Title: The Logic of Dreams (Part 2/3)
Unsurprisingly, Harry found it impossible to fall asleep.
The room Joan had rented for him/Ned was high-ceilinged and sparsely furnished. In a corner by a wardrobe with peeling varnish was a grotty sink whose tap dripped endlessly but irregularly. Harry lay, fully dressed, in the middle of the sagging bed, listening to the plip . . . plip . . . plip and watching the glare of headlights from passing cars track across the walls and slide out of the dark, little room like fleeing ghosts.
Four hours ago he’d been putting away groceries, and now here he was in a cheap rented room in an unfamiliar part of Muggle London, a would-be murderer and fugitive from justice. It was all so ludicrous that he felt like laughing, and he suspected that he’d be doing just that if he didn’t also feel so utterly . . . weary.
It was a weariness out of proportion to his actual circumstances, and as he lay there, staring up at the distant ceiling, Harry knew exactly where it came from. It had been blurring the edges of his world for months now, turning his days into poorly-developed snapshots of someone else’s life. Someone who got out of bed in the morning. Someone who ate breakfast and read the paper at his kitchen table. Someone who went to practises and grocery stores and occasional films. Someone who attended weddings and christenings and birthday parties. Someone who could not possibly be Harry. Because Harry couldn’t – and shouldn’t – be doing any of those things. Not when the love of his life was still missing. Not when Draco went unfound, unburied and unmourned.
Harry rolled onto his side and curled into a foetal ball, his fists tucked under his chin. Without the familiar surroundings of his home and the comfortable predictability of his daily rituals, he felt stripped and vulnerable. Every beat of his heart was painful in a way it hadn’t been for a long time, and he realised, with the force of a revelation, that nothing – nothing – had got easier or better. Time hadn’t healed his wounds as much as numbed them, and the instant the bandages of routine were removed, they bled anew.
Harry stared at the curtainless window and tried to will himself to see the building beyond it, a shop with its neon sign advertising Player’s Extra Lights. But instead all he could see was Draco, and at last, with a defeated sob, Harry stopped struggling and let the memories wash over him.
Draco and Snape had turned up the night of the first killing frost, and Harry had later figured out that the two events were no random coincidence. They’d been sleeping outdoors since June, moving to a new shelter every night. But with winter coming . . . Well, it was give themselves up or freeze. A Hobson’s choice to say the least.
It hadn’t taken long for both of them to realise just how much the other had changed in the intervening six months since they’d last seen one another. And it hadn’t taken long for Harry to notice the way Draco’s face turned pink every time he caught Harry looking at him. But the winter had been filled with fierce skirmishing and heavy losses, and Harry hadn’t had the time or the will to do anything but sleep and eat and fight and watch Draco’s once-tenuous connection to the Order grow slowly, but steadily, stronger. By the spring, he’d felt sure enough in his suppositions to invite Draco to play a game of chess one afternoon.
Draco had looked up from the book he was reading.
“And why would I want to do that?” he asked coldly.
Harry rolled his eyes.
“Because it’ll be fun and you’re bored.”
“Not so bored that I’d stoop to spend time with you, Potter.”
But Harry had only smiled and shrugged.
“Have it your way, Malfoy.”
He wasn’t blind after all. He’d seen the way Draco looked at him when he thought Harry didn’t notice. He’d heard the breath that caught in Draco’s throat when he encountered Harry in the hallway, leaving the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. He’d felt the way Draco’s hand lingered whenever he had occasion to touch Harry, even for the flimsiest of reasons. He knew Draco had a crush on him, and that it was only a matter of time . . .
In the end, Draco had been the one to do it. The one to invite Harry out for a rare walk. The one to choose a perfect May evening and the most romantic location. The first to stammer out words of affection and confessions of desire. The first to ask if he would mind terribly . . . whether he might . . . would it be all right if he could, perhaps, kiss Harry. Just this once . . .
Their relationship had become very physical very fast. Every chance they got, they took – no matter how risky, how quick and rough and desperate. Harry had been surprised (although in hindsight he wondered why, considering the way Draco was about everything in his life) by how passionate Draco was. He seemed insatiable, and every time that Harry reached for him and pulled him close, he was already hard and straining and ready to rut against whatever part of himself Harry offered. After that first kiss, there had been no holding back, and they’d soon moved irreversibly beyond holding hands and rubbing against each other’s fully-clothed bodies in Draco’s narrow bed in that tiny room with its single window overlooking the neighbours’ concrete garden walls with the broken glass embedded along their tops glinting in the moonlight . . .
Draco’s breath was hot against Harry’s throat as he seized Harry’s hand roughly and pushed it into the open fly of his jeans.
“Like what? Merlin, you’re so fucking hot? You make me need to come? Please suck my cock? What?”
Draco giggled – giggled – breathlessly.
“Don’t say ‘cock,’" he said. “ It makes me laugh.”
Harry grinned and pressed his palm against the warm expanse of cloth that still lay between his hand and Draco’s erection.
“And I told you to stop wearing pants.”
“Oh, so everyone can see when I get a hard-on watching you drink a Butterbeer . . .?”
“You get hard watching me drink Butterbeers?”
Even in the darkness, Harry saw Draco blush. And when he kissed Draco, he could feel his embarrassment on his lips, hot and dry like a fever.
“That’s okay,” he said. “I get hard watching you do nothing at all.”
Draco inhaled sharply and smiled into Harry’s neck.
“Say something,” he repeated.
“Draco, I need to feel you . . .”
Harry withdrew his hand and slid it under the waistband of Draco’s underwear, and suddenly Draco’s penis was in his hand, hotter than a brand . . .
“No,” Draco breathed. “Not in English . . .”
“Ah, you want Parseltongue again,” Harry said, grinning. “Even if you can’t bring yourself to say the word.”
“Fuck off,” said Draco, searching blindly for Harry’s mouth and snogging Harry’s nose for a moment by mistake. He was breathless, and his hips were already moving in quick piston-like thrusts over which, Harry knew from experience, Draco had little control.
“Actually, that’s quite appropriate because fucking you is all I can think about these days,” Harry said, the words slipping from his tongue like an oil-soaked ribbon of sound – a gliding sinuous stream of breath caressing Draco’s neck as Harry kissed his too-hot flesh.
“Oh!” Draco gasped. And then, “Don’t stop.”
“If I keep going, will you let me touch you . . . there?” Harry whispered in English.
Draco froze for a long moment, and Harry was sure he’d say no, but then he nodded quickly against Harry’s shoulder.
“Just . . . just keep talking,” he whispered.
Harry nodded. This was not the first time he’d asked, but it was the first time Draco hadn’t said no. Gently, Harry slid his hand down the length of Draco’s erection until his fingers curled around Draco’s scrotum, with his testicles pulled so tight against his body that Harry could barely move them at all. Draco moaned and spread his legs as Harry’s fingers paused to massage the hard ridge of muscle and engorged flesh that stretched from Draco’s tightly clutched balls to . . .
“Keep talking, Potter!” Draco said, his voice cracking with a potent combination of arousal and embarrassment. If this was the only way Draco could keep his nerve and thus the only way that Harry could finally touch Draco . . . there, well, then, it could hardly be considered an imposition.
Harry swallowed hard. His heart felt suddenly like it was pumping too much blood. More than a fist-sized organ was designed to accommodate . . .
“Draco, I’m telling you this in Parseltongue because you’d never let me say it to you in English. I want to be inside you. I want to feel a part of you I’ve never been able to touch before. I want to know what you feel like . . .”
Draco froze again, but only for a moment, when the tip of Harry’s middle finger finally found what it sought.
“This is so dirty,” he said, his face still buried in Harry’s neck.
Harry stopped stroking the damp puckered flesh with a heart-rending reluctance.
“Do you want me to stop?” he asked, drawing back so he could look into Draco’s face.
But Draco wouldn’t let him.
“No,” he said, hiding his face from Harry’s gaze once again. “But keep talking, okay?”
Harry kissed the tip of his ear and began whispering gentle nonsense as he continued rubbing Draco’s opening as though he were shining a Galleon. As hot as the rest of Draco was, it felt cool compared to the moist heat nestled between Draco’s tightly clenched arse cheeks, and Harry suddenly realised that as much as he longed to touch Draco here, he wanted even more to smell him and taste him and press the head of his penis against this patch of warm wet until he came.
Draco whimpered as Harry’s fingertip pushed past the ring of muscle. His hips had stilled as Harry had rubbed him, but now they started thrusting again. Probably despite himself, Draco was slowly driving Harry deeper, impaling himself on Harry’s finger . . .
“You’ll grow to like this,” Harry murmured in Parseltongue, watching as gooseflesh rippled down Draco’s arms with each liquid syllable. “I promise. I don’t care that it’s dirty. In fact, I like that it’s dirty. You make me feel dirty, Draco, and I love it. I love that I want to do things to you that I’d never thought I’d dream of wanting to do to anyone. I love what you do to me. I love how it feels, and I never want to give it up. I never want to give you up . . .”
Harry could feel Draco’s resistance weakening as the tension seemed to drain from his body with the sound of Harry’s voice. Slowly, incrementally, he loosened to accept Harry’s finger into his most intimate of openings. He was moaning now, on every exhale, his head lolling back on the pillow as his shyness seemed to ebb with each thrust of his hips. And all the while, Harry kept speaking his sibilant words. Saying how beautiful Draco was. How perfect. How unbearably hot.
“Can I . . .?” Draco gasped, reaching for Harry’s hip. “Can I touch you, too?”
Harry surprised himself by blushing furiously. His only thought had been of touching Draco there, not to have Draco touch him in return . . .
“Er . . .”
“Please,” Draco pleaded. His eyes glittered in the moonlight filtering through the lace curtain, and with his guard down and the colour high in his cheeks, he looked even younger than his eighteen years.
“Please. I want . . . I want us to stay the same.”
And even though he wasn’t one hundred percent positive that he knew what Draco meant, Harry nodded. They were the same age, the same height and weight, both Seekers, and both orphans. They both drank their tea strong with milk and sugar, and they both fought like feral dogs when they were cornered. They both usually ejaculated prematurely, and they both were always hard again in ten minutes. They both had watched their mothers die, though neither of them could recall the events clearly, and at night, when they slept, they both reached blindly for the other, clutching pyjamas and fingers and strands of hair, as though they were twins separated at birth and seeking again that perfect union, head-to-toe and toe-to-head, like two comma-sized clusters of cells in the same womb. Like Ying and Yang curled around each other in faded floral sheets.
“All right,” Harry breathed.
Wordlessly, they drew apart and struggled out of their jeans and underwear, their legs long and skinny, and compared with their t-shirt clad torsos, deathly white in the moonlight. Harry watched mesmerised as Draco put his finger in his mouth and sucked for a minute. When at last he withdrew it, a strand of saliva followed, hanging, glistening like a spider’s thread for an instant before breaking.
Draco giggled nervously.
“Gross,” he breathed. And then, “Come here.”
Harry wet his own finger, realising as he did so that what he tasted on his skin was Draco’s most secret scent. And the thought made his balls clench and his cock pump out a thick white strand. Harry moaned – a breathless feverish sound in the quiet room.
“Don’t come yet,” Draco murmured as he reached around Harry and fumbled to spread his arse cheeks before the spit on his finger could dry. They were laying on their sides, facing each other, their cocks brushing with every twitch. “Think of pickled toads or something.”
Harry giggled and wormed his way closer to Draco until their foreheads, the tips of their noses, their chests, their cocks, and their knees touched each other. Harry could feel Draco’s brow furrowing in concentration as he struggled artlessly to wriggle his finger into Harry’s anus.
“I always knew you were a tight-arse, Potter,” he said teasingly. Harry tried hard to relax, but it seemed the harder he tried, the tighter he clenched. So, instead he decided to focus on Draco and seeking that hot moist exquisite opening again.
He knew when he found it as much by Draco’s sharp inhalation as by the sudden give beneath his still-wet finger, and before Draco had the chance to force him out, he pressed in deeply.
“Not fair!” Draco squeaked, but Harry shut him up with a kiss that was wet and deep and sloppy and in perfect tempo with his frenetic fingering of Draco’s arse.
“Come on, Harry,” he half-whimpered, half-whined. “Let me in.”
Harry laughed because, really, getting finger fucked by Draco was like doing pretty much anything else with Draco. A breathless, headlong competition in which the goal was not nearly as important as beating Harry to it.
“Your finger’s too dry, you prat.”
“Oh, for the love of . . . Potter, just turn over!”
And suddenly Harry’s finger was bereft of that soft tightly clinging hole, and Draco was rolling him on to his stomach.
“What are you . . . ?”
And then Harry felt it. Hands on his arse, spreading him open, and then . . . oh my god! . . . a tongue. A tongue, there!
This time it was Harry who squeaked, but Draco didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy licking and sucking and wriggling the tip of his tongue into Harry’s arse. His cheeks flaming with embarrassment, Harry raised himself up on his elbows and craned his neck, but all he could see was Draco’s hair, pale in the moonlight, and the white outline of a grinning bee on the back of Draco’s Wimbourne Wasps t-shirt, and Draco’s bare arse desperately humping the bunched-up duvet in a way that told Harry he was close to coming . . .
But this time Harry groaned rather than squeaked. Draco wasn’t doing this because Harry wanted him to, but because he did. Because it turned him on as much as Harry knew it would turn him on to be doing to Draco what Draco was doing to him. It was so dirty and so debauched and so amazingly right that Harry suddenly – and rather crazily – wondered if this meant he and Draco were married now, because surely two people couldn’t do what they were doing and not be bound together forever . . .
Harry let his head drop and spread his legs and relaxed completely as he began to mirror Draco’s own actions by thrusting his hips into the mattress. With each forward thrust he felt his cock slide against the sweat-soaked sheet and with each backward thrust, Draco’s tongue pressed deeper into his arse, and before he even knew he was about to come, he was coming, and Draco was crawling feverishly on top of him and frantically thrusting into the crack of Harry’s arse with a dozen breathless “Oh! Oh! Oh! Ohs!” Straining beneath him, Harry tried as hard as he could to arch his back in a way that would give Draco entrance to his body, but Draco was too far gone to even realise what Harry was trying to do, and after a few more thrusts and a couple of more “Ohs!” Draco’s cock was pulsing, and suddenly Harry’s arse was soaked and as slick as soap.
Draco collapsed on top of him, panting for breath.
“Holy shit,” he said at last when he finally found himself capable of speech. “We almost fucked, Potter! I mean really and truly fucked!”
And then because they were boys and everything was new and scary and hilariously funny all at the same time, they laughed hysterically until Mrs. Weasley stomped on the floor for them to shut up . . .
Harry jolted out of the doze he’d fallen into, but it wasn’t someone stomping on the ceiling that had woken him, but someone stomping up the narrow stairs outside his door. He blinked and rolled on to his back, trying to remember where he was and cursing whoever it had been who’d yanked him so thoughtlessly from his memories of Draco. Now that he was no longer in the midst of them, the pain washed in to fill the hollow places, like waves amidst tidal pools. And for a second Harry was sure that he would drown.
Shaking his head in confusion, Ron stepped from the elevator.
“Did you find him all right?” Euan asked.
Ron frowned and scratched his chin distractedly for a moment.
“No, actually I didn’t. He wasn’t in the park where he said he would be.”
Euan’s mouth pressed into a thin, worried line.
“Do you think he’s already been arrested – maybe by another Auror department or something?”
Ron shook his head.
“No, I would have been informed, since it’s my responsibility to see that everyone accused by the Report Generators is apprehended.”
“Do you think that maybe, I don’t know . . . , that maybe he might have run away?”
Ron turned to glare at Euan.
“Harry has never run from anything in his life,” he said fiercely, but then added when he noticed Euan’s quizzical glance, “well, at least not from anything that didn’t involve getting over that stupid, stuck-up git.”
Euan was silent for a long moment.
“I’m not sure I would blame him,” he said quietly. “I mean after all, he faces a lifetime in Azkaban for something he didn’t do.”
Ron dragged his hands through his hair wearily.
“Yeah, I know.”
They walked down the corridor to the Report Inspectors’ Office, their heads down and their hands crammed deep into the pockets of their Auror robes. Two other inspectors besides Euan were also on duty that evening, but Ron had sent them out of the office on long and fruitless tasks, assuring them that he, himself, would take their places, and if they didn’t complete their assignments before their shifts ended, well, then it would be just fine with him if they went straight home.
“It was eerie when you left,” Euan said, as they entered the Inspectors’ Office. “I’ve never been down here completely alone before.”
Ron sat down at a desk and pulled a blank sheet of parchment out of a drawer, barely repressing a shudder at Euan’s words.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” he said. “You start thinking about how it’s just you . . . and them.”
“So, I take it you’ve never actually seen them, then?” Euan leaned over the Pensieve and peered into its depths.
“Of course not! No one has,” said Ron. “Well, a few people have, but it’s not something they’re free to discuss at dinner parties, or anything. I mean, what if one of those people is someone’s son or daughter or something? We’d have a right mess on our hands.”
“Well, obviously those three are someone’s sons or daughters. It’s not like Voldemort moulded them from clay or something,” Euan said as he straightened and walked over to his desk.
“I know that,” Ron growled. “I just mean, what if someone was in a position to make a stink about their treatment? It’s just easier this way. Assign people names, and all of a sudden you give them histories and identities and rights and all kinds of things. It’s the same as it was with the executions. The public didn’t have access to names, only to numbers . . .”
“Which, of course, leaves one to wonder if all the people we executed deserved it,” said Euan thoughtfully. “I mean, come on, Ron. You and I both know there were people embedded as spies by the Order who were never accounted for . . .”
“You’ve spent too much time with Harry.”
“Harry may have been obsessed, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. I know you didn’t like Malfoy, but do you really believe he defected to Voldemort’s side?”
“All I know is that he disappeared and left my best mate a walking zombie in a dream,” Ron snapped. “And if you knew Malfoy like I did, Euan, you wouldn’t find the thought of him dumping Harry for the opportunity to make a clean start somewhere else that unlikely. That’s Malfoy through-and-through, actually. Use the most powerful person in the room until somebody else walks in . . .”
“Oh, thank Merlin!” cried Euan suddenly, interrupting Ron. He leapt up and ran back over to the Pensieve. “Finally!”
“What it is?” asked Ron, rising from his chair so fast that it almost fell over.
“Report Generator Number One’s prediction is finally available,” replied Euan. “God, that took forever!”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” barked Ron. “Get writing!”
For nearly fifteen minutes, Euan alternated between ducking his head into the wash-tub sized Pensieve and withdrawing it to scribble frantically on a piece of parchment on his desk. Every now and then, he made sounds of exclamation and alarm, and Ron found himself biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself from exploding with tension. At last, Euan threw his quill down and turned his chair to face Ron.
“All right, here’s the Report. It appears Harry will receive a letter by owl from an anonymous sender telling him Hermione Granger may have been kidnapped by a man . . . her boss, it appears . . .”
Ron started violently.
Euan looked up from the parchment he was holding, white-faced.
“Oh sweet Merlin,” he said. “That’s right. I’d forgotten you and Hermione had been engaged at one time . . .”
“Keep reading,” Ron said frantically. “What else does it say?”
“Uhm . . . hang on . . . you know how grabbled these Reports can be sometimes. . . Okay, so Harry will receive this letter and Apparate directly to Hermione’s flat with his wand drawn. And that’s it, really. The Report just ends with him knocking on her door. We’ll have to wait until the next Report is ready before we know more. But this is about as clear as it gets, Ron. There’s an obvious intent on Harry’s part . . .”
“Well, that may be true,” said Ron desperately. “But it’s hardly unjustified!”
Euan watched nervously as Ron jumped to his feet and prepared to Apparate.
“Where are you going?” he asked. “The next Report should be ready soon . . .”
“Just up to my office,” said Ron. “I have a pamphlet from that new do-gooder charity organisation that Hermione started working for a month ago. I heard from a mutual friend about it, and . . . well, I suppose I just like to keep track of what she’s up to . . .” His voice trailed off lamely.
“You think that pamphlet might tell you who this boss of hers might be?”
“That’s what I was thinking, yes,” said Ron. “I’ll just grab it and come right back.”
“Then you wouldn’t mind if I step out for a quick fag, then?” asked Euan.
“I thought you quit when you and Colin moved in together?”
“I did,” said Euan, pulling a pack of cigarettes from a desk drawer. “But if ever there was a time for a relapse, it’s now. Just one, though, I promise. I won’t be gone for long.”
Harry pushed himself off the bed and staggered to the sink. The water smelled mossy, and he was sure that if he turned on a light, he’d discover it was brownish coloured. Holding his breath, he splashed his face and throat and then patted himself dry with his shirt. It was hardly a cold shower, but it still worked somewhat to lessen his arousal. As always, he would just have to ride it out. Wanking, after all, was not an option. He’d discovered that the hard way after indulging one time while reliving the night he and Draco had finally made love – each taking a turn topping so as, in Draco’s words, they could “stay the same.” It was the first time he’d had an orgasm since Draco’s disappearance, and he’d come so hard his foot had cramped. But after the last spasm had subsided, he’d been left defenceless and spent and terribly vulnerable to every remembered whisper and sigh and barely-suppressed glimmer of laughter in Draco’s November sky eyes. It had been not the first moment, but it had been the surest and clearest, in which Harry had glimpsed the future. The rest of his life. And it had been almost more than he could bear. When at last he’d been able to move again, to take a breath without thinking it would tear him apart, he’d vowed never again. So now, on those rare occasions when he wanked in the shower, he pictured nameless, generically muscled men he’d seen in porno magazines. Men who looked nothing at all like Draco. And when he came, he watched his semen wash down the drain with nothing but a sense of “good riddance.”
Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and stared out the window. Ned’s ID was on the bedside table, so he was Harry again. Exhausted, he found himself wondering whether living life as Ned Noodginton couldn’t help but be easier than living life as Harry Potter. After all, Ned Noodginton didn’t go to Hogwarts, and thus Ned Noodginton would have had no occasion to meet one, Draco Malfoy, and fall helplessly hopelessly in love . . .
What could Ned Noodginton know of love?
Harry laughed ruefully, and the sound was overly loud in the three a.m. darkness. How had his life become so surreal so suddenly? How had all his carefully constructed defences been dismantled so quickly and ruthlessly by circumstances so completely beyond his control? It seemed too cruel to be coincidence, and he found himself wondering again whether this could possibly be a set-up. After all, Ron had told him that these Report Generators were former Death Eaters. Was it really so impossible that two of them had emerged enough from the spell they were under to formulate a plan to revenge their Lord’s death? Voldemort had been dead now for five years. What if the spell was linked to his power and was slowly eroding over time? What if these . . . things . . . were once again turning into people? People with agendas? People who wanted revenge?
Feeling suddenly cold, Harry shuddered and reached for his jumper. Hermione and her group were right. The system was fundamentally unjust. There seemed to be no means of verifying the Reports and no means of challenging them, either. The word of three anonymous Death Eaters had essentially become the law of the land! There were no trials. No evidence. No defence. No jury of peers or even a majority vote by the Wizengamot. It was merely three spell-damaged vegetables dreaming dreams of violence in a windowless room. It was merely the word of three people enslaved – even beyond the grave! – to the Darkest Wizard Britain had ever known. Not only was it a system based on faith, and not laws, like Hermione had said. It was faith without even a foundation of trust!
Harry swallowed back the wave of nausea that always accompanied a memory of Voldemort. It had been Voldemort, after all, who had taken away everything that had ever been good in his life. Why was it so surprising that he would continue to do so even now? All one had to do was look around, and the reminders of the ravages of the war were still everywhere. Empty shop fronts and burnt-out homes. The maimed, the dead, the missing. Sometimes it was more than Harry could bear to think about, and he wondered how other veterans of the war managed to live their lives of seeming normalcy after months and years of blood and fire and fear and death . . .
“When was the last time someone was murdered? When was the last time someone was beaten within an inch of his life? When was the last time someone was raped, or kidnapped, or spell-damaged beyond repair? Not since the war ended, that’s when! And do you want to know why? It’s because every single violent crime has been accurately predicted by the Report Generators . . .”
Harry started as Ron’s words came back to him, and suddenly it was as though Ron were present in the room and sitting beside him, whispering into his ear. And suddenly, Harry’s thoughts seemed to still and coalesce. He had been reminded of the war so forcibly over the past few hours that he’d almost forgotten how much had changed since then. How many things were different now. And hadn’t he seen living proof of this very fact when he’d gone to the christening of Dean and Katie’s daughter last month? Hadn’t he held this baby in his arms whose soft brown eyes would never have to watch a friend die or a parent weep inconsolably? Someday, in the not-too-distant future, Harry and everyone else who lived through the war would be laid to rest, and the people who remained would be those for whom life had always been peaceful. Peaceful and free from fear . . .
Harry groaned in frustration. He was exhausted and afraid and confused. In Hermione’s warmly lit flat, full of the scent of tea and take-away curry, and the hopeful faces of people whose minds were made up much more firmly than Harry’s would ever be, things had made sense. But now – alone in the dark with memories of Draco and the war tangling around his thoughts like skeins of ivy – nothing seemed clear. After all, what made Hermione right and Ron wrong? Hermione claimed to be looking out for allegedly innocent people in Azkaban, but Ron had four years of solid data on his side. After all, there really had been no violent crime in the wizarding community since the institution of the Pre-Curse Programme. And there was simply no way that could be attributed to a sudden change in human nature. People didn’t suddenly stop killing and raping and stealing and hurting one another for no reason. The crime stopped because the criminals had been apprehended before they could commit their crimes. The proof was in the results, and it was irrefutable.
Suddenly, all Harry wanted to do was to talk to Ron. Just talk. He hadn’t made up his mind yet about what he would do. All he knew is that he couldn’t make this big of a decision alone. Aside from a few relatively minor disagreements over the years, Ron had always been there for him. And as close as Harry was to Hermione, he also had to acknowledge that what she had done to him tonight – tricking him with a letter saying she was in danger, for Merlin’s sake! – was just not on. It smacked of manipulation, and if there was one thing Harry couldn’t abide, it was being manipulated. Despite his faults and his short-comings, that was something that Ron had never done to him. Never. Not once.
His mind made up, Harry gathered his few belongings and prepared to Apparate to the DMLE building. If there was one thing he could be sure of, he knew that despite Harry’s unexplained disappearance, Ron was still doing everything in his power to help him. And if there was one thing he felt like he needed right now, it was someone on his side, and his alone. Not someone who was also trying to push an agenda. No matter how righteous it seemed.