Chapter 05

Five minutes before six the next Wednesday, Harry felt the wards in front of his apartment bend, announcing the arrival of Malfoy and someone else. Harry frowned. He hadn’t invited anyone but Malfoy over to his apartment, so that there was another person outside his front door was irksome. As he walked towards the door, he caught a snippet of the conversation going on outside his front door.

“You really don’t need to be here,” Malfoy said, tone quiet. “I’ve told you repeatedly that Potter doesn’t like strangers, and you are a stranger.”

The other man sniffed. “Nonsense,” he said. “As your boss, I have every right to see how Mr. Potter plans to honor his agreement with you.”

Malfoy sighed. “It would be helpful if you just believed me when I told you I managed to get him to agree to do the translations instead of following me around like you’re harboring suspicions of me.”

“But I am harboring suspicions of you,” the man said. “I still don’t know how you managed to get hired on as a cursebreaker when you have such a dark past. If I were the one responsible for the staff, I would have already gotten rid of you. Alas, I don’t make those decisions. But put one foot out of line –

“Yes, I know,” Malfoy said, tone resigned. “You’ll submit paperwork to the hiring board and get me fired.”

“Glad we understand one another,” the man said.

“That doesn’t mean you should have come with me to Potter’s apartment,” Malfoy said. “Like I keep telling you, he doesn’t like strangers.”

“Nonsense,” the man said. “I’m sure Mr. Potter has a great deal of respect for all Ministry officials.”

Harry had to hold back a snort at that. He could already tell that he wasn’t going to get along with Malfoy’s boss. He opened the door and found himself staring into the face of a squat man with beady eyes. He ignored the man entirely and turned his attention to Malfoy. “I don’t believe my invitation extended to anyone other than you,” he said.

Malfoy’s eyes sparked with concealed mirth. “Sorry,” he drawled. “This is my boss, Rube Nightingale. He insisted on coming with me to meet you.”

Nightingale cleared his throat, drawing Harry’s attention to him. “I must admit, Mr. Potter, I didn’t expect you to associate with the likes of Draco Malfoy. I can’t quite say I approve.”

As much as Harry disliked Malfoy, there was something indescribably slimy about Nightingale. “I suppose it’s a good thing then that I don’t care one bit whether you approve of my associates or not, Mr. Nightingale. Unlike you, Draco has perfectly charming manners.”

Nightingale flushed red. “Malfoy, you didn’t tell me you were on a first name basis with Mr. Potter.”

Malfoy arched an eyebrow at Harry, his lips quirking into a smile over the top of Nightingale’s head. “Did I neglect to mention that?” he asked, injecting a bit of surprise into his voice.

“Yes, yes you did,” Nightingale said, obviously put out. “Well, we might as well get what we came here for. May we come in, Mr. Potter?”

Harry held the door open and angled his body so that Malfoy could slip past him, but he refused to move aside enough to allow Nightingale to pass. “My agreement is with Malfoy alone,” he said. “Good night, Mr. Nightingale.” Without bothering to wait and see if the sputtering that line had induced in the man ever stopped, Harry closed his door and latched it. Then he increased the security of his wards, and he was satisfied only when the strength of his wards pushed Nightingale a good distance away from his apartment.

Malfoy, when he spoke again, seemed genuinely puzzled. “Why did you let me through and not my boss?” he asked, tone soft. “I wasn’t expecting you to help me out.”

Harry snorted. “I hate men like him,” he said. “I hate it when people try to tell me who I should and shouldn’t be around, like any of them have the right to dictate my life. I’ll decide who my friends are for myself, thanks.”

Malfoy’s eyes widened in shock. “That’s the exact same thing you said to me on the train in our first year,” he said.

Harry met Malfoy’s eyes and nodded once, the action sharp. “And that’s why I’ve had trouble being around you ever since we met,” he said. “I won’t let anyone tell me who I can and can’t be friends with, and the first time we met, that’s exactly what you tried to do.”

Malfoy sighed. “I was very much my father’s son back then,” he said. “And I suppose there’s too much bad blood between us now for starting over to do us any good.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Give me the scroll I was working on last time,” he said. As Malfoy drew the scroll out of the box and handed it to him, Harry sighed. “Why does that man hate you so much?”

Malfoy shrugged a delicate shoulder, blue-gray eyes clouded with cold resignation. “I suppose he hates me for the same reason everyone else at the Ministry hates me. I am the son of Lucius Malfoy. That fact alone makes me a villain in the eyes of many.”

Harry’s teeth clenched. “As much as I dislike you for the way you have treated me and my friends in the past, at least my dislike is based off the way you yourself behaved. You can’t help that Lucius Malfoy supported Voldemort’s ideology. No one is responsible for the terrible actions of their parents, not even you.”

Draco arched an eyebrow. “Thanks, Potter,” he said, tone dry. “But I don’t need anyone to advocate for me. I am perfectly capable of fighting my own battles.”

Harry flushed. “Sorry,” he said. “Force of habit, I suppose.”

“What is?” Malfoy asked. “Getting stupidly passionate about inane things?”

Harry scowled at him. “Standing up for people who won’t stand up for themselves,” he said.

Malfoy blanched. “I stand up for myself,” he said.

Harry arched an eyebrow. “Really?” he asked. “Because I distinctly recall you letting Nightingale disparage your character.”

Malfoy flushed. “If I reacted to every disparaging remark made about me, my entire life would consist of nothing but defending myself. I learned a long time ago that people are going to disparage me whether I defend myself or not, and I decided not to waste my life trying to convince people to see me properly. As long as I can make a difference in the world and reverse some of the damage my father inflicted, that’s enough for me.”

Harry shook his head. “Really, Malfoy? You’re going to let your life be defined by your father even now? Do you really think that you are best served by cleaning up the mess your father made?”

Malfoy’s expression blanked. “I don’t think it’s any of your business,” he said. “The last thing I need is someone else trying to tell me how to live my life.”

Harry winced. “Sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to imply that I disapproved of the life you’ve chosen to live.”

Malfoy’s gaze sharpened. “Then what were you trying to imply?”

Harry sighed. “I suppose I was just trying to ask if you were happy. Not that it’s any of my business.”

Malfoy’s expression softened. “For the most part, I am content. I do have to wonder, however, why you suddenly seem so interested in my life. In fact, I believe this is the first truly civil conversation we’ve ever had, and I find it slightly overwhelming.”

“It’s because of how Nightingale treated you,” Harry said. “It’s pretty obvious he doesn’t have the first clue about who you are, and yet he’s still willing to disparage you to a stranger. He was looking for me to be a sympathetic ear – he expected me to be as crass as him, and I hate that. I hate the very idea that I could be that judgmental towards anyone, even you, Malfoy.”

“You aren’t,” Malfoy said. “Your dislike for me is rational, based off the way I behaved towards you when we were in school. I assure you, I hold you in as much esteem as you hold me.”

Harry snorted. “Ironic, then, that we can treat each other with more respect than your boss managed to treat you with.”

Malfoy’s lips quirked. “Perhaps we’re just better human beings,” he said.

Harry grinned. “Perhaps so.” He unrolled the scroll and laid it on the table in front of him. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get started on this.”

“Mind if I make myself some tea?”

Harry shook his head. “Go ahead,” he said. “Take it –

“To the couch. I remember, Potter.”

“Prat.”

In response, Malfoy flipped him off as he walked into the kitchen.

Harry smiled. Despite the history that lay between the two of them, he was finding Malfoy’s presence to be rather unobtrusive, which shocked him. He had expected Malfoy to be obnoxious and underfoot the way Ron would have been if Ron had been the one who asked for the translation. Harry was starting to realize that he didn’t have any clue who the man in his kitchen actually was, and he was starting to regret how easily he had rejected Malfoy when the man first asked for the translation. He sighed and turned to the scroll in front of him. He needed to focus on translating the scroll, not on trying to figure out Malfoy. That could wait.

I doubt anyone will ever believe that I chose this path in order to prevent the chaotic future I witnessed. In fact, I am certain that the whole of the wizarding world will call me a monster. They will never understand that the war I intend to wage against the muggle one is to prevent the annihilation of the wizarding world.

In case I fail to prevent the future I have witnessed first-hand, I am recording my intentions in the hopes that someone will find this information before it’s too late. Before the war to end life as we know it begins. I suppose I should start from the beginning. Explain why it is so imperative that the war be prevented and how I know the future I fear is the future we face.

For those who have studied the prophetic arts, it is well known that the future unfolds in front of us in many paths. There are key players and key events that carry the world forward. It is the interlocking of those key players and key events that determine the course the future the whole of humanity will have to face together. Key players are identified at birth. They are the orphans and the unloved. It is their compassion and their hatred that keeps the world in motion.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me to refer to myself as a key player, but I understand enough about the prophetic arts to know that I am a key player. My actions will help shape the future of the world, and, currently, the future I have seen is not one I wish to help create. That future entails a world where the muggles know about wizards and, rather than embracing us, they reject us out of hand. They treat us as a threat to their world, so they take up arms, and they destroy us.

I refuse to see that future unfold. I refuse to watch the world I love crumble into nothing within the next five centuries. I will do whatever it takes to prevent the world I love from disappearing, and if that means that I am treated like a monster, seen as a monster by the ones I desperately wish to save, then I will take on that burden. The burden I carry is the knowledge that the war I intend to wage will take lives of other wizards, but the casualties I inflict upon this world will be far less numerous than the fate future has in store for the wizarding world. I do not wish to take the lives of any wizards, but I would rather take the lives of a few wizards to save the entire wizarding world than kill no one and watch this world shatter.

I fervently hope that my attempts to thwart the unfolding of the future of the annihilation of the wizarding world aren’t too late. That the actions I take can act as key events in an effort to reverse that future. But I also fear that the actions I take may bring that future closer.

That’s the risk inherent in trying to understand prophecy. To manipulate the future is difficult, and it is far easier to set events in motion than it is to halt their progression. And I am setting out to halt the progression of the future the wizarding world is already rushing towards. No matter what I choose to do, I may end up drawing the annihilation of the wizarding world closer. But I have to do something. If there is even the slimmest chance that I can stop that future from happening, then I have to act. I can’t stand the thought of doing nothing. I can’t stand the thought of the annihilation of everything I hold dear.

Harry’s head was swimming when he finished translating. He was astonished that he’d managed to translate a portion so much larger than the portion he’d managed to translate the previous week. When he looked up, he found himself staring at Hermione. “When did you get here?” he asked.

“About an hour ago,” Hermione said. “Malfoy left a note on your kitchen counter. I assume he left at seven, since he was gone when I got here.”

Harry blinked. “He didn’t say anything when he left. I’m surprised he left the scroll here with me. He was pretty adamant that he couldn’t let the documents out of his sight.”

Hermione sighed. “Perhaps the note will give you some insight into his actions.”

Harry braced himself. As he tried to stand, a wave of vertigo sent him crashing towards the floor. It was only Hermione’s quick wand work that saved him a nasty fall, and she gave him an apologetic look for casting a spell on him without his permission. The ice water sensation washed over him and he glared at her. “Thanks,” he said. “Next time, I’ll take the fall though.” Even though Hermione had done it to save him, Harry still loathed the way it felt. Loathed it so much, in fact, he would rather have sustained a concussion.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’ll take you being irritated with me over having to take you to St. Mungo’s. At least with me, it’s just one spell. If I take you to St. Mungo’s, you’ll have multiple witches and wizards casting diagnostic spells on you. Now, are you sure you’d rather have taken the fall?” Her tone had a sickeningly sweet cast to it.

Harry swallowed. “No,” he said, queasiness settling in his stomach as he thought about having to go to St. Mungo’s for anything. “No, that’s quite alright. Sorry, ‘Mione.”

Hermione smiled. “I’ll fetch the note for you, shall I?”

Harry nodded. “That would be great, thanks.” He didn’t feel like doing anything to upset Hermione any further. The woman had a nasty temper when it was roused, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he had come pretty damned close to pissing her off.

“Here,” she said, placing the note into his hand.

Harry righted himself in his chair and read the note from Malfoy.

Potter,
I didn’t want to disturb you, as you seemed very deep in the translation, and I wasn’t sure what the consequences might be of pulling you out of such a deep trance. I let myself out. I’ll return tomorrow when your shop opens to fetch the scroll and the translation.

“Well, that’s straightforward,” Harry said, then sighed. He didn’t understand Malfoy at all. The man basically disappeared when Harry was working on the translation – in fact, his presence was so unobtrusive that Harry hadn’t even noticed him leave. That was alarming, actually, as the only two people Harry had ever found unobtrusive were Ron and Hermione. When anyone else was around him, it was like his magic went on high alert. That his magic didn’t seem to find Malfoy a threat surprised him, and he found himself both concerned and intrigued.

Hermione sniffed. “He could have at least signed his name.”

Harry laughed. “It’s Malfoy,” he said. “I’m surprised he bothered to leave a note at all. In fact, I bet the only reason he left this note was to let me know he was going to come by to fetch the scroll in the morning.”

“You’re probably right,” Hermione said. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that Malfoy is every bit the self-serving Slytherin.”

Harry grinned. “I don’t know, ‘Mione. I find it kind of refreshing.”

“How so?”

“Well, he asked me to translate the scrolls for him, and, so far, he hasn’t asked me to do anything else. Okay, he did ask me to make him a cup of tea the first time he was here, but that hardly counts.” He sighed at Hermione’s arched eyebrow, and he tried to find the words to explain what he meant. “When he comes here to get the scrolls translated, he makes himself a cup of tea and sits on the couch and waits for me to finish. He doesn’t try to rush me through the translation, and he doesn’t try to forcibly engage me in conversation. He seems to understand that I value my privacy, and as soon as the hour is up, he leaves. Whether I’m finished with the translation or not, so it seems.” Harry smiled sheepishly. “I’m starting to wonder whether the Draco Malfoy we knew in school is the real Draco Malfoy or just a mask the man wears.”

Hermione blew out a breath. “Damn, Harry. You’re curious.”

Harry shrugged a shoulder, a resigned motion. “I don’t understand him. I never have, and I am starting to feel like I need to understand him.” He took a deep breath. “Do you know how I told you before that each person’s magic feels different?”

Hermione nodded. “Yeah. You told me that Ron’s felt like a fluffy fireball.” She grinned. “I still don’t see how a fireball can be fluffy, but with Ron, somehow, that image just fits. I think you said mine felt like dirt after a rainstorm. What does Malfoy’s feel like?”

Harry sighed. “A brewing storm.”

Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. “Harry, that’s almost exactly how you defined –

“My own magic? Yeah, I know,” Harry said. “Except my magic is more like a thunderstorm in motion. Malfoy’s is more like a blizzard, or the potential of one. It’s like he hasn’t realized the full extent of his own magical abilities.” Harry sighed. “If that man ever finds confidence in his magic, he will be a force to be reckoned with.” He smiled sheepishly. “I kind of want to help him find that confidence.”

Hermione shook her head. “Harry, you barely know Malfoy. For all you know, he wants you to translate these scrolls so that he can use any Dark rituals you discover.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “’Mione, I’m shocked at you. Wasn’t it you that told me I needed to stop looking for conspiracies where Malfoy is involved?”

Hermione had the grace to look sheepish. “Yes, well, I was wrong in seventh year, and I don’t want you to make the mistake I made.”

Harry sighed. “You know that I always go with my instincts, ‘Mione. When have they ever been wrong?”

Hermione shrugged, at a loss for words.

“The answer to that is never,” Harry said. “My instincts are telling me that I need to understand Malfoy. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it has something to do with these scrolls. Something is telling me that understanding Malfoy better will go a long way to helping me understand the person who wrote these scrolls.”

“I suppose if it’s for the sake of understanding the scrolls, I can try to be supportive,” Hermione said, her tone a bit begrudging.

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I suppose I should get to bed. Mind helping me?”

Hermione shook her head and pulled out her wand. “That’s what I came here to do,” she said, then floated him to bed.

“Thanks, ‘Mione,” he said. “You’re a great friend.”

She smiled. “Yes, well, I’ve had tons of practice. Good night, Harry.”

“Night.” As Harry prepared himself to deal with the emotional onslaught that normally occurred after translating Parseltongue, he was surprised to find that he felt no loneliness. Instead, what he found haunting him as he fell asleep was the image of Malfoy’s face when the man realized that Harry wasn’t going to judge him for his father’s crimes. The shock and hope that mixed within Malfoy’s blue-grey eyes followed Harry into sleep, and he found himself swearing that he would do the best he could to find out more about the Slytherin.

Chapter Four     Index      Chapter Six

%d bloggers like this: