The Darkness Within

Chapter 3

AN/ I'm so sorry for the delay, I've had some personal dramas. This fic is 80% finished and the rest is all planned out.

Chapter 3

Harry's summer at the Burrow sped past in very weird ways. Sometimes it seemed as if he would blink and four days would pass, others he would find himself watching the clock feeling very single second tick by. Despite wishing so, being back at the Burrow did not mean an end to his ever-present nightmares. He found himself staying up later and later trying to avoid the point in which sleep engulfed him.

Hermione, as was her nature, noticed that no matter how much sleep he got he always looked exhausted. "You need to talk about them Harry," She urged on a rare afternoon that they found themselves alone. "They aren't just going to go away."

"There's no point Hermione," Harry said slightly exasperated. "I've talked about it all a thousand times. I've told you, Dumbledore and Sirius, it never gets better. I just need to focus on what I can control."

Hermione huffed. "You're seeing Dumbledore tomorrow yes?"

"Yeah, I'll head to headquarters straight after breakfast." Harry started to flick through A Standard Book of Spells, Chapter Six. "I'm really hoping for an update on how Malfoy is actually." Harry hadn't told Ron and Hermione what he had overheard, just that he understood what Dumbledore was talking about.

"That's not what I mean Harry and you know it." She snatched the book out of his hands. "Talk to Dumbledore about your dreams, for all you know it could be him again."

"It's not Voldemort." Of this Harry was sure. "After everything that happened last year, I've learned to tell the difference between dreams and reality."

Hermione looked quite cross but didn't harp on about it. Harry loved Hermione, he really did, but she just didn't understand what it was like to be terrified of your own mind. Sure, talking about it might make it easier to live with but it wouldn't make the memories any less real. Most of what he dreamed of he had seen happen. These are things that he just needed to learn how to deal with.

Hermione didn't bring up their conversation again until he was about to leave to see Dumbledore. Grabbing his arm she whispered, "He really could help you Harry."

Harry just rolled his eyes and walked into the fireplace. If he still had Sirius to talk to, he would have without a second thought, but Dumbledore had much bigger things to worry about than whether Harry was getting a decent night's sleep. Draco Malfoy for instance. Harry had found himself thinking about the scene between Malfoy and Snape a lot of the weeks. He knows how furious he would have been if Malfoy had seen him cry like that, he had to imagine the feeling was mutual.

Stepping out of the Floo into Grimmauld Place's kitchen Harry saw Dumbledore sitting at the head of the table looking completely at peace with the world. He found this quite impressive considering the rather loud disagreement happening directly behind his Headmaster. Remus and Snape were obviously in the middle of a rather heated argument. Harry was astounded, Remus never rose his voice. In fact, even considering what he turned into every month the man could have been a monk.

The subject of the argument was revealed when Remus threw up his hands and said. "Grow up and see what is right in front of you! He is not James and he is not Sirius! He is twice the man any one of us even hoped to be!"

Snape scoffed. "You don't see the arrogance he walks around with daily. He should in no way be trusted with this and I refuse to be a part of this obvious attempt to coddle the boy."

"Gentlemen," Dumbledore said over his tea cup. "I really feel as though we've had enough bickering for the day don't you?"

"Harry!" Remus exclaimed with a smile when he tore his eyes away from Snape. "How long have you been there?"

"I will take that as my queue to leave." Snape said with a sniff. "Albus if you don't mind I will give you my report back at the school."

Dumbledore breathed out audibly. "Very well but you do realise,"

"Yes, yes I know that Potter will hear it either way." Snape interrupted. He turned and left through the front door.

"What have I done now?" Harry asked sitting down next to Dumbledore. "School hasn't even started yet and I'm already front page of his bad books." Harry was fairly certain that he held a permanent place there.

"You've done nothing Harry," Remus said in a reassuring tone. "Sirius was just right about him, he's just a slimy git."

"Severus is a proud man." Dumbledore interjected. "He also does not feel that an underaged wizard should be a part of the Order in any capacity. A feeling shared by others."

"All of that may be true professor." Harry said pouring some team from the pot on the table. "But that doesn't mean that what Remus said isn't."

Remus smiled at him then, "Sometimes you really are your father's son."

Dumbledore had the slightest hint of a smile on his face. "Moving on, it is time to fill you in and I am sorry to say the only news to report is that Voldemort has indeed relocated. We have no hope of finding him because on top of the security measures we discussed, he has used the Fidelius Charm. From what little Professor Snape can has been able to say, I have to assume that Voldemort himself is the secret keeper.

"Because of this there is now no longer any way to keep Narcissa Malfoy safe." Dumbledore suddenly looked very much his age. "Voldemort seems to be punishing her until Lucius can return and prove his loyalty. According to Kingsley, who saw Lucius in his cell last week, he is very keen to do so. It is quite the depressing thought knowing that you are completely powerless to help those who need it. Professor Snape can only go so far without risking his position."

The room fell silent for what felt like an age, all three men lost in thoughts of morality. When Harry couldn't take his own thoughts any longer, he asked, "Sir, what's going to happen to Malfoy?"

"Draco?" Dumbledore asked, Harry nodded in response. "He and I spoke last night. He is understandably still heart broken. He has, however reluctantly, accepted his mother's sacrifice. He will return to Hogwarts in two days and remain there until such time that it is no longer advisable. We have instructed him to use protective charms on his bed at night and to only use the prefect's bathroom. We are not completely naive enough to believe that the children of death eaters won't try to curry favour by hurting Draco."

Harry was still concerned. "You said until it is no longer desirable, what happens then?"

"If it becomes clear that it is no longer safe for Draco to remain at Hogwarts we will have no choice but to remove him." Dumbledore admitted. "We have already gained the necessary permissions from Narcissa, as Draco is underage still, to home school him. The problem we have is finding a place to hide him. As things stand I do not think it would be advisable to do this at his mother's sisters' home. It would be far too obvious, even with the estrangement."

"He needs to be here." The surety in Harry's voice surprised even him. "The Order can protect him best from Headquarters and it wouldn't make sense to waste time setting up the same protections on another house. It would spread us far too thin, Voldemort will outnumber us soon."

"Are you certain Harry?" Remus said, finally speaking up. "It is no secret to anyone how you two feel about each other."

Harry shook his head, Malfoy's words from the month before echoing in his mind. "None of that matters anymore. It's just a petty school yard rivalry and we both have much bigger things to worry about now, don't you think?"

"I don't think I have ever met a more remarkable young man." Dumbledore smiled at Harry you turned a brilliant shade of magenta.

The last two days at the Burrow was spent frantically packing. Everyone's robes were mixed up and belongings were all misplaced. Hermione found a book, two quills and one of Harrys socks in the chicken coop. Before they knew it though, they were pushing their trunks full of their own belongings along the Hogwarts Express looking for an empty compartment. The three travelled to Hogwarts with Luna and Neville.

Half way through the trip, Harry was returning from the bathroom and saw Malfoy sitting by himself in the compartment closest to the driver. He opened the door and said, "Malfoy." In another life he would have been amused at how skittish the boy had become, now it was actually kind of sad.

"Potter," Malfoy said picking his book up from the floor. "No need to worry. My dear friends have already come by and I gave nothing away. They all just think I've abandoned the Dark Lord, they don't know where you come in."

"Oh, um, good I guess? That's actually not why I came in." Harry rubbed the back of his neck.

"Then enlighten me, why are you here." Malfoy closed his book and put it on his lap.

Harry shrugged. "You looked lonely and I figured that life's shit enough and maybe you'd like company that wasn't just people gawking at you" An article in the daily prophet that morning had broken the news of Draco's run away. "Merlin knows I know from experience that it's not the greatest feeling."

Malfoy frowned at him. "You don't actually have to be nice to me you know. I mean I've never exactly given you any reason to."

"This might come has a shock to you, but you never actually have to be nice to anyone." Harry smirked. "Usually people do it because they want to. It's usually one of those things that decent people do to each other."

Instead of being insulated Malfoy smiled at him. "I'm fine Potter, I'm a big boy, I can go to the loo on my own and everything. Now run along before someone sends out a saviour search party."

Harry actually had to reluctantly admit, this was something that could happen, he wouldn't put it past Hermione anyway. "Right, well I'll see you Malfoy."

"Toodles Potter." Malfoy picked up his book and Harry returned to his own compartment.

Sitting down in the seat closest to the door, Harry kept one eye on the corridor for the rest of the journey. Every time a Slytherin walked by, Harry would stand at the door to ensure no one was giving Malfoy a hard time. He took a moment to ask himself if he had actually been thrown into an alternative universe.

As they pulled into Hogsmeade station and found a carriage, Harry was jabbed sharply in the knee by Ron's foot. "Ouch, what the hell was that for?"

"You've been lost in thought all afternoon. I figured you needed a bit of a jolt." Ron shrugged. Mrs Weasley had given him a hair growth solution, so the vibrant pink was unfortunately gone. The photos however will live to haunt Ron until the end of time.

"Anyway," Neville said as the carriage took off. "Do you think it's true?"

"Is what true?" Harry asked, rubbing his throbbing knee.

"Neville was talking about the article in the prophet about Malfoy." Hermione explained.

"Yeah, I mean he's always been horrible, so I assumed he'd happily follow his father." Neville looked confused. "But why would he run away, is it a trick?"

"Daddy says that what Draco did was brave." Luna said, not looking up from her copy of the Quibbler. "He says turning away from your family is the hardest thing someone could ever do."

"I don't know honestly," Said Harry. "I guess we just have to wait and see."

"Yeah but I've said it before," Ron said putting his feet on the chair in front of him. "He'll always be a git."

"Maybe," Harry scowled out of the window, this year was shaping up to be rather strange.

"Harry?" Hermione asked tentatively. "Katie Bell came by the compartment while you were gone. She said that you turned down Quidditch captain and quit the team."

Harry nodded, frankly he was surprised that something wasn't mentioned sooner. "Yeah, well, I figured I'd have enough on my plate this year."

The rest of the ride was spent with Neville and Ron urging him to reconsider. Harry was mentally cursing Hermione for bringing it up when he couldn't run away. His friends' pleas feel on deaf ears, his mind was made up. The day he got the captain's badge Harry had felt nothing, there was no shock or elation. Actually, the weight on his shoulders felt heavier, one more thing he had to worry about. Before getting the badge he hadn't thought about leaving the team, but after he sent his resignation to McGonagall he felt a little lighter. He now had more time to devote to destroying Voldemort.

After the sorting and the welcoming feast Harry watched as Draco left the hall with the first years, leading them to the dungeons. Harry had to wonder how he was going to manage being alone without Crabbe, Goyle and Nott. All of their fathers were in Voldemort's inner circle, surely Draco must have been stamped as a traitor by now. Harry trusted Dumbledore but he felt that his professor had a habit of blindly trusting anyone. Evidence of this was walking towards the entrance hall now.

"Snape's looking rather full of himself, isn't he?" Seamus said, standing next to Harry.

"Of course he does." Harry grumbled. "He's finally got everything he's ever wanted."

The Gryffindor sixth years all made their way up to the tower together. As he got ready for bed Harry made sure to cast a silencing spell on his curtains. He had a hard enough time with Hermione nagging him about his dreams, he didn't want the pity he was sure to get from Dean, Seamus and Neville. Harry was aware that Ron knew about them, but he never bugged Harry about it, knowing that if Harry wanted to, he'd be there to talk about it.

That night there was a new dream. Voldemort tortured everyone Harry knew, trying to force Harry to tell him the location of Malfoy. Harry was left standing amongst the bodies of all of the people he loved the most, having betrayed Malfoy and the Order itself. Harry was left completely alone.

Harry's sixth year started the next day in a pool of sweat, at least being back at Hogwarts meant he could clean them easily enough with magic. Sighing he opened the curtains and looked out of the window, the sun wasn't up yet. Harry set about getting ready for his day, gathering his book bag he decided on a walk around the castle was a much better use of his time than sitting around waiting for his friends to wake up.

As Harry's feet carried him through the halls, he had to admit that he loved this castle. The walls had seen so much over the years, countless young witches and wizards have walked the same steps he was. They had learned and laughed, fallen in love and fought passionately. He wondered whether his parents would sneak down this corridor for a stolen moment alone. They, like most of the past students, were long since gone. Instead of becoming depressed by the thought, Harry found it oddly beautiful.

Looking around, Harry found that his feet had led him up to the Astronomy Tower. Walking to the window, he watched the new day dawn. Somewhere out there, Harry mused, Lord Voldemort lay in wait. Harry found himself wondering what the Dark Lord was doing in this moment. Was he peacefully asleep, confident in the knowledge that no one dare touch him? Or was he too paranoid of treason to ever let himself become truly vulnerable? At the end of the day, he was still born a mortal man. Shivering at where his thoughts had taken him, a Voldemort with humanity, Harry pushed himself away and figured it was now late enough to venture down for breakfast.

Harry's first month passed in a blur. Classes were more demanding, and everyone seemed to want to be his friend now that he was the chosen one, the-boy-who-lived again. When he wasn't busy with homework, Harry was in the library researching advance defence against the dark arts spells. He was determined to be as prepared for Voldemort as possible, he couldn't always rely on luck and ancient magic to protect him.

At the end of September Harry slipped away from Ron and Hermione for his monthly catch up with Dumbledore. Sitting the desk however Harry thought that his time would have been better spent learning the destruction charm he was reading about earlier. Sighing he returned his attention to his headmaster.

"I know it's disappointing Harry but until he acts we can only learn so much." Dumbledore admitted. "The positive thing is he does not seem to know exactly how much we know of his plans."

"But we barely know anything." Harry fought to keep the petulance out of his voice. "All we know is that he's in hiding and planning another Azkaban break."

"Yes and because we know this we can be vigilant." Dumbledore said calmly. "Because we know to expect an attack we can try to be prepared."

"But we can't know for certain exactly when it's going to happen so we can't be fully prepared for it." Harry argued.

"That unfortunately is the curse of being human Harry." Dumbledore sighed. "Omniscience is not a power available to mere mortals."

Before Harry could respond the office door swung open violently. Snape hurried through uninvited, when he saw Harry he said, "I thought you'd be alone."

Harry couldn't help but notice that Snape wasn't his usual calm and collected self. His mask of indifference had slipped, and he look almost frightened. Dumbledore must have noticed as well because he said, "What has happened Severus?"

With a side long glance at Harry, clearly annoyed that the boy was not asked to leave, Snape said, "Draco has been attacked."

Both Harry and Dumbledore moved forward in their seats, both looking concerned. "Where?" Dumbledore asked.

"Outside of the prefect's bathroom. The Ravenclaw girl, Chang, found him left for dead, on the way back to her common room." Snape said sitting in the spare chair, looking ruffled. "Poppy and I just finished with him. He is unconscious, but I think he will recover. He was in a very bad way."

"Are there no clues on the identity of the assailants?" Dumbledore asked.

"Draco was awake long enough to tell me that he was attacked from behind" Snape answered with disgust. "His injuries suggest that this is the truth. Cowardice at its peak."

Harry bit back the retort of Malfoy wanting to do the same to him in forth year, instead he said. "He needs to leave professor. You said that he would only stay here as long as it was safe. It's not anymore. You owe it to him and his mother to get him out."

"As much as I am loath to admit it," Snape actually seemed to be in pain at his next words. "Potter is right. We cannot watch him every second. It was a risk to bring him back, a risk that now has too high a cost. We can assume that it was Crabbe, Goyle or Nott but we really have no idea who to trust."

Dumbledore hung his head. "We will make the arrangements for when he is discharged. We will make it look as though he was transferred to St Mungos. Harry are you still open to Draco residing at Grimmauld Place?" Harry nodded. "Very well, I will pass on his studies to Remus and Kingsley, they will teach him for the rest of the year. Arthur and Bill have offered to assist as well."

Snape stood and said. "We need to shrink our circle." With that he turned and left.

Dumbledore just watched him leave. "Well Harry, it is time we say goodnight. Remember, be careful of what you repeat, you never know who is listening. I will move Draco a week from tomorrow."

Harry nodded and left the office behind him, he felt sick at the idea that there could be someone that they weren't already aware of connected to the Death Eaters. Snape seemed to think they could have a traitor in our midst, again. Harry made his way through the common room and found Ron and Hermione in a corner whispering.

"Harry," Hermione said as he sat down with them. "Did you hear about Malfoy?"

Harry couldn't help but smile at the Hogwarts rumour mill, nothing did stay silent for long. "Yeah I was with Dumbledore when Snape told him."

Before he could elaborate, Seamus and Dean sat down with them. Apparently rumours ranged from Harry attacking him to Draco doing it himself. A Hufflepuff third year was trying to convince anyone who listened that Voldemort had broken into the castle to do it.

Hermione scoffed. "Seriously, some people will believe anything."

Over the next few days teachers found themselves having to hand out detentions to those that caught trying to get a glimpse at Malfoy. Madam Pomphrey got so annoyed that she conjured curtains to hide him from view. The positive of the attack was that most people seemed to now believe that Malfoy was in face, a victim, not some pawn used by Voldemort. Ron's mantra of 'he's still a git though' was picked up by half of the school.

The night before Malfoy was scheduled to leave, Harry found himself sneaking around under his cloak with a very familiar map. He'd discussed his plan with Hermione and she had agreed that it was the right thing to do. Ron thought he was nuts but didn't argue. So, at midnight, well past curfew, Harry slipped into the hospital wing and behind the curtains around Malfoy's bed. After casting a quick silencing charm Harry ripped off of his invisibility cloak with a flourish.

"Potter!" Draco shrieked and threw the book he was holding, it missed Harry's head by a fingernail. "You and that bloody cloak! What do you want?"

Harry snickered at Malfoy's reaction, riling him up will always be fun. "I have something for you." Harry folded up his father's cloak and handed it over."

Draco looked stunned. "But, why?"

"As hard it is to say, we don't know who to trust." Harry said sitting on the side of the bed. "It's a loan by the way, I'm going to need that back."

"But I'm going to headquarters, surely I wont need this there." Draco was stroking the cloak in disbelief.

"Dumbledore is adamant that everyone in the Order is trustworthy." Harry said looking directly into Malfoy's eyes. "I know personally that the people you trust aren't always deserving of it." Harry cast a thought to Wormtail. "The people who know you're under the Order's protection are me, Hermione, the Weasleys, Kingsley, Tonks and her family, Remus, Snape and Dumbledore. If anyone else is in the house, wear the cloak."

"I don't need you to protect me." Draco muttered.

"It's not about protecting you," Harry said as he stood up. "It's about protecting yourself."

Draco nodded and placed the cloak under his pillow. "What are you going to do? You're always disappearing under this thing."

Harry nodded, not at all surprised that Malfoy had seen him do it. They had always been hyper vigilant of each other. "I'll make do." With a flick of his wand Harry cast a near perfect disillusionment charm.

"Show off."

"Git." Harry's disembodied voice said. After throwing the book back to Draco, Harry exited the hospital, barely a ripple was visible.