E-Mail: draeconin at gmail dot com
Warnings: m/m, slash, language, AU, OOC
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The story is mine, and if you don't recognize it, it's mine. Everything else belongs to the copyright holders. This disclaimer applies to all following chapters.
Summary: Lucius acquires a life debt. Draco pays.
All Harry wanted to do was think: try to figure out just what had happened, and what to do about it. Unfortunately his friends and House-mates weren't having any of it. He wasn't listening to them, but their noise prevented him from concentrating. Absently, without even thinking about it, he began running his fingers through the fine, fair hair of the boy kneeling by his side.
That day, less than a week ago, had begun badly, and had gone from bad to worse. Getting up with the sun, he had showered – far more quickly than was habitually the case due to the unexpected lack of hot water. He had thoroughly dried himself, dressed in warm woolens, and gone down to breakfast, only to find that the house elf assigned to the kitchens had slept in and had yet to start the stove fires. He banged on the door to her cubicle, rousing her and telling her to have a nice, hot breakfast ready for him when he returned. Today would mark the beginning of his sixth year at Hogwarts, but he wanted one last ride before he had to get ready to go to King's Cross Station to meet the Hogwarts Express at platform 9 ¾.
The dark stallion he'd ridden all summer, Dementor (whoever had named the horse, likely Sirius, had to have had a wicked sense of humour), had been fidgety and uncooperative until Harry had finally managed to fully outfit the beast with saddle blanket, saddle, and bridle. It had even tried that old equine trick of blowing up its torso with air in the hopes that his rider wouldn't notice. Then he would have released the air and the saddle would be loose and more comfortable – until it slipped, and the rider went flying. But Harry had already fallen for that one once, and once the house elf in charge of the stables had explained the trick and how to prevent it, he wasn't about to let it happen again. He kneed the barrel torso sharply, forcing the horse to exhale, and quickly tightened the cinch strap.
He'd been riding for an hour, nearing the borders of his estate (formerly Sirius', before his disappearance through the Veil), when he saw a gryphon attack someone else who'd been horseback riding and knocking him from his horse, which immediately beat a hasty retreat. He kicked Dementor into a run and readied his wand as he drew near the confrontation. Just before he got within spell range, the gryphon struck the tall man's wand arm just as he drew it, sending the slender instrument flying. All this in the space of three to five seconds.
Harry didn't want to hurt such a rare beast, which was under Ministry protection in any case, so he merely cast confusion hexes, causing flashing lights and a cacophony of sounds to erupt around the beast. Not having an obvious enemy to defend itself from, it aimed a swipe at the downed man it had attacked, then leapt into the air and flew away.
When he was sure the gryphon wouldn't return right away, he turned to the man on the ground – then stopped, astounded. Lucius Malfoy. The man's fair hair was hidden under a hat which, along with the rapidity of unfolding events and the fact that Harry had been concentrating on the danger rather than the victim, explained why he hadn't recognized him before now.
"Lord Malfoy," the Gryffindor said coldly.
The blond man rose to his feet, holding his injured wand arm, blood seeping from a gash on his ribcage as well. "Potter," he sneered.
"May I ask what you were doing on my property?" Harry asked stiffly.
"I'm not aware that I'm on anyone's property but my own, Potter," the lord said, his sneer deepening. How dare this boy question him? What right had he? And what was he doing here? But since the damned boy had saved his life, he could humour him.
Harry nodded, indicating a property marker not thirty metres distant.
Lucius noted the marker. "Then I am on the Black estate – my cousin by marriage – not yours," the blond replied haughtily. The Dark Lord would have his guts for garters if he didn't at least try to kill the boy when he had the chance. There was no one around for at least a mile. Where was his wand!
Harry smirked. Oh, he was going to enjoy the expression on the Death Eater's face. "The Black estate. Yes. Sirius Black, to be precise – my godfather. He left me it in his will, along with another property or two. So I ask again: why are you on my property?"
"I don't owe you an explanation, Potter, but the property adjoining is one of mine." Lucius left it at that. He was close enough to the border to claim innocent trespass. And, for the most part, it had been. He had thought to add his wife's cousin's property to his own by right of being his closest family, not knowing that the Azkaban escapee had left a will, or had anyone to whom he could pass it on. So he had been riding the boundaries to evaluate what he'd be acquiring. It was a disappointment to learn that Potter had inherited: one of many disappointments the dark-haired Gryffindor had handed him over the years since he'd come back to the wizarding world. Ah, well. He'd put his solicitors on it, although wizarding law would probably hold firm in the blasted boy's favour.
Lucius' eyes had been scanning the ground at odd moments during their conversation. Ah! There was his missing wand! His hopes to take care of this brat once and for all sank. It was damaged beyond repair. That damned beast must have trod on it. He'd have to order another from Ollivander's, and use his spare in the meantime.
Harry nodded, accepting the explanation, for now. He would have it checked out later. As the blond wizard turned to walk back to that property's main house, his horse long gone, Harry spoke up again. "Aren't you forgetting something . . . Lucius?" he asked, deliberately being insultingly familiar with the man.
The Death Eater turned back and looked up at the still-mounted young man. "And what, pray tell, would that be, you insolent, foul waste of..."
Harry interrupted the vituperation, smirking. "Life debt, Lord Malfoy: I believe you owe me one, now."
Lucius Malfoy scowled. He had hoped the Muggle-raised young man wouldn't know of that custom, and he'd be free to ignore the debt. "So I do," he acknowledged, with what grace he could muster. "What would you have of me?"
Harry's smirk got broader. "I'll let you know," he said.
"Make it quick, Potter. I won't labour under that curse for any longer than I must," the blond man said, sending the bloody 'Boy Who Lived' his best death glare.
Harry wasn't impressed. Although Draco's was a pale imitation in comparison, it had numbed him to the effect. "Would this weekend be soon enough?" he asked, feigning boredom. He actually had no idea what he could ask of the man and get away with it. He needed to seek counsel. Unfortunately, the only person he could take this to, he couldn't completely trust – not any longer. Still, a visit with Dumbledore once he got back to the castle seemed to be in order. Harry sighed. He wished he knew where Remus was. The soft-spoken werewolf would have been a much better choice.
The dark-haired Gryffindor turned his horse and set Dementor to a canter, riding back over the heaths to the mansion, and leaving the blond aristocrat to make his way to his own home as best he could. Because of the incident, Harry now had to cut his planned ride short in order to be able to breakfast and Floo to The Leaky Cauldron, from whence he could take a cab to the train station. Harry smiled as he thought his run of misfortunes had ended. He actually had Lucius Malfoy indebted to him!
And so it seemed. The breakfast the house elf had prepared was delicious, he didn't stumble as he stepped out of the fireplace at The Leaky Cauldron (as he almost always did when he Floo'd: the foreign magic seemed to disrupt his balance), and he made it to platform 9¾ with nary a hitch.
Searching through the train for his friends, Hermione and Ron, he heard a familiar voice: but it wasn't one of which he was particularly fond. He might be enamoured of the boy's looks and have fantasies of doing unspeakably erotic things to him, but that voice had never delivered anything but vitriol to his ears. But what that voice was now saying caught his attention.
"I'm telling you, Blaise, my father is actually going to give me to Voldemort!" An indistinct murmur answered him. "Quiet? You try to be bleeding quiet with that staring you in the face! I could have lived with the Dark Mark, but that? Queer I might be, but I'm not so twisted as to want that touching me! Oh, to blazes with it! I'm damned!"
The door to the compartment suddenly, almost violently, slid open, and Harry was face to face with Draco Malfoy, as the blond aborted his move to step through the door.
The blond paled, then he recovered and sneered. "And what are you doing, Potter? Taken to eavesdropping, have you?" At a question from within the compartment, he looked briefly at the occupant and shook his head before turning again to Harry.
"With the way you were yelling, Malfoy, I could hardly escape hearing what you had to say," the Gryffindor replied.
Draco paled yet again. "Just how much did you hear, Potter?" The blond's voice was supposed to be threatening, but came out as strained and tense.
"Enough," Harry said shortly, turning to again go in search of his friends.
Draco stepped fully into the corridor and slid the door shut behind him. "What?" came the blond's mocking voice. "The ruddy 'Boy Who Lived', the famous 'Saviour of the Wizarding World', isn't going to try to save me?"
Harry looked at the blond Slytherin. Although the voice was mocking and the mouth was sneering, the eyes told an entirely different story. The light-gray orbs begged for help, and at the same time told of the lack of hope that such help would, or could be forthcoming. Against his better judgment, Harry felt his heart going out to the boy. Snarling, he said, "You've made yourself just so likable, Malfoy – how could I help but want to save you?" he said with heavy sarcasm, unable to prevent himself from verbally poking at the boy. "But as it happens, your father owes me a life debt."
Draco's eyes widened in surprise at that news, then narrowed again. "And just how does that help me?" he demanded sharply, refusing to feel hope.
"You're a smart boy, Draco. Think about it. If you're interested, you can find me later," he replied, turning to go. In fact Harry had no idea how he could use the life debt to save the blond from his fate; but he knew that if there was a way, Draco had the incentive to find it.
"Potter!" Draco called out urgently. When Harry turned back to look at him, he was surprised to find the Slytherin blushing. "Did you hear – everything?"
Harry decided to play with the blond's mind and stepped near him, smirking. "You mean about your – preferences?" he asked sexily, bringing a hand up to caress the shocked blond's cheek. "Now . . . why would that bother me?" Then he turned and walked away, grinning at having rendered his rival speechless.
A few minutes later he finally found Ron and Hermione – and slowly slid the door closed again, hoping they hadn't heard him. Ron's hand inside Hermione's blouse made it clear his presence wouldn't be welcome. When had that happened? If they had just been kissing, he'd have barged on in and teased until they attacked him.
He continued on and found a cubicle with three first-years in it. "H'lo! First Years, aren't you? Mind if I join you? All the others seem to be occupied," he said cheerfully.
The children just looked at him, eyes wide, until he cleared his throat – at which time all three broke out of their shock and vociferously opined that yes, there was probably room for him. They continued to stare at Harry after he'd seated himself. He tried to ignore it, and concentrated on the scenery out the window.
Finally, one of the two boys cleared his throat and timidly asked, "Y-you're Harry Potter, aren't you?"
Harry sighed, then turned to the boy. "Contrary to popular belief," he said as gently as his mood would allow him, "I don't like being the object of hero-worship, incessant questions, or being stared at. I'm just a pupil at Hogwarts – as you're to be – who's had more than his share of bad luck, and managed to live through it."
All three children blushed a deep red, embarrassed.
"But yes," Harry continued, "that is who I have the misfortune of being." Seeing no sign from his companions of further questions, he turned back to the window. When the silence had continued for a few minutes, he groaned to himself and faced them again. "That's no reason for the three of you not to talk and get to know each other, if you don't already." When the children gave no sign of complying, he gave in. "And if it's not about my fame," he said, pulling a face, "or the war between the Light and Dark, I'll even answer some questions. All right?"
They spent the next half-hour getting to know each other, the children making very few mistakes in their choice of questions, keeping mainly to life at Hogwarts, and Harry's part in it. When one did ask a forbidden question, the other two would scowl at him or her (there being one girl among them), at which point the offender would colour and apologise before they started in again. After that time Harry excused himself to rejoin Ron and Hermione, hoping they'd finished their snogging.
He knocked on their compartment door and heard some urgent whispering. Although he couldn't make out what was being said, he could guess. Harry grinned. He could just imagine them pulling themselves together – after they'd pulled apart, of course – in a panic that they'd be discovered. About fifteen seconds later, he heard Ron squeak, clear his throat, then call, "Yes?"
"It's Harry," he called out.
The cubicle door suddenly and violently slid aside. "Harry!" Ron cried out, pulling his best friend into a fierce hug. "Where've you been, mate? Come sit down! Why didn't you owl all summer? Herm and I even went to that blasted Dursley place, and they told us you'd moved out! Why? Does Dumbledore know? Why are you laughing?"
"You're going to pass out from lack of air if you don't stop to breathe, Ron," Harry said through his laughter, as he moved to take a seat.
The redhead blushed, and gave Harry a playful punch in the arm for teasing him, before sitting down, himself. "But really, Harry – where've you been? We've been worried about you!"
"Ron!" Hermione forcefully interjected. "I can speak for myself, you know, and you haven't given me a chance to greet Harry."
Ron threw her a rather chagrined, apologetic grin, and sat back.
"Hello, Harry," Hermione said warmly, sitting forward and giving her green-eyed friend an awkward hug.
"Careful there, 'Mione – wouldn't want Ron getting jealous," Harry teased.
Both his friends blushed, looking a bit shocked. "H-how did you know?" Ron asked.
Harry grinned. "I was here awhile ago. You two were . . . um . . . busy, so I found another place to sit for awhile." He took delight in their discomfiture, as only a single person who's teasing a recently-attached friend can. And in this case it was two friends who had attached to each other. Double the fun! He added to it by putting one hand inside his shirt and rubbing his own chest, alluding to the activity he'd caught them in, before returning it to his side.
His friends' faces were blazing, now. Harry laughed aloud, gleeful with his successful teasing.
Hermione sniffed, trying to regain some semblance of dignity. "He's only jealous, Ron," she said to her boyfriend, trying to tease in return.
"Bloody right, I am!" Harry said, grinning as, on a sudden impulse, he prepared to drop a bombshell. "But I want my own boyfriend!" He sat back, still grinning, although it was no longer genuine, but a mask to hide his nervousness. Harry started counting the seconds. He'd reached 'six' before his words fully registered and they'd recovered enough from their shock to speak. They mustn't have had a clue.
Hermione was the first to speak. "That – rather explains a lot," she said. "Why you never dated – except Cho, of course. And that didn't turn out so well, did it?" She started chuckling. "'Wet'. That's how you described the kiss she gave you. 'Wet'!" Her laughter became almost violent, as so many strange little puzzle pieces finally fell into place.
Ron was looking at his girlfriend as though she'd lost her mind. "Herm! He's just said he's a bloody pouf!"
Harry's heart stopped. Was Ron going to reject him?
Wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes, Hermione said, "Oh, grow up, dear. Harry's still Harry. He didn't go and turn into a – a dementor, or anything..." She languidly took her boyfriend's face in her hands, and kissed him. "Besides – what he does in private is his business."
"Huh-hem!" Harry said, loudly clearing his throat. "I'm still here, mates. Want to talk to me?"
Ron had a silly, dazed look on his face as he turned to his best friend. "Well, at least I don't have to worry about you stealing Herm from me, Harry," he said, grinning. Then he sobered. "You're not planning to tell the whole House, are you?" he asked. "Only, I don't think the other blokes would take it so well."
Harry relaxed. His fears, it seemed, had been nearly groundless. A small smirk found its way onto his face. "Oh, I think some of them might take it very well," he replied. "But no, I don't plan to tell everyone."
Ron looked dumbstruck by the implication. Despite appearances sometimes, and not always aware of what was going on around him, Ron wasn't nearly as dumb as he looked: his temper just got in the way. "Harry..." he whinged, "you can't just leave me dangling, mate; I'll die of curiosity!"
Harry shook his head. "It's their secret, Ron," he said soberly. "You'll have to wait until they're ready to out themselves."
"'Out' themselves?" the redhead asked, puzzled.
"It's a Muggle term, Ron. It means to stop hiding who and what they are," Hermione explained.
Harry nodded. "Like I just 'outed' myself to you and 'Mione," he added. "I'd appreciate it though, if you kept it to yourselves. I don't think I'm ready for the whole wizarding world to find out, and if more people knew, eventually it would get to 'The Daily Prophet'. And don't go around trying to find out who the others might be, either. Respect their privacy and their wishes!" he warned.
Harry's glare as he said that last was enough to instill at least a little caution into the redhead, even if it might not stop him altogether. "Fine! Fine, Harry; but you still haven't said where you were all summer!" Ron said, exasperated.
Harry smirked. It was unnerving to his friends, who'd never seen the expression on his face before. "On one of my estates," he said simply.
"On one of your... When did you acquire property, Harry?" Ron inquired sharply. He was more than half sure that his friend was pulling his leg.
Harry sobered. "Sirius," he said simply.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione softly exclaimed. "You inherited?"
The raven-haired young man just nodded. He didn't trust his voice not to betray him, just then.
"I'm sorry, mate," Ron commiserated, leaning forward across the space between the seats and laying a hand on his friend's shoulder.
Blinking back the tears, Harry replied, "I appreciate that. You weren't to know, of course." He then fought off the moment of weakness and smiled, albeit a little tremulously. "It's quite a place, really, this one I just came from. But I spent most of the summer familiarizing myself with the properties and holdings I'd inherited. I got quite a 'crash course' in money management, although I'll leave that up to Gringotts and my solicitors until I've learned enough not to make any mistakes. And I learned how to ride a horse! You mentioned dementors earlier, 'Mione? That was my favourite's name, believe it or not," he said, forcing a small laugh.
The pitying smiles his friends were giving him were not helping the situation.
"And you'll never believe what happened this morning!" he exclaimed, determined to change the mood. "I actually saved Lucius Malfoy's life!"
That was much more the thing. Ron's mouth had dropped wide open, and 'Mione's eyes had gone wide and questioning.
"Harry Potter," Ron said once he had recovered enough to do so, his voice low and dangerous, "you had best be taking the mickey!"
Harry laughed. "Well, I didn't know it was him at the time, of course," he said, and was relieved to see his friend's tension level drop. He didn't fancy having to hex his best friend.
"Then just what did happen, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"I saw a gryphon attacking someone, and scared it off. It was only afterward I found out it was Lord Malfoy," Harry explained.
Ron's grin was a bit wry. "I'd wager he was – oh, just ever so grateful," he said, finishing in a falsetto heroine's voice, as he rolled his eyes.
Harry's grin matched his friend's. "Fell down at my feet and swore eternal fealty," he avowed facetiously.
"Harry..." Hermione said tentatively, "doesn't that constitute a life debt?"
Harry nodded. "He wasn't any too happy when I claimed it on him, of course."
Ron's eyes almost popped out of his head. "You had the bollocks to do that?"
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, reprimanding her boyfriend for his language in front of her, as she slapped his arm.
Ron flinched a bit at being hit, but otherwise ignored her and waited for his friend's response.
Harry shrugged. "He was being such an ungrateful plonker. Would you believe he was looking for his wand the whole time we talked? I think he'd have cursed me – even tried to kill me. But it was broken, so he was out of luck. Of course I had to rub it in, so I called the life debt on him."
"And he accepted it?" Ron asked in awed disbelief.
Harry shrugged again. "He's a bastard, but he fancies himself a man of honour. Once called on it, what else could he do?"
"I'd wager he doesn't like that hanging over his head!" Ron exclaimed, grinning as though the feat were his own.
"I have to come up with a way for him to discharge it by end week," the Gryffindor Seeker admitted.
"You could make him your bond slave!" Ron exclaimed gleefully.
"That custom isn't still in practise?" Hermione asked, horrified. She only knew of the old Muggle practise of bond slavery, but if the wizard version was anything like it...
"Bond slave?" Harry asked. "What's that?"
After Ron had explained what he knew – extremely little, as it turned out – Harry shook his head. "I wouldn't want him around all the time anyway," he said, then shuddered. But the discussion had given him an idea that might save Draco.
"Hermione, I need to ask you a big favour..."
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