Author's note: Before I say anything else, I want to sincerely apologize for taking so long to finish this chapter. I was planning on finishing it during the Easter break, but I had underestimated my university workload and so I was only able to finish this chapter this week *sweatdrops* I'm really sorry for taking so long, especially because you are already so patient with this story!
I will try to have the second part out before the end of May, but I can't promise anything. My exams start at the beginning of June and they end around the end of the month, so yeah, I'm busy for a few more weeks :/ Good thing is that I have everything mostly planned out, so writer's block won't be an issue.
So once again, I'm really sorry for taking so long! That wasn't my intention - I hope I still have readers *winces*
To make up for the delay, this chapter is around 10 000 words and the entire chapter will be - once again - split into two parts. (If you read all this, put your favourite character of this story in your review or so)
Thanks to the following reviewers: The arithmancer; purpledragon6; bbyjellow; DarkRavie; hotflower901; MirrorFlower and DarkWind; Dark Elven Sorceress; V. L. Crawford; YAOILOVER1575; xxxsocialstandoutxxx; Lupinesence; delia cerrano; Kadzuki Fuchoin; alaskanwoman25; rebe-e; TRIC4R; Colfer Fan 1217; RRW; Hatake Tsughi; M.E.F; nerdyravenclaw2000; SherWatsonLocked; Sapphirewaterfall; AnastaciaChambers; 000RainbowChick000; QueenOfTheNight; Libby D (they indeed have a manor in France and an estate in Scotland, but they think it's easier to refer to the one in Scotland as a manor)
Warnings: MPreg; angst; drama; tiny speck of fluff. That's it for this chapter I think.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling owns it.
I hope you'll enjoy this first part!
Chapter 17: Helpful Hufflepuff and Precarious Potions Part 1
11th of January
After two uneventful days, Harry woke up on a Wednesday morning with a chest between his legs, two arms wrapped around his stomach and lips kissing the small bulge that was visible when one looked closely enough.
He blinked and glanced sideways, noticing Mara and Ruby still sleeping soundly with Sapphire curled up between them. Garin had wrapped himself up on his chair and an occasional soft hiss escaped his throat.
When fingers joined the lips and touched his stomach lightly, he grabbed the edge of the sheets and lifted it up. At first he only saw ruffled blond hair until Draco lifted his head a bit to look at him with one raised eyebrow.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked perplexed.
"Can't I say good morning to our baby?" Draco replied innocently and rose up, laying down next to Harry, making the latter drop the sheets again.
Harry looked at him slightly exasperated. "I've just begun to show a bit – it's not like my stomach has grown that much already."
"I wasn't aware I had to wait until your stomach had reached a certain state before I could say good morning to our baby," Draco answered and he sounded slightly amused.
Harry groaned and shook his head. "Seeing you acting like this already makes me happy that I didn't tell your mother about this. I don't even dare to imagine how she would have reacted." He shuddered lightly.
His bed partner chuckled. "She's just excited, because it's her first grandchild. Can you blame her?"
"Your father can restrain himself and this is his first grandchild as well," Harry couldn't help but point out. It was not like Narcissa's behaviour annoyed him; he actually thought it was sweet that she was so enthusiastic about the baby and he preferred this behaviour to one where she would act cold and generally ignore the baby. But that didn't mean that she did not overwhelm him at times with the amount of information she gave him and all the plans of the nursery room she showed him.
"My father acts restrained whenever you see him," Draco smirked and his hand slipped underneath Harry's shirt to trace meaningless patterns on his stomach. "That doesn't mean he actually is that restrained."
Green eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said. My father isn't as restrained about the baby as you think he is."
"You and your damned riddles," Harry huffed and gave the wandering hand a half-hearted swat.
"What kind of riddle could you possibly detect in my answer?" Draco wondered out loud. "I think I said clearly that my father doesn't act restrained when it's about the baby."
"Then how does he act? I've never seen him as enthusiastic as your mother," Harry answered and then furrowed his eyebrows. "Although I don't want him to act that enthusiastic – I don't think I would manage to survive that."
A surprised laugh made Draco's body lightly shake. "Ah, just trust me on this. Mother has chosen to show her happiness about the baby through buying stuff and creating decorating plans and Father has chosen another way to show his happiness." He pressed a kiss on slack lips.
"I sincerely hope acting obstinate is not a Malfoy trait that our baby is going to inherit," Harry muttered and slipped out of Draco's embrace before the blond could tighten his grip.
"Hey! Obstinacy is not a Malfoy trait!" Draco protested and sat up. "Why are you calling Malfoys obstinate?"
Harry threw him a grin and grabbed his bathrobe. "Not so fun when you don't understand the comments clearly, huh, Draco?"
"Seriously, are we going to act like that?" Draco groaned, but the faint smile on his face let Harry know that he wasn't really angry.
"Yes. Now get out of bed before you're late for class," Harry admonished him. He left a grumbling blond behind and made his way to the shower.
Leaving the bathroom door open, he had to supress a grin when he heard Draco stumbling out of bed and making his way to him. Apparently he wouldn't be taking his shower alone.
"I need to check the library for my Healing homework, so I'll join you later."
A quick kiss and Draco made his way upstairs while his lover descended the staircase to go to his room.
The students in the Healing class were studying the various spells designed to mend broken bones and their homework consisted out of explaining in five pages why some spells reacted well to certain type of breaks and others not.
Draco had already made a start on his essay, but he needed a specific book for further research and he wanted to borrow that book from the library before someone else snatched it away.
Madame Pince threw him a suspicious look, but the blond ignored her and checked the title he had hastily written down on a scrap of parchment.
He passed four rows and turned into the fifth one. The left side of the row contained books about Healing and he slowly walked past it; his eyes roving over the spines of the books. Nearing the middle of the row, he glanced idly upwards and clucked his tongue annoyed when he noticed the book he was searching for, placed on the top shelf.
Of course it would be on the top shelf.
Ignoring the small ladder at the end of the row, he whispered, "Wingardium Leviosa." He directed the book carefully to the round table in front of him and it landed with a soft 'thud'.
Quickly browsing through it, he nodded to himself and grabbed the book. It was still a relatively new book, so he didn't have to fear it falling apart.
"I want to borrow this one for two days," Draco announced and showed the librarian the book.
She narrowed her eyes. "For which class?" she asked and sounded suspicious.
Restraining the urge to roll his eyes, he replied tersely, "For Healing. We need to write an essay; you can ask the professor about it."
Giving him a sour look, Pince grabbed a sheet of paper and penned down the title almost aggressively. "The book needs to be back on the shelf this Friday at four p.m. and not a minute later."
Not deigning that worthy of a reply, Draco stuffed the book in his bag and left the library before Pince could scold him about his treatment of the book.
Deciding he would get more work done in the solitude of Harry's private quarters than in the rowdy common room, he turned around and passed by a bunch of giggling girls, belonging to Gryffindor, who were staring down at a magazine.
Right when his left foot landed on the first step of the staircase, he was halted by a familiar voice.
As if he was hit by the Body bind spell, he froze. He forced himself to turn around and face the girl he hadn't talked to in more than a year.
Pansy stood in the middle of the corridor and she straightened her back when he looked at her. Only her tightly pursed lips showed that she was aware of the students staring and whispering.
"What?" He raised an eyebrow and looked at her coolly.
"I'd like to talk to you. In private," she added and looked him boldly in the eyes.
Not wanting to cause a scene, Draco inclined his head. "Very well," he drawled. "Do you have a place in mind?"
"Yes; follow me," Pansy murmured and turned around, her hair almost hitting another girl's face with the force of her turn.
For a short moment, Draco wavered and wondered whether it would be a good idea to follow her. Father had warned him the Parkinsons would probably try something to convince him to marry their daughter and Mara had left with Harry, so he couldn't rely on her judgement.
He sighed inwardly and slowly followed the ex-Slytherin girl. If she tried to lift her wand against him or tried to dose him with a potion, he would be able to stop her on time; he was confident that his ability to react quickly was better than hers after training with his godfather, Black and Lupin.
So he would let her talk, would listen to what she had to say and then he would leave. He didn't own her anything. But for the sake of the comradeship they once had had, he would let her talk.
Pansy led him to a small, empty classroom that was practically hidden away in a dark corner. She halted in the middle of the room and leant back against a desk; her arms clasped around her as if she was cold.
Draco kept two feet between them and crossed his arms. "Talk."
Pansy glowered at his brusque tone, but said, "I know you don't want to be here, so I will keep it short."
Look at that; she actually can pick up the signs that she's not wanted, Draco thought rather viciously.
"I want to apologise for trying to create a rift between you and Potter," she continued stiffly and glared at the floor.
A blond eyebrow shot up in surprise.
"I should not have tried to convince Potter you were only using him to warm your bed."
His mind flashed back to their fight right before Valentine's Day last year. Harry had accused him of only wanting to get into his pants, throwing his knowledge about Draco's former bed partners in his face. Draco had wondered who had shown Harry the photos and he seemed to finally have received the answer.
"So you were the one who showed Harry the photos," he murmured.
Pansy flinched as if he had shouted at her and seemed to shrink a bit. "I know I should not have done that, but I was so … jealous," she gritted her teeth, "that he managed to capture your attention while you seemed to ignore me, that I wanted to hurt him."
"Why are you telling me this now?" Draco asked in a flat tone.
"I wanted to apologise. I have acted way out of line and you have the right to disregard my apology, but," she swallowed and finally looked him right in his eyes, sincerity shining in hers, "I hope we can eventually become friends again. I have missed talking to you, Draco, and I do not want us to remain enemies."
He eyed her warily. "Is this some kind of ploy to convince me to take you as my wife?" he asked bluntly, forgoing the tact his parents had instilled in him when he was a child. If his father had been present, he would surely have scolded him, but the blond couldn't be arsed to be tactful now.
She looked at him shocked. "What? No! I know you are together with Potter now and I know when I am defeated. I just want to be friends again."
When Draco still regarded here distrustfully, she sighed and rolled her eyes. "Look, I am being courted by a German Pureblood now; despite what you may think about me, I will not betray my future husband." She spread her arms and threw him an exasperated look. "If you want, you can look at the letters I have been exchanging with him. You cannot read the content, naturally, because you are not taking part in the courtship."
Draco sighed and shook his head. Pansy may have changed somewhat in the time they had stopped interacting with each other, but when it came down to Pureblood traditions, she would not dare to lie about them.
Her offering to show the letters was enough proof that she wasn't lying to him now.
He studied her face; taking note of her blank face, but her eyes showed how tired she was.
She seemed sincere with her apology, but he was not a naïve Gryffindor. He was not about to trust her just yet. Maybe she meant her apology, maybe not; only time would tell.
"I do not trust you, but I accept your apology," he finally answered calmly.
Pansy bowed her head and her shoulders sagged a bit. "I understand. I am already glad you accepted my apology."
"Was there something else you needed to talk about?" he asked flatly.
She shook her head and he nodded before turning around and leaving the room silently.
The group of giggling girls had disappeared, so Draco walked through an empty corridor back to the dungeons, musing about the conversation he just had had with Pansy.
Distracted by his musing, he noticed too late that the door of Severus' classroom opened and he collided with a fifth year Gryffindor girl who was holding a vial.
He cringed when the uncorked vial, clenched in the girl's right hand, released its contents on his robes. Luckily it didn't touch his skin and he hastily threw off his soiled cloak, grimacing when the fumes of the potion entered his nostrils. The potion smelt nauseatingly sweet and he wrinkled his nose.
Severus didn't teach any sweet smelling potions, so the blond assumed it was a botched attempt at the potion that was taught now.
"Sorry, didn't see you there," the girl sneered and snatched her hands back that previously had been resting on Draco's shoulders to keep her from falling. Obviously this was one of the Gryffindors who kept hanging on to the irrational animosity between the Houses.
Draco snorted and turned to continue his trip to Harry's quarters; his cloak swung over his arm with the stains visible, so that his shirt would stay clean. "No surprise there. Walking and breathing at the same time probably takes up most of your concentration already, so paying attention to your surroundings is asking too much, given your brain capacity."
"WHAT?" the girl screeched and before she could do anything else, Severus appeared behind her and stared at her coldly.
Draco smirked when the girl cowered in fear.
"Miss Goodman, return to your desk at once."
The girl squeaked and hurried back into the classroom.
"See me after class," Severus ordered coolly.
Draco chuckled softly.
Severus turned his attention to his godson and raised an eyebrow. "What happened to your cloak?"
"That girl spilled some potion on it." Draco shrugged carelessly. "It didn't touch my skin."
His godfather frowned, but nodded. "Get it cleaned before it is completely absorbed."
The sound of the door closing accompanied him on his way to his lover and soon he mumbled the password to the dragon, who let him enter with a sleepy growl.
Harry greeted him with a kiss and they were soon emerged in their homework; the soiled cloak thrown over the arm of the couch. A house elf popped in to take the cloak and that was the only disturbance they had the entire afternoon and evening, save for Draco taking a shower to rid himself completely of the lingering potion fumes.
14th of January
When Draco woke up on Saturday morning, he immediately realized something was wrong with him.
His skin felt as if it was on fire and he was sweating profusely; his hair stuck to his forehead. His stomach was churning and he hastily rolled over to the edge of the bed. His hands buried themselves in the matrass and he clenched his eyes shut when he started to dry heave. Even though there was food in his stomach, nothing came out; not even bile and his dry heaving became worse until he thought he would choke.
The matrass dipped behind him and hands rubbed over his back.
"Draco, what's wrong?" Harry asked concerned.
The touch seemed to help, because he could breathe again without dry heaving. The nausea however was not disappearing and he laid back down with a miserable groan.
A hand came up to touch his forehead and his lover hissed. "You're burning up," he muttered with a frown marring his face.
"I don't feel well," Draco rasped weakly and he groaned when he opened his eyes. The room was spinning and his eyes slid close again to prevent another possible bout of dry heaving.
"Are you becoming ill?" Harry wondered and rubbed his shoulder.
"I don't know," Draco whispered. "I have never felt his bad before."
"Do you think you're able to go to the Infirmary? If necessary, I can use a spell to transport you."
Draco tried to sit up, but had to give up when black spots started to appear before his eyes. "I don't think … I feel dizzy," he muttered dazed. He felt Harry climbing carefully over him, making sure not to jostle him.
"All right, I'll get Snape. Maybe he knows what's wrong with you."
The moment Harry stopped touching him, his temperature seemed to spike and he started dry heaving again.
Immediately hands landed on his back and the dry heaving ceased. When he dared to open his eyes, he saw Harry kneeling on the floor next to the bed and green eyes staring at him alarmed.
"Don't leave," he said weakly. He didn't know how it was possible, but it appeared that Harry's touch alleviated some of his symptoms. At any other moment, he would feel baffled and worried, but now he was happy with anything that alleviated his symptoms.
What was happening?
"All right, I won't leave," Harry promised him and his thumb ran over the knuckles of Draco's right hand. "But you need help."
The sound of nails tapping on the floor neared them. "I can tell Lord Slytherin to warn the man who smells like herbs," Mara offered and the cold air exuding from her body felt good against his heated skin.
The warm gush of Harry's relieved sigh washed over his hair. "Yes, thank you, Mara."
Draco forced himself to concentrate and heard Mara muttering lowly to the portrait that Slytherin could use. His attention was dragged back from the conversation when Harry's thumb started to caress his cheek slowly. Through half lidded eyes he watched Harry, who stared back at him with troubled eyes.
Finally realising Harry's position, he grumbled and tugged on the blue pyjama sleeve.
"Get on the bed," he ordered drowsily.
"I'm fine," Harry retorted absentmindedly, but Draco tugged harder.
"But I'm not fine with it," Draco murmured. "Come on."
Harry bit his lip, but relented and slipped back on the bed, laying down on his side, facing the blond.
"That's better," Draco murmured and felt the other one wrapping an arm around his shoulder, bringing his head into contact with warm skin. The familiar scent of vanilla lingered in his nostrils and Draco nuzzled Harry's neck weakly. He closed his eyes; a wave of exhaustion attacked him and he was on the verge of falling asleep, lulled by the warm presence next to him, when the sound of familiar footsteps reached his ears.
It took some effort to open his eyes again; a headache was starting to form and the first tendrils of the nausea sneaked up on him again when Harry detangled their bodies in order to let Severus examine him.
"What's wrong?" Severus frowned and placed a cool, dry hand on his sweaty forehead.
"We don't know. When he woke up, he was dry heaving and he seems to have a fever," Harry replied helplessly. "Maybe he has the flu?"
"Did you have earlier symptoms?" Severus asked sharply and muttered a Quick scan spell, which brought up a list of his symptoms and possible illnesses immediately.
Draco slowly shook his head, feeling sour bile rising up in his throat. Merlin, he hoped he wouldn't throw up on his godfather. "When I woke up, I started to feel bad and it has only become worse," he answered in a rasping voice. "But Harry's touch seems to help a bit."
The frown on the older man's face deepened when he glanced at the list of symptoms the spell had discovered.
"How bad is it?" Harry asked nervously and Draco felt a clammy hand slipping into his own.
"According to the spell, he is not ill," Severus announced and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"What? That can't be; just look at him," Harry said bewildered.
"I know, Potter, but the spell states clearly that nothing is wrong with Draco. He is in perfect health according to the spell," Severus replied and with a sharp snap of his wrist, the list disappeared soundlessly.
"Maybe you casted the spell incorrectly," Harry argued and tightened the hold on his hand.
Even through his blurry sight, Draco could discern the sharp glare his godfather threw at Harry.
"I have never casted a spell incorrectly," he said coldly.
"Then what the hell is wrong with him?" Harry exclaimed frustrated.
Draco wanted to comfort his distressed lover, but his limbs felt heavy as if he was under water and wrestling against it.
"Language, Potter," Severus snapped. "I'll have to take a sample of his blood and research that. It could be that he's suffering from a mutated form of the flu."
"But you don't believe that," Harry retorted sharply.
"We won't know anything for certain until I have examined his blood," Severus murmured and tapped his wand briefly on Draco's bare arm. His blood rose through the thin layer of his skin and Severus swiftly collected it in a small vial.
"What do we do in the meantime?" Harry asked softly, biting his lip.
"Your presence seems to help somewhat, so try to stay near him," the older man instructed and briskly walked out of the room.
Harry sighed and stared forlornly at the blond boy.
"Hey, don't look like that," Draco chided him weakly. "Sev will figure out what's wrong with me. I probably ate something that disagreed with me."
Both didn't mention that despite eating the same meal, Harry wasn't ill.
Without saying anything, Harry climbed back in bed and wrapped his arms around his lover, cradling him against his warm body.
Soothed by the hand caressing his hair, Draco fell asleep, hoping that the extra rest would prove beneficial.
With a soft curse, Harry switched the warm, damp cloth for a fresh, cool one, placing it on Draco's forehead.
Instead of becoming better, Draco was becoming progressively worse. After an hour of dozing, Harry had noticed how Draco had started to feel very warm until it had developed into a fever. Harry had immediately ordered a house elf to bring a basin filled with cold water and some strips of cloth.
The water did nothing to cool off the blond; every ten minutes Harry found himself exchanging the clammy cloth for a new, fresh one and trying to convince the blond to drink water so that he would not become dehydrated.
Even his presence didn't seem to help anymore; Draco had started shivering as if he was cold, but in reality he was heating up. Every time he opened his eyes – which never lasted long – Harry was met with glazed over, grey eyes.
When morning went over in afternoon, the harsh coughing had started. He couldn't hold his lunch down either; barely a few bites later, Draco had started throwing up violently. He did seem able to hold down his water – a small reprieve.
Mara had joined them on the bed, sharing her cold body with her master, while Ruby was keeping watch in the doorway. Sapphire was sitting on the desk, as immobile as a statue and Garin was curled up on the chair, his eyes fixed on the pair on the bed.
"Can any of you feel what's wrong with him?" Harry asked, annoyance colouring his voice.
Mara grumbled. "Not exactly," she admitted and her tail swished back and forth in irritation. "Something seems blocked."
"Blocked?" he repeated with a frown.
"Yes, there seems to be an obstacle; something is fighting," Ruby added.
"What? What is fighting? His magic?" Harry asked confused and switched the cloth again.
"Not exactly," Garin hissed. "Something is blocked and is fighting."
"That's not very helpful," Harry muttered darkly. "Is it the fighting thing that is making him sick?"
"Yes and no," Mara muttered. "It seems to clash."
Harry resisted the urge to bash his head against the headboard. "Can you be a bit more specific?" he groaned.
Mara growled, glaring at him. "We can feel that something is wrong, but the waves of his magic are confusing. Something is fighting, but we don't know what yet!"
Harry closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead furiously. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I just don't know what's wrong with him and I'm worried."
He looked up quickly and saw Remus' concerned face. "Remus."
"What happened?" Remus entered the room and studied Draco's pale, sweaty face with furrowed eyebrows.
"When he woke up this morning, he felt nauseous," Harry answered and quickly filled the man in on what had been happening.
"Severus mentioned he was researching Draco's blood, but he didn't mention how bad it is," Remus murmured and looked sharply at the dark haired boy. "Have you eaten yet?"
Harry rubbed absentmindedly over his upper left arm. "No, I have been trying to get Draco to eat something and then his fever appeared, so I have been trying to get his temperature down."
"Go get some fresh air and eat something," Remus ordered and grabbed the cloth out of Harry's hands.
"I can eat later," Harry said dismissively and attempted to snatch the cloth back. "Draco needs me here."
"Harry, skipping meals is not good in your state," Remus scolded him.
"Harry," Draco spoke suddenly with a scratchy, low voice. "Go eat now. I'll be fine," he added when Harry stared at him uncertainly.
"I can eat here," Harry tried to compromise; not willing to leave his ill lover behind.
Weakly Draco shook his head and brought his hand to rest on Harry's stomach. "Get some fresh air and eat something," he muttered exhausted.
"I'll stay here to take care of him," Remus added calmly.
Reluctantly Harry stood up. "Fine, but I'll be back soon," he warned them and left the room, Ruby following him. As soon as the painting closed behind him, Ruby turned invisible, but stayed close enough for Harry to feel his presence next to him.
Hastily he made his way to the kitchen; the sooner he had eaten something, the sooner he could return.
The house elves – with Dobby as the most enthusiastic one – were happy to make something for him and wouldn't let him go until he had finished a piece of treacle tart as his dessert. When he finally managed to convince them he had enough and couldn't possibly eat more, they insisted on giving him a bag of small biscuits filled with fruit jam and Harry could have sworn he heard Ruby snort in amusement.
With a bag in his hand and his stomach filled with a delicious meal, Harry finally left the loud kitchen, which was buzzing with preparations for dinner.
He was almost at the entrance of the dungeons, when his name was suddenly called and he turned around, seeing Sirius approach him.
His godfather raised an eyebrow when he caught sight of the bag. "Cravings starting already?" he asked amused.
"What?" Momentarily confused, Harry stared puzzled at the man in front of him. When Sirius nodded to the bag, he realised what he meant and rolled his eyes. "No, of course not. I was ordered to eat and the house elves wouldn't let me go without these biscuits," he huffed.
"How's Blondie doing?" Sirius asked abruptly.
Harry sighed and raked a hand through his hair, messing it up further. "Not good," he replied and bit his lower lip. "He's having a fever now and can't hold anything down, except for some water."
"Snivellus will figure out what's wrong; he's one of the best when it comes to Potions," Sirius said gruffly and looked cross with himself for talking positively about Snape.
Harry shifted his feet and clenched one fist in his sweater. "But what if he can't find out what's wrong with Draco? The spell he used claimed nothing was wrong and even Ruby, Garin and Mara don't know what's wrong. What if …" he trailed off, not daring to finish his question.
A strong hand squeezed his shoulder and warm eyes filled with concern looked at him. "Harry, Blondie will pull through; he's stronger than he looks."
Harry nodded, trying to make himself believe Sirius.
"And otherwise he'll have a meeting with my wand," Sirius continued casually and that elicited a nervous, jittery laugh from his godson.
Before the dark haired boy could chide him, Ruby suddenly started to growl lowly.
"Ruby, what's wrong?" Harry asked perplexed.
"Your mate needs you," Ruby offered as explanation and tugged on the robe of his master.
The tugging wasn't necessary, however, because Harry was already hurrying back to his quarters, Sirius following closely behind.
The dragon opened the portrait before Harry could offer the password and he hastily climbed through it.
"What's wrong?" he asked and gasped when a flood of emotions waved over him.
Fear, panic and anger seemed to battle with each other, clashing with each other like a bunch of dominant animals trying to have the upper hand, snarling and biting. Overwhelmed, Harry sunk down on his knees and clasped his hands tightly over his ears in an attempt to drown out the sudden vicious screeching that seemed intent on drilling into his brain.
Vaguely he felt arms grabbing him tightly and lifting him up. The screeching died out as sudden as it had appeared when his knees touched the matrass.
Trembling he lowered his hands and opened his eyes – when had he closed them?
"What the hell happened?" Sirius snapped.
Harry was glad he was the one to question what had happened, because he didn't think he was able to speak now. His throat hurt as if he had screamed, but he had no memory of doing so.
His hand touched something cold that was shaking and without thinking he grabbed it tightly. It turned out to be Draco's hand; Draco, whose breath was laboured, who looked paler than before – how was that even possible? – whose face was etched with pain. One hand still clenched tightly around a cold one, he reached out with his other hand and carefully touched Draco's forehead. The frown marring his sweaty forehead seemed to lessen a bit.
"I'm not certain," Remus said and his voice was shaky. "But I think …" he trailed off and stared imploringly at Mara.
"It's the bond," she confirmed and sounded troubled. "Something happened which makes the bond act up. It's becoming defensive."
"What could have happened to make the bond act up?" Sirius questioned. "Is the bond making him sick?"
"Yes," Ruby answered slowly and padded closer. "The bond fighting is making the mate ill and it was calling out to the master."
"Do you know why the bond is acting up?" Remus asked.
The animals shared an uncomfortable look, as if they weren't certain whether to confess what they knew.
Sirius narrowed his eyes. "What do you know?"
Mara let out a rumbling sigh. "Usually a bond like this only reacts when it feels threatened by an outside force. Only then does a bond act up."
"Is someone attacking the bond?" Remus frowned.
"Not in the sense you're thinking about," Mara answered and the cold fire on her tail flared up in agitation.
"For Merlin's sake, this is not the time for your cryptic tripe," Sirius snapped annoyed.
"The bond is not under physical or magical attack, but under an emotional one," Ruby replied gruffly and his eyes were fixated on his master. "The bond is fighting against the emotional assault. The mate is targeted so his body and mind are suffering under the strain."
"What exactly do you mean with emotional …"
The real meaning of Ruby's reply felt like a blow to his stomach and Harry whipped his head around to face Mara and Ruby.
"Draco would never cheat on me!" he bit out, unknowingly tightening his hand. "I don't care what the bond thinks; I know he isn't cheating on me!"
"Does the bond really think Draco is cheating on Harry?" Remus asked sharply.
"Whatever he did, the bond is under the impression that he is betraying the master on the emotional level and so it's punishing him."
"But he isn't cheating on me!" Harry snapped. "How can we make the bond stop punishing him?"
If this situation had happened months ago, Harry would have been more inclined to believe Draco was cheating on him (even though that admission made him feel ashamed). But they had been through a lot and Harry felt secure in the knowledge that Draco wouldn't cheat on him. No, something else was happening and they had to find out what exactly as soon as possible. He didn't dare to think of how far the bond would go if this problem wasn't solved soon.
"The cause of the bond's distress needs to be removed. In this case the cause can be something or someone," Mara answered and narrowed her eyes.
"In the meantime is there something we can do to help Draco?" Harry asked, looking down at the shivering form of his lover.
"Staying with him should help his symptoms," Garin hissed and slithered down the chair so that he could wrap his long body around Ruby's chest.
"We'll search through the heritance books to find out whether something like this has happened before and how they countered it," Remus announced with a frown. "Severus is researching the blood, but he can use all the help he can get."
Harry nodded and slid down so that he could lay down on his side, facing Draco. He wrapped one arm around the still shivering blond and pressed their bodies closely together, hoping his body warmth would help warm up Draco.
Sirius and Remus left, throwing the couple one last concerned look, and Ruby with Garin still wrapped around him padded after them. Even though they hadn't said anything to Harry, Mara's protective and alert stance in front of the bed let him know silently that their pets were doing whatever they could to help Draco in their own way.
Sapphire jumped on the bed and carefully padded over the sheets until she stopped right next to Draco's hip and curled up to sleep.
Harry closed his eyes and rested his head against Draco's neck, resigned to the helpless feeling brewing in him.
Fighting against the darkest wizard of history had made him afraid. Looking right at Dumbledore and realising he would be killed by the man his parents had trusted had made him feel despair and anger.
Seeing his lover weakening before his eyes, literally throwing up blood and not awaken for long periods of time was fucking terrifying.
It was Tuesday and Draco's condition had only worsened over the course of the weekend. While he still had been semi lucid during the weekend, he now barely woke up. If he did manage to crawl back from the dream world, he was coughing and throwing up blood while his magic danced around him in a jittery fashion.
Harry didn't know what to do and that fact terrified him. Even after all those adventures leading him in front of Voldemort, he had never been as afraid as now. He could do nothing to help Draco except stay close to him and help him clear the blood out of his mouth. Remus had used a spell that would make certain that Draco's body received the necessary nutrition, but that spell seemed to be in vain in light of how many times Draco had been throwing up already.
When he wasn't throwing up or coughing, he seemed to be murmuring something, but try as he might, Harry could never understand what exactly the blond was muttering in his feverish sleep.
It was nearly evening when Harry could hear the portrait opening and anticipating either Remus or Snape, he was therefore very surprised to see Narcissa and Lucius appearing in his bedroom.
"Draco," Narcissa murmured and her ice blue eyes glittered with a sheen of tears. She hurried towards the bed and laid her hand on Draco's cheek.
Lucius approached the bed as well, his face paler than it was before. "Severus Floo'd us," he answered Harry's unspoken question. "Said Draco was becoming more and more ill and asking whether we could visit him."
"I don't know what's wrong with him," Harry said helplessly. He was sitting cross legged on the bed with Draco's head carefully placed on his lap. "Mara mentioned that something or someone is interfering with the emotional level of the bond and that the bond is fighting against it. We thought he would get better if I stayed near him, because he did seem to feel better on Saturday when I touched him, but instead of getting better, he's just getting worse." His voice choked and he pressed his hands tightly against his eyes. "I don't know what to do."
"Calm down, Harry," Narcissa murmured and caressed his cheek. "We'll figure something out. My son is strong; he'll pull through this. You have to trust him."
Harry nodded, but inwardly he wondered whether Narcissa was trying to convince herself.
"You said that something is attacking the emotional level of the bond?" Lucius asked sharply and his cane was put down harshly on the ground.
Harry stared at him. "Yeah, at least that's what Mara and Ruby say. They said that the bond is under attack and that it's becoming defensive. But the way they said it made it seem as if Draco was cheating on me and I know he isn't!" His breath hitched and he roughly wiped his sleeves over his eyes. He couldn't break down in tears now; he had to be strong now. Draco was suffering more than he was; he had to be strong for him.
"Where are your pets now?" Lucius frowned.
"Garin should be in the living room and Ruby and Mara are somewhere in the school," Harry muttered, scratching absently behind Sapphire's ear. "They said they would be searching for the cause of the attack or something like that."
Narcissa narrowed her eyes and looked at Lucius. "Luc, assaulting the emotional level of the bond – do you think they …"
Lucius stiffened and his eyes grew colder, making a shiver run over Harry's spine. He really didn't want to be the cause of that particular expression on the older man's face.
"Do you really think they would be that simpleminded?" he murmured; his hand tightening around the cane.
Narcissa pursed her lips. "Obviously they are not aware of the bond's existence, but considering their pig-headedness … It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to do something to come between them."
"The fools," Lucius cursed softly. "I was a fool to assume their humiliation at the ball would be enough to put a stop to their plans."
"Who are you talking about?" Harry asked baffled. Did they know the person who had tried to interfere with the bond?
"Lucius, go get Severus. We'll need his help," Narcissa said and with a sharp nod, her ex-husband briskly left the room.
"Narcissa?" Harry looked at her wide-eyed.
She turned her attention to him and gave him a tight lipped smile. "We are going to attempt to use the bond to reveal who is tampering with it."
"By letting you use Legilimency on Draco."
He froze; his hand, about to touch Draco's forehead, halted a few inches above the blond hair. "What? No, I can't do that," he immediately protested. Him using Legilimency? He had barely been able to master Occlumency; how did Narcissa expect him to use Legilimency when he had no experience with it whatsoever? He didn't want to hurt Draco even more than he already was hurting and he knew that a clumsy attempt at Legilimency would prove disastrous for Draco's mental state. The books dealing with Occlumency and Legilimency clearly stated that if someone inexperienced tried to attempt to enter someone's mind, he could literally destroy the person's mental state, reducing him to a vegetable state.
He was not willing to risk Draco's health. He desperately wanted to help him, but not at the potential cost of Draco's mental health.
"I know you're not experienced, Harry; that's why Severus will be there to guide you through the process," Narcissa replied gently and covered his hand with her own cool one.
"But what if I screw up?" he asked and a hint of desperation dripped through his voice. "I can really hurt him if I slip up and I don't want to do that!"
"You're not going to slip up," she said sternly. "Severus will help you through it and he'll make certain you won't be able to hurt Draco. Now I need you to calm down, because panicking won't help. You want to help Draco, right?"
"Of course I want to help him!"
"Then trust me when I say that you won't hurt him," she retorted in an admonishing tone. "You need to be the one who uses Legilimency on Draco, because you are his Bonded Partner. The bond will reveal the attacker to you quicker than it would reveal it to Severus." She softly pressed her hands against his cheeks and pulled his head up until he had to look straight into her eyes. "I know you're scared, Harry, and you have a right to be that, but I need you to pull yourself together. Not only for Draco, but also for your baby. Stress is not good for you."
He nodded as much as he could with the restrictive hands on his cheeks and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He knew he should calm down and not stress too much, but it was difficult to remain calm when Draco was silently suffering.
Would the bond really be able to reveal who was tampering with it?
He guessed he had no choice but to trust Narcissa when she said he would not be able to slip up. At least he could trust the fact that Snape would rather drink one of the students' botched, dangerous potions than to let harm befall his godson.
"You have managed to become adept at using Occlumency and you will use Legilimency without causing any damage," Snape barked as soon as he entered the room.
Harry frowned when he took in Snape's haggard appearance: the man looked extremely tired; bags were already starting to appear under his eyes, his lips were tightly drawn – a thin line on his face – and his robes were splattered with various coloured potion stains - probably from potions that had exploded during the brewing process. His eyes still looked sharp, but it was obvious that he was on the verge of collapsing after working hours on potions that could help Draco.
"Are you … Are you certain you feel up to it, sir?" Harry asked uncertainly. He and Snape had a weird truce going on and he didn't want to overstep his boundaries. Not now with both of them tired and worried about the blond sleeping restlessly on the bed.
"You better ask yourself that question," Snape answered curtly and conjured a chair next to the bed so that he could take a seat. "I need you to follow the instructions correctly, understood?"
Harry nodded wordlessly.
Narcissa gave his cheeks one last caress and after giving him a reassuring smile, she stood up and backed away from the bed, joining her ex-husband who was standing next to the desk.
"You have your wand?" Snape sighed and tightened his grip around his own wand.
Harry carefully twisted around and snatched his wand off the nightstand.
"Close your eyes and relax. Make your mind empty," Snape instructed softly.
"Like during Occlumency?" Harry murmured and closed his eyes, focusing on his breathing so that he could calm down.
"Exactly. You are capable of remembering important instructions like that then."
Harry ignored the jab and concentrated on clearing his mind, which wasn't easy with how worried he was. Eventually he calmed down; every intruding thought drifted away like a leaf in the wind and his muscles were relaxed as if he was sleeping in a soft bed, surrounded by comfortably warm sheets.
He could hear the soft breathing of Draco's parents and Snape and the harsh, laboured breathing of his lover.
"I'm ready," he murmured, barely moving his lips.
"You need to connect your magic with mine, in order for me to guide you into Draco's mind," Snape murmured equally soft.
"How do I …"
"Open your eyes and give me your hand. Concentrate on bringing your magic to your hand like you would direct it through your wand." For once Snape didn't snap or sound annoyed at Harry's lack of knowledge when it concerned directing his magic somewhere.
Harry opened his eyes and after a moment of hesitation, he stretched out his hand and it was quickly enclosed in a large, rough, potion stained hand. Harry imagined his magic travelling from the middle of his chest through his arm and he felt his magic leaving behind a hot trail through his veins. When it concentrated in his hand, his magic sparked once it came into contact with Snape's magic, which felt cool, providing a sharp contrast to Harry's magic that felt hot as fire.
"After you open his eyes, you have to look straight in them and point your wand right between his eyes when you say the incantation," Snape ordered.
Harry took a deep breath, reminded himself that Snape would make sure he didn't screw up and then gently opened Draco's eyes. He looked straight into them and felt his magic surge downwards when he said in a clear voice, "Legilimens!"
He felt himself being sucked into Draco's mind and he landed right in front of a marble wall: a mental wall, the result of practicing Occlumency.
"What do I need to do now?" His voice seemed to bounce back as if he was standing in a large, empty room. He couldn't feel ground beneath his feet; he seemed to float in the darkness with only his body and the marble wall visible thanks to a soft hue being emitted from them both.
"If the theory of the bond's mechanics is correct, the wall should dissolve when you touch it." Snape's voice sounded distorted as if they were communicating through phones with static.
Harry suspected the distortion existed because Snape had only entered Draco's mind through Harry.
Now however was not the time to wonder about that.
He thrust his arm forwards and placed his hand on the cold, marble wall that felt smooth to the touch. The wall quivered and trembled underneath his touch and then dissolved, falling apart until nothing remained. The barrier was gone and Harry was able to enter completely.
Silence had reigned when the wall was still present, but the moment Harry took a step forwards, a thin path appeared underneath his feet and suddenly he was assaulted by an explosion of sounds. Screeching, yelling, screaming and moaning, Draco's mind was drowning in sorrow, agony and fury and they all meshed together into one big pile, making it impossible to untangle them easily.
Jagged pieces of something that looked like ruby zoomed around Harry and crashed into boulders made out of onyx. Eerily green glowing turned out to be fires burning in one place. A small, dark pool was next to two dead, gnarly trees and the moment a ruby shard fell into the murky, smelly water, steam rose up from the pool and the smell of burning flesh slammed into Harry like a Bludger and he gagged, dropping down on his knees, feeling small pieces of pebbles and twigs sting his knees through his trousers.
"Ugh," he groaned and his eyes watered when a sharp, rancid smell invaded his nostrils. He slapped a hand for his mouth and forced the bile back that wanted to escape him.
The constant screeching was giving him a splitting headache; it felt like something was trying to crack open his skull. His magic was whirling around him, forming a thin barrier around him and the screaming seemed to take a physical form, colliding against the barrier, leaving dents in it.
"This is worse than I thought." Snape's voice rose up between the cacophony of screams.
"What can I do?" Harry asked helplessly and winced when another screech tore through his ears.
"Find the bond. The bond … needs to be … appeased." Snape sounded weaker, as if the distance between them was growing.
"Sir?" Harry called out worriedly.
Only a howl like that of a ravenous wolf was his response. He could still feel Snape's presence, but something seemed to block his voice, keeping them from interacting.
He was on his own. Well, he had been on his own against Voldemort as well. He just needed to trust in his ability to help Draco.
"Find the bond," he muttered and looked around, peering at the chaos that was whirling and spinning madly around him.
Would the bond physically manifest itself? How was he supposed to find even a trace of it if he didn't know what to look for in this raging whirlwind of fury and sorrow that had taken over Draco's mind?
His nails bit and broke his skin, some blood welling up softly, when he realised that he didn't know what to do now. He couldn't feel the bond anywhere and nothing here seemed to resemble it.
"I don't know what to do. I'm here, but I'm stuck and I don't know how to help you." His thoughts poured out of his mouth and swirled around him like wispy smoke. "I-I'm so scared now. I'm supposed to help you, but I can't." Tears stung his eyes and he raised trembling hands to his face. "Snape said I have to appease the bond, but I can't even fucking find it! How am I supposed to appease it if I can't find it?"
His frustrated scream was met with another raging howl.
Taking another few steps further, Harry whipped his head from one side to the other, desperate to find even a thread of the bond. Where the hell was it hiding? It was intend on destroying Draco's mind on its quest to fight against the attacker, but didn't seem to want to help Harry. What kind of screwed up bond was this?
A deep frown marred his forehead when he realised that he couldn't even feel the comfortable presence of Draco around him. Even though he was in his mind, he couldn't feel him anywhere, couldn't even see memories flashing by, like it normally should happen.
Was the bond supressing Draco? If so, how could Harry help him? Using his magic here was too risky.
"Draco, I don't know what to do," he whispered and pressed a hand against his stomach. "You need to come back. I already told you I can't raise our baby on my own. I need you with me; our baby needs you. I love you, damn it! I can't do this alone, you bastard!"
Without him being aware of it, his stomach and chest started to softly glow. With every beat of his heart, the glow grew stronger until small droplets, coloured gold with red streaks, slowly and inaudibly fell down on the worn out path. The droplets formed a shallow puddle and Harry – who had finally noticed the glow being emitted from his upper body – stumbled back when the puddle started to quiver and it slowly rose into the air. A blue mist rising from the stones embraced the golden form and Harry covered his eyes hastily with his sleeves when the glow grew too strong.
Suddenly the screaming stopped.
No, that wasn't entirely correct, Harry corrected himself one heartbeat later. The screaming was muted as if it was covered by a Silence Bubble.
A soft tug at his trousers made him snap his head down and his eyes widened when he saw a small child looking up at him. It was dressed in a large nightshirt and its hair was slightly ruffled, reaching just a bit past its ears. A soft, white light was pulsing around its small, fragile looking body and it made its eyes shine so brightly that Harry couldn't guess which colour its eyes were.
Who was this child? Was it a boy or a girl? Where had it come from?
"Who are you?" Harry broke the silence between them with a wavering voice. However, even though he couldn't even figure out which gender it was, it didn't feel malicious. He felt safe and warm, like he felt when Sirius hugged him or when Draco embraced him.
The child blinked innocently at him and tugged again while bringing its thumb to its mouth.
"You want me to follow?" Harry wagered a guess, wondering why the child didn't speak. Was it mute?
The child nodded and turned around.
Not knowing what else to do, Harry warily followed the child, whose glow seemingly absorbed the darkness around it.
The path curved off and became slightly smaller. They passed various small fires and towering, jagged stones. The screams and screeches quietened with every step they took until it sounded like a soft buzzing.
Harry looked around and watched how the small fires and stones were swallowed by the darkness. The white glow pulsing around the child was now the only light source.
"Where are you taking me?" Harry asked curiously. The panic that had been overpowering him a while ago had disappeared, soothed by a sense of serenity.
The child glanced at him and then pointed at something next to it.
Harry blinked and looked. A thin, blue purple line was floating through the darkness, trembling with a sound like a cat's purr.
"What is …"
His question was cut off when the child grasped his hand and started swinging it around. The child started to skip happily and Harry could only follow it bemused.
His interest was piqued when he noticed the thread becoming broader and the cobble stones changing into smooth stone.
One moment Harry was surrounded by darkness with only the pulsing thread and the mysterious child as his companions, the next he was suddenly standing in front of a brightly glowing ball of energy that gave off a loud purring sound.
A twinge in his heart and a soft burning mark on his back made Harry realise what it was.
"You brought me to the bond," he whispered astonished and stared at the slow blinking child. "Thank you."
The child squeezed his hand and without any warning, Harry's mind was flooding with images of him sticking his hand in the energy ball and the bond accepting his question and plea.
The flow of images was abruptly cut off, leaving him breathless.
"What are you?" he asked again, wide-eyed.
Predictably the child didn't respond verbally; instead it pointed to the energy ball and inclined its head.
"No choice, hm," he muttered and slowly stretched out his arm.
The child was still clinging to his hand when the bond extended large, glittering, spindly arms and closed them around Harry. Thunder roared in his ears for a short moment before it was quiet, with only a soft purring serving as background noise.
Harry looked around apprehensively. The child hadn't followed him and he wondered whether that was the child's decision or the bond's.
Expelling his breath with a loud whoosh sound, he hesitatingly took a step forwards. In front of him a large mirror hung suspended in the air, weakly bobbing up and down. The frame was golden and right in the middle of it, the crest of the Potter and Malfoy family was branded.
Casting another look around revealed that the mirror was the only object present in the otherwise light grey room.
"Are you going to show me who is attacking the bond?" Harry asked, feeling silly for questioning something that wasn't even human.
A ripple went through the mirror before it started to bubble and it let out a soft chirping sound. The mirror seemed to light up deep inside and it groaned lowly.
A picture of a potion vial appeared on the surface and a red hue rose up behind it.
"A potion?" Harry murmured bewildered. Had someone poisoned Draco? No, their pets would have caught on to that.
Next a flash of something pale framed by black hair flitted over the mirror, followed by a heavy door opening.
"The dungeon?" Now he was becoming very confused.
Again the potion vial was shown and a picture of two faceless people kissing followed immediately afterwards.
"What does two people kissing have to do with a … potion …" Harry trailed off, narrowing his eyes. He was starting to suspect what had happened.
As if the bond wanted to give him one last push, the mirror presented the picture of the dark hair again, but this time the face was clearly shown, although it looked rather ugly thanks to the anger and jealousy dripping through the calm mask.
Even wrung with jealousy, Harry would recognize that face anywhere.
The fragment of the conversation that accompanied the picture only confirmed his suspicion.
"That filthy Half Blood doesn't deserve him! He's nothing but a distraction and it's time he learnt his place! Draco will be mine and I'll use anything to make him fall in love with me. This potion will give the necessary push."
As soon as the last word had died out, the mirror darkened and the rippling glass became smooth again.
"Thank you for showing me who attacked our bond," Harry spoke up after he was certain he would remain calm. "She won't get away with it."
The moment his reassurance left his mouth, he could practically feel the bond ceasing its fighting, surrendering Draco's mind back to him.
Invisible arms embraced him for one moment and he closed his eyes, relaxing in the warm hug.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back on the path; the mysterious child patiently waiting for him.
"Potter? Wherever you are, come back to the place of the mental wall," Snape suddenly spoke clearly. "Whatever you did, it seemed to help. Now get the hell out of here before Draco wakes up."
"I'll be right back!" Harry called out and started to walk back; the child once again clinging to him.
The fires, onyx stones and ruby shards had disappeared; Draco's memories were once again floating aimlessly around.
Harry ignored them and hurried back to the marble wall. As soon as he passed the invisible line, he felt the child releasing him.
He whirled around, ignoring Snape's consciousness tugging at his, and called out, "Wait, can I at least know where you come from?"
Emerald green eyes widened when he finally heard the child speak.
And then he was back into his own mind, feeling Snape release his hand. He didn't pay any attention to the worried people around him; all his attention was directed at grey eyes that were once again staring at him clearly.
A pale hand – not a sickly pale anymore, but the familiar paleness of his skin – rose up and slipped into his hair, tugging softly at his head to bring him down.
Harry went willingly until he was leaning right above Draco's face.
Pale rose lips curled up in a weak smile. "Seems I need to thank you again for saving me," Draco murmured.
"You can thank me by staying out of trouble from now on," Harry muttered and then kissed him; relief coursing through his veins when those lips pressed back insistently.
He would make her pay – but Draco was his first priority now.
All the rest could wait for a few more hours.
AN2: So what do you think of it? I hope it made up for the delay ^^; Which brings me to the next question: what do you guys prefer - chapters ending at a cliffhanger but possibly being posted sooner in that case (if there is another long delay) or waiting longer and no evil cliffhanger if it can be avoided (I can't remove all cliffhangers, but in cases like this long delay, I have thought about just letting the chapter end at a cliffhanger to at least post a chapter).
Let me know what you think :)
Next time: Harry informs them who the attacker of the bond is and this person will discover that even the Boy-Who-Lived loses his ability to forgive when his family is threatened. Meanwhile a certain Hufflepuff reveals something that will help Harry on his quest for the Founders' portraits - but will he be so eager to retrieve the next Founder when he finds out where exactly the portrait is hidden?
See you all next time!
P.S. For information about my upcoming and posted stories, please visit my profile.