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:: :: :: :: ::
“Do you have any idea why Manny and Hermione are fighting?” Draco asked as they lay in the darkness.
“It was about you, actually.” Harry turned onto his side and yawned. “Hermione thought Manny was being unreasonable and overly judgmental, and he finally had enough of her nagging him about it, and… well, they had a spectacular row on Friday afternoon.”
Draco stared up at where the ceiling would be if he could see it. “Did they split up?”
“They're in too deep for that. He's here tonight, isn't he?”
Draco pulled the quilt up under his chin. The thought of Hermione defending him to Manny made him feel uneasy. Why did everyone have so much faith in him? He'd done nothing to earn it, after all. Deep down, he thought Manny's response to his deceit was entirely understandable.
“I can't believe Manny knew about that spell all along,” Harry whispered, almost to himself. “And I wonder how you knew about it?”
“I don't know. It's just another thing I don't remember.”
Harry was quiet for several seconds. “Why didn't you tell me about that when you first came here?”
“I didn't realize our lapses in memory were connected,” Draco replied, even though he knew it sounded lame. “I knew there were things I couldn't remember, but… I didn't know it had anything to do with what happened here.”
He felt Harry nod into his hair.
“I'm sorry if I…” Draco paused, not certain what he was trying to say.
“You've done nothing worse than what I've done. There are many things I haven't told you about, you know. You don't owe me an explanation for things you did in America . It had nothing to do with me.”
“But I think I owe Manny one.”
Harry sighed. “Why do you care so much about what he thinks?”
“He's my friend.”
“Yes, but…” Harry paused. “Hermione asked him if he was still in love with you, if that was why he was so angry.”
Draco's eyes flew open at that. “What did he say?”
“He said he wasn't, that she was just jealous. And she said something about not being able to help it, because she couldn't compete with you, not being properly equipped.”
Draco turned to look at Harry. “Were you listening at the keyhole or something?”
“They were in my office. Wasn't much I could do about it.”
Draco bit his lip. “I understand how she feels, though.”
“You–” Harry stared back at him, eyes narrowing. “Is this about that woman you polyjuiced into?”
Draco considered saying no for a moment, but he was too tired to lie, even if it would prevent an argument. “It just… it bothers me that I can't give you what a woman could, and I never will. With me, there's no marriage, no family, no grandchildren, no normal life.” Draco held Harry's gaze, even though he knew Harry wanted to look away.
“That's not completely true,” Harry said at last. “Besides, who's to say what's normal? Things are changing.”
Draco wasn't certain about that, but now wasn't the time to discuss politics. “All I can give you is me. And I'm…” He broke off and looked at the ceiling again.
“What I want,” Harry said, and kissed his shoulder.
Draco closed his eyes. Why was he doing this to himself? Why was he opening up so much when tomorrow it might all come crashing down?
Draco turned onto his side, away from Harry. Harry yawned again and spooned behind him, sliding an arm around his chest. Draco closed his eyes as the sound of Harry's breathing became even and shallow.
:: :: :: :: ::
Monday, March 15, 2004
Daylight was streaming through the windows when Draco woke up. Harry was still curled around him, the heat of his body comforting in the chill of morning. Draco stretched and stuck one foot out from under the blankets to test just how chilly the room was.
His movement caused Harry to stir. The arm draped around Draco shifted and then pulled him closer, close enough for Draco to feel an erection against his arse. He thought for a moment about pressing back against it, but his embarrassment from the night before was still fresh in his mind. He focused instead on the sound of Harry's breathing and the feeling of it against his skin. Just as Draco was starting to drift back to sleep, Harry rolled onto his back and yawned audibly, pulling the quilt off of them both. Draco started to grumble about the loss of warmth, but stopped when he caught sight of the small tent Harry's dick was making in the sheet.
“Morning,” Harry managed, blinking at him. He followed Draco's gaze down his body and grinned. “Should I tell you what you were doing to me in that dream I just had?”
Draco smiled. “Depends on whether or not you want it to come true.”
Harry's grin broadened at that. On a whim, Draco ducked under the sheet and pushed Harry's thighs apart, settling on his belly between them. He had just wrapped his lips around the head of Harry's prick when there was a knock at the door.
“Morning!” Hermione called.
Harry groaned – whether it was from pleasure or frustration, Draco couldn't tell. “Erm,” he replied. Draco grinned around his mouthful and sucked Harry's cock in as far as he could manage.
“Are you awake?” Hermione asked through the door.
“More or less,” Harry replied. His voice was completely normal, which Draco took as a sign he wasn't working hard enough. He shifted onto his elbows under the sheet and let his tongue swirl against Harry's shaft as he moved, massaging the foreskin.
“Manny's mum arrived about an hour ago, and I'm fixing breakfast. Would you like eggs?”
“I… sure,” Harry replied, voice a bit strained now. His thighs fell apart even more, giving Draco better access. Draco let his teeth graze the underside of the head in that way he knew Harry liked.
“Scrambled, fried, what?”
“Ohhh… I don't care, really.” Harry was breathing harder now.
Draco wet one finger and trailed it down beneath Harry's balls, smiling at the intake of breath he could hear above him. He teased Harry's arsehole for a moment before pressing that finger into him as slowly as he could bear. Harry's hips arched off the bed.
“All right,” Hermione said. “Coffee or tea?”
“Erm… sorry?” One of Harry's hands grasped the back of Draco's head through the sheet, pushing him down further. Draco was surprised, but did his best to swallow Harry's cock. He hooked his finger up and stroked, and Harry shuddered beneath him. He'd never fingered him like this without asking permission first, but Harry didn't seem to care at the moment.
“Coffee or tea?” Hermione repeated, a bit louder.
“I… I don't… both?” Harry managed, panting.
“Both,” Hermione repeated, sounding a little perplexed. “Would you like toast? Manny's thinking of fixing pancakes as well, if you like that sort of thing.”
“Uh,” Harry replied.
Draco sucked hard, his fist pumping in opposition to the movements of his mouth, his other finger twisting inside Harry's arse.
“And bacon and sausage, of course.”
“Yes, I–” Harry said, and rubbed at Draco's head in what he could only assume was a warning. A moment later, Harry came without a sound, arse clenching around Draco's finger.
When Draco emerged from beneath the sheet, Harry's hands were over his face. “Sounds great, Hermione. Thanks.”
“Draco?” Hermione asked through the door.
Draco grinned at Harry, whose blush was spreading down his throat. Harry peeked through his fingers and grinned back.
“I don't suppose I could have an omelet?” Draco asked, giving Harry a wink. “With cheese would be lovely.”
:: :: :: :: ::
After a few cleansing spells and some creative transfiguration of sheets into reasonable clothing, they were presentable enough to emerge from the room.
Harry's arms encircled Draco's waist the moment his hand touched the doorknob. “Can't I just–?”
“They're waiting for us.”
Harry kissed his neck in a way that would normally have melted Draco on the spot, but he was – truthfully – relieved to have an excuse to tell Harry no. He hadn't got even a bit hard while sucking Harry off, and he wasn't yet ready to think about what that meant.
The small living room looked busier than Draco had ever seen it. The twins, still in their pyjamas, were on the floor surrounded by magical Legos, which they were directing to assemble and disassemble repeatedly into various animal shapes. Manny was sitting on the sofa watching them with an expression that bordered on paternal. He looked up at Harry and Draco and nodded in greeting.
Hermione's voice could be heard from the kitchen around the corner. “Oh, don't trouble yourself, please–”
“It's no trouble, honey,” a woman's voice replied. “You clearly do far too much on your own as it is.”
Hermione appeared from around the corner, followed by a woman in a colorful set of robes. Her dark hair was streaked with grey and pulled into a loose bun at the back of her head. The woman gestured towards the kitchen, and a teapot and half a dozen cups floated into view.
Her dark eyes fell upon Draco and she smiled. “Oh yes,” she said, her voice rich and familiar. “Draco – I remember.”
Draco felt oddly naked under her gaze. “You… you do?”
The teapot and cups settled onto the sofa table behind her. Manny looked up from the Legos to listen.
“We met when I spoke at NYU several years ago,” she said, stepping closer. “You came to the party Manny had for me at his apartment.”
“Oh,” Draco replied as the memory was sparked. “Right.” He glanced at Manny.
“We didn't really know each other then,” Manny said, a hint of recognition on his face as well. “I'd just moved to New York and didn't know anybody, so I invited everyone in the office.”
Manny's mother beamed at Draco, and he blushed – he couldn't even remember her name.
After an awkward moment, Harry stepped forward. “I'm Harry. Harry Potter.” Draco winced – where were his manners?
“Guadalupe Gomez-Padilla,” she replied, extending her hand. The gold and copper bracelets on her wrists jangled, reminding Draco for a moment of Professor Trelawney, whom he hadn't seen since his days at Hogwarts. “And your name is familiar to me as well, of course.”
Harry nodded, looking uncomfortable.
Guadalupe turned back to Draco and contemplated him for a moment. “And you, young man – you have done something very interesting, I understand.”
“And highly illegal,” Manny muttered.
“Mi'jo, I think Hermione could use your help in the kitchen,” she replied without looking at him. Manny rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed, but he left the room without a word. Guadalupe ignored his departure, her dark eyes sparkling as she smiled at Draco. “I've been studying historical magic my entire life, and I've never had an opportunity to view the effects of such a spell cast outside of a laboratory setting. You'll have to forgive my enthusiasm.”
“Well, I suppose we're your guinea pigs, then,” Draco said.
Guadalupe laughed. “Oh, you're much more than that! I expect to get a few publications out of this, of course, but this is an opportunity I never thought I'd have.” She gestured toward the dining room table. “Now come and sit. You must tell me everything.”
And so they did. Over eggs, toast, sausage, tea, and coffee, Draco and Harry told Guadalupe everything they'd learned about the situation under which the perfidio spell had been cast. Manny and Hermione listened intently, so much so that Draco wondered how much of this Harry had told them. Even the children were quiet.
“And you both awoke with no recollection of what had happened in the previous three weeks?” Guadalupe asked, adding sugar to her coffee.
“None,” Harry replied. “We remember nothing of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Voldemort and our involvement in it.”
“Terrible wizard, that one,” Guadalupe said, shaking her head. “The American government was hoping your people would sort that out before his followers got a foothold in our country.”
“They were having a little trouble with the Mafia,” Draco quipped, glancing at Manny.
Manny nodded and swallowed a bite of toast. “Draco's something of an expert on that.” There was no malice in his tone, but Draco felt a twinge in his stomach anyway.
“If you don't mind,” Harry said, nudging Draco under the table with his knee, “what we'd really like to know is how to break the spell.”
Guadalupe nodded and placed her cup on the table before her. “Of course. The first thing you should know is that it's never been done in such a situation.”
Draco thought Harry must have felt the same sinking sensation that he did.
“I have a theory, however,” Guadalupe continued, gesturing with one bangled wrist, “one I've been working on for many years. I never expected to have an opportunity to test it, of course.” She looked up and her eyes met Draco's. “My first concern is that you may have altered the potion used in the spell. There are some ingredients involved that I can't imagine you could have procured with a few weeks' notice.”
Draco nodded, wishing he had asked Ebby more questions about the potion he'd made.
“You see, there are no recorded cases of memory loss associated with the cursification of perfidio. Madness, yes – homicidal tendencies, extreme depression…”
Harry swallowed audibly. “Depression?”
Guadalupe paused to give him an appraising look before continuing. “The fact that the people involved were all highly trained and powerful wizards may be a factor. But my suspicion is that you altered the spell in some significant way. And that is very interesting indeed.” She picked up her coffee again, nearly looking excited by the prospect.
Harry made a small sound of frustration. “But you can help us break it? Preferably as soon as possible?”
“Perhaps. My counter spell has worked repeatedly under laboratory conditions – of course, we've only removed a controlled perfidio and not a cursified one, so there's no guarantee it would work in this context.”
“Cursified?” Harry asked.
Guadalupe's eyebrows rose. “You don't use that term for a spell that's broken down and become a curse?”
“We don't have a word for that,” Hermione said, with a meaningful glance at Harry.
“But we can at least try to break it,” Draco interjected. “Can't we?”
Guadalupe took a measured breath before replying. “There is another factor that concerns me. The potion is the medium through which the magic enters the body, of course. But in those days, New World witches and wizards didn't use wands to focus their magic. In order to bind the people involved, a metal object of great value to each person was dropped into the potion, along with a thimble full of blood from each.” She glanced at Hermione before continuing. “We can break the spell by inverting the potion in the usual way, but we'll need the objects and the blood to complete the process.”
“Blood?” Harry asked, face becoming pale. He looked at Hermione, who was staring into her teacup. “That's impossible, unfortunately. Ron is…”
“I'm afraid we can't proceed without it,” Guadalupe sighed. “Blood magic is very powerful. Modern magical science has yet to find a way around it.”
They were all silent as a sense of hopelessness settled over them.
“There must be another way,” Harry said at last. “This isn't just about us regaining our memories. We're on the verge of war. We need to find out what happened to Voldemort, once and for all.”
“I understand,” Guadalupe sighed, “but–”
Hermione sucked in a breath across the room and everyone turned to look at her. She was staring at her children, a strange expression on her face.
“What is it?” Manny asked, turning to examine them.
“Harley,” Hermione whispered. Her face was very pale.
“Harley?” Harry asked, rising in his chair.
Draco stared at the child, trying to see what was wrong.
“We could…” Hermione closed her eyes and seemed to be steadying herself. “He looks so much like Ron. Molly even says their baby photos are identical. What if we used… his blood?” She looked away, as if ashamed of herself for even suggesting it.
Everyone turned to stare at Harley, who was engrossed in stuffing a Cheerio up his nose.
Guadalupe nodded, her forehead wrinkling. “That is a brilliant idea, Hermione. Blood magic binds to DNA, you know, but only to certain genes. A complete match may not be necessary, if we're lucky.”
“Yes,” Hermione said, nodding. “That's just what I was thinking.” Harry gave her a look of surprise and her cheeks flushed. “I do know something about the science of blood magic, you know,” she said, holding her head a bit higher. “I haven't had a chance to study it formally, but the London Library of Magic has subscriptions to many of the top international journals of magical science and–”
“Do you spend your lunch breaks there, or something?” Harry asked.
“Sometimes,” Hermione replied, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She looked back at Harley, who was now eating his bogey-glazed Cheerio.
“Then you also know that the child must give the blood willingly,” Guadalupe said, her voice gentle. “Otherwise the magic won't bind correctly.”
Hermione nodded, looking concerned again. “He's old enough to understand some of it. I'll ask him.” Manny reached across the table to take Hermione's hand. She squeezed it in response.
Draco looked at Harry, who was still staring at Harley with a tense expression on his face. “This is crazy,” Draco said. “We don't even know if it will work.”
“It's our only chance, though,” Harry replied. “If Harley agrees, I think we should try it.”
They all looked at Harley, who was smiling at the mention of his name. “Can I have more juice?” he asked.
:: :: :: :: ::
Draco stepped out of the floo into Harry's flat, wand at the ready.
“It's all right,” Harry said from a few feet away, brushing ashes off of his sleeve. “They're not here any more.”
“They certainly left a calling card.” The flat had been torn apart: furniture overturned, dishes broken, papers strewn everywhere.
They began to cast cleaning charms in silence, moving from room to room. Draco searched for magical residue as he worked, but it seemed that much of this had been done by hand. The damage was indiscriminate, as if it had been done in haste.
“Any idea who it was?” Draco asked when they'd nearly put everything back in order.
Harry shook his head. “I wonder if they were after one of us, or something else.”
“What do you think they would be after?” Draco sat on the sofa, a bit dizzy.
“The key, maybe?” Harry shrugged. “We really don't know who else knew about the spell. Maybe someone doesn't want us to break it.”
Cho Chang immediately came to Draco's mind, but he didn't say it aloud. He had a feeling Harry would object. “Have you thought any more about what your key could be?”
Harry sat next to him, looking tired. “I have no idea. Manny's mum said it would have been a metal object of great sentimental value, and I have nothing like that.”
Draco studied him for a moment. “Could it be your glasses? I mean, they aren't completely metal, but… it could explain why you refuse to learn the vision correction spell.”
Harry snorted. “If it is, we're in trouble. This pair is only a year old. I donate the old ones.”
“Ah. No elaborate belt buckles or anything? No lucky coins?”
Harry shook his head. “No.”
“You wouldn't happen to have Godric Gryffindor's famous sword stashed in a cupboard?”
Harry finally smiled at this. “Oh, sure. Let me go and fetch it.”
They both yawned at the same time, then grinned at each other.
“God, I'm tired,” Draco said, rubbing at his eyes. “Where are we staying tonight?”
“Hermione wants us to stay there. She's probably working on strengthening the wards even as we speak.” Harry frowned. “Of course, we'd probably be fine here. Why would whoever did this expect us to come back, after all?”
Draco stifled a sarcastic retort. He would feel much better when they had flooed back to Hermione's house. “I wonder how Manny's mum and Snape are getting along?”
“Probably famously,” Harry replied, propping his feet on the sofa table. “From what Hermione said about his return owl, it seemed he knew who she was.”
“That would be an interesting meeting to sit in on,” Draco said, stifling another yawn. Harry raised an eyebrow in response, and Draco changed the subject once again. “Manny and Hermione seem to have made up, haven't they?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied, frowning. “Does he… Do you think he's really serious about her?”
“He thinks he's in love with her. At least, he did two weeks ago.”
Harry looked thoughtful. “That was a bit quick, wasn't it? I mean, he hardly knew her.”
Draco decided to refrain from pointing out that he and Harry had basically done the same thing.
They gathered up enough clothing to last the two of them a few days, then took turns showering while the other kept watch.
Draco found it hard to believe it had been only 24 hours since he'd awakened in this very flat after two days of unconsciousness. It felt like several days had passed since he'd stood under this same spray, helping himself to Harry's shampoo.
He had a brief coughing fit while drying himself off, one that made his recently healed ribs tingle. Harry peeked around the door at him.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” Draco grimaced, rubbing at his chest. “I think it's just withdrawal – I can't remember the last time I had a cigarette.” The thought of smoking made his head buzz in anticipation.
“Good.” Harry smiled and leaned against the door frame.
“Not really,” Draco grumbled. “I'd smoke one right now if I could.”
“Too bad you can't, then.”
“How long have you lived here?” Draco asked a few minutes later as he pulled one of Harry's jumpers over his head.
“Three and a half years,” Harry replied, glancing around the room fondly. “I finally managed to sell my godfather's place in 2000, and I bought this.”
“You could have got something bigger,” Draco remarked. He'd never been to the Black house on Grimmauld Place , but he imagined Harry had sold it for much more than this flat could have cost him.
“I didn't need anything bigger,” Harry said. “And it was mine, the first real thing I owned, that I chose for myself.”
Draco made a face. “Well… couldn't you afford a decorator, at least?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Ready to go?”
Draco nodded. Harry picked up the bag they'd put their supply of clothing in, and they headed back to the living room to floo out.
“You first,” Harry said. “I need to seal the wards after us.” He looked around the room, reluctant to go.
Draco smiled at him. “You'll be back soon.”
“I know,” Harry replied with a sigh. He twirled his wand absently in his fingers. “You know, when I bought it, I didn't think I'd be living here alone.”
“And you didn't. Cho lived here as well.”
“Yes, but those aren't the best memories. And I still ended up alone in the end.”
Draco took a deep breath. “Well… if things don't go all pear-shaped after this... does your offer still stand?”
“My offer?” Harry blinked at him, and then flushed. “Oh, to move in. Yes, of course.”
Draco opened his mouth, but could think of nothing more to say. They stared at each other.
At last, Harry smiled and brushed Draco's cheek with the back of his hand. “I don't want to push you. We have time, you know.”
Draco smiled back, though he privately felt that time was the one thing they didn't have. He dipped his fingers into the dish of floo powder and stepped into the green flames.
:: :: :: :: ::
Hermione and Guadalupe were sitting on the sofa when Draco stepped out of the fireplace. They glanced up at him, and then turned back to each other.
“Your children are beautiful,” Guadalupe said.
“Thank you,” Hermione replied as she wiped at Cally's face with a spit-coated finger. The child squirmed away, grimacing.
“Would you like to have more some day?”
“Mom!” Manny hissed from his seat at the dining room table. He was scanning a copy of the Prophet .
Hermione cast him a sideways glance, her smile a bit smug. “Oh, I don't know. We'll see. How many children do you have?”
“Four,” Guadalupe replied. “But Manny is my baby.”
Manny grimaced and buried his face in the paper again.
“Why do you talk funny?” Cally asked, peering up into Guadalupe's lined face.
“Because I'm from Texas , sweetheart,” she replied.
Draco grinned and crossed to the table where Manny sat. Even though things were still tense between them, Draco felt more comfortable with him than with women talking about children.
“There's a story in here about that explosion at the Death Eater gathering,” Manny said as soon as Draco sat. “Someone's claimed responsibility for it.”
“A group calling themselves ‘The Dark Lord's Chosen'.” He snorted. “What is it with these people and weird names, anyway?”
“What else does it say?” Draco asked.
“They claim they were trying to ‘assassinate the traitor Lucius Malfoy'. Your father has certainly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.”
“He does that. Does it say anything about him?”
Manny shook his head. “Just that he hasn't been seen since he was released from the hospital on Saturday.” Manny looked up from the paper. “Where's Harry?”
Draco whirled towards the fireplace. “He was right behind me.”
They looked at each other.
“Shit,” Draco spat, sprinting back to the fireplace. He grabbed a handful of floo powder and shouted Harry's address. Almost immediately, he was spat out on Hermione's hearth again.
“What happened?” Hermione asked, eyes wide.
“His floo wards are up,” Draco said. “But I don't understand. He should be the only one who can close them. Where'd he go?”
They all stared at each other for a moment, uncertain. Draco climbed to his feet and began pacing the floor, mind racing.
“Maybe someone intercepted him on the way here,” Hermione said, her forehead wrinkled with worry.
“Is that possible?” Manny asked.
Draco nodded. “But it's very difficult to do. They would have had to time it precisely.” He felt a tightness in his chest – what if something had happened? What if–
There was a whoosh of green flame and Harry stepped out of the fireplace behind him. He smiled at Hermione. “I didn't think you'd be back from meeting with Snape yet. How'd it go?”
“Where the fuck were you?” Draco cried. At the same moment, Hermione and Manny said much the same thing, with the result that the room erupted in shouting.
Harry backed up against the fireplace, stunned. “What? I just made a little detour on my way here!”
“You should have told me!” Draco spat. “We had no idea what had happened to you.”
“I'm sorry!” Harry replied, holding up a brown paper bag. “I remembered there was something I needed to pick up at the last minute, that's all.”
Draco gritted his teeth and looked away, angry and relieved all at once.
“Well…thank god you're safe,” Hermione said, shooting Harry a stern look.
Harry looked somewhere between flustered and annoyed, but he didn't respond. He twisted the ring on his hand instead, as he often did when he was agitated.
Draco took that hand in his and squeezed it. His heart was still pounding, and he was nearly overwhelmed by an urge to hug Harry.
Harry squeezed back. “Sorry,” he whispered.
“It's all right,” Draco replied with a sigh. He'd give Harry shit about it later. For now, there were more important things to discuss. He forced himself to turn back to Hermione and Guadalupe. “So… how did the meeting with Snape go?”
“Fantastic,” Hermione said, glancing at Guadalupe. “He's going to start working on the inversion potion right away. It may be ready as early as tonight.”
“Tonight?” Draco asked. He felt his stomach drop. So soon? Harry squeezed his hand and released it.
“And he had some very good ideas about substitutions you likely made in the potion,” Guadalupe continued. “I need to do some lab work to check, but it's possible we've found an explanation for your memory loss.”
“He was very interested in your work, wasn't he?” Hermione said to her. “He'd even read that paper about the impact of European magic on New World magical traditions.”
Guadalupe waved her hand in dismissal, but smiled all the same. “Severus is a very intelligent and knowledgeable man.”
“Are you really going to invite him to speak at your conference?” Hermione asked, a tone of awe in her voice.
Draco didn't have to look at Harry to know he was rolling his eyes.
“Yes, but that isn't important now.” Guadalupe turned to Harry. “My understanding is that you're fairly certain who was involved in the spell and that you have identified two of the three binding objects.”
“Yes,” Harry replied. He held up his hand. “Ron's ring and Draco's bracelet. I just don't know what my key was.”
“You don't have and jewelry of sentimental value, then?”
“No,” Harry replied. “I even searched my flat today, but I couldn't find anything. I just don't know what I would have used for a key.”
Guadalupe tilted her head at him. “Why are you calling it a key?”
Harry paused, looking surprised. “Well, we've both been dreaming about it, and in our dreams, he… Ron talks about keys.”
Guadalupe frowned. “I've never heard anyone use that term for a binding object before. It isn't standard in the historical literature, at least.” She paused, and then raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure the dream isn't referring to a literal key?”
Harry and Draco stared at each other.
Harry whistled. “Damn. Is it really that simple?”
“He said ‘Harry already holds the key',” Draco told him. “It never occurred to me he really meant a key .”
Harry dug in his trouser pocket and pulled out a key chain with three keys on it, shaking his head. He held one key up and it glinted in the lamplight. “I had just bought the flat. It was probably the most important metal object I had at the time. That has to be it.”
Draco exhaled, relieved, and turned back to Guadalupe. “I suppose we're ready, then. I just hope we have it all right.”
“There's one more thing,” Guadalupe said, still frowning. “Headmaster Snape and I agree that if at all possible, we should attempt to cast the counter spell in the location where the original spell was cast. Black Magic binds to place as well as people and objects, after all. Do you have any idea where the spell might have been cast?”
Harry looked at Draco, face blank, and Draco swallowed. “Actually… I do.”
:: :: :: :: ::
Six excruciating hours passed before they heard from Snape that the potion would indeed be ready that night. The news was greeted with mixed emotions from everyone but Guadalupe.
Hermione had burst into tears three times at the thought of having to see her son's blood spilt for the potion. She and Manny had talked to Harley about it earlier in the day, and Harley had agreed without hesitating.
“I don't think he understands,” Hermione said again, voice quivering. “How can he?”
“Sweetie, he's talked about nothing since,” Manny said, stroking her hair.
“But he keeps asking how much it will hurt. What if–”
“If he doesn't want to do it, we can't make him. It has to be his choice.”
Harry pulled Draco aside and whispered, “Are you sure this is going to work? I have a bad feeling–”
“Don't worry,” Draco said. “It will.”
“I can't believe we're just going to waltz into your father's house and expect him to stand aside while we do this.”
“We don't even know that he's there,” Draco retorted. “Besides, we won't waltz. We'll do a proper salsa, at the very least.”
Harry gave a humorless snort, shaking his head and rubbing at his chin with one hand.
“You two need a depilo,” Hermione said. They turned to see her shaking her head, a look of patient exasperation on her face. “You look positively scruffy.”
“I like it,” Harry said, grinning at her. “I might even grow it out.”
“Nice Chia beard you've got going there,” Manny remarked, smirking at Harry.
Fortunately, this jibe sailed right over Harry's head. Draco laughed so hard he could barely breathe. He'd needed to laugh too – he wasn't sure when it would happen again.
:: :: :: :: ::
“Heather, it's Draco. Can you talk now?”
“Draco! Oh god, you're– Lucius was furious that he couldn't find you! If he knew I was talking–”
“Then he mustn't find out. Where is he now?”
“He's here.” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “He's been meeting with strange people all day.”
“I need you to do something for me, all right? It's very, very important.”
“I'll try. But–”
“I need you to get him out of the house tonight, and keep him out for as long as possible.”
There was a pause on the other end. “I don't know if I can.”
“Heather, this is a matter of life and death. I know it will be difficult, but…” Draco paused, and then switched tactics. “He's in danger. I think something's going to happen there tonight. If he's in that house, he may be killed.”
She gasped. “Does he know about this?”
“No, and it's extremely important that he doesn't find out. I'm going to take care of it, and he can't be involved. He can't even know about it, all right?”
“Okay. I'll think of something. Be careful.” She sounded frightened.
“I will. Thank you.”
Stupid Muggle bint, he thought as he turned Hermione's mobile off. You'd better come through.
:: :: :: :: ::
Severus Snape's cloaked and pallid figure looked completely out of place in Hermione's suburban living room. He sneered at the furnishings and frowned at the décor, refusing to sit and declining Hermione's offer for a cup of tea. Draco would have laughed were it not for Harry scowling at the man from across the room.
“I must get back to the school,” he said at last, an expression of annoyance on his face. He'd come to deliver the potion inversion, and he seemed disinclined to stay longer than necessary.
“You're not going to help us break the spell?” Hermione asked, still holding a cup of tea out to him. She seemed to view him in a new light, given Guadalupe's praise of him.
“I will leave you in Dr. Gomez's capable hands,” he replied, pulling his cloak about him. “I can assure you she is more of an expert than I.” He nodded at Guadalupe, who smiled warmly at him.
Draco couldn't remember anyone ever looking as if they actually liked Snape. Harry muttered something under his breath, but Snape didn't seem to notice.
“Good luck,” Snape said as he turned to the fireplace. “You'll need it.”
A moment later he was gone, his cauldron of bubbling grey potion left on the table.
“Well,” Guadalupe said, clapping her hands together. “I suppose we're ready.”
Hermione looked at Harry, who seemed lost in thought. “Manny and Guada are going to transport the potion. I'm dropping Cally off with a sitter, then Harley and I will meet you there.”
Harry nodded and turned to Draco. “Ready?”
“Almost,” Draco said, staring at his hands. “I need to make a phone call first.”
:: :: :: :: ::
The road leading up to the castle was dark and quiet. Draco shivered, his cloak not enough to keep him warm in the chilly spring weather. Harry walked beside him, looking around anxiously.
“I don't like this,” Harry whispered. They had come first to get into the chamber under the castle, where Draco was certain the original spell had been cast.
“Heather promised to keep him occupied,” Draco said. “And I've got a backup plan. You've got Hermione's mobile, right?”
“For the third time, yes. And I still don't think that's much of a back-up.”
Draco didn't reply; he privately agreed, and he hoped they wouldn't need it.
The castle loomed above them, dark and foreboding. It didn't look like anyone was inside at all, but that did nothing to prevent Draco from feeling nervous. They stopped before the large front door.
“Want me to do it?” Harry asked. Draco nodded, and then watched as Harry cast a series of spells to detect wards and security charms.
“Nothing,” Harry said, frowning. “That can't be right.”
Draco agreed. “It's a big place, though. Maybe–”
“Hang on,” Harry said, tilting his head. “Foscumenta.” Glimmering threads of green light appeared, crisscrossing the door.
“Ah,” Draco said. “Looks like the same curse we used to keep on the front door at the manor. Clever.”
“Can you take it down?”
Draco smirked. “Of course.” It required a series of complicated spells, but it wasn't a problem – he'd been able to do it half-drunk back when he was a teenager, on nights he'd snuck out to go to gay clubs.
Once the door curse was gone, he turned the handle and pushed it open. The foyer was dark and quiet. There wasn't even any light above in the corridor at the top of the stairs. It appeared that no one was there. Draco took a deep breath and stepped inside.
Their footsteps were muffled against the Persian rug as they crossed the entryway, through a parlor, and into the room Lucius had taken Draco to the week before. They stopped before a blank wall.
Harry turned to Draco and frowned. “Now what?”
“Ebby,” Draco said.
“Ebby?” Harry repeated.
“Ebby is happy to see Master Draco again!” a small voice said from the vicinity of their knees.
Harry made a sound of surprise and stepped back, already pointing his wand towards the creature.
“We need to get into the room under here,” Draco told her. “Can you open the door for us?”
“Oh yes,” Ebby squeaked, a bit more loudly than Draco would have liked. She waved one long-fingered hand at the wall, and a doorway appeared.
“Keep watch, Ebby. If my father comes, I want you to find a way to warn us.”
Ebby nodded and disappeared with a pop.
Harry stared at the spot where the elf had disappeared, looking confused.
“Come on,” Draco said. “We've not much time.”
They descended the stairs into the darkness with only wand light to guide them. The further they descended the more eerie and dank their surroundings became. When the underground chamber opened up before them, Draco heard a gasp beside him.
“I've dreamed about this place,” Harry whispered. His words echoed off the shadowed walls.
Draco felt an odd chill pass through him. “Help me light these torches.”
In the flickering light the room looked smaller than Draco remembered. He turned on the spot, and then nodded at Harry. “It's time.”
Harry pulled a small disc from his pocket and placed it on the floor, then waved his wand over it. After an entire minute had passed, Draco and Harry looked at each other. Had it gone wrong already?
And then Hermione apparated next to them, a white-faced Harley in her arms. “Sorry! I was arguing with this one and didn't see the apparition beacon come on.” She set Harley down, and he promptly wrapped himself around one of her legs, face buried in her thigh. “He's not apparated before,” she explained. “Where are Manny and Guada?”
“Not here yet,” Harry said, glancing around the room.
“This place is creepy,” Hermione remarked, nose wrinkling. “Where are we, anyway?”
“Scotland ,” Draco told her.
With a wet squishing sound, a cauldron appeared next to the beacon. They all jumped back, startled. Seconds later, Manny and his mother appeared, along with a very reluctant-looking Severus Snape.
Draco grinned at him. “You decided to come after all?”
“We needed his help porting the potion here safely,” Manny replied.
“And it is an event of interest, I suppose,” Snape replied, doing his best to seem annoyed.
“Well then,” Guadalupe said, directing them away from the cauldron. “Let's not waste any time.” She reached into her pocket and produced a small bag, the contents of which she sprinkled in a circle around the cauldron.
“Salt,” Manny said, apparently in response to a question from Hermione. “Keeps evil spirits away.” The tone of his voice suggested he thought it was rubbish.
“Oh yes,” Hermione said, sounding as if she were studying a particularly fascinating bug. “Salt was considered a very magical quantity in the era this spell comes from.”
Harry shifted his feet next to Draco, and Draco realized with a start he hadn't had a chance to say what he'd been planning to. He had wanted to tell Harry he loved him one more time, that he always would, no matter what happened tonight. Harry turned to look at him, and they stared at each other.
“We're ready,” Guadalupe said. She was standing outside the salt circle, the flickering light ghosting over her face. Snape stood across the circle from her, eyes narrowed at Draco and Harry.
“All right then,” Harry said, stepping forward.
“The three of you will step inside the circle. Once inside, no part of your body can leave it until the spell is complete.” She looked at Harley, who had finally released Hermione's leg. “Do you understand?”
He nodded at her, staring across the circle with a blank expression on his face.
“When you enter the circle, hold the focus object in your left hand. Step in at the same time.”
They positioned themselves around the circle, shifting a bit when Harley insisted on standing in one particular spot. Harry gave him Ron's ring, wrapping his small fingers around it.
“Hold it tight,” Harry said, stroking the child's hair. Harley nodded and looked up at the ceiling. Harry dug his key chain from his pocket and pulled the key to his flat off, then clenched it in his fist.
“Now,” Guadalupe said, and the three of them stepped into the salt circle.
The potion was bubbling away. It smelled oddly like seawater and almost looked iridescent in the torchlight.
Draco glanced toward Snape to see him studying the scene with interest. Their eyes met, and a mask of indifference settled over his features once more.
“First, blood,” Guadalupe said. She waved her wand and three small vials appeared in the air before them.
“How do we…?” Harry asked.
“With that,” Snape said, and a small silver knife emerged from the cauldron itself. A grey sheen of potion slid off its surface and it sparkled in the dim light.
“Who first?” Draco asked.
Guadalupe shrugged. “It doesn't matter. But we must add the blood at precisely the same time.”
“I'll go first,” Harry said, reaching for the knife.
“The forearm would be best,” Snape said with trademark disinterest.
“Really?” Harry muttered. “I'd never have guessed.” Holding the knife in his right hand, he made a quick cut across the inside of his forearm. He whispered a spell and the blood flowing from the wound formed globules in the air above his skin. He captured the blood in the closest vial and then passed the knife to Draco.
Draco repeated the process, aware of Harley's eyes on him as he cut himself. He clenched his jaw to keep from grimacing at the pain, not wanting to frighten the child any more than necessary. When his blood filled the vial, he handed the knife to Harley.
Harley held it in his hand and stared at it for a moment. Draco held his breath – if Harley refused, it was over. But then Harley nodded, as if making a decision. He pressed the blade against the pale skin of his forearm, slicing into his own skin.
Hermione sobbed, though the sound was muffled against Manny's shirt. Everyone else was silent.
Tears welled in Harley's eyes as he stared at the blood streaming from the wound he'd made, but none fell. Harry cast the spell to collect the blood, and Harley watched it dribble into the vial, almost looking fascinated.
He hadn't said a word, and he'd done it without making a mistake. They all had been worried about entrusting such a small child with this responsibility, but so far he was doing well.
His face went blank for a moment, and then he looked over at Hermione, who was still sniffling into Manny's shirt. “It's okay, Mummy.”
“Very good, Harley,” Harry told him. “Press your hand against the wound.” Harley nodded and looked up at the ceiling again, seeming dazed.
Guadalupe walked around the circle once, examining the vials of blood. “We're ready to continue. Severus?”
Snape stepped forward and waved his hand, and the vials emptied themselves into the potion. Purple smoke began to spiral up within seconds. Snape studied it and then nodded, satisfied.
“Are your objects ready?” Guadalupe asked.
“Oh, no,” Harry said. Draco turned to see him staring at his key. The blood seemed to drain from his face.
“What?” Draco asked.
“This isn't right,” Harry replied, shaking his head. “Oh god. This is a copy. It's got the locksmith's logo on it. I had this one made a year ago.” He looked up at Draco, eyes wide. “This can't have been the one I used.”
Draco groaned, realization dawning. “The other key, the one you gave me–”
“Yes! That must be the one.” Harry looked at Draco expectantly.
Draco swallowed. “I don't have it with me. It's at the flat.” He looked away, the sinking feeling in his stomach making a turn towards nausea.
Everyone was silent for several seconds, uncertain what to do.
“Master!” a voice squeaked. Four wands pointed out the house-elf who had just appeared, and she cowered behind her hands.
“Ebby!” Draco felt his heart sink.
“Master Lucius is coming!” she cried, peeking at them through her fingers. “He has beaten the deceiving Muggle and is coming here with other men! Ebby is warning Master Draco, as she promised.”
“Shit,” Draco hissed.
Ebby disapparated with a pop, and they heard footsteps on the stairs.
This was one of those moments, Draco would later reflect, when time seemed to slow down. He saw with absolute clarity what needed to be done, and he did not panic.
“Harry, give me the mobile,” he said.
Harry rummaged in his pockets and tossed it to him. It was a miracle that there was a signal at all. It was faint, but there was a bar, and Draco held is breath as he pulled up the last number called and pressed send . He barely waited for it to be answered before shouting, “Now! Now!” into the receiver.
“Roger that,” he heard just before he ended the call.
“We have only minutes before the potion deteriorates,” Snape said. His voice was startlingly calm.
“Where's the other key?” Hermione asked, sounding almost breathless. “I can apparate into the flat to get it.”
“Somewhere on the floor,” Draco told her. He saw Harry's sharp gaze and felt a pang of remorse, but he pushed it aside. “I was standing by the fireplace when I dropped it.”
Hermione nodded, then looked at Harry, her forehead furrowed. “Promise me you won't let anything happen to Harley.”
“Go!” Harry said, waving her away. “We'll be fine.”
Hermione looked at Harley and then disapparated. Harley whimpered, staring at the spot where she'd been a moment before. Harry gathered Harley close to him, his wand at the ready.
The footsteps in the stairway were very close now, and they all looked towards the door. Draco saw Manny and Guadalupe exchange a look and raise their wands. He trained his own wand on the door just as a shadowy figure came into view.
Lucius's robes swirled around him as he stopped just inside the room, raising dust from the floor. His sharp features were cast in shadow by the torchlight, making his expression of anger even more severe. Several men flanked him; Draco recognized Avery and Snead right away, and the other faces were familiar as well. None of them looked very pleased.
“What do you think you're doing?” Lucius snarled, wand already pointed at Draco. The men at his side trained their wands on the others in the room.
“Having a little barbeque,” Draco quipped. “Didn't you get the invitation?”
Lucius's expression darkened even further. “I should have known I couldn't trust you. I should have guessed you'd betray me the moment you had the chance.”
Draco's hand tightening on his wand. “Yes, you should have. Why would I have any loyalty to you?”
“And you!” Lucius turned his attention to Snape. “You've pretended to be loyal to me this entire time, but you helped him three years ago, didn't you?”
Snape's lips twisted into a smirk. “As usual, Lucius, you are unable to see beyond your own petty ambition.” His wand was pointed at Snead.
“I won't be made a fool of again,” Lucius said, turning his gaze back to Draco. “If this secret is to be revealed, it will be on my terms.”
“You want to know as badly as we do,” Draco retorted. “What difference does it make if it's on your terms or ours? The outcome is–”
“Because it's my life that is at risk!” Lucius hissed. “My reputation, my standing, my very existence depends on this information remaining secret.” He turned his glare to Harry, who pushed Harley behind him. Lucius's eyes bore into Draco's. “What if you failed to contain him? What if it were possible for the Dark Lord to return?”
“What if he's dead?” Harry asked.
Lucius paled, which only made him look angrier. “Whatever his fate, I was part of it. And I will be blamed – not by the Ministry, but by those faithful to him. If this proceeds, it seals my fate.”
“You aren't making sense, Malfoy!” Snape spat, his tone dripping with annoyance. “What's done is done. If they remember it or not, it changes nothing.”
“You're wrong,” Lucius growled. “Everything will change. It is impossible to keep such secrets.”
“You are wrong,” Snape replied. “There is always fidelius.”
Draco turned to stare at Snape. Was he really offering–
“I've been personally responsible for the peace and stability of our society these last three years!” Lucius spat, his hand shaking as he pointed his wand at Snape. “You will not take that away from me!”
“He's barking,” Harry muttered, shaking his head.
“I have been working for more than a year to obtain this information,” Lucius continued, his voice now low and gravelly. “Once you've finished your little counter-spell, I will wipe the memories from your minds for good. I will be the only one who knows the truth.”
Harry made a sound like a laugh. “And you think we'll cooperate? You're insane.”
“I'll kill you, then,” Lucius replied.
“I'd like to see you try.” Harry's wand was now pointing back at Lucius, his face twisted into an expression of hatred that Draco hadn't seen in years. “In fact, I insist .”
It was hard to tell who threw the first curse, but streaks of light began to fly around the room, zinging overhead and ricocheting off the walls. Guadalupe went down quickly and Manny scrambled toward her, roaring. Snape managed to block everything Avery sent towards him, but soon he was fending off curses from Snead as well.
“Nothing's coming through!” Harry shouted, struggling to keep a curious Harley behind him. “And we can't get any curses out either. The salt circle really works!”
Draco growled in frustration. “They're outnumbered, and we can only stand here and watch!”
Manny slumped over his mother's crumpled form across the room, and Snape was left alone against five adversaries.
“I'm going to step out,” Harry said, a fierce expression on his face. “Stay here with Harley.”
Draco grabbed his arm. “You can't! The spell–”
“It isn't going to be broken anyway,” Harry said, looking at Snape with something akin to concern on his face. “He won't last long against them.”
“They wouldn't want us to give up,” Draco said, gesturing towards Manny and his mother in a heap on the floor. “It will have been for nothing!”
“It's already over!” Harry retorted, twisting out of his grip.
There was a shout across the room, and they turned to see five men in robes standing there, wands trained on Lucius and his lackeys. One of them was someone Draco recognized immediately.
“Stand down, Malfoy,” Rodolfus Abernathy said.
Lucius looked baffled for a moment, but regained his composure quickly. “Abernathy, you're just in time. These–”
“I said, stand down,” Abernathy repeated, stepping forward and pressing his wand into Lucius's throat.
“How dare you–” Lucius began.
“You arrogant fool,” Abernathy growled, his expression cold. “Did you really think you could blackmail us?”
“You used that Muggle boy against us,” the man beside him said, “and you thought we'd never find out we weren't alone?”
“You… Colby?” Lucius asked, stunned.
“He told us what you were doing,” a tall thin man said. “He told us about each other. And he warned us that you were going to betray us here tonight.”
Lucius started to respond, but seemed to change his mind. He stared at Abernathy, eyes hard.
Abernathy sneered at him. “At first I was shocked that you'd turned on me, especially since your own son is…” He didn't finish the sentence, as if he couldn't say the word. “I was afraid and ashamed. But now , Malfoy – now I am simply angry.”
He looked angry, Draco thought. He looked like he might be angry enough to kill Lucius on the spot.
“We have no reason to trust you any more,” another of Abernathy's men said, keeping his wand firmly fixed on Snead. “We want to know the truth, and you won't interfere.”
At that moment, Hermione apparated next to the beacon, clutching her chest and breathing hard.
“Hermione!” Harry shouted. Draco had to grab his arm again to prevent him from leaving the circle.
Hermione cried out – she'd just noticed the new arrivals. She clenched something tightly in her fist. “What's going on?”
“It's all right,” Harry assured her. “Did you get it?”
She nodded and opened her hand to reveal the key.
Harry pointed his wand at it, and Draco held his breath. The key sailed through the salt barrier and into Harry's hand.
“You've only seconds,” Snape wheezed. He'd been hit with several nasty curses before Abernathy arrived.
“What do we do?” Draco asked.
Harry stared into the cauldron, eyes wide. “I don't know. I think we're supposed to drop these in and drink it.”
Draco felt the blood drain from his face for what must have been the tenth time that day. “But this won't come off!” he said, pointing to the silver bracelet.
Harry stared at it. “It wouldn't have come off before either, so what would we have done?”
“We have to put our hands in,” a small voice said.
They both turned to look at Harley, who was standing over the cauldron and staring into the potion. It bubbled and shimmered, lavender smoke still rising from its surface.
“What?” Harry asked, staring at him.
“We have to hold the things and put our hands in,” Harley said, as if it were obvious. “It isn't hot.”
Draco and Harry exchanged a look.
“How do you know?” Draco asked, already afraid of the answer.
Harley smiled at them. “Daddy told me.”
They stared at him. Draco felt an odd chill. Harry looked faint.
“He's right,” Draco said. “I… don't know how I know it, but…”
Harry nodded, still staring at Harley. He clutched the key tightly in his left fist, but his hand was still shaking. He seemed unable to speak.
The three of them held their hands over the cauldron. Draco took a deep breath, simultaneously nervous and excited. This could be a terrible mistake or a great idea – and there was no way to know which.
Draco turned to look at Harry. “I want you to know–”
“I know,” he replied. “Me too.”
They looked back at Harley, who had an expression of intense concentration on his face.
“Ready?” Draco asked. His hand began to shake. “Three… two… one.”
They plunged their hands into the potion. It wasn't hot at all; in fact, it was pleasantly warm and rolled over his skin like oil. For a moment Draco wondered if anything was going to happen. Skin absorption of potions, he knew, took a bit longer than–
It was as if someone had turned on a very bright light. The glare was blinding, overwhelming, deafening – so much so that Draco heard himself shout in agony. He heard Harry and Harley cry out too, sounding as if they were very far away.
And then it was dark.
:: :: :: :: ::
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