Broken Bridges

Broken Bridges

A Harry Potter Fanfiction.

Warning: This is slash. Boy/Boy, Male/Male, whatever. Harry/Draco. You have been warned.

Disclaimer: Nothing but the plot belongs to me. All the rest goes to J. K. Rowling, who is probably cursing my soul right now for making her characters do stuff they will never do in her stories ::sigh:: oh well, we can all dream, right?

Summary: The final battle is approaching, and no one is under any illusions. This is, and always was, Harry Potter's fight. While he himself tries to prepare for what lies ahead, treated as though the fight is already lost, difficulties occur in the form of Draco Malfoy. Death Eater, spy of Voldemort, or the greatest love he'll ever have?

"I don't think you trust,

In my,

Self-righteous suicide,

I cry,

When Angels deserve to die.

Father (Father) Father (Father) Father (Father) Father

Father, into your hands,

I commend my spirit,

Father into your hands,

Why have you forsaken me?

In your eyes forsaken me?

In your thoughts forsaken me?

In your heart forsaken me?

Trust in my,

Self-righteous suicide,

I cry,

When angels deserve to die,

In my,

Self-righteous suicide,

I cry,

When Angels deserve to die."

System of a Down "Chop Suey"

Chapter One.

The Manor stood in the centre of vast grounds, imposing itself on the skyline. The land within the walls was a mixture of forestry and flat grassland. Howls could be heard from the forest at night, always answered by others, until a terrifying chorus of animal cries reverberated in the cold air.

It was surprisingly difficult to find the Manor, despite the fact the building and the lands that came with it were enormous. It was never stumbled upon by Muggles, and was rarely visited by others that weren't. Well, it was rarely visited by those who wanted their presence known to anyone other than the owner of the Manor.

Heavy rain lashed down mercilessly as the tress creaked ominously in the stinging wind. Along the road, which was the only thing that implied the grounds had ever seen the work of a Muggle, a long line of figures made their way resolutely towards the Manor, black cloaks heavy and wet from the rain, and whipping around their ankles. They could see several flickering lights in the windows up ahead, and they all walked to them, no hurry. Nothing.

The line stretched all the way back to the gates, and people were still joining it, barely more than black humps slowly moving forward like mindless zombies. It was a mark of respect to the family on whose land they walked that they announced their coming so readily, instead of Apparating in or using some other transport. The storm had safely ruled out anyone flying in, luckily.

He watched them all, people he didn't know, from a window on the top floor of the mansion. It hadn't surprised him that his father had failed to inform him of this - he rarely did, unless, for some reason, he himself was expected to attend.

It was getting close, he thought absently, brushing hair out of his eyes. These meetings were getting more frequent. This was the third this week.

The door to his room opened and closed quietly. There was a tense silence before a familiar voice spoke. "I wouldn't stay there much longer."

"Why not?" he asked casually.

"There are…guests coming who you may not want to-"

"He Who Must Not Be Named?"

A pause. Then, slowly, "Yes."

"Huh." He continued to stare out of the window with troubled grey eyes. "So, he doesn't want me to see him, or you don't want me to see him?"

"Our Lord is…unpredictable. I am thinking only of your safety, Draco."

"When have you cared about my safety?" Draco muttered bitterly, tightening his hands where they rested on his windowsill. "You're worried about your own hide, not mine."

"I'm worried about your safety," Lucius Malfoy insisted, fists clenching at his sides. The heavy black robe was in stark contrast with his pale skin and hair. Draco rarely looked at his father for very long. He hated being reminded about how much they looked alike.

"I find that hard to believe," he murmured sharply.

"I am your father," Lucius hissed, eyes narrowing as he gazed at the back of his son. "Don't ever question me like that again."

Draco didn't answer.

Lucius frowned, pale lips pressed together. Draco knew very well that it was a mistake to aggravate him, but he continued to do it. "Draco…I'd best put your robes on if I were you. Ready for when you're called."

Tearing his eyes from the never-ending line along the road, Draco turned round to stare at Lucius. "Called?" he echoed, pale eyebrows knitting in confusion. "You mean I'm need at the meeting?"

"The Dark Lord has expressed a wish to speak with you," Lucius replied with a small, proud smile. He shook his hair out from the collar of his robes and then gazed around his son's room. A large four-poster bed hung with heavy red drapes was the main feature of the room, with some expensive drawers and such. Impeccably tidy, just as Lucius liked things.

"What for?" Draco asked, looking more and more puzzled by the second. "Why does he want to speak with me?"

"About Harry Potter."

Draco froze at the mention of his rival, The Boy Who Lived. He held his head high and gave Lucius a condescending look. "What about him?" he asked lightly.

"It's not my place to speak of the Dark Lord's plans," Lucius told him smoothly, smirking ever so slightly. "I'm sure you'll be pleased, though."

"I doubt it," the blond boy said under his breath. Raising his voice again, Draco said, "Well, if he wants to see me, why don't you want me to see him now?"

"The Dark Lord is unpredictable, as I told you," came the drawled, casual reply. Lucius made a few last adjustments to the sleeves of his robe, leaving Draco to openly scrutinise him. "Don't question things unless it's life or death, Draco, my son. I am your father, I know what is best for you."

The younger man's lip curled in disdain. "But what if it's not best for me?" he questioned daringly. Over his shoulder, the last figure stepped through the gates, which then swung shut slowly, the creaking drowned out by the storm. "What if I don't want to become a Death Eater?"

Lightening forks cut the sky, and thunder rolled deafeningly in tow.

Lucius stared across at Draco, torn between horror and anger. In a few strides, he'd crossed the room to the window and the defiant figure that stood there. As lightning struck again, Lucius grabbed a slender wrist in his crushing grip. Draco tried to pull away, but the taller, stronger man held him tight. "You dare say such things in this house!" he spat, fury making his nostrils go whiter than his hair. "You are my son, and you will do as I say! I have not devoted so many years to Lord Voldemort only to have an upstart boy ruined the name 'Malfoy' for me!"

Draco stood stubbornly, head high, jaw clenched ever as fear fought for dominance in his eyes.

"Do you hear me?!" Lucius yelled.

His son refused to answer.

Lucius bared his teeth, furious, and let go of Draco's crushed wrist sharply. Only to draw back his fist and then slam it hard across Draco's face, sending him stumbling across the room into a chest of drawers. Blood began to trickle from Draco's split lip, marring the smooth pale skin.

They glared at each other before Lucius smiled grimly, rubbing his knuckles gingerly. "Clean yourself up, son. You'll be needed soon." Draco continued to stare up at his father, head spinning. When Lucius Malfoy swept out of the room, Draco sat there for a long time, numb.

After several minutes of silence, Draco finally got to his feet, roughly wiping the blood from his chin on his sleeve before going to check the window. The last of the black-robed Death Eaters were making their way into the house.

And he…he would be called upon by Voldemort.

Fear made him shiver as he quickly searched for his best robes. It had been 2 years since Voldemort had risen, and in that time he had never seen the wizard to whom his father pledged allegiance. His father had informed him of that fateful event at the end of their fourth year. Cedric Diggory dead. His name still brought hushed whispers of fear to those at Hogwarts, and to those that weren't. And he had heard about Voldemort challenging Harry Potter to a duel.

Draco pulled his robes - finally found - over his head and straightened them carefully. And then Voldemort wanted to see him about Potter. What did he know about Golden Boy, besides the fact he was an annoying little prick who Draco couldn't get out of his hea-

He cut off that train of thought viciously, forcing it away. No, it wasn't true, he knew it wasn't. Potter was just Potter. Nothing more.

Looking in the mirror, Draco straightened out his ruffled hair. Long wisps of silvery blond feel into his face, while his hair just brushed his collar at the back. Seventeen now, he had grown to be a teenager distinctive in his good looks. He could easily have any girl (or boy, he mused) melting at his feet, and he knew it.

That would not help him now, though. And as there was a knock on his door, the fear settled in his stomach again.

He took one last look in the mirror, quickly made sure his wand was in his pocket, and took a deep breath to stop the tremors. Then he pulled the door opened, determined to live up to the name Malfoy. A dark-robed figure, hood obscuring their face, stood outside, intimidating. "You are to follow me, Master Malfoy," said an unfamiliar voice from the depths of the hood.

Draco nodded, and the Death Eater turned and started down the long corridor towards the main stairs. Even though the candles along the walls were lit, their warmth did not stretch to Draco. Malfoy Manor had never felt so cold, so unfriendly.

As usual, the meeting would be in the grand hall. He could hear low murmuring as they descended the red-carpeted stairs. With every step, the temperature seemed to drop. It seemed less inviting. They eventually came to a stop outside the doors to the grand hall. The Death Eater turned and murmured a warning. "When you enter, Master, please do not be alarmed."

Draco nodded uneasily, resisting the urge to rub his arms against the freezing air. "Okay."

The Death Eater nodded slowly in return, then turned away and pushed open the heavy double doors. They swung back, revealing the grand hall as Draco was led in.

The coldness hit him in a solid wave, making him stumble a little. Staring around in utter shock, Draco suddenly understood the warning. Over a hundred Death Eaters were crouched on the floor. He knew his father was among them somewhere. There was a clear path down the centre to the high-backed chair at the far end of the hall. There was taller, bulkier, black-robed forms lining the walls. They breathed in unison, causing a great, rattling growl to echo around the room every few seconds.

That explained the cold, Draco realised. They were Dementors. The much-feared guards of the wizard prison Azkaban.

A Dementor flanked either side of the chair. And in the chair was the one thing that made Draco feel colder than even the Dementors. Slender, tall, shrouded in black. He could see long, pale-skinned fingers gripping the armrests firmly. His face was hidden. The Death Eater who entered with Draco continued down the clear path to the Dark Lord, and Draco hesitantly followed. As they drew closer, Draco blanched as he saw a large snake lying across the floor between Voldemort and the Dementors, and the Death Eaters.

They came to a stop a foot or two away from the snake. The Death Eater bowed low, and Draco hurriedly followed. When he straightened, the Death Eater said, "My Lord, I bring Master Draco before you, as you requested."

The head slowly lifted. Draco fought his first instinct to run. The wait to finally see the face of his new 'Master' was agonisingly slow. And then he saw it, and the urge to scream was almost impossible to ignore.

Blood red eyes with cat-like slit pupils passed their gaze up and down his body, taking their time. Draco trembled.

"You are afraid," Voldemort murmured in a strangely high-pitched voice. Draco didn't know what to say. The scrutiny went on and on.

Finally, Voldemort lifted his eyes to Draco's face. Bloodless lips were pulled back into a terribly predatory smile.

"Perfect."

---------------------

Harry lay staring blankly at the ceiling. He couldn't sleep. Nothing could calm his nerves. He'd been worked up all through the holidays. Of course, his rattiness had only given the Dursleys extra reason to make his summer even more miserable. So there he was, wishing that morning would come and he could be off to London to the train station. And then to Hogwarts.

His last year. It felt odd when he thought about it. After this year, what would he do? He had no idea how to make a living in either the wizard or Muggle world.

//If I get through his year alive.//

He frowned at that, concentrating on one zigzag crack in the ceiling, startlingly black against the whiteness. He wasn't stupid. He had no allusions as to what this year at Hogwarts would be like. It had been like it for the last two years. People would whisper when he passed, go quiet when he appeared.

That poor Harry Potter…Voldemort's bound to come for him this year…poor boy won't stand a chance…

They talked as if he was already dead, or at least knew that he wouldn't survive. It was obvious to everyone that Voldemort wanted him, and wanted him dead. Harry could not, and would not, convince himself otherwise. What was the point? A Dark Wizard didn't spend most of his energy looking for you year after year for you then to believe you were of no interest to him.

At least he had Dumbledore. If Dumbledore ever deserted him, he didn't know what he'd do. The Headmaster of Hogwarts always offered his help, and had constantly assured him that any assistance needed in the final battle would be there for him.

//Even Dumbledore won't try and convince me otherwise that Voldemort's after me.//

And then, after Harry was defeated (he didn't think he could stand up to Voldemort more than the next person did), the Dark Wizard would kill Dumbledore, and all was lost. The wizarding world would be his, and everyone was doomed.

//No pressure, of course.//

Voldemort's steady rise in the last two years had been terrifying. It seemed that the sun never shone anymore. The entire wizarding world could feel the Dark Lord breathing down their necks, waiting for his chance. His influence in the world was getting ever more stronger - it seemed that every day more and more people joined the Death Eaters. And all the time Voldemort was getting more confident.

At the beginning of summer, Muggles had started disappearing, whole families taken from their homes with no explanation. The Dark Mark hung threateningly over the victim's houses, a green shadow in the sky that struck terror into the hearts of Muggles. To the ordinary humans, Voldemort had been given the name The Shadow Killer, even though no one knew exactly what happened to those that disappeared. It was strangely apt, though, as no wizard was under any illusions to the eventual fate of them. A Muggle in Voldemort's hands was a dead one.

And that meant Harry was forbidden to leave the Dursleys for the entire summer. Harry had arrived back at the end of the last school year with a special letter.

Dear Mr and Mrs Dursley (it read)

I implore your help in a matter of the utmost importance, concerning Harry. For his safety, please make sure he never leaves the house, or that if he does leave the house, then you are with him. The reasons for this are not for this letter, though Harry is permitted to tell you as long as you do not speak of it to any other Muggles.

I thank you for your co-operation,

Albus Dumbledore

Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

It had given the Dursleys great relief to have a legitimate reason to lock Harry inside the house all summer. Of course, Harry had then had to explain about Voldemort, and his hatred of Muggles. And then, no matter what Harry said to persuade them otherwise, they were all convinced Voldemort was going to come for them, too.

All owling to and from Harry was banned so no one could tell Voldemort where Harry lived if an owl was tracked. Fortunately, this did not extend to telephoning, as no Death Eater would think of Muggle technology or would have the equipment to trace a call, and under the pretence that he would be informed if Voldemort was within a certain distance from them, Harry was allowed to speak to Ron or Hermione as much as he wanted.

Hermione kept him informed of what was in the Daily Prophet and many of the Muggle newspapers. She was fascinated by the Muggle view of the disappearances, but terrified at how high profile Voldemort had let himself become in the non-wizarding community.

Ron, interspersed with complaints about Harry's isolation ("It's mental, I tell you!"), let him know about all the developments through his father and the Ministry of Magic.

His fear of Voldemort was tangible - he had no reason to believe he was immune from Voldemort just because he wasn't Harry Potter. Everyone was afraid. In May, Voldemort had even sent a division of Death Eaters against Hogwarts. One of the towers had collapsed under their onslaught, killing a whole class of first years and injuring several more before Dumbledore and the staff had killed the Death Eaters involved.

Ron had, however, brought some very welcome news to Harry one day. "Dad and some of his mates at the Ministry are organising an enquiry into the Malfoys."

Harry had perked up considerably at this. Draco Malfoy was one of the people he hated most, along with Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew. It would serve Ferret Boy right if Arthur Weasley brought down his family. "How come?" he had asked.

"They've been tipped off that Malfoy's dad's got some Dark Arts stuff hidden away." Harry could almost see Ron grinning at the other end of the telephone. "So they're gonna organise a little trip down Malfoy Manor."

"Oooooh…" Harry couldn't help it. Malfoy had made his school life a living Hell for the last six years. Though his abuse had tapered off considerably in the two years since the rebirth of You Know Who, he was still the bane of Harry's days at Hogwarts.

"That'll cut Malfoy down to size," had been Hermione's response to the news. Out of the three of them, she and Ron harboured more hatred for Malfoy than Harry did. He had to admit it - though the blond boy's attacks were most frequently on him, they were petty compared to the things he circled Ron and Hermione out for.

No more Malfoy after this year, he thought cheerfully, folding his hands behind his head. No more taunts, no more witty remarks. Oh dear God he wanted this year to end fast.

Only a few more hours and he could get up and get ready. For Hogwarts, where he felt semi-normal.

Very slowly, Harry drifted off to sleep.

-----------------

When Harry woke up and wandered downstairs, bleary-eyed, the Dursleys were already up, watching the news on TV. He walked into the living room to hear a reporter's voice drifting to his ears.

"…Has struck again in the small town of Rainham in Kent. Neighbours woke to find the dreaded smoke skull above 34 Goudhall Road, and called the police. Unfortunately, as with all the other victims, there was no sign of struggle and the family have disappeared without a trace. Police are no closer to catching the Shadow Killer, who continues to abduct entire families randomly from across the country…"

Voldemort. Harry could see sobbing relatives on the TV screen, and flinched. The Dursleys, who finally noticed him, flared as though the wizard responsible for the kidnappings was running loose on his orders. Petunia was crying loudly, a soaked handkerchief in her fists. "Oh, it's terrible!" she wailed while Vernon Dursley patted her shoulder sympathetically. "What if that happened to us?"

There was a pointed silence and Harry's shoulders slumped. "I'll go get my stuff ready." And he wandered back upstairs to get his trunk.

Dudley, his blond-haired buffalo of a cousin, leered at him as he passed. "He's coming for you, Harry!" he called loudly as his slender, lanky wizard cousin disappeared into his room. "He's coming for you!"

The drive to Kings Cross station was uneventful, if slightly strained. Harry sat with Hedwig's cage on his lap. The owl was thankfully quiet, gazing balefully out of the window, large eyes rarely blinking. Harry ended up making imaginary patterns on her feathers, only coming out of his stupor when his uncle said loudly, "Well, now, since you're back off to school, this Mouldywart-"

"Voldemort," Harry corrected him.

"-Mouldywart of yours won't come near us, will he?"

Harry sighed and rubbed his forehead. "No, he won't." The truth was, Harry really didn't know. The Dursleys may never have been safe, but he didn't have any assurances that it was anyone other than himself who was safe.

Vernon nodded nervously. "Good, good. Alright then, almost at the station."

Harry knew his uncle's extraordinarily good mood was due to the fact his nephew was soon to be leaving. But that made Harry feel better. He didn't know what he would have done if he didn't have Hogwarts, or Ron and Hermione.

Goodbyes with the Dursleys were never sad, and today's was no different. The Weasleys were there, and as soon as they spotted him he couldn't wait to get rid of the Dursleys.

It was only Mrs Weasley, Ginny and Ron who were there that day. Ron looked no different. Ginny, over the years, had grown to be quite a beauty, and had more boyfriends than Harry could ever hope to keep count of. Her red hair fell in gentle curls around her thin shoulders. It seemed that the only boy she was nervous around, still, was Harry.

"How's your summer bee?" Ron asked as they made their way to the Hogwarts Express platform. "Not been much fun at my end."

Harry could well understand it, with Ron's dad working in the ministry. As far as he knew, everyone from all departments were on high alert, Arthur Weasley's included.

"Ron! Harry! Hey, Ron!"

They both turned to find Hermione appearing on the platform and waving enthusiastically at them. Ron immediately went very red indeed, as he tended to do when Hermione was around, despite the fact they were going out. Hermione seemed to think it was cute, which just made Ron even more embarrassed, and gave Harry endless amusement.

Mrs Weasley gave them all extra big hugs. "Oh Harry, I've been so worried about you all summer…"

"I'm fine, Mrs Weasley, really!" Harry grinned as he stepped back. "No one can touch me at the Dursleys."

It was a good thing the train whistle blew then, signalling everyone to board, because otherwise Harry feared Mrs Weasley would burst into tears. She gave them all more hugs, and then they grabbed their stuff and hopped on board, searching for a free compartment. Ginny disappeared into a compartment with her current boyfriend and their friends.

Hermione pulled out her Head Girl badge and pinned it proudly to her robes. Her being Head Girl was no surprise. The title of Head Boy, however, did not go to Harry, as everyone expected, but to Seamus Finnigan ("Why? Why?!" Seamus had cried) and no one could understand why.

After searching the train they found an empty compartment at one end, and settled down inside it. Hedwig fluttered around in her cage for a moment. Harry knew the owl probably hated him for keeping her caged all summer, but there was simply no way he could get her to understand.

"Haven't see the terrible trio yet," Ron commented as he glared suspiciously at his own owl, who was having a marathon race around his cage and hooting quite happily, little wings fluttering.

"They're probably looking for us now," Hermione murmured, shoving her trunk into the storage space. "Wouldn't be the same, an Express ride without seeing Malfoy at least once."

"True, unfortunately." Harry looked out of the window at the platform as the last of the students got onboard. "Didn't see any of them out there, actually."

"You think they miraculously disappeared?" Ron asked hopefully.

"Or got eaten by rabid flobberworms?" Harry offered.

"Or got locked in the deepest darkest vaults at Gringotts?"

"You wish," Hermione said with a little snort. "They probably ran off to join the Death Eaters, knowing Malfoy."

Ron considered this for a second, then turned to Harry, who was cleaning his glasses. "Wouldn't it be weird if you had to duel him for real? Couldn't you do a Moody and transfigure him again? Bounce him around a bit?" He shivered in pleasure as he remembered the ferret incidence. Malfoy became forever Ferret Boy in Ron's head.

Harry pushed his glasses back up his nose, and looked out of the window again. "I'd love to duel him for real," he said. "But, alas, here he comes." They all looked out of the window as the blond Slytherin in question came jogging towards the train, fearing lateness. He looked a little flushed from the run, trolley pulled desperately to a stop.

"Too bad," Hermione said with a smirk, sinking back into her seat. "Not that the school corridors aren't enough of a duelling court for you two."

Harry shrugged, still watching Malfoy shove his way irritably onto the train, scattering lower years left, right and centre as they scrambled out of his way. Harry wondered what had got Malfoy's knickers in a twist so early on. "If he wants to fight me, he can. I can defend myself. Remember, I'm expected to fight Voldemort this year, aren't I?"

There was an awkward silence where Ron and Hermione glanced guiltily at each other, as if they had specifically mentioned that fact, but Harry ignored it and sat back again, happy as anything, when he lost sight of Malfoy. He smiled. "So, how are you two anyway?"

-----------------

Fred and George, it seemed, had provided the entertainment for the long journey up north to Hogwarts. Ron had a whole bag full of little inventive games and sweets, as well as the usual Every Flavour Beans and Chocolate Frogs. They sat and played Exploding Snap most of the time, arranging it so they could bet an amount of Every Flavour Beans on each round. Ron quickly managed to acquire a large pile of beans, while Hermione's own collection dwindled. Harry's stayed comfortably medium-sized. Ron seemed ecstatic to be winning the games.

"Are we still going to see each other?" Ron suddenly asked. "I mean, after this year ends? Will we still be friends?"

"Of course, don't be ridiculous!" Hermione exclaimed, as if the very idea of them not being friends was preposterous. "We'll make sure we still see each other…it wouldn't be the same without you two."

"I know what you mean," Harry replied, watching his owl out of the corner of his eye as she began pecking at the bars. "We have the owls, don't we? And we can arrange to see each other and stuff, so it shouldn't be too hard."

"Getting sentimental already?" asked a familiar drawled voice as the compartment door slid open. They all turned to find who they expected to be there. Malfoy lounged in the doorway leisurely, arms crossed over his chest. His cronies, Crabbe and Goyle, stood thuggishly behind him. He smirked at them, threads of his silvery hair lying over his face, grey eyes bright with his usual glee at finding them with something he could use against them.

"Shove off," Ron spat, temper rising to boiling point at the mere sight of the blond boy. "At least we've got friends to keep in touch with, Malfoy."

Instead of his smile fading, Draco's grin brightened. "I wouldn't be so sure, Weasel," he said maliciously. "You never know who you can trust these days. For all I know, any of you three could be spies for You Know Who." Crabbe and Goyle laughed (it sounded more like "Haw haw haw") and snorted stupidly.

"This coming from a spy yourself?" Hermione countered smoothly, one eyebrow raised disapprovingly. "Can't spot your own kind?"

The grin didn't fade at all. It turned as nasty and spiteful as the spark in his eyes. "Say what you will, Granger, it doesn't really bother me. I know what side I'm on. And I know that my side is going to win."

"You're mighty confidant for a Death Eater," Harry commented from where he sat by the window. Malfoy's eyes immediately switched to him. Something passed in his expression, too quickly for Harry to identify, or even convince himself it had really been there.

"Who ever said I was a Death Eater?" Malfoy replied good-naturedly (well, as good-natured as Draco Malfoy ever got), dropping his gaze from Harry's.

"You never said you weren't," Hermione pointed out softly. Malfoy gazed at her for a moment, thoughtfully. Harry had never seen that expression on his face before. The patent Draco Malfoy expression was a sneer, or a smirk of some kind.

"So true, so true," Malfoy finally said, passing his now impassive gaze over the three of them, each in turn. "But, one thing I will tell you. Whatever I am…" He paused for a moment, making sure they were all listening. Then he continued in a lower voice, "Whatever I am, I will never be my father." Malfoy smirked again, then raised his hand in some single to Crabbe and Goyle, who scrambled back out of his way. "'Til we meet again," he said, and then swept out of the compartment in the flurry of black robe, leaving Harry, Hermione and Ron stunned in his wake.

"That was…interesting," Harry said after about a minute of shocked silence.

"That was almost civil!" Hermione said, eyes brightening hopefully. "I think we should all be pleased with ourselves!"

Ron gave her a strange, sidelong look from under his red fringe. "Yeeeess…whatever you say, dear."

Hermione whacked him over the head with her conveniently available copy of Hogwarts: A History.

-------------------

They were left in relative peace for the next hour or so, rummaging through the bag Fred and George had given them. They veered away from the little pack of Canary Creams and decided against giving them to an unsuspecting first year after much deliberation. Most of the things inside were sweets, so they refrained from trying those until they got into Hogwarts proper, and shared them out in the common room. At least then they wouldn't be the only ones who ended up with tails or hooves or feathers…

It seemed, however, that changes had not only happened to Hogwarts itself in preparation for the war against Voldemort. Suddenly there was a creak, a hiss of steam, and a shudder ran through the train.

Harry held onto the seat to steady himself as the train pulled to a hasty stop. "What was that?" he asked, having a very vivid flashback of the last time the train did this, and the Dementors had climbed aboard.

Hermione looked nonplussed. "Checks, I assume. Dumbledore mentioned it." Looking up and seeing Harry's expression, she grinned. "Humans. Not Dementors."

The scarred boy visibly relaxed where he sat. "Checks?" he enquired. Ron was peering round the compartment door, trying to see what exactly was happening. "Checks for what?"

Hermione shrugged, completely uninterested. Or just not in the least worried. "Dark Arts stuff, I think. Just checking so nothing can get into Hogwarts. I think Professor McGonagall suggested it."

Ron looked warily at the bag of stuff his older brothers had given him. "Do you think Canary Creams count as Dark Arts?" He poked the bag with his wand.

His girlfriend sighed, and rolled her eyes. "No, Ron, Canary Creams do not count as Dark Arts. But I don't think you should have them on display either." She closed the bag and pushed it up with their trunks. "Bad boy," she admonished with a tap of her finger on his nose. Ron just gave her another odd look, as if wondering how he'd ended up with the crazy one.

A team of intimidating wizards eventually found their way to their compartment. They opened the door and simply said, "Stay still," before holding out their wands and muttering things under their breath so low that none of them could hear.

Nothing happened. The leader of the ground of five, dressed in black like the rest of them, stepped forward. "If you see any of the other students carrying anything suspicious, please report it to the proper authorities."

Harry was about to ask what the proper authority was when a loud shriek sounded nearby. "IT WAS MY MOTHER'S!" It was Malfoy, yelling at someone. The squad of train-checkers scarpered back at the sound, and the three of them went to see. A second squad were trying to hold still a fighting, kicking, scrabbling Draco Malfoy outside his compartment as one of the men tried to wrestle a ring off of his finger.

"Hold still!" cried one of the black-robed men. "Hold him tight!" he yelled to his colleagues as he leapt away and muttered something else under his breath. Suddenly Malfoy froze, like a statue,. eyes wide and staring, blond hair all over the place. Smiling triumphantly, he walked over and plucked the ring from his outstretched fingers. It was a heavy silver one, with what looked like a ruby set in it. The squad man held it up to the light. "Yes," he said knowledgeably, "an old ring, this is, infused with several Dark Arts incantations."

Harry looked at Hermione and Ron. "I knew it," he whispered.

The squad man gave Malfoy a disapproving look. "Make sure you don't bring anything else into Hogwarts like this." He clicked his fingers and the impromtu search squads suddenly disappeared. Malfoy was left paralysed where he was.

Even Harry thought that was a bit unfair.

"Oh dear…" Hermione walked over with her wand and de-paralysed Malfoy with a quick wave of her wand. The blond boy staggered and fell to his knees, breathing heavily.

"My ring!" he exclaimed, looking round, panicked. His grey eyes were bright again, but for a different reason. "They took my ring! My mother gave that to me!" He slammed his fist down on the floor like a child denied a treat. "It was mine!"

"Don't tell me you didn't know it had those spells infused in it," Hermione asked in disbelief, fists on her hip. She train shuddered again and started moving. The search had gone as quickly as it had come.

"I knew it had spells in it, Granger," Malfoy spat, climbing to his feet and towering over the brunette. "What they were I don't know. I don't care. It was a gift from my mother from just before I came to Hogwarts." His fists clenched and his jaw set. "I want it back."

"You'll have a bit of a problem then," Hermione said reprovingly, flicking her hair over her shoulder and 'hmphing' at Malfoy. "They Disapparated. With your ring."

Draco's lip curled back in disgust. "My father will not stand for such things."

"That's because your father is a Death Eater," Harry said before he could help himself, and jumped when he realised Malfoy had heard him. The pale-haired boy rounded on him, and Harry thought he was going to punch him square in the face, but Malfoy silently fumed for a few seconds before turning round and storming off.

"Gosh, he likes you this year, doesn't he!" Ron chortled. And he meant it - twice so far Malfoy had stopped himself from insulting Harry. That had to be a record.

"Yeah, I noticed," Harry replied, but he was far too preoccupied watching Malfoy's retreating back, wondering exactly what his change in attitude meant, and whether he should be grateful or worried.

------------------------

End Chap1.

A/N:

Just curious, but in the American version of HP, do they change the spellings to American? Like Grey Gray, and Favourite Favorite? And are the promoting the film as HP & the Sorcerer's Stone rather than Philosopher's Stone (which it's called here. Why they changed it for the US I don't know)?

Review please! I'll love you forever and ever!

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