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 38 - Traitors and Heroes
Harry was late: the exam began in half an hour and he was supposed to meet Draco ten minutes ago in the library. It was actually Draco's exam not Harry's, but he had to be there and Draco had some rather elaborate traditions he always went through before such an important test. Personally Harry had always tended to just turn up when he had a test or an exam, but Draco was far more organised and Harry did not object to participating in his lover's eccentricities.
[I'm waiting,] Draco's mental voice said coolly.
[I know,] Harry replied apologetically, [how many times can I say I'm sorry. I couldn't exactly tell Professor McGonagall to go away.]
He was so wrapped up in trying to make it up to Draco that he was not paying attention to where he was going. Most people moved out of his way: Harry Potter running down a corridor with a slightly vacant expression on his face had gained a reputation and the other pupils had learned self preservation, but today someone was not looking in the right direction. Harry rounded a corner and collided quite heavily with another boy. Off balance both young men grabbed at each other to prevent themselves falling over and Harry snapped back to his surroundings staring into the face of Blaise Zabini.
"Potter, do you ever look where you are going?" the cool words of Professor Snape, to whom the Slytherin had been talking, made it into Harry's brain, but barely.
Something much more demanding was taking all of the Hecatemus' attention: the blinding hatred that was pouring off Zabini. Harry had felt the emotion before; just before Christmas in Honeydukes, but it seemed to be even more overpowering now. His barriers were quite stable these days, but the emotion running through Blaise was so pure and so consuming that Harry's control faltered and his vision changed. The other youth's eyes went black with undisguised loathing and Harry felt his mind being dragged in by the dark pools. He could not let go and he could not stop the images which piled into his mind.
Harry had never connected to any other mind than Draco's before and with Zabini it was not a pleasant experience. It did not take him more than a moment to realise that there was something very strange about the Slytherin. As mental pictures assailed Harry's mind it felt as if they were coming from more than one at the same time. The hatred brought with it images of Harry's imagined death in several gruesome ways and images of Lucius Malfoy, but there were other pictures as well: totally unrelated and not linked to the overriding emotion.
Harry struggled against the confusing rush of information and finally managed to convince his fingers to release Zabini's arms. He stepped back from the Slytherin, trying to regain his equilibrium and as his mind calmed down a little it slowly dawned on him.
"It was you," he said quietly as his thoughts coalesced to show him the truth, "you weakened the wards for Malfoy."
Zabini's face twisted in a grotesque mirror of the ugly emotion running through his mind and he reached for his wand.
"Stupefacio," the spell did not come from Blaise's mouth and the boy collapsed into a heap.
Harry turned to see Professor Snape with his wand in his hand. It had all happened so quickly that he didn't quite know how to react and his head was spinning.
"Are you all right, Potter?" the potions master asked evenly.
He knew he probably looked like a mental case just at the moment, but Harry couldn't quite catch his spinning thoughts to put them in a sensible order.
"I think I need to sit down," he managed eventually as shock began to take over his system.
As if on cue, his knees wobbled and he found himself sliding down the wall. Harry felt like he'd been hit in the head with a bludger as he bumped into the ground. Linking into Draco's mind was the most natural thing the Hecatemus ever did, linking into Blaise's mind was one of the most alien; he did not want to repeat the experience ever, if he could help it.
"Potter," Snape's voice was somewhat irritated.
The hatred had been so overpowering that it had chased everything else out of Harry's head and his psyche had been stunned. Too much information had been passed on at one time and the young man's mind tried to catch up and process it, leaving it little room for anything else.
"Harry," Snape's voice was gentler this time, "I must see to Zabini, will you be all right for a moment?"
It took a second or two for Harry's brain to parse the question, but eventually he nodded. He was peripherally aware of Snape moving over to Blaise, removing the unconscious boy's wand and then casting ropes to restrain him.
"He's not himself," Harry said suddenly, feeling that it was important as his mind provided him with the facts. "They put another mind inside him: it is the Death Eater not the real Blaise. He didn't know."
Professor Snape turned to look at the Hecatemus evenly.
"Think very carefully, Potter," the potions master said slowly, "are you telling me that Blaise Zabini has been acting under another's will?"
Was that what he was saying? Harry had just verbalised the information his brain had provided; he had not considered what that meant. Slowly he nodded: it was something like that, only darker than the Imperius curse.
"Sort of," he said, not really able to explain just at that moment.
This affirmation changed the look in Snape's eyes from one of anger to something akin to compassion: Harry didn't have the brain power to figure that one out just at that moment.
The sound of running feet interrupted that particular train of thought and Draco came skidding around the corner. Harry's mind had been so stunned that he hadn't even had the mental awareness to reassure his lover that he was okay and his soul mate appeared almost frantic.
"Harry," Draco sank down beside Harry and reached for him urgently.
He accepted the touch gratefully; closing his eyes and Draco's mental presence enveloped him and pushed away the lingering tendrils of remembered hatred. They remained that way for long seconds not talking, not even really thinking, just letting Harry's confused mind find its equilibrium. Slowly the experience faded and reality began to re-establish itself in his mind. He opened his eyes and found himself forehead to forehead with Draco.
[Thanks,] Harry said gratefully.
His lover did not reply and just let Harry feel the relief that was running through him: it expressed everything he could have said.
"Gentlemen," Snape's voice snapped Harry out of his reverie.
The pair turned to where the potion's master was standing with Blaise Zabini's still unconscious body levitating by his side.
"Neither of you appear in any state for an exam," he said evenly, "so you will accompany me to the hospital wing. There Madame Pomfrey will make sure there are no after effects from contact with Mr Zabini. I will arrange for Mr Malfoy to take his exam at a later date and I will alert the Headmaster to this development."
[Don't even think of protesting,] Draco's mental voice warned silently, [you cannot sit in an exam room now and there is no way I'd get any work done.]
For once they were in total agreement and Harry let himself be helped to his feet.
The fact that they had missed the exam and their fellow seventh years had not meant that as soon as Madame Pomfrey had examined them both the couple were placed in isolation. The easiest place to do this was their old room in the hospital wing, although it was a little different to their usual occupancy. The wards were not activated since there was no need for them; the door was not locked; and the summoning alcove was disabled to prevent any contact with the outside world. As required by the exam boards, someone was by the door the entire time and the prefects from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw who had already finished their exams were being used for that purpose.
Since extra revision time would also have been considered an advantage the pair had nothing inside the room but themselves, not even their text books, which could have led to a very boring afternoon and evening. It would have been as well if Draco's over protective attitude of Harry, and the Hecatemus' own coping mechanism for the earlier incident hadn't resulted in Harry becoming somewhat hot and bothered. Draco had then opened the door, told the prefect on duty not to come in and not to let anyone else in no matter what they heard, closed the door again and then set about making Harry feel a whole lot better about being stuck in a virtually empty room.
After that Harry had fallen asleep curled up next to his lover and would have been quite happy to remain that way until dinner time if it hadn't been for an unexpected visitor. The Hecatemus was pulled from a dreamless slumber by the familiar prickling up his spine and humming in his cells that meant only one thing; Sirius was about to drop by. As Harry threw up the mental barriers to keep the disturbance to his equilibrium to a minimum, Draco roused beside him and by the time the young man's godfather coalesced at the side of the bed both soul mates were sitting up in bed with the sheets pooling around their waists. Once Sirius appeared corporeal his expression became one of complete relief.
"Oh, thank Merlin you are both all right," the man said in a rush of words, "I was so worried."
"It's been five weeks, Snuffles," Harry said, also relieved to see that his godfather appeared to be back to how he had been before he traced Draco, "thanks to you we found Draco before it was too late. Are you okay? You looked really bad before you disappeared."
"I think I drifted for a while," Sirius said with a broad smile at the news, "but I'm dead, so I don't think there's much more I can do to myself."
The Hecatemus was not so sure since he now remembered the effect his godfather's efforts had had on the spirit in crystal clear detail, but he chose not to voice his thoughts. Sirius' condition bore a need for greater scrutiny, but now was not the time.
"Thank you," Draco said sincerely as Sirius stepped closer, "without you I think we might both be dead."
The dead wizard took the thanks silently and for a moment seemed at a loss as how to react. From what Harry knew of his godfather from before Azkaban he doubted that Sirius would have had any trouble dealing with the praise, but the man he had come to love was far deeper and he did not seem to know what to say. It was as the silence drew out that Harry saw his godfather's eyes look him up and down and then move on to Draco with a small frown.
"If it's been five weeks," Sirius finally voiced what was bothering him, "why are you two still in here? If you don't mind me saying, you don't look as if there's anything wrong with you and the wards are down."
"Oh, we're not still in here," Harry explained quickly. "We found out who opened the wards for Lucius and it meant we managed to miss our last exam so we're in isolation. We're in this room because it was the easiest place."
It was almost possible to see the thoughts running through Sirius' head as the man appeared annoyed with himself.
"And let me guess," he said with a grimace, "I've interrupted you in the middle of the night before your exam. I'm so sorry."
"Actually," Draco said leaning over to look at Harry's watch on the bed side table, "it's a little past five fifteen in the afternoon, so you have nothing to be sorry for."
That caused Sirius to stop and think again and this time the Hecatemus could not guess what the man was thinking.
"Then why on earth are you in bed?" the words were out of Harry's godfather's mouth just before his eyes opened in realisation and Harry felt his face heating up.
It was quite obvious that Sirius had just figured out the answer to his own question.
"We were bored," Draco said in a most unrepentant tone and Harry looked at his lover to find a big smile plastered all across the Slytherin's face.
For a moment Sirius just looked at Harry and then at Draco and then back again with a rather embarrassed expression on his face, but it was difficult to keep the greatest prankster in Hogwarts' History uncomfortable for long and slowly a smile to match Draco's graced the dead man's face. The Hecatemus blushed even harder which seemed to give his lover and his godfather even more enjoyment.
"Ah, well," Sirius said lightly, "so sorry to interrupt. I'll let you boys get back to fighting the boredom."
As his godfather turned to leave it was enough to push Harry past the embarrassment.
"Wait," he said and put his hand out towards Sirius, "we were sleeping. Please stay, we don't get many chances to talk."
That drew his godfather to a halt and the playful smile disappeared into a much warmer and deeper expression. Sirius appeared thoughtful for a moment, but as Draco nodded his agreement to the request Harry's godfather acquiesced. There were so many things the Hecatemus wanted to tell Sirius that he didn't know where to start; he eventually decided to begin with the abbreviated version of Draco's rescue and move on from there.
The summons to Dumbledore's office came just after their rescheduled last exam the day after the incident with Blaise. Harry was not surprised when it arrived and he and Draco made their way to the headmaster's office quickly. The couple entered the study to find Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape all there before them. The news about Blaise had so far been played down as an illness until the whole truth was known, and from the looks on the staff members' faces that was true now.
"Please come in, Gentlemen," the headmaster greeted seriously, "and close the door behind you."
Harry let Draco go first and pushed the heavy oak door back into place before following his lover further into the room. The young man nodded in greeting at his head of house and the potions master before turning his full attention to Dumbledore. The usual sparkle was dulled in the old wizard's eyes and Harry knew that the news was serious and it caused the headmaster pain. His students were very important to Dumbledore and when one fell Harry knew it cost him dearly.
"We have received the initial news from St Mungo's on Mr Zabini's condition," the professor said slowly, "and I am afraid that it has confirmed our worst fears."
Dumbledore looked kindly at Harry, but the Hecatemus could not help but feel somewhat guilty about the whole matter. After all Zabini was as much a victim as he and Draco had been if what Harry had felt about him was true.
"At some point over the Summer, Blaise was subjected to the magical insertion of an alternative personality into his mind," Dumbledore spoke calmly, but with a heavy tone in his voice. "The personality was designed to surface in all matters relating to you, Harry. The healers have isolated the enchantment of which Mr Zabini is a victim and in time hope to remove it, but for the foreseeable future he will be confined to St Mungo's. As an unfortunate consequence of this he must be suspended from the school so that Hogwarts will view him as an interloper should someone try and use him in any form again. Hence his part in all of this must become public knowledge."
"His parents?" Draco asked evenly.
"From the information relayed to us by the Aurors," Snape spoke in his usually chilly tone, "they appear to be as at a loss to explain their son's condition as we are. Mr Zabini was sent to stay with his Grandmother over the Summer Holidays and there is some suspicion of Death Eater sympathies on that side of the family. I believe, however, that the plot may have been one of Lucius' pet projects since I was never made aware of its existence."
It was becoming increasingly obvious that Voldemort was dividing his Death Eaters and keeping their various campaigns separate, whether from direct suspicion or general paranoia was not clear. This made Snape's information only partially useful and Harry did not like the fact that the man still habitually put himself in such severe danger for the Order.
"But I don't understand," Harry admitted honestly, which caused the potions master to raise one eyebrow sardonically, "Blaise was never top of the class, how could he perform a spell to open a hole in the school wards or the complicated tracing charms Pansy found?"
"This was found in a search of Mr Zabini's dormitory," Snape said evenly and placed what looked like some form of talisman onto the desk, "among Mr Goyle's personal effects I might add."
The moment he set eyes on the device Harry knew he didn't like it. Lowering his barriers slightly to have a better look at it the Hecatemus was assaulted by the energy signature of dark, twisted magic. To his abnormal vision the object shone a very unwholesome metallic purple.
[What is it?] Draco asked, obviously sensing Harry unease and the young wizard showed his soul mate what he was seeing.
"I suggest you remove that from school grounds as soon as possible," was the Slytherin's instant reaction.
Draco was not about to mince words and Harry could feel the same distaste of the object as he was experiencing.
"What is it?" he asked, holding himself steady and refusing to obey the instinct to move away.
"A conduit of sorts," Professor McGonagall chose to take up the explanation. "Once opened by a wizard it allows another to cast a spell through the holder. The wizard being used as the channel must be totally compliant, hence the extremely difficult and dangerous addition to Mr Zabini's person. It is likely Lucius Malfoy or He Who Must Not Be Named was responsible for the spells which allowed for the attack."
Harry stared at the device in complete disgust; it was a tool to use another human being like a slave, nothing more, nothing less, and it grated against everything the Gryffindor held dear. The young man had too much anger left over from the whole incident and with the thing in front of him he had found a focus.
"What are you going to do with it?" he asked shortly, without trying to hide what he felt about it.
"It has been magically catalogued for the Ministry," Professor Dumbledore said in a tone that suggested he agreed with Harry's distaste, "hence the presence of the three of us before you arrived. The record we have created will be taken by the Aurors as evidence and the device will be destroyed as soon as possible."
It was like music to Harry's ears.
"Would now be okay?" he asked just to make sure, and Dumbledore met his eyes before giving a swift nod.
Without even pausing to think what he was doing Harry gathered a tight ball of magic to his will and thrust out his hand at the despicable object. Light magic met dark and as with all shadows when faced with its opposite it could not stand; in a bright spout of flame the talisman was rendered to ash in under a second. It all happened so fast and yet the exertion left Harry breathing harder than normal as if he had just run round the Quidditch pitch. Draco had his hand protectively on his soul mate's arm, but the Slytherin was looking at the remains of the object on the unmarked desk with a deep satisfaction running through him. It was obvious that Draco approved.
"Thank you, Harry," the headmaster said calmly and the twinkle had returned to his eyes, "I believe that is a weight off all our minds."
The Hecatemus nodded in acknowledgement, but his thoughts were still processing everything he had been told and he did not speak.
"Was that all, Professor Dumbledore?" Draco asked politely as their business appeared to be concluded.
"Yes," the old wizard replied with a gentle smile, "I believe it is. I believe we are eating into your celebration time, I understand that Arithmancy was your last exam. Do excuse us, and do try and enjoy yourselves, Gentlemen."
It was nice of the headmaster to try and jolly them up, but Harry was not sure he could just put aside what had been explained. He let himself be led by Draco's example, but he could not manage much of a smile at Dumbledore's words.
"Thank you, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape," Draco said, ever mindful of his manners. "We'll take our leave then."
They were headed for the door when Harry decided there was one more thing he had to know.
"What will happen to Blaise?" he asked, turning quickly. "After they remove the other personality I mean?"
Harry saw Dumbledore consider his reply, but was glad when the headmaster nodded to himself as if he had expected the question.
"Unfortunately, because of the interference with Mr Zabini's mind, even though he had taken all his exams, his results will have to be discounted," Professor Dumbledore spoke calmly and honestly. "Once he is pronounced of sound mind he will be invited to return to Hogwarts to complete his final year a second time."
Much to Harry's pleasure the professor's answer brought him some comfort and he finally managed a smile at the headmaster and the two heads of house.
"Good," he said shortly and then turned back to Draco, now he could begin to put the situation with Zabini out of his mind.
End of Chapter 38
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