Disclaimer: I wish I owned Harry, Draco and all the rest; they'd do a lot more stuff than they do in the books and it'd all be rated R through X. Alas, however, I do not.
Other info: Draco-centric. Sequel to Oath Breaker. Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa/Severus
Summary: Harry learns to live with the Malfoys. The Malfoys learn to live with Harry. The rest of the world learns to deal.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 Part 8
Draco woke in an empty bed with the curtains drawn back, allowing in sun and a warm breeze from the open window. He pushed up on his elbows, blinking in the light, and looked around for Harry. When he didn't see him, he found his robes from the night before and tossed them on, put on his shoes, and went outside.
Considering how high the sun was, he figured he'd slept to noon. No one was in the garden, much to his relief. He didn't want to meet anyone else. His family were all probably at work, either at the Ministry or in the greenhouse still being built, so he could avoid everyone if he sat at the lawn table and sulked.
He had to squeeze around into the chair. Made of ornately twisted iron, it had sunk an inch into the damp earth and refused to budge. He adjusted himself on the hard seat, then folded his arms and pillowed his head on the table.
Why was it that every time he felt like he had a handle on the world, the world completely upended itself?
Lunch was brought silently on a silver tray carried by Filly, who set it before him and disappeared again. A small roasted duck and a blood soup--something filling and restorative after last night. He ate quietly, and while it didn't make him feel any better, he felt a little more settled. Every rustle of leaves was no longer a muggle whispering around him. The trickle of light through the branches was not muggles looming over him. Despite his anxiety, he kept lunch in his stomach and counted that as a success.
He waited there another hour, watching the shadows slowly stretch across the garden. Only when he saw the regular owls bearing more envelopes than usual did he force himself to stand and walk through the french doors, through the empty hall of portraits. He noted the lack of a spiked brazier and wondered if his parents still intended to put a self-destruct trigger jinx in this manor, too.
The last owl flew not up to the owlry but down the hall. Curious, Draco followed it, giving a polite nod to Jeanne, the first Malfoy ancestor to return to her portrait. Voices came from the small room, and he spotted his father through the open doorway. At his footfall, Lucius glanced over his shoulder at him.
"Ah, Draco," Lucius said. "Good timing. I was about to send for you."
Tempted to ask "now what?", Draco instead held his tongue and came into the parlour. Immediately he was glad he hadn't been flip. Luna and Hermione sat side by side across from his father and Harry. All of them were dressed well enough for a formal meeting. Good thing his clothes had anti-rumpling charms on them. He sat down at the last chair and told himself that things couldn't be that bad if the minister or Dumbledore hadn't shown up.
As he took the letter his father held to him, Draco noticed how bare the parlour was. Despite Lucius feeling that they could receive guests here, aside from the lumos fixture and curtains, the room held only the chairs and table. The walls were smooth and unpapered. The floor held no rug. He resolved that when the tensions had eased a little, he and Harry would go shopping, no matter how much Harry complained.
"Hermione and I brought all of the questions mailed to us," Luna said helpfully. "Most of them were normal things you'd expect anyone to ask, but then we noticed a few that sort of stood out."
"Granger's turned into a reporter?" Draco murmured as he skimmed Dumbledore's letter.
In the elegant script of the headmaster's formal handwriting, a few words stood out--a polite request of their company, loose ends he wished to tie up, and a matter of imporance concerning the school. Draco set it aside to be forgotten. All of Dumbledore's letters were the same and he wasn't to be invited to the manor again. Too devious to be trusted even for their common good.
"I was helping compile the list," Hermione said. "There were hundreds of letters to go through."
Dismayed by the pile on the table, Draco gently tugged a few letters free and looked them over. Some of the questions were simple and expected, those with easy answers and no controversy.
Could dark wizards speak the old languages fluently? No, they had a broad vocabulary and a few could string songs together, but old French, Nordic, German, even the old English were purely spell speak now.
Did dark wizards worship the devil? Draco snorted. What part of "Morgana was raised in a convent and learned her craft from the servants of the one true God" had they missed during the last lecture?
Would the dark community be willing to expose those in their ranks who had committed murder and rape during night rides? His jaw clenched. Only if the Ministry would make reparations for stolen property and men, women and children hanged, crushed, burned and broken upon the wheel by their useful muggle idiots--first the Romans, then the Normans--
The sound of paper tearing forced him to relax before he accidentally ripped the letter in half. As if they'd let themselves be condemned for surviving during a war. He tossed it back on the pile in disgust, and his annoyance deepened when Hermione took it. Rotten little busybody always looked into everyone else's business.
"Ah, that's what upset you," she said. "There were a few others like this that we didn't bring. They, um, weren't so polite about the way they asked."
Draco couldn't bring himself to respond. His anger cleared the sleep from his head but he felt no better.
"How many howlers are we getting?" Harry asked, replying for him.
"Some," Luna admitted. "Not as many as I thought we would, but the ones we do get are awful."
"One of them almost poisoned us when we opened it," Hermione said. "Remus is looking for who sent that."
"It's to be expected," Lucius said. "It's a pleasant surprise that there isn't a mob on the lawn."
Hermione's smile was scrupulously polite. "I think that's more to do with your reputation."
"They're not scary," Harry scoffed. His look clearly meant that the Malfoys were annoying and cranky at times, but he didn't say so out loud.
"The muggle borns aren't as bad," Luna said, ignoring Harry's remark. "They weren't brought up the way purebloods were. It's the purebloods who want revenge."
"Not all of them," Hermione said quickly. "The ones too young to remember nightrides. The only fighting they've seen was always started by Death Eaters, and they can separate them from Knights of Walpurgis in their heads."
"It's the older ones," Luna said. "They're the danger. I think some of them would rather see the fighting go on and some won't be happy unless..."
Her voice trailed off. She didn't have to complete the thought. They all knew it. Some in Britain wouldn't be happy until every dark wizard was dead.
"They have some reason for their hate," Lucius offered. "Night rides were one of our best weapons, and we could perform them masked."
Hermione tilted her head. "What difference does a mask make?"
"The mask brings with it a kind of change," Lucius said, and his voice grew softer in memory. "A feeling of power against an overwhelming enemy. Since we were trying to blend into their society, it let our soldiers fight without fearing an attack on our family. And it gave us a bit of...separation. Distance from what we were doing."
Out of the silence, Hermione hesitated before asking. "What happens on a night ride?"
"Depends on the era," Lucius said. "Those of the last few decades were straightforward asssassinations. Sometimes they were for finding information."
"And before?" she asked. "Is it true what they said?"
He half-smiled. "The light wizards set our children on fire, if they didn't condemn them to Azkaban. We had the element of surprise at night. What do you imagine we would do?"
Her mind conjured up dozens of images of her own imagining. She opened her mouth to speak, found she couldn't and looked at the letter in her hand. Reparations? How could they even begin to calculate what each side owed each other? How could they give a price to each dead family member? And even if they did, even if somehow they came to a price and exchanged monies, there would be those that demanded more, than the exchange was not truly just, and that it was only right to demand more, more, more.
"This is...insane," she breathed. The word seemed too small for what she was seeing.
"It runs deep," Lucius said. "You're too young to know how deep. But do you understand what a miracle this is? Draco would not have risked it if he hadn't had sanctuary and Dumbledore's protection."
Draco didn't speak. He didn't like to think about that time in the castle. This animosity couldn't be as bad as the uncertainty, not knowing if his mother and father were alive, not knowing if the Ministry would try to take him, not knowing if he was all alone and if all his friends had died in the forest. He knew he couldn't have revealed himself if he hadn't had so little to lose.
Luna held out a scroll with a list. Draco gently took it, loath to read it, and found the highlighted questions quickly.
"'Are dark wizards crossbreeds?'" he laughed without humor. "'Do these crossbreeds have access to magical power?' Bastard isn't giving up, is he?"
"A tad obvious who asked, isn't it?" Luna nodded. "Even though Fudge is well off the guest list, I'm sure he's working on getting an invitation to the next talk you give. Have you chosen the place yet?"
Draco shook his head. "Things have been a little strained after that last talk. I haven't paid it much mind yet."
"Have you thought about Hogwarts?" Hermione asked, piping up a little too conveniently. She continued over Draco's incredulous look. "I know it needs repairs--"
"'Repairs'?" Draco echoed, surprised she could even suggest it. "It's wrecked. There are huge holes in it--I know, I went through them--it's flooded, the bloody tower is off..."
"It's a symbol of the war we just fought," she interrupted. "Both of us, side by side. It would be a good reminder to everyone that you were vital to killing Voldemort."
Or remind everyone that dark wizards were rumored to have transformed into taboo miscegenations of magical creatures, and then later fled aurors. He sighed and leaned back in his seat. At night, dark wizards had their wild rides, and during the day, the aurors had their raids.
"Kind of like a promise," Luna said. "That both sides can help rebuild. Especially if you don't divide us up into light and dark, but just say we're all students."
A nice sentiment. He thought it might work, too, if the crowd he faced wasn't all that hostile. The conversation dwindled quickly when Draco didn't respond except to say he would keep it in mind.
He managed to scrape himself together enough to see them out, but he was in no mood to talk to anyone. He left Harry talking to Hermione and Luna on the front step and retreated back to the parlor. A warm sunbeam lay across the sofa, and he curled up like a cat, closing his eyes.
The sofa dipped as someone sat next to him. He didn't look to see. By the weight, he could tell it was Harry. His husband touched his hair, then leaned over him, cheek to cheek.
"Mmf," Draco mumbled, shifting under him. "Ger'off. You're heavy. And you're in my sun."
Harry chuckled and didn't move.
"Love you, too," he said. "Maybe you should go back to sleep. You had a rough night."
Draco squeezed his eyes tighter and shook his head once.
"Just tired." He nestled his head in the crook of his arm, shading his eyes from the sun. "I don't want to try another lecture. I don't want to do anything."
Harry didn't answer except to nod once and adjust his weight so he wasn't completely on Draco. When they were both comfortable, Harry reached up and undid the top handful of buttons on Draco's tight robes.
Draco tensed, then forced himself to relax. "Harry..."
"Just loosening the collar," Harry said. "That's all. Like I'd try something on the couch when someone might pop in."
Draco grumbled, but Harry only loosened his clothing to make him comfortable, then lay still behind him. Nestled together, Draco felt surprisingly comfortable despite how heavy Harry was. He yawned and fidgeted only a little, listening to the birds singing outside.
I'm sorry, Draco wanted to say. He felt he should. He shouldn't have pressed and he shouldn't have lied, and then he shouldn't have overreacted and stayed hidden. He shouldn't have made everyone panic. But at the same time, he wanted to snap at Harry and tell him not to hide things or suddenly force things on Draco, or to scare him out of his bloody mind when he knew damn well Draco was terrified of muggles. It wasn't like Draco could've known how badly Harry was neglected and abused--
He cut off that train of thought as he felt himself growing angrier. That wasn't what he wanted. And he decided he wouldn't apologize when Harry was just as much at fault, if not moreso. After all, he told himself, if Harry would just do everything Draco's way, things would run perfectly smooth. A shame that marrying into the Malfoys didn't make him any less Gryffindor.
Well, if he wasn't going to apologize...Draco half-smiled.
"I love you," he said. There. That summed it all up perfectly. Satisfied with himself, he closed his eyes and drifted to sleep, just barely catching Harry's drowsy laugh and reply.
When he opened his eyes again, dragged from sleep so that his head felt like a lead weight, the sun had shifted considerably across the sky and the fire was crackling in the hearth, warming the room against the chill. How long had they slept? He glared at Filly as she mumbled. The feral thing was learning how to be a proper elf again, but her fangs still hadn't shrunk enough to make speaking easy.
"--sorry to has to wakes you, Masters, but Master Severus is sending for yous. Right away, right away, the Headmaster is here in the garden."
Yawning, Draco sat up and blinked heavily. The nap had only made him more tired. Behind him, Harry stretched and hopped off the couch, smiling as he wiped the wrinkles out of his robe. Draco glared at him and rolled his eyes when Harry held his hand to him, taking it with a huff as Harry helped him to his feet.
"You're entirely too cheerful for just waking up," he said, yawning again.
"It was a good sleep," Harry said. He did up the buttons on Draco's robe so that he didn't look like he'd just rolled out of bed. "And if Dumbledore wants us, then it's bound to be something exciting."
"Exactly what I don't want to hear," Draco said. "Why is he even here anyway? My parents don't want him in the house."
"Let's go find out," Harry said, opening the door.
Draco smiled indulgently, but Harry standing at the closed door bothered him. It took a moment for him to realize that when they'd gone to sleep, the door had been open. That meant someone had closed it for them, probably to give them some undisturbed shut-eye. But if his parents had done that, they wouldn't have tried to rouse him to meet Dumbledore, not when he wasn't supposed to be there at all. As they walked through the empty halls, their footsteps loud without any carpets yet on the floor, he listened for voices and heard only Dumbledore's and...Severus.
He almost stopped. His parents weren't home and Severus had allowed in Dumbledore, when he had been forbidden from meeting him at all. Not that Severus was a slave, but Lucius ruled the house. To disobey the patriarch was... He hissed in a breath, not at all happy with that thought.
First I act like a complete fool, he thought to himself. And now Sev is working himself into a mess, just trying to get disowned.
Then again...his master had been a great double--no, triple spy--for the dark lord, the Order of the Phoenix and the dark wizards. He would give Severus the benefit of the doubt until proved wrong. He hoped his parents wouldn't be home any time soon. He didn't think they would be as forgiving or understanding.
He frowned. Then again, his parents would probably not give Sev up, let alone send him out of the house. Not for acting foolish. If they sent away family for being foolish, then none of them would be left. No, if they discovered that the headmaster had been in the house, they would probably lock Sev down in one of the cells in the dungeon where he worked.
He grimaced as that train of thought led to a horrific image flashing in his head, and he shook himself to get rid of it.
"Are you okay?" Harry whispered as they came to the french doors, opening one side. "You've gone red."
"Just some things a child shouldn't have to imagine about their parents," Draco whispered back.
Severus and Dumbledore sat at the garden table as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Tea had been served. Harry went forward quickly with a smile, clearly not thinking that anything was amiss, and as Draco steeled himself to face the old wizard, a second pair of teacups appeared. He eyed them with distrust. The elves usually brought them by hand. Did Dumbledore's presence intimidate the elves from appearing? Doubtful. They were too mindful of painful kicks for any disobedience. So this tea was a conjuration from Dumbledore. Who knew what the headmaster might have laced it with?
He sat down with the same smile Lucius kept for the Ministry. Trickery, everything must be polite trickery, he told himself, and he took the teacup in his hands, allowing his right hand to tremble just a little so that it seemed he wanted the hot tea to warm the old injury.
"Mr. Malfoy, Harry," Dumbledore said with a smile to match Harry's. "It's good to see you again. It's been too long since my last visit."
"Since the attack on the theater," Draco nodded.
"Quite so," Dumbledore nodded. "It was most trusting of your family to invite Scrimgeour and I to the manor, especiallly when we were all so suspicious of each other."
"I notice he isn't here with you," Draco said. "I hope he's well."
"Quite well," Dumbledore said. "In fact, he arranged for this visit, although I was hoping to find your parents as well."
Severus stiffened. If Dumbledore noticed, he pretended not to, but long nights in the workshop beside a temperamental potions master had left Draco as sensitive to his master's moods as a house elf. This meeting was certainly not arranged, nor did Dumbledore have any intention of telling his parents. How was Severus planning on asking Draco not to tell, or had Dumbledore not mentioned this verbal sleight of hand to him in the first place?
"I believe they went to the continent to find new furnishings," Draco said. "I'm sure they'll be home soon."
No wonder his parents wanted Dumbledore kept at a distance. He was too dangerous, and all the moreso because he had Severus in hand. Still...the headmaster kept angling for a proper invitation. Lucius had proved too elusive for the Ministry and Harry--
Harry was being remarkably quiet. Draco realized that by now Harry should have offered up a visit anytime Dumbledore wanted, and that Harry would be sure to welcome him. This should have all gone to hell in a handbasket by now. He glanced at him and was surprised to see his own polite smile mirrored back at him.
Draco tried not to show his discomfit. Since when did Harry have any subtle guile? How did Harry know not to trust Dumbledore when he'd trusted him for so long? Draco was so sure he hadn't given anything away in his expression, and Severus kept his own face carefully schooled.
Whatever. Draco would be grateful for it now and worry about it later.
"Unfortunately," Dumbledore said, "the matter I come upon is of some urgency. If you remember, could you tell me what was the condition of the Slytherin dungeons after they had flooded?"
The dungeons? Draco blinked at the shift. What did the dungeons have to do with anything? Hogwarts mentioned again in such a short span of time. Did Dumbledore know that Luna and Hermione had just been to the manor on that subject?
"The dungeon's completely submerged in parts," Draco said. "All the doors I could see were destroyed. If the water hadn't devoured the magic on the locks, then the sheer force of the first wave had torn them off their hinges."
"Was anything alive from the lake?" Dumbledore asked. "I know you were attacked by the kraken, and that the poor thing had to be destroyed."
So he had been talking with Hermione. Besides him and Harry, of their companions that evening only she was still in England.
"Yes, it had been covered in the same runes as the dragons that almost ate us," Draco said. "Controlled by the dark lord, no doubt."
"Most likely, yes," Dumbledore said. "There was nothing else threatening in the water?"
"Just bodies," Draco said. "Grindylows and fish and such."
"At least there is that, then," Dumbledore said. "The underwater passages will probably be lengthy, but nothing that cannot be overcome."
"You're going under there?" Harry asked. "You can't. The walls were leaking when we were under there. If it hasn't fallen down yet, it will soon."
"It hasn't fallen, thank goodness," Dumbledore said. "But that is all the more reason I must go. If Hogwarts collapses, there will be little hope of ever rebuilding it, at least where it currently stands."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, leaning forward.
Squashing his irritation, Draco glanced at Severus and noticed the same annoyance. Harry was caught up in the lure of adventure and saving the world again. And here he was hoping that the adventures would stop for awhile.
"Professor Snape and I were examining the spells involved in the flood," Dumbledore said, indicating the scrolls in front of them. "It seems that the flood, the window that exploded, and the chandelier at the Bredgett Opera all have the same base spell in common."
Draco looked at the photographs Dumbledore motioned towards. Each of them showed pieces of stones or glass that had been reassembled, all of them inscribed with a rune. He recognized the runes as meaning fire and serpent, and the shards from the chandelier held the rune for chalice. That of the Hogwarts window held both chalice and stone.
"The other traps we found in Hogwarts were similar," Dumbledore said. "But at the time we did not know how they are used in dark magic."
Dumbledore left the question hanging in the air. Draco was faced with a dilemma--explain how they used the runes or refuse and seem like a villainous dark wizard. He agonized and made his decision in a split second.
"Short hand and camoflauge," Draco admitted.
"Short hand?" Dumbledore echoed.
"It's faster to carve two runes than two words in English. Less chance of getting caught. And many meanings can be created out of just a couple of runes." He looked not at Dumbledore but Severus. "These spells are already used up, though. There's one still in the school?"
"Under it, most likely," Severus said. "Not an explosion or fire spell, but something more subtle. You recall that the lake ate the magic in the dungeons?"
Draco nodded once. Hard to forget the feeling of watching water chewing through the stones that stood between him and a flood.
"The magic didn't simply disappear," Severus said. "It went somewhere. Likely some artifact within the water that collected it."
"If the death eaters put that artifact there," Draco said, "then it's probably long gone."
"I have reason to believe it is still there," Dumbledore said. "An artifact which now contains the vast magic of Hogwarts. If that were to fall into the wrong hands, the result would be disastrous."
"And you didn't look for it before?" Draco asked.
"We didn't know of its existence," Dumbledore said. "Now that we do, the question is how to find it. Perhaps you were the Malfoy I needed to meet. With your previous experience beneath the dungeons--"
"Headmaster," Severus cut in. "I really don't think we should--"
"I'm sure the boys wouldn't be at risk if they tried," Dumbledore said. "Young Mr. Malfoy knows the dungeons and Harry can handle anything he faces."
How quickly the conversation turned. Did Dumbledore care about Severus' circumstances at all, or had he just been the means of getting inside to proposition them?
"I'm sure you're quite right," Draco said, setting the tea down as if he'd actually sipped from it. "However, I cannot do anything without my father's permission, now that he's actually here."
There was no shift in Dumbledore's face. Was he sincere in wanting to involve Lucius? No, impossible. What other schemes could he have? Draco started to think that coming out here had been a mistake.
"I understand," Dumbledore said. "I keep forgetting that you don't have the same latitude as you did before."
Oh, you subtle manipulator, Draco thought. Trying to spur me into searching by twisting my ego. Just as bad as a Slytherin.
He was so tempted to say that of course he'd had permission to act before. Severus had, as his master and his only parent still clearly alive, approved his actions. But Dumbledore, even if he suspected, did not know Severus' relationship with Lucius and Narcissa, and Draco did not care to tell him. Let him think that Severus was their hired potions master, or at worst an adulteror with whichever one he cared to choose.
"Small price to pay for having my parents alive," Draco said with a smile.
"Now if you'll please forgive us," Draco said, standing as he spoke. "But I'm afraid I'm still under the weather and could do with more sleep. Harry, please?"
"Nothing serious, I hope," Dumbledore said.
"Last night was a bit stormy," Draco offered, and nothing more.
Taking Harry's offered hand, Draco's theatrical leaning on his husband's arm was not entirely an exaggeration. His shoulders were stiff from sleeping awkwardly and his sleep hadn't been restful. When they were inside, however, Draco nudged Harry not towards the parlor or their bedroom, but to the workshop.
"Isn't that still your parents' bedroom?" Harry asked. "Are you sure you can go in?"
"They're not home," Draco reasoned. "It'll be all right."
As they passed the main hall, Harry looked around at the numerous portraits. New frames had been placed along the wall and more than half of the family had returned, and they murmured to each other as Harry and Draco passed by. Harry didn't like moving under their gaze and often used the garden route to the other side of the house. The portraits hadn't insulted him or shrieked or done anything similar to the portraits in Grimauld Place, but their whispers and watchful eyes unnerved him. He resolutely ignored their muttering--there was enough conspiracy in this house without thinking about the ancestors.
"You're planning something," Harry asked.
"Damn straight," Draco said with a nod. "So is Sev'."
"He is?" Harry asked.
"Mm, and I don't think he'll say what." Draco shrugged. "He trusts Dumbledore, so he believes there's something down in Hogwarts. But he didn't want to tell us. That means he didn't want father to know. That means he's going down there himself."
"By himself?" Harry echoed, shaking his head in disbelief. "No, I'll believe that he knows something, but he wouldn't do something that dangerous. Not like that."
"'Like what'?" Draco asked.
"Going under Hogwarts when the whole school could come down," Harry said. "It's reckless."
"You want to go," Draco said. "I can see it on your face. You're practically apparating there already."
"Well, yeah," Harry grinned. "You'd kill me if I went. That's how I know it's reckless."
"You're right," Draco said. "Which makes it funny that we're going anyway."
"What?" Harry stopped in his tracks. "But...you just said..."
"I know, I know," Draco said. "It's reckless, it's stupid, and there's no other choice. If that thing really does exist, I don't want Aunt Bella getting it. Or Fudge, come to think of it."
"How would he get it?" Harry asked. "I don't think he'd go into the dungeons."
"I don't know," Draco said. "If it's true, it's an awful lot of power. One little jinx for the whole world."
Harry half-smiled, holding Draco's hand to his lips and gently kissing his knuckles. Draco felt a strange warm rush creep up on him. He reflexively tried to pull his hand back, but Harry held firm and pulled him close, one arm around his waist.
"I get chills when I hear that," Harry said.
"I remember you saying that, and then when we were fighting Voldemort and he offered you the world if you'd just turn on me." Harry's smile broadened. "Not many people get to find out they're worth the world to someone."
Draco grumbled at being reminded. His line about being Harry's viper had felt natural at the time, with the dark lord's army closing in and Voldemort's magic exploding against Harry's. One little jinx for the whole world...and Draco had refused.
"If I had known everyone would tease me about it," Draco said, "I might have chosen differently."
"Of course," Harry said, kissing his hair.
"I mean it."
"I believe you."
As they came to the workshop, they quieted so that they might hear anything inside. It was never wise to barge into a workshop, even their own, but the lack of boiling or bubbling noises reassured him that nothing was about to explode.
Only one bed lay within, a bundle of blankets on a mattress stuck in the far corner. Most likely for Severus, Draco reasoned. His parents had probably moved their bedding into the new room or left it with the elves to clean.
Even if there had been time to restock the workshop properly, three people living inside the dungeon had not left much room for any jars and bottles crowding together. The only ingredients inside were a pitiful pile--pitiful only because Draco knew how much more expansive the workshop should be. The toadstools, plants and parts they did have would demand high prices in a collector's market. Most people would be happy with what they'd gathered so far.
"What are we doing here?" Harry whispered.
"You're standing at the door to make sure Sev' isn't coming," Draco said, kneeling beside the jars. "I'm looking for the todesstuhl."
"They'll be mad if you take it," Harry breathed by his ear.
"Don't whisper," Draco said. "It makes me nervous."
"Why?" Harry grinned. "'Cause we're stealing your parents' things?"
"I'm not stealing anything," Draco huffed. "These belong to the whole family."
"Uh-huh," Harry said, clearly unconvinced.
Draco ignored him and pulled out the jar with the todesstuhl, carefully preserved in a makeshift terrarium with a layer of damp soil and drops of water condensed on the glass. He opened the jar and tore off a tiny piece hardly bigger than his fingernail from the edge, then carefully sealed the lid again.
As he put the jar back, setting it exactly where it had been before and going so far as to twist the blanket around it the same way, he spotted something else amidst the nondescript bottles. He smiled in wonder and took the small bottle, holding it to the light.
"Besides," he said, running his fingertip along the label with his mother's swirling handwriting, 99% Tincture. "This little gem's mine. I'd wondered where it got to. Thought it was lost in the flood."
"Couldn't be all that useful," Harry said. "You never used it."
"It's very particular," Draco said, tucking the bottle in his robe. "You can't just use it on anything. It has to be saved for a special occasion."
"Right," Harry said in a tone that meant all potions masters were odd. He knew that Draco loved working with strange ingredients, but Harry didn't think he'd ever see the appeal. "Now what? Are we going right now?"
Draco hesitated. Run off with Harry on a fool's errand, braving a collapse or drowning or Death Eaters to secure a stone that may or may not be there? Why bother when Severus clearly intended to do it?
"It's funny," Draco said softly. "I used to think my parents knew everything."
Harry waited until he saw that Draco wasn't going to say anything else. "'Used to'?"
"They're making it up as they go along," Draco said. "And father was right. By all rights, they should've been dead years ago. It's only recently that dark families are living this long. We should be the ones facing this."
"You want that?" Harry asked. "Because as much as your father and I don't get along, I don't want him gone. For better or worse, I'm on your side now, and I have no clue how to do this if he isn't here."
"I don't want to be the head of the family," Draco murmured, shaking his head. "I don't want to go on any more adventures. But..."
He hefted the bottle of tincture, examining it for a moment. A few drops had been used, but it was more than half full. He dropped the bit of todestuhl into the tincture and recorked it. Immediately the liquid turned faintly pink.
"But if I don't go, Sev' will," Draco said firmly. "And if he goes, he'll be alone."
"Maybe he'd take your parents," Harry said, wincing as Draco flinched at the thought.
"My father's a politician," Draco said, "and mother's a potions master. If they tried..."
His voice trailed off. He'd seen a hallucination of their dead bodies once before, after exposure to hallucinarium. The memory had sunk deep and he didn't like to dredge it up.
"Then we'll go," Harry said, putting his hand on Draco's shoulder. "We'll be back before dinner."
Draco nodded once, putting away the tincture. "Harry?"
"What does it feel like when you go on one of your reckless adventures?"
Harry grinned. "Butterflies in my stomach. Why, feeling them?"
Draco walked after him, one hand on his stomach. Harry called the feeling butterflies, but they felt more like scorpions.
He glanced out a window as they made their way outside. Severus and Dumbledore were still at the table, although Severus kept throwing quick glances at the house. Draco's mouth twisted. Severus had to suspect they were leaving. They wouldn't have long to do this.
They used the side door to stay out of view and apparated as soon as they reached the edge of the estate. Draco clenched Harry tight when they popped into existence. Harry had put them in the middle of the Great Hall, which howled with wind flowing through the smashed holes in the walls. Draco half expected the castle to suddenly crash down on them, and Harry gave him a nudge when he didn't move.
"It's okay," Harry said. "It just feels wobbly, that's all."
Slowly letting go, Draco looked at him once, waiting for his reassuring nod before completely stepping back and looking around. The castle felt completely open to the elements, as if it was a cavern instead of a school. The broken tables and burned tapestries hadn't been cleaned up, making it all too easy to imagine the battle was only moments over.
Most oppressive was the silence. Draco heard every scuff of his shoes, every brush of wind against stone. The floors above them creaked, and he was aware of all the weight held above his head by these broken walls. Something scurried by into a pile of leaves blown against the wall, then slipped between the stones in a flash of white and disappeared.
"Just a mouse," Harry said.
"Hopefully that's the worst of what we'll see," Draco said, turning and heading to the stone arch. The doors that used to stand there lay in splinters around them.
"How are we going down?" Harry asked. "Through the kitchen?"
"It's the closest," Draco nodded. "Unless you want to jump through the hole in the front, but that would drench our wands."
Hogwarts felt enormous without anyone in it. Draco listened for the smallest sound and heard only birdsong and the skittering of mice. They passed several birds perched in odd spots, on top of large portraits and on stone sills. The classroom doors lay open, swaying gently with the passing wind, and he saw ivy and grass taking fragile root. Water stains lay on the floor everywhere, dripping in from the leaking ceiling and blown in through the windows.
All of the portraits were damp and covered in mildew and grime. Only a handful of them still held painted figures who blinked sleepily as they passed--then snapped to attention and stared intently. Harry tried to speak to one but they said nothing, and their eyes were blank as they watched them go by.
When they reached the painting of the pear, it refused to open at his touch. He tried twice, then gave up and went to pry it. The frame swung open without any resistance, flinging itself wide and slamming against the wall before clattering to the floor. Similarly all of the kitchen cabinets lay open, their doors hanging on their hinges with rust creeping over everything metal.
"Where are the elves?" Harry whispered.
"Probably trying to keep the castle from falling over," Draco said. "Higher up."
In the back of the kitchen, the trapdoor was still open. They both knelt by the ladder, peering into the darkness and listening carefully. All they heard was the quiet flow of water and the echo of something dripping in the distance. They looked at each other to see who would go first, and when Harry put his hand on the top rung to take the lead, he paused in thought and looked at Draco.
"How're we gonna tell where it is?"
Draco smiled. "That's the easy part."
Half expecting something to grab his ankle, Harry climbed down the ladder and landed in water up to his knees. He cast lumos and held the wand up so Draco could see him.
Draco came down and jumped the last two rungs, making a splash, and he grimaced at how his feet got damp though he knew he should be happy that the waters had receded. He grimaced at how cold it was and wondered why the water wasn't up to the top as it had been when it first flooded. He was happy to see it so low. Any higher and he was sure they'd get sick, natural wizarding protection or not. Musty and dank, the tunnel reeked of mold and decomposed bodies that continued to rot in the still water.
"Why hasn't anyone tried to clean this place up?" he wondered.
"Probably afraid the castle'll come down," Harry said. "Did you see all those wards holding the castle steady?"
Not what Draco wanted to think about. Focusing on the matter at hand, he took the tincture bottle from his pocket. He uncorked it, then little by little tilted the bottle so that a single drop gathered at the tip, hung glistening, and then fell and disappeared into the water below.
At first--nothing. Draco leaned close, staring into the dark water. Even with Harry's light, the surface was black, as if they were standing in ink. For a moment, his heart sank. If this didn't work, then they would have to search the entire dungeons. That would take days, perhaps weeks, and he wanted to finish this quickly and never come back again. Harry leaned down, glanced at him first, then back at the water.
"Are we waiting for something--oh wow!"
Draco smiled. The pure tincture's magic shone like phosphorescence, a delicate pink film on the water's surface that trembled and slipped away down the corridor, leaving a soft blur as a trail for them.
"How is it doing that?" Harry asked. "The water's supposed to eat magic."
"And it is," Draco said. "Tincture is almost pure magic, and this stuff is my mother's ninety-nine percent pure stock. It will linger long enough for us to follow."
They sloshed through the tunnel, easily folowing the glow as it turned a corner. As it faded only a few seconds later, Draco spilt another drop. Harry dimmed his wand so they could follow the faint light more easily, then put his arm around Draco to hold him close. The glow was just enough to see the smooth stone glisten and see the black water glitter like neon, letting them avoid the jutting debris as they nudged aside the dead. Their progress was slow but steady, a bubble of light between miles of darkness.