Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, they belong to J.K. Rowling and those she chooses to share them with. Im just borrowing them for a short time.
Notes: Thanks so much everyone for your comments. Im overwhelmed. I wrote this one up quickly, I hope its still in keeping. I do have to set the stage. That and Im still working out the details for the next part, so Im kind of stalling.
By Ivy Blossom
Six months after graduation, Harry was sitting in his office in the Ministry of Magic. He still couldnt quite believe that he was here. He and Ron, and a group of former Hufflepuffs and a Ravenclaw from their year, had been put on a team created to watch Death Eater movements. Ever since the Ministry had really buckled down and admitted that Voldemort was indeed back in full force, that something had to be done about it, the wizarding world had breathed a collective sigh of relief. Rather than long lists of rumours, disappearances, violent explosions, and the names of dead Muggles and Muggle-borns filling the pages of The Daily Prophet, they reported on averted disasters, victories, captures, and advice from the Ministry on tweaking spells for protection (Dont just use an average locking spell on your doors at night: add the word magnus to the spell and sprinkle fortified salt on the threshold,). They had established a prominent think tank committee to develop new spells, something that hadnt been heard of in anyones living memory. These would turn up in a special section in The Daily Prophet, and many of them were being taught even to first years at Hogwarts, who were then instructed to teach them to their families at holidays. Conferences were being held at regular intervals at Hogwarts and elsewhere, where experts of every variety discussed spell possibilities, charms, potions, and other forms of preparation. The wizarding world was waking from a long slumber and finding itself to be much stronger than it had imaged it was.
Harry found himself right in the middle of it all. He had learned a great deal more magic in the last two months than he had learned in his entire final year at Hogwarts; how to be stealthy, how to stop, trap, immobilize, confuse, disarm, transport wizards; how to cancel their spells, how to transform their memories, replace their knowledge; how make the visible invisible, and vice versa. It was hard, but very satisfying work, as a week rarely went by when a new Death Eater movement wasnt stifled. The team itself was close-knit; Harry and Ron were sharing a comfortable flat in London, which was often peopled with various Ministry friends. They debated late into the night about the next movements of the Death Eaters, testing out safety spells, praising each others efforts, arguing about possible action. Harry hadnt seen the Dursleys since last summer, and he didnt miss them in the slightest.
He had said nothing to Ron about Draco. What could he say? The question never really came up. Boys, girls, love; neither of them were in a mindset to date after work, the war was too important. But secretly ideas about Draco preyed on his mind. He wasnt concerned so much about the fact that he was attracted to Draco, the fact that when he slept, when he wasnt dreaming about Death Eaters, he was dreaming about soft kisses on his neck. He was worried about Dracos profession, his future. Was he a Death Eater? Had he gotten his Mark? Harry watched all the news he could get his hands on, both classified and public; he saw the reports on the Death Eater membership, the sightings, rumours, the lists of the participants in hits. He knew about Crabbe and Goyle; he even knew about Blaise and Pansy Parkinson. He knew that the senior Malfoy, and his wife, had been seen in connection to some other highly placed Death Eaters, not that Harry was surprised by this. But there hadnt been a single report about Draco, not even the vaguest rumour. No one had seen him, not even the Death Eaters they had captured, and Harry had managed to get close enough to ask. No one had seen Draco in any context; one of the Ministry spies had even been at Malfoy Manor last month for an elegant dinner party, and even there, while there was much talk about violence and more strikes, Draco had not been discussed or seen. Harry imagined how it would have gone had he transfigured himself and visited that posh event.
Well, Lucius, where is that sharp son of yours? He would have asked.
Draco? That disappointing sod, he ran off. Wouldnt take the Mark, the coward, he headed for the hills. Good riddance to him. He was comforted by the thought that Draco might be out there somewhere, perhaps hiding in some Muggle cottage, hating every minute of it, until the balance of power was more obviously in favour of the Ministry, when he would walk into this office in some degree of safety, enigmatic smile on his face, and say, Harry, I couldnt keep you waiting. And how Harry would greet him. How they would work together. Sometimes, late at night, Harry felt as though this war was really about Dracos loyalties only, as if his choice alone would determine their brilliant success or their bitter failure.
Draco had been only semi-conscious for weeks. Death Eaters of all descriptions had been back and forth from Malfoy manor, meeting, discussing, hauling old, strange, and musty books with them. Strange, pungent fumes rose from downstairs in the dungeons, while the Death Eaters tested, threw things into fires burned on various kinds of wood, boiled cauldrons, cast spells using words in languages that often didnt even sound human. Day after day Draco was treated to cups of thick, sluggish liquids, liquids that were so light they evaporated on his tongue, powers sprinkled on his lips, his hands, his feet, balms rubbed into his body; there were spells that made his skin itch from the inside, that turned his eyes, his tongue, his genitals, his hair, his skin different colours, added textures, made him rip and bleed. He hadnt been able to eat for longer than he could remember, and his skin was taking on a sickly greenish colour. His body was being prepared, the way you would prepare a portkey or broomstick or a charm. Draco himself wasnt even sure he understood the entire plan yet, and neither did the potion masters and spell casters who kept him company. They were combining and testing potions Draco hadnt even heard of; elements of the Dark Arts that even Lucius had not been even vaguely familiar with. What he knew for sure was that his body was the delivery mechanism, and he tried not to dwell much on this fact.
There were countless needles and shunts in his arms, hips, thighs, testing his blood, his flesh. He ate enchanted foods that made him throw up, that made him ravenously hungry, that made his muscles expand or shrink, made his fingernails grow, made his heart stop, and then start up again, painfully. Some that made him see vague images of the future that he couldnt quite make out; some that made him see the past, to see through walls. Some made him feel like various animals (cats, rabbits, dragons, snakes, and other, darker things he didnt even know the names of), and some made him delusional. Though, truth be told, Draco was often delusional anyway. Even half-asleep, half-drugged, he knew when Voldemort entered the room, which was fairly often. He felt a sticky substance on his forehead; he felt that familiar venom dripping down his vertebrae.
Its a good thing youre not a weakling, Malfoy. Voldemort examined Dracos resolve, his reactions to the latest potions and spells. He saw his disappointment, he heard Harrys words running circles around his brain, When you get bored of scrapping your knees on the floor behind some half-dead, cursed old man with a penchant for murder and mayhem he felt Dracos uncertainty, his flagging resolve. Even semi-conscious, Draco feared the Dark Lords response to this, but he knew he didnt have the power to conceal anything from him.
Draco, my boy. Voldemorts words were softer now, almost tender, they caressed him instead of ripping holes behind his eyes. Hes right. That would be boring. Very boring. Its boring to be surrounded by people who cant see the importance of your work. Its tedious to prove yourself worthy of their trust in your abilities. But you know the truth. The wizarding world is castrating itself with Muggles, hiding its power from itself. You dont know it, but you sense it; Potter has a kind of power that Dumbledore wont let him use. You have skills that no one ever taught you about at Hogwarts! Did you know how Harry was abused by those Muggles he lived with? Did you know that even as a squalling infant, he could have done away with them, he could have protected himself, but because of Dumbledore and his Muggle-loving kind he was treated like a crippled house elf? And not only that, he was forced to believe that he was as worthless as a crippled house elf? Its shocking, its horrible. We can save him, Draco. We can give him things he doesnt even know he wants. Ah, you have experience in that realm, no?
Draco cringed. But hes a Gryffindor. You killed his parents, hell never forget. And Im about to betray him. Draco had worked hard not to think about this in the half-light of the world he had been living in during the last weeks. Ah, betrayal and redemption are very closely linked, like hatred and love, which you know well. You know that his friends will never accept you in his life, dont you? You know the Muggles he lives with would rather throw him out into the dirty, ugly Muggle streets rather than accept any relationship he might have with you. Is that not betrayal? Do you think that the Death Eaters have a monopoly on betrayal? No. Harry is constantly being betrayed; you will bring him options. We need to show him what he could be. You know he is good and kind and benevolent; why cant he be powerful too, as you will be? Would you rather have fools like, He shifted through Dracos memory again, finding an example, Neville Longbottom ruling the wizarding world? Those are the types of folk they glorify. They love weaklings, Draco, because weaklings arent frightening to the Muggles. Weaklings dont want to change the status quo. They dont understand that the powerful arent always evil. They dont see that sometimes ugly things turn out to be beautiful in the end. Do you think theyre all good, Dumbledore and his crew? The Ministry of Magic? Theyre the ones locking those who disagree with them up in Azkaban, they steal their souls, Draco. They drive them mad. They cant handle dissention. No group of people in historynot Muggle or wizard historyhas ever battled such discrimination without violence. Its a means to an end. And were not afraid of it. Voldemort was convincing. Draco felt his doubts lulled. Yes, it was a fight against injustice. It was a fight of desperation. It was a fight to keep the wizarding world alive, and not diluted and dispersed. And Harry could understand it, he could, he would understand, and be grateful to Draco for showing him that he could be just as he wanted to be, that Harry could be himself, without all these restrictions. I wont wait for you, Harry. I will come and save you.
Voldemort came back often, crooned to Draco, convincing him, soothing his doubting mind. Draco was no longer sure when he was awake, and when he was asleep, and eventually he wasnt sure if he was talking to Voldemort or Harry in his head.
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