Chapter 06

Draco groaned as his alarm blared. Six was too early for anyone to get up, and he had inflicted this torture on himself. All for a stupid scroll. He scowled. If he had just waited for Potter to finish the translation, then he wouldn’t be in this mess. Then again, if he had waited for Potter to finish the translation, there was no telling how long he would have had to endure the boredom of sitting on Potter’s couch. An hour was almost more than he could stand. Draco supposed he could take something to read when he went, but that seemed rather rude, since Potter was doing him a favor. Enduring the boredom of waiting seemed like a small price to pay, considering Potter had originally refused the request entirely.

Draco sighed, dragged himself out of bed and took a shower. After he was dressed, he made his way downstairs to where his morning coffee – three creams, two sugar – and Spanish omelet were waiting for him. He devoured the omelet and savored the coffee, letting the caffeine nurse him into wakefulness.

Once he was fully awake, he adjusted the manor’s wards to allow direct apparition, and he apparated to the front of Parselsmith. Straightening his robes, he walked into the shop, intending to go straight to the counter and demand the scroll back from Potter. Once he was inside, however, he had to force himself to keep from dropping his jaw at the sight that greeted him.

A line of fifty or so wizards crowded around the counter, and Potter was standing on top of it. He spotted Malfoy and gave a self-conscious wave. “As some of you know,” he said. “I am offering consulting services for snake owners for five galleons starting today. Give the money to Anita here.” He motioned to a petite witch with black hair standing behind the counter at the register. “Then bring your snake to me. I’ll be waiting at the table in front of the store.” That said, he sprang off the counter and walked outside. As he did so, he motioned for Draco to follow him.

Bemused, Draco followed Potter outside and sat down across from him. “Consulting services?” he asked.

Potter nodded. He sprawled in the chair across from him, and Draco had to fight not to notice the way the man had filled out over the years. The last thing Draco needed was to develop an attraction to Harry Potter, of all people.

“Yeah,” Potter said. “There are a lot of people who own snakes but don’t understand how to take care of them. Since I can speak Parseltongue, I figured I’d offer to translate for the owners who wanted to know how to take care of their snakes properly.”

“Hmm,” Draco said. “I don’t have a chance to hear Parseltongue spoken often. Would you mind if I stayed to listen?”

The question startled Potter. That was obvious from the way he jolted in his chair. “I thought you came for the scroll, not to listen to me speak Parseltongue.”

Draco forced himself not to clench his teeth. That was a no if he’d ever heard one. “I did,” he said. “I assume you have it with you?”

Potter pulled it out of his robes and handed it over along with a piece of parchment, which Draco assumed was the translation. He hesitated. “You can stay and listen if you want,” he said, green eyes unreadable.

Draco sighed. “I don’t want to cause problems for you, Potter. I’m sure the press would have a field day if they saw us.”

Potter shrugged. “I don’t care about the press,” he said, tone weary. “My friends are the ones who have to deal with the brunt of the publicity issues. The press is always reporting on what I’m doing, and I’ve lost friends due to the scrutiny the press tends to exact on those who stay near me for too long.” He sighed, trying to pick his words carefully. “You know, what you said last night, about there being too much bad blood between us…I’d be willing to start over, if you would.” He stretched out his hand, and his hand trembled as he waited for Draco’s reply.

Draco stared at the man in front of him. Numb with disbelief, he took Potter’s hand with his own. How many times had he dreamed of this moment? Of what would have happened if Potter had chosen to be his friend back in first year? He swallowed hard, and he found he couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat.

Potter grinned at him. “So, my friends call me Harry,” he said. “Shall we start with that?”

Draco laughed, surprised by how easily Potter broke the tension. No, how easily Harry broke the tension. Draco had a feeling he was going to have to get used to calling him Harry. “Yeah,” he said. “That would be a good start.” He smiled. “Call me Draco.”

Harry nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Draco it is.”

As the first paying customer came out of the shop and approached the table, Draco stood up and yielded the chair to the young witch and conjured a chair for himself. He placed the chair beside Harry’s and sat down to listen to the language of snakes – a language that he had always found captivatingly beautiful.

********

Harry could barely keep from humming, he was so thrilled. When he had extended his hand in friendship to Draco, a man who was still very much an enigma to him, he had feared that Draco would reject the offer. After all, Harry had rejected Draco’s offer of friendship when they were both children. Perhaps it was because the two of them were both adults that Draco had been able to put all of that behind him and accept Harry’s offer. Whatever the reason, Harry was happy that Draco had agreed.

The first witch who approached him was a young woman, no more than fifteen years old. Wrapped around her shoulders was a beautiful red boa.

Harry smiled at her. “What can I do for you, Ms.?”

The girl smiled back. “I’m Henrietta,” she said, then introduced her boa. “This is Tamura. She hasn’t been eating properly for the past few days, and I’m concerned.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Have you changed her diet at all?” he asked.

Henrietta shook her head. “I always feed her mice three times a day,” she said. “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

Harry nodded. “That’s normally what snakes eat. Shall we ask Tamura why she isn’t eating?”

Harry smiled at the girl, then focused his attention on the snake. Hello, he said. Your nest-mate is concerned you aren’t eating. Should she be worried?

Tamura unfurled and stared directly at Harry as she replied. My nest-mate is always bringing me dead mice. I managed to eat them for a few weeks, but I’m bored with nothing to chase. I can’t work up an appetite without a chase.

Harry winced. I will relay your concerns to your nest-mate, he said.

Much obliged, Tamura replied.

Harry turned back to Henrietta. “Tamura says that you’ve been feeding her dead mice. Snakes need to eat live prey. They need to hunt.”

Henrietta’s eyes widened. “Oh, but I just couldn’t watch Tamura eat a live mouse. I’d feel awful.”

Harry closed his eyes, wondering how he was supposed to explain to Henrietta that she needed to give Tamura to someone who would take better care of her if she couldn’t even bring herself to feed the snake live mice. It turned out, he didn’t need to bother.

“If you don’t feed the snake properly,” Draco drawled beside him. “The snake will die. If you feed the snake properly, a few mice will die, but they will die quickly. If you don’t feed your snake properly, then you will starve her to death, and she will die a slow death. You will be torturing your snake. If you don’t want to make that choice, then you need to give Tamura to someone who can.”

Henrietta stared at Draco, and her nostrils flared in outrage. “And who are you to try to give me advice, Malfoy?” She spat his surname out and smiled grimly as Draco flinched. “Yes, I know who you are. The son of Lucius Malfoy, the Death Eater. You have no right to give me advice. I came here to get advice from Harry Potter, not from some washed out has-been.”

Harry blinked in astonishment. Where was the sweet witch he’d been speaking to just moments before? The girl who was too squeamish to feed her snake live mice? He wanted to leap to Draco’s defense, but he remembered that Draco had said he could fight his own battles. Harry needed to see proof of that. His friends needed backbone to survive, and if Draco planned to be friends with him, well, the blonde would have to prove he had the necessary strength.

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Are you quite done?” he asked, sounding bored.

Henrietta looked put out that she didn’t get more of a response. “Aren’t you mad that I called you a washed out has-been?” she asked, hands planted on her hip as a scowl formed on her face.

Draco gave her a puzzled look. “Why would I be mad about that? I don’t know you. You don’t know me. I assume that your insults originated with someone else. You’re a teenager, parroting opinions without forming any of your own. I told you the truth about your snake, and you didn’t like hearing it, so you lashed out. Call me what you want, but the truth still stands. If you can’t make the necessary sacrifice to take care of Tamura properly, you should give her to someone who can.”

Henrietta stared at Draco. Wordlessly, she uncoiled the snake from around her neck and dumped Tamura unceremoniously in Draco’s lap. “Fine,” she said. “Then you take her.”

Draco’s eyes widened, and he froze, not quite daring to move with a snake on his lap. “I didn’t mean me,” he said, voice small.

Henrietta smiled, and it was a nasty smile. “Too bad,” she said. “Don’t give advice to people who don’t ask for it. Thanks, Harry.”

Harry sighed and picked Tamura up. “Henrietta,” he said, calling after the girl who was walking away.

She turned back. “Yes?” she asked.

“Tamura is your responsibility, not Draco’s. If you want Draco to take Tamura, then you need to pay him for the trouble you’ve caused him.”

“What?” Henrietta demanded, hands firmly on her hips. “He’s the one who said I should give Tamura to someone who could make the necessary sacrifice. It seems to me that the son of a Death Eater should be able to make that sacrifice. I don’t see why I should have to pay him for that.”

Harry’s jaw clenched, and an anger he hadn’t felt in a long time rose like a tide within him. He turned to Draco, desperation in his eyes and voice. “Get everyone out of the shop,” he said. “I’m about to lose control of my magic.”

Draco’s eyes widened in shock. “Get out of here!” He yelled at Henrietta, who fled at the serious threat Draco posed as he pulled out his wand. Not caring how it looked, Draco grabbed Harry’s right upper arm and marched him inside. Figuring that a threat would be the best way to get everyone out of the shop, he pointed his wand at Harry’s throat. “Everyone get out of this shop, right now,” he said. “Or I swear there won’t be anything left of him for you to find.”

All of the customers trained their attention on Draco, and one of them started to disarm him, but Harry threw up a defensive shield between them, preventing the action. The motion was very subtle, but Draco noticed it.

“Get out of here!” Harry yelled. “You don’t stand a chance against him.” He followed Draco’s lead, and the shop emptied rapidly. Once all of the customers were gone, Harry threw up a strong deflecting shield around the shop which would deny entrance to anyone not keyed to his private wards. As he threw up the shield, he tied Draco into those wards, allowing the Slytherin to stay by him. “You realize,” he said, panting through the effort necessary to keep control of his magic. “That you probably just cemented your status as Dark wizard into the minds of about a hundred wizards, right?”

Draco shrugged. “At least it will be for something I did, rather than something my father did,” he said. “Besides, I couldn’t think of a faster way to get everyone out of the shop.”

Harry chuckled, which made it even more difficult to control his breathing. “Fair enough,” he said. “You should leave, too. The last time I lost control, I blew up the shop. Took me weeks to put everything back together.”

Draco sighed. “You seriously don’t realize how unique your magic is, do you?” he asked.

Harry frowned. “Unique?”

“You have the strongest Light and Dark abilities that exist,” Draco explained. “Light magic can be contained, so you don’t have trouble controlling it. Dark magic has to burst free from its bonds occasionally. I’m surprised the worst you’ve done is blown up the shop. Dark magic, once loosed, if not properly loosed, can level cities.”

Harry stared at him. “How do you know so much about Dark magic?”

Draco scowled. “I’m a cursebreaker, Potter,” he said, slipping back into old habit. “What kind of magic do you think cursebreaking is?”

Harry shook his head. “I have no idea.”

“It’s Dark magic,” Malfoy said, his tone short. “I am a Dark wizard. And you should know that Dark doesn’t mean evil, considering you’re a Parseltongue speaker. Dark magic is shadow magic. It was Voldemort who twisted that.”

Harry grunted. “Can we have this lecture another time? I’m trying to keep my magic contained here.”

Draco sighed in annoyance. “Fine,” he said. Without giving Harry time to protest, he pointed his wand at Harry’s head and said, “Solvo Tenebrae.”

Harry braced himself, expecting the regular ice water sensation to wash over him. Instead, the spell washed over him with a silky smoothness that startled him. The spell felt good. He stared at Draco in astonishment, and then the spell took hold. All of the dark thoughts he’d had over the last few months rushed to the surface of his mind, and it took all of his self-control not to lunge at Draco and start punching him. Harry wanted to hurt someone. He wanted to hurt someone so badly that he could taste it.

“Ride the storm,” Draco said, and his voice seemed like it was coming from miles away. “Let the thoughts come, and let them pass. You are not the darkness within. Let the dark inside you become the dark outside you. Release the storm.”

As Draco talked, Harry listened. Something about Draco’s voice seemed incredibly soothing, and Harry found himself lulled into a trancelike state. Harry followed Draco’s instructions in a state of wonder. He’d never seen the dark inside him as a living force. He’d never considered that his magic was equal parts Light and Dark magic. And he had never dreamed he’d be standing in the middle of his shop with Draco Malofy, of all people, teaching him how to keep from losing control of the most lethal weapon he possessed.

Eventually, the light trance faded, and Harry stared at Draco, wondering what he was supposed to say. Gratitude seemed appropriate, but ‘thank you’ didn’t seem strong enough. He cleared his throat. “Th –

Draco interrupted. “That should hold you until you can get into the forest. Dark magic has to be given free reign occasionally, or you will lose control of it completely. The fact that you have such strong Light magic is what has allowed you to wait this long. The spell I used is only a temporary reprieve.”

Harry stared at the blonde, astonished at the way Draco lit up while talking about magic. That passion was the last thing he expected in the cool Slytherin, and it was hard for him to wrap his mind around the person standing in front of him. Then he caught up with what Draco was saying, and he threw his hands out. “Wait a second,” he said. “You’re telling me I have to go into the forest and do what exactly?”

Draco sighed; a put-upon sound. “Release the Dark magic you’re carrying around.”

Harry frowned. “Why do I need to release my magic? You’ve lost me.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Do you know nothing about the way magic works?” He shook his head. “No, you wouldn’t. You’re powerful enough that the theory of magic probably holds no interest to you.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know if it holds interest or not, considering I barely know anything about the theory of magic.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Of course you don’t. Okay, well, there are two types of magic – Light and Dark. The difference between Light and Dark magic is that Light magic embraces the light side of life – order, peace, love, and good health, for example. In contrast, Dark magic embraces the dark side of life – death, destruction, chaos, and wilderness. The important thing to know about the two types of magic is that you can’t have too much Light magic, but you can have too much Dark magic. If you have too much Dark magic, your magical core falls out of balance, and you have to release the Dark magic in order to force your magical core to resync to the rhythms of our world. Understand?”

Harry was amazed at how Draco had managed to deliver that lecture sounding like an exasperated yet patient teacher. He smiled at the blonde. “Yeah, I think I have it. Thanks for explaining. Now, why do we need a forest?”

Draco smiled tightly. “It would be easier to show you. Could you, perchance, apparate us to a remote forest?”

Harry shrugged. “Sure,” he said. He flicked his wand, and the two of them were standing in the middle of a remote forest in Scotland.

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. “I didn’t even feel the Apparate spell take hold of me. How the bloody hell did you do that?”

Harry grinned. “It’s a secret. If you want to know mine, share yours first.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, then burst out laughing.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Fine. I’ll teach you how to release Dark magic, and then you can teach me how to Apparate without making any sound.”

“Deal,” Harry said.

Chapter Five      Index     Chapter Seven

%d bloggers like this: