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At Your Service

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As the rest of the Gryffindors headed toward the tower, Harry ran down the stairs.

"Malfoy, wait!" he called, catching up with the small group of Slytherins. Malfoy nodded at Zabini and the Greengrass sisters and lingered behind.

Harry caught his arm. "Are you all right?" He did not like the blank expression on Malfoy's face.

"Peachy," Malfoy said.

Harry's fingers wrapped tighter around Malfoy's arm. "Pack fast, will you? You almost died three times."

"The Room's magic must not like me very much. I did have a hand in destroying it."

"No!" Harry said, though it had crossed his mind, too. The possibility that the Room was too eager to fulfil Smith's and Pritchard's wishes. Or mine? The thought horrified him, but he could not stop thinking about it. What if he had some deep secret desire to save Malfoy, again and again? What if that kept throwing Malfoy into danger? But that could not have been true, could it? He had been so desperate to keep Malfoy alive, but what if the magic had misinterpreted his wish? Harry remembered the night Malfoy had spent broken on the pitch; he had been dreaming about Malfoy's dot on the Map. It had vanished and Harry had cried, desperately wanting it to reappear. Was it possible his desperation had helped keep Malfoy alive, despite all odds? That meant he had got his wish, but it was small confront if he had been the one who had helped get Malfoy hurt in the first place. If he hadn't, why was the Room's magic so quick to give Smith what he had wanted? Smith hadn't been wishing it for long; he was supposed to be fast asleep, system full of Dreamless Sleep Potion. He had no thoughts. And why had the Room led him to the pitch? Why not just break Malfoy's broom and let him fall; it did not need Smith's presence. "Crabbe burned down the Room."

"And I led him there. And the Room reads minds, remember?"

Harry squeezed Malfoy's arm even tighter; he was probably hurting him. "You had better be on the first carriage away from here."

Malfoy's lips twitched. "As you wish."

"Smartarse." Harry barely got the word out when Malfoy leaned in and kissed him. The hard, toe-curling kiss left Harry embarrassingly dizzy. "Well," Harry said, breathless when Malfoy pulled away.

Malfoy smiled, though Harry did not like that smile. "Goodbye, Potter," Malfoy said, then turned and left.

"I'll see you soon!" Harry called, frowning. Malfoy did not look back.

Harry was tempted to follow him, grab him, Summon his Firebolt and fly them out of the castle right now, but Ron and Hermione showed up by his side, and the momentary urge passed.

"Don't you think things like that can wait, mate?" Ron asked. "Am I snogging my girlfriend? No, I'm not. We're supposed to be packing. And that was your idea."

Harry forcibly pushed Malfoy out of his mind and studied his friends. "You two do believe me, right?" He glanced at Hermione.

"Sentient magic possessing the castle... what's not to believe?"

Harry narrowed his eyes at her, suspecting sarcasm.

"Of course I believe you, Harry," Hermione said. "I just can't decide if your theory breaks the laws of magic or merely expands on them. Or I have somehow misinterpreted them originally." The possibility she might have misinterpreted something seemed to terrify her.

"I doubt something like this was ever described in some book," Harry said. "Perhaps you can study this phenomena and write your own book."

"Hmm," she grumbled. "I do wonder, though, if Hogwarts magic turned against us, so to speak, what will happen to the school? It was only recently restored and now..." She looked sad.

"Can't we just... wish the magic away?" Ron asked. "Tell it to go back to the Room? Or wherever?"

"But does it even have a sense of self?" Hermione countered, looking pensive. "Would it even know what we're asking? What if it concludes that by magic we mean our wands, or ourselves? It reacted on instinct when it ran from the Room of Requirement; I'm not sure it could do something like that consciously, without the threat of destruction, which would awaken its instincts."

"Better not risk it," Harry said. He hoped some experts would be called in and they would be able to do something, make the school safe again. I should stop wishing for things, he reminded himself. "Let's worry about the students first."

She nodded and they hurried to the Gryffindor Tower to pack.

By the time they reached the common room, it was already empty. They could hear yelling upstairs. "Pack! Pack! Pack!" someone was ordering with the utmost authority. Harry thought it might be Lavender.

"We shouldn't let people panic," Harry said. "People think odd things when they panic."

"Probably a bit late for that." Hermione grimaced, squeezed Ron's hand and rushed to her dormitory. Ron and Harry did the same.

They found Dean and Seamus packing, and Neville sitting on his bed, holding his Flitterbloom and looking gloomy.

"Pack!" Ron told him.

Neville did not move. "Do you think it's real?" he asked. "Hannah always claimed she never sent it to me."

Ron stared at him. "What, the plant?"

Neville nodded. "With the blue blossom. It's so rare."

"Er," Harry said. "Did you desperately want it? For a long time?"

Neville nodded again.

"What, the plant?" Ron repeated, sounding even more incredulous.

"Sorry, Neville," Harry said and then shrugged at Ron when Ron mouthed, "Mental."

Dean yelped. Harry looked around to see his books and clothes jump into his trunk one after the other. "I'm not doing that!" Dean cried.

"Dean, calm down," Harry said.

"It's helping us pack now?" Ron looked up and down, left and right, as though he might see some mysterious magic appear.

Harry grimaced. "We have to hurry. The students were told they have to leave immediately; they must be scared and eager to get out. The castle might end up shaking us off like fleas."

"Don't say that!" Ron ordered. "Don't give it ideas."

"Right. I have to stop thinking, too, probably." As he said that, he could not help thinking it would be a miracle if they all got out of here alive.

Groaning, Harry hurried to pack his trunk.

Trouble found them almost two hours later; it was nearing midnight. Harry, Ron, Dean, Seamus and Neville lingered behind, making sure all Gryffindor boys were packed, accounted for and ready to leave. It all took much too long for Harry's liking.

The common room was crowded and everyone was yelling. It took awhile for Harry to push to the front and out of the portrait hole, where he was greeted by thunderous racket.

"Harry, the staircases!" Hermione called, rushing to his side and pulling him toward the main staircases. Harry froze when he saw them. They were wild, bucking left and right, up and down, now they were connected to this corridor, now to the other. They were all moving, all the way down to the ground floor.

"I think... I think they're trying to help," Hermione said. "Get us down fast."

"I said we shouldn't panic," Harry said, panicking.

"EVERYONE! CALM DOWN!" Ron's voice thundered. Harry winced and turned to stare at him. Ron was standing near the portrait hole, grinning. "SONOROUS CHARM," he explained, quite needlessly. "NOW EVERYONE WISH FOR THE STAIRCASES TO STOP MOVING. CONCENTRATE!"

"Why would that help?" someone asked. Several students murmured their agreement and confusion. Some demanded to know what was going on. Perhaps they should have told everyone their wishes were not safe, but there was no time and it might have induced greater panic.

"NEVER YOU MIND!" Ron boomed. "JUST DO IT!"

Hermione looked worried. "Will that be enough? Even if they stay still, they could start moving again once we're halfway through."

"We have no choice, Hermione. We have to get out and every route is potentially dangerous."

With a mighty roar, the staircases slammed against each other and stayed put. The students looked shocked.

"Come on, Hermione." Harry took her hand.

"Don't move, don't move, don't move," Hermione chanted as they stepped onto the first step.

"KEEP WISHING THEM TO STAY STILL!" Ron instructed.

It worked, though it had taken awhile for the other students to follow Harry and Hermione. The D.A. members grabbed a few arms, pushed a few students forward and down they went.

They made it to the ground floor safely, if slowly, and Hermione directed them down the dim corridor leading to the Entrance Hall. They had barely taken a few steps when the torches that lined the walls burst into wild flames.

Students screamed as several robes caught fire, as well as a little girl's long hair. Hermione whirled around and Vanished the small fires instantly.

"Honestly!" she cried, restoring the little girl's hair with a wave of her wand. "The corridor is bright enough." The moment she said that all the torches went out and left them in the dark. "Oh, for heaven's sake!" She groaned and lit up her wand. Harry followed her example and so did several other students.

They reached the Entrance Hall by wandlight. McGonagall was there, surrounded by several other teachers. She walked briskly to meet them.

"We were just planning to come up and fetch you. Is everything all right? All the other Houses are already out on the grounds."

"Small trouble with the staircases," Harry said. "But everyone's fine."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN EVERYONE ELSE IS OUTSIDE? THE RAVENCLAWS HAD TO GET PAST THE STAIRCASES, TOO!"

"Mr Weasley!" McGonagall jumped in fright. "What on earth—?"

"SORRY, PROFESSOR!" Ron looked sheepish, and then he yelped when Hermione turned and pointed her wand at his throat. "Quietus!" she hissed.

"Blimey! My throat hurts." Ron grimaced. "But it really is odd that the Ravenclaws got out before we did."

"Well, they're Ravenclaws," Hermione said. "They're organized and pack faster." She stared at the students exiting the castle, her expression sad. "I can't believe we're leaving. What about our N.E.W.T.s?"

"Don't worry," Harry said. "I'm sure you'll pass all your N.E.W.T.s with an Outstanding, Hermione."

She gave him a sardonic sort of look. "Yes, well, if we stayed here, I could have wished for it and it would come true."

"You hardly need such tricks, Miss Granger," McGonagall said. "Come along now. The carriages are waiting. We're the last ones here." She looked around the castle; Harry thought her eyes looked a bit bright.

The D.A. members waited with the teachers for everyone else to leave.

"I'm sure someone will, er, fix the castle," Harry told McGonagall.

She pursed her lips. "Tommy Wright and Gregory Goyle were led outside almost immediately. They're both fine. Mr Wright is awake and Mr Goyle has returned to his original size. And Professor Plunkett had been miraculously cured, as well. It seems the students had wished his voice away." She shook her head. "You were right. Which means... this is something that will not be easily fixed. I'm certain a way to contain this magic will be found, but it might take a good long while."

Harry was happy to hear Tommy was all right, though he tried not to show it; McGonagall seemed too melancholic to appreciate happiness at the moment.

But then McGonagall smiled suddenly, even laughed a little, though it sounded sad. She looked at Harry sideways. "I liked being Headmistress," she confided. Then she shook her head again and sobered. "Should have known you would ruin it for me, Potter."

Harry's jaw dropped in indignation. "Me? I didn't—"

"Oh hush!" She gave him a fond look. "It was rather stressful; that can be my comfort. Come on. We should leave before I regret it and express a wish to stay."

Outside, they found an outrageous number of carriages lined up neatly in long rows. Students were Levitating and lifting their trunks onto the carriages in the first row, though some trunks, Harry noticed, jumped up all on their own. High up above them, floating candles were burning, hundreds, maybe thousands of them. They cast bright light and warmth down on the snowy grounds.

The magic's kind, Harry thought. It was only ever trying to help, trying to serve.

Farther to the left, Harry noticed a small assembly of Hogwarts ghosts; they glowed faintly in the night.

"Are the ghosts leaving, too?" Harry asked McGonagall. "The magic wouldn't fulfil their wishes, surely?"

"That I do not know. I've explained the situation, and the fact that the magic has Vanished Peeves worries them. It seems they're reluctant to take any chances. The house-elves are gone, too. They have Disapparated."

Harry frowned. "Should we try to retrieve Peeves?"

"We should leave, I think." She looked up at the mass of candles. "There will be time to retrieve Peeves. We'll leave it to the experts. The castle is not going anywhere. Now go put away your trunk. There are not enough carriages for everyone. We'll pass through the gates on foot and they will take us to Hogsmeade station in batches."

"Oh." Harry looked around. "I forgot my trunk." He had left it in the common room and gone outside to see what was going on. "I'll Summon—" The trunk appeared before him. "Thanks," he grumbled.

McGonagall shook her head. "A single thought was enough. It seems it is getting more skilful."

Perhaps it was, but everyone was thinking about packing and leaving, so perhaps the magic was simply attuned to it. Frowning, Harry hurried to load up his trunk; his housemates had gone ahead and were already Levitating their luggage onto the carriages. Harry's gaze scanned the grounds and found a familiar face in the crowd that was moving toward the gates.

"Be right back," he told Ron and ran over to the group of Slytherins. "Zabini!" he called, pushing his way through. "Have you seen Malfoy? Where is he?" Harry could not see a white-blond head anywhere.

Zabini paused and looked at Harry disdainfully, as though to say: "Are we mates, now? Why are you speaking to me?" A little boy stood next to Zabini, clutching his hand. Harry smiled at him and the boy raised an eyebrow in perfect imitation of his brother's disdain.

Harry eyed Zabini expectantly, ready to beg for information if he had to.

Zabini shrugged. "He was here. Must have gone ahead."

"Did you see him go ahead?" Harry looked toward the gates, trying to spot Malfoy again. "Is he wearing a hat?"

"No, I've not seen him. And, curiously, I actually don't remember who was wearing a hat and who was not. I'll try to remember such things in the future, I’m sure." He cocked his head. "Wish him here, why don't you?"

Harry had actually tried that, though not purposely. He did not say that, though, but settled for a scowl. He pushed past Zabini and found the Greengrass sisters, Millicent Bulstrode, and even questioned Nott. He tried the same with Pansy Parkinson, but she ran away from him. None of them knew where Malfoy was, although Astoria Greengrass had assured him they had led the Slytherins out of the dungeons together, but she had not seen him since.

Harry threw caution to the wind and actively wished for Draco to appear. Maybe he's already past the gates. If he was, then Harry could not call him back. Harry had begged him to get out as fast as possible. Maybe Malfoy had listened.

Goodbye, Potter.

Harry's chest hurt; his heart was beating too fast. Why had Malfoy said goodbye? And said it in a way that sounded so final? It's just something you say. It meant nothing. But Harry could not shake away a growing sense of panic. He doubled back, questioning everyone he knew and every Slytherin who crossed his path. No one had seen him and Harry grew desperate. I want Malfoy, I want Malfoy, I want Malfoy. It did not help.

A little ahead, he spotted Parvati and Lavender. Parvati was yelling as Lavender lifted her enormous trunk onto the carriage with ridiculous ease. Harry ran toward them; he had not questioned them yet.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Parvati was saying, nearly screaming. "You have to eat what you have to eat! It's not your fault! There's no shame in that!"

"Oh, easy for you to say," Lavender spat. "You have nothing to be ashamed of. Look at you! You're as pretty as you've always been. And me? I'm a monster." Lavender sniffed. "Sometimes it hurts to look at you. You're everything I used to be."

Harry winced and took a careful step back, intending to flee; they did not need his questions now. And it was unlikely they had seen Malfoy, anyway. They had arrived with Harry.

Harry almost turned, but then he stopped short, staring at Parvati. A bloody steak appeared in her hand. She gave Lavender a wild look and bit out a huge chunk of bloody meat, so angrily Harry feared she would break her teeth.

"There!" she yelled; there were smudges of blood on her cheek. She chewed savagely and swallowed. "Now I'm a monster, too!"

A broken sound tore from Lavender's throat and then they were hugging and crying, clinging to each other as Parvati chanted, "You are beautiful. You are, you are."

Embarrassed for intruding, Harry tried to disappear as inconspicuously as he could. Lavender noticed him, however.

"Harry!" she called, pulling away from Parvati, but only slightly. "Is everything all right?"

"I... er, sorry," Harry said and Parvati wiped away her tears. "I just can't find Malfoy."

Parvati frowned. "Didn't see him."

"Did you send him a message?" Lavender asked.

Bloody hell. The Galleon. "I forgot. Will do that. Thanks." Harry took another hasty step back.

Lavender shook her head at him.

Harry hesitated for a moment, telling himself to shut up and run away, but he heard himself say, "You know, scars are cool, Lavender. Very warrior-like." He grinned nervously as she raised her eyebrows. "You should be an Auror. You'd fit right in."

For a second, Harry thought Lavender might walk over, punch him and tell him to mind his own business and shut up about what he didn't understand, but she snorted and said, "I might just do that."

Harry smiled. He thought of suggesting she should talk to someone. Perhaps Bill Weasley. He liked his steaks rare, too, but did not appear to crave them so desperately. And so bloody. Perhaps if Lavender allowed herself to eat whatever she wished regularly, her cravings would not be so strong.

This was not the time for that conversation, however. Harry ran away, taking out his Galleon as he went. The Hogwarts grounds were slowly clearing. Most students had already left.

Harry touched the Galleon with his wand and concentrated. His message appeared on the Galleon and Harry stared at it, waiting. He was not sure how long he stood like that, but then someone tugged at his sleeve.

"Did you find him?" Hermione asked when he looked at her. They must have heard he had been searching for Malfoy.

He shook his head. "He won't answer my message."

"But then he must be on his way to the station," Ron said. "And he didn't notice his Galleon went off. What else? You think he stayed behind?" Ron looked up at the castle. "Why?"

Goodbye, Potter. "No. I don't know."

Hermione stared at him. "You think the Room is trying to kill him, don't you?"

"I don't know," Harry repeated, frustrated. "I just want to make sure he's all right with my own eyes." Please, don't be in danger. Please be here. Harry was desperate, but the magic was not listening.

"Maybe we could try wishing him here?" Ron suggested. "You know, together."

Hermione did not look happy with that suggestion. "I don't think this is something we should rely on. It's too easy to misinterpret a wish. What if the magic sends him flying here and he breaks his neck?"

"We could wish him to be here, safe and healthy," Harry said. "It's worth a try. He's not here on the grounds. I looked everywhere. He's either gone or he's in the castle. And if he's in the castle, he could be in danger. It's worth the risk."

"Wait, then." Hermione pointed her wand at the castle's entrance. "Homenum revelio," she whispered. Nothing happened. "The castle's empty," she said.

"Then it can't hurt to try wish him back," Harry insisted. At this point, he was prepared to believe Malfoy was all right, only after he saw him.

"All right," Hermione said at last. They closed their eyes and wished; when they opened them, Malfoy was not there.

"Maybe we need more people," Harry said.

"Harry, everyone's gone."

Harry looked around. Hermione was right. A few teachers were standing by the gates. McGonagall was looking their way, impatient.

"With only a handful of us left," Hermione said, "It must have heard us. If Malfoy was in the castle, we'd wish him back. And as far as your theory goes, Harry, the Room had a chance to kill Malfoy, but it never did. So I don't think you're right about that."

"Yeah, you're right." Harry's teeth bit down on his lip painfully.

Goodbye, Potter.

"Come on," Harry said. "Before McGonagall tries to Summon us."

They hurried toward the gates. The only two people left on Hogwarts grounds were McGonagall and Ginny.

"Is there a problem?" McGonagall asked.

"No," Harry said quickly before Ron and Hermione could mention Malfoy.

"Yes, there is!" Ginny said.

"Miss Weasley," McGonagall scolded. "Off with you."

Ron frowned at his sister. "What's wrong?"

She looked up at him, clearly distressed. "Hagrid's horses disappeared when he led them past the gates. And Neville's plant, too."

"Er, well, that's..." Ron looked at the book she was clutching to her chest. "What do you have there? Oh Ginny, whatever it is, it's not worth staying here."

"Come on." Hermione wrapped her arm around Ginny's shoulders and led her past the gates. The book was still in her hands, but Ginny said, "I can't look! I can't look!" She shoved the book into Hermione's hands and closed her eyes. "You look! Is there a letter inside?"

Bemused, Hermione searched through the book. "Hmm, I don't... Oh, there it is. It's from... Gwenog Jones?"

Ginny's squeal pierced the sky. "It's real! Ron! It's real!"

Ron was there at once.

That leaves McGonagall, Harry thought.

Ron snatched the letter and read through it quickly. "Tryouts. For the Harpies. Blimey." He looked utterly shocked.

"Professor Slughorn showed her some Omnioculars' recordings and told her about me! Can you believe it?"

"Blimey!" Ron cried again, and then he laughed and picked up Ginny, twirling her around.

McGonagall huffed. "Well, at least someone is happy today."

"You'll be back here soon, Professor," Harry said. "I'm sure of it."

She smiled at him. "Ah, well now, if you're sure, it must be true."

Go. Please go.

She went. One step, another, and she was past the gates. Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

"Did you hear that, Harry?" Ron was saying. "My baby sister! Trying out for the Holyhead Harpies!"

"That's brilliant," Harry said. There must have been something in his voice that attracted everyone's attention.

Ron stopped smiling. "Harry?"

"We should go, Harry," Hermione said.

Harry shook his head. "I have to make sure he's not here."

Hermione's eyes widened in alarm.

"Who is here? A student?" McGonagall looked up at the castle and then took a step forward, as though to return to the grounds. Harry winced when she hit against the invisible barrier. She stared at him, shocked. "Potter? What are you doing?"

"He thinks Malfoy's inside," Ron said. "But he can't be, Harry."

Goodbye, Potter.

"I have to check. I'll be right back."

"Harry, no!" Hermione took out her wand and hurled spells at the barrier. It did not help. "Let us in! We'll go with you!"

"I'll be fine, Hermione."

"You cannot know that, Potter," McGonagall said. She had her wand out as well. "The magic just lost everyone; has lost its purpose entirely. It might latch onto all your wishes. It might be unsafe to think. If someone is still in the castle, we will send Ministry experts to retrieve them. Get out, Potter!"

Get out, Potter, Malfoy had yelled in Harry's dream, but Harry could not leave. He had to kill a dragon. "I'm sorry, Professor. I can't wait that long." Harry turned away.

"Harry!" Ginny's desperate cry was followed by more shouts of "Harry" and "Potter." Behind him, the night exploded with spells. They won't get through. Not if I don't let them.

Harry clutched the Galleon in his hand and ran back to the castle.

 


*

 

Harry went straight to the dungeons. Halfway there, he stopped. Astoria had claimed she and Malfoy had led the Slytherins out of the dungeons together. Malfoy had disappeared afterward. Maybe he had simply forgotten something and returned to his dormitory. Or maybe not.

Sometimes I end up somewhere, and I don't know how I got there. I meant to go to the pitch, but I ended up there, instead. Outside the Room. I end up there most of the time.

Harry whirled around and sprinted to the main staircases. They were zigzagging wildly around, but Harry did not pause. Stop, he thought and stop they did.

He's not here. He's not. He's not.

He could not have been. Why would he be? He must have reached Hogsmeade station ages ago. But Harry dashed up the stairs, head spinning as he went round and round, leaving floors behind.

He's not here. Don't be here.

Harry all but flew toward the Room of Requirement, and then froze, shocked.

Malfoy was there. The Room's door was open; Malfoy's hand was on the knob. He was staring at the darkness inside.

"Malfoy! Get away from it!" Harry screamed, but Malfoy did not seem to hear him, even though Harry was merely a few feet away.

Harry fully intended to run up to Malfoy and grab him, tear him away from the room, drag him out of the castle, but he never got the chance.

Something boomed in the distance, roared and creaked, coming from behind the wall that closed off the corridor in front of them, turning it into a dead end. High-pitched screams reached Harry's ears. It can't be. Everyone's gone. There was no one left to scream.

The screams grew louder and the wall cracked and glowed, first yellow then red.

"Help us!" someone cried and Harry suddenly recognised the screams. Hundreds of terrified voices; the Hogwarts portraits were in agony.

"Malfoy," Harry whispered, but Malfoy turned toward the glowing wall, away from Harry. "Malfoy!" Harry tried again, taking out his wand.

The wall melted and an enormous head of a fiery dragon pushed through, heading straight for Malfoy.

"Accio Malfoy!"

It worked. Malfoy spun around and shot toward Harry. They tumbled to the ground; Harry's head hit the stone with a dull thud. His vision blurred.

"Potter?" Malfoy was above him, staring down; Harry could barely make out his white-blond hair.

"RUN!" Harry bellowed, struggling to get up; his head hurt, the world was spinning. He could feel the heat of the Fiendfyre licking his skin, scorching it.

Malfoy yanked him upward, then dragged him toward the stairs.

"Hold tight!" Malfoy said, bodily pressing Harry against the banister, the push so sudden and hard Harry thought he would fall over the edge. He couldn't see.

"DOWN!" Malfoy yelled and Harry's stomach lurched. They shot downward, the stairs falling like a broken lift left to freefall.

There was light in front of Harry's eyes. Why can't I see? Everything was blurry; the pain in his head dulled and Harry realised—he had lost his glasses. They must have been knocked off when Harry had fallen. Harry wished them back and they appeared on his nose. He could see down, over the banister, all the way to the rapidly approaching ground floor.

"STOP!" he screamed.

"What—?" Malfoy turned his head, looked down and gasped. The stairs stopped moving.

A mass of fiery chimeras, serpents and dragons danced on the ground floor, filling it with fire, burning the screaming portraits, flying up toward them.

Malfoy looked up and made a strangled sound. Above them, the fiery dragon roared and spread its massive wings. It covered the whole ceiling, a sea of red-yellow fire.

Harry searched for a way out. "The corridor!" He pointed down. The corridor to their right was dangerously close to the fire below, but the stairs moved toward it at once and they jumped onto the marble floor.

"Where are we?" Harry asked, catching his breath.

A tall knight burst into one of the paintings hanging on the wall. He screamed, burning. The painting burst into flames. The one next to it followed suit, and then another and another, as far as the wall went.

Malfoy looked around wildly. "Second floor. I think." His dark eyes found Harry again. "We're trapped."

Harry grabbed Malfoy's shoulder. "Wish it away! Wish the fire away!"

"What the fuck do you think I'm doing? It's not working, Potter! It's Fiendfyre. It's out of control."

"Why did you—" There was no time for this. They had to get out. Find a window, a passage to the tower, anything. But the fire had closed off the Entrance Hall; it would never let them reach a window. They were in the middle of the castle; the windows were too far away.

A fiery chimera jumped into the corridor. Harry grabbed Malfoy's arm and they ran, dodging the flames that reached out from the portraits.

Second floor. There must have been a passage here; one that led somewhere useful. He only knew of the one that led to the ground floor. That was not an option.

"I know where to go!" Harry said, remembering. "Come on!" They turned left, then right, and it was a good thing they had because the fire was spreading, coming after them from every direction. They found themselves in front of the boys' bathroom.

Harry burst inside and went straight to the sinks. He easily found the one with a tiny snake engraving scratched on the side of one of the copper taps.

"Open!" Harry said. "OPEN!"

Malfoy had closed the door and ran up to Harry, staring. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Harry looked at him hopefully. "I don't suppose you know how to say open in Parseltongue?" Ron knew, but Harry did not. He had heard himself speak the language of snakes, but it had always been so surprising; he could not hope to imitate the hissing sounds he had made. And lately, snakes’ spits and hisses sounded like snakes’ spits and hisses to Harry's ears. Malfoy just stared at him and Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter." He focused back on the sink. "Open!" The Room should provide; it had helped with the stairs. "You try," he told Malfoy.

Malfoy blinked. "Potter, it's a sink."

"I'm aware of that! But it's also the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets."

Malfoy did not believe him; it was clear on his face.

"Malfoy, please. Just trust me and help me wish it open." There was smoke coming from the gap beneath the door; outside, Harry could hear the booming roar of the fire.

At last, Malfoy grimaced and glared at the sink. "Open!" he ordered, but it did not help. "OPEN!" Nothing happened.

We'll die in this bathroom. It was only moderately worse than dying in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry assured himself. They were trapped, either way. The only thing the Chamber could give them was time. Though, Harry could not help hoping that the Chamber was deep enough in the ground that the Room's magic had less power there. Or at least the fire could not reach them. Or perhaps the Chamber was well protected. It came with the castle just like the Room did. Perhaps Salazar Slytherin had protected it against everything imaginable, even the sort of magic that was contained in the Room of Requirement. Perhaps that was why the Room could not help them open it.

Malfoy pointed his wand at the sink. "Rictumsempra!"

The sink shuddered violently; it would not stop. Alarmed, Harry pointed his wand at it and shouted, "Protego!" a split-second before the sink exploded. The sharp pieces that flew toward them were contained and fell to the floor and through the large circular opening that had manifested before their feet.

Harry laughed, dizzy with relief. Malfoy looked disappointed, however.

"I expected better from Salazar Slytherin," he said. "Flitwick would laugh at him."

Harry grinned. "I could kiss you right now. I forgot about the damn Tickling Charm."

Harry did not kiss Malfoy, however; instead, he pointed at the pipe. "Go on."

Malfoy blinked. "In there? It's a pipe. It's a dirty pipe."

The bathroom door creaked; the smoke was filling the room. "Malfoy, plea—"

Malfoy cursed and slid onto the floor, then pushed his legs into the pipe. "Fuck this," he said, lowered himself and let go. Harry followed soon after. With a deep breath he let himself slide down, slowly gaining speed as the pipe twisted and turned, growing steeper. It seemed to go on forever, but finally the pipe levelled out and spat out Harry straight at Malfoy.

Malfoy cursed again as they tumbled to the ground.

"I hate you, Potter," Malfoy said, detangling himself from Harry and struggling to stand. Then he grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him to his feet, lighting up his wand in the process.

"This doesn't look like a Chamber. It just looks like a dirty old tunnel." Malfoy sounded disappointed again.

"Come on." Harry lit his wand. His feet made wet sounds as they slapped against the damp floor. They hurried on, rounding corner after corner; the tunnel seemed to stretch forever. Perhaps it would take them past Hogwarts grounds. The Chamber was below the lake and only a part of the lake was enclosed by the magical barriers protecting Hogwarts. Perhaps the Chamber was even farther away.

Finally, they reached a stone wall with two entwined serpents that stared at them with glinting emerald eyes.

"Tickling Charm again?" Malfoy asked and Harry nodded. He did not have a better idea.

Malfoy raised his wand but the wall cracked open even before he had uttered the spell.

It's following us, Harry thought. This time the magic had helped them open the door. Yet it had done no such thing in the bathroom. They, or rather Flitwick, had found a loophole and broken through Slytherin's defences, perhaps something like that was beyond the magic's capabilities; a simple charm but a conclusion beyond its limited comprehension, even though it must have seen the solution in their minds. The Chamber was safe, but now, they had let the magic inside.

They entered the long, dimly lit chamber. It glowed faintly green, just like Harry remembered. Harry closed and sealed the wall behind them, though he suspected the effort was futile.

Malfoy was looking around at the towering pillars and carved serpents that were lined up on both sides, leading toward the enormous statue of Salazar Slytherin.

"Ugh!" Malfoy said when they finally reached it. He was craning his neck for a better look. "He's ugly." Malfoy sounded impressed nonetheless. The sheer enormity of the statue was awe-inspiring.

Malfoy gasped suddenly. Harry followed his line of sight and spotted the giant skeleton of the Basilisk Harry had slain years ago. The King of Serpents, Harry thought, looked most unimpressive these days.

Malfoy did not seem to share Harry's view. "Is that—" His voice broke. "It can't be!" he breathed and ran up to the skull. He froze next to it and stared, as though the dead Basilisk had managed to turn him to stone.

Harry smiled at him and then scanned the Chamber. "I think we're safe here." For a few minutes or so. The fire would reach them down here eventually, but at least he had time to think.

He could not understand why the Room was so intent on murdering Malfoy all of a sudden. Because Hermione was right. It had had a chance to kill him before, several chances, but it never had. It rather seemed like the magic had saved Malfoy that night at the pitch. What had changed? Was it simply because this was its last chance? But how would it know that?

But the magic is kind, Harry reminded himself. Or rather, it only served. Surely, it would not want to kill of its own volition. Though, Harry could not know that for certain.

Harry scrunched up his face. He was acutely aware of his glasses, still on his nose. Had he Summoned them earlier, or had the magic Conjured a new pair for him? If the latter was true, then the magic was already as strong here as it was everywhere else in the castle.

I should wish for something.
He wished for a glass of water. He did not get it.

"Malfoy! Wish for something." Harry turned around. Malfoy was still standing in front of the Basilisk's giant skull.

Harry walked over. "Malfoy?"

"That's a Basilisk, Potter," Malfoy informed him.

Harry nodded. "A dead one."

"A big one." Malfoy looked at him, stared.

"It looks smaller now, actually," Harry said, uncomfortable. It truly did look smaller, though still enormous. It was only a skeleton and Harry was much taller than he had been the last time he had seen it.

Malfoy was still staring at him. "It was true, then." He shook his head. "It can't have been. It's a Basilisk, Potter."

"What was true? That the Basilisk was in the castle? You saw the students get Petrified, Malfoy. You threatened Muggle-borns with the big bad Slytherin monster, as I recall."

Malfoy shook his head. "But I was just... I heard the stories, but I thought someone else, a person, was behind it all. Not a Basilisk." Malfoy's forehead furrowed. "It's dead."

"You think so?" Harry could not help smiling a little, even though they were just standing around, wasting time. "Maybe it's just sleeping?" he suggested.

"You killed it. You actually killed it in our second-year."

Harry was losing patience. "Malfoy, this is old news. Everyone knows what happened. I've given more interviews than warranted." Technically, he had only given two, but they had been thorough and much too exhausting.

"Old news?" Malfoy repeated. "Everyone knew? Who in their right mind would have believed you, Potter? We were told the school would be closed, and then the next day Dumbledore stands up in the Great Hall and tells everyone the school will remain open because Harry Potter went down to the Chamber of Secrets and slew a Basilisk with a sword. The threat is no more!" Malfoy could not stop shaking his head. "It was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard! Scary monster no one has ever seen, skulking around the school. But fear not! This brave twelve-year-old boy found it and killed it, though no one actually saw it happen; and no, you can't see the dead body, because it's in a special secret chamber, which, you guessed it, no one has ever seen, either." Malfoy laughed suddenly. "And Dumbledore! He looked like he actually believed you. I had never been more sure he was a goner, insane, senile. I thought Lockhart gave you ideas and you followed in his footsteps, making up ridiculous stories; though, I must say yours was even crazier than Lockhart's. I thought, next, you'll write a book."

"Er," Harry had no idea what to say to that. "I suppose, it must have sounded a bit crazy when put like that."

"A bit?" Malfoy looked incredulous. "Harry Potter defied Voldemort and found the Philosopher's Stone, yet no one saw him; either way, Gryffindor gets house points and the cup. Harry Potter battled off a hundred Dementors! A hundred! But no one saw him do that, either. All hail Harry Potter! Our hero! He performs marvellous deeds while no one's looking! Honestly!" Malfoy's gaze went back to the Basilisk and stayed there. He seemed to have run out of steam.

"It was all true, though," Harry said, tentative. He could not help pointing that out. If nothing else, to defend Dumbledore. If nothing else, to impress Malfoy, a tiny voice in his head offered. Harry scowled at it.

"I gathered," Malfoy said quietly. "I'm a bigger idiot than I thought."

"What? You're not an idiot!"

Malfoy did not reply.

"I mean," Harry tried again. "You're right. When you put it like that, it makes sense you didn't believe it." It was hard to think like that, though; Harry had been through it all; he knew it was true. And he knew people did not believe him, but they were wrong because it was true. Harry could barely believe Malfoy had compared him to Lockhart. But, Harry had to admit, his stories were crazier than Lockhart's.

"It does make sense," Malfoy said, angry now. "But I'm an idiot for ever thinking..." He looked at Harry, his gaze searching. "For a moment, back in the hospital wing, I thought... and just now, when you came back for me..." He laughed again; it sounded bitter. "It's just something you do, isn't it? You run to fight Basilisks and Dementors, jump into fires. It doesn't matter to you."

Harry could not keep up with Malfoy's thought process. "What doesn’t matter to me?"

"Whether the person you're pulling out of the fire is worth saving."

Harry blinked. "You're worth saving," he said, incredulous.

Malfoy laughed again, shook his head. "You'd say that, wouldn't you? Do you even know why you're saying it? Because I do." Malfoy's eyes were dark. "You know, I kept thinking, this whole time, that something had happened with the Room, with the magic inside it. I thought, I spent so much time in there in our sixth-year and I was there when it died, so maybe, maybe the magic was somehow helping me, maybe we had some sort of bond, and it was giving me what I wanted. And what I wanted, what I wished for, was you. And the Room provided, didn't it? I thought it had Conjured you; you kept showing up, you were so... worried and, the way you were looking at me! I thought, this can't be real. You aren't real. But then, sometimes, I almost believed it. I started thinking my theory was ridiculous; that the Room was dead and it couldn't have been helping me with anything. And then you burst into McGonagall's office earlier, with your brand new discovery, and I realised I've been half-right all along. Except you're not Conjured, you're controlled. By my wish."

Harry could not believe his ears. He shook his head, trying to speak. It took awhile. "That's not true, Malfoy. No one's controlling me."

Malfoy smiled a little. It was a condescending, sad sort of smile. "Did you get past the gates?"

"What?"

"Earlier, before you came back, did you leave Hogwarts grounds and return, or did you not even leave?"

Harry opened his mouth to reply, but then realised that perhaps it would be better if he lied.

Goodbye, Potter.

Malfoy was saying goodbye. He had said goodbye because he thought that once Harry left the grounds, Malfoy's wish would be cancelled and Harry would realise he had never wanted him at all.

Harry had stayed silent for too long.

"Thought as much," Malfoy said. "I wished you back."

"No!" Harry ran up to him and grabbed his arm, shaking him. "Don't be ridiculous! I'm not under anyone's control. It doesn't work like that; it can't work like that. There are things the Room can't give you, things that can't be Conjured."

"And how would you know, Potter? We know nothing about this sort of magic. And didn’t the Room give Harper to Parvati Patil? She wished for him, and he was there, you said it yourself."

"But they both must have wanted it! And Harper was unwell, easily manipulated, his mind was a mess. Mine isn’t. I know how I feel, I know what I want." Except he did not know how he felt, and he was not sure what he wanted. Sometimes he was not sure if he would rather punch Malfoy or kiss him. Or whether to pull him closer or shove him away.
It was too confusing, too ludicrous, too new. But it was real. It was not the mindless bliss of the Imperious Curse or the obsessive surety of a Love Potion, it was messy and frustrating, wonderful and frightening. Too complicated for the Room's magic to understand, no matter how sentient it was.

Malfoy smiled again. "A likely tale." Then he shoved Harry away, pulled out of his grip. "Doesn't even matter now, does it? We'll die here."

"Don't say that!"

"It's true! And that's not all. Don't you see, Potter?" Malfoy's face contorted. "I killed you. You're here because of me. I wished you here."

"I'm here because that's just something I do, remember? I jump into fires."

"No. No, I could have wished you away. I should do it now, but I can't. I tried, but I can't."

"Wish me away?" Harry stared at him. Wish us away. He meant, wish us away, surely. "Why are you here? Why did you stay behind?"

"I didn't stay behind. I was already on the grounds—and then I wasn't. It keeps happening. All the time. I found myself in front of the Room again. I tried to run away, but it kept pulling me back. So I gave up. Stopped struggling. It wants to kill me; you know it does. It can't be stopped."

Harry had said it; he had believed it. He had changed his mind. "It wants to kill you, does it? But you just told me that the Room gave you what you wanted most, which, apparently, is me. If it wants to kill you, why do that? It makes no sense, Malfoy."

"Just another way to punish me, I suppose. Perhaps it's just cruel."

No
, it's kind. "Punish you for what, exactly?"

"Oh yes, what could it possibly be?" Malfoy snorted. "Is this a part of my wish? To make you forgetful? I almost killed two people, I had Madam Rosmerta Imperiused for months, I led Death Eaters into Hogwarts, and it's my fault the Room burned and Crabbe died. Don't you see? The magic doesn't like me very much. It doesn't like a certain type of Slytherin much, either, now does it?"

"No, Draco, that's not true. The magic only serves. For the most part, it served the D.A. It listened to their thoughts, read their minds." What if Parvati had wanted someone else? Someone who had not been a Slytherin whose parents were Voldemort sympathisers? Would Anthony Goldstein have been so quick to wish him dead? Perhaps it wasn't just Goldstein, either. The rest of Dumbledore's Army never liked Harper. Everyone had known he was one of those Slytherins, the ones going around muttering about Mudbloods under his breath. All those negative feelings toward him; the magic only listened. "And it never meant to harm Peterson. It was only giving him what he wanted. It's only giving you what you want, Draco." Harry was sure of it now. That was why the Transfiguration classroom had been on fire; that had been Malfoy's wish. He had been tortured and he had taken it, never trying to free himself. He could have, though, because Draco was right about one thing: the Room's magic knew him best. He had spent so much time there; this year, too. The Room was attuned to his thoughts. He was drawn to it, and it was drawn to him. If he had wished it, he could have stopped the torture when Pritchard had attacked him. Malfoy said he had helped wish away Pritchard and his cronies, but had he wished them away before the fire started or after?

If he had wished it, he could have Apparated to the hospital wing back when he was lying on the Quidditch pitch. But instead, it had been Malfoy's wish that helped Smith's wish come true. Malfoy must have been feeling guilty that night. He could not have known his father was acting on the Ministry's orders; Lucius would not have been able to tell him; it was not the sort of information one sent in a letter. Draco must have believed Smith; he had believed his father was trying to bring Voldemort back. How miserable that must have made him.

And the stairs, the ones that had moved beneath their feet that Sunday; that could have been Malfoy, too. What had been going through his mind? Harry remembered saying, It would make your father happy to know we spent some quality time together, wouldn't it? and Malfoy had looked shocked. Had he been embarrassed of his father again? Miserable for being pressured to befriend someone he couldn't? Fearful that Harry knew exactly how Malfoy felt about him? How much he wanted him? Had he wished for the ground to open and swallow him?

Malfoy stared at him. "Don't be stupid, Potter. I don't want to die. I especially don't want to burn."

"Are you sure about that? Didn't you just say you're not worth saving?"

"That's not—" Malfoy stopped speaking abruptly. A long moment passed before he spoke again. "I want to live. Believe me, I do. But the Room won't let me. Don't you see what it's doing? It's trying to correct your mistake."

"My mistake?"

"Yes." Malfoy stepped closer, to glare. "The mistake you made back in May. When the fire spread in the Room of Hidden Things, I was sure I would die. I kept thinking, This is my fault. Because it was. If not for me, Goyle and Crabbe would have never found you. I knew how wild they were, but I didn't care. Crabbe started that fire, not knowing he couldn't control it, but I led them there knowing I couldn't control them. I thought only of myself and my parents. I thought if I could just surrender you... But when I was trapped on that pile of rubbish with Goyle, waiting for the fire to reach us, everything got so clear. Everything I've done, people I almost killed, people who had suffered and died because of me... I knew exactly what was happening—justice, Potter. Justice coming to get me. I thought you were dead, too. I thought you were all dead. You know, I never once thought you could actually defeat Voldemort. Not once. But in that moment, I thought, what if you could? What if you were truly the only one who ever could have? And I killed you. Killed my parents, too, probably. Killed everyone. And now I'll get what I deserve. Or so I thought. But then you showed up. Alive, coming back for me. Forgiveness, a chance, out of nowhere. I thought, you're not so hopeless after all, Draco. There's someone who thinks you're worth saving. But that's not what it was. That's just who you are, what you do, and I just got lucky. My luck's running out, though. All this time I knew it would happen, eventually. I was waiting for it. The magic's making sure that what should have happened then, happens now."

Harry flew at him, grabbing fistfuls of Malfoy's hair, clutching his head between his hands. "Draco, no. You did get lucky. You're lucky Katie Bell and Ron are alive, and, yes, you're lucky I got the chance to come back for you. But so what? It's not cause for punishment, it is a chance. I got lucky, too. I got lucky when I took your wand at the Manor and became the master of the Elder Wand. If that didn't happen, both of us might be dead. Others, too. You could have been a piece of the puzzle that ruined everything, but you weren't; you were the piece that helped defeat Voldemort."

"If I had known I had something Voldemort wanted, I'd have given it to him, Potter. I would have given it to him so he would leave me and my parents alone."

"And now? Knowing what you know now, would you still give it to him then?"

"What does it matter what I would do now?" Draco tried to escape Harry's grip, but Harry was not letting him go.

"It matters," Harry said. "Because you did get a second chance and now you're trying to ruin it. Stop going backward. You say you want to live and I believe you. If you wanted to die, you'd be dead already; you’d have died on the pitch if not before; you'd have died earlier when that dragon went after you. I wouldn't have been able to help. But if you don't let go, if you don't forgive yourself, if you don't stop thinking you deserve punishment, that this is justice, then the magic won't stop trying to give it to you. It thinks that's what you want; it thinks you're desperate for it; it thinks it's doing you a favour. It Conjured Fiendfyre for you, Draco. Fiendfyre that almost killed it, that killed the Room. The fire is cursed, wild, it can't control it, we know it can't. This time you won't be getting lucky. This time I can't save you. Please. You're the one with the power here. You're the only one who can save us. Wish us away. We can Apparate; the magic will help us. You just have to want it badly enough."

"I do want it!" Malfoy shoved Harry backward and managed to push him away this time. "I've tried to wish us away, but it's not working, Potter. You're wrong. It's not doing this for—" Draco froze suddenly; he paled, staring at Harry, at his eyes. No, not his eyes—his glasses. A deep, rumbling sound made Harry look past Draco, just as Draco whirled around. There was light coming from the very end of the long chamber; Draco must have seen its reflection in Harry's glasses.

The fire was coming, through the pipes, through the tunnels. The light grew stronger.

Harry ran at Malfoy, grabbing his shoulders, turning him around. "Malfoy, please, you have to try!"

"It doesn't work!" Malfoy's eyes were wild. "There's nothing I can do, Potter. You have to save us. It won't listen to me! Apparate us, anything."

He has too much faith in me. Malfoy was waiting for him to save them and Harry couldn't, not this time. He tried; he tried to wish them away. He even considered wishing those he had left in front of the gates to come help them, but promptly shoved that possibility aside. He would only lead them to danger; they might die, too. Had he not tried to wish Malfoy back with Ron and Hermione? Three against one and it had meant nothing. How many would it take to stop the fire? It did not matter. Harry would have to desperately wish for the magic to grant them entrance and he knew he could never do that, and the magic might not listen to him at all, if it decided his wish went against Malfoy's.

The magic clung to Draco's desperation, his guilt, his surrender. It would never let Draco leave, not while a part of him still believed he deserved this. Perhaps, when the fire reached them, perhaps Draco could finally break them free. Perhaps it would be too late. Fiendfyre might have destroyed the castle by then; the magic would have to run again.

The Chamber grew hotter, brighter. I have to make him see... But how? How do you convince someone they were worth saving? That this was not justice? That they have a chance to turn everything around? Hermione would know; Harry did not. But he had do something. Make Draco fight for survival, fight for himself, stand up in his defence; Draco had done it in the past, he could do it again.

Draco gripped Harry's shoulders; he was crushing them. "Potter," he whispered, he looked terrified. "You have to..."

"I can't help—"

"You have to leave. I want you to leave."

Harry's heart stopped beating. He'll wish me away. Blackness pulled at the edge of his vision; Malfoy's grip on Harry's shoulders loosened. I'm slipping away. Apparating. Leaving him behind.

"NO!" Harry cried. There was nothing he could do. Only one thing occurred to him. Harry clenched his fist and punched Draco in the jaw. His knuckles exploded in pain as Draco stumbled backward with a cry. The world straightened and the Chamber returned to focus. Very bright focus, growing brighter. The fiery dragon flew into the Chamber, soared high up to the faraway ceiling, covering it whole.

But Draco was staring at Harry, eyes wide.

"You think I'm not real?" Harry stepped closer. "You think I'm under your control?" Harry punched Malfoy again, in the same place, as hard as he could. Malfoy stumbled backward again, eyes flashing as he rubbed his jaw.

"How's that for real?" Harry said. "You think you can't do anything to help? Of course you can't! Look at you! Always waiting for me to save you. The one time I need you to return the favour—you can't! You know why? Because you're just a whiner. And a ferret. That's who you are. You're a pathetic little whiny ferret who just gives up when things get hard. Lies down and takes it." Harry's heart seemed to constrict painfully, as though begging him to shut up. My monster, Harry thought. His chest monster tried to tell him what to do, but he could not afford to listen to it. Not this time. "That's why you wanted my cock up your arse so much, isn't it? That's why you begged for it. Or did your daddy tell you to do it? You want to be like him? You want to crawl like him? Do you want this, too?" Harry swung his fist again, aiming for Draco's face, but Draco caught it, crushed it in a vice-like grip, his face contorted in anger; his nostrils flared.

"You arrogant piece of shit," Draco said, voice low and dangerous.

Don't tickle a sleeping dragon, Harry thought and braced himself.

Malfoy's fist connected with Harry's cheekbone; stars exploded in front of Harry's eyes. He would have fallen, but Malfoy was still holding Harry's arm captive, keeping him upright. The next blow landed on Harry's stomach, knocking out his breath, the next caught him on his face again, across his jaw and ear.

Harry was dizzy with pain and when Draco shoved him backward, he went down, falling onto his back.

Malfoy was on him in an instant, kneeling between Harry's spread legs. He caught Harry's wrists and held them above his head.

Harry waited for the next punch. His vision cleared. Draco was above him, face flushed, twisted into a grimace of fury. His wand was pointed at Harry's face. He was so angry, he was shaking.

"Would you like another scar, Potter?" Malfoy asked, nearly whispered. "I know just which spell to use. You showed it to me, remember?"

Seconds ticked by, but the spell was not coming. Malfoy was still shaking.

Harry could not help himself—he laughed. The laughter bubbled in his throat, filled him with lightness and relief.

Malfoy froze to stare at him. His eyes were on fire; the Chamber was not.

Harry looked up at the tall dark ceiling. He had thought the Room could not stop Fiendfyre, but maybe it could stop the one it had Conjured itself. Or maybe it hadn't been Fiendfyre at all, but merely an imitation. Harry didn't know, didn't care. It was gone.

Malfoy sat back on his heels; he was staring at the ceiling. He looked toward the end of the Chamber, then finally down at Harry again.

"Merlin, I'm fucked up," Harry said. His arse rested against Malfoy's thighs; his legs were spread. He was painfully hard. Apparently, that was something fighting with Malfoy did to him. Perhaps he should simply accept it.

Malfoy blinked and looked down at Harry's crotch and the noticeable bulge there. Then he glanced around the Chamber again.

"You're..." Malfoy began.

"I was right. Not to rub it in, or anything."

Malfoy shook his head. "The things you said..."

"Reverse psychology." Harry frowned. "I think."

"You didn't... mean it?"

"Not one word," Harry promised. "Well, except the ferret part. But you're in luck. I happen to like ferrets."

"You—" Draco drew in a sharp breath. "You idiot. I could have..." He still held the wand in his hand; he lowered it hastily.

"No, you couldn't have," Harry told him. "Because that's not you. Not anymore. You don't know it, but I do."

Draco stared at him and then leaned in so quickly, the sudden touch of his lips against Harry's was pure shock. "You idiot," Draco mumbled again against Harry's lips and then deepened the kiss. Harry's body flew upward, pressing against Draco, as close as it could. He could feel his trousers and pants disappear; cold air hit his bare skin. Malfoy's or his wish, Harry had no idea. We should leave. They really should. The magic was still here, still dangerous. But Draco thought I didn't want him. The urge to show him that he did, and how much, was stronger than any danger.

"Idiot, idiot," Malfoy repeated. "We can't... we have to..." Malfoy's hand slid over Harry's cock, his balls, and then his fingers were pushing inside Harry, slick, slipping inside steadily. It burned, felt so incredibly odd, but Harry heard himself moan. It would have been embarrassing, but Harry caught Malfoy's gaze, burning hotly, fixed on Harry's face that flushed under its intensity. All embarrassment was forgotten; Harry could focus only on Malfoy's eyes and his fingers, moving deep inside of him.

"Fuck!" Malfoy said and pulled away. Harry would have complained, but Malfoy's hand wrapped around Harry's cock, pulling on it so harshly Harry cried out.

"No, no," Harry gasped. "I want, I want you inside..." He needed it. Now.

"Yes," Draco breathed, kissing Harry again, his hand gripping Harry's cock. "Later, tomorrow, whenever, always. Not now."

"Now," Harry insisted, but hot licks of pleasure spread to his balls, his cock, the growing intensity of it made light explode in front of his eyes.

He wished it could last forever, but the Room did not grant him that. Harry forgave it; it had granted him Malfoy, alive and panting against Harry's neck, thrusting against Harry's hip before he shuddered with his own release.

Blood must have returned to Harry's brain because he was suddenly horrified by his earlier demands. The two minutes they just lost was too much. They had to leave. As soon as possible.

Malfoy gasped and shuddered again. Moments later, he rose up on his elbows. Harry blinked at him. Malfoy's hair was a mess, his face flushed, eyes bright, an ugly bruise was forming on his jaw. Pointy chin and pointy nose, which Harry had seen a thousand times before, but it only just now occurred to him—Malfoy was beautiful.

"You should punch me again," Harry requested promptly, ashamed of his own thoughts.

Malfoy frowned. "I don't want to."

"I'll settle for a kiss, then." Smiling, Harry yanked at Malfoy's hair, pulling him closer. When their lips touched, the pain in Harry's cheek disappeared; Draco must have wished Harry's bruises away.

"I think these are my favourite," Harry said, breathless, long moments after. "Slow, right after..."

Malfoy stared at him. Well, they are, Harry wanted to say, defensive. But then Malfoy cocked his head and said, "Can you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Harry listened, frowning, but then he heard it: a deep rumbling sound coming from the distance. It grew steadily stronger. Harry pushed at Malfoy and sat up. "Draco, no!" He shook Malfoy's shoulders. "What are you doing? What are you thinking?"

Malfoys eyes were wide. "It's not me! I'm not—it's not me, Potter!"

"Malfoy, please!"

"It's not me!" Malfoy yelled. "I get it, Potter, I do. I have a chance and I'm taking it. Believe me, there's nothing I want more. I want to get the hell out of here and live. Fuck punishment. And..." He grabbed Harry's face. "This is real, I know it now. I know." He kissed Harry again, a desperate hard kiss. "I know," he repeated. "I'm fucking happy."

Harry swallowed thickly. "Then get us out of here." He struggled to stand. Malfoy sprang up and pulled up his clothes. Harry wished for his pants and trousers but they did not appear for him.

Malfoy grabbed his hand. "We'll Apparate."

"Wait. For fuck's sake, Malfoy, I need my pants!"

Malfoy blinked and then pointed his wand at Harry. "Aparecium!" he cried and Harry's pants and trousers were back where they belonged.

"Okay," Harry said, calmer now that he was no longer half-naked. "We should—" The ground shook and did not stop shaking. This can't be. Was he wrong? Was Malfoy right? Was the magic truly trying to kill him?

"Potter, I can't. I'm trying, but I can't Apparate us." The ground shook harder, the giant pillars squeaked, sooth flew everywhere, little pieces of rock fell from the above.

The world turned into a blur. Harry's glasses had vanished. They were Conjured; they were not mine. "Malfoy," Harry whispered. "My glasses..."

There was a bright flash of light and a pair of glasses appeared on Harry's nose. They were all wrong. They helped him see, but the image was not right and the glasses threatened him with a headache.

"They'll do for now," Malfoy said. "Come on, we have to concentrate."

Harry shook his head. It made him dizzy. "It won't help, Malfoy. The glasses were Conjured. By the Room. And now they're gone."

The earthquake grew stronger. The pillars won't last.

"But..." Malfoy looked around. "What's happening, then? Is the magic gone, destroyed? By the Fiendfyre?"

"Maybe," Harry breathed. "The Chamber's collapsing; we have to get out." But how? They could not Apparate and the tunnels were unsafe, too.

"Potter!" Malfoy whispered; he sounded alarmed. "Look!"

Harry looked above and gasped. The enormous head of Salazar Slytherin leaned forward, teetering, then leaned harder with a deafening creak. There was no time to run from something so large.

"PROTEGO!" They shouted as one, wands raised, and the head rushed toward them, larger than it had seemed seconds before. The left side of the giant face crashed against their joint Shields. Painful vibrations spread through Harry's arm, leaving it numb. Their bright Shields were dimming, but the head rolled to smash the Basilisk's skeleton with a sickening crunch. Pieces of rock and bone flew at them, bouncing against their weakening Shields.

"Potter, the pillars!"

They were breaking, one by one in a circle. We'll die here, after all. Harry's hand found Malfoy's and squeezed.

And then everything went still.

Malfoy's fingers felt cold in Harry's grasp. "Is it over?" Malfoy asked.

It did not matter. Harry had only one thing to say. "RUN!" he shouted and pulled at Malfoy's hand. They sprinted toward the tunnels; their feet made wet, dull sounds against the ground. If the ground shook again, they were not safe there, either, but if they stayed in the Chamber, their deaths were certain. Shields could not save them.

"Potter," Malfoy said, tone urgent. He tried to free his hand. "We'd run faster if were weren’t holding—"

"We'll risk it!" Harry snapped back. He had no intention of letting Malfoy out of his sight or out of his grasp.

Parts of the tunnels had collapsed, but Harry and Draco cleared their way with spells. The way back seemed shorter, but they were both sweaty and breathless when they reached the wide entrance that led up to the pipe and, eventually, the second floor bathroom.

Harry rushed to the pipe's entrance and stared up. It was burnt, but there. "Any ideas?" If the magic was gone, and the absence of Harry's glasses seemed to indicate it was, then Ron and Hermione would be able to get into the castle. They would find Harry and Draco, eventually. But waiting around was not a plan. They could try to Summon their broomsticks, but those were all the way in Hogsmeade by now and even if they managed, flying up through a narrow tunnel would be complicated, to say the least. Harry turned to Malfoy. "I think we'll have to climb."

"Wait, I..." Malfoy scanned their surroundings and Levitated a large rock. It landed before him and Malfoy shot a few spells at it, grimacing. "It's a complicated enchantment," he was saying. "I only ever read about it." The rock turned into a square block; it looked like a stone step. Malfoy shot more spells at it. Harry recognised the Gripping Charm's incantation, which was usually cast on Quaffles to make gripping it in midair easier, and Geminio, cast several times, which duplicated the step.

Harry could do little but stare; he was not sure what Draco was doing, though he guessed he was creating a staircase. Draco cast another set of charms, but looked unhappy with them. He tried again, lips pursed, brow furrowed. Harry found himself smiling.

"What?" Draco growled. He must have noticed Harry's grin. "It will work. It's just taking awhile," he added.

"I believe you!" Harry said quickly. He did not want to explain why he was smiling. The sight of Draco working hard on getting them out filled him with warmth. It reminded him that, earlier, Draco had tried to save Harry, tried to Apparate him to safety and stay behind. It had infuriated Harry at the time, but now, the mere memory of it made him feel he could fly up that pipe without the aid of magic.

Draco pointed his wand at the steps and then at the pipe. The steps followed the indicated directions and flew toward the pipe, one after the other, creating a stairway.

"Er," Harry said, though he tried not to doubt Draco. "Isn't that stairway a little short?"

Draco grimaced. "It's enchanted. It's supposed to move with us."

"Will it?"

"We'll find out, won't we?" He made a shooing motion. "You first. It's safe," he added, when Harry hesitated.

"No, I just..." Want to keep an eye on you. "Thought I'd get to stare at your arse on our way up."

Malfoy gave him a disdainful look, though his cheeks were pink. "The last step is the original, Potter. If the enchantment wears off, I'll have to spell it again."

Harry did not move and Draco sighed. "I'll be right behind you." He took a step closer, grabbed Harry's face and pressed a rough kiss to Harry's lips. "I promise."

Reluctantly, Harry went, but not before he pointed his wand at Malfoy's jaw and healed the bruise Harry himself had left there. Malfoy rolled his eyes at that.

It was easier to climb up the steps on his hands and feet than Harry thought it would be. Malfoy had probably placed more enchantments on them than Harry had realised. They were glowing faintly, lighting their way; Harry could see them appearing in front of him, sprouting out of the pipe as they moved upward. The pipe was wobbly and burned through in places, but the steps clung to air when needed.

Harry could not help turning around to make sure Draco was following.

"Turn again, Potter, and I'll start poking you with my wand," Malfoy told him. "And guess where I'll poke."

Harry resisted the urge to check on Malfoy's progress after that, but he listened carefully to make sure Malfoy was behind him.

It was a long way and Harry's hands threatened to give out; the pipe was blocked in several places, but Harry widened the passage with the Gouging Spell. The third time he cast it, there was an odd breaking sound above them, as though Harry's spell had shattered glass or a sink. A waft of fresh air reached Harry's nose.

"I think we're close!" Harry yelled, looking down at Malfoy.

But Malfoy was frowning and staring past Harry. "What is that?"

"What?" Harry turned and something cold hit his nose. He blinked at the mass of white snowflakes floating toward him, melting away. "Where are they coming from?" Harry whispered, climbing up faster. They were heading toward the bathroom on the second floor; no snowflake could reach it. Was it the wrong pipe? It couldn’t be.

Harry's heart beat faster as he inhaled a lungful of cold air. He could see the exit now; it was round, dark, starry...

Harry climbed out, looking around in horror. Malfoy followed him out, eyes wide, shock clear on his face.

"Where is it?" Malfoy asked. "How could it just..."

"I don't know." But somehow, Hogwarts was gone. All that remained was rubble. Stones, desks and sinks were strewn across the ground in all directions, as far as they could see in the dark. But that was all that was left of Hogwarts.

It can't be. Was it the fire? Had it swallowed the whole castle?

Bright flashes of lights twinkled above them. Suddenly a beam of light hit Harry's eyes and he squinted and grimaced, blinded.

"HARRY!" The voice came from above. "OVER HERE! THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE ALIVE!"

Beams of light surrounded them, coming closer, becoming brighter. Hundreds of them. A broom shot toward Harry and he recognised Ron. Hermione was sitting behind him and she jumped to the ground and flew at Harry so fast it looked like someone had thrown her in his direction. Her arms wrapped around him in a choking hug. "I thought you were gone! I thought you were dead! Oh Harry!"

She was crying, Harry realised. He wrapped his arms around her. "It's fine. I'm fine."

Ron ran up to them, too. He was pale, almost green; his blue eyes seemed unnaturally large. "Thought we lost you there, mate," he breathed. His gaze flickered to Malfoy, who stood still, looking away. For a second, Harry was sure Ron would attack him, accuse him of almost getting Harry killed, but instead Ron looked back at Harry. "We thought you burned."

Hermione shuddered in Harry's arms.

More people flew at them; they were jumping off their broomsticks, running in their direction. Someone flew overhead, nearly brushing against Harry's hair. "Bad aim! Sorry!" Seamus cried from above.

Hermione pulled back and Harry breathed in some much needed air, but it was knocked out of his lungs again by Lavender's ferocious hug.

More D.A. members were crowding around him and Harry panicked, afraid they would separate him from Malfoy. He stepped to the side and found Malfoy's hand, squeezing it tightly, trying to will Malfoy not to pull away, but Draco returned the squeeze and held on.

It seemed half of Hogwarts was there, students from all houses; Harry noticed a few Slytherins nodding at Malfoy. The teachers were there, too; Harry was surprised to see McGonagall on a broom. She landed gracefully, but stumbled when she took the first step. There were unfamiliar faces in the crowd; Harry recognised a few Hogsmeade villagers and even an Auror or two.

And then Ginny was there, hugging him tearfully and pressing Harry's Firebolt into his free hand. "It was still in my trunk," she said. "I kept thinking, if you’d only had it with you..."

"It wouldn't have helped, Ginny," Harry assured her. "And I wouldn't have taken it with me even if it had been in my trunk."

She sniffed, unappeased. Her gaze fell to Draco's and Harry's joined hands. She shook her head. "Warm enough?" She eyed Harry. "Need a blanket?"

Harry bit his lip. "I'm all set, thanks."

She shook her head again and snorted.

McGonagall was staring at him; Harry thought he saw her glance at Draco and Harry's joined hands, too; her eyebrows rose at one point, but she made no comment on the subject.

"Where were you?" she asked.

"Chamber of Secrets. I thought the magic couldn't reach us there. I thought it was far enough. Perhaps even outside of Hogwarts grounds."

"Did it reach you?" Hermione asked and Harry nodded. "It did," he said. "The Chamber is a part of Hogwarts."

"What happened to the castle?" Malfoy asked, staring at McGonagall.

Hermione sniffed.

"We..." McGonagall's voice broke. "We Vanished the castle."

Harry blinked. "You, what?"

"Oh Harry!" Hermione cried. "It was on fire and you were in there. And we couldn't get inside! We didn't know what to do. The fire was spreading. Dragons and chimeras tried to break free. Go after us."

"We summoned everyone back," McGonagall said. "The students, the teachers, everyone we could reach. We broke through the magical barriers surrounding Hogwarts grounds easy enough, but the castle... The Fiendfyre was out of control. It was consuming the castle; it would have consumed everything in its path. We had to do something. The fire was Conjured; the best way to counter it was with Vanishing magic. So we tried it. First in groups, then all of us together."

"And it worked," Hermione said. "We Vanished the fire, the castle, everything. We think maybe the magic heard us and helped, even though we were outside. It must not have realised that if the castle was gone, it would lose its purpose. Or it did. I don't know. Maybe it was more aware of itself than I thought. We were so scared and angry. The magic must have lost control over the fire. It couldn't stop it so it stopped itself. In the only way it knew how. It destroyed the castle, itself with it, so we could stop the fire. We thought we'd Vanished you with it. If you hadn't burned already." She looked ready to cry again.

"But you didn't," Harry said quickly. "We're fine."

"The magic is gone," McGonagall said, "but we should leave, nonetheless. The site will have to be examined before it can be declared safe."

"And Hogwarts?" Harry asked. "Can it be retrieved?"

McGonagall's expression tightened. "I do not know."

Harry looked around at the distressed faces of his classmates and smiled at them weakly. "Thanks," he said.

Seamus shrugged. "So we blew up the school," he said. "Isn't that every kid's dream?"

"And we've saved the Saviour. Don't forget that," Parvati added brightly, but the tear-tracks on her cheeks told a different tale.

Students were staring at the rubble: charred desks and blackboards, broken statues and picture frames, trophies and sparkling gems, some red, some green, some blue, some yellow. House point hourglasses were shattered. Their history burned and vanished.

Harry stared at the gems. They were scattered everywhere, a mix of colours, without a pattern.

We can't go backward now, Harry thought suddenly. The knot in his stomach eased.

"Come along," McGonagall said and mounted her broom. One by one, the students followed her lead. No one said a word when Harry sat on his Firebolt and Draco slipped on behind him, arms wrapping tightly around Harry's waist.

They kicked off the ground and soared toward the sky. Despite everything, Harry could not help smiling. They were alive, Draco was with him, and he was flying.

They had to move slowly at first because there were so many people in the air; they flew forward in batches. Dumbledore's Army stuck close to Harry.

Draco leaned in to whisper in Harry's ear. "But the fire retreated in the Chamber. We were safe. The magic did stop it."

"But maybe that was all it could do," Harry suggested. "You wanted to protect us and it did its best."

"I also wanted..." Harry could hear Draco suck in a breath. "I burned down Hogwarts."

Harry turned around sharply. "No! Draco, this wasn't your fault. You didn't burn down the castle and our friends didn't Vanish the castle. It destroyed itself. And it only ever did it to help. It served us with its last breath." Harry narrowed his eyes at Draco. "Now, nod and say, 'You're right again, Harry.'"

Draco snorted and then bit Harry's ear. "You're annoying, Potter," he said instead.

"Good enough," Harry concluded with a smile. He turned to press an awkward kiss to Malfoy's lips, temporarily forgetting there were hundreds of people around them. If someone noticed and said something, Harry did not hear them.

"Eyes ahead, Potter," Draco said. "You're transporting a precious load."

"Why, I'll be more careful then, precious."

Draco's eyes narrowed, mouth twitching. "I meant your cock."

Harry laughed. He would have blushed, too, if a faint glow in the distance had not caught his attention. They had not moved far from the ruined castle, but it was covered in darkness. The last flashes of lit wands had abandoned it. For a second, Harry thought someone had been left behind, but the glow was too muted.

"Isn't that—" Harry said, frowning.

Draco turned to look. "Peeves? Is it Peeves?"

It was Peeves. Where he had come from, Harry did not know, but he was there, floating above the castle's remains. He had taken off his hat, clutched it to his chest and stared down at the ruins. Slowly, his small shimmering body grew dimmer and then vanished.

The only thing left to see was a huge block of white stone. Dumbledore's tomb, Harry realised with a jolt.

Sudden sadness choked him. Dumbledore's portrait was gone, too. Burned or Vanished.

Draco's arms wrapped tighter around Harry's waist.

"We'll build a new school," Harry said. A brand new Hogwarts, one without past a person could lose themselves in.

Draco pressed a kiss to his neck. "Fly."

Harry turned, angled his broom and set for Hogsmeade station.

 


Epilogue

 

They barely made it out alive. Harry was sure he would either suffocate to death or get squished by the masses. The fresh air filled his lungs and Harry felt better immediately.

"Blimey!" Ron exclaimed. "Whose bright idea was this?"

Hermione huffed and stuffed the packages into her beaded bag. "It was a bright idea," she claimed. "But apparently everyone else had the same bright idea."

"This is why one should do their Christmas shopping before Christmas Eve," Ron said wisely. "All the shops are packed today. Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, it doesn't matter."

"I bet Diagon Alley's empty," Hermione said bitterly. "I'm sure half of the wizarding world was in Honeydukes just now."

"We did buy everything we came for, at least," Harry pointed out, although he was unhappy with his purchase. He had no idea what to buy Draco for Christmas, so he had ended up buying him chocolate. Specifically, he had bought him a set of chocolate wands. It had seemed funny at the time. He imagined himself handing them to Draco, saying, "I remember taking a bunch of wands from you once. You can have them back now. I might have licked them, though." But now that he thought about it, he doubted Draco would appreciate the joke. It had been a stupid idea. And now Harry had no present for him.

"Where are you going?" Ron asked as Hermione went ahead, leaving Ron and Harry behind. "Aren't we leaving?"

"In a minute. I want to see something. Come on!" Hermione called.

Ron groaned. "This shopping business is tiresome."

Harry nodded gloomily. They followed Hermione, their feet crunching the freshly fallen snow. Hogsmeade was beautiful, bright and richly decorated with colourful ornaments and glowing fairies that twinkled and fluttered above them in all directions.

"Hermione," Ron sighed suddenly.

They had almost exited the village and Hermione stood on top of a small hill, staring ahead. "It won't just reappear, Hermione," Harry said when they reached her.

"I know." She sniffed.

Harry looked in the distance, where once the magnificent castle had stood proud and beautiful. There was nothing there now. The Ministry had gathered experts from all over the country and beyond; they had led a crowd of people back to the site and tried to force the castle to reappear. It never did.

Ron wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Everyone remembers how it looked. They'll build another, just like it."

Hermione huffed. It would never be the same, they all knew that. Harry shared Hermione's grief, but he kept his hope for himself. A new castle felt like a new beginning. And Harry had decided he liked beginnings.

"You know, I wonder..." Hermione said. "The magic never gave me anything."

"Well, it couldn't fulfil all wishes," Harry said. "And you hardly spent any time in the Room of Requirement."

"What were you desperately wishing for, anyway?" Ron asked.

Hermione shrugged. "Knowledge, perhaps. For everyone. For the wizarding world to change for the better." She sighed.

It will change, Harry thought. Maybe Hermione would get her wish.

"What about you?" Hermione looked at Ron.

"Ah, well," Ron said. "Got what I wanted most way before, didn't I?" He smiled down at her, his gaze soft.

"Oh," Hermione said. She sniffed again.

Harry cleared his throat.

"Oi!" Ron looked at him crossly. "You're interrupting a moment, mate!"

"You're interrupting my moments all the time."

Ron grumbled and mumbled something about evil blond gits.

"Speaking of..." Hermione coughed. Her cough sounded a bit like gits, too. "We should hurry. To cook, apparently. Not that either of us knows how."

Harry immediately regretted interrupting their moment. They had both promised to help him cook dinner before they left for the Burrow. Well, Hermione had promised; Ron had said he might peel the potatoes if he remembered the right spell. It would have been nice if Kreacher could help, but the house-elf spent his days in Buckbeak's old room. He insisted he was dying and wished to be left alone whenever Harry suggested he ought to clean or cook.

"Are you sure your mum won't be cross with me?" Harry asked Ron.

"For the tenth time, Harry, as long as you show up for Christmas dinner tomorrow and let her stuff you full of food, she'll be happy."

"Definitely," Harry said. "Draco's having dinner with his parents tomorrow, anyway." Besides, the three of them would surely cook a poor meal today and Harry would be hungry tomorrow and ready to eat several platefuls of Molly Weasley's delicious cooking. Harry knew he could have asked her to help him with today's dinner, too, and she would sent him packages of everything he desired and more—she might even be cross he had not asked—but Harry wanted to cook it himself. More or less. Ron and Hermione didn't count.

"Did you hear that, Hermione?" Ron mock-gasped. "Draco is having dinner with his parents. Remember Draco's parents?"

"Oh yes!" Hermione imitated Ron's gasp. "Draco's parents! Dear old Lucius and Narcissa."

"Lucius!" Ron exclaimed. "D'aw! You think I should start calling him Lucy?"

Harry glared. "I'm leaving." He promptly Disapparated. He reappeared a second later in front of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, slightly disoriented. He had never fancied Apparating. He was resolved to find another place to live, a place he could travel to by broom. Although, surprisingly, he was quite happy here, for the moment.

Ron and Hermione were staying with him for the time being. They hadn't really discussed where they would go from here, but, for now, it did not matter. They still had their N.E.W.T.s to focus on, as Hermione liked to remind them daily. Fortunately, the house was large, and they could all have their privacy, something Harry very much needed on the evenings Draco would stop by for a visit or a study session. Though, Harry was careful not to refer to his visits like that because the first time he had told Ron and Hermione that Draco would show up later for a study session, both of them had nearly died laughing.

"Is that what they're calling it now?" Ron had asked. "Last I heard, it was referred to as 'having a stroll.'"

The last couple of weeks had been peaceful yet exciting, which was something Harry would never have thought possible in the past.

Today, though, was not one of those peaceful, exciting days. Draco was supposed to spend the whole night here, which meant that, first, he would have to explain to his parents why he was abandoning them on Christmas Eve.

Ron and Hermione showed up soon after Harry, still laughing. It took awhile for the three of them to drag their feet to the kitchen. They were armed with a cookbook, Molly Weasley's handwritten instructions and several cooking spellbooks, and felt rather confident. Almost three hours later, the burnt meat, overcooked potatoes and something brown and slimy was thrown into the rubbish bin and promptly Vanished.

Hermione brushed flour from her hair. "The chocolate biscuits look good," she said bracingly.

Ron had already taken a bite and was hurriedly Conjuring a glass of water. "A bit spicy, though," he said, after swallowing a large gulp.

Hermione groaned and Vanished the biscuits, too.

"I'll make sandwiches," Harry said, defeated.

"Sorry, Harry." Hermione patted his shoulder.

He shook his head. "We tried. It was an experience, to say the least." The kitchen was a mess and so were they.

Ron thumped Harry's back. "You'll eat tomorrow, mate," he consoled him.

Harry snorted. "He might not come at all. Maybe I'll have to go rescue him from the Malfoys' dungeons." He winced. Perhaps he should not have mentioned the manor and its dungeons. The memory of that place was more than unpleasant, for all of them.

Ron waved his hand dismissively. "Piece of cake." But then he frowned. "But call us if that actually happens."

"I'm sure it won't," Harry said; though, he was not really so sure. He had no idea what Draco would tell his parents exactly and how they would react. Someone might end up in the dungeons after all.

To Harry's relief, however, Malfoy showed up half an hour later.

Harry successfully reached the door before Ron and Hermione. He had nearly broken his neck running down the stairs; his hair was still damp from the shower. Outside, he found a very grumpy Draco.

Draco showed a package into Harry's hands. "Mother sends pie," he grumbled and then shoved a bottle toward Harry, too. "Father sends wine."

Ron showed up and promptly snatched the bottle from Draco's hand. "Hermione, Lucy sent us wine!" he called.

Draco scowled at Ron, then at Harry, and pushed inside. Harry handed the package to Ron. "Could you please—?"

"Check for poisons?" Ron suggested.

"Of course not!" Harry said indignantly, but then noticed that Draco had already stormed off to the drawing room. Harry nodded at Ron. "Definitely check for poisons," he whispered.

Ron accepted the package and walked away, shaking his head.

Harry hurried after Draco. He found him sulking in the drawing room.

"That bad?" Harry asked tentatively. "They didn't disinherit you, did they?"

Malfoy shook his head. "They were..." He grimaced. "I told them everything. I think. I'm not sure what I told them, exactly. It’s a bit of a blur."

Harry winced in sympathy. "And?"

"They seem to have misunderstood me. Somehow."

Harry narrowed his eyes at him. "Misunderstood you how?"

"Well," Malfoy looked uncomfortable. "Father looked ready to cry, I swear. I thought he lost it. I was ready to call St Mungo's, fearing he was having a heart attack. But, well, then he... thanked me. For, er..." Draco gave Harry a shifty sort of look. "Sacrificing myself."

"Sacrificing yourself?"

Draco nodded, clearly miserable. "He seems to believe I discovered your inclinations and have taken advantage of them. And now I'm... er, servicing you. Providing favours, which could later be collected."

Harry stared at him.

"He looked so proud." Draco shook his head in wonder. "I've never seen him looking so proud of me. He said he never thought I had it in me. That I would go so far to save the Malfoy family name."

"Er, and then what happened?" Harry suspected he knew the answer. "Did you explain it's not like that?"

"Well, I..." Malfoy coughed.

"Draco..."

"He looked so proud, Harry! And then Mother made mince pie and Father brought elf-made wine from the cellar..."

"I get it, I do," Harry said. "But you can't just go along with it. Eventually, they'll realise—"

"Father promised to buy me a Firebolt. A Firebolt, Harry."

Harry sighed and gave up. "They're your parents. Do as you will."

Draco beamed, apparently no longer in a sour mood. "At least they won't give us any trouble."

"They will start asking for favours, you realise that? They'll tell you to ask something of me and they'll expect to get it. Then what?"

Draco was temporarily stumped, but he brightened quickly. "By then, I'll have a Firebolt and will be able to fly away very fast."

Harry laughed. "Brilliant plan, I'm sure."

"Mind the sarcasm, Potter," Draco said. "Or you won't get serviced tonight."

A muffled laughed sounded from the door. Harry winced as Hermione peeked inside, biting her lip.

"Malfoy," she greeted curtly.

Malfoy nodded at her, looking a bit flustered.

"Just letting you know we're leaving now, Harry," she said.

"Have fun, you two. And tell Mrs Weasley—"

"Yes, yes, yes," she said impatiently. "Stop worrying. We'll see you tomorrow." She smiled at him and, as she closed the door, she gave him thumbs up, probably indicating that the wine and pie were safe for consumption.

"Well now..." Malfoy said, studying Harry speculatively. "We're all alone. How unfortunate. What will we ever do to amuse ourselves?"

It just so happened, they did find something to do. And they did it promptly, right in the drawing room. And then they did it again in Harry's bedroom. At that point, Draco had expressed a wish for desserts and Harry had handed him a handful of chocolate wands. It had turned out to be a brilliant present, since Draco had been amused and then proceeded to show Harry what one could do with chocolate wands, a little imagination and a Melting Charm. It had been a scrumptious discovery. Harry was very proud of himself; he had even remembered to use a Shield Charm.

Soon, they were exhausted and famished, so they made their way to the kitchens to demolish Harry's sandwiches. It was late, but they were wide-awake, so they rushed back to the drawing room and Conjured a shockingly large pine tree. It would undoubtedly disappear in a few hours, but this did not bother them. Harry fetched a small box of Christmas decorations and Draco turned on the Wireless. They set to work and, together, produced the most horridly decorated Christmas tree Harry had ever seen. Parts of it were colourful, full of most ridiculous Conjured ornaments, parts of it covered with Conjured snow that insisted on melting, and parts of it filled with tinsel that glowed so fiercely it hurt to look at it. The fairies they had Conjured seemed displeased and were flying around the tree like mad, as though trying to find a pretty place to settle on. Finally, Draco stuck their feet to the branches with a Sticking Charm but, in retaliation, they had refused to glow.

Harry was in such high spirits he had even agreed to have a slice of mince pie and a glass of wine. The pie was delicious, but Harry claimed Lucius Malfoy's wine left him with a bad aftertaste. He promptly washed down the taste of it by giving Draco a very awkward, very short and very nerve-wrecking blowjob that had nonetheless left both of them grinning like idiots.

Afterward, they found themselves sitting on the carpet, half-asleep and tipsy, with their backs against an old armchair, staring at their tree. Draco's head fell to Harry's shoulder and Harry amused him greatly by casting a Cushioning Charm on it.

Harry studied the fairies, who were buzzing furiously, pulling left and right, trying to separate their feet from the pine needles.

"What will you do now?" Harry asked.

"Sleep?" Malfoy yawned. "I hope you aren't suggesting more sex. I refuse. I won't be up for it for another ten minutes, at least."

Harry snorted. "I didn't mean now. I meant, you know, with your life. After N.E.W.T.s. Plans for the future, career."

"Oh." Draco said and fell silent.

Harry waited, wondering if he should repeat the question. Perhaps Draco had fallen asleep.

"I don't know," Draco said at last. He raised his head, frowning at the tree.

Harry was sorry he had asked him that. Draco seemed gloomy.

"Something involving charm work?" Harry suggested. "And you're not bad at Transfiguration, either. You... er, you did fix that Vanishing Cabinet in our sixth-year. That sounds complicated." I shouldn't remind him of these things. Harry cursed his babbling mouth.

Draco scowled. "Took me half a year."

"But you did it! It would have taken me forever, I'm positive. And those staircases you Charmed back in the Chamber of Secrets were impressive, too."

Draco made a noncommittal sound, then gave Harry a sideways look. "You think so?"

Harry nodded enthusiastically. "Are you joking? That was brilliant!"

"Oh, well." Draco shrugged, possibly aiming for modesty. He failed at it. "I always thought I'd be a Ministry official of some sort. A very important one," he assured Harry. "Worrying about laws and paperwork, having lunches with important people."

"That..." Harry frowned. "Sounds very dull."

"It does," Draco agreed, though he looked surprised by his own proclamation. He turned toward Harry, grinning suddenly. "You know, I always dreamed of inventing something spectacular and clever. I had quite a few ideas, too."

"But?" Harry prompted. Draco's tone seemed to suggest a but.

"Well, it's ridiculous, isn't it? I could spend my whole life working on something and then..." He shrugged.

"Can I hear your ideas? Maybe they aren't ridiculous."

Draco bit his lip. "I’ll tell you about them. One day." He shook his head. "I have time to think about what I want to do."

"All right, then. I'd love to hear them, though," Harry assured him. "Whenever you feel like sharing."

Draco pressed a quick kiss to Harry's lips. "And you?" he asked. "Running off to finally be an Auror, are you? I hear you already have a job offer."

"Yeah." Harry grinned. "I do have a job offer." He had talked to Kingsley after Hogwarts had Vanished and Kingsley had asked him to join the Auror Department again. "But I thought... maybe I should stop playing Auror for five minutes."

Draco blinked. "You don't want to be an Auror anymore?"

"Of course I do!" Harry exclaimed, scandalised. He had wanted it forever; he suspected he always would. "I just... thought I'd take it slow." His desperate wish to be an Auror had nearly cost Tommy Wright his life and he still wasn't sure whether or not he had helped lead Draco into dangerous situations just so he could save him. None of it would have happened if not for the Room's magic, but Harry felt like his own mind had betrayed him. Maybe he wanted to be an Auror a little too much, so much his wish might send him rushing into another situation he could not control, and then someone might get hurt again because of him. Forward, but slowly, he had decided. "I plan to go through training first. Three more years of additional studying. That sounds dull, too, but well... at least I'll have more time. For other things I want to do."

"Such as?"

"Well, have sex. And have sex. And maybe even have sex. And also—"

"Enough!" Draco laughed. "Has it been ten minutes, then?"

"Why, how did you guess?"

"We'll require crutches tomorrow, you realise that?"

Harry burst out laughing. "Hardly," he argued when he calmed down. "Now stop complaining. I think I have a right to make a few demands. You haven't even bought me a Christmas present."

Draco's eyes widened. "I have!" He frowned. "Well, I didn't buy it, but I did get you something. I planned to give it to you after midnight. But well, since you're so demanding..." Draco took out his wand and Summoned a small package.

Harry tried to snatch it, but Draco was not letting go. He hid the package behind his back.

Harry mock-gasped. "Oh, I'll never find it there."

"Come and get it, Potter. I'd like to see you try," Draco threatened.

What followed was a heated struggle with much hair-pulling that left both of them flushed and panting. Harry did get the box, but Draco had managed to bite Harry's neck, possibly leaving another nasty bruise there.

Harry quickly unwrapped his present. Draco grinned as Harry took out a pair of glasses.

Harry studied them. "Are they—?"

"They are," Draco assured him. "I went back to get them. Quite a feat, I must say. The area is restricted. I thought, maybe they survived. And they did. They were broken and partially Vanished, but they're as good as new now."

Harry narrowed his eyes at him. "What, you don't like my new glasses?" Harry had bought a new pair. A slim, elegant-looking things. They felt odd, but Harry supposed he would get used to them.

"No," Draco said and pulled Harry's new glasses away. Then he carefully slipped the old pair on Harry's nose. Harry closed his eyes, wincing, and opened them again when they were where they were supposed to be. Draco beamed at him, grey eyes raking over Harry's face. "Perfect," he declared. "Now you look like my Potter."

"If you say so." Harry shook his head, amused. He did like having his old glasses back. He leaned forward for a thank you kiss, but a deafening bang made them both jump. Their Christmas tree had popped out of existence. A few ornaments crashed against the floor, others disappeared. The fairies were gone, too.

"Pathetic," Draco declared, staring at the mess. "Next year, we'll get a real tree," he said, then blushed.

Next year, Harry thought, suddenly light-headed. And the next, and the next. Their whole lives were ahead of them.

Harry all but grabbed Draco and pulled him closer, lips pressed against lips. Draco's eyes were half-open, dark-grey, warm. Harry grinned. "Yes. I think we will."

 



Fin


Originally posted here @ Harry/Draco Holidays.