Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 12 - A Bad Idea
Draco watched Harry out of the corner of his eye as he tried to play the role of indifferent Slytherin. His housemates had welcomed him back and were filling him in on all the gossip while commiserating with him about being cooped up in isolation with 'the idiot Potter'. Ignoring Harry was the most difficult thing he had ever done, especially since their first day outside the hospital wing had obviously taken its toll on his soul mate. Harry looked tired and he had winced several times at the casual brush touch of his friends, which meant he wasn't blocking enough.
They had agreed that their bond would remain at the unconscious level when they were in such public situations, but halfway through the feast Draco had had enough. He tentatively pushed at the barriers that kept their minds apart and they gave way instantly. Harry's mental presence was so relieved at the contact that Draco actually dropped his goblet at the sensations the link flooded through him.
[You look dreadful,] Draco mentally chided the other youth while trying to make a joke of the spillage with those sitting next to him.
[Please tell me I don't look as bad as I feel,] Harry returned and even his mental voice sounded tired.
Draco flashed him an image of what he looked like from across the room and Harry's mental presence shuddered.
[You're overloading aren't you,] the concerned wizard returned silently.
There was a non-committal reply down the link but Draco really didn't need the clarification: the situation was obvious. Without direct physical contact with him Harry had to do most of his shielding himself; he was nowhere near ready to do that for long periods of time. The bond between them shouldered some of the burden but neither of them had had enough practice to be separated for long. Draco knew he was feeling agitated at the separation and he had no doubt it was worse for Harry, although his soul mate was doing his best to shield how he was feeling. Ron and Hermione were trying their hardest to physically protect their friend from the other Gryffindors, but this was a feast after all.
[We need to get you somewhere quiet,] Draco said as he glanced over surreptitiously.
[And bang goes your cover,] Harry shot back, sounding a little annoyed at the suggestion.
[I don't give a rat's arse about my cover if it means you're suffering like that,] he replied pointedly. [Staying on this side of the room is a bloody nightmare. This isn't going to work.]
[I'll manage,] his soul mate replied, but Harry's tone was less than certain.
[Who's the protector in this relationship?] Draco asked petulantly. [I have almost decked Goyle twice this evening already because of things he said about you and now you won't listen to sense.]
[We have to get through this,] Harry told him tiredly. [If we can do this we can do anything.]
From the safety of their room in the hospital wing this had seemed like an almost workable idea, now, in practice, Draco was sure it was doomed to failure. Trying to hide something like a Hecatemus bond was a recipe for madness and that they had managed it all day was looking more like a miracle every second.
[I love you, but your stubbornness is annoying,] Draco said succinctly.
[What do you expect, I'm a Gryffindor,] came the weary reply.
It was then that Neville Longbottom walked up behind Harry and cheerfully leant on his shoulder, obviously forgetting completely about the no touching rule. Draco felt the spike of disorientation go through Harry as he was swamped by the other boy's emotions. At least one of Harry's shields shattered at the mental impact and overwhelming input flooded into the Hectemus' mind. As far as Draco was concerned the debate was over.
"Crap, I can't do this," he said pointedly, much to his housemates' surprise, and stood up.
He was about to climb out from the bench and skirt his way round to Harry when the cutlery in front of his lover began to shake.
"Shit," was Draco's distinct opinion on the situation.
Harry's barrier against the magic in the room was the one that had gone and Draco could feel that his soul mate had inadvertently tapped into the power around him. That, according to the books, and a couple of minor experiences, meant random things were likely to happen, which could result in no more than the cutlery moving a bit, up to and not excluding a demon popping into the hall for dinner. Without pausing to consider the ramifications of what he was about to do Draco stepped onto the bench and then onto the table.
"Longbottom, get your hand off him now!" he really didn't care what anyone would deduce from that comment.
The tone he used must have been particularly scary because the Gryffindor in question jumped back like he had been hit. Harry would probably make Draco apologise for terrifying the boy later, but he couldn't give two hoots about that at the moment.
"Coming through," he said loudly to the next table and then ran one step to the edge of the Slytherin table and jumped.
He landed in the middle of the Ravenclaw's seventh years and then hopped down off the other side of the table. Everyone was watching him open mouthed, but Draco only cared about one thing and that was getting to Harry. He could feel that his lover was trying to rebuild his mental shield, but there was too much interference in the room. Ron and Hermione had moved to stand as far away from Harry as they could get and still remain between him and the other Gryffindors and Draco nodded to them both. Then, much to the astonishment of most of the Great Hall if the gasps were anything to go by, Draco Malfoy wrapped his arms around Harry Potter.
The shaking cutlery had spread to the next few place settings and as Draco connected with Harry he could see it from his soul mate's point of view. There was a well of power just in front of the Hecatemus that had been attracted to him the moment his shield smashed and it was slowly spreading to touch things. It was actually quite an intoxicating sight: magic in its pure form was very much like a drug and it called to the wizard in Draco. He pointedly ignored the siren's song and lent his strength to Harry's struggling mind.
"Put it back," he whispered quietly without the slightest concern for who was watching.
Harry was staring ahead and breathing hard: he was struggling to control the raw power and put back the barrier that stopped it running rampant. He should have been trained to cope with something like this from childhood as it was he had a couple of weeks practice and a stubborn streak the size of a dragon. Draco funnelled his levelling influence into the turmoil that was Harry's mind and put himself between the other boy and the magic. He could not cut out everything but his partial barrier gave Harry the respite to rebuild his own.
Putting the mental shield back from nothing was not like building a wall it was rather like the rest of magic: it either happened or it didn't. With Draco connected to him and placing himself in the middle of everything Harry's focus came back and the cutlery stopped shaking as fast as it had begun. Draco could feel that his lover's mental barriers were battered, but they were no longer broken. On a physical level Harry was shaking like a leaf.
Draco opened his eyes to find that he was surrounded and as he looked at the circle of Gryffindors behind him several of the stares were hostile. Ron and Hermione were holding back the tide, but they were obviously unsure of how to handle the situation.
"Come on," Draco said gently in Harry's ear, "we need to get you out of here."
Harry was once more lucid but he was exhausted and Draco moved his arms to help his lover stand up. As the shattered Gryffindor's trouble became apparent to his house mates several of those standing behind them glaring moved to help.
"Touch him and I fry you," Draco snapped before anyone could get close. "Back off."
That earned him even more glares and for a moment he thought he might have to back up his threat. He was saved by Dumbledore's even tones.
"Please do as Mr Malfoy requests," the headmaster said calmly much to the astonishment of the Gryffindors. "The situation is far more complex than it appears and Mr Potter is quite safe within his care. No one except Mr Malfoy is to touch Mr Potter in any way, is that understood?"
Draco took the opportunity to help Harry to his feet and then rather than making Harry try and climb over the bench Ron orchestrated its removal. Draping the other wizard's arm across his shoulders Draco then firmly gripped Harry around the waist and made sure he was ready to support his lover should he require it. That left just one obstacle: the wall of Gryffindors between the two young men and the exit.
"Move," Draco said pointedly not really thinking about anything more than making sure Harry made it back to the room they had so recently vacated as quickly as possible.
[Please,] Harry said silently.
"Please," the Slytherin added and shocked most of those in his way so much that they actually obeyed without comment.
Draco knew that Hermione and Ron were shadowing them as they made their way out of the hall and it was only as the four made it through the door that the room exploded with sound.
"Cat, bag, out of," Ron said succinctly.
"Maybe we should take out an ad in the Prophet just to make sure," Draco commented dryly.
"They don't know what was really going on," Hermione pointed out optimistically, "we might be able to convince then that you're both under the influence of something."
Draco gave her a sideways look that said exactly what he thought of that cheery idea.
"With all the information we just gave them," he said acidly, "if the Slytherin's haven't figured out the truth by tomorrow morning my house pride will be severely dented."
Being bonded to Harry had not diminished Draco's talent for getting under people's skin and he was rewarded for his sharp tone with a glare that could have frozen water. The Slytherin was in a mood for a good argument since he was annoyed and thoroughly pissed off and he hoped Hermione would give him a run for his money. Draco was of the opinion that if the Gryffindors looked on an argument for its entertainment value as much as he did, they would not be nearly as stuffy as they always appeared to him.
"Touch him and I fry you," the quiet comment came from Harry: the first audible one he had made since his breakdown, and he sounded amused.
"What?" Draco asked immediately forgetting about the other two and focussing solely on his partner.
"Bit melodramatic," his lover said lightly.
"I'm a Malfoy," Draco returned evenly, "it's in my genes to be melodramatic. And you're a one to talk, Wonder Boy, ever considered letting someone else handle the bad guy?"
They bickered all the way back to their room.
The next afternoon Harry was recovered enough to answer Dumbledore's summons to his study but he did not fail to notice that Draco was glued to his side. He felt like such an idiot after the previous day's performance, but he was very glad to have his lover close. They received several curious glances on their way through the halls but no one chose to question them.
"Tea, boys?" the headmaster offered once he had them sitting in front of his desk.
[How much of the stuff does he drink?] was Draco's mental comment on the offer. [There is only so much tea any one human being should be able to take.]
"No thank you," Harry said, answering for both of them, "we just had lunch."
"Well I hope you don't mind if I indulge," Dumbledore said with a smile, "I find it helps me think."
[The way it tastes half the time it could wake the dead, a few brain cells must be easy,] Draco said cheerfully.
Harry tried very hard not to smile.
"To our problem then," the headmaster said calmly and relaxed back into his chair.
Harry sobered immediately.
"We blew it," the Hecatemus said pointedly.
"It would appear that the majority of the school is now aware of the relationship between the pair of you," Dumbledore admitted evenly, "and that there is something unusual about you, Harry. However, most are still ignorant of the facts as to the truth of the relationship."
"It only requires one," Draco pointed out, "and then the whole school will know. It might be better to pre-empt the rumour mill."
Harry turned to stare at Draco: they had talked about possible solutions to the current situation, but he was very sure they had not decided that.
"And put a huge target on you back?" he protested rapidly. "No way!"
"Harry, I know you were busy yesterday, but you may have noticed that I threw my arms around you in the Great Hall with the whole school in attendance," Draco said with his usual sarcasm. "We're beyond the debate stage. Even if we could convince them that I was crazy as a loon yesterday we'd be under a microscope after that and there's no way we can be apart for as long as it would take."
The need to protest was very strong in Harry and he was sure there had to be another way, but as Draco gently patted him on the hand no alternatives made it into his head.
"Headmaster," he appealed to the only other person in the room.
"I fear Draco may be correct," Dumbledore said regretfully. "I would prefer it if we could keep the true nature of your relationship a secret a while longer, but I am doubtful that it can be done."
Harry felt suddenly defeated. Admitting to what they were would not only set them apart in the school: there was no doubt that the information would go straight to Draco's father.
"What about Lucius?" Harry did not feel like beating about the bush. "The whole point was to stop him finding out: he's not going to like this."
"Harry is correct, Professor," Draco said far more calmly than Harry was feeling, "my father is likely to try something even if he is technically a fugitive. My mother will not defy him and we could never prove she is in contact with him. I won't be seventeen for another two months, she may try and take me out of school."
At that Dumbledore actually smiled.
"Ah yes, Draco, I sometimes forget you are one of the youngest in your year. I was most surprised when you were called to Hogwarts in Harry's year given your birthday, but now I see that the book had certain other considerations when it sent out your invitation," the headmaster said cheerfully and then appeared to realise he was rambling. "However, on the point of your majority and what your parents can demand we have the law on our side. To separate Hecatemae bond mates against their will is illegal regardless of age. Your family no longer has a hold over you, Draco, except the financial one."
"That's covered," Harry said before he even thought about it and then his brain made it to the questions he wanted to ask. "Why? How?"
The way Dumbledore looked pleased with himself Harry suspected that the old man had been waiting to spring that piece of information on them.
"Hecatemae are unique in wizardkind," the headmaster said lightly, "and it was decided centuries ago that they could not be held to the same restrictions as normal partners. A Hecatema instinctively knows their soul mate, and also instinctively knows when the time is right to bond with them. If the bond occurs before the age of maturity for either chooser or chosen it is considered the step into adulthood: it overrules all ties including those of blood. Whatever may have been agreed in the past, even magical contracts no longer apply. Hecatemae law is actually a fascinating subject: I have had several books looked out you might wish to read."
Looking at Dumbledore at that moment, Harry came to a conclusion and so did his soul mate.
[He never expected us to keep this a secret,] Draco's mental voice sounded a little awed. [He knew. But he came up with the whole cover story and... and...]
[Dumbledore always knows. He doesn't always do things at the right time but he always knows,] was all Harry could think of the say, [I thought I'd given up being surprised, I was wrong.]
"Which brings us back to your school careers," the headmaster continued as if he didn't know the two young men were talking to each other, which Harry was positive he did. "As with wizarding law there are exceptions to school rules for the two of you as well. Technically being caught sleeping with your fellow pupils is an expulsion offence at Hogwarts even for those of age."
Harry had been wondering about that one since the moment he had woken up, but he had not had the guts to ask about it. There were several older pupils who were sexually active, but it was most definitely against school rules. No one had been expelled for it in living memory, but there had been some historic suspensions in the past.
"In your case there was probably nothing the pair of you could have done to stop it," Dumbledore continued as if he was talking about something completely normal. "The school discovered that one approximately eight hundred years ago."
The question of how was at the forefront of Harry's mind, but he was not sure he really wanted to discus this with the headmaster; Draco on the other hand was not so backward.
"How on earth did they do that?" he asked curiously.
[Don't you find this in the least bit embarrassing?] Harry could feel his own cheeks burning at the thought of what they had done and every one knew they had done.
[Nowhere near as embarrassing as running through the halls in my pyjamas blathering your name,] Draco returned flippantly.
"There have been twelve Hecatemae at Hogwarts in its history," the headmaster said cheerfully, "and six of them have bonded during their time here: four on school grounds. The first was Amelia Wilberforce and she did not meet her soul mate until after she entered the wider world, the second was Carmen Londres and she did. When it was time for her to complete the bond the staff at the time attempted to stop her by separating the two forcefully. They were locked in their respective house towers in the belief that Carmen would come to her senses."
"What did she do?" Harry found himself asking the question and blushing at the same time.
"She apparated without the aid of a wand and without the aid of ever having been taught how, through the school wards from the room in which she was locked into the room holding Justin Woodward and completed what she had started," Dumbledore continued happily. "The headmaster at the time was sensible enough to realise that certain rules were not applicable in certain situations."
Harry was pretty sure he was scarlet by now, but there were some questions that were bothering him. When the whole plan had been to keep everything secret they had been moot, but now they needed answering.
"What about after the bonding?" he asked, trying not sound as embarrassed as he was.
[Can't keep your hands off me, Potter?] Draco said seductively.
[Shut up, Malfoy,] Harry returned trying to banish the thoughts the comment brought into his head.
The fact was Harry was not sure he could keep his hands off Draco, at least not for more than a couple of days. Dumbledore smiled at the pair of them and Harry found that is was possible for him to blush even harder.
"Arrangements will be made for you to have your own room," the headmaster said calmly. "The only question remaining is where. Both Slytherin and Gryffindor have a room available and you have a choice as to which you will take."
Harry looked at Draco who looked back. He knew where he would choose to be if left to decide himself, but he did not want to alienate Draco any further from his house. If Draco chose to stay with his peers Harry would stay with him.
[I'll go where you want to go,] he said silently and his lover actually smiled.
[You're just so completely noble, aren't you?] Draco sounded amused and turned back to the headmaster.
"Gryffindor," he said calmly, "Slytherin would not be safe for Harry. If there are Death Eaters anywhere in the school they're among my compatriots. Thinking about it, it wouldn't be safe for me either. At least I don't think any of the Gryffindors will try and kill me, but it might be a good idea to put a ward on the door just in case."
His tone was light hearted, but Harry could feel the turmoil the decision was actually causing in Draco. After all, the young Slytherin was walking away from everything he had known. Harry wrapped his lover in a mental hug and hoped it would help.
"Does that mean I will be a Gryffindor, or will I still be a Slytherin?" Draco asked eventually.
"That is up to you," Dumbledore said calmly, "both Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall have expressed their willingness to have you in their house."
Draco was silent for a few seconds and Harry chose not to intrude: this was after all a big decision.
"Then I'll finish school in the house in which I started it, thank you," Draco said eventually. "No offence, Harry, but I am so, so, so, not a Gryffindor."
Harry let out a snort of laughter at that, having conjured up a mental image of Draco trying to be the perfect Gryffindor. He shared it with his lover and the Slytherin grinned.
[My point exactly,] Draco commented dryly.
"And then there is the question of your N.E.W.T.s," Dumbledore changed the subject. "Since you are in constant communication you cannot be considered individuals as far as the exams are concerned. Before you say anything, Harry, I know you would not cheat, and I know you would not let Draco cheat either."
That earned the headmaster a genuine smile of amusement from the blond young man. Harry really enjoyed seeing his lover smile.
"But there are established rules for your situation," the headmaster continued. "You will both be awarded any exams you pass jointly. Special arrangements will be made for you to both be in the exam room for all written papers and practicals including any you do not share."
Both young men nodded, it seemed reasonable.
"And then to what I am afraid is the bad news," Dumbledore said slowly. "I'm terribly sorry but neither of you may play in competitive Quidditch."
The headmaster's words stabbed straight to Harry's heart and he went cold: it took him a moment to realise that Draco did not feel surprised. For a few seconds Harry felt as if Dumbledore had just pulled the rug from under him, but with his lover's mental support it slowly faded and he felt like an idiot. If he thought about it, it was obvious he couldn't play Quidditch anymore: after all he could see magic, finding the snitch would be child's play and Draco and him on different teams would have been rather ridiculous. His lover appeared to have realised this before Dumbledore mentioned it.
"You may of course still coach which means Harry, you may remain Captain of your house team if you wish," the headmaster continued in a brighter tone, "and there is nothing to stop you playing in friendly games."
Harry gave the old wizard a half smile for trying, but it was still a blow to him. The ban in the fifth year had been difficult but it had been unjust and he had been able to fight it, but this was irreversible. Quidditch was one of the things he most loved in the world and it was probably the thing he was best at.
[Except surviving impossible odds,] Draco commented dryly and Harry realised he had been thinking out loud.
"Harry, do you feel up to rejoining your lessons tomorrow?" Dumbledore had moved on yet again.
"Good," the headmaster continued, "we do not want you to lose out on your school work. The pair of you will attend class as normal. Since you will be awarded joint marks in the N.E.W.T.s you will take all your lessons together. Harry you are welcome to sit in on Draco's Arithmancy class if you wish. Which leaves us with only one more question: How do you wish to make known your position to the rest of the school?"
With that question Draco became a mass of conflict and Harry realised that although his lover had come to terms with the fact that the information would be released to the school, Draco had no clue as to how it should be done. On the other hand, Harry knew at least part of how he would prefer it to happen.
"I'd like to tell Gryffindor myself," he said quietly, "especially if we're going to be moving in."
"Then may I suggest that this be dealt with at a house level?" Dumbledore asked gently. "Would you care to bring the news to Slytherin, Draco?"
"No," the young man was very firm on that point, "I'd rather be in a different county when they find out the facts."
[You'll be with me,] Harry said silently and reached out his hand to Draco.
His soul mate took the comfort with a grateful smile. Together they could face anything, including a hoard of angry Slytherins, and Harry refused to believe anything else. The headmaster cleared his throat and snapped the Gryffindor's attention back to him.
"Which leaves just a few details to be discussed and this," the old man said kindly and placed a small badge on the desk in front of Harry.
The enamelled plaque had a large P on it: Harry was a little confused.
"I've been meaning to give you that for over a year, Harry," Dumbledore said openly, "but I have to admit to not being able to think of a reason without singling you out, which I know makes you uncomfortable. I should have made you a prefect in your fifth year, but we both know that I made a mistake there. Now I have the perfect reason."
Harry was not quite following and he didn't know how to take the news.
"What reason?" he expressed his confusion.
"Hecatemae and their bond mates are considered equal in all things," the headmaster explained with a smile, "rank and privilege given to one must also be bestowed on the other as must any punishment or penalty. Draco is a prefect and hence Harry so are you."
Harry picked up the badge slowly: this was something he had not expected at all.
"Besides which," Dumbledore said cheerfully, "the school couldn't possibly expect you to use separate bathrooms."
End of Chapter 12
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