A/N – Just a quick thank you to those who left a review on the last chapter even the ones that were just random letters!?
Just a reminder that this is extremely AU post OOTP and I am ignoring a lot of Harry Potter lore.
The next morning Harry woke with a sense of complete and overwhelming dread. It took a long while to convince himself that he was, in fact, safe in Percy's bed and not back in the department of mysteries watching Sirius fall through the veil once more. Once again, he wished for normal dreams, the ones that his dorm mates had, the ones that caused awkward moments and sticky sheets. He may have accepted his fate but that did not mean he had to like it.
He forced himself out of bed and into the shared bathroom. A hot shower can, on some days, work better than a coffee. This however, was not one of those days. Forcing himself to get dressed he slumped downstairs in search of something that would make his eye lids feel a little less like anvils. The sun was only just visible on the horizon, but Mr Weasley was already up and dressed. He took one look at Harry and silently poured an extra mug of coffee.
"Morning Mr Weasley," Harry stifled a yawn, flopping down onto a chair. "You're up early."
"As are you," Arthur said leaning against the sink. "Dumbledore needs my help this morning. Something happened last night, and he needs everyone who is available."
"Yeah, he mentioned something was going down last night." The coffee was starting to make him think clearly again. "Any ideas on what it was?"
"Haven't the foggiest." Arthur drained his cup with a flourish. "Can't be anything too serious though or he would have needed me there last night. You'll find out in a few hours I expect. I better get a wriggle on, I need to head there before the ministry."
"I'll see you tonight." Harry watched as Mr Weasley walked out of the front door, down the path and then disappeared with the crack of apparition.
Again, Harry was left alone with his own thoughts, never a pleasant feeling these days. After pouring a second coffee Harry was starting to get restless. He picked himself up and decided on a walk through the Weasleys' garden. He spent some time watching the gnomes scurry under bushes and smelt the flowers in the far corner. He watched birds fly and a rather daring rabbit scuttle across the ground. Some day in a post Dark Lord world he would like to have his own garden to walk in, if he lived to see that life.
Eventually as the sun grew higher, the noise from inside the Burrow gradually grew into a dull roar. Harry figured it was time to head back in. Before he opened the door however, he heard the unmistakeable sound of a very ticked off Ron.
"George you complete ass hat! Put it back now!"
"Can't little bro," George said in a very calm manner. "No counter jinx"
"Sorry little Rony you'll have to just grow it out." Even through the door Harry could tell Fred was trying not to laugh.
"I can't walk around like this for months I'll be laughed at!" Ron sounded mortified.
Harry could not wait any longer, curiosity being the dangerous beast that it is. The sight that met him when he opened the door made him feel like every birthday and Christmas had all come at once. There was Ron standing in the kitchen, tall, freckly and long nosed just as normal. What was not normal, was the violently red hair that signified every Weasley was replaced with a pink so bright it looked like it was out of a little muggle girls cartoon. Hermione was standing beside him looking like she was using all of her will to not laugh. Ginny was making no such effort.
"Looking good Ron." Harry said putting his mug down in the sink. "Do the curtains match the drapes?"
Harry was very glad that Ron didn't have his wand, because the look he got made it very plain that Harry would have been hexed within an inch of his life, laws regarding underaged magic be damned. He did however have a glass which he promptly threw, Harry sidestepped it easily.
"It's our new product," Fred explained excitedly. "Permanent hair colouring. Guaranteed to never fade. We needed to test effectiveness."
"Why did you have to put it in my shampoo though?" Ron bellowed. "Don't you usually test this rubbish on yourself?"
"What and end up looking like a twat for months?" George looked aghast.
"Nah," answered Fred. "See we figured you wouldn't mind, seeing as you're already a twat that is."
Fred was saved from whatever Ron was planning by the appearance of Mrs Weasley entering from the laundry. She took one look at Ron and demanded that the twins clean out every bathroom without magical assistance. It didn't matter how old you were in the Weasley house, if mother said go, you leave without looking back. Ron stormed upstairs and came back wearing a beanie which wasn't overly successful at hiding the pink popping onto his collar.
After a substantial breakfast of eggs and sausages, Mrs Weasley kept sneaking extra onto Harry's plate, Harry, Hermione and Bill cleaned up while the rest sat around discussing their days. Ron sat sulking in his chair refusing to talk to anyone. After the very last dish was put away Harry put on his shoes and said "We should get going. I'm not sure when we'll be back Mrs Weasley, Dumbledore kept me for hours yesterday."
Molly nodded stiffly, she had made her thoughts on teenagers having anything to with the dangers of the Order very clear. She had however eventually accepted that her hands were tied. Harry and Hermione were not officially her children, and Ron would never allow his best friends to risk themselves without him.
The three stepped through the floo together. They had debated at length the night before about what this meeting could be about. Nothing that they had come up with seemed to be at all feasible however. So, it was with great trepidation that they stepped into the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.
Dumbledore was sitting with a rather haggard looking Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks. When they saw the trio the aurors stood, they had obviously had a rough night.
"We will see you soon Albus." Kingsley said to Dumbledore and nodded to the three, Tonks winked at them before they both left through the kitchen door.
"They look buggered." Ron said.
"We have had an interesting night Mr Weasley." Albus sighed. "Please sit, we have much to discuss." Dumbledore looked at them without really seeing.
"Sir, what's happened?" Harry was concerned.
"Something that can only be described as bitter sweet Harry. Last night we all saw how beautiful and yet painfully sad love can be. We watched a mother give up her only son knowing that there is every chance that she will never see him again. Nothing is ever as simple as black and white, especially in times of war. We all at some point in our lives fall victim to circumstance, something I am sure the three of you know all too well."
Hermione looked like she was about to cry, and Harry could understand the impulse. Here was the only wizard who could scare the darkest wizard in an age, looking thoroughly broken hearted and almost defeated.
"Harry as I told you yesterday, our latest intel suggests that Voldemort is hiding out in Ireland. We cannot pin point exactly where, but we can trace him to a general location. What I didn't mention is that it looks like he will be moving soon. Once he does we will know exactly where he will be but with no way of catching him." Dumbledore rubbed his eyes.
"Where will he be?" Harry asked.
"Malfoy Manor." Dumbledore said simply. "The extra wards and security being placed there leave us with very little doubt. Plus, there is the added confirmation from an inside source."
"Snape." Ron said.
Dumbledore nodded. "He is who originally brought us the information about the increased security measures but not the confirmation." Dumbledore paused as if weighing his words. "No, it was Narcissa Malfoy who gave us this information."
"No, it's a trap." Harry said without a moment's hesitation, of this he was certain. "Lucius put her up to it, there is no way she would betray him!"
"As I said Harry, sometimes we fall victim to circumstance." Dumbledore sighed. "Let me explain.
"Narcissa Malfoy came to me the day after the events at the Ministry of Magic. She wanted to conduct, an exchange of sorts. I took every precaution within my power to ensure she was genuine and after multiple visits we did eventually come to an understanding. She would provide us with all of the information that she possessed regarding Voldemort and the added security placed on the manor under one condition. Which is the condition that we were fulfilling last night. All Narcissa Malfoy wanted was for us to take in her son.
"Narcissa has been forced to watch Draco fall victim to her husband's brutal anger for far years. She then had to watch him suffer under her sister and Lord Voldemort. We devised a plan to make it look as though Draco had run away. She believes that if they were both to leave, nothing would stop Lucius from tracking them down. Lucius may be in prison now, but we do not kid ourselves into believing that he will stay there. When he does escape, he will come looking for Draco and only the power of the order will be enough to keep him safe."
"Where is he now professor?" Hermione breathed, a hand on her mouth.
"Why miss Granger, he is upstairs." Dumbledore said with a half-smile. "Our plan seems to have been successful."
Harry was lost for words, he knew from intimate experience the power a mother's love could carry, but this was just all too much. Draco Malfoy, King of Slytherin, muggle born hater and Harry's personal tormentor was being given full Order of the Phoenix protection.
"Sir I understand why Narcissa has done this," Hermione, as always, found her footing first. "But how can we know for certain Draco is on board? How do we know that he doesn't want to become a Death Eater like his father?"
"He's made it no secret that he hates muggle borns." Ron was starting to twitch, he was obviously as uncomfortable and doubtful as Harry. "He wanted Hermione to be attacked in second year, actually rooted for Harry to die in the Triwizard and helped the school become unbearable last year with Umbridge."
"Nothing I can say can take away his past misdeeds." Dumbledore agreed. "But I have come to know and understand Draco recently and I promise you this, the son is not the father. He does not have his father's anger or his vindictiveness. If you give him a chance you may find that he is actually quite a nice young man, with a very quick wit"
"Why here?" Harry was looking down at his hands as he spoke. "Why are we keeping him here?"
"It is only temporary Harry. If it makes you uncomfortable having him here I will take him with me back to Hogwarts today." Dumbledore said.
"Where will he go next?" Harry asked.
"Tomorrow when we are satisfied that the death eaters have not realised that we have him, he will be moved to Tonk's parents. Her mother is Narcissa's sister, Draco's aunt. Would you prefer him to not be here tonight?" Dumbledore was asking not as a teacher but as a peer.
"There's no point moving him twice in a day just to move again tomorrow. But he's not to go anywhere near Sirius's room." Harry was allowed to be stubborn.
"Of course," The laughter in Dumbledore's eyes was clear. "Shall I see if he would like to join us?" The three nodded mutely and Dumbledore rose to search for the Malfoy heir.
"This is bloody bonkers." Ron leaned his chair back and swung on two legs. "Do we trust him?"
"Dumbledore seems to." Hermione said as if this settled the matter.
"Yeah but he has been fooled in the past." Harry said, thinking of Pettigrew. "I'll believe it when I see it, even then I can't say I'll ever like the guy."
They lapsed into silence, a silence that changed from amicable to awkward to thick when Dumbledore returned, Draco following behind.
After what seemed like an age for the four teens staring at each other, Draco said. "Weasley is your hair pink?"
Hermione and Harry snickered while Ron muttered, "Still a git then."
"Sorry Ron, I meant to mention it, the beanie doesn't actually help." Hermione tried to tuck some of the hair away.
Ron stood suddenly very upset about his hair again. "Professor was there anything else you needed from us?"
"No Ronald, the three of you are free to go." Dumbledore said with a touch of amusement.
"You coming?" Ron asked Harry as he and Hermione went to the fire place.
"Not yet, I want to look for something." This wasn't a lie per say, more of a half-truth. Yes he wanted to look for some photos of Sirius and his parents, but he also wanted to see if he could figure out exactly what about Malfoy had Dumbledore convinced.
Hermione gave him a quizzical look but said nothing, she turned and followed Ron into the Floo.
"Do I need to stay and ensure that headquarters will still be in one piece when I return or will the two of you at least try and act responsible?" Dumbledore asked when Ron and Hermione had left.
"We'll be fine sir, I have no desire to be expelled again." Harry said with a smile.
"Very well, it has been too long since I was at the school and I shudder to think what Peeves and Mr Filch have done to each other." Dumbledore gathered up the stray pieces of parchment and made his own way to the Floo. "Mr Malfoy, Severus will be joining you tonight. Harry I will see you again soon."
And with that Dumbledore was gone, leaving the two boys alone together. It struck Harry suddenly that this was the first time that they were alone together since they first met in Diagon Alley six years ago. Suddenly staying behind seemed like a very stupid idea indeed. He quickly got to his feet and made to leave the kitchen.
"Potter," Malfoy said as Harry made to leave. "Thank you, Dumbledore said this was your place. So, you know, thanks for letting me stay."
"Ah, you're welcome I guess. I don't actually live here so it's no skin off my back." Harry had never felt more awkward, not even during his disastrous relationship with Cho. "Plus you may not be thanking me tomorrow, this place is creepy."
With that Harry scuttled up to Sirius' room. Walking in was like an outer body experience. He felt connected yet oddly separated from the place. His godfather hated it here, but this is where he grew up and spent the last year of his life. Harry was starting to think that it was all too much too soon when he saw a small wooden box sitting on the bedside table. He felt inexplicably drawn to it, cracking open the lid he gasped, this what exactly what he had wanted to find.
Lying on top of the folded parchment was a photo of Sirius and Lupin with his mum and dad, sitting in the middle was a tiny green-eyed baby boy. Harry figured it Pettigrew was the one with the camera, he was pretty sure Sirius wouldn't leave any photos of Wormtail lying around. Harry sat on the bed and went through the box, it was filled with photos and letters from his parents and Lupin. He took great care with each one and tried not to feel too guilty about going through Sirius' personal items. At the bottom of the box he found what looked like a newer piece of parchment folded up. Fingers trembling, he unrolled it.
If you're reading this I must no longer be there with you.
This is a box of my favourite people in the world. It's these memories that kept me sane in Azkaban.
Please don't hide away from the world because I'm gone. You have given me so much to be proud of. You are stronger than you let yourself to be believe. If there is one regret I have it is that I missed so much of your life. I know I've said that before, but I don't think you'll ever understand.
Know that I died loving you like my own son.
You are loved Harry, more than you could possibly know.
Always your friend first.
Harry began to cry quietly. He missed Sirius so much and he didn't think any amount of time would ever make the pain less intense.
Driven to get up after a very loud rumble in his stomach, Harry was shocked at how much time had passed. He had missed lunch and it was getting close to dinner. Carefully placing the photos and letters back in the box, Harry took it with him as he shut the door.
Quietly so not to wake the portrait of Sirius' mother, Harry walked down the stairs heading for the fireplace in the kitchen. He stopped short when he heard voices through the door.
"What do you mean he's still here?" You could be completely incapable of hearing and still be able to recognise the oily nature of Snape's voice.
"I mean he went upstairs a few hours ago and hasn't come back down." Malfoy responded coldly. "I haven't moved from here so he couldn't have snuck out."
"And he's not injured? I would not have issue if you did hurt him, but that's not the best way to prove to the Order that you want to be here." Harry rolled his eyes at Snape's comment.
"No Severus I didn't hurt him. He said that he was looking for something and he's been in one of the rooms upstairs ever since." Draco responded.
"Are you suddenly going to be friends with our golden boy? Why Dumbledore would be ever so proud, he's always going on about school unity." Snape sneered.
"No we're not friends, I'm just not going to try and kill him. I don't care about any of that bullocks any more. What I think of him doesn't matter. I could care less if he beats me at Quidditch or who he decides to befriend, none of that matters!" Draco was starting to sound frenzied. "When are you going back for her?"
"We've been over this Draco," Severus sounded defeated. "She won't leave. She is convinced that leaving will put you in more danger than you're already in. The Dark Lord is furious that you left before he could mark you."
"Then kidnap her! I don't care how it is done! Bring her here!" There was a crash and Harry was fairly certain that Draco had thrown a plate.
"Grow up child!" Snape said his voice suddenly loud. "In case it has somehow escaped your notice, privileged as you are, but you are in no place to negotiate. We cannot force her to leave against her will, we do that and we're no better than him. Anyway you know her, as soon as we turn our backs she will return. She is very well aware of the fact that she may not get out of this alive, but she doesn't want you to make the same mistakes that she did.
"Yes, you are only 16 but life has decided that you need to grow up faster. We cannot save her Draco." Snape sounded sad at his own words.
There was only silence after this and Harry knew that he needed to get out. Making noise in the hallway to announce himself Harry walked into the kitchen. He noticed that Draco kept his head down, Harry was fairly sure that he was crying.
"Potter." Snape growled as Harry entered.
"Snape." Harry returned the growl. "Don't mind me, I'm on my way out."
Harry didn't even try to get into an awkward conversation. He strode straight to the fireplace and left before he could overhear anything else. He now understood what Dumbledore had said. This was not the son of Lucius Malfoy.