Gift for: akahannah, Happy Holidays and I hope you enjoy it!
Summary: Finding horcruxes is very easy and everything else is not.
Shout out to my beta and biffle, Rachel!
Another non-descript owl was tapping at the glass behind Harry’s head. He slowly got up and began to wrestle with the old window. After a brief struggle, he pried it open and allowed the owl to drop off its letter and then promptly depart.
Harry knew what was on the plain piece of parchment. It was the time he was supposed to meet Malfoy to, once again, attempt to gather useful information for the Order to use against the Death Eaters. These meetings had been going on since the end of the summer. Harry had walked into the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place to find a quite unwelcome figure sitting at the table, calmly flicking through an old copy of the Prophet. Snape gave Harry just enough information to quell any murderous inclinations before he rushed out. Something about Dumbledore knowing this or that, it all being inevitable, and that he should just continue on looking for those horcruxes. He also informed him that in the future Malfoy would be the liaison between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix. Snape already has his hands full.
Initially, Harry was extremely angry. He had zero desire to be assisted in any way by Draco Malfoy. Not only was his desire absolutely minimal, he seriously doubted Malfoy’s usefulness. He had been proven quite pathetic in the very recent past. Not only that, but Harry was confused by Snape’s willingness to follow in the steps of Dumbledore by deeming Harry the one worthy to be on the receiving end of this highly valuable, top secret, Death Eater information. He was starting to feel like any interaction with Malfoy was going to be fruitless, entirely unnecessary, and excessively frustrating. He had so desperately wanted to tell Snape no. That they would be fine to handle it themselves. However, Hermione none too gently reminded him that what they needed was horcrux information. Snape was the only one with enough background knowledge to be able to understand the importance of something that might be said, Malfoy was the only one available to pass the information on, and Harry was the one who needed to find them, so he better get comfortable with the situation.
Harry opened the letter, memorized it, and then threw it in the fire. It didn’t contain anything that would be dangerous were someone to find it lying about, but he thought it looked nice burning anyway.
Harry had returned briefly to the Dursley’s that summer but as soon as such a move was possible, he gathered his belongings in their entirety and went to the Burrow. Hermione had come to stay with the Weasleys as well, and it wasn’t long before they realized that if they wanted the space and freedom to properly get on with the horcrux research they were going to have to be around considerably fewer people. So they moved into Grimmauld Place. They stayed there with Remus, who was really the perfect chaperone. He never interfered and was always around for a bit of assistance or a word of advice. They returned to the Burrow multiple times a week for hearty meals and bit of family time, but the remainder of their days was entirely devoted to research and planning.
Within a week of nonstop work Hermione had brilliantly solved the mystery of the locket. It had been in Grimmauld Place all along. There was a bit of confusion as its exact location in the old house, but, eventually Harry remembered his encounter with Mundungus Fletcher the previous year. They tracked it down from Mundungus who, very fortunately, hadn’t managed to sell it yet. Hermione was now diligently researching safe ways in which to both thoroughly and safely destroy yet another piece of Voldemort’s soul, but her quest had thus far been unproductive.
Harry had temporarily felt a huge amount of relief once another horcrux had been accounted for, but he quickly realized he didn’t have nearly as many hints for any of the other artifacts. It had felt like locating the locket was so easy, but really finding it had been the result of months of sifting through memories, as well as the worst night of his entire life, and the death of his most favored and helpful mentor. They were completely clueless as to the location of the remaining pieces, and only a hope that they had any idea what they even were.
Every meeting Harry had with Draco he became more and more desperate for useful information. After the first time, once he had seen Malfoy’s brisk and business like matter, he was ready to throw away their entire viciously polarized history. Neither of them said barely a word to each other that wasn’t previously outlined on a piece of paper or a question for the purpose of clarification. Locating and destroying horcruxes was the issue at hand and nothing else was important.
The letter had said eight o’clock and that was precisely when Harry heard someone coming in through the floo. He knew that Snape and Malfoy had worked out some elaborate way of getting him here, most likely involving countless fireplaces, but Harry also knew it wasn’t his problem. Malfoy always showed up right on time, dusted himself off, and proceeded to the kitchen with nothing more than a nod hello.
When they were lucky, no one else would be around when Malfoy and Harry entered the kitchen. However, this was quite a rare occurrence as Ron’s favorite place to be when they weren’t being forced into researching for never ending hours was, unsurprisingly, the kitchen. Harry had grudgingly accepted these sporadic and mostly unhelpful meetings with Malfoy, but Hermione wasn’t able to convince Ron to be equally understanding. When the two of them crossed paths there was nearly always a heated exchange of words, and more often than not, a barely-restrained display of physical aggression that mostly took the form of shoving.
Ron was the biggest problem in terms of having Malfoy walking around Grimmauld Place, but by no means the only one. Remus and Hermione seemed to be the only ones who found his presence tolerable, and if any one of the Weasleys happened to be meandering the halls Harry needed to make sure he was ready to interfere.
This time they found themselves quite fortunate. Ron and Hermione were still researching, and possibly doing other things Harry didn’t want to think about, but most importantly, they weren’t doing it in the kitchen. Malfoy seated himself, and Harry chose the chair directly opposite.
The conversation always started this way. For as much as they liked to pretend they were still the enemies they had been back in school, the predictability of this little exchange was becoming something dangerously close to amusing. In fact, judging from the smirk that was forming on the Slytherin’s face, it had already crossed into that territory.
The meeting proceeded in its normal fashion of Malfoy slowly reading off the things he had taken note of during the week. Any whispered conversations he had overheard, news of upcoming attacks, or estimated facts and figures regarding Voldemort’s ranks. Rarely there was anything that could even be remotely connected to the location of a horcrux, and today was no exception. Harry copied down his own little notes and intermittently asked a question he knew had no interesting or helpful answer. Malfoy was slowly approaching the end of his list when he mentioned something that legitimately caught Harry’s interest.
Malfoy calmly looked up from the piece of parchment he had been previously reading and gave Harry an inquisitive glance before he repeated the statement under question. “I said, ‘A potion was developed to make Animagi remain in their transformed state permanently. It was tested on Peter Pettigrew and found to be successful.’”
“What did he do?” Harry asked, completely shocked. He hated Peter Pettigrew, of course, but this seemed unnecessarily cruel, and also extremely strange. Harry was very aware of Peter’s inadequate performances of the past, but he always managed to leave Voldemort somewhat satisfied with his services in the end. Apparently not this time.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what did he do that he finally made Voldemort angry enough to do something so extreme?”
Malfoy scoffed. “Please, Potter, it’s not like it takes much. Get You-Know-Who mad and it’s a guaranteed extremely bad time for the foreseeable future. He does this kind of stuff all the time, he’s a Dark Lord.”
“Voldemort wouldn’t even be solid if it weren’t for Peter Pettigrew!”
“Yes, that bought him some time, and a relatively pain-free exit from existence in a life with humans. So, now, he lives among rats for the rest of his life. It’s not even that horrible, he managed to do it for years with the Weasel and the Weasel’s brother. I’ve most definitely seen worse. Voldemort always has Snape researching horrific potions, and misbehaving Death Eaters are perfect test subjects, in his opinion, I’m sure.”
“I don’t want to hear about it.”
The first thing Harry did after Malfoy’s departure was rush to tell Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, who had appeared sometime during Harry’s meeting for a visit, the news about Peter.
The news was met with much happiness. Harry continued to explain what Malfoy had told him, about it being a normal occurrence and how what happened to Peter was fairly tame, he tried to indicate he was slightly perturbed by this news, but he received only utter confusion.
“I don’t see what you’re so concerned with, mate. So Voldemort is thinning out his own ranks, a bit stupid of him, but really, it’s great news for us.” Ron’s observation was met with statements of approval from both Hermione and Ginny.
“Of course its very inhumane, Harry, but Voldemort is the villain here, and his Death Eaters are far from innocent people,” Hermione continued.
Harry shook his head in frustration at his inability to express his concerns. “No, I’m not worried about the Death Eaters, of course not, I’m worried about Malfoy-“
“He’s a Death Eater!”
“No he isn’t, Ginny. Malfoy- and Snape, for that matter- are spies for the Order, and they know what risks they are taking, they can handle it,” Hermione interjected.
“I’m sure Snape can handle it, but truthfully, I’m pretty sure Malfoy is the worst spy ever. He has, so far, remained under the radar, but Voldemort is probably already a little angry with him for the whole-” Harry paused for a moment to gather his courage to grit out the next part of the sentence, “tower incident, but I don’t think he is going to be able to go on just living around Voldemort’s headquarters and being useless for much longer. Sooner or later he is going to get assigned some sort of task again and we all know how well that went the last time.”
Harry immediately stopped speaking when he saw the vaguely horrified expression of Ron and extremely confused expressions of Hermione and Ginny.
“Forget it, I’m sure everything will be fine.”
Spending time with Ginny was becoming a tiresome affair for Harry. She had come from the Burrow that night, and Harry had hoped they would be able to spend sometime all together, with Ron and Hermione. A relaxing moment was becoming very hard to come by with Hermione so intensively focused on reading and planning all the time. Having Ginny around was always a good excuse to take a much needed rest. However, Ginny usually had another agenda when she came over, and her plan always included exclusive time with Harry.
Harry remembered when he loved spending time with Ginny. That feeling always appeared fleetingly when she came to visit, but it was never strong enough to overcome the feelings of stress that were created by the thousands of other complications in his life constantly.
“You are being kind of inattentive,” Ginny stated, not overly maliciously, just as the fact that it was.
“I know, I’m sorry. I was just thinking.” They were laying on Harry’s bed in the room that he and Ron shared. Harry had his hands placed behind his head and was staring intently at the canopy, his position making his statement quite obvious.
Ginny hummed thoughtfully to herself and then leaned over and began to kiss Harry, to which he responded enthusiastically.
The next time Malfoy came through the floo, he walked straight into the kitchen and flopped into a chair far less gracefully than was his normal custom.
“Is…is everything alright?”
“Yes, fine. The marvelous, Death-Eater-prepared dinner I just ate is not agreeing with me.” Draco paused, looking thoughtful. “I miss house elves.”
Harry chuckled and then took his seat across from Draco, and then added, “Of course you do.”
Nearing the end of July Hermione found in one of the giant old books, which neither Harry or Ron would even pretend to be interested in reading through, that Rowena Ravenclaw had possessed a tiara and that it’s current location was unknown. Hermione had mentioned this and they had recorded it on the depressingly small list of items that could possibly be horcruxes.
Approximately six hours later, Harry was once again reading through his worn potions textbook. He was casually reading the notes in the margin and, simultaneously, rather successfully managing to keep the true identity of the Prince very far from his mind. This was impossible once he approached the page that held the woefully vague information regarding a particular spell that was “for enemies.” He allowed himself a moment or two of extreme shame before turning the page, but found he was unable to stop himself from remembering the incident. He was moments from returning the book to the bottom of his trunk when he had a revelation that had him tearing out of his room and calling for the nearest person.
Harry ran straight into Remus three fourths of the way down the staircase and began to frantically attempt to tell all the thoughts racing through his mind to the startled man. Remus gathered enough information to make some decisions and within minutes he had gotten Ron and Hermione from wherever they had been and they all congregated in the kitchen. Harry then managed to tell them, almost calmly, that he had a pretty sure idea of where a horcrux was, and that was, roughly, where the fighting started.
Ron was in firm agreement with Harry that they should embark immediately on a midnight trip to Hogwarts. Remus and Hermione felt that some discussion was in order, and, at least, Professor McGonagall should be contacted. However, Harry was so beyond positive that there was a tiara in the strange room in which he had hidden the Prince’s textbook that his excitement was quite catching. Remus and Hermione eventually agreed that they could leave now, as long as they stopped by the Headmistress’ office briefly.
Unfortunately, they all had forgotten it was summer, and they ended it up having to do things the sensible way. They contacted the Headmistress at her home and she granted them permission into the castle. By three in the morning they were exhausted, and in possession of another horcrux. Belatedly, Harry realized at some point it had become July 31st and it was his 17th birthday.
“How did you know it was my birthday?”
Draco scoffed at him, which was something that was starting to happen at an alarming frequency. He also chose not answer the question that had a very obvious answer.
“We found one.” Harry paused to let the implications of his vague statement become fully realized. “Not using any of your information, of course. You are still utterly useless.”
Draco then gave Harry a charming smile, and for a frightening moment it felt like they were friends, but then he took his notes out and Harry got out his blank piece of parchment and they carried on as usual. It went surprisingly quickly and Harry was still in an excellent mood once they had finished going through everything on the list.
“That was quite painless,” Harry commented.
“Mostly.” Draco then appeared hesitant for a moment, but then quickly began to speak, “I brought you something. For your birthday.”
“Really?” Harry was intrigued and nervous. He knew Malfoy well enough by now that it would be harmless and most likely something slightly amusing, but he still felt quite curious.
“Yes, and here it is. You are seventeen, after all, that’s fairly significant.” It was firewhisky. Harry had limited experience with firewhiskey, just a few times with Ron and a variety of his brothers when they were completely positive that Hermione was fully engrossed in a book of epic proportions and they wouldn’t be seeing her for a good long while. It had always been great fun, especially when Fred and George were around.
Harry’s mood was growing more and more cheerful by the second. Harry looked at Draco, who was looking a little nervous, and grinned. “I’m not going to ask where you got this, because I really have no desire to know, but thank you.”
Draco looked smug, obviously proud of his thieving ways and possibly somewhat pleased by Harry’s gratitude.
“Ready to celebrate?”
“Your birth? I’m afraid not.”
Eventually, with the help of many shots of firewhiskey, Draco was able to muster enough enthusiasm to be happy that Harry James Potter was born. In fact, he managed to gather so much joy over the idea that he poured Harry and himself their eighth shot, made a toast to the birthday boy himself, took a moment to imbibe his drink and let Harry consume his own and then leaned over and kissed him.
“Oh…that was because you were drunk?”
A decision was then made, and it was mutual because they most certainly met in the middle, that more kissing was going to occur. This went on for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time before Harry started to unbutton Draco’s shirt. Slowly more clothing came off, and things from the cabinet were used in unorthodox but helpful ways, and Harry was moving inside Draco on the kitchen floor.
Afterwards, when they were more sober than either of them would ever want to acknowledge, Harry attempted casual conversation.
“I wonder where Ron and Hermione are.”
Harry turned his head to greet Draco’s extremely wide eyes and expression of abject horror with a teasing smile. “I’m just kidding, they went to the Burrow for the night, I just wanted you to feel the same terror I did about 45 minutes ago when I remembered they live here also.”
“I’m going to tell the Prophet you took my virginity.”
“You were a virgin?”
Draco was beginning to look horrified again, but then he made a sound of disgust and stated very emphatically, “Definitely not.”
Eventually Draco had to leave, and it was awkward but they made it through alright, and they even overcame their embarrassment and kissed for a little before saying goodbye. Harry then went to his bed and fell asleep very quickly.
Harry was in high spirits the next morning and Hermione and Ron were also in high spirits upon returning from the Burrow. They all smiled merrily at each other and pretended it was because of finding the tiara, which was slightly true, anyway.
Harry had woken up early enough to start preparing breakfast before their arrival, and by 10 o’clock in the morning they were well on their way back to sifting through old documents and even older books.
“I think our new priority is to find out how to destroy these,” Hermione said, pointing vaguely behind her to the locket and tiara placed on a shelf amongst a variety of other paraphernalia, “I don’t very much care to have them lying around the house.”
“Well, Harry destroyed the diary by plunging that snake tooth through it.”
“Yes, thank you for reminding us, Ron. Unfortunately, we don’t have a basilisk fang on hand,” Hermione replied, seemingly exasperated, but smiling.
Harry was somewhat less focused on the conversation, and somewhat more focused on thinking about Malfoy. his actually turned out to be a useful train of thought when he remembered something that could be quite helpful.
“A few meetings ago Draco said something about getting basilisk venom for Snape, for some sort of potion. So, it’s available, even if we have to use somewhat questionable connections. We can ask Mundungus. I’m sure it was the venom of the snake that actually did the destroying. We could just dump them,” he said once again vaguely pointing to shelf,” in a big bowl of the stuff. I didn’t get injured last time. Well, I mean, I didn’t get injured in a way that isn’t preventable this time.”
“This sounds like a somewhat feasible plan, Harry. It certainly sounds a lot better than whatever means Dumbledore used for destroying that ring,” Hermione said excitedly, and then she added, “Malfoy finally said something helpful!”
“Oh, please,” Ron began “we would have gotten here eventually. All we had to do was spend a few minutes thinking about how Harry got rid of the last one, and we would have gotten it!”
“Well, he saved us a few minutes, then.” Ron looked highly skeptical, but said nothing more on that matter. A small silence descended amongst the group, but Hermione quickly filled it.
“So how have those meetings been going, anyway, Harry? You hardly talk about them. I know you say that Malfoy doesn’t really have anything valuable to say, but maybe if Ron and I were to look over the notes we could give a different perspective to them, possibly see something that got skipped over initially?” Harry was startled by the sudden shift of the conversation to his meetings with Malfoy, which had quite recently become something he did not want to discuss at all with his best friends, for more than the reason that it would have been pointless.
“Um, yeah, I’ll go get them,” Harry said, and then got up to fetch the notes and possibly spend a few minutes in his bedroom breathing deeply.
Going through the notes had proven just as futile as Harry suspected it would, but their other research was finally starting to become something close to exciting in its productivity. With the help of Remus (and Mundungus) they managed to acquire basilisk venom. Not enough to follow through with Harry’s plan precisely and throw it all together in a big bucket, but enough to carefully apply the venom and watch the two horcruxes melt in a very satisfying manner. There were two alarming moments at the end of each application where wisps of Voldemort’s soul at various stages of his life were floating around, but in the end, that was their proof the horcruxes had really been destroyed, so it ended up being not so much scary as incredibly relieving.
Hermione, who did much of the focusing and planning, had now made their main goal to find Hufflepuff’s cup. There now was a chart hanging on the wall of the room in which they preferred to get much of their reading a strategizing done in, and it had various locations where the cup might be residing. Harry was slightly nervous as he felt that this mission was going to be a lot more similar to his excursion with Dumbledore to retrieve the locket from the cave. He only hoped that the actual horcrux would be where it was supposed to this time, and no one would suffer unnecessarily.
Since the discovery of the tiara, their had been a lot of hopeful feelings regarding the search for horcruxes. The three of them had agreed that since they had found something of Ravenclaw’s, they could be almost one hundred percent positive that the only two remaining were the cup and Nagini. While the search for the cup was proving slightly difficult, and they realized that locating it was only half the trouble, there had been a mutual agreement that Nagini would be fairly easy to kill. With the snake, it was just a matter of timing it so that Voldemort didn’t have a chance to grow suspicious.
The second week into August they were gifted with a breakthrough when two unrecognizable owls began tapping the window of the room where Harry, Hermione, and Ron were eating lunch while continuing to read. The window was pried open and it turned out that the package that was being carried by the larger of the two owls was a selection of three books. Hermione immediately removed them from Harry’s possession and started to flip through them eagerly. He and Ron spent a few minutes interestedly looking over her shoulder and every once in a while sharing a smile over her incoherent mumbling when there was a nip at his fingers.
He was then reminded that there was a second owl, and this one was carrying just a letter. He removed it from the owls leg and then sent the bird on its way before opening the piece of parchment. It turned out to be from Snape. The beginning of the letter explained which parts of the books would be most relevant to the research they had been doing, and specifically the location of the cup. Apparently one of the books was a very old, very rare, biography-of-sorts of Helga Hufflepuff. Snape commented it was largely unhelpful except for a few pages near the back which had a family tree and showed that she still had a few living relatives. Snape was not reserved in saying that questioning these people would most likely turn up nothing, especially since it was likely they were all Hufflepuffs, but if they find the rest of the information he provided in the package, it might be worth investigating (but he sincerely doubted it).
The second book turned out to just hold the suggestion of destroying powerful magical artifacts with basilisk venom. Ron commented that this book wouldn’t really be helpful anymore as they had already come to that conclusion, and Harry agreed. Hermione seemed slightly offended that anyone could so easily dismiss the value of a book, but eventually conceded they probably wouldn’t be needing it right now.
The final book turned out to not be a book at all, but what appeared to be a scholarly research paper. It was a compilation of various places throughout Europe that had demonstrated strange magical properties in the last fifty years or so. Snape said he had found it lying around and he had done some research into the author and he found that he had been murdered several weeks after publishing his findings. While Snape could provide no information as to which specific places were the most likely to contain a horcrux, he expressed that he was fairly certain the paper held information that would prove extremely valuable in their quest for the cup.
Hermione was so excited to begin cross referencing the chart they had diligently been working on the past two weeks with the locations listed in the paper that she immediately grabbed Ron by the hand and dragged him to the other side of the room so they could start immediately. Harry smiled, and continued reading the letter on his own. After explaining thoroughly the contents of the package he took a brief moment to congratulate the trio on their successes so far, but then tone of the letter grew much more grave.
Snape said he his contact with the three of them was going to become extremely infrequent as Voldemort was growing highly suspicious of all his followers. He also informed Harry that he would no longer be meeting with Malfoy because the boy had not been seen around headquarters for over a week, and no one had any idea what had become of him.
“Figures, we always knew he was a coward.”
After Hermione had fixed all the broken dishes, and righted all the toppled bookcases, and managed to control the rest of the chaos that had ensued in the magical outburst from Harry, which happened immediately after Ron spoke, she grabbed the offending parchment and read through it herself.
“Ronald Weasley! That was a horrible thing to say,” Hermione reprimanded after learning the implications of what Ron had said. Ron and Hermione had noticed Harry was taking a strangely long time to read the letter and they had turned around to see what the problem was to find their best friend looking quite horrified by something. Harry handed Ron the parchment, who read it quickly and then gave his opinion on the matter, which Harry evidently strongly disagreed with.
“Look, I’m sorry, mate, but it’s not like this is completely surprising. Malfoy has always had trouble following through in the past.”
Harry knew Ron had a somewhat valid point, and he was even starting to hope that Ron’s opinion on what happened was actually the case. He was hoping Malfoy had just gotten fed up with playing spy and had run off somewhere safer. The more he thought about it though, he couldn’t help beginning to feel incredibly guilty. He just hoped Draco had done something sensible and that he hadn’t been so horrified by what had happened the last time they had met that he felt the need to do something really, incredibly stupid.
Harry managed to convince himself that Malfoy was hiding somewhere. He needed to do that in order to focus on the horcrux hunting, and once his delusions were firmly in place, he found it was quite easy. He let their investigations consume him more thoroughly than they ever had before.
Two of the locations on their chart were also in the paper that Snape had sent them. The first one was another cave and the second an abandoned house. They decided to explore the house first, as they had already done the cave thing once, and were counting on Voldemort liking a little variety.
The house was old and creaky. It fit absolutely every stereotypical idea of a haunted house, but the three of them were determined. The house had shown up on Hermione’s chart because it used to belonged to the Head Girl from the year Tom Riddle had been Head Boy. Apparently, she was very smart and they hadn’t gotten along well at all. She also happened to be a Hufflepuff. Hermione thought there were just enough strange connections and enmity for Voldemort to find her a useful death to create a horcrux.
The house was the most death trap infested location Harry had ever happened upon. And that was really saying something. He knew this not because he, or Ron and Hermione, for that matter, had fallen up any of the traps, but because of the carnage of those who had attempted to enter previously strewn about. Fortunately, before doing anything life risking he remembered that Voldemort needed a safe way to get through all the traps himself, and therefore there had to be a solution. That solution was Parseltongue. Voldemort had always assumed he was the only person left alive who could manage the language, and he obviously still felt safe in that assumption when the grotesque traps of the house were constructed.
The navigation through the house was extremely slow, but entirely uneventful. They finally made it into a bedroom, one they assumed belonged to the woman, and there was the cup. A few more words in Parseltongue and the trio was on their way home with another horcrux in hand.
There was a considerable lull in activity once the cup had been destroyed. All three of them were intensely aware of the fact that the next step was to destroy Nagini, and very shortly after that, Voldemort himself. Exactly how to go about doing this was proving far more tricky than any of the horcrux hunting had ended up being. Harry did allow Ron and Hermione some time to relax. He knew he needed some down time himself, in order to properly prepare for what was to come. However, he could not bring his mind fully away from the situation with Malfoy, over which he still felt a considerable amount of guilt. There had been no news from Snape since his last letter, and he had been informed of nothing from any other Order member about the boy’s location, or anything else.
It was the end of August and Harry was starting to regret his decision to not return to Hogwarts. Surprisingly, it had been allowed to open that year, but Harry, Ron, and, most surprisingly, Hermione had all elected not to attend. They had assumed they would be incredibly busy with preparing for the upcoming battle, but Harry found that a majority of his time was spent laying down and trying to clear his mind of the endless string of thoughts that was continually plaguing him. He frequently found himself looking for something to read, or yearning for the chaos Hermione would create over studying for N.E.W.T.s.
The day before Hogwarts was scheduled to start, Mrs. Weasley visited Grimmauld Place with lots of food, for them to pick their way through in the upcoming weeks, as well as Ginny, to give her a chance to say goodbye before the term started.
“Hello!” she said cheerfully, startling Harry, who had been sitting at the kitchen table resting his head in his folded arms with his eyes shut.
Ginny began putting the food she had been forced to carry by her mother into various cabinets while Harry continued to, for all appearances, sleep at the kitchen table.
“Is something wrong?” Ginny asked, much less cheerfully. This time Harry lifted his head, but only to give Ginny an incredulous look.
She rolled her eyes. “I mean besides everything with Voldemort.”
“Yes,” Harry bit out tersely. “Just everything with Mal-“
“Oh, come on, Harry. He is fine. We all know he couldn’t handle the pressure of his pathetically easy job, so he bailed out. He is going to wait it out until the end of the war, when it’s safe for him to show up, and then after you clear his name entirely and make it seem like he was a thousand times more helpful than he actually was, he is going to move on with his life. And probably not even say thank you.”
“Ginny! How can you even talk like that? Talk like a future like that is even possible! I might not even be around to be so generous. Even if what Malfoy was doing wasn’t as productive as we might have liked, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t ever going to be.” Ginny looked like she wanted to interrupt, but Harry continued.” No, Ginny, we don’t know why he is missing. It’s not necessarily because he was scared, and so what if it was? He was living with Voldemort. He was lying to the most powerful wizard we have ever known every day, so I wish everyone would stop judging him, especially since no one is even sure if he is alive anymore!”
“I see you are just as obsessed as ever. Goodbye, Harry. See you at Christmas.”
One night in late October Harry received a letter from Snape. It was the first they had received since the one that had arrived with the books and he called out to Ron and Hermione before he began reading it. This had been a very good idea because he wasn’t sure he ever really finish reading the very short missive, in the first place. He had already starting running up the stairs to frantically gather anything he might need while Hermione picked up the letter and started reading it aloud to Ron.
“Nagini has died. I suggest you act quickly before he decides to create a replacement…”
She continued reading the letter, in which Snape explained where Voldemort’s headquarters could be found and how exactly they could manage to get inside. He also gave a few pieces of advice on locating Voldemort within his sanctuary. In twenty minutes they had apparated away, in seven hours Voldemort was dead, and within the day the entire wizarding world knew the war was over.
Harry was pretty sure he had never been happier.
Harry wasn’t really sure what to do with himself anymore. November had been a blur of celebrations and he was getting increasingly more disinterested. He hadn’t gone back to school like Ron and Hermione had. He had decided to wait until the following year. He wasn’t regretting this decision, it wasn’t boredom that he was fighting, and busy work wasn’t going to make what he was feeling go away. He had actually been very busy. There was a party, or a meeting, or a conference, or a something he had to attend nearly everyday, but it didn’t really matter, he wasn’t really there.
It was over a month after the final battle and there had been no sign that Draco was safe, or alive, or anything. Harry had informed everyone he thought should know of the situation. Snape was back in good standing with all the important people and he was helping with the case, as well.
Harry felt entirely listless. He spent all of his mornings flipping through the Daily Prophet, looking for only one headline, knowing very well it would never be a headline. He was fully aware that if Draco ever did turn up, it was much more likely he would find out from someone like Snape or Remus or someone else in the Order nearly immediately, it wouldn’t be at all necessary for him to find out through the paper. However, developing a bit of routine slightly aided in passing the days.
While Harry was glad of the fact that Draco was missing was finally getting the attention it rightly deserved, he was starting to feel they should have started looking into it a lot earlier. He was aware of the fact that doing that would have been somewhere along the lines of impossible, seeing as Malfoy was something of a wanted criminal. Still, he had never even been so much as late for a single meeting, and only now were people beginning to become concerned.
Most infuriating of all was Snape. He had been the first to know about Malfoy’s disappearance and he was also the one who had been working closest with him. Harry was almost positive he knew more than he was letting on to everyone involved in the investigation, but Harry couldn’t decide if that made him feel better or worse about Malfoy’s safety, just that the man was incredibly frustrating.
Harry was contemplating life at the kitchen table again when Remus sat across from him.
“Harry, is something wrong?” Harry was ready to be angry, but Remus voice was so soft, and his concern seemed so genuine that Harry decided to be generous and just ignore him. Harry folded his arms on the table in front him and then rested his head on them.
“Harry, I want you to talk to me, or someone else, about…” Remus paused, “I know it’s a ridiculous thing to say, but people are worried, they think you should be happier than this. While I find that to be a completely invalid notion, I am worried about you.”
“I’ve just been thinking.” Harry was suddenly finding it hard to find the energy to bring his voice above a whisper.
“I know you and Draco were becoming friends, so I know you must be taking this situation harder than anyone else, especially because Ron and Hermione barely got know him at-“
“I think we were more than friends.” Harry’s voice was only a little bit stronger, but had gained a bit of confidence. Remus seemed like he was willing to listen and Harry unexpectedly realized that he did actually want to talk to someone about something.
Remus looked curious, but he didn’t say anything, he just gave Harry a few minutes to compose his thoughts.
“The last night he was here, you know, my birthday. He brought me a present. It was firewhiskey. We were just celebrating various things, he didn’t really want to acknowledge my birthday,” Harry paused a moment and felt wistful, and he knew he must have looked it, as well. “He was still really mean and nasty for the most part, at least, until about halfway through the bottle, but he was sort of amusing.”
“Anyway, he kissed me.” Harry stopped there figuring Remus could supply the rest himself. Apparently, he figured wrong.
“Was that it?”
Remus’ eyebrows raised in obvious surprise but he didn’t say anything, just gave a nod of his head in understanding.
“So, yeah, I can’t help but feel like he was so determined to never see me again he just ran off. He never mentioned that he didn’t like being a spy or that he was afraid of Voldemort. I mean I’m sure he felt that way, it’s not like he found the position particularly glamorous, he just seemed willing to see through. It’s the only reason I can think of, that is, if Snape is telling the truth and he wasn’t found out as a spy and…well, you know.” Harry wanted to end that train of thought immediately, so he changed the subject. “Snape. That reminds me. He was the last person with Malfoy and he also knows the most about him, in general. He hasn’t said anything about what Malfoy’s duties were at the house. I feel like there is more we need to know. I think he is hiding something.”
Remus smiled at that, “When don’t you?”
At the beginning of the winter holidays Grimmauld Place was full of people. Harry had decided that he wanted to hold Christmas there in order to occupy some of his time with the planning, and also for an excuse to make it a somewhat cheerier looking place. He could put decorations up and then conveniently forget to ever take them down.
The entire Weasley clan as well as Fleur (who, now, actually was a Weasley) and Hermione had arrived the previous day. Ron and Hermione were arguing in heated whispers over something across the room, while Ginny decorated one of the fifteen tree scattered throughout the house and Harry laid on the couch and stared at the ceiling contemplatively.
“When are you coming back to school?”
“Next year. Maybe.”
“So we’ll finish together, then!”
“Maybe.” Harry wasn’t positive he was going to finish school. He hadn’t told Hermione, however, and he was pretty sure once he did his ’maybe’ would change back quickly to a firm and definite ‘yes,’ so he really hoped she hadn’t overheard. He chanced a brief glance and her and Ron were still arguing, though a bit less heatedly, so he figured he was safe.
“You are a horrible conversationalist. Dean is much better.”
It was snowing quite hard. Harry knew this because he had been staring out the window for quite some time now. There wasn’t a reason really, it was just what he felt like doing.
He was staring so intently that things had gone a little blurry, and the owl was quite close when Harry finally noticed it hurtling toward the window. Harry moved to the window and began the struggle to pry it open. He managed fairly quickly, and watched the owl fly gracefully in, and perch itself on the arm of the couch.
“Hello,” Harry said hesitantly and also illogically.
The bird unsurprisingly, did not reply. However, it did lift its leg in order to ease Harry’s retrieval of the letter. It was unsigned. It simply had a time written on it in a familiar handwriting. That was all Harry needed, he pocketed the parchment and headed downstairs.
Harry had found a spare chair and moved it directly in front of the fireplace. The letter had said 6 o’clock and it was only 4 o’clock but Harry didn’t mind waiting. Every once a while someone would meander by and ask if he was alright, and because for once he actually was, the person would be satisfied by his enthusiastically affirmative, if slightly aggressive, answer and move on.
Harry was staring hatefully at the fireplace at 6 o’clock because it was stubbornly remaining completely human-less, when he heard a knock at the door. He was wary to investigate, hesitant to leave the fireplace for even a moment, but he was definitely the only person close enough to hear the knocking. He figured if he walked backwards for most of the trip and then stayed turned at an angle when answering the door he would be able to keep the fireplace in his field of vision at all times. Satisfied with his plan, he began his journey.
He opened the door, not fully caring about what was behind it until he caught sight of the blond hair. Malfoy’s nose was very red, his fair head was hatless and full of snow, and he was looking quite disgruntled.
“Finally. Let me in. It’s snowing and I’m freezing.”
Unfortunately, Harry had other plans and he quite eagerly grabbed Draco’s face and started kissing him. The both toppled over into the snow that was, indeed, freezing. Draco seemed to care much less than he had the previous minute, because he responded with much passion. Harry’s hands were doing a good job of warming him up by moving up and down his arms, and then his chest, and then his stomach. At this point, Harry assumed, because Draco was still eager to get out of the snow, Draco pulled away. Harry figured Draco was quite uncomfortable as he was laying on his back the snow, probably getting quite damp, while Harry straddled his waist. Harry made eye contact with Draco and waited for instructions to get off because he was much too content to take any action on his own. However, Draco was getting a horrified look that Harry was somewhat familiar with. He tried to be soothing by running his hand softly down Draco’s torso. This absolutely did not work, so Harry tried it again. This time Draco grabbed Harry’s wrist to stop him and then they broke eye contact to stare at their hands which were somewhere near Draco’s bellybutton. This was when Harry noticed something.
“That’s weird,” Harry stated obviously.
“You can’t be angry with me. I decided months ago that this was almost entirely your fault, so I absolutely forbid you to be angry.”
“I don’t think I’m angry,” Harry paused for endless minutes, while Draco’s back got wetter and wetter. He suddenly sprang into action. He was on is feet and pulling Draco up in a second, “I think we should go inside.”
Harry hadn’t told anyone about the letter he had received that afternoon, just in case, and now he was very happy. Some good decisions had been made, after all. They crept through the house, avoiding detection and straight into Harry’s bedroom.
Draco immediately launched into an explanation. “It’s exactly what you think it is. As horrifying as it is to imagine, it’s possible, and it’s true, and it’s happened to me- and I guess it’s happened to you, as well. If you want it to.”
“I’m glad you’re alright.”
“If you think so,” Draco said looking exasperated.
“Why didn’t you come here right away?”
“Potter. I am a seventeen year old boy that found out he was…well, you know,” Draco looked decidedly embarrassed, but he continued. “How was I supposed to know it would have been alright to come here, to go anywhere really. Everyone who hates the Dark Lord, hates me. I was also terrified out of my mind; totally, completely mad with fear. I was living with the most powerfully evil wizard of all time and carrying the child of his most hated enemy.”
“Right. You should have come here.”
“Yes, I know. That is why I’m here now. Happy Christmas.”
Harry eventually managed to convince Draco that letting everyone downstairs know that he was alive and safe would be a good idea. They progressed down the staircase very slowly. Well, Harry wasn’t going that slowly, he kept having to take little three piece sections of stairs twice over in order to not get too far ahead.
They finally made it to the kitchen and Harry wasted no time, “He’s safe.”
Mrs. Weasley was the first person to react, by bringing over two heaping plates of food and commanding them to sit down and eat.
“Well, Draco, dear, you are looking well! It doesn’t appear you’ve missed too many meals in your absence, we can all be thankful for that!” At this Draco started shooting intensely terrifying glares in Harry’s direction.
Everyone else seemed to be coming out of their stupor and they started to voice their thoughts. Ron was the first to speak up,
“Well I’m- we’re glad you’re not dead.”
“You say that now, Weasley. Just wait-” It was now Harry’s turn to give Draco a meaningful glare, which was apparently severe enough to stop Draco from continuing to speak.
Everyone ate very quickly and in relative silence. Several attempts were made to question Malfoy regarding where had been the past few months, but each one was tactfully avoided and eventually an implicit mutual agreement was made that it would be best to get the meal over with as soon as possible. They were all eager to get a chance to settle in more intimate environments to discuss the recent turn of events more candidly with the small groups of their choosing.
Harry had been extremely confident, initially, about immediately talking to Remus right after dinner and telling him everything. He knew what had transpired between himself and Draco and maybe he had heard of this kind of thing before. Draco seemed much more reluctant, and Harry was understanding for ten minutes, but then he got bored of nothing happening and he began dragging Draco to Remus’ door.
Within eight or so minutes the whole situation had been explained by Harry. However, fifteen minutes had passed by and still nothing had been said since his final words. Finally, he attempted to move the conversation along once again.
“Well?” Harry said, starting to get impatient.
“I’ve never heard of this happening before.” Harry looked surprised by this, and his impatient matter was starting to dissipate.
“Potter, you can be so thick sometimes. I know you had a less than stellar upbringing, but you cannot possibly think that this is normal. I’m really disappointed that I have to remind you, but I’m a boy.”
“I just thought that, maybe-“
“So what happened then?” Harry was starting to get angry. He was confused and no one was giving him any answers.
“I think I drank a potion. One of the ones Snape had been working on I suppose.”
“Why would you think it was okay to drink an experimental potion?”
“I mean, I think I was given one. By Voldemort. Or some Death Eater.”
“We’ve had this conversation already.”
Harry then recalled Peter Pettigrew. “Yeah, but why you? You hadn’t done anything wrong,” Harry paused, “in a while.”
“I hadn’t done anything particularly good either. I wasn’t paying my dues.”
“So you were going to get recruited to make future generations of Death Eaters-“
“I doubt it. It was probably just supposed to be a punishment.”
Remus was looking quite horrified by the information he was gleaning off of this exchange. “I cannot believe we let a seventeen year old boy become a spy,” he said mostly to himself.
“It’s fine, the war is over, anyway. Which is really good news. At least it was Harry and not some disgusting…or…can we talk about something else?”
“I’m positive we will one day find that slightly amusing.”
Draco looked highly skeptical but he didn’t say anything, he just made all the appropriate movements to become mostly horizontal on the bed in front of him and make sure he was entirely buried underneath various pillows as well as the blanket.
“I think I might even find Ron’s reaction amusing right now.”
“I require silence in order to properly deal with my utter and completely unforgettable shame,” was the command that Draco issued in response to Harry’s stupidity, but Harry didn’t hear anything but mumbling. This frustrated him, so he immediately (and quite brutally) destroyed the comfortable cocoon of self loathing (and pillows) Draco had constructed around himself.
“What did you say?” he asked innocently, unaware of his crimes.
“I hate you.”
“That isn’t what you said!”
“But it is, most certainly, what I am feeling now.” Draco began resurrecting the mountain of bedding.
“Don’t hide, I want to talk,” Harry seemed desperate to hold Draco’s attention, so he decided to, very temporarily, humor him. He stopped what he was doing to look pointedly at Harry and wait for him to say something interesting.
“So,” Harry began, obviously aware that there were high expectations, “how far along are you?” Draco almost injured himself when he rolled his eyes.
“Figure it out, Potter.”
“Oh, right.” Draco was starting to look highly unimpressed. Harry then thought of something he was extremely curious about.
“Can I see?”
The words “absolutely not” were on the tip of his tongue, but in the end he relented. Harry obviously wouldn’t say anything bad, at least, he wouldn’t if he valued his life.
“Alright, but no talking.” Harry looked like he was about to object, but then Draco continued, “you were doing a poor job of it before, anyway.”
In the end Harry found he didn’t have anything he wanted to say and, instead, chose to convey everything with a kiss.
“He is so beautiful.” Harry had to agree, he agreed so much he couldn’t even begin to say so.
Draco managed to pry his eyes away from his son in order to look at Harry sternly. “I suppose you want to name him James, or something.”
“Well, no, not completely.” He then got a stern look of his own. “I suppose you want to name him something hideous and evil like Damien.”
“I do not! No Malfoy has ever been named Damien, and no Malfoy ever will.”
“I want to name him Ben.”
“What? Like the clock? Why Ben?”
“I don’t know, we don’t know any Bens.”
Draco looked thoughtful, “That’s true. It isn’t hideous. I think I like it, as well. His middle names are going to be-“
Harry smiled. He hoped the names Draco suggested would be ridiculous, so that they could argue over them.
The End! I hope some people out there enjoyed it, especially akahannah! Once again, best holiday wishes to everyone!