Disclaimer: This world belongs to J.K. Rowling. Long live the Queen.

A/N: Reminder: Harry is born July 31st, 1980, so when this story begins in the winter of 1986, Harry is 6 years old.

Keep in mind, this is an AU. We don't know what most of these characters were like or how they behaved at this point in the story, so I'm playing around with them a bit. Expect at least a little OOCness.

Winterlong

Harry James Potter was not much like other children.

Beyond the obvious differences, (the wild, jet-black hair that refused to be tamed by even the most persistent grooming, the shocking, emerald green eyes, almost too large beneath his messy fringe, the tiny frame concealing surprising strength and endurance, and of course, the curious lightning bolt scar on his forehead) Harry's most significant anomalies were all hidden beneath his rather peculiar surface.

Beneath his fair skin and meager frame surged a never-ending current of power. Raw and unmanaged, it burst forth in times of need, sparing Harry from a few of the many indignities life had to offer him. A few, but not all. No, not all by half.

Harry lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin in a modest, boring house in a modest, boring neighborhood. His family, for lack of a better term, abhorred everything Harry, from his unusual appearance to the untamed and unnamed power contained within. He was abused, neglected, unloved and untouched by the three people who made up his world, his life.

He most purposefully did not think on that, alone in his cupboard, counting the spiders that scaled the inverted stairs. He daren't wonder what life might be like for other little boys; boys who didn't make their families recoil in fear or disgust. He wouldn't picture his life with a doting mother, a heroic father. Couldn't close his eyes against the darkness and wish, wish with all his little heart that someday things would be different.

No, Harry knew better than to waste his time on wishes. So he sat, counting the spiders, fingering the jagged scar adorning his head, and waited. He daren't think just what he was waiting for, but he waited none-the-less.

December, 1986

Harry trotted along the crowded sidewalk, careful to keep an eye on the red umbrella held high over his Aunt Petunia's bird-like head. His arms were beginning to burn, but he simply clutched his parcels tighter, craning his neck to see over the top of them as he struggled to keep the brisk pace set by the hovering umbrella.

The light drizzle picked up, splattering against Harry's glasses and threatening to obscure his vision completely. Anxious now, he picked up his pace, nervous about losing his Aunt in the crowded London streets. He'd just begun to close the gap between them when the worn sole of his second hand shoes slipped on a smooth patch of concrete, sending him flailing helplessly forward.

It seemed to happen in slow motion, giving Harry plenty of time to watch his carefully constructed tower of packages topple and fall to the filthy ground. He just managed to jut an arm out to catch himself when strong hands grabbed at his shoulders, clutching the thin material of his jumper and hoisting him upright.

Harry stared down at his Aunt's sodden packages with dismay before raising startling green eyes to the man now peering down at him. The man in question was quite unlike anyone Harry had ever seen before. He was very tall and broad, but lean where his uncle was round. He was dressed in a sort of dark green overcoat that fit him almost like a cape, and he carried a walking stick topped with a wicked looking silver snake's head. His hair was longer even than Aunt Petunia's, and so blond it almost looked white. The eyes that peered down at Harry, gray as the overcast sky above him, looked torn between annoyance and pity. In fact, the man seemed startled and most irritated with himself for having helped Harry in the first place.

Harry opened his mouth to mumble some sort of thanks, but froze at the sound of his aunt's shrill voice. "Harry James Potter! How dare you drop my things in the street, you stupid, worthless child!"

Harry immediately began gathering the wet packages in his arms, tensing in anticipation of a sharp pinch on his ear or a slap across his bowed head, but stopped when the strange man knelt down next to him, looking closely at his face and even reaching a gloved hand out to brush Harry's fringe out of his eyes, gasping harshly at the sight of the lightning bolt scar. The man's already porcelain face paled to a chalky white, his lips pressing together in a hard line while those gray eyes searched Harry's face frantically. Apparently, having seen whatever it was he was looking for, his expression hardened with resolve and he stood, turning to face Petunia, who had frozen upon seeing him.

Harry could hear them speaking above him in low tones as he gathered the last of the parcels, but could not make out what they said. When he stood again, the strange man looked to be replacing the head of his cane, and Petunia was staring blankly ahead, her eyes glazed and unfocused.

Clearing his throat nervously, Harry looked up at his aunt. "I-I'm sorry I dropped your things—my shoes slipped on the wet pavement. Aunt Petunia?"

She looked down at him, but her eyes still had that dreamy, unfocused look about them, and her voice was much lower and calmer than Harry could ever remember hearing it. "Harry, this man was a friend of your parents. You're going to be staying with him from now."

Harry looked disbelievingly from Petunia to the stranger and back. The stranger looked down at Harry with a sad, careful sort of smile, and then spoke in a low, velvety voice. "I'm sure this is quite a shock for you, but I don't believe your parents would have wanted you with…this woman. I have a son just your age and a very large home; I think you'd be very happy with us, and we'd be honored to have you."

"But…" Harry gaped at the man and then back at Petunia, unable to process what was happening. Was she really going to just give him away to a stranger on the street? Could she really be that eager to be rid of him? Harry's mind supplied the answer to his questions easily. Yes. Yes, of course she wouldn't hesitate at the first opportunity to unload him.

Harry felt scared and angry tears pricking at his eyes, but held them back by the sheer force of will, and turned to address the man. "How did you know my parents?"

The man read the doubt in Harry's eyes and answered with a serious expression. "We attended school together."

"What were their names?"

"James Potter and Lily Evans Potter. James had black hair just like yours, and Lily had the same green eyes you have. They died on October 31, 1981. I'm not lying to you, Harry. I understand if you're frightened, but you really must come with me now."

"But what about…" Harry turned toward his aunt only to find that she'd disappeared, slipped away into the bustling crowd while he questioned the stranger. He let his arms fall to his side, the parcels splashing and scattering on the concrete, dirty and forgotten. He didn't stop the tears this time, and they swelled and spilled over his inky lashes, mixing with the cold rain on his face and disappearing from sight.

The man was kneeling next to him again, soaking the fine material of his cape-like garment. He placed a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder, turning him away from the crowds to face him. "If you're worried about your things…"

Harry shook his head, fighting against the painful constriction in his throat, unwilling to cry outright like a child in front of the strange man. "I haven't any things."

The stranger's expression hardened again. "Well, we'll fix that easily enough. Come now, Harry. It's going to be alright. My name is Lucius." His expression softened as he extended a gloved hand between them.

Harry sniffed and placed his small hand inside the man's large one, the latter folding over and covering Harry's frozen fingers with the soft, warm material of his glove. Harry looked down, comforted by the unfamiliar gesture, then up into gentle gray eyes, and smiled.

Later that evening…

Harry curled into a tight ball in the middle of his enormous bed, knobby knees pressed against his chest, too-thin arms wrapped tight around them like twine on a package. The room—his room, was bigger than the entire ground floor of the house on Privet Drive. A few flickering candles cast dancing shadows into the far corners of the cavernous space, their light not even touching the vaulted ceiling above. His bed was the largest he'd ever seen, the mattress soft, the sheets smooth as butter, and the pillows voluminous and fluffy.

Harry felt smaller than he'd ever felt before; a minnow adrift in a wide ocean. Alone. Empty. He bit his lip to keep it from trembling and clutched his knees a little tighter to his chest.

Just down the hall, Draco Malfoy eased open his bedroom door and poked his white-blond head out, craning it this way and that, listening for the steady footfalls of his parents. The manor was completely silent but for the occasional shuffling from the countless portraits lining the halls. He quietly eased out into the hallway, closing his door with a barely audible 'snick'. He was breathing a sigh of relief when a light 'pop' behind him caused him to gasp harshly as he spun around, coming face to face with one of the family's house elves.

"Master Draco mustn't be out of bed, young sir! The Master would be most displeased, yes him would!"

Draco winced at the creature's unhushed voice. "Please, Dobby, please be quiet! I'm just going to check on the new boy—I want to make sure he's alright. Please don't tell Father!"

Dobby eyed his young charge carefully, worrying at his lip and tugging on one ear. "You is just going to Master Harry's room, yes? No where else?"

Draco nodded, his pale blond locks bouncing and reflecting the sparse moonlight from the huge windows at the end of the hall. "Yes, I promise. He's right next door, I'll just go check on him and then go right back to bed. Promise."

Dobby let out a nervous whine before nodding. "Alright then, Master Draco. But you is going to bed quickly!"

Draco breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks Dobby." The elf nodded once more, looked around nervously, then popped away again.

Draco wasted no time in quietly jogging down the hall to the very next door, opening it as stealthily as possible and then slipping inside. He immediately crept towards the bed opposite the door, but paused halfway there. It was empty.

A small knot formed itself in Draco's stomach as he nervously scanned the room, looking for a head of wild black hair or a glint of green, but finding nothing. Feeling very worried, he called out in a hoarse whisper, "Harry? Harry, are you alright?"

A small, muffled voice replied, "Draco?" Before Harry's head popped out from underneath the massive four poster.

The knot in Draco's stomach seemed to dissolve, quickly replaced by amusement. "Harry, what the blazes are you doing down there?" Draco skipped forward and then kneeled on the floor by the bed.

Harry bit his lip, training his eyes down on the dark grains of the wood floor beneath him. "It's too big in here."

"Oh." Draco turned around, taking in the room behind him. "I never much liked this room. Did you get scared?"

Harry just shrugged, still not meeting the other boy's eyes.

"Well, come on then." Draco held out a hand to Harry, which he eyed curiously before accepting. "Only one thing for it."

Draco pulled Harry out from under the bed and to his feet. Harry just followed him across the room wearing a puzzled expression. "What's that?"

Draco smiled warmly back at Harry and gave a casual shrug of his shoulders. "You'll just have to sleep with me in my room."

Harry smiled back, the tightness in his chest loosening a bit as he followed the blond boy down the hall and into another bedroom. Harry looked around and immediately liked this room much more than his own. It might have been the candles burning high up in the hanging iron fixture, casting dim, even light over the whole room, it might have been all of the green, his favorite color, or the toys lining the shelves and filling the chests beneath the huge windows. It might have been the clothes on the floor, or the fact that this room felt lived-in and real. It might have been any of these things, but somehow Harry knew that the thing he liked best about this room, the thing that made him feel warm and safe for maybe the first time in his life, was the pale, blond boy crawling across the bed, throwing stuffed animals to the floor to make room for him.

Draco Malfoy pulled back the grass-green coverlet and waved Harry over, wearing a sleepy smile. Harry climbed into the bed, snuggling under the covers and twisting onto his side to get comfortable. He giggled softly when Draco cuddled up behind him, the point of his sharp nose digging into the nape of Harry's neck briefly as the little blond boy laughed right back.

"Night Harry." Draco whispered, draping an arm around Harry's midsection and hugging him tight.

Harry's smile was huge as he stared into the semi-darkness around them. "Night Draco."

February, 1987 (3 months later…)

Narcissa Malfoy paused in the doorway to her son's room, a soft smile growing at the sight of the two boys spread out on the floor, surrounded by parchment and a colorful array of oil pastels. They lay facing opposite directions with their shoulders touching, so that their bowed heads were nearly aligned, darkest black next to palest blond. They spoke in hushed voices, inaudible to her ears, intermittent with bursts of giggles.

Draco was the first to notice her presence, letting out a dramatic gasp and throwing himself down to cover his picture. "Oi mate, lookout—a spy!"

Narcissa chuckled, crossing her arms over her chest in mock indignation. "A spy? Really, now Draco."

Harry smiled shyly up at her from behind Draco's huddled form. "You can't come in just yet, Mrs. Malfoy—they're not finished."

Narcissa hummed softly, suppressing her amusement. "Alright then, but it's almost time for tea. Wash your hands and come downstairs as soon as you're done."

The boys chorused "Yes ma'am," breaking out into another round of inexplicable giggles. She shook her head, smiling fondly as she left them to their artwork.

Later that evening, Narcissa sat at her vanity, brushing out her long hair while Lucius readied for bed. She went to put her brush away, but paused upon finding two rolls of parchment tucked in the topmost drawer. Unrolling the first, she discovered a drawing of what she assumed to be Draco riding on the back of a fierce looking red dragon. His wand was extended, with something that might have been lightning shooting out from it. She couldn't suppress a sigh at her own fierce little dragon, determined and ruthless one minute, loving and affectionate the next. Such a little contradiction.

She was still smiling down at Draco's drawing when she felt more than heard Lucius approach. He stopped just behind her, placing a gentle hand against the nape of her neck, fingers working, rubbing small, soothing circles into the tense muscles of her neck and shoulders. He leaned in, studying the picture with an amused smirk.

She leaned into his touch, letting her eyes slip shut. "He is so your child."

"Except for the unfortunate giggling situation. That most certainly did not come from his father."

"Hmm…the cuddling is all you, though."

Lucius dipped his head once. "True." He leaned in to place a lingering kiss against his wife's pale forehead, then caught sight of the second parchment. "And what's this one?" He leaned in, arms encasing her slim frame as he unrolled the other picture, laying it flat against the vanity's surface.

Narcissa reached out to touch Harry's neat signature at the bottom. The drawing was a fairly impressive rendering of herself and Lucius. The background was the night sky, midnight blue dotted with white and yellow stars the same shade he'd used to color both their long hair. Lucius was wearing a green cloak like the one he had on the first day he met Harry, and Narcissa was wearing a floor-length white robe. They stood together, holding hands and smiling. Narcissa thought it might have been the nicest portrait they'd ever had.

The idea that Harry saw them this way, and not the cold, uncaring, and often evil persona the public had assigned them, it made her feel…she wasn't sure what. Relief, of a sort. It was like having the weight of an entire person, the person she was supposed to be, believed to be, lifted from her shoulders. She'd never really felt like that person, never really wanted to be her.

Lucius stroked his thumb across her cheek, wiping away a stray tear before tilting her chin back so he could meet her eyes. "Are you alright darling?"

Narcissa looked up with a shaky smile. "I'm wonderful dear. Just wonderful."

The next morning, after giving Draco a hug and kiss as a special thank you for the picture, she placed him at the breakfast table and pulled Harry aside for a private talk.

His bright green eyes were wide with worry, his little hands twisting and wringing together behind his back as he followed her into the parlor. Narcissa sat on a low settee, gesturing for Harry to sit beside her, all the while watching his anxious behavior.

"Harry, dear, is everything alright?"

His little voice was hushed when he spoke, just barely concealing a tremor. "You're sending me away, aren't you?"

"What? Oh, Harry no, no of course not!" Harry sniffled and kept his eyes trained down on his lap, so Narcissa reached across, gently taking his chin and guiding him up to look at her. "I would never."

His eyes welled up, little tears spilling over his inky lashes while his lower lip trembled before he caught it between his teeth. Narcissa felt her heart clench painfully in her chest and promptly gathered the child into her lap, holding him close and stroking a soothing hand through his hair.

"You do like it here, don't you Harry?" He hiccoughed and nodded against her shoulder. "I want to make it so that you can stay here with us, permanently. Would you like that?" Another nod, this one a bit more timid. "Well, in that case, I think you ought to start calling me 'Mother.' What do you think?"

Harry leaned back, searching her face, her pale blue eyes for something. She smiled down at him, despite the tear that spilled down her cheek. Harry reached across and clumsily wiped it away with his small fingers, then leaned in and kiss her cheek, throwing his arms around her neck.

"Thank you, Mother."

Narcissa curled her arms around him, rocking gently. Lucius looked on from the doorway wearing a sad smile. Narcissa turned her head and, meeting his gaze, nodded once.

oOo

Albus Dumbledore sat hunched over his desk, carefully deciphering text from an ancient, decrepit book. At the knock at his door, he sighed and, placing a page marker, but the book away.

"Enter."

Lucius Malfoy gave a courteous bow of his head as he entered the circular office, carrying an ornate chest just smaller than a shoebox before him.

"Good evening, Lucius. What may I help you with today?" The old man's words were kind but his expression grave, a constant reminder that Albus Dumbledore would suffer neither fools nor liars in his presence. He gestured to a comfy chair in front of his desk, and Lucius took a seat.

"I need your assistance with a rather delicate situation." Lucius paused, shaking his head softly. "Well, no, to be more accurate, I would appreciate your support on a certain matter, and I've come to both keep you abreast of the situation and plead my case. I think, once you've heard everything I have to say and seen everything I have to show you, you'll have no objections."

Dumbledore's sharp blue gaze was as piercing as ever. "What, exactly, is this regarding?"

"Harry Potter."

The Headmaster froze but for a slight narrowing of his eyes and tensing of his shoulders. When he did not speak, Lucius continued.

"I came across young Harry out with his aunt in muggle London. He seemed…unwell. The child looked far too thin, barely dressed in second hand clothes he could never fit into, and that…woman was treating him worse than a house elf." Lucius paused, sucking in a heavy breath while Dumbledore continued that unnerving stare of his.

"Upon realizing just who the boy was, I…well I used Legilimency on the woman. Her hatred of the child was clear without even the benefit of reading her thoughts, but I was also able to get an idea of how the rest of the family treated him. I was appalled, to say the least." Lucius opened the chest on his lap and retrieved the first of three small glass vials, each filled with the swirling, mercurial mist of an extracted memory.

He placed the vial on Dumbledore's desk. "This is the memory of both the encounter and the thoughts I read."

Dumbledore picked up the vial, looking closely. "So you are concerned for Harry Potter's well being?"

Lucius cleared his throat delicately. "Well, naturally, I was both concerned and incensed. There isn't a wizard in England who doesn't know this child's name, and here he is, being treated like a dog by…" Lucius paused, clenching his jaw and regaining his focus. "Perhaps it was rash of me, but I had to act."

Dumbledore's eyebrows shot up at this. "What, exactly, did you do, Lucius?"

Lucius was just able to prevent giving the old man an exasperated eye roll, but couldn't contain the sneer when he continued. "I didn't harm the foul woman, if that's what you're wondering. I simply used the tools at my disposal to convince her to relinquish custody of the child to someone better fit to care for him."

"You cursed her."

"A mild confundus, nothing more. It was more to prevent a scene and keep from frightening Harry than anything else. I doubt she would have objected too strenuously to handing over the boy."

"So what you're saying to me is that you hexed a woman in the middle of muggle London, and then kidnapped her nephew?"

He didn't bother to contain the eye roll this time. "Always such a flare for the dramatic. Look, I realize how this seems, which is why I've come to you." He retrieved a second vial and handed it over. "These are memories given by Harry himself, memories of his life with those people." Finally he pulled out the third vial. "And this was taken from my wife, Narcissa. These are her memories of Harry since he's come to live with us. Of course, you are welcome to come to the Manor and see for yourself, but Harry is quite happy and well cared for."

Dumbledore stared down at this last vial. "How long has he been with you?"

"Three months."

"Three months? And you're just now coming forward?"

"I didn't want to act to make this permanent until I was sure it was the best course of action. But it's become obvious, for everyone involved, that Harry belongs with us now. I came here today because Narcissa adores this child and is terrified that he'll be taken away and given back to those people. Not just she, but our son, Draco, would be devastated as well."

Dumbledore looked closely at Lucius, turning those x-ray eyes of his up to study him so intently he might as well be looking at the inside of his skull. "And what about you, Lucius? This boy is responsible for the downfall of your master, your Dark Lord. Am I to believe that means nothing to you?"

For less than a second, Lucius entertained the idea of pleading his innocence once more, but one look from Dumbledore confirmed that the old man had never been fooled by his claims of controlling curses.

"I've made some choices in the past that…well." Lucius paused, looking down at his folded hands and continuing in a softer voice. "You know I have a son. He was born less than two months before Harry. When He-who-must-not-be-named went after the Potters in order to murder their child—their one-year-old child, it wasn't hard to see the evil in that. How easily could that have been my own son? And over what? A prophecy—a far-fetched, ridiculous prediction made by some batty woman trying to get a job."

Dumbledore raised a questioning brow at Lucius, who waved it off. "Yes, yes of course I know all about the prophecy. I don't know exactly what it said, but I know it's why he went after Harry."

"The fact that he was defeated in the process of attempting his most heinous act yet…that was not lost on me. I admit, at first, the child presented a curious mystery that I was eager to unravel. I don't know what I was expecting to learn—Harry was still in nappies when it all happened. I still don't know how such a powerful wizard was defeated by a toddler, but it no longer seems so important. He's not just 'the boy who lived' anymore, he's Harry. And he's…a very endearing child."

Dumbledore sat in silence, mulling over this information. "You know, I never believed Voldemort truly died that night. I'm almost certain he's still out there, in some form or other, and I'm just as certain that he will try to come back. What will you do, Lucius, when he does? When he demands the child in order to finish what he started?"

Lucius met Dumbledore's stony gaze for a moment before withdrawing the last item in the chest. He placed the item, a small, inconspicuous looking journal, in front of the old man.

"This belonged to him. He entrusted it to me, charged me with keeping it safe at all cost. He never said exactly what it is, but I know a bit of what it's capable of, and that's given me a clue or two. Through this journal, the Dark Lord is capable of possessing another being." He fixed Dumbledore with a sharp look, quirking an eyebrow and asking quite pointedly. "Are you familiar with anything that could accomplish such a thing?"

Dumbledore's blue eyes widened behind half-moon frames as the implications sunk in. Lucius nodded once, then returned his gaze to the leather-bound book.

"I believe, and this is mere speculation, but I believe he would have made more than one. If you do this for me, if you let us keep Harry…I will do my best to help you find and destroy each one. I swear it."

Dumbledore looked at Lucius, deep and long and searching, then nodded once. "Well then…we've work to do."

A/N: So, the purpose of this little bit is to more or less set the stage for an AU I've been working on. I don't intend to chronicle every movement in the fight against Voldemort, because it's my intention to take a lot of that burden away from Harry. I have already written several more chapters, but I plan to skip quite a lot of time in between each (I doubt the second chapter will be set less than 4 years from this one). I'll do my best to fill in the gaps, though, and explain the major differences between this storyline and canon. I hope that by being flexible with the pacing of this story, I can keep it from feeling tedious and me from losing interest.

Also, this will eventually be Harry/Draco. I'll adjust the rating and add warnings as necessary.

Thanks for reading!

Story title inspired by the Pixies' song "Winterlong"

I waited for you winterlong

You seemed to be where I belong

It's all illusion anyway…