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 23 - London and Back Again
Getting to London was not as easy as it could have been. They couldn't floo because it was impossible to put both of them in the fireplace at the same time. Being separated by any distance was not something either of them wanted to try just at the moment and that was what the floo network would do to them. Apparating was not an option, because illegally Apparating into the Ministry of Magic just before your test was likely to achieve a fail even if they couldn't prosecute you. Hence the fastest alternative was a portkey which Dumbledore had presented to them as soon as Draco had agreed to the trip.
The portkey destination point was 12 Grimmauld place for safety, but the meeting with the Order was not set until the afternoon. Hence only Tonks and Remus Lupin were waiting for them in the living room of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Today Tonks' hair was green and silver, a colour scheme that was not lost on Draco.
"Harry," the Auror greeted brightly, "it's so lovely to see you again."
She bounced on the spot scarily like Hilde often did and refrained from coming any closer.
"And this must be the famous Draco Malfoy," Tonks continued cheerfully, "funny he doesn't look much like the spawn of a Dementor and a demon to me, Moody must have been exaggerating."
A spike of amusement ran through the blond wizard, transferring to Harry and causing him to smile: Tonks was almost as good at breaking the ice as she was at breaking everything else.
"Pleased to meet you," Draco greeted politely and offered his hand to the young woman, "I must say I'm impressed with the hair."
Tonks stepped forward to take the offer of friendship and almost fell over the edge of the rug.
"There's nothing like solidarity," she said with a smile and steadied herself before shaking the offered limb, "and it pisses off several of my colleagues which is an added bonus."
Draco grinned at her, moving back to Harry's side.
"Harry, Draco," Remus greeted with his usual understated smile.
"Hello, Remus," both young men greeted simultaneously which drew a wider grin from the older man.
They had corresponded by owl several times with the werewolf but this was the first time they had met face to face since Harry's life altering change. The Order had been very busy over the last few months and although Remus had expressed his desire to visit there had been no time.
"Although it would be lovely to chat," Remus said politely, "I'm afraid we have to hurry."
"We borrowed a car from the Ministry," Tonks explained with a conspiratorial grin, "and there is only so long before it will be missed."
Remus appeared rather embarrassed by the whole situation, but Harry found it fairly amusing and Draco was impressed.
[This day becomes more and more interesting,] the Slytherin commented as their hosts indicated they should leave the room.
At first the Apparating examiner; a small bespectacled woman who did not look as if she ever left the building, had tried to make Harry wait outside the test centre, but Remus had taken the oblivious bureaucrat aside and when the two had returned there had been no objection to both young men entering. Harry remembered the long panelled room well, although taking his test had been strangely anticlimactic. Draco felt completely calm as they walked in and Harry remembered being the same way; in their world this was such a little thing that it was almost funny.
The test was actually very simple: the examiner would ask some detailed questions about the spell to make sure the candidate knew what they were about to do, after which the candidate had to give a practical demonstration twice to prove that the first time wasn't a fluke. Ron had failed the verbal part of the test the first time he took it so the examiner hadn't let him take the practical; the second time he had learned the book definition by heart. Draco had probably known the book definition by heart since he was five and Harry had no doubts about his lover's practical ability so this was all just a formality.
Hovering by the doorway Harry watched as the examiner asked Draco several questions from her clipboard. Draco had chosen some figure hugging black jeans and a green silk shirt for their outing to London and Harry had no problem entertaining himself by ogling his soul mate.
[If you want me to splinch myself you're going the right way about it,] Draco's mental voice chided him lightly after a few seconds. [Do you think you could keep your mind off sex for five minutes?]
[I warned you about the jeans,] Harry replied without any sign of remorse, [and don't try and fool me, you could perform any spell even if I was shagging you senseless.]
[Hmm, I'm not sure whether to be insulted or take that as a compliment,] Draco replied and then turned back to answering the examiner.
Harry leant against the wall and continued to admire his lover. It did not take more than a few minutes before the examiner led Draco towards the far end of the room where she stood him on a cross on the floor. Then the woman started to give the Slytherin a small talk on the safety procedures, at which point Draco looked up with a pained expression.
[I wish she would just let me Apparate and then we can get out of here,] Draco said pointedly.
Harry smiled at his soul mate and continued to lean on the wall.
"When you're ready, Mr Malfoy," the woman eventually said, quite loudly.
"Thank you," Draco said aloud and [About time,] he grumbled silently.
As Harry watched, his lover pulled out his wand and firmly cast the spell. With a crack, Draco disappeared and reappeared at the near end of the room almost instantly. Harry knew he had gone white and the blond wizard looked at him anxiously.
[What's wrong?] his soul mate asked urgently.
[Finish the test,] Harry replied quickly without answering the question, [I'll be fine.]
[Harry ...] Draco replied knowing that Harry was not telling him something.
[Please, just finish it so we can leave,] the Hecatemus told him and attempted to stop his stomach lurching.
Not looking very happy Draco did as he was told and shortly there was another crack and he disappeared and reappeared back on the cross. Harry was reaching for the door handle before the examiner handed his soul mate his pass certificate and Draco almost didn't wait for it as he made a beeline for Harry's side.
[Okay, now you tell me what's wrong,] Draco insisted as he took hold of Harry's elbow and helped him through the doorway.
Remus and Tonks both climbed to their feet when their eyes fell on the Hecatemus: he knew he probably looked awful.
"What on earth happened to you?" Lupin asked anxiously.
"That's what I want to know," Draco said pointedly.
"I'm fine," Harry promised faithfully, "but I don't think Apparating is ever going to be one of my favourite things."
"Harry, you look like a Dementor just walked up to you," Tonks pointed out unhelpfully.
Draco also felt as though he was not about to take an 'I'm fine' as an answer.
"You know that loud crack," Harry said as he realised he had to explain.
The other three nodded, looking concerned. Draco's hand on his back was a great comfort and Harry was beginning to feel an idiot for being the centre of attention again.
"That's the universe going ouch," he explained it in the only way he could think of. "I'm sure I'll get used to it."
[This isn't in any of the books,] Draco said worriedly.
[Maybe it's part of the training I missed,] Harry suggested reasonably, [it's nothing to worry about.]
[Where you're concerned I'll decide what to worry about,] his soul mate replied firmly. [Are you sure you're okay?]
"I'm fine," Harry insisted aloud so everyone could hear him.
No one appeared convinced.
"Plan B," Remus said with a worried look in Harry's direction.
Tonks nodded and before either Harry or Draco could enquire as to what the pair were on about the Auror turned and strode off down the corridor.
"Care to explain?" Draco asked in a less than happy tone.
The Slytherin did not like it when he did not know what was going on and he liked it less when he didn't know and it involved Harry, and the fact Harry was not well was not helping matters. Harry could tell that his soul mate was only just holding himself in check.
"Plan A was that Draco passes the test and we all Apparate back to base," Remus said openly. "Plan B involves borrowing the car from where we put it back."
This made Draco appear and feel a whole lot happier, and Harry decided that he really didn't care what was going on as long as he could have a nice sit down very soon.
The journey back to Grimmauld Place was blessedly uneventful and thankfully by the time they reached the safety of the Order headquarters Harry no longer appeared as if he was about to die. It took another half an hour to convince Draco that he was okay, but the Gryffindor did finally manage to talk his lover into going ahead with the meeting that had been previously arranged. This meant that tea time found the couple ushered into the dining room to find it full of people all looking at them expectantly.
Harry felt suddenly as if he was living in a goldfish bowl and perversely found himself placing his body between Draco and everyone else in the room. It was not that any of the Order were looking at his soul mate with open hostility, well except Moody, but the man appeared that way all the time, it was just the overall atmosphere of tension in the room. Draco usually protected Harry from the rest of the world, but in this room the Gryffindor was the one ready to shield his lover.
"Welcome everyone," Dumbledore greeted brightly as if this was simply a little Christmas drinks gathering, "thank you all so much for coming."
Letting his gaze wander around the room, Harry was glad to see that he knew, at least in passing, everyone the headmaster had chosen to invite. He had by no means met all of the Order, although he knew most of them by sight, but all those in the room were members with whom he had had, at minimum, one conversation. Those in attendance were: Mad-eye, looking as paranoid as ever; Tonks, who was still sporting the green and silver hair; Remus quietly standing in the corner; Mudungus Fletcher lounging in the background as if waiting for some illicit deal; Molly, Arthur and Bill Weasley standing in a family group; Kingsley Shacklebolt hovering calmly with Emeline Vance; and finally Daedelus Diggle watching the whole proceedings with interest.
"As you all know there have been some interesting developments in the last half of the year," Dumbledore continued cheerfully, "and we are here to welcome our newest member. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Draco Malfoy."
From the expressions on at least a couple of faces Harry was not sure everyone was happy about the headmaster's pronouncement, but it didn't look as if anyone would openly argue. No one not of age was allowed to enter the Order of the Phoenix, but Harry had been officially recognised as a member when he turned seventeen, and Dumbledore had informed Draco that, should he wish it, he would also be accepted within the ranks when he bonded with the Hecatemus. Draco had chosen to accept as soon as he reached seventeen just to make a statement.
[I'm getting just the slightest sense of hostility,] Draco commented dryly from slightly behind Harry.
[Not hostile,] Harry replied evenly and took a quick look with his other senses just to make sure he was not reading the situation incorrectly, [just wary. Turn on the charm and they'll be eating out of your hand in minutes.]
The tension in the room caused his heart to flutter a little, but he was not about to give in to an attack of nerves when Draco needed him.
"Molly has provided us with some lovely refreshments," Dumbledore continued in his carefree tone, "please do dig in."
That was it, the cue for the inquisition to begin. It was not that everyone moved in en masse, everyone was very polite about it, but Harry was in no doubt that the whole room was lining up to quiz him and Draco about everything. Draco rose to the occasion like the practiced charmer he was and Harry used his position as the Boy Who Lived with far more directness than he usually did. They moved around the room talking politely and answering what at times could have been considered rather personal questions.
Diggle was the first to make the mistake of trying to separate the pair. Harry had the suspicion that the man was working with Moody on a strategy to place Draco on his own so the retired Auror could question the Slytherin, but Diggle was the diversion and hence the noticeable bit. When the man tried to reach between the couple to the table in an effort to unglue them from each other's side Draco was between Harry and Daedelus like a shot. Draco no longer found himself with his wand in his hand for no reason, but it was very easy to make him angry to the point where he made his displeasure known. Harry could feel the anger that coursed through his lover.
"Don't try that again," the annoyed Slytherin warned in a very menacing tone.
Diggle was so taken aback by the venom in Draco's tone that the man didn't even try and pretend that he had not made the move deliberately.
"Now, Boy," Moody chose that moment to make himself known, "no need to be so defensive."
That was precisely the wrong thing to say to Draco in his current mood, and it was especially bad since Harry was at the centre of his soul mate's current reasoning.
"I am not a boy," Draco said very precisely. "You may call me by my last name if you wish, but do not assume because you are on the far side of your prime you may refer to me as a child."
It never ceased to impress Harry quite what a grasp of language as a weapon his lover possessed.
"You claim to be an adult," Moody replied in kind, "and yet you throw a temper tantrum when one person steps between you and your lover."
The hot anger Draco had been feeling had morphed in a much colder fury as he faced the old Auror, and Harry stood close to his soul mate in case the rage turn hot and dangerous again. As it was Draco turned a glare which could have caused the next ice age on Moody.
"An interesting choice of words," Draco said, knowing that he had the whole room focused on him. "You should have seen me when we first bonded, Diggle would have been on the other side of the room trying to figure out which way was up if he had tried that then. I will not allow anyone in this room to come close to Harry; he's had enough stress for one day and no one gets a chance to hurt him, deliberately or by accident. That is how things are and it is how things are going to stay. Is that clear?"
From the expression on his face, Moody was not impressed.
"If I had my way, Boy," the Auror replied with a tone which matched Draco's, "I'd have you dosed with Veratasium and singing your life story before I let you near this Order. With your father..."
Harry did not wait to find out what his lover's reaction would be to that one; that was a step over the line.
"Draco is not his father," he and found that he was as capable of anger on behalf of his soul mate as Draco was, although his was neither icily calm nor collected. "The next person who suggests that he is learns the meaning of the words 'foot in mouth', literally."
The headache Harry had managed to shift after the Apparating incident was suddenly back full force as he let his temper get the better of him. Draco's presence intensified in his mind as he sensed his distress, but Harry let none of this show on the outside. It was almost impossible to win a battle of wills with Mad-eye Moody, but the Hecatemus was game to try.
There may well have been an all our argument but for one thing: Harry's body chose that moment to decide enough was enough and everything was suddenly very surreal. Exposure to Draco Apparating had been a very bad shock to his system and it was obviously not yet recovered. Harry did not faint, but he came very close, and when the world made sense again he was sitting in a chair with Draco looking anxiously into his face.
[Back with me, Love?] his soul mate asked silently.
[Just about,] Harry replied honestly.
[I'm taking you home,] was Draco's deliberate affirmation, and thus ended the now rather tense meeting.
With a glare that challenged anyone to try and stop him Draco went about arranging transport back to Hogwarts.
"Not being able to Apparate is not the end of the world," Draco was standing in front of Harry with his hands on his hips, glaring at the Hecatemus. "Some wizards never even learn because it's too much trouble."
"I'm not some wizard," Harry replied, more than a little annoyed with his lover's stubborn attitude.
They had been throwing the same idea around for the last twenty minutes and Draco was being very obstinate.
"If I'm suddenly surrounded by Death Eaters I need to be able to get away," Harry continued his argument. "At the moment just the thought of Apparating is enough to make me splinch myself and it's not good enough."
"Harry," Draco said with a very exasperated and yet also sympathetic tone to his voice, "you nearly fainted yesterday because I Apparated; doesn't this tell you about what it could do to you if you try it yourself?"
It was true that Apparating at that moment, had they been somewhere that the spell would work, would have been a really bad idea, however, Harry suspected his problem with it would be the same as many other inconveniences he had had with his condition.
"The first time you Apparated was a shock," he admitted openly, "and the second time wasn't much better, but there was a difference. I know it's never going to be my favourite means of transportation, but I think we can bring it to a level where I will be able to use it."
The exasperation was still hovering in Draco's features and in his feelings, but Harry could tell that his argument had had an effect. If there was one thing his lover responded to well it was logic, even if it took a while to convey said logic in any way that Draco would accept.
"There's no where to practice," Draco pointed out, clearly unhappy with the whole idea, but conceding Harry had a point.
At that Harry knew he had won, at least a partial victory, because he knew something Draco didn't.
"Actually there is," he said and managed to keep the triumph off his face even though he was sure his soul mate would have felt it anyway.
Draco raised one elegant eyebrow at that piece of information.
"Why does it not surprise me that you know a way around the no Apparating at Hogwarts constant that the rest of the universe has to obey?" the sarcasm dripped from his lover's tongue with ease, but Harry could tell Draco was put out rather than out and out annoyed.
"Where do you think I learnt?" Harry pointed out with a grin. "My relatives were not exactly likely to have let me practice there and I passed less than a month after I turned seventeen. I was taught last year, here, by the Order."
The expression on Draco's face showed that he hadn't thought about it like that.
"How?" his lover, asked, honestly curious.
"Room of requirement," Harry replied simply.
The thoughtful expression on his lover's face told him that Draco was considering the idea, but Harry could tell his soul mate was still confused.
"Surely allowing anyone to Apparate in Hogwarts would open the wards to attack?" Draco voiced his problem with the concept.
Harry shook his head and tried to remember how Dumbledore had explained it when he had first told him that he would be having extra lessons.
"It doesn't allow anyone to Apparate in or out," he explained quickly, "it forms a bubble inside the wards that is free of the restriction, but not connected with the outside world."
Draco looked and felt surprised.
"A little universe of its own?" he said as he reasoned it out. "That's hideously complicated magic."
"The whole of Hogwarts is hideously complicated magic, trust me I can see it," Harry replied with a grin. "I think the room of requirement is probably the most complicated bit and I don't believe there's a wizard alive today who could figure it out."
A ghost of a smile flowed across Draco's features at his soul mate's quip, but as soon as it arrived it was gone again and he appeared pensive. It was obvious to Harry that his lover knew he was beaten in this argument, but Draco was still worried by the whole idea. If Harry hadn't believed this really was as important as he said he would have backed down.
[I know this is going to be nasty for both of us,] Harry said silently and took Draco's hand, [but I honestly believe it has to be done. If nothing else, I need to do this.]
Draco did not looked pleased and his mouth was set in a taut line, but he nodded anyway. It was not going to be a pleasant day, Harry was sure of that, but he hoped that it would be a productive one.
[Let's find this bloody room then,] Draco said reluctantly.
Remus had returned to Hogwarts with the others the previous day on Order business, and he was sitting in the headmaster's office next to Professor Dumbledore when Draco dragged Harry into the room. They had spent the whole day in the room of requirement and Harry had wanted to fall into bed and die quietly, but an invitation to dinner in his office had come from Dumbledore before they had had a chance to raid the kitchens. They hadn't eaten since breakfast and both were hungry so they did not wait long before answering the summons. Harry had a headache the size of a Hippogryph, which the potion he had taken to relieve it was failing to even touch, and Draco wasn't much better.
Remus' face went from a smile as he turned to greet the pair to something akin to horror and Harry wondered quite what they looked like. The couple had showered and changed, but Harry had avoided all mirrors knowing that he would not like what he saw, and now he was thinking that maybe he should have had a look.
"Harry, you look like you died," the voice behind him surprised him and the Hecatemus turned to see Tonks walking into the room after them, "three weeks ago."
Harry didn't think that the tag was necessary. He wondered briefly when Tonks had arrived at the school and what she was doing here, but he also knew if it was important Dumbledore would tell him. These days the headmaster did not keep anything that Harry could need to know from him.
"And, Draco, I don't think you expired much after him," the currently quite non-descript Auror commented in her usual up-front manner.
"Quite," Remus joined his fellow Order member in speaking, "what in Merlin's name have you been doing?"
Harry was far too tired to engage in a battle of words with anyone and stand at the same time so he sank into the nearest chair before attempting to think of a reply. Since his brain was not functioning at top capacity Draco answered the question first.
"Apparating practice," his soul mate said and bonelessly folded into the seat next to his him, "and it was all Harry's idea so don't blame me."
Remus had the kind of look on his face that Harry imagined was usually reserved for fathers whose children had done something incredibly stupid. Harry felt warmed by the obvious emotion in the last remaining Marauder, but he didn't really want to have an argument now.
"Apparating?" the werewolf said slightly incredulously. "After Harry's reaction yesterday you both thought this was a good idea?"
"I had several other suggestions to occupy today," Draco replied sarcastically, "but I was overruled."
For once his soul mate was placing all the blame at Harry's feet and he was quite willing to take it: after all it had been his decision. Remus was all but glaring at the him.
"I needed to figure it out," he said with as much conviction as he could muster considering that he was ready to fall asleep at any moment. "I need to be able to Apparate and now I can."
That rather stopped anything Remus was about to say and the werewolf looked over at Draco who nodded to confirm what his lover had said.
"He fainted four times, would have been sick more if he'd had anything left to bring up after the second time and we both have headaches that could lay out a dragon," the Slytherin said peevishly, "but the idiot of a Gryffindor can now Apparate without killing me or him."
Pain did not put Draco in a good mood, and since this was all Harry's idea his lover was not going to let him off scott free. The Hecatemus spared his soul mate a glare for working up Remus even more and prepared for the reaction.
"And you didn't think fainting was a good reason to stop?" the werewolf sounded about ready to lock Harry somewhere safe and never let him out.
The hard tone of Remus' voice cut straight into Harry's pounding head and he winced.
"It would have been a very short practice session," he responded tersely.
He was not about to apologise for something he knew he had needed to do. The only guilt he felt about the whole exercise was that Draco was suffering along with him.
"How could you let him do something so stupid?" Remus demanded of Draco at which point Harry had had enough.
He could have dealt with the werewolf's concern and worry all night, but he was not going to let Draco take any blame.
"I made him," Harry said in a very firm tone and dragged every eye in the room to him effortlessly.
Tonks was looking quite surprised by the annoyance in Harry's voice; Dumbledore appeared to understand; and Remus was caught between shock and anxiety.
"Remus," Harry began again, moderating his voice and letting the tiredness creep back into it, "I had to get through this. The only one I will apologise to about this is Draco because he feels worse than he looks and it's all my fault. This was important; I could not allow myself to be helpless."
Something changed in the werewolf's eyes then; something shifted, but Harry didn't quite know what it was. For a moment Remus just looked at him and then the werewolf nodded.
"How did you become a man and I never realised, Harry?" the man who was like a very fond uncle asked, with a note of respect in his voice which caused a lump to come to Harry's throat.
He didn't really know what to say; it was one thing to be told you were an adult by a bunch of bureaucrats; it was another entirely to have it acknowledged in such a personal manner.
"Don't mind him," Tonks said irreverently as the silence grew beyond anything remotely comfortable. "Remus has always been slow to notice these things."
That caused Remus to gain a put out look and Draco to chuckle, even though the Slytherin was still nursing a nasty headache.
End of Chapter 23
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