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http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1837793/1/Black_Truth http://www.fanfiction.

net/u/454551/InferiorBeing Summary: And, with bated breath, Draco traced the silver line down one more step in the family tree. Draco Lucius Malfoy... the third full blooded Veriae in the Malfoy family... and future life mate of Harry Potter.

Black Truth by InferiorBeing

Chapter One: Family Heirloom Draco had never liked jigsaw puzzles very much, (especially the wizarding ones where the picture of the puzzle moved even when the pieces were apart... it was very disturbing to hold a piece with a hand on it and have it wave at you while the head was on another piece, completely unaware of what it's hand was doing) but as he looked at his Divination homework for the weekend it was like looking at the final piece to a jigsaw puzzle, the kind where the picture is completed when you place it with the other pieces and you can sit back and admire your work. And Draco was admiring this work, after all it was about him (and there is often nothing more important than oneself). Now what was so special about this Divination homework? Not much really. In class they were working on family lineage and were going to see how that ties into their future, but right now they were just working on the spell that would show them the family tree, or more accurately the group of spells that would show all the information needed for this part of the course. The first spell was simple enough, and would cause a basic outline of the family tree to appear on the parchment. The larger the parchment, the farther back the tree would go (Draco's tree currently went back to his sixth-great-grandfather). And, looking at this tree, he could find the answer to something that had been nagging at him since... well since he had turned fifteen and woken up that morning to find his bed and himself covered in black feathers. This had triggered a memory of his about his father: when Draco was a five-year-old, he had found a similar black feather on his father's bed and his father had been... extremely angry at the house elves for not finding that before his son. Draco had never known why, but this was the first piece of the puzzle. The second piece had come from his godfather as a Christmas present. It was by now everyone's (well everyone who didn't think he would become a Death Eater, which was himself, Snape, and his father) expectation that Draco would follow in Professor Snape's footsteps, because of his skill in Potions, and Draco himself was not against that kind of a future. His godfather knew this and had sent him a, rather large, book about the rarest potions that could be made and what their purpose was. It had surprised Draco that many of these potions were for dealing with problems caused with having the blood of magical creatures in your veins. This seemed to be a problem more for wizarding families that had at one time been or still were pureblooded. Draco had found it very ironic that in older times, it was considered more pure to mate with a magical creature than a mudblood... and it did make some twisted sense he guessed... but some of the combinations were just sickening. Then the third piece had fallen into place when Draco had read about this one potion for making sure that your child was not born with dominant Veriae blood. Draco hadn't known what a Veriae was, so he had gone to his mentor and godfather, Severus Snape, to ask. At the time he thought that Snape's skin had paled a few shades lighter when he asked his question, and now he realized why. But the professor had given him a pass for the Restricted Section and the title of a book that was one of the few about Veriae. It was so old that it was written in Latin and obviously by someone with pureblood lineage, but thankfully there was a translation. Draco remembered his blood turning cold as he read the opening text, as the original doubt appeared in his head. Veriae, more widely known in legend as the Atra Veritas, or Black Truth, once widely populated areas of Europe and North America. These creatures looked and acted exactly like wizards or mudbloods. In fact these creatures had the same genetic structure as wizards except for one difference: their wings. Veriae have been known to sprout beautiful wings of black feathers when either very happy or very angry, wings

which it has been seen have feathers softer than silk when happy, and sharp as a blade when angry. Veriae are somewhat like the Phoenix in the sense that they too go through the process of being reborn, which occurs for a Veriae once a month. Instead of burning to ashes and rising from them, the Veriae's wing sprout and then disintegrate into a waterfall of feathers. When all the feathers from the old wings have fallen off, new wings will sprout (most often during dawn of the next day). Because of this monthly rebirth, Veriae (like the Phoenix) seem to age up to the point of thirty or so and then stop or age very slowly in outward appearance afterward, though their lifespan tends only to be twenty years or so longer than a normal wizard's lifespan. Veriae tend not to live in a pack, although sometimes groups can be found together, but do develop a system like a pack system among individual families or groups. One Veriae is the "pack leader" called the "auctor" whom is looked to for guidance by the other Veriae in the group. Veriae mate for life in a startling process called the Aspectus in which the color of the Veriae's eyes changes to a mixture of silver and gold. In this state the Veriae can see the aura of every being and plant around it, including itself. The Veriae will look for the aura that is identical to his/her aura. If their mate accepts them, they mate for life. If not, the Veriae is likely to kill himself/herself within twenty-four hours. There have been cases where a Veriae can live without their mate if the mate dies before mating or in childbirth, but hardly ever in the case of absolute refusal from the mate. And the book when on, about the traditions of the Veriae in mating, and childbirth, and other things that Draco was not interested in learning, but the idea that maybe there was Veriae blood in his line was now stuck in his head. And here in the family tree the final piece clicked into his head in the form of his great, great, great, grandfather. Catalina Malfoy (married to Aurelia Malfoy): a full blooded Veriae, as the second spell showed. This spell traced the blood through the family tree, showing what was dominant in the person and what was not. Draco followed the dormant silver line of the Veriae blood down the map until he stopped at another name. Lucius Sergius Malfoy (married to Narcissa Malfoy): the second full blooded Veriae with dominant Veriae blood. Draco's father. And, with bated breath, Draco traced the silver line down one more step in the family tree. Draco Lucius Malfoy... the third full blooded Veriae in the Malfoy family. And with this realization, Draco felt many other pieces, that he never knew were in this particular puzzle, fall into place. How he had always looked up to is father, long after the time when other boys in his dorm were complaining about both of their parents. How he had been crushed by the fact that his father was in prison, and not the fact that his mother didn't care. How he had practically laughed out loud when, due to said fact that his father was in prison, the entire Malfoy fortune had fallen to him and not his mother. How he hadn't cared that his mother had left the Manor in a rage, only been sad because his father hadn't been there to watch... it had been very funny after all. Obviously his father was the auctor of his family. But that mating thing... Draco didn't like that. Another obvious thing was that his mother had not been his father's mate, so it was perceivable that his father's mate had died... and Draco had one guess as to how that happened and the name started with a "V". The thing that Draco was now upset about was the whole "suicide if your mate doesn't like you" thing. No, that didn't sit well with Draco at all. So, with the absence of his father, Draco went to the next best person... his godfather.

Half an hour after Draco had come knocking on his door, Snape stood inside Dumbledore's office drinking the strongest coffee that could be provided. The other wizard waited patiently for him to say why he was calling on the Headmaster at three in the morning, looking as if he had just been given a sign that the apocalypse was coming. "It's about Draco." Snape said at last. And Dumbledore knew that the outward Snape-who-is-a-bastard facade would soon fall to reveal the Snape-who-is-a-worried-godfather underneath. A side of him that only himself, Draco, and maybe Draco's father had ever seen. "He just came to see me with his Divination homework, you know the one about family trees and such-" "And he has found out how similar to his father he is?" Dumbledore finished quietly. "Yes."

Dumbledore was silent for a moment. "Well, I never expected Hogwarts to be blessed with having two Ater Veritatis to walk through these halls, especially in this day and age." "But what about Draco? This will only become harder for him." "Yes, he will need a room of his own away from the dorms of other students so they will not find his feathers." Dumbledore stroked Fawkes's bright feathers as he thought. "That's not even half of the problem Dumbledore, and you know it." Snape snapped. "What about Lucius? Draco won't be able to survive without an auctor, especially throughout the Aspectus. And I doubt Lucius ever spoke to him about controlling when his wings appear, other than the 'Malfoys don't show emotion' thing that the entire family should make their motto or something." "I know he can't do that from Azkaban, Severus. But there are only so many rules I can bend. And Lucius Malfoy was one of the Death Eaters found at the Department of Mysteries. No one in the Ministry will be happy with just letting him walk out." Snape smiled slowly. "But Lucius's Dark Mark will have faded by now." "What are you talking about Severus?" Dumbledore asked sharply. "Lucius is a Veriae. Only his life mate could Mark him. His mate never did, as Lucius went through Aspectus later than most Veriae do. Voldemort happened to kill his mate, therefore no one can Mark Lucius... not even the Dark Lord. The "Dark Mark" that other Death Eaters see is a complex spell that Lucius casts upon his arm to give the appearance that he is Marked. It fades after a few months or so." "But it will not sit well with my soul, Severus, if I hand a Death Eater a pass out of Azkaban." "Give him an ultimatum then." Snape suggested. "I think you'll find that, given the choice, Lucius would choose his son over the Dark Lord." "How can you be sure Severus?" "You didn't see Lucius after Draco was born. Lucius had followed the Dark Lord because Lucius, like all his kind, needed an auctor. It wasn't a perfect situation, as Lord Voldemort is not a Veriae, but Lucius resigned himself to it. Then when Draco was born-" "Lucius became the auctor." "Exactly. His blood will not allow him to leave his son without an auctor." Dumbledore nodded. "Have Draco write to him then, and I will see what I can do about having another hearing for him." Snape nodded, the "bastard" mask firmly back in place, and the Potions master left Dumbledore's office, black robes flaring behind him. Fawkes seemed to look at Dumbledore questioningly. The Headmaster sighed. "Yes, Fawkes, I know I would have worked to free Lucius even if he would have stayed a Death Eater." He looked at the bird. "You can sense auras, can't you feel it? I am almost certain who Draco's mate will be." Fawkes let out a keening sound, the same collection of notes that he used whenever Dumbledore talked to the bird about the "Gryffindor Golden Boy", and Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Fawkes. Harry Potter."

Nestled safely in the Gryffindor dormitory, Harry Potter tossed and turned in his bed, clenched in the jaws of a nightmare.

Blood. There was blood everywhere. Blood that he had helped to spill. Yes, all of it must have been his fault. Sirius, his mother, his father, countless others that had been killed during the summer raids that the Death Eaters had launched while he was tucked away in Privet Drive. He had only found out about these when he arrived back at school, and now, three weeks later, it still haunted him. Darkness seemed to surround him, but this was a different darkness. Not the darkness of hatred that was filled with blood... this was almost a comforting darkness, a darkness that felt like... feathers? Silken feathers. Wings. Two arms encircled him as the black wings seemed to cradle his body. "Do not despair Harry," a voice whispered, "Do not despair." And Harry slept peacefully.

"Yo, Malfoy!" Disdainful eyes shifted from where they had been contemplating the wall of the cell to the wizard that stood at the barred door to this, this cage. "You got a letter." Then the guard muttered under his breath, "Though why anyone would be sending a letter at this hour is beyond me." The guard was shaken out of his reverie as the letter was snatched out of his hand and the cell's inhabitant retreated back into the cell. Muttering inaudibly about manners of prisoners and idiots who sent letters at five in the morning, the guard went on his way back to his post where he had been shaken from his stupor by an eagle only a few minutes before. Lucius looked at the letter briefly before ripping it open. Draco had written it. His eyes seemed to race down the letter, an emotion that was never seen by the world apparent in his eyes. As he read it Lucius smiled. Draco knew. His pride, his son, was now just beginning to grasp the truth of the road that he himself had walked. Lucius felt a small pang of regret that he would not be able to help his son become accustomed to this life... until he read the last paragraph. The elder Malfoy smiled in the shadows, and for once he allowed his emotions through. Beautiful, wings that glistened in the moon-light streaming into the cell from the barred window, erupted from his back and fluttered as if they were happy that their owner was happy. The soft rustle of feathers filled the cell as the wings stretched, their wingtips touching the ceiling. Lucius looked at his wings thoughtfully. Someday his Draco's wings would be this size, twice the length of a grown man and powerful enough to support his son in flight, and in battle if necessary. Out of curiosity Lucius rolled up the sleeve of his robe and looked at the pale flesh of his upper arm. No blemish, not even a smudge of the Dark Mark to be seen.

Latin translation: Veriae - made up word with the basic structure of a Latin word Ater - black (for the black wings) Veritas - truth (because they can see the "true" aura of everything during the Aspetus), the pl. form being "Veritatis" Aspectus - sight Auctor - leader (as in an enterprise) Strangelyit can also mean "founder"(as of a family)" Catilina - named after Lucius Sergius Catalina who lead a revolt in Rome Aurelia - common name for a woman in Rome

Chapter Two: Aspectus Harry hated Mondays. No, he really hated Mondays. Because Mondays always seemed to start off badly, which set the entire mood of the day to be a bad one. Why? One word: Potions. That was all that was needed to be said on the matter, that word. And it didn't help that there were lucky people like Ron who weren't trying to be an auror and therefore could afford to sleep late on Mondays if they so wished, because they weren't taking Potions. Of course, Ron never did sleep late on Mondays. He figured it was the least he could do to give his friend some encouragement before that... there wasn't a word bad enough to describe that class in Harry's opinion. And speaking of Ron... it was Ron who was currently dragging Harry down the stairs to the Great Hall for breakfast as par the normal Monday routine. And like every Monday, Hermione was already there, ensconced in a book. Ron and Harry slid into seats next to her that she had saved for them as she did every morning, and began loading food on to their plates. "Oh, Harry, did you hear? No Potions today," Hermione said as if she was commenting on the weather. Harry's looked up hopefully. "Really?" Hermione nodded, eyes not leaving the book. "He's not here today. Class was canceled." Both Ron and Harry turned to look at the staff table and, sure enough, their Potions Master was not there. I wonder why he's not here," Harry murmured. "Who cares why he's not here," Ron muttered. "I hope he never comes back!" Both boys ignored Hermione's, "Ron!" of disapproval. "But it's strange. He's never 'not here'." Harry persisted. Hermione sighed. "This might have something to do with it." She handed Harry a copy of the Daily Prophet. "Our favorite Slytherin isn't here either," she added sarcastically. Harry took one look at the headline, frowned, and passed the paper to Ron, while glaring at the spot at the Slytherin table that Draco would have been sitting at were he in school at the time. "WHAT?" Ron stuttered, ignoring looks from the surrounding Gryffindors and a few other students who had heard him. "Yeah. Wonder how they're going to pull that off," Harry muttered darkly. "Well, logically, it's within rights to have another trial," Hermione pointed out. "The only real 'trial' after the Department of Mysteries issue was a mass trial of everyone they caught. No details were looked into for every single person. And if, as the article says, Lucius Malfoy doesn't have the Dark Mark... well, it's harder to convict him." "But how can he not have the Dark Mark? He's a Death Eater! We all saw him," Ron hissed under his breath so only Harry and Hermione could hear. "He probably planned for it," Harry spoke sullenly. "Being a Slytherin and all." "The Ministry of Magic may have made a terrible error- oh please," Ron scoffed. "Well, we'll know by tomorrow I guess," Hermione spoke. They ate in silence for a while until Ron broke it. "Oh look who decided to grace us with his presence," he muttered.

Harry looked up from his breakfast to see that Draco Malfoy had entered the Great Hall and was being greeted by his Slytherin groupies. Probably being congratulated or something like that. Harry rolled his eyes and continued eating.

The Minister of Magic looked very nervous, Lucius decided when he was shown into the Minister's Office with Snape. "Minister." Lucius spoke quietly and Fudge jumped slightly. "Mr. Malfoy. I am dreadfully sorry about the mix-up. The Ministry should have known in your case that there would be an explanation. But it did look bad Lucius, all those Death Eaters in the black robes-" "Fudge," Lucius drawled. "Have you ever seen me wear anything other than black in public?" "Well, no, but it just looked too coincidental, Lucius. I still don't understand why you would be in the Department of Ministries that late at night anyway." Lucius pretended to be shocked. "Why Minister, you know what it's like living in the public eye. Were it to be widely known that the Malfoys had an item stored in the Department of Mysteries... well you can guess what people would assume." "Yes, yes. I suppose that makes sense. You won't be opposed to house arrest for a little while, just until this whole thing simmers down?" "Of course not. In fact, arrangements have already been made for my stay at Hogwarts." Fudge seemed to visibly relax. If Dumbledore found no problems with Lucius's innocence, then there must not be any problems. "That's good." "Good day, Minister." Lucius spoke, and he and Snape left the Minister's office.

After Apparating to Hogsmead, the two sat in silence for the carriage ride up to the castle, until Snape spoke. "I didn't think the Malfoys had items stored in the Department of Mysteries." He raised an eyebrow as Lucius smirked. "We have the storage space, yes." Snape frowned. "And may I ask what's in that space?" "Absolutely nothing. But only a Malfoy can open it so no one's going to find that out." Snape chuckled. "How Slytherin of you Lucius." "I try." "Now about Draco-" "What about Draco?" "Calm down, Lucius. Nothing's happened yet. This morning Dumbledore gave him his own dorm, so no students have caught on yet." "Good. Hopefully we'll keep it that way." "When should he start the Aspectus?"

Lucius frowned slightly. "I'm surprised it hasn't started already. Traditionally, the Aspectus happens very soon after the first Rebirth." "So that's almost a month now." "Right."

Draco shifted uneasily in his chair, fighting back the urge to massage his temples. Stupid headache. Why in Merlin's name wouldn't it go away? Was it even possible to have a dull ache in the back of your skull for a full day? And then there was the glitter. Draco was sure of it now, he was starting to see flashes of... well, glittery light out of the corner of his eyes. It was driving him crazy. Bloody glitter, bloody headache, bloody teacher for not letting class out early so he could go relax somewhere. What was she talking about? Oh, it didn't matter anyway. He'd figure it out later.

Harry had almost succeeded in forgetting all about Lucius Malfoy's trial until just before dinner when he found Ron sitting in the Common Room, looking as if Christmas had been canceled. "Did you hear?" Ron asked glumly. "What?" "The trial. Malfoy's not convicted anymore." Harry looked at Ron as if his friend was crazy. "You're kidding, right?" "No, Dad wrote me this afternoon. They checked. Malfoy doesn't have the Dark Mark." "How can he not have the Mark? He's a Death Eater." "Well, it's not there now. Even Dumbledore said there wasn't an illusion spell on him." "So are people just going to forget that he was in the Department of Ministries that late at night?" "Well, that was explained too. Apparently the Malfoys have something stored in the Department of Mysteries that he was retrieving." "Again... at that time of night?" "Publicity. Even Dad admits that it's a good alibi. If we had something stored in the Department of Mysteries, we wouldn't want it public either. And Malfoy was given a key to the Department earlier that day so that he could get in when no one was around to watch." "I bet that's how the Death Eaters got in then." Harry muttered. "Yeah, probably so." "Was it said what it was they were storing?" "No. And only a Malfoy can open it, so they couldn't even look for trial purposes." "Well that's a stupid rule." "Maybe, maybe not. Some families store the bones of their ancestors in there." "What?" "Read it in the Quibbler."

Harry shook his head. "Let's just go down to dinner."

The two joined their fellow students in the Great Hall and Ron filled Hermione in on what his father had written to him. She didn't say anything at first, but any reply she would have made was cut off by Dumbledore signaling for silence in the Great Hall. "I have an important announcement to make. Hogwarts is going to be receiving a guest for a few months. I ask that you all be especially courteous to him during his stay here. He will be arriving later tonight. Now tuck in." As the food appeared as it did every night, Harry looked suspiciously at Dumbledore. A guest? Harry had a sinking suspicion he knew who that guest was, but he hoped he was wrong. "Any guesses who that is?" Ron asked sarcastically. "Obviously it's Malfoy," Hermione spoke quietly. "Wonder why he didn't just announce it," Harry wondered. "Can you imagine what that would have started?" Hermione asked. "I think he was smart not to announce it. Wait until the students' parents are told that he's innocent before telling the school." "That does make some sense," Ron admitted. "But does that mean Dumbledore believes Malfoy?" Harry asked. "I mean, Dumbledore was there. He saw Malfoy. How can he believe that Malfoy isn't a Death Eater?" "Maybe Malfoy's a spy like Snape." Hermione spoke low so that only Harry and Ron could hear. "If he is, he's sure a great actor," Ron muttered darkly. Then, "You know something strange? Ferret hasn't spoken about it once." "That is strange," Harry murmured.

Through the pressure in his head, Draco felt his heart leap. So his father was coming to Hogwarts? Of course Dumbledore didn't come out and say that, but it made sense after all. Fudge would want someone like Dumbledore to confirm that his father wasn't a Death Eater... which in itself was really funny because Dumbledore knew that his father was a Death Eater. Then again, Dumbledore was the Headmaster of the school, so shouldn't he have the characteristics of the school's founders? He certainly was smart like Ravenclaw, and he was brave like Gryffindor. The number of Hufflepuff qualities in Dumbledore was startling... but Slytherin? Well, he just proved he had Slytherin qualities. Lying to the Minister of Magic. Well, Fudge was an idiot, so maybe that didn't really count. "Draco?" Draco turned to look at Pansy, who was sitting across from him. "What?" "Ummm, your eyes are really silver today." That got Draco's attention. "Really? More so than usual?" Blaise, sitting next to Pansy, looked at Draco closely. "Much more so... maybe even a little gold." Draco's eyes widened. Silver and gold? Oh no. Outwardly he scoffed, "You must be seeing things." Pansy shrugged. "They're your eyes, Draco." All through dinner Draco couldn't concentrate. The aching in the back of his skull had spread to his temples, and he was starting to see a strange glowing if he looked at something long enough. Suddenly

the pain broke. Draco blinked and the world went from normal, to glowy. That was the only way to describe it. Everything, even the wood of the tables glowed. Some of the students near him were almost blinding. Time seemed to slow; a dull roaring began in his ears... as if he was underwater. The voices of the students talking were muffled and seemed far away. And as he looked around the Great Hall, it was just too much. Many, if not half of the students were glowing like miniature suns of different colors. Blues, violets, greens, whites, reds, all the glowing colors seemed to swim before his eyes before all went black. He only barely heard Pansy's scream. The effect was instantaneous. There was an uproar in the Great Hall. Those on the opposite side of the Hall (Gryffindors mostly) had no idea what was going on. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws also only barely knew what was going on. And there was almost complete chaos at the Slytherin table. Suddenly Dumbledore's voice rang out. "SILENCE!" Another instantaneous effect. "All Houses will please return to their dormitories in an orderly fashion."

Harry frowned. What was going on? Pulling Ron behind a statue just outside the Great Hall, he whispered, "I'm going to find out what's going on." Ron gaped as he pulled his invisibility cloak out of his bag. "You carry that with you?" Harry looked at him briefly before putting it on. "Of course. I'll tell you what I find out." "Okay mate, but if Hermione tries to bite your head off, don't turn to me for help. This is a bad idea." "You're starting to sound like Hermione, Ron. I have to talk to Dumbledore anyway." And with that Harry slowly snuck back into the Great Hall, which was no easy feat, considering everyone else was trying to move in the other direction. About half of the students had filed out when the doors to the Great Hall opened and Snape walked in. Harry almost laughed at the stunned look on the Potions Master's face. Then something seemed to click as he looked at the Slytherin table (and the Slytherins that were loath to just leave Draco like that) and he walked a little ways outside the door. He yelled something that Harry couldn't hear to someone Harry couldn't see, and as the last few students were being escorted out of the Great Hall (again, most of these were Slytherins) Lucius Malfoy walked in. I was right, Harry thought. It was Malfoy that was coming to Hogwarts. Lucius walked quickly to where the teachers were now gathered around something on the floor that Harry couldn't see. Madam Pomfrey rose from where she had been kneeling on the floor and spoke. "He seems for all purposes to be asleep, Mr. Malfoy." "Of course he is. His body needs time to adjust." Lucius turned to Dumbledore. "When did it start?" "Dinner." The elder Malfoy nodded and bent down. When he straightened, Harry caught sight of what, or more accurately who, had been on the floor. Draco. Harry felt a twinge of... what exactly? Jealousy? At seeing the care etched on Draco's father's face. No... sympathy? Couldn't be. Just something. For Malfoy? There was something wrong here. Harry shook it off. He couldn't have felt a twinge of anything for Malfoy. Just couldn't. The world didn't work that way. Harry was brought out of his reverie by Lucius speaking. "Where is Draco's room?" Harry blinked. Draco had his own dorm? He scowled. Money really spoke too much these days.

"Mr. Malfoy, I think it would be wiser to put him in the Hospital Wing-" Madam Pomfrey started. "Are you stating that I can not look after my own son?" Lucius cut her off, hissing slightly. Snape winced, and Harry agreed with him. He had only seen Lucius this furious once... and at that time he was soooo thankful that Dobby was in-between him and the elder Malfoy. Come to think of it... Harry hadn't even seen Lucius that angry at the Department of Mysteries... maybe the elder Malfoy wasn't as loyal to Voldemort as he thought. "It's school policy-" "Have you ever treated a Veriae, Madam Pomfrey? I guarantee you haven't," Lucius snarled. "Draco is a wizard, Mr. Malfoy, not a Veriae." Again Snape winced, but this time so did Dumbledore. Lucius smirked. "You think I don't know what my son is?" A slight ripping sound was heard as huge black wings erupted from Lucius's back. They reached up towards the ceiling of the Great Hall, taller in fact than two full grown men. The light of the Great Hall shone off them, as if they were coated in metal. They even looked sharp, nothing like the wings in Harry's dream. Snape whispered something in Poppy's ear that Harry didn't hear, but the nurse backed down. "I'll show you where it is," he muttered in Lucius's direction. The elder Malfoy nodded. His wings twitched and then receded back into the skin of his back, almost as if the feathers were folding in on themselves and dissolving. Snape and Lucius left the Hall, the elder Malfoy still carrying a sleeping Draco. Dumbledore turned to the rest of the teachers present. "We need to have a staff meeting." Many of the teachers had a "duh" expression on their faces, and Harry almost laughed at the thought of someone else not knowing what was going on for once. "In my office, now." Dumbledore decided, and the teachers, one by one, walked out of the Great Hall. Dumbledore himself walked past the spot where Harry was hiding and stopped. "I would like to see you in my office as well, Harry. You're not in trouble but we have things to discuss."

Chapter Three: Mutual Unwillingness "Do you need anything?" Snape asked as Lucius laid Draco on the green and silver bedspread. "A bottle of Port would be nice," Lucius commented. Snape rolled his eyes. "I meant for Draco, not for you." "Then nothing. He'll be up and about soon enough. He's not hurt after all, just adjusting." Snape nodded. "Fine then." And the Potions Master left the two Malfoys alone. Lucius looked around the room. It was just a duplicate of the Slytherin dormitory really, except that there was one bed instead of a few, all draped in the classic Slytherin green and silver, with a fireplace to warm the room (for it was in the dungeon), and a small desk for Draco to write on. Draco's trunk was sitting, open, at the foot of his bed and Lucius could see a stack of parchment inside it. After a few minutes of thought, Lucius transfigured one of the sheets into a bottle of Port and another into a wine glass such as the ones he drank from in the Manor. Lucius stared into the flames of the fire, which were also green and silver, as he sipped the wine. The room was very quiet, save the crackling of the fire, and Lucius's mind easily slipped back to when he had gone through his first Aspectus. He remembered that day. He had been in a really bad mood because there had been a gnawing headache at the back of his skull all day, and he had skipped dinner for the silence of his own room. His Aspectus hadn't hit until after he had fallen asleep and he remembered vividly waking to see the entire room glowing different shades of green at the darkest hour of the night. It had left shortly after, so he hadn't actually seen the matching aura of his life mate until a few months had gone by. But he had to wonder if Draco chanced to see an aura that matched his own. It was probable, however highly unlikely. He was shaken from his reverie by an ecstatic, "Father!" and he turned to see Draco sitting up excitedly. "How are you feeling?" Lucius asked, crossing to the bedside. "Fine. The glowing stopped." "Yes, I imagine it would. It will come back in a few days, each time for a longer amount of time." Draco looked skeptical. "Is the headache going to come back too?" "No." "Oh. That's okay then." Lucius paused for a moment, looking at his son. "Draco, did you see anyone with an aura matching your own?" "I didn't have time to look at myself." Draco pointed out blankly. "What color was it when you lost consciousness?" "Black." "Just black?" Draco thought. "Yes. Black, like ebony almost." "Then that's your aura."

Draco thought again. He remembered seeing someone with a black aura... but no details came to mind. "I can't remember anyone with my aura." "Pity."

Harry denied the offered lemon drop as he sat down in a plush chair in front of Dumbledore's desk. Dumbledore was quiet for a moment, as if carefully choosing the correct words to begin. "There are many things we need to discuss, Harry." "Why is Mr. Malfoy here?" "Not for the reason you are assuming, Harry, I'm sure. He is here purely for family reasons." "But he's a Death Eater-" "Without a Dark Mark." Harry stopped his outburst. "So he removed it-" "Harry, you cannot just 'remove' the Dark Mark. Believe me, Severus has tried a dozen times and nothing works. The reason Lucius Malfoy does not have a Dark Mark is because there wasn't one there to begin with." "How." It was a statement, not a question, and Dumbledore had been forced to come to a crossroads. "That is information that cannot leave this room, Harry. But, you have many times not had enough information, perhaps unjustly, so I am now going to trust that you will keep this in utmost secret. Only speak of your knowledge when you know the time is right." Dumbledore looked at Harry, as if compelling Harry to think about this last statement. Harry nodded. "Many times in this school, the subject of pureblooded wizards has come out in the open. Lucius and Draco Malfoy are pureblood wizards, but not from wizard blood." Harry blinked. "They are from a group called the Veriae, known in textbooks as the Atra Veritas, or, translated, "Black Truth". You could think of them as wizards, for in fact they are, but wizards who are more hindered with a wand than without one. They rely on the magic granted to them by their Rebirth every month and by their wings, wings which you have seen." Harry nodded, remembering the large black wings that had sprouted from Lucius's back. "These wings have two forms, the sharpened form that appears when the Veriae are angry or endangered, or the silken form when they are happy or content. These wings go through a rebirth once a month, much as the rebirth of a Phoenix, only they don't burn. From these wings the Veriae are in tune with the magic that surrounds our world and they call upon this magic in their wings instead of the magic in the wand core. But all that aside, the reason Lucius is here is because Draco needs the guidance of one of his own kind during this phase that he has entered into called the Aspectus." "What does that do?" "That is not my business to tell you Harry. It is Draco's. You will have to ask him for the details on the matter." Harry scowled. Yeah right, he thought. "Back to the subject of Lucius, which I'm sure is still irking you. Lucius Malfoy has, of yesterday, ceased to be a Death Eater. This also has to do with his Veriae lineage, but the details are unimportant. Know that

there is no threat poised from his former Death Eater background. Now Harry, I believe you wanted to talk to me about something other than Lucius Malfoy's sudden appearance." "Yes. Well, Hermione, Ron, and I wanted to talk to you about the DA." "You mean about whether I would allow, or even encourage, you to continue it?" "Yes." Dumbledore thought for a moment. "I see no reason why that would be a problem, as long as all prior commitments are met, such as homework." Harry smiled at this. Everyone in the DA would be pleased to hear this; they really hadn't liked the idea of holding meetings behind Dumbledore's back again. "But I have a request that you allow one other student to join you. You need not extend the invitation yourself; I will speak to him about it. And he may not choose to attend anyway, but I request that you extend the option." Harry's brain clicked and he had a sinking suspicion he knew which student Dumbledore was talking about. "You mean Malfoy?" "Yes, I was referring Draco. He needs to get used to not using a wand, as it will only hinder him in upcoming battles." Harry nodded, privately thinking that it was okay to 'extend the invitation' as Dumbledore called it, because there was no way that Draco Malfoy would ever step foot in one of the DA meetings.

"So then, Lucius Malfoy was a spy?" Hermione asked. "No. More like, he's retired now." Harry muttered. "Mental. The whole thing is mental," Ron murmured, and Harry privately thought, Ron you have no idea. "So what did he say about the DA?" Hermione asked, to change the subject. "Oh, yeah, did you ask him?" "He said we could as long as all 'prior commitments' were upheld or something." "In other words: classwork." Ron clarified. "Right. He also... requested we add another member. One who may or may not show up." "Who would that be?" Ron asked quizzically. "It's Draco Malfoy, isn't it?" Hermione asked and Ron looked at her as if she was crazy. "It can't be Ferret, Hermione-" Ron stopped at the look on Harry's face. "It IS Malfoy? You didn't say yes, did you?" "He probably won't come," Harry muttered. "You're absolutely right," Hermione agreed, looking pointedly in Ron's direction. "He won't come." "But what if he does?" Ron asked. "Then we'll have to act all nice-" "Not if we're dueling him," Harry put in, and Ron caught on to what Harry was implying.

"I like that idea, Harry."

Draco Malfoy returned to classes the next day, looking for all the world as if he had not fainted, or blacked out, or fallen down gracefully at supper the night before. In fact, Draco Malfoy himself couldn't remember much about the blacking out part, so he brushed off any inquiries about his health (along with inquiries about why he hadn't been in the Hospital Wing). All was going along like a normal school day for Draco Malfoy so when Ron Weasley happened to brush by him after lunch, he wasn't expecting a shouting contest. For Ron Weasley the day was not going so well. It seemed to be one of those days where nothing went right and everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong. And Ron assumed that if he had been in Potions (which he thankfully wasn't) his cauldron would have melted on him, just to make the day worse. And his friends weren't helping either as Hermione seemed never to have a bad day and therefore wasn't comforting at all, and Harry seemed preoccupied with dreading his upcoming Potions class to worry about how bad Ron's day was. So when he happened to run into Malfoy leaving the Great Hall after lunch and the little Ferret had the audacity to snipe 'watch where he was going' Ron let it all out. "Oh, and I'm sure we're going to all have to watch what we do around you now Malfoy, we wouldn't want you fainting again." He spoke snidely. "Shut it Weasel, or you might find yourself blacking out, or should I say knocked out." "Oh, great comeback. Have you been working on them with Daddy in your free time, because now I bet he has a lot of time to spend on you, and everyone knows that Death Eaters always have the best comebacks, don't they?" Harry gulped as anger began to radiate off Draco, but no one else seemed to notice. "Ron this might not be the best-" he started in a low whisper. "Don't you EVER talk about my father that way!" Draco shouted. A small ripping sound was heard and Ron stepped back as two black wings of sharpened feathers sprouted out of Draco's back. "What the-" "DRACO! Calm down this instant!" Snape appeared at Draco's elbow. "Not until he takes back what he said about my father!" Draco hissed, his wings snapping furiously, a lone feather breaking loose and falling to the floor. Snape rolled his eyes. "Weasley, apologize. Twenty points from Gryffindor for antagonizing another student. As Ron mumbled a completely insincere apology, Harry turned to Hermione and whispered. "When you get some time, look up Veriae in the library, will you?" The girl nodded, still looking at the black wings and the slice of stone that one lone feather had carved out of the floor just by drifting to it.

Chapter Four: Lifemate Sighted Harry silently fumed as he took his seat next to Hermione for Potions. Still no sign of Malfoy anywhere, and the git had two minutes to get to class. But, Harry stopped himself, why in Merlin's name did he care? After Draco had "calmed down" and the wings had receded, the insufferable prat had left, going in the direction of the Slytherin dormitories (as Harry's experience from Second Year had taught him), probably to change his robes. And he'd probably be five to ten minutes late to class but would Snape care? Not at all. So Harry sat fuming at the unfairness of it all. Harry was so buried in his internal rant that he didn't notice the arrival of Draco Malfoy, or the sudden hush that went around the room as all eyes (but Harry's) turned to look at the young aristocrat. If Draco was bothered by their looks, he didn't show it, and Harry, finally realizing the blonde's existence in class not thirty seconds before class began, thought that Malfoy would probably enjoy being in the spotlight. Draco pointedly ignored the stares from his classmates as he made his way to his customary workplace. He was the only one at his table as he preferred to work alone, which now Draco realized was a good thing, as he didn't have to worry about working with a partner who was fretting about him sprouting wings every two seconds. "Well if you would all be so kind as to stop looking at Mr. Malfoy, I believe you all have work to do," Snape snapped as he entered the classroom in the same manner he had done so since Harry's first Potions class in First Year. "But before you get to that, I am going to assign the next project that you will be working on and your partners." A collective shudder went around the room. Snape's regular work was hard enough, but when he assigned projects... well they normally had the effect that the wooden horse had on Troy. The only two who had survived--much less passed--the last project were Draco and Hermione, who had worked by themselves. Everyone else had been sent to the infirmary for various reasons. Harry himself had enjoyed an interesting time where his eyes changed colors every few minutes. Really it had made for a quite interesting week, where the world was red one minute, then green the next, shifting into purple, and then black where he really couldn't see what was going on. Harry personally thought that Snape went through the library picking the hardest potions to assign for projects... and Harry wasn't too far off, except Snape didn't need to go to the library for he had already memorized all the information that was in those books already. Harry was shaken from this train of thought when his name and partner's were called out. "Potter, Malfoy." Harry fought back the urge to groan and glared in Malfoy's direction, a bit miffed by the fact that Malfoy was looking half in shock at Snape who was ignoring him. Well this is just great, Draco thought. Not only had his beloved godfather thought to pair him with Potter of all people, but the same godfather seemed to have found a twisted sense of humor in all this. Draco scowled at the parchment in front of him on which some witch or wizard had painstakingly copied out all the information available on the--surprise surprise--Veriae potion which Draco, in all reverence to the book he'd found it in, had torn out. His father most likely thought the whole thing was funny, as he had hardly been able to conceal the smirk on his face when he had read the potion's name and purpose. Of course, for wizards who were not Veriae, the potion might be something useful if they were trying to find their perfect match. But... he was working with Potter! The whole thing was wrong just because of that little, somewhat unimportant detail. Potter. JustWait... why was he obsessing over Potter anyway? It was just a stupid assignment which would take less than a week anyway. And besides... the whole point of this particular project was to be able to identify the ingredients for potions "in the field" just in case you couldn't walk down to whatever local apothecary you lived near. This meant that some of the ingredients for his (and Potter's) potion would be in the Forbidden Forest. Oh this would be fun. Draco was starting to enjoy the Forest. His father had woken him at dawn nearly every day for a stroll through the Forest. Draco could remember the smirk that had been prominent on his father's face when Draco had heard that Dumbledore had given his permission for Lucius to teach his son the proper control and use of his wings in the Forest. Draco was starting to think that this particular smirk was his father's form of laughter.

But the Forest wasn't so bad, once the more hostile creatures had figured out that you could aptly protect yourself at any moment you chose to. The centaurs were, well, they were quite weird at times, yet helpful at others. They were much more open to him now that he was seen as another of the Forest's creatures and not just a rogue wizard who happened to be in the vicinity. This attitude irked Draco for some reason, but it didn't really matter, he decided. Yes, it would be interesting when Potter finally figured out that he would have to go rooting around in the Forest for certain ingredients... scratch that, most of the ingredients. This could have some interesting prospects after all.

Lucius paced up and down in front of the fire place angrily. Up. Down. Up. Down. If Snape had ever watched muggle tennis, he would have been able to make a comparison, but since he didn't make a point of watching muggle sports, he could only watch as Lucius walked from one end of his range of vision to the other and back again with a forceful stride. "Stop pacing Lucius, you're giving me a headache." He spoke finally. The elder Malfoy stopped and instead turned to watch the slightly green flames that were crackling noisily in the fire place. "He doesn't get it yet." Lucius spoke finally. "He was so preoccupied over that Potions assignment you gave him to think clearly at all." "It might not be as bad-" Lucius turned to fix the other Slytherin graduate with a glare. Snape shut up quickly. "Not as bad. Just wait until the rumor mill gets working. By morning, the least descriptive story will be something along the lines of 'The Dark Lord is trying to come up with the perfect mix of blood for magic and so his most trusted family decided to experiment with their own son' and that will probably come from the Slytherins who have known Draco." "The Gryffindors will merely stop at 'He's a freak.'" Snape put in helpfully. "And the Ravenclaws will want to study him," Lucius snapped. "If I didn't already want to ring Weasley's neck, I surely would now!" "Which one?" Snape asked sarcastically. "Because I'll help." He paused to hand Lucius a glass of brandy, which the elder Malfoy promptly drank in one shot. "Lucius, Draco may be the talk of the school tomorrow, but he'll handle it. He'll probably enjoy it, strangely enough. The first real chance he's had to use the full reputation of the Malfoy family, you can't tell me he won't live it up to its full potential. He wouldn't be Draco if he didn't." Anything else Severus would have added was cut off by a burning pain on his arm. He hissed, at the same time as Lucius did, and while his hand went to his arm in an attempt to numb the burning feeling, Lucius was busy working something off the middle finger of his right hand. Severus blinked as whatever Lucius was working on came off and flew to land on the floor with a clatter. Small, golden, and circular. Snape looked at Lucius in surprise as he recognized the tell-tale crest of the Malfoy family that was etched into the black stone of the ring, the black stone that was glowing a bright red. "I'm having another one made, but it will take a month or so." Lucius spoke, answering the unspoken question. "Until then it would be unbecoming of the head of the Malfoy household not to wear the signet ring, don't you think?" Snape's eyes traveled to Lucius's hand where he could see a band of scar tissue that marked the spot on Lucius's finger where the metal had met skin. "Are you going?" "No." "I'll have to tell him then." "Forgive me for saying I'm glad it's you and not me."

Snape smiled ruefully as he made his way towards the door. "Do you want me to wait up for you?" the question came softly, but firmly from in front of the fireplace. "Some brandy would be nice," Snape replied equally as softly before he left.

"What are you still doing up, Hermione?" a somewhat tired voice asked. Hermione looked up from where she had been curled up in an armchair, reading. "Couldn't sleep. You?" "Death Eater meeting. He's feeling rather... destructive tonight. I wonder what made him so angry?" The last part was sarcastic. "Do you think Malfoy didn't go?" Hermione asked softly. "The Marauder's Map states quite clearly that Lucius Malfoy is currently sitting in Snape's office. And Snape isn't anywhere on Hogwarts grounds." Hermione nodded thoughtfully as Harry sat down on the sofa near her. His eyes flickered to a black object on the table. "Why do you have that, Hermione?" "Research purposes. Be careful, Harry. It's sharp enough to cut through stone as if it was jello." Harry frowned. "And Malfoy keeps wings of these in his back?" He picked up the feather gingerly. "'Mione? Are you sure this is that sharp?" "Yes. Malfoy was angry, ergo his feathers were sharp." "Doesn't seem sharp to me." Hermione's eyes widened as she looked at the feather. Sure enough, the feather Harry held in his hands was not razor edged, but silken. Frowning, she reached for it but jerked her hand away when the part closest to her reverted back to its razor state when her hand neared it. "Maybe it doesn't think you're a threat to Draco," she suggested. "Hermione, are you trying to tell me that these feathers can think?" "No, but they can feel. They are the Veriae's link to the magical currents running through the Veriae's body." "So these are like the Veriae form of wands?" "Right." "Found anything else out that I should know?" Translated: should I be watching out for anything if I annoy Malfoy? "I don't know yet, Harry. There are painfully few books about Veriae in the library. This one came from the Restricted Section." Harry's eyebrows rose. "Happy reading, I guess," he finally said. "It's really interesting actually. Many of our own customs were based after the Veriae customs, such as the whole 'head of the house' idea, which came from the Veriae Aspectus." "You're going to need to explain all this, right?"

"Yes, it's a complicated system. Harry, you look dead on your feet. You should try to sleep." After Harry had gone into the boys dormitory, Hermione frowned worriedly and re-read the paragraph she had been absorbed in before Harry came down. It takes months, and in some cases years, for Veriae to learn to control their wings because just having their wings makes the Veriae prone to rash mood swings. The instinct of the wings is to protect the Veriae at all cost, and thus for the first few months after the first rebirth the slightest anger may set them off. But it is interesting to note, that while the Veriae may not be able to control the wings, the Veriae's intended can. The touch of the Veriae's soul mate makes even the sharpest, most angry feathers instantly change to their soft form so as not to hurt the Veriae's intended. "Oh my, Harry what have you gotten yourself into now?" Hermione whispered worriedly. Absorbed in her book, the girl continued reading long into the night.

Lucius Malfoy sat watching the flames sputter and die, and continued sitting motionless after the room went dark, his sight now focusing intently on the small charred circle that the ring--currently on his finger--had left in the floor.

Dumbledore sat absently stroking Fawkes's feathers, thinking back to when he had first seen the matching aura between the two boys, after Fawkes had pointed it out to him, and wondered how this would affect the oncoming war.

Draco Malfoy slept soundly, his eyes flickering to a color of silver and gold underneath closed eyelids, and slept soundly, enclosed in his black aura.

And up in the Gryffindor boys' dormitory, Harry Potter slept soundly as well, enclosed in protective black wings that kept out all the nightmares.

Chapter Five: Matching Auras "You look three-fourths dead," Lucius stated as Snape made his way into the room at seven in the morning. "Thanks for caring," Snape shot back spitefully. "Seeing as you're the reason I and forty other people are like this right now." He winced as he put weight on muscles that were loath to do anything. "And why in Merlin's name didn't you keep the fire going?" Lucius shrugged in the darkness (he hadn't minded the cold of the dungeon room) as his eyes wandered in the direction of the fireplace. There was a slight shift in the air of the room and flames leapt up from nothing, flooding the room with light. "I hate when you do that," Snape muttered, slowly making his way to the couch. "It's as natural to me as your wand is to you," Lucius commented casually. "And Draco's going to learn how to do that?" Snape eased his Crucio-battered body onto the plush cushions of the couch. "I'm getting too old for this." Lucius's eyebrows rose. "And yet I'm older than you." Switching subjects he continued, "I take it he was slightly displeased." "Furious, seething, fire and brimstone and all that. You name it, he was ten times worse. Not a fun evening." "Sounds like it." A pause. "You're in no shape to teach today." "Have to. Albus has me teaching both Potions and Defense this year. Too many classes to just cancel them all." "I'll cover them for you. I need something to do anyway." Lucius smirked. "I'm sure I can think of something to do in your Defense classes on the subject of the Dark Arts." "Emphases on Defense, Lucius." "The elder Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "Ruin my fun will you?" "That's my job," Snape muttered, his body slipping into sleep. "One of many," Lucius remarked before getting up. He needed to have a discussion with the Headmaster.

"Harry, mate. You need to wake up sooner or later." Ron's voice argued with the lump that was a sleepy Harry. "Don't wanna," Harry mumbled into his pillow. "Yeah, I wouldn't either, but you have to." "Ron, it's Monday." "And you have Potions first thing, I know. We do this every week." Harry had to admit that Ron had a point. "Harry, if you don't get up I'm going to have to resort to drastic measures-"

Harry groaned as he remembered the cascade of water that had been used to drag him from his bed last week. "-and you never know, maybe Snape will want to cancel class today too." Nothing. "Sorry, mate you asked for it." And Harry yelped as cold water flooded down on top of him.

Draco also was having a hard time getting his own self down to breakfast. His was not a sleep problem, no he had gotten up as he always did, and had gone through his normal morning routine... his was a different sort of problem. A dread kind of problem. He had awoken to his second Aspectus, which had reminded him that this would be a horrible day. All night he was sure that the rumor mill of Hogwarts had been churning, and now at breakfast the finest gossip Hogwarts could offer would be handed to him on a silver platter. Well, not literally, but close enough. Draco entertained the thought of just not going to breakfast and appearing in his godfather's class for Potions, the one place where he knew he could find some amount of sympathy this morning. But he was a Malfoy, and Malfoys did not care what people thought of them... sometimes he wished he could change some of these rules. "Draco, get up. You will not be late," his father's voice sounded on the other side of the painting that was the door. "Coming father," Draco murmured, and crossed his room to the door. Opening it, he found his father waiting for him as per the normal morning routine... and for the first time Draco saw his father's aura. Lucius saw his son blink in surprise and smirked. "Not what one expects is it?" Father and son began walking towards the entrance to the Forbidden Forest as they did every morning. "Not really... it's red." "Imagine my chagrin, waking up to find it's not just any red, Draco. It's Gryffindor red." "Ouch." Lucius nodded. "But it's even more curious to see how closely Gryffindor red resembles blood red." Draco frowned, thinking. He blinked in surprise when he realized his father was right. The color of the Lions was close to a bloody red. Strange. "It's not as bad as some," Lucius commented. "I'd rather have red than... well your godfather's for instance... or the Dark Lord's." "Why?" "Well, your godfather's is pure white. Not a very evil aura that's for sure, and one that doesn't fit his lifestyle at all. And Voldemort's... is... pink." Draco sputtered in surprise. "What?" "Not just any pink either, neon pink."

Draco's steps wanted to drag themselves towards the doors to the Great Hall, but Draco was a Malfoy and Malfoys did not ever drag their footsteps, so he was stuck walking slowly but purposefully. But Malfoy rules be damned, he stopped walking as he saw who waited for him at those doors. "Crabbe, Goyle. What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you." Blunt as ever Crabbe, Draco thought, but he couldn't help feeling a bit apprehensive. They might not have been the smartest brains in the school, but they had been his childhood friends and Draco was certain that, two on one, he would lose against them. "Look, Draco, there's a lot of stuff being said about you," Goyle started. "But we don't see a difference." Draco blinked. Then smirked. "Good one, Goyle," he spoke. Yes, they might not have been the brightest of the bunch, but Crabbe and Goyle were as loyal as any Gryffindors once they had placed their loyalties. "Shall we go eat?"

Hushed whispers followed Draco as he made his way through the Great Hall, walking in the self-assured style only a Malfoy knew how to accomplish, completely ignoring what was being said. Behind him, Crabbe and Goyle glared at anyone who looked too long in the wrong way at Draco, and they had their work cut out for them it seemed. Draco wasn't paying attention to all that though, he was scanning the Slytherin tables, noticing the different colored auras. Reds, blues, greens, even a silver, but no black. None. Nothing close to black. Well, there went his first choice of life partner. Not that Draco was looking, mind you, he was just curious. Taking his customary seat in-between Crabbe and Goyle, Draco caught sight of the staff table and noted with disappointment that Snape wasn't there. He would have enjoyed seeing the professor surrounded by a seemingly pure aura. His eyes swept over the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. Still no black. Tons of yellow, a few different shades of red, even some weird mix of purple and green, but no black. Maybe his soul mate wasn't at Hogwarts? Deciding, at least for the moment, that his soul mate must not be at Hogwarts since there were only a few chairs left (two of these being the chairs across from an apple-red-aura-Granger), Draco turned his attention back to his breakfast. The Slytherins were obviously split in their decisions about him, he noticed. One part thought it was a cool idea to have a student with the ability to spear anyone when angry, even if it was with a feather. After all, it was an interesting kind of power. The other group focused on the fact that it wasn't pure wizard blood. The two halves of the Slytherin definition, it seemed. Luckily, most of his normal group of compatriots (such as Blaise, Pansy, and Nott) were in the first group. Breakfast was a meal that always went by too fast in Draco's opinion. Especially on a Monday, and this Monday was no different. But as Draco stood to make his way down to the dungeons for Potions a flicker of a particular aura caught his eye. Ebony black. A perfect duplicate of his own aura. Draco's eyes widened as he registered who that aura belonged to, and blinked. The world instantly switched from glowy to normal, all auras disappearing, leaving only that person sitting at the Gryffindor table. Potter. Harry Potter. He had only seen the aura for a second before his Aspectus had stopped, but... was it Potter's? Draco suddenly didn't like this situation. He didn't like this at all.

Chapter Six: In the Name of Denial Harry wearily allowed Hermione to drag him down to the Potions classroom and tried to think of anything other than working on the blasted project with Malfoy of all people, while Snape would probably be watching for his slightest mistake and blaming him for breathing in the wrong interval or something. Yet, as the time wore on and the seconds clicked closer to the start of class, Snape had not appeared. All the students were in their seats, waiting somewhat nervously, for their professor to arrive in the flutter of robes and slamming doors as he had for the past five years and a few weeks running. Yet, as the clock ticked to the very second that class was supposed to start, their professor has still not graced the classroom with his presence. In the stunned silence of the room, Blaise's whisper to Draco was deafening, "If he doesn't show up in ten minutes, I'm leaving." There were a few slight smiles as the students pondered this, but all smiles soon dropped from their faces as a voice answered, "I'm sure that won't be necessary, Mr. Zambini." The door, which had opened silently, suddenly slammed shut, and most of the students jumped, half twisting in their seats to see the owner of that voice. Even Draco was slightly surprised as his father walked with practiced ease to the front of the room. "Well?" A regal eyebrow rose as he surveyed the students. "I believe you had work assigned to you. And while I think it would be great fun to watch your Professor cut all your throats for not handing it in, I doubt you would find it as amusing." Chairs squeaked as students moved to sit with their partners and start on their projects. Harry didn't bother speaking to Malfoy as he sat down next to the blond, seeing as Draco had pointedly not made a move to where Harry had been seated. "We can get started on half of the potion today, but then we'll have to acquire the other half of the ingredients." Draco spoke, looking at his cauldron as if it was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen. "Fine then." And with that, Draco started working, occasionally shoving something in Harry's direction with directions to be cut or shredded in a particular way. This suited both of them, as Draco didn't want a partner to help make the potion to begin with, and Harry didn't want to make the potion at all. But, watching as the blond aristocrat added the unicorn's teardrops with subtle procession, Harry had to admit that Draco had some talent in this field of the Wizarding World. The potion in the cauldron had turned the pale blue color that was an exact duplicate of the color described on the sheet of directions when Draco shoved a list of ingredients at Harry. "I'll meet you tonight outside the Forbidden Forest to get these." "What?" Harry's idea of not interacting with Malfoy was shattered. "Look at the list Potter." Draco spoke, pointedly watching the blue potion stir itself. "Conock blood can only be found inside the fruit of the conock plant when picked at night. Gorgan's Hair is actually the snake-like leaves of the Gorgan tree, so named for it's appearance obviously. And Blackwing Pearls can only found from the Blackwing plant, a short weed which can be seen only after the sun goes down. Hence the 'at night' part and since the fastest way to get these is to take them from the plants themselves, you get the Forest part." "And I suppose you know that one can find all these in the Forest," Harry hissed, not caring if Draco heard that comment or not.

"Actually, I do know that all of these can be found in the Forest," Draco sniped, "Ten o'clock, outside of the Forest, Potter. And don't be late."

"No, Ron, we aren't kidding." "But that's bloody mental! Even Dumbledore wouldn't risk having the Ministry find out about him giving a teaching position, no matter how small, to someone who doesn't have Ministry permission to teach! Malfoy can't have those kind of qualifications!" "You see when we get to Defense, Ron." Was all Hermione replied and Harry nodded, silently wondering if it would matter if the Ministry found out that Lucius Malfoy had taught a class considering that he most likely owned that department, more or less. Hermione was not disappointed in as they entered the normal Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom to find the same teacher from Potions that morning calmly leaning against Snape's desk. Harry had to admit that the look on Ron's face was priceless, and yet all that Lucius Malfoy did was raise one eyebrow in amusement while he and Hermione were fighting back laughter. Class started exactly on time, just as Potions had not, and the elder Malfoy wasted no time in waiting for stragglers. The door slammed shut and was locked by an invisible force and every student except two turned to look at the door in amazement. Draco had seen this little stunt many times at the Manor when his father was making it clear to Narcissa that he was not to be disturbed and that the definition of "not" indeed was the same as it had been for the last hundred years and had in actuality not been changed to the definition of "maybe not" or "not, unless Narcissa felt it necessary". Hermione was looking at the elder Malfoy, silently storing away the first sign she had been shown of how a Veriae worked with the magical currents around them. But it was clear that anyone not in there seats was obviously not going to attend class, and much to Ron's chagrin that did not include any Slytherins or Ravenclaws, yet included a few Hufflepuffs and about half of the Gryffindor population of the class. "Put away what you want," Lucius Malfoy started, watching as students began stuffing books away. "I am going to talk and you are going to listen, and you will have to use your own intelligence as to whether or not you will be tested on what I am going to inform you of by your normal teacher." Quills and parchment began appearing back on the desks. "Now I have no idea what in the name of all things magical your Professor has you studying, nor do I want to know, Miss Granger so kindly put your hand down." Harry and Ron exchanged looks. Snape had obviously been taught something by Lucius Malfoy sometime in his life for their lecturing methods to be so similar. "For this class period we are going to talk about curses and the effects thereof. I won't spend time on the Unforgivables as I've heard those were dealt with in your Fourth Year, except to say that they are becoming somewhat of a clich. Now those three curses were singled out by the Ministry out of the hundred and seventeen curses that might have been selected as Unforgivables. Why? Because they were popular. It's easy as snapping your fingers to cast Cruciatus on someone if you hate them, and Imperius gets to be a walk in the park if you use it enough to become familiar with it. But the rest of the hundred and seventeen are much harder to maintain and have somewhat gruesome effects, therefore they were not used as often. However, this makes them more appealing as the years move on, as they are not Unforgivable, and the punishment for using one of them on another creature is merely a tongue lashing by some Ministry official who doesn't know what he's talking about to begin with and no amount of time in Azkaban at all. Now, as all of the Unforgivables have a weak spot -- Cruciatus becomes ineffective as one's mind blocks out the pain in order to save one's sanity, the Imperius counts on the fact that your victim of choice has little to no will power, and as long as someone else gets in the way of the Killing Curse when its thrown at you, you're safe -- so do these other curses have weak spots that can be exploited if you know what is coming towards you."

"Can you believe he got all 117 curses into one class period?" Ron groaned as he nursed his writing hand in the Common Room.

"You think this is bad? Can you imagine if he were to become the permanent Defense Teacher?" Harry groaned. "That was the most informative class I've ever had," Hermione pointed out. "More than half of those curses aren't archived in our library except in the Restricted Section." "Bloody amazing," Ron muttered sarcastically. "Did you notice that Malfoy didn't write anything at all?" Harry wondered out loud. "Which one?" Ron muttered from where he had been attempting to wallow in pity for the most certain loss of a limb after all those notes. "Draco." "I did," Hermione spoke thoughtfully. "But do you know something even more strange? He was mouthing the names of the curses two words before his father said them. "As if he's heard that particular lecture before?" Ron asked. "Exactly." "Well I guess that's something I can ask him when I have to meet him to go find bloody potions ingredients in the Forest," Harry muttered. "Might make for good conversation." Ron patted his shoulder sympathetically before realizing he was using his "injured" hand to do so and returned to self pity. "It can't be that bad-" Hermione started to say but the looks from the two boys silenced her.

"You're late Potter," Draco muttered as Harry got close enough to hear him without raising his voice. "Let's just get this over with," Harry muttered. "Fine by me," Draco shot back, turning to lead the way into the Forest that he was quite used to by now. Thank you Father, he thought silently as Harry followed close behind him, obviously not having a clue about where he was going. Gathering two of the ingredients went fairly easily. Draco led, Harry followed wondering slightly why he wasn't disturbed that Draco knew where he was going and then resolved to think about that later. But when they approached the spot where Draco knew there was a Gorgan tree, Harry suddenly stopped short. Draco continued walking for a few steps and then realized that Harry wasn't with him. He turned to see the boy staring ahead at the downward slope of the ground that was covered in a root canopy. "I've been here before. We don't want to be going in there." "Yes, Potter, we do want to be going in here as it is the fastest and most direct route to the last ingredient that we need and I for one want to get to bed." "Draco, you don't understand. There are thousands, millions even, of giant-" "Spiders? Yes I know." "They enjoy eating flesh - did you know that?" "I had assumed so. They don't bother with a Veriae, so I never tested my theory." Harry looked pointedly at Draco, and Draco realized that he had overlooked the slight problem of Harry not being a Veriae. He rolled his eyes, only slightly visible in the darkness of the wood.

"Fine. You stay here. I'll go get the Gorgan's Hair." Draco spoke as if he was very annoyed by the injustice of all this. "But you have to carry everything back." Harry didn't point out the fact that he already was carrying the other two ingredients, and nodded, watching the aristocrat disappear into the cave-like structure ahead of him. Harry waited and waited... and finally figured that time was relevant. He was sure that he was counting the seconds when he first heard the sounds, like wheezing only in a very regular breathing pattern. And then he heard the somewhat silent sound of slithering coming towards him. And something that he had forced himself to memorize for Snape's second test clicked in his head. Wyvern! His mind screamed. Winged, legless dragons that breathed a yellow fog which gave humans a nasty cough that wouldn't go away for years, and made their eyes burn and blur. Damn. And what's more is that their hide repelled magic of all sorts. Double damn. He half twisted to see three pairs of eyes watching him. Bloody. Hell. The creatures slowly emerged from the brush, speaking to each other in the language of dragons. It was what Parseltongue had originated from and Harry could catch a few words... words that by themselves formed a very disconcerting picture. Unintentionally, Harry began to back towards the cave which would lead to the spiders' nest.

Draco emerged from the cave to just avoid running into Harry, who had leapt back to avoid the fog of three wyverns. What were they doing here? The wind of the forest rustled through the trees and told him. Draco saw red. They. Wanted. To. Harm. His. Harry. Draco did not like that. AT. ALL. Something nagged at the back of his mind that told him that he shouldn't care if the wyverns hurt Harry... but that nagging disappeared when he caught a glimpse of the emotion boiling in Harry's eyes. Helplessness. Nothing. Hurt. His. Harry. Something inside of Draco snapped. Wings unfurled, sparkling in the dim light. Harry half turned to see Draco standing there, and began to back away from the Veriae slightly. Draco shoved the last ingredient into his hands and attacked. The first wyvern never saw what hit it as wings seemed to wrap around its body, shredding the skin and spilling critical amounts of blood. It fell to the ground dead within seconds. The other two wyverns looked at Draco suspiciously, then turned to look at Harry with a strange expression... surprise, if it was possible for a dragon descendant to show surprise. Harry frowned as they spoke to each other.

"Lucky - hiss- too bad - growl- intended -snarl-Veriae." They left, obviously not wanting to invoke the already angry Veriae, and Harry didn't blame them, but what had they been talking about? Harry suddenly wanted to find a way to learn to speak Dragontongue. It was possible to understand it with a bit of studying, just another dialect of Parseltongue after all.

Draco stood in shock after he had entered his rooms and closed the door. What had he done? Why had he done it? He had protected Harry? He had willingly protected Harry? He had been angry that Harry-bloodyPotter had been attacked by wyverns. Why should he even care? Because Harry's aura matched his- no he didn't know that. He only thought that, only had the slightest suspicion of thinking that maybe that could have the slightest chance of being the case... Yeah right. And if Draco Malfoy hadn't resigned himself to the fact that Harry Potter was his intended, Draco the Veriae Malfoy certainly wasn't complaining. In the name of all things magical... why him? Why couldn't it have been someone - anyone - else? Draco groaned and threw himself down on his bed in a very unMalfoyish bout of depression (because one, Malfoys never become depressed, and two, Malfoys do not throw themselves onto their beds while, three, wearing clothes that they wore into the Forbidden Forest). Was there even a bright side of this problem? Oh yeah, if he ever wanted to commit suicide for some reason he could just go have a little chat with Harry Potter. Hi Harry. Just so you know I still hate you, but you're my intended life partner, so can you hurry and reject me because I want to die because Voldemort just announced that he's gay and wants to be my bride. Draco shuddered. Yeah, if he ever wanted to commit suicide, that would definitely be the way to go. Now all he had to do was pray that Harry didn't figure it out, or if Harry did figure it out (more like if Granger ever figured it out) that Harry had enough common sense to avoid him at all costs. Yes, that was all... and then there was that little fact that he had to start controlling his emotions more now, just to make sure he didn't go mental when someone tried to hurt Harry... like sending a bludger at him in the Saturday Quidditch match this week... oh damn it all!

Chapter Seven: As the Truth is Dragged Out Ron and Hermione sat in stunned silence as Harry's tirade finished. Ron was the first to recover, turning to Hermione looking puzzled. "Hermione... is it even possible to have a pink aura?" Hermione frowned. "Yes, I suppose anything's possible." "Guys, the strange conversation Malfoy started coming back up to the castle is not the point here," Harry groaned, falling back on to the conveniently placed couch. "Why in Merlin's name did Malfoy help me?" "I don't know Harry-" Hermione started. "Probably wants something in return." Ron muttered. "-And before I was interrupted!" Hermione gave Ron a pointed look and Ron smiled sheepishly, "I was going to say not to dwell on it. You shouldn't be complaining that he stepped in after all. It's better in the long run for you." "He didn't demand anything in return right?" Ron asked sharply. "No. All he said afterwards was that thing about the aura. Then he said nothing. We walked back to the school and he took the potions' stuff and left." "Maybe he doesn't realize why he did what he did," Hermione spoke thoughtfully, and then yawned. Harry grimaced. "Sorry I woke you guys up." He realized that dragging his friends out of bed (Ron literally from his bed and Hermione by yelling up at the girl's dorm) might not have been the nicest thing to do, but he'd been freaked. "Don't worry about it. I would have done the same thing," Ron admitted. "Well, let's go to bed and think on it in the morning." "Good idea," Hermione agreed, then pulled Ron back as Harry walked into the dorm. "I need to talk to you. Wait until Harry falls asleep, then come back down." Ron nodded, not waiting to ask why. Hermione would explain it later as she always did.

Ron came back down to see Hermione sitting on a chair with a book in her hands. "What's up?" "I know why Malfoy did what he did tonight." "You mean 'last night'; it's after midnight. But why did he do it?" "Because of his Veriae blood." Ron frowned. "You'll need a long explanation for this, Hermione." The girl nodded. "Don't stop me until I'm done then." Ron flopped onto a couch and waited. "When I saw Malfoy's feather fall to the ground that day he went ballistic on you, I picked it up so that I could research what he was. I was very careful never to directly touch the feather itself because it was razor sharp. I found one book which had a description of a feather, but it was in the restricted section so it took a while to get permission to read it. By then the school knew he was a Veriae, but so what. I wanted to find out more about his powers. But the book didn't tell me that, apparently the Veriae is taught by his auctor... that's the reason Lucius Malfoy is here by the way. Anyway, what the book did tell

me was the life... cycle I guess, of the Veriae. It also told me of the Veriae's soul mate. It works almost like the Veela, in that the Veriae also look for their perfect mate. But the Veriae don't sniff out their mates like Veelas do, they look at the aura of the soul. When they find the person that matches their own, they've found their soul mate. This mate is very important, but not necessarily vital to their lives. If their soul mate never rejects them, they won't die and can live without their mate. However, if they tell their mate and their mate rejects them they die at midnight of that day. Now I was just reading about another purpose of the mate when Harry walked in. The feather of Draco's was on the table. When Harry touched it, it reverted back to its soft silken form. This is because the Veriae instinct wouldn't want to hurt their mate in any way." "So you're telling me Harry is Malfoy's soul mate?" "Yes. But he doesn't have to bond with Malfoy. He just cannot reject Malfoy openly or else Malfoy dies." "And Malfoy would never tell Harry, because Malfoy hates him." "Exactly." "Then that's okay then, and we all go on as we have." "But tonight, Malfoy stopped an attack on Harry. We need to be ready for any situation. We're Harry's friends and Harry's smarter than he lets on in Potions class, you know. If he finds out himself, we need to support whatever decision he might make." "You mean if he chooses to be with Malfoy. Yeah, I can almost see him doing that." "You know Harry has the attitude that love is love no matter which gender it comes from, and despite what Malfoy has done to him, the Veriae part of him would make sure that Harry is never hurt... by anyone or anything." "But you're overlooking the fact that Harry hates Malfoy." "There is also that. I'm just telling you this so that no matter what happens, we can support Harry." "Of course we'll support Harry. We're his friends. I mean, sure, when he explained his views on love to us this summer I was a bit shocked, but I can deal with this." "You're sure?" "Positive. I mean, hurting Harry's friends hurts Harry, so Malfoy can't start anything with us either right? All we do is ignore him. Easy." Hermione smiled. "Exactly."

Lucius Malfoy had tuned out his son's ranting hours ago and just let Draco continue talking until he had repeated himself three or four times, worn himself out pacing around, and stormed off to his bedroom. Raising an eyebrow at some of Draco's last statements on how it wasn't fair because he wasn't even going to be punished for being so stupid as to help Potter because it was following Veriae instinct, Lucius just stored the entire few hours away as temporary insanity and returned to his book. He'd known this was going to happen after all. Why else had he deserted Voldemort? Honestly, Draco himself should have suspected that Potter was his soul mate after that. Oh well. Draco was, after all, an adolescent, and adolescents sometimes couldn't find something if it hit them on the side of the head, relationships being one of those things. What would come would come, and Draco would never actually tell Potter that he was his soul mate, so what was Draco worried about anyway?

By Friday morning, Draco had carefully built a manor on the left bank of "denial" and was comfortably living in it without any thought whatsoever. The potion had been finished and he'd given the stupid vial to be tested to Potter, saying to test it if he wanted to but Draco knew it was perfect and had left the room

before Potter might have swallowed it. So Potter didn't know anything whatsoever about the aura of Draco's soul and both boys (along with respective friends/bodyguards) were ignoring each other... but Draco was dreadfully wrong about one thing. On Thursday night, Harry Potter had dumped the entire clear contents of the vial of the completed potion into his pumpkin juice and had watched everyone's auras for exactly one hour. He'd delightedly told Hermione of her aura (apple red) and had told Ron he didn't want to know (Slytherin green) and had then looked at his own to find it was ebony black. Which he thought was fitting, thank you very much... and then Draco had walked in. Harry had felt annoyance when he realized that Draco and he had the exact same aura. Who did that git think he was, having the same aura as he? Then his brain had started working... maybe it was something about being a Veriae. He still hadn't checked out... er..."borrowed" that book on Dragontongue from the Restricted Section... and a resolution was made to translate exactly what those wyverns had said about Draco and himself on Monday. After all, he still remembered very clearly what the hissing had sounded like... strange what one remembered without really meaning to. So he had left dinner, had trespassed into the library's restricted section, and promptly spent all night learning to speak Dragontounge. He doubted he could really speak it fluently, but he would understand it. There were only a few differences between it and Parseltongue, because dragons were capable of making a snarling "kh" and "rrrk" sound that snakes couldn't do. So at exactly 3:48 a.m. on Friday morning, Harry looked at the translated sentence one wyvern had spoken to another. "Lucky boy. It's too bad that you're the intended of a Veriae." Intended of a Veriae? What did that mean? Hmmm. Hermione had that book on Veriae-people before, maybe she checked it back in. But looking revealed that, no, she hadn't. Well, then he would just have to ask her to see it.

Hermione looked at him for a long moment before smiling and fetching the book from her dorm, saying something like, "What's mine is yours, Harry, you know that," and left him to his reading. Harry thought that look was rather odd, but he walked up to his dorm and collapsed on the bed. Merlin, he was tired. A nap would be good right now. He'd skip whatever class he might have this morning and sleep in, then he'd look up what that "intended" thing was, and then go down to Care of Magical Creatures. Yes, very good plan Harry, he told himself. Sleeping sure looked good right about now.

Hermione and Ron were waiting for Harry at the entrance to the grounds, as they always did on Fridays, to walk down to their Magical Creatures class. But they noticed that something was different about Harry this Friday as he made his way over to him. "Something wrong mate?" Ron asked. "Sorta. I'll tell you when we get to class." Harry's two friends shared a knowing look as they followed Harry across the grounds. Another person too, had noticed the slight difference in Harry, but was trying to convince himself that he didn't care. Wonder what's wrong with Scarhead? Draco thought. Well, Potter would tell his friends soon enough, most likely in Creatures (Draco still didn't know why he himself continued to take that class...). Ah, the joys of being a Veriae... it was rather windy today. One of the things Draco liked about breezes... they were very chatty. He couldn't speak to them himself, but they had the uncanny ability to figure out what he wanted to know. And so, every part of the conversation Potter and his friends had would be heard by Draco.

"You know, then?" Ron asked as they stood away from the other groups that were taking care of their latest charge... a mini-dog-looking-thing that had a strange fish-like tail and webbed paws. "You mean you read the book too?" "No, 'Mione told me. What are you going to do?" "What can I do? I like Draco Malfoy as much as you do."

"Which isn't very much then," Ron met Hermione's glare. "What? I'm being truthful." Harry smiled softly. "I know you're trying your best to support me, Ron. Stop looking at him like that, Hermione. After all, as long as I don't reject Malfoy over there, nothing bad happens." "Are you sure about this Harry?" "Positive. I will not be bonded to Malfoy." "Thank you Merlin," Ron muttered under his breath, earning another glare from Hermione. All three started at Pansy's shriek. "Professor! It's Draco! He fainted!" Hermione turned shocked eyes to Ron and Harry, who shrugged and continued watching the sleeping "mini-dog-like-thing". "He couldn't have heard us Hermione. He's half a field away, for Merlin's sake. You could hardly see him from here," Ron pointed out. Hermione nodded. "Yes, I'm just jumping to conclusions." But deep down, she wondered if she was jumping to the right conclusion. "Harry, you know how you always carry your cloak with you?" she asked, emphasizing "cloak" so Harry would know what it meant. "Yeah, why?" "May I borrow it?" "Sure... wait right now?" "I want to find out what's going on." Harry shook his head but relented. "Just make sure you don't get caught." Hermione nodded, slipping into the shadows of invisibility.

Lucius Malfoy burst into the infirmary, wings snapping in anger, followed by a somewhat irate looking Professor Snape who'd been sent to fetch the elder Malfoy. All eyes in the room (which included any staff who weren't teaching at the moment) were trained on the boy lying, deathly pale, on the bed. "I don't know what happened," Madam Pomfrey said worriedly. "According to Hagrid, he just fainted. There was no cause. He doesn't have any characteristics of being sick... he just won't wake." Lucius cradled his son's hand in his own, his fingers tracing the vein back up the boy's arm to the point when it was nearest the surface. Draco's blood was as cold as ice. What had Potter done? For the first time in his life, the Malfoy facade threatened to crumble. "Dumbledore. I will be taking Draco to his room," he spoke abruptly, his eyes searching out those of the Headmaster and then those of Snape. The Potion Master's own eyes widened in recognition as Dumbledore gave his permission despite Madam Pomfrey's protests. After Lucius had left, cradling his son's body to his own as if he would never have the chance to do so again, Snape spoke. "Don't bother trying to protest, Pomfrey. Draco should at least be able to die in his room with his remaining family." "Die?" Shrouded eyes widened as Hermione made her way out of the room. Draco had heard Harry. Now all she had to do was get to Harry to tell him. But would Harry care enough to save him even though that meant practically chaining himself to Draco Malfoy for the rest of his life?

Chapter Eight: Flight at Midnight Lucius stood at the window in Dumbledore's office, watching the rain pelt down mournfully against the glass. "Nature knows what is coming. It anticipates the death of a Veriae, and it prepares to mourn." Dumbledore's voice came softly from beside him. The Headmaster's gaze followed Lucius's across the grounds of Hogwarts, towards the Forbidden Forest. "You knew they were destined to be together, did you not?" "I did. I was acquiring Draco's schoolbooks when Draco was being fitted for his robes for his first year here. I returned before Narcissa and happened to see both Draco and Potter were being fitted in the same room, my son chatting away as usual, both surrounded by auras so similar it scared me. While my son did not recognize the fabled Harry Potter, I did. I knew the Dark Lord would stop at nothing to return, so I feared for my son's life. It seems my fears were more correct than I wished them to be." "You told your son to befriend Harry." "Yes. But that did not happen. I hope Ronald Weasley is happy with himself today, for at midnight Draco dies. His father's grudge against my family can then be finally put to rest." "Lucius, your son and your grudge played a large part in Harry's decision." "But out of the two families, it is the Malfoys who will regret it." Lucius turned to leave, his face impassive, his emotions only betrayed by a single crystal tear that fell to the plush rug of Dumbledore's office. "Can you not help him, Lucius? Draco is strong; he may be able to live through it... even if no Veriae ever has." "Draco ran to the forest when he woke. I could not even begin to fathom where he has gone." "So you will give up that easily, Lucius? You will let your son die?" "Consider my options, Dumbledore, before you condone my actions. Suicide is unbecoming of a Malfoy." Lucius spoke gravely. "If I were to find him, Draco would ask me to kill him."

Harry woke, gasping. Voldemort was pleased, and for the first time in weeks, Harry had felt every painful moment. There was no reassuring blackness, no voice to whisper sweet words, and no wings to shelter him from the pain. Had that... had that actually been Draco, as the book had said? Harry's eyes shifted over to the clock that sat on his bedside table. 11:30. That was bad. Wait, why was that bad? Why did Harry feel so empty inside? Like something important was slipping away from him... something he desperately wanted to hold on to. Almost on an impulse of their own, Harry's arms reached for the book that he'd insisted to Hermione that he read, but he had put down after realizing what it was telling him. Something was wrong, something which he had ignored when Hermione had tried desperately to explain to him, and now he wanted to find out what. His eyes hurriedly scanned the headings, to find the page that he had lost when he'd slammed the book shut. Finding the page number, his fingers dove through the pages, almost as if they knew he had to hurry. As his emerald orbs picked up the paragraph about mates, they widened as the truth of the situation hit. And it hit harder than a Crucio ever could have. Draco. Dead. At midnight. Wait... Why did he care? No more Draco, no more insults, no more underhanded Slytherin pranks directed solely at him... no more competition at Quidditch... no more... just no more.

Draco had wronged him... many times in fact. Yet, Draco had been the first wizard he had ever come in contact with that didn't acknowledge the fact that he was... well, different. Draco had extended a hand of friendship to Harry, albeit rudely. But... he hadn't really been rude to Harry... just to Ron. Ron had started it... Harry blinked. Ron had started it all. Harry had fallen into the same pit that he accused Draco of being in... he had taken Ron's opinion of Draco as the black and white of the situation. And Ron's interpretation of Draco had come, not from analyzing Draco, but from what he had heard from his father about Lucius. Draco was not Lucius. Lucius was not the Malfoy who had saved Harry from the wyverns, nor was he the Malfoy who had fainted after Care of Magical Creatures... where he must have heard Harry's words to his friends somehow, nor was Lucius the one who had the same aura as Harry. What did Harry really know about Draco? Nothing. Except that Draco knew how to retaliate, and had a fierce sense of pride. Harry had treated Draco... in the exact same way that he had treated Lucius when Lucius was acting the Death Eater... a part which, from what he had seen of Lucius in the two classes Lucius had taught, had proven an incorrect assessment. But could Harry piece anything together about Draco? The younger Malfoy did not really judge by appearances, as he had not even noticed Harry's scar unless he was in the middle of the public eye. In First Year, Draco had been paired with Harry for detention in the Forbidden Forest, and had actually held the lantern... even though he outwardly complained that the whole thing was "servant's stuff". In Second Year, Draco had stolen a small present that was obviously meant for another student, yet he had first asked Crabbe and Goyle (or who he thought were Crabbe and Goyle) if the present was theirs... thus implying that he wouldn't have taken it had it been theirs. And on through the years... Draco had protected his own image in Fifth Year (imagine the scandal if a Malfoy was found to be anything less than a model student by the Ministry) with that horse of a woman, Umbridge. That had been his worst act against Harry, yet he hadn't been the one to bring the information about the DA to Umbridge either. So did Harry want to let Draco die? No, not really. Yet, did Harry love Draco? Not Draco Malfoy, just Draco. The same Draco whose feathers turned from sharp to satin when Harry touched them. The same Draco who'd stood in-between Harry and the triad of wyverns from the Forbidden Forest with only those wings and his forming bond with the magic patterns around him for protection. The same Draco who'd told Harry that Voldemort's aura was pink just to make conversation. The same Draco who had, perhaps inadvertently, stood between Voldemort and Harry with only his wings every night in Harry's dreams... except tonight... because Harry was killing him. So did Harry love Draco? Harry himself didn't know... yet somehow, something inside him said, "Yes." As Harry swept from the dormitory with his Firebolt in hand, his clock said 11:50.

Draco's eyes seemed clouded by his aura, as he stumbled forward, wings fluttering violently to help him keep his balance. It covered him now, his aura... it would suffocate him. He just knew it. The darkness would suffocate him and he would die, and by now he truly didn't care. Pain lanced its way through his limbs, as his body protested against any movement. But Draco didn't want to die here. It had been a mistake to run to the Forest. He couldn't escape what was happening now. If he'd stayed at Hogwarts at least he could have begged his father to finish him quickly. Now that would be fitting. For Draco to die the way Harry's parents had, the last remnants of happiness that Harry could have held on to swept away with that same beam of green light... the color of Harry's eyes. Wise eyes watched Draco intently, as the Veriae's aura started to become visible and the pale boy fell to the ground. These eyes were quickly cast up to the heavens and with a horrified start, galloping hooves began to make their way to the castle. Why has Dumbledore not seen it? Firenze thought frantically. How could he have let things get this bad? Once Draco dies, Harry will soon follow... the stars tell so and they do not lie. What use was it, teaching Dumbledore to read the cosmic signs, if he does not use the skill? Draco must be saved. Or else, the world will crumble under darkness... a darkness that was fittingly the same color as the fated aura that now is threatening to destroy Draco.

A boy on a broomstick zoomed down the halls of Hogwarts, his thoughts whirling. Draco's not here. WhereisDracowhereisDracowhereisDraco? The broom was pulled to a sudden stop at a large window, its view overlooking the grounds of Hogwarts. Wait... what was Firenze doing outside of the ForestThe Forest! Glass exploded outwards as the boy guided his broom out of the castle, pocketing his still smoking wand as he did so. "Harry Potter!" Firenze's voice carried upward through the pelting rain. "You must hurry-" "Where's Draco?" "In the Forest! You must find him before he dies!" "I know!" Harry screamed through the rain as he hurled forward towards the looming trees, hand falling back to his wand. "Point me!" his voice shrieked through the rain, raspy and hurried. Following the direction given by the wand, boy and broom entered the Forest. "Draco!"

Clouded eyes opened slightly. What? "Draco!" Why would someone call his name? Darkness surrounded him... so sleepy. "Draco!" Go away; darkness feels no pain. Draco didn't want to feel pain anymore. "Draco!" Orbs of black laced with silver blinked. "Harry?" came the startled whisper. "Draco!" Harry landed ungracefully on the ground next to the fallen boy. One could hardly see Draco, cloaked as he was in an aura of ebony. It'll suffocate him! Harry thought frantically as he dove into the clouded aura. "Don't die, Draco," he muttered, as he fought through rain and aura to get next to Draco. The wings seemed to hear what the boy did not, as they began to beat at the aura, working as if to push it away. Harry managed to grasp Draco as the aura began to disappear. He paled slightly as he saw eyes blink slowly at him, normally a silver, now an ebony black. The darkness was going away... why was it going away? Was he dead now? No... but that's Harry - blink Harry's not dead yet. "Why are you here?" The voice--was that his voice?--spoke low and slurred. "Draco, I don't want you to die. Don't die!" Die? Was he not dead already? No... the darkness was gone now. He was not dead.

"I'm not dead," the voice spoke again, in that same low and expressionless tone. And the boy's eyes began slowly to change colors, the silver working its way through the black, as Harry smiled.

Chapter Nine: Awaken Draco's eyes opened to a sight he didn't ever expect to see again: his room. Even more wondrous was the fact that his father was sitting next to his bed and had apparently been keeping vigil, which the worn look on his face implied. This was something his father had not done since he was six and had come down with some sickness that he himself couldn't remember anything of except his father raging at his mother that he wouldn't have his son die from some stupid muggle illness (Draco's mother had been of the opinion that his father had been over-reacting at the time.). "How are you feeling?" His father asked quietly as Draco blinked and looked around curiously. "Strange." Came the answer. And that was the only explanation that Draco could think of. He felt all weird inside. "Considering the fact that you survived suffocation, I'm not surprised." Draco blinked. "Then why am I not stupid?" Draco's father looked at Draco as if what his son had said could not be processed by his brain. "When you start to suffocate, your brain starts to die, so why am I not stupid?" Lucius smirked wryly. "Because you're a Veriae." "Oh." And that explained that. "So why am I not dead, again?" "Because your intended got cold feet a few minutes before your death and rescued you," Lucius spoke dryly as if this wasn't really what he thought of the matter. "He carried you out of the Forest once your aura had returned into your being and your wings retracted." Now things weren't computing for Draco. "Wait, Potter saved me?" "Apparently so, although the why of the matter still eludes me." "He doesn't love me." "You're so sure of that?" "He hates me." Lucius looked at his son pointedly. He already knew that. "One night isn't going to change years' worth of feelings." "Maybe." Came Lucius's response, but the older Malfoy was thinking. Something in what Draco had said had triggered a memory of a conversation he'd had with the Dark Lord a month or so before the "Department of Mysteries" incident. Something about impulses... but he couldn't remember why that was important at this moment in time so he returned to Draco, pushing the memory back into the recesses of his mind to ponder over later. "You'll have to see him today." "We have classes together." "Not for classes, Draco. You'll need to work things out with him today. He's had long enough to mull it over anyway; you might as well talk about your situation." "What situation? And why has he had time to 'mull it over'?"

Lucius's eyebrow rose. "Draco, exactly how much of that book did you skim over?" Draco at least had the modesty to look bashful. "Everything after-" "After you found out about the Aspectus and what it meant." Lucius finished with an air of disappointment. "You figured you would never have a mate and therefore it wouldn't apply to you." "Yes Father." "Well, Draco, then you had better ask Granger for that book back because as of three days ago, when you were on the road to suicide, you gained a mate and now you must act accordingly." "Three days ago?" "You have been sleeping for three days as your body recovered. Normal humans wouldn't have been able to survive without air for as long as you did, and even in Veriae terms you were much too close to death to survive and get up the next morning to play Quidditch." His father's sarcastic tone was not lost on him. "Oh." "So, now you have a mate to deal with. A mate, who a few moments ago, you said does not love nor even like you." "Oh." And that summed up Draco's feelings quite nicely.

As Lucius had pointed out, Harry had been given three days of time to mull over his current situation. And reading that book from cover to cover had given him a lot of time to think... and to berate himself. Well, he'd started berating himself after he'd met Draco's father waiting for them at the doors to the castle... or more like waiting for him to carry Draco's sleeping form to the doors of the castle. Draco had exchanged hands and been carried off to wherever it was thought proper by Lucius to take him, and Harry had walked up to the boys dorm lost in thought. He'd never gotten there. Ron had been waiting for him in the Gryffindor Common Room. The conversation had been awkward to say the least. "You know, you could have told me Harry," Ron said, looking into the cheerfully blazing fire. "I would have supported you. I told you that." Harry frowned. "Ron, I don't know what to think right now... can we talk about this later?" Ron had agreed, and they both had gone up to bed, not saying another word. Well, Ron had gone to bed. Harry had stayed up, reading and thinking. At about four in the morning, he'd given up on reading and had just sat on his bed thinking. He'd done it again, and this time he really couldn't say why. At the moment he'd felt he had been doing the right thing yet looking back on the moment, he felt all confused. The feelings between this night and the now, and that night and the then were identical... sort of. Except this time no one had died. Last time... the last time Harry had given in to his impulses like that... Sirius had died. I can't believe I did that again, he berated himself. He didn't know what to think, he decided at exactly 4:09 in the morning. He really didn't. He'd saved Draco's life, that much he knew, but why? Now that the moment was gone, he could look back and see that he'd acted purely on impulse. But an impulse of what? His mind asked rebelliously. Harry ignored this question he could not answer and went on with his analyzing. Without complete knowledge of the information he could have had, he'd taken the plunge. Yes, there were somewhat "better" results this time, there was a bright side to look to. No one had died. No one had even gotten hurt... well, except for the window. But was what he had done truly the right thing? Harry didn't know.

In fact, three days later Harry still didn't know, and still hadn't come to grips with the strange feelings that had prevailed that night. The ones that had told him to save Draco's life at all costs because it was important, necessary... even, maybe, mandatory was the right word to use. Whenever he thought of how he'd felt during that night, he eventually had to come back to those feelings that had driven his impulses, and whenever he thought of those... he hit a roadblock. Because he truly couldn't say he understood how he'd felt. He could go over the exact same arguments now, three days later, in his head, and yet they didn't have the same compelling force. Maybe that was because Draco's life wasn't in danger at this moment in time, maybe he was just being ignorant, but something inside him was downright glad that Draco wasn't dead. The other parts of him that were more logical were... dealing with the situation as best they could. And for these three days that he'd been thinking, Ron and Hermione had turned, almost, into shadows around him. Ron must have told Hermione of Harry's request to talk about it later, as she wasn't prying for details. In fact, surprisingly, the whole school wasn't prying for details. Well, at least not from him. The entire Slytherin house was in a state of panic over Draco's current health issue. Of course they had been told that he was very sick, enough to be quarantined in his room ("The Slytherins get their own rooms?" Ron had choked out when the announcement had been made), and couldn't see anyone. Of course this went in one ear and out the other of the Slytherin house, but were met by the jurisdiction of one Lucius Malfoy when they tried to sneak in to see Draco anyway. The Hufflepuffs were curious but not as compelled as the Slytherins to find out about his welfare. The Ravenclaws were nonchalant, nodding and going back to their books. And the Gryffindors... well, they (all par three) were celebrating on different levels of seriousness. There were several in Harry's year who were talking about actually throwing a party if Draco didn't recover in time for the next Slytherin vs. Gryffindor match because surely Snape couldn't somehow manage to postpone that as well. (Of course, Harry, who knew all the reasons why Draco wasn't well enough to play the morning after that night didn't comment on this.) And then there were those that just shrugged and went on with their lives. Harry had a suspicion that Hermione would have been in this group and Ron would have gladly been part of the latter had they not also been privy to the real reasons behind Draco's sudden lack of mobility and overall activity. And for his own sake, Harry assumed, they had said nothing about that matter and had waited for him to make the first move towards them. And three days later, they sat facing each other (somewhat in a triangle form) in an empty classroom, waiting for someone to speak the first words. "Well Harry," Hermione spoke at length. "It seems you should catch us up. The last time we spoke, you weren't going to bond with Draco." "And it's a little too late for that now isn't it?" Ron asked, surprisingly without malice, although Harry could tell that Ron was putting out a valiant effort to not be emotional. "Yes. It's a bit late for that," Harry spoke. He still didn't know what Ron and Hermione knew about the situation. He assumed Hermione had done what he had and read the book cover to cover, but she might not have told Ron the full details within. "So you are going through with it, then?" Hermione asked. "I don't think I have much of a choice," Harry muttered as Hermione nodded knowingly. "I don't get it," Ron spoke. "Why doesn't Harry have a choice?" "Well Ron," Hermione spoke. "Harry, by stopping Draco's Veriae side from killing him in an effort to appease his soul mate-" "Wait a minute. What?" "That's why the Veriae will commit suicide," Harry muttered, staring at the floor. "In a twisted way, it thinks that killing itself will make the mate happy if the mate hates it so much that he/she won't bond with him/her." "Weird," Ron muttered.

"Yes, anyway, now that Harry has... well... shall we say, committed himself to the Veriae side of Draco Malfoy, he'll now have to complete the bond." "Or...?" "Draco will do it for him," Hermione finished and Harry winced. "WHAT?" "Remember how Veela treat their mates, Ron?" Hermione asked a stuttering Ron. "Well, Veriae are not Veela in any genetic way, but their need to complete the bond now that the soul mate, in this instance Harry, has committed himself will start to look very similar if Harry doesn't complete the bond himself." "So Harry's going to... mate... with Malfoy?" Ron couldn't keep the slight disgust out of his voice and for the second time Harry found himself wincing. "Not like that, Ron." He spoke and Ron heaved a sigh of relief. "That's right. Harry's only got to kiss him."

"Potter's got to kiss me?" Draco half shouted as the elder Malfoy finished explaining how his son would complete the bond with Harry Potter. "Draco!" Lucius's own voice rose in volume, reminding the younger Malfoy that shouting at the top of one's lungs like that was an undignified act unbefitting of a Malfoy.

Ron blinked and then frowned. "What kind of kiss are we talking about Hermione?" Harry also frowned. He hadn't thought of that. "The book doesn't say, but I'm guessing it's just a regular kiss."

"There's no tongue, right?" Draco asked worriedly. Lucius's eyes looked to the ceiling in a "why me" gesture of annoyance before he shook his head in a definite no. Draco heaved a sigh of relief. "May I continue explaining then?" Lucius asked pointedly and Draco fought down the urge to yelp. "There's more?" "Of course, what did you think? One kiss and you never see each other again?" "I'd rather hoped that..." "Don't be an idiot, Draco." "I'm sorry Father."

"And then what? That's it?" "No," Harry spoke, his voice void of emotion. This was the part where those funny and unexplainable feelings of his started acting up. "Well, Ron, they're bonded." "And that means what exactly?"

"Well, they'll have to share the same bedroom." "WHAT?"

"WHAT?" Lucius rolled his eyes in his first unMalfoyish gesture in exactly fifteen minutes. "Do I really need to repeat myself, Draco?" "No Father." "Good."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Again, not like that, Ron. Draco's Veriae side... well you could almost think of it as a feminine side really, it needs the protection of its soul-mate when Draco is vulnerable. Now, when Draco's awake and aware of his surroundings, I doubt he's 'vulnerable' but when he's asleep... well everyone's vulnerable when they're sleeping. So his Veriae side will need Harry in close proximity. Maybe not in the same bed but in the same room." "Oh." Ron looked relieved. "But what if Harry doesn't want to or something?" Thanks for acting as if I'm not here, Harry thought before answering out loud. "If the bond between myself and... Malfoy (Harry was unsure if he should start trying to call Malfoy "Draco" now, but decided against it.) starts to disintegrate, as in if we aren't around each other when the Veriae side needs us to be around each other-" "It takes its toll on the body," Hermione finished. "So basically, if Harry doubles over in pain we'll know to get him to Malfoy." Ron nodded slowly, his face a few shades lighter than it was previously. "And this includes having other bed partners."

"Wait a minute! So if I want to have sex I have to do so with Potter and only Potter?" Draco glared at the nearest offending inanimate object, which happened to be one of his bedposts as his father nodded the affirmative. "Well that's a pain." Lucius internally groaned. And here he thought he was done talking to Draco about these types of matters.

"Harry, I am so glad I'm not you right now," Ron muttered and Harry personally agreed with him. Harry would be glad not to be Harry at this moment in time. And yet, there were those feelings again... those weird impulses that didn't really seem to mind some of these prospects that the logical part of him should have been condemning. Strange.

After a few minutes of silence between father and son, Lucius spoke. "You had better get up. The sooner you get this situation fixed between the two of you, the sooner you will be able to relax." "Relax?" Draco all but yelped. How in the name of all things magical was he supposed to relax? He was going to be completely bonded to Potter of all people before the day was out. And while his Veriae side didn't mind it in the least, the last part of Draco Malfoy as the world saw him had major issues with it. "I believe you heard me correctly. Remember, if you handle this correctly, you can force your own contact with Potter to a minimum..." The elder Malfoy stood and walked towards the door to the room. "...if you choose to." And he left as Draco started and glared at the door which closed behind his father silently.

Presumably, his father was going to find someone to find Potter or maybe even find Potter himself... but what was his father talking about with those last words? Draco shook himself slightly and started the process of getting out of his warm bed and moving towards the shower. There was no way he was going to see anyone if he hadn't showered in three days.

Chapter Ten: Awkward Beginnings Now, over Harry's years of existence, he had been in some very odd and, in some ways, disconcerting, situations. Let's start with First Year, shall we? All the people looking in shock at him when his name was called to be sorted; Snape asking him those questions at his first ever Potions class (yes, that wasn't the easiest of moments); seeing that the back of one of his teachers' head was in fact just the start of another head (that was definitely a mental image that he could live to a ripe old age without having, thank you very much!)... Then in Second Year... oh, start with the Whomping Willow problem; and then that meeting with Filch where both he and Ron thought they were going to be expelled; watching his arm bend back upon itself when a teacher had taken all of his bones away; all of Dobby's meetings/warnings; yup, no loss of strange situations in Second Year, and this time he didn't even include Voldemort in that list. Then Third Year rolled around and you had the dementor problems; and shall we say, animagi and other magical creature problems; the time turner bit; yes, that about sums it up nicely. Fourth Year brought the annoying bit about being picked for the Tri-Wizard tournament without entering; Rita Skeeter's issues (and we'll leave it at that) ; finding out that what should have been a show of good sportsmanship actually turned out to be a very nice way to kill innocent victims... Harry still hadn't gotten over that one. And then, last but not least, Fifth Year. And Harry's frazzled mind wasn't going to even start on that year. But waiting outside a very large portrait of Medusa for the inhabitant inside the room to finally open the bloody door, was not a situation that he had encountered before; certainly not waiting for Draco Malfoy to open the door to his room so that they could kiss. Nope, never been in this situation before... Harry wondered if this fell in the "strange" category or the "slightly disturbing" category, and then vaguely wondered if he should create a new category of "reasons why I will need to see a shrink when I get older"... hmmm, no too many words... how about "slightly disturbing"? Yes, that worked really nicely. So the first strange situation of Sixth Year was... well, it would have to have been the whole "Lucius Malfoy has feathers" bit. And then, finding that Dumbledoor wanted Harry to be okay if Draco Malfoy, of all people, wanted to pop in on a DA meeting (which thankfully had not occurred) would be next; then learning that he was Draco's intended... yeah that was a situation all right. And then the whole thing three days ago, which he really needed to get straightened out before he really lost his mind, would fall into the new "slightly disturbing category", Harry mused. And last, this situation. Come to think of it... once that portrait opened, a different "slightly disturbing" situation would be presented. And open the portrait did, the Medusa gleefully ignoring the boy in front of her as she had been doing for the ten minutes since Harry had gotten here. "Potter." "Malfoy." Neither of the two boys seemed to know what to say next, and of course neither wanted to admit it either. They most likely would have stood their indefinitely, if Draco's Veriae side hadn't been close to crowing gleefully about the wonderfulness of the whole thing. "I guess you should come in, unless you want to kiss me in the hall," Draco remarked, moving away from the doorway so that the other boy could walk through. Draco's room was very green, Harry noticed. Slytherin to the core, except Draco seemed to be under the impression that the Slytherin colors were green, silver, and black. The room really did look much like Harry would have expected the Slytherin dorm rooms to look like, having seen their Common Room. "Sometime today, pack all your stuff so a house elf can bring it down," Draco muttered, trying to just get this over with. Then again... and Draco began to think, and do what Slytherins do best: plot cunning schemes. Sometimes Draco was so cunning he amazed even himself. Yes, he would enjoy this. Very much so. "I hope my bed isn't so Slytherin," Harry muttered back, trying to find a way to be semi-polite as there really wasn't much of a choice in the matter and he knew it.

Draco nodded. "I can make the sheets black if you want." That hadn't been what Harry had meant, and they both knew it, but Draco had decided to just flow with the situation and enjoy freaking the living daylights out of Harry as he did so. Yes, it was decidedly fun to be a Slytherin. "So shall we do this or do you want to stand around all day?" Draco asked, watching for Harry's reaction. It wasn't what he had anticipated. "Whatever. You're the one who needs to complete the bond, not me." Draco raised an eyebrow. " Too true. So if you don't mind..." Draco closed the space between them before Harry's mind had the time to register that-one-Draco had agreed with Harry, and-two-Draco was actually going to do this. A forceful hand grabbed Harry's chin with and brought it up to meet his own, but the actual kiss was tender. Lips gliding over lips, silk on satin, breath mingling together for only a moment or two, and then Draco pulled away. The look on Harry's face, or more importantly, in Harry's eyes was worth it. The confusion. Had Draco had any doubts about how good he actually was at this, he wouldn't have any now. When he'd roughly began the kiss, Harry could have taken it. Two enemies that hated each other would not be expected to kiss in a gentle nature, but Draco had turned the tables and now the little Gryffindor didn't know exactly what to make of it. Perfect. "By the way, the password's Gloria Draconis. You have to say it before she'll even look at you." And by "she" Draco meant the Medusa. She didn't like anyone who did like snakes, and therefore all of Draco's passwords had been rigged accordingly. "'Glory to the Serpent'? How original," Harry scoffed, momentarily forgetting that the first ever password to the Gryffindor Common Room had been Caput Draconis, or 'Head of the Serpent'. Draco waved it off; Harry would understand the attitude of Medusa soon enough. "Bring back my Potions homework when you come," he replied and watched Harry mentally groan in remembrance that the one class he had this afternoon was Potions. "It should be starting in five minutes, correct?" The question was soft, and yet snide at the same time. "Whatever, Malfoy." And Harry forcefully strode from the room, leaving Draco half-grinning, half-smirking in his wake. Yes, being a Slytherin was so much fun.

Harry was decidedly happy when he finished Potions that afternoon and had time to think without worrying that Snape would deduct house points for thinking in class (which by now, Harry wouldn't put past him). And he finally let the thoughts which he'd been pushing back come to the surface as he found a comfortable nook in a somewhat deserted section of the library. Draco Malfoy had kissed him today. Strange. Harry guessed he'd expected a bit more. Wasn't that kiss connecting the bond thing? So shouldn't it have been... somewhat special? But it had been just a kiss and had felt exactly like one. Now, Harry would be the first to admit that he was no expert in the field if one could call it that) of kissing. After all, his first, and regrettably only, kiss with someone who wasn't "family" was with Cho... and that had not been the most pleasant of things. Malfoy had obviously a bit more practice than Cho... scratch that, a whole lot more practice, as Malfoy had obviously known exactly what he was doing. And, surprisingly, with very pleasant, if unexpected, results. Which really was the root of the matter. Harry had enjoyed it... well, until reality came crashing down and he remembered that he was kissing Draco Malfoy which kind of took away some pleasant factors. But if he momentarily forgot that it had been Draco Malfoy kissing him, and just concentrated on how the kiss itself felt... he wouldn't mind doing it again, and maybe... a bit more often. Of course, being that it had been Draco Malfoy kissing him, Harry doubted very much that the experience would ever repeat itself, and he guessed that he shouldn't want it too... but still... And with that Harry decided that he was over-analyzing way too much. He hated Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy hated Harry Potter. And that was that. So he was an adolescent and adolescents (along with most of the rest of the population) enjoy kissing when it's done well, so what? That did nothing to change the fact that Draco Malfoy hated Harry Potter and vice versa, and that fact would remain until the end of time itself. And with that, Harry Potter had joined Draco Malfoy on the banks of Denial, but had been very careful to build his housing of choice on the opposite side of the river, away from Draco's manor because they wouldn't want to be neighbors... no not at all.

Chapter Eleven: Settling In? Dinner, which was normally a mostly cheerful and looked forward to event (by the single fact that food was served), was not so cheerful for four people on this night. These four people were: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Draco Malfoy. Draco was enjoying the last part of his day off (owing to the fact that he was still "recovering" from his near death experience, which by now had been pushed to the farthest reaches of his mind) eating dinner while sitting on his bed in his room. The only bad thing--which had therefore thrown him into this category with three others whom he would never want to be listed with in any way shape or form unless it was a list of people who hated each other--was the seemingly unobtrusive addition to his bedroom. Well, to some people it was seemingly unobtrusive... yes, some people who were blind that is. Another bed had been "graciously" added to his own bedroom, not three feet from his own emerald and ebony bed. The house elves had added it, without his permission he might add, to his bedroom while he had been engaged in his Potions homework (which Harry had in fact not bothered to bring him; Snape had done so instead) in the other room of his "dormitory", which he personally had dubbed his "study". He'd nearly had a heart attack when he unknowingly had walked back into his room in order to grab another Potions reference book. Somehow, looking at this... thing made the whole situation much more real. But Draco was recovering from this situation, he really was. In fact, he prided himself on how well he was adjusting in the space of time that it took to eat one meal. As he'd, in a way, promised Harry, the boy's bed was not Slytherin colored. It was black and red. Not that garishly and, in Draco's humble opinion, tacky red that adorned everything Gryffindor, but a subtle blood red. It was actually a nice addition that accented the color scheme of the room... which was chiefly black, a color that was fast becoming Draco's favorite color for reasons that he hadn't quite yet sat down and thought about. Maybe he should... that would certainly get his mind off the whole Potter subject... The other three in the category of having-a-not-so-cheerful-dinner were sitting in the Great Hall with other students of their house, wondering exactly what was really done in situations like this one. Harry was just trying to recover from the slight nausea that was setting in because he'd just realized that his trunk was no longer in the dormitory that had been his home-away-from-home (if you could call his real "home" by that name). He would be rooming, as in sharing living space, with Draco Malfoy. But that wasn't the real nauseating part. For some strange reason, he didn't mind as much as he thought he should. Ron and Hermione were wondering what to say in the gap left by Harry's contemplative silence. What did one say to a friend that was going through something like this? Of course, what, at the basic level, they might want to do would not be the right answer. And they both knew it. Ron spewing about how much he hated Draco Malfoy would not change the fact that Harry now had to pretty much live with the boy, and Hermione asking about a hundred times if Harry was okay wouldn't do much more than Ron's spewing. So they were also silent. One almost had to thank Ginny, who like most everyone else in the entire school (barring several teachers, one parent, and one other student) didn't know about this predicament, when she asked in a low voice at Harry's elbow: "Harry, when is the next DA meeting?" Harry blinked, and then latched on to this safe and relatively Draco-free subject. "What?" "We haven't had a meeting in about a week. We're wondering when the next one will be." That much was true. They'd had only two or three meetings before the whole non-Draco-free subject came up, and that had been a while ago. Ron also latched onto the idea. "Are you doing anything tonight Harry? We could have it tonight." "Ron-" Hermione was about to admonish Ron for even suggesting such a thing, as the two boys hadn't even looked at the newest Potions assignment, not to mention their other subjects which were either halfdone or not started at all. Then she caught the look in Ron's eye, and more importantly, the underlying idea of this impromptu meeting, and her tone of voice changed drastically. "-that's a great idea! How about it, Harry?"

Harry shrugged, completely missing the underlying effect that if they had a meeting he could put off spending the evening with Draco Malfoy. "Sure," came the reply. "Good. Ginny and I will spread it around. How about in..." Hermione paused to consult the time, "...an hour? Will that be enough time?" "Sounds good," came the reply. And the second half of dinner was spent talking in low tones among the three of them about what exactly they would cover, a topic that put the Veriae bond between Draco and Harry so far back in Harry's mind that he completely forgot about it.

The members of the DA (full name: Dumbledore's Army) had not changed much. One or two had dropped out, and three or four had asked to be in. But the idea of the DA was not wide spread throughout Hogwarts. This was purely political, really. Even in times of crisis, rules had to be followed, and the formation of an "army" in school was not to be allowed. In truth, this was something which Harry agreed with. He could just hear the messages of the Howlers from different parents. I don't want my child in the war, and all that. Having been through the muggle educational system for most of his schooling, Harry was well aware of how drafting was used in muggle wars, and though he was unaware if the wizards had actually ever used a draft system, he was sure the reaction of concerned wizarding parents would be the same as muggle parents. It was a somewhat common muggle saying that "no parent should have to bury his/her children", and Harry also agreed with this, adding that ideally no one should have to bury anyone who died an unnatural death. Harry was still coping with the fact that if a body had been available for Sirius, he would have had to bury his godfather. He'd "moved on" enough to be able to live life the way he normally would, but the loss would always be there. That much he was certain. And speaking of certainties, he was certain that he was slightly late to this impromptu DA meeting. So with hurried steps, he moved towards the Room of Requirement.

Down a few floors, in the dungeon, Draco Malfoy suddenly shivered, wings ripping through the fabric of his shirt. In confusion, he threw a quizzical look over his shoulder. That was weird. Then he sighed. He'd liked that shirt too...

Hermione and Ron had already--with plenty of help from Ginny, Harry was sure--separated everyone in pairs. The idea for the past few meetings had been duels, with one new spell learned every meeting. Hermione would teach the spell, with Ron to demonstrate on, and would then demonstrate how to block said spell, again with Ron to demonstrate on. Then the group would practice in pairs for about half an hour, before turning to small duels. On the first meeting, they'd taken turns dueling one on one with the rest of the group watching so as to watch for flaws or exceptionally done spells. Then they'd slowly progressed to one on two person duels, and one on three, all the way up to this current meeting in which there were six people on a rather large dueling platform (a hexagonal shaped duplicate of the platform Lockheart had used in Harry's second year) in a free-for-all in which the goal was to be the last one standing. This, of course, had to be carefully controlled. No spells that would cause a trip to the infirmary was the major rule, although they'd broken that once or twice... fortunately Dumbledore had talked to Madam Pomfrey about it and explained the situation. She'd been much more forgiving after that... well, not forgiving, but less condescending at least. Tonight, after Hermione finished her demonstration of a charm, which was originally used in earlier times to boil water and could be focused into a beam which could cause quite a number of nasty burning oddities to the skin (she'd taken a bit longer than usually to heal Ron, and Harry'd fought back a giggle when he'd realized that this was because she got to hold on to Ron's hand while she did so); the group chosen for the six-person duel included Harry. Most of the time, Harry found an excuse not to participate as he didn't want to place another spotlight on himself if he did something exceedingly well (he practiced quite a bit more than he let on in these duels and was therefore always afraid that he would slip), but tonight he had been roped into it. Taking his position, Harry felt rather strange, as if something was slightly wrong. Shrugging it off as anticipation or slight nervousness, he waited for the signal to begin. All six bowed and waited for the sudden burst of light from Hermione's wand which was the signal to begin. Harry saw it out of the corner of his eye and barely had time to blink before a lance of pain shot

through his abdomen. He doubled over and a charm flew over his head to form a slight dent in the wall where it hit. The onlookers cheered slightly at what seemed to be a brilliant display of reflexes on Harry's part, but Hermione caught the slightly pained look on his face. Realization dawned on her and she hurriedly grabbed Ron to whisper in his ear. He paled slightly, watching the battle which was being waged on the platform. Harry appeared to be dodging the attacks with even better reflexes than he played Quidditch with, yet he was not enjoying himself. Every time he was forced to duck in order to evade a curse or charm, the slight look of pain intensified on his face. Hermione's wand suddenly lit in a red color, a slightly different charm from Lumos which had actually been used to mark off apparating grounds until the eighteenth century when a muggle had thought it to be a fire in the woods. The fighters on the platform stopped moving, and a disappointed groan went through the spectators as it always did when a duel ended without a decisive victor. And this was the shortest time yet. But Hermione ignored the questioning glances her way as Harry jumped off the platform and made his way towards her, his face barely hiding a pained expression. "What's going on?" He whispered. "Find Malfoy," was the mouthed answer and he nodded, leaving the room.

"What the-" Draco muttered as he was distracted again by a slight twitch from his wings which caused him to take a large lurch forward, nearly into his essay on the discovery of the Celtic Cross tarot spread (which was for History of Magic, and not Divination). Something was wrong around here. Then it hit him; exactly what must be wrong. Draco groaned, getting up. "I'm going, I'm going," He muttered at his wings, which fluttered slightly in response. Pain was now lancing down Harry's legs, from its starting spot just below his bellybutton as he jogged down the dungeon hallways. Luckily the hallways, which the dungeon was just crawling with, were empty in this area. He was so intent on getting to that Medusa portrait that he ran right into Draco, who was walking in a leisurely pace away from the same portrait. For his part, Draco was not sent sprawling to the floor, no, he was merely knocked into and regained his balance rather quickly. As did Harry. "Potter, I am immensely displeased," he practically hissed as he realized who had run into him. "Do you know how much this shirt cost?" Harry's eyes didn't even bother to scan the shirt, the back of which was in shreds. "What is going on?" he managed to force out through his vocal cords. "Oh, you mean why you're in pain? Honestly Potter, what were you doing to make the bond kick in like that?" Draco surveyed Harry's slightly hunched over form. "Make. It. Stop." Harry rasped. Draco rolled his eyes and stepped forward, his hand grudgingly finding its way under Harry's shirt to the skin just below his bellybutton. Harry blinked as the pain disappeared. "Glad that's over," he muttered. "Are you?" Draco quipped, raising an eyebrow in annoyance. "I hope you keep that attitude for the next hour and a half." "What?"

"We have a newly formed bond, Potter. It will take time for that to be pacified enough to let us leave the other alone. See, I'll show you." And not even bothering to hide his glee, Draco slipped his hand out from underneath Harry's shirt. Said boy blanched as the slight burning sensation appeared again. He looked at Draco with an expectant look as the other boy hesitated to replace the hand, but he finally did so when Harry, none too nicely, kicked him. "See what I mean?" Draco drawled. "Why wasn't I informed of this?" Harry spoke, his tone accusing. "Because it's information that the Veriae knows and others do not." Was the simple and haughty answer. "Now, Potter, do you think you might be able to start moving back towards my room as I do not relish the idea of my fellow classmates finding us in this position?" Harry nodded and the two began to walk in measured steps back towards the Medusa portrait. Once back inside, Draco moved them towards one of the couches in his study (green leather of course). "Start talking, Potter, you've got an hour and twenty minutes." "Talking about what?" Harry shot back. "Explain what got you into this situation," was the answer. "Well, let me think... nope, I don't think I know enough about the Malfoy line to answer the question of how Veriae blood got-" "Not about that, Potter, about this," Draco moved his hand away from Harry momentarily to accent the point. Harry sighed slightly and figured that it couldn't really hurt to explain. "I was in the middle of a DA meeting-" "What?" Another sigh. "The DA. Dumbledore talked to you about it-" "Oh, right, I remember now. The little defense group that you started that I thought was a complete waste of my time. That DA." Harry blinked as Draco spoke as though he was remembering a trip to Diagon Ally. Oh, that trip. I remember I went and bought this, that, and the other... "Anyway, we were just starting a six-way duel-" "You what? Are you crazy?" Draco practically shrieked. "What are you talking about?" "You can't do that, you moron! No wonder the bond was so upset." Draco looked accusingly at Harry. "It's controlled-" Harry started to explain, but Draco wasn't done ranting. "You're just up and allowing people to throw curses at you! Merlin, how stupid can you get?" Harry fought the urge to groan. "Nothing even hit me," he pointed out helpfully. "Principle of the thing," Draco spat back venomously

"Whatever." Draco's eyes narrowed slightly. "Then I'll just go to bed now." he drawled, and moved back away from Harry. "Don't you dare stop touching me!" "Potter, do you know how wrong that sound-" "Shut up, Malfoy!" Draco smirked triumphantly and returned his hand to its original spot. "The only person the bond will allow you to duel with like that is me," he pointed out after a few seconds worth of silence. "Oh that's a relief," Harry muttered. "Because I would really like to hex you right about now." Draco merely raised an eyebrow in response, looking eerily like his father for a moment or two. "You may find that harder than you think, Potter. Remember that."

So, after the most awkward hour and a half of Harry's life was over and Draco could remove himself from Harry's person without Harry yelping in pain, Draco wordlessly disappeared into a room, which Harry assumed was the bathroom to, as Harry assumed, wash off that hand about a million times. Harry himself would have done the same thing except Malfoy had beaten him to the bathroom. So Harry resolved to just ignore the fact that Malfoy's hand had been under his shirt for over an hour, and set about making sure that everything he owned was carefully stored in his trunk (which had arrived at some point unknown to both Harry and Draco via the house elves). Everything was there, and Harry made sure that he locked the trunk before making his way to his bed, or what he assumed was his bed by the fact that the pillow cases were a bloody, red color. Very funny, Malfoy, he thought in Draco's direction before climbing in. This was when he realized that the sheets (and the blood red pillow cases for that matter) were silk. Harry blinked... twice. And then decided that he really didn't or shouldn't care. Whatever message Malfoy might or might not have been trying to send by that was not going to be received by him, at least not tonight. Harry was vaguely aware of the water shutting off in the room which Draco had disappeared into, and was even less vaguely aware of Draco padding into the room in black silk pajamas, and was even less aware of the whispered "Nox," which cast the room into almost complete darkness. But he could not sleep. Not even when his eyes adjusted to the gloom to the point where he could watch the steady rise and fall of the other boy's chest three feet away could his brain seem to shut itself down for sleep. It almost wasn't fair, his sleepy mind thought. It's not fair that Draco can be more at ease than I am about this. And Harry drifted off to sleep before he could even register that he had just thought about Draco Malfoy using his first name instead of his last.

Harry was now starting to enjoy falling asleep at night, especially with the complete halt of nightmares, which he would grudgingly admit when awake, came with the announcement of Draco's Veriae blood. It was nice to have dreamless sleep in which the only thought which was shown to him was one of complete comfort and protection. After so many instances where he had to protect himself from the world, it was nice to feel protected, really protected. And as Harry drifted through this sleepy haze that was his dream world, he felt the silken caress of the ebony wings which surrounded him, and there was something else soothing too. Almost as if someone was there with him, something that he had never experienced in any form of a dream before (unless you count Voldemort's nightmares as people being in a dream with him). But this person, a male, was unobtrusive, and seemed just as calm as the aura of the dreamscape. The two seemed curled up together as if nothing in the world really mattered to them, as if nothing would ever break the serenity of this dream... That is until Harry's eyes opened to make out in the dim light, sleepy silver eyes that were also opening, and when both Draco and Harry jumped apart from the embrace in which they'd been cocooned in with identical shrieks. Chapter Twelve: Home is Where the Heart is... Isn't it?

For a minute there was absolute silence before both boys said two different things at the same time. "What the hell?" and "What is going on?" There was then a second of silence as each boy waited for the other to repeat what he had said. Deciding then that this was not going to happen, Harry spoke. "Do you mind explaining what you were doing in my bed, Malfoy?" Draco rolled his eyes. "Sleeping, what did it look like? And Potter, you'd better check again, because you were the one who climbed into my bed!" Harry looked over his shoulder slightly to see his bed sitting there as if no one had slept in it at all during the night. Damn. Turning back to Draco he snarled, "Why the hell did I end up in your bed?" "How should I know?" "You're the Veriae." Harry replied in a droll tone. "And so that makes me responsible for every little thing you don't like?" Draco was incredulous. "I don't exactly enjoy the idea of you sleeping in my bed either, Potter, but what am I going to do about it? Time travel isn't exactly one of the Veriae powers, you know, so I can't go back to last night and stay awake long enough to kick you out of my bed!" "But I didn't crawl in your bed in the first place," Harry pointed out. He was absolutely sure that he had fallen asleep in his own bed, not in Draco's. "Whatever." Draco sighed slightly and without another word disappeared into the bathroom to take a very long shower.

Lucius sat at the window of one of his rooms, thinking and sipping a cup of coffee (this time in the morning was too early for wine). It had been irking him since yesterday, that thing about impulses that Voldemort had been so happy about. What had it been... something about Harry walking right into a trap because of... those impulses. Oh. Right. And Lucius remembered. Harry had given into the impulses to "save" his godfather, someone who was the closest link to family that Harry had... or so the Dark Lord was of the opinion. But then... if, and it was a big if, if Harry's impulses had stepped in to make him save Draco, then Draco's earlier assessment of Potter would prove to be incorrect. And Lucius smiled thinly over his drink. Yes, though Potter didn't know it yet, he was slowly falling for Draco. One only had to have seen the way Potter had cradled his son's body almost protectively to himself as they emerged from the forest to know that... and the best part was that Potter himself didn't realize it. Draco wouldn't realize his feelings either, though, and that caused Lucius to frown slightly. Draco had been obsessed with Potter ever since... what, First Year? Second? Too young to realize those types of emotions when they started, but the Veriae inside him must have realized it at their first meeting. So Draco's life had begun to revolve slowly but surely around Potter. Except Draco assumed it was his hatred that kept him driving to best Potter at anything and everything. Lucius smirked now, his eyes gazing out over the grounds of Hogwarts. Those two would be in for an interesting time when they finally figured out their emotions. It would take a while, but it would happen. And Draco would never need to go through the same pain that he did when Voldemort had killed his intended. Lucius vaguely heard someone speaking to the portrait outside his room before the door opened and Snape walked into the room, stopping when he saw the serene look on Lucius's face. "Alright, what is it that has you this happy at this time in the morning?" Lucius smirked at the Potions Master. "Were I to tell you, you would most likely suffer cardiac arrest. Believe me, you do not want to know."

Snape looked questioningly at Lucius but didn't push the matter; after all he had First Year Ravenclaws and Slytherins to teach this morning.

By the time Harry had showered, dressed, and gotten the things he needed for classes ready, Draco had left the room without so much as a word in his direction. This suited Harry just fine anyway, as they'd been playing the "you don't exist and are just a figment of my imagination" game since that ever so interesting conversation they'd had when they woke up. Walking down to the Great Hall where the sounds of breakfast could be heard, Harry's mind went over what happened on Wednesdays. Wednesdays were nice because he only had one class, even though it was doubled. It was that one class that made the day ever so boring. Divination. Yeah... boring with a capital B. But Harry had to take at least one elective and it was easy, so he was rather stuck. Ron and Hermione had saved him a spot at the table and Harry gratefully sank into it and started in on breakfast. "So how was the night with Ferret?" Ron asked over a mouthful of eggs. Harry shrugged. "Nothing bad. We ignored each other the whole time." Until I woke up in his bed, Harry mentally added, but he felt that wasn't a mental picture that Ron needed. "Nothing strange happened? Like with the bond?" Hermione asked. "Not really. Malfoy had to touch me for an hour or so before the pain went away but that's all that happened." Hermione looked as if she didn't really believe him, and Ron looked like he was trying really hard not to throw up his food because of whatever image his brain was supplying him with. "Not like that, Ron." Harry sighed and his friend looked visibly relieved. Halfway through breakfast, with all the mail owls flying around, a tawny school owl dropped a note on Harry's plate, narrowly missing the pool of syrup that had flowed off his pancakes. Harry read it and frowned slightly. "What is it?" "It's a note that allows me to get out of any of my classes should Malfoy feel threatened," Harry muttered, passing the note across the table. "Hey, you should use that to get out of Snape's classes!" Ron exclaimed. "Except for the fact that Malfoy is in his Potions class," Hermione pointed out. "Oh..." Ron didn't look so excited.

The Divination room looked the same as it always had, now that Umbridge was gone and Trelawney was back. Harry and Ron sat at their customary table in the back of the room and waited for their Professor to arrive. "Welcome all," came the misty voice, "Today we will begin learning the use of Tarot cards to help bring out your Inner Eye-" "But what happens if my Inner Eye is shy and doesn't want to come out?" Ron muttered and Harry grinned. "-oh, and Harry, in ten minutes don't feel as if you have to ask before you leave, dear. He will be waiting for you in the Great Hall."

What? Harry thought as the rest of the class looked at him questioningly. Okay... maybe he should just use that prediction as an excuse to leave the class in ten minutes... "Now, there are many different spreads that are used for a Tarot reading, so pay attention dears, for many of you will not understand this for a week because you have not listened. The one similarity for all these spreads is that they invoke your Inner Eye to interpret their meaning, not just recognize it. One must know if a card has appeared in the reversed position and what that means verses when a card appears in the normal position. There are also many kinds of Tarot decks that can influence the accuracy of the reading based on how they relate to your Inner Eye. And within these decks there are the Major Arcana cards and the Minor Arcana cards. You will begin to memorize the differences in these cards for our next class, but only four of you will have memorized the meanings of all the Tarot cards in the deck that you will receive at the end of this lesson. Now the Major Arcana is used for general-" Harry's eyes widened slightly as he felt a familiar burning sensation beginning to creep down the walls of his stomach and settle in a coil around his belly button. Oh no. Not bothering to ask to be excused from class, Harry got up and left the room. Ron looked at the clock on the wall and grinned. It was nine minutes into class, not ten. Should he point that out? Hmmm... of course. Smirking boldly at the Professor, he raised his hand.

Harry ran into the deserted Great Hall to see Draco sitting calmly at the Slytherin table waiting for him. "What's wrong now?" Harry demanded and sat down angrily next to Draco. As Draco's hand found its way underneath his shirt again he added, "I sure as hell wasn't in a dangerous situation." "No, I was." "Were you in Defense Against the Dark Arts or something?" "No." Harry tried to think of more dangerous classroom situations. It couldn't be care of Magical Creatures, Harry took that with him. "Herbology?" "No." "What class?" "Ancient Runes." "WHAT? What, pray tell, is so dangerous about ANCIENT RUNES?" "Pansy," Draco replied calmly as if that explained everything. Seeing the skeptical look on Harry's face he continued. "She won't take a hint." Harry sighed and fought the urge to bang his head on a hard surface. Oh well, at least he didn't have to go back to Divination.

When Harry entered his and Draco's rooms that night he was amazed to find Draco locked in the bathroom with the shower running. How many showers did that boy take? Did he have some kind of weird fetish for them or something? No-bad thoughts, and why did Harry care anyway? It wasn't as if the water in Hogwarts got cold if one took an extremely long shower after all. Shrugging off his clothes and changing into pajamas, Harry climbed into his own bed and decided to test a recent idea of his. Maybe if he fell asleep first, he would remain safely in his own bed. Harry was out like a light before Draco had gotten out of his shower.

Harry awoke from a very pleasant dream about absolutely nothing (which suited him just fine as that meant it was a very safe dream) to find that he was in no hurry to get out of bed, lounging on his stomach with his face buried on the nice soft pillow. At least he was until a slightly muffled voice from his chest area decided to comment on the morning. "Okay, now this cannot become a normal occurrence, Potter. If you insist on sleeping in my bed, than I insist on being on top." Harry balked and promptly fell off Draco and off the bed, landing harshly on the floor. Oh, wasn't that a wonderful way to start the morning.

Chapter Thirteen: Pinpointing the Problem Harry sat in the library, facing Hermione and waiting for the girl to respond. After a week of waking up in Draco-no-Malfoy's bed, he'd finally gotten fed up with trying to figure out how to stop it on his own. He, or really they, had tried everything they could come up with. First they'd tried Harry falling asleep before Draco. Hadn't worked, except for the small difference that somehow Draco had been on top of Harry in the morning. Then Harry tried sleeping out on the couch in a room completely different from Draco. Hadn't worked, and they'd only been more tangled in each other when morning came that time. To be sure he'd covered every possibility, Harry'd persuaded Draco to sleep on the couch the next night. Needless to say... it hadn't worked. Harry'd ended up on the couch with Draco and Harry's back had ached for the next day from the position he'd slept in that night. Across the table one could almost see the gears turning in Hermione's brain as she thought about the situation. "Well, are you sure you don't sleep walk Harry?" Harry looked pointedly at Hermione. "I think I would have noticed it or Ron would have pointed it out to me by now." "Well, it was an option, Harry," was the unabashed reply. "But because of your answer I'm sure this is the bond between you two." "Joy," Harry muttered. Hermione frowned. "I'm sure I've seen this type of scenario before..." "It's not in the Veriae book, I checked." "No, not there." Hermione's eyes seemed to sparkle as she started going through all the books she'd read in the past month, as it must have been in one of those... "Oh, that's it!" she suddenly exclaimed, earning her a disapproving look from the librarian which she completely ignored. "What's it?" Harry asked in a quieter voice. Hermione didn't reply, as she'd gotten up from the table and was hurriedly making her way to a particular shelf in the library. A few minutes later she came back and dropped a book on the table. "Dream magic?" Harry asked, reading the title as best he could upside-down. "Well," Hermione looked apologetically at Harry, "I thought it might be useful if there was a repeat of last year..." Harry chose not to comment on that, instead he opened the book. "So, how does this affect what's going on now?" "Well," Hermione's tone took on the excited tone it always had when talking about learning, "I read this around the second day of school, so I didn't connect it to the Veriae thing-" The second day of school? Harry shook his head. On the second day of school, he'd been putting off doing the homework assigned on that first day of classes because it wasn't due the next day. Hermione had flipped through the book until she found the paragraph she remembered. "You see, this says that there are some magical creatures that appear in their mate's dreams. By doing so, the dream magic comes into play, and duplicates whatever happens in the dream in real life." Harry blinked. "I can honestly say I don't get it, Hermione." "Well, dream magic is normally dormant magic. Its job is to balance out your magic as you sleep. Um, how do I explain this... you know how when you sleep, your body sort of resets itself for the next day?"

Harry nodded. "Well, dream magic is a dormant form of magic that does the same thing for your body's magic. Only a very powerful spell or magical force can tamper with dream magic." "So you're saying-" "That the bond which connects you two uses dream magic." "But how does it work? We had locked doors between us last Thursday and they were still locked when we woke up!" "Shifting space, maybe?" Hermione guessed. "It's the only explanation we have. You might want to try changing the dream and see what happens." "How do I do that? I'm sleeping, remember." "You'll have to figure that out on your own Harry." Hermione looked apologetic. "I can't dream for you, you know." "Yeah I know." Harry fought the urge to bang his head on the table. "I'm just sick of it. Every morning it gets worse." "I'm sure you'll come up with something, Harry."

Harry took a few days to think of something, and in fact he didn't really think of it to be truthful. The solution came about because of a fight that occurred between himself and Draco after dinner on Sunday. It had been about the DA. "Look Potter, I do not want to spend my free time sitting around watching to make sure you don't mess up and get hurt," Draco snapped. "Malfoy, it's called commitment, even though I'm sure that's too big a word for you to understand. It's where people actually do what they promised to do." Draco leveled a glare in Harry's direction. "I never made such a promise, Potter, you did. You live with the consequences of your own actions." "Selfish bastard," Harry had muttered, storming out of the room. Unbeknown to him, Draco had watched him go, trying to figure out why he was feeling the strange emotion he was feeling about making Potter so angry. It hadn't mattered before... Harry had gone to the scheduled DA meeting anyway, although he had made sure not to participate in the duel. He'd then avoided going back to his and Draco's rooms, by taking a very long and time consuming walk down to the lake. He'd wanted to take up time and it had worked. It was after midnight when he finally turned from the lake's murky waters and walked back up to the castle, roused Medusa from her sleep (she had not been pleased, the snakes of her hair muttering obscenities in Parseltongue), and been faced with the decision to walk into the bedroom or sleep on the couch. Harry had chosen the latter, his last waking thought being that if he did end up sleeping in the same bed as Draco by morning, he would not be responsible for his actions. His dreams had been empty. No Voldemort, but no nice comfort feelings either. It was rather freaky for sleep to be that empty, but when Harry woke on the couch the next morning, that emptiness was a small price to pay in his mind. He'd been out of the room by the time Draco had woken up in his own bed, feeling quite happy even though it was Monday and he had Potions first thing. "You look really happy this morning," Hermione commented as Harry sat down next to Ron. "I figured it out," Harry replied.

"Really?" "Yup. I just need to fall asleep being really mad at Malfoy." "That shouldn't be too hard." Ron grinned. Hermione looked thoughtful but didn't say anything, especially when Malfoy entered the Great Hall half an hour later, shooting a deadly glare at Harry's back as he did so. Pushing that idea out of her mind for the moment, Hermione tuned back into the conversation that was happening around her about Quidditch, and the fact that the Slytherin vs. Gryffindor match, which had been postponed, was going to be held next Friday.

Thursday evening came quickly for all of the school, who were all waiting eagerly for the first match between Harry Potter and the Veriae, Draco Malfoy. Well, everyone except Draco himself, who appeared to be a disaster just waiting for a reason to explode upon someone. He still acted the same yet his entire persona seemed to scream "stay away from me or you WILL get hurt" and no one knew exactly why... except for three Gryffindors, two of which were too wrapped up in the upcoming Quidditch match to figure it out. Hermione however, noticed that while Draco seemed to glow with anger, Harry seemed happier than he'd been in a long time yet drained. He was perfectly healthy, yet he still seemed to be strained even if he himself didn't realize it. And every night before he went to sleep he thought of all the reasons why he hated Draco Malfoy and woke up in his own bed every morning. But it was on Thursday night that she noticed a distinct change, even if she was not present at the event that triggered it. Draco Malfoy was, however. He was holed up in the library attempting to find the peace he needed to finish the recently assigned History of Magic essay on the effects of the reign of Lord Borthord the First in Albania when he was approached by one of his year-mates, Blaise Zabini. "Zabini, you're blocking my light," Draco informed him curtly and Blaise seemed to twitch at the tone of violence which Draco had so casually spewed out. "Draco, I have been drafted into giving this to you," he said resignedly, holding out a folded parchment of paper. Draco raised an eyebrow suspiciously as he took it. Blaise continued speaking, however, so he did not open it. "I told them it was a stupid idea and you'd have them hung for it, and that if Snape didn't care then it wasn't an issue, but they went and did it anyway... so when you decide to kill them, remember I'm just the messenger." "What the fuck are you talking about?" Draco asked, annoyance showing slightly through the tint of anger. "Just read it, Draco, you'll understand." Draco looked down at the parchment and before he had even opened it, Blaise Zabini had left his area of the library. But when Draco did open the parchment, he would have completely agreed with Blaise's logic if he had not been so enraged at what was written there. Malfoy, by what is written in rule 52 of the rules pertaining to Quidditch, no magical creature may participate in the sport when an unfair advantage is given to one team over another because of certain characteristics that creature may possess. Your wings fall into that category, so please note that you will not be able to remain a member of the Slytherin Quidditch team from the day you receive this onward. And underneath were the signatures of the entire Slytherin team. Draco saw bloody red.

Harry was startled out of the slight doze that the History of Magic homework had put him into by the Medusa portrait slamming open and a very irate Draco Malfoy stalking into the room, past Harry, and into their bedroom where Harry heard him dump all his books on his bed.

"What's wrong with you?" Harry asked as Draco emerged from that room. His response was a snarl, and Draco thrust a piece of parchment at him before continuing through the room. "I'm going to commit murder," Draco hissed through clenched teeth and Harry jumped slightly as the portrait swung shut with a slam behind him. Frowning, Harry looked down at the letter. As he read it, he wondered vaguely which Ravenclaw the Slytherins had made write this because there was no way they would be able to sound so knowledgeable, but then the full implications of the letter hit him and he almost ripped the letter in two. It was disgusting. If they did any research whatsoever, they would know that Draco's wings couldn't support him in flight yet. If they wanted to invoke whatever rule that was, they would have a point if they mentioned how Draco was now in tune with the magical currents around him and that would aid him in finding the snitch; but this was just an excuse, and a bad one at that, to kick Draco off the Slytherin team. He knew that Draco would likely be intercepted by someone before he actually committed the murder that he wanted to commit tonight, so he wasn't too worried about the overall health of the Slytherin team for the next day's match. Yet, something was still wrong about this, and he didn't know quite how to deal with it. As much as he hated to admit it, Draco had been his biggest competition in Quidditch, and sometimes his only competition. And Harry had been looking forward to testing his own skill against Draco's full skills, which included those of the Veriae. So the Slytherin team had denied not only Draco what he wanted, they'd denied Harry what Harry had wanted. Something would have to be done about that. So, letter in hand, Harry headed for the Gryffindor Common Room. He needed to talk to the Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

Draco had fallen asleep long after Harry on Thursday night, and was therefore not surprised to wake up on Friday morning long after Harry did. He was surprised at the warmth of his bed, however. Draco's own body heat didn't tend to warm up that much surface area of the bed... but he shrugged it off. Potter had been doing so well at denying the Veriae bond for the rest of the week, Draco doubted he would let it slip once he knew how to shut it out. And today was Friday... the same Friday of the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match that he'd been excluded from. Draco felt irritation at this, but much more at the fact that Snape had been practically waiting to intercept him before he'd gotten to the Slytherin Common Room. Murder wasn't looked well upon after all. The only consolation Snape could offer Draco was that he'd had no say in what the Slytherin team had done, so it was perceivable that Draco could talk his teammates into voting him back on the team at a later date if he so wished. And that brought him back to the match this afternoon. Looking over at the clock, he was informed that it was two minutes after twelve right now. Well that is what happens when one goes to sleep at five in the morning, he thought. And since he'd already skipped his morning classes, Draco pulled the covers over his eyes to shut out any light in the room and promptly went back to sleep. A few hours later, Draco was thrust back into reality by the sudden absence of the warmth that those covers provided, and he opened his eyes fully intending to blast anyone who dared wake him up like that across the room. But when he looked up and was met with eyes identical to his own he resisted that thought. His father sat down on the foot of Draco's bed and was silent for a few seconds before he spoke. "I suppose you would rather be sleeping than hexing your teammates from the stands. That was a very mature choice." Draco decided not to point out that he hadn't even considered hexing his former teammates from the stands and that had he thought of that he would have gone through with it. He'd just been tired. "It was an interesting game," Lucius continued. "Gryffindor won." "I wonder why." "But Slytherin caught the Snitch." Draco's head shot up. "What!"

Lucius was smiling ironically. "Harry Potter refused to play against the Slytherin team. Gryffindor only won by ten points. I thought you would want to know." And with that, Draco's father walked out of the room and Draco could hear him bidding Medusa good day a few seconds later. Draco frowned. What had gotten into Potter? Normally nothing would stop him from a game, yet he refused to play this morning. He was going to have a long talk with Potter the next time he saw him.

Chapter Fourteen: Sidestepping the Question Draco had showered and eaten breakfast (or lunch if one was being completely accurate) before he encountered Harry. Well, in all truth, Draco had showered, eaten, finished the homework he had been putting off for some time about how one defends oneself from a creature that could only be described by its looks as a puff ball, and started dozing off at the lateness of the day before Harry showed up. Most of this was forgotten in the next chain of events, but later Draco would remember that they did happen. However, later Draco would not be able to work out why the next chain of events happened, except to say that he was losing his mind due to the bond that was now present between himself and Harry. He started out in control of the situation, he really did, when Harry walked in cursing at Medusa who had not been happy to see that he was still breathing. "Potter." "Malfoy." "Interesting Quidditch game, I hear." "Nice bunch of friends you have," Harry replied in an almost amicable tone as he sat down on the leather couch opposite Draco. "There is a rather large difference between those in Slytherin who are privileged enough to be my comrades, and those who merely fear me." "I couldn't tell," Harry replied sarcastically. Draco glared at him. "The difference, since you're obviously too thick to get it, is that my friends would not have done what that group of morons did. They never respected me in the same way." "Considering you bought your way on to the team, I'm not surprised," Harry noted and Draco chose to ignore him. "They are part of the division in Slytherin that chooses to ignore the power of the Veriae and instead focus on the fact that I do not have wizarding blood." "You know," Harry grinned, "I was thinking about that. It's rather ironic that the pureblooded Malfoy family isn't as pure as people thought." "I am pureblooded," Draco hissed. Harry decided never to bring up the subject again as the look of fury swept across Draco's face. "Not in wizard blood, and that is what causes the division." "Exactly." Draco calmed down and Harry looked at him strangely. "What's up with you?" he asked curiously. "You're wound up tighter than a spring." "I thought you would understand why better than anyone, Potter," Draco drawled. "After all, you are to blame for my emotions at this point." "Me?" "Yes, you. Which brings me to a question which I'd like answered. Why didn't you play today?" "There wasn't a point." "There's always a point, Potter. Gryffindor barely won. What really stopped you from playing?"

"I don't think I need to tell you that, Malfoy." Harry glared at him and the words were out before Draco could even register that he was saying them. "Was it because Potter cared that little me wasn't playing? I'm flattered." "Don't be, Malfoy. You had nothing to do with it." Draco blinked as he saw something strange register in Harry's eyes as he said that, and the Slytherin side of him got another idea. He smirked at Harry, his features shifting to those of someone who has figured out a secret. "I think you're lying, Potter. I think it was because of me that you didn't play." Something in the bond's magic stirred inside him at those words, but he ignored it. It had been acting weird for all the time Potter had been denying it anyway. But this was too good to start worrying about something else right now. Watching Potter squirm was so much fun. But Draco hadn't been prepared for what might happen if Harry didn't squirm like he'd planned for. "Maybe that's because I actually care about what others feel sometimes, Malfoy." Harry sent a glare his way before getting up with the intent of leaving the room. Harry started to walk away but was stopped and spun around so that he was eye to eye with an affronted Veriae. He barely had time to register the black silken wings that had ripped holes in the back of another of Draco's shirts, before he was brought back to the swirling silver eyes. "Don't ever assume things you do not understand, Potter," Draco hissed, releasing his hold on Harry's shirt slightly. He started slightly, realizing that there would be a problem, as he felt the bond-which had been stretched out of proportion by Harry's denial of it-contract happily right as his mouth crashed onto Harry's own. Power shot through them, joyfully dancing through their veins as it resettled both itself and the bond that had been forged by their first kiss. Its power coursed through them and seemed to take on a life of its own as two tongues entwined around each other like living snakes. It ended abruptly as Draco pushed Harry away from him. "What was that?" Harry gasped. "The bond just resorted itself," Draco breathed. "You had it so out of proportion it went a little overboard. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go wash your taste out of my mouth." Harry watched Draco leave, one hand rising to touch where the magic had connected them for a moment. I wasn't supposed to enjoy that... was I?

Harry woke the next morning to a rather slurred: "Potter, kindly remove your hair from my mouth," so he couldn't say that his day started off in the best of ways. And then the thoughts of that kiss or whatever it was the night before came crawling into the back of his mind. The worst part was that he'd enjoyed it, and there was no way to rationalize it this time. It wasn't just a kiss that had been done well. No, Harry Potter had enjoyed a kiss with Draco Malfoy. Bond-prompted or not, bond-enhanced or not, there was no way around it. But what did that mean? Harry could still very easily hate Draco. In fact they'd yelled at each other that morning. But he couldn't deny that whatever that kiss was, it had definitely turned him on. That could just be teenage hormones though... but the last time could have been teenage hormones as well and he had not reacted in the same way. And then half way through his afternoon class he got a thought. Maybe it was just the bond resettling itself that had affected him that way. Yeah. That would make sense. But the only way to test it would be to kiss Draco again... and exactly when had he decided to call Malfoy "Draco"? Oh well, back on thought. The only way to confirm anything would be to kiss Draco Malfoy. But how could he do that without starting another problem? Like Draco actually thinking that Harry might like him, or maybe the bond would go crazy because of it.

But the question persisted in his mind throughout the day. In fact, it persisted in the minds of both boys though neither admitted it to the other. And yet the only way for either of them to work anything out would be for them to kiss again, right? Wrong. But it took them another week to find that out.

Chapter Fifteen: Problems with Magical Currents Draco woke to find himself in a rather strange position on his bed, strange because he wasn't sure why he was still on his bed to begin with, seeing how most of him was in fact draped over the right side of it. Yet for some reason he remained in this position instead of toppling to the floor as gravity dictated he should. It was while he was pondering this that he became aware of the fact that his arm was rather numb... his left arm had almost no feeling in it... was that healthy? Draco attempted to defy gravity a bit more by craning his neck over the top of the bed in order to see why his arm was in that condition. His eyes widened slightly as the reason trickled into his brain, but then the other person in the bed shifted, loosening their grip on his arm... and gravity did the rest. Harry Potter woke to a dull thud and then a sullen "Ow". Frowning, he blinked twice and registered where he was. In Draco's bed... again. But there was no sign of Draco himself. He'd ended up not being able to hate Draco enough before bed every night this week, so this was not a rare occurrence. Harry blamed those confusing feelings he got whenever he thought about the blond in any abstract or fleeting form. They were really starting to bother him. Another thing was bothering Harry... well two things were bothering Harry. One was the strange taste he had in his mouth and the other being the blanket of black silk that seemed to be covering everything. "Oh damn," Draco muttered from the floor as he too registered the black silk feathers covering the floor. "Molting night again." "Molting?" Harry leaned over the bed. "Why are you on the floor anyway?" "I fell." Draco got up rather stiffly and brushed a few black feathers off him. "I didn't know I had that many feathers to begin with." He seemed mildly impressed. Harry dropped out of Draco's bed on the other side and brushed off the black feathers covering him as well. But what was that taste in the back of his mouth? With one finger he traced the back of his tongue and managed to dislodge... a feather. "Should I even ask how a feather got in my mouth?" Harry muttered. Draco looked mildly disgusted. "That would be a no." Harry didn't respond to Draco's answer, in fact he hadn't even looked at Draco after that first time this morning. Seeing Draco was still too confusing... or brought up confusing thoughts. And it was too early in the morning to deal with confusing issues.

Harry made his way down to the Great Hall for breakfast to find that, for once, he had arrived before Ron and Hermione. He was halfway through his second piece of toast when the two arrived. "Oh, Harry, you should have told us you were going to be here early." Hermione told him as they sat down. "Mate, are you feeling okay? It's a Sunday; one sleeps in late on Sundays." Ron reminded him, oblivious to the look of exasperation Hermione sent his way. Other students began to filter in to breakfast, but Harry noted that there was no sign of Draco. That was rather odd. Draco was normally at breakfast around this time every day of the week. But pushing the thought out of his mind, he returned to the conversation that was happening around him.

The House-Elves, Draco thought, could be really annoying. The little buggers had been in his bedroom when he'd emerged from his shower, picking up feathers. They refused to leave, even to allow him privacy to get some clothing on, until they were finished. Draco almost informed them of how much time they were wasting. It was much easier for the Veriae himself to pick up his own feathers. They were still keyed to him after all. So if anyone else tried to do so, as the House-Elves were doing... well, it took a long time. So Draco started working on breaking the record for longest time wearing nothing but a towel.

When they were finally done and out of his room, Draco set about getting on some proper clothing and then pondered what to do about the rest of his day. Schoolwork eventually won over, because tomorrow was Monday, and he could always count on his godfather to assign some long essay (which he had finished and in truth had enjoyed doing) so he might as well finish the homework he needed to hand in on Tuesday. Arithmancy. Draco's eyes scanned the topic of the essay, and he immediately resolved to just look up the answer in a book instead of doing the extra work to figure it out. That was the problem with Arithmancy. During his first years taking it, he'd actually done the work of figuring out the answer to the essays himself, then he'd realized they were all in the book, just not in the chapter the class was currently studying. Now where was that book? Let's see. The last time he'd used it, he was doing those analogy things (stupid teacher was in love with analogies, he was certain). He'd been pretty ticked by the time he'd finished the last one (out of one hundred), so he probably put the book someplace out of the way with the help of the magical currents that drifted through Hogwarts. This, of course, meant that he had no clue where it was now. For all he knew, he had banished it to the fourth floor corridor and Merlin knew who might have found it. But as he cast his eyes around the room he saw that this was not the case. It was just balanced on the top of his bookshelves... which were about twice as tall as Draco himself was. Oh, wouldn't this be fun. Draco looked at the book as he sensed around for any currents that might be nearby. That was the thing when one was down near the dungeon inside a building like Hogwarts, one couldn't rely on the nature currents, where as outside they were everywhere and anywhere. No, inside, one had to rely on the currents that came from those who were using magic at the moment in time or from older spells that were entombed in the rock walls of the castle. And, as the Hogwarts stairs proved, these were rather temperamental. So, of course, there were no magical currents for Draco to find and call to his aid when he wanted them. So Draco did what any self-respecting teenager would do. He glared at the bookshelves and the Arithmancy book as if it was all their fault.

"So Harry," Ron asked as they finished breakfast. "Have you finished your essay yet?" "Haven't even started," Harry answered easily. "Same here." "What? It was assigned last Monday!" Hermione yelped as she tried to comprehend what must have been going through their minds all week to not at least start on the essay. "So?" Ron asked. "Just because it was assigned doesn't mean we would do it on Monday." Harry nodded. "We have today to do it, Hermione. It's not the end of the world." Hermione just shook her head at the lack of responsibility those two had when it came to school. Quidditch was a whole other story, but when it came to school work... just forget about planning for anything. "Well, then you two should go get started on it," she told them. "Will you help us?" Ron asked. "Absolutely not. You had an entire week to do it." Ron frowned. "Okay then. Shall we just get this over with, Harry?" "Sure. I have to go get my book though." "Then I will meet you two in the library," Hermione said and took another stairway towards the library's corridor. "You can come with if you want," Harry said. "I'm sure Malfoy has cleared out by now." Ron nodded and the two set off down another stairway.

Harry decided that Medusa was never happy to see him. Even when he told her the password she wouldn't open the door until she'd given him a proper lecture on how he should take care to be nicer to her, more polite... like little Master Malfoy who was always inquiring after her health and asking if she was having a good day. It didn't help that Ron muttered why one would ask after the health of a painting because it couldn't get sick, so it was a full five minutes before she begrudgingly let them into the rooms.

Well, Draco thought, the bookshelves looked rather stable. And he would only have to climb up a little bit... Damn, why couldn't he have thought to put a chair in his bedroom when he was fixing up his rooms? But Draco, nevertheless, began to climb the bookshelf.(vi) It was a good thing that all the books were pushed against the back of the shelf, or he didn't think he be able to hold on. It really wasn't that much to climb. Draco had been right in his assessment; and he had just reached the top and his Arithmancy book when the door to his bedroom opened. He didn't notice, as he'd made sure that all the hinges on the doors in his rooms were silent (he hated squeaky doors). Draco reached for the book, leaning slightly to the left. He'd just grabbed the binding of the book and was pulling it away from the edge of the shelf when he slipped. He braced for the impact of flesh on stone... but it never came. Instead he collided on to something hard yet soft at the same time. Someone else had to worry about bracing for the flesh on stone impact. "What in Merlin's name were you doing?" a voice raged in his ear. "Getting a book," Draco answered easily, and then he realized what position he was in... and who he was on. Harry also realized what a weird position the two of them were in. If Draco shifted slightly to the right he would be flat out on top of Harry, stomach to stomach, face to face, mouth to... Draco moved slightly to the right in order to start getting off Harry but froze when he realized what position he'd put them in. Just inches away from Harry, he could feel Harry's breath on his face, and could look directly into the emerald orbs of his eyes. Neither would ever remember who moved first, but someone did, closing the inches between them, lips coming together as if drawn together by polar attraction. Satin caressing silk, someone moaned. Mouths open, tongues twisting together in a sensual dance. Time seemed to stand still. Aristocratic hands found their way around his slim waist as other hands buried themselves in silken hair. Draco purred. Harry hissed in pleasure. Ron, walking through the door, was speaking, not that anyone really heard him. "Oi, Harry, how much time does it take to- OH MERLIN! MY EYES!" Two pairs of eyes drifted upwards towards a very scandalized redhead. The green ones were apologetic, the silver-grey annoyed. "Sorry Ron?" Harry's statement was more of a question. "Weasley, what the bloody hell are you doing in my bedroom!" Draco growled. "Well I came in here to see how long it was going to take Harry to get his book, but I see instead he was otherwise occupied," Ron shot back. "Then you can walk back out, can't you?" Draco sneered. "I don't want you in my personal space." "The only one in your 'personal space' right now is Harry, Malfoy, and you don't look too upset about that." And while Draco and Ron bantered back and forth, with Draco still on top of Harry, the Boy-Who-Lived was trying to find a way to keep the blush off his face while simultaneously trying not to be turned on too much by the velvet quality of Draco's voice which became prominent when he was angry.

Chapter Sixteen: Foundations Crumble Harry and Ron had finally gotten to the library, after the whole event in Draco and Harry's rooms, and Harry was just starting his Potions essay(at three in the afternoon on the day before it was due) when Ron finally got up the nerve to speak what had been on his mind for half an hour before this point, to Harry. Harry blinked at him, disbelief clearly written across his features. "Ron, you have got to be kidding. Did you eat something that Fred or George sent you? You know that it's an "at best" situation if Dr-Malfoy and I hate each other." Ron chose to ignore Harry's slip-up when he'd said Malfoy's name and just looked at his friend skeptically. "I don't know how things looked from your end, mate, but all I'm telling you is that it didn't look like you two hated each other from where I was standing. That's all. Just forget I said it, okay? I'm certainly going to forget I saw it." Ron looked slightly disgusted as he tried not to remember it. Of course, after hearing that kind of a statement from Ron of all people, Harry couldn't concentrate on Potions (a class he had with Draco). So, in the politest way he could with his mind on other things, he left his friends in the library and went in search of his Firebolt to go flying and clear his head. Hermione watched him go with a puzzled expression and turned to Ron the second Harry had disappeared out the door. "What happened?" she asked in a hushed whisper. Ron almost sighed at the prospect of having to relive that scene yet again, but began to tell her.

Down in the dungeons, Draco was just finishing explaining what had happened to his father, who (if he had been looking, which by the way he wasn't) looked mildly amused at his son's plight. "Draco, for the last time, the bond does not do anything to your emotions. It does not magnify nor create anything for you except power. It stays away from matters of feeling." "Then why did I have to kiss him in the first place?" "Merely tradition. Normally the two intended are rather attracted to one another; therefore the bond came to be activated by kissing. Nothing more, nothing less. When Potter tried to defy the bond, it retaliated by beginning to retract itself in an effort to stabilize itself, thus more kissing." He took a long sip of port. "When it comes right down to it, Draco, the fault rests completely with the two of you." "It's not my fault," Draco muttered below his breath and his father chose to ignore that statement. Then he thought of something. "What in Merlin's name am I going to say to him?" Lucius raised an eyebrow. "Say, Draco? You don't have to say anything. I would recommend being civil, but in reality you don't need to do a thing. Your part as a Veriae is done and over with. Unless your bonded gets in trouble you could ignore his very existence." "I know that, but it's just a bit awkward," Draco responded. "Then be civil. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try being agreeable. You might enjoy the results." The sarcasm was lost on Draco, who actually thought about the idea. "I tried being agreeable in First Year, and that didn't work." Again Lucius found solace in his wine glass before speaking. "Draco, you are a Slytherin and Malfoy, he doesn't need to know that it's you being agreeable." Draco thought about that some more, and Lucius found himself thanking whatever deity was ruling the world that Draco was an only child. Lucius didn't think he could handle another one. Finally breaking the silence, Lucius spoke.

"I will be remaining at the Manor after Christmas break; it appears that I seem innocent enough at this point to the Ministry." Draco bit back a grin at the drawled statement. He had problems picturing his father as "innocent" in any definition of the word, but then again he knew things that the Ministry did not. Lucius watched his son carefully, but Draco didn't seem to latch on to the fact that if he, Draco, was going to go home to the Manor for Christmas break with his father... then Harry would have to go as well. Lucius idly wondered if he'd been as this unobservant at Draco's age... and decided against it. He'd give Draco a week to work it out.

It was a few hours later when Draco finally left the comfort of his father's rooms and began the trek back to his side of the dungeons ('his' because that was where his rooms were... Potter was just borrowing some space for the time being, they really were his). He was a bit relieved to see that Potter wasn't back yet. Hopefully he wouldn't be back until after Draco had already fallen asleep and therefore the two could avoid any sort of a confrontation about that afternoon. On his way to his own bed, he passed Potter's and noticed that the other boy's books seemed to have been discarded in a pile on the bed and that Potter's Firebolt was missing. The boy was out flying... at this time of day... err, night. He was crazy. Draco frowned, seeing the Potions textbook on the top of the pile. Harry had probably not even started the essay. Unbidden, his father's words came back into his mind. Be agreeable... if he was feeling adventurous. Well, he was most definitely not feeling very adventurous at this moment in time... but... With determination, he took out his own assignment (which was twice as long as it needed to be... he'd gotten a little carried away with this one) and began to write. This would be rather interesting actually, as he would have to duplicate Harry's style of writing so as not to raise his godfather's suspicions. Then he'd have to place a few forgery spells on his writing so that it would look like Harry's... he'd be done in a half hour or so.

Harry came in from flying long after it was too dark to see, not feeling much better than when he'd gone out. Sure, the joy of flying itself was still there... his head just wasn't very clear, even given the entire afternoon to think. There was something strange going on between himself and Draco but Harry couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. He'd ruled out love right away; that was most assuredly not the answer. Lust... maybe, but unlikely. Sure, he enjoyed Draco's kissing but he could just as easily want to break a bone or hex him. Attraction... even less likely; there were too many things about Draco's personality that Harry found unattractive for it to be that. Friendship? Hmm, there was some grey area. They weren't friends... but he didn't really mind Draco's presence any more as long as the other boy wasn't trying to annoy him. Acceptance, maybe? He was getting used to being around Draco? It was all too confusing. At least, having stayed out this late, Draco would either be showering or in bed and they could avoid talking about it... if Draco would talk about it at all. Harry had no idea how that Slytherin's mind worked. Maybe it was just a Veriae thing and he was reading too far into it... then again maybe not... and here the circle of thought started over and over again. Harry entered the bedroom as quietly as he could, and then relaxed slightly at hearing the shower running. He shook his head... that was, what... Draco's third shower today? Yes, he would never understand how that Slytherin's mind worked. Then all thoughts of that Slytherin were replaced by different thoughts. Oh bloody hell... Potions. He'd completely forgotten to do the essay. Damn it. Harry groaned slightly imagining the detention he'd get for this. But then he stopped short in his mental rant. Sitting there inside the cover of his potions book... was an essay. His essay... or at least that was his writing. But he hadn't written the essay, of that he was sure. Harry looked towards the bathroom door with shock appearing on his face. No way... but there was no other explanation. Hermione might have done the essay for him, but then it would be in her handwriting and he'd have to recopy it... and she didn't know where his room was to deliver it. Ron did know where his room was, but neither of them would get past Medusa (especially if Harry who did have the password had trouble doing so). So the

only one left was... Draco. And one would have to use some type of forgery spell to write in his own handwriting. Harry began skimming the lines of the essay as the shower turned off. It was really good. A bit better and more detailed than he would normally be but Snape wouldn't really notice. He couldn't see a flaw anywhere that would key someone into thinking that Harry himself hadn't done the work. Draco came out of the bathroom dressed in his favorite pair of pajamas (black silk) to be immediately hit with the full force of Harry's best smile. He blinked slightly and stopped his mind from going down the path of "he looks really cute when he smiles". One eyebrow rising in question, even as he saw the essay in Harry's hands he asked: "What are you grinning about?" "Thank you, Draco," was all Harry said as he began clearing the books off his bed. "I don't know what you're talking about," Draco replied as he climbed in his own bed. Harry shook his head, though he knew Draco wouldn't see it, but couldn't help the thought that passed through his head: 'Typical Draco. Even when he does something nice he has to be aloof about it.' When he woke up the next day, Harry would ponder that thought and wonder what that meant. He would eventually arrive at the conclusion that he no longer loathed one Draco Malfoy. Got annoyed at often, yes, but he no longer hated him. He'd become used to being around Draco... what a scary thought.

Chapter Seventeen: Lighting the Fuse In the weeks that followed, as late November became early December, Harry found himself watching Draco more closely. He was intrigued by Draco, that was it. He wasn't developing any feelings other than interest or so he told himself. He wanted to figure out just how the blonde's mind worked. One minute Draco would be as horrible as he normally was, and then he'd turn around and actually be civil or worse, agreeable. And when he was either of those two things (civil or agreeable) Harry was forced to admit to himself that he enjoyed the blonde's company immensely. So he took up Draco-watching. It therefore became almost unfortunate, that he only shared three classes with Draco: Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, and Transfiguration. Although it did give him a wide base of subjects really: one of his better, one of Draco's worst Care of Magical Creatures; one of Draco's best, his worst Potions; and a class that was somewhere in-between - Transfiguration. As such, he'd been mildly and pleasantly surprised when, after a particularly nasty assignment from Transfiguration class, he'd begun ranting about it, not caring that Draco was in the room, Draco had joined him. About fifteen minutes later he realized that those were probably the most enjoyable fifteen minutes he'd shared with Draco for the entire amount of time that he'd known him. Of course, his two best friends noticed his strange new habit, even though one tried his best to ignore it.

"Hermione, I'm telling you, nothing is going on between Harry and Malfoy," Ron muttered from his chair in the otherwise empty Gryffindor Common Room. "You're just imagining things." "Ron, you are refusing to see the facts. Harry won't even start eating until he's watched Malfoy sit down on the other side of the Great Hall; that's not normal Harry-hates-Malfoy behavior. You caught them kissing once, you shouldn't be this blind." "Why not?" It did, after all, sit perfectly well with Ron to be this blind. "Ron, just think for a moment. Harry is our best friend. What if he's falling in love with Malfoy (Ron winced) and Malfoy doesn't get it? Harry could be seriously emotionally scarred if something doesn't happen." "Hermione, are you sure you're not overreacting?" Ron asked, remembering how Hermione acted about the House Elves and seeing the same trend in her behavior now. "You see how Harry acts too; you tell me if I'm overreacting." "You're overreacting." Hermione sighed. "Fine then. You just find out the password to Harry and Malfoy's room and I'll do the rest." "What?" "I'm serious." "You're crazy." "Ron-" "Fine, fine. I'll get Harry to tell me so we can meet him there to study or something." "Good." Ron shook his head as he watched Hermione walk up the stairs to the girl's dormitory. "I tried to make her stay out of it" he said weakly. "No one can say I didn't try."

Draco was not amused at this moment in time. No, he was not pleased at all. And every fibre of his being was directed at making this known to the being standing in his rooms not three feet away from him. "And just what do you think you are doing in my rooms?" Draco hissed. Hermione was rather impressed. No wings had sprouted yet. "Is Harry here?" "No. Get. Out." "Good then." Hermione acted as if she hadn't heard the other two words he uttered. "I need to talk to you about Harry." "No you don't. Goodbye." "Fine then. I'll talk, you'll listen, and then I'll leave." "The door is behind you, please use it." "I won't leave until you listen." "Mudblood, get out of my rooms!" "They're Harry's too." Draco fought to control himself. "You have ten seconds. Talk." "I wanted to talk to you about Harry-" "I gathered that." "-And his new behavior." Draco raised an eyebrow. "I want to know what you feel for Harry." Draco blinked at her. A voice inside his brain was beginning to rant about the audacity of some people who would first walk into rooms that do not belong to them, barring for the minute how she even got the password in the first place, and would then dare ask such questions that should not be asked! Hermione waited for the explosion that she hoped was coming. A rant, maybe, about how one Draco Malfoy hated one Harry Potter. But she didn't get one. All she got was a strained: "I don't know what you're talking about Mudblood, now get out." With a grin, Hermione left the room. So Harry wasn't the only one with these types of feelings. But they were both very much in denial. Well, desperate times

As soon as Hermione was gone from the room Draco stalked up to the picture frame. "Medusa, NEVER let her into these rooms again. And pick a new password that you like. You can tell me what it is later." He didn't bother to really listen to Medusa's reply as he headed for the bedroom and his Potions homework. Hopefully that would get this whole experience out of his head for a while.

Hermione found Harry after dinner. (Again he'd watched Draco enter the Great Hall and sit down with his fellow Slytherins before even looking at his own food.) "Harry, I wanted to talk to you." She said as she caught up with him walking slowly towards the dungeons.

"What's up?" "I wondered how you felt about Draco." Harry looked rather like Draco did when she'd asked him that same type of question earlier. "I don't know-" "You pay more attention to him in classes that we share with Slytherins than on the actual subject. Heck, you watch him walk into the Great Hall for meals as well. Ron told me about what he caught you doing. Something's going on and as your friend I would like to help." "I really don't think-" He caught the look on Hermione's face and inwardly groaned; it was the same type of look he endured with S.P.E.W. "I really don't know yet." He said quietly, almost hoping she wouldn't hear him. They reached the portrait, for which Harry was extremely grateful. He didn't think he'd ever been so pleased to see Medusa in his entire existence. But the portrait wouldn't open to the password. Harry groaned and muttered about Draco and changing passwords without telling him before knocking rather loudly on the picture frame (while ignoring Medusa's indignant shrieks) and yelled, "Draco! Make Medusa open up already!" He waited a few seconds before sighing. "He's probably already in the shower," he muttered, sitting down next to the portrait to wait. He caught the look Hermione shot at him. "What?" "You know when he showers." "I live with him; one does pick things like that up." "You lived with a few guys in Gryffindor and I bet you couldn't tell me their showering times." Harry opened his mouth to retort but closed it when he realized that he couldn't tell her all of that information. Hermione sat down next to him. "So start talking." "Is there any way I can change the subject?" "No." "What if he hears?" "You said yourself that he's in the shower. You tell me how long those last." Harry blanched when he realized that he did know how long one of Draco's typical showers lasted, and that he also knew how that time varied with Draco's moods. Maybe he should talk to Hermione. She was a girl, and girls were good with these kinds of things, right? "I keep telling myself that I'm not falling for him, and at times he makes me so annoyed that I'm sure I'm right. But then he-" "Goes and does something that makes you like him." Harry nodded. "And then that makes you forget about the thing that annoyed you." Harry nodded again. Hermione smiled. "So how well does he kiss?"

Again Harry blanched. "Hermione!" "Answer the question." Harry rolled his eyes. "Really well." "Better than Cho?" "Yes..." "Would you do it again?" "Yes" In an almost childish nature, Hermione poked Harry's shoulder and said in a sing-song voice. "I know who Harry li-ikes." "And I, for one, am going to forget I just heard this conversation," an aristocratic drawl spoke from behind them. Harry paled, realizing that Draco had been standing there for who knew how long.

Chapter Eighteen: Leaving Egypt Draco wasn't surprised when Harry didn't follow him into their rooms. Oh Merlin, their rooms. Since when had it become "their" rooms instead of "his" rooms? Draco sighed, running his fingers through still damp hair. "Probably on the same day I fell on top of him," he muttered into the still room and then paused. "Salazar, that sounded so wrong." Draco forced himself to go through the routine of getting ready for sleep, a process that took hours since he was so particular (the real reason why he made sure to get all the homework he would do for a day done before supper), before realizing that Medusa would have closed the portrait by now, which meant Harry still couldn't get in. And there would be no way he could get in until Draco told Medusa to open it. "Oh well. His fault." Draco shrugged noncommittally even as he contradicted himself by getting out of bed and sitting down on the couch with the comforter, which he had unceremoniously pulled off of his bed, to wait for Harry to bang on the portrait again. Within ten minutes however, he was sound asleep.

Harry brooded, sitting up on the end of Ron's bed, as his was currently a few floors down in the dungeons. "Harry, I've got to say that brooding about it won't make the situation go away, mate," Ron finally said with the air of one resigned for a long argument. Harry looked pointedly at him. "Ron, if Draco Malfoy had just found out that you liked him, what would you do?" "I would keel over laughing because I'm not gay," was the stoic reply. Harry rolled his eyes. "I should hurt you for that sentence." "But then people would wonder why there were strange sounds coming from the dormitory and they would have an excuse to break the locking charm you put on the door. Which, by the way, I think you should remove so the other boys can get some sleep even if you are determined to brood away the night hours." "I'm not brooding." And here they might as well have come full circle. "Look, it's not that bad, Harry," Ron finally said in the silence. "Explain what's so 'not that bad' about it, then." Ron raised his eyes skyward with a thought akin to: What is this world coming too? I'm about to help my friend who is emotionally involved with a Malfoy "Well, Malfoy's a Veriae. It's not like he can really up and leave whenever he wants" "So I'm stuck with him acting smugly superior and/or disliking me for the rest of my life. Okay." Ron groaned. "Look, I can't believe that I'm going to say this but I'm just going to say what I saw. And I don't care if it was the only kiss you two will ever share for the rest of your lives, you were both participating. Equally, I might add. No matter who says what, that is a fact." "That was one kiss. It doesn't mean anything." "That was your second kiss though, wasn't it?" Harry winced internally but he didn't bother telling Ron it was actually their third. Ron suddenly looked very serious. "If one kiss was enough to start this whole Veriae-bond-thing, then I think that it's a small thing for a second kiss to show that both parties are attracted to each other."

Harry thought for a moment. "When did you get so smart?" "I can't believe I just said that," Ron muttered and began moving to the bathroom. "What are you doing?" "I'm going to wash my mouth out with soap for saying such nice things about Malfoy; it's got to be against some rule somewhere." Harry laughed lightly before getting up, bidding Ron good-night, and allowing several annoyed Gryffindor boys back into their dormitory. Oh well, it was a long walk down to the dungeons, plenty of time to get enough courage to face Draco again, right? Then again, maybe Draco would be asleep by now then again Harry remembered that he still didn't know the password. Oh damn it all.

Harry watched Medusa watch him disapprovingly. After a few minutes of this staring contest, he spoke: "So are you going to let me in?" "Why should I?" Medusa spat. "You don't know the password." "Because by now you should know that I live here," Harry pointed out patiently. "We have this conversation even when I do know the password so I don't understand why you can't just open up and let me in." "No password, no admittance." "Stupid bitch." Harry snarled, unaware that it came out in Parseltongue. "I know what you're saying," Medusa commented in a bored tone as the snakes hissed back their own chorus of obscenities at Harry. "And it just goes to show that you don't belong here. Only one of insignificant breeding would use such fowl language." Harry groaned. "So you're going to make Draco annoyed at both me and you when I bang on your frame loud enough to wake him in the bedroom?" He grasped at the last idea that he had when dealing with this obnoxious portrait. "You won't have to bang loudly. He's asleep on the couch waiting for you to do so." Harry could, and would later, swear up and down that Medusa's voice took on a completely different tone when talking about Draco. "So why don't you just let me in so that I won't have to wake him?" Harry asked. The portrait considered this for a moment or two before nodding her assent. "But you'd better watch out when Draco goes home for Christmas and it's just you here. You'll never get in for the entire two weeks!" She spat at him. Harry brushed by her and into the room to find that the portrait had not lied about its sleeping inhabitant. The fire had burned itself to low embers, casting almost a shadowy glow on the room and upon the figure sleeping on the couch. Draco was wrapped up in the comforter that he obviously had taken from his bed, its black coloring blending with the black silk of Draco's normal sleepwear. Draco's eyes were closed, of course, as he was sleeping, but his face seemed to retain that same air of Malfoyishness that it always held, as if he were some untouchable deity or lord whose level of perfection mere mortals could never hope to ascend to. The glow from the fire seemed to sink into his hair and bring out an ethereal glow from the platinum strands. Harry stood there just watching Draco sleep, but the serenity of the scene was broken when Draco's eyes fluttered open as Medusa closed her portrait rather loudly. "She let you in. Surprising."

"I'd be careful if I were you, I think Medusa likes you too much." Harry tried to act normal as he crossed the room to the doorway to the bedroom. "I'm not too worried." Draco padded into the room after him and gracefully flopped on his bed (much to Harry's amazement, though he hid it, that it was actually possible to flop gracefully). Draco waited for a few minutes until he was certain that Harry was assuming that he wouldn't say anything about the conversation he'd overheard earlier. Silly Gryffindor, Draco was a Malfoy; of course he would to say something. "I actually think it's ironic." "What, that a snake-haired girl likes a Slytherin?" "No, I wasn't thinking of Medusa, although she was ever so pleased to help make you so embarrassed earlier. Draco felt Harry stiffen. "Then what's ironic?" Harry's voice was almost guarded. In the darkened room Draco smirked, "I find it ironic that you're so worried about me rejecting you, when it was you who rejected me first twice." Nothing more was said that night. After all, what could one say to that?

As Draco well expected, by saying that particular comment the night before, Harry made sure to be out of their rooms by the time Draco woke up the next day and avoided him as much as was possible, seeing as there were some classes that Gryffindor and Slytherin had together and he couldn't well skip those. Draco was somewhat amused by this behaviour actually, as he was waiting for the revelation that would come at sometime when Harry realized how he had worded that sentence. He was not prepared for Harry to realize a very different thing, which he brought up during Draco's Transfiguration essay that afternoon. Harry walked into the rooms after a few minutes of bickering with Medusa (Merlin, how fond Draco was getting of the portrait, maybe Dumbledore would let him buy it for his study door back home). "What are we going to do about holiday break?" Harry said suddenly, surprising Draco slightly. Where had he come up with that topic? "I don't see how this holiday break is going to be any different from any other," Draco responded, returning to his Transfiguration essay. His father and he would spend Christmas Eve doing whatever they felt like doing, then they would open presents together Christmas Day and his godfather would likely join them for dinner on Christmas Day as well"No, I meant about the sleeping thing." "What are you rambling about?" "Unless you don't plan to sleep at all over holiday break, Draco, we're going to have to figure something out." Realizing that he would have to take Harry home for Christmas, Draco almost missed the fact that Harry had called him by his first name to his face. Draco had heard Harry refer to him by his first name before, but never had Harry actually addressed him by "Draco" instead of "Malfoy". "Well then, Harry, you will just have to accompany me, won't you?" The tone left no room for argument but Harry argued anyway, blushing slightly when he realized that Draco had picked up on his slip of the tongue. "Aren't you even going to ask me politely, or are you just going to be a bastard about it? No, wait, why am I even asking?"

"I don't know. Why are you?" "Because I don't have to go to your home over holiday break, I could very easily stay right here in Hogwarts the way I have for the past five years. And even if you did go home, you'd end up back in Hogwarts by morning, and you know it." Draco stopped even trying to work on his essay. Harry did have a point, a very good one actually. "Very well, then." Draco looked up at Harry for the first time since the boy had come in the room. "Harry, will you come home with me for holiday break?" Harry blinked three times. He hadn't actually expected Draco to ask him at all. Draco meanwhile found the astounded look on Harry's face very amusing, although he fought down the urge to smirk, laugh, or look amused as he waited for Harry's answer. "Okay," Harry said and Draco went back to his essay. "If you promise to accompany me to D.A. meetings." Draco stopped working again. Not that stupid D.A. again. But weigh the options, Christmas at Malfoy Manner or Christmas at Hogwarts oh, bloody hell! "Very well. But I can assure you that I will not be participating in any way and that you will come to regret the idea." Harry grinned triumphantly and fought back the urge to go and laugh at Medusa and tell her that she wouldn't have the pleasure of kicking him out of their rooms for two weeks because when Draco left, he would be leaving too. Well, maybe he could shove that in her face later

Draco was seriously starting to regret agreeing to go the DA meetings when he realized that, of course, everyone in this little club would not likely be too happy with a Slytherin present. They were not, if the glares being sent his way were worth anything. Of course, it wasn't really his problem. He'd made it very clear to Harry that he was just going to sit in a corner and work on his Divination homework and that was that. If Harry wanted an explanation as to why he was there, then Harry would just have to give one himself; and if Harry got hurt then he would have to walk over to Draco's corner because there was no way that Draco himself was moving until the whole ordeal was over. And, true to his word, Draco walked over to an unoccupied corner-that he was quite positive the Room of Requirement was supplying for him-and proceeded to sit down and take out his homework without a look at the group of students that were very shocked at his actions. "Why is Malfoy here?" Draco heard one of them ask and couldn't help smirking as Harry had to make up an explanation that didn't really tell what truly was going on between the two of them. Draco did not bother to hide his amused expression as they bought it; something about how all the spells they used upset some Veriae thing unless he knew what was going on. Oh, he'd have fun with that one later Thus, Draco was pretty much ignored for the first part of the D.A. meeting, when Hermione was explaining the newest spell that they were working on and Draco was effectively tuning her out. He had not agreed to listen to her prattle on like a textbook recording; he had just agreed to be in the room. Things began to happen when the students started to work with the new spell. As Draco could have predicted, it wasn't five minutes before a spell came at him, whether because the person missed or because she purposely aimed at him, he didn't know and didn't care. Harry watched as the beam of purple light headed straight for Draco, as did almost everyone in the room. The very air in the room seemed to shift slightly and the spell swerved, deflecting to the ceiling. "Someone should work on the Weaslette's aim." Draco spoke, bored, to the room. He hadn't moved from his work or looked up the entire time.

Draco decided he liked the Room of Requirement. Its very nature would supply him with enough magical currents to keep a shield even if the currents in the building itself were feeling testy. That was information to file away for use later. Very useful. Of course, it was only a matter of time before a spell got too close to Harry and the Veriae bond went haywire. Draco did look up from his work then as he fought to keep his wings inside so that his shirt would not be ruined, and waited for Harry to find some excuse to go sit next to him. He didn't have to wait long. Harry was surprised that Draco did not smirk at him as he made his way over to Draco's secluded corner. He sat down next to Draco in such a way that his body would hide from the rest of the room what Draco's left hand was doing as his right continued writing some notes for Divination. Harry was even more surprised that Draco didn't say something along the lines of "I told you so" and said so after a few moments. "Oh, those words don't even begin to express my feelings of satisfaction at this moment in time," Draco replied, almost amicably. "But you're going to say them anyway, aren't you?" Harry asked, knowing that they would come out sometime; this was Draco Malfoy he was talking about here. "Of course. I told you so." And Draco still hadn't looked up from his homework, which he was just about done with.

Chapter Nineteen: Because I Wanted To Draco normally would have found it quite odd, although strangely not disturbing, to think about Harry Potter while in the shower, but at this moment in time that was exactly what he was doing. Of course, he wasn't thinking about Harry in that way, but it was still a landmark of sorts. What he was thinking about was this: If Harry came to Malfoy Manner for Christmas then he would have to, if only to be polite and proper as befitting a Malfoy, get Harry a Christmas present. Normally Draco did not bother to think that much about what presents he got for what people, as he normally bought the presents so far in advance he forgot what he'd gotten the person by the time Christmas rolled around. But here he was, with two weeks before Christmas, and he had to suddenly get Harry a gift. Well, that's what Hogsmead trips were for. And quite satisfied that he had solved this particular problem, he moved right on to the next: which type of shampoo would he use first?

Harry was also thinking about Draco, though he was not in the shower because that would have been just weird. No, Harry was all ready for sleeping, but sleep just hadn't seemed to visit him yet. Draco must be thinking about something, Harry thought. After all, Draco's showers only got this long if he had something to think about. And of course, Harry's mind quickly assumed exactly what Draco would possibly be thinking about, something he wished Draco could just up and forget as easily as he said he could. But Harry knew that when you hear someone professing feelings they have about you, you can't really just forget. Although, if anyone could do it, it would be Draco, Harry had to admit. Yet, something didn't quite fit with Draco's current behavior and his behavior before Harry had been caught telling Hermione what he thought of Draco, which proved that the younger Malfoy had not forgotten. I find it ironic that you're so worried about me rejecting you, when it was you who rejected me first twice. Why was it that Harry couldn't get that sentence out of his head? It wasn't like it was a particularly nasty thing to say Merlin knew Draco was capable of doing much worse. But it still would not go away. Something about the wording it just wasn't something he would expect from Draco. It was ironic that Harry was worried about Draco rejecting him when it was Harry who had rejected Draco Harry sat up in bed almost on a reflex. Oh. Pieces began to come together. Everything about Draco's demeanor that had confused him from the start of this whole thing seemed to finally make sense. He still hadn't forgotten the Wyverns, how afterward Draco had acted so well, as embarrassed as a Malfoy could ever look in front of someone else. And then Draco had actually acted downright pleasant at times, and had even done Harry's homework for him on one occasion for the teacher that Harry hated most of all. Harry grinned, falling back down on to the bed. Then, assured by the sound of still running water that Draco was no where within hearing range, couldn't help mimicking Hermione's earlier tone. "I know who Draco li-ikes." And it was true, but Malfoys didn't make a habit of showing such emotions in public so it had taken a long time for Harry to piece it together. I wonder how he would react if I were to randomly kiss him without having a reason. Harry could almost picture the raised eyebrow, and look of hidden curiosity, and the "Now what was that for, Potter?" or maybe Draco might even call him Harry now hmm, that was an interesting thought. Draco didn't notice the smile that seemed fixed upon Harry's sleeping face as he made his way through the darkened room to his own bed, which was more of habit than actual practice because either he or Harry would end up in the other's bed by morning.

Harry was almost used to having Draco in his bed or being in Draco's bed himself when he woke up in the morning, and he continued to be amused by the different positions they were in when he woke up. He didn't think they'd yet repeated a position.

Today when he woke up, Draco's head was resting on one of his arms, his legs wrapped around Harry's own. Harry idly thought that one thing he was getting out of this was a new found sense of what control was, waking up as a teenager (with teenage hormones) in such a position. Again, Harry found himself watching Draco sleep by the dimmed light of the room. He wondered what Draco would look like if there were windows in the dungeon so there could be morning light on him when he slept. If he looked so untouchable in this type of light he would most likely look positively angelic in that type of light. Draco seemed deep in sleep, so deep in fact that he didn't move when Harry slowly disentangled their legs. Harry stopped as he thought about how he would dislodge his arm without waking Draco. He didn't get very far down that train of thought as he went back to watching Draco and not thinking very much at all. One thing he had to say, Draco looked much more kissable when he was asleep than when he was awake and one had silver steel eyes watching you. Not to say Harry didn't like those eyes; one could positively drown in them if their owner would let you but still Damn, where was that Gryffindor courage when he needed it? Slowly, as if afraid the very image of Draco would shatter if he moved too quickly, Harry leaned forward and gently brushed his lips against Draco's own. Harry started in surprise as those lips responded almost immediately. A hand reached up to tangle in his hair as he pulled back slightly to stop movement such as that. Harry's blood sizzled as a tongue worked its way between parted lips to explore the inner cavern of his mouth. The kiss flowed like lava and Harry had to stop himself from whimpering when Draco finally pulled away. "Not that that wasn't a fascinating way to wake up, but would you mind sharing exactly what that was for, Harry?" Draco asked as one eyebrow rose in question. Draco never did find out what Harry found so amusing about that question before Harry answered, "No reason. I felt like it."

Draco was pointedly eating breakfast and NOT thinking about what had happened that morning when the rest of his compatriots made their way into the Great Hall. He immediately regretted not leaving when he had the chance. After all, he should have been prepared for the human-sized leech that latched itself on to his right arm-which was unfortunately the arm that he was using his fork with and thus he was stuck staring at his eggs with an almost forlorn air as all movement of that arm was stopped. "Draaacooo. We haven't seen you in so long." Draco wished for a silencing charm or for someone to just make that woman permanently mute. And yet she continued to keep talking. Merlin, hadn't she insulted the English language enough by now by using it in such a way? And she really didn't need to dance around the subject like that. There was no way she was going to get Draco to take her to Hogsmead, today of all days. Draco needed to get a present today and that had to take precedence. "Pansy, I already told Blaise that I would accompany him to Hogsmead." Draco flashed a sickeningly sweet smile at the girl. "Perhaps next time." Then with practice-honed skill, he detangled himself from her grasp and headed for the Slytherin Common Room. Blaise was just walking out into the hallway when Draco found him. "Zabini, we're going to Hogsmead today." "Pansy again?" "Do I need to dignify that with an answer?" "Fine, but you're helping me with Potions homework then."

Draco nodded and continued past the hidden door to the Slytherin Common Room to his own rooms. He would need more suitable clothing for a trip to Hogsmead.

Harry travelled through Hogsmead, surprisingly by himself, wondering what on this earth could one buy for Draco Malfoy especially considering that anything he truly wanted he would have already bought a month ago Harry was pointedly avoiding any students of Hogwarts so as to not get distracted from this goal of his. Even if he didn't find a present for Draco here, he would come up with at least an idea before this day was over or well Harry couldn't really come up with a reasonable threat for what would happen if he failed this self-imposed quest but hopefully he wouldn't have to come up with something. All of the gift shops were decked out in all their splendor as he meandered down the road. Christmas was just around the corner after all, a mere week and a half away, and like any shopping center Hogsmead was full of last-minute shoppers looking for just the right Christmas gift. It was easy to lose yourself in such a crowd, not quite as bustling as the one in Diagon Ally but close. It was also strange, in such crowds, who you actually saw. And as Harry neared one particularly expensive looking shop, he saw none other than Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zambini standing nearby. Blaise was looking around and discussing where they should go next. Draco was only half paying attention, his eyes seeming to be drawn to something in the middle of the window display. Harry hung back, careful not to be seen by either boy, watching as Draco's perusal of this object turned to acceptance and then a look of more interest. But surprisingly Draco made no move to buy whatever it was that he obviously wanted, instead he moved through the crowd with his fellow Slytherin when said Slytherin excitedly began urging Draco along to look at something or other. As they moved off, Harry went to look in the window. It was a jewelry shop that also sold small, expensive, trinkets. Harry had seen this kind of store before but had never actually been in one. And the item that Draco had been looking at was well, Harry had to admit it was very pretty. The item in question was a set of crystal chimes, edged in silver with trailing flowers flowing around the top, also in silver. Harry had seen such flowers; his aunt had wanted some of them planted a year before. The plant was green when it was live, and grew in a bush although it spread out in a vine-like manner. The flowers it created were a dark pink color, shaped like upside-down hearts that were broken in the middle, thus earning it the name of the "Bleeding Heart Flower". Harry could now see why Draco wouldn't want to buy this in front of other people. A Malfoy and Bleeding Heart Flowers didn't mix. It was the kind of item that one would have to be able to say, "Oh, that was a gift from so and so", or one of those things that husbands kept around simply because it was a gift from their wives no matter how they really felt about it. Harry looked over at the card next to the chimes to see exactly what the item did. It was charmed to chime the hour, though it was not actually a clock, with each hour having a different chime. These were all set to a default chime but one could set a different chime if they wanted to. With a set smile on his face Harry walked into the shop and pointed to the chimes in the window, asking if they could be gift wrapped as well.

Chapter Twenty: Through the Looking Glass When one was being entirely truthful, there were only a few things in life one could really count on, and Draco became ever firmer in his resolve of this statement as he passed by gift after gift that he could have bought for Harry but didn't. It was rather sad really, all the glitter of commercialism everywhere, but just not the right glitter. Not that Draco hadn't seriously considered most of the gifts (all inside the correct price range of course a range that would have made most people flinch); there were some really good candidates but they just weren't right and there was no getting around it. No amount of rationalizing worked, and Draco had been rationalizing for hours. If the gift wasn't perfect then Draco wasn't going to buy it. That was what Christmas was all about after all, spending oodles of money on gifts that were, in a word, perfect. If they weren't perfect then there was no point in giving them in the first place. And perfect wasn't just "perfect for this moment only" or "perfect for now but would soon be cast aside", no, perfect was perfect. Something that was meaningful on Christmas Day when it was opened, meaningful on New Years Eve a few days later, and meaningful for at least twenty years down the line when all the glitter and sparkle of it being new wore off. Not that Draco really followed this ideal when he normally got presents for people. No, this was an ideal saved only for family because family was important where groupies were not. And, as much as Draco sometimes hated (and sometimes didn't mind so much), Harry Potter was family now. Ergo, the 'perfection problem' as Draco was now terming it. Draco had parted ways with Blaise as soon as they both knew that the coast was clear and that less wanted people wouldn't latch on to either of them, and now he sat drinking a butterbeer and thinking about this problem at hand. His father always solved this by quantity. For as long as Draco could remember, Christmas (and his birthday, but that wasn't until June anyway) was the time to be literally showered with gifts. When he was a child his father had even done the idea of twelve days of Christmas with the gifts growing in number each day. But he'd grown out of that (albeit mournfully as that really had been a nice tradition) and had been happy with the multitude of presents on Christmas morn. It made some sense too: give as many gifts as you can come up with and one of them will be perfect. Easy and simple when dealing with Draco that is. Draco thought back to the necklace he'd received last year, gold and engraved with the Malfoy family crest, that he'd opted to leave at home when he returned to school and remembered how much he'd regretted that decision. But Draco didn't have the time or patience (note that he did have the resources) to find every little thing that Harry could have ever wanted in his life to wrap and give to him. So Draco had to go for quality instead. But what was the one thing that Harry Potter would want most of all? That was the question of the day. Paying for his drink, Draco again stepped into the cold December air and continued moving. Now if he were Harry Potter what would he want? Well, parents. That much was simple. If there was one thing that would be the most meaningful thing ever, it would be Harry's parents. But Draco couldn't do necromancy and couldn't really pay anyone else to. In fact, the only person he knew who had accomplished the whole "brought back to life" feat was Lord Voldemort. And Voldemort would probably opt to well, something disgusting, rather than bring back the Potters. So, actually giving Harry his family for Christmas was out of the question. Pictures another out of the question. All he would be able to find would be the school photos and Harry probably already had those. No, what Draco needed was something that would provide a different aspect than just looking at a picture. Something that would allow Harry to really see them and well, why just Harry's parents. What about something that would allow Harry to really know all the people who cared for him like family, to really see them Draco's eyes fell upon a mirror that was propped up on a stand inside a window display. It was a simple oval mirror, made of white gold, with a handle. It looked rather like the kind of mirror Narcissa used to enjoy using. But this mirror was a bit different from that. It was rather plain really, with a simple border around the edge of the mirror that was elegant but not extravagant to the point of excess. Draco peered into the mirror and saw his own reflection looking back at him. And in that instant where his own eyes locked on his reflection's, Draco realized what he would give Harry for Christmas. And it would be absolutely perfect.

Draco arrived back at Hogwarts just as the sun was beginning its downward motion against the sky and headed straight for the library. If he was right, then he knew where a certain spell he was looking for could be found. He turned into the section of books set aside for scrying, the art of magic where one searched for something. He'd looked this magic up in the summer of his Second Year at the Manor, but Hogwarts had a larger amount of books than Malfoy Manor did. Of course, scrying was completely "light" magic and a more commonly known form of abstract magic, so that was almost expected. Normally, scrying was done with a mirror or the surface of a pond or lake as long as the water was still. There was normally no incantation as the magic was abstract, formed more from thoughts than words. One touched the tip of the wand to the surface and thought of who or what you were trying to find, and if the magic worked you could see who or what it was you were looking for. But Draco remembered that there was a spell that he'd found and remembered vaguely, as if it was interesting but not something that he had cared a whole lot about so hadn't bothered to memorize it or work with it. Even though scrying was abstract, there was an incantation or two that used elements of scrying in them. The spell that he wanted to use to complete Harry's present was one of these. Pulling out a large tome from the shelf, he flipped through the index. Nope, not this one. Move on to the next one.

Fifteen books later, Draco found the spell he was looking for. He checked the book out of the library and made his way down to his rooms, greeting Medusa with the password and an inquiry about her continued good health. Harry was nowhere to be found. Good. He could do the spell now and wrap the present before Harry got back, and be done with it. Carefully, Draco removed the mirror from its casing and placed it on the table near the fireplace. He then turned to the book and read through the passage about the spell a few times to make sure he understood the information correctly. Then he began. His wand curved up in an arch and down to touch the middle of the mirror's reflective surface as he spoke: "Homo Dignitatis Animatus Vivae Picturatus Morti Videre."

Latin Translation: Homo person, human (in the nominative case) Dignitatis importance (in the genitive case) Animatus animated (participle) Vivae life (in the dative case) Picturatus pictured (participle) Morti death (in the dative case) Videre to see (verb infinitive) Put that together and you get "To see a person of importance animated in life pictured in death". I did this to the best of my abilities as a Latin student, but if any scholars out there want to refute this, be my guest to do so.

Chapter Twenty-One: The Name of a Malfoy Harry finished folding his best school robes and placed them on top of Draco's wrapped present. That should be enough padding, he thought, as he closed the lid of his trunk. This was it. He'd already been to the last class before Christmas break, and had finished packing. Tomorrow he would leave Hogwarts with everyone who normally left and would ride the train back to London from where he and Draco, and probably Lucius Malfoy as well, would all be going to Malfoy Manor. It was surprising people hadn't made a lot of fuss, but that was probably because no one really knew. Heck, the only people who knew that he and Draco were "together", if one could call them that, were his friends, the staff at Hogwarts, Lucius Malfoy, Draco, and himself of course. It was amazing they'd kept it a secret for so long So why was he so surprised that no one made a big commotion about his living arrangements for Christmas break? After all, it wasn't as if he had much of a real choice in the matter. He'd likely wake up in Malfoy Manor with Draco even if he went to sleep in Hogwarts. And it wasn't like he would be turned over to Voldemort upon stepping into the house because of the whole Veriae bond thing So why was it such a big deal to him? Why was he so nervous about this? Needless to say, sleep did not come easily to Harry that night, although it did eventually overtake him.

The next day went almost completely as Harry had envisioned it. He rode with Ron and Hermione, who were also going home to visit their families, on the train ride back to London. He then hung back while the rest of the students were getting off the train, and saw that while Draco was walking ahead with his Slytherin cronies (Or were they his friends? Harry didn't know.), Lucius seemed to be taking his own time to leave the station. For once Harry was glad that the Malfoys were almost predictable Slytherins as he discretely followed the two Malfoys to a limo Its insides revealed that it only looked like a limo charmed to look like a lavish stretch limo, but in truth it was a carriage like the ones at Hogwarts. The ride to Malfoy Manor was another few hours and neither Malfoy seemed inclined to talk, yet the silence was more companionable than forced or harsh. When Harry got out of the carriage, the first thing he noticed were the four, translucent, white horses which had pulled the carriage. He would have to find out what species they were maybe ask Hagrid when he got back. The next thing he noticed was the house. And he wondered why he didn't notice the house first when he did get the full view of it. Describe any fairy-tale castle and you have Malfoy Manor Harry was reminded of the castle that he'd seen once in a muggle Disney movie when he was very young. He'd been locked in the cupboard for a few days but he'd thought it was worth it to see "Beauty and the Beast" even a little bit of it, when his uncle and aunt had let Dudley watch it. And now he stood at the doorway to a recreation of the Beast's enchanted castle before the spell was broken. Yet there were some differences Harry could see. The carriage stopped at the middle of a driveway of sorts but made of a white stone not pavement. To walk to the front door you passed by four statues, two of the Roman god Marsand two of the Roman goddess Athena. Then you got to a large black iron gateway that was engraved with the image of Saturn. It opened into what looked like a huge garden, covered in snow, and Harry could only wonder what it looked like in spring. They continued forward to the front door and Harry looked up in awe at the better view of the house from its front step. Gargoyles leered down at him from its heights and owlery (if Harry's guesses were any good). Two carved sphinxes sat just over the eves of the door and seemed to hold a watchful expression. So real was that expression that Harry wondered if they were truly watching him. The doors were ebony and lined in steel and iron and as Lucius approached them they opened by themselves, as if knowing the presence of their master. A House Elf immediately appeared at Lucius' side that he ignored completely except to let it take his outer cloak. "I trust you can situate Harry in your wing, Draco" Lucius said "And give him a tour of the Manor. I have a few things to look after." "Yes Father."

And Lucius left, leaving Harry and Draco alone in the foyer. Harry was too busy looking around to notice. The foyer was built on the idea of crystal, with statues of Venus hewn from a violet crystal on either side of the doorway. "My grandfather was into Roman ideals." Draco mused, seeing where Harry was looking. "He chose to redo the foyer and front hall, as well as some of the outside of the Manor. When we get into different wings of the Manor, you'll see different themes according to who spent most of their time there." Draco spoke as if that was what Harry had been thinking of, but Harry had simply been admiring the art. The foyer opened up onto the Great Hall which lead to one of four ballrooms, and three sitting rooms, a breakfast room, the large dining room, and the kitchens (though Draco didn't show Harry those those were for the House Elves). This was all on the first floor. On the second floor were three breakfast rooms, two more sitting rooms, two tea rooms, the red library (red because the upholstery was decked in blood red velvet), Lucius' study (which Draco didn't show Harry as Lucius was in there apparently) and Lucius's personal library (another no show as that could only be entered through Lucius' study), the large billiard room, and the small dining room. Harry didn't bother pointing out that this "small" dining room could have fit more than three of the Dursley's dining rooms The third floor was split into two wings, one of which was Lucius' and one of which had been Narcissa's. These held bedrooms and the like, which Draco passed over rather quickly, but Harry still had time to wonder what one person would do with two bathrooms of their own, a sitting room of their own, a bedroom of their own, and a dressing room of their own. The fourth floor held Draco's rooms, a guest suite, the blue library, and the smaller billiard room. Draco didn't go near his rooms because they'd be coming back that way anyway. The fifth floor was all guest rooms and the sixth floor was the owlery as Harry had guessed. Apparently there were other towers and such but they got cold in the winter so Draco didn't feel like walking up to their tops. Although he did say that in the summer they were nice and cool, and one had a beautiful view of the fields, stable, the lake, and the back gardens. Draco had asked if Harry actually wanted to see the north and south dungeons, four wine cellars, and three torture chambers, but Harry had quickly declined. They returned to Draco's wing and found that their trunks had been placed in Draco's room. This wing was furnished by Lucius himself, apparently, after Draco's birth, and Harry could see where the elder Malfoy had gotten his inspiration. It did fit Draco, Harry mused. Lucius had concentrated on ivory, with dragons and serpents of every culture adorning the doorways of the rooms. The walls varied from dark shades of green to rich forest colors. But what really got Harry's attention was Draco's bed. It was a work of art, it really was: a huge king-sized bed (or maybe bigger if that was possible) with black ivory posts rising a few feet above it, though it wasn't a canopy bed. On the top of each post was a carved head of Anubis, and these carvings wore a small snake around their necks like a necklace. Their eyes, emeralds, seemed to glitter in the light. The sheets were black silk, edged in gold. "We'll have to share" Draco commented, also looking at the bed. "It looks like there's enough room." Harry had to say honestly. "Well, needless to say, this is my room" Draco said after a moment. "Yours should be right through" he walked over to a seemingly empty wall on the right side of his room and began to walk down it with his hand on the wall. At one place it actually went through the wall. "Right here. Come on." And Draco walked through the wall. Harry realized that this shouldn't be fazing him After all he did this to get into the train station every year, but the nonchalance at which Draco just walked through the wall oh well. The room they entered looked somewhat like the other guest rooms at Malfoy Manor. It had a bleached wooden floor (oak maybe Harry didn't know floorings that well) and blue drapery on the numerous

windows in the room. The bedding was also blue. The ceiling was painted to look like a cloudy sky but Draco told him that if it was snowing or raining outside the illusion spell would kick in so it would seem to be snowing or raining in the room. At Harry's question, Draco also explained that the House Elves had just set up a portal between his room and this one so they didn't have to walk across the entire floor to go between the two rooms. There was a small pop behind the two boys which announced the arrival of a House Elf. "Master Lucius sent me to tell Master Draco that the Parkinsons are hosting the Christmas party this year," it said in a squeaky voice. Draco didn't look pleased at this announcement. "Thank you, you may go," he told the elf in clipped tones. "What party is this?" Harry asked curiously. "Well, every year someone in-" Draco seemed to fish around for the right words, "-our circle hosts a Christmas party. It's all show and a big waste of time really, just to see who can outdo everyone else. And it's the Parkinsons' turn this year." "Not a good thing I take it." "Exactly. And here I thought I had a week or so free from her presence." Harry flopped on the bed. "Pansy can't be that bad." The look Draco gave him could have melted iron. "You have no idea." Harry looked at the ceiling for a minute before a thought came to him. "I don't have to go to this thing, do I?" "Not unless you want to go as my significant other" Draco replied, a sarcastic smile forming "Because that's the only way you'd be invited." "Ah good. Then I won't have to worry about where I packed my dress robes."

Harry wondered exactly what he could really do with both Malfoys out of the house. He supposed they didn't care that he was left there because the House Elves would make sure that nothing was out of its proper place when they got back, but he still wasn't comfortable with it. He began walking back to his room to find something to do. He didn't get very far. "Left riff-raff alone in the house did they? My son will never understand proper decorum," a snide voice on his right spoke. Harry turned to see a picture of a stately man with blond hair slicked back so it made him look like a vampire. He had steely grey eyes, almost cat-like in their perusal of Harry. Harry got a distinct feel of Lucius from this man, but Lucius didn't have the same nose or chin as this person. "Well, don't just stand there boy. Tell me who my son has let walk about unchecked so that I may properly address the matter with him later." It all clicked. This was Lucius Malfoy's father. Somehow Harry got the feeling that this man could be worse than Lucius if he put his mind to it. "My name is Harry Potter sir" Harry gave a little bow as he said so and, lying through his teeth, continued. "I'm sorry for my appearance I haven't had time to change out of the school uniform yet." He figured that he should at least try to get on the portrait's good side if it had one.

The man's lip curled. "Yes, they certainly have to change that. Ever since Lucius went to school the uniform has been absolutely horrid. A result of allowing muggles into the school. They don't have the same background as the old wizarding families. Horrid. Just horrid." Harry didn't know exactly what was horrid, the muggles in the school or the uniform because of allowing muggles in the school, so he didn't dare comment. After all, he didn't want all of the pictures in Malfoy Manor to hate him that would be so very annoying and he doubted Draco would allow him to burn them all "But I haven't seen you around the Manor, Potter was it?" "Yes sir. I just came for Christmas break sir." Lucius' father frowned. "And he let one of Draco's friends have free reign of the Manor?" The man shook his head as if his son was a hopeless case. "Not exactly sir." A sharp look from the man made Harry continue. "I am Veriae-bonded to Draco, sir." "Ah, so Lucius passed down that blood did he?" Harry now had the distinct impression that Lucius and his father had not gotten along at all. Everything seemed to be Lucius' fault to this man. "Well then, I guess it is fitting that I be the first one to welcome you to the family. Your surname is Potter? Yes, that is fine. The Potters are an older wizarding family, not as prestigious as some, but good enough." Then, on a direct change of topic, "How old are you boy?" "16 sir." "A good age to be bonded. I'm glad to see that at least Lucius' son is doing things correctly. Must be my good influence rubbing off on him." "He speaks fondly of you sir." Yeah Draco had never mentioned Lucius' father, but if he was trying to make the portrait like him Harry could not have picked a better thing to say. "Of course he does, my boy. I couldn't trust Lucius to teach him how to do things properly. Lucius is even of the mind to let the boy pursue that horrid occupation what was it again? Oh no matter. He doesn't see that one has to have a certain occupation when in an upstanding family such as ours. I tried my best to educate him when he was young, but he never listened. Speaking of which, what are you going to do with your life boy? Something befitting the Malfoy name, I would hope." Think fast Harry, Harry said to himself. Would an auror be a job befitting a Malfoy? How in Merlin's name should he know? How could he get out of this one? Well if Lucius inherited his dislike for the Ministry from his father "My advisor in Hogwarts has suggested that I become an Auror for the incompetent fools in the Ministry." Perfect. "Those babbling idiots in the Ministry could never get anything done properly!"

When Harry finally got away from Lucius' father's portrait, he found that all of the portraits (which had been silently watching when Draco had led him through the Manor before) were equally inquisitive as to who had been left in the Manor. After a while it became easy for Harry to mingle with the portraits, and rather fun as well. All he had to do was make some comment on how the Ministry of Magic was incompetent and/or how the dress code at Hogwarts was unbearable nowadays, and make sure to always address the portrait as "sir" or "ma'am" and they all thought that Draco could not have chosen a better young man to bond with.

How the portraits viewed Lucius was puzzling to Harry though. Apparently there had been a huge rift in the Malfoy family between Lucius and his father. (Harry could only guess that it had something to do with Voldemort.) Half of the pictures followed the views of Lucius' father and thought that Lucius was a disgrace to the Malfoy name, and the other half thought that Lucius was one of the "better Malfoys". From the conversation with Lucius' father's picture, Harry could only guess that the Veriae blood also had something to do with it. Maybe Lucius' mate was one that the traditional Malfoys wouldn't approve of? Oh well, all the pictures seemed rather fond of Harry, so he didn't have much to worry about.

Draco and Lucius returned home at around eleven, and Harry was just about to doze off on the couch in Draco's room when Draco slammed open the door. Harry jumped slightly at the noise. "I'm guessing that wasn't the best few hours of your life" Harry commented as Draco pulled off his outer robes. Harry regretted this statement immediately as Draco seemed to explode. "If that girl comes near me again with something alcoholic I am going to ring her neck!" Draco began to rant about how he didn't care if it was a muggle way to kill someone, or that it was illegal to murder someone for that matter, he would do it anyways. Harry tuned most of it out, knowing that his job in this was to just agree with whatever was being ranted about. But at the end of the rant something caught his attention. "And since when has pink been a Christmas color anyways?" "Pink?" "Yes!" "Neon pink?" Draco stopped for a moment to think. "No, not neon, the kind of pink that says 'new baby girl'." Draco shuddered. "It clashed with the red so horribly." Harry couldn't help it he had to laugh, picturing red, green, and pink as Christmas colors.

"Harry, get up! Presents!" Harry barely had time to register who was speaking before he found himself falling off the bed and on to the floor with a startled yelp. Fixing a glare at the Malfoy whose fault that was through the mattress of the bed, he muttered, "You have a king size bed, Draco. Was that really necessary?" Draco didn't respond, as he was perched at the end of the bed, a delighted smile on his face. Wait a smile? Harry blinked. Yes, Draco Malfoy was smiling, almost gleefully, as he shifted through a mountain of presents. Harry watched him methodically tossing the topmost presents back towards the head of the bed. "Any reason why you're doing that?" Harry asked, crawling back on the bed, barely ducking what looked like a wrapped book. "Relatives and friends. Father always puts his presents under all this junk." Harry looked in shock at Draco as the Malfoy surfaced from underneath the pile of bows and expensive wrapping paper with three presents wrapped in plain black paper with the name "Draco Malfoy" written in white calligraphy on them. "You're kidding me" Harry muttered, looking back and forth from the pile of presents that Draco had virtually disregarded to the three simple looking presents he held. Here he was, with more presents than Dudley had gotten for the last three birthdays and Christmases combined and all he cared about were those three.

"They don't really put any thought into it anyway, Harry. So those presents don't really count" Draco explained as he climbed out of bed and made his way towards the nearest chair. "Crabbe and Goyle always send their presents by mail, so I don't expect those for another hour yet." So Draco only cared about five presents? Startling. Harry found himself respecting Draco somewhat for that. But as Draco began to lightly remove the paper from the first of the three presents that Lucius had gotten him, Harry's eyes found the present he had gotten for Draco in the sea of presents. "You might want to open this one too" Harry spoke, picking up the present and placing it on the floor near the chair, before crossing into his own room (noting that it was snowing out today) and looking at the pile on his own bed. Much smaller than Draco's, but everyone seemed to be accounted for and it seemed bigger than usual. Oh well, he'd find out soon enough. So starting from the top, Harry began unwrapping. Fred and George had sent him a box full of "surprises" from their shop (latest inventions, they'd said in a note). Mrs. Weasley had sent a tin of fudge and a sweater as she had for the last five years running, and Harry gleefully started in on the fudge as he turned to his other presents. Hermione had sent him a book (The Many Uses of Parseltongue in History and Today by Snora Serpentis), and Ron had packed a chocolate frog and a Chudley Cannons poster for his present. There were also gifts from Remus, Tonks, and a few of his dorm mates, along with a small present (candy of some sort with a card, mostly) from every member of the DA Then when Harry removed Ginny's present to see what was underneath that, he had to blink twice to be sure he was seeing what he thought he saw. A present that was wrapped in the exact same manner as Draco's three important presents had been wrapped, except that it was his name written in white and not Draco's. Intrigued, Harry began to open the paper. The present hadn't looked big enough to hold the two books that he had been given and the small box that was seated on top of them, but somehow they'd fit into wrapping that made them look about as big as a muggle laptop. Harry looked at the titles of the two books (Defense Using the Dark Arts by Cursea Vice, and Quidditch: How Aurors Affect It by Samantha Snitcherson) before turning to the box. When he opened it, he blinked in surprise as a small golden object bounced out of the box and began to wiz around the room. Underneath the ball with the golden wings was a note on how to use the practice snitch. Grinning, Harry watched it return to its box, and went to see how Draco was doing. Walking back into Draco's room, Harry was no longer surprised at how small Lucius' gift had been before he had opened it, when he saw how much stuff Draco had gotten out of those three gifts. All of the chairs in the room were covered in clothing and Draco still hadn't opened one of the gifts. "Did you ask for a mall or something?" Harry looked pointedly at the clothes. Draco looked at Harry quizzically, as if Harry had just made up the word "mall". "No, Harry, I asked for a new wardrobe. I do it every year." And he gets it every year? Harry shook his head. He kept forgetting how much difference there was between Draco and himself in terms of wealth. An excited squeal from Draco brought Harry's attention back to the younger Malfoy as he watched Draco open part of the last present from his father. Without offering a word of explanation, Draco bounded to one of the ebony doors in the back of the room (one which Harry hadn't seen him use yet) and disappeared down the stairs that this particular door led to. Harry followed at a slightly slower pace. The stairway opened up into a large room with stone walls and floors, and long ebony tables. Harry blinked. A potions laboratory? Someone, somewhere, had to be kidding him. But no, there was Draco, setting up a bunch of equipment, looking now and then at a book that lay on the table next to him for reference as to where a particular piece went. "So what is it?" Harry asked as Draco stepped back to look at the contraption of glass and pewter. "It's a distiller." "A what?"

"A distiller. You know how when you use things taken directly from nature, sometimes there are anomalies in the substances because they were alive at one point" "I'll pretend I know what you're talking about. Go on." "Well, you put whatever solution it is you want to purify in here." Draco pointed to one end of the equipment. "Then you heat it. It boils and the vapor goes through here-" Draco's finger traced the glass piping, "-leaving behind any anomalies; and as it does it cools and condenses over here, back into solution." "Okay but why haven't we used this in class then?" "Well, all the ingredients you get from a shop are already purified, but you don't have any controls on it." "Controls?" "You don't know how it was done. It just leaves more margin for error." Harry nodded. "Right." "You really don't like Potions, do you?" "Not my favorite class." "That was apparent."

It wasn't until later in the day that Draco remembered that the present Harry said he might want to open was still sitting near the chair, unopened. Draco looked at it curiously. Why would Harry say that? Maybe it was a present from Harry? Draco remembered his own present for Harry was still sitting at the bottom of his trunk. For some reason he had held back giving it to the House Elves to give to Harry. He wondered if the present was really appropriate for his current standings with Harry. His fingers began working, almost as if by their own will, on the wrapping paper. The silver paper came off easily and Draco was faced with a small white box. Opening the lid his eyes widened. Carefully he lifted the chimes from the box and just held them for a moment. He'd been looking at these for years, ever since his first visit to Hogsmead with the other students. Of course, in public he had a reputation to maintain so he couldn't just go in and buy them unless he was going to give them to someone else, and that wouldn't be the case. In the box underneath the charms was a small note. Written in somewhat messy but legible writing were the words: Happy Christmas Draco, From Harry How did Harry know? Somehow Harry had figured out that he wanted the chimes. No one else had figured it out in how many years yet somehow Harry had. Harry had put that much thought into it Suddenly his own gift to Harry didn't seem so inappropriate any more.

Harry looked up from his Transfiguration essay as Draco walked into his room. In his hands the boy held a thin present wrapped in dark red paper, almost a wine color. "Happy Christmas Harry" Draco murmured, holding the gift out to Harry. When Harry took it the other boy left the room and left Harry blinking in astonishment at the gift. Draco had actually gotten him one? Harry put down his quill and all thoughts about the metamorphosis of Reptilian Snagweed seemed to fly out of his head. Carefully he began to undo the paper and revealed a mirror? He looked at it for a minute but saw no reflection in the mirror. Hmm not a normal mirror then. What was Draco-

The surface of the mirror seemed to swirl and Harry found himself looking at Draco. He could see Draco shifting all the presents that he hadn't bothered opening off his bed and telling a House Elf something pertaining to them. He looked as if his mind wasn't really on what he was doing. So this was Draco right now? Harry thought for a moment. Did this mirror show him anyone? Harry noticed that as soon as he stopped thinking about Draco the mirror's image faded. How about Ron? The image swirled and he could see Ron sitting in the middle of his family while they were opening presents. Hermione? She was eating lunch, the remains of presents still strewn around the table and a book (Harry assumed it was new) open to the thirtieth page. Harry frowned a bit as the image faded. It was cool and all, but what was the point really? He doubted Draco would have given him a gift on a whim so there must be a point to it other than the obvious one. The mirror showed people well, maybe the person didn't have to be alive Unbidden, thoughts of Sirius and his parents flowed into his head. The image swirled and there they were smiling up at him. They weren't moving, like the other pictures had, but they were still there, standing against a grey background. Harry heard a small yelp before Draco appeared through the wall looking slightly shaken. "Harry, the bond's going crazy Are you okay?" Harry smiled as the image faded and he looked up at Draco. "Thank you Draco." Draco shifted minutely, as if slightly embarrassed. "You're welcome and thanks for the chimes too" There was a small pop and the same House Elf from the day before appeared in the room. Its large eyes sought out Harry. "Master Lucius is wondering if Master Potter is wanting to invite any relatives for dinner tonight, sir," it squeaked out unsurely. Harry blanched. The Dursleys here? Death Eater or not, if the Dursleys actually came to Malfoy Manor, Lucius Malfoy would kill them before they got to the main course. And though it would be rather funny to see their expressions at his current living arrangements no it would be better not to invite them.

Draco and Harry walked into the dining room (the large one) that night to see that Lucius was not the only one waiting for them. Harry almost ran into Draco as he stopped dead right inside the door. "Hello Mother." Harry heard him say. Mother? Harry looked around Draco's shoulder to see that Narcissa Malfoy was standing a little to the right of Lucius. "Hello Draco dear." Her voice was sickly sweet. As Draco moved into the room, she saw Harry behind him. "And Harry too. I didn't know you were staying here." A quick look at Lucius which Harry did not like and she continued. "If I'd known I would have bought you a present too." "Please don't worry about it, Mrs. Malfoy." Harry managed to get out, noticing the tension that seemed to be radiating off the two male Malfoys. Something was wrong here and Harry wasn't quite sure what yet. Dinner was not the most pleasant of affairs, even though an outsider would not have known were one to be watching somehow. Harry was surprised at how well all of the Malfoy family could act, as it was obvious that Narcissa's visit was not planned or wanted by the other two. Yet, they were all painstakingly cordial to each other. He was very happy when dinner was over and Draco asked if Harry and he could be excused from the table. "Oh of course dears, run along" Narcissa said with one of her smiles that never seemed to reach her eyes.

Draco seemed to ignore Harry after they left the room and Harry could tell this was not a good night for questions. If he wanted some answers he would have to find out himself. Draco had long since disappeared towards their rooms and Harry heard the scraping of chairs against the floor that meant the other two Malfoys were getting up from the table. No time to get the invisibility cloak now. Harry slipped into one of the alcoves far from the doorway and gave silent thanks to whichever Malfoy it was that liked dark corners and had made this particular hall with many of them.

Lucius and Narcissa entered the hall a few minutes later, neither saying a word or looking as pleasant as they had a few minutes ago when he and Draco had been in the room. Lucius led the way down the hall towards the door that Draco had said was his study. Only when both of them had entered the room, did Harry move from his hiding place to one closer to the open doorway, behind a large statue of a sphinx. Harry jumped slightly as a voice whispered in his ear: "It seems we had the same idea." Harry nodded, looking at Draco who had appeared at his side. "Can we hear what's going on in his study from here?" "As long as they keep the door open." Draco settled in the alcove next to Harry behind the sphinx statue and they both waited for one of the elder Malfoys to speak. "Lucius, I didn't just come here to see Draco." "I gathered as much." "Now I understand that there were certain restrictions placed upon you that you could not break if you were to gain the trust of certain individuals. Because of this, our Lord has decided to wait before deciding how to deal with you." "How to deal with me?" Lucius' tone was harsh, like that of a glacier. "Yes. I told him that a true Malfoy such as yourself would not dream of abandoning our Crusade to reinstate the true leadership of the Wizarding World." "You did?" Lucius had turned to look into the fire, his face unreadable and icy. "Of course. It took me a while to understand your plan but-" "You understand nothing if what you are saying is what you truly think." If Lucius was a glacier, then Narcissa was liquid steel. "What are you saying? That you have truly abandoned our Lord?" "That is exactly what I am saying." "He will kill you Lucius." "Consider, for the moment, my options, Narcissa. Say, just say, that I did go back to Voldemort. Do you really think I would survive the amount of Cruciatus that I would have to endure? Self esteem only goes so far, Narcissa, and even I can understand my own weaknesses. At least this way I am allying myself with a side that will cause the Malfoy name to be preserved." "The Malfoy name. And I suppose that's all you care about! It's always been the only thing you cared about! The only similarity between your father and you caring about a name! At least he chose to honor his pure blood and not lower himself to the level of half-bloods, mudbloods, and their sympathizers."

"Do not bring my father into this." "He had such a vision for you Lucius. Had you followed it, you would have been great, honored by our Lord as your father was." "Narcissa" Lucius' tone was deadly and Harry heard Draco's breathing shake as he inhaled. "I will only warn you once. Do not-" "You will say nothing, Lucius. For years I have kept silent, as a good wife should, and let you handle our affairs. And now I will speak my piece!" Something shifted in her demeanor and her tone became sickly sweet. "But you won't listen to me. You only care about the Malfoy name. Not your family, not its standing, not that we could impact the worldjust a name." Something in Lucius snapped, and there was a sound of ripping cloth from the study. Harry and Draco looked at each other as if sharing the knowledge of what had just happened. Lucius' wings had appeared. Narcissa had gone too far now. And Lucius' tone echoed that knowledge. "If you understand that the holder of the Malfoy name is my son, then yes, that is all I care about!" he shouted and Narcissa paled, the last to realize that she had moved too far in this argument. "And it is now clear exactly how much he means to you." And, as if he had waited too long to say these words, he continued. "As of this moment, consider our bonding annulled!" Lucius' glare intensified on Narcissa's pale face. "In forty-eight hours you will find all of your belongings removed from every Malfoy estate and property. You will find that your dowry will be fully reimbursed in your former Gringotts account under your maiden name." His eyes seemed to take on a glow akin to that of a man finally freed from a life of prison. "Now get out of my house and if you ever come near my son again our next meeting will not be one you will enjoy." Narcissa huffed, although she did nothing to retaliate against Lucius' words. She couldn't really, not with the black steel wings constantly reminding her of how angry Lucius actually was. She marched out of his study and slammed the door behind her. Harry and Draco pushed farther into the alcove as she passed by and she didn't see them. Neither did Lucius as he threw open the door as she reached the top of the entrance staircase. "And you had better be thankful I'm not a Death Eater any longer Narcissa, or I would be following that up with a well-placed Killing Curse!" Narcissa paled another few shades and left the house at an even faster pace than the one she had been taking before. Lucius calmly closed the door to his study as she left the Manor. "Was that really necessary?" Harry breathed, trying to see if Draco had been hurt by watching his parents fight. "Every word, Harry, every word. I don't think I've ever been prouder to be a Malfoy than at this moment." Harry smiled at Draco as, even in the dim light, he could see the glow almost radiating from those soft, silver eyes.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Vacation's Conversations Harry blinked as a muffled "thud" pounded through the walls of Malfoy Manor. A few minutes later a muffled "crash" followed. This time Harry put down his quill from the letter he had been writing to Ron and waited a minute. When he heard the muffled explosion he got up from where he'd been lounging on the bed and made his way into Draco's room. Draco was nowhere to be seen so Harry continued walking down the staircase into Draco's potions laboratory. Draco had spent the large part of three days in there, so Harry was not surprised in the least to find him there working on something. Despite the loud "smash" that shot through the room as Harry opened the door, Draco looked as if this was quite normal. "I suppose you wanted those small explosions to happen" Harry commented as he closed the door behind him. Draco nodded absently as he dropped something green into the bubbling cauldron, a silver one Harry noted. Harry opted to sit on one of the many stools in the room as Draco continued working on whatever it was he was working on. Harry had learned that when Draco was working on a potion that was either particularly intricate (never "difficult" because that would imply that there was a chance for failure) or one that reacted to certain steps particularly quickly he would soon forget that there was anyone else in the room. And when Draco didn't think there was anyone in the room, all his facades fell down to reveal a boy that Harry thought was absolutely beautiful. Had Harry been a poet he could have easily written an ode to the way the light of curiosity seemed to sparkle in Draco's eyes, making them seem like molten silver. If Harry had been the best artist in the world, he was sure that he could not have done Draco justice in the art media, nor the way the candle-lit room provided a glow that seemed to dance around his face and fingers as he stirred whatever he was brewing or chopped something with a fine silver knife. And Harry knew that these kinds of thoughts about Draco Malfoy would have scared him out of his skin back during the first week of school, but he realized he didn't mind them now. Draco realized Harry was watching him again. Harry had been doing that off and on for the past few days. It was obvious to Draco that Harry was attracted to him at least but Draco wasn't sure how far that attraction went. It was rather frustrating. At times like this, when Harry's eyes stared at him in an almost unblinking fashion, as if afraid to miss one detail, or when he would awake in the morning to find Harry doing the same type of thing as he had slept, Draco was sure that Harry's emotions ran deeper. But when Harry knew that Draco was well alert to his surroundings Harry was just amicable. It was rather frustrating because Draco didn't know how to respond to Harry when he flip-flopped through emotions like this. Like right now for example. If he stretched just a bit yes, he could see Harry gulp ever so slightly. That didn't happen normally. It was almost like Harry couldn't make up his mind. Draco didn't really blame Harry for this, because he was in the same boat really. Oh, he knew Harry was attractive, in a very different way than Draco himself was attractive, but he didn't really know quite where his feelings for Harry lay. There was also the small fact that neither Harry nor he himself had really broached yet: the fact that whether they fell in love with each other eventually or not, they were stuck together for life. There would be no way they could hide this for all that long after they graduated Hogwarts Merlin, Draco didn't even know how they were going to hide it through the summer when his friends were going to find it rather strange that Harry Potter just happened to be at the Manor they hadn't yet discussed how they should let the public view their relationship of sorts. Draco's eyes quickly fell to the clock at his right. If there was another explosion in two secondsA loud smash rose from the swirling contents of the cauldron. Yes, it was done. Draco fought back the urge to crow with glee as he looked at the swirling purple contents of his cauldron. He'd found this little thing in the back of one of his father's potions books and thought it would be fun to try it sometime. "So what's the point of this one?" Harry's voice questioned from over his shoulder. Draco was hit with a truly Slytherin idea and smirked over his shoulder at Harry. "Watch."

And Draco tipped the entire contents of the potion onto the table. Harry yelped as the potion began to spread rapidly. Draco pulled off his shirt and grabbed Harry around the waist, wings spreading outward from his back as he did so. His wings had grown enough to somewhat support him in flight so he was able to lift Harry off the floor and hold them both aloft as the potion continued its coursethrough the room. The swirling purple substance spread throughout the room, crawling across anything it touched, until the entire room was a swirling purple color. Harry's breath had caught in his throat when Draco had picked him up off the floor, and as Draco held him he tried to make his heart slow its frantic beating. Draco fought down a smirk. He could feel Harry's heart pounding in his chest, and knew that wasn't only because he was surprised at what the potion did. "Rather pretty" Draco breathed in Harry's ear. Harry tried to ignore the sensation of hot breath on his neck as he nodded. "Is it permanent?" That sounded a little raspier than Harry had wanted it too. "No, it goes away in a few hours" Draco replied, touching back down on the floor of the room now that the potion had settled.

Harry was surprised the next day when Draco appeared through the wall that separated their rooms. "I'm going swimming. Want to come?" Harry looked at Draco incredulously. "In the snow?" "Yes, in the snow" Draco repeated as if he was talking to a little child. "Isn't the water frozen?" Draco smirked at Harry's confusion. "Just put your swimsuit on under your clothes and come on." "I don't have a swimsuit," Harry pointed out truthfully. "The House Elves will get you one" Draco replied as he disappeared back through the wall.

The House Elves had done as Draco said, and Harry found himself following Draco through the foot-deep snow towards where Draco had pointed out a lake. As they neared the lake Harry had to stop for a moment when he realized that it wasn't frozen, in fact, there was no ice to be seen anywhere in the lake, yet the snow reached right up to its banks. As they neared the lake, the temperature seemed to rise yet the snow remained on the ground and didn't melt. Warm snow It was the strangest thing Harry had seen in a long time, and he said so. "It's a long range warming charm" Draco replied "The House Elves are really good at it." When they reached the bank of the lake, Draco calmly stripped off his outer clothing and plunged into the waters. Harry followed at a slightly slower pace. "You act like you've never been in the water before" Draco commented as he surfaced a few feet away. "I can count on one hand the times that I've gone swimming." Draco blinked. "But you do know how to swim, right?" Harry gave Draco a lopsided smile. "Yes, Draco, I do know how to swim."

Harry meandered into one of the libraries (the red one) and paused in the doorway to see Draco lounging on one of the couches. A book was spread across his lap but he wasn't reading. He was staring off at one of the bookshelves, clearly not really seeing it. He didn't move as Harry walked into the room and sat down on one of the chairs. "What are you thinking about?" Harry asked softly. Draco started and turned slightly to look at Harry. "What?" "What are you thinking about?" Harry repeated. "Oh." Draco turned to look at the bookshelves again. "We're going back to school tomorrow." Harry waited for Draco to continue. "I'm wondering how long we can hide this from everyone." "We've done pretty well so far." "That's fine for during school, but what happens when the year ends? Or, if we somehow manage to keep it a secret that long, what about after we finish school. Someone is going to find out, and the longer we keep it a secret, the more fuss people are going to make and the wilder the stories are going to be." Harry frowned. Draco did have a point. The more they hid it, the more scandalous it became in the eyes of anyone looking in. "Well, the rest of the school knows about you being a Veriae" Harry pointed out. "Do they? The only book in the entire school about Veriae is in the Restricted Section. How many people in Hogwarts do you think have read it?" "You, me, and Hermione." "Exactly. They know the name but not the meaning. All they are going to see, or focus on, is that two boys who have disliked each other immensely over the years they've known each other are living together. If that doesn't spell scandal" "Well, the other sixth year Gryffindor boys all know that I'm not in Gryffindor tower anymore" Harry pointed out. "But do they know why?" "No." Harry idly wondered what conclusion they came up with on their own to explain his absence. "Why are you worried about it anyway?" "I don't know. Maybe I'd like to be prepared for when it happens." Harry was silent for a moment. "What kind of books do you like to read?" "Huh?" "Well," Harry began, "Roommates are supposed to know things about each other, right? So, if we are going to be prepared for when people find out about our arrangement, then we should know each other." "Historical novel. You?" "I don't like reading much but I'd say fiction." "Favorite subject?"

"Defense Against the Dark Arts when there's a good teacher. You?" "Potions." "Should have known that. Least favorite subject?" "Ancient Runes. You?" "Potions." Draco snorted. "Right. Favorite color?" "Red." "Silver." "Least favorite color?" Draco smirked. "Neon pink." Harry wince. "Same." "What do you want to do when you get out of school?" "Become an auror, I guess." "Get a mastery in Potions." "No wonder." Harry paused for a few moments. "It's your turn to ask a question Harry." Draco reminded him. "I'm thinking If you had to be stuck on a deserted island with either Trelawney or Filch, which would you pick?" "What? Neither, I'd throw them to the sharks. Where did you come up with that?" "I dunno. It was random." Draco thought for a moment. "First crush?" "Cho Chang" Harry replied immediately and sullenly. An eyebrow rose. "I won't ask. King Arthur." "Huh?" "There was this picture of him in a book I read a long time ago I always thought Guinevere was so stupid to leave him for Lancelot."

Harry boarded the train to Hogwarts and was pulled through the train towards the group of "Gryffindor" compartments by his enthusiastic friends. "How was your vacation, Harry?" Hermione asked as she closed the door. "It was fine." "Malfoy didn't do anything? Because if he did, I'll pound him-"

"Really Ron, it was fine." "Hi Harry." Harry smiled up at Ginny and Dean who walked into the compartment and were shortly followed by Neville and Seamus.

Pansy looked a little annoyed when she walked into one of the decidedly Slytherin compartments to see Draco seated quite comfortably between Crabbe and Goyle. Blaise, who was already seated across from them laughed at the look on her face, causing Draco to look up. He shot her something between a smile and a smirk. "Maybe next time, Pansy dear."

Chapter Twenty-Three: A Decidedly Good Friday "First day back in school after vacation but do you think the teachers could go a little easier on us?" Ron looked forlornly at the stack of homework that he had piled in front of him on a table. "You'll find that if you actually get started on it, Ron, the work goes much faster than you think it will" Hermione told him from where she was already working on her Arithmancy homework. Ron looked at Hermione's pile of homework, which was about half the size of his because she had already been working on it for an hour. In a last resort effort, Ron turned to Harry, who also had a rather large homework pile in front of him. "Harry?" Harry was too absorbed in his Potions text to register the question. Let's see R: Radish, Ragweed, Ragwort, Raspberry, Red-root, Reed (common), Reed (giant), Rose, Rosemary, Rocket (Eruca sativa), Rue, Rush (common), Rutabagas "Harry!" Harry looked up. "What?" "Ron was trying to find a way out of starting his homework" Hermione stated, shooting Ron an annoyed look. Harry grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, Ron. I have a Potions essay due first thing tomorrow." "But you don't have Potions until the afternoon." "I know." In the silence that followed, Hermione looked up from her calculations. "Harry, are you sure Malfoy won't mind us being in here?" Harry shrugged. "It's not like we're sitting on his bed, Hermione." Ron didn't hold back the shudder that idea sent through him. "Like we'd want to be." Harry returned to the index. He'd run out of R words. But "Rosa Rubiginosa", the ingredient he was supposed to be doing this essay on the uses of, was nowhere to be found. "Where's the Rosa Rubiginosa?" he asked the book exasperatedly. "Try looking under the common name and not the scientific name, Harry" Draco told him as he entered through the portrait. "It's most likely listed under Eglantine." "Thanks." Harry started going back to the E's. "Sure." And Draco disappeared into the bedroom. Ron shared a knowing look with Hermione as the blond left the room. "You two seem to beclose, Harry." Ron stumbled slightly over the words. Harry thought for a moment. "I guess you could say that. We're not really close friends we're just not enemies any more." "I think that's a good thing, Harry" Hermione told him. Ron looked almost betrayed. "What? Why?"

"Well, before this whole thing happened, if we were in the same room as he, Malfoy wouldn't ever have missed the chance to start something. But just now he completely ignored us. I don't know about you, Ron, but I'd rather be ignored than be yelling insults at each other." The look on Ron's face clearly indicated that he'd rather be yelling insults, but he kept quiet. Hermione did have a logical point, even if his family's feud with the Malfoys might state otherwise. Ignoring each other was a lot less troublesome than constantly fighting. Talking about his friendship with Draco made Harry remember the conversation Draco had started the night before they came back. "Hey, Ron" Harry started. "What do the other Gryffindors think about me not staying in the tower anymore?" "Well, it's not a big thing anymore" Ron said. "The first couple of weeks Neville and I had to cover for you a bit." "You told Neville?" "Not the whole truth. I told him that it was a safety thing. He assumed it was about You-Know-oopsVoldemort. And then he and I told the other boys in the dorm that it was a spacing thing you know, try not to cramp everyone in. I figured that they might believe it more if it came from people other than just me." "No one else really noticed you were gone from the Tower," Hermione explained, "Because you still eat with us and attend the same classes and still sit in the Common Room. It's not like you're not in Gryffindor anymore--they would have noticed that--you just have different sleeping arrangements."

Draco seemed lost in thought during dinner that night, pondering a thought that had came into his head earlier that day. It was rather strange, but after a week of having Harry around almost constantly, from sun up to sun down, he almost well missed having Harry around. And there was a Hogsmead day this weekend. Adding these two facts together, his mind had come up with the strangest idea during History of Magic. Now, Draco was used to the strange places that one's mind wandered during History of Magic, but this was a different thing all together. Why not ask Harry to go to Hogsmead with him? Or at least, to meet him at Hogsmead for a little while. Maybe get a drink or something. There were private rooms at the Three Broomsticks, so no one need know that they were meeting each other. And it wasn't like he was asking Harry on a date or anythingOr was he? That was the problem. Because if he wasn't then there was no issue, it was just two people getting together for a few Butterbeers and company. But if he was, then that would mean something entirely different something that Draco wasn't quite ready for. He would admit that Harry wasn't the bane of his existence anymore. He would admit that he could enjoy Harry's company. Heck, he could even admit that he liked Harry but he was not ready to actually do anything about it. And so that was the dilemma, wasn't it? Either say nothing and go about whatever else he would be doing this Saturday. Or, say something and deal with what it might bring. Well he still had a few days to think about it.

The number of days dwindled as Monday turned into Tuesday and Wednesday followed. Yet Draco was no closer to figuring out his dilemma than he had been on Monday. He had even considered writing to his father about it, it had gotten that annoying, but writing it down would somehow make the issue more real. If he never wrote it down and the weekend came and went, then he could just concentrate on forgetting that the thought ever occurred. But if he wrote it down it became more concrete than a simple thought that occurred during History of Magic. So instead he tried to imagine what his father would say. If really wasn't hard at all. His father would give him this look and tell him that he was a Malfoy and Malfoys did what they wanted to and that he should get rid of these insecure feelings. If he wanted Harry's company he should request it and that was that. It shouldn't matter what it might look like if someone actually saw them. Really, think rationally Draco. It all comes down to a matter of pride. Some Gryffindors are allowed to hang around him and yet you, a Malfoy, cannot? You have as much right to be around him now as they do, considering that you no longer hate each other and could even be considered friends. Morgan, you are going to spend the rest of your life around him so what is making you inferior to them?

Gryffindors may have their courage when they need it, but for a Slytherin it is a matter of pride.

Harry had just finished all his homework for Friday. Of course, he couldn't really use any of his free time at this time of night, but it was still free time and that was a good thing. Yet he felt edgy somehow. Content that there was no more homework, but edgy all the same almost as if there was something he should be concerned about. And he wasn't concerned about anything right now. So why was he feeling this tense? The shower turned off and in the change of noise Harry's mind shifted to Draco. The blond left the bathroom silently, the look on his face almost contemplative. That, Harry's mind crowed triumphantly, is where those feelings came from! But what would Draco have to be nervous about? "Hey, Draco?" Draco looked over at him from his side of the room. "Are you okay?" "Yes." Well, that didn't get me anywhere, Harry thought. "Harry." "What?" Harry looked over at Draco. The blond wasn't looking at him. "You know this is a Hogsmeade weekend right?" "It is?" Harry blinked. Strange that Ron or Hermione hadn't said anything about it. "Yes." Silence prevailed for a few minutes before Draco calmly asked. "Would you like to do something with me on Saturday?" Harry blinked, surprised. Where had that come from? Not that he was going to turn down an offer like that from Draco. "Sure. Where do you want to meet?" "There are some private rooms at the Three Broomsticks. I'll get one of them." "Sounds great."

Harry eagerly dug into his eggs. It was a Friday morning, tomorrow was Saturday, and that Saturday was a Hogsmeade day. Add to that the well, anticipation of Draco's proposition the day before, and he was in a rather good mood this Friday morning, even with upcoming classes. The other Gryffindors were in good spirits as well. Ron was working excitedly at something (Harry would have to ask him what was going on later), and Hermione was deeply ensconced in a new book about the psychological mindset of wizards in the 16th century. Harry had scheduled a DA meeting for next Thursday, so the other DA members were already looking forward to it. And there was leftover raspberry pie from last night's desert for breakfast, a common favourite of every House in Hogwarts, so this was a decidedly good Friday. Over on the Slytherin side of the Great Hall, Draco was also feeling the Friday spirit (even though raspberry pie was not his favourite form of pie), but he wasn't grinning like an idiot as the Gryffindors on the other side of the room were. A smile--no smirk--did appear briefly on his features when a familiar messenger bird dropped a letter next to his plate. His name was written in plain black ink on the envelope in a script he knew well. Quickly, though not outwardly eagerly, he opened the letter.

His father's note was short something about telling his mother about the Christmas holidays? Draco quickly stood from the table and left, ducking into the nearest alcove in the hallway. He waited as the spell that hid the true letter disappeared as it sensed he was alone. A newspaper clipping fell out of the letter. Draco, I thought you would have certain interest in this. Fudge has decided to remove this article and associated pictures from the Prophet and will not allow it to be printed. You may want to share it with Potter as well. Take care, Lucius Malfoy Draco's eyes fell to the article's words. Attack on Muggle London? By Rita Skeeter Three days after the Christmas holiday a brutal attack on a muggle hotel shook the heart of Muggle London. The building itself collapsed in an explosion, killing 134 muggles and wounding 113 more. The muggles believe it to be the work of terrorists, but this reporter wonders otherwise. Several of the recovered bodies seemed to have died before the collapse of the building, and there is evidence that the wounds inflicted upon them were caused by magical means. The Ministry of Magic refuses to confirm or refute this for the public and that causes this reporter to wonder if the Ministry is trying to cover up a darker purpose for this slaughter of innocent life. This reporter remembers all too well the Ministry's continued secrecy around the resurgence of You-Know-Who one year ago, when it is clear in hindsight that they were simply not willing to see where known incidents indicated. This reporter can only guess what the Ministry is hiding now by not revealing if this truly was a slaughter of muggles by dark wizards and can only hope that the Ministry will choose to reveal the needed information to the wizarding public For pictures turn to page three. Draco quickly wrote a reply to his father and headed for the owlery. From there he would head for the dungeons. Harry would have to stop back at their rooms before going to class. He would tell him then.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble Harry finished reading through the article with a scowl. "And Fudge is hiding this?" "Yes." "Why that-" Harry couldn't even begin to think of a word that described what he felt towards the current Minister of Magic. Draco raised an eyebrow. "So what are we going to do about it?" Harry looked at Draco in surprise. "What?" Draco sighed as if he were trying to explain something to a little child. "What are you, or rather we, going to do about this?" "I don't know." Harry muttered. Bloody hell, it was too early in the morning to be dealing with Fudge's stupidity. Draco's smile was predatory. "We get it printed, Harry. That is what we do." Harry blinked. "How would we do that?" "That's your job. Get it printed somewhere, anywhere. Like you did last year." Draco's plan began to dawn on Harry. "Can your dad keep getting articles that Fudge doesn't want printed?" "And even the ones he does. Once this goes public, by any means, Fudge will have to let the Prophet print it. It would be bad for business and his reputation if he didn't." "You mean the Prophet would print it anyway because they didn't want to loose customers, and then it would become clear that Fudge had stopped them from printing it." "Exactly." "Then that's what we'll do." "I'll write father about our plan after class." Harry looked to a clock. "Bloody hell, Divination is in five minutes! I gotta run." Harry grabbed his stuff and ran out of the room, ignoring the protests from Medusa about being slammed open and shut. "You'll have to forgive him, Medusa dear. This time it wasn't his fault." Draco drawled as he left a few minutes later.

Ron had saved Harry a seat next to him and was visibly relieved when Harry ran through the door a minute before class. "What took you so long?" he whispered. "I'll tell you and Hermione later," Harry whispered back. Ron nodded and turned towards the front of the room as their teacher entered in her usual fashion. "Think we'll actually learn something today?" "I wouldn't bet on it," Harry muttered back.

Harry found Luna sitting in a corner of the library that afternoon. She seemed to be reading so he waited until she looked up at him before he spoke. "Hi Luna." "Hello Harry." She gave him a small smile. "Would you like to assist me in divining the future of the Muglooof clan by reading the words in this book backwards?" Harry didn't know what a Muglooof was. "Not at the moment, Luna. I have to talk to you about getting an article published in your dad's magazine." "What kind of article?" Harry leaned forward to whisper, "One that the Minister of Magic doesn't want printed in the Prophet." Luna's smile broadened. "I'll send it to him."

When Harry returned from the library, he found Hermione working on some assignment alone in the Gryffindor common room. "Hey, Hermione. Where's Ron?" he asked, sitting down on the couch next to her. "He's off playing chess with Dean I think." Hermione put down her quill and turned to look at Harry. "He's avoiding having this conversation with you." "What?" "He asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him this weekend and I said yes. But he didn't want to tell you because he didn't want to ostracize you." "Ostracize?" "Leave you out." "Oh, well that's no problem." Harry said cheerfully. "I'm doing something with-" he looked around quickly to see that no one could hear "Draco this weekend anyway." "He asked you out?" Hermione looked surprised and pleased. "I don't know." "How do you not know?" We're doing something, but whether it's a date or not is still up for grabs." "Oh." Hermione seemed to think about that for a minute. "Well then I wish you luck on whatever it turns out to be." Harry grinned. "Hopefully I won't need it, right?"

That Saturday dawned warmer than it had all winter and glaringly bright. The feeling was almost infectious as students throughout Hogwarts dressed warmly for a day roaming the streets of Hogsmeade. Harry, guessing that Ron would be bouncing off the walls in nervous tension, left for Gryffindor Tower before breakfast, leaving Draco in the shower. Harry was right, Ron was a mess. The other boys had long since stopped trying to calm Ron down. The redhead practically attacked Harry when he came into the dorm.

"Harry! What am I going to do! Or wear! And what if I act like a jerk and-" Harry shared a suffering look with the other boys who were very glad not to be in Harry's shoes right now.

Draco was thinking much along the same lines as Ron, but in a more dignified manner. And the only one around to hear his mutterings was a mirror. She had watched unimpressed as Draco had taken most, if not all, of the clothes out of his closet and strewn them around the room. And then watched as he proceeded to pace between the piles that had formed, discarding item after item for being "not good enough". "Why don't you close your eyes, pick a shirt, and then find trousers to match?" The mirror asked irritated. Draco fixed her with a glare that translated to "what could a mirror know?". "Hun, I've been here for years. I've been in every dorm possible and I've seen this mess over and over. Believe me, everyone eventually gets to that point. So why don't you save yourself a whole lot of trouble, pacing, and wearing yourself out in worry?" Draco didn't comment, but sneered at the mirror and then picked up the nearest shirt. Breakfast was already underway when Draco was finally pleased with how he looked and donned the traditional Slytherin robes over his outfit. Perfect. "You look lovely darling. Now wasn't that easier?" The mirror asked. Draco shot another glare at the mirror and left, muttering about reflective glass that knew too much.

Hogsmeade was always bustling with people, and the left-over cold from the height of winter did nothing to deter them. So it was with a little difficulty that Harry made his way through the crowded room of Three Broomsticks to the back where the private booths were. Madam Rosmerta had smiled warmly at him and waved him towards the booth that was tucked in the most out of the way corner of them all with a, "He's waiting for you." The booths themselves were something of a stroke of genius to Harry. They were placed around the outskirts of the room with concealing, silence, notice-me-not, and privacy charms on them that were keyed to the people that wanted to use them. Regular customers wouldn't even know they were there and so it was perfect for his and Draco's whatever-it-was. Draco had already ordered two butterbeers and was lounging quite comfortably on his chair, looking out at the patrons who couldn't see him watching them. Harry noticed that he seemed interested in one table in particular as he slid into the seat opposite Draco. "I know that look," Harry observed. Draco's eyes flickered to him and then back. "What look?" "You're plotting something. What?" "I'm thinking of ways to embarrass Crabe later. He never told me he was interested in Millicent." Harry looked over and saw the two Slytherins in question chatting in a manner that was a little more than friendly. "Well, you didn't tell him about being a Veriae and me, did you?" Draco had the grace to look uncomfortable. "No, but that's different." Harry was confused. "How?"

"I don't know. But I'll think of something." Harry just laughed and took a sip of butterbeer.

Ron looked a bit worried as he turned to Hermione. "You know I haven't seen Harry anywhere today. Are you sure he was OK with this?" Hermione smiled. "Yes, Ron, I'm sure. He had someone to spend the day with." Ron's eyes widened a bit. "Really?" "Really."

A comfortable silence had fallen over the two boys, and Harry noticed that time had stretched into the late afternoon, when Draco said, "I don't hate you anymore, you know." The silence that followed was not as comfortable. "I don't hate you anymore either." Harry finally replied, thinking a bit and then adding. "In fact, I think I might like you." He looked up to find silver eyes looking at him with a strange expression. "Sometimes I'm not sure if it's me or the Veriae who likes you," Draco said slowly, "but it's becoming harder to distinguish between the two of them." Harry didn't know exactly how to respond to that, but he didn't have to as Hermione and Ron entered the pub, clearly looking for someone. "They're looking for you." Draco's always prominent smirk was back on his face. "See you back at Hogwarts then?" Harry asked. Draco nodded. "Hopefully we'll end up in my bed tonight, we've been in yours for three days straight. Harry realized how that would sound to someone who didn't know the situation they were in, and laughed.

Harry noticed that Draco was frowning on Monday morning, as the mail was delivered. He then noticed the owl that sat perched on Draco's shoulder and the letter in his hands. Draco scribbled something at the bottom of the letter and put it back in the envelope, handing it over to the owl. The owl flew up into the crowd of other owls all bearing mail and Harry was very surprised when it dropped a letter in his lap a few minutes later. Curiously Harry opened the letter, to find another article inside it. At the top of the article Draco had written: Here's another one. Harry looked up to see Draco watching him and nodded minutely. Draco smirked and turned back to what his year mates were saying. Harry quickly got out addressed the letter to Luna and placed it in his bag for Hedwig to bring to her later.

Chapter Twenty-Five: Snitches and Kisses As her last class of the day ended, Hermione caught Ron's look from across the room and nodded discreetly. Ron flashed her a smile and turned to the door. Hermione sat a few rows in front of Harry and Ron in Transfiguration, so they were closer to the door than she was. She smiled slightly when she remembered the small argument they'd had about seating in the first week of school, how she'd been adamant that they should take their own notes instead of always coming to her. After all, when they left Hogwarts, they wouldn't be able to come to her with every little problem. Secretly, Hermione hoped that they would still come to her with their problems. But they still needed to be somewhat self sufficient. And so, in their first big argument of the year, Hermione had moved her seat up three rows from theirs in Transfiguration. They'd dropped the subject, Hermione secretly thought that Ron had dropped the subject because he didn't want to upset her and that Harry hadn't really been part of that decision to begin with, and so Transfiguration was the only class in which Hermione sat far away from her two best friends. Ron was, as he had asked in their silent exchange, waiting for her near the doorway and the two of them began the walk to the Room of Requirement. "Harry went ahead" Ron said awkwardly. He'd been somewhat awkward around her ever since he'd asked her out. If they were alone for a while, he would eventually relax but in the short times that they had alone he was awkward, there was no other word for it. "That's fine. I don't mind walking with you." Hermione smiled at the redhead, who was fighting back a blush. "In fact, we could do this more often."

The two entered the Room of Requirement to find Draco and Harry sitting in what had become "Draco's Corner", talking about something in low voices. Draco's only acknowledgement of their presence in the room was to end whatever conversation he'd been having with Harry. This was the routine. Whenever Harry was with Ron or Hermione, Draco made himself nonexistent, either leaving the room or ignoring them. In fact, the only time Hermione could remember Draco talking in their presence was that one time when Harry'd been stuck on the potions ingredient and Draco had told him what to look for as he left the room. While such behavior around them could be considered insulting, Hermione understood that Draco did it so as not to start any fights with them, and thus upset Harry. Ron still muttered under his breath whenever Draco purposefully ignored them, but Hermione didn't mind being ignored. In fact, she didn't know if Draco realized why he was staying away from Harry's friends, but she knew the reasoning. Any fights that, say Draco and Ron, got into would cause Harry to choose a side. So Draco kept his distance and they allowed him to. "Ready for tonight?" Harry asked as he joined them. They had decided to work on an advanced healing spell for this DA meeting. It was rather basic, but if you concentrated on it, it would heal and protect you during a battle or duel. Little things like scrapes and cuts could be healed instantly if you got good at it. "Yes" Hermione replied. "When isn't she?" Ron asked, earning a small shove from the girl next to him. "So, Harry," Ron asked, shoving Hermione back "When are you going to tell me what made you almost late for Divination?" Hermione turned to Harry and he could see a lecture beginning to form. "I wasn't late, Hermione, I was almost late. There's a difference. And I've got a good reason for it." "You had better, Mr. Potter." Hermione scolded, sounding strangely like a certain Transfiguration teacher when she did so. And so Harry began to explain.

The DA meeting had progressed to the dueling stage, with all of the members trying out the continuous healing spell in a duel setting. Because everyone needed to try out the spell, the staged duels were shorter than normal, timed and without a true victor.

From his section of the room, Draco looked up from his Potions studying to see Harry ascending the dueling platform. Sighing slightly, Draco rested the open book on his lap and watched the duel. No one noticed this extra pair of eyes. In the first few weeks that Draco had been sitting in the corner, there had been a lot of speculation about his presence. But once the other DA members figured out that he wasn't going to do anything, they left him alone. In fact, most forgot about his presence during the meetings. Which suited him just fine. His eyes watched as the duel progressed. It was obvious that this was one of those times when Harry was in his element, but still he was wary. Harry dodged a bolt of blue light as he concentrated on keeping the healing spell inside his skin, something that was easy when you didn't have four other people to watch. Ginny sent a curse at him and he jumped to right right into another spell of red light. His head came up to see the spell, just inches from his skin, veer off course and spin, heading towards the boy who had cast it. Harry blinked. He hadn't done that His eyes drifted off to the corner of the room directly behind the boy who'd cast the spell at him. They locked onto Draco's eyes and Harry saw the source of that protection. "That's cheating," he mouthed in Draco's direction, ducking under another well placed curse. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Draco shrug, uncaring.

The next day Ron came down to breakfast looking like Christmas had just been canceled. Seeing Harry's questioning look, he shook his head, sitting down in his customary seat across from Harry. "Don't ask mate, you'll see soon enough." And Harry did see, or hear, when Hermione came down to breakfast a few minutes later. "Harry," she asked as she began to load her plate with food. "Do you know when exams are?" Exams? Harry hadn't even thought about exams. They were four months away after all. "They're four months away, Hermione, give or take a week." This was the last week in January so yeah, about four months. "Exactly! Four months! Only four months!" Hermione said this as if it was a bad thing. "That's a lot of time Hermione-" Harry started. "I missed a whole month of studying! Normally I start when there are five months left to the exams, but I missed almost all of January!" "What?" Harry mouthed, disbelieving, to Ron, who shrugged. They would never understand Hermione's logic when it came to exams.

Harry flopped down on the couch, completely bored. He had excused himself from breakfast, leaving Ron to Hermione, and found himself with an entire Saturday of potential boredom Normally he had something to do, an essay or something, but today he found himself with no school work at all hanging over his head. Draco, who was sitting in a chair across from him, didn't comment on his state of boredom, if the blond even realized that Harry was in the room. His head was bent over some parchment of homework, an open book lying on the armrest of the chair. Watching Draco calculating some angle--or something that looked like an angle whatever it was it was some form of Arithmancy--from where he stood, Harry thought of something to do with this free Saturday afternoon. He turned back into the bedroom and sought out a small box from the depths of his trunk. He

hadn't tried out the practice snitch he'd gotten at Christmas yet. Grabbing his Firebolt in the other hand, he headed back into the other room. "Draco, let's go play Quidditch." Draco looked up with a look that clearly stated that Harry was approaching insanity. "Come on. It's a beautiful day and I have no homework." He pointed at the Arithmancy (or whatever it was) with the handle of his broom. "And I bet that isn't due until Friday, knowing you. So let's go outside." Draco sat back against the chair. "And suddenly seeing two rivals playing a semi-friendly game of Quidditch will look normal to everyone else in Hogwarts?" he drawled. Harry pouted trust Draco to find some problem with his idea. "We'll find some place that they can't get to then." Draco thought for a moment. "Come on, I want to see how I do against a Veriae." Harry was almost begging. A slow smile played with Draco's lips. "All right, you're on. Meet me at the edge of the Forbidden Forest in ten minutes."

Harry followed Draco through the Forbidden Forest down a path that he had never been down before if it could truly be called a path. It seemed, though, that Draco knew exactly where he was going, and in a few minutes the two boys had reached an overgrown clearing that was only a little smaller than the Hogwarts Qudditch pitch. Sunlight splintered down through an overgrowth of leaves, turning the grass a golden green color. "Not bad" Harry murmured in appreciation. "I used this clearing when I was learning how to fly" Draco offered in explanation. "So you can fly with only your wings now?" Harry asked. "I see you didn't bring your broom." "My wings have reached their proportional size. They'll continue to grow as I do, but there won't be any more drastic changes. So, yes, they'll support my weight in flight." Both boys removed their outer school robes, draping them over a nearby tree branch. Harry then began fiddling with the practice snitch's controls. Practice snitches worked exactly like real snitches, except that one could restrict where they went. It wouldn't do, after all, to be chasing the snitch all over the Forbidden Forest itself. Harry estimated the size of the clearing, thinking there was maybe 1/8 difference between the clearing and the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. Draco met him in about the middle of the clearing, holding a practice bludger. Practice bludgers were controlled the same way as practice snitches, but you could also set how hard they would knock into you. "I set it to be reasonably annoying." Draco smirked as he let it go. The bludger arched out of sight, into the treetops, but both boys could hear it moving over their heads. "Ready?" Harry held out the snitch. "Always." Both boys let the snitch go. Harry then mounted his Firebolt and kicked off the ground as Draco leapt upward, wings extending as he did so.

Almost instantly the bludger arched down through the leafy canopy and whizzed by Draco's ear. It headed for the ground and then arched upwards to follow after Harry for a while as he tried to evade it. Harry had never considered how absolutely wonderful beaters were, as when there was no way to deflect the bludger. You had to evade it until it got bored of you and went after the other player. "This is 'mildly annoying'?" Harry yelled to Draco after the fifth time he had to evade the bludger. "Yes. We could set it worse if you want." "No, this is fine."

Hermione was buried in the library, all of her course books (and even some that weren't required for the courses she took) spread out over the table in front of her. She was writing furiously, working on some study guide, and Ron approached the table with some trepidation. She had been working since the end of breakfast and it was now late in the afternoon. Even Hermione would need a break after that. "Umm Hermione?" Ron asked quietly. Hermione made some sound of acknowledgement, her hand never stopping the furious speed that it was working at. "You know, you've been working since the morning, and it's about four right now" a nod was the only thing that let Ron know she was even listening to him. Somewhat more boldly than he felt, he continued, "And anyone would need a break after that so I wondered if you might want that walk now?" The writing slowed and stopped. Ron braced for a lecture on how work was more important, blah blah, and was surprised when Hermione put down the quill. The admonishment he'd been waiting for turned out to be a smile and a "That sounds like a good idea. Let me clean this up, and drop my books off in the dorm, and then we'll take that walk." As Hermione began to put her books back into her bag, Ron blinked in amazement. Not that he was complaining though.

Harry ducked under the bludger and twirled into the greenery above the clearing, successfully losing the annoying thing. Of course, now he couldn't see where he was because of the leaves and dove back down right into the path of a rather large tree limb. "Watch out!" He heard Draco yell and he pulled on the handle of the Firebolt in an attempt to swerve out of the way. It wasn't enough. The air seemed to shift around him, and he was pushed under the branch. He could hear Draco hiss as one of his wings scraped the underside of the branch and both boys fell towards the ground and landed in an undignified heap. They rolled, Harry losing control of his Firebolt, which skittered away a few feet before coming to a standstill. Harry braced his arms against the soft grassy ground to fight their momentum and the two stopped with Harry's arms on either side of Draco's head, their legs entangled in the soft grass, Draco's wings spread out on the grass around them, and his mouth a few inches above Draco's own. Harry froze, his eyes locking on the silver-gray pools that were looking up at him with no trace of a sneer. Just looking. The clearing, the forest itself, was silent, waiting for what would happen next. Slowly, as if fast movement would break the stillness, one hand rose to caress the nape of Harry's neck, pulling him down slightly as Draco's body rose underneath him. Their lips met in the silence of the clearing. Harry relaxed and, leaning into the kiss, turned chaste more passionate. Draco's wings, silken curtains of night, came up to wrap around Harry's body in a way so similar to his dreams. Draco's mouth began to explore his neck, trailing wet kisses down to his collar bone before returning to Harry's mouth again.

Harry's fingers trailed down the sharp aristocratic jaw line and down to the nape of Draco's neck to tangle in the soft platinum strands. His mouth followed his fingers to Draco's ear, pausing to whisper, "Is this you or the Veriae?" Silver eyes caught his own. "Both." "Good." And any other words Harry might have said were lost to Draco's mouth on his own.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Eye of Newt and Slips of Yew Harry couldn't contain a smirk rivaling Draco's patented one when the Daily Prophet belatedly began to report the attacks. By now it was obvious that they were Death Eater attacks. One of the more recent ones had been the destruction of a small muggle town and the Dark Mark had been prominent in the sky. No one could pretend now, that they were just freak accidents or technical malfunctions, at least not in the Wizarding World. Still, as the number of attacks grew, the students began to get visibly tense and edgy. Parents began writing more often, just to check that their son or daughter was safe and to say that they themselves were safe. Whispers in the halls about the attacks became louder as students wondered whose family would be the first to be attacked.

Draco woke to a strange numb sensation in his left leg and realized that he couldn't feel anything lower than his thigh. Blinking blearily in the dim light, he attempted to sit up only to find that he couldn't move much in that way either. The cause of this was the other person in the bed, who was still sleeping soundly, his arms wrapped around Draco's torso and his legs wrapped around Draco's left leg. "Potter," Draco gently pushed Harry. No reaction. "Harry." He tried again. Harry muttered something that he couldn't understand into his stomach. "Harry, I need you to unwind yourself from my left leg. I can't feel it any more." With the effort of one who was more asleep than awake, Harry rolled slightly to the left the opposite direction of what Draco had been aiming for. "Harry, having your lower body situated between my legs does not help me get out of bed faster." Draco heard a more intelligent mumble this time, "Can't believe you said that with a straight face," but ignored it. Again Harry rolled to the left and off of Draco's legs entirely. However, he was still using Draco's upper body as a pillow. "Harry-" Draco began to point this out but was cut off. "Do you have to move?" Harry mumbled and then added something unintelligible along the lines of "M'sleepy." Draco pondered this. It was still the weekend and he didn't have to go anywhere well, except down to breakfast but he could get food later. "Fine, but you owe me one." Harry's reply was again a mumble of things Draco couldn't make out, but in a few minutes he too had drifted back to sleep.

Ron and Hermione stood outside the portrait of Medusa, unsure of whether to knock or wait for either Harry or Draco to grant them entrance. "If you want to get in, you're going to have to wait a while unless you have the password" Medusa commented, inspecting her fingernails as if expecting to see dirt underneath them. "Can you tell them that we're here?" Hermione asked. When Harry hadn't shown up at breakfast, she had worriedly dragged Ron down to the dungeons to find out if their friend was OK. "No, I can't." "Why?" Ron asked.

"Because I don't have access to the bedroom," came the tart reply. "And that's where they've been all morning." "Too much information!" Ron yelped, covering his ears as if he expected the picture to launch into sordid details. In a tone akin to Hermione's, the picture spoke. "Had they been doing what you are suggesting, young man, I would have found an excuse to go visit another portrait." Ron shrugged, admitting that the portrait had a point. "So they've been sleeping this whole time?" Hermione asked. "From what I can tell, yes. Either that or lounging around doing nothing."

"Draco, do you have to use my back as a desk?" Harry muttered, feeling the quill moving lightly over his back as he spoke. "Do you continue to want to use me as a pillow? Then yes. You are the nearest flat surface, after all." "Do you have to be doing homework now?" Harry's words were spoken in a truly pitiful whine. "This isn't homework." "Then what is it?" "It's a list of all the things I'm going to have to study before exams at the end of the year." "What?" "Well, just in Potions. I couldn't care less about most of the other classes that require memorization. Ancient Runes and Arithmancy are pretty straight forward so I don't need to worry about them." "You're starting to study for exams now?" "No, I'm making a list now." "Oh good. I was starting to worry." "I'll start actually studying tomorrow." A muffled groan was all that was heard from Harry.

Ron finally resorted to banging on the picture frame quite loudly, to alert the boys inside to his and Hermione's presence. A few minutes later the portrait opened to reveal Harry, looking as if he had just crawled out of bed and pulled some clothes on, which in truth he had. "Morning," he said, trying to stifle a yawn. "Good morning Harry." Hermione beamed at him. Harry mentally wondered if it was illegal somewhere for someone to be that wide awake mid-morning on a Sunday. "Did you sleep at all?" Ron asked, noting Harry's state. "Yeah, I'm just tired this morning." Ron nodded in understanding.

"Good. We'll get you some food and then we'll start studying." Hermione ushered Harry out of the room and towards the kitchens. Harry's groan matched the look on Ron's face. "You and Draco." Harry muttered under his breath.

"You know, Hermione said something strange today." Draco lazily looked over at Harry with an expression that clearly stated he didn't care what Granger had said. Harry ignored the look and continued anyway. "She said that the attacks seemed random, all over the place, almost as if they weren't coordinated at all." "So?" Draco drawled. "They still cause terror and mayhem, what's the difference between coordinated attacks or spontaneous ones?" "It just doesn't seem like something Voldemort-" Draco flinched "-would do. It would seem to me that he would plan out the attacks for a maximum effect, or to send a message, or something. I couldn't picture him just telling the Death Eaters to go off and have fun with random carnage" "The fact that you can picture the Dark Lord at all is rather freaky" Draco murmured "But I have to agree with your point. If we can't see the message behind the attacks, then I assume he isn't finished writing it out yet."

Harry sat in the dark for a long time thinking about what Draco had said. He knew that there was some guiding force behind these attacks, he just knew it. But there was no focus. It really seemed that Voldemort just took a map and pointed to a random town or village and said "attack there" or something like that. The only attack that might have given any message at all was the first attack, the one on London itself. That was more the "I'm here and waiting to destroy you" type of attack he could expect from Voldemort. But these other attacks Now Harry couldn't start to say he knew the name of every town that existed in Britain, but he'd never even known some of these places existed. So why they'd garnered Voldemort's attention was beyond him. But maybe Draco was right. Well, Harry knew that there were more attacks to come, but maybe the point of this particular slew of attacks wasn't obvious yet because a few of them were missing As horrible as that logic was, it did have a ring of truth that Harry couldn't ignore. And if there were some attacks missing, and they could figure out the pattern or message first then maybe something could be done to stop the attack before it started. Gently easing himself out of the sleeping blonde's hold, Harry worked his way out of the bedroom. A map. He needed a map, a very detailed one.

Draco awoke the next morning to find Harry curled under him somehow. The other boy didn't even stir as Draco moved out of bed and made his way towards the bathroom, didn't make a sound or a movement when Draco came back out, or show any signs of waking when Draco crossed back through the bedroom. He must be really tired, Draco thought. Wonder how late he was up? Draco would have then gone down to breakfast, but he saw something on the table near the couch. It was a map with ink splotches on it. Was this what Harry had been up to last night? Harry obviously hadn't drawn the map, unless he was a geographical artistic genius that no one knew about, but he might have added the ink splotches. But why? Draco looked at the map more closely, tracing the path of the ink blotches up the isle with his eyes. These were the location of all of Voldemort's attacks. They formed a semi-circle that traveled almost the entire length of the isle. His own words came back to him from the night before. The attacks were centered around something but not London or any other important city But if one were to extend the circle out into the ocean where there were no places to attack, one could find the diameter and from that find the center. Draco did so, his finger coming to rest on one point of land. His stomach dropped as his mind

registered where the attacks were focused around. Even though there was no marking on the map for the building was unplottable, it was a place Draco knew well. It was Malfoy Manor.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Letter in Blood As the first week of February started, Hermione rolled into studying-for-exam mode with a relish that Harry and Ron wouldn't even try to match. They suffered in silence through her insistence that they create study-guides for themselves so that they could prepare for the exams that were only months away. Ron, on Wednesday, was persuaded to start his own list of things to study. Harry believed this was not for the good of his exam grade, but for the good of his budding relationship with Hermione. Harry, of course, was safe from Hermione's cajoling. He would merely say that Draco had them covered. And Draco was also studying, although a whole lot more passively than Hermione was. His idea of studying involved going over the material a little each night before bed until the exams actually came, instead of constantly working to re-memorize everything in one sitting at the library. Of course, Draco didn't care if Harry studied or not. But since Draco and Hermione never compared notes on Harry's study habits, he slipped through as if exams were the months away that they were. Harry was getting used to Draco falling asleep after he did, the light from the blonde's wand slightly illuminating the room. "What is it tonight?" Harry asked as he slid into Draco's bed. Draco looked over at Harry's bed on the other side of the room and then at the boy next to him with a strange expression. "Potions. I'm reviewing Dragon's Bane. Why are you over here?" "Well, I thought there was no real point in getting into different beds anymore." Harry shrugged as if it were obvious. "We're going to end up in the same bed by morning anyway. Besides, if I'm over here I can hear you read out loud." "And why would I read out loud?" "I noticed that your mouth moves when you study things, as if you're speaking them. Since it's something like Potions, I figured you could just read it out loud and then I could listen until I fall asleep." "You think you'll fall asleep while listening to potions ingredients?" Draco asked, amused. "Well, if it weren't for Snape, I'd gladly sleep through the morning Potions classes." "Fine. Get comfortable then." Harry found it a lot harder to fall asleep than he thought. It was relaxing to listen to Draco's voice go over something that he was interested in. And while Harry felt the tug of sleep overtake him, something in Draco's voice always seemed to call him back to what the other boy was saying. Draco was slightly surprised when Harry sleepily asked him to go over what he was explaining again. After a moment's pause Draco repeated the steps to adding the powdered leopard canines while stirring the potion, first clockwise four turns and then counterclockwise five turns. Harry nodded sleepily and Draco continued with the instructions, surprised that Harry was actually listening.

Ron grumpily surveyed the headlines of the Daily Prophet, noticing that an attack was once again the highlight of the day. Wordlessly, he passed it to Hermione and proceeded to pay complete attention to his eggs as if they were the cause of the constant flow of things that he should be sure to remember for such-and-such exam that came from the brunette next to him. Hermione didn't even look at the headline, passing the paper to Harry as she continued her explanation of the second Troll and Goblin war. Harry looked over the headline with a frown. Another attack. Blocking out Hermione's explanation of the Troll leader whose name he couldn't hope to pronounce, much less spell correctly on an exam, he began to read the description of the attack. An orphanage had been attacked. Over one hundred muggle children, about his age and younger, had died. No one had yet been able to find out how the orphanage

had been attacked, the building had been burned to the ground before anyone had seen the Dark Mark in the sky. Voldemort wasn't hiding it now, Harry thought. It's obvious now that they're Death Eater attacks, but there's still no point. The orphanage had been a few miles outside London, and other than the sheer horridness of it, Harry could see no other gain that this particular attack gave Voldemort. Maybe that's the point, Harry wondered, as he put the paper back down on the table. He doesn't have to do these attacks, and yet he's going to do them anyway to show exactly how powerful he is. Over at the Slytherin table, Draco had a very different reason for Voldemort's attack. He pulled out the map that he had shamelessly taken from his and Harry's rooms without telling Harry and located the spot on the map where the orphanage had been. It fell exactly on the circle he had drawn before. It's got to have something to do with Malfoy Manor, Draco thought. There was no other explanation. But what was Voldemort's goal? He could attack Malfoy Manor directly. The wards would kill a lot of Death Eaters before he got to the gates but he could still do it. But what was he waiting for? All of the attacks had been aimed at muggles. A few wizards had been killed as well, but they were a few in a long list of muggles. If Voldemort meant to intimidate his father, then he was going about it the wrong way because his father wouldn't care if muggles were attacked. Another thought passed through his head. Maybe the Dark Lord wanted to make it look as if his father had helped plan the attacks by placing them in such a way that it looked like Malfoy Manor had to be part of the attacks. Frowning slightly, Draco began to consider his options. These types of thoughts could not be written down in a letter. He could tell his father any theories he had, and yet he could be sure that his father would not answer them, lest the letter be intercepted and his reply used against him. There was no way to get to Malfoy Manor from Hogwarts unless he used one of the teacher's floos if they were hooked up to begin with. But he would have to have a discussion with his father somehow and the next Hogsmead weekend was weeks away, too far away for him to simply ask his father to meet him in the Three Broomstick to discuss the attacks. He would have to talk with his father much sooner than that.

Snape was surprised to see Draco standing outside his quarters just before curfew that night. He was even more surprised when Draco asked if he could firespeak Malfoy Manor. "I believe that now would not be the best time, Draco." The boy opened his mouth to protest. "Not for you or your father." Draco had not been expecting that. "Godfather," and Draco placed special significance on the title, "I need to speak with my father." "About the attacks?" "Yes." Snape sighed and ushered Draco into the room. Closing the door, he placed a Silencing Charm on the room. "Draco you cannot firespeak Malfoy Manor." "But-" "You cannot, because no one can." "What?" "Draco, do you think that your father hasn't figured out what's going on? Malfoy Manor is closed up like a Gringotts vault. All of the fireplaces have been cut off from the floo network until further notice." "But what if You-Know-Who attacks Malfoy Manor?" Draco asked. "Then we'll have to hope that your father knows a way off the grounds that does not involve a fireplace or the front gate" Snape replied sarcastically. Then, more seriously, "Also, Draco, even if you could to talk to your father, I doubt he would let you."

"Why?" "Because right now it's too dangerous. Not for him." Snape cut off Draco's protest. "Draco, Narcissa is no longer your father's wife. He has no control over her actions any more." "What does that have to do with it?" "Think about it Draco. Narcissa knows you're an Alter Veritas, just like Lucius. Being married to him, even though she was not his Veriae intended, she knows more about Veriae than other wizards. And at Christmas, or so Lucius tells me, she found out who was your intended." Draco's mind reeled as he realized his godfather spoke the truth. His mother had seen Harry at Malfoy Manor at Christmas. She would have known that he was Draco's intended. "That's why it's too dangerous Draco" Snape finished. "Because if you do something stupid and the Dark Lord captures you, Potter would go after you." "Harry wouldn't do that." Draco's voice wavered, uncertain. "He wouldn't?" Snape raised an eyebrow. "No." Draco's voice sounded more certain that time. "I would disagree with you, Draco."

It was on Monday that Draco first realized something was very wrong. To start off he was late to breakfast that morning and barely had time to eat, let alone read his father's customary letter, so he tucked the letter away in his bag to read later. After classes that day, Draco curled up in front of the fireplace to read the letter before starting on his schoolwork. The first thing he noticed was that the letter was folded outward, so that the words could be seen. His father never folded letters outward, because then other people could read the writing as the intended recipient was opening it. Still, Draco continued without giving it much thought. As Draco read he got more and more worried. His father never wrote to him in this way. Yes it sounded like his father, and anyone else would not have been fooled, but Draco knew better. Reading the letter was like walking down Diagon Ally in public with his father. The words radiated the prestige of the Malfoy name and none of the emotions that his father might have felt while writing to his son. The letter was ripped from Draco's hands by a white-faced Harry Potter as Draco finished reading his father's signature. Just 'Your father, Lucius Malfoy'. His father always signed his letters to Draco, 'You're loving father, Lucius Malfoy' because such things could not be said in public. "Harry what are you-" Harry turned the letter around wordlessly and Draco suddenly realized the reason the letter was folded outward instead of inward. Through the thick parchment, folded outward, you could not tell that the back of the parchment was smeared in blood.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Black Truth, Black Wings The Room of Requirement had made itself into a cave. The walls were limestone, with a low ceiling and a moss covered floor. The room was very small, so small in fact that the three people inside the room had to duck to avoid hitting their heads on the ceiling. The cave was what the room thought of as the perfect place to speak of secrets, and so the three Gryffindors settled down as comfortably as they could against the cold stone. "There's something wrong with Draco" Harry said, looking down at the moss as if it was the most interesting thing he had ever seen. Neither Ron nor Hermione were fooled by his antics. Ron, though, was puzzled at Harry's words. "But he seemser, fine to me. Well he doesn't act any differently than he normally does." "No, he's more nervous than usual" Hermione observed. "Exactly" Harry said. "It's like he's planning something that he doesn't want anyone to find out. And it started after he got that letter." "But that was a week ago!" Ron protested. "Yes, and he's received two other letters from his father, both as false as the first one" Harry explained. "False letters?" "That's all he'll tell me about them. That they aren't really from his father." Hermione frowned as if thinking. "But why wouldn't his father write to Malfoy?" "If he couldn't," Harry replied, looking up at his friends for the first time since the conversation had begun. "But why couldn't he write to Malfoy?" Ron asked. "He's done it for five years, so what's different now?" Harry shrugged. "I don't know. Draco doesn't know. And no one who knows is telling." "Harry, what does Draco think is going on?" Hermione asked. "What exactly does he say?" "About the letters?" Hermione nodded. "Well, he says that there are certain things his father always puts in a letter, certain phrases, the way he signs his name, and so on I don't remember the exact details. And he says that all these things are missing from the last three letters." "But hasn't he done a spell to make sure that it's his father's handwriting?" Hermione asked. "First thing he does. It's his father's writing, but not his father's style." "Has there been any other blood on the letters?" Ron asked. "No. Not since the first one." "I think I see what he thinks" Hermione stated. "His father has always written to him, and so if something happened like for instance, if his father got hurt, then the absence of letters would tell him immediately that something was wrong. But there isn't an absence of letters. Yet, these recent ones are very different from what he's used to. There are, as he says, certain elements missing to them." "And then there's the blood" Ron added. Hermione nodded. "Yes. I think that Lucius Malfoy is trying to tell his son that something is wrong."

"Then why doesn't he come out and say it?" Ron asked. "We must assume for some reason that he can't." "But what's going to stop Lucius Malfoy from doing something?" Ron looked skeptical. "Voldemort" Harry spoke suddenly. "But we'd know if You-erVoldemort was doing something wouldn't we?" Ron asked. Harry was silent. He didn't know what Voldemort was doing. After all, he hadn't had a vision since he'd bonded to Draco.

Another thing Harry noticed about Draco's change in attitude was that the blond was silent. Yes, in public he acted like the Draco everyone knew and expected but when there was no one around except Harry, he didn't speak unless Harry started the conversation. It was like he always had something on his mind now. And Harry couldn't find out what. It wasn't like he could bluntly ask, "What are you planning?" because he wouldn't get an answer or at least, he wouldn't get the truth. And because Draco was a Slytherin, Harry doubted he'd find any evidence of what Draco was plotting just lying around. He would just have to wait until Draco told him or until Draco acted on whatever it was he was planning. Harry didn't like waiting but he forced himself not to call Draco on his behavior. It wasn't like Draco could do anything drastic, like actually going to Malfoy Manor. Draco had told him that all the fireplaces in Malfoy Manor had been closed off, so Draco couldn't floo there. And there was no point in walking down to Hogsmead and getting on the train because then Draco'd be stuck in London and unable to floo home. Without Lucius trying to bring his son home, Draco was stuck in Hogwarts. And Harry doubted that Lucius wanted his son to come home right now, doubted that very much indeed.

Harry woke up cold. This didn't matter that much to him because his rooms were in the dungeons now and this part of the castle tended to be cooler than other places. But what bothered him was what he realized once he got past the cold part. He had woken up in the middle of the night. Alone. Draco was no where to be found. And judging from the temperature of Draco's side of the bed he hadn't been in bed for a long time. "Tempus," Harry muttered, and was informed that it was three o'clock in the morning. Not good. Harry began to pull on clothing while trying to piece together what he could about the situation. Don't panic, he told himself. You're just overreacting. But somehow he knew that he wasn't. If Draco had fallen asleep at all then he would still have been in the same bed as Harry had seen Draco sleeping last night before he had gone to bed. Harry felt a cold wave wash over him as he realized that last night was Friday. Today would be Saturday. That meant that no teachers would realize Draco was missing until Monday, if Draco was gone. And it wouldn't have been that hard for Draco to get rid of his friends for a weekend. Tell them that he would be studying or something. Harry bit his lip. This was beginning to look bad. But where would Draco go? Another part of his mind asked. It wasn't as if he could just waltz out of Hogwarts at any time of day or night. And though instinctively Harry's first idea was that somehow Draco had gone to Malfoy Manor, it just wasn't logically possible. No there just had to be another explanation. Harry continued this like a mantra. He would find Draco and it would be something stupid, though what Draco would wake up for in the middle of the night was beyond Harry, but there had to be something.

And it was probably something obvious and stupid and Harry would feel really idiotic when he found out, but that's what would happen. Yes, that is what would happen. Harry fumbled on the nightstand for his wand and cast a quick Lumos to help light up the room. It proved inadequate, however, because halfway out of the room he tripped. Harry hissed in pain as he rolled over to see what had caught his toe. It was a book, a rather thick book. It was one of Draco's 'independent reading' potions books. Harry fought back a groan. As he'd tripped he'd bent about half of the pages, not to mention the cover. He would somehow have to explain that to Draco. Harry picked up the book and placed it on the nearest surface that was not the floor, his bed. Maybe there was a spell to unbend pages Harry winced as he surveyed the damage more closely. Somehow his foot had dislodged a page from the middle of the book, right where the bended pages started. Carefully he opened the book to that page and looked at it. Harry brought the page near the light of his wand and blinked. This wasn't potions. This was the map he'd made a few days ago that he thought he'd misplaced. Draco must have picked it up. Harry carefully made his way out of the bedroom to look at the map in better light. Draco had added to it, creating a circle using the attacks farthest away from each other as a diameter. By doing this, he'd also found the circle's center. Harry frowned slightly as he looked at the area Draco had repeatedly starred in different color inks. There was nothing there, at least not on the map. But it had some significance to Draco, it must, for him to indicate it as so important. Maybe Draco thought that the center of the attacks would be where Voldemort was hiding or launching the attacks? But Draco wouldn't do something so Gryffindorish as to try and sneak into Voldemort's headquarters even if he thought that stopping the attacks would stop the lockdown his father had on Malfoy Manor. Harry folded the parchment again and put it in his pocket. Now was not the time to be thinking 'what ifs'. There was still a chance that Draco was in the school and Harry had to find that out first. Harry crossed to the corner of the room where he'd thrown his books the night before and pulled the Marauder's Map from his bag. As he spoke the words to make the map spring to life he hoped that a dot labeled "Draco Malfoy" would appear somewhere, anywhere, in Hogwarts. But he wasn't too surprised when it didn't. Now what? Harry thought desperately. He could wake Ron, but it was too early to get Hermione out of the Gryffindor girls' dormitory. It wasn't like he could just walk in there after all, like he could the boys ' dormitory. Better let Ron sleep, he decided finally. If he couldn't find Draco by the time his friends woke up, then he would ask for their help. Harry sat down on the sofa, idly staring into the fireplace. He had to think like Draco yet how could he? He didn't know what else Draco knew about the situation. OK Harry, he thought, hypothesize. If it's right, you'll find facts to support it once Hermione's up to help you. So. Worst case scenario first. Draco was caught by Voldemort no, worst case was that Draco was dead. But that was out. Harry would be able to feel if Draco was dead or hurt or in danger. No, he wasn't in any pain so Draco must be safe or physically well or something like that. So, no Voldemort and no death. Then, the next worst or hardest to deal with, was that Draco had gone to Malfoy Manor somehow. Even with Malfoy Manor disconnected from the floo system and unplotable

Unplotable! Harry grabbed at the map again, a streak of terror snaking down his spine. Where was Malfoy Manor? Draco had never really said where no one ever had. Somewhere in England, but that wasn't much help was it. But he knew that Malfoy Manor was big so logically you'd need a really large amount of land, so The area Draco had starred was a large plot of land with nothing on it. Harry bit his lip. It made sense, but it was just a theory. He would need to prove somehow that what Draco had starred was in fact Malfoy Manor. But the number one candidate to ask about anything Malfoy was not in Hogwarts. So then who could he ask? Only one name came to him and Harry decided that the Fates must really hate him if he had to wake this particular person up at three forty-five in the morning. "Snape's gonna kill me" Harry muttered at the fire's flames, but they didn't seem to care.

Harry looked at the door to the Potions classroom with more than a few feelings of misgiving. If all the classrooms were set up like the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, then Snape's personal quarters would be at the back of his classroom or to the right of his classroom or connected to his classroom in some way. Harry grasped the door knob and willed his hand to turn it. The door opened soundlessly. Harry stepped into the classroom and cast his wand around in the dark, looking for a door that didn't lead to the supply room. There was only one other door to the Potions classroom, other than the doorway Harry stood in and the door to the supply room (which Harry knew didn't have any doors inside it). It was a rather modest door over on the Slytherin side of the room that Harry had never seen opened during all his years at Hogwarts. Well, that looks a bit promising, he thought as he crossed the room. "And what exactly do you think you are doing in my classroom at this time of the night?" A voice asked from the shadows behind Snape's desk and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. The light of his wand swung to illuminate the glare that he knew would be prominent on his professor's face as the man leaned against the wall. He knew I was here the whole time, Harry berated himself snidely. Harry said the first thing that tumbled into his mouth. "I need to talk to you about Draco." "And this is something that you could not speak about to Mr. Malfoy himself? And felt it necessary to wake me up in order to speak at this particular time?" Screwing up every ounce of Gryffindor courage he had, Harry replied. "Yes. Because I only just found out that Draco isn't anywhere in Hogwarts" After a second's hesitation he added, "sir," just to try and appeal to Snape's good side if he had one. Something shifted in Snape's eyes, but outwardly he appeared the same. "And you know this, how?" Bloody hell, Harry hadn't thought how to reveal how he knew that Draco wasn't in school. Think Harry, think, he told himself. "Well Mr. Potter?" "I know it in the same way that I knew how to get to Hogsmead back in third year" Harry muttered, looking down at his shoes, or what he assumed were his shoes he couldn't tell in the dim light of one Lumos spell. He could feel Snape's eyes burning into his skull as the man thought about what Harry had just said.

"Where do you think Mr. Malfoy is?" Snape asked after a long silence. Harry's eyes shot up in astonishment before he realized that he was supposed to answer the question. "I found this in one of Draco's books." He held out the map of England to Snape. "I think he's gone to the starred area wherever that is." Snape cast his own Lumos spell in order to look at the map. "If you are right, Mr. Potter, which I highly doubt you are, then Mr. Malfoy has gone to Malfoy Manor. You are undoubtedly aware of how impossible it is to get to Malfoy Manor at this time. How would you propose he got there? Apparated out of Hogwarts and into Malfoy Manor? Rode in one of the school carriages perhaps? Sprouted wings and flew?" Snape stopped short and Harry's mouth dropped as they both realized what the potions master had just said. A memory of last weekend played through Harry's mind, of snitches, bludgers, and black wings. "Yes, Professor" Harry replied. "I think he did sprout wings and fly there."

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Serpentis Draconis Harry fumed silently as he paced the Gryffindor Common Room. Draco had been missing for over fifteen hours now; how long exactly wasn't known because Harry didn't know when Draco left. Harry fought back the yearning to hit something, knowing that were he to let out his rage, his two friends would become more scared of him than they already were. As it was, his behavior resembled a caged animal to them. It was all just so stupid! Sure, if a student was petrified the whole school went on bloody alert, but if a student was just missing, there were protocols! Was Draco really missing? Bloody hell, Harry was so sick of hearing another teacher ask that to the rest of them. Snape had gone to Dumbledore immediately and while Harry was sure that Dumbledore believed them, there was a bunch of legal stuff set in place for just this occasion. So after rounding up all the teachers at four in the morning, they had begun searching the castle. All of it. Every room. And Harry had been sent back to his dormitory to wait! Then, when everyone realized Draco really wasn't in the castle, as Harry had been telling them, they had to search the bloody Forbidden Forest because apparently Draco had permission to go there because he needed someplace to go be a Veriae for a while where no one could see him, or something like that. And of course, the centaurs hadn't taken kindly to a group of people gallivanting around in their forest, even if one of those people had been Hagrid, who knew his way around pretty well. Of course, they found that Draco wasn't in the forest, after three hours of searching. Harry could have told them that but they didn't listen, of course. So now they were thinking that maybe Draco really wasn't in Hogwarts. So they had to go check Hogsmead! Harry, of course, knew that Draco wouldn't be found there. He knew where Draco was. So did Snape and so, he suspected, did Dumbledore. "Harry, are you OK?" Hermione asked cautiously as she saw her friend had stopped pacing. "Do I look like I'm OK?" Harry shot back immediately. "Looks like you're worried sick," Ron observed. "We should have stopped this searching hours ago!" Harry exploded. "If he'd done something stupid like going to Hogsmead, then he would have been back by now anyway!" "And he wouldn't have left in the middle of the night," Hermione added. "Exactly!" "So what are we going to do about it?" Ron asked. "What can we do? They obviously don't want us involved," Hermione pointed out. "You shouldn't even be here, Harry. They told you to go wait in your rooms in case he came back." Harry waved a hand at the Marauder's Map on the table. "I would have known if he came back," he muttered. "But if they go to find you and tell you that they actually believe you, you won't be there," Hermione continued. Harry sighed. "Yeah. You're right. I'll see you later then." "They'll find him, Harry." Hermione tried to be comforting. "Yeah, even if they have to send Dobby to go open the door to Malfoy Manor for them," Ron joked.

Neither of the two saw Harry stop and smile slightly as he left the Common Room.

Dobby was, as always, ecstatic to see Harry Potter. "How can Dobby be helping you, Harry Potter?" he asked brightly. "I need your help Dobby, and it's very important." The House Elf practically squealed his joy at being able to help. Harry crouched down low in a corner to talk to Dobby so that the other House Elves in the kitchen would not overhear. "Could you still get into Malfoy Manor if you wanted to?" he asked. Dobby's ears drooped a bit but he nodded. "I could, Mr. Harry Potter sir." "I need to get into Malfoy Manor, Dobby. It's important. I need you to connect one fireplace in Malfoy Manor to a fireplace here. Can you do that?" "Oh I can, Mr. Harry Potter sir!" Dobby was again happy to help. "Connect it to the Room of Requirement's fireplace then." Harry grinned and the two parted ways.

Harry walked back and forth in front of the Room of Requirement. I need a fireplace and floo powder, he thought forcefully as he paced. Opening the door revealed an empty room except for a large, ornate fireplace, filled with logs and yet unlit. On the mantle above the fireplace was a large pot filled with floo powder. Perfect. A small pop sound to his left indicated Dobby's return. "It's all done, Mr. Harry Potter sir. I is connecting you to the fireplace in old Master's study." "Perfect, Dobby." Harry went to grab a handful of floo powder. "Mr. Harry Potter sir!" Harry turned back to Dobby. "There are bad people in that house, Harry Potter, VERY bad people." The elf's eyes were wide and Harry realized immediately what the elf was talking about. "I'll make sure they don't see me," Harry promised, cloaking himself in his invisibility cloak before stepping into the fireplace. "Malfoy Manor!" In a flash of green flames, Harry Potter was no longer at Hogwarts.

Ron noticed that Hermione had been quiet for a long time; her quill was paused over the word she had been writing three minutes ago. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Ron, what way would you leave the Gryffindor Common Room if you were going to the dungeons?" Hermione asked. "Well I'd go left to the stairs." "So would I. But Harry went right."

Ron suddenly had a bad feeling. "But where would he go?" "Let's go have a chat with Medusa." Hermione stood and the two made their way towards the dungeons.

Draco cautiously arrived at Malfoy Manor, calling on the numerous wind currents in the area to shield him from sight as he touched down on the lawn. Flying from Hogwarts to Malfoy Manor took a long time, even with the help of the wind and water currents making clouds to hide him. It was also very tiring. Draco had to stop three times along the way to rest and regain his strength, lest he fall out of the sky for lack of energy. But he had planned for this, which was why he'd left so early in the morning and had not planned to get back until Sunday evening. It was just about time for supper. If all was well, he'd just slip inside and surprise his father for a meal, get reprimanded for doing something so foolish, and then they'd talk about these attacks. Draco knew though that all was not so easy as that. The letters had warned him of this. But what was wrong that was what he was here to find out. The wards around the Manor recognized him, he noticed as he felt the subtle touch of Veriae magic, his father's addition to the wards. Stepping up to the large double doors, he waited for the wards to admit him. Silently, the door unlocked and he slipped inside. All the lights were on inside the Manor. Strange, Draco thought. His father never left all the lights on. Malfoys were creatures of darkness, and his father was quite comfortable with only one candle lit in the entire house, thank you very much. Draco had inherited this taste from his father. The only one who constantly left all the lights on in the rooms of the house was Narcissa. Draco's lip curled in disgust as he walked silently down the hall, dropping into a corner when he heard two female voices talking. "-have to have him write another letter tonight." "'Cissy dear, don't worry. He can barely move, much less use those Veriae powers." "-nothing can go wrong tonight-" "-Initiation-" The voices got quieter as the two women walked away, leaving Draco fuming. He knew those voices. Narcissa and his aunt, Bellatrix. Something strange was going on here, Draco thought. But he had to find his father without being seen. If Bellatrix was here, then who knew how many other Death Eaters were here as well. So Draco headed for one place that no self-respecting Death Eater would bother going: the kitchens. The House Elves could tell him what was going on.

Ron and Hermione ran through the halls, oblivious of the rule that said they couldn't, heading to the kitchen. They waited impatiently for the portrait to open and raced inside as soon as they could fit through. "Dobby!" Ron panted. "Where's Dobby?" "Hello friends of Harry Potter!" Dobby waved to them from where the House Elves were mixing raspberries into pie mix. "Dobby, Harry's in trouble!" Dobby's eyes widened to a size they did not think possible and in an instant he disappeared. Ron groaned and Hermione sighed at this action. "Well, there goes that idea," Ron muttered.

"Attention! Will all students please return to their Common Rooms immediately!" McGonagall's voice sounded through the school. "We have to tell Dumbledore," Hermione spoke, her tone leaving no room for discussion, not that Ron would have protested anyway.

Harry rolled out of the fireplace and just missed hitting the leg of a mahogany desk. "What was that?" a gruff voice asked. "What was what?" another answered. "I thought I heard something." "I think you've gone crazy." "Shut up." Harry pulled the invisibility cloak tighter around himself as he edged towards the open door. The two Death Eaters began to argue as he slowly slipped out. Harry ducked into a dark corner just outside the door. If Snape was right and the Death Eaters hadn't rerouted the floo system, he should be somewhere in Lucius's wing which was on the opposite side of the house as Draco's. Now that he was actually here, he didn't really know exactly what he was going to do. Somewhere in this house was Draco, Lucius, a whole lot of Death Eaters, and maybe Voldemort. He had to find the first two without running into the second two.

"Master Draco!" a House Elf squealed as the boy slipped into the kitchen. The boy hushed the House Elf, listening to see if there was any movement in the hall before turning back to the creature that was cowering at his side. "Speak quietly. What has happened?" "Oh it was awful, Master Draco!" The House Elf, buried her face in his robes as she sobbed. "They sent these things to attack Master Lucius, Master Draco, big black creatures that make the air freeze!" "Is my father alright?" Draco recognized the description of a Dementor. "They is ordered not to hurt Master Lucius, Master Draco. That was for s-someone else they said. Then other people came, lots of people in black like Master Lucius used to wear." Black like his father used to wear? His father still wore Draco then realized what the Elf was saying. Black like his father used to wear, black robes like his father used to wear, Death Eater robes. "Then a man with red eyes came!" the House Elf continued. "Eyes like blood, Master Draco, and skin like no one who ever came to the Manor had!" Lord Voldemort was in Malfoy Manor? "When was all this?" "They is coming one week ago, Master Draco. Diddy hear Diddy hear that they is making Master Lucius write to Master Draco as if nothing is happening. Diddy hear they is planning to gather all the black robed people here, Master Draco, so that when you come home for the summer they can make someone else come here too." "Who?" "They is not saying, Master Draco. They is saying their Master wants to kill him, Master Draco."

Harry. They wanted Draco to lead Harry to Malfoy Manor. "Diddy hear they say that many more come tonight, Master Draco! You are not safe here, Master Draco!" "Many more? If they have all the Death Eaters here, who else is coming?" "They is saying those that would become Death Eaters will come here tonight, Master Draco. You have to leave, Master Draco, before they is finding you!" Draco felt sick. Initiation. Tonight was the Initiation. That had to be what the House Elf was taking about. He had to getHe heard someone try to turn the doorknob and he froze, looking for a place to hide. Diddy barely held back a shriek and pushed Draco into an empty cupboard under the countertop. There was a muffled word from outside the kitchen and someone entered the room. "C-can Diddy h-help you? S-sir?" The frightened house elf cowered before the closed cupboard door. "You can move out of my way for a minute." The Death Eater pushed the House Elf aside and stepped up to the counter. He sighed and sat down on the counter. "I know what you're doing Draco, and I think you're crazy." Draco's eyes widened as he realized he knew who this Death Eater was. Very well in fact. This Death Eater was Blaise. "You picked the worst time to do a rescue mission too. This is the weekend for Initiation, and You-KnowWho is here somewhere along with all the Death Eaters and those who want to become Death Eaters. Most of the Slytherins from school are going to be hanging around if they're not here already." "And I didn't think you were going though with the Death Eater bit," Draco said quietly through the wood. "I don't have a choice in the matter. Listen Draco, you may be my friend but once the Initiation takes place I'm not on your side anymore. So you have to find your father and get out of here before then. I heard some of the others talking, and he's being held up in the north tower. That's really all I can do for you at this point." Blaise got off the counter and left the room, pausing at the door to add. "Don't let me see you." Draco waited a minute before exiting the cupboard. "I-is you okay, Master Draco?" "Yes, Diddy, I'm fine. Diddy, can you get me to the north tower?" Diddy began to shiver. "Master doesn't want to go there. There's a big snake up there. It eats House Elves sir! Diddy doesn't want to see Master Draco hurt." "My father's up there, Diddy. Can you get me up there or not?" Diddy nodded sadly and snapped her fingers. The kitchen disappeared and the hallway of the north tower appeared around them. "Diddy, I need you to do one more thing for me." "What is it, Master Draco?" Diddy whispered. "I need you to go back to your normal duties and act as if nothing is wrong." He turned his back to her. "But-"

"Do it Diddy." There was a small popping sound and Diddy disappeared from behind Draco. Keeping to the shadows of the hall, Draco silently thanked his third great-grandfather for wanting to redo the entire house in the gothic style. He'd only been able to talk his wife into redoing the towers because she never went up there and would never have to see it. But as Draco pressed back into the shadows caused by an obsidian gargoyle and a Death Eater passed by on her way to the stairs, missing him completely, Draco made a resolution to redo the whole house in that style. But there weren't many places that one could hide someone in the north tower, Draco had to admit. There was only an old owlery up here and a hardly used platform for stargazing. He continued his way down the hall and towards the stairs up to the owlery. There were no sounds echoing down from the top of the curved staircase, so he began to slowly climb them.

"There's no sign of Mr. Malfoy anywhere in Hogsmead," Professor McGonagall said wearily. "I believe we must act as if he really has left Hogwarts." "There is something much worse going on, Minerva," Dumbledore said gravely. "I've just gotten word from the Ministry. Azkaban has been attacked by Dementors. I believe it is safe to assume that any Death Eaters who were in Azkaban have been released." "Do you... Albus, do you think the Malfoys have something to do with this?" McGonagall asked suspiciously. "No, Minerva, I do not think they do. I do, however, think that someone wants us to think that." There was a loud banging sound on the door and the sound of two frightened voices from outside the office shouting, "Professor Dumbledore! Harry's disappeared!" Almost as if on cue, a figure dressed in black stepped from the fireplace in the Headmaster's office. Snape paused slightly at the shouting before wincing and turning back to the Headmaster. "He's calling, Albus. And I've noticed that a few other Slytherins are missing, not just Draco Malfoy."

Harry was lost. He was somewhere in the south wing or was that the south part of the north wing? He had no idea. But wherever he was, it wasn't where he wanted to be. "Sir?" Harry jumped at the timid voice. "Sir, why is you wearing an invisibility cloak?" Harry turned to see a House Elf cowering near the wall. He moved farther into the shadows near the Elf. "I'm trying to help Draco." "Master Draco? Master Draco is being in the north tower, sir sir is being Master Draco's Harry!" Harry nodded and the House Elf nearly clapped with joy. "How can I get to Draco?" "I can take Sir close to there." Harry nodded and the walls seemed to bend and blend around him to form a new hallway.

Draco tried the door and found it locked. Reaching up, he plucked a single feather out of his wings and, after it turned to steel, jammed it into the door. After a hard push, the door creaked open.

The small amount of light from the stairwell shone on the floor of the old owlery. Draco felt all his feathers turn to steel as he stepped further into the room. His father lay chained to the wall, wings retracted. There was almost no trace of his normally regal presence and strange burn marks covered his body, dried blood coated his arms and torso. Only the slight movement of his chest told Draco that he was alive. Harry's vision swam as a sharp pain shot through his skull. Anger, Draco's anger, swirled around him like a cloud. Checking to see that there was no one in the hallway, he began sprinting down the halls, trying to make as little sound as possible. A hiss sounded near his father's feet and Draco found himself staring into the eyes of the longest snake he had ever seen. It rose to look Draco in the eyes, its tongue flickering out as if to taste the air or his fear. Draco began to edge away from the snake, trying to see if he could get to his father by going around it. The snake turned to continue to watch him as he stepped deeper and deeper into the shadows. Draco couldn't see the stone floor nor what was resting on it. He froze as he bumped against something that was not the stone wall. A deep hiss cut through the darkness and Draco jumped back across the light that was cast into the room from the hallway. A creature moved in the darkness and began to crawl out of the shadows and into the small beam of light.

Harry winced as the somewhat familiar feeling of pain began to spread across his stomach. Draco was in trouble. He crossed into another hallway and turned down into the corridor that connected to the tower entrance.

Draco looked up into jeweled faceted eyes whirling in a red fury as the dragon loomed over him. As he looked up at the black scaled monstrosity, he never saw the large snake slither out of the room. Draco's wings curled forward to protect him from the dragon's fire as he jumped backward to avoid a silver-tipped claw reaching forward to grab at him. He now realized why Voldemort had chosen this tower to hold his father in. With the window closed no magical currents could get into the room, which left the Veriae powerless. The room was small and cramped, and Draco was pushed farther and farther back into a remote corner of the room, away from his father. His wings scraped against the wooden rafters as they sloped down towards the step andhis back hit the stone wall. He was trapped.

Harry ran through the corridors as quickly and silently as he could. The burning sensation in his stomach was growing hotter and larger by the second. As if he needed more urging to get to Draco; he berated the bond silently. He was already going as fast as he could. After rounding a corner, he was forced to stop suddenly and press back into the wall as a Death Eater strode down the hall. She stopped and looked around. Harry held his breath and waited, hoping she would just move on. "I know you're here, Potter," a familiar female voice drawled. "Draco and his father are up there but you'll have to survive me to get to them. This is the only hallway up to the north tower, so don't even think about trying to find another way up." Her eyes glittered insanely as she grinned at the darkness. "I made sure we could have a proper fight. My cousin may have taken precedence last time, but this time, Potter, I'm going to kill you." "No you won't Bellatrix," Harry mouthed silently, aiming his wand at her. His mouth began to form words"You shall not harm Harry Potter!" "Dobby?" Harry whispered as Bellatrix spun to look at the House Elf that had materialized behind her.

In a manner akin to Lucius Malfoy in Harry's second year, Bellatrix was thrown backward, hitting the wall with a crack that couldn't have been healthy. She slid to the floor in a heap, unmoving. Harry pulled the invisibility cloak off as he stepped into the hallway. "Dobby, what are you doing here?" "I came to help Harry Potter sir." Harry winced as another wave of pain hit. "Come on Dobby," he told the House Elf as he grabbed the cloak and headed for the stairs. Sounds of snarling echoed down the stairwell. Harry raced up the stairs as he heard a strangled shriek and threw open the door at the top of the stairwell. He stopped short at the state of the room. The room was covered in splatters of blood. In the far corner he could see Draco outlined in bloodstained steal wings, the mutilated corpse of a dragon in front of him. Draco was staring down at the corpse with an expression akin to horror. "Draco, are you okay?" Harry asked as he stepped into the room. "I think I'm gonna be sick." Draco spoke softly. "Fine, but not now. We have to get out of here before they figure out what's going on." Draco nodded and stepped gingerly around the mutilated body. Harry walked up to where Lucius was chained to the wall and pressed his wand's tip to the man's temple. "Enervate."

Voldemort stood as the ceremony finished, frowning slightly. "M'Lord?" one of the Death Eaters asked. "I want you all to search the mansion," Voldemort hissed. "Nagini has informed me that we have some guests."

Chapter Thirty: Opening the Gates of Hell Lucius Malfoy's eyes opened blearily, and took in his blood covered son and his son's bonded in the dim light before saying: "What are you two thinking!?" He half shouted at them as Harry whispered the spells to unlock the chains. "You cannot possibly be this dense!" "With all due respect, Mr. Malfoy, you're beginning to sound like Snape" Harry said seriously. He was fixed with two incredulous looks before Draco spoke. "I came to rescue you, Father, but I did not bring Harry. He came by himself. He's the stupid one, not me." The look Lucius gave his son was one that stated quite clearly that he highly doubted his son's words were true, but he said nothing. He gave a long suffering sigh and leaned back against the wall, wincing as his body protested. "So then Potter, I can guess how my son came here from Hogwarts. How did you?" Harry looked down at the blood-stained floor sheepishly. "I had Dobby connect the fireplace in your study to one in the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts." Instead of being angry that his former House Elf had done something like that, Lucius merely looked impressed. "That was a good idea, Potter. And it gives us a means out of this mess." "But your study's in the south wing," Draco pointed out. "And we're in the north wing. Initiation isn't going to take all that long." "It's probably over by now" Lucius replied morosely. "Initiation?" Harry asked, the blood draining from his face. "Yes. You two picked a magic's cursed time to stage this rescue mission." "Draco picked it, not me" Harry pointed out. "I didn't ask you to come, did I?" "This is not the time to be casting blame." Lucius stopped the bickering with a look. "We have to devise the safest way out of this mess, and quickly. We could take the diagonal, go down to the ballroom. And though that would be the fastest way, it's probably the worst as well. They most likely used the ballroom for Initiation." "We could walk through my wing and then down to yours" Draco offered, thinking of his mental maps of the Manor. "Too much time spent walking in a place they could easily check. No, we have to get over to the east side of the Manor without them being able to see us." "Underground then?" Draco asked, a slight tinge of fear in his voice. "Yes. No Death Eater would look there." "Um, Mr. Malfoy, are you sure you can walk that far?" Harry asked as he surveyed exactly how much damage Lucius had been through. "You'd be surprised what adrenaline and Veriae magic can do towards ignoring one's wounds" Lucius drawled. "Once we're out of this magic forsaken tower, I'll be fine."

Leaning heavily on his son, Lucius stood on shaky limbs, and the three of them made their way towards the base of the tower. "Where are we going exactly?" Harry asked, as they made their way down the steps. Neither of the two Malfoys had explained their conversation from before and he had no idea what they were talking about. "The dungeons run underneath the north to west wall" Lucius explained in a ragged voice. "We're going to walk through them to get to the west wing and then walk down the corridor that leads to my study." "No one goes down there." Draco said with conviction. "Even if every Malfoy to live here has memorized it passageways, it's still not a good place to go by yourself." At the bottom of the steps a small shriek greeted them. "Master! You is so hurt! Let Diddy help-" "No. I'll be fine." The House Elf cowered uncertainly at her Master's feet. "If you is saying so, Master," she said sadly. "Harry Potter, is you ok?" Harry looked down to see Dobby's eyes looking up at him with concern, as if checking to see if Lucius's ailments were also Harry's. "Yes, I'm fine." "Dobby is happy to hear that!" Dobby's eyes swept over the elder Malfoy and he pressed himself further into Harry's shadow. Lucius ignored the House Elf, and addressed Harry. "Request that your House Elf connect the floo in my study to the one in the Headmaster's office. I don't want to waste time walking through the halls of Hogwarts as well." Harry relayed the request to Dobby, who was happy to do such for Harry Potter. The House Elf disappeared with a small pop and Lucius turned to his own House Elf. "I want you to get all the other House Elves together. If the Death Eaters start looking for us, I want you to get in their way." "Diddy understands, Master. Diddy will do so." The other House Elf vanished with a pop and left the two Malfoys and Harry Potter standing alone in the corridor.

Harry had never been to the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, and he was happy that he hadn'the thought as he stepped off the small staircase and looked around. The rooms were dank, dark, and smelled of bodily fluids that Harry didn't want to identify. Someone shifted next to him and a small light appeared in Lucius Malfoy's handone of his feathers, glowing as brightly as a Lumos spell. In the dim light Harry could make out the cell doors, wood and steel monstrosities that lined the hallway that they were in. Harry could see why no Death Eater would want to come down here. The dungeons, from what he could see, were a maze of hallways. There would be no hope for a prisoner to get out of here once left behind in the lightless rooms. "Be careful." Lucius spoke softly as he began to walk down the passageway. Harry and Draco followed as silently as they could, passing door after door, hallway after hallway. One of the doors they passed was open and Harry looked in to see a skeleton sitting in a pool of dried blood. After that he didn't try and look around.

Lucius turned and headed down another corridor, turned again at the next hallway and continued in that direction for a while. Harry found himself praying that Lucius Malfoy knew where he was going, because there was no way he'd be able to find his way back to where they'd come from if the man suddenly announced that they were lost. After they turned yet another cornerthere was a small crunch, and both Lucius and Harry turned to see a peculiar expression on Draco's face. "I think I just crushed someone's head." He explained, his voice strained, his eyes pointedly looking anywhere but down at his feet where the splintered remains of a skull lay under his shoe. Luicus didn't say anything but turned and continued walking. Harry almost cried out in relief when he saw a set of stone steps spiraling upwards towards a small door. They had reached the other side of the dungeons. Lucius was about to put a foot on the step when a small voice whispered "Lumos" behind them. All three turned to see the pug-like features of Pansy Parkinson looking at them with tear-streaked eyes. She stared only at Draco for a moment before her eyes closed tight and she placed a hand over her eyelids. "I didn't believe them when they told me what was going on." She spoke quickly, her voice hushed and afraid. "But but I can't! I can't! Get out here now! I I didn't see anything. I didn't!" Draco cast a sorrowful look at the broken girl before he followed his father up the steps.

A lone Death Eater stood in the hallway with his back to the door that lead down to the dungeons on guard duty in case the three of them tried to enter it, Harry guessed. He made a strange strangled sound when Lucius's wing slit his throat and he fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. Neither boy made a comment as they followed Lucius down the hall, carefully sidestepping the body who's blood was now seeping into the purple Persian carpet. They had to run a little in order to keep up with the elder Malfoy's long and purposeful strides. They were not fleeing the house not yet, but they were certainly moving quickly. The hallway seemed deserted, but they could hear crashes and movement resounding throughout the entire house. The Malfoy house elves were doing a great job then They certainly must have been holding up a lot of Death Eaters, if the muffled shouts were anything to go by. A sharp pain hit Harry like a needle through his stomach. Realizing it for what it was, he pushed Draco down to the floor just as a blue beam of light raced over their heads. Lucius whirled around at the sound of curse hitting wall and snarled as a robed figure stepped out of the shadows. "I told you not to let me see you," the Death Eater hissed at Draco. "Blaise-" Draco started. "I found them!" Blaise yelled at the top of his lungs. The boy could say no more as he was flung back against the wall, the sound of broken bones on stone filling the hallway as the full fury that was Lucius Malfoy was unleashed in a fit of Veriae magic. Blaisegasped as he slunk to the ground. "Run now" he whispered pitifully at Draco as Harry helped the young Malfoy to his feet. "Come on!" Harry whispered, as Draco stared at his friend with a look of horror. He could hear the muffled footsteps of the Death Eaters getting closer, most likely tracking Blaise's position with a spell.

The three now took off at a run. The long hallway was now filled with shouts and curses as the Death Eaters poured into the rooms of what had been Lucius's personal wing. The sound of breaking glass, splintering wood, and a few shrieks of what had to be House Elves filled their ears, and yet could not drown out the sound of their own hurried footsteps, muffled by the rug. The study door was still open as they neared it A sigh of relief squelched in Harry's throat as a lone figure walked though it to bar their path of escape. The three running stopped short, a room's length away from the robed figure. Almost cowering behind the steel wings of his father's, Draco's hand sought Harry's as his own wings re-emerged, steel tipped on one side, soft as silk on the side near Harry. "Luciussss Malfoy, Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter," the figure hissed, and Harry could almost picture a forked tongue as he spoke. "Get ready to run, Draco." Lucius spoke calmly, his eyes never leaving the red ones of Lord Voldemort. "Run?" The figure's mouth curled into a cruel smile. "Where would you run? Not back up the corridor, surely. It's full of my loyal Death Eaters by now. And you cannot run from the Killing Curse." "No, but you can block it" Lucius replied just as calmly. "Daddy" Draco whispered, his eyes looking up at his father in new fear. There was something Draco must know that I don't, Harry thought. "Ah yes, you always did say that, Luciusss. The easiest curse to block, you said. All you have to do is get someone in-between you and the curse and it's blocked." The smile twisted into a sneer. "There will be no one in between us when I cast it, I assure you." A wand lifted in their direction and Lucius shouted. "Now Draco!" Draco didn't wait to ask, but ran past his father towards Voldemort and the doorway, pulling Harry along behind him. There was a small pop, and a snarl as Voldemort was pushed backwards by one lone House Elf that was standing between him and her master. There was a growl and a bolt of green light, and Harry barely registered his own shout as the little creature, Diddy, fell dead. Draco barreled into the room, hand clenched tightly around Harry's, and headed for the open pot of floo powder Dobby had placed on the mantle. Lucius entered the room at a run as his son grabbed a handful of the powder, more spilling over the floor in his haste. "Quickly, go!" Lucius shouted, as an irate Voldemort entered the room. Harry pulled Draco into the fireplace as the floo powder fell upon the flames, turning them green. "Father come-" Draco tried to pull his father into the large fireplace. He was pushed back into Harry with a snarled, "Go!" Harry realized what Lucius Malfoy was doing as Voldemort raised his wand and pointed it towards him. "Hogwarts!" He yelled as Voldemort spoke: "Avada Kedavra." The last thing Harry sawthrough the flameswas a cascade of black feathers as Draco's screams filled his ears. They fell out of the fireplace into an undignified sprawl of arms and legs. Harry grabbed on to Draco as the other boy scrambled to get back to the fire.

"Father!" he screeched. "Draco, stop!" Harry yelled, fighting to keep the blond away from the flames. "There's nothing we can do." The blond collapsed in a sobbing heap on the floor of Dumbledore's officeas the door was opened and Albus Dumbledore walked in, followed closely by Ron and Hermione.

Chapter Thirty-One: A Promise For five minutes Dumbledore's office was pure chaos. "Harry!" both Ron and Hermione cried and ran over to where he was still sprawled on the floor. "Are you all right?" Hermione kept asking, as if the first time he answered her question was not truthful enough. "And what happened to Malfoy?" Ron asked after a few minutes. Draco continued to sob into Harry's shirt and Harry did the only thing he could think to do: let him, even though he was fast losing feeling in his lower legs because of how Draco's body had landed on them. Dumbledore said nothing until the door opened and Professor McGonagall entered the room. The deputy Headmistress had the total count of missing students. Not counting Harry and Draco, thirteen Slytherins were missing, along with five Ravenclaws, two Hufflepuffs, and three Gryffindors. All of the students were either six or seventh year students. Dumbledore needed only to think for a moment before issuing the orders. Filch was to personally watch the front doors and leave them open for any students who were courageous enough to march in after being missing. All students were to remain in their Common Rooms until every student from that House was accounted for. The Heads of their respective Houses were to stay with their students in their Common Room. Dumbledore himself would cover the Slytherin House in Professor Snape's absence. Hermione and Ron were to go back to the Gryffindor Common Room. "Harry," Dumbledore said through Draco's muffled sobs. "Why don't you take Draco back down to your rooms. I trust you will both stay there." The twinkle was gone from his eyes as he spoke, a direct order, not a suggestion though Harry doubted neither Draco nor himself would be doing much of anything at least until breakfast. Harry helped Draco get to his feet and the new Malfoy patriarch walked solemnly out of the room. Harry had to admire Draco's strength. If he had been in Draco's position he doubted he would be able to think straight right now, much less be somewhat dignified. Harry, Ron, and Hermione walked out of Dumbledore's office together, pausing at the foot of the stairs. "You are going to tell us what happened right?" Ron asked tentatively. Harry nodded. "What I saw of it anyway." Ron seemed satisfied and started off towards the Gryffindor Common Room, not realizing that Hermione lingered a moment longer. "He's going to need your support Harry" Hermione said quietly, as if unsure how to approach the subject. "You might not have gone through the same thing he did, so you cannot feel his same emotions, but you can make sure other people stay away from him until he's ready to face the world again." She started walking to catch up with Ron, turning back when she thought of something. "And knowing Malfoy, it will be before he's truly ready for it." Then she too left Harry to walk after Draco towards their rooms.

Medusa was livid when Harry got to the portrait. "What did you do!" she nearly screamed at him. Harry ignored her and spoke the password. The gorgon continued to rant about whatever it was that Harry had done to make the poor Malfoy boy so miserable as she opened and Harry was sure that he could hear her continuing to speak about it, now in Parseltongue. "You're starting to repeat yourself," Harry muttered, but he knew she wouldn't hear him.

He found Draco in their bedroom, curled up on his bed in what muggles called the fetal position. His wings were curled around him as if to protect him from the world, but they opened as Harry drew near. The boy was the personification of grief, and Harry wished at that moment to never see such a sight again. Strands of blond hair stuck to his face, held by the drying and still wet tears. His eyes had lost their luster, more of a dull gray than a vibrant silver. His fingers trembled as they held his knees to his chest. Harry had never wished Voldemort dead quite like he did right now. Harry approached the bed cautiously, slowly, unsure if Draco would push him away. Maybe Draco wouldn't want him to be seen in this state. Yet, as Harry stepped close enough that he could have reached out and touched him, a wing encircled him and pulled him closer. Draco's arms followed, and Harry found himself again with a lap full of a crying Malfoy. "He's dead." Draco's voice was riddled with sobs and heaves. "He's gone. He's not coming back." Harry didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything. What could one say? So he just held Draco and let the blond mutter broken sentences into his chest. They stayed that way for a long time, until Draco's sobs had slowed and his breathing evened. Harry realized that Draco had fallen asleep, worn himself out with crying. Carefully Harry maneuvered them into a horizontal position and closed his own eyes, willing himself to sleep and not think about what the morning might bring.

Harry shifted from sleeping to waking instantly, realizing that Draco had shifted and was also awake. All the blond said when he realized that Harry was awake was, "It's afternoon already." Harry could easily believe it. He stretched and tried to be discrete as he watched Draco pick out what he was going to wear that day and disappear into the bathroom to change. The blonde's emotions seemed to have shut down. He didn't even scoff at the mirror when she commented, "You look absolutely dreadful dear," a comment that would have produced a shouting match on a normal day. Harry quickly changed out of his own clothing from the night before and into clean robes, wondering what in Merlin's name he was going to do next. Luckily, Dobby made that decision for him. The House Elf entered the room with a tray laden with foods that Harry knew were Draco's favorite breakfast foods. This the House Elf placed on Harry's made-and-hardly-slept-in bed before turning to Harry. Even the normally cheerful House Elf seemed to be in mourning. "Dobby thought he might do something to help, Harry Potter Sir," Dobby muttered. "Dobby knew Diddy would be doing that if she were still here, Harry Potter, so Dobby Dobby broke more rules, Harry Potter Sir." Harry was confused but he followed the House Elf out of the bedroom when the Elf beckoned him to follow. "This was in former Master's study, Harry Potter," Dobby said, pointing at the wall. Harry's jaw dropped. A regal golden eyebrow rose in a disdainful manner that Harry was all too familiar with. The man in the portrait on the wall looked Harry over with an appraising eye and decided that he wasn't worth talking to. Harry looked over at Dobby with a question. "And Lucius Malfoy had this in his study?" His eyes returned to the portrait as Dobby offered a tentative explanation. "Former Master was not liked by some relatives, Harry Potter, so he is thinking it was safer to put the portrait of himself where the other portraits could not be going."

And indeed it was a portrait of Lucius Malfoy that Dobby had placed on their wall, all the way from Malfoy Manor itself if Harry understood correctly. "But Dobby, why did you go back there?" Harry asked. "The bad people are not staying there, Harry Potter. Now that you is back safe in Hogwart, they is saying that the Manor will soon be crawling with Ministry people, Harry Potter Sir. Other House Elves is telling me this when I went there." It made sense. Kinda. Although Harry was struck with a small morbid curiosity of what had happened to Lucius Malfoy's body. Then he decided he'd rather not know. The door to the bedroom opened and Draco walked out, pausing when he saw Harry and his family's former House Elf standing in the room. Then his eyes drifted to the wall that had been bare before and now held his father's picture. He didn't say anything for a moment or so, just looked at it. Harry had to admit it was a good picture of Lucius Malfoy. He was dressed as he had always appeared in public, in the best black silk robes that money could buy. The background of the picture was in one of the libraries of Malfoy Manor, and one could see the fields behind the Manor through one large ceiling to floor window. The Lucius in the picture stood regally, looking out the window like a king would look out over his country. And, Harry thought, that was how the real Lucius Malfoy had looked at his life in general. The one thing that separated the Lucius in the picture from the one that appeared in Ministry functions and could be seen strolling down Diagon Alley as if he owned the place, was that the artist had drawn his wings black, silken, and as magnificent as they had appeared when Harry had first seen them in the Great Hall. Dobby disappeared, as if fleeing from a possible outburst from Draco at how the House Elf had broken whatever rule it was he said he had broken, leaving Harry and Draco in the room. "Dobby thought it might help" Harry said at last. "I didn't know he was going to do it." Draco nodded, his eyes never leaving the portrait. Harry suddenly felt as if he wasn't supposed to be there, as if there was some closure that Draco needed that he shouldn't see. "I'm going to go get some lunch," he said. "Fine." Harry knew by now that, coming from Draco, that was a dismissal.

The Great Hall was more crowded than usual on a Saturday, but Harry immediately located Hermione and Ron in the crowd of Gryffindor students. They offered him tentative smiles as he approached and sat down across from them. "What's going on?" Harry asked, indicating the bustle of students talking excitedly. "The students that were out last night all came back a few hours after you did" Ron explained in a hushed voice. "They were all sent to sleep in the infirmary and all of them except Blaise are up in Dumbledore's office right now. They all face suspension but people are whispering about expulsion." "Blaise has three cracked ribs, a fractured knee, fractured jaw, and a severe concussion. One of the ribs punctured his lung as well, but he's expected to make a full recovery" Hermione continued. "It's supposed to be a secret so everyone knows," Harry remarked, loading food onto his plate. "So, are you going to tell us what happened?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, but not here. After I eat we'll go talk." Harry ate quickly and the three Gryffindors left the Great Hall and headed down towards where Hagrid's house was. No other students were milling about today; most of them seemed to be waiting for the verdict on the formerly missing students. As they walked, Harry told his friends what had happened, starting with his idea to have Dobby connect a fireplace to Malfoy Manor and ending with Lucius Malfoy's death. "Bloody hell," Ron said appreciably when he finished. There was a pause as no one said anything, then Ron frowned. "I wonder what will happen with the Manor now." "What do you mean?" "Well, Malfoy's parents were divorced when his father died. Normally, like if my father died, the house would go to my mom and then when she died to the oldest child, or whoever was named heir. But Malfoy's not sixteen yet, is he? So he can inherit the property but he can't live on it until he's legal." "He could be facing a lot of legal problems then" Hermione said thoughtfully. "Other adults could make a case that he is unfit to inherit it because of his age." "True. And I bet Lucius Malfoy left everything to his son" Ron continued. "The Malfoys would stick to tradition like that. Malfoy would inherit everything, so if he was deemed unfit to inherit, then someone else would get everything." "And any other relatives are Death Eaters," Harry continued the thought. "That could be a problem." "Well, it won't be if Malfoy turns sixteen soon. Does anyone know his birthday?" Hermione asked. Both Harry and Ron shook their heads.

Harry walked into his and Draco's rooms tentatively, unsure of what to expect. Draco was sitting on the couch, looking into the fire, a thoughtful expression on his face. Lucius Malfoy's portrait was still on the wall The figure inside it looked up slightly when Harry entered the room and nodded curtly to Harry before returning his attention to the window. Draco didn't look up until Harry sat down next to him on the couch. Harry thought Draco looked much better now than he had that morning. His eyes had returned to their original coloring, and the sullen expression that had set in, though still there, was not as prominent as it had been before. Harry wondered if Draco had talked to the portrait of his father after he'd left. He knew that he would have, had there been a portrait of Sirius Black to talk to after his godfather's death. "Voldemort killed my father" Draco said softly, his eyes boring into Harry's own with a question. "You're going to have to fight him. Harry are you going to kill him? When you fight him?" "Yes," Harry replied evenly and with a conviction he'd not felt before. "I am going to kill him." "Promise me that when you do, even though you have your own reasons to kill him promise me that part of it will be for my father." Harry looked for a moment at the boy sitting next to him, saw how hurt inside Draco was, saw the same feelings that he knew from his own experiences saw the one thing that he might be able to do to help. "I promise."

Chapter Thirty-Two: Wildfire News Harry had never seen the student body of Hogwarts as attentive as when Dumbledore announced the four day suspension of twenty-three students from the school. No names were mentioned, though as Harry looked around the Great Hall it was rather obvious where the gaps in the houses were. As his eyes had done countless times during the day, he sought out Draco who was sitting calmly at the breakfast table. He had briefly appeared in the Great Hall for meals on Sunday, but had insisted on going to classes on Monday. "Harry, you look more upset than Malfoy," Ron muttered. "Relax. If Malfoy was going to break down, he would have done it already." "I think he's doing the right thing" Hermione added. Harry looked at her in surprise. "The faster you get back into your life after an incident like that, the better it is in the long run. People find the routine of their lives helps them move past it." "But that routine has been broken already, hasn't it?" Ron asked around a mouthful of eggs. "Yeah, because normally Draco gets a letter right about now," Harry muttered. Hermione winced and Ron tried not to look sympathetic for his long time rival. "What about you and Malfoy?" Hermione asked after a minute. "Why aren't you two in trouble?" "I don't know. Dumbledore didn't say." Harry shrugged "But if I had to guess, I would say that he didn't want to draw attention to it." "Hmm?" Ron frowned in the midst of drinking his pumpkin juice. "Oh I get it!" Hermione exclaimed before adding in a much quieter tone. "As long as he keeps you and Draco out of it, then nothing about Voldemort is exposed to the school." "Kinda like he did when Malfoy's... dad showed up in Hogwarts?" Ron asked. "Exactly." There was a rustle of wings throughout the Great Hall as the mail began to arrive. Harry's eyes snapped towards Draco, but the blonde looked... well, he looked like he did normally, yet he was much too tense for him to be acting truly normal. Also, his clothes made any pretense of "normality" disappear faster than an invisibility spell. Draco wore what Hermione had informed him as traditional mourning clothing in the Wizarding World. Underneath his outer school robes, he wore clothing of the colors found on the Malfoy family crest, colors that represented the Malfoy family. Clothing of those colors would only be worn on three occasions, Hermione said: when there was a birth, when there was a wedding, and when there was a death. The occasion was specified by the armbands worn on the cuffs of the robes blue or rose for a birth (depending on the gender of the baby), white for a wedding, and a dark blood red for a death. Draco's cuffs were so dark red that it was hard to tell where the black of his robes ended and the red began, and looked so bloody that it seemed as though he had dipped his robes in his own blood. Draco had gone to Snape that morning to get permission to violate the school uniform in such a way. Snape had let him without hesitation. "Harry you should look at this," Ron said in a voice that told Harry something was wrong. Harry looked at the paper in Ron's hand and groaned. "I guess they made the death public?" "Not just that Harry," Hermione told him, looking over from where she sat perusing another student's paper. "Look at the first and second pages."

Wincing Harry took the paper and scanned the headline on the first page. Lucius Malfoy Found Dead With Dark Mark Blazing Over Malfoy Manor Hoping that the next page didn't also have to do with Lucius Malfoy's death, Harry opened the paper. When he saw the title, he suddenly wished it did have to do with Lucius Malfoy's death. A Secret Love Affair Revealed: Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter "Oh no." "Oh yes." Hermione looked livid. "When I get my hands on her, I'll squash her like the bug she is!" Harry's eyes fell to the name of the writer of the second article and he practically hissed at the name. Rita Skeeter. Ron took the paper from Harry's shaking hands and began to read the second article for himself, cringing every two minutes. "You want to know the damage, mate?" "Why not? I'll learn it sooner or later," Harry grumbled into his drink. "Well, from the way she says it, you two might as well have been soul mates from birth. It talks about Malfoy being a Veriae, though it doesn't say much other than a "cousin of the well known Veela". It also says that you two have been sharing rooms since the beginning of this year, which is true, but then goes on to describe your relationship, the detail of which is utterly false and makes me sick." "Doesn't sound bad so far," Harry muttered. "Oh it gets better, Harry," Hermione seethed at the article. "It talks about how Malfoy has no choice in his soul mate and says, and I quote: 'In such a time of grief as Draco Malfoy is going through over the loss of his father, Lucius Malfoy, he will become more dependant on his mate' I can't believe she actually uses that term! 'and will be vulnerable to any suggestions he might get from Harry Potter'." Hermione snorted in disgust. "It makes it sound like he's your-" "Don't say it Ron," Harry seethed. Harry was so absorbed in hating Rita Skeeter that he didn't notice a large barn owl drop a letter onto Draco's lap. He did notice the sudden movement from the Slytherin table as Draco stood and abruptly left the room, their eyes meeting for a moment as he did so. Harry nodded to his friends and followed the blonde out of the room.

Draco stalked down towards the dungeons, pausing only to snarl the password at Medusa before walking into their rooms. Harry followed him silently, ignoring the portrait's talk about how the poor boy was still distressed from whatever Harry had done and he'd better fix it. "Did you see the Prophet?" Harry asked as Draco began pacing the room. "Why would I? I knew what was going to be there," Draco muttered. "On the first page or the second page?" Harry queried, leaning against the portrait door. "The second page?" Draco asked. "Yeah. The page with the article about your and my secret love affair." All color drained from Draco's face. "You're kidding."

"Nope. The entire Wizarding World knows you're a Veriae now. They know that we're rooming together. I don't know if they'll believe that we're sleeping together or not, but that's there too. Oh, and there's the implication that I might be using you for my own selfish gain somewhere in there as well." "Bloody hell," Draco snarled, as he dropped an opened letter on the couch. "Well, that explains this then." "What is it?" Harry asked. "Read it yourself. I'm going to go shower." "We have Potions first period you know" Harry warned, knowing that this kind of shower for Draco would be a long one. "Oh I know, and if I actually make it to that class at all I will be very surprised." "I should be making a comment about the unfairness of it all" Harry muttered as his eyes scanned the letter. "Who's Mr. Archeon?" "Mr. Achilles Archeon is the man who looked after my father's will while he was alive" Draco explained over his shoulder as he left the room. Harry frowned slightly as he read the tiny, scrawling script. Something about reading Draco's father's will after his wake, which was in three days. It assured Draco that while the Malfoy Gringotts accounts were frozen until the reading of the will, Draco's personal one would remain open for his use, as it was not owned by his father at his father's time of death, but by Draco himself. It also said that after the divorce his father had made Draco's godfather Professor Severus Snape, Draco's legal guardian if he should pass away before Draco reached legality. Then, and Harry assumed that this was the part Draco had been upset about, it stated that Narcissa Malfoy had already declared her intention to challenge the transfer of Draco's guardianship from herself to Snape and the man wrote that he could only assume that she would also challenge any inheritance Draco might receive from his departed father. But, it said, even though Draco would not reach the legal age of seventeen until June fifth of that year, a little less than four months away, in light of certain new developments there may be a way for Draco to enter into legality despite his age, should the rumors prove true. Should the rumors prove true? Harry gulped. The man couldn't be talking about that rumor, could he? And even if he was, why would Harry's relationship (if you could call a few scattered kisses and one makeout session a relationship) with Draco have anything to do with Draco becoming legal in the Wizarding World before his birthday? Harry caught up with Hermione a few minutes before breakfast ended as she made her way down to the dungeons for Potions. "What are the ways that you can become legal in the Wizarding World?" Harry asked breathlessly, thoughts jumbled in his head, and gasping from his run up from his and Draco's rooms. Hermione looked surprised for a moment before answering, "The legal age in the Wizarding World is seventeen, so anyone becomes legal if they turn seventeen. However, in older wizarding custom, marriages were arranged at birth and the children to be married were usually engaged at fifteen. This started the tradition that a wizard or witch could become legal in the Wizarding World after becoming engaged. They needed that" Hermione searched for the right word, "flexibility in order to plan their weddings. And the guy in the relationship had to be able to provide for his wife, and so on." The look on Hermione's face showed exactly how enamored with that idea she was not very much at all. "Why do you ask, Harry?" she questioned him a second later, suddenly curious. "No reason. Just wondered," Harry said quickly. Hermione didn't buy it for an instant. "Harry, what's going on?" She paused. "This has to do with Malfoy doesn't it?" "No! Well yes, it kinda does, but it's not what you're thinking!" Harry sputtered as Hermione's face held a look of disapproval. "And we're going to be late to Potions if we don't hurry," Harry changed the subject,

grateful for a distraction. He wasn't ready to have a conversation with Hermione about what she had just told him, not yet.

Harry sat on his rarely-slept-in bed paying absolutely no attention to the Transfiguration essay he was supposed to be working on. He'd gone through the rest of the day in the exact same manner he still didn't know how he managed to get through Potions without destroying himself utterly by his lack of concentration he couldn't even remember going to Divination and Transfiguration was all a blur to him. But somehow he found himself here, after dinner, supposedly working on his Transfiguration essay while Draco wrote back to that Archeon person. It was crazy, utterly and horribly crazy. And yet he hadn't been able to take his eyes off Draco for the rest of the day when the blonde was around. That was probably why Transfiguration was so blurry and he had no idea about what he should be writing this essay on. His thoughts were all scrambled up in his head, popping into conscious thought at peculiar moments. 'Why was he so angry about the mention of those rumors?' had slipped into his mind when Snape was talking about skewering butterfly wings or at least that's what Harry hoped he had been talking about. 'Maybe he wasn't, maybe he was just angry because of what Narcissa Malfoy had done. Or maybe he was angry about the veiled comment about the rumors,' had repeated around in his head during Divination. And the worst, 'What if he was angry because he would never want me romantically?' popped up right around dinnertime. Harry had almost choked on the air he was breathing, causing Ron to ask him if he was ok and Hermione to look at him suspiciously. "Harry would you mind if you stopped staring at me? You haven't blinked in the past five minutes. It's rather disturbing." Harry blinked quickly a few times at Draco's words. When he looked back at the blonde, Draco had returned to his letter and gave no sign of wanting to ask why Harry had been staring at him. It was strange but a small relief to Harry. Whether Draco knew, guessed, or didn't care about what Harry had been thinking of that evening was not broached by either of them, but Harry couldn't help thinking as he fell asleep that night that Draco had probably guessed.

Chapter Thirty-Three: The Ties that Bind "But I don't understand why it's taking so much of his time to organize the funeral. Isn't that what the people he writes to are supposed to do?" Harry mused, sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room opposite Ron and Hermione. "Well that depends on what kind of a funeral he is going to give his father," Hermione replied crisply. "Huh?" "Well, most of the ideas that you and I would have of funerals are more muggle than wizard," Hermione explained. "As muggle-borns began to filter into the Wizarding World, they brought their traditions with them. So the older wizarding families, like Ron's, would probably stay with the strict wizarding traditions." "So what's the difference?" Harry asked, looking to Ron. "It's a family thing." Ron shrugged. "Only relations can attend. And then they bury the guy." Hermione sighed. "What he's saying is, that in ancient wizarding customs there's no wake and no 'funeral' in our sense. Just the burying part, if you want to think in muggle terms. The family members meet at the house of the person who just died, and they process to the family graveyard or mausoleum. Only those related by blood can then enter the place where the body is going to be buried and bury the body." "What's probably taking all of Malfoy's time is fighting everyone who wants his dad to have a more modern burial, with speeches and stuff," Ron mused. "But if there's any family that will stick to tradition like that, it would be the Malfoys." But Harry didn't process Ron's words, thinking instead of how Hermione had described the burial process. "I'll see you later I have to go talk to Draco." As Harry hurried out of the Gryffindor Common Room, Ron frowned. "What's he upset about?" "I don't know," Hermione replied.

Harry stormed through the portrait hole, ignoring Medusa's ranting, and headed straight for the bedroom where he knew Draco would still be working on something. The blond didn't even look up when Harry entered. "I'm not letting you bury your father by yourself." Draco paused in what he was writing and looked up at Harry. "This is not up for discussion." "Bloody hell, Draco, it's not damn healthy what you're doing! Your father died three days ago and all you've done now for two days is push people away." "There is no other Malfoy family. I will deal with it." Draco began to write again. Harry glared at Draco across the room for a minute and the blond ignored him. "I'm family," Harry hissed. The quill shook in Draco's fingertips. "What makes you say that?" the blond asked in a strained voice. "Your father was a Veriae. You are a Veriae. I am your Veriae bonded. That makes me family, doesn't it?" "Not by blood." "Doesn't matter. I can still walk with you, can't I?" Draco sighed. "You're not going to leave me alone until I agree to this, are you?"

"No." Draco rolled his eyes and muttered, "Bloody Gryffindor," under his breath before looking up at Harry. "Fine. You can walk with me."

Abandoning his homework for his own sense of urgency, Harry headed for the library the first minute he could after classes had ended for the day. Harry quickly realized that he had no idea where one would store the kind of subject material he was looking for in a library setting, and therefore had to turn to Madam Pince for help. She looked rather surprised when a young teenage boy, Harry Potter no less, asked for where one would find books on wizard etiquette, but she gave him directions to a remote corner of the library and two hours later Harry found what he was looking for. Many of the books he looked through had been about how muggle culture had been integrated into wizarding society. But that wasn't what he'd wanted. With a family like the Malfoys, he had to go looking for the oldest book on wizard etiquette he could find. He finally found it buried on the lowest shelf in the corner, so covered with dust that he sneezed when he pulled it off the shelf. Placing it on the table where he'd thrown his book bag produced yet another cloud of dust and another sneeze. Harry began flipping through its see-through-thin pages, bypassing the long section on wizarding naming ceremonies to the section on funeral etiquette. Now that he was going to attend Lucius Malfoy's funeral, he wanted to know everything that would be expected of him, even if the only two in attendance would be Draco and himself or maybe more because the only two in attendance would be Draco and himself. It was not that he did not trust Hermione to have her facts straight, but to be sure he didn't miss something important, something that maybe only Draco himself would find important. After half an hour of reading, Harry found that his only problem was finding his family's colors. He didn't think that they had any, and wondered if the Potter family was even old enough to have family colors or a family crest and plus he had no idea how to find out if they did. But the book said that in the absence of family colors, in the instance of an orphan for example, the mourning clothes would only be black with the dark red cuffs. Of course, Harry did not own proper wizarding mourning robes, but he figured that Hermione could change the color of the cuffs on his normal robes easily enough. Harry picked up the book to close it and place it back on the shelf before he headed down to the Great Hall for dinner. As he did so, the page he'd just finished reading turned, and the heading of the next section caught his eye. Wizarding Engagements and the Marriage Rite Harry bit his lip as he stood there for a second and then sat back down. He knew that engagements in the wizarding world gave younger wizards a status in a way very different from the muggle world where legal status was based on age. What if there was something else about it that Harry didn't know? He hadn't really pressed Hermione for any details for fear that she would jump to the conclusion that he was going to propose to Draco in order solve this legal fix that Draco - and subsequently himself thanks to Rita Skeeter - was in. But, he admitted to himself, it was a real possibility, even if it was very far-fetched. In fact, Draco himself was probably not even thinking of it as a remote possibility. No, only he was and Harry didn't even know what he would be getting himself into. Sitting back in the chair, Harry began to read. The information to remember about wizarding etiquette concerning engagement and marriage was a bit more complex than that on funerals, which made Harry decide to write it out to make sure he did not forget anything crucial. The book broke any relationship down into two beings, the caretaker of the pair (called the "maritus") and the one who was taken care of (called the "marita"). In a case with a heterosexuals the caretaker was always male and the one taken care of was always female. In a case with homosexual partners, the two would decide which would take the traditional "male" role and which would take the traditional "female" role. This, the book stated explicitly, had no connotation to what role the partner took in the sexual relationship between the two.

First there was a long courtship process that by now Harry and Draco had completely skipped over and rendered useless seeing as they had shared sleeping quarters, something that was forbidden during the courtship ritual. An engagement proposition could only occur after the maritus had gained permission from both his own family and the family of the marita. This permission could come only after proper fulfillment of the courtship rituals, which he and Draco would have to skip anyway. The maritus would then kneel before the marita and request, "Where I am Gaius, there you are Gaia?" (slightly different than the traditional marriage vows, spoken in the first language that the maritus had learned). If the marita accepted, he/she would reply "Where I am Gaia, there you are Gaius". The maritus would then place the engagement ring on the marita's finger and the marita would do the same for the maritus. In preparation for a traditional wizarding wedding, it was the job of the marita to provide the robes for both partners. Traditionally the clothing had to be hand sewn by the marita, but over time the custom had evolved so that the marita only had to pay for the clothes. The maritus would pay the "bride price" of the marita to the head of the marita's family, or the closest male guardian of the marita in the event that the marita had no family. This price was set by tradition of how wealthy and noble the family was that the marita was marrying into, and not, as muggles had used it, set by how much the marita was worth to the marita's family. The actual wedding ceremony was done outside the doorway of the house that the couple were going to live in. The marita was walked up the driveway surrounded by the marita's family, and was lead by his/her closest male relative/guardian. The maritus waited just outside the closed doors to the house and when the marita reached the doors, he/she was given over to the maritus. The rite of marriage itself had three parts. First the marriage vows were given in the language of the birthplace of the two to be married, a symbol of the connection between not only the two to be married but that there was now a connection between the lands that the two came from as well. "Where you are Gaia, I am Gaius" was spoken by the maritus, to which the marita replied, "Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia". The wedding rings were then exchanged. Then the wedding vows were said again, this time in Latin, to invoke the forces of magic themselves to watch over the couple to be married. "Ubi tu Gaia, ego Gaius," was said by the maritus, to which the marita replied, "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia." The next part of the marriage was the opening of the house doors, in which the couple quite literally opened the doors of the house. If the doors would not open it was a sign that the magical forces looked down on the marriage for some reason and the ceremony could not continue (Harry had no idea what would happen if the doors wouldn't open no one had recorded what would happen in such an event.). The marita was then carried over the threshold into the house (for it was considered unlucky if the marita tripped over the threshold when entering the house) and was carried to the ball room where the third part of the wedding took place: the traditional dances. This was something that wasn't strange to Harry. Muggles used the same kind of dances at their weddings. The couple would dance first (and at this point they were considered married), then the marita would dance with the closest male guardian/parent to him/her, and finally the maritus would dance with the closest female guardian/parent to him/her. In cases with homosexual pairings, the gender of the person either partner danced with did not change. But what surprised Harry the most was that it seemed to be proper for an engagement to last for years and then be dissolved without marriage. Even after the elaborate courtship ritual, it was proper in the wizarding world for the partners to be split, either for family or their own reasons. If the engagement terminated while a partner was under seventeen, that partner would return to being not an adult, or not legal, in the wizarding community. But if the engagement terminated after both partners were of legal age, they would retain their legal status. And in the case that a partner died while another was under the legal age, that surviving partner would still remain legal. When Harry entered their bedroom that night, Draco did not comment on how late Harry was or how Harry had missed dinner. Neither boy spoke, both too enveloped in their own thoughts to voice them.

The Great Hall was a buzz of hushed excitement the next morning and Harry realized through the haze of half-shaken-off sleep that there were no more missing students at the Gryffindor table. His gaze shifted sharply to the Slytherin table as Draco took his customary seat in-between Crabbe and Goyle. They weren't eating as they normally were but were sitting there looking imposing, for once at their own

housemates. The subjects of their gazes were sitting across from Draco, looking as out of place as First Years before the Sorting. This morning Blaise and Pansy couldn't even look at Draco, decked out in the same colors he'd been in since the beginning of the week and would remain in until his father's funeral. Draco, on the other hand, looked as regal and condescending as ever, acting as if the two opposite him were not worth his time. Harry frowned. He didn't know how friendships worked in Slytherin, but from what he'd seen in Malfoy Manor, those two had cared for Draco in a way that friends cared for each other, but Blaise, at least, had betrayed whatever ties he'd had with Draco. Pansy hadn't done that as far as Harry had seen. Yet she acted just as Blaise did, ashamed of her own actions. Draco nodded only to Crabbe and Goyle as he left the table, walking towards the dungeons. They began to load food onto their plates as if they had just discovered what lay on the table, and Pansy whispered something in Blaise's ear. "Harry?" Ron's voice redirected Harry to the Gryffindor side of the room. "You're being rather obvious," he muttered under his breath, and Harry looked down the table to see most of the Gryffindors looking at him and whispering to each other. Just great. They were probably wondering if there was any connection from that article to his behavior. At least no one had made a scene yet. Movement caught Harry's eye and he hastily stood as Blaise left the Great Hall. "Harry?" Hermione asked. "You haven't touched your breakfast." "I'll see you in class," Harry said hurriedly and left the room. "Malfoy," Ron mouthed and Hermione nodded, returning to the parchment in front of her. Ron watched for the next few minutes as she wrote franticly, crossed things out, and scribbled notes around other scribbles. "What are you doing?" Ron asked finally, scooting closer so he could see over her shoulder. "I'm plotting. What does it look like I'm doing?" "Scribbling on a piece of parchment." Hermione gave him a look that showed she was not amused. Ron shrugged and returned to his breakfast. "Just tell me what you come up with so I can help this time." Harry managed to cut Blaise off in the hallway before the Medusa portrait. "Get out of my way Potter." "I don't think I will." "I'm not in the mood to deal with you right now." "I don't think Draco's in the mood to deal with you right now." Blaise's eyes took on an appraising look, like a cat eyeing a canary. "Well, well, it seems as if rumors are true for once, Potter. Don't you think it's strange that you're using Draco's first name so casually? I don't recall you doing so in previous years." Harry refused to be baited. "I really don't care what you recall or not. I think you must have a class to get to, Zabini. Why don't you go there?" Blaise's eyes narrowed as he took a step closer to Harry. Harry didn't move.

"I've got one thing to say to you, Potter. I've known Draco since I was four. You can't say the same. I'm watching you Potter, and you'd better not hurt him. 'Cause if you do, I'll string you up before the Dark Lord faster than you could draw your wand." "Strange, and here I thought it was only Draco you'd betray to the Dark Lord. Guess I was wrong." Blaise's face twisted in fury and his mouth opened to speak only to be cut off by a calm and icy voice. "I think you should leave now, Blaise." Draco stood off to one side as if he'd been watching the scene unfold before him. Blaise's mouth snapped shut with an audible click. He nodded once to Draco, glared at Harry, and walked back up the corridor. "You didn't have to do that. I could have taken care of him," Draco said softly as Blaise rounded a corner and disappeared from sight. "I'm a Gryffindor remember?" Harry grinned lopsidedly at the blond. "I do weird things like try to protect those I care about."

Draco swirled his pumpkin juice in his right hand as he waited for Crabbe and Goyle to finish their narrative of how they'd beaten on some first year Hufflepuff that afternoon, nodding absently in their direction to show he was paying attention. His eyes scanned the room, meeting a few cautious looks that were sent his way. Blaise's comment to Harry had been accurate after all. Talk had been spreading. Why would it not, after all? He hid a smirk behind his goblet as he took a sip. They were much more subdued than the last time Harry's "love life" had come to the front page of the paper. Of course, the fact that he was a boy probably made people less likely to believe it. It just sounded more far-fetched than what Skeeter had thrown at Harry before. Of course, the last time she'd been attacking Harry, he'd been helping. But he was surprised that he hadn't received any Howlers or angry letters if not Howlers. It just went to show how much power the Malfoy name really had. "Oi! Malfoy!" Draco turned slightly to look at the seventh year Slytherin that had called his name down the Slytherin table, interrupting Crabbe's explanation of how they'd chucked the first year (stunned and growing fingernails in strange places) into a tickle-me-silly-rose-bush. All conversation stopped as he locked gazes with the other boy. "When you're done with Potter tonight, why don't you come down to the seventh year dorms!" Across the hall at the Gryffindor table, Harry stood abruptly, looking murderous. And if looks could kill, the seventh year would have died purely from the look Snape sent at him from the staff table. Draco however, stared at the boy unblinking. In a cocky salute, the boy lifted his goblet in a toast to Draco. Draco blinked. The goblet shattered, pumpkin juice flying everywhere, the sharp pieces of the cup attempting to embed themselves in the soft flesh of his face and neck. "I don't think you could keep up with me" Draco's calm voice seemed to echo down the Slytherin table, just loud enough so that the now-bleeding boy could hear the words, but not the rest of the hall. "Mr. Goldstien" Snape's voice promised many unpleasant things as he appeared at the Slytherin's elbow. "We need to discuss your code of behavior. In my office. Now. Apparently, a three day suspension was not enough to curb your rule breaking streak." Snape looked down the table at the other Slytherins, his eyes stopping at every one that had just returned that day from the suspension. "Does anyone share Mr. Goldstien's sentiments? I'm sure he would be happy to have your company."

"I don't think I've ever seen Snape talk to Slytherins that way!" Ron whistled in appreciation. "I mean, he's still a greasy git, but that was really something!"

Hermione hid a smile behind her book at Ron admiring Snape. Harry though, looked as if he almost didn't hear Ron, staring into the fireplace that lit the Gryffindor Common Room. Hermione frowned as she looked at his sullen eyes which flickered in the firelight. "Harry?" He looked up as if he had nothing better to do at that moment other than stare into the flames. "Are you feeling alright?" "He's just as shocked as I am that Snape started beating on Slytherins!" Ron broke in cheerfully and Harry nodded to his friend's statement, a false smile on his lips. "Are you thinking about the funeral?" Hermione saw through his smile instantly. "No. I'm not." And he wasn't. "If I were him, I'd be thinking about the trial, 'Mione," Ron interjected before Hermione could continue questioning Harry. "What do you mean? Malfoy's dad left everything to him, so all he has to do is prove that and he gets his inheritance," Hermione pointed out logically. "The only one I can think of who could bring Malfoy's inheritance into question is his mother. That won't work against his own mother, Hermione. And she's got Malfoy's age on her side, too." He leaned in eagerly as he came to his conclusion. "Before, Malfoy's dad used to sway the Ministry purely with money. But Malfoy doesn't have all that money right now, since that's what they're going to court about!" Hermione looked stunned. Ron had obviously done some serious thinking on the situation. Harry, looking back at the fireplace, commented on how Ron seemed to have thought the entire scenario through. "Well," Ron looked sheepish. "I told Malfoy he was eventually going to get what was coming to him and, no offence Harry, but I think this is when he's finally going to get it." "None taken." Harry managed a smile at his friend. "But," he thought as he turned their conversation to other topics, "I'm going to help make sure that won't happen."

Draco was lounging on the sofa, having stopped his Transfiguration work "only for a minute to rest his eyes". He only realized he'd been dozing for half an hour when he was shaken out of his stupor by the portrait door closing as entered the room. "So how are things on the Gryffindor side of the school?" Draco drawled as he again looked at the Transfiguration essay he had to write. Harry looked surprised that Draco had asked such a question. "Er fine I guess." "I wasn't actually interested," Draco replied pointedly as Harry plopped into the armchair facing the sofa. The Gryffindor shrugged carelessly. "So then, how are things at the Slytherin end of the school?" "I wouldn't know. You'd have to go to the Slytherin Common Room to find that out." Harry grinned lopsidedly. "Yes, I was planning on doing that but I thought I'd check with you first to see if you knew and save me the trip by telling me." "Sarcasm does not suit you, Harry." "If you say so." "I do." A pause. "So when is your appearance in court?"

Draco hid his surprise as Harry waited for an answer. "Monday." "Monday? That soon after the funeral?" "Of course. You're not thinking like a Slytherin, Harry. If Narcissa had requested Friday, I could then say that the funeral was on Friday and move it to a date of my choice, whatever was convenient enough for me. Saturday or Sunday would be convenient for me and therefore are out of the question. But since I already miss Friday's classes, it's only more inconvenient for me to miss Monday's as well. Anything to throw off your opponent, Harry. You'd be surprised how the little things can undermine people." "So who's going to be there?" "Myself, my godfather, my mother, Archeon as holder of my father's will, and the Wizengamot." "What if I wanted to come?" Harry's voice sounded as if he didn't care whether he went or not, but Draco wasn't fooled. "You're already coming to the funeral, Potter Don't push it." "Why can't I come?" "You're not involved." Harry bit his lip for a second, as if weighing some decision in his mind. "I could be," he whispered. Draco's eyes narrowed slightly as Harry refused to meet his gaze. "What are you getting at?" "Look, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's your word against the person the world sees as your mother. She says you should not inherit and you say that you should." Harry paused and fumbled for words. "Your your dad's not there anymore to make sure the outcome is what you want." Draco caught the double implications of Harry's words. Harry was dancing around the subject of bribery, an option that was not open to Draco. "I don't know what kind of sway Narcissa Black holds, but in the worst case scenario she would be equal to what your father used to hold. Even without that, she's got wizarding law on her side because you're not legal yet and she is." Draco sighed. He already had thought through this vicious circle of logic himself. "Harry, come to the point." "If I came as your fianc, then you would be legal and there would be nothing they could do to stop your inheritance seeing as the whole problem arose because you aren't a legal adult yet." There. He'd said it. Harry waited for Draco's response. But there wasn't one. The seconds seemed to stretch into lifetimes as Draco sat silent, his eyes looking down at his Transfiguration text book without seeing the printed words. The blond shuddered as he breathed out slowly and spoke, his voice sounding dead to Harry's ears. "That is not an option. I will not allow something as trivial as legality to influence something like that." Gathering his books, Draco stood and headed towards the bedroom, pausing at Harry's words. "At least we agree on that. If I were to say any vows, they would be real."

Chapter Thirty-Four: Black Marble, White Marble, and Gold Ron was just finishing the last of his History of Magic essay when Hermione excitedly pulled him over to an abandoned corner of the Gryffindor Common Room. "I finished!" she said excitedly as she pushed him down into a chair and sat down in the opposite one. "Finished what?" "My plan for revenge on Rita Skeeter." Now Ron was interested. "I'm in." "You don't even know what it is yet." "Doesn't matter. What are we doing?" Hermione smiled and outlined the plan. "Well, first I wanted to go after her personally and practice some spells on her, but I couldn't do that until vacation and by that time it would be to late for this plan. What I want to do is discourage her from ever writing about Harry ever again." "Sounds good. How do we do it?" "Well, the only reason she gets to write the articles on Harry is because she uses her animagus form to snoop around for information. She then has something that no other reporter has, inside information on Harry Potter. But what if we took that away?" Hermione's eyes glittered with triumph. "What if we gave the Prophet another reporter, closer to Harry Potter than Rita Skeeter could ever be? Someone like those who really know him?" "People like us!" "Exactly. And since you're willing to help, and if we can get Ginny to help too, we can have one reporter for all the major journalism outposts." "But will Harry go with it though?" Ron looked skeptical. "I mean, it would kinda be like spying on our own friend." "But he'll get to decide what gets printed. He knows we wouldn't print anything bad or untrue and he knows that if he wanted something kept secret we could keep it. So why wouldn't he?" "Good point. We'll ask him first before we go through with it though." "Of course. But going on the idea that he will. You, Ginny, and I will write to the Prophet, the Quibbler, and Witch Weekly. We'll offer to write articles about any of the newsworthy actions of Harry Potter. What they won't know is that we'll shuffle all the information between the three, so each publication will have some details that the others won't. Therefore, they'll see our input as priceless. Other than a stipend for our articles, we'll demand that in return no other writer can be allowed to write an article exclusively about Harry Potter or those connected to him." Ron's grin was akin to that of the grins normally seen on the faces of his two brothers, Fred and George. "Let's go ask Ginny if she wants to help."

All the next day, Draco refused to let himself think about the trial, or Harry, or Harry's idea of how to win the trial. The funeral the next day, he reasoned, took precedence. The very fact that he was putting off thinking of what Harry had said did not enter his mind, although on some level he knew he was doing it.

Harry seemed to have realized that Draco did not wish to discuss what he had brought up and kept his distance. But Draco could feel the weight of his stare whenever they were in the same room together, even though he ignored it. He wouldn't allow himself to think about anything regarding the trial until his father's funeral was over.

The day of the funeral dawned bright and sunny, and as warm as the weather can be in the third week of February. Dumbledore himself had given his consent for Harry and Draco to miss both Friday and Saturday, on the condition that they had to come to his office immediately after they arrived back at Hogwarts Sunday night. He presented them with four tickets for the Hogwarts Express, two to go back to London that morning, and two to come back Saturday afternoon. Harry was secretly relieved that Dumbledore did not ask if they'd rather travel by floo powder. He didn't think either he or Draco would have been able to do that yet. The idea of a chaperone was not broached by anyone, and Harry thought that there had to be some rule that they were breaking. As the train was pulling away from Hogsmead Harry asked Draco if that was true. Draco thought for a moment. "That sort of thing is done when students are leaving the Hogwarts grounds and Hogwarts is still responsible for them. So if anything happens than it the school that is blamed. We are actually leaving the school and going home, like on Christmas vacation, so if we get hurt its our fault and not the school's. That's why we have to report back on Saturday. We're not part of the student body at the moment." "Oh." Draco studied Harry for a moment as the boy across from him looked out the window at the passing scenery. "Why aren't you wearing your family colors?" "I don't know what they are." Harry replied truthfully. The only color on Harry's clothes other than black was the dark red cuffs (that Hermione had colored with a spell that morning). "We'll have to find that out some time." Draco spoke thoughtfully, as his own gaze turned to the window. Nothing more was said until they arrived at Kings Cross. The same limo-that-was-actually-a-carriage that had greeted them during Christmas vacation waited for them outside the station and they rode in silence to the Manor. Ever so often Harry would look over at Draco and, as the carriage got closer and closer to his home, the blond paled just a little more. Harry didn't have to guess to know what he was thinking, or rather remembering.

The Manor itself didn't look like it had changed from the last time they'd seen it. Outwardly, one could almost believe nothing had happened. Such delusions were shattered when Draco was presented with a list of what artifacts had been broken beyond repair by a shivering House Elf as they walked in the door. "But we is fixing everything other than those, Master Draco sir," it said hurriedly. "I'm sure," Draco cut the creature off abruptly but with no malice in his voice. The House Elf's eyes fell sullenly to the floor. "Master Lucius is out on the terrace Master Draco, sir." Draco nodded and the House Elf disappeared. Together, Harry and Draco walked through the first floor to the back gardens. A casket of white marble, covered in a clear film which hummed of magic, levitated there and Harry almost couldn't look at the former Malfoy patriarch. The Death Eaters had left Lucius's body untouched, except for his wings which were broken beyond even the repair of skilled House Elf magic. The tattered black wings, still in their steel form from when he'd died, had been arranged around his body, which was dressed in what Draco knew had been his favorite outfit. At his feet lay the familiar snake-head cane.

Harry had done his own research to know how to properly act during the funeral, and stepped up to the casket as Draco did. When Draco placed both hands on the foot of the casket, Harry placed one of his on Draco's shoulder. Together they walked slowly over the snow-covered land towards the very back of the land owned by the Malfoy family. The Malfoy's owned a mausoleum, which had been built in the style of ancient Greek architecture. It was tucked away in a heavily forested area, all gleaming white stone in contrast to the dark stone of Malfoy Manor itself. The doors had been opened at dawn by the House Elves, doors that were only to be opened when a body was to be placed inside. Wizarding mausoleums, while rare in this day, had long ago been built to expand as more members of the family were added, so as to never run out of room. When a family built a mausoleum, they would never have to build another. What had fascinated Harry, in a grotesque manner, was that no body ever placed in a wizarding mausoleum ever decayed. The magic inside the mausoleum kept them looking as they did when the body was first placed there. Husband and wife, or husband and husband, or wife and wife, were placed together - to forever sleep next to each other. Personally, Harry was glad that Draco's father was going to sleep alone for eternity, rather than sleep with Narcissa Black when she died. He was sure that Lucius himself would have preferred it. In the doorway Harry stopped and let Draco continue into the room alone, his hand falling to his side as the young Malfoy patriarch walked into the room. It was ornately carved, and Harry couldn't help looking around from the doorway. There was one grave per section of wall, so that no Malfoy was buried above another Malfoy. Instead there were carvings of that Malfoy couple's life carved both above and below the bodies on the wall. There was only one spot in the room without a body, and Draco gently pushed Lucius's casket towards it. He lined the casket up with the open alcove in the wall and for a moment stood in contemplative silence, his eyes looking over the ornate carvings of his father's life. He then looked to his father and spoke three words, "Pax vobiscum, Pater." Peace be with you, father. And then he pushed the casket gently into the wall. The white marble of the casket melded to that of the wall until Harry could not tell what had been casket and what had been wall in the first place, and all that was left was Lucius's body lying in the alcove immortalized by magic for eternity. Draco turned and began to walk towards Harry, slowing to a stop at one of the bodies lying closer to the entrance of the mausoleum. Harry could see the black wings that cradled the two bodies lying there as if in sleep, one of them the only other Veriae that had existed in the Malfoy family. Draco looked at his ancestor for only a moment before again heading for the doorway.

Draco slowly disentangled himself from Harry and carefully left the room leaving the other boy still sleeping. He couldn't sleep any more tonight if he'd tried. There were too many things whirling around in his mind to allow him the solace of sleep. Draco meandered past the sleeping pictures as he walked towards what had been his father's rooms. He needed a place to think, and his feet guided him towards one room as if by their own will. He entered his father's study slowly, walking over to the fireplace and calling on a small current of magic to heat the logs that had been placed there. In the light of the flames the first piece of jewelry that he would ever wear glittered like molten gold. The Malfoy signet ring, one that had been made to fit his own finger. The same ring that still adorned a hand of every single Malfoy patriarch that he had seen in the mausoleum today. Now it was his turn to begin wearing the mark that told the world of his heritage. Wearing it though, brought his mind back to the trial and, inevitably, back to Harry. Almost on a whim, Draco summoned a House Elf and asked for it to bring him the Malfoy matrimonial bands. Two rings that had been passed down for generations upon generations. The House Elf quickly appeared with a small wooden box made of cedar. Draco thanked it before dismissing it and returning his attention to the box itself, as if maybe the object in question could give him the answer he sought. Wedding rings were always unique to the pair that were to be married. For the Malfoy family, this meant that the pair were one of a kind jeweled masterpieces created once and never copied. But engagement rings were passed down through the heirs of the family. Anyone who had ever married a Malfoy would have worn one of these rings during the engagement time period. His mother had worn one of them.

But Harry wouldn't be like her. He wouldn't use something like engagement for his own means, of that Draco was positive. It wasn't something a Gryffindor would do it wasn't something Harry would do. Harry had to be doing another self-sacrificing thing, he just had to be. Somehow, he'd gotten it into his head that the only way for Draco to retain his inheritance was to become legal by wizarding standards. But what in Merlin's name was his motive? He had to have a motive, even if it wasn't one of self gain. But this kind of thing was not something you'd do for a well a friend. Even if engagements could be broken and had been many times before, it was still not something done frivolously. If that was the case, whenever teenagers wanted to be perceived as adults for any small reason, they'd just become engaged to someone and break it when they wanted to! And no one did that; it was a mockery to the marriage rite to do that. Harry would know that, so why was he suggesting it? Draco doubted that such a thing would be done even by people who had crushes on each other but that took out any motive Harry might have had. Unless... well, unless Harry's feelings ran deeper than that, but they couldn't. But if they did No, he just wouldn't even start going down that direction of thought. His own feelings for Harry were confusing as they were, he wasn't going to add that into the mess. Sighing, he closed the small box's lid and let it drop into his pocket, Harry's words coming back into his mind. "If I were to say any vows, they would be real." Real? Real, true engagement vows would hold until the marriage vows when the bonds of matrimony were made. Draco had seen such vows, even those as sacred as the marriage vows, broken, even if they had been real when made. His own parents had done that. Reasons being good or bad, the marriage vows had been broken. But with Harry Draco couldn't do that with Harry. Harry was his Veriae bonded. Were he to propose engagement to Harry, it would be more than real, it would be binding. Completely and utterly binding, never to be broken. It scared him, those kinds of bonds. It wasn't the loss of freedom. He'd already "lost" that by becoming Veriae bound to Harry. No, what scared Draco was how easy it would be to make such a proposal, how little restraint he had, and how quickly that little restraint was crumbling.

Harry woke late that night to an empty bed. Slowly, he stretched and headed out of Draco's wing. He knew where he would have gone if he were Draco. The door to what had been Lucius's study was closed, but light crept under the doorway as Harry neared it. Draco didn't look up as Harry entered the room and quietly padded over to where he stood, looking at the fireplace. "I was thinking about removing it," Draco whispered. "So that I never have to see it again. But I don't think I will." He turned molten silver eyes to Harry's own. "I think it would be better to see it in real life than in nightmares." Harry nodded. Now that he was here, he wasn't really sure what to do. He watched as Draco crossed to his father's desk, sitting in what had been his father's chair. It reminded Harry of a throne, but Draco didn't look much like a king sitting in it. More like a lost prince who has been forced to come home and take control of a kingdom plagued by war. "Are you going to make this your study?" Harry asked. "I don't know. It's rather far to walk to from my room." Harry smiled. Draco would make this his own study, no matter if he had to cross the entire Manor to get to it, he was positive of it. "Well then why don't you check it out?" Harry asked. "Look and see what's here before you decide." He crossed to Draco and leaned over the blond to open a drawer in the desk. "For instance, what's in this drawer?" "That would be the quills, ink, and paper drawer." Draco drawled, pushing the center drawer back. "I know that much, Harry."

"How about the others?" Harry asked, sitting on the arm of the chair. "There certainly are a lot of them." Draco smirked and pointed to the left side of the desk. "Official documents and records are on that side." "How do you know that?" Harry asked, pulling the three drawers open and then shutting them. Draco was right, they were all full of documents. "That side would always be open when I would sneak in here to see my father." "Oh. What about the other side?" Draco frowned. "I don't know. It was never opened when I was in here." The blond leaned over and pulled at the top drawer handle. All three drawers pulled out together to reveal that it was only one drawer but three drawers deep. "Whoa." Harry blinked at what was stored in that drawer. It was undoubtedly a pensive. Golden and decorated with diamond gems, but a pensive nonetheless. Draco pulled it out and set it upon the desk and they both could see the ornate writing carved at the base of the large chalice-like holder of memories. Lucius Sergius Malfoy Draco and Harry looked at it for a moment. "This wasn't mentioned in the inventory in father's will," he said at last. "I wonder why," Harry pondered. "What could be in it that would make him not mention it?" "I don't know." "Shall we see?" Draco looked at Harry in disbelief. "What? We can't do that!" "Why?" "Because-" Draco cut himself off. There was no reason not to anymore. His father was dead, there was no such thing as invasion of privacy where his father was concerned anymore.

The two boys landed in the foyer of the manor, right next to a slight younger looking Lucius who was pacing back and forth on the carpeted floor of the stairs. Both jumped as a shriek echoed through the manor but Lucius merely paused in his walking before beginning again. A cry and another passed, but Lucius kept walking, ignoring the sounds. There was a small pop to the left of the boys and they recognized the house elf as Diddy. "Mistress Narcissa is demanding your presence now, Master Lucius, sir." Lucius nodded curtly to the House Elf before walking up the stairs in a rushed, yet dignified, gait. Harry and Draco followed him through the halls to Narcissa's former wing. When they entered her bedroom they saw her lying on a mess of crumpled sheets, covered in sweat. She was holding a small bundle in her arms as if in distaste. "Take him out of my sight, Lucius. After thirteen hours of labor I don't want to see him!" she nearly shrieked at the man, and a frightened wail came from the bundle. Lucius wasted no time in walking around the bed and taking the bundle of white silk from Narcissa's grip, the wailing stopping immediately as it changed hands. He left without so much as a word, Draco and Harry trailing along behind him. As he left Narcissa's wing, Lucius's walk slowed and he began to talk to the bundle cradled in his arms.

"I waited five years and fifteen hours for you, my son." He walked through the manor, heading towards the wing that would be Draco's own. "Your mother wanted a girl. She told me that over and over. She wanted a daughter to make just like herself. But the fates instead smiled upon my wishes, Draco Lucius Malfoy, though I doubt you'll ever use the middle name until you are grown and I am no longer here." The baby cooed at him as Lucius stopped at the doorway to Draco's wing. "This is where you will grow up, my son. The House Elves just finished it yesterday while your mother was screaming. Baby Draco giggled as Lucius swung open the door and walked inside. Draco's rooms hadn't changed over the years. More things had been added as Draco had obtained more possessions, but the skeleton of what Draco would live in now was there, even down to the same color sheets on the bed. "Your crib is in my rooms at the moment, but when you grow out of it this is where you will sleep." Lucius walked around the room and stopped at the long ceiling-to-floor window that looked out over the land surrounding Malfoy manor. "And this, my son, will someday belong to you and whomever is outstanding enough to be deemed worthy of your life partner. I'm sure Narcissa will press for another child, a daughter most likely, but you can be assured, my son, that when I die there will be no one to stand against your claim to what you are entitled. You are my heir and my joy." The hand that was not holding the baby moved to touch the baby Draco's cheek. Baby Draco giggled loudly and grabbed Lucius's ring finger in both hands. The little hands found the Malfoy signet ring and pulled it off Lucius's finger. It immediately went into baby Draco's mouth and he bit down as hard as he could with his toothless gums. Lucius chuckled at Draco as he took back the ring. "That too, will be yours."

The memory shifted to Lucius sitting alone in his study writing something. It looked like a letter. But before either of the boys could see what it was the door to the study swung open and a five-year-old Draco walked into the room with a loud, "Father!" Lucius looked up at Draco. "What is it Draco?" "Mother says I have to wait until I'm eleven to learn to fly on a broom like everyone else!" Lucius raised an eyebrow. "And I want to learn now!" "And you shall." The elder Malfoy placed his quill down on the desk and walked over to where Draco stood with an ecstatic smile on his face. "I will teach you." "Yay!" Draco let out a happy cry and hugged his father before hurrying him out of the room.

Again the memory shifted, jumping foreword six more years, by the look of Draco. The eleven year old who Harry had met in Diagon Ally was seated in bed pouting. Lucius and Narcissa stood in the doorway. "I don't know what to do with the boy," Narcissa spoke, annoyance dripping in her tone. "He refuses to go to sleep as if he thinks that if he doesn't sleep he won't have to go to school tomorrow!"

A wry smile played about Lucius's lips as he closed the door with a "Go to bed yourself, Narcissa. You look like you could use the sleep," and approached the bed. "Now why are you giving your mother a hard time, Draco?" Lucius asked in a mock-angry voice. "I don't want to go to school," Draco stated. Lucius motioned for Draco to move over on the bed and he slid in next to Draco. "School is a necessary evil that we all have to go through, son." "But I don't want to. Why can't I go where you wanted me to go? It sounds much better than this place," "I could not agree more, but your mother insisted." "I don't care what mother insisted." "Draco you should not say such things of your mother." "I'm sorry, father." "It is quite alright, Draco. Now you should get to sleep." Draco pouted but it was a look of one who knew he'd lost the original argument. Lucius got out of the bed as Draco snuggled down into the covers. Lucius turned down the light of the room with a wave of his hand and moved to the door as if to leave. "Father?" He stopped and turned to the boy in the bed. "Yes Draco?" "The House Elves said that when I was really little you would sing to me when I was crying and I would stop. I don't remember what song you sang." "That doesn't surprise me. I stopped needing to sing to you when you were very little." "Would you sing now?" Lucius nodded his consent and conjured a chair next to Draco's bed. Draco's eyes fluttered closed as a low baritone began to fill the room. "Tell me why you're crying my son, I know you're frightened like everyone, Is it the thunder in the distance you fear? Will it help if I say very near? I am here." It became obvious that Draco was fighting sleep to listen to the rest of the song, but in the middle of the chorus a second time his breathing changed into the breathing of one asleep. Lucius began the third and last verse and chorus in a quieter voice, so as not to awaken Draco. "Tell me why you're smiling my son. Is there a secret you can't tell anyone? Do you know more than men that are wise? Can you see what we all must disguise through your loving eyes? And if you take my hand my All will be well when the day And if you take my hand my All will be well when the day son, is done. son my son, is done."

Harry and Draco found themselves back in the study, the fire dimming to cold embers. Harry looked over at Draco to see one tear make its way down his face. Harry leaned over and wiped it off with his thumb, his other arm curling around Draco's waist. "I think I know why your father put those particular memories in the pensive," he whispered. "Why?" "Voldemort is a Legimens, and a very good one. Those memories are ones that your father considered so precious to him, he couldn't bear the thought of Voldemort knowing them. So he kept them safe."

The train ride back to Hogwarts was more silent than the one leaving the school, with both Harry and Draco back in the normal Hogwarts uniform. Draco gazed out the window as the train took them closer and closer to the school. After he'd checked in with Dumbledore, he would have to begin his school work. He had the rest of today and all of tomorrow to finish all the assignments that he'd missed Friday and all that he would miss on Monday. He would not let the trial inconvenience him as Narcissa so obviously was trying to do. This was such a mess. He had to gain his inheritance, he had to. It wasn't just Malfoy Manor, or the money, or knowing that he had won over Narcissa Black. His father had promised him everything. He didn't remember it himself, but seeing the memory in the pensive loosing to Narcissa, loosing his inheritance, he would loose his father's promise. In essence, he would be throwing that away. And he would not do that he could not do that. But if it came down to it, would he allow himself to go the route of engagement just for that? Draco's eyes closed as he immersed himself deep in thought. He'd have to win. Not only for himself, not only for his father. If he didn't win his inheritance, then he would have nothing, would have to stay with his godfather. And Harry would have to stay with him, the Veriae bond would make that happen. But for Harry to stay that close to Snape would make him vulnerable. Voldemort would order Harry brought to him. Draco respected his godfather, maybe even loved him at times if that were possible, but he did not know where his godfather's loyalties lay in the approaching war. He could not risk Harry's life if his godfather was given no choice but to obey Voldemort. And he could not risk his godfather's life were his godfather to defy Voldemort. No, the only way to protect both of them was to keep his inheritance. But engagement? Even as a last resort? Engagement shouldn't be used in such a careless way. If he were to propose to Harry or anyone really, he'd want it to be real. Heart and soul included whatever heart and soul he possessed. Would Harry realize that if he were to go through with it? Would he understand what it was? Or would he treat it as another duty that he had to do, throwing it away when Draco turned seventeen? Draco's thoughts returned to the two bands of gold that had sat comfortably on their silken pillow when he'd looked at them the night before. I finally realize what you meant Father, when you said that. 'If I choose to" I could keep my contact with Harry to a minimum if I choose to. I didn't choose that route then, Father but I'm not sure when it shifted. What would you think, Father, if I were to ask you for permission to propose engagement to Harry Potter? Would you laugh? I think you would. You saw it coming. Even back then yes, even when I was eleven years old and you encouraged me to become friends with him you knew even that long ago. But you never told me. You never pushed me into it. You let me deal with it, not minding that I never once asked you for advice. Now I wish for your council and you aren't there to give it to me. If I choose to It was always my choice, wasn't it? It just took me this long to realize it. I'm going to ask my godfather for permission in your place. He won't tell the Dark Lord, will he? I don't think he will. You would not have taken him into your confidence if he was untrustworthy. It would be too dangerous for Harry to live under his roof, but it will not be a disaster for him to play your role in this, I think. Unless, of course, he does not give me permission. But we shall see what happens, won't we? And as Draco drifted off to sleep, lulled by the movement of the train, his hand reached to touch the two shrunken items in his pocket: his father's pensive, and the box that held the Malfoy engagement rings.

Oh, slight disclaimer! The song Lucius sings is not mine. The title is "Day is Done" and when I first heard it, it was sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary (yes, it's a group, not random people I know). I would invest in hearing it as you read that pensive memory... I did and I was crying the whole time...

Chapter Thirty-Five: Trial by Heart Of all the things Professor Severus Snape expected to hear Draco ask him during his entire lifetime, this was not one of them. "Why in Merlin's name would you ask such a question?" he asked, partly in shock, and partly hoping that Draco was not serious in having an answer. "And why, also, would you ask my opinion?" "It's very simple, Godfather. Legally, you're my guardian, and that makes you my Auctor, so I have to have your approval." Snape sighed. "Draco, this kind of a question puts me in a very bad position. Please find someone else to act as your Auctor and ask them. Do not ask me to give permission to such a thing." "And who would you have me ask? Dumbledore? I think not. I did not choose who my Auctor would be, it just happened, and you are my Auctor. I can't change that." "Then do not ask me for permission to propose an engagement between yourself and Harry-BloodyPotter!" Snape snapped. His voice lowered to a calmer tone. "Do not forget my status with the Dark Lord. As such, there is no way I could give my consent. Again, I beg you Draco, do not ask this of me." "You're lying to me. I don't care what you say, you're not a Death Eater, not really." "And how would you know this?" "I just do. And I can't get permission from anyone other than you. But I will ask you a different question instead. As my Godfather and my Auctor, would you do everything in your power to allow me to propose an engagement to someone I felt worthy of myself?" Snape looked at Draco for a long moment before replying. "If the occasion arose where you found someone whom you deemed worthy of engagement to yourself, as your Godfather, I would happily give you permission to propose to that person. However, as your Auctor, I would only allow you to marry someone whom you not only deem worthy of yourself, but also deem worthy of sharing your very heart and soul with as per your Veriae blood." Draco nodded, turning to leave. "Don't worry, Godfather. If I do say the vows, they will mean more than just words do."

Harry couldn't eat breakfast, just pushed his food around on his plate for a few minutes before finally giving up all hope of eating any of it and excusing himself from the table. Hermione and Ron watched him leave the Great Hall worriedly, but they had not bothered to ask him what was on his mind today. They already knew: today was Monday. Draco was just leaving the bedroom when Harry entered the portrait. The blond was dressed in clothing that Harry awkwardly realized were probably three times more than all his clothing put together. He had again deviated from the Hogwarts uniform to appear in clothing similar to what Harry had first seen him wearing in Diagon ally before he had started his first year at Hogwarts. "I noticed you weren't at breakfast," Harry muttered. "I wasn't planning on having any," was the crisp reply. Harry shrugged. Now that he was in their rooms and in Draco's presence, he had nowhere to focus his anxiety. "Harry." Harry looked up at Draco's almost hesitant tone. "How serious were you on Wednesday?" There was a question in the blonde's silver eyes, one that Harry was not sure he understood. "I wouldn't have said anything if I wasn't serious." Somehow he hoped that he'd said the right answer.

Wordlessly, Draco crossed the room to where Harry was standing, picking up a small, nondescript box from the mantle as he did so. He stopped in front of Harry for a moment, looking down the few inches that separated their heights, as if searching for some truth in Harry's own gaze. Gently, Draco dropped to one knee, his hand holding out the box toward Harry. "Where I am Gaius, there you are Gaia?" Harry's breath caught in his throat and he blinked in astonishment. "Where I am Gaia, there you are Gaius," he managed to say, using his own hand to open the box. Two rings sat side by side on a white pillow inside the box. They were golden bands, encrusted in diamonds and opals and carved with the Malfoy family crest. Engraved on the inside of one were the traditional words for engagement rings, "Ubi tu Gaius", and other the other "Ubi tu Gaia". As Draco slipped the first onto Harry's finger, it shifted in size to fit; the same with the ring that Harry placed on Draco's finger. Draco stood again and they stood there for a moment, both unsure of what to do. "Er I suppose we should kiss now," Harry muttered, suddenly finding his shoes very interesting. Draco did not respond, but a moment later two fingers rested under Harry's chin, pushing his face to an upward angle. Draco's mouth descended to meet his own, like molten silver on magma Draco's lips danced over his own. Draco's arms encircled Harry's waist to pull him closer, and Harry groaned as the kiss became more needful.

Draco, Harry and Snape walked through the door that Harry himself had walked through the summer before, when he had been charged with violation of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy. The room had changed very little since Harry's last visit. Instead of the fifty or so members of the Wizengamot there were seven, including one Cornelius Fudge who frowned slightly at Harry's presence. The chair that he had sat in the year before was gone, and standing almost exactly in it's place was a short and chubby man. His face was round like a bowling ball, his hair salt and pepper gray, and he smiled broadly at Draco as the blond crossed the room towards him. Draco nodded to him, his eyes focused on another occupant of the room, as if wary of her very presence. Narcissa Black stood regally off to the side of the room, dressed in clothing as rich as Draco's. She smiled coldly at her son, who ignored her gesture completely except to mark her presence as a threat in the room. Her smile seemed to wane when Harry stepped up next to Draco, as if she was unsure as to the reason of his presence in the room. "Welcome gentlemen," Fudge's smile oozed of forced politeness. "Shall we begin?" "By all means," Draco replied, nodding serenely to the members of the Wizengamot seated before him. "Minister, if may ask one thing. Before we start I would like it made clear why Harry Potter is present. He was not mentioned in my late ex-husband's will and is not a part of the family. His presence here is completely irrelevant." Narcissa's voice was low and lilted, as if it was beneath her to even use the words "Harry Potter" in a sentence. "Harry Potter is family. He is my Veriae bonded and has every right to be here," Draco drawled. The witch to the right of Fudge, a shallow, stick-like woman with graying auburn hair cocked an eyebrow at that declaration. "Then are we to believe that you are indeed a Veraie, Mr. Malfoy?" "I am." "And a magical creature cannot inherit in a wizard's will," Narcissa stated primly.

"Miss Black, let us begin by stating exactly what is at stake," Fudge smiled at her indulgently. "And then you may bring up such motions." The chubby man cleared his throat and unrolled a parchment that he had been holding. "This is the latest will of the deceased Lucius Sergius Malfoy. It was signed three days before his death." The man handed the parchment to Fudge who began to read it as he continued speaking. "Proper authenticity charms have been placed upon it as you will see. In the will, Lucius Malfoy left the entire property of Malfoy Manor here in England, the entire property of the Malfoy estate in France, and the entire property of the Malfoy villa in Capua, along with anything found within those properties to his son Draco Lucius Malfoy. He stated that all of his monetary vaults in Gringotts should be transferred to his son's possession. Familiar guardianship of his son until his son has completed his seventh year of Hogwarts, Mr. Malfoy stated, was given to Professor Severus Snape." "Thank you Mr. Archeron for your assistance, you may leave now." The chubby man nodded to Fudge and waddled out of the room. "Now, Miss Black," Fudge set the will down before him and turned to look at Narcissa. "You have challenged the right of Draco Malfoy-" he nodded in Draco's direction, "to accept this inheritance on many charges. Would you please state them now?" "Certainly Minister." Narcissa smiled sweetly at the Wizengamot and began to speak. "My son, Draco Malfoy, inherited the complete dominance of the Veriae blood in my late ex-husband, Lucius Malfoy. As such, he is considered under the Ordiance of Magical Creatures, to be outside of the wizarding race and therefore unable to legally inherit anything from a wizard. Also we must question the use of a 'familial guardian', if Lucius intended for my son to inherit immediately after his death. Which brings me to my last point, that if my son were to inherit under wizarding law, he is not over the legal age. Thus he cannot manage property or anything that is on that property." The smile Narcissa Black sent at her son was venomous. Draco, however was unfazed, calmly twirling the Malfoy signet ring on his finger. "Well, Mr. Malfoy, we first shall see if we can quell Miss Black's qualms." Fudge's voice dripped honey but Harry could almost see the laughter in Fudge's eyes, as if he already wished Draco to fail. "Now, you have already stated that you are a full blooded Veriae?" "I am a pure blood Veriae, Minister. However that has no bearing on my inheritance since, under the amendment of 1869 to the Ordinace of Magical Creatures, pure blood Veriae are to be treated as pure blood wizards in all legal matters." Fudge blinked, the wizard two seats to his left nodding approvingly at Draco's statement. "Well then that is one problem solved." Fudge tried to look cheerful and failed. "Now, Mr. Malfoy your birthday is?" "June fifth." "And how old are you?" "Sixteen." Fudge's smile was one of a child in a candy store. "So you are not considered of legal status in-" "No." Harry's voice cut off Fudge's statement before the minister could continue in that self-assured tone. "Draco is considered of legal status."

"And why is that?" Fudge asked, turning a look upon Harry that was somewhere between loathing and satisfaction. "Because Harry and I are engaged," Draco's calm voice cut into the tension of the room. The members of the Wizengamot began to whisper to each other as Fudge stared at Draco as if the blond had just done something very abnormal. "Well, then er-" "Minister, we must be sure that, since this is a legal case, they did not pantomime an engagement in order that Draco be considered legal for this moment alone," Narcissa's voice dripped poison. "Now, Harry Potter has no wizarding blood relatives, but as stated by late ex-husband in his will, Draco has a familial guardian. Professor Snape, did you give your permission for Draco to propose engagement to Harry?" Harry realized why she sounded so smug. She thought that Snape would have refused to allow Draco to propose engagement to him because she thought him a loyal Death Eater. "I gave Draco permission to propose engagement to anyone he felt worthy of himself," Snape stated coldly, staring down the blond woman across the room. "Well then," the little witch on Fudge's right cleared her throat for attention. "Since Draco Malfoy is engaged, by law he is considered legal to hold property, thus there is no reason why he should not inherit what was written by Lucius Malfoy in his will. All in favor?" Six members of seven raised their hands immediately, Fudge raising his a moment or so after the others.

Chapter Thirty-Six: Marked as His, Marked as Mine Hermione and Ron found Harry almost immediately after he and Draco stepped onto the school grounds. During their enthusiastic greeting, Draco slipped into the throng of students escaping from their last class of the day and Harry found himself guided to the Gryffindor Common Room. "So what happened Harry?" Hermione asked. "Draco won." "What!" Ron sputtered. "How?" Harry started to explain what had happened, but Hermione interrupted him. "Harry, what's that on your finger?" Harry looked down at the ring that sat on the ring finger of his left hand. The gold glinted and the diamonds sparkled in the afternoon light. "Um it's a ring?" Harry answered her question awkwardly. Ron's hand shot out and grabbed Harry's, bringing it closer so that he could look at it more closely. "This is an engagement ring," Ron said at length. When Harry didn't respond, Ron continued. "This is how Malfoy won, isn't it?" "Yes," Harry said simply. Hermione was watching Ron carefully, as if unsure of what the redhead's reaction would be. But she was surprised when Ron smiled cheerfully and leaned back in his seat with an almost wistful expression. "Gotta give Malfoy credit for that idea, although I still would rather he lost. Did he mention yet when you'll be breaking it off?" "No." Ron shrugged. "Oh well. Can't do it that soon anyway. You'll have to keep up appearances for a while. Guess this is where we come in, right 'Mione?" Hermione was still confused, looking between Ron's carefree expression and Harry's sullen one. "What Ron?" "With your idea. Listen Harry, Hermione had this idea in order to keep all the other reporters off your back."

Hermione carefully watched Ron and Harry walk down to dinner. Harry was almost ignoring Ron's words, which at the moment focused on the question of what Malfoy had bribed Harry with in order to get him to go along with the appearance of engagement. But Hermione noticed that while Harry hadn't told Ron his idea was wrong, he hadn't enforced it either. Hermione frowned slightly as they entered the Great Hall. She would have to talk to Harry soon and find out what was really going on.

Draco was surprised to see that Harry left dinner before him that evening. Then again, something had been off with Harry ever since they had gotten back to school from the trial. But the rest of the Golden Trio had looked the same as they normally did, so Harry couldn't have told Granger and Weasley about the engagement yet. Not that Draco blamed him. After all, his own ring lay under four or five concealment spells at the moment.

Pushing the rest of his dessert in Crabbe's direction, Draco stood up from the Slytherin table and followed Harry.

Harry walked down to the lake, completely unaware of the Veriae following him at a distance. He was torn between several emotions which were battling for control anger at Ron assuming that his engagement with Draco wasn't real, worry because maybe Ron was right, fear that Ron was right, self-loathing for being upset at Ron because there was no way Ron could have known Harry's feelings about the engagement. It wasn't as if Harry had told him. But how could he? From his reaction that afternoon, it was obvious that Ron was not ready to understand how his feelings for Draco had changed. Ron hadn't gone through what Harry had, so of course he couldn't understand this shift of emotion. Harry sighed, shivering against the cold night air. And what would he do next? What could he do next? He knew that if he waited and didn't tell Ron it would just make things worse later. Ron would find out from someone else or in some other way and then he would feel that Harry had not trusted him, or worse betrayed him. And then what if Ron was right? Draco had seemed serious. Very serious. And before that, when he'd brought up the option of engagement the first time, Draco wouldn't even think of it because he didn't want to have a fake engagement. But Draco had never actually said they were truly getting married. They hadn't talked about it at all in fact. "You know, I'm almost positive that it's been proven that standing around outside without warm clothing leads to problems with your health. But I could be wrong," a voice drawled from behind him and Harry looked up to see Draco watching him looking bemused. "I needed to think about something," Harry muttered turning back to look at the lake. "Does your mind not work unless it's below freezing? Come to think of it, that would explain a lot." In spite of himself Harry grinned at Draco's comment as the blond moved to stand beside him. "So what did they do this time?" Draco asked after a moment. "What?" Draco sighed. "It's obvious that something happened either before or during dinner to make you this way, and you were up in the Gryffindor Tower before that. So what did they do?" He explained as if he were speaking to someone who does not think very fast. "Ron said something." "Ah, Weasel. I should have guessed." "Don't call him that." "When he's making you upset I'll call him what I want." "I'm not upset." "Of course, and that's why you're standing out here attempting to freeze yourself." "He really didn't say anything much. He just saw the engagement ring and asked me at what date we were going to break it off." Draco glared at the snow on the ground as if it were offending him. "How uncouth." Harry looked down at the snow as well. "We're not going to break it off though, right?" Draco was silent for a moment. "I'll explain my answer in two ways. Logic would remind us that even when we leave here, it will not change the fact that I am a Veriae and I am bonded to you. We will have

to live together regardless, and would not be able to marry anyone else anyway. Therefore, there is no reason to break it off." Harry felt hurt by this explanation for a reason he could not fathom. He would have to live with Draco for the rest of his life, he knew that. But just having that as a reason behind engagement and then marriage But Draco did not give him time to finish that thought because he continued speaking. "And for the second way" Draco's hand lifted Harry's chin so that Harry's eyes caught his own. The blond leaned closer to whisper in Harry's ear. "I will remind you that it is I whom you are engaged to. And I would not allow anything to break our engagement." Draco's mouth found Harry's and Harry was lost in a tide of what made Draco Draco Malfoy. Arrogant, possessive, self-assured, quick to anger, yet young, needful and Veriae. His arms wrapped around Draco's shoulders, drawing him close. He could feel Draco's hands slide down his cloak to rest at the small of his back, and he could feel the two rings Draco wore through his clothing as though they burned upon his skin. The Malfoy signet ring and the Malfoy engagement ring. The right one that, mirrored on his hand, marked him as Draco's and marked Draco's as his own.

Hermione looked up as Ron fell down into the sofa opposite her in the slowly emptying Gryffindor Common Room. "I just sent Ginny to the owlery with the letters we wrote," she told him. "That's good." Ron's voice sounded listless and uncaring. Hermione frowned, noticing his haggard appearance. "What's wrong?" "Everything!" Ron shouted, startling the two first-years who were whispering to each other in a corner. He fell back deflated against the sofa's back. "And nothing," he whispered. "I don't know what to do." Hermione moved to his side and held out her arms to him. As he fell into their security she pulled him close. "What happened?" "I saw them. Harry and Malfoy." Hermione waited as Ron paused, not rushing his words. "I don't think that they're going to break off the engagement ever." "What?" "I saw them kissing again - down by the lake. I know they'd have to keep up appearances but that was going too far. Whatever they're feeling, it's real, Hermione." Hermione rocked him slowly as he trailed off again. "I don't know what to think! I don't know what to do! He's my best friend, but it it's Malfoy!" "But you knew Harry-" "Yes I knew Harry liked him, Merlin knows I walked in on them kissing before, but that's not liking what I saw down there." Ron sighed. "I just never thought anything real would come of it." "Do you trust Harry's judgment?" Hermione whispered. "I trust Harry. I don't trust Malfoy. If it were anyone else but Malfoy, I'd be happy for him!"

Hermione smiled. "I'm sure there are some people you'd have a problem with, Ron." Despite himself, Ron grinned. "Yeah, I'd have a problem if it were Voldemort or Snape (1) But that still doesn't change the fact that I just don't like this commitment they're getting into." Hermione thought for a moment, staring into the fireplace and rocking Ron back and forth slowly. "Well, if you trust Harry to make the right decision about what his heart wants, then I think what you have to do is talk to Malfoy before you talk to Harry. You we know Harry. We know that he's true to what he feels. We don't know Malfoy the way we know Harry. I think before you make a decision on how to act about this, if they really aren't breaking off the engagement, you have to talk to Malfoy."

Draco almost ignored Medusa when she informed him that there was someone to see him on the other side of the portrait. He was almost finished with the last of the work he needed to do to catch up in his classes. But he put down his quill and walked over to the portrait-door anyway. Ronald Weasley was the one who had been waiting. "Harry's not here right now." Draco moved to close the portrait but Ron stopped him. "I know. He's with Hermione. I want to talk to you." Draco's lip curled. "And you assume that I want to talk to you. You are mistaken." Ron visibly held back whatever retort wanted to come out of his mouth. "I need to talk to you about Harry."

Harry frowned slightly. Something was strange with Draco. He wasn't in danger but still the bond was acting up. "I have to go Hermione." The girl looked startled. "Why?" Harry smiled sheepishly. "I forgot my Potions book. I'll be right back." As Harry escaped into the hallway, Hermione looked over at the books he'd brought with him. "But your Potions book is right there"

"Talk quickly Weasel, before you try my patience." "You don't have any patience, Malfoy," Ron quipped before he could stop himself, "But I want to know what your intentions are towards Harry." An eyebrow rose in a mocking query. "And what gives you the right to discuss that with me?" "I don't need a right. I'm his friend. And I'm not yours. So while I trust his decisions, I question your motives." "You're afraid I'll hurt him. Your fears are not unfounded, but I cannot hurt him any more than I can hurt myself." "I know what being a Veriae entails, Malfoy, and that doesn't make me feel any better about this." "Are you waiting for a declaration of undying love from me? Because if you are you'll get one. But if I were to say such things, I would say them in Harry presence and Harry's alone."

To Draco's surprise, a smile spread across Ron's face. "But I'll hear it at your wedding anyway, so what difference does it make" Draco's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What are you asking?" "I'm asking if when you kiss Harry, do you feel anything besides your own narcissistic feelings for yourself?" "Get out of my sight, Weasley," Draco snarled. "Do you think I would kiss him if I didn't?" And Draco slammed the portrait closed, ignoring Medusa's protests. (1) I'm not saying these pairings are wrong! In fact, I read both of them!

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Machination Harry almost ran into Ron as he turned a corner. "Ron? Why are you down here?" "I had to talk to Malfoy." "What?" "Listen, Harry, I'm sorry about what I said earlier." Harry blinked. What? "I'm not saying I won't have some problems with you and Malfoy. And I can't promise to suddenly like him or anything. But I'm not going to stop you from living your life and if that means letting you marry Malfoy, then I'll let you do it." Harry was shocked. "That's thanks Ron." Ron grinned sheepishly. "No problem, Harry."

Draco was calmer when he emerged, dripping, from his shower but not much calmer. If he was surprised to see Harry waiting for him when he entered the bedroom, he didn't show it. "What are you grinning at?" "You talked to Ron." "If that's what you call talking, Harry, then I wonder what you call arguing or throwing insults at each other." Harry just shrugged and leaned back against the headboard of the bed. "He said not to expect him to suddenly be friends with you but he's ok with our engagement." Draco rolled his eyes as he sat on the foot of the bed to finally finish the work he'd been planning to do before the Weasel had shown up. "I'll tell you not to expect us ever to be friends, but hopefully you understand that already." "Did I ever ask you to be friends?" Harry grinned lopsidedly. "That would be asking for a miracle. I might as well ask Voldemort to go kill himself for me while I'm at it." Draco couldn't help the smirk. "I always thought spontaneous combustion would be a good way for him to die." Harry laughed at the idea as Draco began to sketch his arithmancy problem. "Hermione had an idea about how to get back at Rita Skeeter for that article before." "Really? Do tell." Draco frowned absently as he began to take the rudimentary equation and expand it to fit the problem. "She and some others are going to write articles about us. Detailed ones, with details that only they can get because they're our peers. Then they're going to sell them to different publications with the agreement that for continued information on us none of Rita Skeeter's articles can be published by those publications." "Sounds good wait, what?" Draco looked up from his calculations. "You agreed to it. Too late to back out now." Harry grinned.

Draco sighed. "Whatever. As long as I get to see these articles before they're published." And he went back to his calculations. Harry peered over his shoulder. "That looks like a lot of numbers and gibberish to me." "That's exactly what it is, Harry, and that's why the answer's not coming out the way I want it to." And Draco reached for another sheet of parchment to start the problem all over again. "They need a date, though." "A date for what?" "Our marriage ceremony." "Oh that." "Oh that? That's all you say?" "Sorry, theta's avoiding me right now and that's the calculation I need for the influencer on the future. (1) Then I take that and multiply it by beta and I get the answer." "Didn't you just do that?" "No, I divided by gamma." "You lost me anyway, the date?" "You pick one, I don't care. Just make it after the school year is done." Harry grinned wryly at Draco's concentrated scribbling. "I have a feeling you'll want to change that answer later. I'll ask again when you're not working on something."

"I speak the truth, my Lord. Severus gave his blessing for their engagement. He said so!" "You lie, Narcissa. Severus would not betray me." "My Lord, I heard him with my own ears. He said-" "I do not care what you heard, Narcissa. I tell you that Severus would never betray me. You will leave my presence now." "But my Lord-" "Crucio" As the woman writhed on the floor, Voldemort shook his head sadly. "One would think you would know to listen to me by now, Narcissa."

Harry jolted awake from peaceful slumber, not sure of why he was waking so suddenly. The boy beside him shifted and pulled him closer against his chest, one wing draping over the two of them, the new feathers covering them and the other feathers that had been shed earlier that night. Harry frowned in the darkness, thinking. He only ever woke up violently like that when he had one of those dreams of Voldemort hurting someone, but because of his bond with Draco he could not see or feel those dreams anymore. "Harry, why are you awake?" Draco mumbled against the back of his head. "I think Voldemort was torturing someone tonight."

"So? Not your problem. Sleep." "But I'm wondering who it was." "The only way you'd know that is to experience the dream." Draco yawned. He'd been pulled from his own sleep by the bond. Harry must have been worried. "And that won't happen, so why worry about it?" "But what if it's-" "Harry, you'd rather dream of Voldemort than me? I'm hurt." Draco smirked sleepily. "I don't dream of you, you self-centered git. Just of your wings." "My wings are part of me, Harry. Admit it, you dream of me." "I'm not saying anything." "Good, so I can go back to sleep now."

Snape felt the Dark Mark burn and hurried to retrieve his Death Eater robes and mask before heading out of the boundaries of Hogwarts to apparate to the side of "his Lord". "Severusss. Narcissa has spouting accusations towards you." Snape took in the woman standing, looking more than a little shaken, off to the side of the room. She'd been put under Crucio. He could see the symptoms. "What accusations my Lord?" "She says you are no longer loyal to me, Severus. She speaks of young Malfoy's engagement to Potter. What do know about this, Severus? Did you allow this?" Snape felt Voldemort probing subtly at his mind and he instinctively closed off all memories except for the one moment when Draco asked him for permission to request engagement the second time, the time when Potter's name had not been mentioned. "He did not tell me who he was going to propose to, my Lord. Had I known I would not have sanctioned it." He drew up the emotions he remembered from long ago, during the years when he had truly believed in Voldemort's cause and pushed them towards the surface of his mind. Voldemort smiled. "I should not have doubted you, Severus. You may go, and extend my regards to your godson. Make sure he understands the consequences of his actions." "I will, my Lord." (1) Arithmancy Divination by use of numbers

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Division Hermione worriedly scanned the Great Hall one more time for the seemingly only missing students for breakfast that morning. Next to her Ron was not nearly as worried, chatting with Seamus and Dean about some Quidditch related topic. "Harry and Malfoy still aren't here!" Hermione hissed in his ear. "Relax Hermione," Ron grinned. "They're probably just sleeping in." "But the articles!" The grin dropped off Ron's face. "What? That's today!" Hermione nodded. The redhead groaned and turned back to his eggs as if to look for solace by doing so. "Well, at least they're putting out a united front then." "What?" "They're both skipping the publicity." Hermione rolled her eyes. "That won't help them! It will just make it look worse!" As owls began to swoop through the rafters of the hall Ron smiled wryly. "Well, there's nothing we can do about it now, Hermione."

Harry sighed and nestled his face deeper into his pillow. When that pillow moaned at the action Harry didn't think twice about it, already drifting back into dreams. But when Draco suddenly bolted upright, throwing Harry completely off of where he had been draped over his torso, Harry protested. "Shut it Harry, we've missed breakfast!" "Wha'r you talking" Harry trailed off into a yawn. Maybe sleeping on the cold floor wouldn't be so bad "Get UP Harry!" Harry was pulled off the floor and pushed towards his trunk with a shove. "We have five minutes before classes start!" "Classes?" "Divination for you, Harry. You'll have to run." Draco appeared next to Harry, fully dressed in his school uniform how did he manage to do that so fast anyway! and groaned at Harry's state of undress. "You can't go to class in your nightshirt, Potter! Move it!" It was perhaps the use of his last name that finally jolted Harry out of his sleepy stupor. "Fine, Draco, I'm going! Look, just go to class. Trelawney won't miss me if I'm not there for the first few minutes." The blond hovered for a moment, as if making sure Harry did indeed begin to get ready for class, before leaving at a run.

Harry entered the incense-laden room as quietly as he could, but he'd forgotten that one of the floorboards near the door squeaked. "Ah! Harry my dear!" Harry jumped as Trelawney seemed to materialize beside him. "It is so good to see you did not take the shortcut through the fourth floor corridor! Had you done so I foresaw that you would have met your utter demise." She fixed him with a dreamy smile that reminded him strangely of the look Luna normally wore. "Your inner eye must be expanding for you to have begun to realize the workings of fate so well!" Harry nodded mutely, trying to ignore the sniggers coming from one corner of the room that were undeniably Ron's. "Take your seat dear, your classmates will fill you in on what they are working on." "Harry sit over here!" Harry looked over to see Padma waving him over toward where she and almost the entirety of the female population of the Divination class were sitting. There was one empty chair. Harry looked over at Ron with a pleading gesture but his friend could only shrug sympathetically as Trelawney shooed him over to the girls. Harry sat and it was as if he had been catapulted into a practice room for dueling spells. Only the spells weren't spells, but a barrage of whispered questions. "Harry! Why didn't you tell me you were like that? We could have gone shopping!" "Harry! What did Draco do when he proposed to you?" "Was it romantic Harry?" "Did anything happen, Harry?" "Can I help with the wedding Harry?" "Am I invited to the wedding Harry?" "Can I be in the wedding Harry?" Harry sent another pleading look at Ron who was barely holding in his laughter. "Um, you'll have to talk to Draco about the particulars. He's doing the organizing of the wedding," Harry mumbled as softly as he could. There was a shriek of delight and Harry wondered how unnatural girls must be in order to actually reach that range of sound. "That's so romantic!" "Wanting it to be a surprise!" Harry groaned inwardly. I wonder what Trelawney would say if I told her I would in fact not be killed by Voldemort but by being smothered with questions maybe I should tell her that all the whispering is clouding my budding inner eye

Harry attempted to catch up to Ron when the class ended, but to no avail. The girls practically dragged him from the room, their voices resuming their usual volume. Harry was overwhelmed by questions on all sides and by the pure noise of it all as they half-walked, half-dragged him through the hallways of Hogwarts. Words melded together as he couldn't pick out which girl was asking which question anymore. And then his knight in shining armor appeared. Except his knight wasn't exactly in armor, but in standard black Hogwarts robes with a Slytherin badge emblazoned upon them.

"Excuse me girls, but Harry seems a bit flustered. Mind if I cut in?" An arm wrapped around Harry's waist and steered him away from the gaggle of girls who cooed and awed as Harry was lead away from them. "How do they make those noises without going deaf?" Harry wondered as they turned a corner and Draco let go of him. "That is a mystery that I have often wondered about. I believe it is not something the male gender is supposed to solve," Draco drawled. Harry shook his head. His ears were still ringing. "Well, I guess it could have been worse." "Oh believe me, Harry, go down to the Slytherin part of the school and it'll get worse." "What happened?" "Nothing yet. They're divided in opinion if you ask me." Draco ticked each opinion off on a finger as he spoke. "One part is just confused and unsure if the whole thing is real or not. One part has decided that, if I hadn't been already, I am now the epitome of betrayal. And the third part just doesn't care, and is waiting to see what becomes of the whole thing first." "That's nice of them," Harry muttered. "The Gryffindorks appear the same way though," Draco smirked. "But I think you have another category to add: those that think it's the best idea ever and the cutest thing in the universe." Harry groaned as Draco changed his voice to mimic the girls they'd just left as best he could.

If dinner was any indication of the temperament of Hogwarts students, Harry was exceedingly glad that he'd skipped lunch. He barely had a chance to eat. "What were you thinking Harry?" "It's Malfoy Harry!" "Someone quick! Check for a Dark spell! He can't be acting of his own mind." "But it's so adorable!" "Are you crazy! It's horrible! You're not actually going through with it, right Harry?" "Harry? You're not really getting married, are you?" And it was about at this moment that they saw his ring. Again, the reactions were varied, but forceful. Harry's arm was dragged towards everyone that could reach so that they could get a better look at it and discern that it was, in fact, an engagement ring. Over on the Slytherin side Harry could see that Draco was faring only slightly better. The Slytherin students seemed to be quieter with their inquisitive statements, but more vicious. There was a sudden clatter and smash of food and cutlery falling to the floor, as well as the soft whimpering of someone who'd been hit before Snape's voice roared out: "Mr. Zabini, you will not act in such a manner towards your fellow students!" Harry peered over Ron's head to see Blaise standing over a seventh year Slytherin, his fist still curled from the punch that broke the student's jaw. Draco, sitting next to where Blaise was standing, looked nonplussed about the entire situation, but his eyes showed a slight irritation towards the student sprawled on the floor.

"He's not going to get in trouble for that," Ron muttered. "You can tell Snape's just making a show of it. He's not really angry at all."

Harry collapsed, books and all, onto the bed, completely exhausted. "Going to leave me any room, Harry?" Harry's reply was something between a "mufgh" and a "gfruf" before he lifted his head partway off the mattress. "Not at all. Wake me for exams." "I doubt even you could sleep for almost three months." A muffled, "I can try," was his answer. Draco rolled his eyes, shifting Harry's books off the bed and onto the floor where they landed in a heap. Then he shifted Harry's legs from where they had been dangling off the bed to a more restful position. Harry murmured his thanks. "Stay awake a bit longer, Harry," Draco said as he pulled out a roll of parchment, ink, quill, wax, and the stamp with the Malfoy crest carved on it. Harry half rolled himself onto his side so he could peer at what Draco was writing. "Who are you writing to?" "I don't know exactly, Harry. You'll have to tell me." "What?" "I'm paying your price, Harry. You have to select a next of kin for me to send it to though." Harry blushed red at the word "price" and buried his head in a pillow. Draco pulled it out from under him. "You must know who is closest to you in family status, Harry." Harry was silent for a moment. Then he mumbled something into the sheets so all that Draco heard was: "-mus." "What?" "Remus. Remus Lupin." "The werewolf?" Draco asked incredulously. Harry nodded. Family-wise, Remus was his closest wizarding kin. He doubted Draco would want to send anything to the Dursleys, much less money from the Malfoy family vault. Draco was still staring at him. "How exactly does that work?" "He and my father were friends in school," Harry replied, fighting off a yawn. And now that his godfather was gone, he was the last link Harry had to his real parents. Draco nodded thoughtfully. "I think that qualifies then." "Unless you'd rather send it to my muggle relatives." Harry couldn't resist. Draco grimaced. "No." "Ok then. Remus it is."

Draco continued writing. The silence stretched for a few minutes, broken only by the sound of Draco's quill scratching the parchment. "Draco?" "Hm?" "How much are you sending him?" Draco grinned devilishly, ripping off a large scrap of parchment and scribbling a figure on it. "Well the normal price for one marrying into the Malfoy family is this." He dropped the parchment next to Harry. Harry gaped. "What?" Had he really counted those zeros right? "You're kidding!" "Of course," Draco drawled thoughtfully. "Considering that you're The-Boy-Who-Lived and all, decorum would state that I double it." "Double it?" Harry was instantly awake, trying to calculate how large a figure that was. He couldn't. "That's crazy! How many vaults are you going to have to empty for that?" Draco frowned. "I think it'll take about a sixteenth of one of the minor vaults. Yeah, that's about right. Maybe one seventeenth, but that's not taking into account the interest that has added up since the last time I checked the value." Harry stared at him, mouth agape. "Draco. With that much money, Remus could live like a king for the rest of his life." Draco grinned. "Are you implying that you won't? You're going to be a Malfoy, Harry." He leaned forward to whisper, "We live better than kings," before capturing Harry's mouth in a brief kiss.

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Preparations The teapot whistled, breaking Remus Lupin out of his train of thought. Without setting down the newspaper clipping he was reading, he stood and walked the short length of the kitchen to the stove, took the kettle off the small flame and set it on the counter absently. His eyes turned back to the headline of the article and the stated author below. Hermione Granger. Returning to the table with a cup of tea, Lupin set the article next to two others. Hermione's article had appeared the day before in the Prophet. An article by Ronald Weasley had appeared in the Quibbler. And one, sent to him by Mrs. Weasley, authored by Ginny Weasley had appeared in Witch Weekly. All three articles were on the same topic: Harry Potter's engagement to Draco Malfoy. Lupin had to smile lightly at the skill behind the three writers. They had obviously collaborated and split all the facts evenly between the three articles so that each one would present new details. But it was the topic that was puzzling Lupin. The last he knew, Draco Malfoy and Harry were not on the best of terms to put things lightly. And he doubted that Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were writing falsities about Harry. Of course, one had to wonder why the three were writing about Harry at all. But then he remembered Albus had mentioned some rather strange articles had appeared about Harry in the Prophet a while ago. Maybe this was to make sure that if things had to be printed they weren't detrimental to Harry. There was a scratching at the window which caused Lupin to look up from the articles. Two owls were seated there, waiting to be let inside. One he recognized as Hedwig, the other he did not know. It was a proud-looking eagle owl, whose feathers were so dark they were almost black. Lupin crossed to the window and opened it, letting the two owls fly in. The eagle owl dropped its letter on the table and left, but Hedwig remained on the table, watching Lupin. Lupin took Harry's letter from her, opened it, and began to read. Dear Professor Lupin, As you've probably already seen what Hermione, Ron, or Ginny have written about me, I won't bother to repeat what they've said because it's true. I'm engaged to Draco Malfoy and the wedding is set for a few weeks after school. But in the tradition of wizarding weddings, since there's no way that Draco would agree to a muggle one, I have to be accompanied by my closest male guardian. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind being my familial guardian now that Sirius is dead, but as Draco has already sent his own letter to you I'm a little late in asking but I figured I should ask anyway. Please send your reply back with Hedwig. Harry Lupin reached across the table to where his own quills and parchment sat and scrawled: Dear Harry, I would be honored to be your familial guardian. Remus Lupin As Hedwig soared off towards Hogwarts, Lupin reached for the letter that was, as Harry stated, bearing the Malfoy crest. Dear Professor Lupin, In following with tradition, I have instructed Gringotts to place the amount listed below in your vault in honor of the upcoming marriage between myself and Harry Potter. I look forward to seeing you at the wedding. Draco Lucius Malfoy

Lupin looked at the number listed after the scripted name and blinked. That was a lot of Galleons.

As the weeks passed, more teachers started to begin their lectures with "because exams are coming up in a few weeks" or "in order to prepare you for your exams". The amount of homework that Harry received was almost doubled as "review" assignments were added to the regular homework. And Harry still had to deal with the comments about the wedding coming from different classmates. Of course, they continued to remind him that it was he who had to buy both his and Draco's robes for the wedding. The coloring of the robes was standard. Both he and Draco would have to wear the colors that represented their families, with a white band on the sleeve to signify that the robes were for a wedding. But Harry hadn't known there were so many styles of these "official robes" until a rather large book of designs had been forced on him by a group of bashful Ravenclaw girls. "How am I supposed to choose?" Harry grumbled to Ron. "I can't even see the difference between these two!" Hermione peered over his shoulder and pointed to the collar of the robes. "This set has lace and the other doesn't." "And that makes a difference?" Harry moaned. "Just pick one and be done with it, mate," Ron advised, continuing to scribble on his Transfiguration essay. "He is not going to 'just pick one', Ronald Weasley." Hermione's tone took on the quality of Mrs. Weasley's as she berated Ron. She turned to Harry. "Narrow it down to the few that you like and then try to pick only one." Harry sighed and turned back to the book. "Oh, and Harry?" Harry looked up. "When you and Malfoy have figured out the invitation list, we want to publish it." "You want to what!" "Publish the guest list. Well, invitation list, but anyone who gets an invitation will be going." "But why?" "So that we can kick out all reporters during the actual ceremony," Ron explained. "If we give them all the details of who will be there and so on before the ceremony we can keep out all reporters for the real thing because there won't be anything left to say." "I guess," Harry's head was back in the book. "But we haven't even thought of who to invite yet." "You haven't, but I bet Malfoy has," Ron muttered. "Hey, what do you think of this one?" Harry asked, turning the book so his friends could see the design and completely ignoring Ron's muttering. The style was for long, three layered robes. The innermost layer was a white dress shirt and black dress trousers. The second layer was a full length inner robe in the familial colors, with long tapered sleeves. The third layer was a simple, yet elegant, black outer robe that looked rather cape-like. "I think they'd look lovely, Harry," Hermione said, looking from the design to Harry as if she was picturing him wearing it. "The outer layer looks kinda like what Malfoy's dad used to wear," Ron observed. "Yeah, I thought Draco might like that."

"What are you going to do about your familial colors?" Hermione asked. "I wrote to Lupin about that, asking what my family's colors were. And apparently the Potter bloodline was too recent a bloodline to have a tradition as old as family colors. But since Sirius was my godfather, he suggested I use the Black family colors. So I'll be wearing green and bronze to my wedding." "What's Malfoy wearing?" "Purple and gold."

When Harry returned from sending Hedwig off to Madam Malkin with the design, colors, and measurements for his and Draco's wedding robes he found Draco sprawled out on the sofa in their rooms looking down at a scroll of parchment. As Harry entered, he added another line at the bottom of the scroll and looked up. "What'cha up to?" Harry asked, dropping his books on the armchair next to the sofa. "Guest list. Do you think we should include all of our teachers or just the heads of our houses?" Harry blinked, getting a sudden image of Trelawney at his wedding and hoping fervently that her "inner eye" would tell her that the day of his wedding was not a good day for her to leave her tower. "All of them I guess." Draco nodded and went back to scribbling names. "Who else do you have on there?" Harry asked, leaning over Draco's shoulder to see. "Just the Slytherins I want to invite. I didn't get to your people yet." Harry grinned. "I guess I should write those then." Draco handed Harry the scroll. "Yes you should." As Harry read through those Draco had written, he noted that the only Slytherins that were on the parchment were those who had backed Draco when it was revealed that he was a Veriae and when it was revealed that he was engaged to Harry. Harry noted that Snape was not on the list. "What about Snape?" "He's my closest familial relative. He doesn't get an invitation, so to speak, since he's part of the ceremony." Harry frowned in the middle of writing down Ron's name. "Speaking of relatives, who are you going to dance with?" "I haven't decided what to do about that yet." "I won't allow Death Eaters at my wedding." Draco snorted. "My godfather is a Death Eater." "You know what I mean. Ones that actually want me dead." Draco laughed. "I'm certain there are some days when my godfather really does want you dead, Harry." "On those days the feeling is mutual and you're avoiding the question," Harry replied as he finished adding Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to the list after Fred, George, Bill, Charlie, and Ginny. He thought for a moment about whether to invite Percy or not and then decided against it. The ties between Percy and the rest of the Weasley family were strained at best now, and he didn't want to aggravate that.

"On my father's side of the family, I have no other relatives since he was an only child and his father was an only child before him. I won't ask Narcissa, and I won't ask Belatrix." "What about Tonks?" "Who?" "Nymphadora Tonks." Draco frowned thoughtfully. "I think I remember my mother spoke of her once, something about being a disgrace to the family." "Her mother married a muggle." "That would explain it. But if she's related to my mother she's the only other female relative I've got." "I'll write to her about it if you want," Harry offered, adding the names of those in the DA to the list before handing it back to Draco. "Sure." Draco scanned down the list of names as Harry made a mental note to ask Tonks to look as Malfoyish as she could to the wedding. "You put a House Elf on here?" Draco looked up incredulously from where he read Dobby's name. Harry shrugged.

Harry realized that the invitations had been sent out when Dobby appeared on top of his Potions assignments, clutching the letter and howling. "Mister Harry Potter sir! Dobby is so honored to be asked to your wedding like a wizard sir!" "Um... it's no problem Dobby," Harry tried to soothe the House Elf. The door to his and Draco's bedroom opened and Draco leaned against the doorway in obvious amusement as the House Elf continued to tell Harry how wonderful he was to send a House Elf an invitation. Harry looked up at him with a pleading expression, but Draco shook his head. "You got yourself into it, you get yourself out," he spoke under Dobby's hysterical words.

Harry debated about when to tell Draco about the Dursleys. He realized that he would have to spend enough time with them to renew the protection that they unwittingly gave him for his last summer with them. He was under no illusion that he would be let back into their house once he graduated Hogwarts, not that he would have gone back anyway, but for one more summer he needed that protection. Because of his Veriae bond to Draco, he would either be pulled to where Draco was at night or Draco would be pulled to where he was. That meant Draco would have to spend those same few weeks at the Dursleys with him. Of course, neither the Dursleys nor Draco would like that. Draco would hate them immediately because the Dursleys were as muggle as you can get, and then because of how they would treat him for being a magical creature, which was certainly worse than being a wizard For their part, the Dursleys would hate Draco because he was a magical creature pure and simple. But then, if they found out that Draco was his fianc well, that was definitely not normal to the Dursleys. "You're too quiet. You must be thinking," Draco commented from where he was finishing up his Ancient Runes essay before bed. "I'm thinking about the summer." "What about the summer?"

"Well, you know how I lived with muggles? I'll have to go back there for the few weeks before the wedding." "No." Harry sighed. "Yes I do. There's some protection ward that they give me because we're related by blood, or that's what Dumbledore said. So I have to go back there each summer to renew it, at least until I finish Hogwarts." "You do realize that I will have to be there for those few weeks as well." "Yes," Harry replied miserably. "I won't like it." "They won't either." It wasn't until after Draco had already fallen asleep that Harry realized Draco had said "I won't like it" and not "I won't go".

Ron seemed to wilt in his chair as McGonagall neared the Gryffindor table with a stack of parchments, while opposite him Hermione seemed to glow with excitement. Harry muttered "thanks" when she handed him his exam schedule. Ron was refusing to look at his or act like it existed. Hermione was poring over hers, like a First Year on the first day of school. Harry looked down at his with trepidation as he piled more breakfast on his plate. The week of exams was broken into three exam blocks per day. The morning block, the afternoon block, and the astronomy block since those exams had to be done at night. Monday, Harry had Potions in the morning session and Divination in the afternoon session. Tuesday was Care of Magical Creatures in the morning, and Transfiguration in the afternoon. Wednesday Harry only had his Astronomy exam in the night block. Thursday was History of Magic in the morning and Herbology in the afternoon. And Friday was Charms in the morning and Defense Against the Dark Arts in the afternoon block. Ron looked over Harry's shoulder to see what his first exam was and nodded sagely. "Potions first. It's the end of the world as you know it." He raised his pumpkin juice in salute. "Good luck with that."

Chapter Forty: School Year's End Harry stared glumly at his breakfast, only half-listening to Hermione reminding him of last minute facts and tips. "Hermione, I'm going to fail anyway with Snape grading me." Ron shot his friend a sympathetic look. "Look, Hermione, Snape will grade him the same whether he's right or wrong." Harry ignored the ensuing argument as Hermione couldn't fathom a teacher grading someone wrong when they answered the question correctly, and Ron interjecting that this was Snape so of course he would do something like that.

Harry stretched his fingers as he looked down at the final question. Ensnared in a protective no-cheating bubble, he was only vaguely aware of his classmates. Some were still scribbling furiously on the written portion of the exam. Only Draco and Hermione had started the practical. Considering that those two would most likely finish way before the time limit, he figured he would have enough time to finish. Define both positive and negative concentration and state how each would alter the effects of an invisibility potion. Harry bit his lip absently as he began to write. A negative concentration would cause an alteration on the potion's effects, most often the opposite. But there was something different about the effect of having a negative concentration in an invisibility potion. Obviously it didn't to the reverse because that would just make you visible again it was something about disappearing and not wearing off! That was it! The effects of a negative concentration for any of the ingredients of an invisibility potion causes the user to lose whatever the potion is applied to instead of merely turning it invisible.

The afternoon exam for Monday had Harry and Ron heading for Divination while Draco and Hermione took their Arithmancy exam. Draco nearly groaned when he saw the prediction he had to make. This was another 'locate the derivative of theta' problem. And that would dictate his life span. Of course it would come out to have conditions, so it wouldn't be a worthwhile calculation anyway. And as he scanned the parchment, yes, that was the second question: Is this an exact calculation? Why or why not?

Harry sat staring at Ron's palm in silence as Professor Trelawney watched them. Ron had already written his prediction for Harry, which sat on the table, face down, next to them. Harry frowned slightly and began to write. Ron's life-line is very short. He will die exactly four weeks from now at my wedding. From the line over his thumb, I can see that he will get very drunk and endanger the life of one with a very strong Inner Eye (shown by the intersection of lines across the fingertips) and kill himself in grief, as shown by the perpendicular line running towards his palm from his life-line. Harry sat back satisfied, having completely disregarded anything factual about palm reading he might have known. And if he was lucky, Professor Trelawney would read it and think the one with the very strong Inner Eye was hers. That way she wouldn't come to the wedding.

The Care of Magical Creatures exam took place in a classroom on the second floor. Harry took a seat behind Draco and turned over the parchment on the desk which activated the no-cheating bubble Hagrid's untidy scrawl covered the first few lines of the paper. Describe any magical creature you wish in a completely developed essay.

Harry blinked and began thinking of which magical creature he should write about. His eyes fell on the outline of Draco in front of him and he smiled as he began to write. Veriae, or Atra Veritas, are perhaps one of the most misunderstood magical creatures

McGonagall's Transfiguration exam was set up much like Snape's Potions exam. The first half was a writing section and the second half was a practical. Draco finished writing the essay (What is the difference between transfiguring inanimate objects to animate ones and transfiguring animate objects to inanimate ones?) and turned the parchment over. It disappeared and a small box with a note on top appeared in its place. A small garden snake was in the box, stated the note, and the practical half of the exam was to turn the snake into a goblet. Draco flicked open the latch on the box and let the snake crawl out on his desk. Feeling for the magical currents in the room, he latched onto one hovering over the window, an earthen current. He gently guided it into the snake's aura, blending the two and then began to mold the earth current into that of something with gold and gems. Harry was having a more difficult time of the practical than Draco. "But I don't want to become a goblet!" his snake hissed pitifully. "They're no fun! If I have to become something, make me something that goes places and sees things!" Harry frowned. The snake continued to break his concentration with its whining about how it did not want to become a goblet. And he was sure he couldn't ask McGonagall if he could transform it into something else simply because the snake liked it better! Frowning he closed his eyes and tried to block out the snake's speech as he thought of all the aspects of a water goblet.

Harry napped most of Wednesday in preparation for his Astronomy exam. Draco had taken it the night before, so the two of them just stayed in bed until lunch when Draco dragged them out to get something to eat. Then Draco had to take his Ancient Runes exam as Harry attempted to get more sleep. But sleep was not forthcoming, and Harry found himself envisioning many disastrous meetings between the Dursleys and Draco. The Astronomy exam left Harry exhausted for his History of Magic exam as he tried to write down everything he remembered about the Wizard-Troll wars of 1000 B.C.E . Finishing the exam he was very happy to simply fall asleep on his desk. Ron woke him shortly after the exam was finished and they headed for Herbology.

Harry's Herbology exam took place in Greenhouse Four, which had been divided into sections by fogged glass walls, so that one couldn't see what was going on inside them. Professor Sprout told them that there was a different plant inside each section of the Greenhouse and that they each had to pick one. Once inside they had to identify the plant by writing its name on the glass and had to harvest whatever useful items they could from the plant. Harry randomly picked a section and walked in to see a smallish, bushy plant with long leaves that looked like hair. He looked at it for a minute before tracing Gorgon Tree on the fog-covered glass walls. The name was deceptive, since the plant was actually a bush, and Harry was almost positive that's what the plant was. Now all he had to do was get to the small leaves under the hair-like ones, and he would be done. Harry emerged with a handful of small leaves and dropped them in the small bin next to the glass wall. As he headed towards the exit, he paused by Draco's section. The blond was pouring a think golden liquid into the container outside the glass. "What happened?" Harry asked, taking in Draco's appearance. Draco shoved one strand of matted, bloody hair behind his ear and glared at the glass. "Bloodbush. I hope we don't get marked off for killing the plant because after I drained it of nectar I burned the thing." Harry grinned as Draco stomped off towards their rooms and, most likely, their shower.

Harry left his Charms exam with a curl of dread beginning to work its way into his stomach. All that was left was Defense Against the Dark Arts, yet another Snape exam. And remembering the Potions exam he didn't dare think what Snape would come up with. The exam was given in an empty circular room with no windows. As the last student filed in, Snape charmed the door to be transparent. "Your exam will be a duel between all of you. It will be timed. For every minute you remain in the duel you will be granted a point. When all except for one person has fallen, that person's score, however many points it is, will be the perfect score and all others will be graded accordingly. You may begin as soon as the door closes." Snape stepped outside the room and slammed the door shut. Harry didn't know who shot the first spell, but suddenly the air was thick with them and Harry felt a faint pulse of pain settle in his filled the room as he ducked under three curses and fired a jinx of his own. Someone yelled out as they fell to the floor and there was a bright light as the Gryffindor disappeared to reappear outside the room. Two Slytherins fell next, then another Gryffindor. Harry swerved out of the way of Ron's Expelliarmus and fired back a jelly-legs curse, as Ron fought to regain control of his legs which were buckling underneath him, a Slytherin fired Petrificus Totalus on him and Ron dropped to the floor. Harry then jinxed the Slytherin, who was also removed from the room. Harry became vaguely aware that Draco hadn't fired anything yet, nor had his wings sprouted. He turned to find where the blond was. He was on the other side of the room, and anyone who got near him seemed to be shot back with a stream of water. Harry turned back to his own situation when he felt a curse hit his back and his upper body began to twitch. Ignoring the itching feeling that spread across his skin he turned around to hex the other person. His beam of purple light hit Hermione and she fell to the ground. Harry blinked in surprise as she smiled and disappeared to the other side of the door. There were only three students left. Harry, Draco, and Blaise. Draco launched himself at Blaise, and Harry could only watch as Blaise did nothing to stop him. They fell to the floor as Draco's wings ripped out of his cloak. Ignoring spells altogether, Draco began to hit Blaise, and Blaise let him. Harry blinked as he recognized the look on Blaise's face and he backed away from the two. Blaise was treating this like penance, letting Draco finally take out any anger from what had happened at Malfoy Manner on him. Blaise's whole face was bloody when Draco stopped and the spell inside the room triggered so that Blaise appeared on the other side of the door. Draco looked up towards Harry but was stopped by the curse Harry had waiting. As Draco's form fell to the floor, the door opened, and the exam was over.

After dinner Draco headed for the Infirmary. Blaise was still there, and would spend the night; he'd broken Blaise's jaw and nose, and given him a concussion. The room was silent as he entered. Blaise looked up from his bed and gave him a sad smile as he sat down on the chair next to him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-" "Gotten carried away like that?" Blaise finished. "Don't be. You have nothing to apologize for." "I didn't get carried away. I wanted to hurt you." "Of course you did. You have ever since then." Blaise didn't have to clarify when "then" was, they were both thinking about the incident at the Manner. "And I can't blame you for it. If I hadn't gotten in your way, your father might still be alive." "But you didn't kill my father. And it's not your fault that he's dead."

"Maybe. We'll never know will we?" Draco shrugged, his eyes staring at the floor. "I know it's too late to say this. But I'm really sorry, Draco. If I could fix it-" "Don't say it Blaise. I don't want to hear it. I know you're sorry. I know you only did that because you had to appear loyal. You did warn me not to let myself be seen. But I was. Under the circumstances not knowing what would happen you did the right thing." "I'm not on his side Draco." Blaise whispered. "But I was too weak to stand by that at the initiation." He leaned back against the pillows. "I don't think I've ever seen my parents more proud or hated myself more at any other moment in my life." Draco nodded. The two were silent for a moment. "Do you I mean I, er, got your invitation." Blaise stumbled through his words. "Do you really want me at your wedding?" Draco nodded slowly. "And Potter's okay with this?" "Do you want him dead?" "No." "Then he won't have a problem with it. You're not a good enough Death Eater." Blaise smile wryly. "I'm a horrible Death Eater." "I'm glad you are."

The Great Hall was covered in red and gold in honor of Gryffindor House as Harry, Ron and Hermione entered for the Leaving Feast. As they passed the Slytherin table, Harry heard Draco drawling to Pansy and Blaise that if he'd been on the Quidditch team, then Slytherin wouldn't have lost the Cup that year, and couldn't help grinning. As all of the students found their seats, Dumbledore stood and the hall quieted. "Yet another year has passed. And we're older and hopefully a little wiser for it. Now for the House Cup. Hufflepuff finishes the year with three hundred twenty points, Ravenclaw with three hundred forty points, Slytherin with four hundred ten points, and Gryffindor with four hundred and fifty points!" Cheers and applause filled the hall. "Yes, Congratulations Gryffindor! And I'll not bother you with an old man's mumbling there's a feast to be had!" As food filled the tables, Harry looked over at the Slytherin table and grinned. Draco raised his goblet in a mock salute and smirked in reply. "Oh stop staring at him and go sit with him!" Ron muttered in-between mouthfuls. "Yeah Harry, it's obvious you want to!" Dean added from across the table. "What?" Harry gaped. "Sit over there?" "You are his fianc," Hermione added. "There's no reason not to." "Well if you don't want me here anymore" Harry trailed off with a grin as he stood and amidst loud denials and laughter made his way over to the Slytherin table.

"Just come back for dessert!" Ron called after him.

"Got room for one more?" Harry murmured in Draco's ear. "I don't know, Harry." Draco looked up and down the table. "There don't seem to be any empty spots left." "Then I'll just have to sit on your lap." And Harry did so. "Uncouth Gryffindor," Draco drawled as Harry grabbed a drumstick and added it to Draco's plate. "Yup, and you'll get to spend the rest of your life with me," Harry reminded him. "Oh joy," Draco drawled, but his eyes were glittering in laughter.

Chapter Forty-One: "Home" for the Holidays Draco and Harry parted ways at the train station, so Harry could have time to tell the Dursleys that Draco would be staying with them before Draco met them. Draco was going to arrive at Privet Drive a few hours after Harry and his relatives. Draco nodded to the House Elf who had brought the carriage, disguised as a stretch limousine, to King's Cross. "I trust the horses know where to go?" he asked as he opened the door to the carriage. "Yes, Master Draco. They is taking you there." Draco nodded and sat back against the plush seats as the horses made their way through the busy streets of London.

When the horses stopped an hour later, Draco was outside a run down shop on the outskirts of London. But he knew this was only part of a facade to keep the muggles away. They wouldn't have enough to pay for anything inside this shop anyway. Inside, the shop became one of the most beautiful places Draco had ever seen. This was Kutterman's, a specialty shop that sold jewelry of a quality so perfect they were peerless. For generations, the family who had owned the shop had created one of a kind masterpieces for the Malfoy wedding rings. And Draco was not one to break tradition. "Ah, Mister Malfoy. It is good to see you. You look just like your father." The man behind the counter was old, with gray hair that was slowly turning white, whose pleasant features had lit up with a smile as Draco entered. "Did you get my letter?" "Yes, Mister Malfoy. The rings are finished, but we're still putting the spell work on them. You can see them if you want." "I would like to." He followed the man into the back of the shop where the two rings sat on a work table of ivory. They did not match, because in order for the spell work to bind the ring to its owner completely, the ring had to be unique, as its owner was. Both rings were bands of diamond, with the date of the wedding and the Malfoy crest, engraved in minute detail in platinum on the inside of the band. And that is where the similarities stopped. Draco's ring was centered with an obsidian gem surrounded by amethysts and sapphires, all set in platinum settings on the diamond band. Harry's ring was centered with an emerald in between two rubies and four small opals, set also in platinum settings. When finished, they would be spelled to fit the owner perfectly, to adjust as needed in order to slide on and off the ring finger of the owner as wished. They would also be spelled with multiple protection spells, which are what took the most time to set, as one needed to spelled on top of the other. "They will be ready on the day of your wedding as promised," the old man promised. "That will be perfect," Draco replied.

Harry endured a completely silent car ride back to Privet Drive. His uncle was fuming, he could tell. He'd explained that another student from Hogwarts was going to be staying with him that summer, and his uncle had gone completely silent. This was the calm before the storm, he could just tell. And he was right. The minute Vernon was inside his own home, with Aunt Petunia and Dudley as his attentive audience, he exploded in anger. He yelled about the nerve of some people who took advantage

of the goodness of others, and how he allowed one freak in his house and that was enough. In the midst of this, Harry noticed Dudley was looking at him strangely, or rather, looking at his right hand. "What's that on his finger?" Dudley asked abruptly and both of his parents turned to look at Harry's hands. "Why are you wearing-" "I'm engaged," Harry said quietly. Vernon was rapidly turning colors as he looked at the band of gold, and he was about to speak when the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Harry said quickly. "No you will not, boy!" Vernon yelled, pushing Harry out of the way as he headed for the door. Harry rubbed his shoulder where it had hit the wall as he followed his uncle, aunt, and cousin to the door. A man in a three-piece muggle suit stood at the door with a slightly hidden look of distain on his face. "Is this the house of a Mister Harry Potter?" he asked. Harry watched his aunt and uncle exchange looks before looking back at him. "No Harry Potter lives here," Vernon stated gruffly. The man raised an eyebrow, looked past the Dursleys to Harry and then replied, "I shall tell Lord Malfoy this the house." He turned and walked down the driveway to where a stretch limousine was waiting on the curb. He opened the door and Harry watched as Draco, dressed in full wizarding robes, stepped out and made his way up to the house. Harry couldn't help grinning as Draco appeared as if he was looking down at his aunt and uncle even though they were taller than he was. "You are Mr. and Mrs. Dursley?" He drawled. "Yes." "Draco Malfoy. Your nephew's fianc." Draco swept past the Dursleys as if they weren't standing in the doorway and looked around the foyer with disgust. "You will leave at once!" Vernon had found his voice again. "I will not tolerate any of your kind in my house!" Draco turned on his heel to face Harry's uncle. "If you think for one moment that I will derive any pleasure from living in this hovel, you are gravely mistaken. And I do not care what you will or will not tolerate. In fact, it is you who should care what I will or will not tolerate." Vernon sputtered, realizing that they were attracting the attention of the neighbors and slammed the door closed. "If you are still a student at that school, then you cannot do magic-" "I cannot do magic?" Draco echoed, as if in disbelief. "And I will not tolerate any of your strangeness in my house!" Harry wondered if his uncle was referring to Draco being a wizard or Draco being his fianc, and then decided that his uncle was probably referring to both.

"And here is where our viewpoints differ," Draco drawled. "You seem to be acting under the idea that I am a wizard, a student at Hogwarts." Draco emphasized the name deliberately as the Dursleys flinched. "I am no wizard. In fact-" There was the sound of fabric ripping and Draco's wings extended outward from his back in an upward cascade of sharp black feathers. "-I am not even human. And I assure you" Draco's head tilted in Dudley's direction. Something shifted in the air and Dudley found himself suddenly thrown into the wall by an invisible force. "I can very easily do magic."

The Dursleys didn't adjust to Draco and Draco refused to adjust to their standards. After complaining that Harry's bed was the worst piece of furniture he'd ever seen, Draco summoned a small army of House Elves to completely redo Harry's bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, and any other common rooms that "this poor excuse for a house" might have. This then started a shouting match between Uncle Vernon and Draco about where the original furniture had gone. Vernon said that Draco had stolen it, and Draco replied that he wouldn't touch the furniture in this house if his life depended upon it, and that the muggle would find his furniture back in their places once Draco left. Draco had also turned part of the living room into a potions laboratory which Harry's Aunt Petunia couldn't stand. The smell was dreadful, she said and insisted that Draco get rid of it immediately. To which Draco calmly replied, "Make me, you pathetic excuse for a muggle." Dudley learned very quickly to avoid Draco at all costs. Once he made the mistake of calling Draco a "fag" and, once Harry explained what it meant and that it was an insult, Draco had sealed his mouth shut and locked Dudley in his bedroom for three days. Yes, when Draco and Harry finally left, the Dursleys were very happy to be rid of them and did not bother to hide it.

Harry woke to an empty bed the day of the wedding, and a House Elf nervously stammering, "Master Harry sir.. the-ere's guests here, sir." "Who are they Lilty?" Harry muttered as he slid out of the cocoon of bed sheets he found himself in. "A Mr. Ronald Weasley and a Miss Hermione Granger, Master Harry sir." Harry nodded. "Let them in and tell them I'll be down in a minute."

Hermione was appalled when Harry appeared in pajamas. "Harry! It's nearly noon!" "I know, Hermione. I slept in." Harry thanked the House Elf that brought him breakfast. "Do you want anything?" "No," Hermione answered for both Ron and herself. "You have to get dressed, Harry! Guests will start to arrive in three hours!" "Lupin and Snape should be here any minute," Ron added, swiping a muffin off the tray that had been brought to Harry. "Fine, fine, I'm going!" Harry shook his head helplessly as he headed back to Draco and his bedroom to change.

Hermione and Ron looked around the house while they waited for their friend. "The House Elves have outdone themselves," Ron grudgingly admitted. "It doesn't look half bad." "It looks gorgeous, Ron," Hermione corrected him. And indeed it did.

The entire first floor and stairway had been decorated in white and platinum. The marble and wooden floors shone with equal sparkle, as if just cleaned. Garlands of fresh white roses hung from the moldings and around the banisters. The flowers in the garden that lead to the double doors of the Manor were in perfect condition and in full bloom. White petals had been sprinkled on the walkway and across the close lawns, and a bouquet of white orchids sat primly on every windowsill.

"Your husband has very good taste, Mr. Malfoy." Kutterman nodded at Draco's robes. "Here are the rings. I wish you many happy years, Mr. Malfoy." "Thank you."

Snape and Lupin arrived at around the same time, with Draco following shortly after. Snape and Draco then disappeared into what had been Lucius's study and was now Draco's, as Lupin, Hermione, and Ron, stayed with Harry. Snape looked at the rings for a moment before handing them back to Draco. "They're lovely. They'll do both of you justice. And the spell work is immaculate." "Good." "Are you nervous?" "Why should I be?" "You have the Weasley twins coming to your ceremony. They'll probably try to jinx the doors shut." Draco blanched. "Don't tell me things like that." "You're serious then." "Of course I'm serious. Did you doubt me?" Snape studied his godson, decked out in wedding robes. "No. But it is one thing to know it and another to believe it. And thinking that your godson is in love with Harry Potter is very different from truly knowing the same fact." Draco didn't reply, but looked down at the two rings again. After a moment he murmured. "I know. I'm still surprised myself."

As sundown neared, guests began to swarm the Manor and Harry made his way down the long path leading to the Manor, with Lupin by his side. "Are you nervous?" Lupin asked. "A little." Lupin's smile was a knowing one. "Try not to be. This is your day after all. Yours and Draco's. It's a day to be remembered so that you can tell it to future generations. And it wouldn't be a very interesting story if you only remember being nervous." Harry smiled absently at the remark before asking, "Do you think they would be okay with this? My parents? Sirius?" "I think that it would have taken some getting used to, especially for James and Sirius. Lilly would have loved the idea right away, but it might have taken a week or so for James and Sirius to see what she would have immediately. But I do think that at this moment, were James or Sirius in my place, they would both be very proud of and happy for you."

Harry's closest friends surrounded him as Lupin led him up the walkway. The path was lined with classmates and friends who all smiled at him and joined the group as they passed. Draco's close friends stood near him as he watched Harry walk towards him. When Harry had walked to where Draco stood in front of the large double doors to the Manor, Lupin placed Harry's hand in Draco's outstretched one and stood back next to Snape as the two faced each other. In a clear voice, Draco spoke, "Where you are Gaia, I am Gaius." "Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia," Harry replied. Snape stepped forward with the wedding rings, and Draco placed Harry's ring on his finger with a reverence Harry had never seen from him before. Harry then picked up Draco's ring from the box Snape held and slid it on to Draco's finger. "Ubi tu Gaia, ego Gaius," Draco spoke in little more than a whisper, and Harry responded in kind, "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia." Snape and Lupin stepped out of the way as Draco and Harry turned to the doors. Together they pushed them open. In one swift movement, Draco picked up Harry in his arms and walked across the threshold of the Manor. Someone cheered and then others joined in, cheering and clapping as Draco made his way slowly through the foyer of the Manor, carrying Harry to the ballroom. Everyone followed them into the ballroom which was lit in the early evening by huge chandeliers, covered in white flower garlands. Small instruments scattered amidst the candles of the chandeliers began to play as Draco set Harry down in the center of the ballroom. Their music flowed down and around the two as they began to dance. Harry found it was much easier to dance while being led by someone who in turn knew how to dance. Draco and he seemed to flow around the ballroom as if dancing on the music itself. Harry forgot those who were watching, carried off by the music and Draco. Instead of winding down to finish the piece, the music increased in volume and speed, rising in a crescendo that brought the two dancers with them, till finally in the last, triumphant note, they stopped. Lupin then took Harry's hand and they danced. "You did very well, Harry," he murmured as they fell into step with the soft music. "I am very proud of you, as I'm sure are your parents and Sirius." Tonks had outdone herself, Harry thought, as she took Draco's hand for their dance. She looked almost as Malfoyish as he did, in cascading blond ringlets and bright blue eyes. Food was served by the House Elves as the dancing continued. Harry was sure that Fred or George Weasley had spiked the punch at some point. Draco shared his sentiment, after having tasted it. "I really don't want to know what they put in there. It tastes like a mixture of Firewhisky and worse." "But if that's the worst prank they pull, then we're lucky," Harry grinned, leaning against Draco. They didn't notice Ron and Fred Weasley making their way to the middle of the ballroom, nor did they notice Blaise break away from his dance with Pansy to follow them. But when Fred Weasley pointed his wand at Ron's throat and whispered "Sonorus", and Ron began to speak, everyone noticed. "I'm told..." he said, and everyone stopped dancing or eating to look at him. "...there's this new tradition starting in wizard marriages, where the best friend of the groom or other groom in this case, called the 'Best Man'-" he looked at Hermione quickly for confirmation before continuing, "-has to get up in front of all the guests and family of the couple and spout embarrassing stories about his friend until his friend is completely embarrassed. It's kinda hard to say more things about Harry that you already know, since all of the bad stuff has already been published, and if I were to relate all the details, we'd be here all year, not that I'm complaining of course because the food's great. My compliments to the House Elves." Ron

paused and then continued. "We've been through a lot, Harry and I, and some of the less known, less dignified moments of our adventures include falling onto a Devils Snare and not knowing what it was, following a trail of spiders into the Forbidden Forest without trying to plot exactly where we were going or how we'd get out, being the only ones sitting through an entire ball without ever dancing, and I will always remember fondly Harry riding around, franticly chasing after a flying key until I die. And thus having completely shattered Harry's pride, I will step out of the way for my counterpart here, to do the same for his husband." Draco stiffened as Blaise stepped up to where Ron had stood and Harry heard him mutter, "If he brings up the potions incident" "You know it's hard to think of undignified Draco Malfoy moments. Partly I think, because being undignified is Draco Malfoy's worst fear, right up there with having a bad hair day. But there is one incident which sticks out in my mind which I am going to tell you at great personal sacrifice because after I tell you this, there is no way Draco will ever let me be a godfather to whatever children he and his husband are going to adopt to carry on the family bloodline. So Pansy dear, corrupting them will be all up to you." He saluted Pansy as titters went around the room. "So now, this story, which has become in my mind, and maybe in Draco's too, the Potions Incident. You see, Draco's always had this fascination for Potions ever since he found out what poisons were. Of course, his father said he couldn't brew those until he knew what he was doing. He had to start off small and work up to it. Of course, for Draco, this was unacceptable. And so, on one of those rare visits of mine when his father was out of the Manor, he decided to disobey. And we didn't decide to make a poison, because that couldn't be tested too easily without killing something and having to get rid of a body, but we decided on a mood changing potion. And to this day I will never know what Draco did wrong, since I wasn't allowed to touch the thing while he was making it, but he did something. And instead of creating a mood altering potion, he created a mood alternating potion. He tested it on himself. Those few hours were the funniest hours I have ever lived through. One minute, he's laughing, the next, he's crying, the next he's dancing around singing off-key, and then suddenly he's picking a fight with a wall because it got in his way. But the best thing during that hour was Draco attempting to jump out of the window of his room because he was convinced that he could fly. So now that I've signed my death wish we can all continue eating and drinking and dancing!" And ignoring the glare from Draco and the slightly mortified looks from Harry, everyone went back to doing just that.

Epilogue: Happily Every After Two years later: Blaise looked up as the other man slid into his seat across the table from him. "Long time no see, Draco." Draco shot him a smirk as he ran his hand through long platinum strands, even longer than his father had worn his hair, Blaise noted. "Becoming a Master in potion making isn't as easy as I make it sound in my letters." Blaise laughed, thinking of how Draco ranted in his letters about the demands of the Masters he was working with. "Have they stopped bringing up the fact that you don't sleep on campus?" "No. They keep telling me that I should be around at all times." The Veriae shrugged. "I've gotten used to ignoring them. Their glares have nothing on my godfather's." "Draco, I don't think anyone can glare like your godfather. Although," Blaise's eyes laughed merrily as he spoke, "If I remember correctly, you could come close." "I find myself improving. They're going to start having me lecture next semester in Durmstrang." "Not Hogwarts?" "No. Believe me, I tried. I think they don't want my godfather to grade me. They think he'd favor me or something like that." Blaise snorted into his wine at the thought of Snape favoring anyone enough to up their grade. Nope, it wasn't compatible with the reality. "So how's your better half?" Blaise asked. "Well right now we're arguing-" "You don't say." Blaise's tone was dry and sarcastic. "-about children." Blaise choked on the wine he was drinking and decided that, even though it was really good wine, he should not drink it during this conversation. "I can honestly say that is the last thing I thought you were going to say." Draco smirked. "I enjoy surprising you." "So what exactly are you arguing about?" "How they will come into existence." "Oh, you mean whether you're going to use a potion or a spell?" "Yes." "Let me guess, you want the potion, he wants the spell?" "Exactly." Blaise grinned lopsidedly at him. "Well, I think whoever has to carry the baby should decide." "Blaise, that is disgusting."

Blaise couldn't help but laugh at the look on his friend's face. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. Well, if memory serves me correctly, the Hereditary Potion and Spell are both administered at the same time of birth, right?" "Correct. As long as the baby hasn't gone through a naming ceremony, either one can be used to change his or her heritage to another family's." "Well, why don't you just adopt twins and use both?"

Draco shrugged off his outer cloak and dropped it into the House Elf's waiting hands as he entered the Manor. The Masters had kept him late again. He sighed. Harry didn't like it when he wasn't there to help tuck the children in. He would have to apologize for the ill-manners of his teachers, yet again. "Master Draco, Master Harry and the little Master and Mistress are waiting for you in the little Mistress's room. They is having Master Harry tell them stories while they wait for you." Draco thanked the House Elf and strolled towards the room he and Harry had fashioned for the younger twin. She was "Harry's twin", and had been made a Malfoy by Harry casting the Hereditary Spell on her, while the older twin was "his twin", having been made part of the family by the Hereditary Potion that Draco himself had brewed. The door was open and he paused in the hallway as he realized that Harry was nearing the end of the story. As always, he couldn't speak more than a sentence without one of them asking a question. "And Draconis protected Harold with his wings as Harold said the spell to kill the Big-Bad-Wizard." "Did he have wings like Father does, Daddy?" "Yes, exactly like Father does." "What happened after the Big-Bad-Wizard was killed, Daddy?" "Well, Harold and Draconis decided to have a family, of course." Draco moved to stand in the doorway. Harry was sitting in the middle of the bed with one child on either side, listening intently to him. Harry looked up at Draco as he entered. "And did they all live happily ever after, Daddy?" "They did." Draco answered, stepping up to the bed to hug and kiss his children good-night. "They all lived happily ever after."

Seven Years Later: Headmaster Severus Snape surveyed the hall as Hermione Weasley, Minerva's replacement as Transfiguration teacher lead the new First Years into the Great Hall for the Sorting. His eyes swept down to one end of the table where Ron was watching his son in the gaggle of First Years. He allowed himself a small smile. From this year on, he wouldn't have to worry about young children exploding their cauldrons in his dungeons anymore. Casting a glance at the wizard sitting next to him, he wondered how the children would react to their new Potions teacher. He'd seen Draco teach as part of his application to be on the Hogwarts staff and his godson had impressed even him on how strict a teacher he could be. Next to Draco sat his husband, and the only Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to remain at Hogwarts for more than one year (ten, to be exact, and still counting): Harry Malfoy. Though, Snape thought with a hidden grimace, he would always be "Potter" in his eyes. Harry was watching eagerly for his own two children to be sorted, his hand reaching for Draco's under the table. Snape turned his attention back towards the group of students and picked out two very blond children in the crowd. One, a girl, was standing in the front. The other, a boy, was more towards the back hidden

behind the other students. But the hair gave them away as the two Malfoy twins that Draco had written of constantly in his letters. Snape looked forward to seeing how they'd grown. He'd not seen them since their naming ceremonies. "Malfoy, Lily." Hermione's voice rang out and the front most blond head moved out of the crowd. Lily Malfoy smiled brightly at her two fathers before she sat down on the chair. She had wavy golden hair, much more gold than platinum; Harry's eyes, Harry's smile, Draco's nose and poise. Everyone waited as the hat was placed upon her head. "GRYFFINDOR!" it yelled, and Harry smirked at Draco before joining in the applause for his daughter. "One more left, Harry," Draco reminded him over the chatter and Snape fought the urge to groan. Would the rivalry between those two never stop? For one minute? Draco edged forward in his seat as Hermione's eyes fell to the next name on the list. "Malfoy, Lucius." Snape's jaw dropped as a carbon copy of the Lucius he had gone to school with made his way through the small huddle of first years, and nodded respectfully at his fathers before sitting down. The elder twin waited patiently as the hat was lowered towards his head. No sooner had it touched the long platinum hairs that were brushed back into a horsetail did it shout: "SLYTHERIN!" Draco beamed at his son as Lucius sat proudly at the Slytherin table, very much in the same seat that Draco himself had occupied during his years at Hogwarts. The twins shot each other challenging looks across the hall and Snape fought the urge to groan, thinking of all the trouble two Malfoys - who were part Potter - would cause, now that they were in different houses. "Well, I think that we needn't have feared, Harry," Draco spoke as the Sorting continued. "Our interhouse rivalry legacy will be continued." Nothing else was said until "Weasley, Mordred" was sorted. "Mordred?" Snape asked the blond next to him as the redheaded boy sat down on the stool and his mother dropped the hat on his head. "It was apparently Mrs. Weasley's idea," was all the Malfoy patriarch would explain. "And Mr. Weasley didn't have the determination to tell her no, not after twelve hours of labor." Snape nodded, wincing slightly, and thanked whatever force was guiding the universe that he would never have to worry about children of his own. "SLYTHERIN!" At the other end of the staff table, the flying instructor, Ronald Weasley, began to choke on the very air he was breathing. Hermione, however, smiled proudly at her son and watched him swagger over to the table over which hung green and silver banners. The redhead plopped down next to Lucius and, from the conspiring grins between the two, Harry and Draco both knew that something was being planned about this turn of events. Draco couldn't resist. "You should be happy, Weasley," he smirked down the table at the sputtering Ron. "My boy will make sure yours grows up right." Ron shot a glare at Draco but didn't say anything, pointedly returning his attention to the Sorting Ceremony.

Later that night Harry remarked on how quiet it was in the Manor, now that Lucius and Lily were staying in the Hogwarts dorms.

Draco's smile was predatory as he whispered in Harry's ear, "I bet I could make you scream loudly enough that it echoes." And he would have proven that was there not the sound of a nervous House Elf trying to get their attention. "Masters, there is a guest demanding to see you in the fire." Draco sighed and got up, pulling Harry off the couch with him. The two walked into the foyer where a very irate Severus Snape waited for them in the fireplace. "Draco, I need you to floo to Hogwarts immediately. You are needed as Head of Slytherin House." "Why?" Harry pouted. "Because your son and his Weasley friend were just caught sneaking into the Restricted Section of the library." Harry burst out laughing as Draco shrugged and went to grab some floo powder. He had a feeling the two wouldn't be punished for trying to sneak into the Restricted Section on their first night of Hogwarts. No, Draco would chew them both out with a lecture to rival and perhaps utterly destroy one of Snape's own; but it would not be about breaking the rules no, it would be about breaking the rules and getting caught. Finis Est.