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Molly Weasley welcomed Harry and Hermione back to Grimmauld Place by frowning disapprovingly without saying a word. She was tired of hearing how much she repeated herself by warning them about dangers. She was also unwilling to ask them too many questions when the Malfoy boy was around somewhere.

"We are back in one piece, Molly," Harry broke the ice, wearing the cheeky smile that almost always worked on her.

She shook her head and left knowing that, if she remained with them a minute longer, a lengthy reprimand would become inevitable.

Harry and Hermione went upstairs and found Ron in his room looking rather bored.

"You're back then?" said Ron stating the obvious. "Did you find what you wanted?" he asked lazily, still lying on the bed with his hands behind his head not making much of an effort to engage his friends, still a bit resentful about having been left out.

"Yes, and no, Ron, yes and no," replied Harry very sullenly.

"Harry has some problems and, one of them especially, could be a serious one for us all," added Hermione in even a more depressed tone.

The Muffiato charm was cast again. Harry realised that, these days, they held more conversations under it than not.

"They won't give me the wand, which, well, makes things just a little complicated," Harry begun to explain in an  ironic tone.

Ron finally sat up looking a bit perplexed. Hermione noticed this and answered his mental question by reminding him of why this was so important and how the Ministry was now in control of it. Ron now looked frustrated, in fact, rather incensed. Hermione unwittingly added to this emotion by going on to explain the problems concerning Harry's money.

"We'll have to break into Gringotts, Harry, there is no other option!" Ron stated in what he himself thought was a true Gryffindor fashion. "It's your bloody inheritance, mate. Your parents would not have been happy with this!"

"No, they wouldn't have," Harry agreed "nor is anyone else, and, believe me, I didn't leave Gringotts without putting up a fight." Harry did now sounded all gloomy and defeated.

"Ron, don't talk nonsense!" said Hermione, acting the Prefect, in reply to Ron's assertion. "No-one can break into Gringotts, it hasn't been successfully done before!"

"Yes, it has," Harry argued "In our first year, it was in The Prophet and all, it's just that what they were after was no longer there, don't you remember?"

"Ok, Harry, whatever!" snapped Hermione. "But dragons and everything!" she was now nearly crying as she suspected that her two friends were seriously considering this option.

"Dragons, did you just say dragons?" asked Ron, cheerful for the first time in a while.

"Well, guys, we have an expert in the family, don't we?" Ron continued. 

Hermione shot a stealthy look at him as if saying don't go there.

"And a code-breaker, an insider in fact," commented Harry before he realised that he couldn't put Bill through that for him, especially after all that had happened.

Harry's expression changed, his eyes weren't sparkly any more. Ron, without realising, read his body language and said: "He wouldn't be doing this just for you, mate, I mean, Bill. It's in everyone's interest that you get that damn wand!" Ron said full of excitement.

Hermione looked straight into Ron's grey eyes and said reproachfully "Don't call Harry's Mum's wand that! It saved his life, you know!"

Ron looked rather sheepish but Harry grinned and said "No matter, Hermione, we know he didn't mean it like that." He knew that Ron would never hurt his feelings by insulting anything connected with his late parents. "Relax ok?" he continued, "we all have lost some people in this war or the last, no need to walk on egg-shells with one another. Agreed?" Both Ron and Hermione meet Harry's bright green eyes in assent.

"Now, Malfoy," Harry changed the topic. "What's he been up to?"

"He seems to have been upstairs in his room all day. I don't think he likes our company much," answered Ron not too preoccupied.

"You should have kept an eye on him, Ron, just in case though," protested Harry a little bossily.

"I thought you'd gone soft on him after last night," mocked Ron as a kind of defence.

"I've got to talk to him, Ron. I only let him off the hook because I knew he meant it, well, the Vow. Also, I can't tell you but I think I know what he's going through and no, it's not just that his mother is dead..." Harry paused feeling a bit uncomfortable.

"You've got to tell us, mate. What the hell did you see? I know you did see something when we were coming down the stairs!" said Ron feeling once again left out.

"Ron, you two and Ginny are into every secret I know, but this is private to Malfoy. It's a bit like when Snape went inside my mind and saw how I'd seen my Mum's last moments. Even if he's a jerk, I wished I hadn't seen what I did. This is private to him as far as I'm concerned." Both of his friends now knew that whatever it was, it had really affected Harry, disturbed him in fact.

"Is it the way she died?" enquired Ron with curiosity.

"Umm..., in part, but no..." Harry really didn't want to go into details. This was a subject he was sensitive about.

Hermione's facial expression changed all of a sudden.

"You don't mean she is ghost, don't you, that she's haunting him? He said so himself, almost, didn't he, for what Ron told me?" she asked waiting for confirmation.

Harry threw a disapproving look in Ron's direction, then he held his hands up and stated: "I've said nothing!"

He had said nothing but they all understood.

Draco had dreaded that moment all day. Potter had let him go too easily and also in the sort of way that, only someone as arrogant as his father was supposed to have been, could muster. Something more was to come.

He was right. He heard one person's footsteps, then an impatient knock came to his door. It had to be Potter! Draco could hardly bother to answer. He just willed the nightmare away, his being there, the whole thing ... He felt oppressed, intruded upon and humiliated. He had to, somehow, make Potter go away. In fact, he had to get away himself... before he went mad! As far as he could see, his whole crime in this war was having been born to a Death Eater father, everything else had just followed.

Harry wasn't too abrupt, well aware that it wouldn't be his best policy. He simply called "Malfoy". When no reply came, he shouted a bit louder.

Draco, like in a dream, finally opened the door. He was feeling nervous, so was Harry.
Harry realised that Malfoy was smoking. Draco, instead of putting the cigarette out when he realised that his host had noticed, offered Harry one.

"Go on then," said Harry, now also sitting on the bed trying to appear approachable. "After all it's not as if I'm likely to live long enough to fear lung cancer!"

Malfoy could not but answer "Potter, aren't you sick and tired of gloating about your supposed destiny?"

"I wish it wasn't real, you know," he replied taking a light from a candle that Malfoy had conjured and coughing slightly "I wish your former Master wasn't after my blood! I didn't chose this destiny, as you call it," he added now gazing into Malfoy's pale grey eyes, awaiting his response.

"And by that, you mean that I did?" Draco answered defiantly.

"Not exactly, I don't believe for instance that you, yourself, volunteered to kill Dumbledore, but you chose to be a Death Eater, which in my book is almost the same thing," Harry retorted.

Malfoy now pierced into his eyes very intently, Harry could sense the anger that was building up inside his guest, the sheer impotence.

"Ok, but I didn't exactly chose to be born into my family, did I?" retorted Draco.

Harry smiled. He had been expecting that, that he would pass the buck onto his father, or whoever was there to be blamed. Or was he being a little too cynical again, like when he had doubted whether Narcissa was in fact dead?

"Oh!" exclaimed Harry puffing at the cigarette still not too convinced. "And I would have thought you were ever so proud of being a Malfoy," he said emulating a very posh accent, now pacing up and down the room.

"Go to hell, Potter, you are the one who doesn't understand! I'm proud of being a Malfoy, yeah, aren't you the one who keeps on going on about how great your father was, aren't you proud of being a Potter?" At this stage, Malfoy didn't dare take this any further. Harry took a deep breath and continued to listen.

"My mother, for instance, was a good woman. She was always kind and, for your information, she wasn't a Death Eater." Draco now paused and stood up but kept his gaze down. He couldn't let it out that he was feeling emotional. "Don't you bloody see that I haven't been too pleased with Voldemort since he killed her, regardless of what I may have been pushed into before? My father, well, thanks to you," he pronounced these words with utter spite, "is in Azkaban. I haven't been able to get in touch with him since before Mother died, so, I can't speak for his current allegiance but, you know mine. Also, I didn't exactly chose to become a Death Eater. It's something that happens in many pure blood families." Even in the circumstances, there was a hint of prejudice in Draco's voice when he mentioned pure blood.

Harry couldn't get himself to be completely unsympathetic but then again, he couldn't be weak either. He was feeling really drained.

"Alright, you can keep calling me Saint Potter if you like, fine, but I think I've been fair with you. I'll be honest, you're here because I didn't want your death on my conscience, but then again, I know more about you now..." Harry said staring at the ceiling, trying not to talk about Narcissa's ghost.

"You knew I had no choice but to ask for your help, how powerful does it make you feel, Potter? Is it a really satisfying feeling?" Malfoy said, curling his lip in hatred.

"Skip the crap, alright?" said Harry now feeling impatient. "I'm tired of this game, you're bloody wearing me out! Ok, let's get this established, we hate each other's guts, right?"

Draco kind of nodded.

They could go round and round in circles for ever but this would hardly lead them anywhere. The point of this conversation was finding out what Malfoy had been up to and anything he knew that may aid the Order.

"Now, where do we go from here, mate? Yes, I did called you mate, probably out of habit, big deal!" Harry tried to excuse his accidental use of the word.

Draco lit another cigarette.

"Look," Harry went for the soft approach again "lets set aside for a minute what you've done to me and my friends, what I've done to you back and what you were instructed to ... It's now all in the past."

Malfoy closed his eyes, greatly resenting what he viewed as Harry's condescending tone.

"Ok, let's get on with the business. We're not going to get on and I have better things to do, to be quite frank," said Harry's trying to get the conversation moving. "And, who would you rather have, me or Alastor Moody, asking you certain questions? I'm not a sadist, Malfoy, I consider myself a fair person, com'on! I've seen things in your mind you don't want me disclosing and that's fine. It's not blackmail, I know what you're about to say, but look at it this way, your mother is dead and so is mine, at the hand of the same person, you said it yourself! Join our side, if that's what you want, but you truly have to want it, and we really have to see that you are being honest with us," Harry concluded.

Draco said nothing.

"Look," said Harry as a last resort "it's simple, you know about one side, I know about the other, if we co-operate we may win, if we don't we'll probably both die, plain enough?"

Harry was now playing with his messy black hair. He felt restless. He begun to understand why Draco had taken up smoking after the Dumbledore episode.

Harry glanced at the packet of cigarettes. They were certainly Muggle. Ok, nice piece of information in terms of where he must have got the idea from, Harry thought.

"You've taken up smoking Muggle cigarettes. This, gives me the impression that you have lived as a Muggle at some point, and it's obvious to me that that must have happened this summer!" Harry thought he was now onto something.

"This is hardly exclusively a Muggle custom, is it? After all, Native American wizards were the first to come up with this," stated Malfoy trying to detract attention from the Muggle connection.

"So, I see you've done some reading," mocked Harry. "Shall I take it then that you have been offering me the ceremonial peace pipe? That you are offering the truth? I take it that you are familiar with the ritual's significance, about true words and actions, since it was you who tried to give me the History of Magic lesson?"

Draco nodded looking still very wary. Harry walked towards the table, picked up the packet of cigarettes and lit one up.

"Ok, then, but we have to pass it to one another. That's the way it was done, you see. Now, let's have the truth!" Harry started. "And, call me Harry, if you don't mind, They all do, well, everyone here, anyway," he added liking what he knew he had to do less and less by the minute.

"The Order doesn't trust you and I can't say I blame them. Well, cavorting with Snape and what not! But, before anything else, let's work out what's been happening since the Astronomy Tower." Harry now remained silent and passed the cigarette to Malfoy. He was ready to listen.

On entering her brother's and Harry's room, Ginny found Ron and Hermione arguing yet again. It became quite clear that the riff was centred on dragons. Dragons? Whatever on earth...! Once they both briefed her on the Gringotts' developments, she enthusiastically decided to join the pro-breaking-in faction, to Hermione's dismay.

They were all in agreement as far as the need for retrieving the wand, sooner rather than later, was concerned. However, they all had different views as to how to go about it. They knew Harry would refuse to coerce Bill into stealing it or into giving them the necessary information. They weren't even sure that Bill knew anything about its whereabouts, in any event. However, he was a code-breaker, he must be able to aid them in some way.

"I'll do it!" said Ginny looking very determined.

"Do what?" replied both Ron and Hermione in unison feeling suddenly scared. Ginny was capable of attempting most things if she put her mind to it!

"Persuade Bill, you morons! You weren't thinking I was going to tackle Gringotts on my own, did you? I have always been close to him. If my charm doesn't work, nothing will!" Ginny said, not trying to sound arrogant but coming across a little bit that way. "I'll go and have dinner with him one day this week, you know, to cheer him up. Then, I'll try to make him understand the importance of getting back the wand," she said as if it was that simple, gladly volunteering to play a role in their quest.

Hermione now intervened. "We are going ahead of ourselves here. There may be another way. After all, we are only sworn to secrecy with regard to the Horcruxes," she whispered. "I see no reason why we cannot discuss the wand predicament with the rest of the Order."

"We could do," accepted Ron, "but let's talk to Harry about it first. He's the one who made the promise and the wand is his Mum's after all."

What the three of them agreed on, was to send a message to Charlie asking for advice on dragons, just in case dealing with the creatures became unavoidable. Hermione had been a bit concerned at first, wondering what would happen if the owl got intercepted. She then, went onto suggesting they use a communication patronus instead. They decided that they would allow Ginny to approach Bill diplomatically and, if that didn't bear fruit, they would consider talking to the Order at large.

Malfoy was well aware that Harry could very easily get someone from the Order to force the truth out of him. Potter seemed to be acting with integrity, even if in his forever condescending way. The story about the Muggle priest was bound to come to light soon enough. He may as well tell him himself and get the brownie points.

Harry smiled as he listened. So, that was what Slughorn had been up to? A bit too impulsively, he conveyed to Malfoy the fact that the potions professor had actually been sighted in a Muggle church. Malfoy relayed that he had no knowledge whatsoever about this, and appeared adamant on this point. Harry tried, with some difficulty, to keep an open mind.

Slughorn must have been collaborating with Snape, Draco thought. Perhaps Harry had been right and they both had information that the other wished to know.

"Now, Snape," Harry proceeded. "What did the two of you do after you Disapparated from outside of Hogwarts?" His voice was unemotional, almost flat, despite the fact that he couldn't pronounce his former teacher's name without a powerful desire for revenge taking over his mind.

"He helped me," Malfoy replied without elaborating.

"Why do you think he did that?" This was like obtaining information with a corkscrew.

"Well, he made the Unbreakable Vow with my mother to protect me, he told me himself," said Draco a little proud of having been in the confidence of one of their teachers.

Harry nodded without disclosing that he already knew.

"Did you know he was going to kill Dumbledore?" Harry was now chasing to the kill.

Malfoy hesitated. He had to give Potter enough information to sound trustworthy but, surely, there was no need to go any further than that.

"I understand he had to do it himself, if, well... if I failed..." Draco blushed and looked downwards, unwilling to meet Potter's eyes. Even if it was in his interest to appear otherwise, we couldn't help but feel a bit ashamed of not having been able to finish the task.

"Now, are you aware at all of any other reasons why Snape may have done this?"

"No, I'm not," Draco replied dryly.

Harry was beginning to have enough of monosyllabic answers and what appear to be reluctant co-operation.

"Please remember that I have means of obtaining the truth. I trusted your offer, the ceremonial pipe, now, you better deliver the goods or I'll get Moody to ask you this himself," said Harry actually meaning to carry out the threat, if he had to.

Draco blushed again and replied in a whisper: "I think he may have loved my mother, I think that's why he made the Vow to her."

Harry now covered his eyes with his hands for a split second. This was turning into a Muggle soap-opera!

"You're telling me they were lovers?" Harry asked flabbergasted. “No wonder you’re so desperate for your mother’s business to be kept secret!”

Malfoy stood up and walked towards Harry as if about to throttle him.

“NO, THEY BLOODY WELL WEREN’T! Malfoy screamed, showing more anger in his eyes that Harry had ever seen in anyone.

“No more than he ever bedded your own mother, Potter! He had a thing for her as well, you know? It‘s bloody common knowledge!” Draco was quick to add, as if to make things even.

It was now Harry who felt about to kill, his heartbeat rising fast. Harry was in fact close to performing an Unforgivable at this point, however, sheer curiosity made him somehow calm down.

“Explain yourself!” yelled Potter. “Are you telling me that Snape told you all this, that he was using you as an Agony Aunt?

“Don’t be so damn idiotic! You ask anyone who knew them both at Hogwarts, Snape and your mother. Rumour has it that he asked the Dark Lord to spare her but that she was stupid enough to die for you instead, even if you weren’t really that worthy!”

Harry this time got hold of Malfoy and what had started as a civilised conversation quickly turned into a Muggle brawl. Harry grasped Draco's throat while Draco viciously punched him in the stomach. They were both so angry that neither of them thought for a second about grabbing a wand. Draco hit Harry again, so Harry retaliated by pushing Draco backwards and slamming his head against the wall.

Draco went limp and began groaning. Harry detached himself from his opponent. Malfoy fell onto the floor. Blood streamed from the back of Draco's head. He had gone very white.

True panic have now replaced Harry's angry feelings. He had never been very good with healing spells. He had to do something and he had to act fast. Everything had happened so quickly!  He hadn't really meant to cause him a serious injury. He suspected Malfoy might have a fractured skull.

First of all, Harry tried to bandage Malfoy's head with a towel he found in one of the drawers. He knew of the existence of a blood replenishing potion but he had no idea how to obtain this and he was sure Malfoy, as much as he himself, wanted to keep this incident as quiet as possible. Suddenly, inspiration came to him.

Harry drew his wand and Draco flinched, assuming he was about to be cursed.

"Episkey!" Harry shouted.

Malfoy took his hands to the towel in his head and sent Harry a look of real loathing, despite the fact that Harry was now trying to help.

"I didn't mean to hurt you like that, I'm trying to put it right, ok?" Harry explained, his voice still denoting panic.

"It will hurt for a while, I'm sure but I think it's done the trick. I've had more broken bones than I can count and I'm alright now, you see," added Harry.

Harry now realised that the reason why Malfoy had proceeded to insult his mother and himself, was because of how hurt he had felt. After all, Harry had put Narcissa's memory into jeopardy by suggesting she had been Snape's lover.

Looking now very serious, Harry said to him: "Ok, we both feel the same way about our mothers, don't we? Their killer is at large and I reckon we have better things to do that brawling like common Muggles!"

Harry extended his hand to Malfoy. Draco after a moment's hesitation accepted it.

Draco got up and went downstairs to the bathroom to clean off the blood. Harry promised him to try to get hold of a wound cleaning potion as secretly as he could.

When finally Harry got back to his friends, they had moved into the living room, but gave him a look that conveyed that they wanted to talk to him somewhere a bit more private.

“I too, have loads to tell you,” Harry whispered, and the four of them left and went upstairs again.

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