Fanfic: draco malfoy & the time-turner by softlyblue (Read for Free, 1,332,114 Clicks)

Description: Draco is wrecked, physically and mentally, reeling from the forces Tom Riddle extracted, all those months he was possessed. But the summer is not the restful thing he expects it to be, and as he returns to school amidst fears of an escaped mass-murderer and the swarming mystery of the past, will he be able to fling off Riddle’s influence and the expectations of his parents, and do what really matters?

Characters: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings No Archive Warnings ApplyHermione Granger & Draco Malfoy Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter Draco Malfoy & Severus SnapeDraco Malfoy Harry Potter Severus Snape Hermione Granger Ron Weasley Sirius Black Remus Lupin Narcissa Black Malfoy Lucius MalfoyBook 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Hurt/Comfort Fluff Divination Celtic Mythology & Folklore Canon Rewrite its all starting to happen here guys Dementors Injury Recovery

Summary: Summary:

Draco is wrecked, physically and mentally, reeling from the forces Tom Riddle extracted, all those months he was possessed. But the summer is not the restful thing he expects it to be, and as he returns to school amidst fears of an escaped mass-murderer and the swarming mystery of the past, will he be able to fling off Riddle’s influence and the expectations of his parents, and do what really matters?

Notes: Notes:

(See the end of the work for notes.)

Chapter 1: The Fair City

Chapter Text

Draco¡¯s birthday passed this year without him even being in residence for it, so he isn¡¯t surprised when neither of his parents mention him being thirteen, once he¡¯s back in the Manor. He barely remembers Harry and Ron and himself, eating chocolate cake in the Great Hall, Hermione a gaping hole in their little circle, but he doesn¡¯t remember anything more, and Hermione never mentioned it.??

But he must admit, this summer is markedly better than the last.?

Lucius has decided the best way to handle Draco is by completely ignoring him, barely emerging from his office in the daytime, and leaving for business meetings until very late at night. Draco suspects Mother has been spoken to; she loves him, and they talk quietly in French all day about small things, but -?

One day at the start of July Draco and Mother are in the library, beside the painting he hates looking at. He¡¯s hunting for books on prophetic dreams ahead of Divination this year – might as well get a leg or two up, considering his own circumstance – when the sleeves of his robes tumble down his arms as he reaches for the higher shelves, exposing the mess he made of his left arm.?

He hears her inhale sharply, and he turns.

¡°Que?¡±

¡°Nothing,¡±

she replies in the same language, and resolutely returns to the

Daily Prophet.

That¡¯s fine. Draco doesn¡¯t particularly want to talk about it, anyway.

What he

does

want to think about is predicting the future, and the fact that he has apparently done it twice now, and possibly more, although his mind skates over that particular conundrum when he goes back to his earlier diaries and finds the gruesome details of what Bellatrix Lestrange did to Hermione, did to

him,

over and over and over again. Is he dreaming the future every time, or just classic nightmares that sometimes strike lucky? But then how did he see Harry with the Dark Lord, at the end of first year? And how did he dream the Chamber of Secrets, before he¡¯d even got his hands on Tom¡¯s diary?

This summer, he vows, will be a summer of study. No more messing about.

Outside his bedroom window, he sees the ring of trees on the hill from morning to night. He¡¯s determined to sort them out, too.

***

The start of July is hot and heavy, and Draco finds himself hauling his books and his diary, one given to him by Hermione last Christmas, out to the centre of the hedge maze just to feel the breeze drifting through the leaves. A place he can wear short sleeves without seeing his mother visibly recoil.

¡°Hullo, Draco,¡± Garrett, the Squib groundskeeper, finds him a few days into the holiday, pushing a wheelbarrow full of fresh new compost and writhing white worms. His accent is light after so long in England, but with an Irish tint Draco recognises after months in the same Potions class as Seamus Finnegan. ¡°Lovely day for it.¡±

Draco lolls his head back and squints at Garrett inquisitively, but the man doesn¡¯t give any sign of looking, even furtively, at his arm. ¡°Beautiful,¡± he says. His wand holds his place in the middle of a paragraph on historical prophecy-dreams, and their inaccuracy.?

Garrett inclines his thin head towards the hill. ¡°They¡¯ve been missing you.¡±

¡°I don¡¯t know what you mean,¡± Draco says, as fear drips down his spine, and he wishes he¡¯d put his wand away.?

The groundskeeper just winks. He always puts Draco in mind of a basset hound, and at the moment he¡¯s the friendliest human Draco can find in the Manor, so he¡¯ll take what he can get. ¡°Well, maybe I don¡¯t rightly know myself, Draco. But it¡¯s a lovely walk, over the river and up that hill, and those are some ancient trees.¡±

¡°Ancient?¡± Draco frowns. He¡¯s piqued, despite himself. ¡°How old?¡±

Garrett smiles, and leans against the handles of his wheelbarrow. ¡°Properly old. They¡¯re called ring forts, in the old country, and there¡¯s one on each hill stretching shore to shore, to light in times of danger. Those big trees there are hedge plants, originally, but they¡¯re far too tall for that now. Wand trees, some of ¡®em, but Ollivander never came here for his wand wood.¡±

Draco just nods. He doesn¡¯t say he knows that, although he went through his wandlore phase in first year, and he still has books piled as high as his head in his room on the subject.?

¡°Ancient trees, and you know the Celts had their connection to the other place through them,¡± Garrett says. His accent is stronger, although Draco is sure he doesn¡¯t mean it to be. ¡°Well, a few of them ended up over here, and made their connection as best they could on the hill. It¡¯s like a church, to them.¡±

¡°Interesting,¡± Draco says. He files it away in the back of his mind connected to wandlore, and the way Ollivander looked at him when he first got the damn thing, and wonders when he¡¯ll be able to talk to Hermione or Severus about it.

Without actually

mentioning

it.?

Harder than it sounds.

***

Dear Hermione,?

If I didn¡¯t have you I would be going crazy. Mother won¡¯t talk to me about anything more serious than the weather, and I¡¯m avoiding Father, or he¡¯s avoiding me. I wanted to know if you¡¯d ever done research into wandlore, specifically wand-wood, or prophecy? It¡¯s for the start of school. I know we¡¯re all going to be new into these subjects, but I just keep getting this feeling like I should be ahead already. I know you do too.

How are your holidays? How are your parents?

With love, Draco.

***

(And if he lies – if Lucius has the doors locked after nightfall, and Draco has to break a basement window to get in – if Lucius spells the bookcases to refuse to give themselves to Draco – if Lucius makes the house hostile to him, without ever having to be in the same room – Draco isn¡¯t telling.)

Garrett does give him a birthday present. It¡¯s a polished stone with a hole in it, which he has strung on a leather strap and tied at the end, and which he drops over Draco¡¯s head like he¡¯s draping a sign on a wooden stile. ¡°Just something I picked up on my walk up to the ring fort,¡± he says, and then walks off with a bag of grass seeds under his arms, whistling to the peacocks.?

Nobody has mentioned it, so Draco wears the stupid thing, tucked under his robes, more out of self-pity than because he likes it. He considers changing the strap to something more delicate, a silver chain perhaps, but sentimentality forces him away from his jewellery box.?

He huffs.

Now Tom has been excavated from his head, the dreams seem to have flooded back with twice as much glee than normal. Draco hasn¡¯t slept through the night

once

since his return to Malfoy Manor, always jerking awake at three or four to the sight of Bellatrix Lestrange leaning over him, smiling, or Tom with a knife on his arm, or Harry dead, or Harry

alive

but telling him he always knew Draco was rotten, or Hermione dead, or Ron dead, and then he spends the rest of the incredibly early morning calming himself down, breathing in slow, controlled lumps with his hand clutching the stone around his neck.

Dutifully, faithfully, he records all the dreams.

1993, July 2nd. Bellatrix. Repeat dream – cruciatus – myself, Hermione. P?

1993, July 3rd. Harry and Bellatrix. Mix repeat and new. Cruciatus, open Chamber. N.

1993, July 4th. Bellatrix, Tom. Repeat. Working together, Chamber, basilisk. N?

1993, July 5th. Severus, Tom. New. Tom kills Severus, but it¡¯s me. Cruciatus. N.

1993, July 6th. Lucius, Bellatrix. Repeat. Threatens Lucius, cruciatus me. P?

1993, July 7th. Unimportant. Honeydukes with friends, Longbottom turned into a toad.

Over the last two years, he¡¯s developed a sort of code for dreams he believes might be prophecy, dreams he believes are nightmares, and dreams he knows are just litter from the day previous. As he leafs through his diary, skipping from the uncontrolled ramblings of his possession via Tom to the summer¡¯s regimented notes, he marks a ridiculous uptick in his guessed prophecies and nightmares, and a worrying decline in the sort of dreams where he¡¯s in class with no trousers on.?

¡°Mama,¡±

he says, one morning as early July slides into the middle of the month, Lucius safely away from the Manor,

¡°Were you worried about me?¡±

He speaks in French. Hardly a word of spoken English has passed through his lips since he got off the Hogwarts Express.

Narcissa¡¯s face does something complicated and subtle, the sort of twitches he can only even recognise because he¡¯s lived with her so long.

¡°I was worried,¡±

she says eventually,

¡°Of course I worried.¡±

¡°Ron¡¯s mother came to the school when she found out he was down in the chamber,¡±

Draco stands on a stepstool to reach the highest shelf in the library, and murmurs a charm to bypass his father¡¯s magic and let him into the case with the books on the Atwood Witch¡¯s predictions, 1223-1310.?

¡°I know she did,¡±

Narcissa says. She¡¯s sitting with a photo album in her lap, as she has been all summer so far, and she won¡¯t look at him.

¡°Draco, you are the love of my life.¡±

¡°I love you too,¡±

he murmurs. He squints, and then catches himself doing so and forces his eyes to widen. Possibly all that reading in the near-darkness for months on end didn¡¯t do him any favours.

¡°But-¡±

¡°I didn¡¯t come for you, even though I love you, and I hope you can forgive me,¡±

she says in a muffled hurry, and stands and leaves the room as quickly as she can, leaving him swaying on top of the stepstool.?

¡°What the fuck,¡± he says in English, and wishes he didn¡¯t feel so much like crying.

After a few minutes clinging to the bookshelves and slapping himself half-heartedly about the cheeks, he climbs down the steps and aims for the photo album, which she¡¯s left on the chair, open at a page towards the end.

The photo is in sepia, and his mother¡¯s beautiful handwriting captions it:

Alice and Frank, December 1977.

Although Draco doesn¡¯t know who Alice and Frank are, it doesn¡¯t take long for him to realise as he looks at the young couple at the centre of the group of people, the woman in a long, light dress and the man in a sharp suit, both of them beaming, his hair long and dark, hers short and curly. Neville Longbottom looks so wonderfully like his mother that Draco can¡¯t quite believe it, for a while, but of course it must be true. 1977, before any of them were born.?

The crowd of witches and wizards in the photo must be the rest of the wedding attendees, all shuffling in place for eternity, jokes told silently and small adjustments made without sound. They represent, no doubt, the cream of the crop for Hogwarts, London Citadel, Hiraeth School, and the other scattered centres of education in Britain. Neville had been almost homeschooled, hadn¡¯t he? Draco scans the picture, and it feels like a physical punch to his throat when he recognises face after face after face. There¡¯s Professor Sprout with much longer hair, her eyes warm and mellow, her arm around Professor McGonagall, who looks the same as she always does and probably always will.?

There¡¯s his mother. Draco has always been obsessed with his mother, and he still thinks she¡¯s the most beautiful woman in the world, but she contains something more in this photo, something she¡¯s lost along the way; there are no lines around her eyes, no twist to her mouth. She isn¡¯t wearing a wedding ring, and Lucius is notably absent from the group. Her hair is pure black, and tumbles down her back freely.

It makes him a little cloudy-eyed, and he brushes his thumb over her, wishing she hadn¡¯t left.?

Severus is beside her, young but still self-possessed, his long hair tied behind his head as he looks confidently at the photographer. He was handsome in a way he isn¡¯t now. Beauty, without forbidding. He isn¡¯t wearing black robes, and the light colour through the sepia filter brings out spots of pink high in his cheeks.?

Draco can¡¯t bear to look at him. He casts his eyes across the front row, behind Neville¡¯s parents, and he lands on Harry.?

Wait – no, he doesn¡¯t. His heart in his mouth, James Potter stares out of the photo at him, smiling with all the confidence of a man who has it all, one arm around his wife and one arm around the shoulders of another man with long hair and a wolfish smile. James is tall and broad, but he shares Harry¡¯s dark skin, his mop of hair, his long, crooked nose, his twisting mouth, always in laughter. Lily¡¯s eyes are green even through the yellow-and-grey photo.?

Draco slams the photo album shut, but not before he peels the photo out of its little corners, and shoves it in his pocket.

When next he sees Mother, he hugs her, and she puts her cold hand on the back of his head like Severus does and holds him so tightly he thinks he¡¯s never been loved like this. ¡°You¡¯re my mother,¡± he says when he draws back from her, ¡°Please?¡±

¡°Oh, my Draco,¡± she kisses him on the crown and hugs him again with the smell of violets and her own perfume, mature and beautiful, ¡°I love you so much. Of course.¡±

***

Dear Draco,

I know your dad probably won¡¯t allow it, but my dad got tickets for a show in London he¡¯s been wanting to see for a really long time, and he got a few extra just in case. It¡¯s the last week in July, the Saturday. I¡¯d really like if you came with me. I don¡¯t know if you know who Shakespeare is, but it¡¯s one of my favourite plays, and dad would really like it too.

I remember a bit of my wandlore, but there¡¯s not much we could learn before the books start going classified. The subject is still as locked down as it was two years ago. I reckon the only way to learn anything properly about wand trees is to become an apprentice wandmaker, but I doubt Ollivander would take a thirteen year old on for mild curiosity. Sorry!?

Love you.?

Hermione.

***

It¡¯s just bad luck – or good luck, depending on who you ask – that Severus arrives when he does.

Draco takes a walk up to the ring fort on the hill just before sunset, acting on a vague suspicion that the trees will be more powerful at times when the day is changing into night, and unwilling to wake up that early when he¡¯s still not sleeping as much as he should be. He wears a t-shirt and jeans, despite his mother¡¯s look of mild disgust and Lucius¡¯s glare of total fury, but it¡¯s the height of summer, and much too hot even for long sleeves, although Draco has no desire to see his left arm either. He tucks it behind his back, tapping his wand against his thigh to the rhythm of his footfall, and waves at Garrett on his way across the river, wearing the holey stone proud around his neck.

By the time he gets up there the sun is a red slice on the horizon, bleeding light into the clouds. ¡°Hello,¡± he says with more confidence than he feels, walking straight into the centre of the circle and staring at the biggest tree there, ¡°You helped me. I¡¯m here to say thank you.¡±

Immediately the voice rustles into his ears. It sounds vaguely amused.

You assume that the person who helped you was connected to us, Draco Malfoy??

¡°I¡¯m not that lucky,¡± Draco says, and waves his wand in the air with a whispered charm, drawing a huge footprint beside him in blue light, ¡°He was you, or he was friends with you, or you sent him.¡±

As he said – you have already been spoken for. It is ill manners, usually, to covet what is not your own.?

¡°So I¡¯m yours?¡±?

You are ours. We are yours. It has been some time since someone held a wand of ours. Magic of the heart, Draco. Do you know the Green Man?

¡°No,¡± Draco says, and something in the back of his mind is taking feverish notes, ¡°Can¡¯t say I do. Magic of the heart?¡±

It will come to you in time. We are helping you, but you must help yourself. Discovery is not being led by the hand. Discovery is potential unlocked. Magic of the heart, and chance meetings in the lane. When will you meet the Green Man?

¡°I don¡¯t know who that is,¡± Draco says again. The drawing in the air vanishes, all the light sucked back into his wand, and he shivers as cool air hits his bare, pimpling skin. Without the sun the Wiltshire countryside gets cold, quick. ¡°Can you help me find him?¡±

We already are,

says the voice. It sounds even more amused than before.

What do you wear around your neck?

Draco¡¯s hand seizes the stone, the birthday present. ¡°A gift.¡±

Good. Keep it with you. You can never have enough allies.

¡°For what?¡±

But he knows, even as he asks, that there is no more presence in these trees. It¡¯s like someone has got up out of a chair and left the room, with just the heat of their body in the air as a reminder they were there at all. ¡°Great,¡± he tells the air, casting

lumos

as he stomps out of the clearing, ¡°Thanks for that. Very helpful.¡±

By the time he¡¯s down the hill it¡¯s night in earnest, and there aren¡¯t many clouds to keep the heat from escaping back up towards the glowing moon. Draco rubs his biceps, and avoids itching his still-healing scars, and all but runs to the Manor door once he¡¯s across the river –

And the front door is locked. Of course it is.

¡°Bastard!¡± Draco kicks the wood, and all he gets from that is a sore foot and absolutely no vindication, but he still has the basement window he broke at the start of summer. Just because Lucius wants to play silly buggers doesn¡¯t mean Draco has to humour him, all because the Dark Lord had the good fortune to fuck around with

his

head instead of Ginny Weasley¡¯s. His arms folded in front of his chest, he runs as fast as he can to the corner of the house, and then descends into the shallow moat that runs around the first floor of their basements, looking for the broken window.?

He finds it.?

He finds it, more precisely, fixed and barred, with a heavy gold lock on the other side of the window. ¡°Fuck

you,¡±

Draco tells it,

¡°Alohomora maxima!¡±

But the glass must have some enchantment on it stopping the magic getting through to the lock, which sits obstinately firm. A cool wind blows across the back of his neck, tickling his hair against his skin, and he wants to do something destructive. He wants to hurt something. He slams his right hand into his left forearm, and the pain that strikes through his arm momentarily relieves the feeling -?

Momentarily.?

He storms around to the front of the manor, and looks up.

¡°Father!¡±

He shouts, ¡°Let me into the fucking house!¡±

Not a sign. The noise-dampening charms are built into the stone, and are almost as ancient as the house itself; the residents don¡¯t have to hear anything they don¡¯t want to, and Draco is a Malfoy by blood, and therefore not an intruder. ¡°God

fucking

damnit,¡± he says, something picked up from Harry, and he stands back until he¡¯s almost at the fountain, kicking about his feet for a suitably-sized rock. He stoops, picks it up, balances it in his wand hand, and takes aim at the bottom-floor library window.

A hand seizes his wrist just as he¡¯s about to let loose. ¡°What in

Merlin¡¯s

name do you think you are doing?¡± Severus says, the soft sizzle of his Apparition disappearing in the air.?

¡°Smashing the window,¡± Draco tries to wrest his hand away, ¡°Come on, Severus-¡±

His godfather frowns. He¡¯s wearing dark green robes and he smells of potions, his fingers stained purple at the tips like he¡¯s been eating blackberries. There¡¯s a parcel in his other hand, with an

N

visible on the label, which is clinking. ¡°Why are you smashing the window?¡±

¡°To get to bed,¡± Draco succeeds, and throws the stone.?

Severus lets it smash, although his wand is out and he could have stopped it; the breaking glass makes such a satisfying noise, and even from this far away Draco can hear Lucius up and swearing. ¡°I came to deliver something to your mother,¡± he says slowly, ¡°But I think I will also be here to offer a summer holiday, since your potions grade is suffering in the wake of last year.¡±

¡°It is,¡± Draco agrees. Despite Tom, he¡¯d still been third in the year, after Padma Patil and Terry Boot. ¡°I¡¯m shit at it, now.¡±

¡°Remedial classwork. Punishment,¡± Severus says, and sweeps ahead of him into the Manor, to the door opening, to Lucius¡¯s incandescent rage.

***

Draco packs his diary, a set of robes, and his wand case in a knapsack. He can hear Lucius screaming at Mother downstairs, but he can

also

hear Narcissa snapping back, and Severus stands in his doorway like some lurking guardian angel, albeit shadowier than usual and full of much more ire. ¡°This is stupid,¡± he says. He pulls on a long-sleeved hooded jumper, one he stole from Ron in first-year, so that Severus will stop looking at his arm. ¡°I have stuff to do this summer.¡±

Severus has picked up the letter on his nightstand and is reading it, one brow arched.

¡°You

are being stupid. Granger has invited you to London next week. Lucius will never allow it.¡±

¡°I told her that,¡± Draco says, shouldering his bag. He¡¯s warmed up now, but he can still feel that rage, just under the surface of his skin.

¡°Tell her otherwise at the earliest convenience,¡± Severus hands him the letter, neatly folded, ¡°My home is within apparating distance of London. I have told Lucius you will be returned in the first week of August, and that gives you plenty of time to visit as many Muggleborns as your heart desires.¡±

For the first time since coming home, Draco¡¯s heart flares with hope. ¡°You¡¯d¡­?¡±

¡°Don¡¯t be stupid, Draco,¡± Severus says, and takes him by the shoulder to push him down the stairs.?

Draco leaves a note for his mother in French, under his pillow where one of the elves will find it and bring it to her.?

Mother,?

Sorry about Father. I refuse to let him tell me what to think as well as what to do. I want to see my friends, and I know you¡¯ll let me, so I¡¯m telling you. Severus and I will be fine. I¡¯ll see you in August, and I can¡¯t wait.?

Don¡¯t be cross with Father. He¡¯s doing what he thinks is best for the family.?

I love you. Draco.

So Draco leaves Malfoy Manor three weeks after returning to it, and he finds he isn¡¯t sad about that at all.

***

¡°This is stupid,¡± he says as soon as the apparation lets his throat open again, ¡°I¡¯m not annoyed about it, but I still think this is stupid. I had books to read. I had stuff to do.¡±

¡°I am not about to argue with you over this,¡± Severus has taken them to the entrance of a small street, the semi-detached houses snuggling close to their partners like two bugs in bed, ¡°Your lips were blue.¡±

¡°Demonstrably false.¡±

¡°Draco,¡± Severus snaps, still holding him by the elbow as they start down the street –

Spinner¡¯s End,

the sign says – ¡°I am not going to debate with you about how long it is acceptable to lock one¡¯s son out of the house.¡±

¡°I wasn¡¯t locked out of the house,¡± Draco says. He wrenches his arm out of Severus¡¯s grasp, and shoulders his bag more securely. ¡°He didn¡¯t know I was gone.¡±

Severus makes a noise of disgust, and says nothing more until they¡¯re at the iron gate of 17, Spinner¡¯s End, which is unlocked. ¡°There is a guest room upstairs to the left,¡± he says shortly, a keyring in his hand, ¡°I would ask you don¡¯t go into my bedroom, which is on the right. The bathroom is at the end of the hall. There is food in the fridge. I wake at seven. We can discuss your trip to the Muggles tomorrow, if you still want to go. If you wish to return to the Manor, I will contact Narcissa, but I highly recommend you don¡¯t. I will not listen to any more tonight. I trust you will sleep well.¡± And he vanishes into a room on the first floor, the door shutting and locking behind him.

¡°Goodnight,¡± Draco shouts, too loud for a built-up neighbourhood, but he does what Severus tells him.?

As soon as his head hits the pillow, he falls asleep.

He does not dream.

***

Dear Hermione,

I¡¯m staying with my godfather for a bit. He disagreed with my father¡¯s attitude, and I guess Mother didn¡¯t want to get between that, but the long and short of it is I¡¯ll be able to go to the show. I would like to introduce you to my godfather, too. You could come over if you wanted.?

?

Dear Draco,?

I¡¯m so glad! That¡¯s amazing news, thank God for that. Dad¡¯s super excited to see you and meet you properly. We could stay the night in my house, but I think it¡¯s best if we get a hotel, since Dad wants to drink and he doesn¡¯t want to drive down the motorway late at night. Of course I¡¯ll meet your godfather! I¡¯m so excited, oh my God!

?

Dear Hermione,?

Just keep an open mind when you meet him. I don¡¯t want you to be angry with me.

***

Spinner¡¯s End is not the dank rat-house Draco had dreaded it might be, in the darkness of midnight. His bedroom is small, his bed a narrow single with a brass frame and a small wooden bedstand, but the flowery curtains open to show Severus¡¯s narrow garden bristling with potions ingredients, and the soft brown carpet feels nice against his bare feet as he dresses absent-mindedly, staring for a pattern in the old wallpaper. The stairs are narrow but clean, carpeted, and when he falls down into the kitchen the first thing he notices is the old range, like an oil thing, something they have in the Manor long-fallen into disuse by elves who prefer magic. The second thing he notices is a hanging bar, on which someone has carefully hung a matching set of grey pots and their lids, the enamel glinting off the electric light from the ceiling. There are plant pots beside the kitchen sink, with paper tabs to indicate species, and a corkboard with a note from Hogwarts. Draco recognises the familiar stationery.

Harry and Ron have been exchanging letters with him all summer too, and over breakfast the following morning Draco reads with some amusement Harry¡¯s account of his Aunt Marge, and how little he¡¯s looking forward to her impending visit. The Hogsmeade permission slips have yet to be sent out, but Draco isn¡¯t too worried – between Severus and his mother, someone will sign them. Ron¡¯s embroiled in a saga with George over who gets to shower first in the morning, which has widened into a prank war with signs of becoming serious, and Ginny has been involved as collateral.?

Severus is dressed in Muggle clothing this morning; a brown shirt, the collar folded over a black jumper, and black trousers. ¡°Have you written to Granger?¡±

¡°She says I can stay the night,¡± Draco puts his hand flat on his pile of post, ¡°In a

hotel.¡±

¡°Well then you shall stay the night in a hotel,¡± Severus says. He isn¡¯t eating anything, but he has a small coffee press in front of him, and when Draco rose – well ahead of his godfather – he found the small kitchen in Spinner¡¯s End well stocked, albeit dusty. He says nothing about last night. ¡°What about the other two?¡±

¡°Wh – Harry and Ron?¡±

¡°Yes,¡± Severus rustles the newspaper, and then hides behind it. The front page runs another story about the escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, but Draco lets his eyes flash over it before moving on. ¡°Are they not invited?¡±

¡°Harry – can¡¯t, he can¡¯t come,¡± Draco says lamely, ¡°And Ron¡­ I don¡¯t think he¡¯d get it. Muggle stuff. He isn¡¯t like his dad.¡±

¡°So you

get

Muggle stuff,¡± Severus says, and it takes him lowering the newspaper and giving Draco a sardonic smile for Draco to realise he was joking. ¡°I watched a Shakespeare play once. It was called¡­

Hamlet.

I enjoyed it.¡±

Draco takes a moment, and then smiles back.?

Later that day Draco is reading in Severus¡¯s small, badly-lit garden, his diary beside him, making copious notes on

Celtic Trees, Celtic Cycles.

Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa, Samhain. The dogs. The swans. The cattle. He¡¯s lying on his front, the book propped up and the diary on the grass, his legs in the air, when Severus casts a dark shadow over his work, and catches one of his swinging ankles. ¡°You¡¯ve grown,¡± he says, ¡°Didn¡¯t you bring

any

clothes to fit you?¡±

¡°Uh¡­¡± Draco blinks, then wriggles around and leaps to his feet, looking at the way his trousers fall just above his ankle. ¡°Oh.¡± He does

have

clothes to fit him, painstakingly measured by Narcissa and one of the elves and the measurements sent to Madam Malkin, but in his rush he¡¯d grabbed the clothes he wore all last year. ¡°Not really.¡±

Severus sighs, but he doesn¡¯t look too annoyed, really. ¡°We¡¯re going shopping, then. You can¡¯t go to London looking like a beggar-child.¡±

¡°But if I¡¯m in Diagon with you-¡±

¡°We¡¯re not going to

Diagon.

We¡¯ll go to Dublin. Come on, while there¡¯s still the light.¡±

¡°I¡¯ve never been there,¡± Draco leaps to his feet, gathering his books, scurrying after Severus with a clench around his heart, the familiar old fear resurfacing, ¡°Can¡¯t we just enchant my old robes, or-¡±

Severus is already at his small, crackling fireplace, a pot of Floo in his hand, the other arm occupied as he takes Draco¡¯s books from him and piles them neatly on the kitchen table, where they almost collide with the washed coffee press. ¡°If you¡¯ve never been, all the more reason to go. We can¡¯t enchant your old robes or they¡¯ll fray, and I for one am against having your mother send clothing here via owl. I will buy you a set of Muggle going-out clothes, and a set of robes in the meantime, and when you go to Diagon in August then Lucius can buy you all the apologies he wants in cloaks.¡±

¡°Oh,¡± Draco manages, beckoned by Severus until he stands beside the fireplace, ¡°Um. Thanks.¡±

Severus flings the powder down in a flash of green flame and declares:

¡°Dublin City!¡±

And Draco is left alone in the kitchen. With a glance over his shoulder, and one last gulp of clean air, he does the same.

***

When both of them have wiped the ash from their trousers and shoes, and stumbled out of the fireplace in a pub in Temple Bar, owned by a wizard with a wink in his eye and several wands hanging above the door, Severus takes Draco by the hand as though he¡¯s three, not thirteen, and drags him out into the city. ¡°Don¡¯t be silly,¡± he says, as Draco clutches him tighter, and works on breathing like a normal person, ¡°Calm down. Nobody knows who you are here.¡±

¡°Sure,¡± Draco manages, wheezing, his spare hand clutching his arm.

In increments, though, the fear passes. He straightens up, misses entirely the look of pride on Severus¡¯s face, and looks about him.?

Severus has dragged him out of the area and against the railing that stops the street falling into the river, so Draco turns his face up to the sun, letting it warm his pale cheeks. They¡¯re on the south side of the river, looking across at a line of old buildings and buses going by, Muggles swanning past them without any cares in the world; when Draco looks right, he sees a bridge, a sculpture, a dog relieving itself against a postbox, and when he looks left he sees much of the same, but with an emptier horizon, as Dublin spills herself out into the sea. ¡°We won¡¯t be here long,¡± Severus says, leaning his forearms on the railing, looking out at the fresh, cold air, ¡°But this is where I do most of my shopping.¡±

Draco has shaken himself firmly out of his funk. ¡°Show me everywhere,¡± he says, and he can¡¯t help the note of excitement clinging to his voice.

They eat first in a pub called

The Wandering Ulsterman,

which confuses Draco until, over his beef stew, he asks the publican, who regales him, in a strong accent and a convicted tone, with a story about a brave magical hero – possibly connected with hounds, somehow – who wandered across Ireland, stopped briefly in Dublin to found this pub, and then wandered back up to the top of the country to fight a king and steal a cow. ¡°Cool,¡± Draco says, and dives back to his stew. Severus hasn¡¯t let him have a pint, although

he

has one, but Draco can smell it. It smells like bread.

¡°Where¡¯s the magical street, then?¡± Draco asks when they¡¯re done, outside

The Wandering Ulsterman,

which has that lurking quality that clings to the Cauldron, as though only the magic can see it.

Severus doesn¡¯t smile, but his eyebrow crooks carefully upward. ¡°Dublin has no magical street.¡±

¡°What?¡± Draco paces alongside him as Severus draws them furthe

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