Tangible Schizophrenia


The Black Road III: Contingency Practicum

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Torture.
Pairing: Harry/Lucius, Harry/Snape, slight Harry/Draco
Feedback: Good lines, typos, etc.
Disclaimer: These characters are J. K. Rowling’s, not mine.
Notes: AU. Does refer to all the books up to HP:HBP, and does not draw on the movies except for visuals (because the only one I ever saw was the first).
Summary: In which Harry’s master plan and little else is revealed.


“The Devil knows more because he is old than because he is the Devil.”
--Spanish saying

* * *

Enervate,” Harry snapped. He carelessly tossed Lucius’ cane to the floor. Beneath him, Avery slowly groaned and wriggled his way back to full awareness. The man froze when he realized the pressure on his waist was a person, then froze again when he got a good look at the person. Then he rolled his head to the side and glared about till he saw Lucius.

“This one of your jokes, Malfoy?” Avery said.

Lucius’ personal appearance should have answered that question, but then, Avery had never been the most brilliant wand in the store. Potter, however, made sure that his reply was the only one heard: he hooked his first and second fingers into the top of Avery’s robes, then ripped them to the waist in one seamless movement.

“It’s a very good Polyjuicing, Malfoy,” Avery blathered on. “Great expression on the whore’s—”

Harry lifted his hand, flexed its fingers into claws, then plunged them into Avery’s chest in a businesslike manner. There was a loud, wet squelching sound; Avery screamed shrilly and arched up, then flopped weakly against the bed. After Avery had stopped wriggling around, Potter lifted his free hand and absently rubbed a smear of blood off his chin. He flicked those at the shadows, and Lucius heard Severus stifle a gasp when they lifted off the mattress to beg for them like little snakes.

“It’s not a Polyjuicing. Not that that really matters to you, but…why am I talking to you anyway? Snape? You listening?” Potter said.

“Intently.” Severus filtered all expression out of his voice. His eyes slid sideways to Lucius, and it was clear that he was reassessing the cause of the bruises and cuts he could see.

Lucius felt a momentary prickle of annoyance; yes, he indulged in bedroom practices some might consider unhealthy, but by now Severus should know him well enough to realize that he’d never allow his control of a situation to be in doubt. Then Potter shifted on the bed, and all such petty thoughts slipped from Lucius’ head.

“I am Harry Potter. I am here, and I am solid, and I am not leaving.” Potter’s hand seemed to be in Avery’s chest, yet Avery appeared to be still alive. His head lolled to the side and his eyes rolled wildly to Lucius when Potter leaned down to…sniff Avery? No, merely a bit of playacting to cover up whatever Potter did to make Avery gap open-mouthed, eyes bulging. “At least not till I finish my bit of business.”

Avery arched again as Potter lifted his hand, as if one end of a rope had been tied around his chest and the other attached to Potter’s wrist. His robes and Potter’s jacket prevented Lucius from seeing exactly how the two were joined, but Avery was bent high enough for a little space to be evident beneath him, and in that space something was dripping.

“What…would be your bit of business?” Severus asked, still in that inflectionless voice. It was rather peculiar to hear him shearing all the customary nuances of sarcasm and bitterness from his words. That, and it was a sign of how hostile he’d assessed the situation to be.

“Voldemort made a deal with my lord Lucifer some years ago,” Potter said. The honorific rolled awkwardly off his tongue, and he obviously knew it because immediately afterward, he wrenched Avery about—the ropes binding Avery to the bed suddenly vanished, and Lucius could clearly see the large red stain on the sheets where Avery had lain.

Now Avery was in a sitting position, his broad back blocking most of Potter from Lucius’ view. His legs were folded out of sight, but his arms were visible in their entirety: they hung at his sides, bent a bit at the elbow as if he had been frozen in the act of raising them to grapple with Potter. His head dangled loosely on his neck, tipped back and rolling with every slight movement Potter made.

“He promised his soul, like usual, and then he tried to keep Lucifer from collecting by splitting it up. My lord Lucifer has three parts of it now, but has decided he’d rather not wait for the rest. I’m here to collect them on his behalf, and you’re going to help me do it.” Avery’s head stiffened, then slowly tilted so his ear nearly touched his shoulder; behind him was revealed Potter’s grim expression. Potter locked eyes with Severus, then deliberately looked at Avery.

A harsh shudder passed through Avery’s form and a painful-sounding gurgling came from him. He spasmed once or twice, then suddenly reached behind himself and grabbed his left forearm with his right hand. Over his shoulder, Potter raised an eyebrow.

Dropped it. Avery screamed as he brutally wrenched his own shoulder out of its socket. Then he let go of his arm, now dangling limp as a dead worm. He moved like an automaton…or a puppet, Lucius’ mind obligingly filled in. Shock apparently had reduced it to drawing ridiculously obvious conclusions.

“Three…” Severus’ brows knit together. He was clearly trying to remember what kind of magic could possibly allow someone to split their soul, but didn’t seem to be having any more luck than Lucius.

Less luck—Lucius at least had the term ‘horcrux’ and the guess that the two were related. He glanced away from Avery, which prompted a mocking chuckle from Harry and then a wild suspicion. “You had a piece of Voldemort’s soul in you?” he said, transferring his gaze to Harry. “But then why would Voldemort allow us to kill you?”

“He wasn’t exactly trying to put one in me, if what everyone’s always said is right.” Black irony was uppermost in Potter’s voice, but there was detectable betrayal in it as well. That observation was further reinforced by how he made Avery climb backwards off the bed and clumsily kneel on the floor.

Potter’s hand was bloody to the wrist, and from his fingertips flowed thin, shimmering red lines that disappeared somewhere in Avery’s front. When he saw it, Severus’ eyes widened and he barely choked down his surprised exclamation. He unconsciously drew up his knees and pressed back into the table-leg so he rocked the whole piece of furniture, pulling Lucius with him.

“Anyway, doesn’t everyone wish they could get rid of their worse parts? I read a book about that, once--Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” A trace of nostalgia entered Potter’s voice, and his expression softened as he remembered. Then he shook his head—and shook his hand as well, so Avery shuddered so hard he nearly fell over. “I bet that was based on fact: some wizard went nuts and terrorized London. Seems to be pretty common. After all, fucking Voldemort tried to shove what he thought were his ‘Mudblood’ bits in me.”

“But Voldemort would still wish to keep as many parts of himself out of Lucifer’s hands as possible. If what you say is true,” Severus carefully replied.

“‘If what you say is true,’” Harry jeered. His lip curled and he pulled at the threads so Avery tried to raise his dislocated arm without any aid from his whole one. “What’s so damned hard to believe? That your master’s got piss-poor forward planning sometimes? Or that Lucifer’s real?”

His voice was starting to rise, and with it were the shadows slithering around the edges of the room. Lucius noted that some of them were flickering his way and desperately tried to think of a way to placate Potter. “Wizards are notoriously irreligious, since we know of ways to reproduce miracles with magic—”

Avery suddenly flopped onto his back. His face twisted and his mouth worked as if he’d somewhat forgotten how to work his jaw. It abruptly snapped shut, then slowly opened. He tipped his head back so when he spoke, he did so to Severus and Lucius. His voice was raspy and constricted; his eyes were screaming that he didn’t want to speak. “But you believe in unicorns and werewolves and Dark Lords. You believe in demons. Maybe Lucifer’s just a very, very old Dark Lord that decided to take over his own realm instead of this one,” Avery said. “Maybe Voldemort’s just a stupid git when it comes to me.”

The last word was barely out of Avery’s mouth before a series of spasms took him, starting out as trembling and quickly working up to full grand mal seizures. He choked out muffled shouts through the red-tinged foam that frothed up through his mouth and nose, and up till the very last moment, his eyes stayed on Severus as if they were locked there.

Severus was naturally sallow, but by now his face was a bloodless ashen shade. He swallowed noticeably before he spoke again to Potter, and didn’t look away from Avery’s corpse. “Harry, you died before you knew—”

“Story of my goddamned life. I was protected so I didn’t know this till…I should’ve been told this before, but…well, I don’t give a shit anymore, Snape.” Potter pushed himself off the bed and stepped over Avery to kneel beside one of the bedposts, where a large pool of shadows had collected. He pushed his hand into them, their blackness rising sluggishly over his wrist like tar, then pulled it out to show clean skin. “That was then, when I was Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. Except he died, and now I’m here to strip the rest of Voldemort’s soul from this earth, and I don’t care about anything but that. You’re going to help me.”

“And if we resist, you’ll do with us like you did with Avery?” Lucius asked. He had to pause and wet his lips halfway through because they were too dry.

Before he could blink, Harry was suddenly in front of him, shoving between Lucius’ knees to lean dangerously close. His jaw had been seized in a hard grip, and Potter used the hold to push Lucius’ head to the side so he could murmur nearly against the cuts on Lucius’ jaw. Lucius glanced at Severus, saw the flare of surprise mixed with hot, vengeful satisfaction, and consequently had no idea at which of them he was snarling more.

“But that’s messy. And obvious, isn’t it?” Harry whispered, breath hot and thick on Lucius’ skin. When Lucius flinched, Potter curled his thumbnail to break open the scabs along the side of Lucius’ chin. “Hell, easier to tell what’s going on than if I used Imperio.”

Why he wasn’t, when he obviously still could use regular wizard-magic, was a question to which Lucius’ reason clung for sanity’s sake. Potter had limitations, but they were according to no system of magic with which Lucius was familiar. Research might be helpful in elucidating them, but that would require much time and privacy, neither of which Lucius was going to have. He’d have to try and deduce it by observation, it appeared. He’d known that to begin with, but the more he watched, the more he desperately wished there was some other way to go about it.

“What are you asking for?” Severus was saying, tone edgy.

For good reason, because Potter abruptly released Lucius and switched to Severus, who regained all his color and then had a surplus when Potter straddled him. His attempt to speak was quickly choked off; Harry yanked up Severus’ chin so he whispered to Severus’ throat, his lips peeled back so his teeth were nearly catching the skin. “Nothing you haven’t done before. Voldemort has pieces of his soul hidden in horcruxes—you can look that up yourself. With your library and Malfoy’s, it shouldn’t take you too long. I need to know where those are. And then I need you to bring them to me, or take me to them.”

Potter tipped his head this way and that as he talked, moving like a cobra weaving in place, waiting to strike. His free hand came to rest on Severus’ chest, then slowly slid down till the folds of Severus’ robes and his jacket hid what it was doing. But Lucius could guess from putting together his experience and Severus’ hitching breath.

“You’re good at that. But don’t think you’re playing double-spy anymore—you’re mine,” Harry hissed. Then he dove in and sank his teeth into the side of Severus’ jaw; Severus started to curse and toss his head, but Potter’s arm flexed and Severus went very still. A moment later, Potter withdrew with blood on his lips and more smeared over Severus’ throat and cheek. He lazily swiped the stuff off his mouth with his tongue, which was thin and blackish. The droplets on Severus’ throat, Potter scraped off with his hand and fed to the shadows. “But I’m not so trusting in your abilities as Dumbledore was. Which is why Lucius will be acting as decoy—he’ll be trying to find out the same things, but Voldemort will watch him instead of you.”

“That’s generous of you.” Severus’ eyes darted around for several seconds before he glued his gaze to the ceiling. His voice was no longer a controlled monotone; the lack of emotion in it was from shock.

“Why would Voldemort watch me?” Lucius blurted out. He found himself flinching even before Harry turned to look at him.

Harry let go of Severus’ jaw, but instead of rising and walking over to Lucius, he let himself sprawl across the intervening space. He laid his chin on Lucius’ thigh, grinning humorlessly. “Because you reek of me right now, and you’re going to keep reeking of me. I’ll clean Snape up, and you’ll both tell Voldemort that I’m here and I surprised you—” he rolled over and stroked the long slash over Lucius’ chest “—but he’s going to think you were willing. And if Voldemort had teacher’s pets, you’d be it. Man, I wish I could see his face.”

Lucius’ stomach roiled, and for a wild moment he nearly begged Potter to take him along instead of leaving him to Voldemort’s mercies. Whatever else Potter had learned in hell, it’d included an exquisite understanding of betrayal: Voldemort would have found nothing too surprising about Severus turning coat again—if indeed he’d ever stopped in the first place—but he would be taken off-guard, with all the fresh swells of hatred that entailed, by Lucius doing the same. That had been one of the reasons Lucius so far had kept from thinking seriously about doing something to ease his discontent with the world Voldemort had created.

“Then again, your face right now isn’t half-bad. Give me something nice to think about while I make my other stops for tonight,” Harry said. He sat up and waved his hand over a flinching Severus; nothing notable happened except that the bitemark on Severus’ jaw healed, but Lucius was sure that Potter had just wiped Severus of all other significant traces as well. “I’ll be in touch. Got your blood, so you can be sure of that.”

He rolled to his feet and stood, then sauntered insolently towards the door. He couldn’t be merely walking out.

“He’s walking out on us.” Severus shook himself, then wrenched at his arms. The bonds predictably didn’t give, but the intensity of frustration in Severus’ snarl was unexpected. “The bloody little—”

“He’s as tall as you are now,” Lucius snapped. His voice was shaky. He thought that was excusable, given that he was coated in traces of Potter’s…handling, with only dead Avery and marginally cooperative Severus for company. Damn it—he was not being found like this. He looked around and spotted his cane lying just within reach.

Instead of stretching his leg out to push it nearer, Lucius found himself freezing in place. But no mocking voice came, nor invisible torturer, and at last he managed to will himself into rolling the cane towards him. Even then, he flinched as he murmured the words to activate the cane’s recollecting spell, and almost expected Potter to materialize out of nowhere and snatch his wand in mid-flight.

No such thing happened, and Lucius was able to summon his wand to his cane, then unsnap it and use it to free himself and Severus without any problem. Then he sat down again and stared at his hands. They refused to cease trembling.

“He told you something else,” Severus abruptly said. He grabbed the edge of the table and used it to pull himself into a standing position. Then he slapped the table and walked stiffly to the desk, where he used his wand to activate a Catacomb-wide alert. “Damn it, Lucius. What else did he say? How did he come back?”

“Taking your role in this so easily, aren’t you? He was right about that. He—” Lucius watched his hands suddenly clamp around his cane. “He said he was going after Draco. Merlin. Severus, I have—”

“You’re not going anywhere!” Severus snapped, whirling about. His wand was aimed squarely at Lucius’ eyes. “You’re supposed to attract Voldemort’s suspicions, not confirm them. If you do, then he’ll be the one to kill you and what Potter does won’t matter!”

Perhaps Lucius could see the sense in that, but nevertheless it was hard to keep himself from hexing Severus to Hogwarts’ ruins and back. He struggled upright and pulled at his clothing, trying to get himself in some order. “And what about my son? Your godson?”

Severus compressed his lips. He didn’t meet Lucius’ eyes for a moment, but when he did, his gaze was steady and cold. He picked up Lucius’ robes from the chair on which they’d been placed and dispassionately helped Lucius tidy himself. “Then your acting had better be convincing, because Voldemort dislikes Draco anyway. We’ll convince him that Potter’s still on the attack, and then while Voldemort’s sending everyone out, one of us can send a message to Draco.”

“He’s in London now. I’ll send him home—Narcissa may be in one of her ‘moods’ but she’ll protect him,” Lucius said. He took comfort in the quick decisions, but it was a shallow feeling; he couldn’t delude himself into thinking that he’d regained control in the least. “Well, it’ll be pleasant to have your considerable skills at deception favor me and mine for once.”

“Potter said you’re my decoy, therefore I would think the burden lies on you now,” Severus archly replied. “I don’t imagine he’ll be pleased to find you shirking your assignment.”

Lucius gave his robes a last yank, their cleaning and healing spells doing their best to eradicate Potter’s marks. He rubbed at his cut chin, then remembered and angrily yanked the cord out of his hair. “If you think Potter is anything like Voldemort, or Dumbledore, then I pity you for thinking he could be manipulated the same way.”

He turned on his heel and went out to greet the first arrivals. His hands were still shaking, and deep inside he was pathetically grateful that Potter had left him his cane. Holding it covered up some of his nerves; he hoped Draco had listened to him for once and stayed in the townhouse. He hoped…he shook his head and concentrated on more essential thoughts.

* * *

Draco was in the middle of tossing back another glass of whiskey when he heard someone pressing the doorbell. At least, he assumed it was the doorbell. He’d been told it had been kept operational in case any Muggles wandered up to the front—making things Unplottable at this point was no longer a viable option—but he’d never heard it.

He’d never had to deal with a soliciting Muggle either, and at first he slid lower down the couch, hoping that merely ignoring the matter would make it go away. But the bell kept ringing and ringing, and eventually it penetrated Draco’s fogged mind that someone standing on the doorstep for that long would attract unwanted attention. Damn.

He levered himself up using the sofa arm, but apparently someone had hexed the furniture because it moved when he was halfway to standing and he nearly fell on his face. His flailing arm caught an armchair, and that saved him. Staggering onward and ho, Draco irritably, confusedly thought. He had no idea who he was misquoting and didn’t care.

The narrowness and acute angles of the hallway caused him some trouble, but he managed to beat them out of the way and finally make it to the door. He waited for the door to say who it was, then remembered the no-magic rule and snapped off the locks. Kept the chain on, after muddling through all the warnings he’d been given, and opened the door a crack.

The next moment, Draco was fear-sobered and flat against the opposite wall, hiccupping little noises of terror. He was aware that he sounded like a complete prat, but that was about par for everyone’s expectations of him, wasn’t it? And anyway, he was terrified. He was utterly flattened.

He was watching a finger carefully lift the chain from the door, and his vision was shaking because he was shaking, Draco realized. “Potter?”

The door swung open. A tall, thin man dressed in black casual Muggle clothes leaned against one side of the doorway, his hands shoved beneath his shirt-tails and into his trouser-pockets. He had cracked glasses, green eyes, and an incredible resemblance to the dead Harry Potter except for the fact that he was smirking.

“Draco,” fake-Harry said. He stopped smirking and lifted one hand in an ironic wave. “Invite me in, why don’t you?”

“My father killed you,” Draco breathed. His head was swimming and he didn’t quite think he would be able to stand any time soon. He scrabbled in his pocket, looking for something. His wand, perhaps. Instead he came up with cigarettes, which seemed a much better idea. He shakily lit one and sucked hard on it, clawing for every bit of nicotine he could. “You’re dead.”

Fake-Harry snorted and took his other hand out of his pocket to shove the hair out of his face. His old lightning-shaped scar was briefly visible and suddenly Draco was coldly, unshakably certain that this was the real Harry.

“Well.” He had to stop and take another hit off his cigarette. His knees slowly gave way till he was sitting on the floor. “I suppose if Voldemort can do it, so can you.”

“You know, I really hate how everything I do gets shadowed by him,” Harry said in a conversational tone. He glanced up and about with the kind of lazy assurance he’d never had back in school; there he’d been always on edge, a touch of the hunted in his hysteria. This version of him seemed as if he didn’t know what the meaning of hysteria was.

It reminded Draco a good deal of his father.

“Nice house.” Harry flicked his eyes over the cracked wood of the staircase, the damp spots on the wallpaper. His gaze dropped to Draco, lingering over Draco’s tie in a way that made Draco convulsively loosen it. “And clothes. Never would’ve figured you for the bohemian type. Seeing as that’s decidedly Mudblood and all.”

Draco shrugged. His cigarette was nearly gone and he took a moment—several, actually, to light a new one. He burned his finger. “It’s a decent way to make sure my father keeps his distance.”

“Even purebloods have to have their moment of teenage rebellion?” offered Harry. He raised one arm and leaned it on the doorframe so he could tap his fingers against the wood. It sounded like so many axes thudding into executioners’ blocks. “And here I thought you and your father—”

“You’ve been dead—or wherever you were—for two years. What do you know about how things stand between my father and me?” Draco snapped. A tiny part of him was shouting that he was an idiot, but the greater part of him simply found the whole situation too surreal. Here was Harry Potter, magically resurrected, and he was the same condescending, ignorant bastard as always. “You know, it’s not—things weren’t like—oh, fuck it. You wouldn’t know.”

A tiny furrow appeared between Harry’s brows, and he shifted his weight so though he was three yards away, he seemed to loom over Draco. “Enlighten me, then.”

“Oh, why not? Come in, have a scotch, and listen to me whine about how Voldemort’s treated me like a pretty footstool since I botched my attempt to kill Dumbledore.” Draco suddenly found the energy to wrench himself to his feet. He even had enough surplus to absently wave Harry in over his shoulder.

The burst of energy gave out before he’d managed to lurch all the way back to the sofa, but by then he’d built up enough momentum to get him the rest of the way. Perhaps his landing wouldn’t be terribly graceful, but he was well and truly sick of keeping up appearances. “And my father’s kept me alive, but obviously it’s just till he can get around to getting the next generation out of me. He never comes around now unless it’s to tell me to ‘make something of myself,’ and Mother—Merlin, Mother’s even worse. Always talking about what she’s done for me and—Merlin!”

Harry stood his ground while Draco recoiled from his sudden appearance before him, then tripped and fell on his arse. “Christ. You’re drunk as a lord,” Harry said. He prodded Draco’s side with his foot. “Oh, sorry, that’s not quite the appropriate saying for your current status, is it? I could say I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

Fingers thrust into Draco’s hair, then closed tight before he could do so much as turn around to face Harry. They dragged his head back so the cartilage between the bones of his spine popped, each one a unique bubble of pain. And Harry kept dragging them back so Draco thought he could feel the bones themselves begin to crack.

The whisper in Draco’s ear was hot and silky, and made him jerk so he nearly broke his own neck. “At least your father put up—”


Suddenly Draco was free and falling, what should’ve been his last gasp choking back down his throat. He barely got his arms up in time to break his fall, and it was a long handful of seconds before he could push himself over to look.

He’d forgotten. Weasley had been due to show, and Draco had been so busy getting himself drunk in preparation that he’d forgotten about why he was pouring whiskey down his throat. Now here he was on the floor, while Fred stood in the doorway gaping and Harry made like a Druidical bluestone.

“Jesus,” Fred finally said. He was swaying a little, as if he had as much alcohol in him as Draco did. “I thought George was hallucinating. Him and—”

“It’s in the corner cabinet, as usual,” Draco brusquely interrupted. He got hold of the coffee-table and hauled himself up onto his knees. “Your sister sends her regards, as usual. And you need to leave now, as usual.”

Harry finally moved: he glanced down at Draco with what could have been gratitude, if that emotion wasn’t entirely within the realm of improbability. “You’re keeping troublesome company, Draco. As usual.”

As if it was even needed to drive home the point, the Dark Mark on Draco’s arm began to burn. He generally got echoes—if he felt it at all, since Voldemort chose to keep him farther out of the loop than even Goyle—but this time, it was a full-strength summoning. Draco clapped his hand over his arm and gritted his teeth. He looked up in time to see a curiously interested expression on Harry’s face and a tense one on Fred’s.

“Get moving, Weasley.” Draco flapped his hand at the slow bastard and instantly regretted it when that exacerbated the flaring of the Mark.

“I’m not here,” Harry said quietly. He nodded towards the cabinet and Fred finally, jerkily moved towards it, though not without multiple glances back at Harry. Typical. All Draco’s hard work, and all Harry had to do was…

Fred slipped the packet into his sleeve and shut the cabinet, then hurried towards the stairs. Then he stopped and looked back. “Harry—”

Go.” Harry took a step forward and suddenly—he was transformed. That was the only word for it, really: the shadows in the room surged forward and hooded him, but that only seemed to bring forth his presence instead of shrouding it. His eyes were glowing red, and for a long moment, he looked like he might kill Weasley.

Of course, the bloody idiot lingered a moment longer anyway before he rushed off with not a concerned look towards Draco. Bloody, bloody typical.

The look on Harry’s face, however, was a study in a side Draco had never suspected the thickheaded, singleminded git might have. It was a shame Harry got himself under control before Draco could really begin to examine it; Harry drew a deep breath and gracefully folded himself into a sitting position besides Draco. He flipped his shirt-tails out of the way before waving his hand towards Draco, and suddenly Draco was sober in truth and not merely in fear.

Then the bastard nicked one of his cigarettes. “You’re helping the resistance,” Harry observed.

“And you’re not human. Now, anyway.” The burning Mark was really starting to wear on Draco now that he didn’t have the comforting blanket of booze to interpose between him and it. He sank back against the table and shakily fumbled out a cig for himself. “What did you do? What the hell’s got Voldemort so worked up that he’d be calling on me?”

“Happy about that?” Smoking suited this new Harry in a disturbing way; he seemed to draw vigor from the smoke instead of being obscured in it like a normal person. It didn’t help that he still had a group of long, snake-like shadows toying about his feet.

Draco smoked half the cigarette in two breaths. “No. You know something—Voldemort is right. I’m not cut out for his sort of campaign. Call me a coward or whatever you will, but I’d be perfectly happy with schoolyard tormenting. In a perfect world, after I’d graduated from Hogwarts, I would’ve gone to live in a nice crystal bubble where I just didn’t have to see Mudbloods.”

“At this point, I’d say it’s a pity that didn’t work out,” Harry said, sounding almost meditative. Then he reached over and stabbed out his cigarette on the ashtray on the table. “I’ll be around, Draco. My regards to your father.”

Then he was gone. While Draco was turning and twisting about to look for him—utterly pointless—something tapped at the window. He got up and let in one of his father’s auxiliary owls, who was so worked up that it took him a good five minutes to calm her down and get her to release the note she carried. In that time, Voldemort’s summonings gradually died away; Draco was grateful for that, since he didn’t think the lingering effects of the whiskey could carry him through that meeting as it had through the one he’d just had with Potter. It probably had just been a general summons, so he could sneak in late.

His father’s note consisted of three words: Draco. Go home.

Draco stared at it for a good few moments while his sluggish mind scraped off enough rust to finally begin putting together this uncharacteristic curtness with the few words Harry had dropped. He turned around and stared hard at the ashtray, where Harry’s butt was still sending up a thin trail of smoke.

After a second, Draco put out his own butt next to it, and then set fire to the note. He wasn’t going home. He was going to see Ginny Weasley.


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