It's not as though he wants it, anyway.
And I will definitely have to get him to do that thing with his tongue again.