Don't be surprised
at the way it is
I've broken bones for less
Harry ran under the brambles, under the scudding, dirty clouds, under the jaundiced light of the moon. Through the flickering gaps in black treetops, and beyond the forbidding walls, Malfoy Manor loomed, announcing its presence with the same crisp articulation and architectural relish as a Malfoy announced his own name. Behind him the hell-hounds were barking furiously, and Harry could feel rather than hear the rhythm of black hooves striking the ground in pursuit of him.
It was hard to think, with the echoing shouts of Ron and Hermione in his ears, hard to think about anything except whether they lived or-- didn't. It was necessary to think, as icy air cut ribbons in his throat and branches left stinging trails on his cheeks, back to Hogwarts, sifting frantically through his memories of Draco's bragging for any clue to a back entrance or side gate or-- house elves! Harry swerved away from the Manor's sneering facade and prickly iron gates, and ran faster, gasping loudly now. There'd be a doorway in the walls for the elves, and they might have to slit their throats before they helped him, but surely it was only worth a beating to stand aside and let him through.
"Linum ducens," he choked out, and scrambled after the silver thread as it unrolled into dense shrubbery only a house-elf could walk through. Sharp stones tore at his knees and palms as he crawled, but the thread rippled encouragingly and behind him, the sounds of pursuit exploded into yowls of frustration as his trail disappeared into a maze only an elf or a skinny fifteen-year-old could pass.
Under a hedge, over an ancient log, through a pile of massive granite boulders and Harry came face to face with a small green door, embedded in the same forbidding stone as the high walls around Malfoy Manor. He jerked frantically at the fish-shaped latch, which seemed almost apologetic as it refused to budge. There was an explosion behind him, and shouts of anger. The world was tilting, going hazy at the corners, sliding out of view, and Harry drew one steadying breath, drew himself up on his knees, and knocked. The door flew open.
"Harry Potter mustn't come here!" the elf hissed, and promptly butted her head against the doorjamb. "The Master will find him if Harry Pot--"
"It's okay," Harry lied, crawling in past her. "Draco will be happy to see me."
He had hoped, desperately, to cower in the Manor kitchens until the search had passed on, but all around him elves were hitting themselves with frypans, slamming their hands in oven doors, and splashing their own faces with sizzling oil. Their tortured screams echoed off the low ceilings and close walls.
"Please, Harry Potter must go!" one very elderly elf pleaded, burning her hand on a griddle and trying to keep a child-elf from stabbing herself with a paring knife. Harry had no choice but to let himself be bundled out the door and into a deserted hallway.
Voices were coming from some distant room on the right -- "you tell him!" "No, you tell him!" -- so Harry ran left, trying doorknobs that snarled and bit at his fingers, ducking under a sword as a suit of armour took a swing at him, hiding his face from the paintings-- "who's that? Intruder! Sound the alert!" -- which shouted as he went past.
"Silencio!" he hissed at them, but they laughed.
"Little Wizard, smell his muddied blood, look at his filthy face, we'll decorate our frames with your skin, Little Wizard." Ron would have had a comeback, but Harry just ran on. At the end of the hallway, a staircase led up to another corridor, stretching out in both directions. To the right, the carpet was black and green, snakes hissing and winding in faded celtic knots. To the left, bloodied roses were woven into a carpet of black and red. The right-hand corridor was dotted with more portraits and suits of armour; Harry went left. The doorknobs had thorns on them, and refused to turn, but ahead was an open door and through it, Harry could see wide windows and shafts of wan moonlight. He kept his head down and ran to it, ducking inside just as footsteps sounded on stairs somewhere near him.
Leaning against the wall, he caught a few quick breaths and looked around for a hiding place. It took a few seconds for him to notice the figure sitting at the desk, quill poised above parchment, lips parted as if to smile. Shadowed eyes fixed on his. The slender body was held so perfectly still that not a fiber on his quill moved. The Master of Malfoy Manor. Draco Malfoy.
The footsteps were storming closer, along with hushed accusations of whose fault it was they'd lost the Potter boy. Harry closed his eyes in despair, but at the sound of a chair sliding back, they flew open again.
Malfoy's lips shaped their command silently: Move. Quick. He pointed behind the desk, and Harry wasted no time in obeying. The desk was huge, a black mahogany monstrosity, resting on a thick rug of more bloodied roses. Harry scrambled underneath it and tried to pull his shaking arms and legs into a tidy bundle.
"Silencio," Malfoy cast down, and then his face was raised towards Harry's pursuers as they entered. "You lost Potter," he announced flatly, and Harry shivered at the cold venom in his voice. "You were under strict orders -- do not speak until I give you permission." Inches from Harry, he stood, and his green and black robes brushed against Harry's tangled, dirty hair. "You were under strict orders to ignore any diversions the Mudblood and the Weasel created." Two fists slammed down onto the wood above Harry's head, and he started violently. There was a clatter from the other side-- somebody else was just as terrified. "And yet," Malfoy's voice dropped back down to a silky murmur, "here you are, traipsing into my study with your dirty boots and sweaty hands, to tell me you've captured the useless Muggle-lovers and let the Boy escape."
Harry was grateful for the silencing spell as his throat tightened painfully.
"But my Lord--"
"Shhh!" another hissed.
"Oh, no," Malfoy purred. "Do tell me exactly how sixteen grown Death Eaters were fooled by a couple of fifteen-year-olds."
It was almost funny, Harry thought, blinking back hysteria or tears, how the war was being run by children on the behest of two ancient wizards. Perhaps it was because all their parents ended up dead. Perhaps because they didn't understand the risks, perhaps they felt the urgency differently. Perhaps he'd understand it if he ever grew up himself.
"An illusion," one man stammered. "The hounds--"
"Were following the scent of Potter on his friends. And where did Potter go?"
"He vanished outside the walls, my Lord," another offered, sounding more regretful than afraid. Harry recognised the voice-- Walden Macnair, the Executioner.
"Wrong," Malfoy informed him coldly. "He entered the mansion through the elves' door. If you knew everything you are supposed to know about Potter, you'd know that even Malfoy house elves are not incapable of assisting him."
Harry's brief hopes were sinking faster than he could bolster them. Malfoy knew; of course he knew, a Manor this old was laced with spells like Hogwarts', was an extension of the body and will of its master. How else would he be here, how else would he rush into the very room he most wanted to avoid?
"The elves will be punished!" the Death Eaters snarled, and, "We will find the boy!"
"The elves already know my displeasure," Malfoy said, and Harry looked up in horror to see a smile flickering on his lips. "And you're too late, the boy is already beyond your reach." Malfoy still had the quill in his hand, and used it to trace Harry's face, unseeing. Harry shuddered, but the spell on him swallowed the sound. "Take his friends to the South Wing and hold them there."
"My Lord," they murmured, and the footsteps which had terrorised Harry all evening left, subdued.
Harry moved to stand, but Malfoy's hand pushed his head back under the desk. "Some supper, Macnair?"
"Maybe later," came that eerily calm voice. "Where did the boy go?"
Malfoy sat down, forcing Harry to crush himself into one corner. Surreptitiously, Malfoy was wiping his hand onto his robe-- there was mud from Harry's hair all over it. Holding his breath, Harry grabbed a fold of fabric and wiped the dirt off as quickly as he could. Malfoy's skin was pale and flawless, but his hand betrayed the faintest of tremors. Harry patted it when he was done, and it squeezed his fingers briefly before it was removed. "I don't know where Potter is," Malfoy was saying, and Harry felt a flutter of hope restart his heart, almost painfully. "Is it possible he's learned to apparate already?"
"Not that I've heard. More likely the house elves transported him somewhere."
"Go to Hogsmeade," Malfoy ordered. "He'll be wanting to rally the troops to rescue his--" that almost-indiscernible pause-- "friends. You know what to do."
"As you wish," Macnair said, and left.
"Obditum fores." The door slammed shut. Malfoy stood up, and Harry quickly clambered out to face him. There wasn't much left of the schoolboy he'd known six months ago, before the war broke out in earnest. Harry would never have believed, back then, that Malfoy would so callously betray his entire school to the Death Eaters. He'd never have believed, since then, that Malfoy would so calmly shield him from them. It had always been impossible to understand him, but Malfoy lived, apparently, to defy expectation. "I should kill you now," he said, almost idly. "It would gain me a lot of favour with the Dark Lord."
I'd like to see you try, Harry snapped, except the spell was still on him. Take this off! he shouted.
Malfoy smirked. "I like you quiet, Potter. You can't beg me to let your friends go. You can't call me names for punishing my disloyal elves. You're really quite helpless without your voice, and don't think I won't remember that. Finite incantatem," he added, and shrugged. Face bathed in moonlight, he gestured to the open window. "You can go, now."
Harry didn't move. "You're saving me? Why?"
"Why not? I'd rather not have your blood staining my mother's carpet."
"Come with me," Harry urged. "You could still--"
"I could still dishonour my family, betray my liege, and hand the Wizarding world over to the Muggles for safekeeping?" Malfoy sneered as if Harry had spilled a flask of goat's bile on the Potions classroom floor. "Of course I could. And you know I won't, so don't insult me by believing that I might."
"Why me, then?"
The look Malfoy gave him reminded him of the Potions classroom again, only it was a look that belonged to Snape. "Because you're Harry Potter," he said, softly and urgently and more than a little impatiently. "Because the universe clamours to protect you, and smites everything that would harm you. Because you're--" He leaned in and kissed him.
Outside, Harry could still hear the baying of the hell-hounds, the angry shouts of their masters. Somewhere inside this castle, his best friends were held at the mercy of Voldemort's mindless monsters. Hogwarts was under seige, Hogsmeade a smoking ruin. Harry had never been kissed before. He opened his mouth and kissed Malfoy back.
Kissing was so much more than Harry had ever expected. Malfoy was warm, for all his marble and alabaster air, luxuriant in his velvet robes, soft curves lingering in the flesh on his body. He kissed like it was midnight, and a full moon, and the middle of war which both sides were losing. Harry kissed him back like they were fifteen, and orphans, and had hands so scratched and dirty that no amount of scrubbing would ever restore them. Malfoy tasted like an adult, like the scent that lingered on the tables of the Three Broomsticks. Whatever it was, Harry hungered for more of it. Malfoy pulled away.
"You're filthy," he said, frowning. "And covered in blood. Sana. Purga."
Harry shook his head in disbelief as the dirt on him evaporated, and his skin closed up on a hundred cuts and scratches. "Let my friends go."
Malfoy ignored him. "Take this," he said, opening a drawer in the desk that hadn't been there until he reached for it. He removed a small box and flipped it open: in a green velvet lining lay a silver dagger, heavily engraved, reeking of dark magic. "It's portkeyed to Hogsmeade. Or," he added, without emotion, "where Hogsmeade used to be."
Harry reached out his hand, and felt magic like a million tiny snakes writhing out from the metal. He hesitated.
"My father died for making this." Malfoy looked down at it, lashes brushing his cheeks. "And my mother died for hiding it. Put it in the back, to the hilt, and it robs a wizard of all his power."
"Malfoy," Harry said, trying to catch his breath. Under his hand, the magic seethed and bubbled. "You know I can't use that."
The quiet vanished from Malfoy's face, replaced with angry contempt. "It's the only portkey I have," he snapped. "Take it and get out." He grabbed Harry's hands and shoved the box into them. "If I see you in here again, Potter, I will kill you." He turned on his heel and walked out.
Harry felt his throat tighten with nostalgia at the familiarity of it all: Draco Malfoy's disdain at his choice of friends, and his anger at a Quidditch match lost to Gryffindor; the swirl of his robes as he stormed out of the Transfigurations classroom with Crabbe and Goyle in tow. It had all been so harmless, once.
He looked down at the dagger in his hands, and closed the lid over it. When he reached for the hidden drawer, nothing appeared, so he placed the box carefully on the huge, bare expanse of Narcissa Malfoy's black mahogany desk. Sitting to one side was a crystal decanter and two tumblers, one had a half-inch of shimmering gold liquid in it. Curious, Harry raised it to his nose; it smelled like Malfoy had tasted. When he tasted it, though, it burned his mouth like poison.
Outside, the barking and shouting had died down. Harry needed to contact Dumbledore and get Ron and Hermione out. He needed to talk to Snape about the Manor's South Wing, and to Flitwick about the wards on it. He needed to tell the aurors that Macnair was skulking around Hogsmeade, or, he amended, almost without emotion, what was left of Hogsmeade. He needed to get back to the battle.
The moon outside was low in the sky now, and the shadows were deep and black. Harry checked his robes for his wand, checked below the window for a place to land. He climbed up on the sill and then hesitated, looking back at the box on the desk. It was Dark magic, the blackest. Malfoy shouldn't have offered it to him.
Harry dropped back down from the sill and opened the box again, upended it so that the dagger clattered loudly onto the wooden desk. He sat down in Malfoy's chair, and studied it. Once, he would have walked away from such a thing and never looked back. That hadn't been so long ago, but things were different now.
Draco had offered it. In the back, to the hilt-- a Malfoy heirloom and a Slytherin gift, under a full moon, in the middle of a war.
Harry took the crystal decanter and filled a tumbler. He drained the tumbler, and transfigured it into a red and gold rose. He put the rose in the green-lined box, closed it, closed his eyes, and closed his fingers around the dagger.
Innocence is what we want
Now even children think that way
Full moon, over dirty hearts
Full moon, in a dirty sky