Title – Finite Incantatum
Rating – NC-17 (for future chapters)
Genre – Drama/Romance
Pairing – H/D
Chapter – 1
Warnings – None for this chapter.
Summary – My version of what should have happened after Half Blood Prince! It’s the autumn after Dumbledore’s death, the Death Eaters are steadily gaining power, and Harry and his friends are desperate to find the remaining Horcruxes. But then Draco Malfoy arrives at Grimmauld Place, traumatised, starved and drained of all his magical ability. It falls to Harry to show the Slytherin how to adapt to his new way of life, but it turns out that Draco has a few things to teach him in return.
Disclaimer – I don’t own the boys, they belong to Ms Rowling. The title translates loosely as 'To Err is Human'. Done for fun, not profit!
Chapter 1: Errare Humanum Est
Harry was walking along a beach. It was a gloomy, overcast day, and the wind whipped around him cruelly, but he couldn’t feel the cold. He thought that this was strange, seeing as he was only wearing a thin cotton t-shirt and jeans. There was a man standing a little way off, gazing out over the iron-grey sea. Harry made his way towards the man, his feet making no sound on the shingle. The man looked up and smiled at his approach. “Hello, Harry.”
“Hello, Sirius,” Harry replied.
“I was hoping you’d come. I’ve been waiting here for a while.”
“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “I was held up. Life stuff, you know. I didn’t realise you were waiting.”
Sirius shrugged “Doesn’t matter. You’re here now, aren’t you? Listen, Harry, things are bad. This war… it’s not like it was before. Voldemort had a lot of time to think and plan in those years when he was without a body. He is crueller than ever. He—”
Harry made a noise of impatience. “Sirius, I know all of this! I can’t keep coming here if all you’re going to do is—”
Sirius held up a hand to stop him. “I’m not just trying to frighten you! I’m telling you that different tactics are needed this time if we’re ever going to win this thing!”
Harry sighed. “Don’t I know it. We’re… we’re working on the Horcruxes. We still know pitifully little about them, of course, but Hermione thinks we can figure out where they are if we just think about it hard enough.” He laughed, a little bitterly. “She’s been getting me to tell her what Dumbledore showed me in the Pensieve over and over, hoping that something will come to light.”
“It’s not just that, though,” Sirius said, shaking his dark hair out of his eyes. “Harry, so much of magic is based on dichotomies. It’s been that way from the beginning. Once you understand that, you might begin to understand how to go on.”
Harry shook his head sadly. “Sirius… why are you here? Why now? Is… is any of this actually real?”
Sirius laughed. “Your guess is as good as mine, kid. But you didn’t think I’d let a little thing like death stop me from fulfilling my godfatherly duties, did you?”
“But is this real?” Harry repeated, started to get a little angry. “Are you actually here, or am I just dreaming it?”
Sirius looked at him sadly. “If I told you it was real, would it make any difference?” He glanced over his shoulder. “Look, we don’t have much time. You’re wanted back there now. Listen to me, Harry, things are about to change! Something is going to happen which could sway the whole balance. A trigger. It could go either way though, depending on how you deal with it. Forget Voldemort for a minute; you need to find out who you are now, Just… just remember what I was saying about opposites.”
Harry looked up at his godfather with no small amount of exasperation. “Care to get a little more cryptic? Sirius, what the hell are you talking about?”
But Sirius was already moving away, and someone was calling him… calling him over and over…
“Harry. Harry. Harry!”
Harry awoke from his doze with a start. “What?” he asked stupidly.
“Harry, the meeting’s starting soon. It’s time to go down.” Hermione looked down at him with concern. “You were talking in your sleep again.”
“Was I?” Harry replied, trying to make his voice sound as casual as possible. “What was I saying?”
His friend shook her head. “Nothing distinct. It all seemed very serious, though. What were you dreaming about?”
Harry shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said, repeating the words of his godfather.
He hadn’t told anyone that he had been dreaming about Sirius. He supposed that he should, given the significance his dreams had held in the past, but he remained reluctant. After all, this was very different from the visions he had experienced when his mind had connected to Voldemort’s. This was… this was Sirius. He had missed his godfather so much over the last year, and it was so good to see him again. That was the other thing. He didn’t really think that the dreams were any kind of significant visions, but at the same time… he also didn’t want to tell his friends about them, only for them to agree that they were meaningless. He could imagine Ron’s embarrassed smile and the way Hermione would bite her bottom lip nervously as she told him that the dreams were probably just that – dreams. Because then Harry would have to surrender the hope that it really was Sirius, coming to talk to him from beyond the grave. And he wanted to believe in it so much, improbable as it was.
And so Harry followed Hermione in silence down the stairs of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, to the kitchen where the meeting was to take place. Grimmauld Place. It was so strange to be back there again after all this time, almost as if nothing had happened. Harry remembered how much Sirius had hated it.
The Order of the Phoenix had spent the best part of the previous year making sure that the house really was secure, after Sirius’s death had brought up the risk that Bellatrix might have automatically inherited the property. Numerous additional security measures had been taken, to the extent that the entire property had been literally uprooted from its foundations, and now resided – under the cover of several Disillusionment Charms and Muggle-Repellent Spells, of course – in a corner of Hampstead Heath. So it really wasn’t Grimmauld Place any more at all, but the Order had kept the house’s name as it had always been to avoid unnecessary confusion. Many of the Order members actually lived there now, their homes not being safe to return to, which meant that it was getting very overcrowded.
School would have started again today, Harry thought with a wistful pang. He, of course, would not be attending. At Dumbledore’s funeral he had vowed that he would spend the next year looking for and destroying the remaining Horcruxes, and that was exactly what he meant to do.
Of course, there was no one to tell him otherwise. He was of age now, and he couldn’t imagine that the Dursleys would have done much to ensure his safety anyway. Besides, even if they didn’t know about the prophesy, everyone knew that Harry Potter was connected to Voldemort, that he could be the only key to the dark wizard’s undoing. His elders had clearly realised that, although they might care about him, they had to step back from Harry.
For his best friends, however, things were a little more complicated. Harry wished so much that Ron and Hermione didn’t have to be involved. He wished that he could take on the burden of the Horcruxes alone. However, he knew that it would be impossible to argue with either of them. The three of them had gone through so much together, and it would be ridiculous for Harry to attempt to exclude them now. This was their fight almost as much as it was his. Still, unlike him, they had parents who might not be entirely keen on the idea of their child going off to fight the Death Eaters.
Not that either Ron or Hermione were exactly safe to return to Hogwarts anyway. Since Dumbledore’s death, the school was being more-or-less controlled by the Ministry and, seeing as the Ministry was obviously being more-or-less run by Voldemort and his followers these days, Hogwarts was not a safe place for Muggle-borns or anyone associated with Harry Potter. Reports were reaching the Order that Scrimgeour had been behaving very oddly in recent weeks, and many believed that he was under the Imperius Curse. It was no longer clear who could be trusted, and many of the older Order members talked darkly of a return to the old times.
Hermione had sent her parents into hiding in another country, knowing that it was no longer safe for them to remain where they were. As for Ron, he and his family had realised that it would be highly dangerous for him to return to Hogwarts alone when everyone knew how closely he was associated with Harry. There had been several tense discussions over the summer about what was to be done, because the Weasleys realised that, although Ron would not be safe at Hogwarts, the whole family would be put under suspicion if he didn’t show up. Finally, a solution of sorts had been reached. Charlie had offered to take his brother’s place at school, disguised by Polyjuice Potion. No one had been happy about this arrangement, least of all Ron, who hated the idea of his brother putting himself in danger for his sake. Still, they all had to agree that, as an older and more experienced Order member, Charlie would be much better equipped to deal with events at Hogwarts, and it would be useful to have an eye-witness to report what the students were going through. It also meant that Ron was free to help his friends with the Horcruxes, which even he admitted was his priority. And so Charlie had left the night before, full of reassurances to his family that he would be as careful as he could and that he wouldn’t fail them. Harry had a strong suspicion that underneath his casual bravado, Charlie was just as nervous about the charade as the rest of them. It was a gamble they were all hoping would pay off.
“It looks set to be a pretty big meeting,” Hermione called to Harry over her shoulder as they descended the rickety staircase. “Loads of people are here.”
“Hm,” Harry replied, trying to drag his reluctant mind back to present events. “Well, hopefully something will come of it. We just… we really need to do something about the you know whats soon.” Every time Harry thought of the Horcruxes, he got a quivery, hollow feeling in his stomach. They had made no progress since the discovery of the fake necklace, and time was slipping by. It was September already, and things were getting worse and worse for the wizarding world.
“I know,” Hermione replied nervously. “If we could just find out who took the real necklace, we might—”
“There you are!” Ron appeared in the hallway below. “The meeting’s going to start any minute. What took you so long?”
Harry noticed that his best friend’s face was pale and drawn, and there were dark circles under his eyes. He knew how guilty Ron was feeling about Charlie, but there wasn’t much he could say to comfort him. Ron needed to be there with him and Hermione – they all knew that.
“Harry had fallen asleep,” Hermione said. “Don’t worry; Lupin’s not here yet, and you know they’re not going to start without him. You look tired.”
Ron gave her a small smile. “I’ll be okay.”
“Charlie’s a brilliant wizard,” Harry said stoutly. “He’s going to be fine. And he can take care of the others, and make sure nothing too bad happens to them.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ron replied softly. “Thanks, mate.”
“Of course he’ll be okay,” Hermione adjoined, adhering to the unspoken rule that blind optimism was the only way any of them were going to get through these dark days. “Everything’s going to be fine.” She stood up on tiptoe to give the redhead a kiss.
Harry turned away and went into the front room, wanting to give his friends some privacy. He also had a strong desire not to be around any kind of romance at the moment. It only served to remind him that he was no longer in a relationship himself, and that he might never be again. He sighed and wandered over to the window. He could tell that it was a chilly day. The sky was a dull, milky colour, as if someone had upended a giant china bowl over the world. He could see people in the distance walking on the heath, wrapping their jackets around them. Yet more couples, Harry thought bitterly.
Ron and Hermione had finally got together in July, at Bill and Fleur’s wedding. It had certainly been a long time coming. Harry’s friends had been dancing round each other for ages, and he supposed that they had figured that things were only going to get worse from then on and they couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Harry was happy for them. Well, about seventy-five-percent happy, anyway. It was great that they were together at last… but he didn’t have Ginny any more. He remembered watching her at the wedding, thinking how pretty she looked. He had spoken a few awkward words to her. It had been too painful for him to spend more than a few minutes in her presence. He knew that he had done the right thing in breaking things off with Ginny, but that didn’t make it any easier. He consoled himself with the fact that they would pick up where they left off after the war. She had, after all, promised to wait for him. Still… what if he didn’t make it? What if he never got to see her again? Being with Ginny had been so… simple, and now he had had to give it all up. Still, at least she would be safer. And she was waiting for him – yes, she was waiting for him. He made a fresh resolution not to be jealous of Ron and Hermione; it wasn’t their fault that he was lonely.
A hand being placed on his arm made Harry jump.
“Sorry!” said Hermione. “I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you all right?”
“Of course!” Harry replied a little too brightly. “I just want this meeting to start already. When is Lupin supposed to be getting here?”
“As soon as he can, I guess,” Ron said. “He’s been spending time with the other werewolves again, so it can’t be the easiest thing to just up and leave.”
“I suppose not,” Harry said slowly. He thought it was strange that, just when he had resolved to make a go of things with Tonks, his former Defence teacher had once more decided to throw himself into such dangerous work for the Order. He couldn’t imagine that Tonks was very happy about it.
“We’re waiting for someone else as well,” Ron said darkly. “I saw Mum earlier, and she told me that Snape sent an urgent message via Slughorn a couple of hours ago – apparently he’s coming tonight.”
“What?!” exclaimed Hermione.
“What?!” Harry echoed angrily. “Him? What the hell makes him think that he’d be welcome here?”
“Harry,” Hermione said soothingly. “I get why you’re upset, but do try to remember that Snape’s been cleared. Dumbledore himself—”
“That’s not the point!” Harry retorted. “He still did it, didn’t he? He could have explained himself, but he just ran like a coward. I bet you anything he wanted to do it. I bet he—”
“Harry, you can’t prove any of that!” Hermione interrupted. “All the evidence we have shows that he was just following orders, and that he’s still loyal to our side. I know what he had to do was horrible, and I know he isn’t the most pleasant of people, but we’re all just going to have to deal with it. After all, he’s the one supplying Charlie with the Polyjuice Potion. And now that he’s headmaster, he can keep an eye on the government’s involvement at the school.”
Harry sighed angrily and turned back towards the window. It was starting to get dark. He knew that what his friend said was right, but it didn’t make it any easier to stop hating Snape.
On the evening of Dumbledore’s funeral, Kingsley had caught up with Harry and his friends, saying that they were needed for an emergency summit. It turned out that a couple of months previously, Dumbledore had given Kingsley a letter, charmed so that it couldn’t be opened by anyone but him. Dumbledore had told him that it should be read in the event of his death. In the letter, Dumbledore had apologised to the Order for failing them. He told them that he had known that he couldn’t live for much longer – the cursed ring he had touched the previous year had poisoned him. He had also known about the terrible mission Draco Malfoy had been given by Voldemort, in order to punish his family. He had wanted to protect Draco, who was naïve and thoughtless, from having to commit a murder which he wasn’t really capable of. He had, therefore, charged Snape with the boy’s protection. Snape was to take the burden from him. Snape was to kill Dumbledore. The letter ended there.
To say that the members of the Order of the Phoenix were dumbstruck would be an understatement. Nobody could quite believe it, and yet there it was, in Dumbledore’s own handwriting. The veracity of the letter was tested, and no fault could be found with it. Finally, Snape himself had been tracked down and interrogated under Veritaserum. His story colluded with Dumbledore’s exactly, and so everyone finally came to admit that it must be true. Snape had killed Albus Dumbledore that night because the headmaster had asked him to.
That didn’t mean that Harry had to forgive him, though. He knew that he should be reasonable about it, but a childish part of him couldn’t see beyond the fact that Snape had been the one to take his hero and mentor from him. He hated him.
The sound of the front door banging shut broke Harry out of his reverie. “Anybody home?” came a weary voice from the hallway. A moment later, Remus Lupin appeared in the doorway, looking more tired and thin than ever. He gave a wan smile when he saw Harry and his friends. “Hello, you three,” he said. “Sorry I’m a bit late.”
“Trouble getting away?” Harry asked.
Lupin grimaced. “Not exactly, but I couldn’t come directly here. They’re not as suspicious of me as they were, but I’m not taking any chances. Um… is Tonks here?”
“No,” Hermione replied, “she’s on Auror duty tonight.”
“Ah, that’s a shame. I needed to talk to her.” Lupin frowned slightly. “Shall we go through?”
“Apparently Snape’s coming tonight,” Hermione told Remus as they made their way to the kitchen.
“Snape’s coming here?” Lupin said, turning to her in astonishment. “To Grimmauld Place? Well, this should be interesting. He’s right in Voldemort’s inner circle after… after what happened; he wouldn’t risk coming here unless he had a very good excuse.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Hermione replied. “He usually just keeps in touch through Professor McGonagall or Professor Slughorn, so—”
Just then, the kitchen door was opened. “There you are, Remus!” called Bill Weasley. “Glad you could make it. Come on in; Mum’s put together some food for us all. I expect you’re all hungry, aren’t you?”
Harry couldn’t help but be cheered by the delicious smell coming from the kitchen. He was hungry, he realised. No matter how bad things got, they all still needed to eat. This was something Mrs Weasley had never failed to recognise, and Harry was very grateful to her for it.
The meeting was woefully dull, despite the number of Order members in attendance. The only thing anyone had to report was their growing suspicion that the Death Eaters were infiltrating the government. And no one needed a meeting to have figured that out. Harry almost found himself wishing that Snape would turn up – at least then they might learn something new.
Harry was fed up with waiting. He wanted to be out there doing something positive, not sitting around and thinking. And it made no difference how many times Hermione told him that they couldn’t do anything about the other Horcruxes until they had a lead, and that they were far better off here with the rest of the Order than out there on their own. Patience had never exactly been Harry’s forte. All he could think was that there were still four Horcruxes out there – five if he counted Voldemort himself – and they were no closer to finding any of them.
He wished that they could tell one of the adults about what they were going through, but he knew they couldn’t risk it. It would mean exposing whomever they confided in to terrible danger, and they couldn’t risk Voldemort finding out that they knew his secret. Harry desperately missed Dumbledore. He missed his headmaster’s calm wisdom, and that feeling that he would always know what to do. Harry felt very young and very helpless without him. He was only seventeen. Okay, so he had managed to get through everything so far, and he had a natural talent for defensive magic, but who was to say that he could actually win this? He wasn’t especially clever or talented, and even with the help of his friends he felt that he was no real match for Voldemort.
Still, he had to try. He had to try for his parents, for Dumbledore, for all the Muggle-borns, for his friends, for… for Cedric.
Hermione gave him a sharp kick under the table. Harry looked up to see her looking at him meaningfully. Obviously she had noticed that his mind had wandered from matters at hand. He sat up straight and made a concentrated effort to listen to what Lupin was saying about divisions in the werewolf ranks.
“…and some of them just don’t want to align themselves with Greyback anymore. He’s asking them to maim Muggle-borns, and a lot of them are saying that the Muggle-borns aren’t the ones that have been oppressing them for all these years, it’s the Ministry officials and the hard-line purebloods. They can’t see the logic of it, and they realise they’re being manipulated. And they’re not happy about the way Fenrir likes to go after children. See, however angry and victimised they feel, what you have to bear in mind is that, for most of the time, they are human. Greyback has tried to persuade them that the animal in them is supreme, but they’re starting to see through him. The trouble is that they’re scared to speak out. They know that Greyback wouldn’t stop at killing a werewolf he thought to be subordinate, and they’re in his power. I’m doing what I can, but I have to be very careful. They might think I was a spy for Greyback, or worse, they might be loyal to him, and report me. Still, I think I might be getting somewhere. I think we might be able to gain the support of some of them, if I can weed out those who no longer wish to support the Dark Side, and show them that the Order will offer them protection.”
“That’s wonderful, Remus,” Bill said. “At least something’s happening.”
“How are you getting on with the goblins?” Ron asked him.
Bill made a face. “I wish I knew. I don’t know what they’re thinking half the time, and they’re hardly the most loyal creatures – not to anyone outside their own species, anyway. They’ll go where they’re best off. Most of them just want to keep out of it. Still, I’m doing whatever I can.”
“Of course you are,” Mrs Weasley said. “And with a young wife to support as well!”
Bill laughed loudly at this. “Mum, Fleur hardly needs supporting! Right now she’s—”
But what Fleur was doing, they never found out. At that moment, the kitchen door was thrown open, and Severus Snape swept into the room, gazing down at its occupants imperiously, as if daring any of them to challenge him. Even Harry had to admit that the man knew how to make an entrance.
“Good evening, Severus,” Lupin said calmly. “It’s good that you could join us this evening.”
“Don’t worry, Lupin, I won’t be making a habit of it,” Snape replied coldly.
“I hear you’ve been appointed as the new headmaster at Hogwarts. Congratulations.”
Snape smiled unpleasantly. “Yes, well, I was the natural choice. I must say that it will be good to finally make some changes at that school.”
Harry gritted his teeth and clenched his fists under the table. How dare he…
“Severus,” Mrs Weasley said hesitatingly, “I… I was wondering if you’d had the chance to see my Charlie since he arrived at Hogwarts. Is he—”
“As far as I am aware,” Snape replied abruptly, “your son has aroused no suspicion. I will, of course, be supplying him with his potion at regular intervals, but besides that, he can, I am sure, look after himself without supervision. He is not a complete moron, as far as I am aware. Of course, in a couple of months I will need the real Ronald Weasley to undergo another… haircut.” He gave Ron a penetrating stare.
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his chair, rubbing his hand through his new, shorter, hairstyle. Only Snape could make the prospect of a trim sound so terrifying.
“So Charlie’s all right, then,” Mrs Weasley said, her voice full of relief. “Arthur will be pleased. Thank you for looking out for our boy, Severus. Won’t you… won’t you have a strawberry tart? They’re freshly baked!” She held out the plate for Snape, who looked at her as if she had offered him a pair of frilly underpants to try on.
“So why are you here?” Harry said rudely. He didn’t see why he should offer any courtesy to Snape, and he wanted the other man out of the house as quickly as possible.
Snape’s turned towards him, and Harry met his gaze evenly. They were both adults now, and he wanted Snape to know that he wasn’t to be intimidated.
Snape’s thin lips curled into a sneer. “I am here, Mr Potter, on a matter of urgent business. The former headmaster gave me a duty to fulfil, and I hope this visit will be the completion of it. I have come to deliver someone to the care of the Order of the Phoenix.”
“Who?” Lupin asked.
Snape turned towards the doorway. “Well, what are you waiting for?” he called. “Don’t just loiter in the hallway! Come in!”
A boy stepped into the room. He was dirty and skinny and bruised, and was unable to meet anyone’s eye. He cowered in the doorway, looking very much as if he wanted to run away.
It was Draco Malfoy.