Also available as: Epub
For Your Own Good
Friends New and Old
Apologies for the late posting! This website wasn't playing nice with my login for a day or so. Back now, so please enjoy!
Harry, lost in thought about what had just happened, didn't realize until he was most of the way out of Madam Malkin's that he had no idea what 'Florian Fortescue's' might be. A step out the door and a look around him solved this problem, as he caught sight of an immense and gaudy sign for Florian Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. With that sorted, he was free to lean against the wall, shut his eyes, and indulge in a brief bout of the shakes as his nerves caught up with him.
I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I said that. If he hadn't been—if I'd been wrong—
But the fact remained that Harry hadn't been wrong, and his new knowledge thrilled and terrified him in equal measures, even more so than the arrival of his Hogwarts letter or Professor McGonagall's descent upon Privet Drive. Briefly he was reminded of the island in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from which the little Narnian ship had been warned to flee as quickly as possible, because dreams came to life there, good and bad dreams alike…
And there we have another useful tool for the writer to know. Irony. Harry grinned to himself. Comparing my fears about my dreams coming true to something I've only ever run across in my dreams! Not likely Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia would let me read books stuffed with talking lions and walking trees and a hundred years of winter but never Christmas!
But even a passing thought of Narnia brought up images in Harry's mind of adult faces seen from below while soft voices read words of wonder aloud. River and Firefly washed each other's faces on one side of him, and his baby sister leaned against him on the other, quivers running through her small frame as she battled to stay awake. Jeanie was nibbling on her thumbnail while she listened, Mal had both hands pressed against the carpet and was leaning forward, intent on the story—
"There you are," said Professor McGonagall, emerging from the shop in her turn. "I've arranged for your robes to be delivered to me, if that's quite all right with you." The spark of laughter he'd seen earlier in her eyes was dancing there once more. "Vernon Dursley is certainly one of the more oblivious Muggles I've ever run across, but I think even he would notice if you returned from what is supposed to be a day of ordinary testing for school with a trunk full of Hogwarts robes and spellbooks."
Harry entertained himself for a moment imagining Uncle Vernon's face should Harry indeed walk through the door at Privet Drive with this item in tow, but then shook his head. "It wouldn't be pretty," he said. "And if I'm supposed to stay with the Dursleys because it's the safest place for me…"
"Then we should do everything we can to continue the masquerade as long as possible." Professor McGonagall nodded. "Perhaps we should get all your school things sent to my attention, and simply have your trunk waiting for you at Hogwarts. Except for your wand, of course. You can easily keep that hidden for a month, and it's not advisable for a wand to be out of its owner's custody for too long, especially at the beginning of their relationship." She tapped a finger against her lips again. "Your books as well, I think. I can charm them to ensure their true nature won't be seen, and it seems in character for 'Miss McGrath' to send you home with a pile of extra studying to do before your first day of term."
"Dudley'll love that." Harry glanced past Professor McGonagall, letting his eyes widen with what he hoped was the right amount of surprise and interest. "He'd love that, too. If it is what it looks like." Casually, he nodded towards Florian Fortescue's. "Is it?"
"It is." Professor McGonagall regarded him coolly. "Are you trying to hint that you might like an ice cream, Henry?"
The form of address, coupled with what he'd just discovered in Madam Malkin's, roused Harry's sense of humor to full alertness. He tilted his chin to one side and looked up at the Professor soulfully, overacting just a touch as Henry's dad had taught him to do when pretending to wheedle out of his parents something they were likely to give him anyway.
The response he got was not what he'd expected. For the first time since he'd met her that morning, Professor McGonagall looked surprised, even stunned. "How did you—" she began in a harsh whisper, then shook her head sharply. "No. Ridiculous of me."
"Is something the matter, Professor?" Harry abandoned the pose immediately.
"You did nothing wrong." Professor McGonagall drew a deep breath and slowly let it out. "Only…a memory." Brushing a hand across her face, she smiled, the expression looking strained but becoming more natural after a moment. "I think an ice cream would be an excellent idea, for both of us."
As they drew closer to the ice cream parlor, Harry couldn't help but notice someone sitting at one of the outdoor tables, chatting animatedly with his companion. Even among the decidedly unusual crowd thronging Diagon Alley, this man stood out, both for his sheer size (half again as tall as anyone else, even sitting down, and twice to three times as wide) and for the wildness of his bushy, reddish-brown hair and beard. The young woman in maroon robes sitting across from him looked normal by comparison, until she laughed and blushed at something the huge man said, a tide of pink flowing across her cheeks, then surging upwards into her short-cropped hair.
Harry stopped short in the middle of the pavement, fighting off an incredulous grin.
Unless he was greatly mistaken, he wasn't the only person Draco was planning to meet at Florian Fortescue's.
"Professor McGonagall!" said the giant man in surprise, his voice carrying easily across the noise of the crowd. "Didn' know you were gonna be here today! And who's this, then?" he added as Harry slid between a plump witch in blue and a knot of darkly-glowering goblins to catch up with the Professor. "New student, eh? Muggleborn? Don' yeh worry 'bout me, I don' bite." He chuckled, the sound shaking the cobblestones under Harry's feet slightly, and held out an enormous hand to shake Harry's entire arm. "Rubeus Hagrid. Hogwarts groundskeeper, gamekeeper, what have yeh."
"If it needs keeping at Hogwarts, Hagrid keeps it," the pink-haired young woman put in, getting to her feet. "Well, I see who I came here to meet, so if you'll pardon me—oh, no? Stay?" She seemed to be translating something she was seeing, and Harry turned in time to catch a flash of pale hair threading through the sea of robes. "Apparently I'm not supposed to move. Not sure what that's about, he's usually a bit shy of being seen in public with me."
"He, Miss Tonks?" said Professor McGonagall pointedly.
Tonks (Harry breathed a silent sigh of relief that the surname had been supplied, as it would hardly have been wise for him to blurt out Dora to her) flushed again, her hair darkening from its current bubblegum shade to something nearer the color of her robes. "My cousin, Professor. His parents wouldn't approve if they knew he was meeting me here."
Hagrid chuckled again, more darkly. "All th' more reason ter keep on doin' it, then."
"If I remember correctly, Miss Tonks," Professor McGonagall began, her brows drawing together in a manner which had Harry a trifle worried, "you have only one cousin whom you'd be likely to meet at Diagon Alley, and his name is—"
"Draco Malfoy, Professor." That young wizard stepped out of the crowd at Professor McGonagall's side with timing as perfect as Mal had ever demonstrated in distracting the Tudor Lane adults from a cousin about to get caught with his hand in the monk-shaped cookie jar. "Pleased to meet you."
Harry fought not to laugh as Professor McGonagall looked from Draco to Tonks and back again, her face carefully expressionless. "Likewise," she said at last. "I believe we'll be seeing you at Hogwarts in September, won't we?"
"I'm looking forward to it." Draco nodded towards his cousin. "Tonks has told me so much about what it's like, I feel like I've been there already." Looking past Professor McGonagall, he smiled more broadly. "You must be Hagrid," he said, stepping between Professor McGonagall and Harry to offer his hand to the gamekeeper. "Nobody else could possibly—"
"Mal, you little prat!" Tonks broke in, her hair going fire-engine red. "You swore you'd never tell anyone I said that!"
"Oh, this I gotta hear." Hagrid leaned back in his chair, which creaked alarmingly but held. "Wha'd she tell yeh about me?"
Tonks moaned once and turned away, hiding her face in her hands.
"Mal?" interjected Professor McGonagall delicately.
"Well, she's Tonks." Draco indicated the witch of this name, who still had her back turned to the little group. "Why can't I be Mal? To some people, at least. I don't think Father would care for it much."
The rhythm and flow of this conversation gave Harry much the same feeling as sitting in a wooden kitchen chair at Tudor Lane, listening to the affectionate teasing which characterized most conversations there—and why shouldn't it? We've got one of the people who lives there and one who's visited us quite a few times, she came over last month, even, and edged out Pearl as skee-ball champion when we went to the amusement park…
"Speakin' o' names," Hagrid was saying now, looking over at Harry. "Don' think I caught yers." What could be seen of his forehead wrinkled thoughtfully. "Feel like I oughter know yer face, though."
Harry caught Professor McGonagall's eye and nodded, and she sighed. "Keep your voice down, Hagrid," she cautioned, drawing her wand and circling it about the area briefly. "But…may I introduce Harry Potter."
"Yer jokin'!" Hagrid laughed once, then looked again at Harry. "No. No, yer not either…"
With a shock, Harry saw tears well up in the black eyes. "I can' believe it," said Hagrid with a slight choke in his voice. Harry suspected the movement of Professor McGonagall's wand had been to cast the private-conversations spell once more, and was rather grateful for this. Hagrid was clearly making an effort to speak quietly, but his tones were still as carrying as another person's normal speaking voice. Draco had secured a hold on Tonks's sleeve and was murmuring to her, though both their eyes kept flicking back to Harry as well.
Hagrid gulped once and got himself under control. "Beg yer pardon. It jus'—it don' seem possible. Little Harry Potter—ah, sorry," he apologized again, though Harry hadn't been offended in the least. Even Uncle Vernon would have looked little next to Hagrid. "Yer all grown up now, aren' yeh, gettin' ready fer Hogwarts an' all? But the last time I saw yeh, you was just a baby." He crooked his left arm, as though holding a bundle in it. "Brought yeh to yer aunt an' uncle's, I did, and was I glad ter get yeh there safe an' sound!" Shaking his head, he exhaled a massive breath. "Dreamed fer weeks afterwards I'd flown all the way there an' found out too late I'd been carryin' a baby doll instead o' you!"
Professor McGonagall seemed intrigued by this detail, Harry noted with the one corner of his mind not fixed on a single word in the middle of Hagrid's last sentence. "Flown? On a broomstick, you mean?"
"Nah, not me." Hagrid gestured towards his massive self. "I'm a bit big fer brooms. Friend o' yer dad's lent me his motorbike ter get us safely there." His eyes narrowed momentarily in fury. "Though if I'd known 'bout him then what I know now…"
"You didn't, Hagrid," said Professor McGonagall firmly. "None of us did. And that's long since been dealt with. Harry, may I also introduce Nymphadora Tonks. Usually known by her surname only," she added at Tonks's grimace. "And her cousin—"
"We've met," said Harry, shaking Tonks's hand, then nodding to Draco. "In Madam Malkin's. We were getting fitted at the same time."
"It's nice to finally meet somebody who'll be in my year and isn't pureblood and proud of it." Draco drawled the last few words in a tone of utterly bored superiority before returning to his usual brisk tones. "Tonks told me they'd exist, but I wasn't sure I believed her."
Tonks reached over to ruffle her cousin's hair. "You think I'd lie to you?"
"You did once." Draco skillfully dodged out of the way. "You told me if I kept on calling Muggleborns Mudbloods, my tongue would turn brown and fall out."
"Got you to stop, didn't I?" retorted Tonks, both of them grinning. Hagrid was sniggering into his beard, and even Professor McGonagall looked amused.
"Your father knows nothing about this, I assume?" she asked Draco, who shook his head. "Or your mother?"
"Aunt Narcissa may," said Tonks before Draco could deny it. "No, she might," she insisted at her cousin's quizzical look. "Didn't you say once or twice when we'd wanted to meet over the holidays but it looked like you wouldn't be able to get away, she'd suddenly come up with some invitation for her and your father that meant they'd have to leave you at home with the house-elf? And Dobby's been on our side for years and years, ever since you sent me that first letter. He wouldn't give us away unless Uncle Lucius gave him a direct order to tell." She grinned. "I love calling him that in public. All his pureblood friends are always twitting him on it, but it's the truth, so there's nothing he can do!"
Professor McGonagall smiled at this, but her eyes were troubled. "Have a care," she warned. "Men like Lucius Malfoy are not always scrupulous in how they handle annoyances. But I'm sure you know that, and why waste a perfectly good summer day talking about it when we could be enjoying ourselves? I believe I promised ice creams…"
"I'd best be gettin' along," said Hagrid, heaving himself to his feet (he was even taller than Harry had anticipated, blocking out a good portion of the skyline). "Professor Dumbledore's expectin' me back with th' You-Know-What." Importantly, he patted one of the myriad pockets of his moleskin overcoat. "See you at Hogwarts, then, Harry, Mal." He winked broadly at Draco, who tossed him a two-fingered salute, and shook Harry's arm once more. "I'll invite yeh down fer a cuppa sometime, door's always open. Take care o' yerself, Tonks, see you back at th' castle, Professor…"
"Did you want a particular flavor, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked as Hagrid strode away down the street, parting the crowd without effort.
Harry shook his head. "Anything's fine with me."
"And I know what this one likes," said Tonks, successfully disarranging Draco's hair this time. He growled at her, but made no effort to fix the disorder her fingers had left. "Besides, I've been going back and forth on writing to you for the last week, Professor. My mentor's got this variant on Vanishing he wants me to learn and I can't get the hang of it for the life of me…"
Tonks's voice became indistinct as the two witches passed through the border of the spell Professor McGonagall had cast, leaving Harry and Draco alone. Harry pulled up the chair Hagrid had been using and sat down, Draco doing the same with Tonks's.
"So," Draco said conversationally after several seconds of silence, finger-combing his hair back into place. "Where did River get his name?"
Harry sketched a Y-shaped formation on the tabletop. "River got her name," he said, his emphasis on the pronoun making Draco grin, "from the markings on her back. Three black lines that run together like the three rivers. Only you can't call a cat Three Rivers, that's a sports stadium. So they just named her River. What about Firefly?"
"The tip of her tail's white where the rest of her's grey tabby." Draco mimed stroking all the way down a cat's back. "Aunt Thea said it looked like a firefly flashing every time she ran through the sunlight. Who caught the most when we chased them in the backyard last week, me or you?"
"Trick question." Harry glanced to one side, where a chair sat empty. "It wasn't either of us. It was Pearl—and I have no idea where she came from," he added forcefully. "I don't have a little sister!"
"No more do I have a big one, or any other kind." Draco motioned a straight vertical line. "I don't think there's been a two-child Malfoy family for more than a hundred years. Which I used to think was why I was always dreaming about a sister and a couple of cousins and what amounts to four parents, because I was lonely. Even bringing you in wasn't too much of a stretch, I've known your name forever. Though I admit the first thing I thought when I saw that scar in Madam Malkin's was 'thank Merlin, I haven't just babbled my head off to someone who's going to run and tell my father all about it the first chance he gets'. It took me a second to put everything together and realize why all my usual filters had dropped off with you. And now…"
"Now, we know they're not just dreams." Harry flattened his hands against the table, imagining them darker than the wooden surface they touched. "Not when we're both having them." A thought flitted to the surface of his mind, and he looked up, meeting the grey eyes which belonged equally to Draco and to Mal. "What if we're not the only ones?"
For an instant, the grey lit up from within, like lightning inside storm clouds. "You mean—"
"You're real. I'm real." Harry glanced towards the way Professor McGonagall and Tonks had gone. "Even Dora's real, though I bet she'd hex me if I called her that."
"She might let you off, at least until you get your wand." Draco seemed to be having a hard time getting a full breath. "I hadn't thought this through all the way, but you're right. If the two of us exist in both worlds, there's really no reason—" He stopped. "Except that there is."
"What?" Harry asked.
"If it's not just you and I who're real on both sides. If it's everybody." Draco gestured in a broad circle, indicating the six members of the Tudor Lane household not currently present, along with the wider group of relatives and friends with whom they kept up relations. "I can understand why they might not make contact with me, but why haven't they at least come after you? I'd assume, if you're here with McGonagall, you're still living with your aunt and uncle and cousin, the rotten Muggle ones, what's their names…"
"The Dursleys, and you're right, I am. But that doesn't mean anything." Harry flicked away his years at Privet Drive impatiently. "Maybe they think the dreams are just dreams and I'm happy there, or maybe their real lives are too crazy to have a kid tagging along, or maybe there's some other reason they can't come. Or—no, I know what it is. What it must be." He let his fingers rest against the pulse point on his other wrist. "Professor McGonagall told me, there's magic over the Dursleys' house, magic that only works because we're blood relations, and it's kept me safe all these years."
"That is a point." Draco nodded thoughtfully. "Your parents, your birth parents, they died trying to protect you, and that's blood magic from a willing sacrifice, the strongest kind there is. I know I've heard Father swearing at those wards dozens of times because he can't break through them, wishing he'd tried to get hold of you before Hagrid got you there…" His one-sided smile reappeared, twisted a little further than usual. "And here we see another reason why I might dream up a different family for myself. Though there's one thing I've never understood. If my surname were Blake, that wouldn't be too strange—it's pretty close to Black, which is my mother's maiden name, that's the side Tonks and I are related on—but Reynolds?"
"I'm pretty sure that's not the name they started out with." Harry cast his mind into Henry's past, seeking the hazy, dream-distant stories of the way their family had begun. "It almost can't be, because we're in hiding at Tudor Lane, aren't we? Because of me? 'Blake' might not be anybody's real name either…"
Draco hissed in warning, and Harry glanced over to see Professor McGonagall and Tonks returning, each of them carrying two ice creams. "So," he said, sitting back in his chair. "Tell me about Quidditch."
"Only one of the best games in the world." Draco wove his hands through the air like flyers chasing one another. "Seven players to a side, all on broomsticks, of course, and there's three different kinds of balls. Chasers play with the Quaffle, it's about so big and red, and the only magic on it keeps it from falling too fast if they drop it, to give them a chance to get it back without ploughing themselves every time in the process…"
The rest of the conversation, held in between licks and bites (Harry's ice cream turned out to be chocolate and raspberry with chopped nuts, while Draco's was mint chocolate chip with strawberries), revolved around generalities of the wizarding world, Tonks and Draco expanding upon the things Professor McGonagall had begun to explain on the train that morning, until between one sentence and the next Tonks snapped "Ware!" and Draco vanished under the table with the speed of River or Firefly spotting the dog next door.
"What—" Harry began, then followed Tonks's line of sight. Striding up Diagon Alley, glaring from side to side, came a tall adult wizard with long, straight, pale-blond hair and perfectly pressed black robes, a polished black cane gripped in his hand, a hissing silver serpent as its head. His pale, pointed features and the hard look in his grey eyes would have given Harry his identity even if Tonks's equally stony glare and Draco's disappearing act hadn't already done the same.
Lucius Malfoy swept his gaze slowly across the outdoor seating at Florian Fortescue's. Finding nothing there to interest him, he nodded coldly to Professor McGonagall and moved on.
Harry released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. From under the table came a muttered curse, and Draco reappeared where he had been, slightly disheveled and glowering after his father. "Made me drop my ice cream," he grumbled. "One more month, that's all, just one more month, and then I'm shot of him for ten months a year for the next seven…" Straightening his hair, he glanced across at Harry. "Same deal for you, right? No more crazy relatives except over the summers?"
"How're you going to explain your going away, though?" asked Tonks, frowning. "If they expect you to be staying with them, going to school locally?"
"I have a few ideas on that point." Professor McGonagall took a last bite of her ice cream (mixed berry with butter cookie pieces) and got to her feet. "But we should be going now, and so should you, young man," she added to Draco. "If your father is looking for you in that much of a temper, I wouldn't think you'd care to delay."
"Easy enough to fix." Draco shrugged. "I'll head for Quality Quidditch Supplies and claim I've been there the whole time, checking out the new Nimbus, the 2000." His one-sided grin reappeared. "Not that I would ever dream of smuggling an illegal broomstick into Hogwarts, of course."
"Of course." Professor McGonagall returned the look blandly. "Not that I would ever dream of warning Severus Snape to search your belongings for one."
Draco paused at the edge of the outdoor seating. "Who said I wanted to be a Slytherin?" he inquired, and vanished into the crowd before the Professor could reply.
Tonks winked at Harry. "Suppose I'll be pushing off too, then," she said, getting up. "Loads of homework to do, even if that's not what they call it anymore. Good to meet you, Harry, don't hesitate to owl if you need anything—like Hagrid said, door's always open, especially for a friend of my Mal's."
"Your Mal." Professor McGonagall regarded her former student in something like wonder. "And his parents have no idea?"
"Like I said, Aunt Narcissa might, but if Uncle Lucius did, don't you think he'd have cut us off a long time ago?" Tonks grinned. "But he didn't, so he doesn't. And he won't, until he gets the letter from Hogwarts." A brush of her hands stippled her hair with black and yellow. "You might want to think about warning Professor Sprout to be on the lookout for that broomstick instead."
"I will." Professor McGonagall watched Tonks walk away, then looked down at Harry. "An eventful first day in the wizarding world for you," she said. "And we still have more than half your supplies to get, and then the journey back." Her smile was definitely predatory, and Harry was reminded again of the tabby cat he'd watched on the days before his birthday, or of Firefly or River stalking a bug which had happened into the house. "As I said, I have a few ideas about how best to handle your relations."
Yeah, I would say this story's got a pretty firm hold on me. Let me know if you're also enjoying. More as soon as I'm able, which judging by the past should be quite soon indeed…
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