Chapter Twenty-Three: I Have Minions
Draco artfully arranged himself on his bed, knowing that his Slytherins would come directly to the dorm as soon as they arrived back at Hogwarts. His Slytherins. He liked the sound of that. Even better, the Malfoy Minions. Maybe he'd make them get a mark. A sensible stylized "M" rather than some tacky skull and snake. Whatever had his father been thinking when he allowed something like that to befoul his flawless skin?
Knowing he'd never figure out the answer to that, he went back to his "artful arranging." Should he conjure low stools around the bed for them? Or maybe just cushions to make it easy for them to kneel in his presence? He looked at the wand Pomfrey had threatened to take away if he used it too much. Fuck it; if they wanted to sit, they could conjure it up themselves.
Hearing voices flooding into the common room, he tugged the cuff of his robes over his wrist and waited. Seconds later, the door flew open and his friends poured in.
"Well?" Pansy asked eagerly. "What happened?"
Rude, but he gave her points for enthusiasm. "Before or after my father showed up?"
Mouths dropped open. "What? Why didn't you owl me? Oh, God, Draco, what happened?" Pansy dropped on the bed beside him.
Draco shrugged. "I lied. Very well, I may add. He thinks Potter and I are working on a transfiguration project together."
"I'm lost," Blaise said, quietly demanding an explanation.
Pansy told about Mitchell Flint's attempt at revenge.
"How could you know this and not hex the little shit on the train?" Blaise asked Pansy angrily. "Why didn't you tell us and let us hex the little shit?"
"Because I knew Draco deserved that honor."
Draco nodded, pleased at his minions' righteous anger on his behalf. "She's right. The little shit is mine. But enough about that insignificant speck. I think you were inquiring about a certain binding ceremony--and your subsequent oaths of loyalty, fealty, and allegiance."
"So are you--" Pansy began, reaching for his wrist.
He jerked away from her. "We had the ceremony. Dumbledore officiated. Therefore, the terms of our contract were satisfied and all of you--belong to me."
"But--" Nothing else came out of Blaise's mouth as the contract materialized in front of him. He grabbed it and read, then passed it on.
"Did you at least get married?" Pansy asked. "At least we'll have that protection."
"Not like we'd had if they had been bound," Millicent groused.
"You were right here when we drew up the contract, Millie," Pansy pointed out.
"Well, you're supposed to be the smart one!"
"Draco's the smart one!" Pansy and Blaise shouted together.
Draco laughed. "That I am. Now, grovel at my feet like good little minions."
"Are we screwed, Draco?" Greg asked as he dropped to his knees at the edge of the bed like the rest of the Slytherins. No one conjured a pillow.
"Would I do that to you?" Draco replied, with a slight tsk. "Behold, the power of a Malfoy." With those words he allowed his cuff to slide back, revealing the binding bracelet.
"You sneaky shit," Blaise muttered.
"How?" was the only word Pansy could manage.
"Hell if I know," Draco said in all honesty. "Guess it's what the fuck you get when you fuck around with the fucking savior of the universe."
"Cool," Millicent said, summing it all up.
"So now what?" Vincent asked as he lifted his bulk from the floor, his knees creaking.
"Now," Draco said, patting the edge of his bed. He could be generous in private. "We talk, and we plan."
"You miss being with him."
Harry looked over to where Hermione had plopped down beside him. It was a beautiful day and most of the students had headed outside to study, except for Ron and Seamus who were in detention for some prank pulled in Divinations. Harry was sitting beneath what he, Ron, and Hermione considered "their" tree. Draco was across the lake in the "Slytherin zone." Harry knew this because he'd been studying Draco for most of the hour he'd been sitting there. Was it because he missed being with his bondmate? Classes had resumed three days ago and Draco had been constantly surrounded by the Slytherins. And while it was true that they were never really together, maybe Hermione had a point. Maybe he was missing the contact they'd had during the break. "They take good care of him."
"His year-mates?" Harry nodded. "They're almost Hufflepuff-like when it comes to him," Hermione murmured. "Are they truly going to join the Light side?"
"Yeah. They're just trying to figure out the safest way of doing that."
She opened the book she brought, but even knowledge right there in the palm of her hand couldn't distract Hermione from the sheer pleasure of being outside. She gave up and transfigured a leaf into a blanket. Harry joined her on it, both sprawled in the direction of the Slytherins.
"At first, I thought it was all a ploy," Hermione said. "Draco getting involved with you, getting pregnant. I just knew it was You-Know-Who--"
"Voldemort," Harry corrected familiarly.
"I thought it was a plan by Voldemort to make you vulnerable. But when the binding ceremony worked, I knew it was real. I'm happy for you, Harry."
Harry gave her a smile and went back to staring at Draco. He'd sussed out some things as well. Fact: he'd been under the influence of something when he'd raped Draco. Conclusion: somebody had fucking planned something. He didn't know whether it was to set him up for Azkaban, humiliate Draco, or even if a pregnancy had been part of the original thinking or just an added bonus. Fact: Draco and Snape had figured out who the fucking planner was. Otherwise, they'd be so bloody vigilant that it'd make Mad-Eye Moody come in his trousers. Fact: The two had been quick to drop the investigation. Supposition: it must have been a Slytherin of good standing with the two of them. Otherwise, the perpetrator would have been systematically hunted down and pinned outside the Great Hall by his/her entrails. Fact--no, Supposition: Draco and his Slytherins had been pretty desperate to get away from Voldemort. Sure, Draco had made his final decision based on the baby, but Harry could tell he wasn't devastated by having to give up being a Death Eater. The other Slytherins didn't seem that broken up either.
So, the culprit who had caused him to rape Draco was a Slytherin that Draco and Snape liked, and who desperately wanted a way out of serving Voldemort. Even a Gryffindor, he thought with a smirk, could figure out that it had to be one of Draco's crew who'd done the deed. If not all of them. He reasoned that the others had got together and sacrificed their leader, knowing that if anyone could salvage a bad situation, it was Draco. Draco had probably been furious when he figured it out, but he and Snape would have done their own brand of retribution and considered the matter settled. Harry itched for his piece of the miscreants, too, but realized he'd be crossing the line if he interfered. He and Draco might be bound, but the other Slytherins were still off limits.
And, of course, he was supposed to know nothing about this. Just how mentally challenged did the Slytherins think he was? His poor, betrayed-by-his-friends-for-the-greater-good Draco was in for a rude awakening one day.
Poor Draco. Yeah, right. The git, after his initial anger, probably got off on being the "sacrificial lamb" for the Slytherins. A noble martyr and all that rot. Or not. "I wish I knew him better," Harry mused aloud.
"You're going to be spending the rest of your lives together. I think you'll figure him out sooner or later."
Harry unclenched the fingers he found suddenly digging in the dirt. "I might not have that much later, Hermione."
"It's true and you know it. After Sirius... I wasn't suicidal or anything, but I came to accept that I probably wouldn't live to see twenty. My only concern was that when I went, I took Voldemort with me. But now... My child might grow up like me. I mean, with Draco changing sides, his odds of survival are nearly as low as mine."
"He won't grow up like you, Harry," Hermione said, smiling wistfully at him. "No matter what happens, he'll know he's the son of Harry Potter. The Wizarding world will make sure of that. Even Voldemort can't wipe out all the Weasleys."
Harry laughed. "Said by the most probable candidate for being the newest Weasley."
She blushed. "Ron and I haven't got that serious quite yet."
"Well, maybe you would be if he could keep his arse out of detention," Harry pointed out helpfully.
"Hush, Harry. Ron and I are right where we want to be. And speaking of being in the right place, I think you're going to be there in a minute."
He looked up to see Draco approaching them. Pansy Parkinson called out something to stop him, then she joined him in the walk to the Gryffindors.
"Draco." He wasn't too sure how he was supposed to act in public. Sure, Parkinson had seen him with Draco but both times had been in emergencies.
Draco seemed to understand his reticence. "Don't worry about Pans. I was coming to talk to you by myself, but she said if you were going to have your fag hag with you, I needed one, too."
Harry turned quickly to Hermione, ready to soothe her ruffled feathers. But he found her grinning at her counterpart.
"Want to get T-shirts?" Hermione asked wickedly.
"We'll talk," Pansy said with a smirk.
Women. Maybe there was a reason he was married to Draco. "Have a seat," Harry offered. The two Slytherins elegantly folded their limbs onto the blanket.
"My min--compatriots and I have been discussing the future, and although none of us are seers, we know that we won't have a future if Voldemort is not defeated," Draco said quietly.
"None of us will," Harry replied.
"The Sorting Hat has been admonishing us for years, cautioning us that the Houses had to unite inside Hogwarts. It's time to heed its warnings."
"But you and Harry have," Hermione pointed out.
Draco shook his head. "Not inside Hogwarts we haven't. To our fellow students, we're still archrivals."
"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Harry queried. Surely Draco wasn't advocating...
Draco sighed. "It's not my first choice or my second, but it is the best choice. We're not like you Gryffindors. We study a problem first, then act. So believe me when I say this is the best solution, given the information that we know."
"I study first," Hermione protested.
"Time-turner," Harry said, reminding her of how they had saved Buckbeak and Sirius. Dumbledore had made the suggestion, but it had been Hermione's caper all the way.
"So we--" Harry stopped, unable to say it.
"Unless you have an objection?"
He shook his head. He didn't care who knew--unless it put Draco in danger. "Is this safe? For you?"
Draco stared off into the distance. "I gave up 'safe' the moment I chose you, Harry."
There was a drawn out, painful moment of silence.
"This will work," Pansy declared. "It's time we stopped ignoring those who would help us simply because it goes against what we've been taught. We need to go back to the old ways, to trusting the signs, to listening to the omens and warnings. We know Potter is the key, that he will defeat You-Know-Who. But this--conflict, war, whatever, is not just Potter and the Dark Lord. We all have to play our parts."
Harry was impressed, and he could tell Hermione was also. They'd been so blinded by Voldemort being a Slytherin that they hadn't considered that shrewdness, cunning, and ambition weren't bad traits to possess.
Harry reached slowly for Draco's shoulder. "Your father?"
"Will be pissed, especially after lying to his face the other day. But I think I've devised a way of delaying his knowing."
Harry nodded, trusting Draco to do what was in Draco's best interest. It was very liberating not having to worry that someone was possibly sacrificing himself or herself for him. "Then that's what we'll do--play our parts. How do you want to do this, Draco?"
"With wands fully drawn?" Draco muttered. Then he lifted his head proudly and gave a full-blown Malfoy smirk. "Like I do everything, Harry--with style."
Chapter Twenty-Four: Great Hall Encounters
Draco surveyed the view from the Gryffindor table--and was not impressed. Hmph. You'd think Dumbledore's Golden Boy would have a decent view. But no, the Great Hall was just that and nothing more. Pity.
It was early yet and the sunshine was tempting the majority of the students to stay outside as long as possible so the room was empty, except for a trio of young Hufflepuffs who were giggling over something and not paying any attention to the room's other occupants. Such silly creatures. He and Blaise had a bet that Hufflepuffs would giggle even under Cruciatus. If he'd become a Death Eater, he might have found out.
Hmm. What was the size of that bet?
"Gryffindors on approach," Blaise hissed from his position further down the table. Draco, of course, was next to Harry. Blaise had decided to play gentleman and sat at the end of the row of "traitorous" Slytherins, protecting the others from possible furious Gryffindors. Draco thought his whole explanation was pure bull; Blaise just wanted to be closest to the door.
Draco looked up at the four approaching Gryffindors. Finnigan, Thomas, and the two tarts--Brown and one of those Indian twins. The tarts were giggling like Hufflepuffs and the blokes had their heads together, probably plotting something "brave." They were almost at the table before they noticed that something was different. Their eyes shot to Potter, then Granger, before going back to Potter again. Potter, brave idiot that he was, just smiled at them.
"Slumming, Harry?" Finnigan asked in what he probably thought was a suave manner.
"Sitting with friends, Seamus. Nothing's wrong with that, is it?"
Draco was impressed. Harry's voice had the right amount of casualness with a hint of challenge tossed in for good measure. And apparently, Finnigan wasn't as big a fool as he appeared.
"No, Harry. Nothing's wrong with that." He shrugged at the other three standing with him, and the four of them sat down with no other comments.
"You have them nicely trained," Draco whispered to Potter.
"They're not--" Potter began. Then he just shook his head. "They've known me a long time. They're giving me the benefit of the doubt."
Draco rolled his eyes. Did Potter not understand the amount of influence he had? People would always kiss his arse in hope that he'd save theirs.
Draco stiffened at Blaise's new warning. This could be...tricky. Why had he agreed to this--coming out/Houses uniting thing? He didn't care about saving Hogwarts or as Pansy said, "the next generation of Slytherins." Why had he listened to his minions? Why had his minions even dared to request such behavior from him? Minions were supposed to listen, not make suggestions that risked his life and limb.
Nott had been wrong; he'd make a lousy Dark Lord.
Draco turned to look evenly into the eyes of a Second Year Slytherin. Fifth and Sixth Years stood behind him. Cowards. "Yes, Bennington?" He knew them all by name. It added to the terror they had of him.
"Why--" the youngster stopped, scared to complete the question. Then one of his companions elbowed him in the back. "Why are you sitting here instead of at our table?"
"Because this is a Hogwarts table, which means it's mine, too. Nothing here belongs to just one House. We don't have to sit at just one table. We don't have to only befriend those in our own House. A House is just the place where your dorm is; it is not your life."
"So...So are you saying Potter is your friend now?" The boy's confusion was mirrored on the faces behind him--and on every other face in the large room. Poor Bennington. Everyone was hiding behind a twelve-year-old. Draco smiled. Bennington was going to make a hell of a Slytherin.
"Yes, Bennington. Harry is my friend. Say hello to Mr. Potter, a Hogwarts student just as you are."
"Hello, Mr. Potter," Bennington said obediently.
"Hello, Bennington. You can call me Harry if you want to. What's your name?"
"You want to have a seat, Ogden?" Potter slid down to offer a space beside him.
"No--no thank you, sir. But I appreciate the offer." Ogden took a big step backward and nearly ran to the Slytherin table.
"That was fun," Draco said, grinning sharkishly.
"What a polite boy," Hermione gushed.
"Petrified is more like it," Harry said dryly. "What did you do to them, Draco?"
"Manners are a sign of good breeding," Draco replied. He started to add "but I'm sure that's a foreign concept to you lot," but considered his current location and kept his mouth shut.
The Hall continued to fill with students that stared, mumbled and pointed. Just when Draco was wondering which hex would be the most effective--and he was seriously considering starting with the professors' table since they knew and still stared-- Ron Weasley walked in. The resulting quiet was so sudden and so complete that Draco looked around to see who cast the Silencing spell.
But it was no spell; merely a crowd waiting to see what Potter's best friend and Malfoy's most bitter enemy would do. Weasley took no heed of anything around him as he slumped into an empty space beside Granger. "I hate detentions," he muttered to no one in particular.
"But it was a good prank you pulled in Divinations," Crabbe, sitting on Weasley's right, said.
Ron grinned without a trace of repentance. "Yeah, it was, wasn't it?" He sat up and looked around. The crowd drew in a breath.
The crowd leaned forward in anticipation.
The excitement level increased.
"Pass the sausages." The plate was handed across. "Thanks."
The Hall exploded.
"Noisy today," Weasley observed, blithely chomping on one of the requested items.
"Spring fever," Draco replied.
"Oh. Wouldn't know anything about that. Too busy polishing crystal balls."
"Speaking of," Hermione interrupted. "Why were you so much later arriving than Seamus?"
"I accidentally cracked one of the balls, so I had to scrub teacups afterwards."
"Not fun," Goyle murmured sympathetically.
"Scrying bowls are the easiest," Crabbe observed.
The background noise level increased.
"Harry?" Draco whispered.
"Yeah?" Harry whispered back.
"What!" Definitely not a whisper. He looked around nervously, then continued whispering. "Um, maybe we should wait until they've got over this first shock."
"This is the perfect time. Trust me."
Since timing was extremely critical, Draco decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak. He grabbed Potter's ears and pulled him close. The kiss was tentative at first, then Potter seemed to figure out he was supposed to participate and it was--not bad. Potter looked a little dazed when Draco released him, and the Slytherin smiled.
"All right there?" he asked.
Potter nodded dumbly.
Draco laughed delightedly.
Harry blinked and grinned. "Your definition of 'style' is going to take some getting used to."
"Not quite the same word as 'subtle,' huh?" Draco teased. It was a good kiss, not frightening in the least. Maybe they should try another one in the very near future.
"I think you broke everybody."
Draco glanced around the room. All eyes were fixed on the two of them. Mouths were frozen in various position, as were hands, and all eating was halted in progress. "They'll 'unbreak' soon."
Just then the doors of the Hall flew open and Mitchell Flint stumbled in, his hands pressed tightly against his forehead. He first went to the Slytherin table and glared. When no one reacted, he searched the room and found Draco. He marched over to the Gryffindor table.
"What have you done to me, you son of a bitch!"
"What are you on about, Flint?" Draco asked, blinking innocently.
"This!" He dropped his hands and the Hall gasped. Instead of a forehead where a forehead should be, there was a pair of rounded buttocks. Two seconds later, there was a sound and the mounds of flesh shuddered.
Mitchell Flint had farted from his head.
Draco wrinkled his nose and waved the air. "My goodness, Flint, has no one taught you any manners?"
Flint went for his wand. Before he could completely draw it, there was an entire table of wands pointed at him. Draco briefly wondered if he should be grateful to the Gryffindors for their support, then decided it was just them being Gryffindors.
"You should get someone to look at that, you know. I think muggles call them...proctologists?" He looked at Granger for confirmation. He'd overheard some of the mudbloods talking about different types of medi--um, doctors--and had become curious.
Flint threw down his wand and went for Draco's throat. He got a handful of Potter instead.
A handful of angry Potter.
Draco thought his bondmate rather impressive. Green eyes flashed behind the stupid glasses. The right hook landed solidly. And the dive to follow Flint to the floor could have easily been done on a broom. Harry apparently didn't need a lot of tutelage in style himself.
"Enough, Mr. Potter!"
Professor Snape stood over the fighters, his wand drawn but not in use. Harry got in another punch, then stood up with a snarl. "You're on my list, Flint!"
"He-he's threatening me, Professor," Flint whined to the head of his House.
"You started the threats, Mr. Flint. Potter was within his right to defend his--fellow classmate."
"But-but Malfoy did this to me!"
Draco snorted. "You made an arse out of yourself, Flint, when you took it upon yourself to inform my father of my personal business." He made sure everyone heard his threat. Not that he had any hope in hell that this wouldn't make it back to Lucius. He was just giving them--and Harry--fair warning that retribution would be forthcoming.
"Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey," Snape said. "You seem to have the worst case of acne I've ever seen."
Flint's head farted again.
"Cover yourself!" Snape ordered and dragged the boy out of the Hall.
Ron waited until the doors closed before he burst out laughing. The rest of the students followed.
The whole Potter and Malfoy kiss was sort of forgotten in the merriment.
Well, not really. But it was safer to just laugh.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Not Exactly A Country Cottage
Harry thought the silence between him and Draco was companionable as they walked together to Dumbledore's office. The past several days had been a lot more peaceful than he'd expected after their display in the Great Hall. But what happened with Flint not only put their kiss on the backburner of the students' minds, it also served as a direct warning of what could happen if they spread Malfoy business without Malfoy permission. Harry had no doubt that it would eventually make the Daily Prophet, but it had yet to appear.
Ron's reaction also helped. It was well-known that nobody hated Draco as much as Ron. So when he accepted the presence of Slytherins in Gryffindor territory and Harry kissing Draco, it sort of took the wind out of many outraged sails. Harry had thanked him afterward, and Ron had just shrugged and mumbled something about how his father had warned his sons about the dangers of having dinner with the in-laws. Considering the shudder Ron concluded his mumble with, Harry briefly wondered about Mrs. Weasley's side of the family.
"Harry, Draco, come in. Lemon drop?" Dumbledore held out a candy dish with one hand while stroking his beard with the other.
Both declined the treat. "You wanted to speak with us, Headmaster?" Harry asked politely, but tensely.
"I know that both of you have concerns about what will happen after you leave Hogwarts. I would like to ease those concerns by telling you that you don't have to leave."
"Sir?" Harry was confused. He wished Dumbledore would get to the point faster when he made pronouncements like that.
"Hogwarts is a very vital part of the Wizarding community. Within its halls are much of the Wizarding future, students who will one day be the next Minister of Magic, the most sought after mediwizard, or even the next Headmaster here. It is also a symbol of strength in these trying times, and I fear if Hogwarts were to fall to the machinations of Mr. Riddle, the entire Wizarding population would lose heart. Therefore, I think Hogwarts should be protected at all costs, which out of necessity does not mean Aurors, as they are needed elsewhere and are spread too thin as is. No, Hogwarts needs to be defended by its own, which is why I have proposed the formation of H.O.M.E."
"Hogwarts Organized Militia Ensemble. It will consist entirely of former Hogwarts students, who will be trained by not only the professors here, but have a revolving offering of outside instructors. Pay will be similar to the Auror system and room and board will of course be included. At one time Hogwarts was the only European Wizarding academy and enrollment was so large that it was divided into a lower school and then an upper school for those who had passed their O.W.L.s. With the opening of other academies, the lower school section sealed itself off. Now it will re-open to become dormitories and training facilities for the militia."
"And you want us to be members of the militia?" Harry asked, hoping that's what Dumbledore was getting around to.
"The founding members," Dumbledore said solemnly.
Harry could hardly believe it. He'd basically get to be an Auror without leaving the only home he knew. He looked excitedly at Draco who seemed considerably less excited. "Draco?"
"I'm in no condition to be some kind of soldier, Harry. Madam Pomfrey has already threatened to take away my wand if I cast too many times a day."
"Draco, your binding to Harry assures your place at his side, so your being here, your condition not withstanding, is not an issue. However, wars are won with thought as much as action. Your insight and intelligence will serve us well," Dumbledore explained gently.
"Until my mind turns to goo, and I spend my days drooling and looking like I swallowed Hagrid's pumpkin patch," Draco replied bitterly. "That's what you're expecting, isn't it? That's why I had to take my N.E.W.T.s early. That's why you've set monitoring spells on me."
Harry looked at Draco in shock, then he turned to look at Dumbledore. He knew by the lack of twinkle in the Headmaster's eyes that what Draco had accused him of was true.
"The pregnancy has strengthened your magic a great deal if you're aware of what I've done," Dumbledore said conversationally, as if he hadn't violated Draco's rights or whatever.
"Take them off," Harry demanded on Draco's behalf.
"He can't," Draco responded, dryly. "After all, the Boy-Who-Lived-In-Order-To-Save-Their-Arses could be attacked by his bonded and who would save their arses then?"
"It's as much for your protection, Draco, as it is for Harry's," Dumbledore said.
Harry couldn't believe the Headmaster had just admitted to. Draco was being watched like a criminal in order to protect the-Boy-Who-Lived. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It totally pissed him off. "Take them off, Dumbledore!" Dumbledore's candy dish rattled on the desk.
"Please calm yourself, Harry. You don't want to accidentally hurt Draco."
"Don't use me to control him," Draco warned.
But Harry knew Dumbledore had a point. He couldn't let himself get too out of control. "It's all right, Draco. I don't want to hurt you and if I'm not careful, I could."
Draco nodded. "Fine. Then let the matter drop. If I'm not watched, I could hurt you. So I guess it means we're even."
Harry dropped his eyes to his hands, the braided rope around his wrist seemingly glowing. "You don't have to stay here with me, you know. You could go into hiding or something."
"Do you really think there's somewhere safer than Hogwarts?"
"No," Harry answered honestly. Hogwarts had always been his sanctuary.
"Then, we stay. I'm assuming this group is open to Slytherins as well?" Draco asked, directing his question to Dumbledore.
"Of course, my boy! After all, that's what the 'E' stands for-- Ensemble: a unit or group of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect. That means I want representatives of all of Hogwarts--Slytherins, Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs--involved in this endeavor. We must unite, and thanks to the two of you, the unification has started. I'm hoping that you will continue to lead Hogwarts in such a manner."
"Will there be an open call to join, or is this by invitation only?" Harry asked.
"It will be announced at the final Seventh Year meeting. That should give students time enough to think about it and make their decisions. Of course, if there are particular students you wish to discuss this with before the official announcement, you have my permission." Dumbledore stood and rounded the desk until he was standing just before them. "Gentlemen, I do not want you to think that this is your only option. You both have my full support and protection no matter what you do following the end of your studies here."
But Harry knew that this was the best way to keep Draco and the baby safe. Harry looked at Draco and saw that he'd come to the same conclusion. "We accept your invitation to be a part of H.O.M. E., sir."
"How exciting!" Dumbledore beamed brighter than the sun coming through the office windows. "The moment the two of you entered these halls, the walls whispered to me that you would be the authors of change. Given your history here, I wasn't sure that was a good thing, until I witnessed your binding and sensed the beginning of a new era for this venerable institution, as well as the entire Wizarding world. You will both do great things, gentlemen...great things."
Uncomfortable with what sounded like another prophecy, Harry stood, Draco following suit. "Thank you for considering us for your, um, project, Professor. Know that we will defend Hogwarts to the best of our abilities."
"I already know that, Harry."
Harry gathered Draco with a glance and hurried out of the office before Dumbledore could go on. He didn't want to know there was something else he was supposed to do; killing Voldemort was enough.
"Don't let the old coot unnerve you," Draco said as they rode the staircase down. It was a Saturday which meant no classes. They headed outside.
"I wasn't--" Potter began, then sighed. "Sometimes I just wish I could live my life without any expectations at all."
"That's what you're doing."
Potter rolled his eyes. "Oh, really?"
"You're bound to me and I'm having your baby. You can't tell me that was in anyone's expectations," Draco pointed out.
Potter smiled. "I guess you have a point. So, you okay with this H.O.M.E. business?"
"Despite what the Headmaster said, we didn't have many other options."
"We could just run away. America, Australia..."
"What about your 'expectations'?"
"To hell with them. All I want to do is keep you and the baby safe."
It was Draco's turn to sigh. Potter could be so--earnest. "We already know the best way to do that."
Potter nodded. "I kill Voldemort."
He sounded so resigned and sad that Draco couldn't help but pat his shoulder. "I'll help, you know. For as long as I can."
"Thanks," Harry murmured. "I'll help you, too, if something goes wonky because of the pregnancy. But it's all just speculation, right?"
Draco shrugged and flushed. "Something's already happened."
"What? Something bad?" Harry asked anxiously.
"No, not bad--just odd. Remember Pomfrey saying the baby is very protective of itself? I could feel it take over my magic when my father appeared in the hospital wing."
"Draco! Your father could have--"
"But you and Dumbledore came running to the rescue, so he didn't," Draco said matter-of-factly. "And that's not the odd thing that's happened."
"Two nights ago, I had a nightmare. I can't even remember what it was about, but I woke up and my heart was pounding. All of a sudden, I felt the tug on my magic again and every candle in the dorm lit itself. I guess the baby got scared, too, and for the past couple of nights, even though I haven't had a nightmare, the candles are lit when I wake in the morning. Blaise has started sleeping in a mask, and nothing bothers Vince or Greg once they're asleep. But it's...weird knowing that it's my magic doing it, but not my will."
"It sounds like--"
"Imperius. I know--and I really don't know why I got so angry about Dumbledore's monitoring spells because they really are for my own safety. Hopefully, now that we have some idea about the future, the baby will feel safer and not draw on my magic so much."
"The future. Not exactly a country cottage, is it?" Harry said as they angled toward the lake.
"Why would you want a country cottage?"
"It's a Muggle thing. In all the great romances, the couple gets together and go live in a beautiful cottage with roses around the door, a big yard and a magnificent front garden. Oh, and a swing hanging from a big tree. It's all nonsense, really."
Nonsense Harry apparently believed in. Draco felt a hint of guilt for his part in denying Harry his muggle fantasy. He blamed the baby for the hereto unfelt feeling. "Maybe we don't have a country cottage, Harry, but we have the strongest wards in the magical world. And we can't complain about a castle instead of a cottage, can we?" He gave Harry an indulgent smile. "Instead of a garden, we have herbology greenhouses and the lovely Forbidden Forest. And--" he tossed three acorns in the air and waved his wand. A rope and plank swing hung from a nearby branch.
"Pure nonsense," Harry repeated with a grin as he ran ahead and jumped on the swing.
"Utter nonsense," Draco agreed as he applauded Harry's first venture into the air.
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Day In Hogsmeade
It was the Saturday before the beginning of N.E.W.T.s and every seventh year Hogwarts student was in Hogsmeade. Tomorrow would be spent revising, but today was THEIR day and they were going to enjoy it. No longer hampered by House divisions, the groups of witches and wizards were larger and louder. The residents of Hogsmeade weren't sure what was different, but that something was. That was evident by how hard they stared at the sight of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy sitting side by side in The Three Broomsticks. Some even peered through the doorway and windows at them.
"Where's Flint when you need him?" Draco grumbled as they left the tavern. Although Pomfrey had managed to return the dumb shit's forehead to normal, Draco could always hex him again. It had been a good hex: a combination of a transfiguration and a charm. Professor Flitwick had complimented him on it. McGonagall had merely looked down her nose at him.
Some things never changed.
"As much trouble as you used to cause in Hogsmeade, I'm sure this isn't the first time you've been stared at, Draco," Granger said as she angled toward the book store. Weasley grabbed her elbow and steered her toward Honeydukes instead.
"Yes, well, it's the first time I've been six months pregnant and stared at," he replied defensively. Being stared at because you were a Malfoy was one thing; being stared at because you were a freak was another.
"Isn't that the reason we're all wearing our robes? So you won't stand out?" Weasley asked.
"No one can tell, Draco," Potter said gently.
Draco grimaced. Maybe they couldn't tell, but he certainly could. His clothes were all charmed to stretch, and his body no longer moved the way he expected it to. He knew witches got big when they were carrying, but this was ridiculous. Three more months to go. He didn't think he was going to make-- "Oh, God." One step into the candy shop and the sugary smell was about to make him throw up.
He shook his head and backed out. "I'll wait out here for you." He'd avoided morning sickness, but sometimes strong odors got to him. "Maybe I can't take the smell of the store, Potter, but I still like chocolate," he hinted when Potter moved as if he was staying outside with him.
Potter grinned. "I'll get you something."
Draco felt like patting him on the head for being a good Potter, but instead gave a weak smile and walked across the street to window shop at Glad Rags. Of course there was no way he could fit into anything there now, but he could look and remember the good times when he was slim and always impeccably dressed.
Draco looked at his reflection in the window and saw Lucius' looming over him.
He automatically reached for his wand, then remembered Pomfrey had confiscated it because, in her vaulted mediwitch opinion, he was using too much magic. Not that having a wand would have done any good--all his magic was now centered at his stomach. "Father," he said politely. He could feel the bracelet around his wrist throbbing frantically and realized Harry would know something bad was happening. Rescue was coming; he only had to bluff his way into living until it arrived. And hope that his father wasn't angry enough to do something "unforgivable" in public.
"Come with me. We need to talk, son. I tried to see you at Hogwarts, but the wards wouldn't let me in. That's quite strange, isn't it?"
It was reassuring that Snape hadn't lied to him about the problem being solved. It was also reassuring to have a reassuring thought when one's life was in jeopardy. Still, it would have been better all around if Snape himself, and not just the reassuring thought of him, was present. "The Weasley twins have been playing pranks lately, so I think the wards were changed to keep relatives out unless specifically invited," Draco lied smoothly.
"I see. It's a good thing, then, that I remembered that this was the last Saturday before your examinations. I was sure that you'd be here in the village, and I was correct."
That's what he got for hanging around with predictable Gryffindors. And speaking of such linear-thinking creatures, where the hell was Harry? "Why are you here, Father?"
"Why am I here? That's a ridiculous question and beneath your level of intelligence to ask it. Take this, son." He held out a coin. "It will take us somewhere comfortable to talk. Conversing on the street is for muggles and commoners."
Draco shook his head. "I'm waiting for my friends. I don't want them to think I've abandoned them."
"Like you've abandoned your parents? How can you ask why I'm here to see you? You owl and say you're not coming home for the Spring holidays because you have a project. That's fine. Then you owl and say you're not coming home ever again. That's...that's unacceptable."
"Accept it, Father, for it's true."
Lucius held out his hand beseechingly, like Draco was supposed to forget the coin that it held. "I don't understand. At least tell me something to explain this to your mother. She's heartbroken."
More like furious, Draco thought. Before he could fake concern, and tell Lucius to keep his damn hands to himself, Harry sprinted across the street, wand clutched tightly in his fist.
"Everything's okay, Harry. My father was just concerned over the contents of my last owl to them." He turned back to Lucius. "Tell Mother that she isn't to worry about me. I've merely left the shadows and am now basking in the Light."
Lucius drew himself up to his full height and took a step in front of Draco, his wand raised. "So the rumors are true," Lucius spat. "You are consorting with the likes of him. Have you been hexed? Or are you merely being a slave to your teenage hormones? There are--establishments--to take care of that sort of thing, if that's your motive in all this."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Like the proper Slytherin that I am, I've carefully weighed my options...and have discovered I have no options at all."
"Nonsense! And stop cowering behind Potter."
"I'm not cowering. I'm merely standing where I choose to stand."
"Draco, this foolishness must stop now. If our Lord--"
"Your lord, Father, not mine. I am a proper Malfoy. I bow to no one, especially not to a crazed half-blood, whose wanton taste for blood and lust for the kill has decimated his own following, whose delusions of grandeur have blinded him to the reality of his opposition, and whose arrogance and presumption of superiority is leading him toward a defeat so absolute that it has never been equaled in the annals of history."
"How dare you lecture me on being a Malfoy!"
Draco stood tall as Granger and Weasley moved in behind Potter and him. And he felt absolutely fearless when he saw his Slytherins fall in behind them. "And how dare you disgrace our name by enslaving yourself to Voldemort! But don't worry; after the defeat of your master," Draco sneered, "I shall restore our legacy and ensure that my descendents live in fame, not infamy."
"It will not be your legacy for long."
"Disown me and you pave the way for the Ministry to take everything you and every other Malfoy have worked for. Do you really want that? Do you really want to languish in Azkaban or in Hell, knowing that the Ministry is profiting off of you?"
Lucius cocked his head to one side. "Are you really that sure of Potter?"
"And am I'm to take it that you have corrupted your friends, as well? Their parents are quite concerned."
"Their parents should be concerned about themselves."
"Draco, I forbid--"
"I'm seventeen. I don't have to listen to you anymore. I can think for myself. I can act for myself. And I have thought. And I have acted. And you, Father, have to live with that."
"You forget yourself, son."
"No, I think I'm just discovering who I am."
Lucius snorted, reached inside his robe--
And sailed across the street to slam into a wall where a witch, who was selling headache potions in a painted ad, pointed her product toward him and smiled.
Draco looked at Harry in shock and admiration.
"Whoa! I didn't do it," Harry said quickly.
Draco's eyes widened. "Well, I didn't do it. I don't even have a wand!" They looked at their friends who all shook their heads. Then Draco looked at his stomach and cringed. "Oh, shit," he whispered.
"Oh, shit," Harry agreed.
They looked back across the street--and saw Lucius apparating away.
Draco felt his heart racing and knew he had to get away before he did something stupid like faint...or cry. "I want to go back to Hogwarts," he said softly.
"Okay," said Harry.
Harry waited for Draco to move and when he didn't, he took hold of his hand and gently tugged his bondmate in the direction of the school. After a few steps, the tugging stopped but the hand-holding didn't. It frightened him to see Draco so complacent, but he had to admit Draco had reason to be rattled. Lucius Malfoy now knew for a fact that his son had turned to the Light. Nothing good could come from that knowledge.
"We can't leave the school grounds ever again, can we?" Parkinson asked. She, the other Slytherins, and the Gryffindors had formed a phalanx around them and Harry hoped it was making Draco feel more secure.
"You can all expect owls from your parents," Draco murmured and Harry was grateful that he seemed to be coming out of shock. "I wouldn't touch anything they send with your bare hands. It could be a portkey...or worse."
"Worse?" Ron asked.
"He means poisoned," Zabini answered.
"Their own kids?"
"They'll do whatever that foul, maybe once human, piece of erumpent shit they serve tells them to do!" Draco spat. "It was all fucking lies! I can see that now. All that shit about protecting the future for purebloods. They don't care--He doesn't care--about blood. He's just using that to fucking lead them around by their fucking noses. We're supposed to be fucking cherished, not fucking sacrificed for He-Who-Should-Be-Fucking-Put-Down-Like-The-Fucking-Dark-Creature-He-Is!"
"Draco, you need to calm down," Hermione encouraged anxiously.
"But he's right," Ron said softly. "All Wizarding children are supposed to be cherished and celebrated. The magical population grows smaller every year and when it's increased, it's a time for rejoicing. You and Harry don't get it. You were surprised when I accepted that the two of them are together. But the rest of you understand, right?" He glanced at the Slytherins and they nodded. "There's a wizard growing inside Malfoy. The future, our future. I'm happy about that, no matter who his parents are, no matter how he came to be. That's why we avoid having bastards. Children--happy, safe, well-loved children with two parents to look after them--are the only way we can ensure that there will be wizards and witches after us and forever."
Harry stared open-mouthed at Ron. He--he hadn't known. God, he was so lost when it came to the Wizarding world sometimes. But as he glanced around, he saw that he wasn't the only one feeling lost. The Slytherins were looking absolutely shattered. Standing up to Lucius Malfoy must've been like confronting their very own parents, parents who had once treated them as the most precious of possessions, and now threatened them because they didn't want to follow a madman.
Harry didn't know what it felt like to be cherished as a child, but he did know what it felt like to have Voldemort rip your parents away from you. He looked back at Draco and saw the pale hand resting protectively against his stomach. Placing his own hand over Draco's he vowed that Voldemort would never survive to devastate another generation.
A very subdued group, lost in memories of what was and what should be, made their way back to the castle.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Fully-Trained Wizards and Witches
Harry alternated between rushing to the dungeons and crawling toward them. He'd taken his final N.E.W.T. and while he would have loved to have gone to his dorm and slept for the next thirty-six hours, he was highly aware of the fact that he'd ignored his bondmate for the better part of a week. Yes, taking the N.E.W.T.s was a valid excuse for his action, but--and this was a big but--Draco had to be still hurting from the confrontation with Lucius. He was frightened...and Harry had left him to worry alone. Well, he hadn't been alone alone. Draco's year-mates had kept an eye on him and Harry had remembered to ask them about Draco every day. According to them, he was keeping busy. Since he couldn't help his friends with their N.E.W.T.s, he'd coached the Fifth-Years through their O.W.L.s and helped several others with their finals. Harry thought it sounded like Draco was coping well, until Parkinson made the observation that she didn't know what Draco was going to do once he ran out of things to do when he couldn't find anything to do other than think.
But how did one cope when one's father was probably plotting his death?
"Parkinson," he called as she was disappearing into the Slytherin common room.
"Potter. It'll probably be best if you didn't come in at the moment. I'm sure some of us are in foul moods after such exhausting tests. I'll send him out to you." Harry nodded in understanding. Even Gryffindors weren't on their best behavior when tired. "And, Potter?"
"Do try to be kind. The encounter with his father has left him feeling like shit. He needs to feel loved for a bit."
"What? Why didn't you tell me that when I asked about him earlier?" Harry nearly yelled.
"He knew you had N.E.W.T.s and we were under strict orders to keep you away. If it makes you feel any better, he kept us at a distance as well. For a selfish, egotistical bloke, Draco can be surprisingly considerate if he wants to be." She gave a tender, sad smile and disappeared into the common room.
He wondered how much of her caring about Draco was guilt over what she and the others had done to him by giving Harry the rape potion. Sure, they had reason, and it wasn't working out too badly, but it had been a big risk they'd taken with their leader. What if he'd accidentally killed Draco, or Draco hadn't been strong enough to live with being raped? Some people as loud and brash as Draco were mentally weak underneath. What if Draco had tried to commit suicide or tried to get rid of the baby? What if--
"Potter, if you're going to fall asleep, at least have the decency to do it in private."
Harry blinked at the figure standing in front of him. When had Draco come out? "So--sorry," he stuttered. "I just got lost in thought for a second."
"Please tell me you're relying on instinct, not intellect, to kill Voldemort. After all, it wouldn't do to get 'lost' then, would it?" Draco commented, starting down the hall. "Outside is probably going to be rather crowded. Do you want to do this in an empty classroom?"
Harry pushed his glasses up. "Do what?"
"Look at--" he pointed at his stomach. "Isn't that why you hurried to the dungeons? It's been nearly a week since you had your last peek show."
Harry touched Draco on the sleeve to get his attention. "I won't mind seeing the baby, but I was coming to check on you," he explained.
Draco's eyes widened. "Oh. I'm fine, as you well know. They told me you asked about me."
"But hearing it from them and seeing you for myself are two different things."
Draco looked as if to argue, then just shook his head. "Pomfrey says I'm fine."
"Pomfrey? You went to see the nurse?"
"Just a regular check-up, Potter."
Harry relaxed. "I would have gone with you if you'd told me."
"You were in the middle of N.E.W.T.s, and I'm not so addled yet that I can't find the hospital wing on my own," he added sharply.
Harry wondered if he should conjure a sign to hover above Draco's head: Caution--Prickly Malfoy Below. "That's not what I meant. We're bound and we're having a baby. I should be with you, supporting you."
"I'm not some helpless witch."
"I didn't say you were." Harry sighed. Maybe he had it all wrong. The Slytherins hadn't caused him to rape Draco to save themselves; they'd done it to torture Harry Potter.
Like that was something new.
They let themselves into an empty classroom. Draco undid his robes and unbuttoned his shirt. Harry took out his wand and performed the incantation. An image formed, looking more like a baby than a worm.
"I'm sorry," Harry said as he watched his son. "Back in the beginning, when I accused you of maybe giving up the baby to get back with your father. I didn't know you--well, the whole Wizarding world--thought that much of children. I insulted you, and for once, I didn't even know I was doing it."
Draco stared at him. "Don't muggles cherish their children?"
"My Muggles didn't," Harry murmured.
Draco's eyes widened. "I know you said you had to live in a cupboard, and I thought it was because the muggles you lived with were cheap or had little room. But that's not it, is it?"
"My cousin Dudley, who's my age, had two bedrooms--one just for his broken toys."
Draco's hand settled on Harry's shoulder. "And what did you do with your broken toys?"
Harry dropped his head. "The only ones I had were those I sneaked out of the broken toy room."
Draco inhaled deeply. ""And remind me once again why we're fighting against Voldemort?"
"Because all Muggles aren't the Dursleys. Just like not all Wizards are Death Eaters."
"Or all Malfoys," Draco added and Harry could hear how badly Saturday's encounter still haunted his husband's thoughts.
"Some Malfoys are smarter than others," Harry said with a smile.
"Damn right," Draco replied with a shaky grin. "So how did your N.E.W.T.s go?"
Harry shrugged, comfortable with changing the subject. "With the pressure off about having grades good enough to become an Auror, they were much easier than I expected." Tomorrow would be the Leaving Feast. After that, there was a week's break, then H.O.M.E. training would begin. In addition to his friends in Gryffindor and Draco's Slytherins, there had been a number of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs who'd decided to join. Draco hadn't been too impressed by the Hufflepuffs, stating they only decided to join H.O.M.E. because it gave them a chance to stay "best friends forever," he'd quoted in a falsetto voice.
Harry didn't tell him that was part of the Gryffindor motivation as well.
"You know you don't have to stay here with me this week."
The Slytherins had no where to go, especially after Lucius had informed their parents of their defection to the Light. "Where else would I go?"
"Home with Weasley?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm where I want to be." And he truly was.
"Well, I'm not."
"I'd much rather be, say, in the south of France. We could walk along a beach or just drink butterbeers by a pool."
The "we" went a long way in soothing the hurt. "Maybe next year, Draco."
Draco nodded. "Yeah, maybe next-- Look!" he said, pointing to the floating image, "I think he's trying to wave."
Harry squinted at the image. "Actually, I think he's giving me the finger."
Draco grinned and murmured, "That's my boy!"
Harry thought he'd never looked prouder.
The Great Hall was decorated in equal amounts of red and gold, green and silver, blue and bronze, and black and yellow, which was good because, unlike previous years, each table had an assortment of students. In fact, if there was any separation, it was more into year groups, the Seventh Years occupying the more "prime" spots.
"I wonder who won the House Cup this year?" Hermione asked. "Does anyone remember the levels of the hourglasses?" Everyone at the table shook their heads.
"It really hasn't mattered that much, has it, now that we're united," Pansy observed. "I wonder what it would've been like if this has happened earlier?"
"We wouldn't have been of age for this to have happened earlier," Blaise said. "Remember, this unity comes with a price to some of us."
"It'll be worth it, Blaise," Draco said quietly. It had to be. Before Potter, who impulsively grabbed his hand, could open his mouth and make a rash promise, Dumbledore stood and called for their attention.
"Students, never have I been so proud as I am this moment. You have achieved what has not been achieved here at Hogwarts for two hundred years. War nor famine nor tragedy nor uprising has brought together the four Houses here at Hogwarts. I'm sure that when the Founders started this institution, they did not plan for it to be at all times and in all ways Slytherin versus Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw versus Hufflepuff. The Founders were friends; they expected the Houses to be friends and friendly rivals. But the idea was corrupted into a parody of its original intent and as it is well known, a house divided cannot stand. The Sorting Hat wisely pointed this out and you, my beloved students, heeded its warning. On behalf of Hogwarts, I thank you. Pettiness, spitefulness, and separatism have no place in war. And let's be clear on this, there is a war. Voldemort does exist and his armies even now are in battle, using their power against innocents.
"But thanks to you, Hogwarts will be a safe haven, a respite in a time, in a world of tumult. So to you, I humbly bow." As a prince before a king in times past, Dumbledore dropped to one knee before the assembly. No one breathed until he stood again.
"But there is a purpose to having Houses and those of you who have been fortunate to study under the tutelage of Professor Snape know this purpose." His eyes twinkled at the scowling Snape. "In regards to that, we get to the highlight of the Leaving Feast--the awarding of the House Cup. Current amounts, please." McGonagall handed him as scroll and he adjusted his glasses as it unfurled. "It seems that Ravenclaw leads with 500 points. Hufflepuff is closely behind with 400 points, followed by Gryffindor at 300 and Slytherin at two hundred. Now, as Headmaster, I would like to make a few adjustments. To all four Houses, for your spirit of unity, I give each House 100 points.
"For their delightful enthusiasm and general cheeriness, I award Hufflepuff 100 points." The Hufflepuffs squealed and started hugging each other.
"To Gryffindor, the winners of the Quidditch Cup--" There was a bout of cheering and even Draco deigned to clap--after all, he'd been sidelined, so Slytherin hadn't stood a chance-- "I award 100 points. For having the student with the highest combined score on N.E.W.T.s, I award 100 points to Gryffindor. Congratulations, Hermione Granger."
Draco rolled his eyes but clapped anyway. It had become an annual ritual for Dumbledore to give the House Cup to his precious Gryffindor. It had always been a thorn in his side, but this year, he had too many other things to worry about.
"For having the student who successfully passed the highest number of N.E.W.T.s, I award 100 points--to Slytherin. Congratulations, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco grinned and gave a mock bow. His grin grew as he saw Granger's stunned face.
"For extreme courage, for strength of heart and mind, for heartbreaking sacrifice, for fighting a war within their hearts that we of the Light can never fully comprehend, I award to Slytherin House--"
Draco knew what was coming. Dumbledore was going to make the numbers even, in respect for their newfound unity.
"--300 points." The multi-colored decorations turned to green and silver.
Everyone was stunned. Until Harry stood and began clapping. The Gryffindors joined him, as did the other two Houses a moment later.
It took several minutes for the excitement to die down enough for Dumbledore to say, "Seventh Years, please stand. As of this moment, you are all fully trained Wizards and Witches. It has been a pleasure and an honor to have been your Headmaster. And now, dinner is served."
The tables filled with food and the Hall with laughter and talk.
Another year at Hogwarts had ended.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: H.O.M.E.
"How'd you do it, Draco?" Granger asked as she passed him a bowl of figs. He'd never liked figs until the pregnancy.
"Please don't accuse me of being in league with our dotty Headmaster. Why he gave us 300 points--"
"No, I actually agree with that. I'm talking about the N.E.W.T.s. How did you get more than I did?"
"Oh. I took an independent study in Elven Magic."
"Why? Just to get more N.E.W.T.s than me?"
Well, yeah. But that was beside the point. "Not everything is about you, Granger."
She frowned but continued anyway. "But we can't access Elven magic. It's useless to us."
"Not totally useless. It's true we can't use the magic they use. Wizarding magic is internal, unique and intrinsic to the wizard, while Elves tap into the magic around them, boosting their own magical signature by accessing the inherent power of nature. But there are some aspects that we can use. Like if they tap into an ash tree for a healing spell, should we think about using ash trees in healing potions?"
She nodded. "I get it. If a particular item boosts their spells, maybe it could boost ours as well. That's brilliant. Why hasn't it been done before?"
"It has--to a limited degree. The problem is with the translation of Elven spells. They're mostly thoughts instead of words, and are hard to write down properly. It would help if we had an interpreter, but as we learned from Binns, the Elves haven't been friendly with wizards since 1955."
"And they have never explained why that happened," she agreed with an air of frustration so profound, that he wondered just how hard she had looked for the explanation. How very muggle of her. Any wizard could tell you that Elves did what they wanted to when they wanted to. "So which translation spell are you using? Something new?" she continued.
Draco shook his head. "I'm not using a spell."
"Draco is fluent in Elven," Harry interrupted and Draco noted he was beaming with pride.
"I wouldn't say 'fluent,'" Draco said modestly. "I haven't actually had a conversation with an actual Elf. One of the few species our balmy--er, esteemed Headmaster hasn't hired as a professor here."
"Did you learn the language for this course?" Granger asked.
"Of course not." That would have been silly--and impossible to do. Did she have no concept of just how difficult a language Elven was? "I've been speaking Elven and five other languages since I was a child. The Malfoys have business interests all over the world. Father thought learning different languages was only prudent."
"But no wizard has business with Elves anymore."
He shrugged. Lucius had left orders with his tutor and so he had been taught. He'd soon exceeded his tutor's knowledge and learned more on his own. "There's always the future," he said casually.
"Are you going to continue your studies?"
A nosy chit, wasn't she? He nodded. "Since I'm only allowed to do theoretical magic at the moment anyway, I thought I'd continue."
"I'm glad," she said, smiling at him. "Perhaps your work will help us protect Hogwarts."
Draco smiled politely while mentally rolling his eyes. Other than the fact that the castle was his home for the foreseeable future, he couldn't give a mustard seed care about protecting Hogwarts. It was all about protecting Draco Malfoy.
He still didn't have the answer to that as the dungeons emptied the next morning. Excited Slytherins were headed home to tell their parents about winning the House Cup while he and his merry band of minions stood in the shadows and watched them go. It was all suddenly so real, what they had chosen, how different their lives were going to be this summer.
"You think the Great Hall still has our colors up?" Nott asked as they trudged to breakfast.
"No one else is here so why bother changing?" Pansy asked. Because the school was empty, they could finally walk around without their robes since no one would see Draco in his "natural" state.
"Maybe the magic was only designed to last a certain number of hours," Nott countered.
Draco only half-heartedly listened to the discussion. His mind was too full of "should have been"s. He should have been on the Hogwarts Express, bugging the younger students and annoying Potter & Company. He should have been anticipating seeing his father and exclaiming proudly that he'd single-handedly won the House Cup for the Slytherins. He should have been wondering why his mother had re-decorated his rooms for the umpteenth time.
He should have been wondering how the fuck he could get out of getting the dark mark burned into his arm.
Maybe the should-have-been's were better off that way.
He looked up to see Potter coming through the large doors that led to the grounds. "Morning, Harry. Did you see the Hogwarts Express off?"
Potter nodded. "It was odd seeing it go off without me. But I'm definitely not sad about that."
If he lived with muggles, he wouldn't be either. "Any idea of when Dumbledore will come to collect us?" The Headmaster had told them they would be moving to their new quarters in the old Lower School.
"You know Dumbledore," Harry said as an answer.
Which meant no one had any idea, including the doddering professor himself. Sigh. Surely the other side was more efficient than this. He could see Voldemort winning simply because Dumbledore gave Harry the wrong directions to the war. Or the right directions to the wrong war.
But then again, Voldemort was as mad as a hatter, too, and maybe between the two of them, everyone would take the wrong turn to the war, leaving the world to spin in one big happy piece.
Yeah, right. "Pass the chutney." He ignored the strange look his fellow breakfasters gave him. So what that he now liked chutney on everything. And the hotter the better, he thought as he burped and a stream of flame jetted out of his mouth. He grinned at Crabbe and Goyle. At least they'd figured out not to sit directly across from him.
"Want to hang out at the lake today, at least until the Headmaster shows up?" Pansy asked.
That was followed by a discussion of asking the house elves for a picnic lunch, who knew the protective charms to keep the squid out of the way, and how cold the water might be.
It was all pretty mind-numbing.
"We could stay inside if you want."
Draco awoke from his light dozing, grateful to whomever had moved his plate out of the way. If he'd fallen asleep in the remains of his breakfast, he'd have to obliviate the entire table. And he could. His father had taught him how two summers ago. He looked blearily at Harry, who had asked him the question. "I can sleep down by the lake as easily as here," he said self-mockingly.
"Should you be sleeping this much?"
Draco nodded. "Pomfrey says it's pretty common among witches. Besides, lately it's just been the mornings. By afternoon, I'm back to normal. At the lake you'll have to cast the sun shield on me and make sure I have plenty of water. Oh, and you'll have to come down to the dungeons and carry my down-filled duvet. I couldn't possibly lay on anything else."
"Okay. I could transfigure one of those beach umbrellas, too. Just in case it's too bright outside."
Draco cut his eyes at his companion to see if he was being cheeky, but all he could see was utter sincerity. This being pregnant had its perks.
He burped some more flames and watched Nott duck out of the way.
Plenty of perks.
It was only after they had lunch by the lake that Dumbledore ambled down to the shore and invited them to follow him to their new living quarters.
"If we don't get there soon, you're going to have to cast Mobilicorpus on me," Draco panted twenty minutes later. They had gone through arbors on the grounds, tunnels in the dungeons, and moving staircases in no less than five different towers, and Dumbledore looked like he was ready to break into a skip.
"Ah, here we are," Dumbledore said excitedly as they entered a long corridor that looked exactly like the last ten corridors they'd traversed.
"How are we supposed to protect the other students if we can't even remember how to get to them?" Blaise muttered, slightly bent over as he tried to catch his breath.
"Oh, the more familiar areas of the Upper School are right through this door," Dumbledore said as they passed a heavy carved door. "Opens into the area just outside the Great Hall--I think. "
"Then why--" Draco started to hiss, then realized he'd just be wasting breath he didn't have.
Dumbledore continued blithely down the hall and into a large room with a fireplace, sofas, and assorted tables. "On the right are the Witches' barracks." He opened a pair of doors. A double row of beds lined the long room. "And here on the left, the Wizards' barracks." The rooms were identical except that the girls' colors were pastel and the boys' were jewel-tone. Draco was debating the best spot in the room--closer or farther away from the washroom--when Dumbledore continued.
"And here," he paused in front of a third set of doors, "are Harry and Draco's rooms."
Rooms? They had their own set of rooms? Of course they did, he realized as he flung open the doors. They were a bonded pair. They needed privacy for sex and the like. The front parlor was kind of small, but big enough to confer privately with the other Slytherins if they needed to meet. Off to the side was a glass door that led to what looked like a small private courtyard. He exchanged a grin with Harry; they had a back garden and even though there wasn't a large tree, they'd put up a swing somehow. They moved toward another door. The bedroom--which was the exact same as their "honeymoon" one, as well as the bath. Which made him wonder... No matter. He sat on the bed with a satisfied smile. This was working out perfectly. The Plan was perfect. And the bed was--inviting.
Just as he started to lay back, Dumbledore's voice called out-- "Come along, Harry, Draco. We must continue the tour. There are classrooms for you to visit and the Dining Hall, as well as the library and..."
Draco sighed and allowed Harry to pull him to his feet.
"These will be your training fields," Dumbledore said as he pointed at a large stretch of clear land. "Much of your physical training will take place here."
"Physical?" Pansy asked with a concerned sneer.
"I've heard that war can be very physically demanding, my dear, so we must have you in fighting form," Dumbledore replied, his eyes twinkling at the horrified looks he was getting from the Slytherins.
Harry tried to look sympathetic, but really, the purebloods were too reliant on their wands, in his opinion. Draco was constantly fretting without the use of his wand--which quite frankly, was working out pretty well from Harry's point of view. Draco never thought much of "Savior of the Wizarding World" Harry, but he was very appreciative of "helpful, attentive, still-has-a-wand" Harry.
"What will our studies be?" Daphne asked.
"It will be a full summer for you. These are the nine classes you will be taking--" he handed out rolls of parchment, "--four a day, plus the last one which will be every day. After Sunday morning training, you will be free to enjoy the rest of that day as you see fit."
Harry read the scroll:
Arms Charms: Making Weapons Out of Common Household Items
Offence Against the Dark Arts
Magical Masses and Messes: The Art of Crowd Control
Skulls and Skulking: The DMLE Official Guide to Investigations
Introduction to Magical Law
Wandwork, Footwork, and Headwork: Physical Fitness for the Warrior Wizard
"These are eight-week beginning courses to see where your strength lies. After eight weeks, you will be evaluated and guided into curricula more suited to your individual expertise. You will also at that time begin to patrol and defend Hogwarts. The students will return and it will be your duty to make sure they are safe."
" How many members of the militia will there be?"
"Just the twenty-seven of your year-mates. You are our test group. At the end of the year, we will open the organization to any former graduate. Are there any more questions?" No one spoke. "In case you form more later, I will be available to you at any time this week. The password is 'candied snotballs.' Oh, and by the way, the Lower School and the grounds have been charmed so that whatever is spoken of here cannot be spoken of beyond here."
"You think we might have spies, Professor?" Harry asked worriedly.
"I think, dear Harry, that there are certain--facts," he looked pointedly at Draco's stomach, "that will have to come out, but will be knowledge we don't want spread around."
"Oh." Well, that made sense. Everyone was going to have to know about the bonding and the baby. If the information leaked and Voldemort found out... Harry shuddered.
"I'll leave you to get used to your new environs. All meals will be served on the usual Hogwarts schedule in the Dining Hall. Enjoy your week. Hard work starts next Monday."
The witches and wizards scattered into their designated barracks to lay claim to the bunks they wanted. While not one of them, save Harry, wouldn't have preferred to be at their childhood homes with their families, they clung to the belief that this was the only future that ensured they had a future.
Harry just hoped he wouldn't fail them.
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Home
"Quite frankly, I'm concerned about who's taking the Offence post. We had some real losers as Defense professors," Blaise said and Harry, sitting opposite of the Slytherin at the dinner table, had to agree. He knew better than his companions how bad most of the Defense instructors had been, especially the one who'd been carrying Voldemort around on the back of his head.
They had just about finished the evening meal which had been punctuated with discussion, and guesses, about who would be teaching the various classes. The only one they were all sure of was the Potions class. Another class with Snape. What joy, Harry thought.
"I just hope Magical Law isn't as boring as magical history. Although after all this physical training, I could probably use a nap," Gregory Goyle said, causing everyone to laugh.
"We shall endeavor to see that no one is bored, Mr. Goyle," Dumbledore said as he appeared in the Dining Hall. "Not intentionally, anyway."
Goyle turned bright red and in defense of his new friend, Harry tried to change the subject. "We're about finished, Professor, but I'm sure the house-elves would supply you with dinner if you want to join us."
"I've already eaten, but thank you for the offer, Harry. Actually, I'm here on a rather serious matter. For security reasons, you will not be receiving owl posts in the mornings. All mail will have to be put through a variety of charms in order to assure the safety of its content."
Harry frowned. "Was there trouble with the mail today?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Unfortunately, no." He waved his arm and four owls flew through the door, a heavy box dangling between them.
"Who is it for?" Draco asked and Harry turned to see that his husband had turned paler than usual.
"For all the Slytherins, I'm afraid."
Draco nodded, hearing exactly what Harry was hearing. Whatever the package contained, it was bad. Very bad.
"Do we need to take defensive positions?" Harry already had his hand on his wand.
Dumbledore shook his head. "I'm not going to stay. I just--You each have my deepest sympathies. Don't let it discourage you. What you have chosen is right. You know that in your heads and in your hearts. Courage, dear children, courage."
"Open it, Blaise," Draco demanded as soon as the doors closed behind the Headmaster.
A wave of a wand and the sides of the box dropped outward. A pile of something tumbled out. It took Harry a few seconds to realize what he was seeing. It was mainly baby stuff--cuddly toys, dolls, various action figures, blankets, some tiny statuettes, and papers. Why had Dumbledore--He heard a strangled cry and turned toward the sound. It was Pansy. And then Millicent and Daphne. Blaise was red-eyed and so were the other guys. He turned to Draco and saw his bondmate was glaring at the pile of stuff, his eyes gleaming with unshed tears. What the--Harry stared at the contents again...and it all came into focus. The cuddly toys, dolls, and action figures were all decapitated. The statuettes had parts broken off. The blankets were shredded. The papers were ripped and torn.
"My Boo-Boo," Pansy murmured and buried her head against Blaise's chest.
"Bubbie," Goyle said sadly as he reached out toward the head of an action figure.
Oh, God, Harry thought, as he realized what he was seeing. These were--the remains of childhood favorites. The Slytherin parents had apparently raided their children's rooms. Teddies. Dollies. Dummies. Rattles and teething rings. Even pre-Hogwarts awards that had animated pictures now grotesquely disfigured. He looked around at the heartbroken Slytherins and his own heart broke in sympathy. His own favorite toy, a stuffed elephant that Dudley had de-stuffed and tossed into the second bedroom, resided in the bottom of his trunk and went wherever he went because he didn't trust the Dursleys. But the Slytherins hadn't known any better. They hadn't known how truly vicious their parents could be.
The last remaining veils had been brutally ripped from their eyes.
"Your wand, Harry," Draco demanded.
Harry did as commanded, not even thinking about Draco's condition and Pomfrey's ban.
"Redintegro." The box reformed. "Mobiliarca archa." The box floated behind as Draco marched out of the Hall and into the courtyard outside the Lower School's main doors. Red-eyed, everyone followed. "Incendio."
The box burst into flame.
"Crabbe, Goyle, get the stash." The two headed off while the rest watched the box and its contents turn to ash. "Nadorhuanrim! Amin delotha lle, Atar! Qualma!" Draco spat, his voice trembling.
Whatever Draco had said in Elvish was probably the same thing Harry was thinking in English, but enough was enough. Draco's arm was also shaking and Harry reached out to retrieve his wand. "It's done," he said gently. "Let's go inside."
Draco jerked the wand back into his possession and muttered something. The ashes disappeared. "Return to sender, bastard!" He gave Harry the wand back and strolled into the castle without looking back.
The "stash" ended up being crates of butterbeer and a few bottles of firewhisky. The girls had conjured up some decorations for the common room and said it was a celebration of freedom and housewarming party. But Harry knew a wake when he saw one. After the initial blast of loud music and feigned excitement, the room quickly fell into a somber depression, helped along by the firewhisky. Moody music played in the background while the Slytherins sat in two's and three's, talking quietly or just leaning on each other.
"Dance with me."
Harry looked up at his demanding husband. Draco, due to his condition, was the only one completely sober. The un-tempered pain in his eyes made Harry eager to do anything he wanted and he quickly got to his feet. As Draco's arms wrapped around him and the blond head dropped to his shoulder, he realized that what Draco wanted was more of a hug than a dance. He was happy to supply either. And when the hug turned into kisses, he had no complaints as well.
There was a second of brief concern when he found himself in their bedroom without a single memory of how he got there, but Draco's kisses wove this haze of pure sensation so dense, so all-encompassing, that his mind just couldn't seem to claw through and the concern vanished along with his shirt. When Draco's shirt didn't disappear as well, his mind surfaced enough to realize what the problem was and his body, his lips in particular, bent to caress the bulge that his bondmate was apparently ashamed of.
"Mine," he whispered against Draco's soft skin.
The shirt joined his own.
There was one more hesitant moment when his conscience fought against the tide to point out that there was a chance he was taking advantage of a grieving, heartsick Draco. But he was seventeen and his body was in good physical shape; his conscience didn't stand a chance. Soon there were touches in places never touched save his own hands. Soft touches and hard touches and touches that sounded like cotton upon cotton and other sounds that reminded him of the lake lapping upon the shore. Oh, and the tastes. Salt and bitter and tartness and something that was so Draco...so very, very Draco. And he knew that he was supposed to hold back, that he was supposed to wait for Draco, that it would be better if he peeled himself from the edge. But he couldn't hold on. He couldn't not give in. He couldn't not succumb to the power building up inside him. He was going to--
--shiver from the breeze on his privates?
He opened his eyes and even without his glasses, he could make out Draco sitting on the far side of the bed, hunched over and breathing heavily. What the fuck?
He realized he'd said that aloud when a timid, "I'm sorry," answered him.
He found himself out of breath as well. He'd seen that hunched figure before. Heard that timid voice. Oh, shit. Oh, God, Merlin, or whoever the fuck was in charge, what had he done?
"You pushed me down. You were on top of me and I--"
Told you so, his conscience taunted.
Bugger off, he told it as he tried to pull himself together enough that he could lie to Draco and tell him it was okay, that he understood. Well, he wasn't lying about the understood part, but the okay... He was still so hard that it hurt and his conscience was blithely telling him how wrong that was, that he had to be a very dark wizard indeed to still be hard in the face of the utter misery that was wafting from Draco.
"I need to--I have to--" he stammered. He looked around the room frantically and gave a gasp of relief when he saw the bathroom door. "I'll just be a--"
But when he stood, Draco was in front of him, blocking his way. "Harry," he said softly. And then, Draco touched him again.
Harry came. And came. Until his knees buckled and he was a humiliated lump at Draco's feet. He found himself crying, not just because he'd made an utter fool of himself and he had completely blown the first and only time he'd ever have at having consensual sex, but also because it had felt so good.
"Fucking virgin," Draco muttered above him. "Come on. Let's clean you up, and then give it another go, eh?"
Huh? He looked at the hand Draco held out to him and shook his head. Draco was trying to be noble and strong and all that Gryffindor crap again. For him. And he wasn't worth it. Not after-- "No, Draco. I should have stopped a long time ago. You're upset about not being able to go home, and I was taking advantage of that and--ouch!"
Draco again pinched the ear he'd grabbed, before letting it go and jerking Harry up by his arm. "Get on the fucking bed, Potter, and here's your wand--clean yourself!"
Harry obeyed and then Draco was kneeling above him, his hair dangling down in the candlelight to tease him. "You have neither the inclination nor the balls to take advantage of me, Potter. If I don't want you, I will say so. But apparently, because you're so fucking dense sometimes, I have to do the same when I do want you. It seems that kissing you and licking you and dragging you into the bedroom does not fit your concept of foreplay!"
"But you--" Harry started.
"Obviously, I'm going to have to top for the foreseeable future. You have a problem with that?"
Top. Which meant he had to bottom. And bottom meant sex. He shook his head. Nope. No problem at all. "Draco?"
And being the obedient bondmate that he was, Draco did just that.
Although he'd been thoroughly exhausted by the time he fell asleep, Harry woke early, strumming with energy and excitement. He was in bed with his husband, his lover. How absolutely extraordinary.
And Draco had been so gentle with him. Considering what Harry had done to him, he would have been within his rights to just plough his way into Harry--regardless of their bond. But he hadn't. He'd been cautious and encouraging and dare he say it--sweet. No wonder Draco had had so many previous lovers.
"Harry, if you look at me like that all day, they're going to know you're a despoiled virgin," Draco said without even opening his eyes.
"So?" Harry grinned.
"So I was supposed to have despoiled you a bit ago."
"Oh." Harry thought a moment. "Maybe it was really good because we didn't have to sneak and do it?"
"You're a Gryffindor; they'll probably believe you," Draco replied with a snort. He raised himself on his elbows to look down at Harry. "So, it was really good?"
"And you would know because...?"
"Because it's not just my body that's happy. I'm happy, Draco, and it's been so long since I've felt that way."
"You didn't mind that you didn't get to--?" Draco's hands came up and did a complicated, but clear, movement.
Harry blushed. "No. If I don't ever get to, it'll be okay."
Draco laughed. "You're so agreeable after you get some. I'm going to have to remember that."
Harry opened his eyes wide and blinked innocently. "You'd take advantage of me like that?"
"Every chance I get."
Harry grinned. "Sounds like fun. I'm glad you do have the inclination and the balls, Malfoy," he said, remembering what Draco had told him last night.
Draco dipped his head to kiss him. "About you taking advantage of poor, homeless me... I can't miss my home when I'm there, can I?"
"Draco?" Harry didn't have to feign his wide-eyed wonder this time.
"I've a new life now, and I don't mean just the one I carry inside me. You and the sprog, you're my family now. My family. My home."
"As the two of you are mine," Harry vowed, losing himself in the gray eyes that stared down at him.
Draco finally broke the stare as he rolled to the edge of the bed. "I swear this son of yours thinks of my bladder as his personal squishy chair. Wonder where he gets that from," he muttered as he stood. "And he wants breakfast in bed, by the way," he added as he disappeared into the toilet.
Harry grinned as he scrambled into his clothes to go get breakfast for the two--three--of them. Well, it looked like his summer hadn't changed very much. He was home. His family was making demands: Harry, do this. Harry, do that. Harry, cater to my every whim--and be quick about it! But Draco was right; although the demands were the same, his family had changed. He had a new family. A family that was his and apparently proud of it. Draco had told the Slytherins about him. Draco had kissed him in the Great Hall. Draco had married him in front of all the professors. Draco had threatened him if he hadn't slept in the same bed with him.
No hint of shame that Harry existed in the first place.
Instead, he had a massive room and bed.
Public displays of affection.
Arrogant, smug, "yes, Harry Potter belongs to me and you better damn well respect that" open ownership.
"Don't forget the chutney, Potter," came the yell from the other room.
Yes, Harry was home for the summer.
And there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
Chapter 30: Student Warriors
Harry collapsed in a panting heap, grateful beyond belief that he'd finished his last lap of the day. He thought the Dursleys were slave-drivers. He was wrong. He thought since he'd done manual labor every summer, he'd be in better shape than everyone else. He was wrong. He thought the toughest thing about the war would be facing Voldemort. He was wrong again. He was sure that next to the physical training he was subjected to every fucking day, offing Voldemort would be like Ron beating him at chess--a sweatless, bona fide given.
"Crabbe, get your arse in gear or I'm coming out there to get it in gear for you," Draco yelled. "Goyle, step it up! Even Greengrass is outrunning you--and she's still worried that her make-up charm won't stand the heat! Put that compact away, Greengrass. If you want to run with something, try your wand. What are you laughing about, Parkinson? You have a Hufflepuff getting ready to pass you. Move it!"
If Harry had any extra air, he would be laughing. Everybody hated the physical fitness class, except Draco. Their coach was a Muggle-born who'd left the Wizarding World when he'd married a Muggle. He'd been a successful football coach in a little spot outside of London known for its American population until he discovered his new baby was a wizard. He didn't want his son suffering the culture shock he'd had when he received his Hogwarts letter, so when the offer came to get Dumbledore's Warrior Wizards in shape, he'd jumped at the chance. And when he found out that Draco couldn't physically participate, he'd made him an assistant coach. Of course, the position when to the Slytherin's head.
"Your name is Longbottom, not Lardbottom. Pick up the pace! Weasley, court the witches on your own time. With those long legs and big feet, you should've been the first one finished!"
At least Harry had figured out how Draco had learned so many languages. He was a natural mimic. He'd picked up Coach Andrews' American-tainted slang quite easily, not the least bit concerned that he had no idea what a gear was. And Harry had found out he was so good at mimicking any of the professors, that he'd tutored most of the Slytherins for their full seven years at Hogwarts.
"Get your arse up, Potter, and do a proper cool down. Finnigan, I saw how you were frowning at the text in class. The revision session starts promptly at seven. I wouldn't be late if I were you."
Now, he was tutoring any of the Ensemble that appeared at his sessions. Hermione had been ticked at first when the Gryffindors started sneaking off to study with Draco, but she was soon grateful. Hermione wasn't a mimic; she didn't pick up knowledge naturally. Hampered by being Muggleborn, which meant she was just as behind as Harry was when she received her letter to Hogwarts, she studied diligently over the summers to stay at the top of her classes. Since she didn't have time to study for, or even know what to study for, in training, she had her own revising to do, and once her pride gave in, she was thankful that the others had Draco to turn to.
"Potter," Draco said softly against his ear, startling him, "When you moan in my bed tonight, it better be because of something I've done, not because your muscles are knotting up because YOU HAVE NOT COOLED DOWN PROPERLY. Do you understand?"
Harry scrambled to his feet and began to stretch.
"Hey, Potter, guess we know who wears the robes in your relationship," Seamus yelled with an impudent grin.
"Finnigan, if you have that much air left to talk, you have enough for another lap. Let's see it!"
Seamus sighed. Draco had been listed as an assistant professor after he'd taken his N.E.W.T.s and no one had bothered to remove the title from him, so he was to be obeyed like any other instructor. Harry sort of felt sorry for his former dorm-mate as he started running. Almost.
"Hey, Seamus, guess we know who wears the robes in your relationship, too!"
His friend flipped him the bird.
Harry sat on the floor and against the wall in one of the rooms reserved for practice and watched Draco review the day's classwork with several of their fellow militia members. They were going over the Offence lesson, a couple of hexes Harry had learned last year, so he just decided to sit back and observe. And what he observed was--unsettling. Draco demonstrated the motions for the hexes with a wooden pointer, and the others were supposed to repeat the actions together. Inevitably, however, those with Muggle ties were just a beat behind. After a minute he figured out why. Muggleborns and the Muggle-reared had a built-in hesitation when it came to magic, a wonder and awe that lingered despite seven years of training, a momentary disbelief that the purebloods and those raised in Wizard homes didn't have. It was quick, almost imperceptible, but it was there.
"They believe, but they don't believe," he murmured to himself, realizing that he was in the same position. He knew the spells, could duel with Aurors several years his senior, but...but as he reviewed the duels in his mind, he realized he was always consciously aware that he was performing magic. Those who'd grown up in the Wizarding world did magic instead. There was no question, no doubt that what they'd been asked to do could be done. They'd seen it, or something similar, done. They knew it was possible, and any doubts they had pertained to their individual skills, not to the magic itself. A subtle difference, but one which, given that the Death Eaters were almost all purebloods and Wizard-reared, could be devastating on a battlefield.
"Why are you sitting here all by yourself pouting, Potter? I didn't yell once at your precious Gryffindors," Draco said.
Harry looked around and saw that everyone was gone. "What would you say, Draco, if I told you I knew a spell that could change ordinary animals into dragons?"
"A particular type of dragon? Or would cats be one species and dogs another?"
Harry nodded. "Come with me." They headed to the common room and the corner where Hermione sat, using highlighting spells to mark her text. "Hermione, I know a spell that will change ordinary animals into dragons."
She frowned and lowered her wand. "Whoever told you that is just kidding, Harry. You can't turn animals into dragons. The elements that make up a dragon--"
Harry held up his hand to hush her. "Draco believed me."
"Well, he's your bondmate."
Harry shook his head. "He believed me because he believes everything is possible. That's the key to true magic, Hermione. And we, you and I and everyone else who didn't grow up in a Wizard household, don't have it. We're just...magicians, faking at being wizards and witches. Until it becomes real to us, we're not real."
She glared at Draco. "What crap have you been telling him, Malfoy? Was this your scheme all along? To get Harry alone and feed him all this blood superiority...bullshit?"
"Don't blame me," Draco said quickly. "I have no idea what he's on about."
"Draco has nothing to do with this, Hermione. Just watch, okay? Ron, come here for a minute."
Ron, who'd been waving his wand menacingly, as he was laughing, at Seamus, loped over to them. "So, what are we planning? You look like you're planning, Harry."
"I've found out how to turn ordinary animals into dragons."
Ron grinned. "Wicked. Think we can train them to fry You-Know-Who's arse?"
"Dean, could you come here a minute?"
"Oooh, invited to a top strategy meeting, am I?" the black guy said, unfolding his long body from a chair in front of the fireplace. "Must be moving up in the world."
"I've found out how to turn ordinary animals into dragons," Harry said again.
"What? How? I mean, is it true?" Dean turned to look at Hermione.
Harry sighed. A hand landed on his shoulder.
"Harry, what's going on?" Draco asked, looking concerned.
Harry tried to give him a reassuring smile, but merely managed a grimace. "We need to talk. All of us."
"About the dragon spell? Does it require some sort of...sacrifice?" Draco inquired gently.
Harry shook his head. "Let's talk, all right?"
Harry paced the bedroom while Draco slipped between the covers.
"I wish I could say I understand, Harry, but I don't. How can you not believe in magic when you've studied it and practiced it for seven years?"
His 'revelation' had been discussed until everyone decided to call it a night and sleep on the problem. "You can't understand because you've never doubted magic at any time in your life. We--we lack faith, Draco. That's the easiest way to explain it. We believe when we see it, when it occurs, but..."
"When it's out of sight, it's out of mind?" Harry nodded. Draco understood more than he gave himself credit for. "Do you think Granger will figure out how to cure you?"
Harry gave a sad laugh. "I don't think there is a 'cure,' but hopefully a visit to a muggle library might help us. They've done a lot of work in psychology."
"We don't have si-kol-ogee here."
"That's because you have mind healers who can actually go into the human mind using Legilimency. But I'm hoping this can be solved in a less invasive manner."
"And this just all came to you tonight?"
He shook his head. "I noticed something was strange with everyone's reactions to our bonding and the baby. Your Slytherins, Ron, everybody raised with magic, were, like, 'Wow, okay, congratulations.' The others were questioning the baby, the bond, and our sanity."
"Actually, your sanity; my taste," Draco pointed out with a smirk.
"Ha ha. I'm serious about this. On the battlefield, the slightest hesitation could mean the difference between life and death."
Draco yawned. "I know that, Potter. But you keep adding yourself into this, and I've never seen you hesitate at all. And I should know; I dueled with you enough."
Harry gave a sheepish look. "I cover well."
"However, I have noticed you doubt yourself a lot. You are bonded to me now. You no longer have to doubt."
"Gee, that should be a big help when I'm dueling with Voldemort."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Why are you even worried about that?"
"Why do you think?" Harry asked dryly.
"According to what you told me, Voldemort was raised in a muggle orphanage. Won't he have the same disadvantage?"
Harry stilled, grinned, and with Draco giving him a baleful look, threw himself on the bed. "You're bloody brilliant."
"Of course I am. Now, come to bed like a good wizard so you can get your nightly shag before I fall asleep."
Harry leaned over and kissed him. "You're too good for me."
"Of course I am. But since I have no equal and have never wanted to live my life alone, I've been long resigned to marrying the next best thing. You should be proud of yourself for getting me, Harry." He yawned again.
Harry noted the yawn and the faint smudges beneath the gray eyes. It had been a long day. "You know, I could stand a good cuddle instead of a shag tonight."
"But soon I'll be too big."
"Draco, in our bond, shagging is a privilege, not a duty. I won't get all pouty because we don't fuck."
"If you're sure..."
Harry slipped into bed and curled up against Draco. "I'm sure. Give us a kiss and toddle off to dreamland."
"Silly, Potter." Draco gave him a kiss and turned over to spoon back against him. "I'll shag you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay." Harry grinned as Draco's breathing evened out quickly. Soon, they were going to have a terrible row about decreasing Draco's coaching and tutoring. He was going to have to indulge his inner Slytherin and get Pomfrey on his side first, and Snape as well, if he was to have a chance of winning. Hmm. Draco would be so proud of him when he realized what he'd done.
Just as he was proud of himself for winning the honor of being with Draco Malfoy. No matter the circumstances, it was a great achievement indeed. Wrapping his arms around his bondmate and child, he followed him into sleep.
Chapter 31: His Best Birthday Ever
Harry reached for his Magical Law text, then sighed, drew his wand and levitated the book to him. It would've been easier just to lean forward and pick it up, but Hermione's "cure" for their Muggle-influenced problem was total immersion into the wizarding world. Magic was to be done whenever and wherever possible. The purebloods were encouraged to discuss their childhoods (if it didn't upset the Slytherins too much--which it didn't because their parents' "care package" had made the bitter break with their families a definite two-way street). Everyone was to read only wizarding magazines or novels in their spare time (what little they had), and use of such Muggle items as portable electronics and grooming items was discouraged. Instead, grooming charms were patiently taught by those who had used them forever, wizarding fashion and sports were the number one topics, and if Harry had to listen to one more story about the goings on at Madame Puerilis's Academy for Well-Bred Young Wizards and Witches, he was going to Avada Kadavra himself.
"Harry," Ron said as he plopped down on the couch next to him.
"Ron," Harry replied, looking expectantly at his friend.
Ron looked at his hands. "You know I got an owl at dinner."
Harry nodded. With such a large family, Ron often got mail. Everyone had learned to duck when an owl came from the twins. And they never accepted Ron's offer of sweets. "Everything's okay, isn't it?"
"Depends on your definition of okay."
Well, that didn't sound good. "What's going on?" Harry demanded.
Ron sighed. "Your birthday is Friday."
Harry nodded impatiently. For once he wasn't stuck at the Dursleys, wondering if was going to be sprung by his friends or spending the day lonely and searching the sky for owls. No big plans were scheduled since their days were completely filled, but he expected a couple of gift exchanges after dinner.
"You're going to be eighteen," Ron continued with his useless information. "Hermione says that's a special age when you're a Muggle."
"It's like being seventeen when you're a Wizard. You're finally an adult in the eyes of the law."
Harry tapped his wand against his thigh. "Do you want a demonstration of what I've been learning in my Defense class?" he threatened. It had finally been decided that Harry was wasting his time in regular Defense and was now being tutored by three Aurors in a private area of the school. Rumor had it that Harry was learning not only how to kill, but how to cover up the crime. Draco had just scoffed at that, saying, "Why would he need Aurors to teach him what he could learn at home in our rooms?" Needless to say, that started other rumors.
However, the threat got absolutely no reaction from Ron. So he thought to go the sensitive friend route. "Is there some reason why you're sitting here being silent with me when you could be studying or with Hermione? Wait, that's sort of redundant, isn't it?" Harry grinned.
That at least got a reaction--and a smile. "She'd punched you if she heard that."
"Nah, it'd be a hex. Total immersion and all that," Harry teased. Maybe what Ron had to tell him wasn't so bad.
"She might make an exception."
"And you might be stalling," Harry pointed out. "Spill, Ron."
"Since we're so busy during the week, Mum and Dad are coming to visit you Sunday for your birthday."
Harry started to smile. Next he frowned. Then he paled. "Draco."
Ron nodded. "Draco," he agreed.
"Do they know--anything?"
"Ginny let slip that you were involved--with someone male."
"Oh. Any problem with that?"
"Of course not. But neither did Ginny explain the 'someone' was the son of a Death Eater and the bane of our existence for the past seven years. There may be some problems with that. Then again, Malfoy's pregnant. Mum's a sucker for babies."
"You don't they'll think badly of me for knocking him up?"
Ron grinned. "Well, you did put the cart before the horse, but who knew your stallion was a filly in disguise."
Harry looked quickly around the room. "At least we know Draco isn't within listening distance."
"What? No girly squeal?"
"No slashing hex through your neck."
Ron snorted. "He doesn't even have a wand."
"Do you honestly think he'll need one if he overhears you questioning his masculinity? Despite being knocked up, he's not a girl, you know."
Ron held up his hands in mock surrender. "Don't get bent out of shape, mate. Being a Progenitor kind of makes him legendary. But don't tell him that; his ego's big enough."
"Don't I know it," Harry sighed.
"What exactly is it you know, Harry?" Draco asked, entering the common room from their rooms.
"Um, that I couldn't have a better husband?"
"Ah, thinking clearly for once. How's the sword transfiguration coming along, Weasley?"
"I can manage the single-edge, but not the double yet."
"Blaise had the same problem. Maybe you should ask him how he managed to get over it."
"Good idea, Malfoy. Thanks. He and the others are in the library, right?"
"Last I heard."
"Okay. I'll see if I can catch up with him. See you guys later."
Harry watched Ron leave and wondered if he should warn Draco about the Weasleys' visit now or later.
"You know I didn't buy that whole 'bestest husband' thing, right?"
Harry automatically stood to help lower Draco onto the chair next to the sofa. Draco had learned the hard way that the sofa wasn't pregnant-friendly. "Ron's parents are coming to visit on Sunday." Well, guess he was going with the "now" option.
"Oh." Draco squirmed until he was comfortably situated. "I'll tell Blaise to switch some of his stuff with yours so they won't figure out you're not sleeping in the dorm. And the castle is so big that I can easily stay out of your way."
Harry stared at him. "I don't want you out of my way."
"But they don't know about us."
"I want them to. Don't--don't you want to meet them?" Harry asked worriedly. Was Draco ashamed of their binding?
"I don't mind meeting them, Harry," Draco said. "I was just trying to make it easy on you."
"You think it's easier to hide you?" Draco shrugged. "You weren't by yourself in that kiss in the Great Hall, you know. I'm not ashamed to be with you."
"But being with me and being bound to me--with a child on the way-- are two different situations. I know the Weasleys know what my father is. And I'm sure they've heard my name mentioned by you and the other Weasleys in less-than-kind terms. They will be suspicious and worried."
"Ron has taken it well."
"Weasley is closer to the situation. He's seen for himself how things have changed between us."
"Then they'll just have to take his and my word for it that we're great together."
Draco's eyes widened. "You think we're great together?"
"I think that I couldn't have a better husband." This time it was a declarative sentence.
Draco grinned. "Everyone's in the library, you know."
Harry tried to act coy. "I have to study for Magical Law."
"What if I tell you I can make you come by reciting the International Apparation Codes?"
Harry aced his Magical Law exam the next day.
Harry grinned as he watched the others limp back in from the grueling cross-country course Draco had set up. Because it was his birthday, Draco had announced to the group that Harry was exempt from training. Some had started to complain, but other, saner minds, whispered that backtalk usually ended in extra laps or push-ups. Everyone had taken off without sassing Draco, and Harry had been rewarded with an extended snogging session in the equipment room.
"Your mate is a sadist," Michael Corner said, as he slipped off one of his trainers to examine a blister.
"And this is news?" Harry asked with a smirk.
Corner shook his head. "And you're supposed to be our bloody savior."
"From Voldemort," he said, chuckling at the involuntary shudder the name caused, "not Draco."
"Everyone did a good job today," Draco praised loudly, shocking all. "So no extra laps and no revision sessions. Have dinner, then leave Harry and me the hell alone."
Corner grinned. "Someone has plans."
Harry kept his blush to a minimum.
Regardless of Draco's machinations, it was much later before the two of them were alone. As expected, Ron and Hermione came by with gifts and it had been fun just to sit around with them and discuss the "old" days. Draco had been indulgent, for Draco, and hadn't shooed them out or made unsubtle hints about the time.
"Thank you," he said after Ron and Hermione left. "It was nice having a birthday where no one complained about my friends or anything."
Draco shrugged. "We're going to need babysitters."
Harry laughed. "And here I thought you were going soft."
A very dramatic eye roll. "Insults will get you nowhere."
"And where will compliments get me?" Harry whispered in his ear.
"Inside me," Draco replied quietly.
Draco nodded hesitantly. "I think I'm ready, and it's getting cumbersome trying to figure out how to do you without this stomach of mine getting in the way. How do big-bellied men do it?"
Harry mentally pictured his uncle attempting to... He shuddered. Hard. Not an image he wanted at any time, but especially now. "Are you sure, Draco? I mean, I have no complaints and if it gets too awkward, there's other stuff we can do."
Draco just kissed him and said, "Happy Birthday, Harry."
Harry stared at the bathroom door--which was currently locked and harboring Draco, who apparently hadn't been as ready as the Slytherin thought. Things had proceeded well from the sitting room to the bedroom. Worked up quite nicely, Draco had been carefully propped on his side by pillows so there would be no strain, and he'd lubricated Harry himself. It was only when Draco had tensed as Harry inserted a lube-coated finger into him that Harry became concerned. But Draco had talked him around, saying it had been a while, etc., and the tension eased enough that Harry could put in two fingers. At his first attempt at entry with his cock, however, Draco had skittered away, then apologized and eased back into position with a nervous laugh. The second time, through the hand he had on Draco's back, he'd felt Draco's heart start to race and a slight tremble snake through his body. He pulled back, but Draco insisted that he go through with it. The third time, he entered Draco maybe an inch before a kiss revealed the salty tears running down Draco's face. Harry had pulled away and put on his pajama bottoms.
"This is stupid, Draco," he'd said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"I know. I'm sorry I'm so weak." Draco also sat on the edge of the bed, his head dropped so low that his hair covered his face.
"No, not that. You're--entitled to feel the way you do. I'm talking about trying to force this. There's no reason that we have to do this."
Draco had looked up then. "Maybe not for you."
Harry had suddenly been angry. "What is this about? Malfoys can't be scared? Malfoys must be fucked? What?"
Of course, he knew it'd been the wrong thing to say even as it was leaving his mouth. Draco's eyes... The hurt he'd never voice showed so clearly in his eyes. And he'd run naked to the bathroom and locked the door.
Harry knew he could open the door with a flick of his wand, but he figured he'd violated Draco enough for one night. Maybe he should just let him be, but... "I'm going to bed," he called loudly. "So come out when you're ready. You need your rest."
"For what it's worth, there's nothing wrong with being scared. It doesn't mean you're weak or worthless or whatever it is you have running around in your head. It means you're human, Draco--just like me."
The door opened and Draco came out. He'd taken to wearing a nightshirt because of its fit, and Harry wordlessly helped him into it. Then they climbed into bed, sharing a timid kiss before rolling to their respective sides of the bed.
As Harry fell asleep, he realized that despite what had happened in the past hour--no, even with what had happened--this had been his best birthday ever.
Chapter 32: Meet The In-Laws
Draco was in a bad mood and he didn't mind sharing. Nobody knew that better than his instructors and fellow trainees. They'd been tiptoeing around him all day and while their hesitation was a bit amusing, it was not enough to jostle him into feeling better. He'd humiliated himself not just last night, but in general by not being able to get over the rape. And then this morning, he'd noticed something strange, gone to the hospital wing, and was informed that his swollen ankles and wrists were due to...retaining water. He wished it was enough to drown in.
"Whatever you did, you better undo it now, Potter," he overheard Pansy hiss to Harry.
"I didn't do anything," Harry whispered back, frustration obvious in every word.
"Then do something," she replied.
"And how would you disband an unruly group at a Weird Sisters concert, Mr. Malfoy?" asked the current Auror instructor of Magical Masses and Messes, interrupting his bout of eavesdropping.
He glared at her. "Incendio," he replied with a snarl. "Burning robes smoke really well and people tend to run."
The Tri-M teacher stared at him, opened her mouth, closed it, and turned to the student beside him. "And your solution, Mr. Thomas?"
Draco dropped his head on the desk and took a nap.
Later in the day he watched the football match Coach Andrews was coaching the trainees through. The idea had started off rocky enough a week ago. The coach had dropped the little black and white ball on the field and all the Wizard-reared had watched to see what it would do. When Coach had kicked it, they had expected it to kick back. But it just--rolled. When it became apparent the ball didn't do anything on its own, they'd immediately grown bored. It took the muggleborn putting together an impromptu match to show that it really was a fun sport, and the Slytherins came to appreciate the physical spirit of the game.
It was as Harry was making a penalty kick that Draco remembered the Weasleys were coming the next day.
"You're in a mood today, Harry. That nervous about Mum and Dad meeting Malfoy?" Ron asked as they walked to the gates of Hogwarts to meet his parents Sunday afternoon.
Harry shook his head. It wasn't his mood anyone had to worry about. Frustrated by his perceived "weakness," Draco had been a bitch all day Saturday and then Saturday night, he'd disappeared with his Slytherins, appearing at bedtime without a word of explanation. He really had no idea whether the Weasleys were going to meet his bondmate or not.
"You know, fighting Voldemort is looking better and better," he muttered self-pityingly.
"Mum's not that bad."
"Oh. Well, he was in a bit of a mood yesterday, but that's to be expected. You try lugging around a bludger in your belly all the time. Besides, if the twins are to be believed--and yes, I know how impossible that sounds--Saturday would've been a good day for Mum when she was carrying Ginny. According to them, they did a magical sacrifice so that Mum wouldn't have any more girls."
"Draco's having a boy."
"Draco is a boy. He's bound to have his days of trouble. And quite frankly, Harry, he's Malfoy. What were you expecting?"
God, he hated it when Ron sounded more reasonable than he was. The truth of the matter was that maybe he, too, was a bit frustrated by the aborted attempt Friday night--and he felt like shit that he was frustrated because he was the reason why Draco was scared in the first place. Not to mention Draco hadn't been the only one that night suffering from flashbacks. When Draco had scooted away from beneath him, he'd remembered the same movement from...before.
"I cannot wait until you and Hermione are married, Ron, and I can throw all this advice and wisdom back in your face." He said it with a smile and a jab of his elbow to let Ron know he was joking. "I do appreciate it, though."
Ron shrugged. "It's in the best friend's manual--Thou shall not allow thy friend to climb the walls and make an arse of himself if he hasn't ticked you off lately."
Harry laughed. "And if he has ticked you off?"
"You sell tickets and let him have at it."
They were both still laughing when double cracks alerted them to the Weasleys' arrival.
Molly Weasley crammed her wand into her oversized bag and looked around, breaking into a smile when she saw them. "Arthur, these can't be our boys. Why, they're men!" she exclaimed. "Come here you two and give your mum a hug!"
They rushed over to her and she hugged them both. "Ron, are you ever going to stop growing? We're going to have to raise the ceilings at the Burrow if you keep this up. And, Harry, how handsome you've become. Your young man must be earning his keep."
Harry blushed and Arthur thumped him on the back. "Molly doesn't have a subtle bone in her body, I'm afraid, Harry. Still, you are looking well and happy."
"I am, sir."
"So, will we get to meet this miracle worker?" Molly asked as they started down the path toward the castle.
"He's, uh--well..." He looked at Ron pleadingly.
"He's not just Harry's young man, Mum."
"What? He's being passed around? Shared? What are you saying, Ron?"
"We're married," Harry said quickly. "Actually, we're more than married, we had a binding ceremony." He pulled back his sleeve and revealed the bracelet.
"You're--you're bound, Harry? You can't be bound. We'd know if you've been bound, wouldn't we, Arthur?" She turned to her husband, her face scrunched in confusion.
"He's wearing the bracelet, Molly."
Her countenance cleared and she waggled her finger at him. "One of the twin's inventions, I imagine. You certainly had us going, Harry."
Harry held out his arm. "It's not a fake, Mum Weasley. I am bound and...we're having a baby. He's a Progenitor, you see."
Molly's knees gave away and only Arthur's quick actions kept her from falling. "What are you saying, child?" she panted, her hand clutching her ample bosom.
"Mum, I was at the binding and the baby's pretty obvious once you meet--" Ron stopped, glancing at Harry.
"So, he is here? Of course, he is," Molly corrected herself. "He's your bondmate; where else would he be? And speaking of 'he,' who is he? And don't be thinking I didn't notice you've left that to be said."
Harry ran his hand through his hair, knowing Draco--if Draco made an appearance--would be furious with him for doing so. Harry, your hair is already a rat's nest. Why add to it? I've my fingers crossed this baby has my hair. "My husband is Draco Malfoy. And yes, I know who his parents are and what a brat he used to be. But Magic saw fit to bind us, and he's carrying my child. The past, his and mine, has no bearing on our present or our future. We are together and will remain so until one of us dies." It'd all come out in a rush and it sounded defensive, but he felt he had to make it clear to them before--or if--they met Draco.
Molly's mouth opened and closed. Arthur took advantage of the rare opportunity. "Congratulations, Harry! This is exciting news. Isn't it, Molly?" He nudged her with his elbow.
"Exciting, yes," she parroted, still shaken. "Where are you staying?"
"Professor Dumbledore has graciously given us rooms near the dormitories. Come inside with us. I'm not sure where Draco is at the moment. He's very busy. He tutors and coaches. A great asset the militia, isn't he, Ron?"
Ron nodded, eager to back up his friend. "His father is really pissed--um, sorry, Mum. His father isn't happy about him being with Harry, but Draco is one-hundred percent committed to our side. He doesn't want his father or You-Know-Who to grab his baby or anything."
Arthur frowned. "Do they know about the binding and the child?"
"No," Harry answered. "Only the people here know and Professor Dumbledore has made sure that the secret cannot pass the boundaries of Hogwarts."
"Smart of him," Arthur murmured. "Well, come on, boys, show us this new home of yours."
They walked the Weasleys through the Lower School, showing them the various classrooms before going into the dormitories and the common room. Ron was surprised and a bit worried that Hermione hadn't made an appearance, and he whispered to Harry as they approached the entrance to his and Draco's rooms that he was going to find her. Harry nodded, then just flung the door open and muttered a silent prayer.
"Harry," Draco said, "Hermione and I were wondering when you were going to give our guests a break. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, how nice it is to see you. I'm Draco Malfoy." He held out his hand and Arthur shook it solemnly. Molly just stared at him--and his rounded belly. "Where is Ron off to? Tea is about to be served. Please, come in and have a seat. Harry, would you get Ron?"
Harry, totally bewildered, and quite frankly--scared, called Ron back while Draco escorted the Weasleys to where Hermione stood. He came back in with Ron and saw them having a good hug with their son's girlfriend, then they all sat down to tea. Tarts were served and Draco was a charming host, discussing with Mr. Weasley certain Muggle items he'd heard Coach Andrews talk about and asking Mrs. Weasley about what was needed in a proper nursery.
Harry just knew he'd fallen into another universe. He wondered if this one had a Voldemort, too.
"I hope you don't mind, but I arranged for us to have a private dinner here. Although there are only twenty-seven members of the militia, we can be a noisy bunch," Draco said with a self-deprecating laugh. "And apparently, the castle thought it was an excellent idea and provided a dining room for us." He nodded to a door Harry hadn't seen before. "Harry, if you would escort Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley and Hermione, and Ron, I guess you and I will have to toss to see who escorts whom."
"Well, I'm tallest and not preggers, so..."
Draco laughed. "You have a point, Ron. Escort away, sir."
"Yes, Harry? And, ooh, that feels so good," Draco purred.
Harry added a knuckle to the sensitive point on Draco's foot. Their guests were gone, Molly insisting she had to get home to start the layette for the baby, and Hermione remembering she and Ron needed to review for tomorrow's lessons. "Your ankles are smaller."
"Mum Weasley gave me something for the swelling. It's amazing what she keeps in that purse of hers."
Mum Weasley? "Draco, do you know who Voldemort is?"
"What an asinine question, Potter. Did you and Weasley stop for a quick drink or three after walking his parents to the gates?"
So, back to the old universe. "You were amazing today."
"Of course I was."
"You made everyone feel so at ease at dinner."
"Madame Puerilis was paid an exorbitant fee to make sure we knew how to properly host a dinner party, Harry. This was child's work, nothing more. Pansy said it made her long for her practice wand and Little Wizard quill."
So that's where the Slytherins had disappeared to yesterday. Harry leaned forward and placed a kiss on Draco's big toe. "Do you know how happy you make me?"
"Falling at my feet sort of gives me a clue," Draco replied. Then he winked. "Help me to bed and you can give me other clues."
"Madam Pomfrey warned me you might go through an insatiable phase."
"It's been two nights since our--difficulty, Harry. It's not insatiability, just plain teenage hormones."
"Just what I said--you're a horny bugger."
"Mrs. Weasley told me that I didn't have to put up with any nonsense while I was pregnant. She gave me a spell to keep you in line, if I had to."
Harry rolled his eyes. "No, she didn't. I was with you the whole time."
"Except when you, Ron, and Mr. Weasley were out in the garden playing on the swing."
"We weren't playing--he was just admiring my transfiguration work."
"Uh huh." Draco got to his feet with a helpful tug from Harry. "Seven children, Harry. She was pregnant a lot. She learned things, things which no man, except maybe other Progenitors, have been taught. Trust me, you don't want to get cheeky with me."
"Yeah?" Harry asked, wrapping his arms around his husband and kissing his neck.
Harry took out his wand and lit the bedroom as he doused the lights in the living area. "I guess I better listen to your orders, then. No nonsense, hmm?"
Draco's last words before the door closed were, "Well, maybe just a little."
Chapter 33: Tower Of Babel
Harry pointed his wand and silenced the alarm before it could ring. He showered, dressed, then tipped out and sat on the side of the bed next to his still sleeping husband. Although Draco wouldn't admit it, this eighth month was starting to wear on him, and Harry had taken it upon himself to see that Draco got extra rest.
"Draco," he called softly, shaking him just a little. "Time to get up, Draco." There was an indecipherable mutter. Typical. "Out of bed, lazybones. You have wizards and witches to terrorize." A gray eye made a brief appearance before being covered by its lid again. "Come on. Coach is off today, remember? You get to run us ragged without any supervision."
Draco frowned and sat up. With a peculiar look in his eyes, he something in Elven.
"Stop playing around. We need to get to breakfast," Harry said, pulling back the covers.
Draco clutched Harry's arm and uttered more garbled words. With his free hand, he touched his ear.
The panic in the gray eyes assured Harry that this was no game. "Draco, what's wrong? Why aren't you--" Draco shook his head, brushing his fingertips across Harry's throat. Harry got it; not only could he not understand Draco, but Draco couldn't understand him. What the-- The pregnancy. Fuck. He wanted to panic, but knew someone had to keep it together for Draco's sake. He peeled Draco's bruising fingers from his arm and grasped his hand to pull him up. "We'll get someone to help us and it'll be okay. Okay?" Draco continued to frown. "We're going to see Professor Dumbledore. Dumbledore," he repeated, mimicking the stroking of a long beard. Draco nodded, allowing himself to be pulled out of the room. Harry knew the problem was serious when Draco didn't stop to put on a dressing gown or check his hair.
Hermione, bless her pedantic heart, was already studying in the common room. The crackle of the fireplace, which was always lit no matter the season, gave Harry an idea. "Hermione, fire call Professor Dumbledore right away!"
She took one look at the disheveled Draco and hurried to the fireplace. She threw in a handful of floo powder and called hurriedly, "Professor Dumbledore! Harry and Draco need you!"
A face briefly appeared in the flames. "I'm on my way, dear."
Hermione turned to them. "What's wrong? Is it the baby? Do I need to contact Madam Pomfrey, too?"
"Draco can't speak English. And I don't think he understands it, either."
Her nose wrinkled in consternation. "Draco, do you understand me?" she asked.
He blinked in her direction, then said something that she couldn't understand.
"What is that?" she asked Harry.
"Elven, I think."
She started to ask another question, but Dumbledore hurried in, dressed in an orange and black nightshirt that allowed knobbish knees to poke out.
"Professor, he's only speaking in Elven. And he can't understand us," Harry said, feeling the panic well up again now that someone else was in charge.
"Quel amrun, Eärwen. Lle rangwa amin?" Dumbledore said to Draco, and the wizard sagged in relief and nodded. "It appears you are correct, Harry. I just told Draco good morning and asked if he understood me in Elven."
"You speak it?" Harry asked, as relieved as Draco.
"A little. Certainly not with the facility Draco possesses. Let's go to the hospital wing and see if we can't figure out what's going on." He repeated the plan to Draco, who nodded eagerly and was the one tugging on Harry as they headed to Pomfrey's domain. Hermione hurried along behind them, telling Millicent Bulstrode, who'd just stepped into the common room, where they were going.
Draco was having a difficult time sitting still while Pomfrey waved her wand at him. Why didn't they just lock him up and be through with it. They'd warned him that he could go insane. He just didn't know how awful insane was going to be. It would be one thing if it was like he was in a foreign country and couldn't speak the language. But it wasn't like that. It was like Harry and the others weren't speaking--they were just making noise. There was no cadence, no rhythm that suggested they were actually trying to communicate with him. It was gibberish, but worse. Even the monkeys in his father's lab made more sense than the people around him.
And, wow, something was wrong with him, because the memory charm his father had cast when he discovered Draco with the monkeys should have held better.
(Draco?) He turned to the headmaster, the only one he could understand although his intonation was shit. He was also the only one who didn't make his head hurt. (Draco, Poppy can't find anything physically wrong with you.)
Surprise, surprise. (So, I've gone mental, then?)
(It may be stress-related. She wants to give you a sleeping draught. Maybe things will be back to normal when you wake.)
Maybe the sleep would ease his headache. (Okay. Will you tell Harry what's going on? He needs to get to class.) Pomfrey had shooed Harry into the hallway soon after they'd arrived.
(He'll want to see you before he goes.)
Draco reluctantly nodded. (Tell him not to speak. The words hurt my head.)
(I'll tell him.)
Draco had already downed the sleeping potion and become drowsy by the time Harry came in. Dumbledore must have passed on his request, because Harry didn't say anything. He just leaned over and kissed him.
Draco fell asleep to the feel of Harry stroking his hair.
He woke to the sound of someone crying.
He groaned and sat up, looking around to see who had been hurt during training. Did Longbottom have Potions today? Or had Tracy transfigured her ring into a two-edged blade and sliced her finger off again? No matter who it was, maybe a glare from him would make the crybaby shut up and he could go back to sleep.
The hospital ward was empty.
A nightmare then. He sighed and lay back down.
There was more crying.
He pulled the pillow over his head.
Help me, Father! Mother! So scared. So scared.
Draco whimpered along with the voice. The voice that was apparently in his head.
Run from the bad things. Run, run!
Trees. Draco saw trees and heard--galloping?
They're going to eat me. Hide. Must hide.
Draco sat up on the edge of the bed. Had he really gone this barmy so quick? Or could the voice be real? It was obviously a child's voice. A frightened child--and frightened little wizards could do all sorts of things. Look at what his own child was capable of and he was still in the womb.
No die, no die, no die...
Not even aware of what he'd done, Draco found himself standing outside Hogwarts and facing the Forbidden Forest. Frowning at his bare feet, he started to turn around, but there was distant gibberish behind him, which might mean being hexed back into bed, so he just went forward and hoped for the best.
Harry jumped to his feet as soon as Madam Pomfrey burst into the Arms Charms classroom, knowing without a doubt that something had happened to Draco. "What is it? What's happened?"
"He's gone into the forest, Harry. I tried to stop him, but my spells--they just bounced right off him."
He hurried her down the hall, the rest of the class right behind them. "Did he say anything?"
She shook her head. "But I wouldn't have understood him anyway."
"Where's Professor Dumbledore?"
"Order business. He thought it was safe to leave. Draco should have slept through the night. I gave him enough sleeping draught to last straight through till dawn. Oh, Harry, he's still in his nightclothes and everything."
"Did you see which way he went?" Harry asked as they ran outside. The sky was gray and overcast. He shivered as he thought about Draco out there, alone and half-dressed. Please, don't let it rain, he prayed silently.
"That way. I tried to put a tracking spell on him, but he threw that off, too."
Harry nodded and scanned the edge of the forest. He looked around and saw all the trainees were outside now. They must have heard them running down the hall. "All right. I want you to break up into teams of five. Each group needs to have at least one former Slytherin. He may respond better to one of his friends. If you find him, don't approach if he looks like he's going to bolt. Just signal with your wand and try to keep him contained. Be careful. We want to find him, but we don't want to lead anything else to him while we're at it.
"Crabbe, Goyle, Hermione, and Ron, you're with me. The rest of you, go!" Harry looked at his chosen group and rolled up his sleeve to expose his binding bracelet. "Hermione, help me figure out how to work this thing."
"Just think of Draco," Goyle advised softly.
Harry nodded, ashamed that he'd just picked Goyle and Crabbe because they were big and familiar to Draco. He closed his eyes and focused. When he opened them, he knew where Draco was. "Come on!"
"Manke naa lle, hin?" Where are you, child?
Draco was tired. His feet hurt and his nightshirt was torn and dirty. God, he hated the Forbidden Forest. And if he was out here chasing a phantom his mind had conjured up, he was going to be royally pissed.
"Tua amin, Ohtar!" Help me, Warrior!
"Tula sinome, edhelelle." Come here, little elf.
A bush shook and out from beneath it crawled a young Elven boy. He reached out to help him and he climbed into his arms, shivering and crying.
(It's all right, child. You've been found now. It's all right, little one.) He rubbed his back as he spoke, disturbed by how hard his heart was beating through his thin skin. (Come, I will take you back to the castle and we will find your parents. Can you tell me your name?)
The child just continued to sob.
(Oh, well, you can tell me later. Let's just get out of this scary forest for now. That sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?) He looked around, hoping he remembered the way he'd come. He saw the broken branches of his trail--and a centaur standing directly in the middle of it.
God, he hated this forest.
Harry held up his hand and the others stopped. They listened for a minute and Harry looked at Ron.
Ron nodded. "Centaurs." The galloping sound was unmistakable.
"Shit." Harry started forward again, moving even faster.
Draco clutched the child in his arms and started backing up slowly. The centaur grinned and started walking forward just as slowly.
Draco bumped against a tree and turned to see where he was going. Another centaur stared back him. This one spoke when he saw he had Draco's attention.
"They told of you, you who are not all one, but mainly another. You will die or you will not."
"Either way, old wounds heal," the other centaur said.
Draco's headache, which had disappeared, came back in a rush. "Am I supposed to understand what you're on about?" he asked dryly.
"Your truths are lies. You know, but you don't know. Change is good, if not bad. Even the stars cannot decide. Only you."
"There's a reason I quit Divination," Draco muttered. "My decision is to get the hell away from you. So if you don't mind..."
Draco had never heard a yell that sounded so good. "Harry! I'm over here!" He turned toward a crashing sound and saw his husband running toward him. "Harry, watch out for--" He looked around. The centaurs had disappeared.
"Draco." Harry was beside him with his wand drawn.
"They're gone," he said and whispered it again to the head upon his chest. (The centaurs are gone, little one, and my husband, who is a great warrior, is here to protect us.) He looked up at Harry. "Centaurs were here."
Harry nodded. "We heard them. Are you okay? Who is your friend?"
"The centaurs were chasing him. He hasn't told me his name." He shifted the child so that he could see his eyes. (What is your name? I wish to introduce you.)
(Hidan, my lord.)
"Harry, this is Hidan."
(My husband gives his greetings, Hidan. May I present to you the great warrior of the Wizards, Harry Potter.)
"Saesa omentien lle, belegohtar Morwen Tinehtele." Pleasure meeting you, mighty warrior Harry Potter.
Harry smiled as if he understood what the young elf said.
"Harry, we should, um, be leaving," Weasley said.
"Right. Come on, Draco."
Draco took a step and stumbled.
Harry grabbed his arm. "What's wrong?" He looked him over from head to toe. "Shit, you don't have on any shoes. Your feet must be a mess. Hermione!"
"Centaurs aren't the only things in this forest," Weasley reminded them nervously.
"Don't worry about it, Weasley," Pansy said as she and her team joined them. "We won't let the creepy crawlies get you."
"What if you are the creepy crawlies?" he retorted.
"Don't start, Ron," Harry warned.
"Sorry, Harry, but you know what I'm talking about."
"I know, but Draco can't walk."
"Over here, Harry."
They looked over to where Hermione had conjured a simple but sturdy sedan chair. Draco and Hidan were loaded into it, and Draco felt so grateful that he told Granger thank you without a prompt from Harry. Not only were his feet cut and bruised, but he was completely spent. Greg and Vince picked up the poles with ease and they started out of the forest. He looked around as others started falling in line. All of the militia had come to his rescue?
"Yes, Harry?" He looked out the open window of his chair. Harry walked within touching distance. His wand was still out and Draco knew he was on high alert.
"You're speaking and understanding English again."
Draco smiled and relaxed into the gentle sway of his ride. He wasn't crazy. Harry and his friends had come after him and were now protecting him. The little elf who had invaded his head (apparently little elves had wild magic like little wizards) was safe and more importantly, quiet. The sky was a bit cloudy when they came out of the forest, but it wasn't raining. And-- "Everyone gets full marks for physical training today."
"Are you sure you didn't fall and hit your head?" Harry teased with a grin.
Draco grinned back and reached out for Harry. Hand in hand, they made it safely back to Hogwarts.
Chapter 34: A Long And Tragic Tale
Harry looked at the pair asleep on the bed and was grateful for the look into a future he might not live to see. Except for the ears, Hidan could easily be Draco's son. The silvery hair. The pointed features. The look of disdain when Pomfrey had approached with a bubbling goblet of potion... Harry grinned at that thought. He'd watched anxiously as Hidan had screwed up his face for one hissy of a tantrum (he'd seen the expression enough on Dudley's face), but before the explosion could occur, Draco had whispered something in Elven and took the child's hand. The boy had quietly submitted to the indignities of having his light injuries taken care of, and returned the favor by holding Draco's hand while the nurse healed his feet and scratches. Now the two slept and Harry kept watch. It made him feel good, seeing what kind of father Draco was going to be. He'd been afraid that between the two of them, they were going to suck as parents for a really long time. Now he knew that no matter what, their son was going to have a hell of a dad.
He turned to see Dumbledore enter the room with two adult elves. They were both slim, but the male had hair that had a purple cast to it, while the female's hair was the same as Hidan's and Draco's. Hidan's parents, by the way they only seemed to have eyes for their son. He took a moment to catalog their white, gold-trimmed robes, thinking that maybe he knew what to get Draco for Christmas.
"Hi, Professor. Hidan's parents? Tell them that Madam Pomfrey says that he's fine--just tired from his adventure."
"We speak your language, wizard," the male elf said. "Is this the one who rescued our son?"
Harry rolled his eyes. If the elf thought he was impressing him with his haughty attitude, he was wrong. After all, Harry was married to a Malfoy. "Yes, he faced great danger to save him."
"The Headmaster says that Hidan mentally spoke to this one?"
Gray eyes opened. "He did, and this one has a name--one I'm sure the Headmaster has already shared with you," Draco added dryly and Harry grinned. This was going to be interesting.
With an elegant turn of his head, Draco dismissed the adult elves and looked down at Hidan. He shook the boy gently and Harry could tell he was encouraging him to wake in fluent Elven. The two older elves stared at him, breaking their stupor only when Hidan almost literally flew into his father's arms. There was a flood of quick Elven among the four of them and Harry noticed that even Dumbledore seemed to have trouble following it. He decided the best way to keep up with what was going on was by watching Draco's eyes. There was some annoyance, a brief flash of confusion, but no anger. Having experienced the Elves' contempt for wizards, he knew the situation could be a lot worse.
Finally, there was a pause in the conversation and Draco held out his hand to Harry. "Anigon and Norna of the Royal Family of the Kherin, I present to you my mate, Harry Potter. Harry, I present to you, High Lord Anigon and Princess Norna of the Kherin, also known as the noble House of the Gray Elf. You already know their son, Prince Hidan."
Princess? Prince? Harry didn't know how long he would've stood there with his mouth hanging open if Draco hadn't immediately pinched him and hissed, "Bow."
Harry followed Draco's orders. "It's an honor to meet you," he remembered to say.
"It is you who honor us by participating in the rescue of our son," Princess Norna replied. "If you do not find it too rude, we would take our leave now. There are others who are eager to see the well-being of our Hidan."
"Of course," Dumbledore said. "If you permit me, I will escort to a point where you can safely open a portal back to your realm."
They nodded regally and after a long, lingering look at Draco, left with a final farewell from Hidan called over his father's shoulder. "No matter what his parents think, you've got a fan, Draco," Harry said with a grin. Then he sobered. "What do his parents think? I've seen Hedwig appear more grateful for a bacon scrap than they did for the rescue of their son."
Draco shrugged. "By nature, Gray Elves are a bit reserved and snobbish, often considering other elves socially beneath them. Even before the schism in '55, wizards didn't rank very high with them. In fact, I'm not sure we rank at all. In terms of inherent magical power, we're just a step--mind you, it's a very big step--above squibs and muggles. That actual royals deigned to come here themselves, and not send a representative, shows how much they care for Hidan."
"He's their son!"
"If I'd been the lost one, I couldn't see my parents reacting much differently."
Harry shook his head. "No wonder you can speak their language so well. They're just like you."
This time Draco was the one shaking his head, a hand curved around his stomach. "If our son gets lost, I can guarantee you won't find anything reserved about me. Now let's get out of here. Where are my clothes?"
"In our room--and you don't need them to get there. Madam Pomfrey said--"
Draco waved off the rest of the sentence. "It's time for dinner and I need some chutney. If you want me to wear a hospital gown to the Dining Hall..."
Harry sighed. "I'll go get your clothes. But you have to promise me that you'll go to bed right after dinner."
"Nonsense, I just woke from a nap. How about a compromise? The sofa in the common room."
"Deal," Harry said quickly, before Draco realized that if he sat on the sofa, he was stuck there until Harry helped him up.
Which he wasn't going to do until Draco was ready to go to bed.
"Do you want to lie in this morning? I could get one of the house-elves to bring you breakfast."
Draco blinked up at a completely dressed Harry. Damn, it must really be morning and not some sick joke. He groaned and reached for the hand that was automatically extended in his direction. He pulled himself into a sitting position and flexed his toes. Well, he felt them flex anyway; it'd been some while since he'd actually seen them. "I'm fine, Harry. Just give me a few minutes to get ready." There was an arithmancy equation that could reduce three hours into minutes, right? Because, damn he was stiff! Maybe he should take Harry up on his offer of breakfast in bed. No, that would start something he didn't want. It was already bad enough his wand had been taken away and his tutoring sessions minimized. Did he really want to be treated as a bedfast invalid?
His shower helped a lot and by the time they reached the Dining Hall, the aches and pains and creaking bones had eased considerably. He straightened his shoulders and walked into the hall.
"Oooh, look, everybody. It's the Incredible Slythindor," Blaise called with a grin.
Draco groaned. Last night his Slytherins friends had teased him about becoming an heroic Gryffindor--"This time cuddly children, what next, Draco? Ickle kitty in a tree?" When he'd threatened to give them all failures in physical training for the next week, they'd declared that he still had Slytherin in his blood, thus he was a "Slythindor." Although he thought the sobriquet clever, he wasn't about to let them get away with the teasing. "Laps, Zabini. So many laps that you will recognize each tree you go by how many leaves have fallen in your many passes."
"Cranky this morning, are we? Potter, you must not be doing your husbandly duties properly."
Well, that stung, even though Zabini had no idea how much. Still... "Harry, your wand."
Harry shook his head. "No, Draco, this one's on me." Harry pulled his wand and muttered a curse. Zabini's morning oatmeal dripped from his head; Draco hoped that it was still hot. Zabini's subsequent scream was immensely satisfying.
Before there could be any attempts at retaliation, and probably a full-out food fight, a single owl winging through the doors stopped everything. Although they'd had seven years of them, they'd quickly grown use to not having breakfast owls. This had to be something important. The owl fluttered in front of Draco, sticking out its note-laden leg.
Draco removed the note reluctantly and opened it. "It's from Professor Dumbledore. He wants to see me in his office. Harry, he says you can come along, too."
"Is something wrong?" Pansy asked.
Draco shrugged. "Probably something about yesterday's rescue. Who knows? Maybe the elves think I had something to do with Hidan's disappearance in the first place."
"Draco!" Harry said sharply. "What makes you think that? You didn't say anything about that before."
"Its' just a guess, Harry. You saw how they stared at me yesterday. And they asked some...interesting questions."
"Questions like what?"
"Who my father is." A Death Eater who worked for a mad man whose son had just happened to stumble upon a lost elven child. Who wouldn't be suspicious?
"Fuck," Harry replied softly.
Draco nodded, seeing the concerned faces of the rest of the militia. "It'll be okay. The elves just probably need to question me further, use their form of veritaserum or something."
"They're not doing a thing to you without Pomfrey or Snape present, damn it," Harry muttered.
Blaise stood and placed his hand on Draco's. "If the elves want a fucking war, we'll give them one. Just say the word, Draco."
The other Slytherins added their hands on top of Blaise and Draco's. Harry put his there and so did everyone else. With a solemn nod, Draco and Harry left for Dumbledore's office, knowing they had colleagues, friends, who had their backs. No matter what.
Draco was nervous as they neared Dumbledore's office. He'd studied elves. He knew their strengths (so very powerful) and their weaknesses (so very few). He also knew he was innocent of any wrongdoing, but, God, his father was one of Voldemort's minions... Was he going to have to fight against that in two realms? Why the hell hadn't Lucius thought about his future progeny's reputations when he got involved with the fucker? Damn it!
He figured his anger had him flushing and attracting Harry's attention. "I'm fine. Just mentally skewering my father on a hot poker."
"Need some help with that?"
Draco gave him a grim smile. "Gee, if only I were Harry Potter's son, then I wouldn't have to deal with this shit."
"First, ewww! We do things in bed, you know," Harry replied with amused disgust. "And second, it's just as hard to be the son of a good guy, trust me. I'm always getting compared to my dad and it's quite uncomfortable."
"Let's make a pact, then. We're going to let this little one be whoever the hell he wants to be--within the bounds of good taste, of course."
Harry snickered. "Of course."
They were in considerably better spirits by the time they rode up the moving staircase. For Draco the feeling did not last long. As soon as they stepped into the office and he saw the woman standing next to Dumbledore, he knew there was something far more wrong than a kidnapping investigation.
"Draco?" Harry asked when Draco stopped in the middle of a step forward.
"Kneel," Draco hissed quickly. Harry knee had started to bend before Draco realized, "Help me down, Harry."
"Why are we down here?" Harry whispered as he assisted Draco to one knee.
"She--her--it's--she's the queen, Harry, the queen of the elves!" He hated that his voice quivered, but, hell, the queen hadn't left the elf realm since the late 1700's. If she was here now... He gulped anxiously and surreptitiously eyed the woman standing beside Dumbledore. She looked like she was just a bit older than his parents, but he knew for a fact she was well over a thousand years old. Her royal robes were silver, shot with gold. Her hair was silver as well, and her eyes--eyes which were watching him watch her--were a startling violet. He blushed and looked back at the floor.
Dumbledore cleared his throat before speaking. "Queen Arelia, may I present to you Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter. Draco, Harry, this is her majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, and Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic."
The queen looked amused at the recitation of her titles. "Rise, children. We have much to discuss."
Harry helped Draco up and they discovered four chairs placed around a tea set near Dumbledore's desk. When everyone had been served, Queen Arelia touched the long tip of her ear and winked. "Fear not, children, for I can hear the rapid beats of your hearts. The reason I am here you cannot suspect, but I mean no harm. Please note that I am authorizing you to speak freely in my presence. This is not state business and protocol has no purpose here."
"Is it to do with Hidan? He is well?" Draco asked cautiously.
She smiled. "Very well. It is good that you were near to hear his cries for help. It is a royal family trait we are all proud of, the ability to mindcall to our kin when we are in trouble. No, I am not here to speak of Hidan, although he did tell me to make sure you come to visit him, because he will not be allowed to even mention the word 'portal' until he is quite older, and I do mean quite."
"Why are you here, then?" Harry asked and Draco goggled at his boldness. His muggle rearing was so obvious.
"To impart a long and tragic tale not known in your realm." She turned to Draco. "Cormlle naa tanya tel'raa, astalder." Your heart is that of the lion, valiant one.
Draco smiled. She was almost correct--his heart belonged to a lion. He saved that thought to ponder later. "Diola lle." Thank you. He sobered and asked, "Naa rashwe?" Is there trouble?
She shook her head and switched back to English. "Your Headmaster said you were an apt student of our language and ways. These will be comforts to you in the future."
Draco and Harry shared a glance. That didn't sound too cheerful, did it? Then again, she'd said her tale was tragic. "Please, your majesty, just tell us," Draco said softly.
She put down her cup. "Once upon a time the elves held great respect for wizards. Although your magics were somewhat elementary, you showed wisdom and intelligence in your use of them. You showed wisdom and intelligence in all your actions, which cannot be said of the trolls, orcs, and other assorted races we often have to deal with. We traded freely, shared what knowledge we thought you could comprehend. When you need assistance, we gave what we could. It was an harmonious existence. But one day, my daughter disappeared, along with a wizard who was traveling in our lands. He was traced back to this realm, but was soon lost. I sought the cooperation of the wizards in tracking this man, but I was told he didn't exist and that perhaps my daughter had wanted to disappear with him. But Thisala wasn't like that. She was quite settled in her maidenly ways, often telling me that she would settle with a mate when she found one worthy of her. I knew she would not go off following her heart without thought. The wizards, in their immense wisdom, decided to ignore my mother's instinct. I grew angry and demanded the expulsion of every wizard from the realms I commanded and called back all elves from the human realm. Alas, it was not a very 'queenly' act, but motherhood is far more a calling than a throne.
"Ten months later, my daughter returned in a very poor state. She spoke of being kidnapped and held in a place concealed by dark magics. She spoke of rapes and an eventual pregnancy. She spoke of coming to term with only the wizard who had assaulted her in attendance, of having him take her child and leaving her alone and bleeding on the cold floor of her prison. She spoke of the strength that motherhood gave her, strength that allowed her to make it back to her home realm so that her family could help her retrieve her son. Alas, we had no better luck finding her child than we had finding her. We monitored your realm constantly and years later we finally sensed the existence of one with royal elven blood. Thisala was beside herself with joy. She went to her son. A son who rejected her in the bitterest of manners, a son whose heart had been hardened against her, turned black with hatred. Thisala returned to the realm, heartsick and broken. She died in the bed she'd grown up in, the vial of poison she'd taken still clutched in her hand."
Draco gasped. Suicide was virtually unknown with elves. It was considered a human folly.
"You have her coloring."
Draco frowned, looked at Harry, then looked back at the queen. "Excuse me, your majesty?"
"Her eyes were silver as her father's. You inherited that and, of course, the hair. There hasn't been a child born into the royal family without our fair hair in at least ten generations."
He saw the sadness in Dumbledore's eyes and thought he understood. The queen's grief was making her confused. "I'm sorry, your majesty," he said kindly, "I'm not your grandson."
She smiled and reached out her hand to him. "I know that, young one. Thisala wrote of her son in the note she left beside her bed. His name was not Draco...but Lucius."
Chapter 35: Would've Been Ironic If I'd Taken Up Killing Mudbloods For A Profession
Harry stared at Queen Arelia in utter shock. Lucius "I'm so pureblood my parents were brother and sister" Malfoy was actually a halfblood? Holy shit. Before he could wrap his mind around such a startling revelation, a peculiar sound made him turn his head. He saw that Draco was also reacting. He was laughing, not chuckles but full-blown laughter that had tears streaming from his eyes. At first, Harry joined in but as the laughter continued, Draco's laughs became sobs and soon he was gasping for his next breath. Panicking, Harry pulled Draco into his arms and started whispering that everything was going to be okay.
"Would've been--ironic if I'd--taken up--killing mudbloods--for a--profession, huh?" Draco hiccupped in his ear.
It finally hit Harry how much the information had shaken Draco. Harry was just stunned because Lucius was such a big liar. Draco--Draco had lost the very foundation of his life. Although he was firmly on the side of Light, Harry knew Draco hadn't totally given up his racist beliefs. Blood purity was a big issue to him and now, as he'd just said--now he was, in his own head, a mudblood. No better than Hermione. Far beneath Ron.
The voice was sharp and commanding. Draco pulled back from Harry, and Snape held a vial up to his lips. Draco drank without hesitation, then leaned against Harry again. Harry could feel him calming, his breathing less erratic and his heartbeat slowing. In a few minutes, he sat up and wiped his eyes with the handkerchief Snape held out. "Forgive me for my unseemly behavior," he said to the room in general.
"When my brother was carrying his children, a cloud appearing in a clear sky could cause a crying jag that would last for hours," Arelia said with a fond smile. "Considering the size of the cloud that I put into your sky, dear Draco, you have done the House of Kherin proud."
Draco thanked her with a nod. "Now I have to ask you to forgive me again, this time for my rudeness. Queen Arelia, may I present to you my mentor and Hogwarts potions master, Severus Snape. Professor Snape, may I present to you her royal majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic, and--my great-grandmother."
Snape did Slytherin House proud by merely freezing for a second before dropping to one knee. "I am honored to make your acquaintance, your majesty."
"As I am so honored, Professor, by your obvious affection for my great-grandson." She looked at Draco. "I tire of all these 'great's. Would simply calling me 'mother' be too confusing to you? You are, after all, the last of the direct line to my dear Thisala, albeit not the last for long."
Draco's hand went to his belly in acknowledgement. "Since I no longer have anyone to call 'mother,' I would be honored and delighted to bestow the title upon you, Mother Arelia."
She gave Dumbledore a puzzled look. "I thought you said both his parents were living."
"Draco's heart is not as dark as his father's. Therefore, Draco has separated from his parents," the Headmaster replied.
"It is good that you said he has separated from his parents--because he is not separated from his family," Arelia said firmly. "You are a member of the Royal House of Kherin, Draco. The Court will always be home to you."
"But I'm--just a mudblood, possessing only a quarter of noble elf blood," Draco protested.
"Even if circumstances were not as they are, as long as a drop of Thisala's blood runs in your veins, you are not 'just' anything," the queen said sharply.
Harry felt Draco grow anxious again. "What circumstances?"
Arelia shook her head. "I will leave you to discuss it with your headmaster and perhaps your mentor should be present as well. He may be able to verify certain points." She stood and so did everyone else. "Darling Draco," she said as she stood in front of him. "The one regret I have regarding my daughter is that I did not teach her properly about patience. As humans are fond of saying, good things come to those who wait. You, my new son, were definitely worth waiting for."
Draco smiled. "It's nice to be wanted, Mother. And please do not take my reaction as a rejection. I was just--" he paused, desperate for a tactful description.
"Thrown unexpectedly into a freezing tarn?" Arelia supplied.
"Yes, but I know how to swim. I just need to get my bearings."
She nodded. "Yes, I can see you will not falter long. That is not your nature."
Harry snorted at the understatement. He'd never seen anyone recover from anything as fast as Draco. He'd noticed that even before their current situation. No matter what he, Ron, and Hermione had tossed at Draco, the blond was always at the top of his game when they next met.
"Please allow me to escort you to the school perimeter," Dumbledore said, adding with a twinkling eye, "I'll even let you in on a shortcut. Severus, perhaps in the meantime Mr. Malfoy will allow you to perform a blood test on him."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "What shall I be looking for?"
Draco gasped at Dumbledore's request but forced himself to focus on his departing great-grandmother. "Will I see you again soon?"
"Of course, my son. You know how to call to me, or if you wish to journey to the realm, you do not have to wait for an invitation. I will be delighted to introduce my newest son to the Court." She smiled at Harry. "And, of course, your mate will be welcome as well. Although he appears to be the silent type, I feel the strength of your union. You are well-matched. Cormamin niuve tenna' ta elea lle au'." My heart shall weep until it sees thee again.
"Lissenen ar' maska'lalaith tenna' lye omentuva, arwenamin " Draco murmured as she kissed his cheek. Sweet water and light laughter till next we meet, my lady.
She smiled proudly and took Dumbledore's arm, glancing long at Draco as she allowed the Headmaster to guide her through the door.
As soon as Dumbledore and the queen left, Draco dropped his face into his hands. "I'm so humiliated by my reaction. What she must think of me," he whined.
"Actually, it appears she thinks quite a lot of you," Snape replied, taking an empty vial from his robes. He waved his wand and Draco felt a prick before he raised his head to see a drop of his blood floating through the air to sink into the vial. "Someone in your family had--relations with an elf?"
Draco expelled a puff of air. "Relations? Oh, you mean when Grandfather Melchizedek thought it'd be a really bright idea to kidnap an Elven princess, imprison her, use her as a breeder bitch, and then take her child away as soon as it was whelped, leaving her to die or save herself, whichever one came first? Then yes, someone in my family had relations with an elf."
He watched Snape do the time calculations in his head. "Ah, hence the banishment of wizards from the Elven realm."
Draco gave a grim smile. "Don't forget the part where poor Princess Thisala finds her long-lost son and he's such a bastard--forgive the pun--to her that she goes back to the realm and tops herself. It's a wonder Queen Arelia didn't just have me beheaded and end the whole evil line."
"You Malfoys never do anything by halves, do you?" Snape drawled as he used his wand to test the vial of blood.
"Half of nothing is nothing; half of everything else is just a waste of opportunity, resources, or revenue," Draco said, parroting his father's voice.
"I hope your recent circumstances have made you aware that Malfoy tenets are often without merit."
"I can quote them without believing them."
Snape frowned and did the bloodletting spell again.
"Unlike my father and grandfather, I have a heart," Draco said, getting nervous, "and a heart requires blood, so I ask very nicely that you save me some!"
"Perhaps I should check your hormone levels as well."
Draco tried to reach around Harry for the teapot, which he could envision bouncing soundly off Snape's head, but his husband held him back. "You like his potions, remember? He adds extra chocolate just for you," Harry whispered.
Hmm. That was a good point. It wasn't a good idea to piss off your own, personal potions master, especially when you were pregnant and in need of lots of potentially nasty concoctions. "I apologize for my tone, Professor Snape," he said sweetly.
"Save the sucking up for your great-grandmother."
Bastard. No, Snape wasn't the bastard; Lucius was. But what the hell was Lucius's game? He'd violently rejected his Elven heritage, yet he was the one who'd started and encouraged Draco's interest in everything Elven. He smelled a rat almost as foul as that Pettigrew idiot Voldemort had serving him.
He focused on Snape and saw that the man was finished with his analysis. "Well?" he asked, grateful when he felt Harry's hand settle around his.
"Before you tell us your results, Severus," Dumbledore said, coming through the door, "perhaps I should give a bit of explanation."
"That might be wise, Headmaster," Snape replied with a hint of curiosity.
"As Queen Arelia mentioned in passing as she spoke of her brother, Elven men can become with child. When our forefathers were in search of a way to propagate despite a limited number of witches, they looked to the elves for a solution. The Elven healers considered it a worthy challenge, and they discovered that the key to wizard pregnancy was one drop of Elven blood bound to wizard blood. Now, Elven blood is extremely aggressive, meaning that too much can set off a cascading production of Elven blood cells and the being affected will become a sterile hybrid, much like mule. So, although there were a number of magics combined to create the Progenitors, the single drop of Elven blood was the core of the procedure."
"How do you know all of this?" Harry asked. "I thought there was no information on Progenitors."
"It turns out that Queen Arelia was a healer before she was queen and knew very well of the origin of Progenitors. If we had been on better terms with the elves, I'm sure they would have been of great service to us earlier," Dumbledore explained patiently. "When your maturity triggered the Progenitor effect, Mr. Malfoy, that one drop of Elven blood appeared in your system--and met the quarter percentage of Elven blood already present. This started a cascade."
"You mean--" Draco started hesitantly, "that I'm a mule?" God, and he thought being a mudblood was bad enough.
Dumbledore smiled. "No, Draco, you are definitely not a mule. Because you were already one-fourth elf, the cascading merely made you more elf. How much more, well, I think Severus has the answer to that."
Snape held up the vial of blood. "Ten percent."
Draco frowned. "I went from twenty-five percent to only ten?"
"The Headmaster's first request was for percentage human."
"I'm ninety percent elf!" Draco's voice squeaked and his hands went quickly to the tips of his ears.
"I'm sure that's the ten percent that is human," Snape said dryly.
Draco ignored him and started to review what he knew. "That can't be right. With that much Elven blood, I should be able to perform at least a little Elven magic. Even half-elves can do a lot of things."
"So can you," Harry pointed out softly.
"What are you talking about?"
"The lights, Draco. And your father."
"That--that was the baby, Harry. I told you how it likes to protect itself."
Harry shook his head. "You're protecting him, Draco. It's been you who's been protecting our son."
Well, fuck. Better than carrying around a little power monster, but... Made it real, didn't it? He was no longer "Draco the Pureblood Wizard," but "Draco, the Almost Pureblood Elf." It was--ridiculous was what it was. He hadn't been wrong to laugh at the situation. Hell of a day and the morning had barely begun. "Guess we don't have to worry about a war with the elves."
"I beg your pardon?" Snape asked sharply.
"Idle speculation, Professor," Draco said dismissingly. "Can we go now?"
"Of course," Dumbledore said. "And when you're ready to visit the realm just let me know ahead of time, please."
Draco nodded, knowing the old man's monitoring spells would have a fit if he disappeared from the mortal world. He grabbed Harry's hand and tugged him out of the office. "If we were not bound and merely married," he said as the stairway descended, "you could file for an annulment on the grounds that I lied about my heritage."
"You know I don't care about that shit," Harry said impatiently. "And to be honest, I don't exactly get what your problem is. You're almost a full elf. You're now capable of more magic than any other wizard on the planet. What's so bad about that?"
Draco struggled to put it in terms Harry could understand since their backgrounds were so different. "You thought you were a normal little muggle boy until you were eleven, right?" Harry nodded. "When you found out you were a wizard, you were happy." Harry nodded again. "But even though you were happy, you were frightened by the knowledge that you were different? And you were angry because someone could have told you before? And you were sort of sad because whatever dreams you had were going to change and even though you knew the change was probably for the better, it was still change and it was still scary?" Draco sighed and closed his eyes for a few seconds. "Queen Arelia was right about the freezing tarn. It's scary in cold, dark waters, Harry."
Harry shrugged and draped his arm across Draco's shoulders. "I've seen you swim, Draco, and even though I can't be in the water with you, I want you to know I'm on the other side, waiting for you with a nice warm blanket and a winner's ribbon."
The image made Draco smile. "And some chutney? I need my chutney, you know."
"The baby's going to come out breathing fire," Harry muttered. "We're going to have to name him Little Draco and cover the rooms in flame retarding charms. And he'll singe my hair and you'll say, 'Don't worry, Potter, no one will notice the difference.' I'll point out that he never comes close to burning your hair, and you'll just remind me that that's because Little Draco is going to be a Slytherin and therefore rightly has no respect for Gryffindors..."
Harry's lighthearted rant continued as they made their way toward class, distracting Draco from the tumultuous revelations of the morning enough that he could function and not shatter. Maybe his life had turned upside down. Maybe he wasn't who he thought he was. Maybe he wasn't what he thought he was. But he had Harry and their baby, apparently a new mother, and an assorted host of new relatives who may or may not loathe him--which was no different from what he was used to. Hmph. If life was a potion's cauldron, his overall ingredients hadn't really changed that much, had they?
"Ready for class, Draco?"
He looked up to see they were standing in front of the classroom's door. He gave a squeeze to the hand that was firmly wrapped around his. "I'm ready for anything, Harry."
Chapter 36: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down
"Have you seen Draco?" Harry asked the first former Slytherin he ran into. He had really great news to share and was eager to find Draco. Today, in his "special" class he had mastered an Unspeakable-level spell! Exaudio allowed the caster to eavesdrop even on conversations protected by a silencing spell. It wasn't a commonly known spell and was highly complicated to perform--the only reasons why the Ministry hadn't completely banned it, considering how invasive it was to public privacy. He was pleased with himself for learning it, and he knew Draco would be pleased as well. Although he wasn't very vocal about it to Harry himself, Draco was proud that his husband was a powerful wizard. Maybe it made up, in a tiny way, for what he'd lost when he'd turned away from his parents.
"He went to find Snape. Something about his hemorrhoid salve running out," Crabbe said in a loud whisper.
Harry frowned. Draco had plenty of salve; he'd seen it just this morning--ugh--next to the sink in the bath. So why was Draco going to Sna-- Oh. The elf thing. That was Draco's term. "Harry, don't tell the others about the elf thing. There's no point in bringing it up. It doesn't really mean anything," he'd told Harry yesterday just before they stepped into the classroom. Draco was royalty and just because he wasn't wizarding royalty or pureblooded royalty, he was ashamed of his status. He was acting almost as bad as Lucius, although he hadn't completely turned his back on the elves and told them to fuck off. But denying his connection to them was pretty close. Where was his cunning Slytherin who was supposed to use any means to achieve his goals? Power, privilege, prestige was right there for the taking, and he was in a mood because his blood wasn't pure. Harry just didn't get it.
Which was probably why Draco was talking to Snape. Snape understood these things, having not only been the head of Slytherin House for years, but an actual Slytherin. Maybe Draco would listen to him. After all, he was in need of a father figure since Queen Arelia had volunteered to be his new mother. Hmm. A whole new twist on the term "queen mum."
He turned away from his musing to see Hermione staring at him. "Hi, Hermione. You seen Draco?"
"He said something about seeing Snape when we got out of class. Is everything okay?"
She shrugged. "He seemed...different yesterday. Are you sure the only thing that happened was that the elf queen came to thank him?"
Harry nodded, hating the lie. "She surprised him and Draco doesn't like surprises, that's all. According to him his hair wasn't done perfectly, his robes weren't his best, he's eight months pregnant and the size of a hippogriff, etc. You know Draco."
"I'm starting to, and that's why I think there's something you're not telling me."
Harry decided to be as honest as he could. "If it was just me, I'd tell you, but I can't betray Draco's confidence, Hermione. Just know it has nothing to do with me, and I really don't see it as much of a problem at all."
"Draco and his dramas, huh?" she asked skeptically.
"Right. I'm sure Snape is talking some sense into him even as we speak."
Hermione raised her eyebrows, then shook her head. "Fine. I'll see you both at dinner?"
"Of course. I want to tell you and Ron about what I learned in class."
Harry hurried down the hall and to the steps. The potions laboratory was again in the dungeons and Harry still wasn't sure whether it was a new laboratory or the one he'd spent seven miserable years in. He wished Draco hadn't been banned from potions due to his condition, because if anyone knew whether it was the same room, it would be Draco.
He stood outside the closed door to the laboratory and wondered if he should knock. Then he had the brilliant idea of testing his newly learned spell. Drawing his wand, he made the complicated movements and uttered the spell. Nothing. He did it again before realizing he wasn't hearing anything because the room was empty. Draco and Snape were probably in the potion master's office.
Remembering his agonizing Occlumency lessons in Snape's office, he easily found his way there and cast Exaudio. He was rewarded with the voices of his husband and their professor.
"Professor Snape?" Draco had asked as he tapped on the door.
"Are you in labor?"
"Then go away. My research has already been hampered enough by having to teach you lot this summer." Draco stayed where he was until Snape looked up from the parchment he was scribbling on. "What is it, Mr. Malfoy?"
Draco stepped in, closed the door, and asked Snape to perform Silencio before he spoke. "It's about my heritage, sir."
"You're ninety percent elf. Deal with it because it is not going away. Besides, you're royalty. I'm sure that outweighs being a mudblood, even for you."
Draco smirked. "It does indeed, sir. That's not the problem."
"Then what is?" Snape didn't bother to hide his impatience.
"It's the 'mule' part."
Snape blinked. "You look like a wizard-sized plimpy, so I can say without any doubt at all that you are completely fertile."
If Draco wasn't so worried, he'd have been offended. "What if there are other...side-effects?"
Snape sighed. "Such as?"
"What if it--affectedyoursexualperformance?" he said in a rush.
Snape cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You're eight months gone. It's reasonable that you'd have, um, performance problems. Tell Potter to take cold baths and leave you alone."
Draco sat even though Snape never offered him a seat. "I can perform. I just can't let Harry...do me. I get scared every time he tries."
"And does he try--often?"
"No. He says--he says it doesn't matter, that it'll take time for me to get over the rape, if I ever do."
"He's correct. Come back in ten years if you're still having the same problem."
"Professor," Draco whined. "It's been eight months! I should be over it by now."
Snape sat back in his chair, tapping his fingers against his desk. "Do you want to know what I think the real problem is?"
"Yes, sir." No way he would have come to Snape about sexual matters if he didn't want the man's opinion.
"Guilt, Mr. Malfoy. Your guilt is keeping the incident in the forefront of your mind and therefore you can't 'get over it.'"
"Guilt because I--"
"Yes. You gave Potter the potion that made him rape you. It weighs on your conscience--the part of you that determines right from wrong, in case your father never explained the term to you."
"It wasn't wrong," Draco argued. If he hadn't done it, he'd probably be sporting a lovely skull and snake on his arm by now.
"It wasn't right, either."
Draco rubbed at his temple, a headache threatening to bloom. "So how do I get rid of this--guilt?"
Snape shrugged. "Do something good, I suppose. Appease your conscience. Show it that you know you did wrong and maybe it will shut up, allowing you to enjoy--" he shuddered-- "the affections of Mr. Potter."
"Good? I guess I could--" Draco frowned. "Any suggestions, sir?"
"A start would be leaving me in peace to complete my calculations."
Draco rose from the chair. "Thank you for your advice." Snape grunted and picked up his quill.
Something good, Draco thought as he left the office. Maybe he could invite Granger and Weasley over for a private dinner. Or he could-- "Harry?" He smiled as he saw his husband leaning against one of the walls. "What are you doing down here? If you're here to see Snape, I'd suggest coming back later. He seems to be in the middle of something important."
"I was looking for you. I had something important to tell you."
"I could use some good news," Draco said brightly.
"I learned a new spell today."
"Something dastardly?" Draco gave a dramatic evil chuckle.
Harry just shrugged. "Could be. See, I learned how to listen on private conversations--like the one you just had with Snape."
Draco paled and looked closer at Harry. Why hadn't he noticed the tense shoulders and angry eyes. God, he was in the shit now, wasn't he? Maybe not. Maybe Harry hadn't heard everything. "I know I shouldn't be discussing our personal lives with Snape but--"
"Cut the crap, Malfoy! I heard it all! You--you made me fucking rape you! How could you? Oh, yeah, I remember now. You could because you are a fucking Malfoy with no more morals than your fucking Death Eater of a father!"
"Harry, please, let me explain."
"Explain how you made me into your fucking bitch? Sit, Harry. Heel, Harry. Bind with me, Harry. Let me fuck you, Harry. Give up your whole fucking life for me, Harry."
"Don't! Don't use my name anymore. My enemies don't have the right to use my name."
"I'm not your enemy. I--"
'Well, you're certainly not my friend or anything else. No, I take that back. You're my fucking breeder--just like your grandmother was when she whelped your father!"
"Shut the fuck up and DON'T call me that! No, I'm wrong. I'm not your grandfather, you are! You used me and locked me up in a fucking cage of a life that I didn't want. But you know what? I'm not going out like she did. In fact, now I'm going to be like your grandfather. I'm going to let you have this baby and then I'm going to take him away from you and never look back. Bleed to fucking death--see if I care!"
"Harry--" Draco flinched as a wand nearly stabbed him in the eye.
"Don't. Say. My. Name. Get. It?" The wand did not waver a millimeter. Draco swallowed hard and nodded. "I'm not sure which one I'm more disgusted with--you or myself? After all, I knew you were a fucking arsehole from the beginning. You played me but good, didn't you? Made me into the biggest fool on the fucking planet!"
"It wasn't about you. It was never about you," Draco murmured, scared to say much.
"That's right. Because you're a selfish bastard who only thinks of himself. Why didn't I remember that? Why did I ever believe that you lov--that you cared about me?"
"Magic doesn't lie, Harry." The wand poked at him again. "Potter, magic doesn't lie."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"The binding. It was--"
"How the hell did you fake that anyway? Hermione will want to know."
"I didn't fake--"
"Probably gave me the wrong ceremony. What did I really do? Give over my soul to you? Did you make me sign in blood, then give me a potion to make me forget it? After all, you love sneaking potions into me."
"Har--Potter, calm down and listen to me. I--"
"Didn't I tell you to shut the fuck up? I don't want to hear any more of your lies. Did you laugh when I told you how tired I was of being manipulated by Dumbledore and the Order and the whole fucking Wizarding world? Didn't know I was talking to the fucking master of puppet masters. You make me sick. Do you know that? You make me physically ill. The sight of you makes me want to puke. God, I want kill you right now, but I can't, can I?" Harry sighed and stuck his wand back into his robes. "Get out of here, Malfoy, before I forget you're carrying my son."
"If you'd just let me--" The wand was out faster than Draco's words.
"Run, Malfoy," Harry warned, his tone dangerously flat. His eyes glittered eerily in the semi-dark corridor, reminding Draco of a cat he'd found in one of Lucius's cages at Malfoy Manor. The thing had been so feral, it'd broken its own neck trying to escape. The emerald eyes had frozen open in death, the madness still clearly visible.
Draco shivered and took a step back. "Pot--" he tried again, determined to be heard. He didn't know what he wanted to say; he just knew he had to try.
"Run now, or I won't be responsible for what happens next." The words were whispered, a sinister, sibilant sound that seemed to echo off the barren dungeon walls.
Draco, alarmed to see Harry shaking but the wand pointed at his throat completely steady, did the only thing he could.
Chapter 37: Trouble Never Travels Alone
Draco was halfway back to his and Harry's rooms when he realized what had happened--he'd run from Harry. He'd never run from Harry before. Ever. Even when it would've been the smartest thing to do. But he'd never seen that Harry before either. That Harry--that must be the Harry who scared the shit out of Voldemort on a regular basis. How delightful for their side, but Draco couldn't let that Harry or any other Harry intimidate him and steal his baby. The baby was all he had left, the only person who might someday love him even when he wasn't perfect. He sighed. Who was he kidding? His son would probably hate him by the time he was five.
"Hey, Draco, did Potter find you? I told him you were with Snape because of your...problem."
Crabbe stood in front of him. Crabbe, who'd apparently told Harry where he was. Crabbe who had ruined his life. "Yes, he found me, you big oaf! And now, because of you, he's going to take my baby away."
Draco took a deep breath. Standing here arguing with Crabbe was useless. He had to--he had to what? Get away? To where? He didn't have-- He grinned. Mother Arelia. He'd go to the Elven realm. They'd probably be pleased to keep a wizard from his child. Payback was always a happy bitch. Sweet, sweet revenge.
"Get the hell out of my sight, Crabbe." Draco nearly ran to his rooms, He started packing, then realized he couldn't shrink his luggage without a wand. Fuck. Well, it wasn't like he was planning on staying forever. Just long enough for Potter to calm down, maybe start missing him a bit. So, he just grabbed the journal Harry had given him, a jar of chutney since he wasn't sure if elves ate chutney, and his book of Elven spells. There, he was packed.
Halfway out of the castle, he remembered his promise to Dumbledore about notifying him when he made visits to the realm. He didn't care about breaking the agreement, but the old fool might think he'd been kidnapped or something. Besides, Harry considered him a trusted adviser. It couldn't hurt to stay in the sugared up professor's good graces. With a very put out sigh, he trudged up to the owlery, trudged back down, then trudged out across the lawn and toward the freedom of the gates.
Harry muttered a healing charm and waved his wand at his hand. At least it wasn't his dominant hand he'd smashed repeatedly into the dungeon wall. And the pain gave him an excuse for the tears that he could feel drying on his face.
So stupid, he decided. Believing in Draco. Believing in love. Believing that he was actually in control of some part of his destiny. Yeah, he'd always known it was a plot, but he'd thought he and Draco were both victims. It had put them on an equal footing. It had made them an "us" versus "them" team. Now, they weren't a team--just the usual "Boy Who Lived" idiot and his enemy, Malfoy. He'd thought everything had changed and nothing had. They might as well be First Years. And if that wasn't bad enough, Malfoy had involved an innocent in their war. A baby who'd done nothing more than come into existence. Another unwanted Potter boy.
No! He was wanted, damn it! Harry wanted him, and he was going to raise him and teach him how to tie his shoes and ride a broom and... And none of that was going to happen because Harry didn't know if he'd even be alive by the time his son was old enough to tie shoes or ride a broom.
"Fuck you, Draco!" he cried out. "Fuck your black soul to hell! You and Voldemort and your fucking father!"
God, what was he going to do now? No one knew the truth, and he certainly wasn't eager to tell Ron and Hermione. He could see the pity in their eyes. And he could hear Ron spout crap about making sacrifices for the baby. But, damn it, he was tired of sacrificing. He'd already lost his parents, Sirius... Couldn't somebody else, for once, give up everything?
Draco had, his conscience whispered.
Yeah, but he deserved it.
Because he didn't want to serve Voldemort?
Because he used me!
So it's all about you.
He made it about me.
And you call him a selfish bastard who only thinks of himself? Pot meet kettle.
Don't make him out to be a tragic hero.
No, that would be you-- the Boy Who Lived.
Shut the fuck up!
You shut me the fuck up. It's your head, remember?
Harry started to punch the wall again, but at the last minute saw the bracelet on his wrist. He stared at it for a minute, then leaned back against the wall, battling his anger and his conscience. He had every right to be angry, to feel hurt. But, for better or worse (and how ironic was that?), he was bound to Draco. Regardless of what he'd yelled at Draco, he knew it was a real binding. He could feel the magic of it. He'd relied on it to find Draco and it hadn't played him false. It was real and...Magic didn't lie.
He slid down and sat with his back against the cold wall. This was a fine mess Draco had got both of them into. Stomping off to hit walls wasn't going to solve anything. Hitting Draco wasn't going to solve anything. Crying and yelling about his fucked up life wasn't going to solve anything. He and Draco--because, yes he was going to make the bastard work with him--were the only ones who could straighten this out. They had to, for the baby's sake, hell, for all their sakes. He could just see himself cocking up the spell to kill Voldemort because he was too horny to think properly.
And if he was thinking of sex, then maybe the worse was over. Maybe he could face Draco without wanting to kill him. But it was dinner time. Could he face Draco surrounded by everybody? Wouldn't it be better if he just went to the kitchens and got a sandwich to take back to his rooms? That way he could confront Draco in private. With a full stomach. With Draco already having his daily allowance of chutney. Yeah, that would work.
With his plan in mind, Harry stood and went in search of the picture of the ticklish pear. He figured his best bet would be to find the Great Hall, which was maybe through the door at the end of the dormitory corridor. He was surprised to see Crabbe pacing outside the door to the wizards' dorm. He'd never seen one of Draco's former henchmen miss a meal or even leave one early. Since he wasn't in the mood to talk, he put his head down and prepared to mutter a greeting without slowing down.
Crabbe, however, had other ideas. As Harry passed, the larger wizard reached out and grabbed him by the collar of his robes. With a "This is for Draco," Harry felt pain explode on the side of his face.
Even as Harry was falling, he was drawing his wand. He winced as his elbow hit the solid marble of the floor, but he kept his enemy in focus. "What the hell's the matter with you, Crabbe?"
"Draco said you were going to take his baby."
Harry turned his head just slightly to see everyone had returned to dinner and were standing in the hallway that his sprawled body blocked. Everyone but Draco, who was probably in their rooms incendio'ing all of Harry's stuff. Great, this was just bloody great. "Draco and I, we--we had a fight." Understatement of the fucking year. "I might have--said something like that."
"But you didn't mean it, right?" Hermione pressed.
"You found out, didn't you?" Pansy asked flatly. "That's why you threatened him with taking the baby."
Draco had told the fucking Slytherins? The anger he'd struggled to contain, exploded. Everyone ducked as the globes around the hallway candles shattered around them.
"Found out what?" Ron asked desperately. "What the effing hell did you find out that's causing you to lose it like this, mate?"
"He found out Draco got pregnant on purpose," Pansy answered, and it took Harry a second to realize that Draco hadn't completely confided in them. He hadn't told them about the rape. "He did it to save us, Potter. If you can't understand that--"
"Why should he?" Hermione interrupted. "Trapping someone with a baby is vile!"
Pansy glared at her. "Only a mudblood like you would think so. Carefully planned pregnancies have saved many a society from years of war and devastation. Read between the lines of your precious Hogwarts: A History, Granger, and see the truth behind all those fortuitous alliances and pacts. Someone--a Slytherin, no doubt--saw the need and took action! Your bloody muggles and their One Hundred Years Wars. That was real brilliant of them, wasn't it?"
"Oh, and one Slytherin whore could have stopped it by lifting her skirts or in Draco's case, dropping his pants?" Hermione asked scathingly.
"Yes, Draco dropped his pants and every single one of you should be kissing his arse because he did so. The lot of you are bloody useless when it comes to scheming, and if you think you can take on the Dark Lord armed only with earnestness and sincerity, you don't fucking deserve to win," Pansy replied with a disdainful sniff.
"Shut your gobs, all of you!" Harry had had enough. "This is between Draco and me. We'll--"
"No, Potter, you're wrong," Blaise said quietly. "It has never just been between you and Draco. Everything the two of you have done has always reached beyond you personally. You divided the Houses of Hogwarts far more than mere history did. Wherever the two of you were, there was drama and conflict and the taking of sides. Yet, in one kiss, you mended the rift as if it'd never existed. You are a leader, Potter, and people follow. Draco's the same, and if we're all honest here, none of us would be in this militia if the two of you hadn't led us here. So, sure, go find Draco. Fight, argue, fuck, whatever. But know that it's not just about you and Draco. It's about all of us."
"Zabini," Harry started to protest...but the bloke was right, wasn't he? He and Draco led, and they all just followed. Everyone knew it. Everyone accepted it. Even the older students had fallen in line after a few years. It hadn't been Gryffindor versus Slytherin. It'd been Potter versus Malfoy. The good following Potter. The evil following Malfoy. Or maybe from the other perspective it was the stupid following Potter and the smart following Malfoy. Whatever it was, he didn't feel ready to deal with it. "Zabini," he began again. "I--" He hissed as the bracelet cut into his arm.
He ignored them and staggered to his feet. "Draco!" He started down the corridor in a dead run.
As Draco hurried across the Hogwarts lawn, he frowned at the dark-clouded sky. Great. A summer storm was all he needed. He fumbled in his pocket for the book of spells and cursed the wind as it blew the pages around before he could find the directions of how to access the Elven realm. He knew how to do it in theory, but that wasn't very reassuring when he'd be stepping through the hopefully correct portal in a few moments. Ah, he thought as he looked at the drawings. In his mind, he'd switched the left rune with the right one. Maybe he better check the--
He was proud of himself for not flinching. Somewhere in the back of his head, he knew that with the way his day was going, this was bound to happen. He flipped his notes closed and crammed them back into his robes. "Hello, Father. How are you this lovely day? Voldemort here with you? Voldemort?" he called loudly. The Dark Lord's appearance would just add icing to his shit cake of a life.
"Draco!" Lucius reprimanded sharply. "Don't you dare speak our Lord's name."
Draco rolled his eyes. "A name's a name, Father."
"And a whore's a whore," Lucius said with disgust looking at Draco's dramatically different profile.
Draco opened his robes and patted his stomach. "You're going to be a grandpa. Aren't you thrilled?"
"I'd planned on being the grandfather of the next dark lord, not some mudblooded brat."
Well, that made it through Draco's fatalistic haze. "You what?"
"When the Dark Lord found out about your 'uniqueness,' he wanted to give you the honor of bearing his progeny."
"You expected me to cop-copulate with that--that--" Draco sputtered, utterly outraged.
"You copulated with Potter."
"At least he's human."
"The Dark Lord is--"
"The Dark Lord was dead for ten years; humans don't come back to life."
"He's a freak! Face the truth, Father. You've sold your soul to a half-blood freak, and you tried to sell your son to him as well. But considering you're a half-blood freak yourself..."
Lucius paled, then smirked. "So you've discovered my secret, have you?"
Draco snorted. "Secret my arse! What was the plan, Lucius? There had to be some reason why you wanted me to learn the Elven language and culture. Why didn't you want me to hate your mother like you did?"
Lucius shrugged. "There was no way I was going off with the bitch, but I figured if she wanted to start a war, I could give you in appeasement."
Gee, it was so heartwarming to know just how little he meant to his father. Still... "Try again, Lucius. That's only part of it, isn't it? Let's see. What value could I--Oh, I get it," he said, smiling as he figured out Lucius's plan. "If the Dark Lord was in danger of losing the war, you planned on offering me up as hostage for the elves joining Voldemort's side, didn't you?"
"Your grandmother is an Elven royal; she could end this so-called war in a heartbeat."
"My grandmother is dead."
Lucius looked startled. "Then, how do you know--"
"I saved the life of one on my--cousins. My great-grandmother, Queen Arelia, came to meet me. In fact, I'm on my way to her house right now. I'll be sure to give your regards. As her newest son, Mother will certainly want to comfort me with the head of the beast you wanted to give me to."
Lucius shook his head and drew his wand. "You know I can't let you do that."
"And you know I can't let you do that," Draco said calmly, raising his hand to the sky.
"What are you going to do? Call on your quarter Elven powers?" Lucius sneered.
"Let me pass on a piece of advice I recently received: run, Lucius."
Lucius lifted his chin stubbornly. "Avada Kadvra!" he yelled.
"Russe tuulo' moriloomir!" Draco counter-yelled and brought his hand down in a slash.
Harry paid no attention to the thunder and barely glanced at the rain as it beat down on him as he raced across the lawn to the Hogwarts gates. Through the filigreed metal he could see Draco. And Lucius. He saw the wand. He heard the curses.
And lost sight of both of them when the air in front of him flashed green and white.
Chapter 38: Tears
Harry felt as if he was fighting his way underwater as he continued toward Draco, his eyesight blurred by the bright light they'd been subjected to. Green light. Screaming. His mother. Tombstones. Voldemort.
A splash of cold water brought him back to the present. Rain. Big, fat drops of rain which created puddles even as he ran. He spared a flick of an eye at Lucius, who lay sprawled in a circle of black grass. But his main focus was Draco, who was on his knees and staring at his father.
"Draco?" he said softly but urgently as he knelt beside him. There was no hint that his husband saw or heard him. "Draco!" He reached out and shook him slightly.
One slow blink and the gray eyes left the sight that had held him enthralled. "Harry?"
Harry gave a sigh of relief. "Come on. We have to get back to the castle. We're getting soaked out here."
The relief fled. "Yes, and I know how you don't like to get wet without purpose. Let's go inside, all right?" Harry felt someone come up behind him and turned to see Ron dropping to one knee.
"He's dead, Harry," the redhead whispered, aiming his thumb at Lucius. "Hermione and Pansy have gone to get a professor. The rest of us are going to stay to make sure there aren't anymore Death Eaters around. You should get Draco back inside."
Harry nodded and whispered back, "I'm trying. I think he's in shock."
"Who wouldn't be?"
"You heard?" He wasn't sure how far behind the others had been.
"The Avada, etc. part? Yeah. We all did. Not exactly sure what killed Lucius, but Draco's in the clear."
"Maybe with the law, but I'm not sure his mind and heart will see it that way." Harry turned back to Draco. "Inside for a hot bath and hot chocolate, okay?"
Draco shivered. "I'm sorry, Harry."
Harry wasn't sure what Draco was apologizing for--giving him the potion, running away, and/or killing Lucius. "We'll talk about it later. You're going to get a chill."
A cold, clammy hand came up to trace Harry's cheekbone. "I'm sorry, Harry," Draco said again. Before Harry could respond, Draco's hand dropped to his and tugged it forward to press against his sopping robe. Then Draco slumped against Harry and Harry--
Harry just stared at his blood covered hand.
Harry paced the perimeter of the hallway running along the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey had banished him from the interior as soon as he'd placed Draco on a bed, telling him that Draco didn't need him dripping water all over him. He'd looked at his own robes and couldn't tell what was just water and what was Draco's blood that had got on him as he carried his husband to the medical ward. Thankfully Ron had been there to keep him from toppling to the floor. Instead, he'd been led to a chair in the hallway and Hermione had placed a drying charm on him. When he'd recovered enough to go back into the ward, he'd found the door locked.
So now he paced...and thought. Why had Draco gone beyond the wards? He knew the dangers. Had he expected his father to be there? Had he been planning on going back to his father, with his father? Maybe he thought he could cut a deal with Lucius, allowing him to keep his child--since he thought Harry was going to take him away. Had he really meant it when he'd told Draco that? Could he have actually done it? And had he done it? If the baby was lost now, it would be completely his fault for causing Draco to run away.
"A lightning bolt through the heart," Hermione said eagerly as she came up the stairs and entered the hallway.
"What?" he asked, stomping toward her.
"Lucius Malfoy was killed by a lightning bolt straight through his heart. That must have been a high-level Dark spell Draco used."
"It wasn't Dark," Harry argued. Dark magic left an odor of sorts on its caster, a scent that Harry knew well, and he hadn't smelled it on Draco. Besides, he was starting to recognize Elven. A fitting end for Lucius, in his opinion.
"Well, it's nothing we learned here," Hermione began, but was interrupted when Dumbledore opened the door to the ward.
"Harry," he said solemnly and beckoned his former student inside.
Harry followed the Headmaster and saw someone who made his heart sputter in mid-beat. "Yo...your majesty?" Oh, God. Was Draco's condition so grave that they had to call in his relatives?
"Harry," Queen Arelia said calmly, then smiled. "Do not panic, dear child. I attend every royal birth."
A smile. Did that mean...? "Draco and the baby, they're okay?"
"The baby's fine; Draco's a little stressed. That's what caused the bleeding," Arelia explained. "There's a line here," she used her finger to trace a lateral line up her abdomen, "that we call the fissure of emergence. It separates to allow birth, then closes without scarring. With Draco being so close to giving birth, the fissure had already thinned. The stress of whatever happened earlier caused the fissure to separate in spots. That was the source of the bleeding."
"But everything's okay now? The fissure closed back up?"
Arelia shook her head. "The child will be born tonight."
She beckoned and Harry followed her to a room he hadn't seen before, which didn't surprise him; the castle was good at providing space as needed. Harry saw Draco in bed, Pomfrey keeping watch over him. "There's still a month left," he murmured worriedly.
"They will be fine," Arelia assured him. "Both are strong."
Harry looked at her curiously. "How did you know what was happening?" Was she somehow linked to Draco?
"I had just contacted her when word came of Draco's collapse," Dumbledore said. "I wanted to make sure Draco's first venture to the realm had gone smoothly."
First venture? Draco had planned on going to--Harry scolded himself for even thinking Draco would run to Lucius. He wouldn't have risked all he already had to escape from Lucius and Voldemort only to run back to them. Nor would he have risked their baby like that. Despite all Draco's faults, thinking with his heart instead of with his mind wasn't one of them. "How did you know of Draco's plans, Professor?"
"Why, he owled me, of course."
Of course he did. Draco knew he was being monitored, and he didn't want to call undue attention to his actions. He wanted to be safely with the elves before--before what? Before Harry found out? Before Harry demanded his and the baby's return? Which, given what Lucius's father had done, would have been ignored or sneered at. Although the plan itself made him shiver, the brilliance of it impressed Harry. Draco thought on the fly very well. Maybe Pansy had a point about the necessity of Slytherins working for the Light.
"What happens now?" Harry asked, looking at Draco. The white linens made him appear paler and ethereal.
"I had your healer put him into a light trance to relax him before the birth. I am not sure what happened--"
"He killed his father," Harry said quietly. "Lucius tried to kill him and Draco defended himself."
"How?" Arelia asked.
Harry shrugged. "He held up his hand and said something, which I suspect was in Elven. Then he dropped his hand and I saw the flash of green from Lucius's Avada Kadvra, but there was also another flash of light. Hermione said Lucius died from a lightning strike to his heart."
"The lightning spell," Arelia murmured. "It is a difficult spell, except for--tell me, Harry, how was the weather?"
"There was a thunderstorm brewing and afterwards, it began to rain heavily."
Arelia pursed her lips. "An air mage." She looked at Dumbledore. "He must be trained."
The Headmaster bowed. "This is a school and any instructor you send from the realm will be welcome here."
"An air mage?"
"Yes, Harry. It means that an air elemental has claimed Draco as one of its own, opening a connection between Draco and the magick of the air, an emotional as well as magical connection. It is how he called upon the lightning to defend him, and I suspect he thickened the air to shield himself from his fath--from Lucius's spell. He will be treasured in the realm." Arelia suddenly glanced at Draco. "It is time. Harry, please go comfort Draco. There will be some slight--discomfort."
Harry walked to the bed, noting that Draco was starting to fidget a little. He reached out and brushed back a tuft of blond hair that stubbornly clung to Draco's cheek. "Hey," he said when gray eyes opened to see who was doing all the touching.
"Harry?" He sighed and blinked. "Thought you were a dream."
"I'm real." He perched on the corner of the bed next to Draco's head and grabbed his hand. Draco smiled and moved so that his cheek rested against Harry's thigh. Then he stiffened.
"Am I in danger? My father..."
"You don't have to worry about your father anymore," Harry said, hoping that was enough.
"But, Harry, he tried--he--I heard him. He said--he--"
Harry stroked the soft blond hair, trying to calm Draco. "I know. I saw."
"Then why aren't I--Did you stop him, Harry?"
Draco frowned. "I should be dead. Why aren't I dead?"
"You didn't want to be."
Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I did something, didn't I?"
"You could say that," Harry replied delicately.
"I--" Draco stopped, swallowing hard. "I killed him?"
"You wanted you and the baby to live."
"The baby!" His hands plopped down against his large belly. "The baby," he repeated, softly stroking the mound.
"You're going to have the baby tonight, Draco. Your mother, Queen Arelia, is here to oversee everything."
"Oh," Draco said and rolled away from Harry. "Is he hurt? From what I did?"
"No, he's just coming a little early because of the stress of the day. The queen says you're both healthy and strong."
Draco removed his hands from his belly and began entwining his fingers nervously. "What did I do? To Lucius?"
"According to the queen, you're something called an air mage."
"I can control the weather?" Draco looked up at him, his eyes wide with excitement and confusion.
"You did a lightning spell. And you also made the air shield you from--from your father's spell."
Draco gave a short laugh, full of pain instead of amusement. "He tried to kill me. The fucker got what he deserved."
"Everyone's in agreement with that," Harry reassured him. Draco winced. "What's wrong?"
"Stinging. Along my belly."
"Queen Arelia explained it to me. Your stomach is opening up to let the baby out. It only hurts a little. You can squeeze my hand if it gets to be bad, okay?"
Draco edged further away from Harry. "I'm fine."
Harry gave him a puzzled look. "Draco--" He stopped when Queen Arelia approached.
"Draco, my wonderful child, are you ready to bring your own child into the world?" she asked as she pulled back the linens far enough to expose Draco's belly. There was a red line bisecting the area, weeping blood and a pinkish fluid. She nodded as Pomfrey brought in a basin of warm, fragrant water. "I am going to help the skin peel back and the birthing sac will be revealed. When he is ready, your baby will kick through or reach through the sac, then I will lift him out. To protect his magic, only he can break the sac and expose himself to the world. It might take him a few moments to decide to join us. Do you understand?"
Draco nodded and Harry watched in equal parts fascination and horror as the queen placed her hand just above the emergence line. As her hand moved, the skin beneath parted, with surprisingly little blood, to reveal a translucent, shiny, bubble-like structure sitting inside Draco. Before Harry could figure out that what was moving beneath the surface was his baby, a hand and a foot poked through.
Arelia laughed. "Eager, this one, and very decisive. Very well, lirimaer, if you have no objection, I will assist you, yes?" She reached down and scooped the slimy, squirming being into her hands and pulled him out. "Welcome to the world--what is his name?"
Harry looked at Draco, but Draco had his eyes closed and his head turned away. "Draco? What do you want to name him?" he asked as he turned his attention back to his son. His son.
Harry looked at Draco in amazement. He was naming the baby after his father? Even after... "James Salazar Malfoy-Potter," Harry corrected. It was fitting that on the day one Malfoy left the world another would arrive.
Draco's eyes flew open, and he glared angrily at Harry.
Arelia ignored the reaction. "Welcome to the world, James Salazar Malfoy-Potter. Creoso, cormamin lindua ele lle." Welcome, my heart sings to see thee. The baby waved a fist at her and she laughed. "Now say hello to your fathers. They have waited so patiently for you. Come, Harry, wet the towel and clean your son while I take care of the final parting between him and Draco."
"I can't--" Harry stopped as Arelia plopped the baby into his arms. Then she wrung out a towel and put it in his hands before picking up a wicked looking dagger. He quickly focused on the baby, instead of the knife cutting the umbilical cord. "Hi, baby. Hi, Jamie," Harry cooed as he daubed with the washcloth. The baby turned toward him, shiny blue eyes peering at him suspiciously. "You came out of there like a proper Gryffindor," he said with a smile, "but I think I see the Slytherin in you as well. The Sorting Hat is going to have a problem with you, I bet."
"Clean the baby, Harry, not tickle it," Madam Pomfrey scolded as she edged in close to have a look. "A fine specimen of a boy he is, Harry."
"Thank you," he said with a grin. "Look at this little tuft of hair, Draco. He's going to be blond, just like you." He held the baby down to Draco, who had closed his eyes and turned away once again. "Draco?"
"Get out. Both of you...please," Draco whispered, a tear rolling down his face.
And that was when Harry finally got it. "Draco, listen to me. I was--" What? He hadn't been kidding. And he hadn't been lying, but... "I was angry when I said I was going to take Jamie from you. I'm not. I wouldn't. He needs both of us. Please, Draco, look at your son." He lay the baby on Draco's chest and Draco automatically reached up to hold him in place.
"You said..." Draco began.
"I said a lot of things," Harry interrupted as he used the towel to wash the baby's back. "I meant some of them, but not that. Never that."
Draco nodded and the baby cooed.
"He likes the sound of your heartbeat," Pomfrey said as she spread a light blanket over the baby. "It reminds him of his old home. Keep him there for a while. I'll go fix him a bottle."
Arelia pulled the sheet up over Draco until it reached the baby's feet. "You have already started healing, Draco, so I shall take my leave of you to spread the news to the realm. And, Headmaster, I think you, too, have news to spread."
Harry had forgotten Dumbledore was still in the room. "Sir, thank you, for giving us a home, a safe place for little Jamie."
"My pleasure, boys. I'll go inform your comrades of the good news and allow the three of you to get to know each other." Dumbledore smiled and patted Harry on the back as he looked down on Jamie. "What was once broken is now healed. In him, Hogwarts has been restored. The castle awakens. All within will be protected. This little one demands it."
Harry had no idea what the professor was talking about, and fearing it was some prophecy that Jamie would have to carry for the rest of his life, he pointed his head toward the door. "Please tell everyone how grateful we are for their help earlier."
"I will. Blessings upon the three of you." Dumbledore took the hint and left, escorting Arelia after she said her goodbyes.
Harry sat on the bed and looked at Draco and Jamie, both asleep. His family. Which he'd come so close to losing today. He leaned over and kissed the back of Jamie's head, then brushed his lips across Draco's mouth. He leaned back against the headboard and closed his stinging eyes. The day had had its share of ups and downs. The anger he'd experienced after learning of Draco's betrayal...it was still there and he knew it would have to be dealt with. Draco killing Lucius. It had been a kill or be killed situation, but it was going to hit Draco at some point...and that would have to be dealt with. Threatening to take the baby away--both of them were guilty of that, because he was sure Draco would've had the elves keeping him from seeing Jamie if he'd made it to the realm. That would have to be dealt with. Draco being an air mage, whatever the hell that was, meant that his Elven heritage probably wasn't going to stay a secret for very long...and that was going to have to be dealt with.
But none of that was the here and now. Tonight he was here with his son and the man who loved him, because--he looked at the bracelet on his wrist--magic didn't lie. Tonight, he'd become a father, a boy who'd never had a father was now one and he vowed to be the best he could be, even if he ended up like his own and barely made it past Jamie's first birthday. Tonight, he was at the only real home he'd ever known, and his only real friends were mere walls away. Tonight, his tears were those of joy.
The others could wait.
Chapter 39: Dealing
Draco dropped into one of the chairs in the common room, exhaustion clinging to him like a second skin. He was learning that elves were a sadistic lot. The instructor Arelia had sent was a perfect example. He was supposed to instruct Draco in controlling his emotions so that they didn't affect the weather. But his reaction to every emotion Draco displayed was a sneer that Draco knew from experience meant, "mudblood loser." So he tried not to show any emotion, which, according to the instructor, meant he wasn't trying to learn anything. So then frustration would take over and...well, Hogwarts was having a very wet autumn.
And, yes, everyone knew why the weather was being so fickle. It had been easier just to tell the sordid story than to watch his friends try to figure it out for themselves and pants things up. To his surprise, they'd taken his new heritage in stride. According to Blaise, "So you're Elven royalty. We've been bowing and scraping before you for seven years. How does this change anything?" Greg and Vince had other concerns, however.
"Draco," Greg had begun, "Binns mentioned in one of his lectures two years ago that Elven sweets were--"
Draco had thrown up his hand to silence him. "When were the two of you ever awake in History of Magic?"
"He was talking about food," Vince explained with an eye roll. Draco had made a mental note to keep his large friend away from Pansy for a while. "So do you think your new mum can, you know, hook us up?"
Draco had made another mental note to keep them away from any muggle-reared as well.
"Here you are. Knew you were out of class because the rain stopped," Pansy said as she sashayed in with Jamie in her arms.
The two-month old was probably the real reason why he hadn't received any grief over being a mudblood. His son had quickly become the militia's mascot of sorts. No. Mascot implied that he was merely a favorite toy. Jamie was much more than that. Jamie was the team captain, expertly controlling who was where and when. Hell, at times it seemed like even he and Harry had to schedule appointments to see their child. Jamie was the biggest non-Veela flirt to hit the Wizarding world. He cooed. He smiled. He babbled. He waved tiny little arms and legs while blinking big green eyes that sucked in hearts and spat out goo. Even Filch had been caught speaking babytalk to Jamie, and Jamie, instead of screaming in terror, had just given him a toothless grin and reached for his nose. As a result, there was no shortage of willing babysitters at any time of the day or night, including their former and current professors. Dutifully, each morning the day's roster was examined and a schedule of who got to look after Jamie was arranged. The boy was reluctantly handed off from caregiver to caregiver until he eventually reached one of his parents, who managed a few hours of bonding before bedtime. Draco would've been mortified to have such a beloved child, if he hadn't on occasion spied a look in Jamie's eyes that said, "Yes, puny humans, bow before me." He got a shiver every time he saw that. What a brilliantly manipulative child, his son.
And then there was the one exception to Jamie's goodwill--Theodore Nott. He didn't like Nott one bit. If he heard his voice, he would scrunch up his face. If Nott looked at him, he'd whimper. If Nott reached out for him, he yowled bloody murder. Harry and his friends thought it was hilarious that it was a Slytherin Jamie hated. Draco just thought he needed to keep a closer eye on Nott.
Draco reached out and took his son from his current sitter. "Hi, Jamie. Did you have fun with Auntie Pansy? Or shall I turn her into a toad for being mean to Papa's boy? Would you like that? Huh? Would you like to see Auntie Pansy hopping around the room?"
"Or maybe he'd like to see Auntie Pansy hop on Papa and beat him silly," she said sweetly. "Then you'd have more time to spend with Auntie Pansy. You'd like that, wouldn't you, sweetling?"
"You have a date with Blaise Saturday night," Draco said, just as sweetly. "I could make sure your hair charm wouldn't stand a chance."
"Being a weather mage--"
"Air mage," Draco interrupted.
"Whatever. Being an air mage is wasted on you. Should have gone to someone with imagination. Ski slopes open year round or something."
"You're such a b-i-t-c-h," Draco spelled in deference to his son.
"Takes one to know one, darling. I'll be back to pick him up right before his bedtime. I've already duplicated his crib in the witches' dorm. He'll feel right at home," she said, reaching out to tap Jamie's nose. Of course, she got a smile in return. "I'm glad you and Potter are going to have the night alone. You need it."
"And what does that mean?" Draco asked haughtily. But he knew what it meant. Although Harry hadn't mentioned the potions incident again, he'd stubbornly kept to his side of the bed since Draco's release from the hospital wing, and it showed when they were together. So Draco had arranged a special evening for the two of them. Since the reason for his guilt was gone, surely he was ready for Harry to top. And even if he wasn't, now that his hormones were back to normal, he was confident he could fake it.
Pansy just rolled her eyes at his question. "If you need contraceptive spells--"
"Why on earth would you know contraceptive spells?" Draco teased.
"Put down the baby so I may bounce things off your head," she replied sternly.
Both Draco and Jamie laughed.
It was late in the evening when Draco approached Harry about the plan. Harry and Jamie were on the sofa doing "exercises." Harry would hold out his hands and Jamie would kick at them. Jamie held onto Harry's fingers and with Harry's help, pulled himself up. Harry pretended to "pump" iron by raising and lowering Jamie. Both of them loved the evening routine and Draco just liked watching them.
"Pansy's coming by in a few minutes. Jamie's sleeping in the witches' dorm tonight."
"Why?" Harry kissed the bottom of Jamie's pajama-clad feet.
"You don't have patrol tonight, and I thought we needed to time clear up some things." Ever since Hogwarts had opened at the beginning of September, the militia patrolled twenty-four hours a day.
Harry nodded. "I guess it is time. The girls don't mind?"
Draco snorted. "This is the fifteenth time they've asked me to let Jamie spend the night, so no, I don't think they mind. We're probably going to get a request from the fellows for equal time, however. Our son is quite popular."
"I know. Peeves pointed out a stash of lost sickles to Ron the other day so that Ron could go buy Jamie a plushy from the Hogwarts Ghost Contingency. Didn't even know they had organized." Harry grinned at Jamie. "How about it, baby? Do you like the ghosts? I saw you giggle at Nearly Headless Nick. Interesting way he plays peek-a-boo, isn't it?"
Draco shuddered. He'd seen that, too. Instead of covering his eyes, Nick just swung his head off and on. They were definitely going to have to look into getting Jamie some real playmates. Before he could break down and ask Harry if any of the Weasleys had started breeding and the age of their brood, a knock sounded at the door.
As soon as Jamie was securely bundled off with Pansy and Hermione, Draco flung himself at Harry and kissed him deeply. Harry was thrown completely off-guard and Draco had walked him into the bedroom before Harry managed to break the kiss.
"I thought--I thought we were supposed to talk," he said breathlessly.
"We'll get around to it eventually," Draco said slyly, wrapping his arms around Harry's shoulders.
"No," Harry said and backed away. "We're not going to do this."
"Why?" Draco whined. "Is it about that potions thing?"
Harry deliberately peeled Draco's arms away. "Yes, that potions thing," he agreed.
Draco sighed. "Couldn't you just--get over it?" He knew when he said it, it was the wrong thing to say. But, damn it, he was so frustrated.
"Like you've got over it?" Harry said coldly.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The rape, Draco. You just want me to 'get over' the rape."
"What rape? Did someone--were you raped, Harry? Who? Just tell me the fuck who!" Thunder rocked the castle.
Harry glared at him. "For fuck's sake, you did, Draco!"
Draco frowned, trying to understand what Harry was saying. "I most certainly did not! When did you not willingly give yourself to me? When did I force you into anything?" he argued.
"When you gave me that potion!"
"That wasn't rape!"
"The hell it wasn't! What's the definition of rape? Forcing someone to have sex against their will. That's what you did to me!"
"I didn't take you that night!"
"What aren't you getting, dumb arse! I did not want to have sex with you. You fed me that potion and I may as well have been under imperius. You RAPED me, you son of a bitch, and then had the nerve to say it was my fault!"
The candlelight either sputtered or lightning flashed outside. Whatever it was, it startled them both and Harry bolted through the bedroom door. Draco dropped onto the bed, his head throbbing in confusion. He hadn't raped Harry. Why was Harry thinking like this? Draco was the one who'd been assaulted. He could still remember feeling himself tear as Harry forced himself inside. He remembered panicking and wondering if he'd given the wizard too much of the potion or if he'd made the potion too potent. He remembered Harry's nails digging into him, holding him in place. His shoulder popping out of place because Harry had tied his hands behind his back. The rib snapping. His head banging against the dirty floor. He remembered every goddamned minute and it wasn't Harry who'd been suffering. Harry hadn't a mark on him!
But then he remembered the anguished look in Harry's eyes afterward. The way he tried to help him back into the torn clothing. The sad way he mentioned Azkaban. The careful look he gave Draco when they'd passed each other in the hallway or had class together. The dark circles and bruised appearance that signified loss of sleep...appetite. Had he--? Was it--? Against his will. Forced.
Harry hadn't run far. Just to the small courtyard where he sat in the swing and dissected the confrontation. One thing was certain: both he and Draco were a lot better at controlling themselves than they had been two months ago. There was no broken glass and it wasn't raining. He knew Draco had been working with the elf instructor and he'd worked with Snape, of all people, because he didn't want to be losing it with Jamie around. The baby himself was going to manifest wild magic at times. Poor Draco didn't need to be ducking magic from everybody.
Poor Draco. He was so completely lost. Harry could tell from the look in his eyes that Draco had no idea of the true nature of his crime. Harry really wasn't surprised. After growing up with Dudley, he knew that some people couldn't see beyond themselves. Sure, in some in came naturally, but a lot of children needed to be taught to look at the world through others' eyes. Petunia and Vernon Dursley hadn't seen the need, nor had Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. Although it was obvious Draco was trying, even before he'd discovered himself to be a "mudblood." He'd befriended Hermione and Ron, and got along with the rest of the militia. Just last week, he'd caught him sending Mum Weasley an owl with Jamie's picture. He'd even thanked Filch for the un-requested clearing of a storage area to make a playroom for when Jamie was older.
Harry figured at some point Draco would be a good man, and maybe he should've just bedded him and let it go. But. Harry sighed and looked up at the sky as he considered the "but." But Harry had the feeling he didn't have much time left before the inevitable final confrontation with Voldemort. The death of Lucius Malfoy had sent the Dark side into chaos, revealing just how much of a role the man had actually played. To solidify his control of the Death Eaters, Voldemort was going to have to do something bold and commanding.
And Harry was going to have to stop him. One way or another.
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He wanted to go into battle knowing Draco had everything he needed to be a good single parent. He wanted to know Draco wouldn't unconsciously mimic Lucius in how he raised Jamie. He wanted to know that Draco knew he was flawed and would accept help and advice from others. He wanted to know that he left Draco and Jamie well-protected--not just against others, but against themselves.
He turned in the swing to see Draco standing in the doorway. "Good job. Not a cloud in the sky," he praised.
"And nothing's broken inside," Draco replied, returning the praise. He saw Draco take a deep breath and square his shoulders. "I didn't know."
"But even if I did know, I'm not sure it would've changed anything."
Wow. He wasn't expecting that. "Why?"
"I called you names, lost you House points, caused you to serve detentions... Not really up to current Death Eater standards, and lousy Death Eaters quickly become fuck toys and corpses. I didn't want to be either."
"Could've what, Harry? Could've gone to Dumbledore? Could've spent the rest of my life being watched by Aurors? Could've spent the next few years as a fuck toy and a spy?"
"Wanted to breed me to Voldemort." Harry stared at him. "You didn't overhear that part of the conversation? Yes, my dear father thought I would just jump at the chance to pop out wee dark lords for him to train and use."
"Is that why you--" Harry stopped, wondering how many dangerous waters they could cross in one night.
"Why I killed him?" Draco gave a sad laugh. "I don't know why. I don't even think I was trying to. He just--scared me, Harry, and I retaliated. I don't even know why I responded in Elven. I was still unconvinced that I could perform Elven magic. I was frightened for me and my baby. It was just--instinctive."
There had been a very superficial investigation by the Aurors which had cleared Draco of any wrongdoing. Draco had been on edge for days after that night, but other than the official Auror report, he'd heard nothing. The body had been released to Narcissa and--and that was it, as far as Harry knew. There'd been no obituary or funeral announcement released to the newspapers, no owls from solicitors or Narcissa herself, no anything.
"Why me?" Harry asked, changing the subject when he saw a hint of guilt on Draco's face. Lucius's death was one thing Draco didn't need to atone for.
Draco snorted and the look of guilt fled. "When has it not been about you, Harry? From the moment I saw you, it's always been about you."
"So my name wasn't just drawn out of the hat or something?" Harry couldn't believe how relieved he was to hear that.
"No, and," Draco continued, anticipating Harry's next question, "it wasn't about you being the Boy-Who-Lived. As Snape pointed out to me, there was always Dumbledore."
Harry shuddered. "Surely, you didn't consider--"
Draco shook his head. "It was always you."
"Were you planning on telling me the truth one day?"
"No. What good would it have done? What good has it done?"
"We have truth between us now," Harry countered.
"Which has replaced trust. Forgive me if I don't see that as an improvement."
There wasn't anything Harry could say. It was true. He didn't trust Draco at the moment. "But when I do trust you again, it'll be real, not based on lies."
"If you trust me again."
"Planning on betraying me again?" Harry asked sharply.
Draco looked at him sadly. "I am who I am, Harry. You gave me a truth tonight. I raped you. I honestly didn't know that. That's why there's no way in hell I'm ever going to meet your lofty Gryffindor standards. I don't even having a working knowledge of what those standards are."
"I'm not asking you to be perfect," Harry charged.
"You're asking me to be perfect for you."
No, he wasn't. But--"Is that so wrong?"
"No. It's what you're entitled to, what you probably would've had if I hadn't interfered. We have a bond, something you wouldn't have had with anyone else, but you could've probably had a decent marriage with a witch or even another wizard. I'm sorry I took that away from you. But if you expect me to be sorry for saving myself from Voldemort, for Jamie coming into existence, for...for falling in love with you, I'll never be perfect for you. That's my truth for the night, Harry." Draco turned to go back inside. "We're tied together, by our bond, by our son. I won't leave you. I won't take Jamie away from you. I will always stand by you. But I won't rape you again, and since I can't tell the difference, you are now in control of that part of our lives. If you ever trust me enough to...love you, you're going to have to tell me. Until then, I won't burden you with my affections. This I promise with the little honor left upon the Malfoy name."
Harry looked away for a moment, not knowing whether he should be angry, hurt, or just satisfied that Draco had accepted and admitted what he'd done.
Harry looked away for a moment, not knowing whether he should be angry, hurt, or just satisfied that Draco had accepted and admitted what he'd done. When he looked back at the doorway, Draco was gone.
His feet scuffed softly on the grass as he swung back and forth, contemplating the nature of truth.
Chapter 40: War
"Harry Potter. Harry Potter, sir."
Harry slowly opened his eyes to see two large orbs peering at him from a very close proximity. Giving a squeak, because a squeal would be unmanly, he sat up in bed and reached for his wand.
"No hex Dobby, sir!" the house-elf said in the same loud whisper he'd been using, backing away.
Harry put on his glasses and frowned. "Dobby?"
"Dumbly sent me, Harry Potter. Called an assembly he has. I'se to stay with the baby."
An assembly? In the middle of the night? "Draco?"
"I heard," Draco said, sitting up. "Something's gone bad, hasn't it?"
Harry nodded and started dressing. Draco did the same. They left their rooms and joined the line of others who were headed to the Dining Hall.
"Harry, do you know? I mean, have you seen...?" Ron asked cautiously as he came up behind them.
Harry shook his head. There had been no visions nor even a twinge of his scar. "I'm in the dark with everyone else this time."
"Maybe it has nothing to do with You-Know-Who," Ron hoped aloud.
"Want to bet on that?" Draco asked dryly.
"And where would either of us get a sickle to bet?" Ron replied with a crooked grin, and Harry wanted to hug him. Ron joking with Draco about money. And the sky wasn't falling or anything...well, he didn't think it was.
"I don't know about you, but I happen to be married to a rich hero," Draco said impishly.
"Even with your new heritage, you're still a traditional pureblood, aren't you?"
"Well, you know what they say," Draco began, then he and Ron quoted together, "Just as easy to marry a rich wizard as it is a poor one." They laughed and patted each other on the back.
"The world is ending," Harry whispered to Hermione.
"No," she disagreed, eyeing her boyfriend. "I just think neither of them are fully awake. They probably won't even remember this conversation."
Draco yawned at that moment and Harry figured that Hermione had the right of it. They took their seats and looked at Dumbledore who stood at the head of the table.
"There's no easy way to say this," he began. "An hour ago, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was attacked, specifically the Aurors' facility. They were changing shifts, so casualties...were high." Dumbledore paused to let the severity of the situation sink in. "Because of the reports of your stellar abilities turned in by the Aurors who have been instructing you, the Department has requested that members of H.O.M.E. be used to supplement the remaining healthy Aurors."
"What about Hogwarts' security, sir?" Hermione asked.
"First, all of you would not be on duty for the Aurors at the same time. At least a third of you would be here. Second, thanks to certain occurrences, Hogwarts' wards are now at ten times their normal strength."
While people gasped, Harry just nodded. The Houses were more united than ever thanks to Ogden Bennington. The fourth year Slytherin had come back to school with an attitude. Harry had been on patrol duty the night after sorting, and he'd watched Bennington cross over to the Ravenclaw table and sit next to a pretty witch. The Ravenclaws had stared but said nothing. The Slytherins hadn't been as diplomatic. A seventh-year, prodded by a struggling-for-power Mitchell Flint, had sauntered over to the table and asked Bennington what the hell he thought he was doing.
"Sitting with my girlfriend."
The seventh-year had grimaced. "It's bad enough that you're lowering yourself to dating a Ravenclaw mudblood, but you will not shame your House by sitting here."
Bennington had just smirked. "One, I'm not the one shaming my House. Two, Draco Malfoy himself told me that a House is just the place where your dorm is; it is not your life. So, I can sit anywhere I please and with whom I please. And three, Mr. Malfoy also left me a list of 'helpful' spells in case anyone had a problem with a Hogwarts student availing himself of what Hogwarts has to offer." He threw a glance over the older student's shoulder. "You might want to pass that last one on to Mr. Flint. Acne can recur at any time."
Harry had made sure to pass on what he'd overheard to Draco. After all, he deserved to know he'd chosen a worthy successor.
"Also, you have a choice whether you wish to work as a temporary Auror. The contracts you signed were for protecting Hogwarts and its environs only," Dumbledore said solemnly. "If you'd like to assist the Aurors, please go to the fitness gymnasium and sign up."
Everyone filed out except the Slytherins and Harry.
"Draco?" Zabini asked.
"He can't," Harry said quickly. "One of us has to stay here with Jamie. And we all know who has to be the one to go fight."
Draco patted his hand. "They're not asking about me, Harry. They're asking me my opinion about what they should do."
"We discuss things, Potter," Pansy said. "It's our way."
Harry nodded. No running out and signing their lives away on a whim for the Slytherins. Made sense. He sat back to listen. It wasn't like he had to race to sign up; everyone knew he was going to.
"You're liable to come face to face with your families," Draco cautioned.
"And we'll probably be separated, working with Aurors who may not trust us because we're Slytherin or we're kin to the very people who killed their comrades," Zabini pointed out.
"But they'll think we're cowards or Death Eaters ourselves if we don't," Nott inserted.
"And we care what they think?" Draco asked sharply. "What concerns me is that if none of us are in, we won't know what's going on. We can't protect ourselves if we're on the outside."
"There's also another reason," Daphne Greengrass said, startling Harry. He didn't think he'd ever heard her speak during one of their "councils." He was doubly startled when she gave him a pointed look.
"I wouldn't ask--" Draco began.
"I'll go," Goyle said and Crabbe nodded his agreement.
"Me, too," Nott said.
The rest of the Slytherins all showed signs of agreeing and started for the door, Harry just behind them.
"Pansy." She stopped at Draco's call. "I want to speak to you for a moment."
Harry looked curiously at Draco, but his husband gave him the nod that everything was okay. So he took off toward the gymnasium, reluctantly ready to start the fight that had dogged him his entire life.
"Harry, we need to talk."
Harry was tired, but he nodded and sat down on the bed. The Aurors had not only signed them up, but ran them through a quick orientation so that it was hours before he returned to his rooms and Draco. "Is this about Pansy?" The witch had never shown up in the gymnasium.
"Yes." Draco moved around on the bed until he was sitting next to Harry. Next to, but not touching; he'd stuck to his word about letting Harry dictate any intimacy in their relationship. Sometimes it was hard not touching or being touched by his husband in the month since that night, but he wanted more than just sex and until he could trust Draco implicitly, it would only be sex. "Harry, neither of us may survive this war."
What? Of course Draco was going to-- With a shock he looked at the bracelet ringing his wrist. "You don't mean--"
Draco gave a tiny smile. "No, Harry. I won't die because you do. Our binding is not some kind of curse requiring a life-for-a-life sacrifice. It's based on love, and love cherishes life. If you died, I would mourn but live to raise our child."
Harry relaxed. "Then why are you talking about this? You'll be safe here. You can't possibly be thinking about joining the Aurors."
"I know I won't be fighting on the front lines, but I'm still a target. Maybe even a bigger one now that my father is--gone. His official cause of death was struck by lightning, but I'm sure the Death Eaters suspect something. In their minds, I'm the cause of all the confusion they're going through."
"You'll be safe here," Harry repeated adamantly.
Draco shrugged. "Things happen, Harry, and people die, with or without war. If we don't make it through this alive, I don't want what happened to you to happen to Jamie. I don't want Dumbledore or some other know-it-all wizard or ministry deciding what happens to him--who raises him, where he lives. That should be our choice."
Harry supposed Draco had a point, even though he believed the danger to Draco to be incredibly small. "Do you want to make out a--will?"
"I think it's necessary." Draco turned to stare closely at him. "I need you to listen to me for a few minutes, Harry, really listen."
"Okay," Harry said nervously.
"I want Pansy to take Jamie."
Harry's jaw fell open. No. Hell no, he wanted to yell. "I was thinking more along the line of the Weasleys," he said, forcing himself to speak calmly. Sure, Pansy was not a bad friend, but he wanted Jamie to be around--well, nice people.
Draco sighed. "I knew you would be, but I want Jamie with someone who will put Jamie first."
"And you think that person is Parkinson?" Harry exclaimed incredulously.
"You actually think she'll love Jamie better than Mom Weasley, that she'll be a better mother?" What the hell was going through Draco's mind? Was he trying to start an argument?
"I think Mrs. Weasley is already a mother and she has her own children to worry about. I think all the Weasleys have too many others to worry about. I want Jamie with someone who is only worried about him."
"The Weasleys will do everything in their power to care for Jamie," Harry spat out in frustration.
"Will they flee the war? Will they leave their family members to battle Voldemort while they get Jamie to safety? Could they turn their backs on everyone and everything to make sure Jamie is not in harm's way?"
Harry blinked, not following. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, if something happens to both of us, I've asked Pansy to go to the Elven realm and seek asylum for herself and Jamie. She's agreed. Would any of your Weasleys or Granger?" Draco asked patiently.
Harry looked away because he knew the answer. His friends would probably agree if he pushed the issue, but it'd be against their nature; somewhere inside they'd end up resenting Jamie for forcing them to abandon the cause and their loved ones. Pansy, on the other hand... He'd told Hermione the Slytherins were "Hufflepuffy" in their loyalty to Draco. She'd do exactly what he'd asked her to do and be proud of it. Not to mention, she'd really get a kick out of being part of the Elven court. And the realm would be the only safe place if Voldemort won because if Harry Potter fell, the next target would definitely be Harry Potter's son. "We'll draw up the papers in the morning," he said softly. "I'll also explain why to Ron and Hermione so that they won't fight our decision."
Draco nodded and crawled back to his side of the bed. Harry put on his pajama bottoms and slid beneath the covers, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before reporting to the DMLE's temporary headquarters. Because the training dormitory had also been destroyed in the attack, the H.O.M.E. recruits would continue to live at Hogwarts, apparating to and from headquarters.
"We're truly at war now, aren't we? I mean, I knew it was coming, but..." He sighed. "They say we've signed on to be Aurors, but that's not true. We're soldiers, bloody fighters who are barely trained."
"You're more trained than when you took on the Dark Lord the first time and all the other times that followed. This time your job is even easier." Harry snorted. "No, listen to me. Voldemort is only doing this because he needs to re-gather his forces and reassure them. You don't have to win this time; all you have to do is to make sure his followers keep the doubts they already have."
"And how do I do that?"
Draco gave a small laugh in the dark. "Be Harry Potter. All you have to be is Harry Potter, and the rest will take care of itself."
Harry reached out and touched Draco's arm. "Can I hold you tonight?" Instead of answering, Draco rolled over and into Harry's embrace. "Can I kiss you?"
Draco was a little more unsure of that. "What is this, Harry? I mean, I know you're...edgy because of what's happening, and if this is what you need to wind down, I understand. I just don't want to...to think it's something more...if it's not."
Harry closed his eyes and considered the past, the present, and the future. He didn't like that Draco had used him, but he'd done it, in his opinion, to survive. He didn't like that he was agreeing to let Pansy Parkinson take Jamie, but it was so that Jamie would survive. He didn't like that he had to kill anyone, even if they were as bad as Voldemort, but it was for his own survival and that of Wizarding Britain. There were necessary evils in this world, and the faster he accepted that, maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to do what he had to do. He took a deep breath and let go of his remaining doubts and mistrust. Draco wasn't perfect. He was selfish and self-serving. He was arrogant and bigoted. He lied and he schemed. He made mistakes. But when all was said and done, he loved Harry...and Harry loved him.
"Make love to me, Draco," he said firmly and gave himself over to the magic of those words.
It was Harry's third day of patrol when Draco looked up from the cauldron of pain potion he was brewing for Madam Pomfrey to see Weasley, Granger, and Blaise standing in the potion's class doorway. A vial of powdered monkshood slipped from his hand to smash on the stone floor. "Harry?" he whispered.
"I'm sorry, Draco," Blaise said, while the others looked like they were struggling to speak. "Harry's been captured."
Chapter 41: Betrayal and Sacrifice
Draco stared at the mess at his feet. He pulled his wand and cleaned it up. Then he turned back to the potion he was preparing. "I have to finish this or the whole batch will have to be tossed," he said numbly.
"I can--" Granger began.
"No," he said sharply. After seven-plus years of Potions, the stupid mudblood didn't know how changing the magic in the middle of a potion could alter its potency? Brightest witch of her age, his arse! "Just stay out of my way."
He was adding the last ingredient when the door to the room flung back hard enough to bounce off the wall behind it. "What the fuck's the matter with you!" Pansy yelled, her hair and clothes dripping on the stone floor. "I was crossing the yard under a cloudless sky, then it just started fucking raining and sleet--!" She stopped and surveyed the occupants of the room. "Oh, hell. Potter?"
"Taken," Blaise said. "We don't know if he's--"
"He's alive," Draco said as he tried to pour the potion into vials. It needed to be sealed in doses as quick as possible, but his hands--damn it, his hands were fucking shaking. "We're bound. I'd know if..."
Granger nodded and silently took the vial from his hand.
He let her.
When the vials were filled, he nodded toward the door. "Let's talk somewhere else." His control was getting shaky, something that wasn't good in a room full of potentially unstable ingredients.
They followed him to their rooms. His and Harry's. "Tell me," he demanded when he sat on the sofa, Pansy settling beside him.
"Where's Jamie?" she asked.
Draco glanced up at the clock Dumbledore had given them a few weeks ago. It had one hand which said Jamie and names were crammed around the edges. "With Dobby, I think," he said, squinting at the squished together list of names. He looked at Blaise and forced his fingernails to stop digging into his palm. "What happened?"
"We were in the muggle countryside at a farm. There had been an anomalous trace of magic there yesterday and the Aurors wanted it checked out." Draco nodded. Although they'd signed on as Aurors, none of the militia considered themselves to be Aurors. "We separated into three teams: Weasley, Granger, and I; Potter, Daphne, and Theodore; Greg, Vince, and Snodgrass, the senior Auror assigned to us. My group took the house, Potter's group the barn, and the others took another one of the outbuildings. We were in the kitchen when we heard noise and looked out to see magical tracings spewing from every opening on the barn. By the time we got there, Daphne was dead, Potter was missing, and Theodore was injured."
"Daphne's dead?" Pansy asked hollowly. She leaned over onto Draco's shoulder, but didn't cry.
"Where is Nott?" Draco asked sharply. "How injured is he? Why isn't he dead?"
Granger gasped and shot him a look, which, after a mandatory sneer, he ignored.
"He's in the hospital wing. And he's not that bad off, which is why I told Greg and Vince to stay with him."
"What is this?" Granger began, but Weasley stopped her by grabbing her wrist.
"The Slytherins," he said. "They were supposed to protect Harry, I'm thinking?" He looked at them and Draco nodded. "That's why at least two of them volunteered for every one of Harry's assignments."
"But why?" Granger asked. Then she looked at Draco, trying to glare, but not quite making it. "Did you do this? Did you force them to--"
"Shut the fuck up, Granger," Pansy interrupted. "Draco hasn't forced or asked us to do anything. We--all of us--decided to protect Potter. If you haven't noticed, he seems to be our best bet for getting out of this alive."
"But Daphne died," Granger said awkwardly.
"And will walk honorably among the Halls of the Dead for her actions," Blaise pointed out. "Besides, why are you so upset that we were protecting Potter? Wasn't that your goal as well? Are you telling us you wouldn't have died to protect him?"
"That's not what I'm saying!" Granger took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "A year ago you didn't even like Harry, and now, you're dying for him. I don't understand."
Draco shook his head and stood. "And I doubt you ever will. Pansy, would you stay here and see to Jamie when Dobby returns him? I'm going to have a visit with Nott."
"Shh," Draco heard Weasley say. "It's about Wizard's Honor, Hermione."
"So you understand?" she hissed back at him.
"Yeah, yeah I do."
Draco made his way along corridors and moving stairs until he reached the medical wing. It was easy to find Nott; he was not only the only patient, but Greg and Vince were standing solemnly at the foot of his bed with their wands at ready position. The bed was at the back of the ward, next to a large window which revealed the weather had not cleared up much. Shit, those weren't snowflakes, were they? Damned lack of control.
"Theodore, how are you?" he asked solicitously, strongly willing the snow to go away. But he was cold, cold down to his soul, and the flakes continued to fall.
"Better than I was, thanks to Madam Pomfrey." Nott gave a dramatic sigh. "I'm so sorry about Potter. I don't know what happened. One minute we were in an empty barn and the next, there were masked people apparating in and--" He shuddered. "It all happened so fast. Did they tell you about poor Daphne?"
"Yes, they did." Draco moved closer to the bed. Fuck the snow. Fuck everything. "Theodore?"
Nott looked up at him. "Yes, Draco?"
Draco looked up from the floor of a dark and empty barn. Harry stood before him, struggling with two Death Eaters. As Draco opened his mouth to scream out a warning, the scene disappeared and was replaced by a Hogwarts corridor. Mitchell Flint stood in front of him.
"You make sure Potter is the one to check out the barn."
Another flash. "I know what I'm doing, Dad. Malfoy is a lot of talk. Seven damn years and Potter's still walking around. He can't do anything without his father. He's weak and pathetic."
The shattering of glass and the resultant icy breeze flowing through the infirmary brought Draco back to himself. He felt the wind blow through his hair that Harry hadn't let him cut after the pregnancy, and he wondered if that was why Nott was staring at him so oddly. No matter. There was business to take care of. "Crabbe, Goyle, fetch me Mitchell Flint."
He heard Granger spell the window closed with a soft, "Reparo." Then he heard Weasley ask Granger to go get Dumbledore. She argued briefly, but he was firm and she left in a huff. He heard all this because he couldn't see it. All he could see was Nott. Nott who had betrayed Harry. Nott who had betrayed him. Nott who was about to die a nasty, horrible death.
"Easy there, mate," Blaise said. "I take it we have a traitor or two in our midst?"
"He set Harry up. Flint was his go-between."
"Fuck, Nott. Death wish much?" Blaise asked dryly.
"I wanted the war to end," Nott whined. "You idiots were buying into this fucking nutter's idea of getting up the duff and forcing Potter into marriage--"
Granger's repaired window shattered again. Draco grinned as Nott flinched. "Go on, Nott, since you're set on forgetting who this fucking nutter is and what he is. Tell me, are you really sure who the nutter is in this instance? I mean, you know what happened to my father. You know who my new mother is. Yet you still go after my husband. Who's the nutter, Nott? Who?" The last word was emphasized by a bright flash of lightning.
"I--I didn't--You weren't when I committed myself to--"
"I might not have been a fucking elf, but I was still a Malfoy, damn it, and I warned you--do you remember that, Nott? I fucking warned you what would happen if you betrayed me. You committed yourself to me, you ignorant, backstabbing bastard! You swore oaths of loyalty, fealty, and allegiance. You signed in your own fucking blood! I could kill you right now, and no Wizarding court would find me at fault!"
Nott's eyes flew around the room, settling on the one pair of eyes he thought would grant him leniency. "Weasley, you can't--"
"Shut your gob, Nott! You set up my best friend. You endangered my life and my friends' lives. You forswore a blood oath. The only reason I would possibly stop Malfoy from killing you is that he's apt to do it too fast!"
"Blaise?" the condemned tried again.
"I read a story the other day about a man being killed in a hailstorm. Hey, Draco, did you know hailstones come as big as a football?" Blaise said slyly.
The door to the infirmary slammed open. Draco turned to see Greg and Vince enter. He started to complain, then saw they were pulling something behind them. It was Flint, trussed like a pig and being dragged by a leash.
"Finite incantatum," Greg mumbled and Draco realized they'd had the boy under a full body bind. One way to keep him quiet.
"What the fuck's going on!" Flint yelled as soon as he shook off the effects of the spell.
"Wizarding justice," Draco said flatly. "And since I want to be fair, I'm going to give you a chance to give me one good reason not to kill you where you stand."
Flint stared at Nott in a panic. "What--What are you talking about? Has he said something about me? Whatever it is, he's lying! Besides, it was all his idea!"
"Silencio!" Draco took a deep breath and realized he was shivering. He took another deep breath, trying to focus like his Elven instructor had taught him. The chilling breeze calmed slightly. "Reparo," he said, waving at the window. Flint cowered away from him. "Tell the Aurors to come get this. I won't sully my hands on such an insignificant piece of shit."
"The Aurors are on their way, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco didn't miss Nott's sigh of relief as Dumbledore made his way into the room, following by a panting Granger. She must have ran all over the castle looking for him. "Good, sir. I'm sure Azkaban has room for two more."
"Although you couldn't be in the field, I think you would've been an excellent asset to their ranks," Dumbledore said smoothly. "Look at how quickly you determined this conspiracy."
"Actually, I have to give Jamie some of the credit, Headmaster. He hated Nott on sight which stirred my suspicions."
"Ah, the young can often see more clearly than we with our years of loyalties and hatreds. Come now. I think Misters Zabini, Crabbe, and Goyle are capable of keeping the prisoners secure while we discuss more important matters in my office."
Draco nodded. But before he followed Dumbledore, he leaned over close to Nott's ear. "Blood oath. I can get to you at any time and in any place. If Harry survives, you will spend the rest of your life locked in Azkaban, and I guarantee by the time I've done torturing you, you'll wish the Dementors were still around. If he dies, you will die in a manner so foul and so protracted, you'll want to kill yourself. But you won't be able to because, see, I. Own. Your. Arse. Quanta yassen 'kshapsa." He pulled himself up straight. "I wouldn't stand too close to him, my friends," he warned as he joined Weasley at the door. He heard Nott's retching as they moved down the hall. The poison spell was mildly administered; it wouldn't kill him, just make him sick for the next hour or so.
Poor, fucking Nott.
"I didn't know you knew Legilimency," Granger said when they caught up with her. She was just behind Dumbledore, who seemed to be deliberately walking ahead.
"Why would you know?" Draco asked snidely. "Contrary to your belief, you don't have to know everything."
"Cool it, Malfoy," Weasley said calmly. "I know you're worried about Harry, but you don't have to take it out on Hermione. Save it for the arseholes who caused this mess. By the way, what did you do to Nott?"
"Poisoned him. It'll work its way out of his system before anyone can figure out why he's puking his guts out on a regular basis."
"Nice. Sounds worse than that slug vomiting charm my brothers taught me. Too bad it's an Elven thing."
"There's a Wizard version as well. I'll teach it to you sometime."
"Thanks." Sometimes Draco actually understood why Harry was friends with Ron. Sometimes.
"Would you care for tea, Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore asked as they settled into his office. "You really look as if you need a bit of warmth."
He took the tea if only to stop the coddling.
"Has the Order been informed, sir?" Weasley asked.
"Yes, that's why Miss Granger had such difficulty finding me. I'm glad that you and Mr. Malfoy had things well in hand here at Hogwarts."
"So, what has your precious Order discovered?" Draco asked. He had joined the Order simply because he didn't want to give Harry a reason to keep secrets from him, but he wasn't impressed with the membership or their methods.
"Harry has been delivered to Voldemort."
Draco couldn't refrain from rolling his eyes. What unexpected news. "What about rescue plans, sir?"
"This is a very delicate situation, and we cannot afford to go stumbling about, Mr. Malfoy. We have employed a number of resources..."
Draco tuned him out. At this rate, he and Harry would be dead of old age by the time the Order got around to a rescue. Dead. He wondered why Harry wasn't already dead. Why hadn't the Dark Lord-- He nodded as the answer came to him. Voldemort hadn't killed Harry on sight because he needed to make an example out of him. He needed to make a statement to his followers, so Harry's death needed to be public, and possibly ritualistic. A show. A spectacle.
He jerked at the sharp call and focused on the others in the room. They, on the other hand, were focused on the window which revealed a...blizzard happening on the front lawn of Hogwarts. Oops. "Sorry, sir."
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "It's to be expected, Mr. Malfoy. Now, Ron, dear boy, what were you asking?"
"Why didn't Harry know what was happening? When the Aurors were attacked? He usually, you know." Weasley traced a scar on his forehead.
What the--Oh. Draco remembered Harry telling him that sometimes he could see what Voldemort was up to because of the scar. He'd told him because he didn't want to frighten Draco in the middle of the night. But, as Draco had informed him, while he was pregnant nothing woke him in the night--except for his bladder.
"Harry hasn't 'you know'ed for quite some time," Dumbledore said. "Mr. Malfoy has become a grounding force for him. Their binding connects them on all fronts. The mental connection overpowers whatever residual links Harry has to Voldemort."
"Is that why Draco knows Harry isn't dead?"
Did he seem so distant that they were comfortable talking about him in the third person?
"Yes, Mr. Weasley."
"Could we use that connection to find Harry?"
"In time, Hermione, but I'm not sure we have that much time," Dumbledore said hesitantly. "Rumor has it that Voldemort is calling his forces to gather tonight."
Tonight. He had only a few hours. To do what? He focused on the bracelet, trying to sense where Harry was.
"Should we recall all the militia here to protect Hogwarts, just in case?" Weasley asked, ever the strategist.
"Hogwarts is well protected. You see, the school was created by the combined magicks of the four founders and when Salazar Slytherin left, the magick was weakened. Throughout the ages, as the four Houses became more and more separate there was further weakening."
"That's why the Sorting Hat insisted that we had to come together," Granger murmured.
"But it can't be just because we're getting along that Hogwarts is stronger," Weasley argued. "I'm sure that there've been other instances of House unity in the past. What's so different about this time?"
"The creation of a new life," Dumbledore answered.
"Jamie," Granger said softly.
Dumbledore nodded. "The four magicks have been combined once again. Hogwarts is at full strength."
"Why didn't Harry say anything? Does he know?"
Dumbledore gave a tug of his beard. "Harry is...understandably cautious of prophecies and such. He didn't want to know his own son was the answer to one. But unlike Harry, Jamie doesn't have to do anything to complete his destiny. He is what he is."
A husband who is a child of prophecy. A son who is a child of prophecy. And an un-prophesied hybrid whose only talent seemed to be freaking out weather forecasters. Why was he even in the picture? What good was he? What-- It hit him in that moment. Why he was there. What he had to do. And the limited amount of time he had to do it in.
"I want to be with Jamie," he said loudly, knowing that was the one excuse they would believe.
He stood and left the office quickly. In his rooms, he glanced at the clock and saw Jamie was with Pansy. Good. He tore through the bookshelf, looking for--Got it. He flung himself across the bed and began to thumb through his well-abused copy of "Ancient Elven Magic."
His hand trembled as he turned the pages.
Chapter 42: The Things We Do For Love
Harry looked at the slimy, solid rock walls surrounding him and decided he was pissed. He wasn't quite sure whom he was most pissed at though: Draco, for making him trust the Slytherins, and therefore, Nott; Nott for betraying him and Draco; the Death Eaters for taking advantage of the advantage Nott had given them; or Voldemort, because it had to be his plan and he was truly tired of the fucker and his plans.
Since he couldn't see an opening, he assumed he'd been apparated into the cave/cell/hole in the wall. He wondered if he should try apparating out, but casting a few wandless spells wasn't the same as trying to wandlessly transport his body from one point to another. Hell, splinching could occur even with a wand. Besides, since they hadn't killed him on the spot, only hexed him until he passed out, it must mean he was going to have an audience with Voldemort himself, and if he was going to do any wandless shit, it was going to be against him. If having Draco as a coach had taught him anything, it was to pick and choose his battles. Don't waste energy arguing about running two miles; save your breath for the retaliatory five miles in the dark, with a cold rain falling on your head.
So Harry sat in the middle of his personal cavern, away from the damp walls and saved his strength for the five miles with Voldemort. He hoped that the Death Eaters had been satisfied with taking him and had left his other team members alone. God, they were probably going out of their minds looking for him. Dumbledore would've contacted the Order by now. Hermione would be in the library, trying to figure out how to track him. Ron would be concocting elaborate rescue plans. And Draco, Draco would be safely in the Elven realm with Jamie.
Which was why he had to take Voldemort out of the game permanently. He was sure the realm was a nice place, but he wanted Jamie to live here, to grow up with the Weasleys, go to Hogwarts, and play quidditch with the best broomstick money could buy. There would be no cupboards for his son, no secondhand clothes, no fat-arsed cousins picking on him, no surrogate parents treating him like yesterday's garbage... No, Jamie would grow up in the Wizarding world with Draco spoiling him and demanding that he has the best of everything. And Draco would make sure Jamie knew that his other father tried to be a good man, that he died saving their world from a homicidal freak, that his daddy had loved him and hadn't abandoned him in some stupid accident.
Closing his eyes, Harry concentrated on his magic. He was at his best when he thought like a pureblood, when he didn't second guess his magic, when he let it lead him, when he trusted it. What had Dumbledore been thinking when he left him with the Dursleys? Hadn't he realized... Okay. Negative thinking--no. Positive thinking--yes. He was Harry Potter. He had survived every one of Voldemort's attacks. He was well-trained in defense and offense. He was a member of H.O.M.E. and the Aurors. He was married to Draco Malfoy.
Damn it, if he wasn't ready to kick Voldemort's arse now, he never would be.
"Come on, fucker," he whispered to the walls. "It's time to end this."
Draco sighed as he closed the Elven magic book. The chance that his newly formulated Plan would have the optimal outcome he desired was slim, but there were levels of success with the Plan, and he was certain that it would achieve what it needed to achieve. Harry and Jamie would be safe and that was what truly mattered.
A bell sounded, signaling someone was knocking on the door. Carefully putting the book under the bed, he went out to the main room and opened the door. He knew he should be surprised to see Weasley and Granger, along with Pansy and Blaise, but he wasn't.
"What are you up to?" Weasley asked, elbowing his way inside.
"You left Dumbledore's office because you said you wanted to be with Jamie. But we found Jamie with Pansy," Granger added.
"And left him where?" he asked curiously. He did intend to spend a little time with his son before...well, before.
"With the other witches," Blaise said. "He distracts them from thinking about Daphne."
"The Aurors took her away. They said they'd contact her family."
Blaise nodded. "If they're difficult about it, we'll handle it."
"Yes, good," Weasley said. "And now if that's finished with, tell me what you're up to, Malfoy."
Draco sat on the sofa and everyone got comfortable. "What do you think I'm up to?"
"Planning a rescue."
Draco laughed and tossed a glance toward Pansy and Blaise. "You must have me confused with one of you Gryffindors."
Granger shook her head. "Don't be like this, Draco. We can help. You don't have to do it alone."
"Yeah, and you don't have to worry about us reporting you to Dumbledore or anything," Weasley said. "Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do."
All along he'd thought Harry was the ringleader for all the trouble the infamous trio seemed to fall headlong into, but now he was having his doubts. "What exactly is it that you think I have to do?" Draco asked curiously.
"Save Harry. Listen, we know you--well, you love him. All that moping around when you two had your disagreement or whatever, not to mention that binding bracelet on your arm. I was there when magic put it on, remember?"
Draco brushed his fingertips across the bracelet. "Since you think you know so much, Weasley, why don't you tell me what I'm planning?"
Weasley started to pull his feet underneath him, but stopped when Draco glared. Feet did not belong on the furniture--at any time. "I figure you're going to use the bracelet to find Harry, then use that Elven power of yours to create some kind of distraction, a storm or a blizzard or something, and then get Harry out. But you can't do it by yourself, man. You're going to need help. You find Harry, handle the distraction, and we'll get him out. You trained right along with us; you know we can do it."
Draco nodded. He knew the militia was well-trained. An assault on the place where Harry was being held was an option that could work...but, it would only be a temporary solution. His Plan was a lot more final. "Okay, but we'll have to keep manpower to a minimum. This is to be an extraction, not a battle."
"Understood, General Malfoy." Draco couldn't help but crack a smile. "Do you know where Harry is?"
"South?" Weasley frowned. "New moon."
"My thoughts exactly."
"Stop it!" Granger declared. "What are the two of you talking about?"
"Harry's to the south," Weasley explained patiently.
"Yes, I got that. Then you both went cryptic."
"Not cryptic--just Wizard-born," Pansy said.
"So you understood?"
Pansy nodded. "Potter's to the south, meaning he's probably in Wiltshire, Salisbury--home to Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill. Any of that ring a bell?"
Granger flushed. "Yes. So you're saying that since it's a new moon, You-Know-Who is going to use Harry in some sort of ancient rite at one of the stone circles."
"Or at Malfoy Manor," Weasley observed.
Draco shook his head. "Not on the property. With Father's...death, the wards of the Manor shifted over to me. Until I reset them for visitors, only Mother can come and go at will."
"Your father didn't disown you?"
"Disowning me would have brought about a lot of unpleasantness, not to mention creating sport for the common masses. Killing me was an easier option and in time, he could have created another heir."
"And that makes sense to all of you?" Granger asked. Everyone nodded. "Half the time I don't know whether to envy you or pity you," she said softly.
"Stick with the envy," Draco said flatly. "So, Captain Weasley, what are your suggestions?"
They spent over an hour discussing strategy until Draco managed to get rid of them by saying he needed to rest in order to create a spectacular distraction for the assault. As they were leaving, he asked Pansy to bring Jamie to him. When he opened the door to let her back in, he found Blaise standing with her.
"He's sleeping," Pansy said unnecessarily as she handed Jamie to him.
"That's okay. I just wanted..." He laid the baby gently against his shoulder.
"What are you planning?" Blaise asked in a whisper.
"You just left here, didn't you?"
Blaise's lip curled in one corner. "That wasn't a plan; that was the typical Gryffindor ploy of running in where angels refuse to tread. What's your real plan?"
"To end this whole fucking mess." He used his wand to accio the crib, then put Jamie down, and performed one of the useful spells Mrs. Weasley had taught him--a one way silencing spell. He could hear Jamie, but Jamie couldn't hear them. "There is some risk involved."
"How much?" Pansy asked. Draco just looked at her. "Oh."
"Potter's not going to take it well," Blaise warned.
"I know. The pisser happens to think he's the only one who can sacrifice himself for the good of Wizardkind," he said with a fond smile.
"Is that what you're doing?"
Draco sighed. "No, Pansy. If I end up being a sacrifice, I'm only doing it to protect Harry and Jamie. I trust you and the other Slytherins to look after yourselves; the rest of them can tumble into the Underworld for all I care. But Harry's just going to keep on trying to slay Voldemort until he gets the job done, and I'd rather he be here raising Jamie. If things don't turn out that way, if I can't save Harry, then I can be at peace knowing that Voldemort won't be dogging Jamie his whole life like he did Harry. On that note, if Harry or I don't return, I still want you to take Jamie to the realm until the Death Eaters are taken care of. Go to Dumbledore, ask him to open a passageway, and tell him to contact you when the coast is clear. Jamie needs to be raised here. He belongs at Hogwarts."
"We'll come back when it's safe," Pansy promised. "And, Draco, just so you know, you can fool yourself all you want, but we know you, you know."
Either there were way too many "know"s in that sentence or he was terribly tired. Or both. "What are you on about, Pans?"
"We know you care, Draco. You care about Jamie. You care about Potter. You care about your 'minions'--yes, we know about that, too. And you care about the Wizarding world."
"I--I don't," he sputtered defensively.
"You do. And I think you care too much to leave us poor, weak underlings on our own without your guiding intelligence." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "Whatever you have planned, you'll succeed. Jamie will grow up embarrassed by his two heroic fathers and he'll say things like, 'Why couldn't you be ordinary?' And you'll answer, 'I'm a Malfoy and he's a Potter, how ordinary could we possibly be?' Then he'll come running to his Aunt Pansy and I'll tell him what an insufferable prat his father used to be."
"I won't have you talking about my husband like that," Draco mockingly growled.
"I won't be talking about your husband." She grinned and then threw her arms around his neck. "I know you're only doing what you have to do, so I won't be soppy about this. Just do your damnedest to come back. We do need you, Draco."
He ignored the wetness in her eyes. "I'll do my damnedest," he promised as he kissed her forehead. He held out his hand to Blaise, who had watched them quietly. "Take care of them for me?"
Blaise grinned. "Can I stupefy Weasley when he throws his major fit after learning you were just having him on?"
Draco laughed. "Have fun."
Blaise sobered and pulled Draco into an embrace. "It'll only be fun if you come back."
Draco felt something catch in his throat. "I'm going to try, but if I don't...I'll say hi to Daphne for you."
Pansy couldn't hide her tears anymore, so she just turned and left. Blaise patted him on the back, then followed her out the door. Draco took down the spell he had around the crib and picked up his son.
It was a long time before he put him down again.
The crack of apparition alerted a dozing Harry that he wasn't alone. Hmm. Six Death Eaters. All with wands pointed at him. "A bit of overkill, isn't it?" he said as he yawned.
They didn't say anything, other than the one who muttered a spell that tied Harry's hands behind his back. Two of them grabbed his elbows and apparated him away. As soon as he felt solid ground beneath his feet, he was shoved to his knees and noticed that his companions--lots and lots of companions--too, were on their knees. Of course, that made him look up.
In front of him, on a stone dais, stood Voldemort. Still red-eyed and serpentine. He glared at Harry, daring him to look away. Harry did, only because something else caught his attention. A falling star. Actually, a lot of falling stars. He flashed back to Professor Sinestra's class. Mid to late November. The Leonid meteor shower. "Oh, Tom, you romantic bastard you," he said aloud. "And here I was, just expecting plain, old rose petals."
"Do you know where you are, boy?" Voldemort hissed.
Harry rolled his eyes. As if he couldn't recognize the stone monoliths of Stonehenge. Voldemort always had to be so flashy. Must be due his muggle upbringing. "Under the stars with the man of my dreams?"
Voldemort laughed. "I shall enjoy sucking out your wit along with your soul." He drew his wand. "Stand, my faithful! Stand and watch as this child who dared to stand in my way falls to he who is greater. Combibo animus! Combido auctoritas! Combibo spiritus!"
Harry saw a bright light grow at the end of the wand and he leapt to his feet. "Solvo! Contego!" The ropes fell and the white light hit the protective shield he'd conjured, bursting into millions of sparks that rivaled the falling stars.
Voldemort looked pissed, but he pulled it together quickly. "You are one; we are many. Death Eaters, defend!" he yelled.
Harry gulped as hundreds of wands pointed in his direction.
Chapter 43: Ends Are Beginnings And Vice-Versa
Draco signed his name to the bottom of the parchment, then rolled and sealed it as he had the others.
Draco smiled and walked over to the crib. Bright green eyes shone up at him. He lifted Jamie and settled him on his lap as he sat in Harry's squishy chair. "You, my darling son, have perfect timing. I was hoping you'd wake before I left."
"I know you don't want me to go, and I don't want to go, but...you need your daddy, so I need to save him."
"I know you love us both. But... Okay, here's the real deal, from one Slytherin to another: I was raised...poorly. I was not taught compassion or empathy. I was not urged to share. For the past several months, I've been faking it, using your daddy as a guide. But without him...without him I fear I will revert to what I once was, what at heart I am. You deserve...more, Jamie, and unlike my own father, I'm willing to give you what you need, be what you need me to be. I won't let a dark lord get his grubby hands on you, nor will I let him take your daddy from you. No, your papa loves you much, much more than that."
Draco sighed and adjusted Jamie's green one-piece with its red piping, tiny feet dancing in his hands as he made sure all the snaps were fastened. Considering what Dumbledore had revealed, red and green weren't going to be Jamie's only choice of colors. No, perhaps there would be Ravenclaw blue or, shudder, Hufflepuff yellow in his future. Oh well, at least that explained why the meddlesome old git hadn't blabbed to Harry about the maker of the potion, because if Snape had figured it out, so had Dumbledore. But by dosing Harry, he'd played right into Dumbledore's hands.
And wasn't that an humiliating thought.
"Already running and you can't even walk yet," he teased his son, tapping lightly on the rapidly moving soles. "Just wait until you get your first broom. I--I hope--no matter what, I'll be there for that first broom ride, little one. That's a promise, okay, and I don't make many of them."
"Okay, okay, I don't make any. But I have made that one. I'll be there." He lifted Jamie and kissed the little tow-head. "I'll be there." He laid him in the crib and snapped his fingers. "Dobby!"
Pop! "Master call?" the creature said, ears standing straight up.
Draco pulled himself up to his full height and glared at the house-elf. "Clothes or no clothes, you are still bound to the House of Malfoy and me, your new master. As my house-elf, I command you to take care of the new young master until such time that I, his father, or Mistress Pansy comes for him. Do you understand?"
"But I'se fre--" Draco gave him a look and his ears drooped to the floor. "I'se understanding, Master Malfoy."
"Good. There are--letters. See that they are delivered in the morning if I'm not here...or something."
"You is going somewhere?"
"Yes, that's why I need you to look after the young master. And Harry. You'll look after Harry for me, won't you?"
"Oh, yes, I'se liking looking after Harry Potter," Dobby said happily.
Draco nodded and took one final glance into the crib.
"Aaap," Jamie said.
"I love you, too," Draco replied softly and fled the room.
Moments later, he was outside the gates of Hogwarts and apparating to Malfoy Manor. It was close to where Harry was and heavily protected, so he knew he wouldn't be disturbed. It was also...home and he wanted to see it one last time. Besides, it was fitting that he should do this here. Life--one big fucking circle.
He drew his wand and opened the imposing front doors. Standing at the bottom of the long curving staircase, he pictured his mother coming down on his father's arm, heading to an evening out or ready to greet visitors. But that was never going to happen again. He'd made sure it of that, hadn't he?
Firmly focusing on the time, he made a quick stop in his father's study, then headed to his room. Bare except for the furniture. He shrugged, knowing that everything personal had been in that odious package sent to Hogwarts. He waved his wand and the candles that had automatically lit as he entered the room dimmed to a soft glow. He walked over to the tall window that overlooked the gardens and opened it. Cool November air rushed in as a falling star streaked through the sky in the distance. He shivered. An omen?
He shucked off his robes and removed his shirt. From his belt, he removed the small ornamental dagger he'd taken from Lucius's study. Although it was an heirloom handed down through generations of Malfoys, it was honed to perfection. Less pain was always good.
He dropped to his knees before the window. Glancing at the bonding bracelet, he raised his wrist and kissed it. It was the only reason that he knew this would succeed. The ritual called for a full-blooded elf, but he was certain that the existing bond he had with Harry would cover for the ten percent of him that was wizard. Using the dagger to pierce both palms, he began to sing in Elven. He sang of the beauty of the universe, the Elven land, and the Elven way of life. Then he slashed his chest and sang of his beloved, of the heart that had claimed his, of the soul that completed his own. He sang of his desire to become one with his other half.
Slashing his forearms, he held his arms up to the open window, shivering as the breeze connected with the warm, flowing blood. "To Harry, I give myself. To Harry, I give my power. To Harry, I give my magic. To Harry, I give all that I am. Take me into your soul, beloved. Use me. Meld my power to yours. Use it to destroy, to defend, to save. We are one, Harry. We are one." Blood trailed down his arm and pooled to the floor. As it had been when he was pregnant, he felt his magic shift and smiled. Power and magic would always exist; if he'd lost it, then it had crossed over to Harry as he had willed. Weakened, it took effort to dip a finger into one of the crimson rivulets and paint intersecting lines on his forehead. Now Harry would not only have his power and magic, but also the knowledge of how to use them.
"For you, for Jamie," he whispered and gave himself over to the beckoning darkness.
As Draco slumped to one side, he thought he saw the falling stars turn the sky to flame.
By the time Harry finished gulping, he knew what to do. "Expelliarmus!" he yelled and didn't even blink as all the Death Eaters' wands flew straight up out of their hands. "Fracta!" The wands shattered into sawdust. "Incendio!" The dust burned, highlighting the plain in weird, eerie shadows thanks to the stones. The Death Eaters, some still on the ground from the powerful disarming spell, held up their hands trying to escape the falling embers. Before they could rejoice in the fact that the embers quickly burned out, a rush of hailstones had them cringing again.
Harry turned around to face Voldemort who still held onto his wand and was protected by a magical shield, as was Harry. "Time's up, Tom. It ends now."
"How right you are," Voldemort hissed and aimed his wand at Harry. "Avada Kadavra!"
Harry shook his head, not even bothering to flinch. Somewhere inside, he knew the spell could not touch him. He was right; as the deadly green rush of power reached his personal shield, it dissipated into harmly green sparks. Voldemort called out three more spells, ones Harry didn't recognize, and all of them just blazed out around him. When the Dark Lord's red eyes were almost bulging out of his head due to anger, Harry smiled. "Let me show you how it's done, Tom."
He slowly slipped to his knees and held his hands up in supplication. "Amin yala onna en' vilya. (I summon the Air Elemental). Amin naa lle hin, Yaaraer. Amin naa tualle . Amin naa lle nai. (I am your child, Ancient One. I am your servant. I am yours to command.)"
He raised his head and stared at Voldemort. "Help me, my Lord Air. Destroy my enemy. Weaken the foul one. Pierce the soul of the son of snakes. Rend him to pieces so that he may not return to torture your servants. Save us, Father. Set us free."
A whirlwind formed behind Voldemort and knocked into him, jarring his wand from his hand. Instead of falling to the ground, the wand was swept up into the wind and snapped into a thousand pieces, much like those of Voldemort's followers. With the loss of the wand, the protective shield dissolved and Voldemort was pelted by the hail. Seconds later, the hailstorm changed into freezing rain and sleet. Before Voldemort could react, he was coated in ice and frozen in place. A bolt of lightning descended from a cloud directly above him. It ran through him, piercing his scalp and trailing out his foot. Everything stood still for a long, still moment, then Voldemort shattered like a delicate porcelain vase beneath the mighty blow of a mallet, pieces of him tinkling against the ancient rocks.
Harry stayed on his knees, breathless. This was it, then. Voldemort was defeated. Voldemort was gone. The storm quickly gave way to clear skies and the shield around him dissipated. He waited for the surviving Death Eaters to attack. But it didn't matter what they did or what happened to Harry. Voldemort was gone. The end for some. The beginning for others. That was more than enough for Harry.
He turned suddenly at the familiar voice, and he adjusted his glasses to make sure he was seeing correctly. Ron. Ron was there. And Hermione. And the whole bloody Order, it appeared. Death Eaters were being unburied from the still melting hail, bound and apparated into custody. He had survived!
"Where's Draco hiding, Harry?" Hermione asked as she stepped over a sprawled Death Eater.
"Draco? Draco's not here. What are you doing here? How did you find me?" Harry asked quickly.
"Hailstorm. Ice storm. Lightning bolt. Of course Draco's here," she said huffily.
No. Draco was safe in the Elven realm. He wouldn't--
"What should we do with this?" an Auror asked, poking at one of the pieces formerly known as the Dark Lord.
Harry started to tell them to leave it, to let the carrion eaters come and peck out the choicest parts. But this was Voldemort and he didn't want to leave anything to chance. "Stand back," he ordered. "Sicco! Pulvis!" The bits dried out, then pulverized into powder. He concentrated and a mini tornado formed, sucking up the remains before skipping away and disappearing against the horizon. "It'll leave parts across the land until it reaches the sea and dumps the rest."
Everyone stared at him.
If he could, he would have stared at himself. The air was doing his bidding, but he wasn't-- His heart sank. What had Draco done? "Where is he?"
Ron understood immediately. "We don't know. We made rescue plans, but when we went to meet him, he was gone. He said that you were to the south, so we just looked for strange happenings and brought help. Like you needed it. Very impressive, mate."
Harry didn't have the heart to tell him Voldemort had said the same thing. "Draco's done something. He's--he's given me his powers. What does that mean, Hermione?"
She paled. "We need to find him, Harry."
Harry concentrated on his bracelet, then frowned. "Any ideas how to do that? I can't get anything from this dumb piece of jewelry."
Hermione went even paler. "Maybe if we start at Hogwarts we can trace him?"
He raced to his rooms and found Dobby with Jamie. "Harry Potter!" the house-elf exclaimed happily. "You is found!"
"Where's Master Draco?" Harry asked as he wracked his mind for a tracing spell. Where the hell was Hermione?
"He leave and say for Dobby to care for young master."
Harry nodded and went in the bedroom to find the Marauder's Map. No Draco anywhere on the grounds. Fuck. He headed back out to the main room just as a panting Hermione and Ron came through the door. "He's not here. Hermione, can you--"
"Wait a minute," Ron said. "I think I might know where he is." They looked at him expectantly. "Malfoy Manor. It was close to where you were, Harry, and he wouldn't be disturbed because, remember, Hermione? He said the wards were only keyed to him and his mother."
"Let's go," Harry said, racing toward the door.
"Didn't you hear what I just said, mate? The wards won't let us in."
"I don't fucking care," Harry growled. "I'm getting in no matter what."
"I can get you in, Harry Potter." They all turned to Dobby. "Master Malfoy, he be saying before he left that I is not free, that I is still bound to the House of Malfoy. That mean I can get through the wards."
"That's ridic--" Hermione began, but was cut off by Harry.
"And you can take me through the wards with you?"
"Yes, Harry Potter. You is being like food or something."
Of course, house-elves had to have the ability to apparate provisions through the wards. "Take me," he said without hesitation.
"Harry, you don't--" Hermione began.
"Take me now, Dobby. I order you."
"Yes, Harry Potter, we go now." Dobby touched his hand and suddenly he was somewhere else. A candlelit room. A bedroom. He moved closer and saw the bed was occupied. With a wave of his hand, the lights brightened. Damn. Here he was frantic about Draco and the man was tucked safely into bed. With a stuffed dragon in his arms?
"Foom-Foom!" Dobby squealed in delight.
"Huh?" Something wasn't right with this picture and Harry was desperate for "right."
"Foom-Foom was young master's favorite, but when he turned seven, old master said he was too old to sleep with toys. Said he would feed Foom-Foom to the fireplace if he found him in the bed again. Young master gave Foom-Foom to the house-elves and told them not to let old master find him. Since old master gone, Foom-Foom could be found. Charm must have brought him."
"Young master often fall asleep anywhere. Mistress charm room to put him to bed if he still too long. Charm put young master into pajamas, give him hug toy, and put him in bed."
So Draco had exhausted himself giving Harry his power and the room had put him to bed. Interesting charm. Maybe Mom Weasley knew it and they could use it with Jamie. "Okay, Sleeping Beauty, time to awaken," he murmured and approached the bed.
"Harry Potter! New old master not be sleeping, I'se thinking!" Dobby called anxiously from near the window.
Harry hurried to Dobby's side and looked down at the dark pool of...blood. "Fuck!" He raced to the bed and drew back the covers. Draco was indeed dressed in pajamas--that were dark with blood. "Can you take us to the hospital wing?" he asked as he scooped the unconscious form into his arms.
Dobby answered by reaching out and grabbing his wrist. Draco's childhood room winked from sight.
Chapter 44: Saving Draco Malfoy
Harry was yelling for Madame Pomfrey even before the room solidified around him. She was next to him in an instant and he realized she must have already been in the main ward. "Massive blood loss and I don't know what else," he said quickly as he laid Draco on a bed. "He transferred his magic over to me and then we found him like this. Blood magic, I assume from the cuts. But there was something Elven, too. We need Dumbledore to call Queen Arelia."
Pomfrey tsked and expertly glanced over Draco. "The queen left me instructions on how to contact her if Draco was ever injured. Severus, attend to the young man while I call the queen."
Severus? He turned to see Snape rise from the bed where he was sitting. He was bare from the waist up and covered in multi-colored bruises. "Move aside, Potter."
Snape flourished his wand over Draco, muttering things, and Harry saw the wounds start to heal and the blood disappear. "Thank you," he said, too happy to care who was doing the healing. With Draco appearing to be better, curiosity got the better of him. "What happened to you?"
Snape stared at him for a second, then turned back to Draco. "Hailstones," he said flatly.
Hail--Oh. "You were there?"
"Yes. I was getting ready to cast a protective spell over you when suddenly my wand was snatched from me and destroyed."
Oops. "Sorry about that, sir."
Snape raised an eyebrow at the apology. "Thankfully, I keep a spare." He waved the wand artfully over Draco. "Impressive display of power, Potter. Then, I assumed, Mr. Malfoy took over. However, I take it that that was a false assumption."
Harry looked down at his husband. "He did something. I had his powers and I knew how to use them. I don't even know what an air elemental is, but I called it and it did what I asked--what Draco asked. He's going to be okay, isn't he?"
"I don't know. The bleeding has stopped, but his breathing is quite shallow and his pulse is weak."
"Well, do something!"
"I can't!" Snape hissed. "He's ninety-percent elf. He needs an Elven healer."
"You've known he's an elf since this summer. Why didn't you research or something!"
"Maybe I had other important things to do--like spy on a crazed dark lord!"
Well, there was that, Harry conceded. He was just so damn scared about losing Draco. "It's okay. Queen Arelia will be here soon and she's a healer, so..." He stroked Draco's pale cheek. The skin was smooth but too cool. Maybe he needed a blanket?
"What is that with him?"
Harry looked at Snape, then at what Snape was looking at. "Foom-Foom," he said matter-of-factly. Apparently when he'd scooped up Draco, the cuddly toy had come along for the ride. "I found Draco at Malfoy Manor. An old charm in his room put him to bed with his favorite toy."
"Something survived the wrath of his parents?"
Harry nodded, hoping that something else would survive--namely Draco. As he picked up the slightly battered dragon, a door opened and Queen Arelia glided into the room, Pomfrey close behind her.
"What has hap--" the queen began to demand, then stopped abruptly when she saw the cuts on Draco's arms.
Harry quickly touched her shoulder, instinctively knowing what Arelia was thinking, or maybe even seeing. Her daughter Thisala. "It's not what it looks like. It wasn't a suicide attempt." He went on to explain what he knew and what he guessed.
"Extraordinary," Arelia said softly when he finished. "This should have been impossible. The rite is only for full-blooded elves mated to full-blooded elves. He should not have been able to transfer to you--a complete non-elf."
Harry felt a lump in his throat. "Are you saying he should have died?"
"I'm saying he should not have had the power to even attempt such an act. The completion of the first arc of the ritual should have struck him down."
Harry didn't want to think about it. "Well, he did, so the question is--can you put him back the way he was?"
She hummed and laid her hands on either side of Draco's head. She then stepped back and looked at Harry. "I can save him only because he is of my blood, but..."
"I will have to be the conduit between you and him, meaning that I will take from you and give to him. But there is a chance that I might take too much from you, and you might become--what is the word you use? A squib?"
Harry shrugged. "Okay."
"Potter," Snape warned.
"What? Do you think I love my magic more than I love Draco? For eleven years, magic was a burden, a thing to be shunned, to be hidden. Yes, I'm glad I found out about Hogwarts. Yes, I'm glad I could stop Voldemort. But there is no doubt, no question when it comes to me choosing between magic and Draco. The queen has my permission to do whatever she has to fix Draco. Besides," he added with less conviction, "killing Voldemort was all I was good for anyway and now that's done."
"I think my son might disagree," Arelia said softly. "But I will leave that to the two of you to work out. Come, child."
"Perhaps we should wait for Dumbledore," Snape said and Pomfrey nodded quickly.
Harry gave a little smile. "I trust my mother-in-law. Do what you need to, Mother Arelia."
"I will be as careful as I can," she promised before taking his face between the palms of her hands. Her eyes locked with his.
He felt a jolt and swayed slightly. Arelia's purple irises flashed gray and she stepped back.
"Put him to bed," she ordered before turning and cupping her hands around Draco's head.
The room spun slightly as someone--a hairy hand, must be Snape--guided him to the bed beside Draco's. Then darkness descended.
When he came to, woke, surfaced or whatever, he heard voices whispering beside him.
"When did Pomfrey say he's going to wake up?"
"Probably when I hear your big mouth, Ron," Harry said, forcing his eyes to open. His first motion was to look over at the bed beside him. Draco was still there, his chest reassuringly rising and falling.
"Sorry about that, mate," Ron said sheepishly. "How are you?"
"Fine. Just tired."
"What happened?" Hermione asked. "Professor Snape came to the common room and told us you and Draco were here in the hospital wing, but nothing else."
"Draco was at Malfoy Manor. He'd done some kind of blood magic and was almost bled out. Dobby got us back here and Queen Arelia took Draco's magic from me and put it back into Draco." He wasn't about to mention that she might have taken his magic as well; he just wasn't up to the argument that would cause. "I'm all right; just got a little dizzy."
Hermione nodded. "Magical shock, I assume. So, Draco's going to be okay?"
"The queen didn't seem to be too upset," Harry answered, sitting up a little. "Where is she?"
"She said she was going to see Dumbledore and that we were to watch over you and Draco. The honest-to-goodness Elven queen, Harry," Hermione gushed. "Can you imagine what she knows..."
"I'm sure if Draco puts in a good word for you, she'll give you an interview or something," Harry said with a grin. That was so Hermione--the war and its necessary search for knowledge of how to win was over, but here she was, in search of new knowledge.
"It's over," Ron said as if reading Harry's mind. "You did it, Harry."
"With Draco's help. I guess his was the power the Dark Lord knew not," Harry said, adlibbing from Trelawney's prophecy. "Mother Arelia says that he shouldn't have been able to do what he did, that the transfer shouldn't have worked, that the attempt should have probably killed him."
"Lucky wanker," Ron said. "He should have stuck with the plan."
"He was supposed to cause a storm as a huge distraction while a handful of us stole in to save you. We had it all worked out, but he said he had to rest before he could pull it off."
Harry laughed. "And you believed him? Ron, that plan had 'Gryffindor' written all over it. No way Draco was going to go for that."
"Yeah, well," Ron said, flushing. "It probably would've worked."
"And got someone killed," Harry said dryly. He noticed Ron and Hermione sharing a look. "What? Someone...got killed?"
Hermione took his hand. "When you were captured--"
It hit Harry suddenly. "Nott! He's a traitor! We need--"
"We know, Harry," Hermione continued. "He was working with Mitchell Flint. The Aurors have taken both of them into custody. It's just that--the Slytherins were only in the Aurors to watch over you."
Ron snorted. "No, just to save their own arses. They knew you were the only one who could off--Voldemort," he said with effort.
Harry doubted that the Slytherins were protecting him only for that reason. Being with Draco had taught him that Slytherins often had layers of reasons for everything they did. "What? Who?" he asked Hermione.
"Daphne Greengrass. The Death Eaters killed her when she tried to stop the attack."
"Fuck," Harry said sadly. He hadn't even known her as a person--she'd been just "one of the Slytherin witches."
"Harry, how are you, my boy?" Dumbledore asked as he appeared in the room.
"Fine, sir. Where's Queen Arelia? I want to ask her about Draco."
Dumbledore winced. "She's busy re-donning her velvet glove, I believe."
"Sir?" all three of them asked together.
"Beneath her velvet glove appearance, the queen definitely has an iron fist," Dumbledore muttered. "How do you students say it? Ah, yes--the queen 'tore me a new one' for not expressing clearly enough the dangers posed to Harry and Draco by Voldemort." Hermione discreetly coughed. Harry cleared his throat and covered his smile with his hand. Ron snickered. Very loudly. Dumbledore shot him a look over his glasses. "I'm sorry that I wasn't here when all this occurred, Harry. Perhaps I could've talked Mr. Malfoy--"
Harry shook his head. "When Draco's set on a course, he pretty much stays on it," he said, remembering the painful conversation about Draco not changing how he and Harry got together. If you expect me to be sorry for saving myself from Voldemort, for Jamie coming into existence, for...for falling in love with you, I'll never be perfect for you. That's my truth for the night, Harry.
"Nevertheless, I shouldn't have been so far away. I was attempting to negotiate with the werewolves to track your loca--"
"Remus?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Is well. He'll be here shortly. In fact, the whole Order will be meeting later to develop a strategy for reorganizing Wizarding politics and such."
"And the surviving Death Eaters?"
"Are being rounded up by the Aurors. I assure you that you and Mr. Malfoy are completely safe."
"And if that doesn't assure you, I give you the same promise," Queen Arelia said as she glided into the room. "I think everyone is now clear on how far I am willing to go to protect my family," she added pointedly.
"Yes, quite," Dumbledore said with false heartiness. "Well, I'm off to make sure things are going as expected. I just want to say, Harry, that I'm proud of you and Draco. The Wizarding world owes you both a great debt." With a bow, he left the room.
Harry was impressed. He'd thought Draco's "I control the universe" attitude was strictly from being a Malfoy, but apparently Lucius had got it from both sides and passed it down. "How is Draco?" he asked his mother-in-law eagerly.
"We will know when he wakes. How are you?" Harry shrugged and glanced at Ron and Hermione. Arelia got the message. "I am sorry, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger, but I must insist Harry rest now."
"Oh, of course," Hermione said, grabbing Ron's elbow. "We'll be back to see you soon, Harry."
"Bring Jamie with you," Harry said.
"We will. Bye!"
Harry chuckled. Hermione was a smart witch; if Arelia could make Dumbledore jump at her commands, there was no way she was going to try to take the Elven queen on. The smile faded, and he turned to Arelia. "I didn't tell them anything. And I haven't tried to do anything. I don't--I don't even know where my wand is."
"You do not need a wand. Command, Harry."
He rolled his eyes at her order. Definitely Draco's family. "Accio Foom-Foom." The dragon lay still beside Draco.
"Hmm," she said. "I do not believe I would have responded to such a lackluster command either. What is it, child? Are you afraid that you have lost your magic? Or do you not want it at all?"
"I want it; I just don't need it anymore."
"I forgot how dramatic you wizards can be," Arelia said with a sigh. "Of course you need your magic. It is who you are."
"No, who I am, who I was, was the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Save-The-World-From-Voldemort. I'm not him anymore. He's not needed."
She took his hand and he felt her higher body heat flow through him. "But you are. Draco needs you. Your son needs you. That is who you are. The Boy-Who-Lived was...trivial."
He gaped at her. Damn, she and Draco were two of a kind. Heaven help both the Elven and Wizarding worlds now that they'd found each other. "I thought they were going to have to survive without me. He shouldn't have--"
"But he did. And now, they will survive with you. My son is very smart and very protective. You owe it to him to be all that you are. Call the dragon to you."
Harry held out his hand and focused. "Accio Foom-Foom!" The cuddly toy flew into his hand. He stared at it for a moment, then drew it to his chest and dropped his head, not wanting Arelia to see his tears.
His head shot up and his eyes met familiar gray ones. "Draco!"
His husband smirked. "My plan worked, huh? Hi, Mother."
"Don't you, 'Hi, Mother' her, Draco," Harry spat as he climbed out of his bed and onto Draco's. "She's here because you almost killed yourself, you idiot!"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Voldemort is dead?" Harry nodded. "You're alive?" He nodded again. "My plan worked. Hi, Mother," Draco repeated.
Arelia's eyes twinkled like Dumbledore's. "Hello, son. After you and your mate are reacquainted, you and I need to have a talk about necessary and unnecessary risks, darling." She leaned over and kissed him. "I left the realm quite suddenly; I must return and explain. I shall be back shortly."
Draco watched her leave. "What'd you do to put me on her shit list, Harry?" he said, snuggling into the arms that had wrapped around him.
"Me? You and your plans, arsehole. What if Dobby hadn't been able to get me into Malfoy Manor? What if Arelia hadn't been able to take you out of me and put you into you again? What if---what if I'd lost you, you jerk?" Harry emphasized the "jerk" with a kiss to each of Draco's temples.
Draco directed Harry's lips to his and they lost themselves in each other for several long minutes before Draco pulled back. "Thank you for saving me, Harry Potter."
Harry should his head. "Thank you for saving yourself, Draco Malfoy. Thank you for saving the whole fucking Wizarding world."
"Purely coincidental," Draco said, sighing as he leaned against Harry. "It was all about me, you know--and well, Jamie, who's a part of me so he's me, too. You had nothing to do with this so no indulging in guilt about what might have happened. And don't you dare think that I turned noble and self-sacrificing," he added sternly. "What I did has nothing to do with such Gryffindorish tendencies. As you've often stated, I am a Slytherin, and I have no qualms about doing anything to protect what is mine. Jamie is mine, and I've done what I've done for him. He deserves to have the best of the best, and if fate had determined that he should only have one parent, well, you know I would've fucked it up royally."
"No, I don't know that. Besides, I might have fucked up royally, too."
"But your Weasleys and Granger would have stuck their noses in and straightened it out for you."
"They would've helped you, too."
"As if I'd let a Weasley help me," Draco snorted. "See? That's why you'd have made the better single parent."
All Harry could see was that Draco was so far from being Lucius, he would have made an excellent single father. Sure, he probably would have disdained Weasley advice publicly, but he would've followed it to the letter if it benefited Jamie. "Let's not argue this since, thanks to you and your mother, neither of us is going to be a single parent."
"You played a role, too."
Draco entwined their fingers. "How did it feel? Having my power and yours?"
Harry remembered the cockiness he'd felt when he knew Voldemort couldn't touch him and the headiness of knowing Voldemort was finished. "Good. Maybe too good. I think...I think I know how dark lords are made."
Draco nodded. "But you don't have to worry about that. The darkness can't have you because you're mine."
"Oh, really? And are you mine?"
"I am. But Foom-Foom's not. Why do you have my toy?"
Harry looked down at the toy still clutched in his free hand. "You saved him, too."
"I did? Damn, I'm good," Draco said with a satisfied smirk, which was quickly followed by a yawn.
"Oh, you're awake!"
Harry looked up to see Hermione in the doorway with Jamie in her arms. She brought the baby to them and scurried out, saying something about having to get back to Ron.
"Tactful, isn't she?" Draco kissed his sleeping son on the forehead. "Draw the curtains around us, Harry. I want to be alone with my family for a while."
Harry moved the curtains with a flick of his hand. Then he cast a silencing spell and a room-darkening one. Although he didn't sleep, he did relax, knowing that he and his world were safe from harm.
Draco Malfoy lay in his mate's arms and dreamed. He dreamed of a future with laughing children, a loving husband, and a new realm and family to get to know. There was no darkness that had no light, no pain than couldn't be soothed away, no sorrows that weren't balanced by overwhelming happiness. Later, he woke, dazed and disoriented. He looked down in his arms to find green eyes staring up at him. He looked behind him and saw green eyes devouring him with love. He looked around him and saw friends and family and professors, people he could count on. With a sigh, he leaned back against Harry's solid, broad chest and knew without a doubt that his Plan had worked.
Draco Malfoy was saved at last.
"I said SLOW DOWN! I'm only four. My legs aren't as long!"
"You can climb on my back if you want to."
"Or the prat ahead could SLOW DOWN!"
"You don't even know what a prat is."
"Maybe not. But you had to slow down to tell me that. So, HAH!"
Draco Malfoy slowly shook his head as he listened to his brood communicating in their diverse ways. Four-year-old Daphne Lily was just as Slytherin as her namesake, slyly getting her eleven-year-old brother Jamie to slow down in the forward motion he was always in. And then there was eight-year-old Thisala Molly who, in her heroic Gryffindor nature, had tried to make peace by offering Daphne a ride on her back. Finally, there was Sirius Albus who was currently still in utero, but kicking his legs valiantly in an effort to keep up with his siblings--a fetal Hufflepuff wanting to be with the gang. Draco rubbed his belly, telling Sirius it was all right, that there would come a day he could annoyingly tag-along with his sibs without Papa's help.
He looked over at his husband and nodded. "I'm fine, Harry. This is my fourth pregnancy; I'm bound to have it down to an art form by now."
"Hey, you're the one all 'let's keep ahead of the Weasleys.' Just because Ron and Hermione have three children..."
"Keep on ranting and there will be no more children or sex in your future," Draco warned. He certainly wasn't going to try for the number the elder Weasleys had and besides, they were wealthy enough to afford however many they wanted. Anyway, Harry knew as well as he did that Sirius hadn't been planned. One minute they were at some Elven celebration of one thing or another (elves liked to party) and the next, they were waking up behind a clump of bushes minus trousers and pants.
"Aw, Draco, you know I'm just worried."
"And how many times have I told you, and Mother has told you, that I've become so Elven, pregnancy isn't a problem for me."
"Except when you get stuck in soft chairs and hunt for a bathroom every hundred meters."
"Fuck you, because I know who won't be doing it," Draco hissed as they trailed behind their children in search of a good picnic spot in the crowded London park.
"Even if I give you a foot massage?"
The problem with being bound to someone for nearly twelve years was that they knew you too well. "And a back rub."
Harry reached out and grabbed his hand. "And a back rub. You have tomorrow off, right?"
"Of course I do. The Ministry can do without their Minister of Elven-Wizard Affairs for one more day." He'd taken the week to spend this special time with his family.
"This spot all right, Papa?"
He glanced around. "It's a fine spot, Jamie. You can go off to the lake if you want."
"Can we go, too, Papa?" the girls cried.
Draco looked at his son. This was Jamie's day; he'd abide by his wishes. Jamie shrugged and smiled. "All right, but stay close to and listen to your brother. In a few years it'll be you going off Hogwarts the next day and you'll not be wanting your siblings to be a pain either."
Harry snorted as the kids took off toward the lake, Foom-Foom dangling precariously in Daphne's grasp. "Off to Hogwarts--like we don't live at Hogwarts."
Hogwarts wanted Jamie at Hogwarts. That much had been obvious long ago. Before Madam Pomfrey had confirmed Thisala was on the way, Jamie had woke them with a "Thank you for my very own room, Daddy and Papa." It seemed the castle had added a room, complete with everything a little boy could want. Thisala's room had appeared when Daphne did, and how they knew Sirius was on the way had been interesting. After waking up in the bushes, they had claimed their children and left the realm with the foggiest of memories. Ten-year-old Jamie, happy to be back at Hogwarts (Jamie loved Hogwarts, so actually it really didn't matter how much Hogwarts wanted him; he wanted it as much), had eagerly raced off to their rooms while his parents lagged behind. By the time they collapsed on the sofa, Jamie was perched on the coffee table, looking at them solemnly.
Draco knew that tone. That tone said that Jamie had something of a serious nature to discuss. He hadn't felt up to having a serious discussion, but as a parent, he'd sucked it up and plunged forward. "What is it, Jamie? You know you can tell us anything."
"Daphne has her own room."
Draco patted the round mound of his happy surprise of several months ago. "Yes, off to Hogwarts, off to live in a dormitory instead of their own beds. It'll be different enough, Harry."
"I know," Harry said as he helped Draco to the blanket-covered ground. "I don't even want to consider what our rooms are going to be like without him. No more spending the night in the realm for you for a while, all right?"
"Not without you," Draco agreed. "So how are the newest recruits looking?" H.O.M.E. had survived the death of Voldemort. Instead of just protecting Hogwarts, they now were "let" out to provide security for special events or to help out local constabularies who wanted to avoid the ministry-paperwork hassle of the Aurors. After five years in the service, Harry had been asked to head the militia--especially since he was such a celebrity that it made it hard for him to function as a mere officer.
Harry shrugged. "I think starting orientation after the summer was a good idea. It gives the ones who have just finished Hogwarts enough time to decide if the militia is really what they want to do. We also have a few from other magical institutions who couldn't have made this round if we hadn't pushed orientation back to the end of August."
"Just enough time to get the recruits settled before the Hogwarts students arrive. That was a brilliant idea, by the way," Draco said, lazily laying back on his elbows.
"Of course it was, since you're the one who came up with it," Harry said obediently. He sprawled out on his belly beside Draco. "I'm glad we got all Jamie's shopping done yesterday. I can only imagine how crowded Diagon Alley is today."
"At least he didn't meet any strange, scar-headed boys in Madam Malkin's," Draco said with a smirk. Harry didn't mind his scar much anymore; with Voldemort's death it had paled considerably and never hurt.
"Or a pale little haughty thing with sharp features and a mouth that won't stop."
Draco laughed. "Admit it, Potter--you like my mouth."
Harry moved closer. "Yeah," he said, proving it by attacking Draco's mouth with his own.
"Well, at least no one's going to wonder how I ended up in this condition," Draco said many moments later. He laughed when Harry looked around to make sure no one had been watching them. Harry still hadn't learned to live with their eternal gawkers. It was bad enough that he was Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World, but he was married to Draco Malfoy--son of a Death Eater, only known Progenitor, Elven mudblood, and co-killer of the evil, dread Dark Lord Voldemort. Draco was pretty sure a picture of the kiss was going to grace the morning cover of The Daily Prophet. It was a good thing Jamie had learned to live with his family's infamy and would just laugh off the comments he was going to get on the Hogwarts Express.
"Are we going to do this every year?" Harry asked.
"What? Kiss? I was thinking about doing it more than once a year," Draco purred.
"No, silly. I mean, come to London so that the children can ride the train with the rest of the students. I like the idea."
Draco nodded. "I think it's important because, you know, there was a lot of groundwork for the year established on the train ride."
"Yeah, like which Slytherins to steer clear of."
"Quiet, you flatterer you."
Harry grinned. "You know, some show-off Seventh Year is going to be in for a rude awakening tomorrow, thinking Jamie is just a typical ickle Firstie. But I personally know his papa has shown him a few eye-opening tricks."
"Not to mention the ones his dear ol' dad had already taught him. Maybe they'll have sense enough to steer clear of him once he mentions his name."
"Didn't stop you from messing with the Harry Potter."
Draco sniffed rather loudly. "Actually, it made me mess more."
"Yeah. Besides, I was talking more about the Malfoy part of his name more than the Potter part." He was counting on Jamie getting the message across that the Malfoy-Potter children were not to be trifled with. All the "Houses" in Jamie left him pretty balanced; sure, he rushed in Gryffindor-style, but with Slytherin subtle wiliness, Ravenclaw thought clarity, and Hufflepuff fair good-nature. The girls, on the other hand, in defense of their family, would perpetrate utter, unapologetic devastation upon their perceived enemy. Harry, bless his muggle-raised heart, thought the girls were mostly sugar and spice; Draco--who with one mother a witch, the other an elf, and an aunt who would've given the Dark Lord a run for his money if she had been anywhere near sane--knew better.
"You think your name inspires more respect?"
"More terror is more like it."
Harry sighed and dropped his head. "You're probably right." Then he brightened. "But at least he won't be a Slytherin."
The Sorting Hat had called for Jamie early in the summer. What all went on, only the Hat and Jamie knew for sure, but Jamie had come back to their rooms saying he was going to be a Ravenclaw so that his family would represent all the Houses. Since it was obvious which Houses Thisala and Daphne would represent, that left Sirius to be a Hufflepuff.
At least it wouldn't be such a shock come Sorting Day eleven years from now.
"What time is everyone else expected to arrive?"
Harry looked at his muggle watch. "Shortly. No one else has little ones old enough for Hogwarts yet so they're just in London for the afternoon. Next year will be different. Ron and Hermione's oldest will be eleven."
"She fancies our Jamie, you know."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Ariel just considers him her heroic older brother."
Draco rolled his eyes back at Harry. "Mark my words--that girl's going to be our daughter-in-law some day. She has her mother's brain and her grandmother's tenacity. Jamie is as good as wed."
"You make it sound as if our son is a pushover."
"Hah. Haven't you noticed? He fancies her, too."
Harry stared at him. "Where are you getting this from, Draco? I'm around the children as much as you are, and I--"
"Mark my words, Potter. At least their children will have the royal Elven hair and not that hideous red stuff."
"So have you added clairvoyance to your bag of tricks?" Harry twirled an aged dandelion in his hand and Draco glared at him. He did NOT want to spend hours brushing fluff out of his hair.
"Just preparing for an inevitable future, Harry." He scowled as a puff of air sent floating seeds in his direction. "The inevitable future without sex."
Harry laughed and picked another dandelion. "Try another tactic, Draco. You know you only married me for the sex. You are insatiable."
"I didn't marry you just for the sex; I married you for everything I ever wanted."
Harry dropped the dandelion and looked at him solemnly. "And how did that work out for you?"
"Better than I planned; better than I could have ever expected," he replied, just as somber. "What about you?"
Harry shrugged. "I'm not the kind of man who makes plans--I'm a purely fly-wherever-my-broom-takes-me guy. So you, my life with you, wasn't planned by any stretch of the imagination. But now that I'm here, with you and however many children you wish to grant me, I can honestly say there's no way I could be happier or more satisfied or more content. You saved more than yourself back then, Draco."
Draco sniffed and averted his eyes. "You know I'm carrying a Hufflepuff, Harry. He's totally co-opted my emotional system."
Harry laughed and laid his head on Draco's shoulder. "You're the biggest, fluffiest fraud I know."
"Please leave me my delusions," Draco begged. "Before four babies, I was an actual hard-arsed cynic, wasn't I?"
"One word answer to that, Draco: Foom-Foom."
"Shit," he sighed. "At least I'm a good parent, right? Jamie--well, Jamie's Jamie. Thisala is so you, it's not even funny. Daphne--Daphne has her moments, but have you noticed? Once she gets her way, she can be quite pleasant."
"Not a normal Slytherin at all," Harry agreed agreeably.
"And Huffie here, there's probably not much I can do to screw him up. So, good parent."
"And a good minister?"
"Not anything like Fudge or the rest. No playing politics for you: your way or no way," Harry teased.
Draco shrugged. "Not like I can be bought or anything. No one's richer than we are."
"And your mum's her majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, and Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic."
"There is that. And while we're on the subject, I'm a good elf and wizard, too. I really want both sides to be comfortable with each other."
"Only having a limited number of gates for each to pass into the other's realm was a brilliant idea, a simple way to know who's where at all times."
"Thank you. I'm a good friend?"
"You demanded a nursery at the Ministry Complex because so many of our friends work there and have children."
"Actually, I demanded it because the Wizard Resource Office said it couldn't be done."
"You asked your mother for a wing of the Elven palace so that our friends could stay over whenever they want."
"Mother Arelia is so easy."
Harry snorted. "Tell that to the rest of the Ministry and Dumbledore."
"You're good, okay? It's nothing to be ashamed of. You're good. Live with it."
"Fine, but I'm blaming you, by the way. Whatever I am, it's all your fault."
Harry smiled. "I can live with that."
Before Draco could reply, someone called out their names, and they looked up to the Weasley clan descending upon them, closely followed by the recently wed Blaise and Pansy. Family. Friends. It wasn't what he'd Planned that traumatic Yule long ago, but Fate seemed to Plan well enough on her own.
He could live with that.