Second of our Reign
by Wax Jism

Beta by Katie. Special thanks to Dale for the bunny.
Harry Potter © JK Rowling.
Title from The Anniversary by John Donne

Part one: Green
1. Rattlebark

He'd lived alone in the mansion for two years. It was towering and dark, almost fifty rooms unused and untended. He only kept enough house elves to feed him and keep two small rooms in the South annex habitable. Dust gathered in the halls and the gardens went to weed and vines outside the forbidding stone walls.

The house, in its fifth century, stood on a precipice overlooking the Irish Sea; the view from the West was sheer cliffs, jagged rock and rolling, slate grey water. The East and North faces overlooked the garden and the park, and from the South came the meandering road, once paved and banked by trimmed elms, now half-overgrown and covered in dead leaves. The estate had been empty since the end of the war, and Draco hadn't felt like restoring anything. He covered himself in decay and dilapidation and stayed in his rooms, reading or working in the extensive potions laboratory he'd set up in his study.

"Master is weary?" a house elf said behind him, distracting him from the bubbling cauldron. The mirror potion (which would produce a mirrored copy of whoever drank it, for a limited time) would not turn out right. It showed pale green flecks in the bright red. The powdered rattlebark had gone off, and there was nowhere Draco could turn to replenish his supply.

"Turn the bed over, Silky," he said, tiredly. The rattlebark was the last he'd found in his father's poison cupboard. It must have been at least ten years old. "Unless you can bring me some rattlebark that hasn't fossilised. I should give up on all this. Might as well go to a Muggle lab for all the good this does me."

There was a rustle and a pop, and Silky reappeared on the other side of the desk. She held up a small bottle with a bright aquamarine powder. The rattlebark in Draco's jar had faded to a pale peridot.

"Where did you find this?"

"In the poison cupboard, Master."

"Not in this one."

The elf turned large, colourless eyes to him, shining with devotion and concern. "The poison cupboard in the lower dungeons, Master. Young Master's father--"

"Show me."

It occurred to him, as he followed in Silky's dainty footsteps down winding stairways, irritably casting a repelling spell on himself to keep the cobwebs out of his face and hair, that he might have benefited from actually talking to the house elves sometimes.

On the other hand, how was he to know they'd know anything? They weren't exactly stimulating company.

For the first time in five years, he let himself miss Hogwarts and his friends.

He cut off the line of thought before he could start longing for his enemies.


2. Houndshead

One thing the war brought with it - even after the end of it all - was a distinct lowering of profiles all over the wizarding world. If they'd been attempting to be inconspicuous before, they were cowering in fear now.

Remus Lupin left his wand home when he went to the grocery store or the post office in Houndshead these days, just so he wouldn't even be tempted to use it. He always walked the five miles. Apparating felt criminally dangerous, and he had never learned how to drive. Sirius asked him how he could live in the Muggle world for over ten years and never learn to drive, but then, Sirius was one to talk; he never even left the house in human form.

Round, black-nosed Shropshire sheep bleated in distress and skittered off the road and out into the field, fairly falling over each other trying to get as far away from the large dog as possible. The dog tensed next to Lupin, and he said, conversationally, "Don't even think about it, Padfoot."

Padfoot shot him a glance and grinned a wide, untrustworthy canine grin, but ignored the sheep stoically.

Owl post had trickled through slower and slower in the past three years. The former Ministry of Magic, former Council of War Against the Dark Forces, former Victory Coalition, current Committee of Magic, had disbanded the service, and the only owls that flew were private and secret.

Lupin picked up his newspapers at the Muggle Post Office in the village, while Padfoot basked in the attention of a young lady outside.

"Hello, Mr. Lupin," she said when he came out again, the week's mail under his arm. She was freckled and tawny-haired, perhaps fifteen years old. Lupin recognised her as the daughter of Williams the grocer. He wasn't too old to admire her figure, although he was certainly too old to follow that line of thought any further. "Can I give Paddy a treat?"

Padfoot let out a soft whuff and rubbed his large, black head with its lopsided white fleck against the Williams girl's tanned leg. Lupin raised an eyebrow. Sirius, in canine form or otherwise, had always been a hit with the opposite sex. "Go ahead, Miss Williams," Lupin said. "He's free to ruin his appetite any way he pleases."

He turned his face to the midday sun and waited while the girl fed Padfoot ginger snaps and petted his glossy fur. It was still summer, but today, for the first time, Lupin felt the oncoming shift in seasons in the crisp air and the subtle sharpness of the breeze.

"Mr. Lupin?" He looked down and saw that the girl - he should remember her first name, but he didn't. Claire? Clara? Lucy? Something with light - had pushed her hands into the thick ruff around Padfoot's neck and found the collar. "What's this?"

The pendant rested in her palm like a gumdrop, dull green. Lupin felt the breeze grow chillier, creeping up his back under the Muggle shirt he was wearing. It had been a day just like this. The wind had been in his face then, and he'd been wearing robes. They'd flapped like crow's wings around him where he'd stood frozen and helpless. He hadn't even been able to turn his eyes away from the blinding green light.

Padfoot whined softly and Lupin blinked. "Mr Lupin?" the girl said. Grace Williams was her name; named for Grace Kelly, her father had told Lupin proudly. Claire was her sister. It seemed impossible to forget now, for some reason.

"Yes, Grace?" he said, relaxing one muscle at a time. Sirius's bright eyes stared up at him from Padfoot's hairy face.

"Are you feeling all right? You look a little--" He tore his eyes from Sirius's and swallowed. "--green."

"Just a little tired." He tapped his temple lightly with a finger. "Migraines. We'll be going back now."

"Have a nice day, Mr Lupin," she said with a flash of a smile that made her look hopelessly, heartbreakingly innocent. If he hadn't known before, that smile confirmed her as a Muggle. Magical folk weren't that innocent anymore.

"Give your father my regards, Grace. Padfoot." The dog gave the girl a gruff bark of farewell and bounded towards Lupin.

When the girl was out of sight, Padfoot licked Lupin's hand briefly and ran ahead. Lupin smiled and followed slowly. He hadn't lied about the migraines; he could feel one coming now, like a tickle deepening to an itch somewhere behind his eyes.

Sirius waited for him with a goblet of Deep Relief Potion. "All right?" he asked. There was a strain around his eyes that hadn't been there this morning.

"All right," Lupin lied and drained the goblet. The amulet hung mute in the sharp hollow between Sirius's collarbones.

"Liar," Sirius said. "You looked ready to keel over. If it weren't too late already, I'd say she gave you grey hairs."

Lupin pulled his hand through his fine, dry hair without regret. There hadn't been any brown in the silver since...the end of the war. "It gives me a sophisticated air," he said. Sirius's hair was still thick and black, save for the one white lock at his temple where the ricochet of Voldemort's last curse had grazed him. It had been a bald spot for six months before the white hair grew in.

"No, it makes you look old," Sirius said, ever the paragon of tact. "Sometimes I forget that you're not."

"I am old, Sirius."

Sirius touched the amulet. Lupin knew it felt cold against bare skin, almost freezing, but Sirius had worn it constantly for five years, since the day Albus Dumbledore put it in his hand. When he first put it on, it had shone with a deep, secret light, painting Sirius's skin in streaks of emerald and peridot and turquoise.

He sat down heavily and rubbed his face. The pile of mail and newspapers lay on the table in front of him, but he ignored them. There was really nothing newsworthy in the world.

Sirius's hands lit on his head, soft pets and strokes, and Lupin leaned in, pressed his face against Sirius's chest. Sirius bent down to embrace him and the amulet fell cold and numbing against Lupin's forehead.


3. The Poison Cupboard

The Daily Prophet had a special edition out, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Dumbledore's death. There had been another special two months ago. Draco wasn't sure if they had been celebrating the demise of Voldemort or still mourning the death of their hero, their shining knight, The Boy Who Died.

The fuss over Dumbledore was more straightforward - a great man, died at a highly advanced age, he was a cornerstone of our society, such a kind and gentle, yet powerful soul, and on and on until Draco's morning coffee was mud in his mouth.

There was a picture of Dumbledore with Potter, at Potter's (and Draco's) graduation. Dumbledore's eyes were crinkled, the only sign of a smile you could see through the mass of white beard, and Potter was grinning like someone had put a Ridus hex on him. The wind that made his dress robes flap around his skinny legs also pushed the hair away from his forehead. The scar glowed a threatening dark crimson. The last battle had been only six weeks later.

He threw the paper on the fire and watched Potter burn without satisfaction. Then he went back down to the basement and his father's secret poison cupboard.

Silky the house elf had brought him a pewter mug of soup against the chill, but he'd forgotten it on the desk. It was cold now, but he'd warmed up from the effort of lifting heavy jars and pots off high shelves. It was an amazingly extensive collection of magical ingredients, at least half of them banned by Committee law. I've been sitting right on top of this treasure for two years, Draco thought, but the waste of time didn't really bother him. Time was all he had, after all.

The cupboard was more a small room than a cupboard, hidden behind sliding doors that opened with a tap of his wand and a muttered, "Forem aperio!"

A rug covered the stone floor, deep green with runes traced in silver blackened with age. The shelves stood ten feet, from floor to high ceiling, sturdy in polished oak under their burden of deathly, secret, forbidden substances.

Draco hadn't let the elves clean in here yet. He wanted to go through everything first, see where the dust lay thickest, where it had been disturbed. Trace his father's work through the crackling scrolls and stained notebooks.

He didn't notice how tired he was until he stumbled on the edge of the rug and dropped a stone jar on the floor. It cracked and spilled its contents on the stones. The liquid dribbled through cracks, sought paths over the uneven surface in an almost sentient fashion, disappeared under the rug. Draco picked up a pair of tongs from the table and lifted the jar carefully. It was unmarked save for a small squiggle on the bottom. It could be a stylised drawing of a snake.

"Young Master's wish?" a voice he didn't recognise said somewhere behind and below him. He spun around to see a strange house elf stand to attention right at the edge of the green rug. It was dressed in a small, form-fitting waistcoat and tiny shortpants. It was the best dressed house elf Draco had ever seen, and there was something terribly wrong about it.

"Who are you?" Draco asked sharply. The elf looked him straight in the eye - there was a large part of the wrongness; that fearless gaze.

"Bathorus, Young Master. Will Young Master be wishing to open the chamber?"

What chamber? Draco almost asked, but the elf seemed to know much more than he did and that was the other part of the wrongness. "Yes," he said instead, sternly, and put down the broken jar on the table.

"Bathorus wait five year, Bathorus think Young Master will never be coming," the elf said with something like relief, if the creature could feel such a thing.

"I'm here now," Draco said and then fell silent as the elf threw the rug aside with a sharp gesture. Fitted in the stone floor under it, a rune-covered trapdoor showed like a black and silver square in the grey slate.

Bathorus closed his unsettlingly un-elfish eyes and stilled. The trapdoor fell open with a dull boom. Dust rose in a mushroom cloud of sparkling grey. Draco coughed and blinked and when he could see clearly again, soft, green light was dancing over his face from the opening in the floor.

"What's--" he started, but changed his mind. He wouldn't ask the elf anything. This was his house.

The stone steps were worn smooth and felt suspiciously soft under his boots, as if they were carpet in the pattern and shape of rock.

The stairs ended in a small antechamber, lit by a green rock set in the wall. An oak door glided soundlessly open when Draco's foot left the last step. In the room beyond, a man with shaggy black hair flowing in wild tangles down his bare back sat crouched on a low bed.

Draco stopped in the doorway. The man turned his head slowly, as if he didn't quite remember how to move. His beard hung in mangy, listless strands almost to his breastbone. His eyes met Draco's, wide and green and myopic.

"Potter?" Draco said, stunned.


4. The Green Amulet

Lupin opened his eyes. Sometimes in the night, the wind had gathered force and grown into a storm, and the shutters banged against the wall outside the bedroom. Rain tapped a nervous, gusty staccato on the roof.

That didn't quite account for the soft, green glow in the room. Lupin rubbed his eyes and saw Sirius lying still and relaxed in sleep, bathed in sickly green. The amulet lay on his throat, alive again and pulsing lightly in a rhythm that jarred with his breaths.

Heat plunged through Lupin's body, burning the inside of his throat, searing his stomach wall.

"Sirius," he croaked, coughed painfully and tried again. "Sirius, wake up."

Sirius's eyes flew open and he twisted around, turned into Padfoot and growled.

Lupin waited a beat and said, "It's me, Sirius."

"What is it?" Sirius asked grumpily when he'd turned back. Sirius was notoriously dangerous to rouse from sleep.

Lupin didn't have to answer. The light seemed to grow even stronger, drowning out even the sound of the storm with beating silence.

They sat at the kitchen table, nursing cups of strong coffee and staring at the amulet. Sirius had taken it off and laid it next to the copper coffee-pot on the smooth pine tabletop.

Sirius's hands lay empty next to the amulet, opening and closing convulsively. Lupin put his hands over them and Sirius squeezed back hard. His face was startlingly pale. Neither of them had spoken in fifteen minutes.

"We should-" Lupin started. He didn't go on. He had no idea what they should do. Dumbledore was five years dead.

"He's alive," Sirius said. Sirius had always been the brave one; the one to speak out loud what everyone else hardly dared to think.

"Five years," Lupin said. "Seems hardly likely."

"He's alive," Sirius said, and he was right. The amulet was not a sentient being. It couldn't lie. If Harry Potter breathed, if his heart beat, the amulet would glow. Lupin had witnessed its creation himself.

"We should-" Lupin said again. "We should...tell someone." It sounded feeble, indecisive. If Harry was alive, everything was turned on its head.

"Who?" said Sirius, and they were both thinking about Dumbledore, Lupin knew. "We don't know anything. Except that he lives."

Lupin released one of Sirius's hands and gulped down his coffee so fast it burned his tongue and throat. He felt more awake now. He could hear the storm again. He tried to rise, but Sirius wouldn't release his hand. "Lives," Sirius said. "Alive." And he tugged hard on Lupin's hand and pulled him clumsily across the table to hold him close. "Alive," he whispered into Lupin's hair, and Lupin's stomach twisted and dropped. Alive.


Part Two: Red
1. Beloved Enemy

"What are you doing in my bedroom, Malfoy?" Harry Potter said with a grimace Draco recognised from their school days.

"I beg your pardon?" Draco said. "What are you doing in my basement?"

"Bathorus, what's going on?"

Draco turned to see the house elf standing in the antechamber. "Shush, boy," it said, rudely. Draco goggled at it. "Bathorus waits no more." It glanced once, haughtily, at Draco and disapparated with a pop.

"Bathorus!" Potter wailed, as if the elf had been important. As if it had been his friend. Draco wasn't too surprised. Potter had a well-known soft spot for lower life forms.

He noticed that Potter was naked. "So, Potter," he said. "You're alive."

"What?" Potter said. He seemed to consider something. "You're..."

"I don't think we've established what you're doing here."

"I live here," Potter said stubbornly, running his fingers over the threadbare sheets on the bed. His nails were chewed jagged down to the quick. With the beard, he looked like a child playing dress up. "Get out, Malfoy."

The room was bare and unfurnished. There was just the bed and a single, rickety chair. Potter didn't look starved, so the house elf must have kept him alive. He did look stark raving mad. There was a wild look in his eyes that hadn't been there before, even as the war raged uncontrolled and Potter was stuck in the middle.

"Come on, Potter," Draco said. "Let's go." He took two decisive steps towards the bed and Potter flew to his feet and snarled at him, his hands twisting into claws. Draco got a much better view than he ever wanted of Potter's scrawny body. There were healed scars on his chest and legs. His wild hair fell back as he lifted his head, and Draco saw that the famous scar had faded to a pale grey, much like the Dark Mark on Draco's right arm. Voldemort was really dead, then. Not that he'd doubted it. He'd felt the world let out a breath of relief when Potter had finally kicked that old bugger's bucket.

"Put some clothes on, Potter," he said. Potter crouched by the bed. Draco got out his wand and Potter howled and jumped, and it was all Draco could do to get the Petrificus Totalus out before Potter ripped his throat out with his teeth.

He mobilicorpused Potter up the stairs. The second they cleared the trapdoor, it fell shut and when Draco turned around, it was gone. All that remained was a faint outline of chalk on the stones.

He took Potter up to his own bedroom and released him. Potter screamed bloody murder and Draco sighed and tied him up with a quick spell, gagged him and let him thrash to his heart's delight. Maybe he'd wear himself out.

Draco went into the study and looked at his interrupted potions experiment. Harry Potter tied to his bed. The fermented gillyweed would be ready to distil soon. The Boy Who Lived Again drooling into his gag in Draco Malfoy's bed. He'd spilled some ground manticore hide on the desk. "Silky!" he called. Harry Potter, fallen hero, bane of Voldemort, mad as a hatter and quite useless to anyone.

Silky cleaned up the desk and Draco sat down to work. After a few hours, he went to check on Potter.

He was lying still on the bed now. Tears were leaking slowly from the corners of his eyes, down his cheeks and soaking into the pillow.

"Are you going to behave now, Potter?" Draco asked. Potter just stared at him - although, it occurred to Draco, he probably saw next to nothing, missing his glasses - and cried silently. "Finite incantatem."

"You're a pillock, Malfoy," Potter said hotly, as if Draco had tipped over his ink bottle in potions, or dribbled brown sauce in his hair at dinner.

"And you're a bloody fruitcake, Potter," Draco said. "I always thought you had the potential. It probably runs in the family."

"I want to go home," Potter said, as if he didn't even notice the jab. Now, that had never happened before. Potter was a tiger about his family; one mention and you were sure to earn a suppurating boil on your forehead, or a punch to the nose.

I suppose he really is insane, then, Draco thought, but he said, "You don't have a home, Potter." Potter's expression was so stricken Draco softened his voice almost against his will. "Everyone thinks you're long dead."

Potter pulled his hands through his hair, tangled his fingers in the long, greasy strands, tugged and stroked and twisted. "Where are my glasses?" he said.

"Silky," Draco said. "Get some clothes for Potter. Something from my father's room." Potter had grown since Draco had seen him last, and he was at least three inches taller than Draco, broader over the shoulders and hips. Not a hulk like Draco's old friends, or a bloody flagpole like Potter's friend Weasley, but too big to fit into anything of Draco's. "Don't want to stare at your bits all day, Potter," he said.

"I'm good, thank you," Potter said.

"Fine," Draco said. "I have work to do." He turned again in the door. "Touch anything and I'll--" but he couldn't think of anything to threaten Potter with. It wasn't like Potter hadn't been through it all already.

He sat down at his desk. After a while, Silky returned with a bundle of robes. They were dusty and frayed - his father's working robes. Silky was a Malfoy house elf; she would pick out the oldest leftovers for a mangy stray like Potter. She was probably offended on the family's behalf that Potter was sullying Draco's bedroom with his presence. "Make sure he puts them on," Draco said and went back to making notes in his journal. Manticore hide, newt brains, extract of bubotuber pus...

A series of thumps and crashes from his bedroom startled him. His quill twitched and made a thick blob of green ink all over the list. "Bugger," Draco said and reached for his wand.

The noise continued. He could hear muffled cries and shouts.

When Draco opened the door, he was treated to the sight of Potter, still starkers, wrestling a frantic house elf to the floor. "Expelliarmus," Draco said and Potter flew against the wall with a dull thud. Silky threw Draco a pleading look. "I'll take care of it," Draco said curtly.

"Evil-minded scum," Potter hissed. "Pus-faced leech. Inbred Death Eater spawn."

"You flatter me," Draco said. "Put your clothes on or I'll do it for you."

"I killed him," Potter said, but he picked up the robes. "I looked into his eyes and I saw him die. Your precious master, Malfoy."

Draco stared at him, groping for a good comeback. How much did Potter know? "I have no master," he said, but it must have put him off balance, somehow, because when Potter flew at him with his hands outstretched, Draco didn't have time to duck or parry. Potter hit him at full speed and they fell over in a tangle of legs. Potter's greasy hair covered Draco's face like seaweed, choking and rank.

"Death Eater," Potter snarled and pinned Draco to the floor. He was strong and wiry and ruthless. His fingers were like tongs, digging bruises into Draco's arms. "Death Eater, pathetic, servile, bowing--" He pushed up Draco's sleeve and scratched at the faded Dark Mark.

Draco's hand closed on his wand. "Stupefy," he croaked.

Putting the robes on Potter was easy work after that. Draco put him back on the bed, and he lay like a pile of discarded rags. Draco leaned over him and drew a finger over the scar on his forehead. "My gratitude, Potter, for killing him so I wouldn't have to." He took a deep breath. Potter stared right past him, ignoring him.

"You're pathetic," Draco said and spat in Potter's face. That was something he'd always wanted to do. Too bad Potter was so obviously off his rockers. It just wasn't the same.

Potter's mouth moved in a whisper. It might have been a plea, a name, a curse. Draco felt better.


2. Heat

Lupin wasn't quite awake, but his reflexes were as sharp as they'd ever been, and he didn't hit the floor. He released himself from the levitation spell and scrambled to his feet. Sirius was thrashing madly in the bed, clawing at his throat.

It took all of Lupin's strength to pry Sirius's hands from the amulet. "Burns," Sirius gasped and Lupin fumbled for the clasp with numb fingers. Finally, it opened, and Lupin threw the thing off the bed.

The amulet had left a scorch mark in the hollow of Sirius's throat, an angry red patch. Lupin leaned down and put his lips to it, felt the smooth, hot skin rise in blisters under his tongue. Sirius made a soft, humming sound deep in his chest.

Lupin pulled back. "I'll get some salve for that," he said. Sirius's hand trailed over his arm.

"Remus," he whispered.

Lupin leaned back in and kissed him. It didn't happen enough anymore. It was as if the war had leached all the passion out of them. Sometimes it was as if they'd never been lovers. They lived like bachelors, looked at pretty girls and drank mulled mead in silence in the evenings.

Sirius threaded his hands through Lupin's hair and tugged him closer. Lupin could almost feel the heat of the burn through inches of air. He pushed back. "Sirius--" They didn't do this enough, but now was not the time.

"I'll get dressed," Sirius said.

The amulet was back on the table. The green glow had shifted into orange at some point, and it radiated heat.

"I don't know enough about it," Lupin said. "I can't use it."

"I can deal with the charms," Sirius said, "but we need... It was intended to be a starting point for a tracking spell."

Lupin smiled. "Arithmancy was your least favourite subject, wasn't it?"

"After potions." Sirius straightened his back. Lupin watched the burn mark stretch, the shiny, healing skin move and reflect the orange light. "So."

They both turned and looked at the telephone. It sat silent and slightly ominous on the kitchen counter. It was a plain, black plastic thing. Something entirely mundane, Hermione had assured them. They'd had it for a year and never called anyone. Ron had rung them once and startled them both.

On the wall above the phone was a little slip of parchment. It said, in Hermione's neat handwriting,


1. Lift receiver.
2. Dial number (see below), one number at a time.
3. Wait for signal. If no one has replied after ten rings, try later.
Rapidly repeating signals mean the phone is in use. Try again later.
4. When there is a reply, speak normally.
5. After 'goodbye', replace receiver in the holder, i.e., "hang up" (important!).

Notes: Please, do not shout.

At the bottom of the note, Hermione had printed the telephone number to the London flat she shared with Ron Weasley in the summers.

"Hmm," Sirius said, doubtfully. "You or me?"

Lupin volunteered, mostly because he didn't quite trust Sirius's temper around Muggle appliances. He waited as the telephone tooted rusty, distant rings into his ear. The plastic felt unpleasant and sticky. Sirius's hands were gentle on his shoulder, and Sirius's breath hot on his neck.

"Weasley speaking," Ron's voice said suddenly, a little scratchy but very close by. Lupin stiffened but managed not to jump. Sirius kissed the nape of his neck.

"Er," Lupin said. "Ron."

There was a pause. Then Ron said, hesitantly, "Professor Lup-- uh. Remus?"

"Yes," Lupin said, relieved. "Something's happened." He thought, and asked, "Can Muggles listen to this?"

"What, the telephone?" Ron laughed. "No, it's a private thing. Unless there's a "tap" on it, but there shouldn't be--" Lupin heard another voice whisper something just out of earshot. "Hermione says I've seen too many Muggle films. What did you want to tell me, Remus?"

Sirius took the receiver from Lupin's hand and said, "I think you'd both better come for a visit."


3. Blood rituals

Draco, feeling magnanimous, had left Potter on the bed and asked Silky to put a few blankets and pillows on the soft plush sofa by the fireplace instead. He'd fallen asleep immediately, to sleep dreamless as he always did.

It was sunbright in the room when he woke up. Someone was moaning, whimpering something over and over. For a few disoriented seconds, Draco thought he was back in the Slytherin dorm at Hogwarts, listening to Crabbe fucking Millicent Bulstrode again.

Then he saw the familiar fireplace, the row of delicate glasses on the mantle, the heavy Malfoy crest on the wall.

"Sirius!" Potter yelled. Malfoy sat up and saw him sitting crouched half-under the bed, bare-arsed again, rubbing his face desperately. "Sirius."

"If you mean that psycho Black, he's taken his pet werewolf and gone Muggle," Draco said helpfully.


"--and so has the Weasel."

Silence. Draco pulled on his robes. Potter had stilled. Draco hummed a cheery tune and put on his shoes.

"I'd like my spectacles," Potter said. He'd crawled off the floor now, and sat perched on the bed. "I have trouble seeing without them."

"I don't have any," Draco said. "Malfoys have perfect vision. Yet another thing that makes us superior to the Potters." That was low, and cheap, and childish, but Potter raised his half-blind eyes and glared at Draco. If Potter had had a wand, Draco would no doubt be sporting snakes for hair or something to that effect.

"Breakfast, Master?" Silky the house elf said from the door.

"Yes," Draco said. "And draw a bath."

Potter refused to eat anything. Draco shrugged and sent the food away. "The bath is being ready, Master," Silky said as she pulled the sheets off the bed from under Potters sullenly inert form.

"Potter," Draco said. "Take a bath. You stink."

Potter threw him an angry glance. "You stink, Malfoy," he said.

"Bath's through there."

He didn't think for a minute that Potter would manage to clean himself on his own; not the way he seemed to hardly know where he was or who he was. "Such a waste of a beautiful mind," Draco said when Potter had stood, confused, in the bathroom door for ten minutes.

Potter helpless in a full body bind in a tubful of water. Draco thought his younger, Hogwarts self might have simply drowned the bastard, but a good deal of the murderous hatred had matured into fine indifference over the years. Not that he didn't add too much hot water so Potter's skin flushed red, and not that he didn't make sure that soap suds dribbled into Potter's eyes. He released the bind a little, let him squirm.

"Sirius," Potter whispered again as Draco squeezed water out of his mass of hair.

"Be quiet," Draco said. Potter's neck looked defenceless and bony, the knobs of his spine standing out starkly against his white skin. Draco himself had always been fair-skinned, but Potter was almost transparent and made Draco's hands look sunburned and rough.

It was almost pretty, Draco thought. Potter looked healthy; the strange elf must have kept him well. He was skinny, but then, he'd always been. There was a row of scars that looked fresher than the rest of them, along his sides, jagged scratches trailing a row down his ribcage.

"Tried to top yourself, did you?"

Potter touched the scars with his own fingertips. "I don't remember," he said, sounding almost lucid for a second. "Where am I?"

"Right now? You're messing up my personal bathroom," Draco said. "You're my guest." He smiled widely, falsely. Potter blanched.

"I need to talk to Sirius," he said.

"Can't help you there. And if I could, I wouldn't, so don't bother asking." He straightened up. "Accio scissors."

Potter started and splashed water on the floor, narrowly missing Draco's robe hem. He stilled when Draco tightened the bind again. "Just giving you a little trim."

The hair fell in great, sodden lumps around the tub. It felt oddly pleasant to shear through the masses; it was silky and curled around his fingers, clung to his skin. Potter shivered under his hands.

It occurred to Draco that he was grooming Harry Potter like a common servant. He processed this for a while, running his fingers through the uneven hair. "Helpless," he muttered. "Accio razor."

He took a deep breath and pushed Potter's head back. The blade against Potter's throat was tempting, asking for just a little pressure, but he settled for nicking the skin just enough to draw blood. "A few years too late," he said softly.

He shaved off the worst of the beard, none too gently, and finished with a close shave spell and stepped back to survey the results.

Potter looked almost human again, if you didn't look too closely at his glazed eyes. His skin was still perfect, like it had been in school, and now with added translucence from years out of the sun. Blood was trickling slowly down his throat and pooling between his collarbones.

"I think I'll keep you," Draco said. Potter didn't react. Draco put his fingertips over the shallow wound on his throat, licked the stain. He remembered the taste of blood well, even though he'd never really been wild about Voldemort's penchant for blood rituals and other archaic nonsense. There was something about this, though. Potter's blood, almost hidden under the soapy taste of Filibert Finkle's Finest Bathing Gel.

Potter rested his head against the edge of the tub and shivered.


4. Shoot the messenger

Ron and Hermione must have taken the plea for haste seriously; they arrived precisely eight hours after the phone call, which was, Lupin thought, very fast travelling indeed. He couldn't be entirely sure, of course, because they came by motorcar.

He was sitting on the bench in the garden, watching the sun head downwards between the branches of the lilac hedge as bumblebees buzzed between flowers and Padfoot lay at his feet. He'd been thinking about getting a blanket - somehow, the sun refused to warm him, and there was a low ache somewhere in his back, as if he'd suddenly aged fifty years. Then he'd thought about the look on Sirius's face if he'd had to watch Lupin sit hunched under a blanket like an old man. Sirius still wanted to think they were teenagers.

Ron's car was a faded red with patches of rust here and there. It came to a clanging stop inside a cloud of fumes in the front yard.

Lupin sat frozen, trying to think of a way to break the news. He jabbed Padfoot in the side with his foot. "Stop hiding," he said. The dog gave him a reproachful glance and loped inside to change back.

"Remus!" Hermione said, smiling broadly, dazzlingly. Every time they met - and it wasn't often enough, really - he had a moment of disorientation while his brain readjusted to her adult face. After she left, he'd revert to his mental image of her as a precocious thirteen-year-old in a plaid skirt, her frizzy hair in a cloud around her face. Now she was tall and straight-backed, her hair cut and thinned into a tidy bob, and she wore slacks and a slightly travel-rumpled linen shirt.

She wasted no time. Even as she embraced him, her strong arms twining tight around his neck, she was asking, "What's wrong? You sounded terrible on the phone! I was an absolute wreck the whole way, just ask Ron."

Ron stood behind her, smiling his lopsided Weasley smile, hands in his jeanspockets. Remus almost had to crane his neck to look him in the eye. "All right there, Remus?"

"Please, come inside," Remus said, buying himself a few more minutes.

In the end, he was saved the awkwardness of bringing up Harry. The amulet still lay on the table, glowing brightly in plain view, and Hermione stopped right inside the door. Ron walked into her.

"What?" he said, but she seemed not to notice her. Remus waited behind them, both relieved and panicking once more.

Hermione pressed both her hands against her mouth, as if keeping in a scream. "What is it, Herm--" Ron tried again, but broke off. "Fffffuck."

"Tea?" Sirius asked from the kitchen, his voice tight and brittle. He was emulating Lupin, clearly, making an effort. More characteristic of Sirius would have been a stiff drink and dam the torpedoes. Lupin thought for a moment that he might want that drink himself.

Instead he said, "I'll put it on. Perhaps you could bring Ron and Hermione up to speed." Now that they'd already realised the reason for their visit, Lupin didn't feel guilty about shifting the responsibility of talking onto Sirius.

"Yes," Hermione said. "I can do the calculations. I don't think it's-- It was made for Sirius - I'll need him for the incantations."

"Anything," Sirius said quickly. "Anything at all."

"I didn't doubt that," Hermione said. She had ignored her tea. Next to her, Ron was picking a scone into crumbs on his plate. Night had fallen around the cottage. Lupin got up and searched the kitchen drawers for more candles. He couldn't find any.

"A repetition of the creation spell?" Sirius asked. His chair scraped against the floor and then his hands came around Lupin, pushed the drawer closed. "Settle down," he said softly. "I'll get this."

Lupin hadn't realised he was fretting.

Sirius flicked the light switch and the kitchen was bathed in sharp, electric light. Lupin felt like an old, doddering fool.

"A repetition, yes, and then the tracking spell. Do you have..." Hermione was already jotting down notes. "Perhaps a ruby would do it. Or an amethyst, although they don't give quite the same results, and a ruby would really be preferable if we want the tracking to be accurate. Amethysts tend to be a little unpredictable. And something of Harry's that has never belonged to anyone else."

She paused, scribbled another note, and looked up at Sirius and Lupin. "Also, there are-- Have you considered--" Ron patted her hand and she blurted out, "It could be a trap." Her eyes were shiny, frantic.

Lupin considered this. Considered finishing the arduous tracking spell, following its signal to some secret and magic place, only to find a group of Death Eaters waiting.

"The war is over," Ron said. "The Death Eaters are gone. Voldemort is gone."

The fact that Ron spoke the name out loud should be proof enough of that, Lupin thought, but Hermione said, miserably, "We have to take it into consideration. There may--"

"Does it matter?" Sirius said. "I'll go anyway. What--" He actually broke off before he could finish that thought, but Lupin heard it anyway. What have I got to lose?

Sirius was domesticated in manners, but he was, underneath it all, just as impulsive as he'd been in his youth. He could still, thoughtlessly, cut Lupin to shreds and never notice.

But his hand closed briefly around Lupin's before he went back to the table; perhaps he noticed, after all.

Lupin put the ring on the table next to the cauldron. "My mother's," he said.

"Oh, Remus," Hermione said, her eyes warm and her mouth curved in sympathy.

"She's been dead for years," Lupin said and wished Sirius would...something. But Sirius was picking up the ring, studying it.

"Is the stone big enough, Hermione?" he asked. His expression was eager, almost predatory. He was half dog already, loping across the country to rescue Harry.

They'd dug through the chest that was all that remained of Harry, picked through school books and notes and his Quidditch robes and his diploma and his small collection of Famous Wizards trading cards that he'd kept even after he'd turned eighteen. Sirius had grown grim and silent as they looked for something that was Harry's and Harry's only. So much was lost; his broom and wand had been buried in the otherwise empty casket. Most of his clothes had gone up in the fire that destroyed Lupin's old house. Almost everything he owned was a hand-me-down.

Finally Ron had recognised a small, battered bauble as a pocket sneakoscope he'd given Harry on his thirteenth birthday. "That will do," Hermione had said.

The clock on the wall chimed and the cuckoo popped its head out and said, "It's one in the morning, you gits, would you go to bed and be quiet?"

"Sorry," Lupin said, distractedly.

"I am rather tired," Hermione said. "First thing in the morning? The spell will take hours. It's very complex."

"And you've never done it before," Ron said, frowning. "Are you--"

"It's Harry, Ron."

Sirius sat perfectly still next to Lupin. Lupin could almost smell the frustration on him.

The cottage had three rooms: the kitchen, which was always messy, since neither Lupin nor Sirius was the housekeeping type. The living room, which housed a large, lumpy sofa that could be transformed into a comfortable queen sized bed with a quick spell. The bedroom, with their constantly unmade bed.

"Er," Lupin said. Hermione patted his shoulder.

"Don't worry. It's not like we didn't know."

"Ah. Quite." He felt old again. Sirius snorted.

"You two will share, then?"

"That's fine," Ron said. He and Hermione shared a glance that Lupin couldn't interpret.

"We don't see enough of them," Lupin said after they'd closed the door between the rooms, just to make conversation. Sirius paced, fairly humming with tension. "Would you settle down?"

"He's alive, Moony," Sirius exclaimed, finally stopping. He fixed Lupin with his pale eyes. For a moment, with the light from the bedside lamp falling sharply over his face, he looked almost like the emaciated wraith that had escaped from Azkaban ten years ago. The wild shine in his eyes was the same. A chill crept down Lupin's spine; heat pooled somewhere below his stomach. He looked down at his feet, clad in grass-stained, scuffed trainers.

In the silence between them, he heard his own breaths and Sirius's - if he tried, he might pick up Sirius's heartbeat. He didn't like indulging in anything that reminded him of the werewolf. Instead, he heard, with human ears, Ron and Hermione talking softly on the other side of the door; crickets chirping outside the window; the rustling of leaves in a gentle night breeze; light footsteps approaching across a creaky wooden floor--

"Remus," Sirius said.

"Sirius," Lupin said and looked up. Sirius touched his face, light fingertips skating over his cheekbone.

"You're--" Hands tangled in his hair. "I forget, sometimes. That you're not the same person as...then."

Lupin shook the hands off, irritably. Sirius would say blindingly obvious things as if he'd really just thought of them. "We're none of us what we were."

"I'm sorry," Sirius said, and Lupin turned back to him, flower to the sun. "I'm sorry, Moony. I miss him." Lupin didn't know if he meant Harry or James. Sirius got them confused sometimes - brief instances of confusion that Lupin didn't think anyone else noticed - as if the past hadn't quite divorced itself from the present for him. The years in Azkaban probably had something to do with that.

"We'll find him," he ventured, and Sirius shrugged, as if to shake off an unpleasant thought.

"Come to bed," he said, raising an eyebrow. Lupin's face heated.

"You do pick your nights. These walls are like paper."

"They know," Sirius said. "And that never bothered you before. Those drapes back at school weren't exactly soundproof, either."

"We're none of us what we were," Lupin repeated, but he didn't mean it this time. He let Sirius pull his shirt off, he pushed his hands down along the small of Sirius's back, tugged him closer.

He woke once, much later, when a restlessly sleeping Sirius reached for him again, clung to him and murmured garbled words into his ear. It was a long time before he let himself sleep again.


Part Three: Gold
1. ...and again and again and again

"Like being sucked into a vortex," Potter said, illustrating with a rather obscene hand gesture. "No, wait. Not 'like'. I mean, I was, literally, sucked into a vortex. Green and spinny, little sparkles of gold and crimson flitting past me. I've thought long about how to describe it. Bathorus wasn't much in the way of company; what you'd expect from Voldemort's help, I guess"

"Uhuh," Draco said. Potter hadn't shut up for hours.

"I don't know how long it took. It felt like a fraction of a second, or many years. All my life, maybe. I don't know, I don't know--" He pressed the heels of his hands violently against his eyes. "I think it broke something..."

"Uhuh," Draco said.

They were sitting on the steps leading into the park. It had been a dry summer here, and although it was still very warm - Potter was dressed (with only a minimum of fuss) in a pair of ancient corduroy trousers and nothing else - there were already dead leaves dripping from the elms. Sometimes Draco entertained the idea of simply aiming his wand at the overgrown garden and blasting it all to kingdom come. Boom.

He laughed, and Potter stopped trying to squeeze out his eyeballs through his nostrils and looked up, frozen like a startled deer.

"Shut up, Potter," Draco said.

"You're losing your edge, Malfoy," Potter said. "Did your parents leave you none of theirs?"

Malfoy slipped his wand out of the hook in his sleeve and blinded Potter with a temporary hex. "Shut up, Potter," he said.

The hex covered Potter's eyes with a white film. He looked even more like a ghost. He turned his face to Draco without really reacting. His voice was low and even. Almost pleasant. "You don't scare me, pathetic piece of filth. You're nothing, you're all alone. At least people miss me."

"I wouldn't bet on that," Draco muttered. He'd been locked up when the funeral was held, but he'd heard about it - thousands of mourners, swooning women, crying men. That freak Sirius Black almost jumping into the grave. A complete zoo.

"Where are your friends, Draco?" Potter's voice was soft, suddenly. Sympathetic. Poor little Draco, all alone.

He forced himself to put the wand down. "Where are your friends, Harry?" Potter stiffened, blinked. The hex was wearing off - Draco could see a faint sheen of green in the white. "You'd think they'd be out looking for you, wouldn't you? Instead they're hiding in the Muggle world like rats in a sewer. You won the bloody war for them and--"

Potter slapped him in the face with unsettling force and precision. Draco rubbed his cheek gingerly. Potter sat still, his face twisted into a snarl. Draco rolled his shoulder and punched Potter in the nose, a neat textbook move. His knuckles stung.

Potter flew at him, spitting and hissing like a cat. Draco felt an odd sting of nostalgia. Just like in school, Potter's sharp knuckles pounding at his ribs, Potter's eyes filled with righteous fury. The golden boy had a temper and Draco had always known just where to wedge his insults.

As he fended off another barrage of jabs and aimed an elbow at the jut of Potter's Adam's apple, Draco wondered if he might have had just the inkling of an obsession with Harry Potter.

Potter pushed back at him, both hands on Draco's chest. Obsession, now. Such a nasty word. Potter was scrabbling to his feet. He was holding Draco's wand.

"Fuck," Draco said. Potter raised the wand.

"Avada ke--" he started, and Draco yelled,


Potter scratched himself on the forehead scar. "What?"

"What are you, the Dark Lord, mark two?"

Potter was breathing hard, suddenly. The wand drooped. Draco pushed himself up, carefully. "Harry," he said, softly. "Harry."

Potter's eyes brimmed with tears. He dropped the wand as he bent double and vomited green bile on the dry grass. His knobbly back strained, tight as a violin string.

Draco picked up his wand. "Fuck," he muttered. "All right there, Potter?" He winced. He meant-- "In the house, Potter."

"It was a trap," Potter whispered thickly. Draco wrinkled his nose at the sour smell of vomit. "I knew it even before we went up the hill. I ran, so Remus and Sirius would have to stay behind and hold the Death Eaters back." His breaths came fast and shallow.

Draco wiped his wand on his robes. "Why are you telling me--"

"Listen!" Potter was staring at him. "It was just us. It was the end. He had lost Pettigrew. I had never cast the killing curse. Never. He'd killed hundreds. And I couldn't think, my head was splitting and the wind sounded like cries of pain."

"Be quiet," Draco said, but his voice was drying up. Potter's eyes were almost as big and glowing as a house elf's.

"And I said it, and I beat him to it; I think he didn't think I'd be that fast."

Draco had always especially looked for that ruthless streak in Potter. If he stopped thinking and just reacted, he'd rub your face in the gravel until sparks flew off your teeth and your lips were shredded. And then he'd feel bad about it after, which just made everything perfect.

He cleaned the stink off Potter with a spell. Potter hugged himself and glared, but he seemed to have run out of story. Which was good, because Draco was not in a mood to hear him recount his fascinating years of playing exploding snap with a deranged house elf while Draco stood trial and lost everything out in the real world.

They went back inside, Potter trailing obediently behind Draco.

"Is..." he mumbled indistinctly. "Who's alive?"

Draco stopped. That sounded almost like Potter had re-entered the atmosphere. "Who?"

"Who? Everyone. Sirius, Remus, Ron." He shuffled uncomfortably. "Hermione. Dumbledore."

"Right, sorry. Your friends." Draco allowed his best sneer to form. "How the fuck should I know? I wasn't with them."

Potter headed for the bed. Draco waited a few beats. "Dumbledore's dead," he said. Potter curled up in a ball on the bed. Draco smiled. He felt almost...affectionate. He looked around his room. His things. The last scion of the Malfoys. The line would die with him.

And Potter, pale and wan like a Victorian maid, his shock of black hair looking much like it had when Draco first saw him, age eleven. As if even then, it was cut with malicious hands.

Draco sat down on the bed next to Potter. "Hey, Potter," he said and touched a quivering shoulder. "The old sod died in his sleep, at Hogwarts. The rest of them are still making life hard for decent wizards everywhere."

Potter uncurled just a little. It was hot in the room, and dusty. Draco thought about calling for Silky, but instead, he lay down on his back with his feet dangling over the edge, just barely touching the carpet. "Life stinks, doesn't it, Potter?" he said. Potter didn't reply, but he stretched a little and pushed his bare toes against Draco's ribs.


2. Cunningly devised

"I don't know what's wrong," Hermione said, wilting in her chair. "I know the charts are correct."

She'd drawn them directly on the table in bright blue chalk. Lupin didn't even mourn the table, even though he and Sirius had polished it themselves, outside in the garden last summer, shirtless both and baking in the sun. Now the runes and lines had burned deep into the wood, spread faint purple scorch marks up and down the grain.

It wasn't working, though. Lupin realised that he wasn't even disappointed - he hadn't allowed himself to believe, despite the patch of shiny new skin on Sirius's throat.

"Dumbledore was... Dumbledore," Lupin said. "He'd forgotten more magic than you'll ever learn. Perhaps--"

"Hmm," she said.

Ron and Sirius were pacing the house. It might have been comical if their faces hadn't been drawn and their eyes haunted. Now they stopped, simultaneously. "What?" Sirius snapped.

"Herm?" Ron asked, with a grain of hope.

"I don't understand half of these charms, but I think I can...bypass some of them. Or, I could." She hesitated.

They waited. Lupin realised he was holding his breath and let it out.

"I'm sorry," Hermione said quietly. "I'd need Harry's wand."

The sky was indecently clear, the half moon remaining as a faint water stamp on the washed-out blue. Lupin turned his face away from it. Padfoot was prowling the garden, pissing in the flowerbeds and making a nuisance of himself. Lupin recognised Sirius's waiting skills. Sometimes he couldn't believe that Sirius had ever survived a second behind bars. It was as if he'd become someone else for twelve years and then almost effortlessly reverted to the impulsive, impatient man he were before.

But no, that wasn't right. Sirius was frighteningly patient when it was necessary. He'd just let his guard down now, finally.

Lupin whistled softly, and the dog pricked his ears. "You're killing the dahlias," Lupin said.

Padfoot trotted up to him and pushed against his leg. He crouched down and stroked the thick fur, the powerful shoulders and neck. Sometimes it felt almost perverse to touch Padfoot like this, because he could feel Sirius under the skin, just barely contained, and it was too good to let his fingers take their fill of warmth, the dog's love unconditional and simple.

"Not in front of the children!" Ron choked when Padfoot turned his big face to Lupin and licked his jaw and throat. Lupin pressed his face against the fur, smelling sunwarm dog and a hint of Sirius's aftershave.

"Perhaps," he said, fighting the urge to curl up around Padfoot on the dying lawn. "Um. Perhaps we should rest and gather strength. It will probably be an arduous night."

Dogs could look surprisingly lecherous. He swatted at Padfoot and Ron looked scandalised. Hermione sniggered. She was sitting on a garden chair with a book in her lap, taking notes.

Lupin stood, shedding his light mood. "I'll go find the floo powder. We leave just before sunset."


3. High and dry

When he woke up, Draco found his arms wrapped around Potter's hips, and his face pressed into the small of Potter's back. This was an unexpected development, but he stayed in that position for some time, listening to Potter breathing and wondering if insanity was contagious.

"What's the time?" he muttered.

"Ten - thirty - pee - em," Silky answered from somewhere in the room.

"Crap," Draco said and pushed himself up. Potter snored on, oblivious to the world. He slept even more than Draco did, which was a lot. He dreamed, though; twitched and whimpered, flailed his arms around.

"Fuck! Malfoy!" he yelled at one point. "Maaaaaaaaaalfoyyyyyy--" and the cry turned into a groan.

Draco sat down on the sofa and watched. "No, no, no," Potter chanted. He was squirming and pushing at the bed, clawing at himself, tugging at his trousers. "No!"

Draco took pity on him and went and shook him hard. "Potter, wake up!"

Potter shot up like a jack-in-the-box and wrapped himself around Draco. Draco sat down on the bed, clumsily.

"Malfoy!" Potter breathed. "Damn. I've never been so happy to see you in my life!" Draco tried to back off, but Potter's arms were like vines, his breath hot against Draco's neck. "Where have I been? Where was I?"

"In my father's basement," Draco said, surprising himself.

"Voldemort," Potter said. His lips were moving against Draco's throat. Potter was stroking his neck.

"Would you stop--" Draco tried, but Potter cut him off.

"Don't take this as flattery, but I haven't touched another human being in-- I don't even know how long-- I feel. I feel." He took a deep, slow breath. "Draco."

"You're a barking lunatic, Potter," Draco said and stopped trying to fight. Potter's nose was still swollen from earlier, and if he didn't remember that, well. It was his problem.

"And you're the scum of the Earth, but here we are," Potter said. Probably his idea of a pickup line. No wonder he never copped off in school.

"Are we done with the male bonding now?"

Potter shrugged against him and let him go. "I suppose so." He lay down again. Draco stared at him.

"Tosser." He got up and walked around the room for a while. Potter seemed to be asleep. Draco left the room, walked through the study and out into the hall. The rest of the house lay silent and dust-covered around him, filled with ancient furniture and picture frames where the dead relatives had fallen asleep leaning against banisters and chairbacks. There were over two miles of hallway in the mansion, he thought someone had said...sometimes. Back when there were people in the house and all the rooms were open and warm.

He found what had been his mother's music room. A grand piano slept under a dustcloth. The portrait above looked empty at first, but when Draco peered closer, he saw that his grandfather had curled up on the rug by the painted fire and was snoring softly. It made Draco wonder if there wasn't some werewolf blood in the family. Werewolf clans were, after all, old lineages. Unless they were mutts like Lupin.

There were ghosts in the house, but they hid from Draco, cowered in the corners in quivering puddles of ectoplasm. He missed the frisky Hogwarts ghosts. The Malfoys with any character would never stoop to haunting.

He sat at the piano.

The room waited, silent around him. He thought, I've already turned into a ghost.

It was not a reassuring thought. He took out his wand and tore the painting of his grandfather off the wall. "Filthy dog!" grandfather Malfoy yelled and Draco made a fire in the stone cold fireplace and threw the painting there.

After that, he let the sheet fly off the piano like a great cloud of woven dust. He bent open the top and broke the strings with rapid-fire curses, zzzing, zzzing, zzzing, zzzzing. High F flew up with a bright chime and slashed across his forehead. The pain caught him unawares and he lost steam. He sat back on the stool. The broken strings hummed with residue magic, angry dissonances.

He'd played on this piano as a child, his mother hovering behind him, occasionally tapping the rhythm on the top with her wand, sending iridescent sparks soaring over the black lacquered surface.

She told him, the very last thing, "I'll slit your throat myself before I let them have you, Draco." She lied.

He left the room when the whispering of the pathetic ghosts grew louder. He followed his own footsteps back through the halls.

The gardens lay dark under a half-hidden moon. Draco squinted at the trees, trying to make out the shapes moving under them, and thought again about blowing it all up. There were things living in the park; escaped pets grown feral, magical creatures that were never truly tamed. Draco had been given a snake on his tenth birthday. He'd hated it after it ate his collection of Japanese tap-dancing mice, and let it loose one still afternoon.

It was probably still out there, growing long and fat on deer and wild boars.

That was not a snake, nor a deer, moving aimlessly between the drunkenly leaning maples by the pond.

"Fucking Potter," Draco said. He couldn't (why not? he might have asked himself if he hadn't been too busy cursing and running down the stairs) leave Potter to be eaten by former pet snakes or feral house elves.

He almost tripped over Silky in the ground floor hallway. "Why'd you let him out?" he asked, not entirely out of breath.

"Master?" she said, blankly, and he growled and ran outside.

"Potter, you twit!"

And there he was, standing under the biggest maple, probably heading towards the hedge of miniature whomping willows, or the bigger pond with its complimentary Nameless Creature, or the Talking Glade, where the trees would attempt to twine roots around his ankles and drag him into hollows in their trunks.

"Potter, this park is not safe for bloody nutters!"

"Fuck you, Malfoy," he could hear Potter yelling back. "I'm going home."

Draco stomped down the stairs into the park. His ancestral home towered behind him, crowding him. "You have no home, Potter! Your parents are DEAD. Your relatives HATE you. Your friends have gone MUGGLE! Where the bloody hell are you going to go?"

His breaths were hurting his throat, as if the air was suddenly freezing. "Potter! Get back here!"

He gasped for breath. He couldn't follow. "Potter!"

"Master?" Silky said behind him, her voice an echoing boom. "Silky puts on tea."

Draco pushed his hair back from his face. His fingers caught in it and he tugged hard. He hadn't noticed how long it was getting. Sweat trickled in sticky tendrils down his back. He needed to sleep.

His knees buckled and he sat down hard on the steps. There was no wind, and the night was muggy and hot. His eyes hurt.

"Hey." A tap on his shoulder. "Malfoy."

"What?" he snapped, and Potter skittered back a couple steps. Good to know he could still look somewhat intimidating, even after driving himself into hysteria like his bloody grandmother.

"Um," Potter said. "There's a giant snake in your park."

"I know."

"Er. He says to tell you that the deer are out of control and you should get some hunters in there."

Draco looked up into Potter's thin, earnest face. "I do not have a python for a gamekeeper. Tell me I don't."

"Did you just have a panic attack?" He didn't wait for Draco to answer. "The house is dark. There's no one else here, is there? Everyone's gone."

Draco could think of nothing he'd like less than going back up to his rooms. Maybe going back up there without Potter.

He grabbed Potter by the arm and towed him inside. Silky, carrying a tray with tea and crumpets, trailed after them.


4. Honour among graverobbers

Even Hermione brought a spade.

The Hogsmeade cemetery was tiny from the outside, but inside the low stone wall it was folded up in time and space like a stack of tablecloths. Sirius had a natural knack for practical magic, and could navigate the folds with nothing but his eyes and ears and a lumos spell. Lupin was lost after the first temporal turn, his stomach turning in slow rolls as reality fluttered around him.

The air was unnaturally still and thick this deep inside the folding charms, and the hairs at the back of Lupin's neck were standing up in a prickling row.

Harry's grave was next to Lily and James's. Harold James Potter, 1980 - 1998, the stone lied boldly. There was no Harry there, just a wizard's wand (thirteen and a half inches, holly, phoenix tail feather) and a battered Firebolt.

Sirius rubbed his hands through his hair. Lupin shifted his weight between his feet. Hermione was biting her nails.

"So," Ron said. "Dig?"

They dug. Lupin concentrated on the simple mechanical movements of wedging the spade into the soil, pushing it down, lifting, throwing, repeat. He didn't look at the stone, not at the stone next to it. He ignored the ghosts gathering around them, their whispered comments ("What are they looking for?" "Beats me, guv, there's nothing in that grave. I went down to check meself - Potter boy's famous, y'know.")

Ron tried an automation spell on Hermione's spade, but the folding charms confused the magic and he managed to turn the spade into a rake instead.

"Dig," Sirius said. Lupin bent over his spade again.

No one spoke when the first clang of a blade hitting the casket rung out in the stuffy air. Sirius doubled his efforts, threw dirt and pebbles and surprised earth worms every which way. His face was waxy white and damp, his eyes darker than they should be.

Lupin thought about his breathing, thought about rhythm. Sirius pushed him aside with careless hands, and jumped into the open grave.

Hermione sat down on the grass and folded her legs neatly. Lupin stood helpless next to Ron and waited as she arranged the ingredients, the scribbled notes and the small ruby on a blank parchment in front of her. There was a grunt from Sirius and the sound of boards breaking and rusty nails screeching through rotting wood.

"Hermione," Sirius said. Hermione didn't look up from her charts.

"Accio wand," she said and Harry's wand flew out of the grave and landed in her waiting hand.

She fainted once, halfway through the spell. Her voice caught on a word and her eyes rolled into her head. Lupin caught her before she fell over. He lifted her eyelids and saw only white, lifted her chin so she wouldn't choke.

"Come on," Sirius muttered. "Wake her up."

Lupin expected Ron to react to that, but he didn't. Hermione lay still in Lupin's arms, and Ron and Sirius paced. It was as if Harry had cast hooks into their flesh from somewhere beyond this empty grave and was reeling them in. Lupin hadn't thought about Harry much, throughout this. There were no guarantees, anyway.

He stroked Hermione's hair. It had gone frizzy again sometimes during the night, and she looked almost painfully young. "Hermione?" he said softly.

Her eyes flew open. "Harry?" she said, her voice a little rusty. "Oh. Oh. It's okay, I feel better."

He held her a moment before she shook him off and went back to the spell, her voice clear again, her back straight. She lifted the wand. "Sirius," she said, "you're probably closest." Her eyes slid over to Ron. "Officially, at least."

She never looked at Lupin. She held out her hands, ruby in one, Harry's wand in the other. Sirius took the wand and there was a short flash of gold and scarlet as the ruby melted into a red-gold drop in her hand. It moved; thin lines raced over her hand, towards the wrist. A jagged coastline up her arm, the map notated with almost-invisible names and numbers written in gold on her skin. She pushed up her sleeve, followed them.

"Damn, help me," she whispered, her hands going to the hem of her shirt. Lupin's hands felt cold and shaky when he pulled off the shirt and saw the bright lines snaking over her shoulder and down her back. They crowded behind her. "It burns...a little," she said.

An outcropping, a mountain, a lake and a dark red blotch marked "Hogwarts". More lines, roads and forests, back to the coast. The Scottish shoreline going South, South, over the bumps of Hermione's spine, over small birthmarks and scars. And in greater detail, a small, winding road...

It stopped. Hermione whimpered and knotted her hands into fists. Ron held her shoulder.

"The bastards," Sirius said. A spot in gold was growing right over Hermione's hipbone. Faint lines brightened into letters.

"What does it say?" she asked, her breaths coming in harsh bursts.

Lupin leaned closer. Sirius's hand came down on his shoulder, digging into the muscle. Lupin shivered. "Malfoy Manor," he said, quietly.


Part Four: Silver




Draco snapped upright. "What?"

Potter was pressed against him on the sofa, leaning over him. Moonlight turned his eyes into blind silver. "How long, Malfoy?"

Draco pulled a shaky hand over his face. "Since-- Five years."

Potter was silent, but he didn't go back to the bed.


"The BASTARDS. I thought those pureblood snakes were obliterated from the face of the EARTH."

"When I get my hands on Malfoy, I'm not holding back; this is the last time he gets--"

Lupin tried. "Sirius--"

Hermione tried. "Ron--"

"--kill him with my hands if needs be--"

"--rip his head off and use it for a Quaffle--"

"--Voldemort's breeding stock--"

"--always had it in for Harry--"

"Sirius--" When it didn't work, Lupin lifted the lid on his anger just the tiniest bit. His voice boomed in his chest. "Sirius, WAIT! THINK!"

Sirius stopped in his tracks. The mad gleam in his eyes remained, but a little subdued. Hermione, still half-dressed, looked at Lupin with the shadow of a smile flitting over her tired face.


Draco must have dozed off, because he didn't know when Potter had lain down beside him. He felt drained, but Potter was warm and steady next to him, calm breaths in his ear, a hand resting lightly on his breastbone. The sofa was too small for two grown men, but Potter had somehow wedged himself in between the back and Draco, a leg thrown over Draco's hips.

It was too familiar, too close. "Potter, for fuck's sake," Draco said, his voice raspy and dry. "Potter!"

Potter woke up - it raced like a jolt through him, sleep-limp to fully alert. "Hey, what?" he mumbled indistinctly.

"I don't know," Draco said.

"I'm so-- confused." Potter struggled, trying to disentangle himself. His body felt like nothing but angles and knots and bumps. He managed to get into a half-sitting position, braced against Draco's side. Draco stayed where he was, still sleep-drunk. "Did you make that trap?"

Draco didn't know what the sudden burst of cold through his chest meant, but it didn't feel good. "What, no," he said.

"You kept me there--"

"I just found you."

Potter had never believed a word he said, at least not in school. For good reason, of course. Now he cocked his head and studied Draco. It was uncomfortably intense, and Draco wanted to close his eyes. Potter's hipbone was digging, knife-sharp, into Draco's thigh. "Did your father go to Azkaban for it, at least?"

He did close his eyes, then. Even his tongue was cold. "No," he said, his voice sounding right - nonchalant, superior. "There was no trial. The Dementors administered the Kiss immediately."

"Oh," Potter said. "I'm sorry." Potter had always been so polite, when he remembered to try.

Draco coughed, and coughed. "I'm not," he wheezed, angrily. "He had it coming."

"I'm sorry," Potter said again and touched Draco's face with his warm, soft hand.

Draco had already turned into the touch before he realised what he was doing. Potter's fingers trailed gently over his mouth. A touch of salt on Draco's cold tongue, a jagged nail catching on his dry lips. Potter was utterly still; only his hand moved.


"There's a big park around the mansion," Lupin said. "It's not entirely--"

"How do you know?" Sirius said. Lupin told himself he wasn't being interrogated.

"Someone told me." Another werewolf, a feral one that had lived in those woods. Talking to him, Lupin had felt so tame, so domesticated - almost like a dog.

Sirius glared at him, not at all tame. "It doesn't matter. Magical creatures, we can handle. Dark Arts, we can handle. Your speciality, Remus."

"And you're just bloody dangerous," Lupin said softly.

"Exactly," Sirius said.


Draco couldn't sleep, of course, and he couldn't very well sit on the sofa and hold Potter's hand. Potter seemed quite happy to sit still, his hand curled around Draco's fingers. But then again, he was a barking lunatic.

"I'm not bonkers, you know," Draco said and tugged his hand back. He pressed his lips together; there was a tingle of warmth there, a burn left by Potter's fingers.

"No, you're completely sane, Draco," Potter said. "You just lock yourself in this rotten place to get some peace and quiet."

"That's right," Draco said. He rose too quickly and his knees almost buckled. "I have work to do."

"No, you don't," Potter said. He might have made a move to reach for Draco, but Draco ignored him and went into his study. He'd almost finished the mirror potion; it just needed re-heating and a pinch of earth dug from a dragon's lair.

Potter stood in the door and watched him. It made Draco's skin crawl. The potion bubbled and he strewed the dirt over it. It stilled and turned into something like liquid silver, brilliantly shiny and heavy. Perfect.

It looked a little like unicorn's blood; not a sight to forget. "What's that?" Potter asked, suspiciously.

Not what you think, I guess, Draco thought. He didn't want Potter to think-- He wanted to explain-- "Mirror potion," he said. "It's not dangerous--" Bitterly, "--not even dark."

He wondered if he could test it on Silky. He made potions, tested them, stored them. A colourful row of bottles and jars stood on a shelf on the opposite wall. More crowded a low shelf in the cupboard. He was working his way through a copy of Most Potente Potions, Advanced Edition. Professor Snape had given it to him on the occasion of his graduation. "Perhaps you could channel all that frustration into something useful," Snape had said with something that might have been a smile on someone else's face.

Potter had been quiet for a while, thinking. "You liked Potions," he said then.

"So I did," Draco said and poured his mirror potion into a clean bottle. It was oil-thick and smelled faintly of myrrh.

"I hated it," Potter said thoughtfully.

"So you did." He put the bottle on the shelf. What next? Potter was still standing in the door, his hands casually pushed into his pockets, his bony shoulders touched with silvery moonlight from the bedroom window. "Are you going somewhere with this discussion?"

Potter lifted his hand to his forehead. "You have a--"

Draco's forehead gave a twitch of pain. There was dried blood just under the hairline. "Just a scratch."

Potter moved closer. His eyes were wide and concerned. "It's--" He reached out and Draco grabbed his wrist, hard.

"Don't to--" Potter stepped into his arms, wrapped himself around him.

"I miss it," he whispered hoarsely. "Everything. Everything."

His ribs were sharp under Draco's hands, his breath damp heat on Draco's face. Draco felt his own hands betray him, trembling and weak. "Potter--"

"You're filth, Malfoy," Potter said without a trace of reproach, and kissed him.


They Apparated. Lupin hadn't done it in years, and he was coursing with adrenaline when he found his feet again. The park was untended and overgrown, and he stumbled on vines and fallen branches. The moonlight - half-moon, and he felt its tug somewhere, still feeble, but growing - painted stark silver outlines on the world, but gave no sense of depth. Lupin's heart fluttered and stung. Sirius suddenly took up space next to his elbow and he lost his footing again. Sirius snaked out an arm and caught him.

"Hey--" He pulled Lupin into a brief embrace; just a quick touch of lips on his cheek, a hand on his neck. Then he was gone, a black shape bounding into the shadows between the trees. Lupin trudged after him, wishing, for the millionth futile time that werewolves could become animagi. He heard Ron and Hermione behind him and turned.

Hermione was still a walking map, glowing lines barely faded gold. The map drew itself over and over, cutting through her skin. A small drawing of a stone mansion had appeared just over her right breast, half-hidden by her sensible white bra. She didn't seem to be bothered by her state of undress. Lupin looked at the map on her chest and tried not to feel like a dirty old man. Sirius wasn't here to help him - he could have touched him, slid a hand under his shirt to feel skin, to ground himself and make sure that Hermione realised... realised.

Her face was calm and serious. Lupin felt sheepish and looked deliberately back at her chest. "It's not far, just a mile or so to the West."

"Right, right. Let's go," she said, holding her wand in a tight grip and waving at Ron. She took Lupin's hand. "You look tired, Remus."

He didn't reply, but let her keep her hold on his hand. Ron stalked ahead. He'd been furious ever since the map told its tale - gone from loudly outraged to quietly deadly, much like Sirius. Lupin didn't think Ron was quite as dangerous as Sirius, but he realised he didn't know. He found himself worried for Draco Malfoy.

"Malfoy was acquitted," Hermione said, reading his mind.

"He was. I wouldn't go so far as to call him 'innocent', but." They lengthened their strides.


"Potter--" Draco said, breathlessly. His back was pressed against the wall. He had no idea where his wand was. The room had gone dark around them - the candles had guttered and died, the fire in the hearth had faded to a muted glow, overpowered now by the moonlight.

"Too dark," Potter muttered, his teeth sharp against Draco's temple. Light. And Draco's wand clattering to the floor. Draco gasped and tried to push away from the wall. This, this. This was new. Heat grew between them, sweat slicked Potter's chest. Flames rose in the fireplace, candles lit. Potter's skin seemed to glow warm gold. Draco wondered how powerful he really was. To defeat Voldemort... He'd never really thought about that before. Too busy noticing that Potter was an uppity brat, a teacher's pet, such a bloody Gryffindor.

Draco clutched at Potter's hips, found Potter's mouth again. He remembered, unbid, the day the Dementors found his father - he'd watched from up high, perched on his broom, circling. He'd led them there, he'd thought - he hated his father. Bastard.

Potter kissed like an adolescent, clumsy, eager, wet. His teeth clicked against' Draco's, his fingers fumbled under Draco's shirt. Draco let him, shuddered against the wall. Yes. A perfect ending to an obsession.

"You're hiding," Potter said, panting.

"Don't be stupid," Draco said, turning his face away. He didn't want to talk - this was Potter, this was something he didn't want to think about, just feel-- But Potter had stopped, was waiting for something. Draco said, "The rest of them are hiding. What did you save the world for? So wizards could work at Tesco and put their children in Muggle schools? Voldemort is dead, but you didn't win, Potter."

Potter grabbed his face and turned it back. "I don't care. I don't care." He pushed Draco back, almost a slam. Draco had never thought of touching Potter; he couldn't have. But this, angry, strange Potter and Draco so long without. It made twisted sense. "It was personal," Potter said.

They tumbled to the floor, scratched their shoulders and elbows on the rough carpet. Draco's fingers skated over scarred skin, traced ribs, dipped into hollows. Potter kissed him with single-minded purpose, pushed his hips down. Draco thought they might suffocate on each other; it felt brilliant. And all his, all his, in his house. He touched Potter's hair, followed the knobs of spine down his back. Potter had pushed his shirt up, over his chest, and there was a moment of stillness and a whispered word and the shirt unravelled under Potter's fingers, dribbled into a pile of thread by Draco's sides.

Draco felt the power wash over him there - no wand, nothing but a word, and it should be impossible, but Potter, Potter-- His back arched, almost painfully, and Potter was hard against him, eager, his face twisted into a grimace. He might have been sobbing.

"I want," Potter panted, his eyes rolling up, ghostly silver-white replacing the dark of iris and pupil, "I want--"

Draco's hands escaped to scratch shallow grooves over Potter's shoulder blades. He felt a scream get lost somewhere between his tightening chest and his throat.

A dog barked somewhere outside. Potter froze.


Lupin had never been to Malfoy Manor, but he wasn't surprised to see that it was tall, dark and gothic. Some things were just given.

There were no lights anywhere in the worn grey face of the house.

Lupin caught up with Sirius as he changed back and raised his wand. "Sirius."

He grabbed Sirius's shoulder. "Sirius, wait. Please."

Sirius trembled under his hand, vibrated with power and rage. "Please, wait," Lupin said again. Once, Harry had asked them both to wait, to think. Sirius had listened. Lupin held his breath.

"I--" Sirius said and turned his face to Lupin. Lupin recognised the desperation. Then Sirius pulled himself together, a visible shift. "All right. Let's go find him."


"Padfoot," Potter said. His eyes had lit up. Draco lay on the floor and Potter crouched over him, almost sniffing the air. "Sirius."

Potter's skin felt hot under Draco's fingers, and sweat-damp, but to touch it now felt like an intrusion. Draco did it anyway, dug in. He could hold Potter down--

Potter was scrambling to his feet. "Sirius," he said again. Then, voices outside, below. Dead, Draco thought. I'll slit your throat before I let them have you. He scrabbled for his wand.

"I have to--" Potter said. "I must--"

Draco picked up his wand.

"He'll understand," Potter said. Understand what? Draco thought. His wand hand rose almost involuntarily. Potter's eyes shone, a smile was widening on his face. "Draco, we can--"

Potter was such a Gryffindor - rushing in, believing in justice and truth and other unattainable things. "That's not how it works, Potter," Draco said. Time seemed to be speeding up, the house shrinking around them. All those empty hallways were no protection.

Draco was still breathing hard, still burning somewhere on the inside. Potter's cheeks were dark, the flush creeping down and staining the white skin on his throat and chest.

He's crazy, Draco thought. A good excuse, but Potter's eyes were clear and sharp for the first time, and Draco knew that he knew exactly who he was. Harry Potter, going back to the world. They'd love him. The Boy Who Wouldn't Fucking Die. And the Malfoy heir forgotten but never forgiven.

He'd lost everything already.

"Accio," Draco said and the bottle of mirror potion flew - a flash of silver - into his hand.


A house elf met them in the hall. "Master!" she screamed. "Master, they comes!"

Lupin almost didn't feel the words on his lips, but the elf stiffened and fell. It wouldn't last long; house elves were curiously resistant to wizard magic. He could sense Sirius's tamped-down anger behind him like a monster in a cage. Somewhere just out of his field of vision, Ron and Hermione.

He turned to look at Hermione. The map had become a drawing of the house. She was hollow-eyed and pale, but her gaze met his, unwavering.

"Up there," Ron said and pointed.


"Drink," Draco said. Potter stared at the bottle in his hand. "Please," Draco said, and Potter's eyes glazed over with trust. Gryffindor, Draco thought.

"Please, Harry," he said, and Potter took the bottle from his hand and drank.

There was a thud somewhere, and they ran. Hallways, long, dark, dusty. The smell of age and decay. Startled faces in murky portraits. Sirius dashing around a corner, casting a long shadow in the light from his wand. Hermione's gold-lined skin glimmering in the dark.

The house was enormous and abandoned. Lupin thought he could feel generations of Malfoys disapproving of their intrusion; their malice falling like cobwebs around him.

"Harry!" Sirius shouted.


At least I know the potion works, Draco thought. Potter had stopped trembling. "Did it hurt?"

"No," Potter said. "Not at all. And it tasted like peaches."

"No," the other Potter said. "Not at all. And it tasted like peaches."

"Only one of yo--" Draco said, but he was interrupted by a fearsome bellow from somewhere outside the door. That psychopath Black, calling Harry's name at the top of his lungs. Draco thought of having Black pinned to the wall, at wandpoint. Saying the killing curse.

The Harries looked at him, their earnest, anxious faces mirrors of each other. Draco wanted, suddenly, to stand and face Black without guile.

That wouldn't be a very Malfoy thing to do.

He heard light footsteps in the hallway - not running, and no racket, so it couldn't be Black. The werewolf, then.

The mirror images of Harry held his attention, though, not some tamed werewolf prowling outside. They weren't the same, exactly - the mirror potion literally mirrored the subject; one had a scar on the right side of his forehead, the other on the left. Potter had a very regular face, Draco noted.


Lupin heard a door open behind him and skidded to a halt, spun around and almost fell on his face.

Draco Malfoy stood in a doorway halfway down the hall. In the scant, cold light, his hair looked as white as Lupin's own.

"Draco," Lupin said, fighting to sound calm.

"You," Draco said, his mouth curling.

Lupin took a deep breath. "I-- We've come to collect Harry Potter."

Draco snorted. "And the first place you think to look is Malfoy Manor? It must be PMT, Lupin."

"I know he's here, Draco. Now, just--"

"You do not march in here, werewolf, and tell me what to do." Draco had grown up slight and lean, with high cheekbones and a cruel mouth. He resembled Lucius Malfoy like Harry resembled James.

His hair was dirty, Lupin saw, and there were dark circles under his eyes. The house seemed to swallow him, small as he was, with its high ceilings and dark windows.

Sirius shouted again, not far off, and Lupin realised that he'd been staring at Draco Malfoy and feeling almost...sympathetic. "I just want Harry," he said. Draco's eyes grew, if possible, colder. Lupin felt wrong. Like a liar. Sirius was approaching, he knew. "What have you done with him?"

Draco smiled. "I found him in the basement, locked up. Fascinating, really. You can have him." There was something-- Lupin his hackles rise. He took another deep breath, concentrating. Draco lifted a knowing eyebrow. "Beast," he said, still smiling.

The smells crowded Lupin. Draco - sharp and chemical, magic, something bitter underneath, dust and sadness. And beyond that, a reek like in Snape's dungeon, potions and poisons, and--

"He's there--" Harry, warm and alive, and clean, a faint musk-- Over it, a sweet, light smell; peaches on the tree. "What--?"

Draco's face was deliberately blank.


The werewolf - Potter's beloved Professor Lupin - was so close Draco could almost smell it, sniffing at the air. Its eyes, which should be a harmless light brown if Draco's memory served him right, seemed to flash yellow. And somewhere in the house, a madman ran loose, screaming for Harry.

"What--?" the werewolf said, confused; Draco didn't know what it had smelled, but it was probably something incriminating.

The werewolf stiffened and then sprung, pushed past Draco and into the room.

Draco bit his lip hard to stop himself from cursing the wretched thing. Harry would kill him in a blink. And then Black would show up and kill him again.


Lupin pulled Harry into his arms, and realised - surprised, so wrong, so wrong - that he was going to cry with relief. Harry was thin and tall and looked almost exactly like he had that day, except for the scar on his forehead, now faded almost to invisibility.

A thud behind him, a snarled command, and then - yes, Sirius's hands landing on his shoulders, trailing over his neck, and then gently pushing him aside. Lupin stepped away, his heart pounding in his chest.

Draco had come into the room, too. The light was brighter here, and Lupin thought he looked sick. There was a smudge of something dark on his forehead, on the right side, just where Harry had his scar. Blood? He was staring at Harry and Sirius, and there was no curl to his lip, no chill in his eyes. Lupin felt his nostrils flare involuntarily. The smell on him, under the chemicals. Harry all over him.

He turned his head, and yes, Draco all over Harry.

"You--" he said, confused for a second. Draco stared back at him, his head held high. "Go. Now." Sirius was still clutching Harry like-- like Lupin had clutched Sirius almost every night for ten years, like he would disappear if he wasn't held close enough.

"Harry," Sirius was saying, with a catch in his voice. "I brought something--" and there was a spark and a flash of light, and a press of displaced air on Lupin's face. Harry had returned to his wand.

Ron and Hermione burst through the door. Lupin looked around the room, at the parchments fluttering around the floor, the whipping curtains.

Draco was gone.

"Draco?" Harry said.


Outside, not a second too soon. Harry leaned on Sirius in silence; Hermione fussed over him. Ron kept staring at him, stunned.

Lupin thought about Draco Malfoy, bright, cruel boy playing master in this empty castle. Harry refused to answer questions about him. "But it was Malfoy!" Ron said. Harry just shook his head, his mouth tight, his eyes downcast. Lupin thought about Draco and Harry, alone in this empty castle. They could have--

"Leave him be, Ron," Hermione said, "Harry's alive." And Harry smiled at her, and she smiled back and Ron took her hand.

Lupin let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. Birds were waking up in the looming forest. His chest hurt a little and the familiar creepers of headache were growing sharp and greedy into his frontal lobe.

Sirius turned to him. His eyes were calmer now, warmer. "Do you need a painkiller?" he asked.

"No," Lupin said. He could see the first strands of dawn breaking through the dark.




Potter arched under his hands, gasped into his mouth, tugged at his hair. Draco scrabbled at smooth skin and couldn't get enough. The only warmth right here was Potter's skin; the dungeon never heated enough to be habitable, not even in the heat of summer.

His knees felt raw, his mouth sore; Potter looked like he felt. "More," Draco whispered. "More."

"How long?" Potter asked, and Draco opened his mouth to say, "Not long enough," but it was already obvious.

The scar on Potter's forehead - on the right side, which didn't look as strange as it should - was almost impossible to see by now, and when Draco pushed himself up, he thought he could see the runes on the carpet through Potter's face. Beyond that, the chalk lines on the stone floor, the remains of Voldemort's magic.

Could that be traced? Draco wondered. Could it be studied?

"Again," Potter said.