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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Tower

Chapter Text

Madame Pomfrey was resting in her office. Her office had a desk positioned beneath a window, through which she could observe her ward. Leaning back in her chair, with her feet pressed up atop her desk, she laid peacefully with her eyes closed. For the moment, she had no patients and no paperwork. In one hour, she'd leave through the back-door for her personal quarters to catch some sleep.

Her last patient had been Justin Finch-Fletchley, whom was suffering from a migraine. She'd given him a calming draught to cure his nerves, concluding that, as he'd be taking his OWLs next month, it was likely stress. Having taken it, he grew calmer and had chosen to leave with his friends and return to the Hufflepuff common room.

Minutes passed. Pomfrey was just on the deciding to make herself a pot of tea when she heard the well-known sound of her Infirmary's doors creaking open. She heaved herself up by her elbows and attempted to peer through the window, expecting to see one of the professors seeking her advice (it was getting past the student's curfew, after all), but when her eyes spotted Draco Malfoy - by himself - closing the doors behind him, she then hastily got to her feet. She picked her wand up from the desk, popped it into her pocket, and left her office.

"Mr. Malfoy, whatever is it?" she asked, walking past a number of the ward's beds. "Surely you can't be suffering from yet another headache."

"I've been getting spouts of dizziness, actually," Malfoy sneered, "and almost collapsed after Arithmancy today. I was actually lucky Pansy had been standing near me. She helped to sturdy me - do you know how humiliating that could have been if I'd fallen! I've been sleeping in my dorm since."

"All right, all right, Mr. Malfoy. I'll check you over," Pomfrey said, knowing Malfoy wouldn't settle for anything less than a long, proper inspection, even if it was late. She brought her hands up to tighten the knot that held her hair in a bunch. "Now, feel free to choose a bed or a seat. Though I can't imagine we'll find anything wrong with you this time."

Malfoy made for the nearest bed. He hopped onto it and laid down, placing his hands down beside him. Madame Pomfrey took out her wand and walked over to Malfoy, where then she closed the curtains around his bed.

"I'll be giving you a full wand-examination this time, so please don't move unless I specifically tell you to. Far too many students getting hurt these days. Let's hope you don't start making a habit of it, eh?"

There'd been nothing wrong with Malfoy in the previous checks on him. Yet she had only performed the typical checkups on the boy, examining his symptoms and not his vitals, which required more concentrated medical wand-work rather than simple knowledge and potions.

"The last time you visited, you said your appetite for food was wanting. And you were experiencing migraines." She rounded over his head, searching for signs of aliments. A sign of ill-health, from stomach viruses to curses, would have her wand flashing lights. Different lights for different ailments. "Are you getting other symptoms?"

Malfoy paused. "I can't eat some kinds of meat without feeling sick now. I thought it was just the house-elves' bad cooking at first, I still do. And my nails, they've grown a lot since I was last here."

Pomfrey carefully picked up his left hand and examined the nails. They had indeed grown to a length that would've been considered longer than most, and they looked sharp, resembling claws. She let go of his hand.

"I've tried cutting them," he continued, "but they grow back by the next day. It's irritating having long nails."

She nodded politely. "These dizzy spouts, then, you mentioned. When did they start?"

"Four days ago, at breakfast," he said, lying his hand down again. "I was chatting to Crabbe and Goyle as I usually do, and my eyesight started blurring. The Great Hall was spinning. I tried everything - blinking, rubbing my eyes - everything was still spinning, and I couldn't do anything to stop it! I swear, if my father knew that had happened to me, he'd have had me out of this school in seconds."

Pomfrey restrained herself from rolling her eyes. Malfoy tended to mention his father when he visited her. And yet, he outright refused to inform the man. In his last visit, she'd cautioned Malfoy to inform and allow his father to aid her with information, reasoning that medical knowledge into his family history might provide her with better insight into treating his ailment. Instead, Malfoy had said he wouldn't concern his father and spoke no more on the matter.

She calmly moved her wand down to his chest. As she leveled it over his heart, her wand shot out a light of blue, hitting his shirt. The fabric glowed faintly before returning to it's ordinarily white colouring.

"What was that?" Malfoy screeched. He was staring down at his shirt in horror.

"It would be very unlikely, but just to be certain," Pomfrey murmured. "Please, take off your shirt, Mr Malfoy."

Malfoy sat up and hastily unbuttoned his shirt, placing it neatly on the bedside table beside him. Leading her wand across his chest once more, she was startled to see another startling blue light shoot out of her wand, which settled on Malfoy's skin before vanishing. Sea-blue lights, typically, indicated a blood-related problem. Infections or a bad disorder. Malfoy didn't appear to have any infections, however. No sweating, no fever, no wounds. And he was far too young to have any serious disorders.

"Have you had any blood or heart related problems in your family before, Mr Malfoy? Any family history of heart attacks, low blood circulation, anything similar?" she asked, in the politest tone she could muster.

Malfoy pushed himself up by his elbows, making it obvious that her examination would now be – if not halted –finished. "No, my family hasn't had any problems like those," he said, and then began pulling his shirt back on.

Pomfrey sighed. She should've already known that Draco Malfoy, like many other pureblooded children she had treated in the past, would have reacted just as defensively to an accusation against his family.

"All right, Malfoy. I'll be in my office, going through some of my medical journals. But I want you to stay in this bed, behind these curtains - is that clear?" she said sternly. "Or I will inform your father, make no mistake of that. I’ve had too many students walk out already in the past, you know, far too many."

Malfoy's sneering softened, and he placed his hands in his lap. "Do you know what's wrong with me, then?" he asked in a gentler tone.

"That is what I’m going to find out."

Pomfrey closed his curtains before retreating to her office, where she then marched over to her bookshelves. She began examining the glossary pages of essays, journals, notes, and informative books, but it was only after she dismissed contemporary solutions, such as all medical conditions relating to anemia, hemophilia and diabetes. Diabetes could no doubt bring about blurring of vision and dizziness, but it couldn't change the growing pace of Malfoy’s nails or decrease his appetite for meat.

With progress lacking and time passing, Pomfrey began to think that Malfoy was leading her on yet another of his schemes to get out of class for a day. Just as he had done in his third year at Hogwarts.

Then she noticed an old book, 'The Standard Edition to Magical Misfortunes.' Its pages were yellow, ripped and loose, and beheld pen marks and smudges, and even out-dated information on spells. What it did usefully entail was a chapter on blood-related ailments in magical beings, wherein there were lists and explanations.

Pomfrey looked at every disease the chapter listed. One listing near the end got her attention.

Veelas, and their Bloody Misfortunes.

It then proceeded to list in detail many of Malfoy’s symptoms, provide a cautionary word on wizards and witches with inter-species family backgrounds, and, conclude with a number of footnotes that dictated how the information gathered had been provided by, not only the Ministry of Magic, but by other species’ governments.

"The Misfortune of the Change for Wizards with Veela genes," she read quickly. "Much is still unknown about the development of wizards and witches with veela genes. Nevertheless, healers have reported that wizards begin a change during puberty; witches, even earlier. The process is hardly noticeable, but will become clearer, as she, or he (refer to mating studies conducted by Clark, 1967), grows older. They will likely experience severe headaches bouts of dizziness, signs of distress, etc, which are brought on by a lack of familiar contact during this period, and suffer from drowsiness, a lack of appetite, aching muscles, and even the blurring of sight, due to the transformation of the body (for more detailed information on the bodily changes, turn to page 41).

The attitude of the person will also change, as they become reliant during this difficult time. It is important that the creature in question remain close to family members and / or future mate. Researchers believe that, due to this vulnerability, the creature would attempt to seek its mate, particularly if having no family or close relations. The veela community have declined to commit, but it is reasoned that, due to this need for assistance, the veela's mate would logically be someone already familiar to them. There have been, nevertheless, some true cases of veelas, of whom have never confessed their animalistic background or grown close to another being, and have thus gone on to fall into a 'love-deprived depression' state of mind (Dr Stephan, Head of the Creature Department, 1934).

It is known that pure-blooded Veelas do not experience the Change. Half-blood Veelas – that is, Wizards with veela blood – are likely to experience such a progression due to the dormant nature of the Veela gene until, what humans term as, the development stage of ‘puberty’. Those who deem another or themselves to be experiencing such a Change should seek immediate advise from a medical authority and follow-up with taking the relevant medications needed in order to ensure the Change stage is undergone as safely and calmly as possible)."

Pomfrey snapped the book shut. Questions leapt within her mind: Was the young Malfoy truly a half-blood? Or could his symptoms merely be something else? Could the Malfoy linage even be impure?

She spent the next few minutes contemplating what to do: should she inform Mr Malfoy, inform the boy's father, or inform Dumbledore of the boy's visitations? Neither of the first two options appealed to her. Malfoy was likely to dismiss her due to his pureblood belief in the Malfoy ancestry, and his father would be worse. There was a method to prove her theory, but she would need backup.

Coming to a final decision, Pomfrey knew that she would have to take this up with the Headmaster. Carrying the book, she proceeded to leave her office and walk on hastily to depart the Hospital Wing, knowing that it was more than likely that the young Malfoy boy had heard her leave.

When she reached Dumbledore's office above the gargoyle, she knocked on his door. Loudly.

"Enter."

She turned the door's knob. She had been into the Headmaster's office many times since her employment, but the room still appeared every bit as magnificent as her first visitation. Pomfrey had always thought that his phoenix was the most wondrous thing, and she couldn't help the smile that grazed her face from seeing the same fiery bird sitting on it's perch now. She turned her gaze onto the Headmaster, and realised that he was surprisingly lounging away behind his desk in his usual chair.

"I certainly did not expect to see you in my office tonight, Madame Pomfrey - not on this fine Sunday evening," he said. Slowly, he sat up. "What does bring you here?"

"Draco Malfoy has been visiting me - by himself, sir - for the past two weeks."

"I wasn't aware the young Malfoy was ill."

"He isn't, or not from what I've seen," Pomfrey said. "Young Malfoy has informed me that he's been experiencing dizziness, headaches, and a lack of appetite. He also mentioned his eyesight blurring whilst in the Great Hall, and his nails growing at a substantial rate. These symptoms don't usually combine, sir, not unless the body is fighting off a disease or going through a transformation."

Pomfrey placed her book atop his desk, opened it, and quickly skewered through its pages until she finally came to rest on the one she'd previously been reading. Dumbledore examined it with interest while she continued talking.

"I've been treating Malfoy this past month. I've given him with chocolates, calming draughts, sleeping potions to ensure he's fit for classes, perceiving it all to be simply stress from his up-coming OWL exams. But I'm afraid to say though, that after examining him thoroughly just moments ago and looking it up further in my books, I think he may – just may – be a half-veela, Headmaster."

Dumbledore looked up. "You're sure of this?"

"I'm not one hundred percent completely sure, Headmaster," she said. "But, as you might see here, if Malfoy does turn out to be a veela, it'd be a swell idea to have the information we need sooner rather then later." She placed her hands on his desk. "Headmaster, I know a friend who works in the Creature Department in the Ministry. He could easily acquire me the background data I need on the Malfoy family, if only I were given permission to ask him."

Dumbledore paused. "All right, but discreetly - if Professor Umbridge were to discover you in the Department then she would undoubtedly be suspicious, and we certainly cannot afford to have that happening. Not now. England is still remain slighted. I doubt Fudge would like the idea much of allowing veelas, even half-veelas, into Hogwarts; for unlike Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, our High Legal Council, the Wizengamot, hasn't yet had a desirable need to help such students gain some education."

Pomfrey chewed her lip. "What will happen to the young Malfoy then, if he's found to be only a half-wizard?"

"He'd be expelled. Instantly, I'd imagine. The Ministry doesn't permit us to teach students with creature blood in them; if young Draco were discovered, he'd be taken from here, either by his parents or the aurors, and would be home-schooled for his remaining years."

"But what if there were other students like him? Would they get the same treatment - expulsion?"

"The same would happen to those students as well, my dear Pomfrey," he said, shaking his head. "If you should get the chance, would you please also take a brief look at the other student's records as well. It would seem that people are becoming more open-minded in today's society - why, I even saw three undines drinking in the Leaky Cauldron just last week, you know! Ah, then again, the bartender Tom, he is a very welcoming man. A bit callous, unnerving, but I don't believe there is a single bad bone in the innkeeper. Just bad manners."

"I wouldn't know. I've only been inside there once as a child - too young to remember the place."

He smiled fondly. "Ah, you should go. It's never too late to experience new adventures."

Pomfrey rolled her eyes. "Yes. If that's all, Headmaster, I really should be going," she said, grabbing her book and turning to leave. "Mr. Malfoy is still in the Infirmary. He'll want a diagnosis and I've already kept him lying there for an hour now."

"Pomfrey," Dumbledore called, just as her hand curled around the doorknob.

She turned to face him. "Yes?"

"Don't tell the boy he's a creature, will you," he said. "It'll only cause more aggravation from Umbridge, more from his father. Young Draco, I believe, is very close to his family...information like this would only cause them hassle, I'm sure. And if I recall, veelas do require a stable family most of all during their Change."

"The boy needs to know sometime."

"In time – yes – but not now. Not with Umbridge in the school..." (Dumbledore leaned forward, his hands pressed together on top of his desk) "...and we are not sure that he is a creature, are we yet? I'm sure you'll agree, Madame Pomfrey, that there is no need to be informing poor Draco when we are not sure of ourselves. Simply, tell him he has the flu."

She scowled. "Our students are not stupid, Headmaster. He'll need help in his...well, his veela adolescence, and who will help the boy if he doesn't know?"

"My dear, you can help. The students here trust you with their health, and I'm sure Mr. Malfoy is no different."

"But I won't be able to fully help the boy unless he knows, Albus."

"We must all do what we can in these desperate times," Dumbledore said, lamely.

"Yes, Headmaster," she said, irritated, as she turned for the door again. "I'll also be sure to get that information from inside the Ministry to you as soon as possible."

Dumbledore smiled. "Thank you, Pomfrey. And do try to have a pleasant night's sleep, won't you?"

Pomfrey nodded politely and left his office. She travelled down the gargoyle and walked out into the courtyard. The sky had darkened and she highly believed it was past the student's curfew, but she was adamant to help the young Malfoy boy now.

He was awaiting her diagnosis. Pomfrey brought a hand up to stroke her greying, tied-up hair. Perhaps she should just tell him that he was suffering from flu as Dumbledore had suggested, which would account for why he'd been so dizzy lately and how his food intake had become so varied. It wouldn't excuse the increased growth in his nails, but hopefully the young Malfoy wouldn't pay much attention to that symptom.

Pomfrey walked back up the grand staircase, passing several ghosts, until she finally came to the corridor leading to her Hospital Wing. She stopped outside the Infirmary doors, took in a calming breath, before then pushing the doors open.

The only light in the Wing was that from a single lit candle on the bedside table beside the young Malfoy. He was lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Pomfrey felt her stomach tighten at the casual sight, overcome with an unpleasant feeling of quilt.

"Mr. Malfoy," she called to him.

Malfoy brought himself by his elbows to sit up again. "Where've you been?" he asked.

"I was in the library," Pomfrey said, quickly forming an excuse, "researching through medical journals so I could give you a more accurate diagnosis, which I was sure you would rather I do -" (she walked towards the bed) "- but it does appear, though, that you're suffering from nothing more then the common flu."

"But I haven’t been coughing or sneezing, especially with all the chocolate you've been giving me!"

"You don’t have to be sneezing to have the flu, Mr Malfoy," she said, attempting to keep the situation calm. "After all, you did say you were feeling drowsy, dizzy and had a lack of appetite – these are all symptoms telling me that you’re body feels overworked.”

"My body is just fine," Malfoy said, climbing off the bed, "and I'm as relaxed as I can be, with exams only a month anyway. No, I know there's something else - there must be."

He started making his way to the Infirmary doors. Pomfrey became desperate; she made a grab for his wrist in an attempt to stop him, but he shook her off.

"Mr. Malfoy, please –"

"No!" Malfoy shouted, still backing away. "No, I've been here four times. A case of the flu, you'd have noticed that before!"

"I gave you an accurate diagnosis, Mr Malfoy," Pomfrey lied, despising herself more with every word, "all you need to do is listen to me and you’ll find yourself recovering."

"That's all I’m suffering from – the bloody flu?" he said mockingly.

"Yes, and I'd also recommend trying a new diet of foods if your stomach can't take - what was it you said – ah yes, some kinds of meat," she advised politely. "Perhaps you could eat meat in small amounts for the next month or so, ham and chicken. No large steaks, mince or pork."

Malfoy stared at her, as if he were contemplating the idea. Pomfrey hoped that Dumbledore had been correct about the students trusting her, because she really needed Malfoy to believe her, if only to stop him from discovering the truth and then informing his father, who would undoubtedly contact Umbridge at the first moment available. If that happened, the young Malfoy would be quickly expelled.

Malfoy sighed. "All right, I'll try getting more sleep and eating less meat…but, if I do happen find something else wrong with me, Madam Pomfrey, I will be coming back here," he said, clearly not satisfied, but nonetheless, at least willing to follow her advice for now.

"That's fine with me," Pomfrey said, only too glad to have him returning for check-ups. "Now, I would prefer for you to start sleeping without the need of a sleeping draught, Mr. Malfoy. They do become addictive."

"Yes, I already know that."

"Well, I hope then that you'll agree - and just for tonight - to spend the night in the Infirmary, under my watch."

"But I haven't got any of my things," he moaned.

"Go get them then," she said, waving him off, "and if Filch or anyone else gives you trouble on your way, tell them that I'm keeping you in overnight in the Infirmary. Go on, now – go!"

Malfoy nodded and raced off, the doors slamming shut behind him with an echoing bang!

Pomfrey brought a hand up to stroke the soft strands of hair that fallen away from her bun. She quietly wondered if Dumbledore paid her enough to deal with these sort of incidents.

/~~~\

The following day, Harry was teaching the DA again. Only a few members of the DA were showing progress in their patronouses, but he was proud of that. They were practicing advanced magic right under Umbridge's nose, that alone wanted respect. Neville's wand was still producing silver vapour. Seamus had yet to keep his Patronous going for more then a second. Everyone was learning at their own pace.

Hermione's patronous, a shining silver otter, swished elegantly around her. She'd been one of the first to conjure a non-corporal patronous.

"They are sort of nice, aren't they?" she said, admiring it.

Harry paused to reply, but forgot as the door to the Room of Requirement creaked open. Harry looked round to see the door closing, and the students standing near it staring at him. Harry felt a tug at his trousers. He looked down in alarm and saw Dobby peering up at him beneath eight thick wholly hats.

"Hey Dobby!" he said. "What are you – what's wrong?"

The house-elf was shaking. Members of the DA fell silent, their bright silver patronouses, once circling the room, were vanishing into vapour, leaving the room considerably darker.

"Harry Potter, sir…" Dobby squeaked, his voice trembling, "Harry Potter, sir…Dobby has come to warn you…but we house-elves have been warned not to tell…"

The house-elf ran head-first for the wall; Harry made a grab for him, but Dobby slipped past and bounced off the wall, saved only by the cushioning of his wholly hats. Hermione shrieked.

"What's happened, Dobby?" Harry locked his arms around the house-elf to prevent him from harming himself.

"Harry Potter…she…she…"

Dobby's fist escaped Harry's hold and he hit himself on the nose. Harry seized it again.

"Who is she, Dobby?"

The house-elf wordlessly mouthed her name.

"Umbridge?" Harry asked, mortified.

Dobby nodded, before he then banged his head on Harry's left kneecap. Harry tightened his grip, stopping him.

"What about her, Dobby? She hasn't found out about this – about us – about the DA, has she?"

The answer was found on the house-elf's stricken face. Faster then Harry could seize him, Dobby managed to kick Harry in the ankle. Harry groaned painfully and released the house-elf, who fell helplessly to the floor.

"Is she coming?"

Dobby banged his right foot against the floor. "Yes, Harry Potter, yes!"

Harry pushed himself to stand again. He turned and stared at his fellow DA members, all of whom were staring at either him or the thrashing house-elf.

"WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR?" he shouted. "RUN!"

What happened then, a horde of students scrambled past him. A Ravenclaw knocked into his shoulder. Someone stepped on his foot. They were all rushing and shoving to get through the doors. He could hear them rushing down the corridors outside, and he hoped they were smart enough to try and hide in or near a location nearby. It was only ten to nine; curfew was not until nine, and it was better to say they had been in the library, which was nearer –

"Harry, come on!" Hermione shouted from within the centre of the scum of students fighting to get out.

He scooped up Dobby, who was still trying to seriously injure himself, and carried him towards the back of the bumbling queue.

"Dobby – this is an order – get back to the kitchen and, if she asks you whether you warned me, lie and say no," Harry said, when at last they exited the room. He slammed the doors shut and turned back. "And I forbid you to hurt yourself!"

"Thank you, Harry Potter, thank you!" Dobby said. The house-elf clicked his fingers and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Knowing that the house-elf was fine, Harry streaked off down the corridor to his right. He managed to catch a last glimpse of two DA students running ahead of him for the grand staircase, so he turned right instead. He didn't want to get caught with anyone else, and the boy's toilets were just a bit away. If he could reach it then he could pretend he'd been there –

A tight, invisible rope wrapped around his ankles before he could finish the thought. And he tripped.

"AAARGH!"

He skidded for more than six feet before finally coming to a halt. Someone was sniggering behind him. A man by the pitch of the sniggering, not a woman. He groaned painfully, and the laughter stopped.

Harry rolled onto his back. He spotted Malfoy in an archway, standing behind a rather ancient, half-broken statue of a dragon mounted atop a pedestal. It had been days since he'd last seen Malfoy; the git was rumoured to have been visiting the library throughout the weekend, when usually he would have been out terrorising students with his newfound prefect powers. In class, though, Malfoy was still the same: he'd always been a complete git.

"Trip jinx, Potter, favourite of mine." Malfoy stepped around the pedestal. "I'm disappointed I caught you, you know – you should be more careful, Scarhead. I could've been someone else."

"What – someone worse then you," Harry said. He tried standing, but a spark of pain ran up his right leg from his foot. The jinx, or possibly that student who'd stepped on his foot earlier, had injured him. He hopped over to the wall, panting. "Never could catch a snitch, eh, Malfoy. But you caught me."

"You're far more valuable than any snitch, Potter. Imagine if Montague caught you? Not a nice image there, eh?"

Harry shook his head; Malfoy was right. Montague, Captain of the Slytherin Quidditch Team, was the most brutish Chaser Harry had ever known at Hogwarts, often blocking or smashing into other players, using his size and large, hairy arms to his advantage. Harry didn't want that man anywhere near him.

Malfoy huffed, and lowered his wand. "Go, Potter, now. Before Umbridge comes."

"Why - why let me go? Gonna trip me again?"

"What are you – an idiot, Potter? No, I won't trip you. Just go!" Malfoy spluttered. He pointed down the corridor that led to the bathroom. "Go, now! Before I can –"

"It's him!" Professor Umbridge shouted from the corridor Harry had come from. Pansy Parkinson was following her, wand in hand. "I knew I heard his voice – excellent, Draco. Excellent. Oh, fifty points to Slytherin! I'll take him from here."

Umbridge seized Harry by the arm, then returned her attention to Malfoy.

"You hop along and see if you can round up any more of them, Draco. Tell the others to look in the library – anybody out of breath – check the bathrooms. Miss. Parkinson can do the girl's ones – off you both go –"

Malfoy frowned. For a moment, Harry thought he'd disobey. The Slytherin was eyeing Umbridge's grip on him. His lips parted as if to speak.

"Come on, Draco," Parkinson said.

Malfoy closed his mouth. He turned and started walking towards the floor's bathrooms. Parkinson caught up to him. She placed a hand on his back.

"Come, Potter," Umbridge said, grabbing his attention. "We're going to the Headmaster's office."

By midnight that night, Dumbledore had left the castle with his phoenix. McGonagall had escorted Harry back to the Gryffindor Tower, that was, after taking Marietta to the Hospital Wing for her cursed face. And Harry's heart weighed heavier; he feared the reason Dumbledore had left was because he had continued teaching the DA group.

Many Gryffindors in the DA had stayed up to await his return, Harry soon discovered, when he finally entered the common room. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Fred and George were only a few of those settled near the fireplace, talking in hushed voices. Quickly, he put the incident between Malfoy and himself to the furthest corners of his mind. He had more important things to focus on than the ferret.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter was pacing inside his room. A fortnight hadn't even passed since school had ended and he was already sick of the Dursleys.

Only this morning had he managed to avoid most of the usual arguments that would take place over the breakfast table; Vernon had been discussing drills again and, though Harry had already read the many newspaper clippings Hedwig had gathered for him on her flights, he preferred re-reading them over Vernon's booming voice.

It was more than that, though: he also longed for his friends. Letters lay strewn across his windowsill, and none of them provided information on when he could leave for the Burrow. It was almost as bad as last summer, when no one dared to send him a message consisting of more than a few lines.

Even the papers knew more than him. The Daily Prophet was currently taking an interest in a number of persons – or more specifically, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore and Rufus Scrimgeour.

Rita Skeeter, since she still couldn't post anything awful about Harry without the threat of Hermione telling the Ministry about her illegal animagus form, seemed now set upon questioning Dumbledore and his motives in her articles. Harry had even ripped up one of her article's and tossed it into Hedwig's cage.

Scrimgeour Succeeds Fudge

Rufus Scrimgeour, previously Head of Auror Office in the Law Enforcement Department, has succeeded Cornelius Fudge as Minister for Magic. The new Minister was met with objections from various pure-blood families of the High Court Wizengamot, who have insisted that he retain Fudge as his Political Adviser for the time being. The Minister has agreed and has yet to comment on this decision.

A rift between Scrimgeour and Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts Witchcraft and Wizardry, and newly reinstated Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, has ended too. Representatives of Scrimgeour have declared that he has met with Dumbledore on several occasions to discuss the safety of Hogwarts for the new school year.

"We're not able to talk about anything more...Scrimgeour's orders, see," said one representative, who had refused to give his name whilst leaving the Ministry. "Dumbledore and Scrimgeour are choosing to stand by one another, face the common evil together and all that."

The concerns for the safety of Hogwarts' students were made clear last night when Dumbledore petitioned as Chief Warlock for a new law. This law, if passed, would allow part-human, part-creature children to begin and continue their education at Hogwarts. The Minister has since publicly declared his support behind the idea, in a statement given within St. Mungo's.

Dumbledore seems determined to impose his new law by the summer's end. Already, Hogwarts is being changed according to the needs of the few and not the many. A new upper floor -

Another newspaper clipping lay crippled beside Harry's trunk. It's edges had been smudged heavily since he'd refused to wash his mucky hands before reading the article:

Sirius Black: Is He Really Innocent?

Sirius Black, supposed mass-murder of no less than thirteen muggles and wizard, Peter Pettigrew, who's only remaining bodily feature found was a finger, has been discharged completely of these crimes!

"We've reason to believe it was Pettigrew who was you-know-who's right-hand man, and not Black," said recently promoted Kingsley Shacklebolt, who, shortly after Scrimgeour's succession, was made Head of the Auror Office in the Ministry's Law Enforcement Department.

The Ministry has released a statement declaring that Pettigrew was the killer of the thirteen muggles, and that he had managed to avoid detection that night by slicing off his finger and changing into an unregistered animagus form: a common household rat. Pettigrew thus vanished from sight, leaving notorious Black, whom now retired Auror Johnson, one of the then arresting Aurors, described him as “laughing like a bloody maniac” when found on the scene.

Highly placed sources within the Ministry have confirmed that Peter Pettigrew was captured -- alive -- during the Death Eater's attack on the Ministry on June 14th, and he is currently being held for interrogation by a number of aurors. Under Shacklebolt's orders, the aurors leaving the Ministry on the attack were unable to say when Peter Pettigrew will be sent to Azkaban prison, however, they clarified that other such Death Eaters who were captured will be immediately sentenced to Azkaban for a number of consecutive years, on grounds of treason, trespassing and attempted theft of a restricted item.

Although it remains unclear what the Death Eaters were seeking, many Ministry workers claim to have noticed the attack occurring from inside the Department of Mysteries, where the supposed Hall of Prophecy lies. The Minister, in a statement, declared that such a room doesn't exist, but the wizarding community believes otherwise.

Black was, last seen after the attack, levitated onto a stretcher and flown through a floo network. The Ministry has said his intended purpose was to protect his godson, Mr Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived, whom was reported to have left Hogwarts earlier that evening with his friends to fight Death Eaters within the Ministry.

Black is now residing in St. Mungo's Spell Damage Ward, for an unknown dark curse. He is also being kept under the watchful eyes of several aurors, for his own protection and the safety of – (cont. page 2, column 3).

Harry looked away from the offending newspaper clipping buried in Hedwig's cage. The memory of his godfather, caught in Rudolphus Lestrange's misfired curse, kept repeating in his mind. He felt guilt then anything else; he had raged at Dumbledore four times, once in person and then the rest by letter. He'd sent everyone letters. He wasn’t helping anyone by staying with the Dursleys. His letters were responded with an apology and little else, only the occasional notes from Ron, which were either “he’s still in the same condition” or “you know we’ll write as soon as something changes, mate.”

Harry lay on his bed, shoving his arms behind his head. Lying down didn't make him feel more relaxed, but at least he wasn't pacing now. Besides, if anything had changed in his godfather's health, his friends would have told him. Surely.

As he closed his eyes, drifting off into a light nap, his door slammed wide open. Harry blinked and brought himself to sit up.

Vernon entered through the doorway. He observed the room, looking from the scattered rubbish on the floor to the empty owl cage. Harry tried to move himself into a more comfortable position, only to draw his uncle's attention.

"I see you're still indoors, then."

Harry shrugged. "Nothing to do outside. Might as well stay in."

Vernon snorted. "Yeah, and make yeh room look like a tip while you're living in it." His gaze drifted over to the empty owl cage again, "And that ruddy owl’s still being allowed outside for all the neighbours to see."

"Yeah, she has been out," Harry said, scowling, "unless you'd prefer me to lock her up inside her cage and have her squawking all night long. Like last year."

Vernon’s face flushed bright purple. "Don't you start taking that tone with me, boy."

"Then tell me what you want."

"I want you out for the next few hours," he ordered. "Petunia's having some of the neighbours round tonight and she doesn't want any...unexplainable incidents happening -" his weedy eyes narrowed, and he paced a few steps forwards "- so you're to keep out of the house until, say, ten o'clock. That understood?"

Harry nodded. With his arms still folded he stood up, and managed to level any height difference that had been between them previously.

"Yeah, it's understood."

Vernon gave him a careful look, as if he were expecting Harry to start another argument. "Yeah, well – good." He turned for the door. "I want you gone in one hour. Dudley's already out with his mates – but if I hear you've done something to him again, with one of those damned demanter things -"

"Dementors," Harry corrected.

Vernon tweaked his moustache. "Yes, those things – I don't want them anywhere near Dudley or my house again."

"It wasn't my fault the dementors came here, someone sent them," Harry said, recalling just how viscous Professor Umbridge had been. He still had, 'I must not tell lies', carved into the back of his wrist, so he couldn't forget her.

"I don't bloody care who sent them, boy," Vernon sneered. He moved his hand to grip the door. "The neighbours will be here soon. Make sure you're best out before they arrive."

His uncle then slammed his door shut. Loudly.

Harry raised two fingers to rub his forehead, pushing his fringe back. He took a calm breath, and then tried to fix his hair again. His aunt had been kind enough to house him, keeping him safe for fifteen years. If they wanted him out of the house whilst they had their muggle neighbours round for tea, then he'd deal with that.

There weren't many things to do in Private Drive. In particular, the hot weather discouraged people from venturing outside but Harry was fine with it; he'd spent most of his summers outside. He'd gained a tan this summer already. He gathered his wand from the desk, slipped it into his jacket, and then, remembering Hedwig, he opened the door to her cage in case she'd return.

Harry left his room, and ignored his aunt and uncle as he left the house. They would've pushed him out the door anyway. He spent the next following hours wandering down different streets. It was only when he became half-bored, and a little paranoid over the growing number of neighbours watching him through their windows, that he finally choose to make for the park, where Dudley and his mates would most likely be. Harry hoped they had left for someone’s home; he knew that Dudley grown fond some newly released PS2 game.

Unfortunately, Dudley and his gang were still hanging out at the park. Harry stepped out of the tunnel. Dudley and Piers Polkiss were sitting on the swings. Dudley was squeezed in by the hanging chains and Polkiss looked far too scrawny (though Harry knew different from the amount of times he'd managed to hold him down) to push himself back and forth on the swing. Malcolm, Dennis and Gordon, on the other hand, seemed interested in spray painting the swings than using the playground.

Harry took a few steps back, hoping they hadn't seen him. It was dark. The stars were out now, and the sunset was beautiful in the distance. Hopefully, Dudley and his mates were engaged in their spray painting to notice him. As he managed to make it back to the tunnel, however, he looked over his shoulder and saw Gordon walking towards him, with one of his sausage-sized fingers pointing in his direction.

"Oi Big D', look who’s here – it’s Potter," Gordon called.

Dudley stopped swinging and he stood up; Harry hoped his cousin would have the good sense to just let him walk away, but since that had never happened in the past, he started making a run for it. Glancing back again, he spotted Polkiss jumping from his swing and edging his mates on to chase after him.

"Hey Potter, remember that game we used to play?" Polkiss shouted. The boy still clearly thought of Harry as the terrified little kid at Primary school.

"Yeah," Malcolm called breathlessly, “Harry hunting, weren’t it?"

Harry remembered that game all too well, and he wasn't about to start playing it again. Harry had once ended up on the school’s roof because of that game. He didn't want to let his magic loose. He couldn't. Not again. There was no way Dumbledore could save him from yet another underage trial.

Thankfully, Dudley could remember last summer and had since been avoiding him. Harry could even hear Dudley shouting behind him now, trying to call off the chase. His gang must've thought it was just a freak storm last year.

Harry's nostrils flared. His legs were throbbing. He couldn't stop running, not if it meant facing Dudley's gang. No, the only thing he could do was run.

"What the hell -"

"GORDON!"

Harry looked over his shoulder once again, thinking that one of them had stupidly gone and tripped. No, what he actually saw, made him choke.

Gordon was lying on the ground, clutching his ankle. Harry stopped running to get a better look of the scene. A cloaked figure was crawling towards him. The figure managed to seize the boy’s bloated arm. Gordon struggled.   The figure snapped his wrist, broke it. A scream - so powerful, so loud - left the boy's throat.

At the sound, Malcolm and Dennis turned from Gordon and began running towards Harry, fleeing for their own lives. The figure released the boy's wrist and, instead, closed in around the boy's paunchy neck, strangling him.

"Get off him, you freak!" Polkiss stomped on the figure's leg twice, then kicked them in the stomach. Harry could scarcely see the slender boy in the darkness, but it was clear Polkiss definitely wasn’t running away just yet.

The figure groaned and sat up, forgetting Gordon. The hood of her cloak dipped, revealing beneath a red-haired woman with glistening fangs. The woman struggled up onto her knees. Harry reached for his wand. At the same moment, a stranger appariated onto the scene. A young man, without fangs and no blood on his face. He grabbed her by the arm.

Harry brought his wand out from his pocket and pointed it at them. He spent a moment pondering on whether the second figure also had fangs, before the woman kicked at the man's right leg, effectively bringing him to his knees and collapsing onto his back.

The woman licked the blood from her lips, and looked up to stare at Harry. She raised her leg, and then, before he could cast a spell, she climbed to her feet and started walking towards him. There was nothing Harry could do – without being able to use his wand, he was useless. He couldn’t use it unless he was desperate. He couldn't risk another underage wizard trial.

"DUDLEY," Harry shouted. "COME ON, RUN!" Dudley and Polkiss and were lagging behind the rest of the gang. The two were carrying Gordon in their arms, practically dragging him.

Dennis shoved past Harry, knocking his shoulder. "Move it, shrimp," Malcolm said, before slipping past as well. Harry glared at their backsides as the two vanished into the darkness of the tunnel.

Dudley's gang really are a load of cowards, he thought.

"HARRY!" he heard Dudley shout.

His cousin was a mere few steps behind. Harry reached out, grasped his shoulder to give him a squeeze, before pushing him on.

"Dudley, Polkiss –" Harry ushered, nodding towards the scrawny boy "– get moving. Help Gordon – head for your homes…."

"I can’t," Gordon wheezed, "…hurts too much. Bloody woman – she must'a done something to my ankle."

Polkiss had one of Gordon's arms strung around his neck, the other lay around Dudley's neck. Harry saw the blood dripping down the boy's neck, seeping into his shirt. He was losing a lot of blood.

Dudley shook his head. "Don’t care, Gordon, you’re –"

"Are you guys idiots? Get outta here!"

Harry's eyes swept towards the direction of the unknown speaker. Another man, shorter, thinner, but also cloaked in black, had grabbed hold the woman. The short man must've appariated onto the scene whilst Harry had been distracted by Dennis and Malcolm. He was holding the fanged woman facedown on the ground barely a few feet away, keeping her right arm secured behind her back; the taller male was holding her other arm down.

"Run, you fools," the taller man ordered.

Harry nodded. "Go on ahead you three, I’ll follow," he said. Dudley opened his mouth, likely to argue, but Harry beat him to it, "– No buts! Just keep helping Polkiss, Dudley – all of you head for the tunnel."

With the two boys dragging Gordon along the lane now, Harry made up the rear, running with his wand stretched out and glancing over his shoulder every second. Dudley and he would need to dash through the fields, get through the tunnel, and then run through the streets until they reached the Dursleys' home.

"Keep going," he called to them.

He could hear the woman crying out. He thought the men could hold her, until he looked back and his gaze crossed with hers. Her dark, almost black eyes. She screamed a hollow, mandrake-like cry and threw the men. One landed against the swing, smashing his head on the bars. The other hit the grass. She stood, and ran.

Harry felt his breath catch, and he made to run harder, faster, but he couldn’t leave his cousin or his friends behind. Despite everything, Harry knew that he – a wizard – was their only chance of staying alive.

"Come on, you three – move!" he shouted.

"Shut up, Potter," Polkiss said, sinking under the weight of Gordon. "You really think that stick of yours is gonna be any good against a vampire?"

Harry tightened his grip on his wand; the men had climbed back up and were again chasing after her, but she was dodging their moves with ease.

"She’s not a vampire, she can’t be," Dudley said. "They’re not real, are they?"

"They’re real. Trust me, they’re real," Harry said, when Hermione had taken to reading up deadly creatures after Remus Lupin was revealed to be a werewolf.

Dudley did not look over his shoulder again. Together, they reached the tunnel, and made it halfway. Harry kept glancing at his cousin ahead of him, to make sure he was still there. He wouldn't race on ahead this time; no, he needed to watch their rear.

They had almost made it to the streets when a high-pitched shriek came cackling through the air, and Harry looked over his shoulder, only to see the woman at the tunnel's entrance. She was fast runner. Or with Dudley and Polkiss carrying Gordon, they were slow. He blinked as he ran. When he opened his eyes, she had somehow managed to run up beside him. She pushed him and he fell face-first against the tunnel wall.

Harry tried to lift himself up.

"Ah, ah, no getting up now," the woman cackled, before kicking Harry and causing him to hit his head against the concrete wall. He dropped his wand, and the thing rolled away.

Harry shifted onto his side and tried crawling towards Dudley. He could see that Dudley and Polkiss had released Gordon. The boy was bleeding out from the neck on the ground, a pool of blood encircling his body. Harry didn't think he was alive at that point, much less conscious.

"What - what do you want from us?" Dudley stuttered.

Harry glanced at his cousin, whose hands had curled into fists.

"I'm hungry," she answered. "That child, Gale...Gary, or Gordon, wasn't it? Oh, he was delicious. His blood was so sugary, all those sweets you boys eat, but nonetheless, he tasted very good."

Dudley's bottom lip trembled. "You - you're a vampire, aren't you?"

The woman grinned. Dudley's face grew paler. Harry wanted to help. He could feel his elbows becoming scratched from the gravel, but if he could just drag himself a little further away and get to his wand -

"Now, enough small talk." She turned back to Harry. "Mother always said I shouldn't play with food."

Harry staggered to his feet, but the woman merely kicked him in the stomach. She shoved him onto his knees and twisted his arms behind him. He saw Polkiss squeak, and the boy started running for the exit. Dudley just remained standing by Gordon's corpse, looking shell-shocked.

Harry closed his eyes. He could feel the tip of the woman's heel digging sharply into his back, keeping his body grounded. Her fingertips were on his neck, as if she were slowly tracing marks into him.

"Dudley," Harry croaked. "Dudley, try and get up, all right. Just get home."

"Shut it, midget," the woman sneered.

Harry felt her nails clutch deep into his neck, and he gasped. Her nails repelled from his neck and she grabbed at his hair, pulling at the strands and making his head stretch backwards. The stabbing pain in his back was removed, her heel gone. He tried getting up again, but the woman grabbed his throat, choking him. He watched from the corners of his eyes as she knelt down beside him.

"If I were you," he said, coughing, "I wouldn't bite me."

The woman cackled, her laughter causing her flaming hair to flare across Harry's cheek but for a moment, before she then slammed him by the back of his neck face-forward into the pavement, effectively breaking his nose and smashing the lenses in his glasses.

"POTTER!" he heard Dudley screech.

A pair of fangs dragged softly along the nape of his neck, cutting a line into his neck. Harry tried to shift sideways, only to have her pin his hands down. The woman sunk her teeth into his neck. He screamed so loudly he deafened his own eardrums. He felt his thoughts seep out from his mind. All he could think about, was that she was drinking from his neck. On and on, that was all he could think about. He was about to die like Gordon.

"Jennifer - stop! That's Harry Potter..."

"What, no way - the Harry Potter?"

"Yes!"

Harry could feel tears bulging behind his eyelids, but he was too afraid to open them, fearing the glass from his lenses had already gotten into his eyes. A moment later, instead of teeth, he then felt a tongue lapping at his neck, numbing the pain.

"You're mad, you are. Get the hell off him!" someone yelled.

"No," the woman hissed.

Someone gripped his waist and pulled him away from her. Harry tried to open up his eyes, but he found his sight blurry. He closed his eyes, too tired to keep them open. Too hurt to think. But he had to get up. He had to get his wand. Get Dudley.

He had to rest. Just a moment.

"Harry - no! Come on..."

His head drooped. And he fell unconscious.

/~~~\

Harry couldn't seem to focus on anything the first time he regained consciousness. His body felt hot. Sweaty. He tried opening his eyes, but they felt sore around the edges. Terrified, Harry began to fidget.

"...If that boy won't stop ruddy moving, he'll never get better."

Harry stopped moving. People were whispering around him, but loud enough that he could hear them. He was sure it was his uncle who'd spoken, but he was so tired he could've easily been wrong.

He forced himself to move a fraction. A pillow, or what felt like one, lay beneath his head, and a rather itchy quilt had been tucked around his body, securing him inside. Surely, if he was in a bed, then he was probably safe.

"Your lucky he's still staying here, son, cos if it were up to me I'd have kicked him out years ago."

"Potter saved my life, dad."

"From a bunch of terrifying vampires - yeah, I remember," he said. "Total barking mad. Vampires on our street, honestly. You sure they weren't just a bunch of hooligans dressed up, Dudley?"

"They weren't hooligans - they were vampires," Dudley said sharply. "One of my best mates is dead. I asked Piers, Malcolm and Dennis this morning and they both said they don't even know who Gordon was, like they just upped and forgot them."

Vernon coughed. "Well, er, the police might end up finding something belonging to these so-called vampires if you're lucky."

"They won't. The police ain't looking for blood-sucking vampires, dad!"

"That's enough, Dudley! I won't hear anymore more about sodding vampires. They're not real, can't be." Harry could feel his uncle's gaze on him. "Potter's always doing this, ever since his kind left him on our doorstep. More trouble then he's worth, that boy -"

"Who's worth, Vernon?"

"I...er, the boy, Petunia," Vernon spluttered, "Potter - he's got to go. Dudley told me Potter was bitten by a vampire - not that I believe that they're real, barking mad - but I won't have him in my house if he's one of them."

"The boy's staying here."

"But he can't, he could be -"

Petunia huffed. "I don't care what he is, he stays here. I won't have..."

Harry drifted off then, too tried to care. He was so tired from the Dursleys' arguments, and his bed was awfully comfortable. Eventually, he tried to regain his focus on what they were saying.

"Go to your bedroom, Dudley," Vernon said. "I don't want you anywhere near Potter for the rest of the summer."

"What?" Dudley asked. "But he's -"

"Dudders darling, you don't have leave the room if you don't want to."

"He does." Vernon sniffed prudently. "I'll be down in living room, watching the tele. Come down when you're, er, finished with the boy, Petunia."

Harry heard his uncle mutter, 'barking mad', under his breath before he closed the door. Harry felt something wet placed atop his forehead, cooling him. Harry groaned, his eyes still aching behind their lids and his mind drifting.

"Get well, Harry," Petunia whispered.

She continued to speak softly, but Harry couldn't focus anymore. Within moments, he fell back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Harry liked sleeping. It was the nightmares that he hated. So when a pair of hands started shaking him, he slapped them away. It began to get infuriating because no matter how much he tried to push them away, they'd always came back.

"Come on, Young One. Wake up."

He groaned. Maybe if he ignored the person, then they'd leave. So he lay there and did nothing whilst the prodding went on. Unfortunately, five minutes later, the prodding was still occurring and his arm was beginning to ache.

"Can't you magic up some water on him, Harold? That'll wake him."

"No, the boy will be in enough pain without us causing him more."

The second man huffed. "You always spoil my fun."

Harry opened his eyes, finally accepting that he would get no more sleep that day. The room slowly came to, blurry at first. Quickly, he realised he didn't have his glasses on. As he sat up, though, he realised that the room was actually more memorable then he'd expected. He was in one of the Leaky Cauldron's rooms.

"Where are my glasses?" he asked.

A tall man sat on a chair beside his bed. He handed Harry his pair of glasses. Someone had obviously repaired them since the night he'd been attacked.

"I was in my aunt's home, the last I woke up," Harry said, putting them on. He glared at the man. "Why am I in the Leaky Cauldron now? And who the hell are you?"

The man had long, black hair, tied back in a high ponytail with several strands falling out. He was wearing leather jeans and a red shirt. And he was clearly taller than the other man in the room.

"We're acquaintances with Tom, the innkeeper. He's alright with our kind renting rooms here," he replied. "As for who I am, I am Harold Lloyd. And well, my friend here, is Boucher. Samuel Boucher."

Samuel was grinning. The strange man was wearing a leather jacket, with a blue shirt underneath. He was standing in the corner of the room, barefoot. Utterly barefoot.

"We are vampires," Harold went on. "I apologize for that unfortunate experience the other night, that is not how our kind behaves these days."

Harry blinked. "Wait, wait...if you two are the vampires that were hunting Dudley, his mates and me the other night, why am I with you now? Why am I here?"

"Simple answer. You were dying." Samuel was leaning against the corner wall. His brown hair was swept in all different directions, much like Harry's hair. He looked like he hadn't brushed his for days. "You were in and out of consciousness, not consuming food or water. We have been keeping watch, trying to keep our distance. But we overheard that your family were considering taking you to a muggle hospital, and then, yeah, we decided to take you into our own care."

"So, you kidnapped me," Harry said, rather bluntly. "That's what you're saying."

He threw back his duvet. He was in Room 11, the room he'd stayed in at the Leaky Cauldron last year, with the same bed, same bedside table, same fireplace, same window. Even the talking mirror on the wall was the same.

"You would have died if we hadn't intervened. Please, let us explain." Harold raised his hands, stopping him from leaving the bed. "Many victims don't become vampires. Many simply require bandaging and blood transfusions, and recover with rest and plenty of water. But some, do not recover. Some become infected by the saliva of vampires and turn into vampires themselves. In this case, that is what happened to you."

Harry looked away from the man, and stared down at his chest, trying to take it all in. He expected to find cuts on his chest from his glasses having broken, but there were none. There was no evidence of glass having scratched his skin. There were no bruises from having been kicked and beaten by the woman. Nothing.

"So am I a vampire?" he asked, now terrified. "Will I drink my friends' blood? Burn in sunlight? What does being a vampire fucking mean!"

"Mr Harry Potter, you will not be drinking anyone's blood. You will go back to Hogwarts, and no, not in darkness. You'll be able to attend lessons in daylight. Yes, indeed," Harold reiterated, when Harry frowned at him in disbelief, "You will be able to. Because we will help you throughout your transformation. We will teach you."

Harry sighed. "All right. Explain. I won't freak out this time, I promise. Just...just tell me what this means for me."

Harold lowered his hands. "Well, where to start? I guess I should start with what vampires actually are -"

"And here comes the lecture," Samuel said, chuckling.

Harry knew that he should hate these vampires, but it was so hard to when Samuel was so much like Ron. Funny. Sarcastic. Man, he really did miss his friends.

"If I may continue," Harold said. "Now, vampires are quite common. They were first created when a group of wizards were experimenting abroad; vampirism was their finished product. And, unable to control them, the scientists were either killed or rescued whilst the vampires themselves in question escaped. That was over five hundred years ago. Nowadays, we've managed to create our own community and we have our own yearly celebrations. Samuel and I must invite you -"

"Get to the point," Samuel interrupted.

"Fine. I shall, but let me say, if you continue being childish then you are in for a troubled night, Boucher," Harold muttered, glaring at his fellow vampire. "Anyway, Harry, modern vampires have obviously progressed, but we all retain similar traits. Excellent eyesight, so I sincerely doubt you'll require spectacles anymore. Lovely fashion sense, venom, quick reflexes -"

"Ven - what, venom?" Harry spluttered.

"Yes, and venom is a rare substance, so I'd beware of potion makers or business men who would murder you to simply get a drop from your veins. I'm afraid I don't know that much more off the top of my head right now, but you have a month until you return to Hogwarts," Harold said. "I'm sure we can help prepare you in the meantime."

"Okay. How long has it been since you kidnapped me?"

"You spent four days under your aunt's care. And it has been three days since we removed you from her care, during which we had to place you on an IV fluid drip for a while."

Samuel stepped forward. "You've been in and out of consciousness since yesterday, so we took you off the drip, hoping you would wake. It's good that you have."

Harold chuckled. "Ah, yes. We should really get some solid food in you, saying that. Samuel, could you fetch Harry something from the bar downstairs?"

Samuel glanced between them before nodding and leaving the room.

"Where is that woman?" Harry asked. "The one who bit me. The one who...who turned me into a monster."

"A monster? My dear boy, what happened was a mistake. A grave, horrible thing that never should have happened. But you are no monster." Harold clasped his hands together solemnly. For a moment, he looked as sad and as old as the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself. Perhaps older. "That woman goes by the name of Maria Braxton. She was - is - still our friend, but she was captured by Death Eaters. She is an important member of our community. She is very old, and has great influence. The Death Eaters tortured her for information. To gain support from her followers."

"Voldemort is seeking support from vampires?"

"Well. Not supporters, no. Support is too strong a word. He only wishes for the help of those who were purebloods before being bitten. Purebloods are still purebloods, after all. He believes they may serve him still, in lesser ways." He unclasped his hands and sniffed. "Maria...she was a pureblood before she was bitten. When the Death Eaters kidnapped her, a great many vampires choose to side with You-Know-Who. Too scared to refuse. And then Maria got loose -"

"How does this have anything to do with why I was bitten?"

"I am getting to that point. When Maria escaped, she was weak. The Death Eaters had starved her. Of blood, of food. Water. Kept her in chains and dragged her only out as an example to lesser vampires. So, when she escaped, she was maniac. I don't know how, but she managed to apparate to us. She was confused. Told us she was going home. Home was Private Drive for her, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. So Samuel and I apparated after her. And then you know the rest. She ran after she bit you. So, we stayed to watch your family carry and care for you at home, but you weren't making much of a recovery. And if you were taken to a Muggle hospital, well, a sample of your blood would no doubt have caused mischief."

Harry bowed his head. "That's why you've taken me here - to the Leaky."

The door creaked open. Both Harry and Harold looked over. Samuel had re-entered the room, carrying a tray of food, a pitcher of water and a glass in his hands. Very unsteadily.

"Now, husband, you really need to stop carrying so many things at once. I've told you before." Harold took a wand out from inside his pocket. It was made from dark brown, almost black wood, carved thin but quite impossibly straight. He waved it. "There, let me take that pitcher and glass off your hands." The pitcher and glass floated across the room, and settled onto the bedside table.

"I hate it when you do magic on me without asking." Samuel glanced at Harry, then away. He placed the tray of food onto the bed. It held a plate of toast and crumpets. "I was a squib when I was bitten. Still am one. Harold finds it delightful to surprise me with his pranks."

Harold rolled his eyes. "That was hardly a prank. I was just helping by taking the heavy pitcher, a pitcher which you could have dropped and split across the floor." Samuel glared across the room at him.

"Do you have my wand?" Harry asked, cutting into the tense conversation. He knew that he'd dropped it in the tunnel in any case, and he wanted it back.

"Your wand is in your trunk, which is under your bed. And I'd also put on a new shirt," Samuel suggested. "You don't want to be walking around shirtless. Not around the Leaky Cauldron, anyway."

Harry went to his trunk. He took out his wand and stuffed some galleons into his pockets. He also pulled on a blue shirt, which was so old and loose that the buttons were only just hanging on by thin threads.

He grabbed a crumpet from the tray on his bed. "So, will I," he said, in-between bites, "be going back to Hogwarts? You mentioned I'd still get to study?" He'd only known one other creature at Hogwarts - Remus Lupin. And he'd been forced to leave once the students and their parents found out what he was.

"Grab your breakfast. And let us talk as we walk about Diagon Alley. I expect you're eager to get out of this room, too. And I think you do need robes for your new year at Hogwarts, among other things."

Harry nodded his agreement, his mouth too full to speak. The three walked out of the room, the two vampires leading the way. The Leaky Cauldron hadn't changed much; there wasn't many people at the bar. Tom was behind it, cleaning glasses and chatting to a small goblin.

"You said you knew Tom?" Harry asked, reaching the Leaky's entrance.

Samuel held the door open. "Yes. Harold and myself were looking for a place to rest for the night -"

"Only because we were being chased by a witch," Harold said, as they stepped out onto the street. He closed the door behind him. "Samuel spilt his goblet of firewhiskey on her gown. Completely ruined the party."

"Oh, shush. You're ruining a good story," Samuel rebutted. "As I was saying, the lady in question ran us out. It was our twentieth date, and we'd planned on staying in the guest room at her house. Not so lucky that she kicked us out, and yet, thanks to her, we stumbled down this street and found the Leaky. Tom offered us a meal and a room, and eventually, we decided to keep coming here. It's our little getaway, of a sorts."

"That sounds nice," Harry said, jealous. The two vampires sounded happy together, when all he'd been subject to for the past week was listening in on arguments between Petunia and Vernon. "Are all vampires as reasonable as you two?"

Harold chuckled. "You're full of questions, aren't you? Never mind. Vampires still need nutrients and as blood doesn't supply great amounts of it, we have to eat. But there are some vampires who don't and only drink blood, which drives them to insanity. They are rogue, and not reasonable at all. Best left to die by themselves."

"Oh. So, that means I can still eat anything I want?"

Samuel snorted. "Of course, whoever told you that vampires don't eat?"

"I dunno." Harry shrugged. "There's just myths that say vampires are blood-sucking, evil creatures that drink blood and only come out at night." He looked up at the sun. "We aren't affected by sunlight either?"

"It's all myths and legends." Harold glanced back at him. "Ignore them, Harry. Focus on the truth."

"What is the truth?"

Harold smiled. "We'll speak later about it. We've a month before you're return to Hogwarts, and it isn't wise to talk about this in the open."

He followed them onto another street, which then led onto Diagon Alley. Sadly, the street hadn't changed much from last year. Ollivander's shop still looked run in, though it's windows and door were now boarded up. Other shops were closed as well, most owners having run off in fear of Voldemort's return. Harry wandered past Madam Malkin's shop, and was stunned to find it also boarded up.

"What happened to Madam Malkin?" Harry asked them.

Samuel shrugged. "From what we heard, she just disappeared. Left no notice. No sign of a struggle, and nothing stolen. She's either left like everyone else, or was taken by You-Know-Who."

Harry sighed. "Where am I gonna get new robes then?"

"Well, there's Twilfitt and Tattings," Harold said. "I believe they are still open. It's a good shop; we know the owner. She'll give you a discount, hopefully."

Harry frowned. He'd never been to that clothes shop; he'd never even heard of it, in fact. He doubted the owner was as good as Madam Malkin.

"Plus, it'd be a good idea to get the Young One something made of hide or leather, eh?" Samuel suggested.

"Why would I need hide? Wouldn't it hurt wearing that constantly?"

"No, and you'll discover why you'll need it soon enough."

"You're not gonna tell me why?"

"Nope," Samuel replied. Harry groaned, annoyed that the vampire was hiding something. He never liked it when people hid information. He soon noticed that they had walked down to the South Side of Diagon Alley.

"Ah, ha!" Samuel burst, and he pointed to shop on their left. The shop didn't look all the big from the outside and it certainly couldn't hold clothes if it were that small. It was a plain, two-story building, made of concrete. It's door was a red. Above it was a sign, reading 'Twilfitt and Tattings' in gold lettering.

Samuel pushed him towards the door and he stumbled over the threshold. Blinking, he saw that the building was larger on the inside. He stood in a long corridor, with racks and racks of clothes lined up in rows on either side. There was a table in front of him, and yet another red door at the back of the corridor.

"I'll just be a minute," came a woman's voice.

Harry noticed the two vampires were chuckling. Samuel had covered even his mouth. Amazingly, lights started appearing a little way down the corridor. The twinkling, bright lights span in circles, finishing at the floor. Harry stared as they formed a thin, wooden staircase in the middle of the wide corridor.

A trapdoor was lifted open at the top of the staircase. Harry's lips parted as a woman stepped out onto the staircase. As soon as she reached the ground, the staircase transformed itself into a simple pedestal, presumably for customers to stand on.

"Now this is a surprise," She said, eyeing the two vampires behind Harry. "Nice to see you after five years. Did you forget to write? Clearly that was the case, since neither of you appear to have lost your hands."

"How sweet, Caroline," Samuel replied, a hint of smugness. "I didn't know you missed us so much."

"You, I don't. You took my assistant away, without so much as writing me a note. Without letting me know if you were alive. You are lucky that you have a guest, or I'd be hexing you both."

Harry grinned. The woman wasn't Madam Malkin, that was for sure. She had a lot more fire in her, even in her clothing. She had on a glamorous red dress that fell to her knees, which held a single pocket at the side. And her black dragon-hide boots had impossibly high heels.

"Now, now, you know it's not Samuel's fault," Harold said.

Samuel grinned. "Yeah, I was entirely innocent in the matter."

"I doubt that. I know you just love dragging my Harold around, making him weary and exhausted for your own enjoyment." Caroline chuckled, and then turned her gaze onto Harry. "So, why is the boy here?"

Harold coughed. "This is Harry Potter and -"

"Clearly. You bought Harry Potter to my shop. Why?" Harry was amazed the woman wasn't stuttering like most did when they first met him. She just seemed to want to ask questions. "What happened? It's well known that you, Mr Potter, only frequent Diagon Alley with the Weasleys and that Granger girl, so how is that you're here now with these vampires?"

"Actually," Harold answered, "he is a vampire himself. He was bitten last week by Maria Braxton."

She laughed. "And you brought him here? Who else knows? Does the Prophet?"

"I'm fine," Harry said, folding his arms.

Samuel laid a hand on his shoulder. "The Prophet doesn't know. We brought him to you because he's in need of new robes and other clothing articles, particularly ones to help with his transformation. And we knew you'd value discretion."

Caroline started rubbing the sides of her head, massaging them. "You brought Harry Potter to me!" she cried. "An unknown vampire. Recently bitten. And you're first thought was to bring him to me. Merlin, thank goodness it's only been a week, he'll not have fangs yet. That'd be much harder to cover up walking around in Diagon Alley."

"He needs clothing, Caroline. And Madam Malkin's shop is shut. Others would run first thing to the papers. We thought you would help us."

"Oh, I will. I will," she reassured them. "But you both owe me a drink and an explanation after this. Merlin, Harry Potter, a vampire. Have you told him about the transformation - what will happen to him now?"

"We've been going over it slowly with him," Samuel said.

"All right. Well, explain it to him more now whilst I get his measurements. I'll also consider what further clothing he'll need to help with his newfound creature status." She took a measuring tape out of her pocket. "Come forward and stand on the pedestal, Mr Potter."

Harry walked forward and stepped up onto it. The woman began measuring his waist, his arms, the length of his legs. Malkin would've accidentally pricked him by now with a needle, he thought in amusement, missing the elderly, short woman.

Samuel sighed. "I guess we should apologize to you, Harry, I think we've been delaying talking about your transformation."

"Yes, the process is a slow and painful one. Vampires don't often have fond memories of it," Harold agreed soberly.

"From what I've picked up, the transformation lasts around month," Caroline added, standing up again to meet Harry's gaze. "Apparently, the first month is the most painless. The venom is multiplying inside your veins until it finally takes over, and then you'll have to start drinking blood daily. I imagine you won't have fangs until your body requires blood."

"Wait a second? Why can't you just suck the venom out? Vanish it?"

Samuel rolled his eyes. "Honestly, you can't suck out venom. The venom has literally become a part of your blood by now - removing it would take removing all your blood."

"But you said that it takes a long time to transform," Harry said. "Does that mean this is only a first stage or something?"

Harold nodded. "Yes, I'd have to say transformations lasts roughly three months. It acts like stages. Each month consists of something different happening to your body. This isn't like werewolves, this is a slow and painful process."

"By the end of this month, your senses, emotions and hormones will have heightened," Caroline informed. "Next month, I'm sure, will therefore be more aggravating. You'll grow fangs and want to use your senses on everything. Friends. Lovers. Enemies. You'll need to control yourself."

"I'd advise you to tell your friends that you're a vampire. Be honest with them," Harold said.

Caroline hummed. "I believe you're friends with Miss. Granger and Mr. Weasley? The papers do mention them hanging around with you a lot over the years."

"Yeah, I am. And I can trust them," Harry said.

Hermione and Ron knew everything. Well, almost everything. Merlin, now he came to think of it, he'd never really told them about the Dursleys. Only Ron had seen how mean they could turn. Ron and his brothers had rescued him just before his second year at Hogwarts, but that was so long ago now.

"It's good you have trustworthy friends. Not many of my customers do." She dragged her measuring tape around his neck. "But, Harry, venom is a rare substance so I want you to be careful, okay? You becoming a vampire will make things even more complicated. Remember, you're going to grow fangs. You could easily kill someone now. Wand or no wand."

Harry nodded. He knew he was dangerous before. He could easily overpower the cruciatus curse and use wandless magic in some cases. Now, he didn't know what to think of himself.

Chapter Text

"Are you ready?" Harold asked.

They were inside Harry's room at the Leaky Cauldron. The old vampire was standing near the door, waiting for him. It had been a few days since their previous outing to Diagon Alley.

Harry reached for his wand on the bed. He thought about putting it in his back pocket, but then recalled Mad-Eye Moody's past warning, of wizards who had lost their buttocks from their own wands igniting. He frowned, and instead collected his coat from the desk chair, pulled the coat on, and put his wand inside.

"Yeah. Let's go."

"You'll need to start wearing leather soon." He pointed at his plain, non-leather clothing. "Your body will grow cold blooded in the next coming months. You'll freeze to death come winter."

The leather was intended to keep him warm, Harry had later discovered. His metabolism would increase, therefore his body temperature would decrease. Caroline had tailored a leather coat specifically for him - a long, black one for travelling. She had also in-lined his new school robes with leather shoulder pads and extra lining in the arms and back.

"I'm still getting over the idea that I'll have a lower body temperature than every other student. I will start wearing the coat and robes, though. Eventually."

Harold walked up to the bed. "All right. But here, before we leave." He took two books out from inside his leather coat. "We bought these for you. They'll give you something to look at whilst you're busy with school again."

The first was a black, dusty old book titled, 'The Standard Edition to Magical Misfortunes.' There was a bookmark between the pages, likely marking out the part about vampires. The second book was called 'Vampire Transformations', which had a dark red cover and gold lettering. It was large and clearly expensive.

"You didn't have to buy these," he said. "I'm sure Hogwarts has books."

"Magical Misfortunes is a good generalist account for describing vampire ailments, should you ever get sick. And the other book, well, it's the best thing to read on the subject," Harold replied. "We want you to be prepared."

"Thank -"

A gust of wind hit the open windows, interrupting him. Harry turned. Sitting on the window pane was Hedwig. Her claws were digging into the woodwork. Her wings were flapping about, making the window doors creak and swing.

"Oh, you have an owl."

Harry strode over to the window. "I got her as a birthday gift when I was eleven. She always knows where I am. Somehow." He moved to his bedside table, and gestured to the bowl of water sitting on it. Hedwig flew over, landed in a ungraceful way, and started dipping her beak into the bowl, drinking. "I'll buy some treats for her at St Mungo's."

"Indeed. Best not keep Samuel waiting now, too."

They met up with Samuel downstairs at the Leaky's bar. Samuel had stayed down there to discuss the night's menu options with Tom. It was turkey and dumplings, which apparently the vampire wasn't keen on. Harry didn't ask if he'd managed to persuade Tom to change his menu.

It was a bumpy, quiet journey to St Mungo's. Completely unfamiliar, too. Harry barely recognised any of London's streets. Last year, The Order of the Phoenix had opted to take the Underground. Tonks' pink hair and Moody's magical eye would've attracted too much attention on London's buses, so they'd chosen to take cramped, darkly lit trains back then instead. Now he was journeying to the entrance of the hospital on a bus, seated next to two vampires. The notion that both Samuel and Harold could hide so easily amongst muggles, far better than half of the Order members, wasn't lost on him.

The bus pulled into a side-road and stopped. Harry bustled past a young business man to get off the bus. He found himself following the vampires, no idea himself of his whereabouts in London. Harold led them down several small streets to the very old-fashioned, brick-red department store, Purge & Dowse Ltd. The mannequins in the windows still looked outdated. Even the sign on the door, 'Closed for Refurbishment', had dust smeared across it.

Samuel made for a dummy in the third window along. "Been a long time since I've been 'ere." He turned back to it. "Three to see Sirius Black." The dummy nodded and motioned for them into step through.

Harry swallowed. A lump had seized in his throat at hearing the name of his godfather. He followed the vampires into the window, and let the familiar wash of the cool air flow over him. This time he wasn't surprised by the sight of the crowded reception. There were two standing in the queue for the Welcome Witch.

The first man was sent to the Creature-Induced Injuries Ward, First Floor, for second degree burns accidentally caused by his pet fire crab. The second, a woman, could hardly speak and had to demonstrate her ailments by use of her hands, mimicking herself drinking and pointing at her throat. The Welcome Witch sent her off to Potion and Plant Poisoning, Third Floor, then called out, "NEXT!"

Harry stepped forward. "Excuse me, I'm here to see Sirius Black. What ward is he on?"

"Family?"

"I'm his godson."

The Welcome Witch stared warily at Harry. "Black is on the Fifth Floor, Spell Damage. Private room, third door on the left. I'll let his Healer know that he has more visitors."

More visitors, Harry wondered. Had the Order of the Phoenix been visiting him? He hadn't heard from the Order members for over a month now.

Harry nodded and left for the far double doors. He could see Harold and Samuel following him, keeping aware of him. He hoped they would wait outside the room. If not, he'd request them to. Whilst he was grateful to have them with him to visit his godfather, he'd come close to losing Sirius twice now. In his third year. And now this summer.

They climbed several flights of stairs. Harry practically raced up them, and so by the time he'd reached the Fifth Floor, he was sweeping back the sweat on his brow. He pushed open the door to the Fifty Floor and stumbled into a narrow corridor. The door closed behind him slowly, automatically, having a metal frame installed above. As he waited on the vampires to catch up, he tried flattening his hair, pushing it behind his ears. I really need a haircut.

The third door on the left down the corridor opened. Out-stepped Draco Malfoy. Gracefully, Malfoy closed the door behind him. Harry didn't think the man had noticed him yet. Malfoy sighed, put his hands in his pockets, and turned to start his walk down the corridor. That was when Malfoy looked up and saw him.

"Oh, Potter. It's you." Malfoy walked towards him. "Healer Montgomery told me Black had another visitor. I tried to leave early. I didn't want anyone to, well, know I was here, but of course you would notice."

Harry scowled. "Why are you here, Malfoy?"

"I'm just visiting family. My mother and Sirius are - were - cousins." He folded his arms. "I'm not doing anything nefarious, Potter. Now if that is all, I'll kindly take my leave."

Malfoy side-stepped and made to walk around him. "Wait," Harry said, grabbing his arm. Malfoy gaped, opening his mouth like a fish. The sound of wood snapping, followed by metal crashing to the floor, echoed down the hall. Harry looked over his shoulder to see that the entrance door now lay limp against the wall. It's doorknob sat mangled on the floor, along with the, now broken, metal frame. "What was that?"

"Let go of my arm, Potter."

Harry turned back. "Wait - is - is Sirius okay? How is he?"

"Go see for yourself. And forget I was ever here."

Malfoy snatched his arm back. He proceeded to put his hands back into his robe's pockets and skulk off. Harold and Samuel both stepped through the doorway in that moment, laughing but stopping on noticing the broken door. Malfoy ignored them as he exited for the stairs; he assumed, probably, that the vampires weren't even with Harry.

"Still outside? Thought you'd be in there with Black by now, the way you skirted up those stairs," Samuel said. The vampire leaned against the hospital wall and glanced back at the entrance. "And - ah - what happened there?"

"I don't know. Malfoy was visiting him," Harry replied bluntly.

He didn't want to offer them anything more. He himself didn't know why Malfoy would want to see his mother's cousin. He didn't even know why Malfoy was alone; usually, the young man went everywhere with his Slytherin friends. Same could be said for me, Harry thought.

Harold bowed his head. "Take as long as you need. We'll clean up this mess outside."

That broke his thought process. Harry nodded and left them to enter Sirius' private room. His godfather was lying in his bed on his left side, facing the door. He looked up.

"Harry?"

He closed the door and made for the chair beside his godfather's bed. The room was eerily quiet. He could even hear his own breathing. Why had Sirius been given his own room?

"How are you doing?" Harry asked.

Sirius sat up, groaning. Bellatrix Lestrange had cast the Cruciatus on him. Her husband, Rodolphus, had then left Augustus Rockwood to duel Kingsley Shacklebolt by himself, and joined his wife by casting another Cruciatus curse on Black. Two unforgivable curses at the same time.

"Better for seeing you, kid." Sirius coughed into his hand before lying his head back against a pillow. "Be even better when I finally get out of here."

His looks much resembled back when he'd escaped Azkaban. Waxy complexion. Long, unwashed hair. Sullen and unhappy.

"Why are you in your own room? Why not the main ward?"

"For my own safety, they say. Too many people distrust me, even though the Ministry has exonerated me of all crimes. No, no, the Healers don't want a previous Azkaban resident hanging around their normal patients." He groaned again. "It might also have something to do with my nightmares, or the strokes, but who can really say?"

"Strokes?"

"Just two. It's the nightmares, mainly. Hallucinations caused by the curses. Head Healer Montgomery says that I talk in my sleep, scare other patients. That I'll take ages to regain all my mental faculties." He shrugged. "Can't be helped, that. People should be scared of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. People should be angry. I could've had Bellatrix, I could've fought her off had her bloody husband not helped her."

"Bellatrix failed. I dropped the prophecy, she failed to get it from me. So I doubt Voldemort is too happy with her now."

"She'll regain his trust. Always does."

"I saw Draco Malfoy outside in the corridor. I think he didn't like me coming here, he broke the stairway door." Harry bit his lip. "I think it was accidental magic, though."

Sirius laughed. "Was it now?"

"Why is he visiting you?"

"Ah, ah, well, that - that is something I can't disclose, Harry. He came to seek advice on a private medical topic, which only a few Blacks suffer from, mind you. Poor bastard." Sirius chuckled. "He reminds me of myself sometimes, you know. Back before I became the rebellious Black."

"You don't think he's here under orders? Working for Bellatrix?"

"Draco? No, no, if Bellatrix wanted to kill me, she'd do it herself. I'm her cousin by blood, it's personal." Sirius placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Now, never mind me. Where are those Weasleys? They all standing outside? I'm assuming you came here with them, lad, not by yourself."

Harry realised then that Sirius didn't know that his own godson was a vampire. No one in the Weasley family knew yet. The Weasleys probably thought that Harry was still living with the Dursleys.

"Something happened over the summer while I was at Privet Drive, Sirius," he said, "something I need to explain." Sirius took his hand from his shoulder. "I was attacked by a woman. A vampire."

"When?"

"One - no - two weeks ago. The vampire was captured by Death Eaters. Starved. When she was let loose, she was confused. Lost. And bloodthirsty." Harry looked down at the floor. He folded his arms over his knees. He hadn't really thought about how he'd tell everyone, and now we was. "Dudley rescued me, but I was unconscious. Not eating. Petunia wanted to take me to a muggle hospital. So the friends of the vampire who attacked me, they rescued me. They took me to the Leaky Cauldron, hooked me up to an IV fluid drip, and I recovered."

"You just recovered? From a vampire attack, you just recovered?"

"No, no, I'm a vampire now." Harry looked up. His godfather was staring at him. "The reason I was out of it wasn't because of any injuries, but because the woman's venom was mixing with my own blood. Vampire venom. I have it in me now."

"James Potter's son, a vampire. This day is full of surprises."

"You're the only one I've told. No one else knows."

Sirius threw back his bed cover. He was wearing a standard gown, but the gown looked wrong on the energetic man. "Harry, you - you need to tell the Order. Tell the Weasleys. I'm in a hospital bed, so I'm of no use." He reached out of bed to grasp Harry by the shoulders. "And you can't spend the entire summer at the Leaky hanging out with vampires, it's not good for you. Take the Floo network to the Burrow."

"All right, Sirius. I'll think about it."

Harry did think about it. He thought about writing or visiting the Burrow the next day. And the next day after. He did write a letter to Petunia, apologising for his sudden disappearance. He didn't tell her that he was a vampire; he only explained that he was well, staying with friends, and that he was grateful she had cared for him. He finished the letter with a promise to see her in the future and explain what had happened that night.

On the tenth of July, however, Harry finally decided that Sirius was right. He couldn't spend his remaining summer time with the two vampires, whom were fine in themselves but were certainly no Hermione or Ron. And they weren't Order members, either. And if Harry had any concerns about his transformation, he could write to Harold and Samuel.

Besides that, he was beginning to feel like a third wheel. The two husbands were content and clearly wanted to find their old friend again in spite of the attack.

"I need to leave tomorrow," he announced it that evening. Harold and Samuel were huddled together at a table in the Leaky. Between them were articles from the Prophet and plates of rice and roast potatoes. Harry sat in the chair opposite. "I need to tell my friends and family - in person - before I even think about returning to Hogwarts."

Samuel grabbed his husband's hand and squeezed it. "We understand. We can't keep staying here, either. We need to return to our own friends and set some things straight. Can't have everyone thinking that vampires are on the Dark Lord's side."

"You will keep in touch with us, won't you? By owl?" Harold asked.

Harry nodded.

"Fair enough, then. But read this before you do anything," Samuel said, passing Harry one of the many newspaper articles. "You'll have no issue going back to Hogwarts, I think."

A Creature Tower

On the 5th July, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, sent private information regarding the medical histories and bloodlines of certain students to Mister Rufus Scrimgeour, newly appointed Minister of Magic. While these students have not been named, the Minister has confirmed that the information has revealed a great number of students of whom retain both creature genealogy and the ability to cast magic.

Construction is underway at Hogwarts to build a new tower that will house the students, enabling them to continue and finish their studies whilst also supporting their development as magical creatures. Mister Scrimgeour has confirmed he will enact a new education law later this month, which would see that future generations of wizards will not be outlawed from teaching or attending at Hogwarts based on their creature status. In the future, each student will be assessed on their danger levels and level of magical capability before being sent a Hogwarts acceptance letter at the age of eleven.

Headmaster Dumbledore has frequently attempted to promote creature-wizarding relations in the past by repeatedly hiring creatures. Professor Filius Flitwick, who has occupied the post of Charms Master since the 1970s, maintains an eighth of goblin blood. Mr Rubeus Hagrid, known half-giant, expelled in his third year at Hogwarts, is currently employed as the school's gamekeeper. And Mr Remus John Lupin was hired for the Deference Against the Dark Arts' professorship post in 1993, which he then resigned from in 1994 when his werewolf heritage came publicly to light.

It is not yet clear how creatures will be assessed, nor if some species will be entirely banned from attending. Nevertheless, Mister Scrimgeour has insisted that the education of creatures, enabling them to broaden their magical talents in a safe environment, and not restrict their growth, is paramount in the fight against You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters.

For more information, please write to our Public Relations Department.

Harry put the article to one side. Fair enough, creatures could return to Hogwarts, but he wasn't sure if Dumbledore would allow vampires in. What was the danger level of a vampire?

The next day, Harry made sure to pack his trunk. He cast 'Tempus and saw that he was running on time. He'd sent a letter by owl to the Weasleys the evening before, to inform them of his intention to floo over the following day. Hedwig had returned with a simple note from Ron, welcoming him to use the floo.

Harry hoped they'd be as welcoming once they found out that he was a vampire.

He dragged his trunk from room eleven to the fireplace in the Leaky's hall. He'd already sent Hedwig flying on ahead to the Burrow. Now, he only had to leave himself.

"Got everything?"

Harry glanced over his shoulder. Samuel was approaching him from the staircase. The young vampire was alone. His hair was wet and splattered across his face, presumably from having been outside in the pouring rain earlier.

"Yeah, packed it all this morning. Where's your husband?" Harry asked.

"In a fireplace call with the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures." He scrunched up his nose. "The Ministry prefer speaking to Harold alone on calls, especially when it concerns Death Eaters. They don't want opinions from squibs, never mind vampire squibs."

"That isn't right. You're still as much threatened by Voldemort as anyone else."

"It's fine. Not like I love speaking to officials; no, that's more Harold's line of work." Samuel waved him off. "Don't worry yourself, Harry. You just make sure to owl us if you need anything."

"I will. Say thank you to your husband for me." Harry rubbed the back of his hair. "If the Weasleys...if they don't want me in their home once I tell them I'm a vampire, I'll have to come back here."

"I'm sure your friends will be okay with it, Harry. I'll let Harold know you said goodbye. It was nice meeting you." He leaned against the pillar and smiled. "Now remember, speak very clearly."

Harry turned back again. He grabbed a fistful of floo powder, picked up his trunk, and stepped into the fireplace. "THE BURROW!" he shouted, and threw the powder at his feet.

Stumbling out of the fireplace, trunk in hand, Harry bent down and coughed into his free hand. He stood and peered around, taking in the quietness around him. It was strange being back at the Burrow.

"HARRY!" he heard Mrs Weasley call. He moved out of the fireplace, glanced into the kitchen, and saw her placing a plate of pancakes on the table. She was wearing a flowery green dress, covered by a pink apron. "Oh! In here, dear. My, you have gotten skinny. Or it could be because you're getting taller. Ron is, too, mind you."

"It's good to see you, Mrs Weasley," Harry said, amused. He had missed her.

"Have you had breakfast yet?" He shook his head. "No? I can't believe it. You're just like Bill and Percy, forgetting to eat. Well, Ron and Hermione will be down here now any minute, you may as well sit and have the first serving."

There was a tower of plates on the table. He grabbed one, sat down, and then eyed the bottles of honey and lemon next to the plates. He watched Mrs Weasley cook, and listened as she brought up that Mr Weasley was working late once again. I'm a vampire now, he thought nervously. I can't hide it, I need to tell them.

"Hey Harry, where were you?" Ron asked, approaching the kitchen from the stairway in the outside hall. He was certainly taller, but not gangly like Harry was now. Ron sat himself down and reached for a plate. "Dumbledore said he was going to get you from the Dursleys, but then said you'd already left. What happened?"

Harry rubbed his neck. "I was attacked at the Dursleys. By vampires."

It was getting too much. Cedric's death. Voldemort's return and his ability to project false information to Harry, using Sirius against him to seek out the Prophecy. Sirius had almost died. And now the attack at Privet Drive.

"You - what?" Ron spluttered. Mrs Weasley had stopped watching the pancake she was making; she had turned and was now staring at Harry.

Hermione appeared in the doorway, and she shouted, "Harry!" She looked different. She was dressed in a pale blue shirt and a pair of jeans. Her bushy hair was up in a bun. She did look taller and a little too pale, but Harry chose not to ask about that. He hadn't seen her for weeks. "I'm so glad you're here. I thought I'd heard your voice."

She flew over to him and hugged him from behind, clutching him around the shoulders.

"Harry was attacked by vampires, Hermione," Ron told her. "Vampires!"

Hermione retreated back. She furrowed her brow and took the seat beside him. "How? Dumbledore always implied that you were safe at the Dursleys."

"I wasn't in their home at the time," Harry replied. "I was out for a walk in the neighbourhood. A witch - she appariated into the park. She killed one of Dudley's friends. We ran, and I was trying to protect them but I can't cast underage magic outside of Hogwarts, and - and she got me. Bit me. There were two other men who appariated. They stopped her."

"Stopped her?" Mrs Weasley inquired. She tipped her wand, and the pancake flipped itself in the pan. "How did you survive being bitten, dear?"

"I didn't. I - I'm a vampire."

"So her venom took to you and infected you," Hermione murmured, seemingly thinking to herself. "Oh Harry, we had no idea. How did you survive by yourself? The Dursleys couldn't have known what to do."

"Dudley dragged me home, but you're right, Petunia tried her best. I think she genuinely cared. She didn't know what to do when I wouldn't wake up, though. She wanted to take me to a muggle hospital. That would've been chaos, worse than when we drove your dad's car across London," Harry said, grimacing at Ron. "The two men who'd saved me overheard her. They took me to the Leaky Cauldron to recover, and I've been staying there since with them. It's only been nine days since I was bitten. Feels longer than that, honestly."

"So, err, when do you start drinking blood?" Ron asked, chuckling. He brought his arms to rest upon the table. "Cause, you know, even though we're best mates, I'm not offering or anything -"

Hermione cut him off. "Ronald, Harry doesn't need to start drinking yet. That doesn't happen for another few weeks. God, did you read anything on dark creatures for Deference Against the Dark Arts back in third year?"

He shrugged. "Only the stuff on werewolves, for Remus and all. Didn't think I'd need to know much else."

"Of course that's what you'd think. Now look, your best friend is a vampire and you know nothing about them!" Hermione moaned. She turned to Harry. "Don't worry, Harry, we'll get Ron up to speed quickly."

"So, it's okay if I stay until we return to Hogwarts?" Harry asked, looking back at Mrs Weasley. He was surprised she had taken the news so well, but then again, she was friends with Mad-Eye Moody and Remus Lupin. And she'd raised Fred and George, too. "You're okay with me being here?"

"Of course we want you here! Don't be so silly, you're staying," Mrs Weasley barked. She waved her wand and the pan on the stove floated towards him. The pancake slipped slowly onto his plate, before she then gestured to the bottles of honey and lemon. "Now eat up. We'll talk more once everyone has had breakfast."

Chapter Text

Harry was shivering. He had his arms folded and his hands hidden beneath his armpits. Dumbledore dropped his own hand from Harry's shoulder. The headmaster had apparated them to a small meadow near the Burrow.

"Ah. My apologies again, Harry, I should have told you to wear a thicker coat before we left. It is a thing I must do better, remembering that some of my students will now have different needs."

"It's fi - fine. My - my own fault," Harry stuttered.

Dumbledore had come knocking at the Burrow just two days after Harry's arrival. In those two days, Harry had noticed that he was getting colder. He wasn't freezing by no means, particularly when he kept a thick, long-sleeved shirt on indoors, but then Dumbledore had turned up on the Weasley's doorstep, asked for Harry's assistance in a matter, and Harry had followed him out swiftly without so much as thinking to grab his own wand, let alone his coat.

Apparating to Slughorn's residence had been fine, but, whilst listening to the wizard speak, Harry had grown slowly colder. A trickle of air from the open door. A gust of wind from one of the many holes in the roof. No lights or heat sources. And Slughorn and Dumbledore were the only ones exuding body heat.

Shortly after Slughorn's agreement to take the job as Potions Master, Dumbledore had walked them out, down the street, and then appariated them back to the Burrow. By that point, however, Harry was so cold that he didn't care if the school even had a potions professor next year.

"Let us make haste indoors." Dumbledore gestured to the house. He approached the door and knocked.

"Who's out there?" Mrs Weasley called.

"It is I, Albus Dumbledore, returning with Harry Potter."

The door creaked open. Harry stumbled inside; so unsteady was he, he almost knocked into Mrs Weasley with his elbow. Immediately, the warmth of the Burrow hit him, burrowing into his skin. As he stood in the hallway, he heard Dumbledore close the front door.

A duster was wiping the hanging pictures on the walls. A broom swished past him, heading for the doormat. Mrs Weasley had evidently been cleaning with magic. Harry meant to greet her but instead coughed out a wispy breath, his throat having dried out.

"Oh, Harry -" Mrs Weasley peered at him from head to foot - "Oh my, dear, just look at you! Let's get you wrapped up on the coach. Come now - come."

She fluttered her arms out, ushering him into the living room. There, she gently pushed him towards the coach, and bid him to sit. She then grabbed a gangly, red quilt - clearly knitted by herself - and wrapped it around his shoulders.

"Albus, oh, I'll be having words with you," she said, turning. Dumbledore stood in the doorway of the kitchen now, wand gently clutched between his hands. "Taking the poor boy out, no thought. Well, you just wait there." She placed a hand on her hip and returned her attention to Harry. Her smile returned. "Don't worry, Harry. I'll make you a nice mug of hot coco, put the heating on, and you'll be right as rain in no time."

"Mrs Weasley, you don't have to." Still shivering, he pulled the quilt closer. "I'll be fine -"

"Of course you will be, now you're back under my care." She twisted on the spot and marched into the kitchen. On the way, she said, "In here, Albus."

The headmaster followed her. Harry rested his head against the back of the coach. Vaguely, he could hear them talking in hushed voices over the kettle spluttering and the broom dashing about.

"...if he catches the flu, Albus -"

"....almost three weeks a vampire now..."

"...the boy doesn't even have his fangs yet!"

Harry tuned them out. He did sympathise with Dumbledore. It wasn't his fault that Harry couldn't read his own body's needs, but then he was also tired of his vampirism. His new needs. His abilities. His clothing. Worrying about whether he'd return to Hogwarts or not. It was grating on his nerves.

Eventually, he heard the spittle of the kettle stopping. Soon after that, Mrs Weasley and Dumbledore came out of the kitchen together. Mrs Weasley carefully placed his hot coco on the coffee table, and said, "There you go. Drink up." The headmaster, meanwhile, took two thin envelopes out from his robe's pockets and laid them on the table.

"These are for you and Miss Granger, Harry. I thought I should personally see to their delivery, most particularly as you both are the last to receive them." Dumbledore motioned with his hand around him. "I am glad you returned to the Burrow. Your new acquaintances, Mr Harold Lloyd and Mr Samuel Boucher, they are good men, but certainly no Mrs Weasley."

"Compliments will get you nowhere, Albus," she rebutted swiftly.

Dumbledore bowed his head. "Ah. Merely stating the obvious. A mother's love is so much more valuable than that of a friend's." He turned back to Harry. "I will, in future, learn to do better where you and others' well beings are concerned."

Harry paused thoughtfully. "You've met Harold and Samuel?"

"Mr Lloyd is a proud member of both the vampire and wizarding community. I know of him through many acquaintances; he is good man. His partner, Boucher, has a...well, spirited history, but he means good." He chuckled, and then stroked his beard, straightening the hairs. "So alas, no, I have not met them in person. It was Mrs Figg who informed me of your attack and Mr Lloyd's later apparition of you from Privet Drive. But their reputation proceeds them, and I trusted them to care for you in your time of need."

"Figg still keeping an eye on me?"

"Indeed, she was. Yes, squibs are quite helpful, sometimes more helpful than wizards." Dumbledore tapped his wand with his index finger. "Ah, it is late. And I have letters to write and conversations with professors to be had. I will see you again on your return to Hogwarts." He made his way to the front door. Reaching it, he turned and pointed to the coffee table. "I'd suggest calling young Miss Granger down now. She will no doubt want to read her letter."

"Why has she received one?"

Dumbledore smiled. "It will all be explained in the letters, Harry."

The Headmaster opened the door. A cold blast of air flew into the room as he left. Harry sneezed. Mrs Weasley gave a sharp cry, and bustled upstairs, murmuring something about fetching Hermione from Ron's bedroom.

Harry drank a mouthful from his mug, and then grabbed the envelope to rip it open.

Mr. Harry Potter,

Full name: Harry James Potter
Bitten: 5th July 1996 (estimated)
Creature: Vampire

This is an Official Legal Document stating that the student so named above has been declared fit to return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, per actions are followed below.

Your recent vampire attack was reported by Mrs Figg, a resident of Privet Lane. Your new creature genes have been subject to much discussion, with your half-human state - the levels of care and danger included in your current state - ultimately assessed by the Headmaster of   Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Minister of Magic, and by senior staff in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

It was anonymously decided that your half-human condition could be safely managed. Adjustments have been made to accommodate you, and we would like to invite you back to finish your education at Hogwarts. All fifth years and above, who retain non-human genes, will reside in the newly constructed tower, which has been named The Half-Blood Tower in honour of it's new residents. You will reside in a dorm room with all fellow male half-humans in your year group.

It is now a crime to bite other students or professors whilst attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is your duty to care for yourself and the well-being of others around you upon your return to Hogwarts. Should you instigate this, and cause the death or transformation of another individual during your stay at Hogwarts, you will be expelled immediately and, depending on the circumstances, face criminal charges.

Vampirism has a transformation progress of roughly three-four months. Fangs are known (roughly) to emerge at the end of the first month. As such, a house-elf will deliver to your bedside table a jug of animal blood twice per day. The first to arrive at 06:00 hours, the second at 20:00 hours. Should you have any issues with the supply, or require more, please leave a note with your request on the bedside table. The note will then be delivered to the Headmaster, who shall examine and make a decision on the request. Should the request be signed off, the house-elves will promptly see to the new delivery instructions.

A minimum of two jugs are to be consumed per day for you to continue your schooling. Should you miss drinking one jug, you will receive a detention. You will be required to explain the reasoning behind it, and consume a jug during the detention. If two or more jugs are missed together, you will be subject to a meeting with the Headmaster. Should the Headmaster meet with you on three occasions for the sole reason of missing your prescribed blood dosage, you may face suspension or, if necessary, expulsion.

You are welcome to remain at Hogwarts during the holidays, to ensure your continued consumption of blood supply. You will be expected to maintain weekly communications with a high ranking person within the vampire-wizarding community. The individual will be selected for you, or you may request someone, whom will be subject to the Headmaster's approval. This will be discussed on your return to Hogwarts. The individual will see to your knowledge and health during your education at Hogwarts, and there afterwards.

We hope that you return to complete your schooling and welcome back other half-humans like yourself. The professors have all undertaken courses to improve the teaching and promote the well-being of creatures. Should you have any concerns or anxieties, please speak with a professor. It is the hope of the school - and the wizarding world - that half-humans may complete their education as wizards.

We wish you all the best for the times to come,
The Ministry of Magic,
Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

Harry sniffed and returned the letter to the coffee table. He sniffed again, then sneezed. What was it Mrs Weasley said in the kitchen, about catching the flu? He lay down and closed his eyes. Feeling tired, he would wait until Hermione had read hers before he'd think further on his own. He'd already dealt enough with stressful letters.

He'd received one owl yesterday before breakfast, which had carried a note from his godfather. Sirius had wished him well, and wanted to know if he was still residing at the Leaky Cauldron with the vampires. Harry had written back a quick reply to inform him that he was now staying at the Burrow. Then, later around midday, three owls had flown in through the window, dropping off three letters. One for Harry himself, the others for Ron and Hermione.

The letters had contained their O.W.L results from last year. Save for Potions, which he'd only got an Exceed Expectations in, he had secured all the grades necessary to become an Auror. Although, grades hardly mattered now. He doubted they'd welcome a vampire into their department, even if he had secured an Outstanding in Potions.

It was some time before he heard the stomping of feet coming down the stairs. Harry peeked one eye open, expecting Ron or Hermione to enter from the hallway. No, it was Ginny. She was dressed in her pyjamas. White ones with roses on. And she had her hair down, too. He hadn't realised the time was so late.

"Hello, Harry," she said, stopping in the room. She gestured to the kitchen. "Mum woke me up. She's shouting at Ron right now, something about owl droppings. I was just gonna make myself a tea. Do you want one?"

Harry pointed to his mug on the table.

"Oh, right. Did mum make it?" He nodded. "She always makes people hot chocolate when they're ill. I heard you went out with Dumbledore, are you all right? Ron and Hermione will be down in a minute."

"Imma all right. Just cold." He dragged himself to sit up and take another mouthful from his mug. "Part of being a vampire, apparently. I'm more likely to die of frostbite now."

"I did overhear. Mum was shouting her head off because Dumbledore made you leave without a coat. I think you'll be fine though, mum will fix you up. You won't even get the flu." She winced. "But - must be awful, that, being a vampire. You're still going back to Hogwarts, though, right?"

He laid back down. "Yeah, I think I am."

Harry heard thumping from the stairway. He looked over to see Mr Weasley coming down, followed by Mrs Weasley, Ron and Hermione. Mrs Weasley ushered her husband into the kitchen to make them all hot chocolate.

"Oh, Ginny, don't you bother Harry. Go make some tea for yourself and back to bed. He needs his rest, the poor dear," Mrs Weasley went on. Ginny smiled at Harry, then left for the kitchen. "Hermione, go on, open your letter. Mustn't wait another moment." Hermione picked up her letter and carefully made to open it. "Harry, have you opened yours?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I did. They're allowing me to go back. You can read for yourself."

Hermione sat down on the sofa beside him and quietly began reading. He wondered if she was half-human as well. It was an awful thing to want, but Harry didn't want to live in a new tower at Hogwarts. He didn't want a new common room or a new dorm room. The Gryffindor Tower had been his home for years.

Mrs Weasley sat herself down in an armchair nearby. The kettle in the kitchen started hissing loudly again. Meanwhile, Ron leaned over the coffee table to snatch up Harry's letter.

"Huh. From the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," he muttered. "Ain't that the department what ordered the death of Buckbeak?"

"Yes, it was them," Hermione replied, looking up. "And it's utter rubbish, what they're doing now. I understand Harry has to be separated due to his bloodlust, but me - why, it's absolute nonsense."

"What's your letter say, Hermione?" Harry asked.

"It says, I have small traces of elven blood. From my muggle great-great-grandmother, who was the daughter of a muggle elf." She tapped the letter angrily. "Because of this, and the small, unknown danger I present, I'll be required to live in the Half-Blood Tower 'til the end of my seventh year. A small trace? I bet it's a false positive result. Oh, it must be. How can I even have elven blood? There's nothing special about my family. My parents are dentists."

"How can you be an elf? You don't have pointy ears, 'Mione," Ron said.

Hermione laughed. "No, I don't. Fantastic observation, Ronald. No, they say that there won't be any physical changes due to the small amount, but my magic and personality might transform. I could become more volatile. Have more migraines. Elves who've been wizards or witches are popularly known for being exceptional at Charms or Transfiguration. Even excellent at wandless magic. But I have such a small amount, I doubt I'll ever be capable of wandless magic."

"Hermione, come on! You're absolutely brilliant." Ron grinned at her. "If anyone can do something wandless, it'll be you."

She hummed thoughtfully. "I suppose. It'll be interesting to see who else will be forced to live in the Half-Blood Tower. I can't imagine other students will be too happy about it, either."

Mrs Weasley leaned forwards. "Well, dear, you're always welcome here at the Burrow. You know that." She then turned in her chair. "Now, Ronald, put Harry's letter down and be off into he kitchen. Help your father carry the mugs out to us."

Harry heard the sound of footsteps down the staircase again. Fleur Delacour appeared in the living room's doorway. Long, flowing hair clasped back by a pin. She was wearing a silk dressing gown, underneath which were pretty, pink pyjamas.

"Oh, 'Arry. I did not know you 'ad returned." She walked into the room, her hands gracefully clasped together rather than planted in her pockets or at her sides. "You must be letting me know if zere is anything I can do to 'elp."

Harry sniffed again. "Thanks, Fleur. But I'll be okay, just a little cold. Nothing Mrs Weasley's cooking can't fix." He nodded over to Ron's mother. The woman sat straighter in her armchair at his compliment. "Am getting tired, though. Sorry I woke everyone up." He yawned, and turned to Hermione. "It okay if I go to bed? We can talk in the morning, 'Mione."

"Yes, of course it's fine, Harry. You've been out all night." Hermione turned to Mrs Weasley. "Will Harry catch the flu? It really wasn't good enough that Dumbledore took him out."

Mrs Weasley scowled. "He won't catch a cold, oh no - not if I have any say about it! Oh, but if he does, Albus will get a right earful from me. No, I'll bring him up some more quilts and another mug of hot chocolate, dear." She turned her attention to Harry. "And tomorrow morning, I'll cook up a big, warm breakfast for everyone. That'll set us all to rights. And I'll bring the tray up to you myself, Harry, dear. No need for you to come down early."

"Nonsense. You 'ave too much work as it ez, Mrs Weasley. No, I will bring ze tray up to 'im. Don't you worry, 'Arry," Fleur promised. "You will be well again soon. I will 'elp."

Mrs Weasley scoffed. "Of course he'll be well again, girl. We'll see to it. More importantly, he'll need his books for school. And robes. And Ron and Hermione and dear Ginny will need new robes, too. But oh - Madam Malkin's is shut! I'll have to think -"

"Twilfit and Tattings is open, Mrs Weasley," Harry said. "I know the owner, Caroline. She's nice. I already bought my robes from her. She put in leather and extra padding for warmth."

"Oh. Okay, Harry, thank you. Now up to bed with you, we'll go tomorrow. And you will wear a coat, young man."

Harry shook off the quilt. He took one last sip of his drink, said goodnight to Hermione, and called out into the kitchen, "See you in the morning, Ron." He then stumbled up the staircase to Fred and George's bedroom. According to Mrs Weasley, the twins now lived in a flat above their little joke shop in Diagon Alley, which left the room empty - save for Hedwig, who was sleeping in a cage on the desk.

Harry could sleep well here; there was no one else in the room. He didn't know how well he'd sleep back at Hogwarts, in a dorm room full of other students. What if I bite someone in my sleep?

He tried not to think on it as he crept into Fred's former bed.

The following day, Hagrid appeared at the Weasleys' doorstep. Dumbledore had instructed him to assist the family in their shopping trip, and to protect them if necessary should a Death Eater attack occur. Harry hadn't realised their little shopping trip would require such tight security measures until they passed through the Leaky Cauldron and into Diagon Alley.

Many more shops had closed down in the few days Harry had stayed with the Weasleys. He began to fear that Twilfit and Tattings might have ceased trading as well. But the lights were on inside the shop and nothing was boarded up.

"Oh, it's still open. Thank Heavens," Mrs Weasley said. "After you then, Harry, dear. Introduce us."

Harry opened the door and stepped inside. Caroline stood by a rack of clothes, flipping between shirts. All of them white. All long-sleeved. Harry couldn't see any difference between them; they all looked the same to him.

"Good morning," she called, before lifting her head. "Oh, hello Harry. If you and your companions would like to wait, I'm afraid I already have a customer changing in the back room. He'll only be -"

The far door opened. Draco Malfoy came out, and he swung his hips as he strode towards them. Harry was reminded of their third year together, when the boy had sauntered up to him in a Care of Magical Creatures class, only to then poke fun at him for his fear of dementors. It was a lot easier to hate Malfoy when he was a stupid thirteen year old boy.

Malfoy was sixteen years old now. He stopped next to the pedestal. He was wearing a thick, white shirt and black trousers. The shirt was unbuttoned. Harry peered at the man's bare chest, feeling oddly jealous. Malfoy was hairless apart from a thin line of blond hair retreating from his bellybutton down into his trousers. Harry thought he had too much chest hair himself. Malfoy looked underweight, too. His hips were so bony -

"Eyes up top, Potter? I have a face."

Harry glanced away, and muttered, "Sorry."

Malfoy turned to look at Mrs Weasley. He inclined his head politely in acknowledgement, then looked over at the rack of shirts. "Take it you're here because Madam Malkin's is shut? The same on my part."

"You're out by yourself?" Mrs Weasley asked, sounding oddly concerned.

"I hardly think I'll be in any danger," he replied, almost glumly. "Caroline is most understanding of her customers, though, in spite of the times. She'll do right by you."

Caroline snorted. "Thank you for the praise, Draco. Though I hardly need it. Now I think that shirt will do nicely, don't you? Does it fit well?"

"Yes, it fits, but are you certain it can be easily torn? I don't want it to restrict...my, you know." Malfoy winced. Harry almost asked why Malfoy wanted to ruin his shirts, and then felt guilty for wanting to ask when it was, in fact, none of his business.

"The back of the collar will split and then the rest will follow, completely falling off your arms immediately upon the event of you-know-what happening." Caroline smiled, and reached out reassuringly to grasp his arm.

Malfoy shook his head. He stepped away, avoiding her touch. "That's fine. I'll have fifteen of them. Please send them to the Malfoy Manor, along with the rest of my order." He looked about to turn and head back into the changing room, but sighed, and said, "Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your concern. I am sorry. I'll be fine in a month or two, but at the moment, it's too early for me. I shouldn't even be out today."

"We can go up into my loft to talk, Draco. That is, if Harry and his friends don't mind waiting an extra minute or two?"

"No, that won't be necessary. My mother and I will be in touch again, no doubt for more shirts in the future." He waved his left hand flippantly. "I'd best get dressed and leave you to your business with Potter here." Malfoy retreated to the changing room without another word.

Harry frowned. Malfoy was being civil? No, Malfoy had never been civil in the past. And now his father was in prison, so he should hate Harry. Loathe him. Plus, Voldemort was back and regaining the support of his followers. No, something was not right. Not at all. Malfoy is shopping without mummy or daddy? And being pleasant?

Malfoy reappeared from the changing room less than five minutes later. He said goodbye to Caroline, inclined his head again to Mrs Weasley and even Ginny, and then said, "Good day, Potter. Weasley. Granger." He gave Harry, Ron and Hermione a quick, passing look, then left the shop.

Harry wanted to follow him. What is he doing shopping alone? He peered outside the window to see Malfoy heading for the sweet shop opposite Twilfit and Tattings.

"Now," Caroline began, "what can I do for you and your companions, Mr Potter?"

Sheepishly, Harry turned around. "Ah. Sorry, Caroline. I brought my friends here because they need new school robes, and you were the first person I thought of."

He needed to focus on Mrs Weasley and her family, not on Malfoy. Perhaps, though, once they were finished getting new robes, maybe then he could see where else Malfoy was headed.

Chapter Text

"...you know how to fix it?"

"Possibly," Borgin replied, almost nonchalantly. "I'll need to see it, though. Why don't you bring it into the shop?"

"I can't," Malfoy said. "It's got to stay put. I just need you to tell me how to do it."

Harry finally got his chance to pursue Malfoy when Mrs Weasley and Ginny became distracted in Fred and George's shop. Mrs Weasley had been enamoured by the Pygmy Puffs and Ginny was busy defending her relationship with Dean Thomas against the twins. Malfoy had been outside, carrying four books. Heavy ones, by the looks of them. Rearranging them in his arms, he skulked off down the street.

It was so odd to see the Slytherin by himself. And carrying his own things, too. Why doesn't he have Crabbe and Goyle with him to carry them? He shouldn't be alone. Harry found himself feeling both suspicious - and worried. He cajoled Ron and Hermione to take cover beneath his invisibility cloak and pursue Malfoy alongside him down the street and into Knockturn Alley. As the Slytherin entered Borgin and Burkes, they took cover beneath an outside window and listened in with one of the Extendable Ears that Ron had purchased from his brothers' shop.

"Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job, perhaps impossible. I couldn't guarantee anything."

"No?" Malfoy said, and Harry could tell just by his tone that he was sneering. Lips pulled thin. Scowling. He always pulled that ugly face when he was angry. "Perhaps this will make you more confident."

He moved towards Borgin and was blocked from view by the cabinet. Harry, Ron and Hermione shuffled sideways to try and keep him in sight, but all they could see was Borgin, looking very frightened.

"Tell anyone," Malfoy went on, "and there will be retribution. You know Fenrir Greyback? He's a family friend, he'll be dropping in from time to time to make sure you're giving the problem your full attention."

"There will be no need for -"

"I'll decide that," he cut in. "Well, I'd best be off. And don't forget to keep that one safe. I'll need it."

"Perhaps you'd like to take it now? Or would you like a bag for your books? They look very weighty."

"No, of course I wouldn't, you stupid little man. How would I look carrying that down the street? Or carrying a bag out of Knockturn Alley? Someone would notice. Just don't sell it and don't mention I was here to anyone. That clear?"

Borgin bowed as low as the one Harry had once seen him give Lucius Malfoy. "Of course...sir."

"I'm serious. Not a word to anyone. Not one. That includes my mother, do you understand?"

The little man bowed again. "Naturally, naturally."

Malfoy left the shop, making the shop's little bell tingle. He moved to the side of the door, reshuffled the books in his arms, took out his wand with his left hand, and tapped the top book whilst muttering a spell. Harry tried to hear what spell he was casting, but Ron had already put the Extendable Ears back into his pocket by then. Malfoy inspected the book for a moment, sighed and then walked off towards Diagon Alley.

"That bloody git," Ron muttered beneath the cloak, after a moment of silence. "And he was so nice to mum, too. Saying that Caroline would do right by us. Utter bollocks."

"I don't think we know the whole of it, Ron," Hermione whispered. "But I do wonder, what spell did he cast? Those books are from Flourish and Blotts. Brand new, I reckon, by their covers. Horrible that he'd ruin them."

"That's what you're worried about - him defacing a few books?" Harry spluttered.

After a rant about magically vandalizing books, Hermione had entered the shop to try and gain information about the item Malfoy didn't want sold, but Borgin had cottoned onto her quickly and shouted at her to leave. Harry hoped Malfoy wasn't involved in anything nefarious; he didn't want to imagine the man turning out like his father.

"Maybe he's broke his Hand of Glory?" Ron said vaguely days later, as he attempted to straighten his broomstick's bent tail wings. They were sitting on his floor, not waiting to speak downstairs where anyone could overhear them. "Remember that weird, shrivelled-up arm Malfoy had?"

Harry frowned. "But what about when he said, 'don't forget to keep that one safe.' It sounds like there are two objects. Borgin has one, and Malfoy wants it kept safe."

"You reckon?"

"Yes, Malfoy is up to something. I think - I think Malfoy wants revenge, for his father being put in Azkaban.                 Don't you think he'd want that?"

"Harry, listen to yourself." Hermione had been rereading her Fit to Return to Hogwarts letter, but she put it down in favour of scowling at him. "What could Malfoy really do to get revenge? Revenge could even lead to his own expulsion, would he really want to risk that?"

"That's my point! I don't know," Harry said, frustrated. "But I think we should take it seriously. Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater, and his son -"

He stopped. The answer was so clear, it struck him speechless. He stared at Ron's beaten broomstick, not wanting to divulge his thoughts.

"Harry?" Hermione asked, leaning in. "Harry, what's wrong?"

"He's a Death Eater," he replied slowly. "He's replaced his father as a Death Eater."

There was a moment of silence before Ron burst out laughing. "Malfoy? He's only sixteen, mate. You think You-Know-Who would let him join?"

Hermione bit her lip. "It does seem unlikely. What makes you think -"

"At St. Mungo's. Malfoy was visiting my godfather. He'd just left his room, and I grabbed his arm and asked him how Sirius was. He reacted like I'd just killed his family owl. He - he did something to the door. Broke it...accidentally, I think. With magic. And back in Twilfit and Tattings, he wouldn't let Caroline touch his arm. His left arm. Damn it, he's been branded with the Dark Mark."

Hermione titled her head, looking unconvinced. "He could've just been uncomfortable, Harry. We did effectively send his father to prison."

"Yeah," Ron agreed, now cleaning his broomstick's handle, "I don't think we're his favourite people right now."

"What about when he was in Borgin and Burkes? He showed Borgin something. And after that, Borgin started taking Malfoy seriously, didn't he. That was it. Malfoy showed him that he had the Dark Mark."

Hermione huffed. "He could've shown Borgin anything, Harry. It was fishy, but You-Know-Who wouldn't trust a mission to someone as young as Draco Malfoy. Given his lack of experience in the Dark Arts, it'd be nigh on impossible for Malfoy to succeed at anything that would truly help You-Know-Who's cause."

Absolutely convinced he was right, and now annoyed, Harry grabbed his Quidditch robes and left the room. Ron joined him later outside to play Quidditch, wherein both of them simply took turns at shooting a quaffle through some hoops. And the subject wasn't brought up again, although it stayed with Harry.

It plagued his every thought, until, about a week after that conversation, he was back at King's Cross station, dreading the train ride back to Hogwarts. He'd put on a shirt and his warmest jumper, and had extra thick socks on. Hermione had told him that the Hogwarts Express had warming charms placed on it's carriages, but once they arrived in Scotland and would leave the train to ride the Thestral-driven carriages, he would definitely start to feel the cold.

"Hurry up, Harry!" Ron shouted, already boarding the train.

Harry looked back at Mr Weasley. He had just told Ron's father about his suspicions about Malfoy, but Mr Weasley hadn't believed him. "Now, Harry," Mr Weasley said, "I know you think the Ministry missed something at Malfoy Manor, or that Draco Malfoy must be up to something, but don't go thinking to extremes. And you have enough to concern yourself with, being a vampire now. How about you try focusing on yourself?"

"But, Mr Weasley -"

"Perhaps Draco is up to something, perhaps. But it shouldn't be your concern. You're sixteen, Harry," Mr Weasley reminded. "And you're welcome to stay with us during the holidays. It's already been confirmed with Dumbledore. You just make sure to look after yourself. Now go, go on."

The whistle blew. Harry scampered through one of the many doors onto the Hogwarts Express, and hung by the window as he listened to Mrs Weasley shout, "Be good and stay safe!"

"Fancy trying to find a compartment?" he asked Hermione, Ron and Ginny.

Ron rubbed his neck. "Err, sorry, mate. 'Mione and I have to go to the prefects' carriage. But we'll ride with you when we get to the thestrals, okay?"

Hermione grasped his arm briefly before releasing it and walking away, Ron following her close behind.

"And I need to see Dean. I think the twins may have written to him about me," Ginny said, wincing. "I'm sorry, Harry." She took off quickly to walk by and look in each of the compartments, no doubt searching for her boyfriend.

Harry realised then, in all the years he'd been at Hogwarts, that he'd pretty much only hung around with Ron and Hermione. The two had received prefect letters alongside their O.W.L results, in spite of Hermione being an elf. Harry didn't think he would receive the same courtesy; with his new abilities and extra needs, and the danger level he presented as a vampire, he doubted they would let him take part in anything. Quidditch. The Duelling Club. The list went on.

Eventually, he found Neville and Luna and settled with them into a compartment. It was all right, although nothing like the banter he had with Ron.

"...You should hear my gran talk about you. She'd give anything to have you as a grandson," Neville said, and he grinned. "But she did buy me a new wand. Says I'm finally living up to be like my father."

"How are your parents, Neville?" Harry asked, before he could think twice and stop himself from asking. "I mean, they were cursed by Bellatrix, right? Sirius is still in St Mungo's now, too. He isn't...he's had two strokes so far, is all."

"Oh. My parents are okay. My mum is doing better than dad. I don't think Sirius will be in St Mungo's much longer, Harry. I think he'll be all right. I mean, my parents...they were hit by six Cruciatus curses at once. Your godfather only got two. And it was only for a short while, yeah."

Harry nodded and let Neville get back to searching for his toad. Both Harry and Remus had managed to step in and stop the incident from causing Sirius further pain, except that Bellatrix had been one of the casters. And she was brilliant; she'd been using that curse for years. What's more, she had wanted to cause Sirius Black deep, actual pain.

An hour later, Ron and Hermione entered their compartment. Harry was glad when they told him that Malfoy had been in the prefect carriage, oddly quiet and writing notes but still in attendance. And how he didn't bully any first years once they'd left. That reassured him. He still believed that Malfoy carried the Dark Mark, though, he was certain there.

No sooner did Ron and Hermione return, then did a note come for both Harry and Neville, inviting them to a luncheon with Potions Master Slughorn. Harry attended - but he hadn't liked it. Zabini gave him and Ginny - who was also in attendance - sour looks, Belby had almost choked on a piece of pheasant and was narrowly saved by Slughorn, and McLaggen, well, the boy just wouldn't stop talking when Harry and Neville weren't speaking themselves.

When it was over, Zabini had shoved Harry into the carriage wall in order to get away as quickly as possible. Ginny, who had exited through the compartment door after, saw, and she said, "Bloody rotten, he is. I've see him; he acts prouder than Malfoy most days. I'll see you later, anyway, Harry. Don't let that jerk bother you."

She had walked off to return to her compartment with Dean and his friends. Harry, realising that he needed to follow them if he wanted to get back to his own compartment, went on behind them. That was, until he remembered that Zabini was in fact Malfoy's friend. Even if Zabini was proud, he still hung around Malfoy enough. And they were sure to be hanging out in the same carriage or compartment together.

Harry turned back to Neville and Luna behind him, said, "I'll see you two later," and then he pulled on his Invisibility Cloak and shot off after Zabini as quickly as he could without giving himself away.

Zabini was already sliding the carriage door shut when Harry stuck his foot out to prevent him from closing it fully. Harry bit his own lip, absorbing the pain, as Zabini continued to slam the door into his foot until he finally looked away and said, "Damn it, someone should fix the doors on this train!"

Harry seized the door handle. He shoved the door back, causing Zabini to stumble and fall into Crabbe's lap, crumpling the comic that Crabbe had evidently been reading. In all the tumbling around, Harry darted into the compartment, leapt onto an empty seat, and climbed up to hide in the luggage rack above. He saw Parkinson rise from her seat to help Zabini regain his standing. The two then returned to their seats, Parkinson sliding neatly beside Malfoy. Zabini opposite them.

Malfoy was quietly seated right beside the window, and he was watching the countryside pass by outside. Harry wanted to the man to speak. As time passed by, he eventually had to bite his tongue, for fear of speaking. Parkinson and Zabini began arguing with one another over prior Zabini's clumsiness - and there Malfoy sat, seemingly unperturbed.

Come on, Malfoy, talk. You had a big enough mouth last year.

"So, what did Slughorn have to say, Blaise?" Parkinson asked.

"Just trying to make up with well-connected people. Not that he managed to find any."

Parkinson turned her attention over to Malfoy. "Are you...you sure you're okay, Draco?" she asked.

"I'm spiffing, Pansy. Absolutely spiffing." He hung back in his chair, and turned his head from the window to stare at Zabini. "All right. Out with it, then. Who else was there?"

"McLaggen from Gryffindor," Zabini said.

Malfoy snorted. "That's expected. His uncle is big in the Ministry."

"A boy called Belby, from Ravenclaw -"

"Dullard, he is," Parkinson muttered.

"And Longbottom, Potter and the Weasley girl. That was it," Zabini finished. He folded his arms. "Really wasn't great, to be honest. Slughorn just talked for the most part. On and on. Didn't shut up."

"How did the Weasley girl get an invite?" Parkinson asked, putting her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands. "A lot of boys like her. Even you think she's good-looking, Blaise; and we all know how hard you are to please."

"I've got more important things on my mind then women, Pansy. Like passing our N.E.W.Ts." He unfolded his arms, leaned forwards and tapped the table. "I wish I could say the same for you. Still seeing Daphne Greengrass, are we?"

Harry heard Goyle snicker in his seat beside Crabbe. The two were huddled together at the table opposite Malfoy's. Crabbe lowered his comic, glanced over and grimaced at Parkinson's outraged expression, and then lifted it again.

"I visited her over the summer. Her family aren't blood traitors, but they're certainly not against muggle things." She sniffed, her nose scrunching up like a pug's. "They had a television in their living room, can you believe it." Harry wondered idly if Daphne Greengrass wasn't sitting with them presently for that reason.

He also wondered why Malfoy hadn't said one word in the last five minutes. Maybe it was a poor decision to follow Zabini.

"You should be glad that your summer was nice, Pansy," Malfoy said, giving an opinion on something for the first time since Harry had entered the room. He said it so gloomily, without any anger in his tone, Harry found himself surprised. "Not all of us spent it with loved ones, televasions or not shouldn't matter."

Harry smiled a little. It was adorable to hear Malfoy attempt to pronounce a muggle word. But Malfoy wasn't trying to be funny, so he stopped smiling - and he was glad that somebody else cared enough to notice Malfoy's sour mood.

Zabini was wincing. He leaned back against his seat again, clearly unimpressed. "Okay. What's gotten into you, Draco? You have the look of a depressed rat."

"He stayed over the summer."

"You mean - Him?" Parkinson asked, catching onto the reference of You-Know-Who.

"He stayed for a month. It wasn't a pleasant experience. There was..." Malfoy broke off, and went back to looking out the window. "I don't think I'll survive the year."

"What do you mean, you might not survive the year?" she shrieked, and Harry shut his eyes. Merlin, she's loud! When he reopened them and looked down again, he saw that Crabbe had put his comic down onto his lap. Goyle looked worried; he had taken out his wand and was fiddling with it.

"You 'ave us here, Draco," Goyle said. It was the first time he'd spoken. "Nothing's gonna get us. Nothing'll get you. We'll stick together."

Malfoy chuckled grimly. "Thank you, Gregory. I appreciate it. But that could lead you all to getting hurt." He turned his gaze to Zabini. "You want an answer, Blaise? I suppose you'll find out soon enough when we get there. Doesn't matter if I tell you now." Malfoy put his elbow on the table and leaned forward. "I'm a veela."

Zabini looked intrigued then. "You! You're one of those half-bloods they let back into Hogwarts."

"One of the Malfoy ancestors married a wizard-veela in France. This goes back a hundred years ago," he said. "I was the first one contacted by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, apparently. I'm probably the most dangerous."

Veelas are dangerous? Harry had seen a group of veelas cheerleading at the Quidditch World Cup, but they hadn't seemed dangerous at all. What is a veela, anyway?

Parkinson whimpered. She raised out her hand. "Oh, Draco. Is that why you wouldn't let me stroke your hair?" She looked so upset, Harry even felt sorry for her.

"You - you can try," Malfoy murmured. "Just...slowly. No surprises." Harry watched her slowly graze the lower strands of his hair. When nothing happened, she began stroking his hair from the roots. Malfoy shuffled sideways towards her, giving her more room.

"Does that help?" Goyle asked. Crabbe had already gone back to his comic.

Malfoy closed his eyes. "A bit."

Zabini glanced out the window. "I think I can see Hogwarts." He rose from his seat. "Come on, Malfoy. I'll make sure no one surprises you this year."

Malfoy opened his eyes. "You can't promise that to me. I'll be living in the Half-Blood Tower, I'll probably bring about it's destruction. The Ministry, they were wrong to let me come back."

"Shush, Draco. Don't talk like that." Parkinson pushed one of his strands behind his ear. "You'll still see us during breaks and in classes. We'll figure it out."

Harry felt bad about intruding. Malfoy was a creature. He'd had Voldemort living in his home and he was clearly upset. And he reckoned that if Malfoy had known Harry was in the same carriage, Malfoy wouldn't have spoken. He would not have had that moment with his friends before reaching Hogwarts. But there was still a chance that Malfoy bore the Dark Mark. He had said so himself that Voldemort had stayed at the Manor over the summer.

Distracted, Harry didn't realise that the Slytherins were beginning to unload their belongings from the luggage rack. He didn't notice Goyle reaching up for his trunk. As the large man swung it down, the trunk hit Harry hard on the side of his head. He let out an involuntary gasp of pain and saw Malfoy look up at the rack, frowning.

Harry wasn't afraid, but he didn't like the idea of being discovered by a group of Slytherins. Not to mention, he didn't want Malfoy to find out he'd been listening in on their private conversation. Head throbbing and eyes watering, Harry waited as the Hogwarts Express slowed and finally lurched to a halt.

"Come on, Malfoy," Zabini said. "Goyle and Crabbe will make sure no one gets near us."

"Why's everyone 'ere set on making sure Malfoy isn't touched?" Crabbe sneered, rising to stand.

Parkinson punched him on the arm. "Shut up, Crabbe. There's a reason no one asks you to think. You can go if it's too much trouble waiting for Draco."

Crabbe looked over at Malfoy, then snorted. He cranked open the carriage door and left, barraging past a bunch of third year Slytherins. Parkinson scrunched up her nose again, but this time her face was also flushed red from anger.

"He'll find himself without any tutors this year, that's for sure," she said. "I'll make sure none of the girls help him pass his classes. Dumb boy."

Malfoy waved his left hand. "You go on. I'll catch up when it's less crowded. You shouldn't wait for me." He paused. "And I need to check something." He reached up and hauled down a black suitcase from the luggage rack. As he began to unbutton his suit jacket, Zabini and Crabbe left the carriage.

"You better make it to the thestrals, Malfoy, or I'm coming back and hauling you off this train," Parkinson threatened. "You deserve to be back at Hogwarts. Don't let Crabbe or anyone else make you feel differently."

"I'll make it to the thestrals, don't worry. I only need a moment, Pansy."

She nodded and left.

Harry watched as Malfoy sighed before moving to the carriage door and closing it. The blond man put down his suitcase and jacket. He then turned, took out his wand, calmly aimed it in Harry's direction, and said, "Petrificus Totalus!" Harry fell from the rack. He crashed and landed onto the floor on his back, head bursting with pain.

"Potter? I knew someone was up there...why is it always you?" Malfoy didn't sneer at him, to Harry's surprise. No, he merely looked annoyed. "I heard someone moan when Goyle got his trunk down. You made that incident with Zabini happen, didn't you?" Harry couldn't move. If he could move, he would've nodded and owned up to it. Wasn't his proudest moment but it got him into the carriage unseen. "I know you're trailing me, I'm not thick. Borgin owled me to say a young girl with wild brown hair entered his shop straight after I'd left and started asking questions. Take it that was Granger?"

Harry couldn't answer him. He wanted to apologise, he wanted to tell Malfoy that Hermione had only gone in because Harry himself had been so set on spying and finding what Malfoy was up to. Hermione really had nothing to do with it.

Malfoy knelt down on the carriage floor. He unbuttoned his cuff. "Here. This is what you wanted, right?" He rolled up his left sleeve, revealing what Harry had long feared. Malfoy had the Dark Mark on his arm. But it wasn't black. It was dark red. And bloody. Blood. There's so much of it. Parts of the snake were bleeding, even the skull was a little. The snake head itself looked barely visible beneath all the blood now gathering there.

The upper bit of his arm looked purple and cut up, too. The cuts that had healed looked barely scabbed over. Harry couldn't bear it any more. How is he handling this? It looks so bad. He looked away from Malfoy's arm and back at his face. There's so much blood on his arm. His blood.

"Looks lovely, huh? It doesn't surprise me that even you won't look at it, scarhead, I can barely stand it. I - I wasn't exactly given a choice." Malfoy scoffed. "But I suppose you don't care about that. Come on, Potty. You've heard it all, now we can both leave. And you can finally stop spying on me."

Malfoy muttered the counter-spell to the body-binding curse, and Harry sat up. Unthinking, he leaned forwards into Malfoy, barely an inch from touching his chest. Or his arm. He wanted to see his arm again, see the blood again. He reached out for Malfoy's scarred arm.

In that moment, the windows cracked and burst. Glass flew. He could hear a luggage rack snapping. "DUCK, POTTER!" Malfoy shouted before grabbing Harry by the back of his neck, dragging them both face-down to the floor. Glass splattered around the carriage. Small pieces. Large pieces.

Harry moved his face sideways to plant his cheek against the floor and peer at Malfoy. He felt glass scratch his cheek and his neck. Probably other places, too. His jaw certainly hurt a lot. But it was worth the movement. Malfoy had gotten the worst of it; he'd grabbed Harry and pulled him down first, after all. There were dozens of cuts on Malfoy's face, marring his beautiful pale skin. Blood was in his hair. Beautiful skin? What? Harry didn't have time to think on his thoughts. He heard the sound of a creak, and then watched as the rack that had been above Crabbe and Goyle before gave way and tumbled down, crushing the seats and tables beneath it. Any forgotten luggage also fell with it.

Malfoy had shut his eyes. When he opened them, he didn't sneer at Harry. He just put his hands out and climbed to his feet. "You idiot, Potter," he said. "You don't surprise a recently turned veela. Don't touch me, don't even think about following me in future. Just don't -" He'd walked to the door and turned around to probably finish off his little rant, only he'd stopped mid-sentence. "You - You have fangs?"

Whatever composure Malfoy had left was gone. He continued to stare at Harry, lips parted in disbelief, before he grabbed his suitcase and left the carriage, forgetting to close the door behind him. Forgetting his jacket, too.

Harry clambered to his feet. Two of his front teeth felt sharper and longer than they should've been, reaching past his upper lip. He touched them with his fingertips. "Well, shit," he said, before he then reached down to grab his Invisibility Cloak. He needed to get off the train. He didn't want to end up back in London still on it. He'd think about his fangs after.

"Wotcher, Harry," came Tonks' voice, catching Harry off guard. "You all right there?"

He looked up. Tonks was standing in the carriage doorway, her spiky hair just as bubblegum-pink as always. "Oh, hello, Tonks. Best day of the year yet, my fangs just came in. Right in front of Draco Bloody Malfoy."

Chapter Text

"If you won't put the jacket on, at least keep your wand out," Tonks said, shaking her head at him. "Good vampire you are, wandless and frostbitten."

Harry grimaced, which incidentally caused him to catch his bottom lip with his left fang. "Ah!"

"What? Oh, for Merlin's - here, Harry. Let me heal it. Stay still." Harry would've preferred Madam Pomfrey to mend his lip in the Hospital Wing. He trusted her healing skills more, but it seemed rude to tell Tonks this so he stayed quiet. "Episkey!"

His lip burned scorching hot, then went cold again. Like the rest of his body. Apparently, a shirt and jumper wasn't enough to keep himself warm now that he was in Scotland. Knew I should've worn gloves. And thicker socks. His hands and legs were freezing.

He sniffed. "Thanks, Tonks."

"You can thank me by putting the damn jacket on." She patted his shoulder. "And if Draco moans about you burrowing it, you tell him it was his own damn fault for leaving the thing. My cousin should know better than to leave his belongings lying around."

"Your cousin?" Harry said, struggling to remember the Black family tree at Grimmauld Place.

"My mum and his mother are sisters, so yeah. Draco's my first cousin once removed."

Harry wondered why Draco hadn't spent more time with his extended family members, then realised that it was probably because of his parents. If Pansy was uncomfortable because her girlfriend's family had a television in their lounge, who knew what the Malfoys thought of Tonks and her muggle-born father. Or of Sirius Black, whose name had been burned off the Black family tree.

He stopped and eyed the jacket in his arms. It really wouldn't do for him to freeze. And though Malfoy would probably be annoyed, the Slytherin was unlikely to retaliate. Malfoy already has enough on his plate right now. I'll just tell him Tonks made me to wear it. He didn't know why he was so anxious about seeing Malfoy again. It wasn't like they owed one another. They weren't even friends. The git did tell me to duck, though.

"Harry, hurry up!" Tonks called on ahead, a little further up the steep path.

Harry put his wand in his trousers' pockets again and pulled on the jacket. It was too long on his arms, reaching his knuckles. The hem came to his knees. It was probably tailored only to fit Malfoy. Bloody posh git is too tall, he is. Harry did up the buttons, then hurried to rejoin Tonks.

She grinned. "Feel better?"

"Much."

"Good. I'd never hear the end of it from Sirius if I let you get frostbite under my watch." Tonks laughed, and her short, spiky hair quickly turned black and shaggy. "Harry caught a cold? A cold! Why, we should've sent Mad-Eye. Yes, he would have remained vigilant. Constant vigilance is required around my godson, Nymphadora."

That made Harry laugh. "Have you seen Sirius?"

Her hair turned back to pink again. "Yes, I'm sorry, he's still in St. Mungo's. But he's not getting any worse, Harry, that's the main thing. And he's not experiencing any more strokes. The Department Healer is just...he told me that Sirius keeps lashing out after a nightmare. He injured a trainee-healer last week. But if - if he can just go two weeks without any complications, then we can take him home. And I can...yes, I can watch over him at Grimmauld Place. Remus even volunteered to stay over and help, too."

"Why is he lashing out?" Harry asked, tentatively.

"Healer Montgomery says the reason is probably 'cause his nerves still feel like they're being fried by the Cruciatus, so his mind is reacting similarly. He needs a Mind Healer, is what he needs. But obviously, what with all the disappearances across the country, and Sirius only just being declared innocent, and Sirius also having intimate knowledge of the Order itself, well, we just need to be careful in whom we go after to ask for help."

"Can't someone in the Order help him?"

"There is an Order member who could help. We'll let you know when we've had a response from him, Harry." She gave him a small smile, then tapped his shoulder. "You just watch out for yourself now. Remember what I said about you not freezing."

As they drew closer to the gates of Hogwarts, Tonks quietened. The wind was louder then, brushing through the trees, making the branches creak and leaves sway. She shushed Harry each time he tried to strike up a conversation.

"Tonks, what's wrong?" he asked, growing anxious.

"The Ministry permitted the dementors to return again. They've been ordered to patrol the forests - the boarders around the school - not to go anywhere near the gates or the lane. Stay close, Harry. Stay close."

"Why are they even back?"

"For the school's protection. They could be anywhere." Tonks turned and stared at the woodland to their right. Shaking her head, she glanced back at Harry. "Wotcher, keep your wand out! Don't put it away."

Harry took his wand out again and followed her on to the gates of Hogwarts. Two pillars stood either side of the black gates. When they reached them, they found the gates chained shut. Tonks had sent a patronous on ahead once they had left the train earlier, but they didn't know who'd received the message.

"Anti-intruder jinxes have been put on the gates. Security's been tightened elven-fold this summer."

"That mean I'll be sleeping outdoors tonight?"

"No, probably not. Doubt you'd be willing to sleep in my cousin's clothes, anyway." She laughed at the grim expression on Harry's face. She turned back to the stare beyond the gates and frowned. "Look - someone's coming."

A lantern was bobbing up and down in the far darkness. Harry could make out a thin figure wearing either a long coat or dark robes coming down the lane from the castle's entrance. He hoped it was Filch. He could stand his rants about forbidden punishments and time-wasters. He even hoped it was Professor McGonagall. Though she would be annoyed at having to leave the feast mid-way, she likely wouldn't be too harsh with him.

Slowly, the darkness gave way to reveal Professor Snape strolling down the lane with his greasy, black hair tied back into a bun. His lips had already pulled back into a sneer by the time he reached the gates.

Harry tugged Malfoy's jacket closer around him, the cold settling in now that he was standing still. Please don't recognise Malfoy's clothing. Please don't -

"Well, well -" Snape pulled out his wand from his robes and tapped the gates once. A spark ignited from the wand and the chains unlocked and snaked down to lie on the ground, leaving the gates to slowly retreat and open. "How good of you to finally gift us with your presence, Potter. And in such casual attire, too. Clearly, you must feel like the school's policies do not apply to you."

"I couldn't change. My robes were in my trunk, in the -"

"Nymphadora, there is no need to wait. You may be off," Snape said, cutting off Harry. "And you, here, Potter - drink this," he went on, fishing for something in his robes. He brought a flask out from his pockets. "Pig's blood. Perfectly safe. It will sooth the vampire blood in you, preventing further stress. In other words, it'll calm your nerves and make your fangs rescind, a feat you have evidently not yet learned to accomplish."

Harry took the flask. "They only just came out on the train, it isn't my fault I don't know how to retract them."

"Just drink the blood, Potter," Snape muttered, bringing his hand up to rub the bridge of his nose.

Harry snorted and took the cap off the flask. The liquid looked red and thick. He brought it to his lips. The blood tasted sweet, much like a sugary drink only stickier. As he finished off the flask, however, drinking the last mouthfuls quickly, the blood became tangy and metallic. It was as if a slab of iron was melting on his tongue.

He gave the flask back to the professor, and then wiped his chin.

Tonks grimaced. "I had meant Hagrid to get my patronous," she said, looking at Snape. "But as you're here, that matter I wrote to you of -"

"Hagrid was late to the feast, just like Potter here. A Gryffindor trait, no less, it must be, so I took your message." She scowled and tried to respond, but he held up the lantern, blinding her. "As for that matter? I said, I would consider it."

"You're needed, Snape. He needs you! No one else is as good at Legilimency as you are."

"I am the last person he would need," he sneered before he turned his gaze onto Harry and motioned him to pass through the gates with a wave of his lantern. Harry watched as Snape then cast a spell and chained the gates together once more, locking Tonks out. "Now, come on, Potter. Move."

"You're wrong, Snape. You are needed," Tonks called behind them.

Harry wondered whom even needed Snape that badly. To have Tonks speaking on their behalf to Snape of all people, that person must've been desperate. "Delusional woman," he heard Snape mutter. They walked up the lane, the professor murmuring to himself half the way. "I daresay you've already missed dinner, Potter. If you miss drinking your dose of blood tonight, too, I'll personally give you your detention. There are many, many ways - potions and otherwise - to force a vampire to drink."

"I have to drink blood again tonight?"

"A jug will be beside your bed in your dorm room. Do not forget, lest you put your roommates at risk." Snape raised the lantern higher as they came to the entrance of the castle doors. "Oh. And twenty points from Gryffindor, I think, for your lateness. And another five for not wearing school regulation robes. Tell me, Potter, is that your own jacket?"

"Someone left it on the train. Tonks told me to wear it, I was cold." He left out the part that it was Draco Malfoy who had forgotten it. "I know whose it is, I'll return it.

"Make sure that you do. I'd hate to take even more points away from Gryffindor for stealing." He snorted. "You know, I don't think any house has ever been in the negative figures so early into the year. You might've set a record, Potter."

Harry hated Snape then. He hated Snape for goading him now about being late. And he hated the man for goading Sirius last year, for mocking the fact that Sirius had to always remain behind at Grimmauld Place because he was a wanted man whilst the rest of the Order worked against Voldemort. Snape was probably the reason, if not a good motive, for why Sirius had gone to the Ministry of Magic. If Snape hadn't been so spiteful, Sirius wouldn't be in the hospital. He wouldn't have even gone to the Ministry.

Harry didn't think he could forgive Snape for that.

They entered the castle by the exterior steps. Once inside, they quickly made it to the entrance of the Grand Hall, two large doors that behind them echoed the sounds of laughter and the tinkling of cutlery pieces. Harry wondered if he could use his Invisibility Cloak to enter the Hall unseen. He still had blood on his face from his cut lip. And he didn't want Malfoy to see him wearing his jacket.

"No Cloak, Potter," Snape said, as if reading his mind. "You can walk in wearing that jacket, too. After all, we wouldn't want the Chosen One to catch a cold."

Harry turned on the spot and marched straight through the doors: anything to get away from Snape. He walked so quickly, the Hall was all a shimmering blur to him. The four tables had been positioned as they had been every year before. He saw heads turn as he passed by people. Quickly, he found Ron and Hermione and forced his way into the seat on the bench between them.

"Where've you - Blimey, Harry, what happened to you? You look awful. And what's with the jacket? That's not yours."

"I know it's not. Thanks for pointing that out, Ron," Harry muttered as he made to grab a spare plate, a couple of chicken legs and a bunch of chips. "I'll tell you later what happened."

"But, you disappeared. We thought -"

Harry swallowed a mouthful of chicken and gave him a stern look. "Tell you later." There were other students staring and listening in. Ginny, Dean, Seamus, Neville, Nearly Headless Nick, and even Hannah Abbott at the Hufflepuff table. He didn't want to look over and see what the Slytherins were doing.

"Well, at least do something about your face. You've blood all over you, people will think you've gone mad." He gave her a look, as if to remind her that most people already thought he was mad. Hermione huffed, took out her wand and pointed it at his face. "Tergeo!"

Harry rubbed his chin. It didn't feel wet from the blood now, and he felt cleaner. "Thanks, 'Mione," he said, then went back to eating his chips. Shortly after, though, his food vanished, and a new, clean dish replaced it.

Where the bowl of chips had been on the table, was now a treacle tart on a large dish. He grabbed a knife, cut himself a large piece and pulled it onto his clean dish. The treacle tart had been layered with golden syrup.

"Do you think the kitchens have more treacle tarts?" Harry asked, not wanting to eat the entire dish by himself. He knew that others at the table like that desert as well.

"Hmmm. The way you go through them, they probably have loads."

A little while later, Dumbledore stood, and the deserts vanished as well. The talk and laughter lowered to whispers. "Welcome to Hogwarts!" the Headmaster cried, his arms outspread.

Hermione nudged Harry in the side, and she said, "Look at his hand." He looked at the staff table, past McGonagall. He managed to catch the sight of Dumbledore's blackened hand before the Headmaster could cover the injured limb with his sleeve.

He cleared his throat. "Nothing to worry about. Now, the very best of evenings to you. I have a few announcements to make before we all head to our beds. Mr. Filch, our resident caretaker, would like to remind everyone that the forbidden forest is out of bounds to all students. There is a blanket ban on all joke items purchased from the shop called Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. And belongings, left in the dorms last year, will be returned once asked for. Please see him in his office on the forth floor."

Harry looked over to see Filch grinning.

"A quick warning. With the return of Lord Voldemort, I - and the Ministry - have seen fit to reinforce the school's boarders with a patrol of dementors from Azkaban. Likewise to forbidden forest, do not go beyond the boundaries of the school, should you value your very soul." He paused for a moment, allowing students to murmur and the news to sink in, then smiled. "On a more pleasant note, those wishing to play in a Quidditch team should give their names to their Heads of House as usual. We are also looking for new Quidditch commentators. We are also pleased to welcome a new member of staff this year. Professor Slughorn." Slughorn rose from his chair, his bald head gleaming in the candlelight. "He is a former colleague of mine who's agreed to resume his old post of Potions Master. Meanwhile, Professor Snape will be taking on the position as teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Harry knew this. Dumbledore had already explained to him upon leaving the residence where Slughorn had been residing that the Potions Master was inexperienced at Defence Against the Dark Arts, which meant that the only role he could take upon returning was his old job. This meant that Professor Snape would need to vacate his old profession and take up Defence Against the Dark Arts instead. Old Snape's wanted that job for years, though, he must've loved being asked.

It did irk Harry that he didn't know whether he could play Quidditch or not now. Harold and Samuel had said that due to his new and improved senses, he probably wouldn't be allowed. Was there even a point to him asking the Team Captain or McGonagall?

"And finally, as many of you may have heard in the papers, there was a new education law last month, which permits the education of selected half-humans here at Hogwarts. For many, this will not affect you, but for those who have been denied a public education due to their genes, or to those who learned only of their inheritance during their attendance here and so wouldn't have been able to continue their studies, it may be considered a blessing. Indeed, a great opportunity to unite communities and further our knowledge of wizarding kind. I wish you all the very best for the coming year."

McGonagall stood and took up a scroll from the staff table. "A new tower was constructed over the summer for those of you who are creatures. You will remain of your old house, but these will be your new sleeping quarters from now on. When I call your name, you will stay behind and wait for Professor Flitwick to escort you to your new common room. Now, from our seventh years: Mike Elstone, Emma Flint, Maria Glossop, Gerald Kingston, Nancy Scott. Sixth years: Hannah Abbott, Michael Corner, Tracey Davis, Seamus Finnigan, Hermione Granger, Su Li, Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter. And lastly, from the fifth years: David Dankworth, Julie Elstone, Adam Robinson, Ryan Stanton, Mary Taylor, Celia White, and Angelina Wilson."

Hermione leaned in and nudged Harry in the ribs. "That's so many. Twenty one students in all."

McGonagall lowered her scroll. "Again, First Years to be escorted by House Prefects. Half-Humans, to be escorted by Professor Flitwick. Now, I wish you all a goodnight's rest."

"Malfoy and Corner are creatures? Oh, that is precious," Ron snickered.

"Part-creature, Ronald. They're still human and, moreover, very capable wizards. If they were just creatures, they wouldn't be able to return to Hogwarts," Hermione admonished him. "And don't act like that, Harry will be sharing a dorm with them from now on. Have you thought about that? I'm sure this situation will be horrible enough without you insulting his new roommates."

"Me not insult his roommates? Are you mad, Hermione? You can't be happy about having to share a dorm with Davis?"

Tracey Davis was a Slytherin. Harry had seen her in classes and the library, almost always quieting reading by herself, but he had never spoken to her. In fact, he couldn't really recall who she usually hung out with. She didn't seem to like hanging out in gangs, unlike her fellow housemates. Even so, she's still a Slytherin.

"No, I'm not happy to switch dorms, but I'm certainly not going to start insulting my peers," she replied. Ron bristled at the use of his full first name. "There is a lot more to worry about."

"Exactly. I'll be there with ya, Harry. We won't be totally alone with 'em other houses," Seamus said, cutting into their conversation. "And yeah, the dementors being back is awful. Enough to make ya not want to go outside."

"All right. Harry, Hermione, I'll see you tomorrow, al'right?"

Ron rose from the bench. Harry noticed that many of the older students was scrambling for the Hall doors. Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil were attempting to hurdle their house's first years together. They must be the Ravenclaw prefects. He watched as Ron skirted down the Gryffindor table towards the entrance, all the while calling out to the first years and herding them together.

"Shouldn't you be with him?" Harry asked, turning to Hermione.

"It was decided on the train. Only one prefect is needed to show the new first years to the common room. Ron is capable enough to do it himself." She looked over at the Slytherin table. "It's the same for the other houses, too. Parkinson agreed to take her house's first years alone down to the dungeons, so Malfoy could stay and be shown to his new common room."

"I'm surprised Parkinson is still a prefect. Seems she only took the job to be close to Malfoy."

"Snape gave her that role for a reason, Harry, it isn't up to you to question the way he runs his House. And why shouldn't she get to be friendly with a fellow prefect?" Hermione scowled. "I'm friends with Ron."

"That's different. I saw something earlier on the train. The Slytherins are protecting one another," he muttered.

"Protecting one another?"

"I'll explain later."

Flitwick was coming down from the staff table. "Come along, come along, students," he bellowed. "Don't loiter."

He made to stand by the head of the Ravenclaw table, where he began shooing away the lingering students from his house. Why is Flitwick the one leading us up to Half-Blood Tower? Hermione rose from her seat to skirt around the students. Harry followed on slowly behind her.

Other half-humans were beginning to encircle Flitwick. Harry arrived to find Sue Li, a Ravenclaw with midnight-black hair, in the midst of asking him what they were studying for their first Charms class of the year. Harry didn't hear his answer. He saw Malfoy and Davis approaching their group. Davis was holding two books in her arms, Malfoy holding three.

"On our way now, here were go," Flitwick said, motioning with his hand onwards.

He urged their small group to follow him out of the Grand Hall. He was slow up to the Grand Staircase, though, always keeping a hold of the banister.

"This is the way to the Dark Tower," Hermione said, nudging Harry. "Why are we headed there?"

"Maybe it's on the way, or they created a new tower near it?"

Hermione hummed thoughtfully.

They approached the North Wing. Flitwick was still leading without a needing a break, while Davis, Flint, Kingston and a few other students seemed out of breath. Davis herself looked flushed in the face and was panting. The Wing had hundreds of bookshelves lining its walls, along with various tables and furniture placed around the long room. When Harry and Ron couldn't find Hermione in the library, they would often find her secluded away near one of the bookshelves in the North Wing.

Harry passed by the Fat Lady's portrait. He felt resentful that he couldn't rejoin his fellow housemates up in the Gryffindor common room, but he also knew that he couldn't risk staying there anymore. He was a vampire now.

Flitwick stopped just outside of a new portrait. Harry remembered that a door had been there before. Now, there hung the portrait of Sir Cadogan, a portly knight sitting astride a pony.

"Ah, ha, Professor Flitwick. Excellent, very excellent. I was awaiting your arrival," Cadogan said.

Flitwick smiled behind his beard. "Good evening, Sir Cadogan." He turned to his students. "It was decided the Dark Tower should be reconstructed into a new tower. The Half-Blood Tower. It shall act as your new home for the foreseeable future. And for his fine service and bravery, Sir Cadogan was selected to be the portrait to your common room. The password is, Treacle Tarts. Don't forget it. Now let's go inside."

The common room was much like the Gryffindor's. There was a table in the corner with a wizard chess placed on it. A coffee table sat near the giant fireplace. There was a large window in the far corner, with curtains outlining it. A window seat lay beneath. And opposite them, on the far side of the room, was a set of stairs that went upwards.

"Your dorm rooms are up those stairs. First floor dorms belong to Fifth Years. Second floor dorms, they're for Sixth Years. And third floor, Seventh Years. There are separate dorms for each gender. Men on the left, girls the right. Much like your past dorms, boys may not enter the girls' dormitories. Try it, and you'll see the defensive charms that have been put in place. Some I personally placed." Flitwick sounded proud. He swaddled past them towards the door. "Your belongings have already been transferred to your dorms. Don't stay up too late. You'll be getting your new timetables tomorrow morning."

Flitwick left. There was a brief silence.

Seamus shook his head. "I'm gonna go to bed. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and this will all be a dream."

Malfoy glanced at Harry, his eyebrows raising, before he followed Seamus up the staircase. Nervously, Harry fiddled with the long sleeves of the jacket. When is he going to ask for his jacket back? Most of the students followed Seamus' lead, tired from the long walk to the common room.

Hermione pulled him over to the window seat. He perched himself upon the soft cushions and laid his back against the wall. They waited as the common room slowly emptied, until only two other students were left. The remaining two were both fifth years and had occupied themselves with a game of wizards' chess beside the fireplace.

"They won't hear us if we're quiet," Hermione said, eyeing them. "Now what's wrong, Harry?"

"What's wrong, is Malfoy's a Death Eater. He showed me his Mark. The actual Dark Mark, 'Mione." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Voldemort stayed at the Malfoy Manor during the summer. I think something is wrong. Something is definitely wrong with Malfoy and I want to help him but I don't know how."

"Slow down. Tell me exactly what happened on the train?"

"I can't - I can't slow down," he stuttered, placing his head in his hands. "After Neville and I met with Slughorn and the others, I snuck out after Zabini. I followed him to the Slytherin compartment and hid up in a luggage rack."

"Harry," she admonished, clearly disapproving of his sneaking around.

"I can't remember why I did it, I just thought it'd be a great way to spy on Malfoy. But he admitted it, 'Mione. He admitted to all his mates that Voldemort had been staying at his home. He said he thinks he won't survive the year."

"Oh, dear. You're right, Harry, something is clearly wrong." She frowned. "But how does this prove he's a Death Eater?"

"I'm getting there. Malfoy then told his mates that he was a veela. And when we reached the station, they volunteered to look out for him but they left him alone on the train, because he said he'd catch up with them. He knew I was up in the rack, see. He cast the full body-bind curse on me. I fell onto the floor, and Malfoy - he said that he knew we'd followed him to Borgin and Burkes. Borgin had told Malfoy that you followed him after into the shop and started asking questions."

Hermione snorted. "Well, Malfoy was acting fishy. I won't say sorry for investigating it."

"He didn't seem to care, 'Mione. Only wanted us to stop following him. He rolled up his sleeve and showed me his Mark, and said he hoped we'd stop spying on him. The Mark didn't look...normal, though. It was all bloody and cut up."

"Okay. And then what happened? Did he leave - is that why you were late to the feast?"

"No. Ah. He took off the body-bind curse. And there was so much blood on his arm, 'Mione. And he was close, we were both sitting on the compartment floor." He took a breath. Hermione was eyeing him, expecting him to continue. "I wanted his blood. I leaned in to him and then...and then the whole compartment exploded. The windows smashed and glass came down at us, the racks broke. He didn't mean to. I mean, Malfoy cast accidental magic, but he didn't mean to. He pulled me down first."

"He pulled you down?" she asked, sounding surprised.

"Malfoy yelled "Duck!" and pushed me to the floor. When it was over, he said that I shouldn't have surprised him. That I shouldn't try and touch a veela. Then...then he noticed my fangs. "

"Your fangs came out? They weren't meant to come out for another week, Harry."

"I know. It was a shock for both Malfoy and me." He snorted at the memory of Malfoy's horrified face. Of course he'd look that way when faced with a vampire. "He ran out after. Grabbed his suitcase and ran. Then Tonks came and brought me to the gates. Snape collected me from there. He gave me some pig's blood to make my fangs go away and made me go into the Hall without my Cloak on. That's it. That's what happened."

Hermione fiddled with her hands. "Well. It seems like Malfoy's under a lot of pressure right now. Are you going to tell Mr Weasley, Harry? I'm not sure if it's a good idea. Malfoy could panic again."

"Yeah, I agree." She looked up from her hands, her eyes widening. Clearly, she hadn't expected him to agree. "I'm not gonna tell Mr Weasley. Maybe I'll tell Dumbledore, I dunno. I'll see what happens first, I don't think Malfoy wants to hurt anyone."

"But you've been so adamant that he's been up to something."

"He is, but you should've heard him on the train, 'Mione. He sounded so scared. He doesn't want to be a Death Eater, I'm sure of it. And I want to help him. Parkinson and Zabini aren't staying here, he has no one. I need to help him."

"As long as you're sure, Harry. And you keep your distance." She gave him a stern look. "Just because you want to help him, doesn't mean he wants you to. You said it yourself, he doesn't want you spying on him."

"I won't be spying on him. I'll be trying to be his friend."

Chapter Text

Harry didn't know if he really wanted to befriend Malfoy. He wanted to stop Malfoy from serving the Death Eaters. He wanted to prevent him from doing anything to harm himself or others. And he wanted Malfoy to survive. He wanted so many things, and it was hard to imagine how he could help.

What was it Malfoy said on the train, he thinks he won't survive the year?

Harry had bid Hermione goodnight shortly after his admittance to wanting Malfoy's friendship, claiming tiredness. She had stayed behind on the window seat, and so he was forced to make the climb to the third floor of the Half-Blood Tower alone. As Flitwick had said, Harry found two doors on either side of the third floor: one door to the ladies' dorm room, the other to the men's. And he could already hear muffled voices coming out from behind both doors.

He opened the door to his new dorm.

"- absolute moron, Finnigan," he heard Corner mutter.

The dorm room was different to the Gryffindor dorm. The walls were made of simple wooden panelling. There was a door to the left that held a sign pinned to it, 'Bathroom', and one more door that led out to a balcony. The four-poster beds looked different, too. There were four of them in the room. Two beds were decorated by red curtains and quilts, and one of them had a jug placed on the bedside table. The third bed had blue curtains and blue bedding, and the fourth had green.

Michael Corner was sitting on his bed. His bed was on the right side of the room, closest to the entrance. What sort of creature is he? Does Cho know? The last Harry had heard, Corner was still dating his fellow Ravenclaw, Cho Chang.

Seamus was leaning against the pillar of his four-poster bed, clutching his right hand. He looked red in the face. His sandy-coloured hair resembled a stack of mismatched sticks. And he was wincing as if in pain.

"What happened?" Harry asked.

"Finnigan tried to enter the girls' dormitory," Corner replied. "And burned his hand on the doorknob. Flitwick really outdid himself with his protective charms."

Seamus grimaced. "I don't wanna go bother Pomfrey, it's only a little burn. I'll be fine."

"Liar. He's too much of a wimp to go see Pomfrey and admit what he did," Corner said.

Harry didn't know any spells to soothe burns. "Hermione might know a spell for burns, I can ask her?"

"What? No! Hermione will tell all the girls that I tried to enter their dorm room. I've seen her get angry at Ron, that's not happening to me. Not on the first day back."

"Why did you even try to enter their dorms, Finnigan?" Corner asked, snickering.

"We're on the same floor now. He couldn't do that spell where the stairs become a slide. So, you know, I thought anything he came up with wouldn't be as bad? And I needed to see Tracey."

Corner frowned. "You wanted to see Tracey Davis? The Slytherin?"

The bathroom door opened. Malfoy stepped out in his school uniform. He probably changed on the carriage ride to the castle. His shirt was unbuttoned and his tie hung lazily around his neck. There was also a long, purple bruise on his stomach, marring his pale, smooth skin. Harry flushed and tore his gaze away to look at Malfoy's face instead.

"There is nothing wrong with Slytherins, Corner, if that's what you're implying. I could hear you all from inside the bathroom."

He went over to his bed and bent down by his trunk. His bed was the furthest from the entrance, but the closest to the balcony. I wonder if all the dorms here have a balcony? The balcony was kept locked off by a glass door. Harry could see stone banisters outside through the glass, but not much else. He vowed to check the balcony out sometime during his first week back.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" Seamus asked, looking up from his hand.

The blond peeked over his trunk. "Do you need help with that?"

"You're offering?" Harry asked, astonished.

"I am. I studied a bit under Pomfrey last year, when I wasn't working for the Inquisition Squad. I have all the supplies necessary in my trunk to treat burns and cuts, that is, if you do want my help."

Corner scowled. "Why do you need supplies to treat injuries? You injure a lot of people?"

"I keep them for myself, not others," Malfoy replied shortly. He turned to Seamus. "Do you want my aid or not? Potter can still call Granger up here. I'd personally not risk the wrath of the girls, though, especially Davis. I hear she likes her privacy."

"All right, Malfoy. What exactly are you going to do?" Seamus asked.

"First of all, go wash in the bathroom with lukewarm water. Clean your hands." Malfoy stood and motioned for Seamus to follow him into the bathroom. Soon, the sound of rushing water came echoing out. "Gently, you ruddy Gryffindor! Not rough enough to break skin," he heard Malfoy shout.

Harry sniggered quietly and went to his own bed. Realising that he was still wearing Malfoy's jacket, he took it off and laid it on his bed. I wish Corner wasn't here. He wanted to put the jacket on Malfoy's bed. What's Corner going to think if I'm putting clothes on Draco Malfoy's bed? He promised himself he'd return the jacket later when no one else was around.

His trunk sat in front of his bed. He undressed, tossed his clothes into the trunk, and redressed into a pair of plaid pyjamas. Then, he picked up the jacket from his bed, folded it and placed it neatly atop his trunk.

He sat on his bed and rubbed his face. I wonder if Malfoy would consider treating my cuts from the train? Harry shook his head at the thought. Back on the Hogwarts Express, Malfoy had run away at the sight of his fangs. He very much doubted Malfoy would consider helping a vampire heal. Malfoy seemed to have taken care of his own, though. The blond man only had a few faded cuts on his cheeks and just one on his neck.

I need to act like a vampire, I can't keep relying on others to help me. Already, he'd had Tonks keep him from becoming frostbitten, and Snape help him to retract his fangs. He needed to learn to cope on his own. He took up the jug on his beside table and saw the blood inside. He drank it all. I can't forget to drink daily. I can't let Snape give me detention just for forgetting.

Moments later, the pair reappeared from the bathroom.

Seamus sat on his bed as Malfoy gathered his supplies. Malfoy went about treating the Gryffindor's burn quickly, first by asking Seamus to apply a lotion to his injured hand, and then by bandaging the burn himself, wrapping the fabric loosely and explaining that Seamus needed to remain behind in the morning so that Malfoy could redress the wound again.

"If all goes well, Finnigan, the lotion should help your skin heal by the morning. Form a new top layer. But it's best to leave the lotion on for two days just in case." Malfoy tied the bandage dressing off and retreated back to his trunk, where he put away his supplies away. "The lotion is magically designed to reduce pain, repair and produce new skin. Quite the marvel."

"You're the marvel, Malfoy." Seamus grinned at him. "Thanks, man. Girls won't notice now."

"Why'd you want to talk to Davis in the first place, anyway?" Harry asked from his bed.

"Ah. I met the Weasley twins in Diagon Alley during the holidays. They wanted to play a practical joke on Davis. Asked me to give her a dungbomb. Apparently, she pulled a fast one on Fred and managed to trick him into using a boxing telescope on himself when she last visited their store. I should have known better than to listen to Fred and George. They said they'd send me a first edition of their new product if I went through with it."

Corner snorted. "Well, good luck with that. I'm going to sleep."

Corner got up from his bed and started to undress for bed. Seamus hummed in agreement.

Harry watched as Malfoy collected his clothing and silently went back into the bathroom. He's probably changing there to hide the Dark Mark on his arm. The thought didn't bring solace to Harry, who then bid his fellow Gryffindor roommate goodnight and then closed the curtains surrounding his four-poster bed.

The following day after breakfast, the Head of Houses were required to confirm the timetables with their sixth-year students. Harry sat at the Gryffindor table alongside Ron and Hermione. As McGonagall finished reaffirming that Harry and Ron could continue to take Potions, now being taught by Professor Slughorn, and therefore they could continue with their career plans to become Aurors, she was interrupted by the sharp voice of Pansy Parkinson from the Slytherin table.

"You're not serious, Draco!"

He huffed. "I'm allowed to change my mind."

The surrounding sixth-year Slytherins broke out into chatter and laughter. Harry could see Zabini scowling angrily at Goyle and Crabbe, who were seated beside one another and whispering.

"You will all lower your voices, or I'll see fit the entire lot of you spend the night in detention!" Snape shouted. He stood up, and went on, "Mr Malfoy, you are cleared for your new timetable, however much I and others may disapprove. Now leave. Mr Goyle, we need to discuss..."

"Well, never have I heard such a commotion," McGonagall said, his thin lips drawn in irritation. "Normally, the Ravenclaw table is the one that causes all the noise." She turned around on the bench to train her gaze on Harry once more. "As I was saying, I'm quite sure Professor Slughorn will lend you books and ingredients until you can acquire your own. You as well, Mr Weasley. Now you're both set, off you go. Onto you, Mr Thomas..."

Harry had been pleased to hear he could take Potions at NEWT level. He'd been awarded Exceeds Expectations for an OWL grade, and Professor Snape had only wanted to accept students with an Outstanding level of achievement onto NEWT level. It was a relief to know Professor Slughorn was still welcoming students with Exceeds Expectations.

His first class was Defence Against the Dark Arts with Professor Snape. He had been surprised to see that Ron and Hermione had been accepted into at NEWT level, given they'd only achieved Exceeds Expectations. Harry had been the only one out of them to achieve an Outstanding grade at OWL level. For whatever reason, though likely on Dumbledore's orders, Snape had lowered his standards to let a lesser grade into his class.

Now confirmed, Harry, Ron and Hermione made their way to the DADA classroom. It was a little while until the class started, so they simply stood outside and talked.

"Katie Bell is Captain, you know. I'll have to tryout again," Ron said, not sounding happy by the notion. "She reckons you should've been made captain, Harry, but because you're a vampire and all, well..."

"Ron, don't be so thoughtless. You know Harry can't play Quidditch now, stop talking about it."

Harry shrugged. "It's fine, Hermione. I'll be too busy this year, anyway."

Hermione beamed. She probably thought that he was referring to their NEWT studies, and she proceeded to talk about how taxing Ancient Runes was likely to become and when they could start group studies in the library together. In actuality, Harry was more concerned with simply getting through his sixth year. Between remembering to drink blood, trying to keep an eye on Malfoy, and studying for NEWTS, I think I'll have enough to do.

Eventually, more students arrived for the classroom. Harry saw when Malfoy, Goyle and Zabini appeared at the corridor's entrance. The three made to stand near the back, behind the other queuing students. So, Malfoy did get at least an Exceptional Expectations in Defence Against the Dark Arts. I wonder what other grades he got for his OWL levels?

The door to the classroom opened. Snape stepped out.

"Inside," he ordered.

Harry found a seat quickly beside Ron. The class went as he expected. Snape rattled on about much more advanced their work load would be this year, and how he expected not many to pass his NEWT level class. He showed pictures of individuals suffering at the hands of the Cruciatus Curse, a Dementor's Kiss, and the Inferius.

"...You are, I believe, all complete novices in the use of non-verbal spells. What is the advantage of a non-verbal spell?"

Hermione's hand shot up into he air.

Snape took his time eyeing everyone else in the classroom, before he sighed, looked at her and said, "Very well. Miss Granger, your answer?"

"Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you're about to perform," she answered, "which gives you a split second advantage."

"An answer copied word for word from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 6," he said dismissively.

Over in the corner, Zabini sniggered. Harry glanced over his shoulder and saw the dark-skinned boy grinning and passing a note to Goyle. One guess that it's something insulting about Hermione. Harry thought Malfoy would be in on it, but the blond boy was in the seat next to the window, and seemed to be ignoring Snape's teaching in favour of staring outside.

"On the other hand," Snape went on, "Miss Granger is correct in the basic point. Yes, those who practice non-verbal magic may gain the element of surprise. Not all wizards are capable of this, however; it is a question of focus and mind power which some -" his gaze lingered on Harry "- unfortunately lack."

Harry knew he was referring to their failed Occlumency lessons last year. He glowered back at Snape until the professor looked away.

"You'll now divide into pairs. One will attempt to jinx the other without speaking. The other will attempt to repel the jinx in equal silence. Carry on."

Many students of the class were in fact former members of Dumbledore's Army, and yet, even they were struggling. There were students who were clearly cheating: whispering incantations rather than speaking them out loud. Indeed, in the first ten minutes, Hermione was only one to manage a non-verbal incantation, repelling Neville's Jelly-Legs jinx without uttering a word.

Ron, on the other hand, had spent the last ten minutes in complete silence, with his face turning as cherry red as his hair. He was concentrating so much on casting a non-verbal spell, that Harry was beginning to wonder if he himself would have to finish class without repelling a single spell.

"Pathetic, Weasley," Snape said, as he approached them from his desk. He made to stand in front of Ron and then raised his wand. "Here, Potter - let me show -"

A bright ball of light came from the corner of the room. It smacked into Professor Snape and knocked him off-balance, sending him stumbling sideways into his desk. There was a great thump when he hit it. And clumsily, Snape stood up again.

"Who cast that Protego?" he asked, eyeing the room.

He didn't need to ask anyone. As it turned out, many students were already staring in the direction of the corner of the room, where Malfoy was leaning against the wall. The blond was panting. He had sweat on his forehead, fringe sopping with it. Zabini stood in front of him, arms folded and scowling.

"Draco, you cast two counter-jinxes at once?" Zabini asked angrily, throwing up his hands. "What's the point in me trying to jinx you if you can cast two non-verbal spells at once? You should be trying to jinx me."

"Mr Malfoy," Snape said, choosing to ignore Zabini, "while you are evidently capable at casting non-verbal counter-jinxes, you were instructed to only defend yourself, not other students. Or was I not clear?"

"Yes, you were clear," Malfoy replied stiffly. "Until you took over Weasley's role in their pair and attempted to jinx Potter. I simply did the same. I took on Potter's role and deflected your attack."

"So, to be clear, you were defending yourself against Mr Zabini. You noticed that I had taken over Mr Weasley's role as the jinxer, and you choose to react by interfering and defending Mr Potter as well as still defend yourself against Mr Zabini?"

"I did."

Snape scowled. "I did, sir."

"There's no need to call me, 'sir', Professor."

Several people gasped, including Harry. No one had ever defended him against Snape before in classes. Ron had been given smacks on the head alongside him, and there had been occasions when other students had whispered snide remarks against Snape in his own classes, but no one had ever openly disobeyed his instructions - for Harry alone.

Harry could see Ron trying not to laugh beside him. The boy's cheeks were glowing red, and he was holding a hand in front of his mouth. Seamus, Dean and Neville were also grinning not a few feet away. Hermione was the only one in the room who seemed to look more shaken than pleased.

"Detention, Mr Malfoy. This Saturday night at eight p.m., my office," Snape said. "I don't take cheek from anyone. And I'll explain in your detention how it is not a good idea to take on two opponents at once. Even if you are trying to defend the Chosen One."

For the remainder of the class, Harry couldn't keep himself from glancing back at Malfoy. He could feel Malfoy watching him, too. It was intense. It made Harry blush and wish for the class to end quickly. He wanted to talk to Malfoy. He wanted to ask Malfoy if they could find somewhere they could talk by themselves.

"That was bloody brilliant, Malfoy!" Seamus shouted, once they were outside in the corridor.

"Not really," Zabini said.

Malfoy scowled at Zabini.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were walking towards the entrance to the Grand Staircase. Harry glanced behind him to see Malfoy and Zabini were straying behind, most likely because they also had a break before their next class and didn't want to return to separate common rooms. Harry frowned, finally deciding that he couldn't wait until he got lucky and found Malfoy by himself. He would have to ask Malfoy for a private chat.

"I'll see you both in Potions," Harry said.

Ron gasped. "Mate, what are you -"

"He'll tell us later, Ronald. Come on." Hermione grabbed Ron by the arm and hauled him towards the Grand Staircase.

Grateful for Hermione's help, Harry - apprehensively - approached Malfoy and Zabini.

"Malfoy, can we talk - alone?"

"No, you can't, Potter," Zabini snapped. "Draco told us what happened on the train. I don't trust you not to scare him again into breaking things. Bloody egotistical, you are. Why, if Pansy were here -"

"Blaise, stop." Malfoy groaned. "You saw what happened in class. I'm quite able to look after myself. And I doubt Potter will try to come near me again, not after last time." He looked tired. His fringe and shirt were still wet with sweat. "C'mon, Potter. We can talk in our dorm room. I need to shower and change. This heat and the non-verbal spells proved...ah, a bit too taxing for me."

Malfoy led the way back to the seventh floor. Several students eyed them on the way. Once inside their dorm room, Malfoy locked the door shut and cast a silencing charm.

"To ensure no one overhears us," he murmured. "I'll be in the shower, you wait here. I'll answer your questions once I'm out."

Harry listened as the shower started running. He rolled his eyes, suspecting that Malfoy would take an eternity in the shower before he showed himself. He did defend you against Snape, he got a detention for you, don't go and mock him now. Harry thought about what he should ask Malfoy. For a start, why is he acting so nice now?

It was over ten minutes before Malfoy stepped out into the dorm room. The man had redressed himself into his trousers, socks and shoes, but had neglected to pull his shirt back on. Harry glanced over the bleeding Dark Mark on his left arm and stared at the long, thin bruise on his abdomen.

Malfoy walked over to his trunk. He brought out a ball of bandages and quickly dressed his arm. Then, he picked up a new shirt from his trunk.

"Go on, then, Potter. Ask what you want."

"Where did you get that bruise from? Why haven't you healed it?"

Malfoy stiffened. "Those questions I'm not willing to answer." He pulled the shirt over his arms and began to button it up. "Surely you have more important things on your mind?"

"All right. Why did you defend me against Snape?"

"I have no doubt you could've handled it by yourself, but you shouldn't have needed to. Snape broke his rule about pairing, inserting himself in Weasley's place." He sniffed. "And besides, I didn't feel like letting him hurt you."

"You didn't want Snape to hurt me? Me?" he spluttered. "Why are you acting so great lately? You - you used to be the worst, and now..."

"Now I no longer want to trick and hurt people, Potter. It's that simple." He eyed the jacket on Harry's trunk. "I trust you don't need my jacket anymore?"

Malfoy picked his jacket up and placed it on his own bed. The act made Harry uneasy for some reason. I liked his jacket because it kept me warm. He can take it back, it's his own property. Malfoy then retrieved a Slytherin tie from his trunk.

"What was it like, living under the same roof as Voldemort?"

Malfoy winced. And Harry regretted asking. The Slytherin sat on his bed, leaving his tie to hang undone over his shoulders.

"You really want to know, Potter?" Harry nodded. "Vol...the Dark Lord wasn't at the Manor for the entire summer. Mainly August. My mother and I tried to hide my veela side from him. The changes were slow. I started changing in fifth year, I knew that; I asked Pomfrey about it. She tried to hide it from me at first, but eventually told me what was wrong. It was going okay until I went home and turned sixteen in June. When I turned sixteen, I experienced the worst pain imaginable. My stomach felt like it was trying to rip itself apart. Worse, Aunt Bellatrix found out."

"Bellatrix was with you?"

"She spent the entire summer with us, which was awful. She'd just sent Sirius to St. Mungo's and she was in hiding from the Aurors. My father was sent to Azkaban. She mocked and humiliated my mother and I. You have no idea what I went through." He stood and attempted to continue tying his tie, if a little more aggressively now. "The day I turned sixteen, my mother tried to hide me in my room the entire day. But Bellatrix knew something was wrong. She found out and told the Dark Lord."

Harry wanted to step forward. I don't want to know anymore, I want to help. He wanted to retie the man's tie for him. He wanted to hug the man. Instead, he asked the one question that had been plaguing him.

"Why did you take the Mark, Malfoy?"

"I didn't take it voluntarily! My Mark bleeds, in case you didn't notice back on the train." He raked his left hand through his sopping wet hair. "The Dark Lord punished my mother - tortured her - for trying to hide my veela side. He cast the Cruciatus on her. And he gave me a choice. I could either take his Mark and fulfil a mission for him, or he would kill her. I took the Mark to save my mother, Potter. My mother. I don't regret doing it."

Harry had his answer. He knew for certain now. Malfoy doesn't want to be a Death Eater. He took it to protect his mum.

"Why...why does your Mark bleed?" he asked, sympathetically.

"Veelas aren't supposed to be branded. My blood is constantly fighting the dark magic, so my Mark never actually heals." Malfoy rubbed his arm. "The Dark Lord thinks he owns me...me, a powerful creature, but he doesn't. I won't have it. Bellatrix taught me Occlumency, and I've been using it against the Dark Lord. He don't know who my mate is. I can keep that a secret from him. And I will think of a plan to help my mother escape from the Manor. You don't need to help, Potter, I will figure it out by myself."

"But...I still don't understand." Harry titled his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "What do you mean, that Voldemort doesn't know who your mate is? Do you mean, like, how Zabini is one of your best buddies? And what's your mission? And all of that...it doesn't explain why you saved me from Snape. You got a detention for me."

"Potter, what are you doing - acting like this? Asking me questions? Caring about my bleeding arm? Just because I start checking in on Sirius, helping your friends and defending you in class, that doesn't mean we're friends."

Malfoy finished tying his tie. It ended up crooked, though. Harry wanted to approach him and correct the tie. Malfoy won't let me touch him though, let alone fix his tie.

"But...I want to help. I want us to be friends."

He stuck his hand out, hoping that the Slytherin would shake it.