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 34 - Blake House
He was moving gently to and fro and half lying and half sitting on something, or at least that's what Harry's senses informed him when the world chose to return. Surprisingly his shields were not completely down, they were in their lower than normal, sleep level, but were otherwise intact. Harry opened his eyes and found himself inside what looked like one of the carriages that always took them to school from the train. He was propped up on one of the seats with a blanket tucked round him. Moving slowly he turned his head to see Ron and Hermione sitting on the opposite seat, holding hands and looking out the windows.
"Where are we going?" he asked quietly, trying to gather his wits.
"Harry," Hermione said instantly, "you're awake."
The young man mumbled a reply and tried to sit up a little further, but gave up when the blankets required far too much effort to move.
"Just lay still," Hermione said sternly, "you're exhausted and we're almost there."
"Where?" Harry repeated his question.
"Blake house," his friend supplied evenly, "it's near Brancepeth Castle. It belongs to one of the Order; we'll be using it as a base."
Harry shifted again, attempting to find a more comfortable position.
"Any news?" he asked, trying to keep emotion as far away from his higher brain as possible.
"You've been out for a couple of hours," Ron told him with his characteristic worried frown. "It turns out Brancepeth is a suspected Death Eater outpost: the Order has been keeping an eye on it for a few months, but they hadn't had a reason to move in before; seems there is life there at the moment."
Harry let the information sink in; the whole incident with his godfather was hazy in his memory and seemed almost like a dream, but obviously it was not. The knowledge that they knew where Draco was brought him hope, but his soul refused to stop wailing its pain at the curse which was separating him from Draco.
"Anything else?" he asked slowly, focusing on the practicalities of the situation.
His two friends shared a look as they seemed to do a lot these days and he waited to find out what they had to say.
"We think you should know," Ron said evenly, "most of the Order was against you coming to Blake House. They all Apparated on ahead and we stayed to travel with you, and most of them thought you should be kept at Hogwarts, they think you're unstable."
That caused a flare of anger in Harry, but he would need that source of strength later so he tried to ignore it.
"I am unstable," he admitted: there was no point in denying it. "If they don't want me in on this, how is it I am here?"
"Ron pointed out how rational you were likely to be when you woke up if they left you behind," Hermione told him with a quick glance of admiration at her boyfriend. "I think the apocalyptic references might have been a little over the top, but otherwise he was very eloquent."
"Snape then suggested Madame Pomfrey should drug you so you didn't wake up," Ron continued the explanation.
That didn't surprise Harry in the slightest.
"Then Dumbledore stepped in," Hermione took over again, "and pointed out that if anyone tried to prevent you from doing whatever you needed to do to restore your bond with Draco they would end up in Azkaban. That ended all discussions."
Just for a moment Harry let himself enjoy the mental image his friends' words conjured up and a smile played at his lips, but it did not last long. His awareness slipped back to the barrier between himself and Draco like fingers picking at a scab and he realised several seconds had passed by the time the real world became dominant in his mind again.
"Is there a plan yet?" he asked as he looked up at his companions.
"We haven't heard," Ron told him openly. "I think they're still doing the recon."
That would make sense: the Order rarely rushed in to anything without a good reason. Harry was pondering possible scenarios in his head when he felt the muscles down his back twinge and complain. Or at least that's what he thought he felt until he analysed the sensation and realised the discomfort had not originated in his body.
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asked anxiously and he realised he must have given an indication of what he felt.
"It's Draco," the Hecatemus said as he searched his mind for answers, "I think..."
His response was cut short as a startled cry passed his lips caused by the pain that lanced through his back.
"Oh god, no," Harry whispered knowing what was coming next.
Another stab of pain came from Draco and Harry closed his eyes trying to cope with his lover's injury.
"Harry?" Hermione sounded very worried now.
"They're trying to break him," he said, looking up at his friend without trying to hide the fear in his eyes. "It's begun."
The involuntary yelp that made it past his lips as whatever they were doing to his lover came through the link again, caused a flash of deep concern on both of his friends' faces.
"Is there anything we can do?" Ron asked almost desperately and all Harry could do was bite his lip and shake his head.
The only way to end this was to find the bastards doing this and rescue Draco: it was all anyone could do. However, he also realised that he could not let Draco's pain prevent him from being useful. He might not be able to break through the curse to his soul mate but there were other ways he could help.
"I need to concentrate," he said slowly, "I have to block out the pain. I'm sorry, I can't talk anymore."
His companions nodded at him, expressions of worry mixed with sympathy on their faces. Harry knew what it was like to feel helpless, but he had no time to dwell on what his friends were feeling now. Turning his awareness inward once more he began to separate his physical reactions from those of his lover. Pain came and went, sometimes the same, sometimes different and painstakingly the Hecatemus constructed walls in his own mind behind which he could place the hurt.
It would not go away; the only method of stopping that would be to break the bond completely, but as he concentrated he boxed the pain out of his forethoughts. It was hard, one of the most difficult things Harry could ever remember because he wanted to share the pain; it was the most real thing he had felt from Draco since the curse had been placed on him. Part of his soul revelled in the contact and he wanted to be close to his lover in any way possible, but the rest of him won out.
Harry could not do it coldly and logically so he found the anger again and he used it. He let the fury in his soul strengthen him and build the steel cage in his mind. By the time he felt the jolt of the coach landing, Harry was consumed by his rage and he shied away when Hermione reached to help him off his seat.
"Don't," he said shortly and unwrapped himself from the blanket, all sign of weakness gone.
There was no room in this for failure; no room for frailty; and Harry would not let his body betray him anymore than he would let his mind. He followed the others out of the carriage into the courtyard of a large Victorian mansion with his head held high and his eyes shining with wrath.
The dining room held a long table with at least twelve chairs and a few of them were occupied, while other members of the Order stood around or hurried in and out. Several people tried to talk to Harry as he walked across to where Dumbledore was seated, but he answered only with glares and monosyllables. He looked straight into the headmaster's eyes without trying to hide any of the fury he was feeling and Dumbledore gazed back at him calmly. Eventually the headmaster indicated a place just behind him where there was a mantle piece and Harry took up position without comment. He did not even bother to try and guess how Dumbledore knew he did not want to sit down.
The room was divided into groups and there was a general chatter in the air, which Harry allowed to wash over him in an incomprehensible haze. The sharp reoccurring pains from Draco had stopped and were now an ache that permeated across their link. The actual torture had stopped, but Harry knew it was far from over and he had steeled himself for whatever was coming next.
Letting his eyes flick around the room he was aware of gazes lingering on him: some like Hermione's, Ron's and Lupin's appeared openly anxious, other's like Snape's and Moody's appeared worried, but in a much less personal manner. By surveying the room Harry could tell exactly who did not want him to be there.
When his torturers started on Draco again no matter what his promises to himself Harry heard himself gasp and he grabbed at the mantle piece to stop from falling.
"Albus, enough is enough," Moody spoke firmly and as if he knew exactly what he was talking about, "the boy should be somewhere safe: losing both of them will not help us at all."
Harry dragged himself back up to his full height and threw every ounce of control he had into forcing his lover's agony into the back of his mind.
"There is no separation," he threw the words at the Auror with all the venom he possessed, "you lose one you lose both."
"All the more reason to keep you where we know you aren't a danger or a liability to the mission," Moody was nothing if not plain spoken.
"Well excuse me for not being ready for Cruciatus," Harry spat his response viciously, "it took me by surprise: it won't happen again."
All talking in the room had ceased and all eyes were on the Hecatemus and the Auror: Moody did not seem to know how to reply.
"Harry, Lucius has placed Draco under the Cruciatus curse?" Dumbledore broke the silence.
Harry's eyes flicked to the headmaster and he answered with a short nod. The pain running through his mind was almost numbing and only a diamond edged will to survive and every technique Hilde had ever taught him stopped him succumbing to it. For once he was grateful for the curse keeping him from complete rapport with Draco or he would have been a screaming heap on the floor.
"We must bring forward the schedule," the headmaster decided the moment he had the affirmative; "we cannot afford to wait. I suggest we move at dawn."
"Our reconnaissance isn't done," Tonks pointed out in a reasonable tone, "we have no idea of the layout once we're inside."
"That is as maybe," Dumbledore replied evenly, "but we have no choice; Draco may not survive longer."
Harry heard the unspoken 'and if he does he may not be sane' at the end of the headmaster's statement, but he did not choose to consider that.
"Is the castle a magical building?" he asked pointedly as the assault from Draco's mind stopped for a few moments.
"What has that got to do..." Moody's tone was dismissive.
"Just answer the bloody question," Harry shouted at him not knowing how long he had before the next onslaught began.
"Yes," the Auror looked taken aback, but he did answer.
"Then get me in and I'll tell you where they all are and what the layout is," the Hecatemus said shortly.
Many faces in the room looked sceptical.
"How?" Moody asked suspiciously.
Harry was not in the mood to explain and he didn't think it would work anyway so he took the direct route of a practical demonstration. Closing his eye he lowered his barriers and launched his senses into a sweep of Blake House. He had been practicing for a long time to perfect the technique and he didn't quite have it down completely yet, but necessity was a great teacher.
"This house had four floors, including an attic, and two cellars, one of which is magically hidden," he said rapidly trying to assimilate the information as fast as possible. "There are twenty four rooms in the main house, six of which are accessible only via magical doors. There are thirty portraits of deceased family members, all animate, and I won't bother telling you where. Five house elves run the home; three males and two females: three are in the cellar, one is in the master bedroom and one is up the chimney behind this fireplace. There are seventeen people in this house, twelve in this room, three in the attic and two in the drawing room. Fifteen are wizards, one is a Muggle and one is a squib. Do you need any more information?"
As if to underline his point, a head with very large eyes appeared in the fireplace and blinked at the assembled company.
"Will Sir, be requiring Blakey's services?" the elf asked earnestly.
For a moment the creature blinked at Harry questioningly and then the young man realised it was talking to him.
"No," he said shortly.
The elf shrugged and moved back up the chimney to whatever it had been doing. When the Gryffindor looked back at Moody the man was actually looking impressed.
"Interesting talent," the Auror commented without the least sign of remorse for his previous statements. "How far can it reach?"
"How ever large the building is," Harry told him while trying to hold on to his temper. "The larger the building the longer it takes, but I've done it with Hogwarts."
"The whole place?" even Hermione sounded incredulous at that.
"Yes," the young man snapped and then he didn't care anymore because Draco's tormentors started again.
Harry shuddered, but he was better prepared this time and he bit back his reaction firmly. He borrowed some of Draco's father's teachings: weakness in the sight of others was the enemy.
"You could still be more trouble than help," Moody pointed out. "If you collapse in there that takes at least two of our people out to look after you."
"I have to be as close as possible," the Gryffindor managed to keep his voice steady, "I can keep him sane, you can't."
"Harry has proven he can be useful on the mission," Dumbledore's voice was calm and collected; "he will be going. The requirements for this rescue are specific we need to discus the details."
Which is what they did for the next half an hour. Every facet of the upcoming mission was taken apart and dissected and Harry tried to follow it, but he knew he missed bits. When the meeting finally broke up there were three hours before they planned to move and as soon as people disappeared Dumbledore turned to Harry where he was still standing next to the fireplace.
"It would be a good idea to rest, Harry," the headmaster said seriously, "they will not leave without you."
"Can't," the young man said tersely.
"There are potions that will allow you to get some sleep," Remus offered as he walked over while other filed out.
"No," was all Harry said and pushed himself away from the wall.
The werewolf looked at him and Harry could see the worry in his friend's eyes.
"There's no point in killing yourself, Harry," the ex-Professor said quietly.
"Don't push me, Remus," Harry said equally as quietly, "I'm likely to snap and that won't be pretty. Leave me alone."
Lupin almost shied away at the calculated words.
"Harry," Dumbledore said as he walked towards the door, "there will be another meeting in one hour: you may wish to be there."
He nodded at his headmaster and then continued to the door. It took another thirty five minutes for the rest of those in the house to figure out that 'leave me alone' meant exactly that. Harry lost count of how many people he snarled at or verbally dissected before he found a quiet corner where no one would bother him.
Cornelius Fudge barged into the room before anyone could do anything about it: he looked harassed and annoyed.
"What is this?" he demanded loudly. "What business do you have dragging me halfway across the country without explanation?"
Harry glowered at the man with distaste: he and the Minister were far from friends and he was in no mood to put up with the odious little man.
"Ah, Cornelius," Dumbledore greeted cordially, "thank you for joining us. I would like you to meet several key members of the Order of the Phoenix. We are here on a rescue mission."
The open way with which the headmaster spoke appeared to leave Fudge at a loss and it surprised several people in the room as well, although not all. Harry was one of the startled ones.
"Order of the Phoenix?" the Minister of Magic asked looking at the assembled group.
"An organisation which fought Voldemort in the first war," Dumbledore explained calmly, "and who have been opposing him again for the last three years."
"Unlike the Ministry we can guarantee every member is not a Death Eater," Harry almost growled at the man who over the years had caused him a great deal of problems.
The fury inside the young man seemed to have a will of its own and he could not suppress it. Fudge glared at him and Harry glared right on back, regardless of how it would help or hinder the situation.
"This is preposterous," the Minister, said firmly, "we have no need of secret organisations."
"I beg to differ, Cornelius," Dumbledore said seriously, "the Order was the only thing that prevented Voldemort from retrieving the full prophecy from the Department of Mysteries and has been instrumental in blocking several plots since. It is time to put aside our differences and to work together: we can be useful to you and you can be useful to us. I asked you here today because this mission is pivotal in our efforts and there are Aurors I want from you to make sure it is a success."
Harry watched as Fudge considered the headmaster's words, but he did not think the Minister would say yes.
"What is the mission?" Harry was surprised when the man asked a sensible question.
"Earlier today Lucius Malfoy kidnapped his son," Dumbledore said and Fudge's eyes immediately snapped to Harry. "He is being held in Brancepeth castle and we intend to retrieve him at dawn."
The Minster frowned at that.
"I'll need more time," he said pointedly, "I cannot make this decision alone."
That was all it took to eradicate any patience Harry had left and he all but snarled at the pompous little man.
"Grow a backbone," he hissed viciously, "there is no time. This is war you pathetic little man: they're Death Eaters in that castle not Muggle Studies teachers. Do you think they're playing house? Have you any idea what they're doing to Draco? Voldemort wants me dead or better yet a vegetable. Can you imagine the publicity: The Boy Who Lived a gibbering wreck in St Mungos? Great for the war effort wouldn't you say?"
All through his speech he moved closer to the Minister and by the time he had finished Harry was nose to nose with Fudge. The man actually looked a little afraid.
"Is this true?" Fudge looked to Dumbledore as he asked and Harry had about had enough.
It was a bad idea to push someone who was on the edge and the Hecatemus was definitely skirting a fine line.
"Of course it's true, you idiot," Harry almost screamed at the man, "I don't make these things up just for the hell of it. Oh sorry you're of the Rita Skeeter, Umbridge school of intelligence aren't you. Want to see the scar I have thanks to your agent's petty games?"
A wave of icy cold hit the raging youth as a hand connected with his shoulder. It was such a shock that it took Harry's temper off the boil and he turned to see Snape standing beside him completely devoid of expression. The Potions master did not speak he just shook his head slightly and put a little pressure on the Gryffindor's shoulder; surprising himself, Harry moved away.
"Cornelius," Dumbledore took up the cause once again, "we move at dawn. We would like this to be a joint effort between the Ministry and the Order, but we will do this alone if necessary."
Fudge did not look completely convinced and Harry felt his anger rising again. What stopped him from acting was Draco. Pain surged through their bond again and Harry felt his knees give way and a cry pass his lips. Thanks to Fudge he had lost his concentration and he was not prepared for the onslaught: he could no more block it than he could block pain from his own body. He curled in on himself desperately trying to drive the pain away into the back corner of his mind. This was not his pain and his body knew it if only he could separate it out in his mind. It might have been confused across the partially blocked link, but it was still agony and it took Harry a long time to push it into the small mental box he had constructed in his head for just that purpose.
"Harry, can you hear me," were the first words that filtered into his brain and he recognised Remus' voice.
"Yes," he said quietly through clenched teeth.
The werewolf may not have been the world's number one expert on Hecatemae, but he had obviously done his homework and learned from his time with Harry. Lupin was neither leaning too close to, nor touching the Gryffindor in case his presence interrupted Harry's concentration.
"Can you help me up, please," Harry asked as weariness flooded his body.
It was all the permission Remus needed and strong hands pulled Harry to his feet. He was still angry, but he had no strength to fuel his fury and even as Remus left him standing Harry felt his legs going again. The will it took to keep Draco's pain away from the front of his mind was huge and he didn't have anything left for anything else. He was very grateful when Lupin caught him in strong arms and helped him to a chair.
"Which Aurors do you want?" Fudge's voice surprised Harry and he looked past the werewolf to the Minister of Magic.
The man was ashen faced and it appeared he finally understood.
End of Chapter 34
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