- Chapter 19 -

The Other Lord

Harry came to wakefulness abruptly, his eyes springing wide as he attempted to glean where, exactly, he was. Of course, he had somewhat expected this situation, but it all seemed so sudden. The sudden light near blinded him and left him blinking furiously as he attempted to sit up. Tentative hands searched out for his wand, and his glasses, returning wanting on both counts. Giving it up as a lost cause, he peered about the room, hoping to find something to help him.

Carefully, he slid his feet out from under the covers, and tentatively lowered them to the floor. Almost instantly he drew back, hissing at the cold stone. A harsh scraping noise from the dark right had Harry hastily drawing himself back under the bed covers, evening out his breathing once more. Footsteps, one pair, slowly approached him, echoing across the room.

"Ah, Harry Potter..." Came the gravelly voice. Harry slowly stirred, opening his eyes as if the voice had woken him. "I am glad to find that you are awake. You have been through an ordeal, my boy, and for that, I hope you can forgive me."

Harry's eyes slid open, resting on the figure who stood over his bed, forcing an earnest gleam into his eyes, he pushed himself into an upright position.

"Professor Dumbledore!"

"Harry, my dear boy," Dumbledore didn't appear to notice Harry's flinch at his final word. "I am proud of you, child, you have faced a great evil, however you should not have faced it alone."

"I wasn't alone – sir," Harry twisted left, ostensibly looking at the other beds, keeping himself clear of the Headmaster's piercing blue gaze. "Where's everyone else? Are they okay? Draco, Blaise, how are they? Daphne? Theo?"

"Your friends are all in good health, my boy." Harry's shoulders stiffened. "Young Mr Nott and Miss Greengrass were uninjured, of course, and Messers Malfoy and Zabini were released from Madam Pomfrey's tender care some hours ago."

Harry sighed in relief at this. He really hadn't wanted his friends to get hurt, but all of them, Nott not included, had known there was a hefty element of danger to what they had intended, and with what they had discovered about Quirr-. Harry shut down that line of thought instantly, dropping his head to a relaxed position.

"Sir, what, what happened after I- you know, after?" Harry asked, looking up to the region of Dumbledore's beard. "Professor Quirrell was there, I don't...?"

"Ah, young Harry, I am afraid that Professor Quirrell escaped before I arrived, however you protected the stone from him. We must be thankful for these small mercies."

"So will the Flamel's take the stone back then?" Harry asked curiously, careful not to sound too interested in its whereabouts.

"I see that you truly have done your research well, my boy." Dumbledore smiled genially.

"With Draco and Hermione as two of my best friends? They've got me trained well." Harry grinned, imagining how mad Hermione would be when she saw him.

"A training that will come in useful for your later years, child." Dumbledore chided gently. "Nicolas and Perennelle have put the time we at Hogwarts have kept their prized treasure to good use. They have created a facility near to their home to keep it safe. Rest assured that it will be safe there. You are to be commended, dear boy, for your part in keeping it out of the hands of darkness."

"Thank you, sir."

"And now, Harry, you must share with me. What truly happened between the Professor and yourself?"

"Well, I guess you've heard what happened up until Quirrell knocked Blaise and Draco out?" Harry received a curt nod. "Well, he- Quirrell, started talking to himself. He just kept saying that I was the key to getting the stone, he made me stand in front of the mirror, but I don't really know why. And then he started to talk about me, he-. Sir, he said some things about my parents?"

"Whatever he said, young Harry, you must almost certainly disregard. Lily and James were two of the best young people I have had the pleasure to come into contact with, and you are cut from the same cloth."

"He said that my Mum hated my Dad, sir. Up until their seventh year, and then they were suddenly together. He said that he thought he – my Dad – had used a love potion on her, but, he wouldn't, would he sir?" Harry bit his lip anxiously.

"Do not worry, dear child. The love between your parents was deep and strong. I believe that Quirrell was merely trying to unsettle you."

"I... I don't really remember anything after that, I guess." Harry pursed his mouth. "I should have done more to stop him, sir."

"Harry, my boy, I am sure that you did all that you could. Professor Quirrell is a fully trained wizard. I believe we should both be grateful for your survival."

"I... I guess so, sir." Harry twisted his fingers in the coverlet. "Sir, do you... Can I see my friends, sir? I know you said, but-"

"But you wish to see for yourself that they are in good health." Dumbledore finished with a wry smile. Harry nodded, smiling softly. "I shall have Professor Snape send Messers Malfoy and Zabini to visit you."

"Could I... Could I see Hermione too, sir? It's just, I know she'll be worried, and I know she doesn't have many friends, and I... and I..." Harry bit his lip again.

"I shall also speak to Professor Flitwick, child. I must confess, when you and your friends became close to Miss Granger, I was most impressed that you had not let the prejudices of many of those in your house cloud your judgement. There are many who would have let her blood status determine her worth, but you looked past that, my boy."

"Hermione's nice, and she's smart." Harry defended his friend with the kind of fierce determination often found in younger children. "And I don't let anyone tell me what to do, or who to like. She's my friend 'cause she's my friend."

Dumbledore smiled widely at his last words, gathering his robes about him as he stood to leave.

"I am glad that you feel that way, my boy." He smiled as he left the hospital wing, glad to see that young Harry's sorting had clearly not affected the young man. With luck and time, he would be able to sway some of the Dark Lord's future followers to the light. Yes, this could work well.

- HBP – HBP- HBP – HBP – HBP -

It didn't take long for Harry's friends to arrive in the hospital wing. Along with Draco and Blaise was Daphne, who wrapped Harry in a tight hug. He held her there, just as tightly, pretending not to feel her shuddering breaths and the warm tears that slid down his neck. As she pulled away, Draco smoothly slipped her one of the startling number of handkerchiefs he owned.

"Harry James, don't you dare ever scare me like that again! Do you know what it was like to see Dumbledore floating your unconscious body past me? I thought you were dead, Harry!" Harry looked across at Draco and Blaise, who were both trying not to snigger.

"Daphne, listen, it's not what it looks like. Well, some of it is, but not..." Harry stopped at a pointed coughing from Blaise. "Listen, when I'm allowed out of here, we'll talk, properly."

"It had better be a damn good explanation!" Daphne announced, seating herself primly next to Harry on the bed, her warm smile belying her frosty tone.

"It will, Daph, I promise. I just wanted to thank you for coming with me, you know? You didn't have to do that, and-" Daphne's raised index finger stopped him.

"I did what I needed to do to help my friend." She said softly. "There are no debts between friends."

"We do what we have to do, Harry." Draco nodded solemnly. "We're not going to disappear on you."

"Have to agree mate." Blaise agreed with a large grin. "Although, when Daphne socks you one later, mind if we watch? I know a house elf that can set us up with popcorn."

"Don't listen to that prat, Harry." Draco punched Blaise lightly in the arm. "Seriously, we're glad that you're alright."

"Be no fun without you." Blaise admitted.

All four Slytherins sat quietly for a moment, then, all at once, jumping as the doors to the hospital wing swung open unexpectedly.

"Oh- Harry- I'm- so- glad- you're- okay- there's- been- so- many- rumours- and- I- was- so- worried- about- you- I- can't- believe- you- guys- did- something- so- dangerous- don't- you- know- that- you- could- have- been- killed- or- worse- expelled- and- and- and- oh- Harry-!" Hermione rushed over to Harry, hands fluttering over his sheets nervously.

"Merlin, Hermione, do you ever breathe?" Blaise laughed out at his own joke, only to be confronted by Hermione instantly bursting into tears. "Shit, Hermione, it's okay, it's okay..." He looked sideways at Draco, hoping for support, but the blond merely pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve and raised an eyebrow. Draco still recalled the last time he'd tried to comfort the Ravenclaw; his ribs even occasionally got a phantom ache at inopportune moments.

Shuffling over to the bed, Blaise awkwardly presented the purloined handkerchief. Draco grinned as the bushy haired mass clutched the scrap of cloth, and then launched itself at Blaise.

"Ohhh," Blaise groaned. "Hermione- ribs!"

Obediently, Hermione's grip loosened, but she still stayed buried in Blaise's chest, sniffling incessantly.

"Hermione, what's with all the tears, sweetheart?" Daphne asked gently, raising a hand to gently rub the girl's back. Harry noted with some amusement her careful avoidance of the tangled mess of hair.

"I just- I just- I- You left me!" Hermione wailed out. "You all left me, and I was so worried, but I couldn't do anything, and I didn't know all night – you could have died! I don't-" Hermione broke off, still sobbing. "I don't know what I'd do without you," She whispered. "You guys are my only friends!"

All four Slytherins froze at her final words, wide eyes turning to look at each other, carrying a series of subtle messages in raised eyebrows and twisted lips. 'Professor Snape' Draco eventually mouthed where Hermione couldn't see him.

"Hermione, you know that we'd definitely have dragged you out of bed if you were in Slytherin, right?" Harry told her softly. "But none of us can get into Ravenclaw tower, particularly not after curfew."

Hermione let out a heavy breath through her nose as she extricated herself from Blaise, who did everything he could to facilitate regaining the ability to breathe properly. Using the handkerchief she patted her face dry.

"I know that, Harry, but just – next time you do something unbearably stupid and dangerous, do it in the daytime, okay?"

"Sure Hermione," Harry laughed. "But how about I try not to do something stupid instead?"

"That might work." Hermione smiled.

- HBP – HBP- HBP – HBP – HBP -

It took two days for Harry to be released from the hospital wing, having decided that Madam Pomfrey was unusually cruel for keeping him so late that he'd missed the final Quidditch game of the season. Hermione had sat with him, not caring that she was missing her team playing.

"It's not like I'm missing anything really interesting." She'd told Harry with a wry grin. "It's not as if Ravenclaw is going to win, Lexi Hatton is the best seeker, but our chasers won't match Gryffindor. We'll come third this season, I don't need to watch that."

"Wish I could've watched anyway." Harry grumbled, but Hermione soon had him engrossed in a game of chess. Neither of the pair were particularly good players, which led to long games that had better players shouting at them for missed opportunities. After three games (Hermione won two), they decided to move on. Hermione had, of course, brought study materials with her, and so, after a putting up a brief fight, Harry acquiesced to reading ahead to next year's material, since they had completed their final exams.

When Draco and Blaise arrived to share the results of the game (Ravenclaw had, in fact, won by a mere ten points when Lexi Hatton made a magnificent grab for the snitch) Hermione was happy to provide more reading material for them, at which Blaise groaned, and Draco eagerly delved into the more advance Potions journal. Harry eyed Hermione's well-worn school bag warily. With the amount of books the girl regularly carried around, she could do with an expandable bag – perhaps a thought for her birthday gift.

When Madam Pomfrey had bustled in some time later, to inform Harry's guests that visiting hours were over, she stopped still at the sight of all four quietly reading. Occasionally, one of the group would share a particularly interesting fact, or ask the others for clarification. Pomfrey smiled to herself. She did much prefer this group to the usual Gryffindors who cluttered up her ward. Nodding to herself, she left them to themselves while she started on the discharge paperwork for Harry.

"No Quidditch for another two days, no running, nothing strenuous, do you hear me Mr Potter?" She poked her wand out with each instruction for emphasis, as Harry, along with Draco and Blaise nodded along. "I want you resting. Now, I hope you understand that I don't let a lot of patients go this early, but you seem to be quiet enough that I feel you won't do yourself any more damage. If you disobey my instructions, however, I will know, and you will regret it."

"Don't worry Madam Pomfrey, we'll make sure he stays put." Blaise gave the matron his most winning smile, teeth gleaming. Pomfrey narrowed her eyes, looking him up and down.

"Well then, Zabini, you are responsible for him!" With that, Pomfrey nodded sharply, and left a shell-shocked Blaise with his two snickering friends.

"Harry, you need to do exactly as she says because I think that woman might kill me!" Blaise shuddered as he gave Harry a hand up.

"Maybe you should fall over or something, under Blaise's watch – it'd be fun to see her eat him alive, don't you think, Ree?" Draco grinned.

"Oh stop messing with him! Like I'm planning on getting stuck in there again!" Harry groaned, causing Blaise to reward him with a cheesy smile and a hearty clap on the back.

The three friends laughed their way down to the Slytherin common room, with Harry prepared to spend the rest of the afternoon appeasing the worried nature of several of their friends - Camélia in particular could be quite insistent on checking over the younger students.

True to form, Camélia bustled over to Harry as soon as they entered the room, pulling him across to a large armchair next to the fire.

"Now don't you dare move away from here, you let everyone else come to you, do you hear?" She ordered sternly. "I heard you were cursed quite severely, and that can easily give you the chills!"

"Madam Pomfrey never said that." Blaise frowned distrustfully.

"Pah! Pomfrey!" Camélia snorted derisively. "Old bat never reads the new research, her healing is stuck in the sixties! You'll stay near the fire, or you'll be resting when you're in the dungeons, I won't have you cold!"

"Cam, calm down!" A large hand clapped Harry on the shoulder. "You'll be fine, won't you Harry? Fit enough for Quidditch next year, I assume?" Harry grinned ruefully up at Marcus – the man truly was obsessed with the game.

"Of course I will Marcus, you won't be rid of me that easily!"

"Good, we'll have a full team next year. I dread to think what's going to happen after I leave next year though. We'll be losing me, Charles, and Jacob. And then Perry Derrick's gonna be the most senior, but – merlin love him – he's not really gonna be up for the job of captain so you'll have Adrian or Miles, but they'll be gone in two and so then I guess it'll be you, and you'll have had to replace the whole team more-or-less, boy I don't envy you that, but then again, I suppose there is merit to-" Marcus was thankfully cut off by a silencing charm, although the man's mouth continued through what looked like another sentence before he noticed the lack of sound.

"Marcus, please – you have to stop." Head boy Terrence Higgs slipped his wand back into it's holster, still smiling at his charm work. "You'll drive the poor firsties mad if you carry on this way! Now bugger off, I want a word with them." Marcus rolled his eyes, but allowed Camélia to pull him away as Draco and Blaise settled themselves on the nearest sofa, the former raising an eyebrow at Terrence, clearly telling the older boy that he would not be moved.

"You three have, I think, been the cause of more prefects pulling out hair than any other students, you know? Merlin knows you've got into trouble, but then you also saved that Ravenclaw's life, not to mention the events of this week." Terrence paused to wet his lips. "But, hell, I like you, all three of you. And, I suppose that I'm trying to tell you that if you need something – out of Hogwarts, after this year – you've a friend."

Draco recovered first, understanding more readily than his friends exactly what Terrence was offering – more than friendship, support. Support, in its various forms, was something that Lucius Malfoy had always been careful to cultivate.

"Thank you, Terrence." Draco replied, rather formally. "Truly – we appreciate this more than you could imagine." The elder boy grinned ruefully.

"I'm not sure how much help I can be. I've been recruited by Gringotts, so there's every chance I'll be on the other side of the world in three months. But," He paused, and nodded his head slowly. "I like you kids, I really do. I think you're gonna do something, something big, and just remember that I wanted in."

- HBP – HBP- HBP – HBP – HBP -

The rest of the term passed by quickly, with little else of note happening in the few scant days Harry had left at Hogwarts. Slytherin had, of course, won the House cup, having succeeded in lifting the Quidditch cup once more. Their already considerable lead was buoyed to almost legendary proportions when Dumbledore threw house points like confetti at those Slytherin first years that had accompanied Harry to face Voldemort.

Hermione was fobbed off with excuses of House meetings and the like, as the three boys determined that a conversation with their Head of House and Draco's father were necessary before the young Muggleborn could be told of any of the events. Despite being unable to gain much time alone for a discussion, both Harry and Blaise were of the same mind, that Hermione could be trusted with the truth and would become a formidable ally in the future. Draco was somewhat unsure, although Harry did wonder if his reticence was in any way linked to Hermione's propensity to hug.

The exams results, to nobody's surprise proclaimed Hermione as the overall top of the year, with the highest results in Transfiguration, History of Magic and Astronomy. Draco took first place in Potions, while Blaise took home no firsts, but an even placement within the top five for every subject. In somewhat of a surprise, the quietest Gryffindor, Neville Longbottom had taken the top spot in Herbology. Harry himself was quite pleased with his firsts in Defence Against the Dark Arts (Although who exactly had marked the papers was a mystery) and Charms, leaving him second to Hermione overall. The Ravenclaws had been quite put out that only one of their house made the top five for the year (which was rounded out by Draco, Blaise and Hufflepuff Justin Finch Fletchley whose parents had threatened to enrol him in a private Muggle school if he didn't score well). Normally, the top five was heavily weighted in favour of Ravenclaw, however it appeared that the library study group with Hermione had boosted Slytherin's prospects.

And so it was that after a flurry of last-minute packing and the exchanging of Floo-addresses with some of their elder friends, that Harry and Draco found themselves once more in a compartment of the Hogwarts Express, however this time they were not alone. Blaise bounced happily around the compartment, Daphne Greengrass sat snug against the window with a magazine, and Hermione had tucked herself inconspicuously next to the door with a hefty book. Theodore Nott sat next to Draco, a chess board perched precariously across their knees.

Harry smiled as he looked around at his friends. A year before this, he'd have been almost unable to imagine having so many people care for him, and now he knew full well that that number was still even now increasing as their other friends came by to wish him well for the summer, and pass on those last snippets of gossip (Peregrine Derrick had, in fact, been caught cheating on his latest girlfriend in a hidden carriage at the end of the train). There were even people who cared for him not on the train; Professor Snape, and Hagrid who always had a kind word for him, along with Draco's parents. As the train pulled into Kings Cross Station, Harry decided that he could certainly deem his first year at Hogwarts a success.

It took two boys to a chest, but soon all of their trunks were taken down from the luggage racks and the friends made their way out onto the crowded platform to meet those parents of Wizarding origin.

Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy stood off to the side with Blaise's mother, and a man and a woman Harry didn't recognise. As Draco gestured to the group to follow and the first years squeezed through the crowd, Daphne's rapidly paling complexion revealed exactly who they were.

"It'll be okay." Blaise whispered in her ear. "You write us, and we'll get something done." At this, Daphne managed a small smile, which widened as they got close enough to hear the parents talking to each other.

"Well of course since our children are such good friends we simply must have Daphne over to visit with us during the summer." Lucius smiled icily at Daphne's parents. A smaller version of Daphne poked her head out from behind her mother to beam at her elder sister approaching.

"Oh, is this your other daughter?" Narcissa exclaimed loudly. "It would be cruel to split them up, so of course both of your girls are invited." Narcissa bent down to the level of the little girl. "Just remember that you and your sister are always welcome at our house, why you can just Floo over if you want to at any hour!"

Harry smirked inwardly at the master play the Malfoys were delivering. He had seen and heard first hand in Professor Snape's meetings just what the Greengrasses usually did to Daphne, and starving her or her sister when pillars of society such as the Malfoys were expecting them would be nothing short of idiotic.

"Ah, there you are children!" Mrs Zabini smiled tightly. "Blaise, I am afraid that you shall have to say your goodbyes quickly, we have business to attend to in Italy." All too soon, Blaise had apparated away with his mother, leaving Narcissa to arrange a series of visits for the Greengrass girls that spanned the entire summer.

"I should go and find my parents." Hermione told Harry quietly, clearly feeling ill at ease having not previously met the Malfoys. "They'll be wondering where I am, seeing as they can't get through the barrier." She made to move away, but was caught by Lucius's keen eye.

"You must be the Miss Granger that Draco has told me about, surely you aren't leaving so soon?" His warm smile had Hermione turn to Draco in glee.

"You wrote your parents about me?" She asked, slowly. Draco nodded as if she were simple.

"Of course I did, you're my friend." He replied, nonplussed, only to be completely bowled over when the girl hugged him tightly.

"I've never really had friends before, not really." She admitted. "I didn't know if you guys really liked me at all, or if you just thought I was clever." Luckily for Draco, Lucius intervened, kneeling down and placing a hand on the young girl's shoulder.

"Miss Granger, I think Draco and Harry at least recognise that the smartest people make the best friends." Draco mouthed a thank you as Hermione let go of his waist while his father continued to speak. "In fact, you're welcome to visit us during the summer break as well."

"I- Thank you, Mr Malfoy, I'll ask my parents." Hermione smiled. "I should really be going to find them now though..."

Lucius stood and smiled, the feeling of his wife's arm wrapping around his back told him her conversation with the Greengrasses had concluded, and a look in that direction showed the family hurriedly apparating away.

"Walk with us, Miss Granger." Narcissa smiled benevolently. "We'd like to see Harry safely with his aunt and uncle too, so making sure you get to your parents as well is no trouble." She stepped away from her husband to lead the young girl out to the Muggle part of Kings Cross, trusting that all three of her boys would follow on behind her. "Personally, I do hope that you'll be able to come for at least part of the summer. I'd quite like some more girls in my home!"

The Grangers were stood together, quite near the entrance to the platform and both of them smiled widely as Hermione hit them both with large hugs.

"Mr and Mrs Granger, my name is Narcissa Malfoy, my son Draco is friends with your daughter." Both dentists greeted the rather stately looking woman warmly, that Hermione had written home to tell them about friends was one thing, but to have it confirmed that the little girl who had been bullied for years had real friends gave both dentists much relief. "My husband and I wanted to invite her to stay with us at some point over the summer-"

The force of nature that was Vernon Dursley had spotted Harry, hanging to the side of the group of adults with a blonde boy and bushy-haired girl. The great whale of a man swept through the crowd to take hold of Harry by the back of his shirt, in the process, knocking the other boy out of the way, and Hermione to the floor.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!" Mr Granger cried, easily knocking Dursley's hand from it's grip on Harry, as Hermione's mother, carefully checked that her daughter was okay. "Take your hands off that child you great brute!"

"This miscreant is my nephew, and I will do whatever the bloody hell I-" Vernon's spluttering outrage was cut off by a very cold and imposing Lucius Malfoy bodily putting himself between the quickly purpling man and the three children who had gathered about the two mothers.

"You are Vernon Dursley." Lucius Malfoy spat. "You don't know me, but you will soon. Your nephew is a close friend of my son's, and he is under my protection. Don't think I don't know what has been going on under that roof of yours, and don't think I won't hesitate to stop it. If I had my way, and I still might, Harry would be living with me, and you, and your wife, and your juvenile son would be facing charges for all that Harry has suffered. Fortunately for you, the courts do not move that quickly, however I want you to understand that if you lay a finger on Harry, if you harm him in any way through your attentions or lack thereof, I will kill you." Without taking his eyes off the Muggle, Lucius took out his wand and drew a circle around Harry's head, causing the boy to glow blue. "I will know exactly how he is, every minute of every day, and he will write to my son daily whilst he is in your care."

"You have no right to-"

"If I read this correctly, you're abusing your nephew. Can you tell me that isn't true?" Hermione's father stepped up next to Lucius, eyes also fixed on Vernon Dursley.

"That thing is-"

"That is answer enough for me." Mr Granger once more cut the other man off. "I'll be raising this with social services, I have friends in that field, you can be sure of a visit, so I would do exactly as Mr Malfoy has said or you most certainly will find yourself in a courtroom, and I for one will testify against you!"

"Come, Harry, we're going home." Vernon gritted out. "Hurry up, boy, I've not got all day!" With that the fat man stalked off, leaving Harry to follow on.

"Have a good holiday," he told his friends glumly.

"Trust me, we'll get you to the Manor at some point." Draco promised earnestly, as Harry left to chase after his uncle.

The two fathers turned to each other, respect in their eyes.

"In the magical world, it has been difficult to get that abominable family investigated, I am being blocked by somebody in our government." Lucius admitted slowly.

"Well then I'll get them investigated in ours." Mr Granger offered. "And I can tell you, I'm pretty sure there won't be positive findings."

"That would be much appreciated, Mr Granger. We all want the best for Harry."

"I think you'd better call me Dan, if my daughter is going to visit you."

"Lucius," The blond man smirked. "I'm glad we can come to an arrangement."

"Perhaps your son, and this Harry would also like to visit us."

Hermione and Draco just grinned to each other. Summer was looking up, with both of their fathers against the Dursleys, Harry just might stand a chance at getting out.

- HBP – HBP- HBP – HBP – HBP -

To everyone still reading this, thank you. I'm well aware it's been a very long time since I last updated this, almost a year, in fact, however it has been a very busy one. In this last year I've moved out of the family home, started at university in a new city and am currently recovering from surgery. This story arc is not abandoned, and neither are any of my other stories. They should be updated over the next few weeks. If I do decide to abandon anything ever, I will put notes up to make you aware.