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Harry had double-encrypted the letter, first with his own private code and then with Draco's public code. To decrypt it, Draco had to reverse the process. He cast the spells one after the other, and the letters rearranged themselves on the page before his eyes. He settled back against the door and began reading.
Y ou have no idea how happy I was to find you at last. There are so many things I need to tell you, and I suppose it's good that I'm writing them down. It's easier than talking, sometimes.
Draco smiled – he knew exactly what Harry meant. They'd been crossing wires enough lately as it was. For some reason, just being around Harry could make Draco a bit irrational.
Harry explained that he'd been following several leads ever since it had become clear to him who was sustaining the smothering spell at the Ministry. He'd brought up the idea of shutting it down at a meeting more than a week before, but the others had objected.
Including you, I know, and I do understand your reasons – but for me, it was very important to learn more.
Harry had learned it was Arnold Bass himself who was responsible for the smothering spell. Draco nearly gasped – he should have known, he thought, after the way Bass had been behaving. Always quiet, always hovering in the background, not drawing attention to himself. And then there'd been that very odd meeting Draco'd had with him the morning before he was arrested. Harry had confronted Bass two weeks earlier, and Bass had told him it was for the good of everyone that the truth of what happened not be learned until it was time.
I asked how he knew when the time was right, and he said the strangest thing. He said, “You'll tell me.” And I think I stared back at him for the longest time, and he just stood there and smiled. Then I asked him why he cast the spell in the first place, and he said – and I'll never forget the look on his face when he said it – “Because the Minister for Magic asked me to, Harry.” So apparently Fallin is responsible for the smothering spell? Frankly, I've never thought him quite that bright.
Draco filed that bit of information away to stew over, along with everything else that had been revealed to him in the last few days. The pieces were all starting to fit together in a sort of blurry image. He just couldn't yet get a view of the entire picture.
He scanned Harry's confessions about his other activities – Death Eaters he'd been in contact with, meetings he'd attended, several of which Draco had been present at as well.
You're probably wondering why I didn't say anything to you about those meetings. I was embarrassed, to be honest, that if I did tell you you'd wonder why I was there. It seems strange now, of course, but at the time, you seemed so in control of everything, and I thought that my presence there would just complicate things for you. I was afraid you'd think I was spying on you.
Harry went on to explain how he'd felt increasingly guilty until the night they'd had their big fight, and he'd decided that he needed to make a bold gesture. When Draco had rejected his offer to move in, he'd been certain Draco knew he'd been less than honest.
Draco closed his eyes and sighed. He wondered how things would have been different had he accepted Harry's offer that night. How ironic that he'd said no for the same reason Harry had made the offer in the first place.
A knock on the door interrupted his reading. He stashed the parchment under his pillow and opened the door to see Heather standing on the other side, looking furious. She stalked past him into the room.
“What the fuck is this?” she hissed, shaking the strappy dress he'd bought for her in the village.
Draco couldn't help but smirk. “That's a rhetorical question, isn't it?”
She held the dress up to her body and glared at him. “I was hoping for something I could at least wear in public, you know. But this is…” She made a vague gesture with one hand, as if groping in the air for words.
“Look,” Draco said, trying his best to sound soothing, “He loved it. He can't wait to see you in it.”
“That's the problem! You have no idea what he's like in bed.”
Unfortunately, Draco had more of an idea than he ought to.
“If I can't walk tomorrow, it'll be your fault!” She jabbed an acrylic-tipped nail into his chest. “And trust me, I know how to hold a grudge.”
“Oh, come on – I thought you'd…” Draco paused as an idea stuck him. He retrieved his wand from where he'd left it on the bed and accio'd the curtain ties from the far window. With a flick of his wand, he transfigured them into two pairs of Muggle handcuffs. Her eyes widened comically when he handed them to her.
“Do I really have to explain?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
She gaped at him in response.
He turned her by the shoulders and steered her towards the door. “Be strong. Dominating. You know… make him your bitch.” A strangled sound, something between a sob and a laugh, emerged from her still-gaping mouth, and Draco pushed her through the open door. “And have fun. He'll love it.”
He shut the door, leaving her standing in the corridor with a horrified expression on her face. Had he really just given her advice about how to please his own father in bed? Draco shook his head and settled on the bed with Harry's letter again.
So I overreacted, to be honest. I asked you to leave, and then I regretted it almost instantly. The following night, I had resolved to tell you everything, for better or worse.
Draco had to scan backwards to remember where he was in the timeline. Ah yes, the night they were to meet at Mela. Harry explained that he'd waited an hour that night, and when Draco hadn't shown up he'd feared the worst. He had contacted several people he knew in the Ministry, who knew nothing. He'd finally contacted Cho. After a tense conversation, she'd confirmed that Draco had been arrested. From Harry's description, it sounded as if they'd had a stunning row. In the end, Harry had decided it was best if he didn't interfere for the time being.
Everyone else was livid, thinking you had betrayed us all – I've never seen Manny so angry – but I couldn't tell them then, not in front of Aurors, that I knew what you'd been doing. I had a conversation with Tonks in private, and she told me that the two of you had been working together. She felt terrible about everything, and wanted to help. I had no pull left with the Ministry anymore, at least not with anyone who could make a difference, so I suggested Tonks tell your assistant. I had remembered that she was in Slytherin and – forgive the stereotype – I thought she might have the best connections to someone who could help get you out. And to be honest, I knew it would probably be Lucius. I'm sorry about that, for what it's worth.
Draco couldn't help but smile. He knew how much Harry loathed his father. He wondered if Harry knew he'd been exchanging owls with Lucius for nearly a week before he was arrested. He'd forgotten to put that little detail in his own letter.
After Draco escaped, Harry had confessed everything to Hermione and Manny. They were both angry with him for a few days, during which time the story hit the papers and he'd gone into hiding to escape the media attention. He had then focused his attention on finding Draco and working on a plan for contacting him. Hermione came around at last and filled Harry in on what she'd learned about Ron's research.
She doesn't know what to think about what happened to Ron, but she agrees with me that it's difficult to imagine that you cast the spell that killed him. Manny says it's just what we want to believe, but to be perfectly honest, we're both waiting to find out what really happened.
Draco closed his eyes for a moment as anxiety washed over him yet again. He'd lost Manny forever, it seemed, and that knowledge was more painful than he could have anticipated. What would happen if he lost Harry as well? There was nothing he could do about it now, of course. Best to let it lie until he had to face it.
After a good deal of wheedling, Hermione had finally agreed to give Harry access to Ron's work. It had not proved terribly illuminating, but there was a single page at the very end of the log that had written on it only the words triple perfidio.
Draco repeated the words a few times. It didn't sound like a potion. And what did “triple” refer to? There had apparently been three of them involved, but could it be that simple? Maybe it didn't mean anything at all.
Draco re-encrypted the pages and settled back on his bed, staring at the ceiling.
:: :: :: :: ::
An hour after dinner, Draco was summoned to the main parlor by a scowling house-elf. He paused before the mirror to give his hair an artful ruffle before leaving the room. The house-elf muttered something under its breath and disappeared, having completed its task to fetch him.
He walked downstairs and paused outside the parlor's double doors to listen for a moment.
“–and I don't like it, Malfoy,” a man's voice said. “I don't understand how you've managed to get this far.”
“The situation is not nearly as dire as you seem to think,” Lucius replied. Draco could hear the forced smile in his voice. “Cognac?”
Draco stepped around the corner, a sly smile plastered on his face. “Good evening,” he said.
The man who'd been speaking turned to look at him. He was older than Lucius, though he looked as if he took great pride in maintaining as youthful an appearance as possible. His robes were fashionable in that way that screamed mid-life crisis, and he had spelled his hair into a fairly obvious comb-over. Draco watched the man's eyes slide over his body and up again, only to dart away when Draco's met them. Draco allowed himself a small smirk. He shifted his glance to the figure standing behind the man, the reason Draco had been summoned here tonight.
Colby Hannick almost blended into the woodwork. He was dressed simply but provocatively in clingy black Muggle clothing; he was clearly meant to be seen and not heard. His posture indicated he understood his position. He kept his eyes down, and didn't acknowledge Draco at all.
“Rodolfus, may I present my son, Draco,” Lucius said, watching the man's face. “Draco, this is Rodolfus Abernathy, an old acquaintance of mine.”
Draco walked four steps into the room, feeling the weight of Abernathy's gaze. “Pleasure,” he said, careful not to look at Colby at all.
“Indeed,” Abernathy replied. He took a generous sip of cognac, keeping his eyes on Draco. Draco kept smiling, despite an overwhelming urge to go wash himself off.
“Rodolfus and I have much to discuss,” Lucius continued. “Draco, would you see that his companion is made comfortable?”
Draco let his eyes shift to Colby then. Colby seemed to shrink before him, and still didn't look up. The mousy persona he displayed here was such a far cry from his obnoxious prattling several nights before that it took Draco by surprise. He hadn't known Colby was this good.
“Yes, father,” he said, letting his gaze turn hungry. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Abernathy stiffen. “Come with me, boy.” Colby nodded and crossed to him, looking more than a little reluctant to leave Abernathy's side. Draco smirked at Abernathy, who returned a mild glare.
Lucius nodded at Draco as he steered Colby out of the room. Lucius had arranged this meeting with the intention of getting information about Abernathy out of Colby, and he'd given that task to Draco. It had turned out to be fortuitous for Draco as well.
They were barely out of earshot before Colby heaved a huge sigh. Draco glanced over to see a grim expression settle on his face. Colby straightened up, seeming to grow a few inches, but he kept his eyes straight ahead. “Malfoy, at last.”
Draco didn't reply. He led Colby up a flight of stairs and down a corridor to the room where he and Abernathy would be spending the night. It was a large suite, larger than the room Draco stayed in. The focal point of the room was an enormous bed, lavishly decorated with a frilly duvet and pillows.
“Get comfortable,” Draco quipped as the door closed behind them. “But then, I suppose there are worse places to be on your back.”
“Fucking right,” Colby said, stepping past him and surveying the room. “What the hell is this place, anyway, a hotel?”
Draco shrugged. Heather had once suggested that the castle was a Muggle bed and breakfast before Lucius acquired it. Draco had never asked his father about it.
Colby turned to look at him as if expecting him to speak, and Draco stepped forward and kissed him. He could feel Colby stiffen in surprise.
“Surveillance,” Draco whispered, nuzzling his cheek.
“I wondered why you hadn't decked me yet,” Colby replied, voice more breathy than it had been a moment before. “Not that I'm complaining.” He leaned forward and clamped his open mouth over Draco's with enthusiasm.
Draco pushed, walking him backwards towards the bathroom. He'd forgotten what an atrocious kisser Colby was: what he lacked in technique he tried to make up for with sheer quantity of tongue.
Draco had cased the room earlier that evening and determined that the bathroom was the safest place to talk freely. He'd even cast a silencing spell around it in advance. Once they were inside, Draco spun Colby around and pressed him against the closed door. He stepped back and cast a quick binding spell, fixing his arms to the door at his sides.
Colby's face split into a grin. “That a wand in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”
Draco responded by punching him in the stomach. Colby collapsed forward, hanging from the door by his arms and gasping for breath.
“That's for almost getting Harry killed,” Draco spat, rubbing his fist. “Go near him again and I'll remove a more favored bit of your anatomy.”
“Fucking hell…” Colby groaned, still nearly on the floor. “Give me a break, all right? I didn't know.”
“Didn't know Lucius intended to harm him? You may be a Muggle, but you aren't that stupid, Hannick.”
“I'm sorry, okay?” Colby coughed, struggling to look up at Draco from his awkward position. “Do you think I had a choice?”
“You always have a choice.” Draco stepped back to make it clear he wasn't going to help Colby to his feet.
Colby shifted and managed to get his knees under him. “Look, I fucked up, and no one has paid the price more than I have. I'd give anything to go back and change it all, everything from the first moment Lucius offered me a job. I had no idea I'd wind up…” He trailed off and winced, hunching over.
“A sex slave? Funny, it seems to be something you're quite good at.”
“I can't afford to be bad at it. I came here to ask for your help, all right? I know we've had our difficulties, but–”
“You want my help? What in hell makes you think I would do anything for you, after everything you've done?”
Colby managed to straighten up again. “I was hoping we could help each other. I realize I don't have much to offer, but believe me, I'll do anything. I can't…” He shook his head and looked away. “I can't live like this.”
“Some might say you got what you deserved.”
Colby laughed, the sound humorless and pathetic. “No one deserves this.”
Draco pursed his lips. Colby seemed desperate, and that made him a bit more trustworthy than he'd ever been before. He could probably get useful information from Colby, at the very least.
“Tell me everything you've seen and heard in the last few weeks,” Draco said. “And perhaps then I'll consider helping you.”
“Everything? That'll take a while.”
“What, have you got someplace to be?” Draco sat on the toilet lid and smirked. “And don't bother lying – I'll know.”
Colby spent the next twenty minutes detailing what had happened to him since Lucius had taken him from San Francisco and forced him into service. Colby's task was to seduce the men Lucius assigned him to. Sometimes he was given to people as a reward for something they'd done. At other times, his job was to ensure the person wound up in a compromising position, so that Lucius could exploit them.
Draco listened, forcing himself to watch Colby's face, read his body language. It could very well have been him in that position. More than five years ago, Lucius had found him in London . He'd run away after his eighteenth birthday, and with no future in the Wizarding World to speak of, he'd promptly blown through all of his money partying. He'd stepped out of a dance club one night, high on a mix of coke and ecstasy, and was sucking off a hot bloke in an alley when someone apparated behind him and knocked him unconscious. He'd awakened at the Manor, with Lucius ranting at him: If you're determined to behave like a common whore, you can do it in the service of the Dark Lord!
Lucius's threat had cut through the haze of drugs, sex, and self-destruction he'd been living in for months. Draco knew he was serious, and he also knew that Lucius had no regard for him. As soon as an opportunity to escape presented itself, he had headed straight for the Ministry of Magic and appealed for amnesty. They hadn't known what to make of him, and after a few days of keeping him under observation, Severus Snape himself had shown up. He'd vouched for Draco personally, to Draco's surprise, and convinced the Ministry to allow him into the Auror training program.
Even more of a surprise, they had consented, despite the fact that Draco wasn't technically qualified – he'd always suspected his NEWT results had been bought by Lucius, as he couldn't possibly have done that well. He went into the program reluctantly, knowing no one thought he deserved to be there. Year one proved to be long, uncomfortable, and lonely. Worse, he was unable to win a placement for specialization in Britain , so he'd had little choice but to go abroad after it was done, effectively exiling himself from the world he'd grown up in. But it was a better fate than the one his father had intended for him: the one Colby was now trapped in.
Colby told him whom he'd been involved with, and what Lucius had wanted from each of the targets. He avoided personal details of what it had taken to get some of that information. Draco didn't ask him to elaborate.
“Why haven't you tried to escape?” Draco asked when Colby finally fell silent.
“I did,” Colby replied, voice small. He paused for a moment and his eyes glazed over. “Do you have any idea what it's like to have sex used as a weapon against you?”
“Yes,” Draco replied before he could stop himself. He frowned, but there was no taking it back. He looked down to see Colby's brown eyes staring up at him. “Unfortunately.”
“At least Heather doesn't remember. My punishment is that I do.” Colby stared into space for a moment. He seemed to be on the verge of breaking down. He closed his eyes, and then opened them again. “I know you have no reason to, but will you help me?”
Draco wasn't much of a Legilimens, but it was easier with Muggles than with wizards. There was nothing but desperation and fear in Colby's thoughts. Draco's eyes narrowed. “You must do something for me first, to prove that I can trust you. If you do, I promise I will help you.”
Draco was surprised – the Colby he remembered was only out for himself. “Are you sure she wants rescuing?”
Colby nodded. “I can't leave her here. It's all my fault she's in this mess.”
Draco nodded and released the binding spell with a wave of his hand. Colby collapsed to the floor, heaving a sigh of relief.
“Now, listen carefully,” Draco said, standing over him. “There is something I want you to do.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Cold, rough brick pressed into Draco's back, but it was nothing compared to the hand clamped around his throat. Weasley's angry face loomed over his, the only thing in his field of vision.
“This was your doing,” he growled, punctuating the word your with an extra squeeze of Draco's throat. “You must fix it.”
Draco opened his mouth and managed to squeak out a sound of protest.
“We each had a key,” Weasley said. “Harry holds one. Find the others.”
Draco nodded. He was starting to see stars.
“Do you understand me?” Weasley asked, his face a strange mix of anger and concern. “You must find them.”
He released Draco suddenly, stepping back. Draco stared at him, watching his freckled face grow pale. He rubbed at his throat. “Keys,” he managed, though he sounded as if he had laryngitis.
“And blood,” Weasley whispered, beginning to fade away. Draco could see a shadowy figure through him, standing across the alley. “There's blood,” he repeated, and then he was gone.
Across the alley stood Lucius, staring at him. Draco rubbed at his sore throat again.
:: :: :: :: ::
Friday, 12 March, 2004
It was mid-afternoon when Draco stepped out of the fireplace and into the headmaster's office. Snape wasn't there, so Draco settled himself into a chair across from his desk.
Lucius had almost seemed pleased when Draco had requested an opportunity to meet with Snape that morning. Draco had insisted on going to the Headmaster rather than inviting him to the castle, so Lucius had convinced the man to open the floo temporarily.
“Mister Malfoy,” a familiar voice said.
Draco turned to see a portrait of Albus Dumbledore beaming at him. “Professor… sir,” he managed, surprised.
“It's good to see you again. I trust Harry is well? He hasn't visited me in years.”
Draco gaped. How could a portrait know anything about his love life? “As well as can be expected, under the circumstances, I suppose.”
Draco shrugged in response. He'd grown up with portraits of his ancestors chastising him from beyond the grave, but it still felt odd to be conversing with an image of Dumbledore.
Fortunately, Snape entered the room at that moment, saving Draco from further small talk. He sat behind the large desk, a familiar scowl on his face.
“Well? What was so urgent that it required I cancel a staff meeting to see you – an escaped fugitive, no less?”
Draco swallowed. “I… Sorry.” He had planned to start this conversation by telling Snape how much he had appreciated him intervening with the Ministry years ago. Snape raised an eyebrow at him, and Draco decided to plow ahead with the real reason for the visit. “I'll get to the point, then. Have you ever heard of a potion called perfidio?”
“No. Are you certain there is such a potion?”
“No, but I know that I was making a potion just before… three years ago, and the word perfidio has come up in our research.”
Snape sighed and leaned forward over the desk. “You are just as stubborn a man as you were a child. You ought to have taken my advice about this matter.”
“It's too late now,” Draco replied. “And why are so many people interested in keeping what happened a secret?”
“Everyone except you, Mr. Potter, and your father, you'll note. Shouldn't that tell you something?”
Draco sighed and sank into his chair. “I'm asking you as a personal favor, Headmaster. I know you owe me nothing, but… We will find out what happened. We're getting very close. If you have any information that would help, we'd be grateful.”
“Harry and I. Lucius won't learn more than I tell him.”
Snape sneered. “Surely you've learned not to underestimate your father. I suspect he knows much more than you think.”
Draco shrugged, but he couldn't ignore the twist of anxiety in his belly.
Snape waved his hand and the tea set on the desk began to steam. The pot poured two cups, then nudged one of them towards Draco. Snape picked up the other and sighed. “You know of the plot to contain the Dark Lord?”
“Yes. Lucius told me it was your idea to collaborate with the Ministry.”
Snape nodded. “After Dumbledore's death, it seemed the only way. I knew they would bring Potter in, and despite my personal differences with him, I did believe him the only one capable of getting the job done.”
Draco resisted the urge to smile, and sipped his tea instead.
“I know nothing of what happened between the time Potter was brought in and the Dark Lord disappeared. But afterwards, Lucius requested my help. He had sent you away amid rumbles about your responsibility for Ron Weasley's death, and he told me that neither you nor Potter had any memory of what had happened. I went to St. Mungo's to interrogate Potter myself, but…” Snape paused to sip his tea. “It was as if the memory had been locked away. There was nothing I could do to uncover it, and I suspected that you and he had cast some sort of memory charm on each other.”
“But memory charms remove memories. If we had wanted to forget, we wouldn't have left ourselves so many clues to help us remember again. That must have meant we intended to remember. We didn't want it to remain a secret forever.”
“Perhaps. Lucius was livid, of course, because the plan had entailed containing the Dark Lord, to use him as a source of power. But there was no trace of him. No one knew if he had been destroyed. And those of us who had been involved in the conspiracy were left with the unsettling knowledge that if those faithful to the Dark Lord learned we'd been involved…” He trailed off and cast a glare at one of the portraits on the wall, which had started mumbling under its breath.
“But that's happening now, isn't it? They're more and more suspicious, and Lucius is losing his supporters.” Draco leaned forward, placing his teacup on the desk. “If we don't find out what happened, there will be a war.”
“And if you do find out what happened, will the outcome be different?”
Draco leaned back in his chair again. He had no answer for that.
Snape stood, shaking out his robes. “I will look through my personal library. If I learn anything about this perfidio, I will let you know.”
“Thank you,” Draco replied, standing. “And sir… thank you for–”
“I'm very busy,” Snape interrupted. “My apologies.” He gestured toward the fireplace.
Draco sighed and nodded.
:: :: :: :: ::
“Not again,” Draco groaned. “Can't I go as someone else?”
Lucius held the vial of polyjuice potion out again, an expression of impatience on his face. “The man you contacted before may be here again. It will be easier if your appearance is familiar, won't it?”
Draco scowled, though it was mostly for show. He'd sent Harry a text message on Heather's phone as soon as he'd learned about the meeting, but he didn't know if Harry would be there. He'd hoped he could at least remain male, since transforming into Heather brought a bit of baggage with it now.
He took the vial and raised it in a mock toast before downing it.
Ten minutes later, he was standing in the back of the dark pub, scanning the crowd. He didn't know if Harry was here, or even if he would disguise himself in the same way as before. He saw many familiar faces in the crowd, some of whom stared back at him as if they had never seen such a beautiful woman before. He leaned against the wall and pulled his hood down over his face, grateful to have a robe to hide in this time.
Lucius had made a short speech appealing for continued support and was now moving between groups of people, speaking quietly. Draco scanned the group he was currently addressing, and realized with a start that Harry was one of them. At least, it looked like the same man Harry had disguised himself as before.
Lucius's eyes caught his and Draco managed a sly smile. Lucius indicated Harry with a slight nod before moving to the next table. Draco felt an odd twist in his belly. The look Lucius had just given him seemed a bit too smug, almost as if… Draco shook the thought away and crossed the room. He bumped the man he hoped was Harry as he passed, purred an apology, and walked towards the toilets. He pushed open the door to the ladies' toilet and stepped inside.
And gaped. It had to be one of the nicest toilets he'd ever been in. The room had been magically enlarged to add a spacious seating area with several comfortable sofas and small tables, each with a tea service. Vanity tables lined the walls, complete with mirrors and a vast array of cosmetics, and a fire crackled in a large stone fireplace. To the right was a long corridor with a series of ornate doors leading to what he assumed were the toilets themselves.
A knock on the door interrupted the visual tour. He opened it to see the man-who-might-be-Harry peering at him. “This is the ladies' room!” he said, just in case.
“Then what are you doing in here?” the man replied in Harry's voice.
Draco grinned and stepped back. Harry glanced around to ensure no one was watching before stepping inside.
Draco tugged him towards the corridor. “We should probably duck into one of these.”
“Holy fuck,” Harry muttered, staring around the room. “Is this typical for a women's toilet?”
Draco frowned at him. “What are you asking me for?” He pushed open the door of the third stall, and they both stared into it. It was much larger than it should have been, with a stylish toilet on the far end, flanked by a large marble sink. Near the door was an inviting sofa.
“This isn't fair, you know,” Harry said as they stepped inside. “I've been in the men's toilet and it's completely disgusting.” He whispered a few words and his disguise fell away.
Draco cast a locking charm and a silencing spell on the door, then checked the room for surveillance. “Clear,” he said, then turned and found himself in Harry's arms with his capacity for speech temporarily blocked. A moment later, he was on the sofa and on Harry's lap, being held down by hands that felt much larger on his body than they did ordinarily. A strange sensation filled his chest, and he pushed away from Harry as hard as he could, nearly falling off his lap in the process.
“What?” Harry asked, concerned. “What's wrong?”
Draco stared back at him. He didn't know why he'd done that; he'd just felt panicked for some reason. “Sorry,” he said, sliding closer again. “You just… caught me by surprise.”
“I can't help myself,” Harry grinned, one hand sliding to cup Draco's arse. “You have no idea how much I've been thinking about this.”
“About what?” Draco asked, eyes narrowing.
Harry seemed to realize his mistake. “You. I miss you. I'm so horny I'm going insane, you know.”
“And this is what does it for you, then?” Draco retorted. He folded his arms across his chest, but Heather's large breasts got in the way. He looked down at them and scowled.
“No,” Harry replied in a soothing tone. “It's you I want, you know. Regardless of the way you're packaged.”
Draco gave him a scathing look and slid off his lap to sit next to him on the sofa. “Maybe we should get on to business?”
“Right. Did you talk to Snape?”
“Yes, and he doesn't know anything about perfidio. He wasn't even sure it was a potion.” He told Harry about the other things Snape had said about the aftermath of the incident and his efforts to recover Harry's memory.
“I remember that,” Harry said, frowning. “I wasn't very nice to him about it.”
“When were you ever?”
“I'm afraid I've learned nothing new myself. Except…” Harry cast a sidelong glance at Draco and blushed. “This is going to sound very strange, but I've been having these dreams.”
“Dreams?” Draco repeated, surprised.
“Yes, I know, but hear me out. I know dreams are unreliable, but I've been having a recurring dream about Ron for a long time now, maybe a year. I remember a little more of it every time, or it gets further along every time, at least. I'm walking around Hogwarts, but it's empty. I'm desperately looking for something, and then I turn a corner and Ron is there.” Harry paused to run a hand through his hair, avoiding Draco's gaze. “He tells me he's sorry for something, and then we start to talk. It gets fuzzy after that, because we talk about nonsensical things, like keys and pirates and–”
“Keys?” Draco asked. His heart pounded in his chest.
“Yes. It seems very important to him, but I don't know what he's talking about.”
“There are three keys,” Draco said, the words spilling out of him, nearly from his subconscious. “We each had one. He said it was my doing.”
Harry stared at him. “What?”
“I have dreams like that too, but I always thought it was just a guilty conscience. I've been having recurring dreams for about a year, though they've changed a lot lately, and Ron is there.” And Lucius, of course. He wondered if that was important.
Harry had paled considerably. “Oh, god, it must mean something that we're having the same dream!”
“Not exactly the same,” Draco said, and told Harry as much of his dream as he could remember.
Harry sank into the couch, still looking stunned. “Well, there must be a connection between the three keys and the triple perfidio. We just have to find it.”
“He said you had one of the keys, I'm sure,” Draco said, settling against him. Heather's long hair got caught behind his back uncomfortably, and he tugged it out of the way. “But that could mean anything. It could be a metaphor, you know, or even some special password we don't remember.”
Harry shook his head. “I think it's something physical. Why else would he say I've got one if it isn't something…” He stared down at the ring on his right hand.
“It's possible,” Draco said, catching on at the same moment. “It would explain why you have it, certainly.”
“Maybe. But what about the other keys? He didn't say anything about those.”
“Except that we have to find them.”
“This is pointless unless we learn more about this spell, or potion, or about whatever is was we did.” Harry twisted the ring on his finger, then looked up at Draco. “How much time have you got?”
Draco glanced at the watch he'd transfigured from his mother's bracelet. Having a watch had been so convenient he hadn't bothered to change it back yet. “Not long. I should probably get going.” He stood and held out a hand to help Harry to his feet.
Harry smiled and took it, but when Draco tugged, Harry jerked Draco back onto his lap in a clean movement. Draco suppressed the urge to scowl – he wasn't used to being in a small body that could be pushed around so easily.
“Do you have a couple of minutes, at least?” Harry whispered, pulling him down for a kiss. “I can't be the only one who's getting tired of wanking in the shower.”
Draco tried to smile, but the situation made him feel acutely uneasy. Harry shifted him on his lap and he felt his thigh brush against Harry's developing erection.
And all he could think of at that moment was being in Lucius's lap in the car two days before, with his hand being pressed against his father's stiff cock through his trousers.
Draco's smile faltered and he pushed away. “I'm sorry. I've been gone too long as it is. He'll be suspicious.”
Harry looked disappointed, but he smiled. “I guess it's extra motivation to get this done.”
“Yeah.” Draco felt queasy, and he hoped it didn't show.
Harry stood and kissed him, then muttered a series of spells. A moment later, the impenetrable glamour charm was back in place.
“You've got to show me how to do that,” Draco said.
“Next time,” Harry replied. He cast a finite at the door and opened it, and then disappeared into the corridor.
Draco waited several minutes before following. The pub was still full of people, so it was easy to disappear into the crowd unnoticed. He milled about a few more minutes, and then checked his watch. His time was nearly up. He started for the men's room, where he was sure he could have a bit of privacy to change back.
His arm was caught in a tight grip and pulled in another direction, though. Lucius dragged him into the pub's kitchen, locking the doors with a wave of his hand.
“Well?” he asked, an annoyed expression on his face.
Draco blinked at him in response. He had no idea what Lucius was asking for.
“You're quite a sight, you know,” Lucius hissed. “And you were gone for longer than you should have been. You must be more careful.”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Draco retorted, trying to twist out of Lucius's grip.
But Lucius grasped him hard enough to leave bruises. “I'm not stupid, Draco. I know who that man was, and I've allowed you to meet with him. But casting silencing spells and returning looking as if you've had a tryst in a darkened corner is pushing my patience too far.”
Draco clenched his jaw and stared back defiantly. “You told me to do whatever I needed to do, didn't you? Heather's rather attractive, after all. It's been quite useful.”
“And it doesn't bother you that Harry Potter finds her so attractive?”
Draco felt the blood drain from his face. There was nothing he could say to that, no possibility for denial now.
Lucius shook his head. “I've known who he was all along. My spies are quite good, you know. I expected you to be working towards recovering your memory with him, and instead you're–” Lucius stopped and grew very pale. He was staring down at Draco's hand.
Shit. Draco held his breath, not wanting this next part to happen as he knew it would.
“You…” Lucius seized his wrist and glared at the bracelet-watch, as if it were the object of his anger. He seemed unable to meet Draco's eyes and he said nothing more. But the look on his face told Draco precisely what was going through his mind.
“Yes,” Draco hissed, pulling his hand from his father's slackened grasp. “It was me in the car that day, not her. How does it feel to know you've molested your own son?”
Lucius looked appropriately horrified. He opened his mouth but said nothing.
“And I'll bet you enjoyed it,” Draco said, stepping toward him. “I even made you come, didn't I? You whispered exactly what you wanted in my ear and put my hand right where you needed it.” Lucius was still frozen, still staring at Draco's wrist. It was surprisingly easy to say these words, despite the fact that he'd been unable to think about what had happened. “It's hard to imagine you couldn't tell it wasn't her. Or maybe you just didn't care.”
Lucius's eyes snapped up to his then, face contorted with rage. “You perverted, disgusting–”
But Lucius didn't get a chance to finish the phrase. A loud sound and a bright light tore through the wall from the pub, blowing debris past them. Draco was knocked against the far wall along with it. Blinding pain overwhelmed him and he shouted, but he couldn't hear his own voice. He couldn't see, couldn't breathe.
The world faded away.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco had the dream about Ron again. It was exactly the same as it had been before, with Ron holding Draco by the throat against a dank brick wall – except that this time, when Ron faded away Draco was alone in the dark alley, and Lucius was nowhere in sight.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco became aware that he was comfortable and warm, tucked under a fluffy duvet in a soft bed. He tried to open his eyes and found it difficult, as if his body wouldn't quite cooperate with his mind. He tried to move, and that was when he remembered something unusual had happened.
There was the explosion in the pub, and the argument with his father – though perhaps not in that order. Draco felt his stomach sink as the topic of that argument filled his mind.
He managed to open his eyes after what seemed like minutes of trying. He was in Harry's bedroom, in Harry's bed. For a moment, he wondered if he'd died. He could hear soft voices coming from the room outside the door, but he couldn't make out what they were saying – his ears were ringing a bit.
He tried to sit up and felt the distinct tingling of recently cast healing spells at various points in his body. With more than a bit of trepidation, he lifted the duvet and looked under it. He appeared to have all his limbs still and – he stuck a hand down his underpants – everything else seemed intact.
He had to piss like the devil, and he seemed overdue for a shower, but he was alive and in one piece, at least.
And he was in Harry's bed, which could only mean –
“Harry?” he called. His voice was raspy, and he coughed.
The door flew open and a blurry figure appeared in the frame. “He's awake! Harry, come quickly!” Hermione stepped aside as another blurry figure burst through the door.
Draco blinked his eyes in an attempt to clear his vision. Harry came into focus just as he was sitting next to Draco on the bed.
“How do you feel?” he asked, wide-eyed. He fidgeted a bit, as if he wanted to touch Draco but couldn't decide if he should.
“I don't know,” Draco replied. His mind was spinning. “What happened? How did I get here?”
“There was an explosion at the meeting the other night,” Harry said, moving a little closer. “I had just left and was about to apparate away when I heard it, so I went back in and… I found you.”
Draco stared at him for the several seconds it took the words to register. “The other night? How long have I been here?”
“Almost two days,” Hermione replied from the doorway. “It's Sunday now.”
“Two days?” Draco repeated. He felt dizzy.
“You had some serious injuries, but we managed to patch you up pretty well. Between the two of us, we know quite a few healing spells and…” Harry frowned at him, concerned. “You look a little green. You should probably lie down.”
For once, Draco agreed. He slid back down under the duvet, and the stars in his field of vision grew dimmer. “What about…?” He closed his eyes. Did he want to know what had happened to Lucius? The thought that his father's last words to him may have been those made Draco feel queasy.
Harry brushed hair away from Draco's forehead. “The blast occurred in the center of the pub, so you were lucky to be in the kitchen. Two people died and a dozen more were seriously injured, but Lucius is fine. He spent a day in St. Mungo's according to the Prophet. No one knew you were there, of course, so your name hasn't come up. Well, one article did refer to Lucius as ‘the father of the escaped murder suspect Draco Malfoy'.”
“Bet he loved that,” Draco said. “Who did it?”
“There's speculation that the explosion was set by a group of Death Eaters who were out to kill Lucius. No one knows, but…” Harry looked at Hermione. “The public is eating it up, as you might imagine. Dissent in the ranks of the Death Eaters and so on.”
“The Quibbler is reporting that your father is actually a secret agent of the Ministry,” Hermione said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “They're claiming he's a hero.”
Draco squinted at her. “Did I sustain a head injury, by any chance?”
Hermione smiled. “You had a concussion. Your leg was fractured, and you had some internal bleeding.”
Draco groaned. “And it didn't occur to you to take me to hospital?”
Harry winced. “We weren't sure it was a good idea, considering your legal status. But we've both had medical training.” As if to prove his point, he brandished his wand and cast a few unfamiliar spells. Draco felt odd tingles pass through his body. “The bones have healed. And we fed you a potion that repaired the internal damage. If you want to see a healer, though–”
“I think I'll survive, thanks.”
“But if you still feel any pain, or if anything seems wrong–” Hermione began.
“I'll let you know,” Draco interrupted. “Right now, I'd really like a shower.” He shot Harry a hopeful look.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco had never been so happy to have a shower in his life. He stood under the hot spray for a long time, washing himself gingerly but thoroughly. After drying off and managing to cast a serviceable vision charm, he stared at his reflection. His face was unusually pale, which only accentuated the bags under his eyes. His towel-dried hair hung around his face in stringy clumps, badly in need of a cut. His eyes were glassy, though that could be an effect of the vision charm. He was too tired to do anything about the stubble on his face.
He frowned – what the hell did Harry see in him? No wonder he'd been so excited to see Draco in Heather's body.
“I don't think I've ever seen you like this,” Harry said when Draco finally emerged. At Draco's quizzical look, he continued, “You almost look… scruffy.”
“Scruffy?” Draco scoffed, though he didn't disagree. “These are your clothes you're insulting, you know.” He had appropriated a particularly comfortable t-shirt of Harry's and a worn pair of jeans that kept sliding down his hips, revealing his underpants in an annoyingly retro fashion. He was too tired to do anything about it, so he just kept tugging them back up.
“I didn't say I didn't like it,” Harry replied, pulling Draco into his arms. “God, you're thin.”
“I haven't eaten in two days, have I? Did you order that pizza?”
They devoured an entire pizza in less than ten minutes, and Draco was still hungry. Harry dug a tub of ice cream out of the freezer and they sat in front of the fire, eating it right out of the carton.
“This is strange, isn't it?” Harry asked. Draco looked up to see Harry staring at him. “I mean, it feels so normal to sit here with you, after everything that's happened.” He paused and looked down, frowning.
Draco took the ice cream tub from him, uncertain what Harry was getting at. “What is it?”
Harry looked up again, eyes bright. “I'm glad you're awake.”
“Me too.” Inexplicably, he blushed, and focused his attention on the ice cream container again.
A silence stretched between them. Finally, Harry took the ice cream from Draco and set it aside, and took Draco's hands in his. Draco was startled by how warm they were.
“I don't want to fuck this up again,” Harry said, voice soft. “I had a lot of time to think while you were unconscious.”
Draco flinched as an uncomfortable emotion swept through him. He had to force himself to meet Harry's gaze.
“I love you, and I don't care about Ron. I mean, I do, but… if it was really you who killed him, it doesn't change the way I feel.”
“How can it not? He was your best friend.”
“It was three years ago.”
“What if we find out I betrayed the two of you? What if I murdered him and tried to kill you as well? What if I was working for Voldemort all along?” Harry paled a bit, and Draco swallowed. It was his worst fear, and he'd said it. The idea seemed to hover in the air between them.
“Why worry about it now?” Harry said after a moment. “There's no point getting worked up when we don't know anything about it.”
Draco sighed. Hadn't he been telling himself that all week? “I love you, Harry, but I need to be prepared for the possibility that you will hate me when we find out what happened.” Harry's hands were shaking, so he squeezed them and tried to smile. “I'm tired of being afraid of it. I want to get this done. And I think we must have intended to remember it. Otherwise, wouldn't we have just wiped our memories and have done with it?”
Harry exhaled. “Maybe we didn't all consent to having these memories covered up in the first place.”
“I don't think that's possible. You can take memories away permanently, but concealing them without the person's consent… It contradicts a good deal of magical theory.”
“What if it was dark magic?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow.
Draco swallowed. He hadn't thought of that, though he doubted Harry would believe it. He shifted so that he could lean back against the sofa cushions and put his bare feet in Harry's lap. “I still think it's unlikely.”
Harry played with Draco's toes for a moment, lost in thought. “What if Ron's death caused the spell to go wrong? Maybe we won't be able to break it without him.”
“Every spell can be broken. Well, almost every spell anyway. And we don't actually know it was a spell – it could be an antidote to a potion that we're looking for.”
“Hermione sent word to Snape that you were safe,” Harry said, now stroking the sole of Draco's foot. “She told him we could get messages to you, if he learned anything about perfidio.” He frowned in the direction of Draco's toes. “You aren't ticklish, are you?”
Draco grinned. “Only if I want to be.”
They sat together on the sofa for an hour, the conversation turning to the explosion in the pub two nights before. Harry seemed to think it was an assassination attempt against Lucius.
“I've been in meetings where such things were being discussed,” he said. “Those in the rebel faction think he betrayed Voldemort.”
“Which he did,” Draco said, unable to prevent a hint of pride from entering his tone.
Harry raised an eyebrow at him. “But they think he is responsible for Voldemort's disappearance. Do you think… it is possible he helped us three years ago?”
Draco snorted. “Before a few days ago, I would've said no. But now, I'm not so sure. It's even crossed my mind in the last few days that he was part of the memory spell as well.”
Harry looked thoughtful. “But if that were the case, wouldn't he have been involved in our dreams somehow?”
Draco nearly choked on the brandy he was sipping. “He has been in my dreams, actually.”
Harry's eyes narrowed. “In what way?”
“Watching. He just watches me talk to Ron.” His mind whirled for a moment. “He's been in my dreams all along.”
“It might mean nothing,” Harry said, rubbing a hand over his jaw absently. “It might all mean nothing.”
“But we both dreamed about Ron and keys, right? Maybe we should focus on what our dreams have in common.”
They sat in silence for a full minute, listening to the fire crackle. Draco drained his brandy glass and yawned.
“Want to go to bed?” Harry asked, setting his own glass aside.
“Is that a proposition?”
Harry crawled over to him and kissed him. Draco realized it was the first real kiss they'd shared – in their own bodies – since they'd sat here more than a week ago. So much had happened since, so much it made Draco's head spin. Or perhaps that just because of the way Harry's tongue was sliding against his own.
“We're both scruffy,” Draco whispered against Harry's lips. “Remind me to give us a good depilo in the morning.”
“I think I like it,” Harry whispered back. “It feels interesting.”
“Wait till you get stubbleburn on your dick sometime.”
Harry laughed, then stood and pulled Draco to his feet. “Are you sure about this? I mean, do you feel up to…?” He trailed off, tilting his head and nodding to indicate the bedroom.
“Up to what?” Draco asked, trying his best to look innocent. “I'm a bit knackered, yeah.”
Harry smirked and tugged him toward the bedroom door.
But once they were standing together in the darkness, Harry seemed hesitant, as if he wasn't sure Draco was well enough to have sex. Draco was determined, however. He kissed Harry fiercely, tugging at his clothes and pushing him down onto the mattress. Harry groaned beneath him, pulling Draco's shirt up and over his head and then running his hands up Draco's back. It wasn't until Harry's fingers wriggled into his underpants that Draco realized something was wrong.
Harry stroked, but nothing happened. Draco kept kissing him, kept thinking about how much he wanted this, shivered as the hot length of Harry's cock pressed into his thigh – but he didn't get hard.
Draco felt an odd sense of panic he'd never felt before. He wanted this – he'd been thinking about it all day, and now that they were finally here, his dick wouldn't cooperate? The panic settled quickly into frustration, and then embarrassment. It wasn't going to work. He wasn't going to get hard at all.
Harry withdrew his hand after a few awkward minutes. Draco closed his eyes, wishing he could tug the duvet over his head. Harry didn't say anything; he simply settled against Draco's side and wrapped an arm across his chest.
“I'm sorry,” Draco whispered. “I have no idea why…”
“Don't worry,” Harry replied, nuzzling his neck. “I understand.”
“That's never happened to me before.”
“It has to me.”
Harry's head popped up to look at Draco's face. “You were pretty badly hurt, you know. Maybe your body just needs time to recover.”
Draco frowned. He'd had serious injuries before, and it had never stopped him from wanking. Perhaps it was a sign that he was getting old.
Harry exhaled against his skin, holding him more tightly. Draco could feel Harry's still-hard cock against his hip, and winced.
“But I really wanted… You could still fuck me, you know.”
“I don't want to.”
“But I want to.”
Harry sighed and kissed Draco so tenderly that Draco thought he might melt on the spot. “It's not the same. I won't enjoy it if I know you're not.”
Harry's head settled on his shoulder again and Draco stared at the ceiling, frustrated. Sex was supposed to be easy, wasn't it? It was about getting off, mutual pleasure. He would still enjoy it, even if he didn't come. At least, he thought he would – he had no experience to base that assertion upon.
What if this wasn't temporary, a one-time thing? What if…?
“Good night,” Harry whispered.
Draco lay awake for another hour before his mind quieted enough to sleep.
:: :: :: :: ::
A blaring alarm wrenched Draco awake. He shook sleep away as quickly as he could, having no idea what he was hearing.
Before he could think to ask what was going on, Harry was on top of him, covering his body. “Hold onto me tight!” he said, a wild look in his eyes.
Draco grabbed his wand from the nightstand and wrapped his arms around Harry, then hooked a leg around him for good measure. A moment later, they were being pulled along by a portkey. Draco felt one of Harry's fists digging into his back, holding on tightly. Side-along portkeying was more dangerous than side-along apparition, but Draco knew they wouldn't be doing this if it weren't necessary.
They landed with a thump on a wooden floor, surrounded by darkness. Harry leapt to his feet and said, “Lumos.”
Draco blinked, unable to focus his eyes in the light afforded by Harry's wand.
“Harry, are you all right?” he heard, along with the sound of feet thumping down stairs. All of the lamps in the room were promptly lit, and Hermione came into view, tying her dressing gown around her more tightly.
“We're fine,” Harry said, extending a hand down to Draco.
Clutching the sheet they'd accidentally portkeyed along with them, Draco allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. He was wearing nothing but his underpants, but at the moment, he was thankful for that much.
Harry was wearing his customary green and blue plaid pyjama bottoms. He'd somehow had the presence of mind to grab his glasses along with his wand and was now putting them on. In his left hand he held a small figurine of an owl.
“What happened?” Hermione asked, gesturing them to the sofa. Harry didn't seem interested in sitting. Feeling dizzy, Draco collapsed on it; his formerly broken leg was a little too tingly for his liking.
“The intruder wards went off. I didn't get a look at who it was, though.”
“You were right about the emergency portkey,” Hermione said, brow furrowed. “Are you certain it's untraceable?”
Harry nodded. “But I don't want to put you and the children in any danger. We'll leave as soon as it's light.”
“We can take care of ourselves,” Hermione said, though she cast a nervous glance to the ceiling. As if on cue, small thumps could be heard from above. A moment later, two faces were peering at them through the stairway banister. “Come on, then,” Hermione told them, sighing. She turned back to Harry and Draco. “There'll be no getting them back to bed now anyway.”
Harley and Cally, dressed in matching flannel pyjamas, hurried down the stairs and settled on the sofa next to their mother, wide-eyed.
Green flames erupted in the fireplace and a very disheveled-looking Manny stumbled out, wand at the ready.
“It's all right,” Hermione said, rubbing at her temples with her fingers.
“The wards,” Manny said, glancing around the living room. He caught sight of Draco and his features hardened. Draco pulled the sheet around him more tightly.
“Someone broke into Harry's flat, so he and Draco portkeyed in though the emergency ward,” Hermione explained. She turned to Harry. “He insisted on linking the wards on my house and his flat. This is the first time anything's happened, of course.”
“Good idea,” Harry said.
Hermione's expression was one of mild annoyance. “How did I ever get along without men to protect me?” She shook her head and stood. “I'll make tea, then.”
Manny watched her leave, an expression of bewilderment on his face, and then turned his gaze back to Draco. “I heard you were almost blown up,” he said.
“Sorry I wasn't?”
Manny looked abashed. “No, of course not. I just… I'm glad you're well.” He folded his arms across his chest and looked towards the kitchen.
“Thanks to Harry,” Draco said.
Harry patted Manny on the shoulder. “I'm going to help Hermione. Play nice, boys.” He motioned for the children to follow him and the three of them disappeared around the corner.
“I'm sorry,” Draco blurted, wanting to eliminate the awkwardness as soon as possible. “I don't blame you for hating me. I never intended to deceive you, though.”
“I know,” Manny said. He fidgeted for a moment before settling on the opposite end of the sofa from Draco. “And I don't hate you. I just… I wish you would have confided in me sooner. I can't help feeling like you used me.”
“I'm sorry,” Draco repeated. He didn't think he'd used Manny, but he doubted anything he could say would convince Manny of that.
“I'm sorry too.” They sat in silence until Harry and Hermione returned.
Hermione gave everyone a cup of tea, then settled in a chair. Cally climbed into her lap, blinking sleepily at Draco. Harley snuggled into Manny's lap, and Harry sat next to Draco, staring into his tea cup.
“Any word from Snape?” he asked.
Hermione shook her head. “His last owl said he'd found no potion called perfidio, and he'd even had Madame Pomfrey check the entire Restricted Section of the school library.”
“Perfidio?” Manny asked, nearly gaping in surprise.
Harry looked at Manny and back to Hermione. “You didn't tell him?”
Hermione blushed. “Well... we haven't been on speaking terms for a few days, actually.” Manny made a coughing sound and gave her a hard look. “We found a note at the end of Ron's research log that said triple perfidio,” she said, not meeting Manny's gaze. “And Draco learned that he'd made a potion during the time he–”
“You cast a perfidio?” Manny spat, turning to stare at Draco. “Are you insane?” The tone in his voice appeared to have frightened Harley, who promptly slid out of his lap and went to stand next to his mother.
Draco wasn't sure how to respond for a moment. “You know what it is?”
“Of course!” Manny replied.
“Because I don't,” Draco told him. “I clearly did once, but now I don't remember.”
The room was silent for a moment. Manny's expression was incredulous as he looked at Hermione and Harry in turn. “Don't tell me none of you have heard of it before.”
Hermione looked affronted. “Should we have?” Draco had to admit that Hermione would be the most likely to know after Snape – and neither of them had heard of such a spell.
“It's old Black Magic,” Manny said, a hint of exasperation in his voice. “Originates from Colonial-era Caribbean Voodoo. Don't you people study New World magical history?”
“No,” Hermione said, a bit indignant. “We're quite busy covering several thousand years of European magical history, after all!”
“As if that's the only magic that really counts in the world?” Manny retorted. “As if the Aztecs didn't have centuries of their own magic as well?”
Hermione looked mildly hurt by this. Harry cut off the impending argument. “Manny, we'd appreciate it if you could explain.”
Manny frowned and leaned back against the sofa cushions. “It's an old spell, made famous by pirates and thieves centuries ago. It's legendary – kids tell ghost stories around campfires about it, actually.” He looked around to see if this seemed familiar to any of them, and shook his head when their faces remained blank. “I can't believe you don't know this. Anyway, according to legend, it was used in situations where the people involved didn't trust each other but were forced to work together – you know, when pirates wanted to steal some sort of treasure and hide it safely away. The spell would bind them together so they couldn't lie to each other during the act, or betray each other afterwards. They wouldn't be able to tell anyone else about what they had done, ever.”
“Do you know how it was cast?” Harry asked.
“Not really,” Manny replied. “They don't teach us how to do it, you know.”
“But you said the spell only prevents the people involved from telling anyone else what they did,” Hermione said. “And Harry and Draco don't remember anything about what happened.”
“Yes,” Manny said, looking hesitant. “I don't remember the details, but there were famous incidents – just legends, possibly – where one of the pirates was killed before the crime was completed. And then, Black Magic being what it is, the spell became a curse.”
“A curse?” Draco and Harry exclaimed at the same time.
Manny glanced at them before turning back to Hermione. “In one case, the survivors went insane. And then there's the story of Gardel the Grey. He wasn't a wizard, nor were any of his men, but he wanted to steal a galley full of Inca gold from the Spanish. So he and his men consulted a Voodoo priestess, who cast a perfidio on them. But Gardel was killed during the attack on the ship. Even though his men were ultimately successful, they couldn't escape the curse. They supposedly slaughtered each other before they could divide their treasure.” He paused. “I don't know of any incidents where they simply forgot what had happened, but as I said, I'm not an expert.”
Hermione looked skeptical. “It sounds as if these are legends and nothing more. Are you sure this spell is real?”
“It's illegal in the US . My mother studies historical Black Magic, and I know she's done work on spells of that sort. She has to get special permission from the Department of Magic to publish some of her research.”
“Illegal?” Draco repeated.
“Highly,” Manny said, turning to look at him. “Not that it would have stopped you.”
“It was for a good cause,” Draco muttered. At least, he thought it was.
“We think there were keys, or objects of some sort involved,” Harry said. “Do you know what that might mean?”
Manny frowned. “Well, I don't know much about how the spell was cast, but it was a common feature of Black Magic in that era to use sentimental or valuable possessions in spells, as a way of binding the magic. They didn't have wands then, so they had to focus their magic in other ways.”
“He said we each had a key,” Draco told Harry excitedly. “The ring must have been his, and I'm willing to bet–” he indicated his mother's bracelet, which had been returned to its original form “–that this was mine.”
“What are you talking about?” Hermione asked.
Harry and Draco exchanged a glance. “We've been dreaming about Ron,” Harry said, voice gentle. “And in both of our dreams, he's been… giving us clues about what happened.”
Hermione turned very pale and said nothing.
“But I've no idea what mine would have been,” Harry said. “I don't wear jewelry. I never have.”
“Do you know if there's a way to break the spell?” Draco asked Manny.
Manny shook his head. “I've never heard of anyone breaking it. Or successfully casting it in recent times, for that matter.” He raised an eyebrow at Draco.
“We should tell Professor Snape about this,” Hermione said. She was still pale, and was clutching Cally tightly to her chest. “He may know where to look now.”
“I'll call my mother,” Manny said, glancing at his watch. “It's still last night there. She might know what to do. At the very least, she would find all of this interesting.”
“In the meantime, I want you two to stay here,” Hermione said to Harry and Draco. “You can have the guest room.”
“We can't–” Harry began.
“We'll strengthen the wards,” Hermione said, setting her jaw. “We should stick together until we learn more about this spell and how to break it.”
“If we can break it,” Draco said.
No one said anything after that.
:: :: :: :: ::
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