Title: Siege Mentality
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Profanity, sex, some violence, themes of madness, OC character deaths, DH Spoilers but ignores epilogue.
Summary: Harry Potter is the Ministry's resident expert on Dark magic, and after ten years of cases, he's confident he's seen anything the Dark wizard's mind (and wand) can produce. But there's an unidentified curse on Draco Malfoy, and in the struggle to figure out whether Draco is victim or perpetrator, Harry may well lose more than his life.
Author's Notes: This was written for suonguyen, who won an auction over at livelongnmarry and gave me the following prompt: Here's my three main things - Protective Harry, Bottom Draco, Cursed Draco (not really sexual in nature, maybe something affecting his health or magic or something), and a little bit of angst! oh and Post-War and ignores the Epi. She also asked that they be friends. I think I hit all of these except, perhaps, for the "little bit" of angst. This story will be a chaptered novella, probably ten or eleven parts long, with those parts varying considerably in length. Enjoy!
Part I. Hunters.
"It's about Malfoy."
Harry raised an eyebrow and leaned his hip on the desk. Kingsley looked annoyed, but not annoyed enough to stop him from doing it, which said something interesting right there about how important this case was to him. "What about Draco?" Harry asked, emphasizing the name. "He and I drifted apart when he went to France a few years back, but I assumed that he hasn't done anything so terrible since then. I would have heard about it if he had."
"Well, no," Kingsley said in a tight voice that Harry had become accustomed to hearing in the last few years. Kingsley had lost his first official election for Minister and ended up leading the Aurors again. "That's because three Aurors have died already on this case, and we're trying to keep it quiet to prevent panic."
Harry stepped back from the desk and dropped neatly into the chair in front of it. Kingsley inclined his head, accepting the silent apology. Then he pushed something across the desk towards Harry. "What does that remind you of?" he asked.
Harry picked up the paper—no, the photograph, as it turned out. The colors in it were blurred and shifting, and he had the impression that something had pressed against the camera to deliberately obscure it, perhaps a cloak or a leaf. Then suddenly the dimness cleared, and he could make out a picture of stone pillars and flat rocks, familiar even before he went to Hogwarts.
"Stonehenge," he said in puzzlement, and pushed the picture back towards Kingsley. "Draco's at Stonehenge?" Though the Muggle public liked to think otherwise, there was really nothing more magical about Stonehenge than any other place in Britain.
"No," Kingsley said. He gripped the edge of the picture and glared at it as if it had killed his people. "The last Auror who died, Roger Brinsley, was carrying a special camera with him. It was linked to his eyes and set to transfer the last image he saw back to film at headquarters in case he was knocked unconscious. As it turned out, it also works in the last moments before death." He cleared his throat, and Harry looked off to the side as Kingsley bowed his head and struggled for a moment. His voice was rough when he went on. "But Brinsley's body was discovered on the coast of Wales, miles from Stonehenge."
Harry frowned and glanced back at his superior. "I don't understand why that makes a difference. Whoever killed him—" he didn't say Draco, because he wouldn't believe it was Draco until he held the undeniable evidence in his hand "—could have carried his body there from Stonehenge later."
"We traced every Apparition he had taken," Kingsley said quietly.
Harry blinked. "I didn't know you could do—"
"Experimental Department of Mysteries artifact, not yet released for general use." Despite the solemnity of the moment, Kingsley eyed Harry until he nodded, reluctantly. Harry had caused quite a scandal in the Ministry by getting into the Department of Mysteries and "borrowing" some of their more interesting devices on an early case. Ever since then, Kingsley had deliberately cut him out of the chain of knowledge about new procedures until there was a good chance Harry couldn't cause any damage with them. "It would have revealed if his body had been moved. Or, for that matter, if he had been near Stonehenge." Kingsley exhaled. "He hadn't."
Harry found his eyes narrowing. "And the other Aurors who died?"
"Prunella Henslow and Adam McCormick. Henslow was found drifting in the middle of the sea, but with leaves and branches all tangled through her hair and her hands covered with scratches, as if she'd been last thrashing around in a forest. McCormick apparently died in the cellar of the Ambroses—who were very embarrassed to find him there…"
Harry smirked. The Ambroses had been minor Death Eaters, and twice since the fall of Voldemort they'd tried to establish their credibility by supporting any rumor of a Dark Lord they heard. So far as Harry was concerned, they deserved a bit of embarrassment.
"But his body was filled with the venom of a snake found only in India."
"That still doesn't prove anything," Harry said, determined to be stubborn. He and Draco had made up their differences not long after the Battle of Hogwarts, and then Ron had done something incredibly stupid, and Draco had found out about it, but had warned Harry so he could cover it up in time, rather than trying to blackmail Ron. Ever since then, Harry had been determined to give Draco every fair chance. "Someone could have kept the snake as a pet or a guardian, and poisoned him that way."
"All the evidence points to Malfoy," Kingsley said quietly. "He was the only common thread between the areas that Henslow and McCormick went to. Very far from the forest, the sea, or India, by the way."
"What about the Ambroses' cellar?"
"He was sighted closer to that house than to other places, but there's still apparently no connection. But wherever he's been sighted, a day later, there have been people going mad, having hallucinations, walking off cliffs, permanently blinded—" Kingsley turned his hand palm up on the desk. "I don't want to accuse him without proof. Maybe this isn't his fault. Maybe he's been cursed, a powerful curse that affects other people but leaves him alive. There have been reports of that in other centuries. Curse-Bearers, they were called. Meant to spread havoc. But the problem, Harry, is that we don't know. And now that three Aurors are dead and the press is starting to connect the incidents together, we can't simply leave the situation unmonitored. We'll have to kill him soon."
"You don't recognize the curse at all?" Harry demanded.
"We've been through every book," Kingsley said. "I've had researchers working on this for six months. Including the ones in the Department of Mysteries," he added, when Harry opened his mouth. "I have no idea what's causing it, but it's Dark magic. That's why I'm sending you. I hope that, since you're friends with Malfoy, there's a chance of your getting through to him, maybe ending the curse without having to kill him."
Harry stood. He controlled the vibrating tension within himself to say, "I'll need Brinsley's photograph, and the reports and records of the incidents that Draco was apparently involved in, and the information Henslow and McCormick were working with."
"Of course." Kingsley nodded.
"And that device that tracks Apparitions," Harry went on.
Kingsley started to open his mouth, but Harry raised an eyebrow. He wasn't about to leave that behind. If he could track Draco's Apparitions, then he might be able to prove that Draco hadn't actually gone near the places he was accused of going. Why didn't Kingsley consider it was probably someone glamoured as Draco and trying to cause trouble for him, rather than Draco himself?
With a grumble and a sigh, Kingsley capitulated. "All right. But you'll have to attend an extensive training session before you're granted permission to use it."
Harry accepted that. For a friend, he would do worse.
Forest. He was in the forest again, and running as hard as he could, past roots and clinging branches and scraping twigs, did nothing to cure it. He pulled up, panting, and scrabbled with mad fingers at the wood in front of him.
He could hear the rush of his enemies behind him, the arms decorated with enormous claws reaching out to rend him, the teeth clashing open and shut in the gaping mouth—
He sobbed and dug at the wood, commanding it uselessly in his head to open.
And then it was gone, and the forest was gone, and the beasts chasing him were gone, and Draco turned around within the familiar confines of Malfoy Manor. He stared up the main staircase to the first floor, not quite daring to believe, in case it vanished again the way his good dreams had a habit of doing. Not until he saw the sheen of the candlelight on the stone and wood did he burst into tears of hysterical relief.
Then he turned and followed his nose to the kitchens, which overflowed with the smells of fish and roasted duck and candied fruit. He'd been running through the forest, and before that the desert, and before that the hills, for hours. He needed food.
And then a shower, he thought, laughing a little as the smell of his own sweat-soaked body came to him.
He was home again. He could laugh about that, now.