Author's Notes: Okay so this is turning into an epic, but I will continue in the vein that each story adds to the last and the sequence could stop at the end of any of them. Thanks go to Soph for beta reading this as usual.
When Malfoy shifted as if to move off the bed, Harry's instinctive reaction was to tighten his loose embrace and not let his bed partner go. Surprisingly that caused the Slytherin to laugh.
"I have to use the loo," Malfoy said and gently, but firmly moved Harry's arm.
It was another one of those moments when Harry was sharply aware that if he insisted in his position, his companion would have no choice but to conform, and yet found himself letting the Slytherin have his way even though his reasoning in the situation had nothing to do with logic. Watching Malfoy climb off the bed and saunter towards the bathroom in all his naked glory gave Harry a nice view, but that wasn't why he let it happen either. It was almost as if Malfoy had a get out of jail free card, which the darker part of Harry found strangely disturbing and the human part couldn't quite understand.
"You should think about getting up as well," his companion said as he disappeared into the bathroom, "it is only lunch time after all."
At this, one little voice in his head told the world to go shove its rationality, another pointed out that during the day was a perfect time to be sleeping, and a third looked at the discarded books on the table and agreed that possibly Malfoy had a point. They had been lying around for a good half an hour since their rather satisfying tryst and Harry slowly stretched and climbed off the bed. The shirt he was still partially wearing was crumpled and a little on the sticky side so he pulled it off and threw it at the basket in the corner.
He looked at the door of the bathroom and considered invading it as well since he wanted to be clean, but then turned and walked to the desk, leaving Malfoy to his ablutions alone. Picking up his trousers and his underwear he laid them over the back of the chair and aimlessly glanced at the book he had discarded when his companion arrived, waiting for the Slytherin to finish whatever he was doing. The illustration on the open page was of a banshee mid wail, forever caught crying her grief to the world, and it was a mournful picture that filled him with a strange melancholy. They had briefly studied banshees last year in DADA and about the only thing that had been important at the time was to avoid the creatures, and cast a silencing charm at the first opportunity if faced with one about to open her mouth.
Now he found that the creatures' fate to scream their pain was much more important to him and he ran a finger over the moving picture, wondering at how little the Wizarding world really understood about magical creatures. When he finally moved, he turned and found Malfoy watching him from the doorway of the bathroom. The Slytherin had a very contemplative expression on his face and Harry could not help wondering what was going through his companion's mind.
"I never thought of you as someone who would be comfortable naked," Malfoy said eventually and wandered further into the room, looking around for his clothes.
Harry glanced down at himself and realised that he hadn't actually been thinking about it at all. He had thought about putting his clothes back on because the air in the room was slightly less warm than was comfortable without activity, but he really wasn't bothered otherwise. It occurred to him that this was quite odd considering the fact that he had not wanted to look at himself in the mirror, but he could not explain quite a lot of his mind at the moment so he didn't see why this should be any different.
"I wasn't," he admitted honestly, and walked towards the bathroom.
He was sure he would end up analysing what he was feeling sooner or later, since it was in his nature to brood, but right then he didn't feel like it and he simply wanted to be clean. He wandered into the smaller room and set about his immediate task, letting his mind drift away from serious thoughts as he became absorbed in what he was doing. Malfoy's curiosity could wait until later.
It was only as he stepped out of the bathroom again, clean to his own satisfaction that his thoughts clicked back on, and they were suddenly focused on only one thing. Malfoy was slowly pulling on his clothes and the glimpses of pale flesh in graceful motion high-jacked every sentient impulse in Harry's body. Motor function kicked back in after a moment and he discarded the towel he was using to dry himself off in favour of putting his fingers to better use on his lover.
He walked up behind Malfoy as the Slytherin was pulling on his shirt and he found his hands moving without much conscious thought as he reached up and pulled the collar away from his companion's neck before Malfoy could begin to fasten any of the buttons. He ran one finger down the pale skin he revealed and continued to pull off the shirt with his other hand.
"You cannot still be hungry," Malfoy said, but did not pull his top back on.
"Wasn't hungry the last time," Harry said shortly, feeling the pull towards the Slytherin never the less.
"You certainly felt like you were," was the response as Harry removed the shirt completely again, running his hands over his lover's arms.
"Not the hunger," he said almost absently as his eyes ran over pale shoulders and back, "I find you irresistible."
Something was trying to attract his attention, something which was speaking to his instincts, but not his higher brain and it was definitely to do with Malfoy. He had not realised that his words might have an impact on the Slytherin until his companion turned and looked at him in quite a shocked manner.
"You are attracted to me without the hunger?" Malfoy sounded surprised and a little confused.
It occurred to Harry then that the Slytherin appeared to have convinced himself that the only reason he was fixating on his lover was because of the incubus' needs, and while the incubus definitely drove his sexual appetite, it was not only his instincts which were guiding him. He didn't really understand it himself; after all, Malfoy had been his enemy for so long that any idea of an attraction between them, which was not based on extreme circumstances, was quite strange. However, Harry could quite honestly say that his human nature was as attracted to Malfoy as his dark nature, a fact which at one time might have horrified him, but which now simply puzzled him. Whether the uninhibited nature of the beast within had allowed him to realise something which had previously passed him by, or whether his human nature was adapting to cope with his new situation, he had no idea, and he could not explain it to himself yet.
"Yes," he said simply and went back to what he was doing.
He walked behind the shocked Slytherin and took the opportunity to move in close, pressing his bare chest against Malfoy's naked back. He smiled into his lover's hair as he ran his hands down Malfoy's arms again, encircling the Slytherin's wrists with his fingers and nuzzling at the beautiful long neck. Malfoy was motionless under his attentions, he did not resist, but neither did he encourage, but Harry was too wrapped up in the feeling of what he was doing to take much notice.
Lifting Malfoy's left arm he brought his lover's wrist to eye level, his gaze running along the pale, elegant limb. It was inevitable that his attention would end up resting on the Dark Mark; black ugly lines etched onto alabaster skin, stating a claim even after death.
"He is not yours," Harry whispered as if Voldemort could still hear him, "he is mine."
The feeling of possession was all encompassing and hatred of the reminder of the Dark Lord flared in Harry's chest. Before he could consciously decide what he was going to do, he moved around his human once more and with a swift step he shifted them both across the room until Malfoy was pushed up against the wall. Harry pinned his lover there, left arm stretched out against the stone surface with his hand covering the offending mark.
"Never his," he said low in his throat, totally fixated on that one thought.
"Never his," Malfoy repeated, grey eyes looking directing into Harry's.
"Mine," Harry said firmly.
Malfoy did not reply this time, but neither did he flinch, nor look away. When Harry crushed his lips to his lover's, the Slytherin responded immediately and Malfoy's mouth opened to be claimed by Harry's tongue.
'Mine': the word continued to repeat in Harry's mind like a mantra, consuming every other thought in its wake, demanding the universe acknowledge that it was true. He was so lost in the rhythm of the mental sound and the sweet taste of his lover's mouth the he did not feel the power building in him until is spilled out of his body.
The kiss broke the moment the magic burst its bonds and Malfoy's head went back to rest against the wall with a sound somewhere between a moan of ecstasy and a cry of pain. Their bodies were pushed together and Harry held firm as the Slytherin writhed against him; at that moment he was as incapable of moving as Malfoy was to stop reacting. The power flood out of him and into his lover as the mantra repeated over and over in his mind; Voldemort would retain no part of what was his.
When the magic finally ran dry, Harry slumped forward against the now panting Slytherin, resting his head on his lover's shoulder as his human did the same to him. Only the friction of the wall prevented them both sliding towards the ground and for long seconds they remained in that position, leaning against each other with the stone stopping them falling to the floor. Harry was not sure how to describe this latest experience, but he definitely felt as if he had been through a marathon session of something.
"I think I'd like to sit down," were Draco's quiet words, which finally drew him out of his daze, and he forced himself to stand up properly in response.
Grey eyes were looking at him in a rather dazed fashion, but slowly both their gazes moved to where Harry's hand was still covering his lover's arm. Almost as if he might see something terrible Harry tentatively uncurled his fingers and reluctantly pulled back his limb. A rather shocked gasp was the Slytherin's only reaction at first, as the pale limb was drawn in and examined.
"Draco, I..." and then Harry stopped as he realised what he had said.
The startled look on his lover's features as he glanced up was even more shocked than before. It was then that Harry realised that not only had he changed Draco's Dark Mark so that only the snake remained, curled gently around itself rather than sliding from a skull's mouth, but also something fundamental had shifted inside his head. Where before there had been Malfoy, his human, there was Draco; still his, but much more a person than simply the Prince of Slytherin. Malfoy was his lover; Draco had the possibility of being far more.
"What do you want from me?" Draco did not seem to be able to comprehend what was going on.
Harry stepped up to the Slytherin again and ran his fingers lightly over the new mark.
"A friend," he said quietly.
Sitting propped up on the bed with a book in his lap and his foot pressed up against the warmth of Draco's side, Harry felt almost content. The Slytherin was lying on his front reading a school text book, and Harry found the way his lover scrunched up his forehead when he concentrated adorable. The fact that Draco still hadn't done his shirt up and hence every time he moved gave Harry glimpses of pale flesh was an added bonus as well.
"Were you supposed to be anywhere this afternoon?" he asked eventually as it occurred to him that it was a Wednesday (it had been so mad since he had been kidnapped that it was hard to believe it had been under five days ago).
"No," Draco replied absently, lost in his reading, "Dumbledore gave me today to adjust back into the school routine. I start lessons tomorrow, well that is unless they call a national holiday or something, and then I have a make up timetable from hell. It seems the headmaster wants me to pass my N.E.W.T.s even though I might be in Azkaban before I can take them."
A small growl sounded in the back of Harry's throat at that idea and his companion finally looked up at him. The idea of anyone trying to take away his human, his Draco, set Harry completely on edge and he could not control the reaction. It occurred to him that the calming field did not appear to be working, but he could not care less as he concentrated on his lover.
"You never belonged to him," he said in a dangerously low tone, "and you never did anything."
Draco glanced down at the black snake on his wrist as Harry spoke and it was clear he was remembering what had occurred over an hour earlier. Harry felt a little embarrassed by his actions, but also perfectly justified in taking them.
"I am, however, a Malfoy," the Slytherin replied with practical logic, "and since my father is dead, the Ministry would very much like to make an example of the family. Mother never had the mark, which leaves me."
Slamming his book closed, Harry leant forward and stopped only millimetres from his lover.
"You are mine," he said firmly, "and I will protect you."
A smile played at the corners of Draco's mouth.
"You are still such a hero," the Slytherin said, and Harry did not know if it was a compliment or an insult, "even with everything you are, at the core you belong to Gryffindor, and I suspect you always will."
He really didn't know what to say to that, but they were interrupted anyway by a quiet cough. Looking over, Harry saw Jeremy in his frame shifting awkwardly.
"So sorry to interrupt once again," the portrait offered apologetically, "but there is another Slytherin outside. He threatened to burn my canvas if I did not announce him."
"Tall, dark hair, hooked nose, wears black?" Draco asked chattily.
"Let him in," Harry said shortly, climbing off the bed.
Snape would not be here for a social visit.
"Aren't you going to put some more clothes on?" Draco asked, sliding his legs off the bed, but remaining elegantly posed as he came to a sitting position.
Looking down at himself, Harry noted the trousers slung low on his hips, and his bare chest and feet, but could not find it in himself to be bothered. Knowing Snape he'd want to test something anyway, so Harry shook his head. His sensibilities only caught up with his actions as the door opened and it occurred to him that Snape might find the whole situation embarrassing. As it was the Potions master entered the room carrying a small tray almost identical to the one he had had at Malfoy Manor and stopped dead as he saw Harry. Snape's eyes then moved from Harry to Draco and back again in a way that Harry's darker sense of humour found very amusing.
"Mr Malfoy," the head of Slytherin said evenly, "I do not remember you being given access to the corridor outside this room."
Draco nodded his head in respect.
"I was quite surprised as well, Sir," the younger Slytherin replied honestly. "I expected to have to try and break in, but the wards let me through."
It had not occurred to Harry what security measures might be in place to prevent people reaching his door, but the fact that the corridor was off limits did not really surprise him.
"Does the rest of the school know I'm in here?" he asked as the idea occurred to him.
"Of course," Snape said as if he was highly unimpressed with the fact, "it would be entirely impossible to keep a secret within these walls."
Harry, for once agreed with the derision; he was uncomfortable with the school being privy to his condition.
"Do they know?" he asked awkwardly.
"The school and the rest of the world have been told that you are suffering from the after effects of your imprisonment and your battle with Voldemort," the Potions master replied, finally walking further into the room. "Not exactly a lie, but not the complete truth either."
It did not escape Harry that Snape had so far refrained from asking why Draco was in the room. It had to be quite obvious what they had been doing, but it did not look as if the head of Slytherin was inclined to call either of them on their behaviour.
"I require another blood sample," Snape said efficiently, "the previous volume was not enough to complete my experiments."
Looking at the equipment on the tray, Harry had concluded as much, but he was also intrigued by the folded piece of parchment sitting beside the clear flask.
"What have you found out so far?" it was difficult to hide the trepidation in his voice.
"This," the Potions master replied and handed him the parchment. "Isolating the different magical signatures has been challenging and the creatures at the top of the list are those that have contributed physical properties as well. I took the opportunity of copying the sigils on your skin while you were unconscious, which should aid in the research."
At the comment Harry looked down at the ghostly marks he could see on his chest and managed to swallow the annoyance at the liberty Snape had taken. The Potions master was trying to help him and although it grated to be the focus of such clinical observation, he knew it was necessary. Holding the parchment he thought about opening it, but part of him did not really want to know, and the rest, which was not sure what his reaction would be, rather felt that after Snape had gone would be a better time to read it. Folding it once more he slipped it into his pocket. Snape raised an eyebrow at the move, but did not comment.
"I would suggest you sit down," the Potions master said as he picked up the familiar rubberised band.
As he did as he was told and quietly allowed Snape access to his arm, Harry distracted himself from his predicament by looking over to where Draco was sitting quietly on the bed, watching. The Slytherin really was elegant; beautiful, yet very masculine, and Harry was quite surprised that he had never noticed it before the other night. Possibly, before the incubus had added to his character he had never thought like that. He had never been a very sexual person and his only girlfriend had been Cho, having had no time for such things when returning to school after Sirius' death. Quite frankly he had probably been the only boy in his year completely uninterested in sex, and now, well now things were just weird.
Draco watched him steadily for a few minutes and then slowly stood up. When his lover came into range, Harry couldn't help himself and he reached out the arm that was not currently being exsanguinated and ran his fingers down his lover's forearm in a need to simply touch. When he glanced back at Snape the man appeared confused, and Harry really couldn't blame him; he was confused himself. Logically he and Draco should want nothing to do with each other, and yet here they were. It was obvious that Snape would have liked to ask questions, but, being a true Slytherin, the Potions master held his tongue.
"I would suggest discretion," was the man's only word on the matter; "the Ministry would undoubtedly attempt to misconstrue any relationship between you."
"I agree, Professor," Draco replied, stepping closer to Harry as he spoke, "however, I find myself at a loss to be able to explain this."
Holding out his wrist the Slytherin exhibited what was left of his Dark Mark. Snape actually showed his shock, looking down at his own wrist reflexively. The head of Slytherin covered his reaction quickly, putting into place his usual mask, but Harry had seen enough to know that Snape was flabbergasted. After that it took even less time for the mask to change again and the expression on Snape's face was one of calculated cunning.
"Mr Malfoy," the head of Slytherin asked evenly, "how many Death Eaters were present at your initiation?"
"Five," Draco replied without hesitation, "it was a private gathering: My father, Aunt Bellatrix, Wormtail, Nott and Langborn. They are all dead except Wormtail and no one knows where he is."
Harry just about managed to hold on to the hiss of anger that threatened at the mention of Wormtail. How the rat had escaped again was a mystery, but Voldemort's lackey was missing. If Harry ever caught up with him he was going to die very, very slowly.
"Then I believe, Mr Malfoy, we may have a workable solution to the charges levelled against you," Snape said, his dark eyes glinting with glee in a way Harry had witnessed only a few times before. "The Ministry is attempting to prosecute you for collaborating with a known enemy of the crown, are they not?"
"The Dark Mark on my arm is on record," the Slytherin pointed out, "even if it has changed now; Caveo made very sure everything was documented."
At that, Snape smiled.
"But everyone knows, Mr Malfoy," the Potions master said in his usual understated, yet triumphant manner, "that the Dark Mark is impervious to any type of alteration or removal. Yours was obviously a very clever fake that even fooled the Dark Lord himself."
Harry smiled at that as well; he was beginning to enjoy being associated with Slytherins.
"But no one would believe me capable of such a fake," Draco pointed out, "and my father was openly in support of Voldemort. Who could create something that would fool the Dark Lord at his own ceremony?"
"Dumbledore," Harry said firmly.
Snape inclined his head in agreement; the Potions master appeared to have been thinking the same thing.
"Why?" Draco continued to play devil's advocate in a typically Slytherin, pessimistic manner.
Now Snape looked directly at Harry, as if considering something and Harry stared back steadily.
"Mr Potter," the Potions master said evenly, "would you lie to the Ministry for Mr Malfoy?"
"I think that's probably a better solution to tearing them into little tiny pieces," he replied openly, his hand curling protectively around Draco's wrist.
Snape's eyes did the flicking between him and Draco again and Harry could tell the Potions master was reassessing his opinion of them yet again. Merlin knew what the wizard was thinking, but Harry did not really care as long as the Head of Slytherin remained firmly on Draco's side.
"Then, Mr Potter," Snape said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, "with the headmaster's agreement, I would suggest we use a cover story which will not only turn suspicion from Mr Malfoy, but also assist with the acceptance of your relationship currently."
Now all of Harry's attention was firmly focussed on the man.
"You and Mr Malfoy have been involved since before the end of the sixth year," Snape explained evenly. "You kept the relationship a secret from everyone except Dumbledore, knowing that it would be used to exploit you both. Returning home for the Summer, you, Mr Malfoy, were aware that your father would make you join the Death Eaters, hence the fake mark, designed to become visible at the ceremony, and resemble and mimic the properties of the real Dark Mark until such time as Voldemort was destroyed. His influence took time to dissipate after his death and hence your mark did not change until now. Your experiences after Mr Potter's changes led you both to deny that there was anything between you and this attitude only altered when Mr Malfoy's mark transformed. The story will undoubtedly leak to the press and will have witches wailing in the aisles about the romance of the whole thing."
Draco looked very impressed and Harry found himself agreeing whole heartedly with his lover's assessment.
"Professor Snape," he said sincerely, feeling oddly like the awkward teenager he was supposed to be, "that's brilliant."
After his more than apparent enjoyment of the plotting, Snape had returned to his role as austere Potions master and Harry's comment caused merely a raised eyebrow. Tapping Harry's arm Snape removed the band and Harry was surprised to see that the flask was already full.
"You will of course have to work out the details between yourselves," the Potions master said evenly. "I will speak to the headmaster. No doubt such romantic notions will appeal to him."
Harry was not about to argue; his delight at the new plan was so great that it was almost enough to squelch the desire he had been harbouring to rend Auror Caveo limb from limb. As Snape turned to leave, Harry looked at Draco, and although his lover did not appear as enthusiastic about the whole idea he could tell that the Slytherin was intrigued. They were going to have a lot to talk about.
Nearly two hours later Harry finally let Draco leave. It had taken more willpower than he cared to admit to let the Slytherin go, but they had talked the new plan into the ground and Draco couldn't exactly stay locked up with him forever. After he'd chucked a few cushions and pillows around the room to appease the completely irrational annoyance at having to allow his human out of his sight, he went and sat back at the desk. Then and only then did he pull the parchment Snape had given him out of his pocket. It sat on the desk taunting him after he let it drop from his fingers; he was afraid to open it.
He knew he was a monster, but what other horrors would Snape's work reveal. How much magic had been forced into him over those forgotten two days? How many creatures lurked within him just waiting to show him their darkness?
It took him a good five minutes to squash the little voice that kept telling him it was better not to know; that he would find out if he needed to and that ignorance was often easier than knowledge. Reaching out quickly, he unfolded the document and placed it flat in front of him, Snape's neat handwriting leaping out to meet his gaze. Balling up his Gryffindor courage he began to read. The first four creatures listed were not unexpected: vampire; banshee; Dementor and werewolf, but the fifth caught his eye: shadow fae. He had no idea what one of those was, which rather circumvented his fear with a healthy dose of curiosity. Turning to the book he had been reading before Draco arrived, he flicked to the index.
"Shadow fae," he read aloud, not caring that there was no one to hear him, "dark creature, related to a fairy. Feeds on the chemical reactions of a physical body in pain and can be found anywhere pain is being suffered by human or animal. These creatures are scavengers and rarely dangerous unless present in large numbers, when they will attack. They have the ability to become non-corporeal and pass through solid material, but are intolerant to light and may be dispersed by a simple Lumos spell. Basic wards will prevent them entering a building."
Well that explained his little trick with the door the night he had killed Voldemort and at least this creature didn't sound too bad. Picking up the list once more he continued down it: incubus, boggart and basilisk were next, and then the last creature listed was another one that he remembered vaguely from DADA: Ethologi, but he could not recall any details. Studiously he went back to the book.
"Ethologi, commonly known as doppelgangers are rare and extremely dangerous to magical beings," he read slowly, not liking this one at all. "In their natural state these creatures appear as a black pool of liquid, but they have the power to mimic anything living with which they come into contact. They use this ability to hunt, taking on the form of something familiar to their prey and slowly draining the victim of magical energy. The shock to the system of being drained of all magic will kill most magical beings, including humans and recovery from a partial attack can take months. Being liquid based Ethologi are intolerant to fire and a flame spell will repel, although not kill, one."
Now he knew where the faint urge to draw the magic out of Dumbledore had come from, and how it was that his sense of magic seemed heightened. He only prayed that this creature's power within him never became as strong as those he had already used: he would not ever, under any circumstances knowingly drain anyone of magic; he would rather die first. Magic was very precious to Harry, and it was something to be treasured. The whole idea of the Ethologi made his skin crawl.
He sighed and closed the book; it could have been worse, at least the list wasn't longer. Briefly it occurred to him that the ability to mimic anyone and any thing could be useful, but he put the idea aside. If he tried to use a power that was not at the surface he might bring with it the creatures cravings, and while the desire to feed off of powerful magical sources was just a niggling urge it could become something much worse. Picking up the book he headed back to the bed and the other tome he had left lying around. Sitting down, leaning against the headboard he flicked to the index of the other book knowing it never hurt to have multiple sources; that much Hermione had drummed into him over the years.
"Harry Potter, Sir," a familiar, squeaky voice interrupted his contemplations and he looked to the side to see Dobby standing there looking rather worried, "Dobby is sorry to be disturbing you, but Headmaster Dumbledore is telling Dobby that if Harry Potter is not asking for food by the time the rest of the school is having diner, Dobby is to go to Harry Potter and be offering his services."
Harry blinked at the house elf in surprise; it was dinner time? He had thought it was only about four o'clock. Adding up the time in his mind he realised it had to be much later than that because Draco had been with him for a considerable length of time.
"Oh, thanks, Dobby," he said a little absently, his mind still on what he was reading, "anything will be fine."
The house elf beamed at being accepted and disappeared with a soft pop just as Harry caught up with what he had said. With a sinking feeling he realised that he was probably going to end up with enough food to feed an army, and he wasn't really that hungry. He'd also answered without remembering that there was a large amount of things that he couldn't eat any more. Just as he was trying to figure out how to explain to the house elf why he wasn't eating everything put in front of him without insulting the poor creature, Dobby popped back in again.
"Dobby is just remembering, Harry Potter, Sir," the elf said cheerfully, "Headmaster Dumbledore is also explaining how Harry Potter can no longer eat all of his favourites. Dobby is wondering if Harry Potter could be a bit more specific about what he is liking?"
"I'm sorry, Dobby," Harry apologised quickly, "I wasn't really paying attention. Anything meat based would be fine, but no pastry if possible. Green veggies are good, but anything else is hit or miss. As for pudding, I have this real thing for custard, but I can't seem to eat anything that goes with it; ice cream is good too."
The elf nodded sagely.
"Dobby will be bringing Harry Potter a selection," Dobby said seriously, "that way next time Dobby will be knowing what Harry Potter likes."
"Thank you," Harry replied with genuine gratitude.
The elf disappeared a second time and discovering that his foot had gone numb; Harry decided it was time to get up and move around a bit. A trip to the loo wouldn't be amiss either and he quickly busied himself with preparing for dinner. It was as he was pulling on a T-shirt that Jeremy's familiar throat-clearing attracted his attention. After Draco had left he had instructed the portrait to announce anyone that came to the door, at which point he would decided if they could come in or not. It was easier than having the poor man threatened every time a Slytherin dropped by.
"Yes, Jeremy," Harry asked politely.
"Headmaster Dumbledore requests a few moments of your time," the portrait replied efficiently, "should I let him in?"
"Yes thank you," Harry replied, although on the inside he was dreading the visit.
It was one thing to know that the crafty old wizard had known that Draco would be visiting, the wards letting the Slytherin through making that much obvious, but to have to talk about that and other things was not a comforting idea. Dumbledore would be kind, and considerate and supportive, but at times Harry preferred Snape's straightforwardness to the headmaster's concern. However the moment Dumbledore stepped into the room, Harry forgot about just about everything as his attention focused solely on the covered something that the headmaster was carrying in his right hand.
The vague unease at being in the presence of such a magically gifted individual was dwarfed as his nose twitched and his teeth ached; he could smell blood and his vampire aspect had sat up and taken notice.
"Good evening, Harry," Dumbledore greeted pleasantly, "I do hope you don't mind, but I asked Dobby to inform me when he would be bringing you your evening meal."
"Hello," Harry managed to say, although what he really wanted to do was launch himself at the headmaster and take whatever was under the cloth.
"I do hope you are settling in," the older wizard continued conversationally. "Professor Snape informed me of his previous visit and what you did for Mr Malfoy; an ingenious plan I must admit. Under normal circumstances I would never condone falsifying such an important matter, but I must admit to perceiving that the Ministry may be attempting to make an example of the Malfoy family, although Lucius has already paid the ultimate price."
The smell was driving Harry crazy and he could barely hold himself still; it was only as Dumbledore smiled at him with something more than the usual twinkle in his eye that Harry realised the headmaster knew exactly what he was doing. In a flash of insight that rarely ever happened to him, Harry became aware that he was being tested. Part of him was furious and demanded to be set free, but this time his human nature won and he pushed the instincts down. Dumbledore appeared pleased as if the headmaster was completely aware of Harry's internal struggle, and approved of the outcome.
"Professor Snape is an ingenious man," Harry said without the slightest trace of sarcasm; it was a truth he had taken a long time to see.
With a nod Dumbledore placed whatever he was carrying on the desk and calmly conjured himself a chair. Another test, Harry was sure of it as his control was tried yet again; this time he had wanted to react to the magic and the possible danger it represented, but biting his lip he did not even let loose the animalistic growl that threatened. The casual bravery the headmaster employed as he all but faced down the darkest creature ever known to wizard kind was actually quite astounding.
"This is for you," Dumbledore finally said as if they both didn't know what he had been doing.
Pulling off the cloth the headmaster revealed a goblet full of deep red liquid.
"I understand that Mr Malfoy has, shall we say, volunteered to assist with your other known needs," Dumbledore said chattily, which would have made Harry blush to the roots of his hair if he had not been quite so fixated on the blood, "but I believe it would be prudent to avoid first person donation for your vampire tendencies. Professor Snape's tests confirm that you are in no way contagious, but we do not want any accidents. Several Gryffindors have volunteered to give blood on your behalf, although they are unaware of exactly why, and Madame Pomfrey recommends you should drink once every other day to avoid any chance of the hunger returning."
Harry was almost vibrating as he held on to his control and prevented himself pouncing on the goblet. It was with the utmost care that he walked the final few feet to the desk and shakily picked up the vessel. It smelt like nectar from heaven and he could not hold back anymore. His fangs descended in response and the first mouthful sent the most wonderful sensations all over his body. Had he been alone he would have groaned, as it was he managed to stifle his reaction into a breathy gasp. After that he couldn't stop, and he tipped the goblet back, drinking greedily as the velvety liquid flowed down his throat. Normal food just couldn't compare anymore; this was more than sustenance, it was life; and yet, when he finally placed the goblet back on the table, every drop gone, there was a fraction of a second when it felt as if something was missing.
"Everything all right, Harry?" Dumbledore asked calmly as he stared at the cup trying to isolate the fleeting sensation.
"Um, what?" Harry responded, rather dazed at his reaction, "oh, yes, I'm fine, thank you. That was just a little intense."
The headmaster's response was his usual benevolent smile and Harry had no doubt his entire performance had been catalogued for posterity. It was then that he remembered that the calming field he was sure had been in place before did not appear to have been working all day.
"Did you remove the calming charm that was on the room?" he asked curiously.
"Yes, Harry," the headmaster replied lightly, "I felt it necessary to assist with your transition to here, however, I am a strong believer in not allowing oneself to become reliant on artificial means of support."
He had not expected quite such a straight forward answer, but he could not ignore the logic of it. Nodding slowly in agreement he glanced at the goblet one more time as he went over what he had been feeling as he had drunk the blood.
"Would you mind terribly if I joined you for dinner, My Boy?" Dumbledore asked politely. "I believe there are some things we need to discus and if you are willing, now would seem an appropriate time."
Harry was in two minds as to whether he really wanted to have this conversation, but he knew which the sensible, adult answer was, and he reluctantly nodded. He sat down at the desk just as Dobby reappeared and then suddenly there was a table between him and the headmaster, covered in food.
"Thank you, Dobby," Dumbledore said cheerfully, before Harry recovered from his surprise, "you have outdone yourself. Please carry our thanks to the kitchen elves."
The house elf disappeared with a huge smile. It was all Harry could do not to stare at the table: even at the school feasts he didn't think he had seen so much food crammed into one place.
"I think I should have been more specific," he said rather lamely.
"Perhaps it would be a good idea to eat while it's hot," the headmaster suggested with a smile and handed Harry a plate.
The blood had settled in Harry's stomach nicely and he was quite surprised to find that he did actually feel hungry in a very human way now, rather than anything else. He was beginning to suspect that the headmaster knew exactly what he was about, and he really didn't feel like second guessing his mentor. Accepting the plate, he decided that Dumbledore could test him all he liked; nothing he could do would stop it so he might as well just let it happen. Knowing that he was being watched, he ignored the headmaster for a while and set about deciding what he could and could not eat from the incredible spread in front of him. In the end he sat back with a nice helping of some sort of stew, some green beans and a large helping of carrots, and Dumbledore had chosen an eclectic mix of shepherds pie, sprouts and a large stick of celery he was using instead of a fork, chewing the end off when he felt like it. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes and Harry felt himself starting to relax, despite his anxiety.
"Well, Harry," Dumbledore said eventually as he reached for a second stick of celery, "I think perhaps we should consider you continuing your lessons, we wouldn't want you to fall too far behind."
That confused the magic out of Harry and pushed all thoughts of eating from his mind, he froze, mid bite.
"Um, how?" he asked openly. "I can't leave here and I don't have a wand."
"Ah, yes," the headmaster replied, fishing in his pocket in a superb impression of a forgetful old man, which Harry knew for a fact he most definitely was not, "I believe this is yours."
With a flourish Dumbledore held out Harry's wand and all he could do was stare at it as if it might bite. So many reasons for him not to take it jumped into his head that they clashed with the part of him that was completely delighted and immobilized him into complete inaction.
"Where did you find it?" he eventually managed to ask, delaying the moment when he would have to reach out and accept it back.
It was such a powerful thing to give a wizard a wand and Harry knew he was dangerous enough as it was, without giving him another weapon. The wand was like part of him, had been since he was eleven, but he was no longer sure how large a piece of him was fit to accept it.
"Tom had it hidden in the chamber where he died," Dumbledore explained patiently; "under his chair to be precise. It was warded, but I retrieved it before the Aurors arrived."
It did not surprise him that the headmaster had had his wand all the time, but it did surprise him that he was being given it back. He had had no expectations of being allowed to be a real wizard any time soon, if ever.
"I'm not safe," Harry said in little more than a whisper, although it caused him great pain to try and refuse the return.
"Your magic has changed, Harry," Dumbledore said kindly, "and the longer you are without your wand, the more difficult it will be for you to take it back. I know you are afraid of yourself, My Boy, you have much which challenges your control, but I am sure you will come through this. With the support of those of us fortunate enough to look upon you as family, you will return to us; maybe not quite the same, but never-the-less, whole."
The faith of an old wizard could seem to some such an insignificant thing, but it took Harry's breath away. With a shaking hand he placed his plate back on the table and slowly reached out to take back his wand. It was like putting on a warm glove as his fingers curled around the wooden shaft and he felt energy shoot up his arm. There was no pain or electric shock with the wand rejecting him, just the comfortable feeling of finding a part of himself that he had lost, and a half laugh, half sob erupted from his mouth before he could stop it. So many things had changed, he was so different he was not sure anyone would understand, but this, this was still his and he did not know whether to laugh or cry.
"It is a hard thing to lose a wand," the headmaster said sagely, "but it is such a beautiful thing to find one again."
"Thank you," was all Harry could find to say as he cradled the wand to him, almost as if it was a child.
They did not speak for a long time as Harry lost himself in the moment. Eventually he looked up and over at the desk; there was one more thing he needed to do. With a swish and a flick he pointed the wand at one of the smaller books.
"Wingardium Leviosa," he said calmly and the spell launched from the tip of his wand.
The book bounced off the ceiling.
"Oh hell," Harry said quite distinctly.
"Indeed," Dumbledore said pleasantly, "perhaps it would be fortuitous to regulate the power behind the spell just a little more."
Harry just gave Dumbledore a look for that comment. It occurred to him then that Voldemort could have had no concept of what he was going to create, if the Dark Lord had known that Harry's wizarding power would increase so significantly he would have been a fool to allow it to happen. Even insane dark wizards knew that you didn't create something more powerful than yourself.
After that, they made it to pudding without further incident, chatting about inane things like the last house Quidditch match between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and the state of the East Tower after having been hit by a class worth of freezing charms when Professor Flitwick had taken his third year lesson outside. It was all really quite pleasant, which was why Harry's defences were low when Dumbledore decided to become serious again.
"About your friends, Harry." He dropped the apple he had just picked up as the headmaster spoke.
Hermione, Ron, Neville and the rest were a subject he had been attempting not to think about; he didn't know what they knew and he definitely didn't want to have to consider how they would react. As far as he was concerned it was better for all parties if they stayed as far away as possible and dissociated themselves with him.
"What about them?" he asked, trying to keep his voice cold and emotionless.
"They wish to see you," Dumbledore said sympathetically, but in a tone that suggested to Harry he felt this was very important; "they have been most anxious since your abduction. Mr Weasley insisted on leaving the hospital wing before he was fully recovered in order that he could be with Miss Granger waiting for news of you."
"Ron was hurt?" guilt welled up in Harry as he realised he had been so wrapped up in his own problems that he had no idea what had happened to his friends.
He had asked Dumbledore if they were all right when they had spoken at Malfoy Manor, but he had gone no further with his enquiries. Ron had been with him during the attack; it was really blindingly obvious that his best friend could have been hurt. For a moment he felt a little resentful that Dumbledore had not told him everything at their first meeting, but logic quickly informed him that he had been in no state of mind to deal with the details at that point.
"He was assaulted by a rather nasty blasting hex," the headmaster replied. "The wall which stopped his progress was, I believe his exact words were 'bloody hard', and he sustained some nasty bruising and several broken bones. Madame Pomfrey patched him up in her usual proficient fashion, and I believe he has only one bandage remaining to show for his war wounds. Miss Granger has been making a suitable fuss of him."
Harry could just imagine; Hermione was incredibly practical, but when it came to her friends being hurt, she had been known to go over the top. It didn't happen often, but Hermione could actually be quite girly when she set her mind to it.
"Have you told them?" It was the question that was really praying on his mind. "Do they know what Voldemort did to me?"
"I rather believe they should be made aware of the truth," the Dumbledore said evenly, "however, I refrained from explaining the situation until such time as I could consult you in the matter. I am of the opinion that telling them sooner rather than later will be the most advantageous to you as well as them. They are aware you are recovering from Voldemort's attentions, but they are unaware of the consequences of Tom's machinations."
Sitting back in the chair Harry stared at the table; rationally he knew that he could not hide forever, people were going to find out the truth, but knowing this did not stop him being afraid, and being afraid made him tense, and being tense disrupted his control, and that let his baser instincts to the surface. Swiping viciously at the table he sent one bowl flying and stormed to his feet, turning away from Dumbledore and the headmaster's logic, as anger won over sense. His desire to destroy something was almost overpowering, but he walked away, trying to bring back the relative calm that the Occlumency usually helped him find. Why did everything have to be so hard?
"I don't want them to know," he said as all the terrible possibilities flooded into his mind, "I don't want anyone to ever know."
Lashing out with claws and supernatural strength he took a chunk out of one of the bed posts; the pain of the impact was so much easier to deal with than the pain he felt in his heart. Fascinated he watched as the mess of splinters slowly reformed as if organically growing back and it helped to bring his raging thoughts under control.
"What we want and what we are required to endure are unfortunately, often quite dissimilar," Dumbledore said calmly, obviously in great white sage mode.
The cynical part of Harry wanted to tell the headmaster where to stick his wisdom, but he managed to curb that impulse.
"At least they won't want to see me anymore," he said coldly, "once they know what I am."
Dumbledore appeared disappointed by that statement.
"I believe you do your friends a great disservice with those words, Harry," the headmaster responded. "They care for you very deeply, and it will take more than that to frighten them away. I suggest you do not try and find out where that point may be."
Harry sneered at the old man over his shoulder; he was in no mood to play word games.
"Perhaps it is time for me to leave you in peace," Dumbledore suggested politely. "Do I have your permission to enlighten Mr Weasley and Miss Granger of your condition, and maybe Mr Longbottom as well?"
That was the scale the broke the dragon's wing and Harry snapped; the simply gentility of the headmaster's question enraged him.
"Tell the whole bloody world for all I care," he yelled, taking another swipe at the bed post. "Let them point and stare; they've done it to me my whole life. Just don't let them in here; never let them in here with me."
Harry did not watch Dumbledore leave, but he felt him go, and a soon as he knew he was alone he let go completely and the room filled with sound as the bedpost literally exploded.
Return to Archive | next | previous