Bill and Fleur tried again to convince them to make themselves comfortable in the sitting room—“It’s no trouble to Transfigure the sofa and chairs into beds! You should see what Fleur can do with a few cushions and a bit of chintz.”—but Harry declined, certain that Bill and Draco spending too much time under the same roof could only lead to trouble. Ron had had months to come around to the idea of Draco being on their side; it would take Bill decidedly longer, especially since Draco didn’t seem in any particular rush to convince the Weasley newlyweds of his honest intentions.
They pitched the tent in the little cliff-top garden, well under the protection of Bill’s Fidelius Charm, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief the moment he stepped through the flaps. It had barely been twelve hours since they’d packed up that morning and made for the Manor, but the moody atmosphere within Shell Cottage—not to mention the lingering twinges from Harry’s vision—had had him longing for the familiar faded-plaid sofa and mismatched armchairs and questionable décor that Perkins had favoured.
Harry felt decidedly more comfortable surrounded by his three closest friends than when faced with the awkward tension and suspicion at Bill and Fleur’s place. He understood, of course, that Bill was only worried for them and his family, necessarily mistrustful and naturally resentful that Harry was working with parties he didn’t deem worthy and refusing to let Bill in on their plans—but there was nothing to be done for it. They needed to see this through to the end, just the four of them. It probably wasn’t the Horcrux-hunting party Dumbledore had envisioned, but Harry was grateful for each and every one of them.
The vision had unsettled him, though; it felt like, with each one, the bits of Voldemort that bled over into his mind began to feel more and more…natural. Like they belonged, and less like a foreign entity. It was a terrifying thought, that exposure to these visions was beginning to affect Harry somehow, and he knew if he brought it up, the others would have kittens.
He could still manage for the time being, though, and he sensed he would not have to deal with the visions for much longer. It felt like there was a great clock somewhere, ticking down time, but the beats were growing slower and slower, like it needed to be wound. Harry didn’t know what would happen when it finally stopped, only that he felt an answering tension in himself winding in response. He just wanted to be around familiarity right now, and while he cared about Bill and Fleur and Luna and Dean and all, they were not who he wanted to spend these odd, lingering moments with.
After dinner that evening, Fleur caught Harry to pass along a message that Griphook had asked to see him. She seemed rather put-out at being ordered about by a Goblin, so Harry thanked her and quickly scaled the three flights of stairs to the attic, with the others on his heels. When they entered, Griphook was laid up in a bed so small only a toddler could have fit it. He was larger than a house-elf, but not by much, so he fit snugly. His legs had been wrapped in ribbons of bandages, a souvenir of his time in the company of the Death Eaters and Snatchers. Fleur had topped him off with Skele-Gro, but the stuff, Harry knew, tasted terrible, and regrowing bones was not pleasant at all.
Harry nodded to Griphook’s bandages. “I see Fleur’s got you all set. On the mend, then?”
Griphook grunted. “I am told the process will take some time.” He laced his long, thin fingers over his chest, and his pitch-black eyes bore into Harry with a suspicious look. Harry had the distinct sense Griphook was trying to see straight through him—could Goblins do that? Was that how they checked on the contents of all those vaults so quickly?
“So, er…you wanted to see me?”
Griphook just stared at him with those dead, doll-like eyes. “I remember the first time I met you, Harry Potter.”
“You do?” Harry asked, genuinely flabbergasted; he had only set foot in Gringotts a handful of times since his eleventh birthday, and Griphook must have seen thousands of witches and wizards since then—yet he remembered a brief brush with a scrawny boy whose head had still been reeling with the sudden hard right his life had taken?
“Oh yes. One could not easily forget you. Even we Goblins know the story of the Boy Who Lived.” He ran his beady eyes over Harry, appraising. “You are an unusual wizard.”
It wasn’t entirely clear if this was meant to be taken as a compliment or not. “In…in what way?”
“You rescued a Goblin. At great personal risk, I gather, as I can see no reason for you to have been at Malfoy Manor in the first place.”
“We had a reason: to rescue our friends. We were happy to help you as well, but—no offence—we didn’t go there to save you.”
“Yet save me you did. And now, here I sit, choking down Skele-Gro and abiding the withering, judgemental gaze of that Veela’s get.”
“…You didn’t have to come, then,” said Harry, a little impatiently. He was sure Griphook’s foul mood could be chalked up to the pain he was in, but Harry wouldn’t stand idly by and let him snipe at Fleur like that. “If you’d like to go back—”
“I would not, thank you,” said Griphook, lip curling to reveal tiny serrated teeth. “But as I said, you are odd. Difficult to pin down.” He regarded Harry for a long moment, then shifted his gaze to Hermione. “You have something of mine,” he said to her.
Hermione blinked, bewildered. “What?”
“You carry with you a Goblin treasure,” Griphook said. “One you did not come by legitimately.”
Ron frowned, glancing to Hermione, and then Harry. “…Does he mean the Locket?” he asked in a whisper.
“Locket?” Griphook barked. “What locket?”
“He means the sword, you nitwit,” Draco drawled from where he stood leaned against a bureau.
Harry turned back to Griphook. “The sword? The sword—of Gryffindor?” He laughed. “It’s not a Goblin treasure—and we did come by it legitimately.” Finders-keepers absolutely applied here, Harry maintained. If someone had stolen it to give to them, how was that in any way their fault? “It was given to us.”
“Er, well… By—someone who knew we needed it on our quest.” He felt his irritation spike; they hadn’t come in here to have a Goblin lecture them on the chain of ownership of ancient artefacts. “The sword’s ours—”
“It is not,” said Griphook firmly.
“It is! We’re Gryffindors—well, most of us—and it was Godric Gryffindor’s as you can tell by the name, so—”
“Oh, well if it’s got his name on it!” Griphook scoffed. “You think it just sprang forth from the aether dubbed ‘the sword of Gryffindor’? Of course not! It was made. By a Goblin.”
“Well, maybe,” Ron said. “But it doesn’t matter who made it—it’s who it was made for. And it was made for Gryffindor.” He glanced at Harry and Hermione. “I mean, wasn’t it? Pretty sure that’s what I read.”
“No!” cried Griphook, face suffusing with a dull green colour that Harry thought must be a sign he was flushed with anger. He pointed a long, knobby finger at Ron. “Setting aside your woefully arrogant view that a client might have greater claim over a creation than the maker himself, the Rhiz’halduk was not ‘made for Gryffindor’—it was stolen by him, from Ragnuk the First, Goblin lord of old!” Griphook drew himself up, though with him sitting in a child’s bed, this was not very intimidating. “And I shall see this masterpiece of Goblin metallurgy restored and returned to its rightful home, in the ancient halls of its master.”
Hermione clutched her bag fearfully, and Harry decided now was the time to put a stop to this before Griphook hurt himself—or made one of them clock him for spouting off about their ‘woeful arrogance’. “Well, we’re not giving it up. We went through rather a lot to get it, so you could say we paid fairly for it. We need this sword, so we’ll be holding on to it for the time being, thanks.”
Griphook bared his teeth in irritation, then relaxed back against his pillows, growling in a gravelly voice, “…Everything has a price, Harry Potter.”
Harry snorted softly, shaking his head. “You’ve seen my vault, Griphook. I really don’t need your gold, Goblin though you may be.”
Griphook’s black eyes flashed. “Perhaps I can offer you something more precious than gold. Something I expect you will be very interested in at this juncture.”
“And that is?” Harry asked boredly.
Harry narrowed his eyes in suspicion; how tricky were Goblins? “…What sort of information?”
Griphook nodded to Hermione, who had slipped around behind Ron’s shoulder. “There is another sword that is indistinguishable from the weapon you call the sword of Gryffindor—a copy. It lies within the Lestranges’ vault.”
“Yeah, we know,” Harry said.
Griphook did not ask how they knew this, but his wicked grin curled. “It is not the only thing of great value in that vault,” he hissed with a devious chuckle. “Something again, more precious than gold.”
Harry’s blood froze in his veins, and Draco straightened abruptly, palming his wand. Hermione gave a sharp gasp, leaning into Ron. Harry swallowed thickly. “…Is it something else…once owned by a founder of Hogwarts?”
Griphook’s grin went toothy and knowing.
Of course—of course. If Voldemort had asked one follower he trusted to hide a Horcrux, it certainly stood to reason he might have asked another. Would it be the cup? Or Ravenclaw’s piece? Harry stepped closer, staring down at the Goblin intently. “We have to get into that vault.”
“Break into a vault? A Gringotts vault?” Griphook gave a derisive huff of laughter. “Impossible. Ask me to Apparate you to the moon! It might be a shorter order.”
“Don’t be coy, now,” Draco said. “It’s been done before, despite your vaunted security measures.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “In fact, it was the same day we first met. I thought you said you remembered meeting me?” He raised a brow. “Or did the break-in slip your mind? Perhaps there was a lot going on that day.”
“Our security measures are meant protect our clients’ valuables—there was nothing of any remote worth in the vault that was broken into, so its protections were minimal. Now, if you’re wanting to get a peek into an empty vault, perhaps we can arrange something—”
“You know we aren’t, so don’t patronise us,” Harry said, and Griphook’s lip curled. Well, what had he been expecting after offering them this tidbit of information? Did he think they wouldn’t want to try and break in? Or had he been hoping they might attempt to do so on their own and fail, another display of ‘woeful arrogance’? “We want into the Lestranges’ vault—and I’m willing to bet they’ve paid top Galleon to ensure the best, most impenetrable security measures were placed on their vault.”
“Indeed they have—so as I said, it is impossible.” Griphook was grinning as he said this, smugly satisfied that they couldn’t even use the information he’d shared. “‘If you seek beneath our floors, a treasure that was never yours—’”
“‘Thief, you have been warned, beware—’ yeah, I know, I remember your little jingle,” said Harry. He moved right beside the bed, sinking to his knees so that now, Griphook was looking him straight on, as an equal. “You told me I’m an unusual wizard. If you really think so, if you believe I do things you wouldn’t credit from most wizards, then believe me now when I say what we’re seeking is no treasure. We aren’t after gold or precious magical artefacts—not for personal gain, at least. And I’m pretty sure you know that. Isn’t that why you told us about…this thing that’s in that vault…in the first place?”
Griphook stared at him slantwise in silent judgement, his gaze flicking to the lightning scar on Harry’s forehead. “…True enough, Harry Potter: you do strike me as the sort of wizard who might place more value on the immaterial…” His eye moved to Ron. “…Unlike some of your companions.”
“Oi—” Ron started hotly, but Hermione placed an arm on his, so he silently fumed.
Griphook turned back to Harry, thin lips pursed begrudgingly. “You are, as I said, unusual. Arrogant as any of your kind—but not without your merits. I cannot tell if you are simply ignorant of the ways of other wand-carriers or if you have so little self-respect you dole it out to the likes of Goblins like sweets.”
Harry didn’t know if he’d just been insulted or not; Griphook’s tone made everything sound offensive. “Then you’ll know I’m also telling the truth when I say that it won’t just be us ‘wand-carriers’ who suffer if You-Know-Who isn’t stopped. Goblins, elves, beasts and beings and magical creatures of all sorts, not to mention Muggles the world over—no one will be safe. We can do something about it—but not without what’s in that vault.”
“I have already completed my end of the bargain,” Griphook reminded them grimly. “I have given you this precious information, and now I am owed that sword.”
Harry eased back to his feet, staring down his nose at Griphook; if he wanted to believe Harry was an ‘arrogant wizard’, Harry wouldn’t disappoint. “I never made any such bargain,” Harry said, taking a leaf from Draco’s sneaky Slytherin book. “You volunteered your information freely.”
Griphook growled, beady black eyes narrowing. “I spoke in good faith—”
“You want to believe the worst of us, then we’ll gladly oblige. You’ll help us get into that vault safely and undetected, that is the new price.”
“As I said, it is impossible.”
“Well you’re going to try your very best,” Harry said, adding, “Because it’ll be on your head too, if we fail. Don’t imagine that the owners of that vault won’t want some retribution if we’re caught in the doing.”
Griphook ground his teeth, looking to each of them in turn, but they presented a united front of cool, hard expressions. He turned back to Harry, grimacing. “…My aid for the sword?” Harry hesitated; they still needed it, so the timing was an issue. Griphook jumped on his delayed response with a gravelly, “That is my price. If I’m to betray my people, I’ll restore some bit of honour to them in the process.”
Harry glanced back to the others—Draco was impassive, Ron uncomfortable, and Hermione ambivalent. None of them were really helping him with this choice right now. Perhaps that meant he shouldn’t make it. “We need to discuss this, Griphook, if that’s all right. Could you give us until morning, before we make a decision?”
Griphook did not appear to like this, but perhaps deeming a twelve-hour wait worth it if it meant he might get his grubby little hands on the sword, he nodded.
They took their leave then, with nothing further to discuss with Griphook, and descended the stairs. Harry thanked Fleur and Bill again for allowing them to stay under their protection, and after goodnights, they headed to the garden. Once back inside the tent, Ron put a kettle on for some tea, and they all settled in at the little dining table.
“He’s off his rocker, that one,” Ron said, drawing out four mugs and shortly filling the tent with the strong scent of fresh-brewed tea. “He can’t possibly think we’d give him the sword!”
And they weren’t—they couldn’t—but the accusations still nagged, and Harry turned to Hermione, as she was generally right about these sorts of things: “…Was what he said true? Did Gryffindor really steal the sword from a Goblin lord?”
Hermione looked helpless. “I—I don’t know, honestly. I’ve never heard or read about any battle involving Godric Gryffindor and this Ragnuk fellow, but I won’t lie and say that most if not all wizarding history books are rather thin on details concerning the terrible things witches and wizards have done to other magical folk over the centuries.” She bit her lip. “It’s possible, I suppose?”
“Possible, maybe, but not likely!” Ron said, nearly sloshing his tea on the table when he slammed his mug down. “You heard the way he was talking to us—Goblins have had it out for wizards for as long as we’ve been on speaking terms. They’ve been spinning tales like that for ages; Griphook’s just got an eye for shiny things, like any Goblin. I mean, this is Gryffindor we’re talking about.”
“What?” Draco sneered. “Don’t like the idea of your paragon of purity sinking to back-stabbing tactics more suited to a slimeball like Slytherin?”
Ron coloured. “At least Gryffindor’s heirloom’s being used for destroying Horcruxes instead of making them like some Founders’ artefacts!”
“Can we not get into a row, guys?” Harry sighed; his head still ached from his earlier vision, and he mostly just wanted to go to sleep now and hope that things looked clearer in the morning.
“Whether Gryffindor actually stole the sword or not doesn’t really strike me as important,” Hermione said. “The point is Griphook seems to think he did, and that’s the price he’s put on helping us. Arguing with him about who rightfully owns the sword or whose possession it’s meant to be in isn’t going to solve the actual problem: we need both his cooperation and the sword.”
“So we’ve got to convince him to accept something else,” Ron said. “Which he’s dead set against.”
“He seems preoccupied with wands,” Draco said. “Perhaps we can offer him one; Granger already does half of Weasley’s spellwork, so he can easily part with his.”
“Want to see how I manage the other half?” Ron threatened, rolling up the sleeve on his wand arm.
“Ron, please,” Harry begged, leaning forward to settle his elbows on the table and letting his head rest in his hands. “We don’t have time to be at each other’s throats—we need to figure out how we’re going to play this. We have to…we have to think of something…” But though he knew Hermione was right, that it didn’t matter whether Griphook’s claims about the sword’s provenance were true or not, it still rankled, keeping Harry from being able to focus.
He’d always been so proud to be a Gryffindor; of course he wasn’t supposed to look down on any of the other houses, but there’d always been something special about being a Gryffindor that he didn’t imagine any of the other houses had ever felt. Maybe Slytherins had felt that way when their ‘Dark Lord’ had first risen to power, but there was a chasm’s worth of difference between being proud because you were better than others and being proud because…well, because you were right. You were good and just and—and all right, fine: Better.
What about all the great things Gryffindor had accomplished with the sword? Didn’t that justify what he may or may not have done to get it? If he’d beaten Ragnuk fairly, then the sword was just a spoil of war, and Gryffindor had certainly put the sword to good use, brandishing it for the—
For the greater good.
“Okay,” Ron said, and he was up and pacing now, expression gone a bit manic. “How’s this? What if we tell Griphook we need to hold on to the sword just until we get whichever Horcrux is in the vault—we’ll tell him he can have it back, once we’ve used it.”
“But there’s still two more Horcruxes after that one,” Hermione reminded. “We can’t destroy them without the sword.”
“Exactly,” Ron said. “There’s a fake sword of Gryffindor in the vault, right? We can just switch them after we’ve secured the Horcrux and leave him with the fake one!”
“Ronald Bilius Weasley!” Hermione cried.
“‘Bilius’?” Draco snorted. “Really? That’s what Mother and Father Weasley went with?”
“You can’t double-cross him like that!” Hermione continued. “It’s morally reprehensible for one, and he’d know the difference better than any of us would for another!”
Harry had to nod, though he didn’t find Ron’s suggestion nearly as repugnant as Hermione did. “Yeah, mate, he’d realise there’d been a swap.”
Ron shrugged. “Yeah, but look at him! He’s got those tiny little legs; we could easily just scarper before he realised—” He cut himself off abruptly at the dark look Hermione fixed on him.
“Scarper?” Hermione snapped. “Leave him with the fake sword? Use his good faith and then betray it the moment it suits us?” She shook her head. “And you wonder why Goblins don’t like us!”
Ron’s ears were nearly as red as his hair, and he had his head ducked shamefully. “Well I didn’t hear you offering any suggestions.”
“Because I’m trying to come up with something that benefits both parties—not trying to pull a fast one on him!” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “We’ve both got something the other one wants—all we have to do is find a solution where everyone’s satisfied.”
“Oh, is that all?” Ron grumbled, flopping back down into his seat. “Good thing Goblins are so easily pleased. Should only take us ‘til next Christmas to come up with a solution, in that case.”
A dejected silence settled between them. They were going nowhere fast with this discussion, as there really was nothing to discuss: There was no compromise to be made, for Griphook would only be satisfied once the sword was in his possession—even offering something else ostensibly as valuable would not change the fact that the sword was in wizarding hands and not Goblin ones. Harry might have been willing to part with it, too, were it not their only weapon against the Horcruxes. McGonagall would probably not have been best pleased to learn he’d just given away a precious heirloom that technically belonged to the school, but desperate times and all that.
He glanced over to Draco, who’d been uncharacteristically quiet all day. Understandable, given the circumstances, but they needed someone with a cold, calculating thought process right about now. “…What do you think we should do?”
Draco was staring down at his tea, tracing the lip of his mug with one long, elegant finger. “…There’s still the question of whether he’s even telling the truth about what’s in that vault. And whether he’ll be able to hold up his end of the bargain, even if there is a Horcrux locked inside.”
Harry frowned; he hadn’t wanted to consider this possibility. “You think Griphook’s lying then?”
“I think he wants that sword.”
“How could he know we were looking for Horcruxes, though?” Hermione asked.
Draco shrugged. “He couldn’t have. But he didn’t describe a Horcrux—he only said there was something ‘more precious than gold’ in there, and we’re the ones who jumped to the conclusion he meant a Horcrux. He could have just as easily meant us to assume there was some indeterminate something in there of great value, and that we’d give him the sword in exchange for that information.”
“So you think he’s playing us?” Harry asked.
Draco took a sip of his tea, slowly to give himself time to gather his thoughts. “We won’t know until we look inside that vault.” Harry slumped back in his chair, rubbing his eyes in frustration. “…But Aunt Bella has always been the Dark Lord’s favourite, so if he gave one to my father, as you say…he’d almost certainly have given one to her first.”
“So?” Harry really didn’t need more complications introduced into this matter, though he supposed he should have expected their resident Slytherin to look at the deal from every angle and figure out just how many ways they might get screwed over by Griphook.
“It’s the sword of Gryffindor. I don’t think I should have a say in its dispensation.”
“But that doesn’t—”
“I trust you,” Draco said. “I’ll go along with whatever you decide to do.”
And nice as that was to hear again—very nice indeed, and Harry’s blood thrummed warm in his veins—it was no help whatsoever. He looked to Ron and Hermione, and they gave him resolute nods, as if to say We’re ready to go over a cliff with you!
He’d wanted someone to tell him what to do, but then evidently the time for that had passed. He’d complained for so long about not being allowed to make his own decisions, and now that it was finally up to him to determine their next plan of attack, he was dithering.
He chewed his lip, wracking his brain for something—anything. But no magical ping of clarity hit him, no sudden epiphanies presented themselves. He was left with terrible choices and impossible ones.
He took a deep breath, then: “He wants the sword—so we’ll tell him he can have it after he’s helped us get into that vault.”
“But, Harry—!” Ron began to protest, and Harry held up a hand.
“—But we’ll be careful to avoid telling him exactly when he can have it.”
A relieved grin spread across Ron’s features, and Draco raised a brow. Hermione, though, looked alarmed. “Harry, you know we can’t—”
“We’re going to give it to him, Hermione, don’t worry. But you know as well as I we can’t do that until we’ve got no more use for it. I’m not gonna double-cross him—but he’s clearly not budging, and if it means the difference between us being able to destroy Horcruxes and not, then I’m not gonna lose any sleep because he’s gotta wait a little bit longer to get back an artefact he isn’t even gonna use.” Griphook had tried to get the sword off them through less-than-honourable means, so they’d return it under less-than-honourable terms.
“A ‘little bit longer’—Harry, we’ve no idea where the remaining Horcruxes might be; like Draco said, it might not even be a Horcrux in that vault. He could be waiting ages for us to make good on our word!”
Harry wasn’t so sure about that, as he could still feel the clock inside him tick-tick-ticking down to some imagined future very near. He avoided saying as such, though, certain it would only frighten them. He shrugged. “The Goblins have waited a thousand years to get their ruddy sword back; what’s another few in the grand scheme of things?”
He would not stoop to doing things ‘for the greater good’. Dumbledore might have done a lot of great things under that mantle, but he’d done some underhanded stuff too in his years, of that Harry now had no doubt. Harry would keep his word and right his wrongs wherever he could—but on his own terms. If they wanted to follow him over a cliff, they had to be prepared to face the jagged rocks below.
Hermione pushed her mug away. “I want it on the record I’m not comfortable with this. We’re only inflaming tensions between our races.”
“I’d rather we didn’t have to do it either,” Harry said, choosing particularly diplomatic phrasing; Draco would be proud of him. “But it’s what we’re going to do. Griphook’s using us to get what he wants, so we’re justified in using him back. We’ll all get paid in our own way in the end.”
“Well you won’t hear me complaining,” Ron said, earning a glare from Hermione that for once did little to dim his smile. “So long as we don’t have to give up the sword any time soon.”
Draco’s expression was unreadable as he traced the patterns in the wood grain of the table, not meeting Harry’s eye. It was a good plan—a very Slytherin one, if Harry said so himself. He didn’t like having to resort to such a cheap ploy, but they had little other choice.
Voldemort had the Elder Wand now, so all they could do if they wanted to have any hope of bringing him down was destroy the remaining Horcruxes. There were two left to locate—one, if this business with Griphook panned out—and then there would only be Nagini. After that would come the Herculean task of killing Voldemort himself, which Harry didn’t even want to consider.
If Griphook was lying, if there wasn’t actually a Horcrux in that vault…Harry could very well be walking to his death.
It didn’t really make him feel much better to know at least he wouldn’t be walking there alone.
When Harry finished his evening ablutions, Draco was already in bed—and given he’d placed his back to the door, he didn’t seem in need of anything in particular tonight. It was something of a relief, admittedly, as Harry didn’t feel all that up to…well, anything in the wake of that morning’s mission and with the daunting task of infiltrating probably the only place more difficult to break into than the Ministry hanging over their heads.
Still, it had been a long day for Draco, with far more downs than ups, and Harry felt he ought to say something. Draco had been low-key all day, only offering input when directly addressed and letting rip perhaps a tenth of the snide remarks that usually rolled off his forked tongue. He’d been the first to head to bed as well, bowing out as soon as they had finished discussing how to deal with Griphook, and even Ron had noticed he seemed in low spirits.
Harry climbed under his covers, tucking his wand under his pillow and placing his glasses on the bedside table. He had a fist raised to fluff his pillow—then sighed. “…You awake?”
There was no response for a good thirty seconds, but then: “Would it matter?”
Harry settled back, staring up at the ceiling. “Well if you hadn’t answered, I’d have assumed ‘no’ and left you be.”
Draco’s bedsprings creaked as he rolled over, lip curled in derision. “…No you wouldn’t have. You’d have assumed I was ignoring you and pestered me until I gave in.”
“…Well you would have been ignoring me, as clearly you’re awake.”
Draco scoffed. “Did you want something?” He then lifted one brow slowly, though it didn’t look terribly inviting—more like a veiled threat. “Or need something?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “I just wanted to know you were all right. You know, with…with your folks and all.”
Draco made a face, everything going pinched. “Oh yes. Just dandy. G’night, Potter.” He shifted back over, placing the long line of his back to Harry.
“Harry,” he sighed in beleaguered reminder.
“See? You’re obviously not all right.”
Draco’s voice was tight. “I think I’d know better than you.”
“I agree—that’s why I think you’re lying.” He cocked his head to the side, catching Draco in his peripheral vision. “Did you want to talk about it?”
Draco bolted upright, grey eyes flashing. “Why the fuck do you think I’d want to talk about it?”
Harry’s brows lifted; he hadn’t expected to get quite that big a rise out of Draco. He shrugged. “Sometimes it helps, just having a conversation with someone who knows what you’re going through. Like when you had your nightmare.”
Draco sneered. “They aren’t dead, Potter—”
Draco wiped his face with a frustrated growl. “I told you I’m not calling you that when I’m angry with you.”
“Wait, what?” Harry shifted upright. “Why are you angry with me?”
“Because—” Draco started sharply, then grimaced. “Because—because I’ve got to be angry at something and you’re all I’ve got!” He drew his knees to his chest and slumped forward, forehead resting on the knobs of his knees. His back rose and fell as he took deep, bracing breaths. “I’m so—so fucking pissed off. I just—want to blow something up. Destroy something.”
“Want to punch me?”
“Don’t tempt me.”
Harry knew he shouldn’t smile, so he made sure to hide it. “…You’re allowed to feel angry, you know. It’s a perfectly normal human emotion, so why shouldn’t you express it? It’s not fair, what’s happened. No one’s saying you can’t—you know—want to snap. In fact, it’s probably better if you do, actually. I don’t reckon it’s healthy to bottle it up inside.”
Draco gave a soft hm. “Bottling things up is what Purebloods do best, though.” He sniffed haughtily and affected an even more posh drawl than usual. “Our emotions age like fine wine.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but if it’s piss when it goes in, it’ll still be piss when it comes out.” He inclined his head toward the door. “We could go to the Sanctuary, Conjure some targets for you to destroy?” Maybe they could bewitch Dumbledore’s Snitch and use it as a clay pigeon. Yet again not what Dumbledore had probably envisioned Harry using the Snitch for when he’d willed it to him, but needs must.
He could see Draco fighting a thin smile that wavered—and then fell in a miserable façade. “…Why wouldn’t they come? We’re all in danger, regardless. At least we could have been in danger together…”
Harry didn’t imagine it was a real question; Draco was a Slytherin, could see all the angles. Sometimes, though, you didn’t want to hear sound reasoning. You just wanted to indulge in some good, old-fashioned id-driven emotion.
Harry drew back the covers and moved, slowly, over to Draco’s side of the room. Perkins’s faded old rug was soft and worn beneath his toes, and he wiggled them as he stood beside Draco’s bed. “Being in danger together’s certainly better than trying to go it alone.”
Draco raked him with a suspicious glance, but at least he wasn’t shooing Harry away. “‘S that why you have yourself an army of Weasleys? How many are there now? Ten, twenty?”
“Too many to count. You should have seen Bill and Fleur’s wedding; redheads and freckles, as far as the eye could see.”
Draco slid back down onto his mattress with a groan. “Merlin, that sounds absolutely awful.”
“Mmhmm. Viktor Krum was there, though, which was pretty great. And the ceremony was nice.” He glanced down and realised that Draco had shifted to make room for Harry to join him, if he wanted. It was odd—every time they’d shared a bed before, it had always been Harry inviting Draco over. This way, Draco bringing Harry into his space…it felt like it meant something, though Harry couldn’t quite pin it down.
He reached for Draco’s wand peeking out from under his pillow to Transfigure the beds together and make them bigger, but Draco held a hand up. “Don’t. It’s fine.”
Harry raised a brow, certain it would be a tight fit otherwise; he’d woken up to bruises on his arms and stomach from Draco’s sharp elbows and knees enough times to know they needed more space than less for a good night’s rest.
Draco only drew him down and sidled close, chest to back, breathing soft and steady against Harry’s neck. Harry wriggled for a good minute before he found a comfortable position, sighing loudly to signal he was finished.
“Was there dancing?” Draco mumbled.
“Oh—god no, I can’t.” His mind supplied helpful flashbacks to the nightmare that had been the Yule Ball in Fourth Year. He really needed to apologise to poor Parvati before Voldemort killed him. “Two left feet.”
Draco’s hand had slipped around Harry’s side and was gently stroking his stomach just under his thin pyjama shirt. It was a slow and hypnotic brush of fingers over skin, like he could start something, but wouldn’t. Like he was barely even aware of what he was doing. “I could teach you,” he said.
“Sure. As soon as you’ve mastered your Patronus, we’ll switch.”
Draco released a soft, defeated groan. “You’re still on about that?”
“Bloody right I am. You’ll find I am a cruel and unrelenting taskmaster.”
Draco’s fingers slowed their stroking. “…I’d hoped…that getting my parents back might be my memory.” His voice was low and hesitant, almost ashamed. “I’d have been so happy…” He shifted his grip to Harry’s hips, digging his fingers in to hold Harry tight in place as he pressed his nose to Harry’s nape and inhaled sharply. When he released his breath, it came out in a ragged shudder.
Harry gave him a beat to collect himself. Draco despised pity, and Harry dared not give it to him. “You’ll still get them back, you know. Pull yourself together. I’m not your personal handkerchief.”
Draco snorted softly, pressing his forehead to the knobby bone at the top of Harry’s spine. “Tough love—I like it.”
“Figured you could use a bit of familiarity in the midst of all this new.” He sighed, closing his eyes. “And in the meantime…we’ll just have to find another happy memory.”
There was a very pregnant silence, and Draco let his grip on Harry’s hips relax, brushing his thumb in circles at the crown of Harry’s hipbone. “Like what…?”
Harry could feel himself already drifting, the day’s excitement waning into a wave of exhaustion that threatened to bury him alive. “I dunno,” he breathed against Draco’s pillow. “I’m sure we’ll figure something out, though.”