Draco fumbled around in the air in front of him and grabbed Potter's wrist.
"I don't give a fuck what your issue is with her," he whispered harshly near what he assumed was Potter's ear. "We are not here for a showdown. I am here to protect my mother. You are here because you were stupid and naïve as a kid."
Potter made an aborted attempt to pull away. "Fuck off. I'm here because I was worried about you," he hissed back. "But she killed my godfather."
"Potter," Draco said, reaching for a calm he didn't have. "I mean this in the best possible way, don't get me wrong. But I don't give a fuck what she did. I'm not sacrificing my mother to your grudge against her sister."
Potter's arm tensed where Draco had grabbed it. "I forgot. She's your aunt. Is that why you don't want me to kill her?"
Draco wrenched Potter's wrist roughly to make him pay attention. "No!" he whispered. "Do what you want; see if I give a damn. She killed my favourite owl last summer because it wouldn't give her a letter addressed to me from Pansy of all people. She's crazy. But let me get to my mother first."
Potter went silent, and Draco prepared for him to tug his arm away and sprint out into the hall waving Draco's wand like a Gryffindor.
"There are five of them," Potter whispered instead. Draco sucked in a breath. Maybe they were actually going to do this the not-insane way. "Which door leads to your mother's room?"
Draco moved slowly around Potter, poking his head around the corner just far enough to get his bearings. "Third door down on the left hand side," he said. "She'll have it locked. We'll need to get rid of them before we can get inside. She's not going to let just anyone in."
They stood in silence a few moments longer, and Draco watched the Death Eaters. They were standing in a loose knot near the staircase, talking. Aunt Bellatrix was there, gesticulating broadly, eyes as mad as ever. Draco remembered meeting her for the first time that summer. He hadn't wanted to be near her then, and not much had changed in the interim.
"Right," Potter said finally. "Here's what we'll do. I'll distract them, get them out of this hall, and you get to your mum. We'll-"
"Hang on," Draco said. "How do you plan to distract them? Keep in mind that if you die here, it'll look to everyone at Hogwarts like I kidnapped you and sacrificed cute little eight year old Harry Potter to the Dark Lord. Even the Slytherins will frown on that."
Potter huffed quietly. "I know that, Malfoy. I'm not going to get myself killed."
"I wish you could see my face right now Potter. Words aren't sufficient to express my scepticism."
"Look, I'll just… make a loud noise in one of the other halls and they'll run to investigate and I'll be back here before you know it."
Draco considered this. It had worked on Granger and Weasley, but then, they weren't too bright. But then, that had really only worked because Potter knew Hogwarts like the back of his hand, even as a kid. And Draco knew…
He swallowed and eyed the Death Eaters standing near his mother's door again. No matter which way he looked at it, he reached the same conclusion. He felt his heart start to bang against his ribcage again as he made his decision.
"Yeah, that might work," he allowed, trying hard to force the shake from his voice. "But… and I really hate to say this," he glanced at the Death Eaters again and rubbed his clammy hands on his robes. "I think I should be the one to distract them."
Potter didn't reply, though Draco thought he could feel an invisible gaze on the back of his invisible neck. He turned around and clenched his fists.
"I'll go into another corridor and make a loud noise. Once they leave, you get to the door. Wait until they leave. And don't do anything stupid. Tell her you're here with me and she should let you in. I'll lead them away and get back to you and we'll get out of here."
It all sounded very simple when Draco laid it out like that. He almost felt like he could do it, if he didn't look back around the corner at what he was facing.
Potter's hand found Draco's arm, and squeezed it reassuringly. "I won't do anything stupid to mess up your plan," he whispered, and Draco choked back hysterical laughter.
"Thanks, Potter," he said, and headed back in the direction they'd come from. He nearly stumbled; the jittery feeling that sat behind his eyes and poked holes in his chest made him slightly dizzy. There was another passage down this hallway that, while not hidden, wasn't very well known. Draco could whip up some alarm in the portraits, smash the mirror with the hideous baroque frame he'd always hated, and duck through the passage and out into a corridor one floor down that would lead right to the staircase outside his mother's rooms.
When he reached the passage he'd had in mind, Draco swallowed his nerves as best he could and caught the attention of great aunt Walburga. She was one of the loudest portraits they had in the Manor. As one of Narcissa's closer aunts, she had a frame here and another in her ancestral home, but fortunately for Draco, she'd been here more often than not in the past year.
"Good evening, Aunt Walburga," Draco said, and was proud of how steady his voice sounded. Walburga nodded her head in greeting and took Draco's lack of physical presence in stride. "It's a shame about aunt Bellatrix, isn't it?" he said airily. "How she left her husband for that filthy half breed banshee."
Walburga stiffened. "She what?"
"Yes," Draco continued in a blithe tone, leaning on the mirror and listening to it creak satisfyingly. "It's almost as bad as aunt Andromeda and that Muggle she married. I hear they had offspring that married a half breed too! A werewolf! And a mudblood, to boot!"
Walburga glared at the elderly Malfoy sniggering in a portrait on the opposite wall. "Young man-"
"I hear aunt Bellatrix might even be expecting a child with the half breed soon!" Draco and his great grandfather shuddered in mutual disgust. "The last generation of Blacks are going out in disgrace, as far as I can tell."
That was the final straw for Walburga. The entire East Wing would hear her shrieks, no question. Draco shoved the mirror behind him as he stepped away from it, knocking it loose from the decrepit sticking charm that had attached it to the wall since before Draco was born.
The splintering crash drowned out even Walburga as pieces of the mirror bounced and shattered across the stone floor. Draco ducked into the passage as he heard the sound of many pairs of boots pounding toward the corridor he'd just vacated.
Abraxas seemed to find Draco's antics amusing, if his guffaws were anything to go by. He had probably never liked that mirror either.
Draco dashed down the passage, knowing he could count on his great grandfather to keep the Death Eaters from following. A Malfoy's loyalty was to the family first, and even Walburga would pay respect to the Malfoys whose Manor she was a guest in before giving him away to her niece.
Draco checked the corridor leading to the staircase before emerging, and felt his breath rush out of him as he watched several Death Eaters rushing up the staircase toward his mother's room, probably on their way to investigate the cacophony. After they reached the top, Draco hastened to the stairs and flew up them, praying that Potter had already gotten into his mother's rooms.
As he rounded the corner on the landing, he saw that his hopes had been in vain; not only had Potter not managed to get to safety, he'd also managed to leap headfirst into danger and was duelling with the Death Eaters. It was very little solace that he had kept the advantage of the disillusionment, though it had worn off significantly enough that Draco could see a broad outline of Potter's shape. The git could have just avoided calling attention to himself altogether, but no.
Draco backed into the corner on the landing, thinking that if he could sort of see Potter, then his own disillusionment was probably wearing off too. He hoped against hope that none of the other Death Eaters came upon him in his current wandless state.
Potter seemed to be enjoying himself in a insane sort of way. At the very least, he was doing well. He'd downed two of the Death Eaters already, and was trading spells frenetically with the last of them. Draco thought briefly about making himself useful, but a stray curse hitting the wall across from his hiding spot made up his mind for him: staying out of the way was the best option.
His plan of non-interference fell to the wayside, though, when Potter backed the Death Eater up to the landing and Draco saw an opportunity. He reached out from his corner when he saw a gap in the curses and pushed.
Potter paused and watched the Death Eater topple down the staircase. He approached the landing cautiously, wand at the ready, and peered at the crumpled form at the bottom of the steps. The Death Eater didn't move again.
"You're an idiot."
"Merlin, Malfoy, that was you?" Potter jumped at the sound of Draco's voice, to his deep satisfaction.
"Yes, that was me," Draco reached out and hit Potter's elbow. He grabbed it and pulled him toward his mother's door. "What happened to 'I won't do anything stupid to mess up your plan'? That was stupid."
"She wouldn't let me in," Potter explained, sounding frustrated. "She doesn't believe I'm with you. She doesn't even believe I'm me. Your mum is paranoid."
"Her house is full of Death Eaters!" Draco hissed, glaring ineffectually at the slight to his mother and shoving Potter away. He stepped up close to the door, pressed one hand flat against it, and spoke softly. "Mum? It's me. It's Draco. Let us in, please. The Death Eaters will be back soon."
Draco could hear his mother breathing on the other side of the door. They were separated by two inches of solid wood, but considering how much effort it had taken to get this far, it felt like a continent. Draco wished she would just open the door.
"Sweetheart," she said in a low voice. "Is it really you?"
Draco clenched his hand into a fist and flattened it against the door convulsively. He cleared his throat and answered. "It's me, mum. Please hurry and let us in. I promise it's me."
Narcissa's breath caught in her throat as she tried to speak. "When you were six years old and your father took you out flying on your own for the first time…"
Draco glanced behind him. Though he couldn't see Potter well, he could feel his presence still standing close. "I flew so high I left the wards and you didn't want me to touch a broom for another six weeks. It only ended up being three, though."
There was a silence on the other side of the door. Draco stared at the door, willing her to open it.
There was a noise from down the hall, and Potter shifted uneasily behind him. Draco pressed his forehead against the door. "Mum, please hurry."
The door cracked open suddenly and Draco got his first glimpse of his mother in months. She gazed around the door frame, eyes taking in the apparently empty corridor with a crease between her brows. She looked tired and anxious.
Draco reached out and touched her arm where she held the door.
"I'm right here," he whispered. "Let us in."
Narcissa stepped back and let Draco and Potter enter, then closed the door and warded it securely behind them.
"Draco?" she asked, her eyes the only part of her that moved as she tried to see through his disillusionment. Potter obligingly removed the spell from Draco first, then himself.
Draco stepped forward and hugged his mother immediately. A small smile slid across her face when she could finally see him.
"What are you doing here, Draco?"
"Are you okay, mum?" he asked in a low tone as she embraced him in return. She nodded and lifted a hand to smooth fondly against his jaw.
"I'm fine, darling. Answer my question."
"We're leaving," Draco said. "I'm not joining the Dark Lord."
Something much more profound than relief settled on Narcissa's tired face. She stepped forward abruptly and reached up to kiss him on the cheek.
"Thank you, Draco." She glanced over his shoulder at Potter and her gaze sharpened. "It's very dangerous for you to be here, Mr. Potter," she said. Potter nodded once.
"All the more reason for us to leave as soon as possible," he pointed out.
Narcissa seemed to agree, because she turned around, summoned several house elves, and set them to packing her things.
"Thank you, Mr. Potter," she said. A harsh sound from behind Draco had them both turning around to face Potter. Narcissa reached out toward him in concern. "…Are you alright?"
Potter had pressed his palm to his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut. "Fuck," he said, and made the harsh noise again: a mangled gasp or half a sob, Draco wasn't sure.
"Potter?" Draco grabbed his upper arm as Potter grasped blindly for something to hold him up and doubled over anyway.
"He knows," Potter gasped. Draco stared. "He knows I'm here. He knows we're here. He's coming. Voldemort."
Draco snatched his hand away from Potter as though he'd been burned. He and his mother took several steps backward. In Narcissa's case, she was moving to give further instructions to the house elves.
"Take everything," she snapped. "Obey only Malfoy orders from now on. Protect yourselves when necessary."
She turned back to Draco, who had recovered from his shock when Potter really started falling over. Currently, Draco was the only thing keeping him from crashing to the floor. Potter had nearly gone to his knees, in severe pain. "He's furious," he choked out. "He's coming."
The panic that had receded when Draco finally found his mother returned full force. It was positively creepy, the way Potter was carrying on, and if he was right… it hardly bore thinking about.
"Draco," Narcissa asked, "Are you able to leave the way you came? Go quickly and I will follow."
"I came here by broom," Draco said helplessly. "I don't even know if he can fly like this."
Footsteps approached Narcissa's warded rooms, and a sudden explosion bowed the door inward on its hinges.
"Sister, dearest!" Bellatrix's cheerful voice rang through the walls. "Let me in! We need to talk."
Potter tried to straighten up, gripping Draco's upper arm with one hand and his own forehead with the other. "You've got your mum," Potter said. Draco shook his head, wrenching his arm away from Potter and watching him stumble with a raised eyebrow. Potter took his point, though he took it badly. "Fuck you," he muttered, and managed to stand on his own until another, much more powerful blast blew the door off its hinges. Because of the spells on the rooms, some of them ancient, the door stayed where it was, though the look Draco shared with his mother said clearly enough that another blast would change that.
Potter sagged to his knees at the force of the blast, and Draco didn't need Potter's verbal confirmation to realise who's wand was on the other side of his mother's bedroom door.
Narcissa eyed Potter with an intense sort of calm that Draco couldn't even have pretended to at the moment. "Get him on the broom."
In under fifteen seconds, Draco and Narcissa managed to manoeuvre Potter onto the back of a house elf provided broom. Potter was aware enough to know to cling onto Draco's middle, but was otherwise insensible, pressing his forehead hard against Draco's upper back and gasping random words. It was almost like he was arguing with someone who wasn't there, which was unnerving.
Narcissa flung open the balcony doors and turned. "Go, Draco," she said in a firm tone. He paused in the air on the balcony and waited for her pointedly.
She took a cloak as a house elf handed it to her and swirled it around her shoulders. The elf handed her a broom and a small trunk next. She pocketed the trunk with haste and mounted the broom. She looked up at Draco, eyes glinting. "Go."
They flew out of her rooms and into the skies at top speed. They could dimly hear shouts from Narcissa's emptied room, but they were already high above the Manor, sliding out through the gaps in the wards meant for exactly this sort of situation. Draco had never thought he would have to escape from his own home, but he had to admit that the paranoia of previous generations of the Malfoy family had served their progeny well. The wards sealed themselves after both Malfoys fled the property, and none of the Death Eaters still on the grounds were able to follow them out.
Draco flew as fast as his broom would go with two passengers, and Narcissa kept up easily. The further away from the Manor they soared, the more alert Potter became, until Draco could feel his grip firm and was no longer worried about him falling off the broom midflight.
"What happened?" he asked, voice muffled by Draco's cloak.
"We're okay," Draco said shortly. "I'm okay, you're okay, Mother's okay. We're all okay."
Potter sagged slightly and pressed his forehead to Draco's back again. "I really wanted to kill Bellatrix."
Draco felt hysterical laughter bubbling up inside him, and forcibly suppressed it. He would crash the broom if he gave into that sort of emotion right now.
"Maybe next time," he said instead.
The flight to Hogwarts was subdued. Draco and his mother flew high above the clouds to assure themselves that they weren't being followed. Potter cast warming charms upon request, but was otherwise fairly quiet, until:
Draco could hear the frown in his voice. "Yeah, Potter?"
"Did you really have me sabotage the antidote Snape was making for me?"
Draco didn't answer immediately. They flew in silence for a moment, while Draco debated internally. "You remember everything then?"
"Yeah," Potter said, warming to his topic. "I remember you telling me he was making a potion to turn Hermione into a beaver because he couldn't get away with giving her detention."
"…I might have said that," Draco said, smiling to himself. "You did insist on revenge, Potter. I just wanted to be sure you didn't get hurt," he lied. "That particular potion was harmless if you botched it. The others he was making weren't. You were adamant about getting revenge. It was kind of strange."
"It was a phase I was going through," Potter explained defensively.
"Most children have phases where they refuse to eat their vegetables or they want to fly everywhere instead of walk," Draco explained. "Normal eight year olds do not have revenge phases."
Potter snorted, though Draco couldn't tell if it was in amusement or outrage. "I did."
"That's because you were never normal, Potter. You know that."
There was another silence, long enough that they had nearly reached Hogwarts, before:
"At Hogsmeade, Crabbe and Goyle really-"
Draco frowned. "Yes."
"Oh. Good. Er. Be careful when you…"
If they hadn't already reached the winged boars on the edge of the grounds, Draco would have followed up on Potter's vague pronouncement. Instead, they landed at the gates, which unexpectedly allowed all three of them entrance. This made more sense when they realised Snape was waiting just inside for them. He sealed the gates behind them with his wand.
Narcissa drew back, taking Draco with her.
"Severus," she began, but Draco stopped her.
"Mum, it's okay," he said in a low voice. "He's..."
"I am a traitor," Snape said, bowing his head to her. "As is Draco. Hogwarts welcomes you."
Snape led them inside and straight to Dumbledore's office, where the old man appeared delighted to see them. Draco's thoughts about the headmaster still gravitated toward 'useless old bastard', but when he offered Draco's mother asylum, Draco reluctantly allowed that he might not be as worthless as he'd first appeared. He allowed a few more unfavourable thoughts to cross his mind about Dumbledore, but stopped when he caught Snape eyeing him with disapproval and remembered that both Snape and Dumbledore were powerful Legilimens. Draco spent the rest of the meeting looking at either his mother or his hands in his lap and thinking very determinedly about the lemon drops on the desk.
"Mrs. Malfoy, you will be staying in the safest of locations," Dumbledore said, picking up an elaborate quill and writing a short message on a piece of paper, which he then presented to her. "You may use the floo here after you have said your goodbyes."
Draco stood to face his mother, who smiled at him and touched his chin. "I will see you soon, Draco," she promised, and he nodded once. Snape and Dumbledore turned away and were speaking quietly. Potter, who had subsided into his chair after his version of events was presented, watched them with open curiosity, the nosy prat.
Draco watched as his mother read the short message, which caused her to raise an eyebrow even before it burst into flames in her hand. She looked back at Dumbledore, who merely waved her forward with a smile.
"You boys must be tired," Dumbledore said after her departure. Draco turned away from the fireplace and looked at the headmaster. "You have had a trying night."
Snape's quelling glance was unnecessary. Draco's mother was safe, and Draco had manners.
"Thank you, Headmaster," he said. "I am quite tired, thank you. Good night."
"Night, professors," Potter said, jumping up to follow Draco out the door. Draco spared him a glance as they stood on the revolving steps. He should probably say something.
"…thanks for not getting us killed after you nearly got us killed, Potter," he said as they stepped out into the corridor. Unexpectedly, Potter grinned.
"No problem, Malfoy," he said. "You did well after your third panic attack."
Draco opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. "I suppose 'This is all your fault, you absolute git' would be very slightly overstating things."
"Especially since you were the one who told Dobby to start following my orders," Potter agreed blithely, stuffing his hands in his robe pockets. "And you were the one who went to Malfoy Manor. And you were the one who made sure my antidote was delayed for so long. And you were the one who-"
"Yes, thank you Potter," Draco grumbled. "Very kind of you to point all that out."
"I live to serve," Potter said, shrugging. He paused at the landing to the staircase Draco needed to take to get to Slytherin. "Listen, Malfoy…"
Draco paused as well, and raised his eyebrows.
Potter rubbed the back of his neck. "Be careful tonight, alright?"
Draco crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "You said that earlier. Why?"
"I… don't want to spoil the surprise," Potter said, scuffing the toe of one shoe against the stone floor. "But… don't be the first one to go to bed tonight, okay?"
Draco held his position, waiting for Potter to elaborate. Instead, Potter grinned at him and turned on his heel. "Night, Malfoy," he called over his shoulder. "Be careful!"
Draco dropped his arms. "What did you do?" he called after Potter's retreating back. "I told Pansy not to let you in! Potter!"
Potter began climbing his own staircase. "You think Parkinson let me in?" He let his laughter float down the stairs as he disappeared, leaving Draco somewhat annoyed, very curious, and generally conflicted. Potter seemed to have become a weird combination of his original self and his younger self. Draco wasn't sure how to approach a Potter he liked.
He checked his watch. Curfew in ten minutes. If he was going to be in Slytherin for the discovery of Potter's treachery, he'd have to move quickly.
He set off down the stairs, making a mental note to change the password to the common room after it all played out. One could never be too careful.
A/N: Holy shit. This story killed me. I'm so sorry for all the delays and extending it so much further than I expected to. :\ Anyway, it's done! There might one day be an epilogue or a sequel, but for now, it's bloody well finished. Thank Zeus and Merlin and all the rest.