Your house is bloody creepy. Who in the name of Merlin lets a senile old elf have full reign of their home?
Also why do you have a tapestry with the names of some of the evillest wizards to ever exist? I thought you were meant to be the good guys.
Harry gave a snort of amusement as he read Draco's letter over breakfast. Malfoy had left Hogwarts two weeks earlier and this was the first time he had heard anything from or about him. His departure, as predicted, did not go unnoticed by the students. The school was abuzz with speculation on his whereabouts. Harry and Hermione tried to use this opportunity to figure out who had attacked Malfoy, surely they would be feeling pretty smug right about now. They had no such luck however. The Slytherins all seemed to not give a damn and most of the other students, although they had started to sympathise with him, still felt that Draco had it coming.
Harry pulled out a quill and parchment and began his reply.
I usually hate to say I told you so but because it's you, I have to say I'm very much enjoying it. The place is weird! Kreacher is an evil cretin but he is essentially harmless if you're nice to him. Your half Black so if you tell him who your mother is he'll probably worship the ground you walk on.
Your great aunt had a habit of disowning anyone who was halfway decent and burnt them off the family tree, that's probably why you're still on there.
Don't forget to lock your door at night!
The weeks started to morph together for Harry. Between homework, extra Voldemort study, keeping up with his new pen pal and yet another seemingly pointless meeting with Dumbledore, Harry barely had a chance to register that it was already Halloween. The day had started out normal enough, well as normal as things could get at Hogwarts. He woke up, had breakfast, went to class, had lunch and went to class again. If it wasn't for the feast, Harry would have been inclined to call it boring. Hogwarts feasts always had the air of splendour. Oversized pumpkins, singing skeletons and a truly gluttonous amount of food littered the Great Hall. Harry had to smile when he saw the first years see it for the first time, remembering his owning dramatic first Halloween at the school.
Just as he was about to bite into a piece of turkey, Hermione unrolled her copy of the evening prophet and gave a small scream. She threw the paper on the table and Harry felt a surge of anger as he watched Lucius Malfoy's photo sneer up at him.
Azkaban Fails Us Again
For the third time in almost as many years, witches and wizards throughout the country will be sleeping less soundly. If our lives were not already in turmoil with the ever-present threat of an attack by you-know-who, the Evening Prophet is saddened to report that there has been yet another break out from the wizard prison Azkaban.
Readers will undoubtedly remember the escape of, now exonerated and deceased, Sirius Black and the most unsettling mass escape of convicted Death Eaters just last year. In a statement from the ministry earlier today, it was confirmed that convicted Death Eaters Malfoy, Lastrange, Crabbe, Mulciber, Dolohov, McNair, Avery, Nott and Rookwood have escaped custody. All of these prisoners were apprehended inside the hall of prophecy in June.
The wizarding world can be forgiven for feeling betrayed this evening. We all thought that we had finally found competence with Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, however we seem to be no better off than we were under Cornelius Fudge.
The ministry is urging its people to be on high alert and to increase any and all security measures already in place.
To read the full list of crimes committed by the convicts turn to pages 2, 3 and 4
For a reprint of Ministry suggested security protocols turn to page 15
"Blimey." Dean whispered
"Bloody hell" Ron looked mystified.
Harry glanced up to the teacher's bench. Dumbledore looked up at him with a guarded expression, he held up a chocolate frog. Harry inwardly groaned, he loved that he was trusted with Order secrets, but he had been looking forward to practicing some of the new defensive magic he had read about.
At ten to nine Harry let Hermione and Ron know where he was going and slipped out of the common room. He quickly muttered 'Chocolate Frog' to the gargoyle and followed the stairs up. Dumbledore's office was absolutely bursting it was so full. As well as the two of them there was Kingsley, Moody, McGonagall, Snape, Lupin, Tonks and Mr Weasley.
"He will not be reasoned with Albus." Kingsley was saying in his low voice. "He believes that he was chosen to lead because he is not afraid to act when necessary. He feels that we need to make a show of force."
"The man is touched." McGonagall huffed. "Can he not see that this will just cause more trouble not less?"
"Pride is a sin for a reason Minerva." The headmaster said, fingers steepled. "It corrupts the mind and the soul."
Harry cleared his throat. "Um professor?"
"Ah Harry, you made it." Dumbledore said with a smile. "Come in if you can fit and shut the door."
Harry slid along the wall until he was standing next to Remus. "What's happening?" He whispered.
"It appears that our fearless leader, Scrimgeour, has reinstated some of Crouch's old policies." Remus whispered back. "Once word of the break out reached his ears, he gave the order to let Aurors use unforgivable curses on suspected Death Eaters. I believe his words were 'kill on sight'."
"No way!" Harry's eyebrows shot up. "But that's just going to make the Aurors just as dangerous as the Death Eaters."
"Exactly." Lupin said with a solemn nod.
"Albus, do you think that there is any chance at all to change his mind?" Mr Weasley asked.
"No, not even a little. I have a meeting with the Wizengamot tomorrow and I am not hopeful that we will gain anything there either." Dumbledore said. "They are seeing any motion for leniency as sympathy for Voldemort's regime."
"But arresting innocent people and giving the Aurors a black check makes the ministry just as bad as Voldemort." Harry said in horror.
Dumbledore nodded. "I agree with you Harry. Alas, I believe the best that we can hope for is that under Kinsley's leadership the department may exercise some caution."
Kingsley shook his head in despair. "I have very brave and loyal people working below me. Every single one of them would lay down their lives happily to protect the innocent. However they have all spent their lives trying to prevent this war, some fought in the last one and some joined because of it. I doubt what I have to say will have much of an impact."
The room fell silent and Dumbledore studied them all intently. Eventually saying, "We were all aware that this day would probably come, the office of the Minister for Magic has always held too much power. All we can do now is deal with the fallout the best we can. Kingsley, Tonks and Moody please urge all of your colleagues to use as much caution as possible. One innocent death could be enough to topple the ministry. Remus and Arthur, get the word out about this. If we cause enough public outcry they may reconsider. Minerva and Severus, we should be expecting owls from concerned parents by morning. Be prepared."
All of the adults turned to leave. Remus gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze and Tonks gave him a sly wink. Snape glared at him with the utmost contempt, Harry returned it with equal measure. Before Harry followed he turned back to Dumbledore, "Sir, does Malfoy know? About his father."
"Yes he does, and he is understandably distraught." Dumbledore exhaled.
"I've been thinking," Harry said, letting an idea out that had been bubbling to the surface for a while now. "Well that house is really depressing as it is, and Malfoy is alone most of the time, that makes it even more so. I mean, I know it's still more than a month away, but I was thinking of spending Christmas there this year. Remus mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he'd like to spend it with me, you know going over spells and things I've been teaching myself, and the Burrow is already full without adding the two of us to it." Harry knew he was rambling but for some reason could not articulate what he wanted to say.
Dumbledore smiled his normal, infuriating, smile at him. "This will be a particularly difficult time for Mr Malfoy you are right. Are you certain this is the wisest course of action though? Both of your school records are filled with rather, shall we say, passionate altercations between the two of you."
"If he's willing to get over it enough to sleep in my house, I bloody well am too." Harry tried not to sound petulant, truly he did.
"It is your choice Harry, whatever you do." Dumbledore stood and walked to the door, holding it open. "If I can make a couple of suggestions though?" Harry nodded. "Write to Draco. It may be your home, but it will be a bit of a surprise to him if you turn up unannounced deciding to spend Christmas with him. Also, write to Molly, she really does enjoy your visits."
"Of course sir." Harry turned to leave.
"Oh one more thing," Dumbledore called as Harry was about to descend the stairs. "I really am proud of you, I trust that you believe that."
Harry merely smiled and returned to Gryffindor tower. Before going to bed he sat in the common room and wrote his letters.
Mr and Mrs Weasley
Thank you for your invitation to spend Christmas break with you. As you know normally I would jump at the chance to be there. This year though I'm going to spend it with Lupin at Sirius' we really need some time together. I also need to make sure that our other guest isn't going too spare. You've seen his aunt I think it's hereditary!
I will see you over the summer.
I'm coming home for Christmas, is that ok with you?
I hope Kreacher hasn't baked you into a pie.
The responses he received couldn't have been more different.
You really must write to us more and tell Ron that goes for him as well. I swear if it wasn't for Hermione and Ginny I'd think you dead.
That house truly is horrid dear are you completely sure?
I do feel sorry for that poor boy, imagine having no one for Christmas!
If you really are set in your plans then we will have to just bring a Weasley Christmas to you. I'll cook Christmas dinner at your house and we will have a proper family meal.
We love you.
Molly and Arthur
It's your house why in the name of Merlin's left sock would I care?
In actual fact once your crazy elf found out who my mother is, he has been quite pleasant. Unlike his owner he knows how to show respect where it is deserved.
Harry didn't bother responding to Malfoy, the boy was a dick, but he jumped at the chance to have the Weasley's over Christmas Day. He sent his response and then told Ron and Hermione of his holiday plans. Hermione would be staying with the Weasley's as well.
Harry threw himself into his school work and, what he had inwardly started to call anti Voldemort study. He made the pleasant discovery that if he worked himself to exhaustion his nightmares were almost bearable. They didn't go away completely but they played as if it was a movie rather than him physically experiencing them.
As the weather grew colder and the snow started to fall, November changed to December. The Hogwarts Express was full of students going home to spend Christmas with their families, apparently every parent wanted their child home with them this year.
Lupin was standing waiting with the Weasleys as they got onto the platform. Mrs Weasley pulled him in for a very painful hug.
"We'll see you in a few days dear." She whispered into his hair.
"You owe me big for making me spend Christmas with the ferret Harry." Ron groaned, following his family and Hermione through the barrier.
"So Harry," Remus said with a smile. "How about you and I head back to headquarters? I'll make a pot of tea and you can tell me all about how simply unbearable Snape is being."
Harry chuckled. "The slimy wanker took 30 points yesterday because I wasn't setting an example by coming to class early. I wasn't even the last one there!"
"Did I ever tell you about the time James and Sirius locked him in Minerva's office without his pants or wand?"
Harry roared with laughter. He took Remus's arm and they apparated away to Grimmauld Place. The pair went straight to the kitchen and true to his word, Remus made a giant pot of tea and they sat and talked for hours. They talked about everything and nothing at all, Harry wondered if this is what it was like to have a brother. He loved every minute of it. Remus didn't reprimand him for losing points or scold him for breaking too many rules, he just listened intently.
As dinner time approached, Malfoy made his inevitable appearance. "I don't know how the two of you haven't woken that god-awful woman yet." Draco threw himself into a chair and scowled.
"Don't mind Draco today Harry, he's a tad touchy." Remus explained with a slight smile.
"I am not touchy." Draco poured himself a cup of tea looking affronted. "I'll have you know that I am highly offended."
"Oh my mistake." Remus said. His serious voice was betrayed by the laughter in his eyes. "Harry, Draco is a little touchy because he has been offended to the highest degree."
"What happened?" Harry didn't even attempt to hide his glee.
"Well," Remus leaned forward and said in a stage whisper. "Our young Mr Malfoy here had a rather heated argument with Sirius' dearly departed mother this morning. It seems, he has been promoted to the ranks of blood traitor." Harry couldn't help it, it was too funny not to laugh. "Poor Kreacher is ever so confused. Yesterday he was all but proclaiming his love, but now with Mrs Black reprimanding him for spending his time with the worst of sorts, he can barely stand to be in the same room. He was muttering before I left to get you about blood traitors, half breeds and mudbloods corrupting the minds of young noble wizards."
Remus and Harry both laughed to the point of tears. "This place is barmy." Malfoy muttered under his breath.
"You really must feel sorry for Draco though Harry, he must be ever so disappointed. I was expecting Kreacher to propose any day now." Remus smirked. "You mustn't be too heartbroken though, it never would have worked."
"You're evil." Draco said throwing a biscuit at Remus.
Harry laughed some more and walked to inspect the kitchen cupboards. "Dumbledore's still sending food then?" Harry started taking out pans and ingredients. "Who's hungry?"
"You cook?" Malfoy said in genuine shock.
"I'll have you know that I am a wonderful cook." Harry said, chopping onions. "I've had a lot of practice.
Harry continued with dinner and let Remus and Draco discuss their lessons. Due to the reasonable restrictions of underaged magic Malfoy's learning had to be purely theoretical, a cause of apparent contention.
"It's almost as bad as having Umbridge all over again." Draco complained. "Understanding the theory can only get you so far."
Remus nodded in understanding. "I agree with you Draco. We are trying to work out a schedule for you to Floo to Hogwarts to put your learning to practice but it is very difficult. We cannot risk anyone discovering you."
"What about the Room of Requirement?" Harry asked. "You should be able to ask it to make sure no one can find you there."
"I'll run it by Albus." Remus said after considering the idea. "We still need a way to get you through the castle from his office though."
"He's got dads cloak." Harry said turning to the pot on the stove. "He can go directly into Dumbledore's office and as long as he isn't stupid enough to walk into anyone while he's invisible it should be fine."
Remus gave him a curious look. "That could work."
"Excellent, well I'm going to shower before we eat." Draco said leaving the kitchen.
Remus watched him go and when they heard Draco on the stairs, he said to Harry. "He's got your cloak?"
"I leant it to him before he came here." Harry said simply. "We've been stung by a traitor before, I won't let it happen again."
"Don't hit me Harry," Remus said walking away. "But you're starting to sound like Severus." Harry threw a tomato at him.
After dinner the three sat around chatting and drinking butterbeer, Harry was surprised at just how good of a time he was having. All in all it was a rather pleasant evening. Later that night when he was settled in Sirius' bed he hoped that he was exhausted enough to avoid the more painful nightmares. He wasn't.
Hours later he opened his eyes with a groan. He forced himself out of bed, the sun wasn't up yet and looking at the clock he saw that it wasn't even four thirty yet. He sighed, pulled on his socks, grabbed a book and went downstairs. If he wasn't going to sleep he was at least going to be productive. After making a pot of coffee, he began to read.
"Oh, I didn't expect anyone else to be up." Draco's voice sounded from the door. "Usually it's just me. I'll just leave you to it."
"No don't worry, there's coffee." Harry said looking up from his page. "Couldn't sleep?"
"No I slept." Malfoy said grabbing a mug. "It's staying that way that's the problem."
Harry snorted. "Welcome to the club."
"Dreams?" Draco asked when he sat down.
The two continued to read in silence, they finished the pot of coffee and then another. Eventually after the sun was up, Lupin made his entrance.
"Well look at my little bookworms." He said with a smile. "Harry your father would be ashamed. Your mother however would be ever so proud."
Harry smiled at him. "Remus can you explain this to me? I don't really get it." Harry slid his book over the table to Lupin. It was open to a page full of diagrams on how to perform a rather complex shield charm. "I haven't been able to get it to work at school. I know I have the movements right. In theory I should be able to cast a near perfect shield but still allow friendly spells and people through."
Remus sat down and studied the pages. "This is very complex magic Harry. Even seventh years don't even attempt this."
"I gathered that much for myself." Harry said pulling the book back. "But if I am going to try and defeat Voldemort." Harry noticed that Malfoy didn't flinch at the name. "I'm going to need to go beyond NEWT level."
"You realise that you should also be studying advanced charms and transfiguration as well." Remus chided him slightly. "Defending yourself won't be enough."
"I know, I'll need to attack as well." Harry didn't exactly love the idea.
Remus touched his shoulder, just briefly before letting go. "Well," Stepping into teacher mode. "As you know spells and incantations are not just simply waving a wand and speaking Latin. You need to be able to feel the magic that you're using, you and your magic need to be connected. This spell is relatively simple to cast once you have the intent behind it mastered. Think of your Patronus, you cannot let a shadow of sadness enter your mind when you cast. If you do, the spell is essentially useless. It's a similar principle here. When you cast this spell you need to think of only what you want to let in. If you start thinking of what's attacking you it won't work properly. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah I think so," Harry said with his brows crossed. "I'm going to need Ron and Hermione to throw hexes at me to practice this one."
"I'll happily throw a hex or two." Draco didn't look up from his book. "Not to help with the charm just, you know, because I can."
"Dick." Harry went back to reading.
"Golden Boy." Malfoy said turning a page.
Remus chuckled. "So how about after breakfast we put up the tree?" Both boys gave him exasperated looks. "Grinches."
The days rolled on in a similar fashion in the lead up to Christmas Day. Harry would wake early, and Malfoy would either already be at the dining room table or following not far behind. They would read until Remus got up and spend the rest of the day discussing different magical principles or discussing the whatever was in the Prophet that day. When Remus decided that they had done enough 'adulting' for the day, they would pull out the Gobstones, Exploding Snap or Wizard Chess.
On Christmas Eve night Harry found Malfoy in the drawing room, curled up in his usual chair, staring into the fire. "Do you have a minute?" Harry said as he walked in.
Malfoy nodded and waved at the empty chair beside him.
Harry sat down grasping the small wooden box he pulled out of the attack earlier that day. "When we first took this place over as headquarters, it was not fit for human habitation. If you'll believe it, it was even worse than it is now. I spent the summer before fifth year cleaning out cobwebs and doxy eggs. Sirius pretty much threw out anything that had the Black family crest on it. There were some things though that we couldn't bring ourselves to get rid of. Anyway when we were cleaning out the study, I found this box and it's been stashed in the attic ever since. I figured you might want it." Harry handed the small chest to Draco. "Merry Christmas."
Malfoy took it and opened it slowly, curiosity plain on his face. It was full of photos of a young Narcissa Malfoy. There were photos of her playing as a girl and of her smiling as a young woman. They were all of her happy and most from before she married Lucius. Harry knew there was one at the very bottom that was of her smiling down at a very tiny baby Draco.
"Thank you." Malfoy whispered, trailing a finger across the edge of the box, eyes wide. Just as Harry was about to walk out of the door he heard, "Merry Christmas Harry."