Chapter 13

The more he thought about what had transpired between him and Draco, the sicker Harry felt. He had, in essence, tortured Draco for daring to speak his mind. If this was the way that the Warden-Anchor bond was going to exert its influence on him, then Harry wanted nothing to do with it. The last thing he wanted to do was feel like he had no choice in the way he used his own magic.

Remembering the tightly controlled breathing and the tremors in Draco’s body, Harry put his hand to his mouth as a wave of nausea crashed through him. He wasn’t this person. He didn’t hurt his friends. But, in the moment it had happened, he had wanted nothing more than to see Draco writhing under his wand in pain.

Ever since the day of the ritual, Harry had felt off-balance. The ritual had helped him release the excess Dark magic he’d been carrying around, but it had pushed his Light magic a little too far away for his comfort. The ritual had been intended to completely rebalance his magic, but it had worked a little too well in the favor of his Dark magic. Which made sense, even though he hated to admit it. He rarely utilized his Dark magic, so when he did, it very often threatened to consume him. And now, here he was, stuck in a relationship founded on the very principles that made Dark magic work.

Whether he found Draco attractive or not was a moot point – Harry understood enough about Dark magic to know that the bond would compel him towards Draco. Dark magic aside, Harry himself found submission intoxicating. There was something particularly powerful about Draco’s submission, most likely tangled up with the fact that Draco used to be the person he hated second only to Voldemort.

But that hatred had diminished with age, becoming more of a strong distrust rather than anything resembling hatred. However, with the pain curse he had subjected Draco to earlier, Harry was becoming highly aware that perhaps not everything he had felt towards Draco as a teenager had been erased.

That, in and of itself, was unhealthy. He knew that, just as he knew that the relationship with Tavin hadn’t truly gotten toxic. While Tavin had safeworded, Harry hadn’t even come close to actually violating it. But he remembered the overpowering desire he had felt to continue, and he held that guilt to him as if he had actually crossed that line. When he wasn’t allowing himself to indulge in his own warped sense of guilt, Harry was very aware that he was more responsible than most people ever were about the way he used his dominance.

Today, however, he really had crossed a line, and that made him feel disgusted with himself. It would be easy to argue himself into an acceptance of what he had done because there were no real lines with Draco. A Warden-Anchor bond was a Master-Slave bond – that much had been clear from reading the book Hermione had given him. That meant that anything Harry did to Draco was legal, no matter how illegal it might look on the surface. Anchors, once bound to a Warden, had no legal right to refuse anything a Warden asked of them. Because of that, bound Anchors could not be forced to stand trial – the Warden would be charged instead.

It would be so easy to give into that reasoning. It would be so easy to tell himself that Draco had no right to refuse, no right to speak back, no right to even voicing his opinion if Harry didn’t permit it. But as true as that was, Harry didn’t want that. He didn’t want to turn Draco into a puppet. He wanted to learn who Draco was and what made him tick. But Harry had to get control over his magic and his temper if he was going to do that. The comments Draco had made should never have elicited the response Harry had given. The guilt was going to tear him apart.

And that was okay. This was something that he needed to feel guilty over. He needed to feel the guilt so he could be reminded, every day, what going too far looked like. But he also needed to be able to set it aside so that he could be a proper Warden for his Anchor, and that was where the true difficulty arose.

Cracking his knuckles, Harry nodded his head and turned on his heel, his mind made up. The few minutes it took him to get back to his flat solidified his decision in his mind. Once he arrived back at his flat, he paused before the door, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then let himself in.

Draco was still huddled on the floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, and his entire body was emitting small tremors. He glanced up at Harry as the door opened and he sluggishly began to shift into a kneel.

“Stop,” Harry said. “You don’t need to kneel. Can you stand, or do you need help?” He purposefully kept his voice low and soft, trying not to frighten Draco any further.

The glance Draco threw at him was full of uncertainty, like he wasn’t sure he could trust the kindness Harry was offering right now, and that made Harry’s heart clench because he knew he deserved it. Harry didn’t say anything else, just waited for Draco to respond.

After a few minutes passed, the tremors in Draco’s body had stopped, but he was still looking at Harry with distrust. Even so, he forced himself to stand, and he automatically folded himself into the pose of a waiting submissive – chin up, eyes down, feet shoulder width apart, and hands clasped behind his back.

Harry had to swallow back his shock at the instant submission Draco offered him, even while still harboring distrust. It was impressive, to an extent, but it was also very telling. Draco, at some point in his life, had been abused to the point that he expected abuse. It was nothing new. Harry closed his eyes against the shame and bile that rose in him at the realization of just how badly he had screwed up with Draco flooded him. The instant submission Draco offered was testament to how powerfully subservient Draco truly was, which implied there was a sensitivity to him that Harry had never realized he possessed.

“Come here,” Harry said, keeping his voice soft. He held his arms open, and he waited for Draco to respond. Like he had done before, he didn’t try to pressure Draco into making a decision. He just held his arms out and waited, watching the emotions flicker across Draco’s face.

Draco looked at Harry with uncertainty and distrust, unsure as to why the Warden who had just tortured him was suddenly offering him comfort. He wanted that comfort more than anything, but if he took it, how was he to know that there wouldn’t be repercussions later for giving into his own weakness? Draco’s experiences with Harry were very limited and most of them involved the fighting the two of them had engaged in while teenagers. This was new territory, and Draco didn’t know what kind of person Harry actually was. Although the torture earlier was certainly telling – Draco knew he didn’t want to make Harry angry ever again. If he had to, he’d never offer another opinion. It would be stifling, but he would do it, if just to avoid pain. He whimpered low in his throat, torn between the desire to seek the offered comfort and the fear that it was a trap. Though, with the patience Harry was displaying – at least three minutes had already passed – it was looking less and less like a trap. It was also starting to dawn on Draco that if he kept avoiding making a decision, it was going to start looking like disobedience, and he wasn’t the disobedient type. Mouth set in a grim line, he made his decision and walked into Harry’s arms.

As Draco walked to him, Harry’s heart twisted at the grim expression on Draco’s face. He was forcing himself to do what he had been told, steeling himself against whatever came next. It was that expression on Draco’s face that undid him. Because the comfort he was offering was being treated as a potential trap, and Harry’s anger at himself burned even hotter than the guilt he felt for going too far. No one needed to be afraid of seeking comfort, and yet he had managed to instill that fear in Draco without even trying.

When Draco got to him, Harry folded his arms around Draco and pulled him in close, resting his head on top of the blonde’s. “For the little it’s worth, and I know it means very little, I’m sorry for earlier. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I was wrong to punish you. I will do anything you want to make it up to you, and I swear I will never punish you ever again for anything other than disobedience. If you need me to, I will swear a blood oath to that effect. I will not let this bond turn me into a monster. You deserve better than that.”

As Harry spoke, Draco grew still, and it was clear that he was thinking hard about what Harry was saying. “I didn’t expect you to apologize to me at all. You are, after all, my Warden, which gives you the right to do anything you want to me. I’ll admit that your willingness to use a pain curse – “Draco’s breath hitched and he had to force himself to continue speaking – “for something so trivial had me concerned. I don’t need a blood oath from you. There may be situations where that particular blood oath could prevent you from utilizing the bond properly, and I refuse to handicap you that way. As for what you can do to make it up to me…” Draco lifted his head from Harry’s shoulder and met Harry’s eyes directly. “Read to me out loud as you translate the scrolls.”

Harry let out a shocked laugh. “That was the last thing I was expecting you to ask me for,” he said in response to Draco’s arched eyebrow. “Translating the scrolls has been the furthest thing from my mind since we did the ritual.”

Draco rolled his eyes and pushed away from Harry, who let him go. “I’m not surprised. The Warden-Anchor bond is a very powerful one even between those with weaker magical cores, and your magical core is so powerful that it is only fitting that it has consumed your mind for the last few days.”

“You know,” Harry said, tone thoughtful. “I’m not the only powerful one in this bond. Why do you give yourself such little credit?”

Draco flushed as the question hit home, and he turned away from Harry’s gaze. “I’m not that powerful,” he said, voice coming out in a whisper.

“You are,” Harry said. “You don’t have to tell me where this belief comes from, the one that has you whispering lies to yourself about how weak a wizard you are, but you’re not at all weak. I don’t advertise this often, but I’m capable of sensing the magic of the people around me. Each person’s magic feels different. Hermione’s magic is like the earth after a spring rain, and her magic is incredibly strong because everything she does is grounded in the theory she pours her heart into studying. Ron’s magic is like a fluffy fireball that seems like it will burn you to cinders in half a second but then comes out as a very tender warmth. But you, Draco, your magic swirls around you like a confused blizzard, powerful but without direction.” Harry put a finger under Draco’s chin and forced the blonde to look at him. “Once you figure out your own self-worth and start to trust in your magic, your potential output rivals mine.”

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. “You’re one of the most powerful wizards on the planet! There’s no way my magic is anywhere near as strong as yours.”

Harry flicked his forehead, causing Draco to glare at him. Harry smiled. “Draco, of the two of us, you know more magic theory. But even I know enough theory to know that bonds like the one we share can’t even activate unless the two people are roughly equivalent in power. Don’t you think that’s the reason you were so willing to offer me your submission without thinking things through? If you hadn’t been equal to me in power, then the bond wouldn’t have initiated. Sure, the ritual still would have worked – I still would have been able to release the excess magic I was carrying around – but the bond wouldn’t have formed. The fact that I can compel your magic to obey mine is testament to the fact that the bond formed, and it is tangible proof that even you can’t ignore that your magic is as powerful as mine.”

Draco scowled. “You talk a lot,” he snapped. Then, realizing what he had done, he covered his mouth in horror, looking at Harry with dread. “I’m sorry, Warden. I meant no disrespect.”

Harry swallowed back the nausea that rose in him – Draco’s quick response was a reminder to him of how badly he’d fucked up. “I’m not going to regulate the way you speak, Draco. I meant it earlier when I said I’d only punish you for disobedience. I don’t want to stifle who you are.”

Slowly, the color returned to Draco’s face as he realized that Harry truly wasn’t going to punish him. “Thank you,” he said, voice soft.

Harry nodded – it was the only thing he could do. He was the one who had to live with his shame, and he was the one who had to correct his mistake. He knew better than to let the side of him that was Dark have free reign, but he had forgotten that. For a few minutes only, but those few minutes would haunt him for a long time to come. And it was right that they should.

Draco sighed. “I’m not one to ignore the evidence in front of me,” he said. “I know that the bond can’t activate between those with unequal magical cores. And you’re right – I was counting on being so much weaker than you that the bond never came into the picture. I never considered the possibility that I was as strong as you, but no one would. You’re the wizard who killed Voldemort – your power is assumed to be at an unattainable level.”

Harry shrugged. “People make assumptions that work to my favor, and I’m okay with that. But I’m not the most powerful wizard in the world. There are many people who are my equal in magic, Hermione among them. It’s not odd to me for you to be my equal in terms of magical strength – why else would we have fought so hard against each other in school? Rivals can’t start on an unequal footing, Draco. I’m surprised you ever considered yourself inferior to me.”

Draco hissed. “I’m not inferior- “he stopped himself halfway through, his face flushing with embarrassment. “Sorry,” he said. “Old instincts.”

Harry laughed. “I understand. Now, shall we get started on these scrolls?”

Draco gave him a sly grin. “You’re going to translate them out loud for me, yeah?”

“Of course,” Harry said, then took a deep breath. “But first, I need to tell you what makes translating Parseltongue dangerous for me.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Dangerous?”

Harry nodded. “Incredibly so. Far more dangerous than you realize.”

“Okay,” Draco said. “I’m intrigued. What makes it dangerous?”

Chapter Twelve     Index     Chapter Fourteen

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