Harry walked through the dusty halls of Malfoy Manor, wand held ready. So far, he had not encountered anything overly dangerous, but it would be stupid to let his guard down. He cast Detection Spells as he walked.
A sound startled him and he whirled around, crouching with a defensive spell on his lips. A fat rat waddled out from behind a suit of armour. Harry straightened with a moue of disgust. The rat regarded him with flat black eyes and then scampered down the hall and disappeared around a corner.
Harry sighed and looked around. A rat. Narcissa Malfoy would be mortified. Hell, Harry was mortified. The Manor was a wreck. It was worse than Harry had imagined. The place had fallen into horrible disrepair during the past six years.
"Godric, what am I doing here?" Harry muttered. With a sigh, he turned back to his duties.
Two weeks previous
"You asked to see me, Mrs Malfoy?" Harry asked formally, standing nervously in the living room of the Malfoy's new home, although "new" was relative, as they had lived in Bath for six years. Everything looked shiny, expensive, and breakable.
"Don't be so formal, Harry," Narcissa said, walking forward and taking his hands in hers. She led him forward until they reached the sofa, where she released him and gestured for him to sit.
Harry suppressed his unease, but still looked around cautiously, wondering where Lucius and Draco were, and if they were even home. Narcissa offered Harry tea, which he accepted to be polite, and then sat and waited while a house-elf popped in and served them both silently before disappearing.
He held the delicate-looking cup carefully and took a pretend sip. Harry was no Auror, but he wasn't an idiot, either. He had no idea whether or not the Malfoys could be trusted and he preferred to take no chances.
"What did you want to see me about?" he asked and set the cup on the table in front of him.
She took a drink and then smiled at him. For some reason, the expression was alarming. Harry wasn't sure he would be able to refuse any request she made of him.
"Your straightforward nature is rather refreshing, Harry."
He gave her a pained smile and hoped she planned to get to the point before Lucius Malfoy decided to join them. Harry had only seen the elder Malfoy twice in the past half-decade and he would like to keep that number to a minimum.
"Very well. I asked you here because I have heard of your excellent reputation as a Curse Breaker. Is there anything you cannot do?" Her voice rang with admiration, but Harry was quite sure much of it—if not all—was false.
"There is quite a lot I cannot do, Mrs Malfoy," he said dryly.
She nodded. "I am sorry, Harry. You probably hear that sycophantic nonsense all the time. Regardless, I do think you can help me. And please call me Narcissa."
Harry only smiled politely.
"Very well. As you know, we moved out of the Manor after the war. It had too many… unpleasant memories for us at the time. Especially for Draco." A shadow crossed her face and Harry remembered how much she cared for her son. Apparently, that had not lessened over the years. His attitude softened slightly.
"I know," Harry said quietly. "I assumed it was because…"
She nodded. "Because he had lived there. But that is not the whole reason." She took a drink of her tea and then set it down once more, looking pensive. "Harry, while the Dark Lord… while Voldemort was living in the Manor, he took great joy in making it as difficult as possible to live in. He seemed to hate the trappings of our wealth, almost as much as he hated us. He destroyed… so many things." She picked up her cup once more, but only stared into it intently, as if trying not to remember, or trying to fight back tears. Harry plucked at the edge of his robe, saying nothing, not wanting to drown in his own memories.
Narcissa set the cup down, almost violently. The sound startled Harry, but she got to her feet and walked a few steps, robes rustling. "And he let them do unspeakable things. They were all in our house, in my home, taking what they would, destroying what they would." Her hands curled into fists and she glared at him through wild blue eyes. "I hated them. I wanted to Crucio the lot of them. Fenrir. Dolohov. Even my own sister. They stole my heirlooms; they smashed my artworks; they ruined things that had been in our families for centuries. We were powerless to stop them. We could barely protect ourselves. You saw how well that worked out."
She was shaking and pulled her hands close to her chest as she looked away, visibly struggling to regain control. "I spent most of the time in my room, behind multiple Locking Charms. Dark Locking Charms. A wrong word from Lucius and I would have been given to any of them as a plaything. We both knew it. That, more than anything, kept Lucius obedient. Dolohov wanted me. And Fenrir, that unspeakable horror." She shuddered and Harry recoiled at the thought of Greyback touching anyone.
Narcissa sighed. "It was a long time ago, and yet it feels like yesterday. The Dark Lord contented himself with setting Draco on a mission doomed to failure and left me alone, but he never stopped them from doing what they would to the Manor. There was very little of value left when they were done. The Ministry destroyed even more when they went in later, searching for Dark Objects." She laughed humourlessly. "As it turned out, there were far too many for them to bother with."
She sat down once more, facing him. "And that is where you come in, Harry. You see, I want my home back. I want Draco's legacy returned to him. I miss my gardens and the peace of Wiltshire. I want to go home."
Harry swallowed and nodded, still not quite sure what she wanted.
"Your skill as a Curse Breaker is well-known. I want you to go to the Manor and eradicate the cursed objects and traps. The others thought it would be amusing to curse anything they couldn't steal. They were bored while he was away, and sought to outdo one another. The only livable areas are the kitchen, dining room, parlour, and a few of the bedrooms. The rest of it is dangerous. Lucius journeys there, on occasion, and tries to deal with them, but some are beyond his ability. The Lestranges were… creative."
Harry recoiled at the very thought of it. He hadn't known his revulsion for certain Death Eaters could increase, but apparently there were untapped levels of horror. There was probably even more he would rather not know. "You want me to go to the Manor and…"
She nodded. "Do what you do best. Break the curses and clear out the traps so that we can return. I'm sure Lucius would be willing to help."
Harry's eyes widened and he quickly shook his head. He had little doubt that spending five minutes in Lucius Malfoy's presence would be a very bad idea. They would either get into a shouting match or kill each other.
"Or Draco…" she continued.
Harry shook his head, visualizing much the same scenario with the younger Malfoy. "No! No, I think I'll be fine on my own," he said quickly and then winced, realizing he had just agreed to the job.
Narcissa sat back with a satisfied smirk. Damn the Malfoys. They all had the same expression whenever they got their way. It brought back too many memories of Hogwarts, and of Draco Malfoy. Harry hadn't seen him since the night of the final battle—not even once. They had kept a wide distance from one another. Harry had returned his wand by owl post and Malfoy had sent back a formal note with a simple thank you scrawled in an elegant hand. Sometimes Harry liked to pretend the thanks was for more than just the wand, but it was probably wishful thinking.
Harry limped into a bright room whose outer walls were large floor to ceiling windows. The roof was also glass, slightly dimmed from a coating of grime, but it was a welcome change from the near-darkness of the rest of the house.
It had once been a conservatory, but the plants had gone wild; it now resembled an indoor jungle. Harry heard running water and pushed his way beneath the hanging branches of a willow tree and discovered a small fountain bubbling with clear water. The imp statue in the centre of the pool looked less than trustworthy. After what Harry had been through, he was taking no chances. He cast several spells on the statue and was relieved when it was just what it seemed to be—a carved piece of stone.
Harry sat on the lip of the pond and looked down at his right thigh. His jeans were torn and a bloody gash was visible through the edges of the fabric. A boggart had taken him by surprise. Apparently he no longer feared dementors, but werewolves, most likely a souvenir left by his last encounter after the war. He and the others had willingly helped the Aurors round up straggling bands who continued to fight. Several of those groups had been werewolves; leftovers from Fenrir's pack, mostly.
He looked at the water and debated washing it off. It hadn't been a real werewolf claw, so it wasn't diseased, but it still felt unclean. After glancing around for a moment, he decided it was better to take no chances. Who knew what sort of germs boggarts carried? He would have to research it when he got home. Hermione would probably know.
The Manor was deserted. It looked as though no one had been in it for years. Cobwebs had been the most common element. Harry was quite alone. He had, of course, notified Ron and Hermione of his destination, in the event he didn't return by dinnertime. They would rush to rescue him, if necessary.
Harry toed off his trainers and shucked his jeans. He sat back down on the cool stone and scooped a handful of water onto the bloody cut. After a momentary sting, it felt wonderful and soothing. It also felt rather nice to be wearing only pants. Curse-breaking was hard work and it was a warm day. He hadn't wanted to waste any magical energy on Cooling Charms.
The blood washed away, leaving the gash red, but after a moment the fresh blood slowed to a trickle. It would do until Harry could get home and apply a Healing Salve. His jeans were not so lucky. Harry held them up and surveyed the red-tinted tear with dismay. He was pants at Mending Charms.
He dropped them, deciding to deal with it after lunch. He had packed along a sandwich and two bottles of butterbeer, knowing he would be at the Manor most of the day. After breaking ridiculous curses all morning, including a damned oversized vase that had been spelled to try and eat the face of the nearest passerby, Harry was exhausted and hungry.
The stone was uncomfortable and the fountain kept splashing water on him, so he picked up his backpack and wand and wandered through the foliage. There had to be a bench or seat, somewhere.
He pushed past some roses whose petals littered the ground in a pink and brown carpet and located a seat. "Thank Merlin," he said and dropped his backpack. The chair was large, wooden, and ornately carved. It almost looked like a throne, like some sort of throwback to an earlier era. Harry had seen several of its ilk scattered throughout the Manor. This one was formed of some sort of dark wood, walnut, perhaps. A scattering of leaves rested on the seat and the arms. Harry brushed them away and then cast a Cleaning Charm to rid it of dust.
He settled into it with a grateful sigh. It must have been spelled, because the seat felt more like a soft cushion than hard wood, which was a pleasant surprise. And unpleasant surprise gripped him a moment later, when wooden tentacles sprang from the chair and bound him tightly at wrists and ankles.
Harry held onto his wand, thank Merlin. "Fucking hell!" he muttered and wrenched as hard as he could with his limbs, but his wrists were tightly lashed to the chair arms, as were his ankles to the legs. The bindings were solid wood, as unmoving as the chair itself, now that he was locked in place. Why had he not thought to test the ruddy chair for curses?
No matter, he still had his wand.
Twenty minutes later, Harry was frustrated, angry, and beginning to panic. None of his massive repertoire of spells had any effect on the stupid chair. It was insane. It seemed there was no help for it. He would simply have to wait until Ron and Hermione came looking for him. Which should only be… six more hours.
A half hour later, he was surprised by a pop. A house-elf stood near the fountain. It blinked at him and Harry blinked back before shouting, "Thank Merlin! Can you help me?"
It stared at him for a moment longer and then calmly turned away and walked around the fountain to stop before a camellia bush. Harry frowned as it began to pluck leaves from the plant. Was the house-elf performing some sort of ritual?
"Erm… will that help to free me?" he asked tentatively.
The house-elf ignored him and then popped out of sight. Harry smacked the back of his head against the chair in annoyance. He should have guessed one of the Malfoy house-elves would never bother to help him.
Then again, the place was a disaster. It was obvious none of the house-elves were in residence; or if they were, they certainly were not bothering to clean the place. What was it doing here?
Oh. Probably gathering items to take back to Bath for one of the Malfoys. Of course. Potion ingredients, perhaps. Harry settled back once more, tapping his wand against the arm of the chair in a bored rhythm. Waiting was wretched.
Draco watched as the house-elf sprinkled several drops of cognac into the chocolate and stirred. He nodded in satisfaction.
"Very good, Poppy. Stir that no less than sixty times and then we will add the raspberries. Where the devil is Mutton?"
As if called by the name, Mutton popped into the room.
"Finally! How long does it take to fetch a few camellia leaves?" Draco asked in exasperation and held out his hand expectantly.
"Mutton is being sorry, Master Draco, but Mutton was being confused by Master's guest."
Draco took the leaves and checked them over carefully. They all seemed to be excellent specimens, shiny and deeply veined on one side. Perfect for making chocolate leaves. He frowned and looked at the elf again. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Master's guest is being tied to the Throne of Torment in Master's conservatory," Mutton replied and began to wring his hands, likely wondering if he had done something wrong.
"There is someone in the conservatory?"
"Yes, Master. He is being helpless and asking Mutton to free him."
Interesting. Draco frowned, wondering who could have entered the Manor without permission. Even outwardly abandoned, the mansion was protected by strong familial wards.
"Very well. Mutton, paint these with chocolate and let them chill. I will go check on my guest and be right back. Poppy, keep up with that and then pour it into the prepared moulds. We will work on the white chocolate when I return."
Draco left the house-elves working and headed for the conservatory. He had been secretly visiting the Manor kitchen for several months now, ever since he had come up with the idea of making chocolate. His parents thought he was merely a useless layabout and spent his time in decadent orgies with his friends, but Draco spent far more time concocting new recipes than he did listening to Pansy prattle on about her latest conquest.
Blaise had married Daphne Greengrass' annoying younger sister. Aster, or something Draco could never remember. The chances of orgies were slim, frankly, much to Draco's regret. It had been a long time and an orgy might not be turned down. He rolled his eyes at himself, knowing the thought was a lie. Draco preferred celibacy to emotional entanglements.
He carefully bypassed the suit of armour that shot flames from his eyes whenever anyone passed. He halted when no fire shot forth. That was odd. He wondered if the spell had worn off. It would be nice if they all wore off. Draco liked the house in Bath, but it wasn't the same. He missed his childhood home, which was one reason he came here to practice his skill as a chocolatier.
His confections were becoming popular with the mail-order crowd. It was getting harder for him to keep up with orders. He sold them under the label of Draconis Decadence.
Draco reached the conservatory and pushed his way inside, grimacing when he saw the condition of the place. It had always been light, airy, and restful. Now, it looked like a filthy warren of overgrown foliage. It was probably filled with nasty vermin, also.
Holding his wand high, he walked in the direction of the camellias, treading carefully. If someone was trapped in the Throne of Torment, he would not be going anywhere for a while, but that did not preclude him having wand in hand and using it to hex Draco at first sight.
Dead leaves crunched as Draco walked over them. "Is someone there?" he heard.
Instead of replying, Draco stepped through the final barrier of ivy leaves and got his first look at the trapped man. A wide grin curved his lips, amusement winning over his astonishment.
"Potter?" he asked by way of verification. It wasn't so much the fact that Potter was there, or that he was trapped in a magical chair, but that he seemed to be wearing no trousers. His bare legs were clad only in white socks.
"Fuck," Potter said. "It would have to be you."
"This is my house, Potter," Draco said dryly and kept walking forward to examine the bound man. Besides the socks, Potter wore a simple black t-shirt, and judging by the edge of fabric visible beneath the shirt, green pants. Potter's famous wand was clutched in his fist, directed unwaveringly at Draco.
"I realize that. Do you know why I'm here?"
It seemed a loaded question. Did Potter have a valid reason for being in the Manor? Draco shrugged, declining to answer.
Potter scowled, a look that Draco found surprisingly familiar, despite the not-quite-familiar face that housed it. Potter had changed during the past six years. His hair was longer, covering his scar completely and nearly concealing one eye. His spectacles were different, delicate frames instead of the clunky black things that Granger had constantly repaired.
His frame was muscular and very easy on the eyes. His thighs were delectable, even the one that had a bloody wound visible.
Draco shook himself for thinking of Potter as delectable. He had obviously been breathing the cognac fumes too long.
"Are you going to free me?" Potter demanded and then added in a grudging tone, "Please."
Draco walked closer and tugged at the bonds that held Potter's wrists in place. They were solid wood and would not be easily broken. In fact, from what Draco recalled of the chair, they would not be broken at all. He had little doubt Potter had tried.
"What's in it for me, Potter?" Draco asked teasingly. He could barely contain his glee. Something about having Potter bound to a chair, sans trousers… Well, now, that conjured up an entirely different set of ideas. Potter twitched in the chair and his legs flexed—not the smartest move, considering the direction of Draco's thoughts.
"You require a reward for releasing me from one of your cursed pieces of furniture?" Potter asked.
Draco tapped his fingers against his mouth thoughtfully. "Not reward, exactly. More like an incentive. And it isn't my furniture. I'm afraid that piece was brought in by the evil wizard you eradicated."
"Voldemort?" Potter sounded incredulous.
Draco winced at the name, despite himself. He nodded. "That was the one, yes."
"This was Voldemort's chair?"
Draco sympathized with Potter's expression—he looked like he wanted to claw the bonds away with his fingernails to escape. Draco would feel exactly the same if he was sitting there.
Potter relaxed with visible effort and tipped his head back. The movement exposed the line of his throat and Draco's eyes followed it. Potter stared at his though narrowed eyes.
"Incentive. What incentive?"
Several things sprang to mind, none of which Potter would ever allow. Draco looked away and fought to keep his lascivious thoughts from showing in his eyes. What was wrong with him? Potter wasn't that attractive. Even as he thought it, he sneaked a peek at Potter's legs. Fuck it all, he really was attractive.
Draco opened his mouth to speak and then paused. He lifted a finger. "Let me get back to you on that, Potter. I'll be back in a minute."
Draco turned and started out. After a moment of silence, Potter yelled, "Malfoy!" Draco kept going. "Malfoy!"
Draco needed to check on his lemon ganache. And he needed to think.