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07 November 2004 @ 08:30 pm
All Cezanne's apples I would give away...  

So. Good way to start a paragraph, that. I have my portfolio all packaged up. Two A3 notebooks containing my organic object project (da pepperz). Two A1 Japanese-bound folders (which I did myself - it took two hours because I lost the needle for a while there) with five large pepper paintings in one and ten self- and other-people's-portraits in the other. One A5 sketchpad with pen drawings of people at the bus-stop, in college and around my home (I'm getting a reputation as a stalker because of it). Dad wrapped it up in duct tape and stuff and I think all systems are go. Mum's getting a courier tomorrow and it had bloody well better get there by next Monday, or there will be lots of tears (mine) and carnage (other people's).

On that point, if anyone needed proof that art belongs, truly, to everyone, I only need cite my experience while filling that A5 notebook. I'd just whip out a biro and start drawing (this being proof of interests outside my coursework, see) and people would peer in over my shoulder or walk over to see what I was doing. They have no shame! If it was anything else - reading a book, for example - it would be impolite to do that, but I'm drawing, and it fascinates people. Even when it's not very good, something it tends to be when you scribble it in five seconds before the person decides to move or scratch their head or something and change the composition. When I draw people I know, then, they either hate it  because I apparently make them look so old, or ask to keep the drawings. Wierd. (Sadly, no offers of payment have been forthcoming.

henbock , please to read the following short story so I can pretend it's been beta'd? I mean, PUH-LEASE? I'm begging here. My beta has gone completely AWOL and I really want to start archiving stuff on PSA because it's cool and incidentally run by Australians. Make a comment, go on!!

Harry/Draco slash, angst, hurt/comfort. Bit of a deviation for me, from comedy I mean, and this is why I need a scythe-person to cut the sap-chaff, if you get my drift.

I'm going to have to post it in thirds, to fit. Aw, here goes...

 

I want to lose you but I got far too high

To let go

Now the demon in me knows

What I knew so long ago

Coming back to what you know won’t mean a thing

Everything that you’ve done keeps you from me

Draco sat motionless on the glacially white bedspread. It matched the walls and curtains sparkle for icy sparkle, all crisp and clean and cold and characterless. It had been a long time since Draco had bothered to listen to anything, but as he sat, back poker straight, eyes fixed on an invisible point on the wall, he could not help but hear snatches of the conversation floating in from the corridor. The door was not closed all the way, and a beam of sunlight broke through, illuminating the dust motes riding the air currents. Draco wished someone would close it; the brightness was hurting his eyes. He did not shut them, though. He did not dare.

‘…Professor, I just don’t think I’m capable of this.’

The intonation was familiar, and reluctance dripped from every word, like blood from a fresh cut. Draco studiously ignored that thought.

A quiet voice replied. Quiet, but resonant with power and strength. Not the sort of strength that broke bones and laughed, but the sort of strength that could smile in the face of hurricanes. Draco could not quite make up his mind as to which was more insane.

‘My dear boy, you have defeated the greatest force for evil the world has ever seen. How can you imagine that this small task will be beyond you?’

An impatient huffing noise, forceful enough to penetrate even to Draco’s ear.

‘You know well that most of it was pure dumb luck. Destroying someone is easy, once you know how. But to build them up again…’

‘Certainly, that doesn’t come with an instruction manual.’ The tone was lighter, now, but lost nothing of its iron-hard conviction. ‘Harry, no one will make you do this. At the same time, no one else is any more qualified for the job. I am asking you to try. Success, in this case, will be impossible to measure.’

There was a long silence. Draco thought the voices might have moved away. It did not matter. Listlessly, he unclasped his long, bony fingers and instead laid them flat on his knees.

‘All right.’

The voice was somewhat forced, as if the words were difficult to say. Draco could have told him nothing was too difficult to say. Say the words people want to hear, say them the way people want to hear them - obedience made for a somewhat easier life.

He closed his eyes.

~

Harry took a deep breath and pushed open the door of St Mungo’s private ward. The room was virtually deserted, save for its sole occupant. Harry steeled himself and approached the bed where Draco sat.

He did not look much like the others Harry had seen. Nott had been dragged in kicking and screaming and biting all the way, and had to be held down by several burly Healers before anyone could cast a Tranquillising Charm on him. Pansy sat gibbering to herself all day long, biting her fingernails down to the quick and chewing on the ragged ends of her greasy, unkempt hair. He had only seen the lacerations on Zabini’s back for a few seconds before he had been unceremoniously turfed from the Healing Room. Harry was nothing but grateful for that; the little he had seen was enough to have him bringing up his lunch in the toilet down the hall.

Draco looked almost exactly as Harry remembered him from school, except for the sneer, which was missing. Draco’s face was carefully blank, but he still held his head in that aristocratic tilt, his posture yet sang of poise and breeding and lessons in correct carriage. It was only as Harry made his way across the vast, gapingly stark room that he noticed the strange thing about him. Draco didn’t look around at Harry’s advance, didn’t even blink; and Harry’s feet slapped loudly against the squeaky floor, which Harry expected he could hear even if the loud beating of Harry’s heart was only in his own ears.

Harry came to a halt by the bed. He reached out a hand to grasp the bedstead, for a bit of support. With a shock, he realised Draco had flinched, just the tiniest of movements. Pretending not to notice, Harry cleared his throat.

‘Well, Malfoy,’ he said awkwardly.

No response.

Harry tried again. ‘Dumbledore suggested that you come and stay with me for a while. What do you think about that?’

‘If you command it, so it shall be,’ Draco said without inflection, sounding like it was a phrase he had learned by rote. And a well-used one, moreover. Harry wrinkled his nose.

‘Don’t let the house-elf hear you say that,’ Harry said, with a desperate attempt at levity. ‘She’ll think you’re trying to nick her lines.’

‘My abject apologies, master.’ Again, the words rolled off his tongue. Draco’s eyes had not moved once. He might as well have been sleep talking.

‘Not your master,’ Harry managed. ‘Come on, Malfoy. We were dire enemies once, don’t you remember?’

‘If you command it, so it shall be,’ Draco repeated.

Harry swallowed. ‘Fine, then. Act like a slave and I’ll treat you like one.’

At last! A reaction. Draco’s eyes shifted half a degree, and something faintly sparked in their deepest depths. ‘I do not act like a slave,’ he said, his voice a notch deeper than before. He blinked, and his splayed fingers twitched. ‘Unless you wish me to,’ he added, to Harry’s annoyance.

‘I don’t wish you to do anything,’ he snapped. ‘I’m not in charge of you. You do not work for me, thank Merlin. Have you got anything to take with you?’

He made a move for the bedside locker, but Draco’s small headshake prevented him.

‘What, nothing?’

‘No, master.’

Harry closed his eyes and counted to ten. When he opened them again, to his disappointment, Draco was still there, looking up at him almost expectantly.

‘You have no clothes? No wand?’

‘No, master. Yes, master, I apologise, I have these.’ He gestured at his hospital-standard pyjamas, which were a vile lime-green colour. With Draco’s long hair straggling down his back, he resembled nothing so much as a kiwi that had sprouted mould.

Harry sighed, and unfastened the clasp of his cloak. It was a particularly fine one, rich black wool with a red silk lining. The golden clasp formed the shape of a lion’s head. It had been Hermione’s twentieth-birthday present to him.

He leaned forward. Draco stiffened imperceptibly. Ignoring it, Harry swept the cloak around his shoulders, grabbing a fistful of his hair to lift it out of the way. Draco did not move his head, and Harry ended up tugging his hair quite sharply by accident. Draco did not complain, or even wince. He just blinked. It seemed to be a bog-standard response.

Compressing his lips, Harry quickly worked the clasp shut and motioned for Draco to stand up. He tugged the cloak tighter, so that the pyjamas were not visible.

‘There. That’ll do until we get to the first floor Flooing station,’ Harry said. Draco was obviously operating on a need-to-respond basis, because he said nothing, and his expression did not alter one whit. Rolling his eyes, and reflecting that the Malfoy persona was alive and kicking despite everything, Harry led the way.

~

Harry emerged from his own empty fireplace and stumbled out, treading old ashes into his rug. A few seconds later a green flare brightened the room, and Draco stepped forward with as much ease as he used to alight from a broom. Once he was clear of the fireplace, he stood swamped in Harry’s over-long cloak, blinking. He did not attempt to move or to inquire about his new home.

Harry decided the best - in fact, only - route to take was to treat Draco as he expected to be treated, at least for the moment. With that in mind, he chivvied Draco towards the kitchen. He opened the door to a blaze of evening sunshine, and behind him heard Draco make a small sound of pain.

Harry whirled around. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘My eyes,’ Draco said faintly.

Harry shut the door again and held his wand up to Draco’s face. The Lumos charm caused Draco to clench his eyes shut, an almost inaudible whimper of pain escaping his lips.

‘Right,’ Harry said. ‘Clearly something wrong with your eyes.’ Aren’t we bright today, Harry? ‘Bright light hurts them, yes?’

‘Yes, master,’ Draco agreed.

‘Milly!’ Harry yelled, and a house-elf wearing a child size Arsenal jersey appeared at his feet.

‘Yes, master?’ she asked breathlessly, and Harry boggled at having two people under his roof who refused to address him by his Christian name. Time enough to work on that later.

‘Could you fix us a light meal - a boiled egg and toast, with tea, please?’ Harry requested.

‘Right away, sir,’ Milly said, darting to the kitchen.

Harry turned his attention back to Draco, whose eyes were open again. Harry removed the cloak and hung it on a nearby peg.

‘Stay there,’ he instructed needlessly. He made his way down to the spare room and wrenched the curtains shut. He performed an additional darkening charm, which suffused the room with a dusky atmosphere Harry could barely see through.

He returned to Draco and led him down the hall and into the bedroom. Draco did not actually get in the bed until Harry wearily told him to. Feeling like a nurse, Harry plumped up Draco’s pillows so that he was resting up against them, and tucked the blankets in around his legs.

‘Dumbledore is so not paying me enough,’ he said under his breath. Draco blinked.

Milly entered, bearing a tray with Harry’s best tea service resplendent upon it. If Harry had his way, it would stay stacked in the dresser where he’d put it as soon as Mrs Weasley had gone home. Milly, on the other hand, delighted on bringing it out for every occasion - even to serve a maltreated Death Eater, clearly.

Harry set it down on an occasional table - another Mrs Weasley classic - and poured a cup. He held it out to Draco, who hesitated before taking it. He hesitated again. Harry refused to spell it out for him, and eventually Draco lifted the cup to his lips and took an almighty gulp. The tea was scalding but Draco knocked it back in three swallows. Harry filled it again before Draco could provoke another ‘master-slave’ folderol and busied himself cutting the toast into soldiers, the way he liked it himself, and knocking the top off the egg.

When he was finished, he pushed the plate to Draco. ‘Eat. Then try to get some sleep. In the morning I’ll sort out clothes and things.’

‘Thank you, master,’ Draco said humbly. To forestall himself from a heated reply Harry snatched up a soldier and stuffed it in his mouth on the way out.

~

‘Make sure he takes it once a day, before eating,’ Hermione said bossily. ‘There should be enough there to see him through.’

‘Hermione, you’re a gem,’ Harry said in relief, hefting the box of flasks brimful of a murky yellow liquid. ‘Thank heavens I have a Potions expert on hand for moments like these.’

‘Its pretty nasty,’ Hermione said, her voice turning serious. ‘That spell. That Dark spell.’

‘To be honest, locking someone in the dark for so long light hurts them is nasty enough,’ Harry said, shuddering. ‘That’s what must have happened, right?’

‘It sounds like it. Added to a Laser Charm, which inflicts a light to moderate burning on the cornea, it adds up to a severe taboo on sunbathing,’ Hermione said, reverting to dictionary mode.

‘Really, though -’ Harry started, but Hermione held up a quelling hand. ‘You don’t even know what I was going to say!’

‘Yes, I do,’ Hermione said. ‘And you can’t chicken out of this after only one afternoon.’

‘I knew I should have gone to Slytherin,’ Harry grumbled. ‘There’s no requirement to be brave in seculo seculorum there.’

Hermione’s face bore a queer expression when he looked back at it. ‘Harry, Dumbledore doesn’t do anything without a reason. It’s obvious he thinks this is something you need to do, as well.’

‘I don’t see why,’ Harry said mutinously.

‘Fine, then. When you do figure out the raison d’être, then you can chicken out.’

‘This is Dumbledore we’re talking about,’ Harry said dryly. ‘I’ll be getting my telegram from the Queen at that rate.’

Hermione cuffed him over the head. ‘It’s getting late. You will need your sleep now, too. No staying up until three am watching Sky.’

‘I can’t anyway. The telly’s broke,’ Harry said morosely. ‘You are right, though, as ever. I’ll come see you soon.’

‘Or when you next need a quick fix,’ Hermione said, rolling her eyes. However, she gave him a kiss on the cheek and shoved him towards the fireplace, so Harry did not take her too seriously.

~

Instead of going to bed at all that night, Harry went outside into the damp, clammily warm night air. He listened to the chirruping of the numerous insects that were tipped to take over the planet when humankind finally blew itself up, and was rather surprised to realise he found them irritating in the extreme. Although the smell of the nearby ocean was salty and fishy - two combustibles he hated the most - he found it reassuring. The sea was vast and ageless. It had existed through the birth and death of hundreds of Malfoys and Potters, and would continue to do so when Harry’s bones were dust, and even when they were coal.

Harry could not see very well in the dark, despite being forced to eat all of Dudley’s vegetables for him as a child. However, his mind’s eye was as clear as day. He saw the small shingled cottage, with it’s wild rose garden (not a garden of wild roses, but a riot of overgrown rose bushes), the windbreak grove of trees, the Woodies garden bench he was currently sitting on, and which was causing a build-up of collected sea-spray and damp to seep through his trousers. He could picture the sandy path that led to the cliff, and recalled the sheer adrenalin and terror of launching himself off into nothing.

Harry liked the sea.

In the morning, when he awoke stiff and covered in dew, his passion for it had abated somewhat. He staggered into the house, making blindly for the bathroom. Belatedly - about when he had a palmful of shampoo - he remembered Draco was in the house, and needed checking in on. Forgoing Hermione’s recommended John Frieda conditioner, Harry performed a Drying Spell on himself and struggled into a pair of jeans and a full-size Arsenal T-shirt.

Draco was still fast asleep, rolled up into a foetal position that Harry knew he’d regret when he woke. Feeling no need to fix what wasn’t broken, Harry left him there, asking Milly to fetch him when Draco woke, and serve him breakfast when he did.

Harry subsequently spent a fruitless hour fiddling with the back of his television in, as it turned out, a vain attempt to breathe life into it once more. In a fit of pique, he bounced the Sky box off the wall, chipping off several layers of paint but leaving the plastic dream-machine apparently unharmed.

Harry spent the next week on tenterhooks. Too wary to leave Draco alone in the house - his ‘Master’ business was sufficiently unnerving for Harry to be chary of his motives - and with no Cartoon Network to distract him, Harry found himself re-reading his old schoolbooks in desperation.

Draco slept for a very long time. Milly, who had attached herself inexplicably to him, spent most of her free time at his bedside, fanning him with a fake-palm leaf or swabbing his forehead. When he awoke, generally sometime in the late afternoon, Milly would bring him a tray of food, which was devoured, and a glassful of the noxious potion Hermione had given Harry. Harry made a point of calling in on Draco at some point during the day, although a very little while was sufficient to make Harry’s skin creep. It was uncanny, to see the man who’d shown no qualm about vilifying Harry at any given opportunity kowtowing to him now with no visible sign of effort.

So it was that when Remus came for a visit the following Saturday, he found Harry curled up in an armchair with ‘1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi’ and a cat-on-hot-tiles expression.

‘I never had you down as a fan, Harry,’ Remus said, bending his neck to smile at the title. Harry, who hadn’t noticed his entrance, jumped.

‘Of this? Hell no,’ he said vehemently, casting the book aside with distaste. ‘I’m down to brass chips, you see. The telly’s broke, and I daren’t leave the house to shop or anything.’

‘How on earth are you eating, then?’ Remus said, sitting down and settling his robes about him.

‘I have a standing order mail delivery from the local Tescos,’ Harry explained. Remus nodded, politely and incomprehendingly, but didn’t find the topic sufficiently riveting to dwell upon it.

‘So, how’s your charge?’ he inquired without preamble.

‘To be honest,’ Harry said with a sigh, raking back his crows-nest hair, ‘I haven’t the faintest clue. He eats, he sleeps, he says ‘yes master’, like a well-trained baby. If he’s acting, well, he’s got my Bafta vote. And if he isn’t - hell, Remus, I don’t know what to do with him! I don’t even know what happened to him.’

‘Have you tried asking him?’ Remus asked with a penetrating glance.

‘No,’ Harry admitted, somewhat shamefaced. ‘I don’t think I want to know, really.’

‘Are you unwilling to help him because he’s a former Slytherin?’ Remus asked sternly.

Harry gaped. ‘No, of course not! As he used to be, I wouldn’t have spit on him if he was on fire…but he’s a wreck now. I am not entirely devoid of basic human empathy! No, no, Remus, how can you think that of me?’

‘Just checking,’ Remus said, looking satisfied. ‘Would you mind if I saw him?’

‘No, not at all,’ Harry said, with a private exhalation of relief. Perhaps Remus, being a teacher and more experienced than Harry in just about everything, could shed some light on the case.

Draco was sitting up in bed, enthusiastically masticating beans on toast. As soon as Harry entered, however, he dropped what he was eating and adopted what Harry had come to call his ‘slave pose’ - back straight, head bowed, and hands clasped subserviently across his stomach.

‘Hey, Malfoy,’ Harry said, twisting his mouth uncertainly. ‘Did you - take your potion yet?’

‘Yes, master,’ Draco intoned.

Remus stepped further into the room, frowning. ‘Potion, Harry?’

‘Hermione and I think he may have had a Laser charm applied to his eyes,’ Harry said lowly. ‘Plus an extended period of time in some sort of dark place. She made me a healing potion.’

Remus’ frown deepened, and he sat on the end of the bed, leaning towards Draco. Draco didn’t move, but Harry thought he saw the muscles in his arms tightening ever so slightly.

‘Is this true, Draco?’ Remus asked, his voice carefully even.

‘I -’ Draco’s face suddenly contorted, and his body spasmed, as if wracked by great pain. Harry started forward, but after a moment it seemed to have passed, though Draco still shook violently.

‘Draco - just nod - does it hurt when you attempt to answer me?’

Draco tensed, and jerked his head quickly. He hissed this time, as if he had stubbed a toe.

‘Right,’ Remus said, grimly. ‘Thank you, Draco. We’ll leave you to your lunch.’

‘Thank you, master,’ Draco said automatically. Remus waved at Harry to indicate that he should follow him out. It was with some reluctance that Harry complied. What on earth had created that reaction in Draco? Why hadn’t he discovered it sooner? He was being insufferably negligent, for all that he hadn’t wanted this responsibility.

Once they were in the living room once more, Remus turned to face Harry, his face as thunderous as Harry had ever seen it. Rather impressed, and realising how inappropriate an emotion it was in the circumstances, Harry cleared his throat.

‘What was that, do you think?’ he asked.

‘I imagine a variation on the spell that binds house-elves to their masters,’ Remus said grimly. ‘Including the punishment factor, should the recipient speak out against said master.’

Harry gulped, remembering the long-ago antics of Dobby, and resolved to keep irons away from Draco and Draco away from the oven. He was struck by the irony; Dobby had once been a slave of Lucius’, and by consquence Draco’s.

‘That’s pretty rank,’ Harry observed, and Remus was moved to nod in agreement.

‘We’ve come up against it once or twice before, when we found another cache of prisoners,’ Remus said, his face sad now. ‘I’ll go straight back to headquarters and look it up for you. In the meantime…make him wash, would you, please?’

‘Wash?’ Harry repeated, astounded. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Haven’t you noticed?’ Remus said, wrinkling his nose. ‘His aroma lacks a certain appeal. Have you commanded him to bathe lately?’

‘I didn’t realise I had to,’ Harry said, faintly.

‘Until I know more about the spell controlling him, I’d imagine you do,’ Remus said firmly. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’ll see myself out.’ With a small pop he Disapparated, leaving a rather bemused Harry standing on his threadbare carpet.

With a sigh, he turned his steps back to the spare room. Draco’s room, he supposed it should be called; Draco looked set to be its incumbent for some time to come. Once there, he picked up what Remus had probably got blasted with through his canine-enhanced senses. Draco looked up at him apprehensively.

‘Right then, sonny jim,’ Harry said. ‘You need to wash. So go - take a bath, would you?’

‘Certainly, master,’ Draco said, sounding relieved. Harry rolled his eyes and frowned simultaneously. Imagine having to get someone’s permission to bathe! If you were in any way fastidious, it would be terrible punishment.

With a cold flush, Harry wondered if it had been used precisely to that end.

In the meantime, Draco had swung gracefully from the bed and padded out of the room. In the last few days, he had been able to tolerate having the curtains open, so Harry was confident the brightly-lit hallway wouldn’t cause undue suffering.

He was almost back in the living room before a tentative ‘Master?’ floated down after him. Turning on his heel, Harry hurried down to the bathroom.

Draco was standing on the bathmat holding the showerhead, wearing a plaintive expression and not much else. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. It wasn’t just Draco’s naked body that shocked him - he had one of his own, after all - but the unexpectedness of it, and also Draco’s body art.

‘I didn’t know you went in for piercings,’ Harry remarked, trying to keep his voice light. I didn’t know you could pierce there. Oh Merlin, yuck. I will not look at it again! Oh shit. It’s like a car-crash…why would anyone…okay, Harry, belt up!

‘No, master?’ Draco said, and hurried on with, ‘Master, I cannot work the equipment.’

Harry choked on air. ‘Oh, its simple really. Its an electric shower…oh, yeah, Muggle technology…here, I’ll show you.’

Harry rolled up his sleeves and pointed at the various buttons on the console, with Draco peering inquisitively over his shoulder. Harry would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation, if he had retained the capability of laughing.

‘Do you think you can work it now?’ Harry asked.

‘I think so, master,’ Draco said, frowning.

‘Good, then, I’ll just be going,’ Harry said, fighting not to blush. He felt mortified, yet it was Draco who hadn’t a stitch on.

‘Yes, master,’ Draco said, pressed the on button and drenched them both with a powerful jet of water from the showerhead still grasped in Draco’s hand.

A few action-filled seconds later, Harry managed to turn off the water. Blinking water from his eyes, he lifted his saturated arms and shook them tentatively. A small localised tornado of water cascaded from his the sleeves of his shirt.

He looked around, grinning. Draco was huddled on the floor, clutching his head to his knees. The smile dropped from Harry’s face, and he knelt down on the sodden mat beside Draco. Tentatively, he reached out a hand and touched Draco’s shoulder.

Draco’s head rose, and he looked at Harry with an expression full of woe.

‘Hey, don’t look so worried!’ Harry said, laughing nervously. ‘It’s only a bit of water. Look - Desertify!’ The air steamed as the water evaporated. ‘No worries.’

‘I am sorry, Master,’ Draco said, blinking rapidly. ‘I deserve to be punished. I am so sorry.’

‘Hey, hey!’ Harry protested, waving his hands in front of Draco’s face. ‘It was an accident! Well…if it wasn’t an accident, spraying water on me is hardly alien to you, now is it?’

‘I am sorry,’ Draco repeated. He got to his knees and bowed his head. ‘How do you want me?’

‘What do you mean?’ Harry said frantically.

Draco raised his head, looking uncertain. ‘For my punishment, master. How do you want me?’

‘I’m not punishing you!’ Harry shouted, exasperated. ‘Will you get that idea out of your thick skull!’ He pushed Draco on the chest, to move him away, but his hand tugged at one of Draco’s nipple rings by mistake. Horrified, Harry snatched his hand back, noting in consternation the grimace of pain that contorted Draco’s features.

Harry exhaled slowly, and got to his feet. Moving a distance away from Draco, so that his next question could be taken in the spirit of inquiry and not foreplay, he asked carefully, ‘Draco, do you, um, do you - get off on pain?’

‘No, master,’ Draco said breathlessly.

‘Right,’ Harry said inanely. So that reaction he’s having…must be directly linked to those piercings. One, two, three. Dark magic with a fashionable twist. And who said Death Eaters weren’t au fait with trends in Cosmo?

Shaking his head to clear it of increasingly incoherent thoughts, Harry fumbled for the door handle. ‘Please, Draco, take a shower. And when you’re done, come and see me. Please.’

‘Yes, master.’ It was little more than a whisper. Harry turned and fled.

~

Harry sat on his bed, frantically thumbing through one of the many Defence Against the Dark Arts books he’d received over the years. He had precious little on modern developments in the Dark Arts themselves, however. He was almost relieved when a knock at the door turned him from his needle-in-a-haystack search.

Draco entered, walking lightly as a cat. He was dressed in one of Harry’s old check shirts and a pair of Harry’s jeans, which were too short and wide for him.

‘You requested my presence, Master?’ he said quietly.

‘Your piercings, Draco,’ Harry said. ‘Can you take out the - the um, the rings?’

‘No, master,’ Draco said, shaking his head for good measure and opening his eyes wide.

‘Okay, then. C’mere,’ Harry said, with great reluctance. Draco stood before him. ‘Open your shirt, please.’

Draco betrayed the merest hint of surprise before his hands flew to his shirt buttons. His wet hair flopped over his forehead as he bent his head to the task. When he was done, he let the shirt fall off his shoulders without lifting his head.

Harry gulped. This was a little more than he’d requested. Standing up, he cautiously touched one of the nipple-rings. Draco gasped a little. Harry squinted his eyes and gently rotated the ring, searching for the catch. There was none that he could see, only a smooth band of silver.

Meanwhile, Draco’s breath had become distinctly laboured. Harry winced and tried to ignore it as he tried out his full repotoire of unlocking spells on the ring, starting with Alohomora. None of them had the slightest effect, unless you counted the frequent hitches in Draco’s breathing.

‘Nothing!’ Harry said in frustration, when his inventiveness petered out. He threw himself back onto his bed, and scrubbed at his head with both hands. ‘I don’t suppose you can tell me how to get them off?’

Draco shook his head mutely. He had lost the power of speech somewhere around the fourth spell Harry had attempted. He also looked distinctly flushed. Harry frowned and concentrated on his duvet.

‘That’s it. I’ll just have to owl Remus and Hermione,’ he said, harrumphing. ‘Oh, you may go. With your bloody shirt, too. And take your medicine.’

‘Yes, master.’

Was Harry imagining it, or did Draco’s lips frame the word ‘mother’ just before he left?

~

Before Harry had even written to Remus, he received a letter from him.

Dear Harry, Remus wrote,

I have gathered all available information on this particular spell, gleaned from the research of the Healers on the prisoners. From what I can make out, it is a version of the Imperius Spell, but refined to a single item. Using this item as a sort of keystone, the caster of the spell can maintain an amount of control over the victim long after the effects of Imperius would have faded. As long as the victim keeps this item in contact with their skin, they are bound to follow the basic commands imbued in it. My guess is that Draco has some such item, and that it makes him submissive and forces him to obey only what he is commanded to do, even in the face of his own wishes.

I will continue my research, and in the meantime I would suggest you search for this keystone. And command Draco to wash!

Yrs, Remus

It was with this information in mind that Harry wrote to Hermione, and the next day her owl returned with a bulky envelope.

Harry, it read,

I have heard of this keystone business. As far as I know, it is a sort of resonating stone, which repeats the instructions in the wearer’s head over and over, just like when someone casts the Imperius Curse. However, unlike that curse, it doesn’t clear the mind of all thought, merely the ability to contravene the instructions. It is usually in the form of jewellery that would come into contact with the skin; a bracelet, necklace or ring, for example.

When you wrote I immediately visited Hogwarts Library - the Restricted Section! This is, in fact, quite an old spell, used primarily in romantic situations - someone wearing a keystone wedding-ring could be made to marry the spell-caster, whether they wanted to or not - you get the picture.

There is no way for the victim to remove the keystone, and usually it is designed so they cannot say what it is or who created it. Only the caster of the spell can remove it, and we have no idea who might have done this to Draco. They are most likely dead in any case.

Harry, the only thing I can think of for you to do is to create your own keystone and make Draco wear it. The instructions would be to remove the original keystone, and then you can remove yours. I’m not sure if this would work; if one keystone can override another, and if Draco is affected by only one at a time, it will. I’ve enclosed the relevant material for making one; I’m sure you’ll be able to manage it, and you can owl me anytime for help. Unfortunately (for you) the keystone must be tuned to the creator to work.

Have fun!

Hermione

‘Fun! Not bloody likely,’ Harry muttered, lifting out pages of neatly transcribed notes in Hermione’s handwriting. ‘Draco!’ he yelled.

In an instant, Draco appeared at the doorway. He looked like he’d been for another shower. He took at least three a day; what with sleeping twice as much as normal, and eating for two, Harry had taken to wondering what exactly he was compensating for. He didn’t think he’d much like the answer, however.

‘Read this,’ Harry said, handing out Hermione’s note. Draco took it wordlessly. Harry had had a brainwave in commanding Draco not to call him master; Draco rarely spoke as a result.

When Draco’s eyes had skimmed the page, Harry asked, ‘Well? Are you up for it? Don’t say anything, just - blink.’

Draco blinked, and smiled slightly.

‘Excellent, you can help me,’ Harry said, rubbing his hands together. ‘You were Snape’s little pet, so you have the honour of making the potion part.’ He transferred a good half of Hermione’s notes into Draco’s hands.

‘I didn’t think I’d ever have to face into her notes again,’ Draco said morosely, with a belated, ‘Sir.’

‘What do you mean, again?’ Harry asked suspiciously.

‘Uh…you did know about the pirated version of her class notes? Nearly everyone in school used them. Sir.’

‘And me and Ron thought we were unique,’ Harry murmured. ‘Oh, and the sir?’ Draco brightened hopefully. ‘Uh-uh.’

‘Damn,’ Draco said, but quietly.

SECOND THIRD TOMORROW.

 
 
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