Title: The House That Lovers Built
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione mentioned
Warnings: Angst, violence, forced bonding (of a sort), hurt/comfort.
Summary: A planned Auror raid on a notorious Potions brewer goes wrong. Badly wrong. To the point of Harry-ending-up-trapped-in-a-magical-house-with-Draco-Malfoy wrong. And the secret to leaving is going to be something that Harry might not have the strength to face.
Author's Notes: This is a hurt/comfort fic for both characters in some ways. The forced bonding is more related to the house than to a typical bond. And, finally, I've been wanting to write this fic for a long time. It will update every Monday, and probably be somewhere between ten and twelve chapters long.
The House That Lovers Built
Chapter One—Welcome Home
It was a quiet meeting, full of more significant glances than Harry could track. He ignored that, as he had ignored a lot of secrets and significant glances among his colleagues for the last year. What he wanted was to bring down the Solitary Brewer, and as long as everyone else in the raid did their parts so that could happen, he didn't care about their hidden love affairs or jealousies or paranoia.
Harry tapped his quill against his parchment to bring their attention back to where it belonged when he was sure that no one else would. Reluctant glances focused on his face. Harry leaned back, his hands folded behind his head to make them think he was casual, and studied them. If there was someone here more occupied with who was sleeping with who than with the plans for the raid, he would leave them behind.
But no, they all sat up when they saw him looking, and their faces became firm. Harry nodded. "All right," he said aloud, and flicked his wand instead of his quill this time. Copies of the plan rose and scattered among them, all down the round table. "This is the house he occupies. You know that we're going to go in through both doors at once, and all the windows…"
Nods followed his words, and Harry wrote down the questions that popped up, the ones that didn't have answers yet. Then they debated those questions, and came up with the answers, and everything began to lay itself out in the neat squares of plans worked on by the multiple teams of Auror partners that Harry had discovered he had a talent for leading.
Or else they follow me because of my reputation.
Harry gave a little shrug when that thought appeared, as it always did, the same shrug he always gave. As long as they followed.
Questions clicked along, minds clicked along and joined, and soon Harry was rising to his feet at the head of the table and smiling at the Aurors who locked eyes with him. Hesitantly, many of them smiled back.
"This won't be easy," Harry reminded them, quietly. "But that doesn't mean it can't be done, and it doesn't mean we won't put him in Azkaban. We already have all the evidence we need. We just need him."
More people nodded, and Harry saw the brightening that swept along their faces like the shadow of a wing as they stood and began to make their way out of the conference room. All of them had known what it was to watch a criminal walk away for lack of sufficient evidence. This time…
Not this time.
Harry closed his eyes and braced his hands on the table when he was alone. He didn't pray, he didn't think he'd even come close since he walked through the Forest in the company of the dead, but he spent a moment hoping and feeling what he would do settle into place around his shoulders and chest like a silver harness.
Harry shut his eyes and turned his head. Ron was right behind him; Harry would recognize that restless shifting of Auror robes anywhere. And Lilian Madour was ahead, known to Harry by the tapping of her wand against her palm. It didn't make enough noise to overcome the swelling chant inside the Solitary Brewer's house, at least.
Harry opened his eyes and turned his head back. They were pressed up against the side of the house, the long, low place that the Solitary Brewer had rented and trapped with every ward known to the Aurors, and some that had taken them much longer to break. He had trusted to those wards to protect him. Not a bad plan, as long as no one had a reason to look closely at the house and wonder who was hiding there.
But Harry and his team had broken every single ward over the past week, replacing them with powerful illusions that convinced the Brewer his house was still invisible and heavily-guarded. Harry smiled now. The Brewer was an accomplished Dark wizard; still, his expertise was in potions, not in defensive spells, and he had grown overconfident about the five times he had slipped out of Auror hands.
Not this time. And when he tells us how to lead those people he trapped in their minds out of them…
Carefully, Harry blanked the staring eyes of the patients in St. Mungo's out of his memory. They would only upset him now, and when they went through the front door, he needed to be swift and ruthless and above all accurate.
Ron touched Harry's back with his elbow. Harry touched Madour's back, and their line rippled forwards, at the same moment as brilliant bursts of colored light came sailing in through the windows, clouds of smoke billowed down the chimney, and another wave of Aurors attacked the back door. They had left the wards that prevented Apparition inside the house in place, the better to not give the Solitary Brewer a chance to escape immediately when he realized the place was under attack.
Harry heard the leopard-like roar that probably marked the Brewer realizing he was trapped, and smiled. Then he blew past Madour as if she was standing still and straight through the door. All those years running from Dudley and his friends had stood Harry in good stead.
He caught a confused glimpse of a reeling room with the Solitary Brewer standing in the middle of it, above a smoking cauldron, batting at the darting lights around his head with his yew-wood wand and crying out. There were only three doors, the front and back ones and the one that led to the kitchen, and Aurors at all of them, as well as at the numerous windows. But a large and glowing crystal ball that hadn't been in their initial reports stood beside the Brewer, on a silver pedestal.
And of all people, Draco Malfoy was plastered against the fireplace, his mouth open and his eyes overbright.
Harry froze, staring at him, and that gave a chance for the Solitary Brewer to react as none of them had thought he would. He suddenly dived forwards, aiming straight at Harry's chest, and tried to trample him over and run out through the front door.
Harry clasped his arms around the Brewer's neck and wrestled him to the floor, ignoring the kicks and blows of hands and elbows. He had better training than the Brewer did, and all he had to do was let it take over. It didn't matter if the Brewer hurt him. There were Healers waiting back at the Department.
But the Brewer seemed intent on escaping instead, the way he writhed and scraped against Harry, and several times almost dragged himself free. Harry clung around his neck and tried to club him into unconsciousness with his wand. He could hear the others shouting and trying to get in close, unable to curse the Brewer without also hitting him.
Harry yelled for them to do it. He could recover from a Stunner, damn it, and the longer the Brewer went on kicking, the greater the chance he would run!
But they continued to do nothing, and Harry continued to be unable to subdue him. Harry cursed between gritted teeth and forced the Brewer's head down, rolling them over until he was on top. His face ached, one of his eyes was starting to swell shut, blood dripped from a cut on his forehead, and Harry was determined to end it now. He clenched his hands around the Brewer's neck and tried to slam his head into the floor.
He caught a glimpse, only a glimpse, from the corner of his eye, of Malfoy darting forwards. They were next to the fireplace, and Harry saw a flask standing there, swirling purple and white. He saw Malfoy snatch it up, and the Brewer stretch his hand out, forgetting about Harry for a second as he tried to take the potion back from Malfoy—
He nearly wrestled himself free from Harry. Harry grabbed his hand and slammed the wrist into the stone of the hearth in place of the stubborn idiot's head, to discourage him from trying anything like that again.
The Brewer shook his head and brought his knees up, slamming them into Harry's chest. Harry nearly lost his grasp. The Brewer squirmed and scrabbled and made his way towards the hearth, dragging Harry along.
Malfoy backed up, his eyes terrified, and tripped over a carved marble grill at the base of the grate. Down he went. Harry saw the Brewer's eyes widen a moment before the giant glass flask in Malfoy's hands hit the stone and shattered.
A cloud of whirling smoke rose into the air. Harry held his breath and pulled at the Brewer, hoping against luck that the smoke had knocked him unconscious and that the rest of his Aurors had already prudently fled.
He heard someone squealing, someone shouting, and the Brewer fighting. Harry held on more desperately. They had come so far, they had risked so much, and he was going to be damned if he let his enemy go now.
The smoke went on dancing, making his eyes water, weakening his limbs even though Harry was sure he wasn't breathing it in. Then he realized what was happening, and grunted as his hands fell open. He was absorbing the bloody fumes through the pores in his skin.
The last thing he felt, or the second-last before the thud of his head off the floorboards, was the whisk of cloth as the Brewer at last worked himself free of Harry's grip. Harry stabbed his fingernails into his palm at his own general uselessness, and then fell free and down, down, down.
Harry woke to sunlight.
That was sufficiently unusual that he immediately rolled and snatched at his wand, and shivered in relief at finding it close against his side. But he would have expected St. Mungo's or the ceiling of his office in the Auror Department, so he went on rolling, right off the soft bed that it felt as if he lay on, and onto the floor. He heard a protesting whine, and swallowed, staring around.
This was a high chamber, a wooden one with a slanted ceiling that made Harry think he was in an attic. A door was in the wall right in front of the bed, there was a horrid red carpet on the floor, and a wide window in the left wall took up more room than the bed did, letting in the whoops of birds and the sunlight. The bed itself was decorated in long, silky sheets and thick blankets, purple ones edged with white lace, that made Harry feel as if he had seen that color recently. He recalled it after a brief struggle. The colors of the potion that the Brewer had reached after and Malfoy had stolen.
Harry hissed between his teeth and folded himself down beside the bed, on the side he'd fallen off, so that whoever else was in the bed couldn't see him. He had no options until he could figure out who was here with him and how he had come here. The door had no hum of locking wards around it, at least. On the other hand, the entire room could be a trap, or an illusion. Harry wouldn't approach the door until he had no choice.
The whining continued. Harry frowned. He couldn't imagine one of his Aurors doing that, which eliminated the best choice for who he was trapped with.
Finally, a very familiar voice said, "Potter? Are you there? I know I woke up and saw you earlier. You better not have abandoned me."
Harry closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead with his palm right where his headache was starting. Malfoy. The one who had caused this disaster in the first place. Harry thought the Brewer's capture would have been a lot more painless if he hadn't come to steal that potion. Or at least one of his Aurors would have caused the collision, and then they could effectively work together to discover the way out. Malfoy wouldn't be effective at discovering anything but the fastest way to drive Harry mental.
"I'm here, Malfoy," he said, standing. For the first time, he thought to glance down, and relaxed a little to see himself still wearing his Auror robes. He had tricks concealed in the cloth of those robes that might make the difference between life and death in a trap like this. "Do you have any idea what happened?"
"It wasn't my fault." Malfoy pulled the blankets up to his chest even though he was quite obviously still clothed.
"That wasn't exactly the idea of what happened that I meant," Harry said, and sighed, and sat down on the bed, tucking his wand away. He would have to think of Malfoy as a reluctant Auror and do his best to work with him. "Why were you in the Solitary Brewer's house, anyway?"
Malfoy closed his eyes and sniffed. "Because he's my rival," he said.
Harry choked. Malfoy immediately stared at him and said, "If you die of choking on air, who's going to take care of me here?"
Harry managed a single, long breath that came in and out without catching on anything, and then leaned back and ran his hands through his hair. "Malfoy, you think that you're rivals with someone like the Brewer? Someone who created a lust potion that was actually irresistible, and made the victim commit suicide when the Wizengamot attempted to separate her from the man who gave it to her? Someone who made potions that exactly mimicked the most subtle and complex spells? Someone who created a potion—we never did discover how he did it or exactly how it worked—that made vampires into his obedient servants? And no one else has heard of you in the past few years."
Malfoy's face turned so brilliant a red that Harry was tempted to reach over and feel his brow. "You know nothing," Malfoy snarled, his head turned to the side so that his dangling hair hid the outline of his neck. "I was merely keeping myself away from nosy Aurors. Someone like the Solitary Brewer has no tact, no understanding of anything but notoriety. By giving himself away, he was increasing the chance that he would be captured—no, he was guaranteeing it. That's not what I did."
"What kinds of illegal potions have you brewed then, Malfoy?" Harry asked quietly.
Malfoy hunched his shoulders further and shook his head furiously. Harry sighed and waited until Malfoy started emerging like a turtle. There was a question he hadn't yet asked.
"What was the potion you tried to steal?"
"Steal?" Malfoy flushed up again, but this time, Harry thought his indignation was more real than it had been. "He stole the recipe from me! I was merely taking back the product of my own hands."
"Good," Harry said, and forbore to laugh when Malfoy snatched at the blankets again. "What does the potion do?"
"I know what it was supposed to do," Malfoy said, and stared around at the walls of the room.
Harry waited. Then he waited some more. He knew that he needed to handle some of his Aurors with a delicate hand, and if he was thinking of Malfoy as a reluctant Auror, then it was best if he had patience.
But when Malfoy had said nothing for as long as it took the beam of sunlight coming through the window to track a handspan across the bed, Harry gave in. "What does the potion do?" he repeated. "And in what way is this different from the intended result?"
"Listen to your syntax," Malfoy said, and sneered at him. "Did Granger teach you to speak like that? Or were you merely tagging along and imitating her?"
Malfoy had made the mistake of looking at Harry, and Harry simply matched him gaze for gaze, bearing in, until Malfoy made a noise of disgust and whipped his head to the side. "I still want to know how long it took her to train you," he muttered.
"About as long as it took Snape to train you in childish sarcasm," Harry said. "But I think I know which of us learned our lessons better. I'll ask one more time, Malfoy, before I push you out that door and let you experience whatever hazards are here for yourself."
Malfoy hurriedly began speaking. "The potion was supposed to take whoever used it to a safe haven. A place that he could be alone, separated from the world, and safe from all his enemies. Anyone hunting for him would never find him. He could wait as long as he needed to let the hunt die down. The house provides food and shelter and water and clothes and everything else that the person inside it needs."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Well, I suspect that having two people inside it is the first way that this potion went wrong."
Malfoy nodded miserably. Harry leaned forwards with his wand aimed incidentally at Malfoy's side and said, "What else?"
"Why should there be anything else?" Malfoy asked, his eyes on Harry's wand. "Isn't that enough of a problem?"
"You wouldn't have looked the way you did if it was only two people being here that had gone wrong," Harry said. "Unless you hated me much more than I ever thought you did."
Malfoy bowed his head, his chin wobbling. Then he said, "The house was also supposed to open its doors when the person inside it wanted to leave. But since there are two people here—I already looked for the front door. There isn't one. The only doors which exist are the ones that lead to other rooms."
Harry shut his eyes and leaned back. He let the full impact of those words slam him in the chest, rattle around inside him, and settle into nothingness.
"Are you telling me," he began at last, "that I'm trapped here with someone I despise, and no way to find my way back to my Aurors or communicate with them?" His hands had tightened on his wand, and he felt whorls in the holly wood that he normally never noticed pressing deep into his palm. "What about a Patronus?"
"The house was meant to be isolated," Malfoy said, in a voice like a peeping baby bird's. "Totally isolated. That means that you can't reach outside it, and no one can reach inside it. We're going to be here for a long, long time. Unless we can figure out what went wrong with the potion, and what it means for there to be two people inside the house, and how two people can open the door instead of one."
Harry underlined the words in his mind. He had a goal. That meant he couldn't panic. He could help Malfoy with it, instead, and ultimately they would get out of here and he could go back and join the hunt for the Solitary Brewer.
He opened his eyes. Malfoy watched him over the tops of his knees. Harry rendered his voice neutral, which he could do with some effort. "Come on, then. Let's see what we have here, and what we don't have."
Malfoy didn't follow him. Harry snorted and stood, striding towards the door. He listened to the floorboards creak under him, but they didn't crack or sag. He shook his head as he opened the door. The only thing that proved was that the floor in this room wasn't dangerous in that particular way, not yet.
He stepped out into a broad corridor that stretched up and down in several directions, and slanted mostly down, towards what looked like a normal flight of stairs. Harry spun his wand in his hands as he looked around. The doors were wood, but when he moved his head, he saw that they had certain deep sheens to them. Dark blue, emerald green, vermillion. Harry glanced over his shoulder and noticed the purple sheen to the bedroom door.
Nothing to do but open them and see what was in there. He walked to the blue door, the closest one, and flung it open with his arm cocked beside him, wand poised to deliver a devastating blow to whatever might spring at him.
The door flew back against the wooden wall, and showed an exquisite bathroom, done in blue-green tiles that made Harry feel as if he was floating underwater. Harry eyed the deep tub, the loo—done in white—and the mosaic of a mermaid on the wall, which showed no inclination to giggle and bat its eyelashes the way the mermaid in the Prefects' Bath had, and withdrew slowly, fingers tapping still on the shaft of his wand.
Well. All right. Nothing there. But he would keep an eye out for mosaics in other rooms, and how they might come to life.
The green door opened on a lounging room. Or drawing room, maybe, although Harry thought the stuffed green couches and sofas were simply made for falling asleep on. The carpet was green, too, and as thick as grass. Harry knelt and ran his hand and wand through it, checking for trapdoors or nasty surprises. He found neither.
The scarlet door splashed open on a kitchen. Harry raised his eyebrows when he saw the cupboards that seemed to bulge slightly from the food or dishes inside them pushing against the doors, the Muggle refrigerator humming quietly to itself in a corner, and the empty and sparkling table. There were no chairs, a strange occurrence, but perhaps the potion had only meant that room for cooking and not eating. The other rooms had more comfortable and attractive seats, Harry had to admit.
Harry shook his head and turned to the stairs. He wondered what he would find below. A dining room? A garden to walk in? A way out? That last was all he really wanted.
"Where's the food?"
Harry's wand ended up jammed into Malfoy's chest. Malfoy had come up behind him, and Harry hadn't heard him. Harry swallowed back bile and fear that he could have killed Malfoy, and shook his head.
"Right in front of you," he said, gesturing around the kitchen. "You only have to open a door and take what you want."
"But the nature of the potion was altered," Malfoy insisted, stepping into the kitchen and looking around. The red color of most of the cabinets and cupboards seemed to intimidate him. Harry suspected it might have bothered him as well, but he had experience with bloody crime scenes. "That might mean the house has a limited amount of food now. I don't know what I should eat first."
"Then don't open a door," Harry said, and started to walk out into the corridor again, listening intently as he did so. No, the floor beneath him in the kitchen showed no sign of collapsing, either.
There was a note in Malfoy's voice that made Harry hesitate and turn around again, even though, realistically, he knew that he'd probably heard it a thousand times before and Malfoy was making something out of nothing, the way he had with his scratch from Buckbeak.
Malfoy stood in the middle of the kitchen. All the doors of the cupboards were shut completely now, and the refrigerator no longer hummed. Harry took a hasty step back inside the kitchen, and—
The cupboards looked full again. The refrigerator sang to itself. A shadow lying across the table, which had made it look unappetizing in ways that Harry hadn't fully articulated to himself, vanished. Harry blinked and said, "I have to admit, that's not like the effects of any other potion I've ever seen."
"No fucking kidding." Malfoy's voice had soared to the point that Harry felt like a dog listening to a whistle. He whipped back around. "If we can only eat when you're in here, then what happens when I'm hungry and want food?"
"I don't think that's it," Harry said slowly, his mind darting back along the pathways of memory, what Malfoy had said about the potion and some of the things Harry had learned about Potions theory during Auror training. "Look, you step out of the room now, and let me stand in the middle." He moved to what he thought was the central point, right near the table, and Malfoy fell back with his arms folded.
"I don't know what good that will do," Malfoy whinged, but he stepped out of the kitchen and into the corridor.
Harry saw the moment when the cupboard doors sagged shut again, and heard the one when the refrigerator stopped running. He nodded grimly. "Come back in," he called. "No, I mean, lean your head in, and look. It needs both of us in here to provide us with food. I wouldn't be surprised if the bed works the same way, and that's why we both woke up in the same place, instead of separate rooms."
Malfoy stuck his head back into the kitchen, and moaned when he noticed the cupboards. "What did you do, Potter?" he asked, glaring at Harry. "You could have prevented this if you really tried, couldn't you? The big, bad Auror?"
Harry narrowed his eyes. Treating Malfoy like a recalcitrant member of his own team was only going to work so long, he thought. "Maybe my raid would have gone off the right way if someone wasn't hiding in the house."
Malfoy turned and stomped out into the corridor again, towards the stairs. "I hope I find a private sitting room down here!" he yelled towards Harry. "Somewhere that doesn't require you to be there."
Harry put his head in his hands briefly before he went after Malfoy. He had once thought that being in the Aurors would be easier than being the Boy-Who-Lived, target of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
He sometimes wished he had a Time-Turner, just to go back and give his younger self a stern lecture.