Chapter 16 Brighter Tomorrow May Come

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, nothing is mine. Everything belongs to JKR.

Warnings: Violence, adult language, slash-y elements (HD, naturally)

A/N: Now, it's been ages, I know. Sometimes, real life just won't budge. Anyway, I'm rather sad to present the last existing chapter of The Heart of the Ferret. It has been incredibly fun to write, especially since its faithful audience has enjoyed it as much as I have. Beware of a sequal in nearby future (though it will be fully written before publishing, to avoid this kind of slow updating)

On another note, this chapter has yet to be betad, so I cannot guarantee its quality. Also, I'd like to extend my gratitude to my lovely beta and my readers and reviewers who have stuck by me along this bumpy road. Thank you!

"So let me get this straight." Ron stroked his jaw musingly, a concentrated look on his freckled face. "Lucius Malfoy, the notorious Death Eater we all know and so lovingly hate, just waltzed into Hogwarts, saved his nemesis The-Boy-Who-Lived from his fellow co-workers, announced he wanted to jump sides, then accompanied you to the infirmary and thus, got safely rid of the magical link between you two." The redhead paused. "Did I get it all?"

"Yes, you got it all," Harry said patiently, patting his friend's knee. He had explained the situation at least three times and still, Ron had troubles believing it. I can see why, though. "Dumbledore took Lucius to his office with Snape; to interrogate him further, I guess."

"I wonder if he's still going to get into trouble with the Ministry," Hermione said to no-one in particular, a gleam of thoughtfulness in her eyes as she gazed into the space before her. "Even though Lucius may now have Dumbledore to back him up, he's still a convicted Death Eater. And the Ministry is not likely to forget that, not especially now since people are starting to demand more Death Eaters to be brought to justice."

Harry frowned. "They can't throw him to Azkaban, can they?"

"Well, he's probably committed enough crimes to deserve at least a year in Azkaban," she admitted.

"But he isn't a killer or anything -"

"Bribery, conspiring against the Ministry, public threats against the Wizarding community, at least some sort of torture," Ron started to list, tapping his splayed fingers as went on, "attacks on Ministry officials, not to mention the kidnapping of one Harry Potter." He shrugged. "Sorry, mate, but Malfoy isn't that much of a innocent person."

"I'm not claiming he's an angel walking the earth," Harry snapped, crossing his arms with an annoyed huff. "But I think there are worse Death Eaters out there the Ministry ought to catch instead of Lucius."

"You can't expect people to forgive a man like Lucius Malfoy just like that," Hermione said softly. "As far as the general public is concerned, he's one of the most dangerous wizards you could encounter."

Harry ran a frustrated hand through his hand. "I know that. And I'm not defending him or anything, I just... " He sighed, his shoulders dropping. "He could a valuable asset to our side if he's given a chance. Imagine the things he knows, being close to Voldemort must have some access to all kinds of information we have no clue of."

"That's true," Hermione remarked, nodding her head. "I figure the Headmaster and Professor Snape are going to question him quite exhaustively."

"They should," Ron muttered in a dark tone and sullenly glared at his feet. "To make sure he isn't going to murder us in our sleep."

One eyebrow raised, Harry eyed him. "Didn't you think the same thing about Draco in the beginning?"

Ron coloured slightly. "I might have."

"And what do you think of Draco now?" Harry pressed. "Do you still think Draco will retrieve a knife from the kitchens and butcher us into our beds?"

"Of course not." Ron scrunched up his nose, scowling. "But this is Malfoy senior we're talking about here. He's – he's... "

"A bastard?" Harry mildly suggested. "Rotten? Scum of the earth?" Seeing Ron about to nod, Harry sighed. "Yes, Ron, he might be all of the above. Believe me, I know. But what he isn't... He's not evil, Ron, not evil to the core. Remember, I saw him." He swallowed, looking away for a short period of time. "I saw how he tortured, how he maimed – how Voldemort made him do that. I saw the hatred in Lucius' eyes when he was forced to lead the attacks, I saw the disdain. The point is, that even though Lucius is a manipulative, cold-hearted snob, he's not a killer. He's not some Greyback who enjoys ripping wizards apart."

"We get that, Harry," Hermione said quietly, her hand soothingly resting on Harry's leg. "It's just so sudden, you know. All the Malfoys have turned their backs on Voldemort now, haven't they?" A slight smile crossed her face like a brief shadow. "Voldemort must be pleased."

Harry imagined the rage and fury Voldemort would most definitely experience upon realizing he had lost control of the Malfoy family, and smiled. "Yeah, I guess so."

After a moment, a furtive knock on the dormitory door interrupted them. "Harry?"

"Yeah?" Harry called back, getting to his feet.

"Malfoy's downstairs," came Seamus' muffled voice. "He demands to be let in to see you."

"I told him to wait until I get back," Harry muttered disdainfully, then cleared his throat and spoke louder. "Thanks Seamus, I'll get down in a minute."

"Okay. Just hurry, with the way he screams through the portrait, I don't think anyone will dare to let him in by themselves."

Sounds like Draco all right. Harry suppressed a sigh. "I'll retrieve the little brat, wait here, okay?"

When Harry descended the stairs downstairs, he suddenly understood Seamus' worry and winced at the painful volume with Draco was using his voice.

"- you disgraceful mongrels, you will regret the day you won't allow me in to see Harry! I know you can hear me, you snivelling cretins! Open this ridiculous portrait at once or I will doom you to your premature, very painful deaths!"

Hurrying across the common room full of slack-jawed Gryffindors, Harry reached the portrait and hastily cracked it open. "Draco!" he hissed at the rather disgruntled Slytherin standing there with flushed cheeks and blazing eyes. "What are you doing?"

Draco gave him a long look. "Waiting for you. Obviously." Then he pushed past Harry and sauntered into the common room, glancing around with an expression of distaste, just as always when he stepped a toe inside the Gryffindor territory.

Quickly slamming the portrait back closed, Harry followed the blonde Slytherin. "Draco, I told you I'd come back down when I'm finished here."

"Yes, well. I got tired of waiting."

Why, why god why? Harry shook his head, wondering about the age-old question all his class mates seemed to ponder from time to time. Why did the fates choose to form such an odd couple?

"I see." Harry sighed and grabbed Draco's hand. Draco didn't resist. On the contrary, he sent a smug look at the surrounding students, as if to say ha, I am the one who gets to hold Harry's hand, you miserable dunderheads. "Come on then, Ron and Hermione are upstairs."

Draco allowed himself to be pulled up the stairs, away from the gawking students, and even held his tongue as Harry lead him to the dormitory where Ron and Hermione were patiently waiting by the beds.

"So," Draco immediately said, looking from Ron to Hermione through hooded eyes. "I guess you heard about my father."

"Yes, we did," Hermione nodded, her tone a little unsure. She didn't seem to know how to proceed with Draco. "That was a surprise, to say the least."

Ron merely harrumphed and looked the other way. Harry narrowed his eyes at him, annoyed.

"Ron can't wrap his mind around the fact that Lucius isn't the most rotten apple around," Harry muttered loud enough for Ron to hear. Ron scoffed.

Draco gave a shrug, but didn't comment the matter further. Harry felt a prickle of pride at his attitude - normally, Draco would have instantly picked a fight with Ron. He ran his fingers against Draco's arm as a sign of gratitude, and Draco seemed to understand as he shot a small smile at him.

"Well," the Slytherin merely drawled, "it was a big surprise to me, too. I can imagine that many people are rather baffled at this."

"Have you heard anything new?" Harry asked, sitting down on his bed and pulling Draco down with him. He glanced at the clock. "Is Lucius still with Dumbledore?"

"As far as I know. There must be a lot to discuss, I'd wager."

"Yeah, I guess so. Do you think your mother has has been informed already?"

"I sent a letter to her just a moment ago, so she'll know soon." A slight smile made Draco's lips curl upwards. "I know she'll be overjoyed. She never wanted father to be a Death Eater. I remember the arguments they had when I was just a few years old." He shook his head. "But he was stubborn as stone, thought the Dark Lord was something great. Obviously, he was wrong from the start."

"We all make mistakes." Harry squeezed Draco's knee casually. Though Lucius' mistakes are the biggest ever made was left unsaid, but no-one bothered to comment on that. Draco merely snorted, gently cupping Harry's hand with his own.

"So," Hermione murmured after a moment of silence, just the touch of uncertainty in her voice. "What does all this mean to you, Draco?" At Draco's bemused frown, she helpfully added, "How does this change your life, now that Lucius is on our side, too? Weren't you afraid of being disowned before?"

"Oh." Draco didn't say anything for awhile, head slightly bowed as he softly stroked Harry's hand with his thumb. "Well, obviously, I'm not going to be disowned," he continued monotonously. "And even if my father manages to avoid Azkaban and all that, we can't never be like a …. " He gave a small sneer, "a normal family of sorts. Of course, though, I'm overjoyed that I don't have to fear that Lucius would either kill me or deliver me to Voldemort. Other than that... I haven't really thought about it."

Draco's eyes, fastened to the canopy of Harry's bed, were shadowed and dark despite his light statement. Clearly, Harry noted, he didn't want to reveal everything on his heart in the presence of Hermione and Ron. With understanding, Harry gave almost an invisible nod and received a firm stroke of a thumb across his palm as a reply.

"Can we go to my rooms, Harry?" Draco soon asked, his voice carefully blank. "I'm getting tired."

Shooting an apologetic look at his friends, Harry rose. "Of course. I'll see you guys later, okay?" he added to his friends, Draco's grip on Harry's hand invisible to the bare eye, hidden beneath the heavy folds of their robes.

"We'll wait for you in the Great Hall for dinner," Hermione immediately agreed. Ron, looking a little less enthusiastic, just nodded with a grim twist of his lips. Harry caught his eye before leaving, however, and the redhead's reluctant expression somewhat relaxed at Harry's silent plea. Please, just try and understand, Ron. Even though I will share things with Draco and he will with me, it doesn't lessen our friendship.

The pair of boys trekked down the narrow staircase and quietly crossed the common room, tuning out the curiously buzzing Gryffindors. Harry thought he caught the words "Lucius" and "Dumbledore" and "broke a curse" amid the hum. So the word already broke out, he mused, shutting the portrait behind them. Rumours really travel fast around the school.

Once they reached the peace and quietness of Draco's rooms, the blonde let out a sigh, a sound so jaded and lost Harry's heart gave a painful twinge. He gently lead Draco to the nearest armchair and gathered the Slytherin into his arms as comfortably as he could, with Draco being slightly taller and heavier than him. Draco, for once, let down his guard and allowed himself to be comforted, tucking his head against Harry's shoulder and his pale hair spread over Harry's arm like a shiny halo of light.

They were silent for a moment, Harry stroking Draco's hair, easing out the few knots there that had managed to appear despite Draco's frequent anti-knotting-charms and Frizz Free-shampoo he worshipped. "You okay?" Harry finally asked, wondering whether the other boy had fallen asleep.

"My life is so screwed up, Harry", Draco muttered against Harry's shirt, his voice muffled. "Just think of it! I was raised to be a pureblood snob among the Dark Arts and everyone thought my parents and I would be either in Azkaban or dead before long. Now, it's all upside down; I'm dating the icon of the light, according to my mother she couldn't care less about serving the Dark Lord, and my father, the ultimate Death Eater, just performed a dramatical double cross while saving my boyfriend's life." Draco sighed again. "Why can't I just have normal life, Harry? Why can't I be the normal kid with the normal family and with the normal past?"

Oh don't I know what he's talking about. "Sometimes, you can't be normal," he said softly. "What's done in the past, can't be undone, but it's the future you can affect, Draco. You may have a little... uncommon family and upbringing, but so do I." He gave a humourless laugh. "We will just have to bear our abnormalities, won't we?"

Draco tilted his head backwards a little. His mercury eyes were misty and light with wonder. "When did you become so smart? That sounded so very Granger-like."

This time, Harry's chuckle was for real. "You can't escape her influence. It affects everyone."

"I really hope that excludes me." Draco let his head droop back. "Merlin, we're one messed up pair, aren't we?"

"I guess you could say that," Harry mused with a light half-smile. "Well, at least life is never boring with us, if that makes you feel better."

"I'd definitely choose having a blood-crazed psychopath after me over boredom anytime, yes."

"Prat," Harry said with fondness.

"Git," came the tender reply, accompanied by a low chortle. "My git."

"Yeah." Harry bent his head a little to nuzzle Draco's nose with his own. "I'm your git and you're my prat."

There was a small pause. "Well, I did say we're messed up. This kind of proves it, I think."

Their soothing snuggle on the armchair – even though Harry started to go numb under Draco's rather considerable weight before long, he didn't have the heart to tell the prat to budge – was soon interrupted by a loud knock that somehow managed to sound haughty and demanding. Harry craned his neck to get a glimpse of the door; he wasn't that surprised that his eyes encountered the words "Lucius Malfoy" being carved above the doorway. Before Draco had managed to get himself up and straightened, Severus Snape had joined the former Death Eater.

No Dumbledore though, which Harry took as a good sign. If Lucius were being sent to Azkaban after all, I suppose the Headmaster would have escorted Lucius here himself to bid goodbye to his son.

As a sign of unity, Harry went to stand beside Draco as the blonde hovered in front of the door, an uncertain expression on his face. Draco glanced at him when Harry brushed his hand against his and offered a smile, and determination and confidence immediately took over Draco's features as if he had drawn strength from Harry's sheer presence. "It's going to be fine," Harry whispered almost inaudibly into Draco's ear just as the Slytherin reached a hand to open the door, and Draco nodded.

"Father," he said, his voice betraying nothing as he swung the door open. "Professor Snape."

"Draco, son." Lucius stood there, still in his looming, ink-black robes, his long, blond hair tied back with a leather strap. His face was composed, yet somehow drained and hollow. Silvery eyes, so like Draco's, flickered towards Harry. "Mr. Potter."

"Mr. Malfoy," Harry offered as politely as he could, stepping slightly aside to allow the two older men to pass. Snape spared a cursory glance at the boys, keeping a trained eye on Lucius' broad back. Still suspicious, I see, Harry thought. Well, Snape has lots of reasons to be paranoid.

Draco, ever the gracious host, asked if anyone wanted some refreshments once they were seated, Harry sitting on one corner of the sofa while Snape and Lucius occupied an armchair each.

"Some Goblin-made wine would surely be satisfactory," Lucius remarked, inclining his head. Snape requested brandy whereas Harry stubbornly stuck to his Muggle-upbringing and ordered a coke. Lucius' eye twitched. It twitched even more when Draco calmly asked the house elf to bring him a can of coke, as well, but he didn't say anything.

In a couple of minutes, Draco had joined Harry on the sofa and they were all sipping their drinks. Harry had to mask his bout of laughter into a snort-like cough at watching Draco tasting his rebellious choice of beverage. The blonde sniffed at the tall glass, eyeing the sparkling liquid with apprehension before taking a cautious sip – his eyes widened in alarm as he felt the fizzy drink wildly bubbling in his mouth for the first time in his life. Apparently, wizards didn't use carbonic acid that much. Oh how I pity them.

"What did the Headmaster have to say?" Draco finally enquired after he had recovered from the shock of being attacked by his drink, setting down his glass on the table in front of them. Harry was pretty sure the glass would remain untouched.

"Headmaster Dumbledore has allowed me to seek sanctuary from Hogwarts for as long as I need," Lucius said. He glanced at Snape, a touch of disdain flashing in his eyes. "For the time being, as long as I have a... chaperone, I am also allowed to spend time freely with my son or whoever I wish. Naturally though, I am forbidden to contact any of my previous colleagues unless I am so asked by someone from the Order."

"Lucius' wand also has a very severe tracking charm that turns it into dust if it is used to perform Dark Arts," Snape added, his voice holding a tiny amount of gloating which made Harry think it had been Snape who had suggested that particular charm. "His owls are being monitored and he is to check with either Lupin or Kingsley every two days once he is allowed to leave the castle. He is to assist the Order in every way he can, providing inside information and so on."

Lucius favoured Snape with a small sneer. "Yes. I have become the lapdog of your precious Order."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Beats Azkaban, though, doesn't it?" he countered, rather bodly.

Lucius gazed at his son, something flickering beneath the icy silver. "Indeed," he finally said, softly and quietly. "For that, I am grateful and indebted. Though it has lowered my living standards regrettably..."

"Where are you living now, then?"

"In the guest rooms next to that... " Again, Lucius' glanced at Harry discreetly and seemed to restrain himself. "Next to Lupin's. I will stay here for the remaining of the school year since the Manor is rather unsafe at the moment."

Knowing Lucius had meant to say "that werewolf" or something worse, Harry narrowed his eyes at the tall blonde. The fact that Lucius had, however, caught his tongue and changed tracks instead of openly insulted Remus made Harry stay silent instead of snapping at Lucius. At least he's trying.

"Is mother coming here, too?"

"We shall see, Draco, we shall see. It is up to her whether she chooses to stay here with us or at Hogsmeade." Once more, Harry felt Lucius' eyes on him for one brief second. "So, how have you been, son? I see you received your own private rooms."

Draco shrugged. "I've been alright. I haven't been hurt or anything. It's Harry who has suffered more, to be honest."

"I see," Lucius said again, and this time, his gaze stayed locked on Harry instead of just discreetly passing by. Harry met his gaze unflinchingly, not the one to back down. "Mr. Potter. I notice my son has taken a shine on you."

"Er... " Harry exchanged glances with Draco, uncertain. Draco's face was made of pale marble, but his hand sought out Harry's again. Harry turned back to Lucius to see him eyeing their joined hands with one, pale eyebrow raised. "Yes. I guess you can say that."

"A half-blood and a Gryffindor, Draco." Lucius gave a small shake of his head. "Have I not taught you better?"

Harry felt Draco stiffen and even Snape sat more upright, if humanely possible. "Harry's the best thing ever that has happened to me," hissed the Slytherin with venom, gripping Harry's even tighter. "He's honest and brave and loyal and kind – more of a man you'll ever be."

"And he cares for you?" Lucius asked, his voice soft and razor-sharp at the same time. "He's willing to give his life if it means saving you? He's willing to risk it all, just for you?"

Before Draco could retort, Harry leaned forward and unwaveringly stared into Lucius' eyes. "Yes, to all of those. There's nothing I wouldn't do for Draco, nothing." Harry scoffed at the older man. "You don't deserve a son like Draco. Not even close."

"I know," was all Lucius suddenly listlessly replied, and Harry sat back, blinking in surprise. "Draco, son... I can't say I welcome this... liaison between you two with open arms, but I have seen that what you have, is real and true." At the blank looks around him, he added, "Remember, I caught some visions from Mr. Potter myself. What I witnessed was pure and honest. Reckless and foolhardy as well, yes, but alas, you are still young and have a long, hard journey ahead of you into adulthood. You are my only son, Draco, and while I see this kind of involvement as a weakness, it may become a strength for you." He stood up abruptly. "I believe now is the time to see what kind of accommodations have been arranged for me, don't you agree, Severus?"

Snape rose from his chair as well, his mouth a tight line. "As you wish, Lucius. I will see you boys at dinner."

The Potions Master nodded at Harry and Draco before sweeping out of the rooms with long, impatient strides. Lucius followed him with a little more gracefully, momunteraily stopping at the doorway to glance over his shoulder. His face showed more emotion Harry had ever seen, his jaw relaxed and eyes smouldering within. "Draco. I am glad to see you are well."

He was out with the door shut behind him before Draco could work up a reply. Silence reigned in the rooms for a moment.

"Well." Harry blinked again. "That went well, didn't it?"

"I'm not sure myself," Draco murmured, drawing Harry close and holding him like a child would hold a teddy-bear. Harry didn't mind that much.

"Do we have his blessing or what?" Harry asked, burrowing deeper into the warmth of Draco's body. "It's a bit unclear for me."

"Who cares if we have someone's blessing," Draco scoffed. He rested his chin on Harry's shoulder, his breath pleasantly tickling the skin on Harry's cheek. "We're in this together, Harry, you and me. The future may not seem that bright, but it's our future. We have the power to change it, together."

They kissed and it tasted of hope and of better tomorrow.

finite (for now)