Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 25 - Of Snowballs and Other Weapons
There was a scream and then an awful lot of shouting. Harry looked at Draco who raised an eyebrow and then they both headed off at speed in the direction of the sound of distress. There was snow all over the ground, but the path they were using appeared well trodden and it had been enchanted to prevent the pupils and staff slipping.
The scream had been quite heart felt and several possible reasons had leapt into Harry's head: the top of the list being another of Voldemort's stunts and, further down, several other life threatening possibilities. What he really did not expect to find as he and Draco rounded the corner were two sets of first years eyeing each other across an almost virgin snowfield. There were five in one group and four in the other and their house scarves gave everything away.
[Gryffindor vs Slytherin,] Harry commented silently as he and his soul mate watched the two sets eye each other.
One of the two girls in the Gryffindor group, Harry thought her name was Emily, was holding the side of her face which appeared somewhat red: there was snow all down the front of her cloak.
"You'll pay for that, Bufo," the girl virtually snarled.
"Really, can't wait to find out how," one of the boys from the Slytherin's shot back.
"I'll hex you into next week," the blond boy standing next to the injured party said bravely; he was a Creevey cousin of some description if Harry remembered rightly.
"Just try it," yet another of the boys from the opposing team returned.
[Why do I have a sense of deja vu?] Harry asked as the two sets of pupils glared at each other.
[Did we look that ridiculous?] Draco replied and he felt amused.
It was then that the first years realised they had an audience. The Gryffindors caught sight of the two seventh years first and, as one, their eyes went round and slightly scared. The Slytherins caught on pretty quickly and all nine faces were soon in Harry and Draco's direction. There was awe in every single expression, even the Gryffindors who were used to having the most famous wizard and his soul mate in their house, but were definitely not used to meeting them around the school.
[Any ideas?] Harry asked as total silence fell.
[We could just leave them to it,] his lover suggested hopefully.
[All I have to say is, second year, snow fight, hospital wing,] he replied and gave Draco a look.
"Everything alright here?" Harry asked aloud, since the silence appeared to be going on forever.
"Fine," one of the Slytherins said instantly, only to be elbowed in the ribs by one of his colleagues.
The pair of seventeen year olds walked calmly over to the younger pupils.
"Really," Draco said evenly, "everything's fine is it? I definitely heard the word hex. Harry didn't you hear it as well?"
Harry put on his most thoughtful expression.
"Could have been," he said conversationally, "but you know me, I've been knocked off my broom and landed on my head one too many times to trust my hearing."
Several of the awed expressions were changing to surprise. Draco drifted towards the Slytherin group as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"Just snow," one of the Gryffindors tried this time.
The first years were beginning to believe they might get away with whatever they had been up to, Harry could tell.
"That's not snow," Draco said suddenly and pointed at one of the Slytherins and one of the Gryffindors: two rocks fell to the ground at the same time. "Rocks?" The Slytherin prefect said in his most outraged voice. "Really, where is your house honour? You're wizards, you do not throw rocks: it's undignified."
[You did,] Harry pointed out helpfully while maintaining a completely straight face.
[It had no style then and nothing has changed in the meantime,] Draco replied nonchalantly.
"And not very nice," Harry put in for the Gryffindor's benefit.
Draco bent down gracefully and scooped up a handful of snow, patting it gently into a ball. Then he pulled out his wand.
"Snowball fighting is an ancient art," Draco continued pompously at which point he cast a banishing charm and sent the snow straight at Harry's head.
Harry ducked and the snowball continued its arc, hitting one of the Gryffindor boys in the chest; the first year did not seem to know what to do about that.
"Typical Slytherin," Harry responded as if he had not just dodged a snowball. "It's the pureblood: if it can't be done with a wand they haven't got a clue. I recommend just chucking it."
At which point he raised the snow he had picked up when he ducked and sent it sailing straight at Draco. His lover ducked in exactly the same way Harry had and the missile hit one of the Slytherin boys.
"I really wouldn't let him get away with that you know," Draco said calmly to the astounded looking child.
It took the astonished first year approximately five seconds to realise what the seventh year was implying. Then as one all five Slytherins bent down, picked up snow and threw it at the Gryffindors. The reprisal came pretty quickly and before very long there was screaming, laughter and lots of very wet pupils with Harry and Draco in the middle of it all, especially when the first years realised that neither of the seventh years were retaliating very hard for hits scored on them. Harry found himself pelted by Slytherin snowballs and his soul mate was being inundated with Gryffindor missiles.
When Harry backed into Draco they both turned and as one dramatically yelled: "Save me." At which point they were pelted from both sides. The first years appeared to have forgotten their battle in the much more fun game of turning the prefects into snowmen. Harry covered his head and fell to his knees.
"I'm done for," he announced and with a great show of over acting collapsed in a heap.
"Argh, I die," Draco added to the drama in what Harry thought was even worse form than his own.
The blond wizard landed next to his soul mate in the snow and Harry cracked open an eye to see what was going on, at which point the first years, as a group, dumped armfuls of snow onto them.
[Vicious little buggers aren't they,] he commented with a laugh.
[I blame the Gryffindors,] was Draco's dry reply.
By the time revenge had been taken and year rather than house honour had been settled the whole group was very, very wet and they were becoming cold. It was when one of the Slytherins began to look a little blue that the two prefects called a halt to the whole proceedings.
"Pax," Harry yelled at the top of his voice and brought the last twitching of the battle to an end, "no one is coming down with hypothermia on my watch."
There were some noises of disappointment from the first years: they seemed to have been enjoying open season on their elders.
[Maybe someone should write a paper on the bonding effects of throwing things, that's twice it's worked,] Draco offered as they picked each other up off the ground.
[I think it's something along the lines of the enemy of my enemy is my friend,] Harry replied, rapidly looking around to make sure they didn't have any damaged pupils.
"You take your lot back to the tower, and I'll deliver my lot to the dungeon," Draco said cheerfully, "we can meet in the prefect's bathroom."
There was some giggling from the Slytherin first years and the Gryffindors appeared a little bemused by it. Harry was trying desperately to remember if he had ever been that innocent: he had a sneaking suspicion he had.
[Are you sure going to the dungeon without backup is a good idea?] Harry asked silently as he rounded up the Gryffindors.
[Slytherins never attack without a plan,] Draco replied lightly, [I'll be fine. I'm not going to stay.]
However, as they marched their respective groups towards the entrance to the castle their plan was interrupted by a tall figure in black. Snape looked at the whole party with a pensive expression.
"Mr Malfoy, Mr Potter, are we auditioning for Snow White?" the head of Slytherin house asked evenly.
Harry kept his mouth shut since although Snape no longer actively attempted to take house points away from Gryffindor if he so much as breathed, their relationship could not exactly be called friendly. Draco on the other hand appeared and felt amused at the Potions master's question.
"No, Sir," he said with a perfectly straight face, "just keeping our hand in at torturing the first years; after all it is one of the perks of being a prefect."
Snape observed them coolly for a few moments and then raised one dark eyebrow.
"Very well, Mr Malfoy," he said evenly without the slightest trace of humour in his expression, "keep up the good work. Just don't let them drip all over the floor."
"We were just taking them back to their common rooms to wring them out," Draco said in a chatty tone.
Snape surveyed the two groups of wet children with a look that caused some of the Gryffindors to shy away. Harry had to admire the man's technique: he knew how to inspire terror.
"I think I shall accompany you, Mr Malfoy," he said evenly, "and witness this 'perk' in action."
Harry would have smiled if it wouldn't have given the game away: Snape really could be useful when he wanted to be. The Slytherin housemaster had just successfully removed any danger to Draco whatsoever and it pleased the Gryffindor no end. Harry was not comfortable with Snape: there was far too much in their past to allow that, but for Draco's sake he was willing to at least try.
[See you later,] Harry said cheerfully, [I'll bring our stuff to the bathroom.]
And with that they went their separate ways: Harry to Gryffindor tower and Draco to the Slytherin dungeon. For his own part the semi-frozen wizard was looking forward to the bit where he and Draco had a chance to warm each other up. By now the other prefects had become used to the idea that their bathroom was off limits for up to a couple of hours from time to time.
Term was going well: three weeks in and no major incidents on the whole school or the personal front, which Draco hoped was a good sign. It was Saturday and a large percentage of the student population were in Hogsmeade, but for once this didn't include most of the Gryffindor seventh year. They and Draco had spent a restful afternoon in the common room playing various games, doing homework and reading, which, as far as the he was concerned, was a nice change from what he was sure was the universal Gryffindor pastime of finding the nearest trouble and ending up in the middle of it. Only when it was heading on for supper time did he decide that it was time to move.
"Let's go change," Draco said and climbed out of the chair where he had been happily reading next to the warm fire.
Harry looked up from where he was losing a game of chess to Ron with a quizzical expression on his face and Draco couldn't help but tut. His lover was wearing a very old pair of jeans and the Weasley jumper from a couple of Christmases ago, which had two very large holes in it: the T-shirt that was poking out through the holes wasn't much better itself.
"The common room is one thing," Draco said and raised his eyebrows, "but if you expect me to be seen anywhere outside with you, then you are not wearing those rags."
Harry down at himself as he opened his mouth to protest and then shut it again.
"You may have a point," he agreed sheepishly.
Draco saw Hermione hide her grin behind a book and Ron straighten his face as soon as Harry looked back up. Even Harry's best friend had been heard on occasion to admit that Harry sometimes looked as if he dressed from a scrap heap. Draco was slowly going through his lover's wardrobe throwing everything out and replacing them with new clothes, but it was a slow process. If the Slytherin had his way there were only five things he would let Harry keep, but they needed several shopping trips first. His soul mate knocked over his king with a shrug.
"It was inevitable anyway," Harry said with good humour, "we'll be back down when Draco thinks I'm decent."
There were various "see you later"s and the like from several places around the room and Draco his soul mate towards the stairs.
The shot of disquiet that went through Harry drew Draco to a halt as he reached for the door of their room. There was a look of confusion on his soul mate's face and it caused mirroring anxiety in him.
[What is it?] he asked, trying to mask the fact that Harry's reaction made him nervous.
For a moment Harry was silent and then he blinked and shook his head as if trying to clear it.
[I don't know,] his soul mate admitted openly, [there's something strange here. It's not evil, it doesn't even feel quite like magic, but it's not normal.]
[Should we call the others?] Draco asked, letting Harry's instincts lead them.
When it came to this sort of thing the only one with the knowledge to decide was Harry. Once upon a time Draco would never have allowed himself to be a follower, but it was only practical sometimes. The Hecatemus frowned and then his expression cleared.
[No,] Harry said firmly, [let's carry on.]
Hand on his wand, just in case, Draco opened the door to their room. He was greeted by the normal empty view that was always there when he walked in. Not sure if he should be seeing anything or not he moved in cautiously followed closely by Harry. Draco felt his soul mate's distress as soon as it started and he turned to see his lover swaying on his feet. He also saw something else just behind the open door and Draco had his wand pointed in the correct direction instantly. Harry turned unsteadily and the stab of disbelief and shock that went through the Hecatemus took Draco's breath away.
It was more than that though, Draco could tell, and disorientation flooded Harry's system even as Draco moved towards him.
"Sirius," was the one word Harry managed to say before he folded like a house of cards.
Draco tried to catch his soul mate as the youth fell, but he could not stop the fall completely and still keep his wand on the figure half hidden behind the door. Doing his best he sunk down with Harry as his lover swooned, making sure the ailing wizard did not hit the floor too hard, but remaining in eye contact with the intruder. Draco trained his weapon on the figure behind the door as he crouched close to his lover. What was even stranger than the fact that a dead man was standing in their room looking very solid and nothing like a ghost was the fact that the interloper appeared as astonished as Harry had felt.
"Who are you?" Draco demanded angrily since he knew the man couldn't be whom he looked like.
"You can see me?" the intruder totally failed to answer the question and was staring at the Slytherin and his partner as if they were the ones who shouldn't be there.
"Of course I can bloody see you," Draco said, his wand pointed at the man's heart. "Whatever trick you were trying to use, it didn't work. Now who the hell are you?"
The menace in Draco's voice seemed to snap the intruder out of his shock and he looked the protective Slytherin straight in the eye.
"Sirius Black," the man said evenly.
If the situation hadn't been quite so intense Draco would have laughed, as it was, he was more than a little angry and not in the mood for games.
"Try again," he said pointedly, "I recognise the face you're wearing, but Black is dead."
The man half behind the door blinked at him once and then he did something very unexpected.
"I know," the intruder said evenly and stepped right through the oak in front of him.
Draco sat down on the floor with a thump as he momentarily lost his composure. Black did not look like a ghost and he did not feel like a ghost: there was no cold air around him, but the only thing that could go through solid objects like that without very complex magic was a ghost. Too many ideas tried to crowd into Draco's mind at the same time and he could not understand what was going on.
"Ron, Hermione, anyone," he yelled at the top of his voice, knowing that the open door and the spiral stairs would carry his call down to the common room.
The dead man and Draco just stared at each other in silence and there was the sound of running feet on the stairs. Hermione, Ron, Dean and Neville all charged into the room at the same time and came to a grinding halt when they saw him sitting on the floor with Harry out cold next to him. Their eyes followed his wand to where it pointed off to the left and then all came right back.
"Draco, what are you doing?" Hermione asked evenly.
Draco's eyes flicked between the something that claimed to be Sirius Black and the Gryffindors huddled by the door.
"They can't see me," Black said evenly, "until now no one could see me."
"What do you mean they can't see you," Draco demanded of the very solid looking man, "I can see you, why can't they?"
The apparition shrugged unhelpfully, but at least he also looked as unsure as Draco felt.
"Um, who are you talking to, Malfoy?" Ron sounded a little worried.
For a second the Slytherin considered not telling them, but he had no other way to explain what he was doing and he did not want them to just leave.
"Sirius Black," Draco said a little unsure of the reception this information would receive.
Hermione pulled out her wand before anyone could speak: "Phasma Denudo," she said firmly.
A cloud of white smoke launched from the end of her wand and then absolutely nothing happened. She looked at Draco a little confused.
"There are no ghosts here, Draco," she said evenly, "visible or invisible."
"I'm not a ghost," Black supplied the information again.
"Last time I checked dead people who come back are ghosts," Draco did not like being in a position where he did not understand, especially when it had an effect on Harry. "What the hell are you if you're not that?"
Harry's godfather looked at Draco with a slight frown on his face.
"I don't know," the still sold looking man replied, "I'm not connected to a place, I don't float and none of the other ghosts ever know I'm around, but no one can see me, I can't touch anything and I can go between here and the other side. I know I'm dead and I know I'm not a ghost, but that's all."
This was all incredibly confusing and the four Gryffindors were beginning to look at Draco as if he was on something. He was not sure how to handle the situation, but he knew without a doubt that what he was seeing was real.
"He says he's not a ghost," he decided that the best chance of figuring out what was going on was to include Hermione: he didn't care about the rest, but he knew the brightest student in the school would be able to help if anyone could. "He says he knows he's dead, but that he's not a ghost. No one has seen him before and he can go between here and the other side."
It occurred to Draco that Black was not new at this.
"How long have you been around?" he asked.
He glanced down at his soul mate not sure he wanted Harry to wake up into the mess that was going on, but selfishly wanting the back up anyway. Draco felt as if he was standing on the edge of a very large cliff.
"Since a few months after I died," the man replied evenly, "I'm drawn to Harry. Time isn't the same there as here and I can't stay here for long. I come back when I can and if Harry needs me. This year I came when he bonded with you, but the wards kept me out and I had to go back. I came to Hogsmeade before Christmas: I don't know what happened, but I suddenly found myself there in animagus form. I heard some Slytherins talking about Harry and went to investigate and when I came back you'd all gone."
Draco's mind put the pieces together.
"You were the black dog Harry saw in Hogsmeade," he said as he worked it out. "It wasn't just the shock of seeing something that reminded him of you is was actually you, and your presence does something to him. You're causing an overload," Draco's instincts led him as he reasoned what was going on, "he's never blocked out anything like you before."
The thoughts were tumbling through his mind so fast that he almost forgot he wasn't alone. When he looked at the four Gryffindors Ron and Dean were looking at him as if he was mad and Hermione and Neville appeared torn.
"Go with me here," Draco said slowly, "please. What if because of the way Black died he's not quite normally dead?"
That didn't come out as eloquently as he had planned, but he ploughed on anyway.
"He went through the veil, right," Draco dragged up the memories Harry had shown him, "he bodily disappeared. What if that changes the energy he has? Harry is sensitive to energy so it is plausible that he'd be able to see whatever Black is. That begs the question why in Merlin's name can I see him, but I'm making this up as I go along so there are bound to be some kinks in the plan."
What made Draco feel a little better was that Hermione at least was no longer looking unconvinced; in fact she had the thoughtful frown on her face that the Slytherin recognised as her trying to remember something she had read somewhere.
"Bluebottle," she said suddenly, "Primrose Bluebottle, Hecatema, lived from 713 AD to 1053 AD. Most of her writings have been lost but there is one partial that lays out a theory about a curse that kills by transfiguring a victim into pure energy and then transferring them to the other side. She theorised that they would be dead but something more as well. The details of the curse and most of her ideas are gone, but there is a scribbled note about meeting a victim of the spell."
The young woman appeared jubilant and then the full weight of her words hit her and she stared at the space where Draco had been pointing his wand.
"Oh my god," Hermione said pointedly, "Sirius is really here isn't he."
Black was looking at the head girl as if she was the most miraculous thing in the universe and Draco could tell the man wanted to ask questions. However, even as he opened his mouth a strange look crossed his face.
"I have to go," he said suddenly, "I've been here too long: I was checking things out for a couple of hours before you saw me."
He spoke to Draco directly, and before the blond youth's eyes the solid man began to fade.
"Tell Harry I love him and I'm sorry," Black said and his voice sounded distant. "I'll come back when I can."
"Sorry about what?" Draco asked, not sure what the man meant.
The apparition's lips moved, but there was no sound and suddenly Harry's godfather was gone completely. Draco just sat there for a moment in stunned silence: this was all a little too much for one afternoon.
"He's gone," he said quietly, "been here too long."
A groan from Harry interrupted him and a flood of confusion and distress hit him from his soul mate. Draco looked up at the others quickly.
"Please go," he said rapidly, "he won't be able to deal with you all as well. We'll talk later."
Hermione nodded at him and Draco was infinitely pleased to have one ally among the four Gryffindors. The other three appeared confused and undecided, but the head girl hustled them out of the door as quickly as she could. Then Hermione reached back behind her, made eye contact with Draco one more time and then closed the door. The lock clicked shut just as Harry opened his eyes.
[Draco?] his soul mate's mental voice sounded confused and afraid. [Sirius?]
[I saw him too,] Draco said calmly, looking into Harry's very green eyes.
Loss, pain, disbelief, hope and guilt hit Draco all at once as the emotions welled up in Harry. Gathering his trembling lover into his arms he pulled his soul mate close and tried to fight some of the pain he felt in his bond mate with the caring and love inside him.
[He's dead,] Harry was at a loss to know what had happened and he expressed his confusion as Draco held him, [but he didn't look dead.]
There was the flare of hope again and then the overwhelming guilt that took it all away.
[Yes he's dead,] Draco knew it would hurt Harry to hear the truth, but it would only hurt more if the dark haired youth let the hope grow. [He can come back, but he's not a ghost. He overloaded your senses, he didn't know you could see him, and then he had to go back. He asked me to tell you he loves you and he's sorry.]
Harry's confused mind latched on to the last thing Draco told him like a drowning swimmer: it hurt to feel his lover so lost and Draco tried desperately to make the pain go away.
[Sorry for what?] the Hecatemus asked still trembling in the Draco's arms.
[I don't know,] he replied honestly, [he tried to tell me, but he faded out. He said he would come back.]
Harry's thoughts were silent for a while, but the torrent of emotions continued. They were so muddled that Draco found them disorientating and all he could do was hang on. Seeing Sirius had brought back all the doubt and grief that Harry had tried to put behind him: Draco was not sure the man's spirit presence had been a good thing.
[Does he,] Harry started to ask something but hesitated and there was fear in his inner voice, [does he blame me?]
The question caught Draco off guard and he looked down as his soul mate not understanding. There was so much anguish in Harry's face that it made the him ache.
[Blame you for what, Harry?] the question fell from the youth's inner voice just as he suddenly realised what his soul mate was asking. [Oh, Harry,] he said, understanding and throwing every feeling of comfort he could find at his lover, [Sirius' death wasn't your fault. Of course he doesn't blame you, he loves you: he comes back to make sure you're all right.]
[Then why haven't I seen him before?] Harry's question was desperate.
[Your power gives you the ability to see him,] Draco said soothingly, brushing the hair away from his soul mate's face as he looked into his eyes. [You saw him in Hogsmeade. Before we bonded no one could see him, he didn't know anyone could until today. He can't be here always, but he comes when he can because he loves you.]
Knowing that Harry needed as much as Draco could give him he opened his memory and poured out everything he had seen and heard. He showed his soul mate every image of the youth's godfather he had and he held Harry as he took it all in.
There were no tears, just the trembling and the torrent of emotions. It was incredible and terrible to see at the same time: the internal chaos and the outside control that was Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived did not cry, but his pain was almost unbearable.
"Let it out, Harry," Draco virtually begged, "please let it out."
"I can't," his soul mate said quietly, "it won't go."
They didn't speak again, not for a long time and Draco held Harry until the shaking stopped. Even then they didn't move: for a while he thought that maybe the universe had come to a grinding halt.
End of Chapter 25
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