A Caged Animal
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Harry paced McGonagall's office for seven minutes before Professor Loire shot a tripping jinx at him. 

"Sit down Potter. I can't stand you acting like a caged animal," Loire said calmly, eyeing Harry's stumble. 

He growled in her direction and threw himself on a plush red rug that was spread out in front of the fireplace. He looked up, his eyes on a mural painted on the ceiling above him. It was a painting of cats bounding around after pigmy puffs, but Harry's thoughts were only on Draco. As time passed, he ran through several plans of escape. Dismissing them as needed and filing others away for further review, just in case they needed to run. 

"Headmistress," Harry said from the floor, "What happened at the trial for Lucius?" 

"He was sentenced to one year house arrest, two years probation, and magic suspension until completion of sentence," she answered quickly. "He is only allowed to leave the manor to go to the ministry so that he may meet with his assigned auror."

“Narcissa Malfoy is still on house arrest, isn’t she?” Loire asked. 

“No,” McGonagall replied, “she was sentenced to six months, however, she only had to serve three of them. I was told that her assigned Auror found her to be a model citizen,” she finished, and Harry swore he could hear her eyes roll at the statement. 

He was still lying on the rug, quietly chewing over this information, when the flames roared to life. Harry scrambled away from the fire, jumping to his feet. Draco walked through first, followed quickly by his mother, Narcissa Malfoy. 

Narcissa straightened up, brushing ash off of her pale blue robes. She looked better than Harry had ever seen her, her hair was plated down her back and she wore an emerald teardrop around her neck. 

He watched as her keen blue eyes moved around the room and then fell on Harry. He met her eye calmly, memories of the final battle drifting through the panic in his mind. The tension in his shoulders eased slightly, he knew this woman would do anything to protect her son. 

"Hello, Mrs. Malfoy," Harry said. 

Her head gave a slight nod. "Mr. Potter," she replied. 

"Please," he said, "call me Harry."

Her chin lifted and, for a moment, Harry thought she was going to decline. He was surprised to realize that it mattered to him, he couldn't see the purpose of her formality after she had saved his life. 

She seemed to make up her mind and gave a quick nod. "Very well," she replied cautiously, "Harry."

"Thank you." 

He chanced a glance at Draco who was already looking at him and Harry had to fight down the desire to move forward. All he wanted to do at this moment was collect on the promise he could see in those silver eyes, feel the comfort of his embrace. 

When he looked back at Narcissa she had an eyebrow delicately raised as though she was posing a question. Harry felt his cheeks heat up and tried to compose his face into something with less emotion. Draco had told him many times that he wore his thoughts on his face. Narcissa turned to her son, showing Harry her profile. A silent conversation seemed to pass between them before she said aloud, "I assume this is why you told me to end the contract negotiations for Miss Greengrass?" 

The barest smile touched Draco's lips before he nodded. 

Naricassa glanced back at Harry and he had the distinct feeling that he was being weighed and measured. She looked back to Draco and said, "I see. We shall need to revisit this at the appropriate time."

"Of course, Mother," Draco said the words with the same drawl he affected while talking to a professor, but without a trace of contempt. 

Harry considered the idea that he might be a part of this talk she was wanting to have, and he felt his cheeks heat up again. His mind trailed him easily from thoughts of their future conversation to the one he was going to have to endure with Molly Weasley. He grimaced, and then, remembering about his face, tried to look as though he wasn't thinking at all. 

He glanced back up to find two blond Slytherins staring at him as though he were a fascinating creature they wanted to study. 

Fuck it. If my face can talk for me, I should use it to my advantage. He looked at the Headmistress with pleading eyes. 

McGonagall, the saint, took pity on him. She cleared her throat, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. "Narcissa, thank you for coming," she said, "Would you like some tea?" 

Narcissa looked past Draco at Minerva and offered a polite smile, "Thank you for welcoming me Minerva. Yes please," she replied, taking one of the seats in front of McGonagall's desk and accepting a cuppa from Professor Loire. 

The three of them began to strategize a plan. 

Twenty minutes later Harry was on a floocall with Kingsley Shacklebolt, setting up a meeting with him at 7pm. Narcissa and McGonagall had decided to use Harry's status to get a meeting with the Minister of Magic handled tonight, instead of waiting for him to contact Hogwarts. McGonagall was certain that they could beat Umbridge if they got to Shacklebolt with the facts first. Narcissa encouraged the idea, saying that Lucius would be able to provide an abundance of ammunition against Umbridge, if he was given the chance to speak to Shacklebolt. Harry had readily agreed to make the call, fairly confident that the Minister would see him. 

Once it was scheduled, McGonagall, Harry and Draco, all agreed to meet Draco's parents outside of Kingsley's office at 650pm.

"We will leave in half an hour," said the Headmistress, "until then, why don't the two of you show Mrs. Malfoy the new 8th year common room." seeing the dismissal for what it was, the three of them left McGonagall's office and headed to the common room. 

Harry walked with his hands stuffed in his pockets so that he wouldn't be tempted to touch Draco with his mother here. 

"Mr. Potter," Narcissa began. 

He glanced sideways at her as they walked, his face must have shown something because she offered a small smile. 

"Pardon," she said, "Harry. I know that you have mixed feelings about my husband," she let the sentence hang. 

Harry's eyebrows drew together at the thought of Lucius and he tried not to scowl. "I- Er," he felt his lips flatten against each other. He tried to form a delicate, Slytherin style response and replied, "I wouldn't say that. I find my feelings to be fairly clear cut regarding Mr. Malfoy." 

Narcissa stopped walking as did Draco, who had been keeping perfectly in step with her. She turned to fully face Harry, and he stopped as well. Fighting to not cross his arms defensively, he leaned his back against the stone wall and kept his hands in his pockets. 

Narcissa regarded him for possibly several hours, though it was most likely a mere ten seconds, before she spoke. "And which Mr. Malfoy are you referring to when you say the feelings are clear cut, Harry? " 

He focused, keeping careful eye contact with her instead of looking at Draco. Chewing his cheek he debated the answer, unsure if his boyfriend was ready for the level of honesty he was about to offer. 

"Actually, it's clear cut on both of them. If you're asking how I feel towards your son I can say without any doubt-" 

Draco cleared his throat, almost casually, and Harry's eyes snapped to him. 

"No," Narcissa said, never looking away from Harry. "We are not done here. I addressed you. Please, finish the sentence." 

Harry swallowed through his dry throat, summoned his famed courage, and finished the sentence, "I want to build my future with him." 

Narcissa turned to her son, "Do you feel the same way, Draco." 

"Yes," he said, as though it were the easiest decision he'd ever made. 

She watched him for a moment before turning to Harry, "And you are willing to protect him against Umbridge?" 

"Of course!" Harry replied. 

"And the public?" 


"The death eaters we betrayed?" 

Harry stepped toward her, placing a gentle hand on her arm, "Against anything," he said in a voice both quiet and fierce. 

Narcissa's blue eyes bore into him and he was sure she was indeed reading his mind. Thoughts of Draco came to the front, flashing through from age eleven until the present. Finally, her cheeks tinged pink, Narcissa blinked and the invasion stopped. "Is it true that Hermione has special control over Rita Skeeter?" she asked. 

Harry fumbled at the abrupt change of subject, "I- yes. You could say that," he said, feeling his lips curl up at the memory of a beetle in a jar. "I think she always will, actually."

"Please take me to her. I think we should get ahead of this." She turned to Draco, "The meeting tonight should not be in the paper. We need to distract the public, lest your Father becomes front-page news."

Draco sighed heavily, "Well, Potter, at least I will be there to help you navigate the interview."

A gentle chuckle escaped from Narcissa, "Draco," she admonished with a smile, "you must not call him 'Potter' during the interview," she said, and Draco blushed fervently. 

"What? What interview?" Harry asked dumbly. 

"We will have Skeeter run a piece on your relationship with Draco," Narcissa answered. "It's just the kind of story that will grab public interest and draw away any talk of the ministry until this business with Umbridge is fully handled."

Harry tried to remember a time when he felt more uncomfortable with an idea. He couldn't think of any. True he'd felt more fear in the past, but this was just not something he even wanted to entertain. The post alone was going to be a nightmare. He tried to think of an objection that would hold against Narcissa Malfoy. He couldn't think of any of those either.

He grimaced.

"Are you sure we can't just leave the country?" Harry asked, full of sincerity. 

Narcissa's eyes narrowed, "You said-" 

"No, I know," Harry cut her off calmly, resigned, yet again, to his fate. "I'll do it."

"Don't worry Harry," Draco said, having regained his composure, "you just need to sit there and look pretty. I will handle Skeeter."

"All right," Harry started walking towards the tower, "let's talk to Hermione."