Author's Notes: Argh, this part has been plaguing me, and I want to thank everyone in the universe for just being there. In particular, I have to thank Libertine for turning me into Neville, which somehow made the difficult parts of this fic come together. (So to speak.)

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, settings, or spells. I am only borrowing them to entertain myself and a few others. Don't make me stop this car, do you hear me?


Chapter Four - Friends and family

By Ivy Blossom


Ron sat back against the couch when Harry had finished talking. He watched Harry take off his glasses and rub the bridge of his nose. So. Voldemort was back and seemed to be haunting Harry. Dumbledore was apprised of the situation, and the Ministry would probably be stepping up their efforts against the Death Eaters shortly. There was a team tracing the origins of the spell that pulled Voldemort's prison out of Hogwarts. Malfoy was not trying to kill Harry. Well, not yet at least. Well, what was I supposed to think, Harry screaming with a knife in his hand and Malfoy shoving him up against a wall like that? Ron rubbed absent-mindedly at his sore scalp, trying to think of what to say. He pulled out quite a lot of my hair. I bet he's going to use it to make a polyjuice potion and trick Harry into— aw, bloody hell. I'll never get used to this.

Harry looked dreadful. Ron studied that big purple lump on his head, his blackening eyes. When he hadn't turned up at work, Ron had talked to their supervisor, who had told him the story that Draco had relayed. Harry had fallen and hurt himself, and Draco was going to keep an eye on him. He hinted that it might have something to do with Harry's scar, but didn't go into any details. Ron hadn't even talked to anyone; he had just headed straight home. And thought he had found exactly what he had expected to find; Malfoy taking another shot at destroying Harry. Ron sighed. He knew that Harry had worked a few things out with Malfoy, and was even spending time with him these days. More and more as time went on, so it seemed. He realized, with a heavy heart, that they were probably becoming an item, though he had yet to have a real conversation with Harry about it (Other than one late night discussion, when Harry's entrance had woken him, which went like this: "Where've you been?" "I was out with Draco." "Oh. Did you snog the bastard?" "What do you think?"). Ron felt sure Harry would tell him the if anything became more official. Ron cringed. Perhaps things were farther along than he thought.

He had noticed that Harry had stopped seeing Susan Goldsmith, a pretty Ravenclaw girl who had come to work in their department last year. Granted, that had never been terribly serious, though she mooned over Harry something fierce, and was still glancing over at him with that look on her face. She was too stuck up for Ron's taste (She had, after all, treated Ron as the resident server the last time she had received an invite to one of their get-togethers. "Ron, be a dear and get me another glass of the red, would you?" Ick.), but Malfoy! From the frying pan into the fire. Harry pulled his legs up onto the couch, rubbing his scar, his eyes half-closed. Ron couldn't remember the last time he had seen Harry so drained. "Have you gotten any sleep, Harry? You look really…tired."

Draco stalked over to the couch and handed a glass to Harry. It was steaming purple. Harry looked up at him and smiled weakly, bringing the glass to his lips. "Harry!" Ron jumped up and put his hand on the glass, spilling a little of it on Harry's shirt. "What the hell is that?" He looked suspiciously at Draco, whose lips curled into a snarl.

"It's a Polyjuice potion, made with your hair, you wormy little nimrod. I'm banking on Harry taking one look at himself afterwards and immediately committing suicide."

Harry winced. "Okay, enough! Ron, I told you, Dumbledore gave us a recipe for a potion to help me get some control over these…these….delusions I'm having. Remember?" He sighed loudly. "For God's sake. Can you at least give ME a little credit?" He sounded extremely annoyed. He shoved Ron's hand away and drank the potion in one gulp, clapping the glass on the coffee table, and looked up at Draco, who was trading simmering stares with Ron. "'Wormy little nimrod' was a bit weak, coming from you. How long do you think this stuff will take to start working?"

Draco snorted, and after narrowing his eyes at Ron, refocused his attentions on Harry. "Are you still…seeing things?" Draco asked. Ron was a bit surprised to hear him speak without scorn or malice in his voice. He actually sounded concerned, and it even seemed genuine. Heh. So that's the bedroom voice. Sure, sounds innocuous. I'm sure all snakes speak nicely before they strike. "It never really stops. It just gets more or less overwhelming. Which seems to happen at random."

Draco hmmed. "It shouldn't take more than about twenty or thirty minutes. If it doesn't take by then, you'll need another dose." Harry nodded. "And I suggest you drink more than you usually do. More of whatever it is you fancy. You're going to be drinking a lot of potions over the next little while, and that will really wear on you." Harry nodded, his eyes half closed. "And, since the witty Mr. Weasley is here to keep you company, I think I'll head back to work." Draco picked up his coat.

Harry sighed. "Well, fine. But look. I care about both of you. We are looking at another very tense time around here, and I'd appreciate it if we could let bygones be bygones? Can you two STOP throwing those glances of death at each other? Could you just PRETEND to be civil, for my sake?" This remark was followed by silence. A bit more silence followed that. Draco pulled on his coat.

"Fair enough, Harry. Civility it is. If Weasley can stop trying to punch me into oblivion."

Ron looked at Harry, stone-faced. "I'll do my best, Harry."

Harry nodded. "Alright. Well, I'm going to try to get some sleep then." He rose wearily, aided by Draco. Ron sat, a little stunned, watching Harry walk Draco to the door, then lean in and kiss him. Not just a peck, either, this was a full-blown, passionate, dramatic, muggle-film style smooch. It lasted long enough that Ron felt a little embarrassed watching it. But watch it he did. When they drew apart, Harry said, "Thanks for breakfast." Draco nodded, rubbed Harry's back, and walked out the door. Harry turned toward Ron and said, "Something you want to say about that?"

Ron shook his head dumbly.

"Good." Harry said. "I know what he did. You don't need to remind me. Dumbledore trusts him. I'm working on it. I have some sense of how to take care of myself. Can you just not make this so difficult for me?"

Ron nodded his head dumbly.

"Fine. I'm going to bed."


Narcissa Malfoy sat in her large, airy reception room just inside the front hall of Malfoy Manor. Though it was midnight, she wore her best afternoon dress, a knee-length pale pink shift with a smart, matching jacket, a simple string of pearls pressed against her throat, diamonds in her ears. She crossed her ankles neatly, the leather of her pumps rubbing against her toes. Her nails had been carefully manicured and painted. She drank tea out of her best bone china, the edges of the cup so thin she could see the shadow of her shaking fingers on the dull brown, milky fluid, which she tipped into her mouth. A door closed somewhere in the house. She glanced at her watch. Placing the cup and its saucer carefully on the table, she reached down to her side and pulled her handbag onto her lap. It was a lovely thing, made from the skin of a young dragon, very soft and supple. She unlatched it quietly and pulled out a long, thin, sharp knife, wrapped in a scroll covered inch after inch with strange, ugly characters. The knife was cold against her skin, cold and familiar. She lifted it, cradled it in her hands, watching it glow a little in the moonlight, and saw the characters on the scroll fade away.

Draco. What a pretty little boy you were. She closed her eyes, fingers wrapping slowly around the handle and blade of the knife. Sweet, innocent, pure little boy, I couldn’t let all that slip away. The knife shimmered a little, tingling in her hands. She smiled. Draco, come back now. Little, sweet Draco. The knife grew heavy in her hand, and she gripped it tighter, feeling a warm, thick liquid dripping between her fingers, curling around the palms of her hands, growing cool and slow as it traced wet paths down her arm, pooling in her inner elbows. Narcissa sighed, feeling safe, feeling victorious, feeling as if she were on the brink of something profound, something that would defy any attempts to destroy it. She opened her eyes, but saw nothing. Her eyes were burning and she felt wet heat dripping down her face. Her throat burned as she felt her lips speaking strange words. "Drodhtai raztbrak, uhkgrukaik zhaarghaz…" She smiled knowing that she had succeeded, that where others had failed she had triumphed.

She had always been a good wife. She entertained, she arranged the household affairs, she was supportive of her husband. She had given him a son in his own likeness, a perfect blonde replica of his father, she had given him. She had been a good mother, rocking that sobbing baby, holding him when he woke from nightmares, telling him stories of how it would be when he was big and the world was his. He was a little prince, her little prince, and he was perfect. She gripped the knife tighter, feeling the sticky heat surging into her palms. Wives and mothers aren't stupid, they prepare for things. And Narcissa had prepared. This knife was a secret weapon, a secret comfort she had been harbouring. Not even Lucius knew about how so many nights she had taken this knife, secretly, into Draco's bedroom, after hanging up her robes, kissing Lucius gently with a potion on her lips, and pressed it comfortingly against those wounds, those fresh cuts into Draco's tender flesh, sung him little songs and stroked his hair, sealing those marks into thin white scars, stealing that precious innocent blood. You will always be innocent, she had whispered to him, as he slept.

Narcissa focused her attention. She knew that this next step would be difficult, and she wasn't sure she had the strength. She was blind, and growing increasingly deaf to the strange words that poured from her mouth. She felt something scorching her hands, as her lips worked woodenly around sounds her brain couldn't comprehend. Gjekspfah, hrewjodk, tewjiek…She held out a bloodied hand, and felt her body wrenching through hurdles and powers she couldn't understand. Her head was spinning. In the midst of all this chaos, she heard a little sound, a familiar sound. It was the sound of a little boy, crying. Shhhh, she thought. Shhhh, my little Draco. You're my princeling, my perfect little princeling, darling. Shhhh, it will be over soon…

When she collapsed, she felt the hard, round, cold stone in her hand.

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