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Chapter 25 – The Prisoner

The first thing Harry knew was that he was very warm. And that he was happy. He lay for quite some time, basking in that warmth until he was conscious enough to feel his arm locked in an uncomfortable position and then he had to move. Gradually awareness crept back to him and he surfaced little by little, until he opened his eyes to timid sunlight that fell in streaks across the bed.

For a moment he could not understand why he would be feeling sore but then he remembered. Remembered it all. And consequently blushed. And quite fiercely at that.

He had rolled away from Sirius in his sleep but he made no move to work his way back into his arms. Beside Harry the older man was still snoring softly. So instead of disturbing him, Harry fumbled for his glasses and crammed them onto his nose. His godfather's face was half-buried in a pillow but from what Harry could see almost all of the lines in his face were smoothed out by sleep and soft daylight, and from Harry's point of view he was breathtakingly beautiful.

They had done it.

He turned onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. The last time he had done that was after the kiss at the Ministry when he had understood absolutely nothing about anything. The spider webs were gone from the corners now.

Harry Potter found that he was grinning himself silly at nothing.

"Now that's something to wake up to."

Sirius was smiling, too. The was a light coating of stubble on his chin and cheeks and his hair was a tangle of dark locks. "C'mere will you?"

Harry did not need to be asked twice. He shuffled himself into Sirius' arms and wound up with his back pressed against his godfather's chest. Sirius' breath in his hair was warm. "Mmm..." Sirius aligned their bodies, pushing himself against Harry's backside. "Remember last night?"

Harry swallowed and there was a slow twist of something deep in his belly. He could feel Sirius' length twitch against his arse and was surprised it still made him nervous. "Yeah... I was... just thinking about it," he said, hoping he sounded far more composed than he felt.

"You OK?" His godfather's hand found of one of his and gave a gentle squeeze. "No regrets?"

Harry shook his head into the pillow. "None."

"Good." Sirius reaffirmed his hold on Harry's hand and gave the smallest roll of his hips. His voice was low and raspy, "Because there is so much I want to try with you, Harry." Raising himself up just a little, his mouth found Harry's ear and a warm, wet tongue tip teased his earlobe. "I want to taste every inch of you..." His breath tickled Harry's rapidly heating skin. "I want to feel you melt in my arms... I want you open..." His leg hooked over Harry's thighs. "I want to feel you all around me. I want to dress you up in one of Kreacher's rags and take you down to the kitchen and... ouch!"

Sirius was laughing as Harry wormed his way out of his arms to glare at him. Laughing – despite the hard elbow Harry had planted in his chest.

"That's disgusting," Harry told him, trying to keep his expression of horror glued to his features. But it proved hard when Sirius was so radiant with glee.

His godfather's eyes were tearing up. "My own... house-elf-Harry" he managed, before grabbing a pillow for a shield when Harry made a threatening move for his wand. "Sorry!" He was still chuckling behind the pillow, though.

Harry bit his cheek to keep from smiling. "You're despicable," he informed Sirius and felt like Hermione.

"Sorry," Sirius repeated, lowering the pillow. But he was grinning madly. "I take it all back."

Harry lifted an eyebrow.

"Well, the part about Kreacher's rags anyway." Sirius smirked. "I'd still like to take you on the kitchen table."

Harry's next breath sort of imploded in his throat. "Yeah?" he croaked, all confidence leaking out of him in an instant.

"Oh yes." Sirius reached for him and drew him closer again. He did not seem content until he had Harry on his back beside him so that he could hover above him. Dark tresses framed his face and his eyes glinted dangerously. "Mr Potter, as your Professor I am informing you that it would certainly be to your advantage if you would let me instruct you in one of the areas of magical duelling sadly often overlooked by most practitioners." His fingertips were sliding down Harry's chest and his belly, making Harry shiver in response. "Namely the one where the attacker and the quarry works in tandem to achieve, ah, most invigorating, results..." His fingers were brushing the hairs surrounding the base of Harry's cock.

Harry licked his lips. There was something in Sirius' voice that compelled him to play along even as embarrassment made his insides squirm. "I'm not sure I understand... Professor."

"I see," Sirius mumbled, fingers finding a way to curl around Harry's wakening length. "Then allow me to show you Mr Potter..." He gave a first stroke, easily waking the sleeping flesh and Harry arched upwards, into his grasp. "Very good," Sirius murmured. "Very good."

His palm was dry on Harry's skin. He stroked slowly, making Harry want to rise up to meet him at every little twist of his wrist. Everything was so warm. Sirius' lips had parted and his eyes were losing focus as he worked Harry's cock hard with his fingers.

"I think," Sirius breathed, "I think I need to swallow you whole, Mr Potter."

Harry's vision darkened as Sirius crawled down his thrumming body to plant a kiss near his navel. Then the lips were drawing closer and closer and... Harry gasped as Sirius licked at the head of his cock with his tongue. The morning air against his wet skin was cool but soon Sirius's mouth returned and Harry whimpered shamelessly as Sirius kissed his way down Harry's length, and all the way up again.

"Now, if you're ready for the next step..." Sirius murmured softly. But he never gave Harry time to consider. Suddenly there was only wet heat as he took all of Harry in his mouth and sucked.

Harry's brain was dissolving. In fact, he would have been quite convinced that his whole being was simply evaporating if it had not been for the insistent pounding in his groin. Sirius' mouth was liquid fire as it enveloped him. The pressure of his tongue made the hairs on Harry's arms stand on end and he felt an urgent need to move. With a groan that flew past his lips he flexed his hips.

Sirius groaned in return. He was holding Harry's swollen cock upright but his other hand was free to roam. Dizzily, Harry felt fingertips brush his chest and then tweak one of his nipples. A tingle woke deep down in the core of his body and as Sirius lowered his head over him again, sucking him with an increasing fervour, Harry felt that tingle expand until he was shaking. He pushed off the mattress and Sirius accepted him, mouth so warm and so wet, and Harry lost track of everything else but that sensation. Finally coming almost broke him apart.

o.O.o

"What about you?" Harry barely dared to ask. He felt selfish and stupid where he lay, trying to get his breathing back to normal.

But Sirius only grinned. "Fixed it."

It must have been obvious that Harry had not understood because his godfather held up a hand. "Wanked."

"Right," Harry said weakly, mortification welling up. "I'm sorry I..." But he honestly had no idea how to phrase his worry so the sentence was left hanging in the air between them.

Sirius, however, shook his head. "Don't. You were so hot." He pressed a kiss to Harry's nose. "Couldn't have asked for more." He winked. "Not this time at least." Another kiss. "Seriously though..." His smiled faded and he met Harry's gaze straight on, "I love you."

This time it was Harry who smiled.

o.O.o

"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Harry tore his attention from the morning's Prophet. He'd been secretly relieved to find that there was nothing in it on Sirius' new appointment as Professor at Hogwarts. Soon enough the news would be out, he knew, but he was happy if that was not yet. "Sirius, we've been over this... I need to see him."

His godfather was not looking too happy. What was left of their breakfast was cooling between them on the kitchen table. "I know... It's just that … Well, can't you just talk to Kingsley, you know? I don't feel comfortable with you running around in the Ministry's deepest, darkest corridors."

Harry shook his head. "This is my last chance," he said. "I need to see him. I need to talk to him."

Sirius grimaced. "And you think he'd happily talk to you?"

Harry gave a wry smile. "I don't see why not. Draco always did like to talk back to me."

o.O.o

This time when one of the gilded fireplaces spit him out into the Atrium, Harry barely recognised it. The old wooden floor was gone, covered by a bright red carpet that could only be linoleum. It was spotless.

The walls were red too, but they shone with a high polish and looked cold and hard to the touch. Harry blinked, already somewhat dislodged by the Floo ride and all that red was quickly making him slightly dizzy. There were lots of people milling about too, and flapping memos and Harry thought he might even hear the distinctive moo of a cow somewhere. He shoved his glasses up his nose and tried to gather his bearings.

"S'cuse me, s'cuse me! Pardon!" A high-pitched voice shot through the air and Harry had no time to jump aside before a tall gangly wizard rushed past him, half-colliding with his shoulder. "Mi scusi, mi scusi! Excuse me!" His black robes were flapping around him and Harry caught a glimpse of skinny pale ankles and lime green socks collecting around the ankles as the man tried to weave his way through the teeming crowd. "S'cuse me! Przepraszam!"

Jarred out of his original purpose, Harry rubbed his shoulder and squinted after him. In the wizard's wake, other were following and the crowd seemed to be gathering around something further down the hall. Struck by curiosity, Harry hastened after them.

There was a hole in the floor.

Not a hole, Harry corrected himself as he came closer. It was a bloody crater, thirty feet wide and with no bottom that Harry could see.

Excited onlookers were buzzing around it, gazing downwards into the black pit that had opened up in the middle of the Atrium and were speculating wildly about what had caused it. The young wizard was making fruitless attempts at keeping them away from the edge. He wore a blue Ministry badge blinking furiously, Harry saw now.

"Step aside! Mind the edge!" He was waving frantically at group of three portly wizards who were muttering amongst themselves, peering down into the abyss. "S'il vous plaît!" He almost shoved a middle-aged witch in orange robes aside. "Achtung!"

"Johnson!"

The Ministry official immediately stopped the flapping of his arms as a large man shouldered through the buzz. His robes were a proper ministerial blue and his square jaw was set. Harry had never seen him before. "Did I not tell you to ward off this area at once?"

"Yes sir," Johnson said quickly, colour rising in his harassed face, "only I..."

"Enough!" the older man barked. Then he turned to the onlookers. "Off you go, folks! Nothing to see here." His attempt at a smile made him look as though he were suffering from a severe headache.

As the crowd obediently thinned and dispersed, Harry briefly considered staying behind to ask a few questions but one more look at Johnson's superior discouraged him. The crater occupied his thoughts all the way to the lifts, however, and he could not shake the feeling that it was somewhat important.

It was only when his lift was descending deep into the bowels of the Ministry that Harry realised he had no idea where Draco was being imprisoned. He kept to his corner, pretending to be invisible as people got in and out, most of them too busy with themselves or their business to pay him much attention.

Mostly out, he noted after a while and in the end he was all alone.

"The Department of Mysteries."

The lift clanged to a final stop and the doors opened.

Harry stood still in the modest pool of light that the overhead lamp offered. Beyond it lay a dense blackness.

"The Department of Mysteries," the voice repeated, when he made no move to exit.

Harry hesitated. He tried to peer into the dark hall that should be there, but saw nothing. It was oddly quiet down here and even the eerie blue candlelight that usually flickered against the marble would have been welcome.

He jumped when the cool female voice broke the silence yet again. "The Department of Mysteries."

"I know," Harry muttered, laying a hand on one of the gold ropes that hung down from the lift ceiling. It, too, was cool. "I know, all right."

He could have sworn there was a snort in response.

"It's just..." he told the voice, "that I don't know where I'm going." And when nothing happened, he added, "I've come to see Draco Malfoy."

He had no wish to deal with the Department of Mysteries ever again if he could avoid it. Harry shivered as the chill of stone crept underneath his clothes and licked at his skin.

He had lost Sirius down here.

Harry's vision swam.

He had fallen to his knees. He was screaming his throat raw. His eyes were burning.

Lupin was at his back, strong hands grabbing at him, tearing at the collar of his jumper.

No, Harry... it's no use, Harry... He's gone, Harry...

Harry wanted to die too, There was too much pain to bear. He would give anything to follow his godfather into the void.

The veil flapped.

Sirius was behind it.

Sirius was gone.

He's gone, Harry...

A part of Harry died too. Sirius had died... Sirius was dead.

Sirius is dead...

"The Wizengamot Courtrooms."

Harry's hand was wrapped around the rope so tight his knuckles hurt. His eyes stung as he forced them open. The blue candle flames flickered and their reflections danced in the marble.

"Sirius?" The name was swallowed up by the stone. A sheen of cold sweat covered his forehead.

"The Wizengamot Courtrooms," the voice answered him, slower this time but crystal clear.

"I don't..." Harry began. "I came to see Malfoy." He let go of the rope, wiping his sweaty palm on his trousers. His heart was beating at an uncomfortable speed.

"The Wizengamot Courtrooms." If he was not entirely mistaken, the voice sounded just slightly weary.

It seemed to take him ages to put the pieces together. "You mean he's down there?"

But there was no further reply. Harry threw a glance to his left where the flight of stairs would lead him down to level ten. "It's worth a shot, I suppose," he mumbled, his own voice sounding awkward as it floated out into the chamber. With a deep breath he followed it out onto the floor.

"So, um... Thanks, I guess." He told the lift.

It was gone before he knew it.

The smell that had permeated level ten on his last visit had disappeared, Harry noted with a wash of relief; he was already queasy as it was. But only half of the torches lining the walls were lit and they cast an uneven and restless pattern of light around him. The heavy doors were all closed. His steps echoed between the walls as he crept warily down the corridor. There was no sign of any other human being and Harry did not know whether to be relieved or worried.

"Draco, where are you?" he muttered to the silence but where the lift had for some reason felt inclined to help him, level ten offered no such assistance.

He passed courtroom number six and his mind filled with images of Algernon Pod. Harry still did not know what to make of the Chief Warlock. He passed number seven as well, and eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve, too. Then he saw it.

Resting on a small pedestal lay a huge book. It was bound in leather that might once upon a time have been green but it was too well-worn and cracked for Harry to make a proper assessment. Next to it was a matted bottle of ink and a long quill. And a slim wooden box, unadorned but for one single word carved into the lid: Wand. It was empty.

The book had no title but did not need one either. The pages were frail and sticky with dust. Harry thumbed through them and squinted in the poor lighting. The first few hundred pages were unreadable, the scribbled names and dates too faded to make out. Then, gradually, letters began to emerge and words make sense.

14 November 1934: E. B. Lindow-Grant to see Duncan MacNeill, Harry read. Beside the entry there was a number.

He flicked through the decades. And finally there were names that he knew: Rosier, Crouch, Goyle, MacNair... Harry shivered. He hurried through the entries and came to the very last one. Despite his unease he was slightly disappointed that he did not recognise the names it contained.

In the half-light from the torches, Harry picked up the quill and dipped it into the bottle. The ink was pitch black. He scribbled the date and then paused, recalling Sirius' warnings and fears. But Harry had been honest with his godfather: he needed to do this. So he bent down and wrote:

Harry Potter to see Draco Malfoy.

He held his breath as he waited. Slowly the digits appeared, taking form on the page next to Draco's surname: 21.

The hardest part was to pull out his wand and place it in the box. It went against all reason to leave it there but he had to, somehow he knew that. He closed the lid carefully and walked away, feeling naked and extremely vulnerable.

Harry had assumed that the doors down here all led to courtrooms but he saw now that he might have been wrong. Continuing further down the corridor he found door number fifteen, seventeen, nineteen... And twenty-one.

Harry took a deep breath and lifted his hand to knock but before he even touched the forbidding door, the lock clicked open with a sound that might have woken the dead. The door opened a crack and Harry's heart lurched into his throat and his hand shot reflexively to his empty sleeve and the wand that was not there.

But the voice that came sifting out into the corridor was flat and listless. "Oh, do come in. But I'm afraid I have little more to tell you."

There was a weak light spilling out onto the stone floor. Harry forced his heart to calm down and then he pushed the door open wide. And met a ghost.

o.O.o

His skin was pale with a sickly yellowish hue, almost the colour of curdled milk. The grey eyes were empty of everything that Harry had come to know as typical of Draco Malfoy: defiance, anger, hatred, disgust... even fear. Even the fear was gone. They were... lifeless.

Harry knew he was staring, yet he could not stop.

Malfoy was sitting on a poor excuse for a bed shoved into a corner of the room, narrow and hard-looking, his back against the stone wall. He wore an anonymous shirt, greyish and creased, and faded black trousers. He had pulled a blanket over his feet.

They both stared, Harry knew distantly. Trying to understand what the other was seeing.

It was Malfoy who broke the spell first.

"Well... if it isn't Potter." The smirk was weary, only a pale echo of what it once had been. "Oh, Grand Saviour!" He dropped his head back to the wall, his eyes leaving Harry's to stare up at the ceiling instead. He sighed. "Forgive me, but I fail to pretend I'm surprised."

"Hello Malfoy."

There was no chair – nothing but the bed, really, and a stool which Draco seemed to use as a night stand. There was an empty glass atop it. A single gaslight overhead provided them with some light. Harry wished he knew what to do. "How... are you?"

"Oh, I suffered." Draco heaved another sigh. His thin frame barely moving. "But now, in the presence of the magnificent Harry Potter, my suffering has ended." He sounded exhausted. "Go on, do your saving thing." He waved a hand in Harry's direction. "But I warn you, I'm not sure I care much about what happens to me any longer."

Harry took a step forward. His tongue was like lead in his mouth. "How are you, Draco?"

His old nemesis – it felt like a hundred years ago that they had fought their little battles in Potions at Hogwarts - looked him in the eye. "First name basis, eh, Potter? Very well. Harry." Then he shook his head, gaze lost to Harry once more. "I'm not sure I care about that either, to be honest."

At least you're honest, Harry was about to quip. He bit it back. "I'm here to check on you," he said instead, "and try to help you, if I can." His voice sounded so sharp in the shadowed, dank cell, so awkward.

"I know," said Draco, simply. "I figured you'd pop in eventually."

"I'm sorry I could not help your parents."

"Why? You never liked them. Besides, they broke the law."

Harry frowned. This Draco... this version of Draco was not what he had expected. He took one step closer, feeling the heel of his shoe drag on the stone floor. The moment he was across the threshold the door closed again behind him. He was in Draco's cage now. Defenceless. "But... your mother at least..."

"Forget it." Again that dismissive wave of a thin, pale hand. "Move on."

"But..."

"Listen, Potter... Harry... whatever... Let it go, OK?" Draco finally looked at him again. There were dark circles under his eyes. "Go shake some hands, take some pictures, accept some medal or fancy, galleon-drenched position at the Ministry. Or both, for all I care. Knock up that Weasley girl and marry her while she pops out your kids and tell them bedtime stories of how brave and self-sacrificing you all are. Go and be happy, Harry. But leave my parents out of it." He let out a long breath and seemed to shrink into the wall.

Harry stood oddly calm under that verbal onslaught. To tell the truth, he had expected worse.

"And what about you?"

Draco was silent for a moment, then he shrugged. "I'm rotting away in here, as you can see, and nobody gives a damn. And tell you what, I'll keep doing just that. It's not difficult, you see..." His smile was sardonic. "You sit like this for hour after hour after hour, until you can almost feel yourself melting into the wall behind you. And you allow it, that's the trick. You let yourself be soaked up by this cell until you lose track of everything. Even your own heartbeat. Sometimes..." Draco's voice had softened as he spoke and his gaze was almost dreamy. "Sometimes, you're not even sure you exist any more. And the world can keep turning and you can smile for the camera and I need not care one whit."

"Was that how you did it?" Harry asked quietly, a new chill creeping over his skin. "Was that how you managed to survive as a Death Eater under Voldemort? By... slipping away?"

Draco's face was blank. His voice hollow. "Don't even try to guess what happened in that house, Potter. Don't tell me my parents were victims. Don't tell me who I was or what I did. Don't... Just, don't."

Harry swallowed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... I only want to help you..."

He had not, however, prepared for the sudden burst of anger that exploded from Draco.

"Fucking Merlin! What's your problem, Potter!?" The ghostly figure sat rigid on the bed, eyes blazing with grey fire. "Of course you want to help! You have to stick your nose into every bloody fucking thing that you stumble on! I knew you'd come to see me, I knew you'd want to talk and talk and help and tell me what to do and fucking try to save me! That's your problem, Potter: you're too bloody predictable!"

Draco's face was distorted with raw emotion and worked like a slap in Harry's face. There was silence of a kind that was strangling.

The accusation was still ringing in Harry's ears when he heard himself say, quietly, and utterly without thinking: "I'm shagging my godfather."

The silence deepened. It turned into a black pool that threatened to suck Harry into itself and never let him go.

There was an odd streak of angry red high on Draco's cheeks. His mouth was slightly open. He was staring again.

So Harry said it a second time, "I'm shagging my godfather." The floor shifted under his feet. How is that for predictable?

Draco blinked. Then he shook his head, slowly, as if surfacing from a particularly heavy dream. "You're mad Potter." He licked his pale lips. "Mad. That murdering lunatic you call godfather is dead." Once more he seemed to withdraw from Harry, putting distance between them without even moving. "I don't know what you're on about and I don't want to find out. Thanks for dropping by, Potter. Now you may leave."

But Harry did not move. "Sirius isn't dead," he said calmly. "He came back."

"Right."

"He did. He was never dead."

"Whatever you say."

"Draco..." Harry took a step forward, "it's true."

Draco Malfoy recoiled. "Don't."

Harry frowned. "Don't what?"

"Don't... don't touch me, Potter. Listen, I don't know what kind of sick game you're playing at and I don't want to be a part of it!"

When Harry made another attempt to come closer, Draco spat at his feet like a wild thing. "Get out!" he hissed. "Get out, Potter, and never come back!"

o.O.o

The interest in the newest addition to the Atrium had quickly waned. The crater was more of an inconvenience now, taking up too much space and demanding too much attention from stressed Ministry workers. A temporary sign had been put up next to it, warning anyone from interfering with the wards that lay so thickly entwined across the open void in the floor that they looked like a rich, golden pudding.

DANGER!

DO NOT CROSS, TOUCH OR TASTE

For further information,

please contact The Ministry of Magic Public Information Services

Harry had to read the notice three times before actually understanding what it said. The thrashing anxiety in his stomach that was the result of his talk with Draco made it hard to concentrate. In fact, it made him want to throw up.

It was only that third time that he really saw. That he got the idea.

Harry Potter spun around and raced back towards the lifts.

TBC