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Chapter 13: Duels
Now that he had recognized his father's handiwork in the power sigil, Malfoy was surer than ever that there would be useful information in his father's diary. He and Hermione tried everything they could think of, from complicated Chinese unlocking incantations to the simple rhymes that little girls used to keep their diaries private, but nothing worked.
"I'm certain he wouldn't have put them up without developing a simple way to take them all down at once," Malfoy said.
"Why not?" Hermione said. "If the goal was to shut down the school and then use it to wreak havoc all over wizarding Britain --"
"Ah, but that was only one of the goals," Malfoy said. "Of course all the Death Eaters wanted to destroy Dumbledore, and most of them wanted to destroy Hogwarts as well. But my father always fancied himself an educator, and if the Death Eaters had won the war, he would have wanted to return in great triumph as Headmaster."
Hermione was the one who laughed, though Harry wanted to. "Yes, yes, it's ridiculous," Malfoy said. "But reason is no match for pretension."
He tapped the diary with his wand. "Open sesame." Nothing happened. "Worth a try," he said to no one in particular.
"Here's what I don't understand," Hermione said. "Why was your father even part of the group that occupied Hogwarts? He didn't strike me as the soldier type."
"He was the general type," Malfoy said, "and as most of the Death Eaters were more on the order of hired muscle, he was sent along to see to it that someone with a brain was involved. I think the mining was his idea, as well, and the Dark Lord might have seen it as a kind of reward to allow him to oversee it in person."
"But why come back to England at all? He was at your villa in Bilbao, and Voldemort hadn't made any objection to his leaving the country. He could have stayed there until the war was over."
"And if his side lost, the Ministry would have tried him in absentia and confiscated all his property."
Harry waited, but Malfoy didn't add anything. "That's ... it? That's what was worse than dying?"
"I'll use small words for the incorrigibly middle-class among us," Malfoy said. "When my father died, the Ministry was legally obligated to transfer his property to his nearest kin. So the Malfoy ancestral lands, which have been in the family since approximately A.D. 1100, came to me. If my father had been found guilty -- and he would have been -- they would have been confiscated."
When Harry didn't say anything, he went on impatiently: "Sold, Potter. Placed on the market, advertised in the Prophet, strangers tramping through the Manor and cutting down the hawthorns and putting in a bloody dog run ..."
Harry shrugged. "I never inherited anything from my ancestors that I valued more than my life."
Malfoy was spooned up behind Harry, one hand on Harry's hip, the other arm under Harry's neck. The position put the Mark a couple of inches from Harry's face. Even without his glasses he could see it clearly.
Now that he'd seen it come apart under Hermione's expansion spell, he could see it as a calligromancy expression even without magical help. The entire grisly image was a single calligraphic stroke, and now that it was familiar he could separate that into knots. One for each eye, each nostril, each tooth. The hollows under the cheekbones, the dark interior of the mouth. The snake's eyes.
"We've got to get it off you," he said.
"And here I was thinking you might want one, too, so we could match."
"I'm serious, Malfoy."
Malfoy pulled his arm out from under Harry's head. "I know it's traumatic for you to be reminded of the years I spent putting the 'mal' in Malfoy --"
"You think I want it off because it offends me?" Harry sat up. "Malfoy, it could kill me. Me, Hermione, the Headmistress, Circe Stormlaw, dozens of innocent children, and -- oh, yes, nearly forgot -- you."
"It's warded. No one can touch it. And you might keep in mind that trying to undo it is quite likely to trigger it."
"Malfoy. It has an If Wearer Cursed on it. You're a dueling instructor. How long do you think it will be before you get hit by a stray curse? It's a wonder it hasn't happened yet."
"And I'm sure," Malfoy said with great precision, "that you have a method of minimizing the risks, such that acting is safer than waiting until we know more?" He paused a moment. "I thought not. Try to wrap your lily-white Gryffindor brain around this: Sometimes when danger threatens, the most courageous act is to leave it be until you can understand it."
"And sometimes caution gets you killed, too," Harry said through tight lips. "Maybe it doesn't bother you that they've made you their weapon, Malfoy. But it bothers me."
"Oh ... Harry." Michelle Verte stepped out of Malfoy's fireplace and looked over Harry's shoulder, as if to confirm that she had come to the right room. "Is Draco about? Remus and I have found some mines we can't identify down at the greenhouse, and Hermione's at the Ministry."
"He's here," Harry said, "but I don't know if he can floo without magic. Maybe if someone else goes with him? Like Apparating with a passenger?"
The door of the bath clicked shut. "If it doesn't work," Malfoy said from behind him, "then I'm left standing in a roaring fire. Amusing, in its own way, but on the whole I'd prefer to walk." His robe today was a neck-to-toe affair like the ones Snape used to wear, though Snape would have sneered at the row of tiny brass clasps, and Harry couldn't imagine him choosing a robe in a black that went purple where the light hit it.
"We'll meet you there in a few minutes, then, Michelle," Harry said. He thought both Michelle and Malfoy looked at him oddly. "Well, I want to see them, too."
When they were halfway across the lawn, they heard a strange, broken wail coming from the greenhouse.
Michelle was standing just inside the open door. Her fair hair was disheveled and there was a leaf clinging to it. Just beyond her, Sofia was kneeling over Remus, whose heels were drumming on the stone floor. The wailing was coming from him.
"It must have been some sort of seizure mine," Michelle said, pressing her knuckles to her lips. "We thought we were being careful."
"Someone fetch Madeleine," Sofia said, and Malfoy took off at a run.
Remus convulsed again and made a choking noise. Sofia dug two fingers into his mouth. His legs jerked, touching off a mine. One of the panes of glass at the far end of the greenhouse shattered. Michelle knelt hastily to hold his feet.
"Petrificus Totalus," Sofia said, and he fell still just as Malfoy reappeared with Madeleine Aerie in tow.
Sofia levitated Remus' still body. "We were running low on Animaserum, were we not?" she asked Madeleine.
Madeleine nodded. "If there's enough hepatica, I can have more ready in half an hour."
"Hepatica's here," Michelle said. "Do you need leaves or roots?"
"Leaves, preferably small ones." Madeleine reached for the plants.
"Wait." Malfoy touched her wrist. "Ward these, will you, Potter? They're rife with mines."
"You can still see them?" Harry was surprised.
"There's nothing to stop other people's magic working on me."
When the mines were all in bubbles, Madeleine quickly gathered a handful of leaves. "I'll walk up with you, Sofia, and get started while you get him stabilized."
Michelle ran a hand over Remus' forehead.
"You go up with them, Michie," Malfoy said. "Potter can do a search-and-change by himself, if he has me to help him up out of the depths of his ignorance."
Harry was already sweating. He took off his robe and rolled up his sleeves. The greenhouse smelled of wet dirt and fish emulsion and some heavy, overripe tropical flower.
"Accio me that dictionary of Hebrew calligromancy out of the library, Potter," Malfoy said after a while, and, "I'm going to need a quill and parchment to record some of these for 'Mione," and, "Might as well get the chalkboard down here so we can see how many of these our search-and-changes are taking down."
"Had you noticed," Harry said eventually, "that the mines are concentrated on certain plants? The catmint is covered with stuff, and you can hardly get near the aloe."
Malfoy nodded. "Michie would know for sure, but I suspect that those are the plants one would need to cure the results of the other mines we've been taking down. I know aloe's the first thing an herbologist would reach for after a fire, and catmint's a prime ingredient in lung-clearing potions."
"That's pretty evil," Harry said.
Malfoy crushed a leaf absently with his finger, filling the air with a minty smell. "It's the sort of thing my father would think of. He was always telling me, 'Know thy enemy.' "
"Do you think he did the spells here, too?"
"His Hebrew was pretty weak. Probably they gave this room to someone with an herbology background. Caradog Dipsas, perhaps; he had a gift for languages, when he was sober, and he was one of Father's favorite students." He leaned back against the wooden door that led into the storage shed. "After all, a man needs proteges if he has no sons."
Harry stepped closer and took Malfoy's face in his hand. The pale hair was very soft against his fingers. Harry lifted Malfoy's face and kissed the thin skin under his eyes, the tight corners of his mouth. Kissed his lips, softly, deeply. Kissed his chin and the side of his neck, ran his tongue along Malfoy's collarbone, tasting old sweat and dust.
"Wait," Malfoy said softly, "don't. I'm all dirty."
Harry gathered up Malfoy's hair and pulled gently until his head dropped back, and then he bit the side of his neck. His skin was gritty under Harry's tongue. "I don't care," Harry said, and bit him a little harder, until he whimpered and grabbed Harry's face in both hands.
The kiss knocked his glasses crooked. Harry tossed them on the potting table without releasing Malfoy's mouth, and Malfoy wrapped one arm around Harry's back under his open robe and went on licking at him wildly.
When Harry thumbed open the first of those little brass clasps, Malfoy grasped the robe at the neck and gave a practiced tug-and-shake, and they all came open at once.
As Harry had expected, he wore nothing at all underneath. Harry couldn't stop looking at him, the pale strong body laid bare, framed by the fall of purple-black fabric on either side -- hard and eager and perfectly flawless.
"God," he breathed, putting a possessive hand on Malfoy's hip, "what a prize you are."
"Spoils of war?" Malfoy said breathlessly.
"Yes." Harry pushed the robe off his shoulders. It caught on his hands for a moment and then fell to the floor in a whisper of satin.
His skin was very white, and the Mark was very dark against it. Harry put his hand over it, lifted Malfoy's arm and pinned it to the wall over his head, and Malfoy shivered. Sweat glinted along his collarbone and on his neck.
Harry leaned in and nipped at his lip, pulling back as Malfoy's mouth tried to follow his. He looked down the pale length of Malfoy's body to watch as his other hand grasped Malfoy's cock and stroked hard. Malfoy whined.
"They can't have you," Harry growled, tightening both the hand around Malfoy's arm and the hand around his cock, moving fast and merciless. "They weren't worthy of you. They will not keep you."
Malfoy moaned, pushing up into his hand over and over, rolling his head from side to side against the wall. His eyes were tightly shut. "Look at me," Harry said, and his eyes flew open. "Draco -- Falco -- Leonis --"
With a cry, Malfoy pulsed into his hand.
On to Chapter 14
Back to Chapter 12
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April 25, 2003