Author's Notes: Thanks to all the usual suspects (libertine, kissaki, krissy, lunarennui, Miss Breed, Rube, and to Audrey, without whom this ending would not exist. Thanks to and to all reviewers, who's comments are cherished.

Disclaimer: I still don't own these folks. J.K. Rowling does. I'm not sure she'd want to claim them after I'm through with them, though.


Belong

Chapter Fourteen - Dissolution

By Ivy Blossom

       

For the next five days, Draco slaved over the object that he hoped would release his mother from her torment. It was a small amber charm, very much like the diamond and amethyst one that had both solved Draco's problems years ago and was now causing his current dilemma. But this charm was all browns and yellows, swirls of ancient sap, bits of disintegrated wood, tiny, petrified bubbles and one tiny trapped insect, curled upon itself, its wings spread wide. Where the diamond charm was clear and elegant, the amber charm was flawed, uneven in spots, with constantly shifting colours. Harry imagined that it was smooth and light, unlike the weighty, cold sphere he had carried in his pocket years ago. Harry watched Draco whisper strange words over it, so close it nearly touched his moving lips, its shiny surface dulling with the fog of his breath. It sat on the windowsill for a time, bathing in sunlight in the mornings, projecting a small, fuzzy yellow circle on the hardwood floor.

When he wasn't working with the charm directly, Draco kept it in a small glass box, locked with charms, so that no one else would touch it. Ron was somewhat offended by this; as if his fingers could cause such havoc, such dramatic destruction, as if Draco couldn't trust either of them to leave it alone. Ron harrumphed, watching him lock it away, but Draco simply looked at him coldly and continued with his work. Harry knew better. Anyone who touched that charm would have a key to whatever would lie within it, and would be forever to linked with it. Draco was tired of dangling guilt and unintended victims.

He set it carefully on the bedside table in the evenings, between sliding off his shoes and hanging up his sweater. It glowed oddly in the light of the dull lamp above it, ethereally gleaming orange light onto the table top beneath it. Harry found it both reassuring and disturbing, but said nothing. Draco thought about the charm constantly, and their normally comforting evening walks had become more hurried, more tense; Draco spoke about formulas, incantations, pronunciations, matrixes, his hands waving in the air describing possible victory, possible failure. The tone of his voice was hitched up, he spoke more quickly, twisted his fingers around each other in his lap while he was thinking. He woke up occasionally in the night, grasping for the charm on the bedside table, knocking Harry's glasses to the floor and jolting Harry awake. On finding it still safe, Draco would turn to Harry, press his lips against that scarred forehead, curl his arms tight around him, and tremble into Harry until he fell asleep again. Harry would lay awake longer, pushed out of his fuzzy dreams into a shocking and overwhelming new reality. There was a sense of trust and fear in these small movements of Draco's that shook Harry's marrow, sent curling fingers of dread inside his belly and roped themselves around his spine, fluttering with hot need into his brain. Harry was also afraid; afraid of Draco and afraid for him. He did not feel strong. He felt small. Sometimes he felt something akin to a sob rising inside Draco's chest, and his arms would grip Harry a little tighter, a little longer, trembling travelling from Draco's body into Harry's. He would hold that quivering body, and whisper soft words into his ear ("Shhh," "Sleep now," "It's okay," "I love you.") and feel like collapsing himself. But he would not collapse, not now, not when Draco needed him so much. Harry began to need naps before dinner.

And then Draco was finished. It happened suddenly, as if it were unexpected. The deed was done, and from all accounts, it had been done properly and well. He practiced summoning the charm from one side of the apartment to another, from outside on the balcony, from underneath the invisibility cloak. He found no errors in his calculations. He sighed deeply once he realized that there was little else he could do, fidgeted on the couch for about fifteen minutes, and then headed straight into the kitchen. He still had four days to go until he could go into St. Mungo's with the paperwork Lucius had carefully prepared for him, and nothing left to do in the meantime.

That evening, Ron had brought Hermione and Ginny home with him. Hermione and various members of the Weasley clan, had become almost constant fixtures in their flat in recent days. Ron had been finding the tension simply too much, and welcomed any and all distraction from it. While Draco was entirely consumed with creating this goblin charm, snarling at attempts to engage him in conversation and generally being in a foul mood, he had stopped his usual stress-relieving activities, much to Ron's dismay. But once Draco finished work on the charm, he resumed his frantic baking and cooking. Ron had been shocked on more than one occasion to see Draco throw out entire meals worth of food for no apparent reason ("Too much salt," "Overdone", "Underdone", "Just awful."). But this meal seemed to have met Draco's expectations, fortunately for Harry, who was famished, and for Ginny and Hermione, who had spent a whirlwind afternoon with Ron, seeing a Quidditch game, buying new robes, picking up a few things here and there for Harry and Draco, and general gossiping like mad. Ginny lifted her spoon to her mouth, arched an eyebrow, and mouthed, 'Are you sure it's not poisoned?' across the table to Ron. He giggled. Harry gave Ginny a dirty look. Hermione watched the whole scene, bemused.

Draco Malfoy was not the person Hermione had come to expect him to be. Unlike Ron, she had begun to give him the benefit of the doubt while they were still at Hogwarts; certainly, even that long ago he had begun to change. But she had been reticent even then, and had had no idea Harry had gotten himself so entangled. She sighed and shook her head. Well, even if I had known, would it have made any difference? What would I have said? No, Harry, don't give him another chance? Held his coattails and refused to let him leave the building? Stopped Harry from loving him? I don't think so. It was, after all, precisely Harry's ability to see beyond their own history, to put his hesitations aside and really look at Draco in particular, and everyone else he encountered, that helped make Harry who he was. It reminded Hermione of how quickly and completely Harry had been prepared to accept Sirius as his godfather; confronted with an alternative explanation, Harry always preferred to believe the best of people. He is so beautiful, she thought. Beautiful, good, heroic, forgiving, loving, open, and emotionally in touch with himself. The perfect man. She turned at and looked at Draco, who was scowling into his soup. You lucky bastard.

Hermione's entire impression of Draco had been altered severely in recent days. When Harry decided to see Draco again, her stomach dropped into her shoes. She had shaken her head, telling Ron, "Well, they say that victims of abuse tend to seek it out ever after. Perhaps we can suggest some therapy for him." Harry had generally kept Draco away from them, to the point that he seemed almost ashamed of him, or ashamed of them. It had worried Hermione. When she asked Harry about it, he had shrugged, and flashed her that lopsided grin. "I just don't want to deal with that kind of stress, 'Mione. Not yet." She had vowed then to be supportive, no matter what, and had insisted that Ron agree.

Harry seemed happy. Genuinely happy, not some kind of manic victim-centered happiness that comes from feeling needed, feeling like a martyr. When she saw them together at their last party, Hermione had been surprised. She had somehow expected…well, she wasn't sure what she had been expecting. But there was an easiness between them, a genuine enjoyment in each other's company, a warmth in Draco and a playfulness in Harry that she had never quite seen before. It was very clear to her from that point on that Draco positively worshiped the ground beneath Harry's feet. Oh, sure, he still teased him, but those harsh looks and sneers she had watched Draco shoot at Harry millions of times were gone. Even an armchair psychologist could work this one out, Hermione reasoned. And there was something in the way he touched Harry, even in the simplest actions, that spoke volumes. Tonight, as he handed Harry a spoon, Hermione had seen it again. He loves Harry, and he's desperate to tell him so. Well, as if that was a new concept. Hermione rolled her eyes at herself.

She had accepted this idea easier than Ron had. They had agreed not to discuss their concerns with Harry, or even near Harry, but until very recently Ron had been positively livid about it. "He's going to get himself killed, I'm telling you." He turned red and clenched his fists after watching Harry leave again to meet Draco. "That bastard, I swear, I will beat him into the ground if he hurts Harry." Hermione had shaken her head, unsure of what to think. But then, suddenly, Ron seemed to have had a serious change of heart. Draco, when projected by the papers at his very worst, was being welcomed into Harry and Ron's flat. "Well," Ron had shrugged. "I see him more now. I've…gotten to know him a little better. Perhaps he's not so bad, eh?" He had not gone into any details. She had pressed for them, certainly, but the most Ron was willing to say was cryptic: "There's a lot we don't know, 'Mione. A lot of…well, a lot of dark stuff. I imagine it's pretty hard not to grow up all hateful-like when you have to deal with…well, all of that."

Then, seeing Draco covered with glowing scars, caused for ritual purposes and then taken advantage of by a clearly half-mad woman with a penchant for blood and suffering, she had felt as though she might be sick. She felt guilty, horribly guilty. Ron and Harry had hated Malfoy through their school years, but she suspected that no one had hated him quite as much as she had. He had made her feel worthless, he had demeaned her and her parents, he had longed to see her dead. He had scorned her, debased her, he had forced tears to her eyes by his mere presence, which, to her, had constantly underscored her vulnerability. She had hated him so much that she had pinned different words on it: she told herself that he wasn't terribly bright, in spite of the fact that he beat her out for the best grade in Arithmancy. She told herself, righteousnessly, that his brain was simply incapable of the reasonable thought that would bring his weak little mind line with hers, with Harry's, with Dumbledore's. She considered him the ultimate lost cause; stupid, powerful, rich, and to see anything resembling truth. He had come to personify everything she had been fighting against in these last years. When she thought about irrationality, the problems that plagued the wizarding world, she thought of him. And not with the blind, fighting rage like Ron's, but with a superior smirk, with the knowledge that lack of real thinking is what lead to him being who he was, a lack of critical thought. Her own righteousness made her ill, looking up at Draco, shirtless, his arms glowing, eyes shut. It was more than thinking, or not thinking, that made a person behave the way they did. She pictured Draco as a boy, covered with scars, bleeding and screaming alone night after night, and forgave him. In an instant, before the light on his skin had died. By the time he had put his shirt back on and sat down again, she felt as if he were a different person. She had almost wanted to greet him like a stranger. ("Hello, my name is Hermione. Welcome to our lives. I'm glad you love Harry. I love him too. Perhaps he can save all of us.")

The sound of Ginny's laughter brought her back to the present. Harry unwrapped a present from Mr. Weasley, hidden until then in one of the deep pockets of Ginny's black and silver cloak. The three of them laughed madly at the cover of the muggle video ("The Wizard of Oz? Where did he FIND this?" Harry laughed.") while Hermione turned and watched Draco carefully. He was polished of course, elegant, he smiled graciously and added a handful of witty comments to their friendly banter, but for the most part seemed distant. Hermione wasn't feeling particularly up to her normal standard of hilarity either, and the two of them sat quietly, sipping their tea, while Harry and Ron attempted to transfigure a pair of old shoes into a television and a video player.

Hermione saw Draco looking thoughtfully and distantly through the darkened windows. His lips twitched. Ron had filled him in on the current goings on. Dumbledore had reluctantly agreed to allow Draco to go into St. Mungo's to help his mother, but Hermione had hopes that he would also provide help to him once he was inside. It seemed outrageously dangerous to Hermione. Needlessly so. He looked frankly terrified, in a posh, rather blasť way. She shook her head. Why is the draw of this woman so great? Why does Draco want to help her, when she was so incessantly cruel to him? Imagine, letting your own child suffer like that. She shivered. Draco closed his eyes, and Hermione noticed for the first time that he had dramatically long eyelashes, which were dark against his pale cheeks. She sighed. "Draco," she said softly. He opened his eyes and looked at her startled out of his unpleasant reverie, startled. "that soup." She continued. "Is it difficult? Do you think an amateur like me could reproduce that?" She smiled carefully, still wondering whether Draco would sneer or snap at her.

"Oh," Draco had said, seeming a little surprised, he ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath, as if he had forgotten to breathe until she spoke. "It's very easy to make, as long as you can find miso. It was impossible to find in Hogsmede, but easy in London. Hmm, here, I'll show you…" He rose from the table. Hermione smiled, and joined him. The two of them moved into the kitchen, speaking about spinach, seaweeds, onions ("Really, you can use whichever you have on hand, or leave them out altogether,") and types of miso, where to buy it, and so on. Hermione listened, and asked him questions. ("Carrots?" "Oh, sure, yes, give it a shot. Throw in whatever you have.") Harry smiled broadly, and he and Ron watched them speak civilly as if Draco had not constantly called her 'mudblood' for years, as if everyone didn't know that Hermione had not herself at a few points wanted to see Draco in tiny little pieces scattered liberally under her feet.

"If those two bloody well become friends," Ron noted, "I have a few hats to eat." Harry laughed. Ginny looked sulkily at her black fingernails.

"Well, things have changed, haven't they." Ron watched Harry smile as they heard Hermione laugh at something Draco had said. Ron nodded sagely, fiddling with the buttons on the video player.

Ginny sighed. "Yes, things sure do change," she said, tucking a lock of black hair behind the row of silver rings in her ear. She picked up her wine glass and finished off its contents in one gulp. "Is there more of this?" she asked, shaking the glass in front on Ron's face.

In the kitchen, Draco leaned over the table to write out a quick list of ingredients for Hermione. Half way through, he looked up at her and said, "Where's your…friend, that muggle, what's his name?"

Hermione grimaced. "Edmund."

"Right. Where's Edmund tonight? I would have thought—" Draco looked up from the parchment, seeing her face contorting a little, holding back tears. "Oh. Did you two break up?" Hermione nodded glumly. "Sorry about that. I won't ask."

Hermione sighed, and coughed. "Oh, it's alright. It's just…well, with all this going on…we reached a point where…" She stopped. No matter how much she regretted her past pompous assumptions about Draco, she wasn't sure she was prepared to launch into the details of her rather painful break up with someone who, to this day, was skittish around muggles. He was looking at her rather sympathetically, and sighed.

"He just couldn't understand, could he." Draco looked back at the parchment, scribbling down ingredients and measurements. Hermione shrugged.

"It's not like you think." She said tiredly. "It's not that muggles can't understand."

Draco dropped the quill and looked at her thoughtfully. "Sure. Not that they can't, but they just won't the vast majority of the time. Right?"

Hermione said nothing.

"Well, I won't argue with you about it. The last thing I'm going to claim to be is a good judge of character. But I expect it's for the best. Anyway, I'm fairly sure there's a nice young wizard somewhere nearby just dying to show you how well he can understand."

Hermione smirked, brushing hair away from her face. "I'm sure," she noted dryly. Draco finished writing instructions on the parchment and handed it to Hermione. "Have a look around, Granger." He winked.

"What?"

"Come on. Think. Who might I be referring to."

Hermione blinked.

"Granger, my brilliant foe. You have bested me in most of our classes together. Except Arithmancy, I'll remind you. I'll never understand why you weren't sorted into Ravenclaw. Come now. This is really a very simple deduction. Who. Do you imagine. Might be holding a rather raging little torch for you?"

"…"

"Come on, now. You can guess that it's probably not me, and I would be the last person on the planet who would try to hook up you with Potter. What wizards are left in this flat?"

"Ron?"

"You didn't hear it from me."

Hermione blinked. "How do you—"

"Hey you two," Harry wandered into the kitchen, looking from Hermione to Draco. "We've got the movie all queued up. Are you coming, or what?"

"We'll be right there," Draco said, grinning rather wickedly. "Save me a spot next to you, would you?" Harry laughed and wandered back into the living room. They could hear Ron and Ginny arguing about how to insert the video into the video player. Hermione shook her head and smiled.

"You're awfully lucky, you know, having Harry." She folded the parchment and put it in her pocket.

Draco scoffed, following her out into the living room. "The bastard keeps leaving his socks lying around."

       

It had rained steadily all that morning, and when Draco and Harry arrived at the gates of St. Mungo's from where they had apparated down the road, they were already sopping wet. In the cover of some large, elegant and ancient trees, they had quickly knocked back a mouthful of polyjuice each. Harry was somewhat surprised that Dumbledore was allowing them to do this. They had explained the situation, and he had looked saddened, and worried. But he agreed with Draco that this was the best way. Harry had been tempted to protest;

"No," he should have said. "No, it's too much. He's too young, I'm too young, there are so many others who've been fighting Voldemort longer, who know him better, who are better equipped..." He stopped himself in his own thoughts, even. No. There was no one better equipped. Draco, and Harry, had the key to the charm itself. Draco had the skill and finesse required not only to make a new one, but to undo the damage that was done with the first. They were working in co-operation with Death Eaters, an uneasy truce for fear of a mad Voldemort and a poorly-spun set of spells. They could not haul the Ministry in; they could not risk all of the lives in St. Mungo's by announcing Voldemort's presence there. Dumbledore had taken some precautions, the lengths of which Harry had no idea. He had been told about most of their plans, but he had not paid attention. He simply concentrated on his own role in the affair; open up the flood gates, see whether Voldemort was truly inside Narcissa, whether he was truly mad, whether Narcissa was left inside her own body at all. He was there to help Draco perform the complicated spells that would release Voldemort properly from the original charm, and from his mother, and transfer him into the new one. He would walk out of St. Mungo's with a small victory in the palm of his hand that would impress no one but those with the background to understand it. How they would survive his popular reputation, Harry had no idea. Perhaps we'll emigrate to the colonies, Harry thought. I hear that Montreal is quite lovely. Draco could work on his French.

The polyjuice potion tasted sweet. Harry kept his eyes on Draco, curious, and nervous, about whom he was about to transform into. Draco grimaced at the taste of his potion ("It tastes like dandruff," he muttered) braced himself, and Harry watched his platinum hair, already dripping with rain, become dull, grow longer, and turn a rich chestnut. The contours of his face softened and thickened; his body grew slightly shorter and stockier. His shoulders swelled outwards, his hands transformed from their solid delicacy into a thick, powerful paws. When he looked up, Harry noticed that Draco was now sporting a pair of deep brown eyes. Harry wondered who on earth this man was. Some random Death Eater associate who wouldn't be recognized? Harry shook his head. Draco arched a now dark black eyebrow in a decidedly Malfoyesque manner, and Harry realized that his own transformation must be complete by now as well.

"Longbottom. Geez, Potter, this is just plain spooky. I'm afraid you're going to trip and fall on the way to the front door, or something." Draco's now rich baritone voice sounded strange in both of their ears. Neville had kindly agreed to give Harry the hairs he needed to make the polyjuice potion. As Neville, infiltrating St. Mungo's would be relatively simple for Harry. Since graduating from Hogwarts, Neville had become a regular visitor there; his parents had not improved much over the years, but Neville found that the more he visited, the less nervous they became when he approached them. Now, after several years, he could sit quietly with them without violence; sometimes, if he were particularly lucky, they would come to him and touch his face, rub his hair between their fingers, play with his hands. He loved it best when they noticed him like this. He did not move, he let them manipulate his fingers, tug on his hair, letting them see him as a plaything instead of as a person that might cause them harm. They still didn't know his name, and had no idea at all that he was their son. In fact, Neville wasn't certain they understood the concept of 'son' at all. But he returned, week after week, sitting quietly with them, no longer hoping for recognition, but praying for gentleness, praying for acceptance.

Neville had given Harry some pointers about how to move through St. Mungo's, as Neville's parents were on the third floor, and, according to what Draco had read, Narcissa was housed in a fourth floor tower. Lucius had looked ponderously at Harry across the table in their heavily-charmed restaurant, then turning his eyes back to Draco, noting dully that they had requested a garden view for Narcissa, since she so loved her own garden at home. Harry had seen that garden in the Daily Prophet; it was trampled over, broken glass scattered on the stone walkways, a statue that must at one time have been quite majestic and elegant broken into pieces, its head face down in a trampled bed of irises.

"They'll let you go where you like, if you go in as me." Neville had said. "They usually let me move about on my own. Just remember; when you get there, you'll see a pretty blonde sitting at the front desk. Greet her, I always do. I say 'Good to see you, Jane, how was your weekend?' or something like that. And she'll give you the key. Go straight up the stairs to the third floor and turn to your left. From there, just flash the key at Maureen, who works on the third floor. She'll wave you through." Neville gave Harry a map he had drawn. "You see here, the stairwell? It's not usually locked. If it is, the key they give you should open it. They won't think it's odd to see you go up there….there's a nice sitting room on the fourth floor. I go there sometimes after….well. They won't find it odd." Neville had smiled sadly.

Harry grinned at Draco. "I really owe Neville for this one. I don't know how I would have managed otherwise."

Draco entered the hospital first. He had a fistful of papers; he was Ms. Masham's nephew, and he needed to see her in order to report on her condition to the family. They had rehearsed this a dozen times, but Draco was still nervous. The plump blonde woman behind the counter smiled sympathetically, but with a disinterest that came from hearing the same story day after day. She glanced at his papers absently, noting that nothing was out of place, and gave him a key. "She's on the fourth floor, 47B. Audrey on the fourth floor will give you a hand if you need it." Draco smiled rather mournfully and walked up the large stairwell she had indicated. As he reached the landing he turned and saw Harry (still, of course, looking frighteningly like Neville Longbottom), open the heavy cherry-wood door and step, shivering and soaked, into the foyer.

"'Allo, Neville! Lovely weather, eh? Nice to see you!"

"Aye, indeed, I've nearly drowned." Harry responded. "How was your weekend, Jane?"

Draco turned and hopped the next few steps. Harry would be with him soon, and before too long this nightmare would end.

Shortly thereafter, Harry found himself standing in the doorway of the Longbottoms' room. The sight left him reeling. Maureen down the hall had warned him that they had had to be restrained today, but he wasn't prepared to see what met his shocked eyes. The Longbottoms were strapped to long, rather thin cots side by side, their heads forced upwards, looking neither right nor left. There was a soothing pattern in greens and blues swirling on the ceiling above their faces, but it was not soothing Neville's mother. She was wriggling her hands and her feet rhythmically, her face frozen into a perpetual scream. Harry could see the strain of that scream in her stomach which vibrated with it, her eyes squeezed shut and tears streaming down into her graying hair. With each breath she took, Harry saw a shimmer around her body; he realized that this was a kind of silencing spell. No wonder this place is so eerily quiet. Frank Longbottom's eyes had rolled into the back of his head; he was drooling, his arms and legs limp, but his head kept moving in a disturbingly recognizable fashion, as if someone were punching his face, left, left, right, left, right. Harry shuddered. He felt suddenly very sorry for Neville and very sickened at having asked for this tremendous favour; he felt as though he were intruding on something so private and so painful that he tread carefully on the floor, as though a misstep would cause bruises on Neville's gentle skin. He lowered his face into his hands, and backed away. Maureen looked up at him from down the hall, and smiled sympathetically. Harry headed for the stairwell.

Draco had found 47B rather easily. It was a large, airy room, facing west into a rather plebian garden. He had rapped on the door, and got no answer. Twisting the doorknob, he found it unlocked, and he opened the door gently, as if Narcissa might be hiding like a six-year-old between it and the wall, ready to jump out and surprise him. Draco wasn't sure who to expect; his mother, or Voldemort, or some strange combination of both. He remembered, suddenly, his ninth birthday, opening that heavy, white-washed door. He had woken up excited ("My Birthday!"); it was a like a day outside of time, a day outside the calendar year, a day where everything seemed different, new. The feel of his sheets against his feet felt different, the sun poured through his windows in a whole new, hopeful, refreshing way. His door opened and presents all wrapped in dazzlingly coloured paper floated into the room and danced around his bed. His mother followed, smiling broadly, sitting down on his bed and gathering him into her arms. "Happy birthday, Draco love! My darling, you're a big boy now, aren't you?" She kissed his on the top of his head and held him tight. "What a grown up boy. My, what a lot of presents you have!" He remembered the light, the feel of his pajamas against his chest, the smell lily of the valley, his father's footsteps outside, bringing in more presents for him. He remembered all of it in the instant he pushed the door open.

Narcissa seemed to be asleep. She was lying on a cot, covered with a quilt Draco recognized from home. Her arms, lying limp at her sides, were pale and filled with the pockmarks of recent intravenous needles. Her eyelids looked waxy, and Draco could barely see her chest moving up and down as she breathed. Draco scanned the room quickly, noting a loveseat against the window, a straight-backed chair next to the bed, a small bedside table with a simple lamp on it, and an oriental rug on the floor. His mother's slippers (in red, his mother's slippers, in Draco's memory, were always red) were sitting tidily just under the bed. There was a white terrycloth robe hanging from a hook on the wall; clearly St. Mungo's issue. His mother would never wear a terrycloth robe.

He moved forward into the room, moving softly, standing over Narcissa. Part of him didn't believe it; his father was notorious for his stories; Oh, the things Draco had heard him tell people in order to get what he wanted. But now, looking at his mother, Draco recognized the charm itself, pressed against Narcissa's throat in a golden casing. Yes, he thought. No wonder Harry's had such a hard time. Half of Voldemort is in that charm haunting Harry, and half in my mother, haunting her. He touched her hand gently, getting no response. After a time, he pulled the amber charm from his pocket and rolled it between his fingers, watching his mother, thinking, remembering.

This was how Harry found him, when he peeked into the room a short time later. "Draco?" He whispered. Draco looked up.

"Ready?"

"Yes." Draco held the charm for a moment, spinning it absently between his finger and his thumb. "Can you sense him?" Harry cross the room and sat down on the loveseat. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

Sleep. Mud, worms, the smell of floor wax. Pain. Blood. Pounding ears. Anger. "Yes. I do. I don't know if…"

Narcissa's eyes opened.

Harry gasped. Suddenly he saw two things at once; he saw Draco sitting on the bed beside his mother, and he saw Draco's face, looking down at him.

"Yes, he's here, Draco, careful, I…I can see you. Draco, I can…" Draco looked down at his mother.

"Mother." He whispered. Narcissa's eyes filled with tears. He took her hand, brushing the charm against her cold, thin wrist. She shuddered, and shut her eyes.

"Harry, remember how this went the last time. It will be complicated, but if I start to struggle, as he…as they…become stronger, I made have trouble controlling them." Harry nodded and rubbed his scar, noting that it was aching dully. "First I'm going to have to bring him out. Whatever happens, Harry…don't…touch him, alright?" Harry pressed his lips together and nodded.

Draco let go of Narcissa's hand and stood. He braced himself, and began to speak.

Harry had become accustomed to the sound of Draco's voice. As enemies, they had only heard each other in anger, resentment, distrust. Harry had become familiar with a range of emotions projected in Draco's voice, anger and bitterness as well as humour, embarrassment, love, pain, and sheer giddy glee. Now, looking at the face of the random and nameless Death Eater, with a voice he almost but didn't quite recognize, the sounds that came from Draco now were unlike anything he had ever heard.

He had, of course, heard some goblin spoken before. He had heard Draco whisper it over the charm, he had heard him bark out a handful of commands that made objects lock, unlock, appear and disappear, travel great distances, turn themselves inside out. Sometimes he had even heard Draco mumble goblin in his sleep. But this was quite different. What he heard now was stern, forceful, the language transfiguring the entire concept of human speech into a vague memory. He sounded like steel against crackling, burning logs, like songs sung by trees sliced in two by silver knives, a wooden, metallic and guttural sound with a strangely angelic overtone. Harry shook his head.

Something was happening. Narcissa was moving about restlessly, her eyes pressed shut. With a particularly forceful word here and there, sounding like a pinprick into Harry's ears, Narcissa would yelp. Then, shortly, she seemed to fall asleep again, her head lolling to one side. Her face was now turned in Harry's direction, and her eyelids would flutter open momentarily, but showed nothing but the whites, her eyes having rolled up into her head. Harry shuddered. A thin, smoky substance started to emanate out of Narcissa. Harry sensed it then; himself, Narcissa, and Voldemort. He felt three consciousness gathering, connected through a magic they didn't understand. Closing his eyes, Harry felt insanity. He could feel its rough texture, the pain, violent rage, the fear, like an infant, squalling, demanding. He wasn't sure then whose madness it was, and was only peripherally sure that it wasn't his own. Draco spoke on, words rubbing into his brain like scissors, cutting away the excess. The insanity was draining away. Voldemort was regaining himself. Harry, watching Draco's look of intense concentration, failed to notice at what point Narcissa had begun to watch him. When he turned to her face again, she was looking at him with triumph on her face.

"Draco..." Harry whispered, afraid.

It was then that Harry's world dissolved.


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