Harry woke at dawn bone-tired, but unable to sleep any longer. For a moment he wondered if he'd only dreamed about the discovery of Malfoy and the Horcrux. But there was a certain tension in the air, perhaps borne by the smattering of voices barely filtering up from the kitchen. He dressed and headed for the drawing room, hoping he might catch his godfather before he turned in for the day.
Sirius was there, and so was Tura. For a brief, gut-wrenching moment, he was certain she'd told Sirius everything, but his godfather glanced up at him with a warm smile and beckoned him to join them. Harry shuffled through the door, silently cursing his insomnia. But the worst was yet to come: Sirius gave him a sly wink and led him by the elbow to sit down on the loveseat beside Tura. His stomach lurched; for a moment he was afraid she'd move to another chair.
Sirius glanced between them a few times and a hint of a frown appeared on his brow. "I'm glad you're here, Harry," he said somewhat stiffly. "I was just about to retire. Perhaps you would keep Miss Ondossi company." Harry's heart sank; he could practically see the gears turning in his godfather's head. I should never have told him I fancy her. He can see something's gone wrong, and he's going to ask about it, and that'll be that--I can't lie to him. But he was spared for the moment, as Sirius merely leaned over and kissed his cheek, then, startling both of them, bowed to Tura and kissed her hand as well. "Good day to both of you," he said, his face unreadable, and departed.
They sat there silently until long after the bedroom door clicked shut upstairs. Tura finally commented, "You look a little better."
"Mrs. Weasley's been making me eat."
She nodded. "Good for her." After another long pause, she asked, "Will you be coming back to school soon?"
He'd been away for a week, and had recently been looking forward to seeing Ron and Hermione again, but sitting beside her was a wrenching reminder of his reasons for being away. "I suppose that's up to Professor McGonagall," he finally replied, his voice gritty.
She shifted in the seat to face him; her knees brushed against his. "Harry," she said in a surprisingly mild tone, "you've got to get a grip on yourself."
"You can too."
Harry put both his hands in his hair, shaking his head. "No, I can't. I miss you, Tura. I miss you so much." He hadn't cried in two days, but now tears were threatening again; he pulled the skin on his face taut in an effort to stave them off.
"No, you can, Harry," she said. "You're an Occlumens--you can stop all this. You can Occlude it."
That was so unexpected that cynical curiousity outpaced despair for a moment. "So Occlumency's the cure for a broken heart?" he asked tersely.
She nodded. "Sorrow's just a part of your thoughts. Set your magic around it like anything else. It'll get back you eventually, but you can at least deal with it in measured doses."
He stared at her; she was actually being sincere. "Honestly?" he said.
"How do you think I'm handling things, hotshot?" she answered.
He tilted his head appraisingly. "And how are you sleeping?"
She turned away; he'd struck a nerve. "All right, you got me there," she admitted sourly. "My nightmares are waking up Hagrid and Fang. But at least I can eat." Pulling her hair behind her ear, she rose and took a few steps toward the hearth. "I'd better be going; class starts in an hour." She halted, though, and turned back around. "The prisoner... are you gonna do him over?" she said.
Harry shrugged. "Of course. That's my next lesson, isn't it?"
Tura nodded, frowning pensively. "Look, Harry," she began, "I know he's been a jerk in the past. A lot of people say and do dumb things when they're growing up. But that's what growing up is, Harry. You do stuff that seems right at the time, but later you realize that it wasn't a good idea at all. And not just major events--I'm talking little, everyday things like being mean to other kids just because your parents taught you not to like them.
"Draco Malfoy spent his whole life in the Pureblood/Slytherin 'snobbility' and he's finally caught on that it's not what he really wants. That's pretty incredible, you know, Harry. Some people never figure out that they have options besides 'the way we've always done it.' They just go on doing whatever worked in their family, their little corner of the world, never taking a look at the greater picture."
She suddenly averted her gaze, as if embarassed. "His mind is intact; see what you can learn about Lord Voldemort's location. Just try not to hurt him, okay?"
As she stepped into the Floo, he felt a sickening burst of insight. She fancies him. Harry closed his eyes and let his head fall forward. Of course she does; the Wild Child of the Tundra meets the Ragged Man of the South Seas. He's just her type, with nothing to his name but a threadbare shirt. True, she'd been in his mind, but she probably couldn't even comprehend how wealthy Malfoy had once been. I wonder what HE would do if he knew she was Slytherin's heir, Harry thought spitefully, then winced with shame.
He stared a long time at the embers, resentful and jealous, yet completely aware that there was nothing he could do about it. "I miss you, Tura," he whispered, then grit his teeth and climbing the many flights of stairs to Lady Black's former bedroom.
He reversed the spell on the door and pushed it open, then wished he'd knocked. Malfoy looked very unsettled by the sudden intrusion and it occurred to Harry that every time the floorboards creaked, he probably wondered if his executioner approached. Malfoy certainly hadn't recovered his typical swaggering confidence overnight, and he looked almost happy to see Harry, although he immediately lowered his gaze to the floor.
"Malfoy." Harry kept his voice cool and neutral.
Harry closed the door and sealed it with a nonverbal charm. He stood before this strange caricature of the Draco Malfoy he'd known and wasn't quite sure what to say. The old Malfoy would have insulted or threatened him by now, but this one just sat there looking worn and tired.
"So who's that girl?" Malfoy finally asked after a long silence.
"Her name's Ondossi. She's a Legilimagus. Do you know what that is?"
Malfoy's brow furrowed slightly. "Not really, but judging by the way she ripped open my head, I think I have a good guess."
"I'm one too," said Harry.
"Yeah? Since when?" There might have been a hint of derision, but it sounded more like curiosity.
"About six months. I'm still learning."
Malfoy nodded in appraisal of this news. "Ah. So you'll be practicing on me."
"Yes," said Harry, though it sounded hard-hearted, even to himself.
Malfoy shuddered and briefly curled around his middle protectively, but he quickly resumed his prior posture. "All right, then," he said quietly, his expression neither more nor less despondent than before.
"Is this an act, Malfoy?" Harry would know the answer soon enough, but this was all so eerie, he wanted to talk first, to find out what had happened to that mind before he went leaping into it.
"An act?" Malfoy's eyes lost their focus on the bedroom rug as he pondered the question. "No. No acting. I don't think I've ever been more real than you see right now, Potter. I'm the living dead, but I'm real."
"What did he do to you?" Harry asked in a strained whisper.
Malfoy reached up and touched the edge of his Mark. "You heard it yesterday. He slit my throat--that's why the Mark is up here. With his teeth, you know. But before I died, he thought of a use for me. So I lived."
Harry knew Voldemort generally let others carry out the mundane task of punishing wayward Death Eaters. "But why would he kill you?" he asked, before realizing how oddly denigrating that sounded.
Unruffled, Malfoy took a deep breath, pulling the blanket more tightly around his shoulders. "I failed him personally. He made me betray Dumbledore. I was supposed to kill him. Kill Dumbledore, that is, in exchange for my father's life." Malfoy smiled bitterly. "What I didn't know at the time was that he never planned kill my dad. It was all just a game--he was using me to punish Dad for failing to get that prophecy. As if Azkaban weren't enough." Malfoy's voice was rising, but he paused and composed himself.
"The Dark Lord knew all along that I couldn't kill Dumbledore," Malfoy presently continued. "He set everything up, so he would have an excuse to slaughter me right before my father's eyes, and Dad would still have to be loyal because it was all within the rules." A strain of Malfoy's old, familiar contempt rang through the last words.
"But he changed his mind. I asked him, very politely, if I could live. Although that probably had nothing to do with it," Malfoy conjectured in an offhanded tone. "I think he simply remembered he needed a slave to guard that cup."
"So he banished you instead," said Harry.
Malfoy nodded. "Almost nine months. It was supposed to be a lifetime. At least it was warm." He tugged at the blanket again.
Harry noticed for the first time that Malfoy was shivering. He pulled off his cloak and tossed it at Malfoy's feet. The other wizard immediately picked it up and pulled it around himself, and to Harry's complete surprise, said, "Thank you."
"There was a time when you would have thrown it back at me, no matter how cold you were," noted Harry quietly.
For the first time since Harry had entered the room, Malfoy looked up at him. Harry gasped out loud; Malfoy's eyes were brimming with tears.
"Yeah, that's right," said Malfoy. "You know, I used to think the whole world was already all mine, all I had to do was step up and claim it. But now I understand. I'm unspeakably lucky to have even this little cloak." He buttoned it under his chin and pulled the hood up over his head, bowing his head to obscure his face completely.
Teardrops began to dot the blanket in Malfoy's lap. Harry had no idea what to do, but standing there and watching this spectacle seemed unbearably wrong. "Look," he finally mumbled, "I'm going to go find you some warm clothes. I'll be back." He nearly admonished Malfoy to wait there for him, but Malfoy could hardly do anything else.
Harry nearly tripped coming down the stairs, lost in thought about this strange transformation since his last encounter with Malfoy. He stopped on the third floor landing and knocked lightly on his godfather's bedroom door. When there was no answer, he suspected that Sirius was already asleep, so he let himself in as quietly as he could.
Sirius was curled up under the blankets, but he stirred as Harry tried, unsuccessfully, to open the armoire silently. A tousled head poked up from the pillows and frowned groggily at Harry. "S'up?" Sirius asked.
Harry began rifling through the drawers in the armoire. "Sorry I woke you. I'm trying to find some clothes for, uh, the prisoner."
The head plopped back silently into the pillows and disappeared. "Mm-hmm," yawned Sirius. "Maybe some of Reg's old things... Try the boxes underneath." There was a brief bustle as Sirius re-cocooned himself in the blankets and dropped back off to sleep.
Harry pulled a large, flat box from beneath the armoire and found some handsome (if a bit dated) sweaters and shirts, but could not find any trousers except for some flannel pajamas. Well, it's not as though we're appearing at a formal hearing, he thought, grabbing a pair of Sirius's socks and slipping quietly back out to the staircase.
Malfoy hadn't moved since Harry's departure, although he had stopped shivering. "Here," Harry said, awkwardly laying the clothes on the floor. "There wasn't a lot to pick from, but these ought to do."
Malfoy nodded, picking up the sweater gingerly, then immediately pulled it on. "It's nice," he said distantly, looking at the colorful pattern knitted around the cuffs. "It makes me think of fish. I used to float on my belly with a Bubble Head Charm and watch the fish swim around for hours and hours. They were so colorful." Malfoy abruptly fell silent and began pulling on the socks.
Harry had never been to a coral reef, but he could see the one in Malfoy's mind without even trying. Malfoy was not exaggerating about the hours he'd spent watching fish swim; his mind was saturated with them, the only distraction he could find on the atoll that had been his prison. Comparing them to the sweater understated their true brilliance; they were beautiful animals, every color imaginable, iridescent, in complex patterns no knitter could ever hope to duplicate. Harry could see them as clearly as if he were treading water in a tropical lagoon.
Harry suddenly felt a bitter pang of guilt; the room in which they'd imprisoned Malfoy was as drab as a dungeon. He had been left shivering without clothes or an adequate blanket. That Voldemort had imprisoned Malfoy in a place with at least some color and distraction when the Order had not irked Harry deeply. Sirius, too, had once been confined within these walls.
"Answer me honestly, Malfoy," said Harry impulsively. "If I take you out of this room for a while, will you try to get away?"
Malfoy looked up, his brows furrowed warily. "Why would you let me out?"
Harry waved his hands impatiently. "Just answer me."
Malfoy looked rather flummoxed for a moment, then replied, "No. What good would it do to run? The minute I left this building, I'd be hunted down." He reflected for a moment. "By both sides," he added bitterly.
Without warning, Harry sent his magic through the other's mind just enough to ascertain that Malfoy was telling the truth.
Malfoy's eyes widened in both fear and awe. "Merlin's beard, you are just like her."
Caught up in the inevitable moment of numbness that followed that depth of Legilimency, Harry tipped his head thoughtfully and remarked, "Spooky, isn't it?" He stood up and began unlocking and disenchanting the door before he'd completely recovered, but it didn't matter; Malfoy really wasn't going anywhere.
Harry held out a willing hand, but the other man stood up on his own. Harry wondered idly whether that was done out of dignity, or distrust, or if Malfoy had just forgotten what it was like to have other human beings around to give him a hand up. Harry stepped onto the landing and left the door wide open behind him, but Malfoy didn't follow. He just stood in the doorway, shivering again despite the warm clothes.
Harry beckoned to Malfoy. "It's all right. I'm not trying to trick you. You can come out for a little while."
Malfoy didn't move, eyeing him dubiously. "Why are you doing all this, Potter? You hate me. You've hated me since the day we met."
Harry had to pause a moment to consider his reply. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I know you can't run," he began. "I know you signed your own death sentence when you turned over that cup to Maura Arukangi. I know what Tu-Ondossi did to you, and I have to do it too, because I have to learn all I can before I go up against Vol... your old boss." Malfoy winced; his Mark darkened at the very hint of the name. "I guess there's no need to be harsh with you, except for my own vengeance, or hatred, or whatever you want to call it."
Harry paused thoughtfully again, then continued. "I knew already about Dumbledore. I was there that night, on the Astronomy tower. Dumbledore Petrified me and hid me under my own Invisibility Cloak so I wouldn't be harmed when you and your group came up to finish him off." Malfoy's jaw fell. "I watched it all happen but I couldn't move. I heard what you said. I saw that you couldn't do it, that even though you were in fear for your whole family, you couldn't kill him.
"It's true, I used to hate you. But you've changed, I've changed. Maybe we've done all the hating we need to do. I know I've had my fill of it."
Malfoy slowly nodded and came into the doorway, but not through it. They regarded one another. Malfoy tentatively extended his hand, as though reaching for something very sharp and delicate. Harry took hold and shook it firmly. He had refused Malfoy's first offer to shake his hand nearly seven years earlier.
As he tugged the other wizard onto the landing, Harry began to ponder where they might go. He'd originally reckoned they would go to the drawing room, but he now reflected that they would almost certainly be interrupted. Though he knew it was irrational, Harry didn't like the idea of Phineas Nigellus Black watching him perform Legilimency, but he still had no idea which of the bedrooms in Headquarters were routinely occupied. He'd begun to wish he'd planned things a little better before bringing Malfoy out of confinement when Malfoy spoke.
"Hold on, I know this place. This is the Black house, isn't it?" He stepped back, suspicion and fear plain in his eyes. "What's the game then, Potter? Are you Dark, now?"
Harry blinked a moment. "No, no. How did you... " He stopped, remembering that "Draco Malfoy" was on the family tapestry in the drawing room, right under "Narcissa Black." "Of course," Harry murmured. "Of course you've been here, you're part of the clan." He smirked. "It's a little different from what you remember. This is the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix now."
Malfoy's eyes grew wide and round, then he snorted. "You're having me on, aren't you? This is one of the Darkest houses in London! How'd you even get past the serpent on the front door?"
Harry smirked. "Long story, Malfoy. Let's just say Sirius Black was never quite what people thought."
Malfoy nodded cautiously. "I've heard. I didn't believe it all--from what little I know of Peter Pettigrew, he didn't sound smart enough to set up and frame a Black." Harry suppressed a sneer; this sounded more like the arrogant, proud Draco Malfoy he knew so well, though in all honesty, Harry didn't quite understand how Wormtail managed to best Sirius, either.
Malfoy turned away from the stairs, furrowing his brow a moment, then pressed on some of the carvings in the mahogany paneling on the far wall of the landing. Nothing happened, and Harry nearly asked him what he was up to, but then Malfoy straightened up and began anew, adding a few more points to the series. A dragon's carved tail sprung away from the wall and Malfoy twisted it triumphantly. The paneling swung inward, revealing a dark crawlspace that ended in a surprisingly bright alcove. His face lit up and he tipped his head at the portal.
"My aunt made this room! She built it for her cousin Regulus during her seventh year at Hogwarts. Part of a Charms assignment or something. She made him his own playroom, where he could get away from his big brother. When we came here for Aunt Walburga's funeral, I was only about five or six, and the big kids were... well, they were picking on me. Anyway, Aunt Bella brought me up here and showed me how to get in. She said that Aunt Wallie was the only other person who ever knew about it, so it could be my secret place now." He gazed wistfully into the sunlit patch of floor beyond the tunnel.
Harry needed a moment to wrap his head around all he'd just heard. Aunt Wallie? It seemed fundamentally wrong that the screeching old hag in the portrait downstairs was ever anyone's "Aunt Wallie." He didn't even want to contemplate Bellatrix Lestrange building a playroom for her cousin--for Sirius's little brother, whose sweater Malfoy was now wearing. That she had once had the capacity to take pity on her nephew Draco, pulling him away from bullies and giving him this little sanctuary, was unthinkable.
Malfoy reached for the dragon's tail again and began to pull the paneling back into place, but Harry held up his hand to stop him. "How do you get out?" he asked.
"It's not warded or anything," Malfoy shrugged. "There's a rope handle on the inside to pull it open. It's only tricky to get in, not out."
Harry jerked his head toward the entrance. "You go first." Malfoy's face lit up with more warmth than Harry had ever seen it bear.
"Merlin's beard, it used to seem a lot bigger," Malfoy grunted as he crawled through the tunnel. When he stood up inside the alcove, Harry followed him, quickly checking the back of the panel to confirm the presence of the handle. The rope looked strong, though the knot on the end was darkened, undoubtedly from years of being tugged by little grubby fingers. Harry swung the panel into place, noting that it didn't even click, then gave the rope a quick pull; the panel opened silently, without any resistance.
Dust swirled in the sunbeam as the two wizards stirred it for the first time in years. "We didn't visit the Blacks very often, especially after Aunt Wallie's funeral," said Malfoy. He suddenly spotted something in a corner and picked it up with a broad smile. "No way!" He turned back to Harry with a model broomstick cradled in his palm. "I always wondered where this went! I got it in Paris when I was seven, at Le Placard à Balais. Mum had bought so many campy tourist souvenirs, but I begged her to get me something cool."
He showed Harry the tiny writing on the handle. "This was a classic--the '39 Ratisseur. I wanted a real one ever since I learned how to fly, but you can't even find them in a museum anymore. They used some kind of grass in with the twigs, to give it this slick handling, but it didn't hold up like wood. You rode a Ratisseur until it fell apart and that was it. I always dreamed I'd find one in some old witch's garden shed, left out there and forgotten... heh, me and everybody else, I'm sure." He smirked wistfully, but as he looked up at Harry, the brief burst of animation drained away.
Malfoy let the toy broomstick fall to the floor and closed his eyes, lifting his face toward the glass panel in the slanting ceiling. When a cloud passed before the sun, the last traces of his smile faded. "Are you ready to practice now?"
Harry flattened his lips. "Yes."
Malfoy nodded and sat on the floor, toroids of dust billowing around him. "It's okay, Potter," he said in a flat voice. "Do what you need to do."
Harry sat across from Malfoy, his stomach churning for the second time that day. He felt like some sort of monster attacking its helpless prey. "You know, this would be a lot easier if you were still the same prat you used to be."
"Oh, I am," said Malfoy. "I'm just out of practice." He attempted a wry grin, but it did not mask his dread. They eyed each other cautiously for a moment, then Malfoy sighed. "Look. I've faced him. He's... he's very powerful. If this will help you to fight him... I'm willing, Harry." His voice dropped to a whisper as Harry sat bolt upright; Malfoy had never addressed him by name before. "Listen to me: do whatever it takes. I don't care if you kill me, if it will help to make you stronger--it's worth it. You can't let him beat you, Harry. You can't."
Harry grabbed two fistfulls of Malfoy's shirt and yanked the grey eyes up to meet his own, slamming into him with Legilimency to silence his plea.
Draco hated being fitted. He always felt uncomfortably exposed, standing atop a narrow stepstool with some unknown person pinning and pulling at his clothing. He'd been forced to endure this annoying ritual more times than he could count, for Mum insisted that he wear the most tailored wizard robes. She whined endlessly about the "urban casual" look of the required uniform at Hogwarts, but it filled him with quiet glee. Mum had treated him like some sort of dress-up doll for far too long, and he couldn't wait to take control of his daily wardrobe.
At least Mum hadn't insisted on staying in the shop with him. If there was anything worse than standing around for a fitting, it was standing around for a fitting with your mother hovering about and making embarassing comments about you to anyone who would listen. Draco was bored, and he felt rankled that Madam Malkin assigned an underling to tailor his robes, rather than do it herself. Mum certainly spent enough money in this shop to deserve the finest service! She said this other witch did a better job of fitting young people, but the shopkeeper really ought to be a master of all aspects of her trade. Draco sighed with a noisy huff. At least this one didn't poke him with her pins.
The imp at the front door cooed, "Customer!" just as the knob began to turn, and Madam Malkin trotted out of view to greet the newcomer. She brought another boy to the back of the shop. He, too, seemed to be here without his parents, and what's more, he was hauling around a Gringott's bag that was obviously crammed full of money. Draco would have given anything for an afternoon on Diagon Alley unencumbered by authority, with a sack of cool Galleons to spend on anything he wanted. True, it was a bit gauche to show off one's wealth so blatantly, but Draco still wondered who this boy was, and why he'd never met him before.
What impressed Draco the most were the boy's clothes. One of Draco's friends had an older brother with a hidden stash of Muggle magazines. The two boys had spent many a rainy hour perusing them within their secret clubhouse while discussing elaborate plans to run away and join the Muggle world. They would blend in with the locals, quietly acquiring power and wealth with subtle magic, then return triumphantly to the Wizard world and head straight to the currency exchange window at Gringotts. They had carefully studied Muggle customs, just in case that golden opportunity arose.
This kid was wearing one hundred percent Muggle gear--and not the strained, mismatched suits that his parents' friends in the Ministry sometimes wore. No, this was the authentic Grunge look, with a little bit of oversized Gangster thrown in. Mum and Dad would drop dead AND come back to haunt him if he ever wore clothes like that! Draco permitted himself one tiny envious sneer while Madam Malkin stuffed the kid into a fitting robe.
"Hello. Hogwarts, too?"
"Yes," said the stranger, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. Draco gazed at the floor, feeling uncomfortably foolish.
"My father's next door buying my books, and mother's up the street looking at wands." You're not the only one who gets to shop on his own, you know. "Then I'm going to drag them up the street to look at racing brooms." Kicking and screaming, no doubt. "I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll bully Father into getting me one and I'll smuggle it in somehow."
The stranger didn't even answer. This kid didn't just look at Muggle magazines and pretend to go into their territory, he'd obviously done it. Draco suddenly felt very childish, making up stories about broomstick piracy. "Have you got your own broom?" he asked, hoping to steer the conversation to something more neutral.
"Play Quidditch at all?"
What's with this guy? Quidditch is cool... isn't it? Draco wasn't accustomed to self-doubt, and it had been coming on all too frequently over the past few months. His mother was practically smothering him with gushy reassurances that he would make lots of nice friends at Hogwarts, to the point that he was starting to wonder if he'd ever speak to another living being again once he enrolled. "I do--Father says it's a crime if I'm not picked to play for my House." So there!
Though the stranger didn't seem interested in conversation, Draco's curiosity had been piqued, so he kept talking. The kid was beyond cool, though; he was downright icy. He wouldn't talk Quidditch, he wouldn't talk about Houses, then it turned out that he'd been escorted to Diagon Alley by somebody from Hogwarts! The initial delicate patter of jealousy had expanded into an Elephant of Envy, and it was stomping on Draco's chest. He must already be living up there--no wonder he wouldn't talk about Houses! He probably already moved into his dormitory--shoot, he probably has his very own suite or something! Draco spent his lifetime immersed in the culture of wealth and one-upmanship, and he had never felt so thoroughly quashed.
Draco deliberately mentioned something his father had once told him about Hagrid, the kid's chaperone, just to knock him down a peg or two, but that flopped too. "I think he's brilliant!" the kid replied right off the cuff.
It was unthinkable that someone this worldly and wealthy could genuinely like hanging out with half-breed giants. This kid was having him on as though he, a Malfoy, were some kind of buck-toothed bumpkin like his Weasley cousins. Draco seethed with resentment. "Do you? Why is he with you? Where are your parents?" Are they so sick of you that they shipped you off to boarding school early, then?
As if! Well, it could be true. A huge inheritance would explain both the bag of Galleons and the freedom to spend it on Muggle clothes. But Draco knew better--that kind of cash didn't come without strings. There would be executors, and provisions to make sure he didn't blow the family fortune, or let it slip into the coffers of greedy relatives or the Ministry. That stuck-up snob was handing him yet another bill of goods, just to see if he'd fall for this one as well. What a prat! But Draco also knew how to play games. "Oh, sorry. But they were our kind, weren't they?"
"They were a witch and wizard, if that's what you mean."
Draco nearly sputtered. You're suggesting I'm not a pureblood?! If it weren't for the fact that he was bound entirely in pins, he might have decked the kid, despite the fact that he had been the first to play the bloodline card. Just who do you think you are, anyway? The Malfoys were one of the wealthiest, purest families in Britain. Whoever this kid was, he was definitely no better than a Malfoy; how dare he act as though he were above Draco on the pecking order?
Say, he doesn't know who I am! With that sudden insight, everything made sense. The stranger couldn't possibly tell that he, too, was "upper crust," not in these ridiculous oversized fitting robes! Obviously, the other boy had mistaken him for a lesser sort and was treating him accordingly. Why, if I hadn't noticed his Gringotts bag, I probably would have assumed the same thing about him! Draco almost sighed in relief; this was just a silly case of mistaken identity. They would undoubtedly have a good laugh about it later.
In fact, now that he recognized the stranger's error, he felt like having a bit of fun with it himself! Could he keep up the ruse long enough to invite the boy "back home" next weekend for dinner? Draco pictured the stranger squirming in dreadful anticipation of "bubble-and-squeak," served in the free "Quidditch Legends" bowls that came with a full-service tuneup on your broomstick. His eyes would probably fly out of their sockets when he found himself walking up the entryway to Malfoy Manor!
It was a funny notion, but Draco knew there was no way he could keep his identity a secret once they got to Hogwarts. Besides, the stranger hadn't shown much of a sense of humor; he'd probably get all bent out of shape rather than find it funny. No, etiquette demanded that Draco graciously overlook this faux pas, and tactfully make the stranger aware of his error without embarrassing him further. I just need a neutral topic that will clue him in to my social standing. "I really don't think they should let the other sort in, do you? They're just not the same; they've never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get their letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What's your surname, anyway?"
Before the boy could answer, Madam Malkin announced that his fitting was complete. Draco rolled his eyes; the conversation had finally taken a turn for the better and the silly cow had to go and interrupt. Madam Malkin, however, frowned at Draco in reprimand as she pulled the fitting robe over the boy's head. Draco suddenly realized that he had asked for the boy's name before offering his own. Oops. Bad manners. To his great relief, Madam Malkin smiled at his recognition of the mistake and gave him a quick wink; he knew she wouldn't tell Mum about his indiscretion.
As the boy took his leave, Draco felt a sudden rush of pride; he had kept his cool, sussed out the situation, and acted (for the most part) like a proper nobleman. Father would be pleased with him.
Harry leaned against the wall of the secret playroom. Despite the numbness closing over him, he wanted to speak. Malfoy shrank back involuntarily, but steeled himself. "You're not finished, are you?" he asked.
"No," said Harry. "Just... never knew."
Malfoy glanced at the floor, then nodded. "Yeah. Well. Now you do."
Harry let his hands fall to the floor beside him. I'm sorry, Draco, he projected, effortlessly re-opening Malfoy's thoughts. I must take all your secrets.
Moonbeams. It took a while for Harry to register what he was seeing. His head ached, filled with memories that were not his own. He'd spent hours buried within Draco's mind, and even longer in the stupor that followed. Even now, he was too numb to move or speak, but at least he could see the external world again, and recall that it existed.
The sun must have just set, he reasoned, as there were traces of red and purple in the clouds beyond the window. He had revisited Draco's every encounter with Voldemort with painstaking care, searching for any clues of his location, his plans, his weaknesses. For all Draco's prior braggadocio about the Death Eaters and Voldemort, there were actually very few such meetings.
Draco had gone with his father to gatherings at a crumbling country estate a few times, lurking in the background and trying desperately not to be noticed. Harry reckoned these took place in the old Riddle mansion in Little Hangleton, but it was too dark to see any landmarks. Little of importance was said or done at such meetings; they seemed to serve mainly as opportunities for Voldemort to show off before his Death Eaters. A few Crucios here and there, a round of oaths and/or flattery from the troops, and then the Malfoys would depart, Apparating from the front parlor without even a glimpse of the outdoors. Draco would wake up slick with sweat for the next few nights, wondering why they bothered with such rituals when it was clear that any real business transpired elsewhere.
Voldemort had come to Malfoy Manor during the summer between their fifth and sixth year at Hogwarts. He sent Narcissa away with no more than a brushing gesture, as though she were a pesky fly. He then told Draco on no uncertain terms that he would penetrate the defenses at Hogwarts and murder Albus Dumbledore before another year passed.
"I am gravely disappointed in your father, Draco," Voldemort had explained, relaxing in Lucius's favorite chair by the white marble fireplace. "He has sullied the Malfoy name with his absurd failure at the Ministry. His actions were so inept, I almost wonder if they were deliberate." His red eyes had bored into Draco with the abrupt, cold touch of Legilimency, but he found no confirmation of his theory. Voldemort scoffed. "I suppose I shall not know until I deliver him from Azkaban. Lucius would not confide such treason to anyone, least of all you."
Voldemort leaned forward, which had terrified Draco, but he'd merely picked up his teacup, studying its gilded rim after he drank. "This task is yours alone, Draco. Speak of it to no one. But I do not mean for you to act singlehandedly," he added almost kindly. "You will undoubtedly need devices, books, potions, et cetera, to enact your plan. Severus can help you attain such things, as long as you do not tell him your true purpose. I also recommend Borgin and Burkes, on Knockturn Alley; they have quite a reputation for quality merchandise and discretion."
Voldemort stood. "No need to show me out, child; I'm quite sure I know the way." He patted Draco's shoulder and left the parlor, but paused in the doorway. "If you succeed, Draco," he said quietly, "you will earn not only your Mark, but a place of honor at my side. If you fail, however, I will have no more use for the Malfoys. Do you understand?"
Draco automatically said, "Yes, my lord." Any other response was unthinkable.
"I'm not certain you do," said Voldemort, returning to the parlor and taking Draco's hand. He pushed back the cuff of Draco's left sleeve, exposing the pale skin of his forearm. His voice lost its former veneer of politeness. "Your father failed me, Draco. Were he not beyond my reach in Azkaban, he would have died that very night. You will make up for his shortcomings, or you will die--you and your mother, and Lucius, at my first opportunity." He ran his fingertips lightly over Draco's arm. They left burning welts everywhere they touched, but Draco knew better than to flinch, or make the slightest sound. "That would be a terrible shame. I would much prefer to Mark you as my own, young man."
With that, Voldemort had departed. Draco remained frozen in his chair for a long time, shivering and sobbing, wishing he had the courage to cut off his own arm at the elbow.
Harry could almost pity Draco, but he was still too numb. There was something jiggling his head. He blinked at the moonbeams and heard Draco's voice. "Harry? Are you awake?"
He couldn't answer yet.
The room grew darker, the moonlight more distinct. Harry finally turned his head back to the center, surprised to find that he was looking up into Draco's face. He realized his head was resting in Draco's lap; the other wizard was jostling him by bouncing his legs and feet.
"Hey," said Draco when they made eye contact.
"Could you stop that?" Harry rasped.
The jiggling stopped. "You're awake now? For sure?" Harry nodded. "Good." Draco promptly punched him, hard, on the shoulder. "That's for scaring me half to death, you tosser! I was sure I'd have to go out there and explain to everyone that you'd let me loose, hidden with me in the secret room, and promptly died on me! Great Mother of Merlin, Potter, did you know you would stop breathing?"
Harry managed a shrug. "Been told. Not like I can see it."
Draco rolled his eyes, looking as though he wanted to slug Harry again. "That figures. Stupid Gryffindork!" he muttered.
Soon afterward, he felt clear enough to get up. He was just beginning to notice a vague sense of hunger, which probably meant that he was starving. Harry sat up slowly and gave his head a quick shake. "You okay?" he asked Draco.
"Been better. Are you going to lock me back up?"
"No." Harry had seen firsthand that Draco had no intent to flee. "Let's go down to the kitchen, then I'll find Reem and explain things." He crawled into the little entry tunnel and pulled on the rope.
Draco followed, but halted abruptly on the stairs. "Reem... Do you mean Remus Lupin?"
Harry turned, raising his brow. "That's right. He's the leader here. Of the Order of the Phoenix," he added.
Draco's eyes widened. "Lupin's a werewolf."
Harry opened his mouth for an angry retort, when several things came to him at once. There were no lights on the stairs, not even on the lowest floors. There was always a candle or two in the wall sconces after dark. The house was unusually quiet. Even though people tried not to disturb the portraits in the main hall, a bit of conversation or the crackling of a fire would inevitably drift along the staircase. It was dinner time; at the very least, there should be sounds of cutlery coming up from the kitchen.
Harry knew it was time for dinner, because he'd watched the rise of the evening moon through the window in the playroom.
The full moon.
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