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Chapter 18: Reckoning

I see the rage in your face
The rage of hate in your face
The master's saying calm down
You'll find a way to calm down

But now it's loose and out there
You better hide it somewhere
His master's dogs are loose now
They flesh you to your bones now.

Hate Is Mine

-Wumpscut, Hate Is Mine


‘You have known his bloodline for how long, Draco?’ The Dark Lord said with careful emphasis.

‘I have suspected for some time, but until I was sure I could not act.’

‘For all these years I was deceived,’ the Dark Lord blasted the lifeless body with another curse, obviously angered that Snape had only one life to lose, and Harry felt a wave of guilty nausea as a pale hand smacked with boneless obscenity against the floor and didn’t so much as twitch. He couldn’t help the sick feeling of gratitude that the face was obscured by shadows and the frame of grey speckled hair, so that he could no longer see the expression of horrified shock and sudden awareness, as though all the pieces had fallen into place in that moment leaving only a bitter acceptance that had etched itself onto the sallow features.

‘You were not the only one,’ Draco replied darkly, his own eyes casting a dismissive glance over his old Head of House, glinting with victorious glee before snapping back to the Dark Lord. Draco wasn’t even bothering to hide his contempt any more, as the grey darkened with disgust and his lips pulled back into a sneer of revulsion. Harry didn’t need to be able to see into his mind to know the turbulent direction his thoughts had taken. His hatred seemed to coalesce into the space around him, vile strands weaving through the air. A shiver rippled violently up Harry’s spine, prickling the hairs as it reached his neck, leaving his thoughts sharp and panicked, emphasised by the throbbing in his scar which had risen to a piercing sensation as though a part of Voldemort was crawling under his very skin. He didn’t even have his wand, it was still tucked away somewhere in Malfoy’s robe, probably only to be given to him at the last possible moment and perhaps not even then.

‘If he, of all people, could survive unknown for so long then there must be others,’ Voldemort snarled. His wand was still extended, held out in front of him as though daring Snape to rise again, to crawl forwards with pleading excuses, begging forgiveness and absolution. Whether his failure to do so caused the Dark Lord greater annoyance was impossible to tell, as his voice sounded across the room, choked with anger and rage. ‘You will find them, Draco,’ he still hadn’t moved, still stared at the body, face twisted with fury and eyes burning as he spoke without turning. ‘By whatever means necessary. Find them and destroy them.’

‘I will start instantly,’ Harry barely saw his hand move before it was holding a wand aimed straight at the heart of the Dark Lord, steady and unwavering, as Voldemort’s gaze snapped round to meet Draco’s, ‘by removing you.’

Malfoy didn’t pause as a jet of red light erupted from the tip of his wand, barrelling with blinding force towards the seated figure which didn’t move, seemingly stunned in anticipation as the Dark Lord’s eyes glittered under the approaching light of the curse before it evaporated into a puff of smoke, tiny pinpricks dancing in the air before blinking out. Draco took a single step backwards; eyes alight with determination as Voldemort rose slowly, gracefully, wand still hanging by his side as the long fingers of his other hand traced the length of the arm of the throne.

‘You would challenge me?’ The words were spoken with soft menace, light with questioning and incredulous surprise as Harry edged backwards, hand clutching at his head, which had exploded in a myriad of coloured spots and waves of sharp, jagged sparks as he reached blindly for the wall. The floor swam and rolled beneath his feet, it seemed, as he screwed his eyes shut, the voices fading to a muffled cacophony beneath the pounding of the blood in his ears. He tried to call for Draco, but couldn’t even tell if a sound passed his lips, the only response he received being a rich laughter he wretchedly recognised as Voldemort’s, echoing round his own head as he tried desperately and without success to push out the invasion of his mind.

‘Challenge, no,’ Draco spat angrily, standing his ground now as he lifted his chin proudly. ‘That would suggest I considered you my equal,’ he quirked an eyebrow in accompaniment to his sneering contempt. ‘I exterminate Half Bloods.’

The Dark Lord’s eyes clouded murkily at the statement, an uncontrollable window of emotion in his otherwise impassive face. ‘Well then, it would seem Severus was right about one thing,’ he hissed, leaning forwards slightly as his voice dropped in the silence. ‘I do indeed have a traitor in my midst.’

‘You are the traitor!’ Draco roared, his second curse soaring across the room, the light darker and more intense although it too dissipated before it could strike. ‘How dare you call yourself Lord when your rule is no more than a hypocrisy, a mockery of everything I believe.’ The Dark Lord strode forwards, footsteps smooth as his robes billowed around him. Wand trained on Draco he gave Harry barely a glance, freezing and immobilising him with a dismissive wave of his free hand as he bore down on the young Malfoy, a single curse leaving the tip of his wand with a jet of blinding, yellow light.

Draco fell with a grimace as his hand grasped for something in his robes, followed by the wooden clattering of a wand skittering into the shadows as the Dark Lord approached. He attempted to rise, but a foot rested in the curve of his chest, pushing Draco inexorably back to the floor as the Dark Lord’s wand pressed painfully against the tender flesh of his neck and his voice murmured forebodingly in Draco’s ear. ‘I am no traitor; I am the descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself.’

‘And no doubt he is turning in his grave knowing that his noble bloodline has been so foully tainted,’ Draco snarled in response, pushing himself up onto his elbows and trying to turn his head, stopping as the tip tried to bury itself deeper into his throat, digging hard enough to bruise. ‘You make me ashamed to have been in his House!’ Voldemort growled in the back of his throat, spidery fingers tightening round the neck as the wand was withdrawn slightly but remained aimed at him murderously. The Dark Lord wanted Draco to see what was coming.

‘You are about to die, young Malfoy.’ Draco couldn’t help but swallow reflexively at the soft words.

‘Expelliarmus!’ The spell was shouted by a rough voice in the shadows, a flicker of surprise showing before Voldemort was thrown unexpectedly from Draco. His body hit the far wall with a resounding thud and the ringing crack of bone against stone before it crumpled, landing in an unmoving heap as Harry ran forwards, hand rubbing convulsively at his scar. He watched the figure silently for a moment, shivering noticeably so that even his wand trembled in his fingers. ‘Did you know he could do wandless magic?’

‘Not to that extent,’ Draco admitted hoarsely, rolling over and coughing painfully. ‘The occasional Lumos, perhaps even the ability to summon his wand, but stunning someone? He kept it well hidden.’ Harry backed slowly towards him, refusing to let his gaze leave the body of the Dark Lord for even a second. He stumbled on the uneven floor though, yelping with shock. ‘How did you get free?’

‘It just dropped off,’ Harry sounded breathless as he reached out to help Malfoy to his feet, although the weight of the man threatened to pull his shaking body over too. Draco righted him easily, hand resting on Harry’s shoulder as he scanned the floor for his own wand, bending down to seize it triumphantly.

‘Either he lost concentration or he cannot maintain it for any length of time,’ Draco reasoned. ‘Neither of which is important now.’ He was smiling again, a vicious smile as Harry wavered when the crushing pressure of the hand holding him upright was released and Draco took a step away, a step towards the fallen figure. ‘I will not kill an unconscious man though,’ he declared without preamble, raising his wand again as Harry’s eyes widened in fear at what he was hearing. ‘There is no pleasure to be had in defeating someone so unworthy if he does not realise his own failure.’

‘Are you nuts?’ Harry threw himself forward, hands curling round the arm as it was knocked down. ‘Have you forgotten what just happened? He blocked everything you threw at him,’ the body was starting to stir, as Harry continued to pull on Draco’s arm, eyes darting desperately to the far doorway. Draco pushed him aside with little effort, sneering disdainfully as Harry scrambled back to his feet.

‘He won’t block this!’ Harry grabbed his arm again, pulling the wand off target as the Enervate ricocheted off a nearby torch. It didn’t matter though, as Harry moaned in the back of his throat at the sight of the Dark Lord slowly uncurling himself, fingers flexing, arms stretching and the slow, expectant inhalation as the Dark Lord slowly pushed himself upright. ‘Kill him,’ he heard Draco command quietly through the fog of panic. ‘Your spell got through.’

‘Don’t be such a prat,’ Harry gasped as the pain leapt back to life, scorching through his mind as the Dark Lord turned to rest his gaze on him. ‘I only got through because he was too distracted by you to notice me.’ Somehow he managed to aim his wand though, as his vision shifted and blurred.

‘Something which won’t happen again,’ Voldemort said smoothly, his own wand leaping from where it had fallen and slapping into his waiting hand. Harry glared defiantly, prepared to defend himself no matter how pointless the effort proved to be. The Dark Lord’s interest had moved on though, as he regarded Malfoy through slitted eyes. ‘Betrayed one Half Blood just to ally yourself with another, have you now Draco. Your father would not be pleased with you.’

‘I am just relieved he is insane all ready, so at least he will never have to know the humiliation of having served you.’

‘Your father would never have been weak enough to believe such lies about me,’ Voldemort roared angrily, striking at Draco’s obvious weakness. He had always cared too much what he father thought, had always been almost obsessive in his desire to please the man. Such habits had not left him completely. ‘Give me the boy now I may see my way clear to forgiving you.’ The command was punctuated by a curse Draco narrowly avoided.

‘No.’ Draco placed himself in front of Harry.

‘Then I will hand you to the Dementor’s,’ Voldemort hissed menacingly. ‘Where you can spend the rest of your days reliving the knowledge that you are nothing but a disappointing end to a once noble family.’ Draco went rigid at the comment, but said nothing in the silence that seemed to draw itself out indefinitely, stretched to breaking.

Harry felt a hand curl round the top of his arm and for a moment it seemed his very heart stopped in terror as he waited to be handed over, not daring to breath. He didn’t hear the Killing Curse Malfoy sent barrelling towards the Dark Lord, nor the words whispered frantically in his ear before Draco too closed his eyes in concentration for a moment, muttering under his breath before opening them with a sharp exhalation as his World tinged green and he realised that there was now one more person to have survived the unforgivable curse. The Dark Lord could not be killed.

It was worse than death, as the scream caught in Harry’s throat and the air pressed in around him. He couldn’t draw breath as he felt himself compressed from all sides, squeezed mercilessly it seemed his very skin was splitting under the pressure, his lungs burning. He hit the floor hard, jarred to his knees as he wrapped his arms around his middle and whimpered quietly, no room left for shame or embarrassment. He vaguely registered reluctant and forced apologies from above him, as he squinted up at the pale face looking down at him with a mixture of infuriation and relief. ‘Bloody Hell Potter,’ Draco hooked an arm under him, lifting him back onto his feet. ‘You’re not splinched,’ Draco spun him round, checking his statement were in fact true, adding to the queasiness as Harry doubled over and wretched. ‘Pull yourself together.’

‘What happened?’ The awful taste of bile clung to the back of his throat as Harry spat onto the floor several times in an attempt to lessen it.

‘I lowered the wards surrounding the chamber and apparated us out.’ Draco didn’t bother waiting for Harry to regain himself, lifting the light frame into his arms and all but running down a narrow corridor. ‘Only had time to grab your hand, which is why it wasn’t particularly pleasant. Haven’t side-alonged anyone in years,’ Harry got the impression Draco was more trying to calm himself with the pointless comment than anyone else, as though speaking of the little things made the predicament less massive. He looked oddly drawn in the faint light, somehow smaller and less intimidating then before, strands of his blonde hair swinging wildly across his face. Harry felt oddly distanced from the whole thing too, as he let himself be carefully carried and his eyes drifted shut. A sharp pain in his head and they shot open again though, as he looked more closely, suddenly horrified, at the familiar walls.

‘Why are we still here?’ He struggled to free himself from the arms that held him all the more tightly, as Draco picked up his pace. He was running now, without grace or style but in the manner of one trying to get far away as quickly as possible.

‘Don’t be a fool Potter,’ he managed to comment between panting breaths, ‘an anti apparition barrier surrounds the entire place. We cannot leave that way,’ Harry started to argue the obvious flaw in the statement, but was cut off impatiently. ‘This place is too large not to allow apparition once within its walls. The Dark Lord demands immediacy to his summons from his servants. His personal chambers are the only place into which and from where it is not possible.’

‘But…’

‘The Dark Lord is not in the habit of doing his own dirty work,’ Draco snapped. ‘I erected them for him, and I brought them down.’

‘Can he find us?’

‘With ease,’ Draco rounded a corner and skidded to a halt, the weight of Harry almost toppling him off balance as he glared into the gloom, the tenseness in his shoulders the only evidence to his alarm. Bellatrix blocked his path.

‘You’ve been a very naughty boy, haven’t you,’ Draco snarled at the taunt, turning slightly so that Harry remained out of her direct aim. Bella had had her wand aimed straight at him. ‘Don’t move, or I’ll be forced to curse you, and your mother won’t be pleased with that.’ Harry tried to reach for his own wand, but his hand was trapped and a slight squeeze from Draco stopped him from moving to free it.

‘Get out of my way,’ but Draco had nothing to threaten her with, not whilst he was carrying Harry and unable to reach for his wand which he had tucked away in the folds of his robe. He cursed himself for his own stupidity and lack of foresight, refusing to dwell on the decidedly Gryffindor nature of his actions, no matter the motivation behind them.

‘I’ll let you run away,’ Bella suddenly said in a singsong voice, her offer unnervingly perceptive. ‘Run away from your Master like a bad, bad boy.’ Harry wondered how she knew and how much she had seen, how much she remembered. ‘But it will cost you.’ Harry felt Draco prepare to run as he inclined his head to ask the question he all ready knew the answer too. ‘I want that pretty little boy in your arms.’

Draco growled in the back of his throat. ‘No.’

‘You can even have him back when I’m done,’ Bella continued as though his refusal had never existed.

‘When you are done I doubt there will be anything to give back.’

‘Better broken than dead, right little dragon,’ she moved closer, peering at Harry, trying to see his face as she lit her wand and Harry closed his eyes and turned his head against the sudden bright light. ‘Besides, it’s only those green eyes of his I want. Pluck them right out and the rest of him is yours.’ Draco felt Harry suppress a shudder as he made a quick decision.

‘Fine,’ Draco said softly as Harry stiffened in his arms, but had the sense not to struggle. ‘Come and take him.’ Bella’s eyes lit up as she pounced forwards without thought for anything but her prize, her fingers brushing the hair from Harry’s face with surprising gentleness as she tilted his face towards her before they shot forwards like vicious claws to pry open his eyes. Harry flailed desperately with a yell as Draco caught her with a sharp kick to the thigh. She backed off with a yelp, limping as Draco dropped Harry’s legs, reaching for his wand as he kept the boy upright with a tight hand around his narrow waist, aiming steadily at the crouched woman. ‘What did I tell you about following us?’

Bella merely looked thoughtful though, making no further move to fight him. She straightened up, looking unexpectedly younger than her years. ‘Your Master will not be happy,’ she said with surprising coolness, shaking her head, her dark hair swaying with the movement. ‘But neither would your mother if you were to die and she suspected I had let you.’ The fondness in her voice was startling as she spoke and took an ominous step forwards, Draco flourishing his wand with intent. She ignored it, jabbing a bony finger in his chest as cruelty lit in her gaze again. ‘You are a traitor, young Malfoy. Return and I will see to it you die a traitors death, family or not.’

‘Get out of my way.’ Draco commanded again flatly, and to Harry’s surprise Bella did so, receding into the shadows as they sidled past. Harry watched as she disappeared into the darkness behind them, Draco’s grip loosening. ‘Can you manage on your own now?’ The old snideness was back in the voice, although it shook slightly as Harry merely scowled by way of response. Draco was running again though before he could test to see if it were actually true, and his legs were wavering beneath him when they finally stopped outside a door which was flung open with a series of spells.

‘These are Snape’s rooms,’ Harry gasped as the door opened and he looked around the dark and familiar walls, shying back into the hallway. These were the rooms of a dead man and he didn’t want to enter. The choice was taken from him as he was hauled forwards though, the door slamming shut behind him as the torches lining the walls flickered to life.

‘I am not foolish enough to head for my own.’ Draco released Harry and headed for the fireplace, stepping gracefully over the broken remains of a chair before floating the wooden splinters into the empty grate, lighting it quickly and violently before swearing loudly at the empty mantelpiece. ‘No bloody floo powder.’ He wrenched open the nearest drawer, rifling through its contents and sliding it closed again with enough force to shake the cabinet before moving on, as Draco tipped over a table in annoyance and aimed his wand at the room in general, shouting ‘Accio floo powder.’ Harry darted backwards as a cloak whipped inches past his face, a cloak which he recognised as he yelled for Draco not to touch it. The warning was useless, as Draco had all ready caught the item easily as he stared at Harry questioningly.

‘It was a portkey,’ Harry explained quickly, as Draco searched the pockets, pulling out a small bag before tossing the ragged item into the far corner. ‘Snape made it to bring me here, and he could have done god knows what else to it.’

‘Did Snape give you this too?’ Draco gestured agitatedly with the bag, shaking his head despairingly at Harry’s sharp nod as he loosened the thin cord keeping it closed, gingerly pulling out a pinch of dark powder, which he threw experimentally into the flames that were slowly dying as the wood crumpled to ash. They roared back to life, a deep green as Draco exhaled with relief. ‘Seems fine,’ he didn’t sound convinced though as he mentally traversed the list of all the possible traps using the powder could spring, ‘and it did answer to the summons, so it would appear genuine.’ Draco poured a small pile into the palm of his hand, the sound of the rushing grains oddly calming before he threw the bag to Harry, who caught it deftly, spilling the fine powder on the floor by his feet as his fingers closed carefully round what remained. ‘Follow me,’ Draco was all ready in the fire as Harry looked up, glancing fearfully over his shoulder as he thought he heard the sound of approaching voices outside the door, dismissing it as the panicked creations of his imagination. There was a brief roar of flames and rush of wind, and running across the room Harry stepped into the now empty hearth, jumping with shock at the reoccurring sounds that were no figment of his imagination as he threw down the powder, his voice cracking round the direction, ‘Hogwarts.’

Closing his eyes against the rushing of the floo, Harry stumbled blindly out the fireplace at the other end, just to be dragged out the way as Draco aimed a stream of spells and charms at the fire within, the flames burning through a deep red that was almost black when he finished, receding until only the embers glowed.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Sealing it.’ Draco’s tone was sharp as he paused to inspect his work.

‘Will it keep Him out?’

‘This is my school now Potter. No one enters without my leave.’ Draco affirmed resolutely as Harry glanced round the room at the slumbering portraits. The desk was different, the wood lighter than that of its predecessor, but it stood in the same place. There was no perch for Fawkes here either. For all he had tried to claim the Headmasters Office as his own, something about the room still breathed the presence of Dumbledore. The greens seemed out of place, the high-backed chair behind the desk too uncomfortable and stark. Even the Sorting Hat on a high shelf looked more rigidly upright than he remembered, as though it too couldn’t relax in the fastidiously bare surroundings. The room shouldn’t have looked this way, and it made Harry uncomfortable.

‘It doesn’t feel different, you know,’ he commented almost absently, drawing a scowl from Draco. It still felt like it should be how it was, an indefinable feeling he couldn’t place; and every time he blinked it was almost a surprise that the room remained the same, as though in that split second it would revert to the welcoming warmth he remembered and longed for.

‘I know,’ Draco grabbed Harry by the arm as the door swung open to the spiralling stairs that led back down, pulling him impatiently past the stone gargoyle that bowed as Draco passed. What he had expected to see Harry didn’t know, but it wasn’t this. It was almost insulting as he stopped without thinking, Draco for once not yanking him back to his senses and instead releasing his grip as Harry edged towards the nearest window, sighing contentedly as the moonlight hit his face and he could see. The high tower of Gryffindor rose majestically into the cloudless sky, just as he remembered it, and below him the grass spread out towards the hoops of the Quidditch Pitch, which glinted in the soft light, the stands a mass of shadows on which he could barely make out the crests of the Houses. This was his home, this was where he belonged as he closed his eyes and released in the moment of absolute peace.

‘You didn’t change it,’ he sighed, only the hint of a question lighting the statement.

‘Hogwarts has stood this way for hundreds of years,’ Draco looked mildly aghast at the insinuation. ‘It would not have been my place.’ Nodding in agreement Harry turned his gaze towards the sky again, mapping the stars as the full moon hung brightly amongst them.

The full moon.

‘Is Remus here then?’ Harry finally asked, the brief reprieve ending instantly.

‘He is dead Potter,’ Draco sighed as Harry turned to glare at him venomously. ‘I lied, and don’t look so damn surprised. You knew the truth, you just wanted to believe otherwise.’ Harry was too tired to hold on to the anger. He just wanted to crawl towards the staircases and into the common room so he could hide in his bed and pull the curtains on the rest of the World.

‘So now what?’ He slumped back with exhaustion, head hung with defeat as he waited to be told what use Draco could further find of him, if any.

‘I am going to send you back.’

Harry heartlessly quashed the hope that jumped to life at the statement, as he watched Draco carefully for any hint of a lie. ‘You have a Timeturner?’

‘I have several,’ Draco boasted, smirking at the doubtful expression Harry continued to maintain.

‘How?’

‘My school, my rules.’ Draco turned down the corridor, his stride slow and purposeful as he commented over his shoulder. ‘Are you going to follow me or not?’ Harry pushed himself upright, scepticism still evident as he hurried to keep up. Draco kept glancing at him too, disconcertingly, as Harry tried to ignore it. There was only one place Draco could be going he realised as they entered the seventh floor corridor though.

‘The room of requirement?’ Harry said with bewilderment. ‘How do you know where it is?’

‘I found it in my seventh year,’ Draco was smiling again. ‘I saw you disappear into it enough times, and it wasn’t overly difficult to uncover the secret behind it. It was of some use to me at the time.’ Harry opened his mouth to press further, but a look from Draco, momentarily marring his bright expression, stopped him.

‘And now?’ He settled on instead as the blank wall approached.

‘It is of even more use.’ Draco paced outside the bare wall, face set in concentration as Harry watched, wondering what Malfoy was requesting before a door appeared. Harry made no move to open it though, waiting for Malfoy to do so, holding it open so that Harry could see into the room beyond as he stepped closer, peering into the candlelit space with astonishment.

Neat shelves lined the walls, which bore remarkably resemblance as those in the dungeons. It looked somewhat like an enlarged version of Snape’s Potions Cupboard even, dark and foreboding as they stretched out of reach, although Harry could still see the rims of jars and vials on those above his head. Draco stormed across to one with the air of someone who knew every inch of the small room, and exactly what resided in each, lifting a small pendant with care and aiming his wand at it as the thing glowed briefly. He glanced towards Harry, who could see the flicker of doubt and the inner argument as Draco convinced himself one final time that there was no other option, before thrusting the item out to him, chain hanging between his fingers. ‘Take it,’ he commanded, the tone demanding obedience.

Harry reached out tentatively as he edged slowly closer, fingers almost brushing the smooth edges of the Timeturner but stopping a fraction before he actually reached it, withdrawing his hand slightly. ‘How do I know I can trust you?’

Draco let out a choked laugh. ‘Merlin Potter, of all the times to ask,’ he moved the item back towards Harry, closing the small distance he had created but not forcing it on to him, waiting for Harry to take it for himself. ‘You didn’t have a problem trusting Snape.’

‘No, I just didn’t have a choice.’ And he couldn’t bring himself to take the thing now, no matter the consequences, or even that he felt inclined to believe Malfoy, strange as it seemed. But the Timeturner just hung from between his fingers with such beguiling innocence and tempting promises that he couldn’t take it because then they would twist on him into lies and deceptions he didn’t have the strength to deal with.

Draco picked up on his hesitance, his face hardening with irritation when he spoke again. ‘I am not giving you one now either,’ he declared harshly, as Harry glanced up at him. ‘Listen Potter, I don’t care what I have to do to ensure it, but you will be going back by my hand.’

‘Why are you so willing?’ Harry finally managed to articulate the crux of his problem as Draco huffed. ‘Minutes ago I was your way to absolute rulership. Why are you giving that up?’

‘You were right Potter,’ Draco cut him off sharply, the words obviously unpleasant to him as he spat them out quickly. ‘Is that good enough for you? You were right. No one can defeat the Dark Lord now, not even you. I am stuck under his thumb until the moment I die, which is looking to be a very close moment after all.’ Harry still looked confused though, as Draco rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth. ‘I am sending you back because the only way to ensure this does not happen is for you to make sure I never find myself in this position to begin with.’

Harry opened his mouth silently, gaping with disbelief. ‘You want me to tell you not to join Voldemort?’ He sounded shocked. ‘You do remember that my saying you shouldn’t do something would have the most likely result of you running over broken glass to do it.’

‘I will have all ready joined him,’ Malfoy ignored the sarcasm, holding out the Timeturner once again, although there was no choice left in the gesture. ‘It’s too late to for you to stop my being marked. And to be honest, I really don’t care what you have to do to achieve it. Just do it. Tie me to a bloody tree for the year if that is the only way,’ Harry lifted his hand again towards Draco’s, just to find it pulled out of reach at the last second. ‘I won’t join you though,’ Draco hissed in warning, ‘or Dumbledore, or your stupid little Order. You can’t convert me, so don’t even try. Just make sure I don’t kill the old man. That’s pretty much where it all went wrong.’ Harry nodded silently, his throat thick.

‘When will I arrive?’

‘Near enough to the same time you left,’ Draco held out the Timeturner again, and this time Harry took it, marvelling at the weight of such a small item as he ran a finger gently along the surface, pausing as he moved to place it round his neck.

‘Wait,’ he looked up hopefully, arms dropping, ‘can’t you make it a few months earlier?’

‘No,’ it was definitive and there was absolutely no give in Draco’s voice, no chance of a different answer or convincing him otherwise. ‘The risk is great enough as it is. Besides, there is nothing you could do.’ Draco held the glare he received with a steady and unblinking look of his own.

‘What do you know,’ Harry muttered sullenly when he finally looked away, fingers twining round the chain of the Timeturner as he twisted it distractedly.

‘I am not stupid, Potter. He’s dead and you have to accept it.’ Harry winced slightly at the harshness of the words. ‘Even if I were to give you those few more months, there is nothing you could do to change anything.’

‘You can’t be certain, you don’t know,’ Harry argued urgently, his voice rising in the confines of the room.

‘I know more than you realise. Black is gone.’

Insults sprang to mind, a litany of abuse Harry longed to hurl at Draco but didn’t. ‘Fine,’ he said instead, dropping the thin chain over his neck and feeling the cold metal snake uncomfortably down his chest. ‘How does it work?’

‘Turn it, just once.’

Harry nodded, holding the Timeturner carefully as he examined it before he spoke thickly and without looking up. ‘Thanks.’

‘I don’t want your thanks, Potter,’ Draco sounded insulted. ‘I’m not doing this for you.’

‘I know.’ The pendant moved smoothly under his fingers, as he slowly started to twist it round, watching as the light from the torches flickered along its surface. He was going home. It didn’t feel real.

‘One more thing,’ Draco added quickly, as Harry looked up blankly. ‘Tell Dumbledore not to go to the cave.’

‘What cave?’ He hadn’t stopped turning it; he didn’t think he could now. It seemed to be moving on its own, dragging his hand slowly with it.

‘Just tell him. The locket is a fake. Voldemort could never find the real one. It was taken.’

‘I’ll tell him,’ Harry paused, watching as the Timeturner approached the full spin. He swore he could feel the magic gathering round him now, trickling through his body as a single, frightened thought hit him, one he couldn’t let go unanswered. ‘What will happen here now, when I go?’

Draco smiled reassuringly. ‘With any luck, this will never have been.’

***


Harry landed as his stomach roiled and he vomited what little remained in it, clutching the side of the nearby bed as he continued to dry heave until his sides ached horribly and tears prickled the corners of his eyes. Grasping the Timeturner in his shaking hand he yanked on it suddenly, feeling the chain tighten painfully against the back of his neck, the links pinching the skin before giving way as Harry tossed it into the furthest corner of the room. He blinked fiercely to clear his vision as he looked at the crumpled sheets that covered the bed. His bed, as he glanced at the side table and then round the rest of the room, confirming what he was too scared to believe until he was absolutely sure.

He was back.

Pulling himself onto shaky legs he ran for the door, searching the hallway beyond with frantic eyes and all but falling down the stairs in his rush. He couldn’t be too late and it just wouldn’t be fair. He had to catch the person responsible, had to see them with his own eyes to confirm that he hadn’t all been some awful nightmare. But there was no one, as he let out a choked sob of despair and frustration. Passing down the hallway on weak and shaky legs he threw open the front door, looking down the empty pathway and onto the street beyond. There was no one in sight though, only the gentle buzz of a street lamp and the mocking emptiness. Some part of him resisted the immediate urge to run out onto the road, to shout his defiance, to make the person come back and face him. He didn’t though; closing the door he instead checked the kitchen methodically, feeling horribly disconnected and empty until his eyes were drawn angrily to the fireplace he wished he had checked sooner. But the hearth was clear and cold, confirming that no one had been through it. Not yet, at any rate.

Gripped by fear Harry suddenly fled the kitchen, running up the stairs he barrelled into the Master bedroom, almost throwing the door off its hinges in his rush and his desperation to see, to make sure.

‘Remus!’

He had been taken, Snape had said. He had been kidnapped and horribly tortured, but Snape hadn’t said when. Which meant it could have been tonight. They could have removed Harry and claimed themselves a werewolf in a single evening.

Not caring, all warning fleeing him completely, Harry lit the room with a shaky spell, as soft beams of light spread across the shadows and he padded softly forwards. ‘Remus?’ The wolf was lying exactly where he remembered it being, but the only indication Remus was aware of Harry’s presence was the smallest twitch of ears as Harry gathered the courage to move closer still. One hand reached out to grasp the bedpost as he lowered his wand slightly to cast its beam across the dark covers, taking in a sharp breath at what he saw. ‘Oh god, what did they do to you?’ Harry fell on his knees by the bed, reaching out tentatively to touch the soft fur, curling his fingers in it. The wolf barely moved as it let out a tiny breath, barely audible even in the still air.

Reaching out again Harry pushed insistently on the wolf’s chest, trying to wake it, his anxiety reaching a peak, his breathing fast and trembling. Remus was hardly breathing himself now, as Harry crawled up next to him, placing a gentle hand across his ribs and taking comfort in the tiny yet repetitive movement he felt. Remus wasn’t dead, and Harry wouldn’t let anyone take him, not now, not ever, as he spread out against the warm fur, one arm thrown across the fur of his chest so that he could feel the rise and fall of each breath, knowing that were it to fade he would wake instantly.

Eventually Harry fell asleep.






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