Firstly a special thanks to Jake for giving this chapter a really good beta reading – where were you three months ago!?  :D thank you! J

I have had the same `disclaimer' thing for ages but just to say that obviously I make no claim to the characters below, but am really happy to have had the chance to play with them.  Thank you to all of you that have emailed and provided feedback it really has been great to hear from you!!  Thank you!!

You are entering the final straight with this book five more chapters after this one to post! 

I am very open to constructive feedback and comment on the story so please, if you have time and would like to please, either comment or drop me an email on phill2818 at hotmail .co . uk

Harry Potter and the Unforeseen Hero


Chapter Twenty: Poisons and Curses


The words echoed around Harry's subconscious `Master I do not know!!  It is a dark dark curse not one that Kreacher has seen before.  Yes, he is alive but Kreacher does not know for how much longer' and for the third night in a row he pulled back the duvet and pulled on a jumper before padding out into the lounge.

"Harry!" Hermione admonished as she glanced up from her place in one of the soft armchairs.

"I couldn't sleep" he said and glanced over at Draco's sleeping form and then over at his best friends comatose state.  He wished Hermione wasn't there so he could hold Draco in his arms.  The blonds' absence, as well as Ron's precarious health, kept him from getting little more than snatches of sleep.

The past few days had been hell; there was simply no other adjective that could describe them.  Kreacher and Hermione had managed to stabilise his friend; if you could call it that.  He was alive which, given the alternative...but Harry couldn't consider that.  Kreacher had slowed the curses onslaught through Ron's vital organs and Hermione had applied a stasis spell to further reduce the curse's progress through Ron's body.  Hermione had barely slept, unless forced by Harry, as she feverishly scoured every text she could lay her hands on for information relating to Ron's condition.  Despite both her and Harry's best effort's they had had no success.  They had also discussed the possibility of taking Ron to St Mungos but given the information provided by Lupin they could not decide if it would be a sensible move or not. 

As for Draco, well that had been almost as disastrous.  He had come round not long after Kreacher had healed the knife's puncture wound and had even set about helping Hermione move the stasis charmed Ron into the living room before he collapsed onto the floor into a heap.  Harry had rushed to his side and pulled his head into his lap.  Kreacher had scampered to the stricken boy and muttered some words in elfish before clapping his hands to his mouth.  It had transpired, when Harry could get the elf calm enough to speak, that in healing the wound, some poison had been trapped inside Draco's shoulder.  Harry had acted on instinct and without thought by drawing his wand and slicing into Draco's shoulder.  A violent eruption of blood and yellow mucus had sprayed forth instantly.  The mixture had flowed all over Harry's lap and the floor coating them in equal proportion. 

Harry who had been paralysed sat with his gorgeous lover bleeding all over him and it was Hermione, as always, that had acted.  She had thrust a phial of blood replenishing potion into Harry's hand before stating that `the poison needs to work its way out of his system.  All you can do is keep him dosed up with the blood-replenishing potion to stop him from dying.  If you seal the poison in, it will kill him'.  That had been that.  Harry had sat with Draco's head in his lap watching the crimson blood and yellow mucus ooze from the shoulder wound over him and onto the floor.  Every so often he would gently open Draco's mouth and pour another phial down his throat.  The ritual had continued for several hours until Harry was sure that the mixture of crimson and yellow was changing to a heavier mix of red. 

An hour after that Hermione had appeared, vanishing the multi coloured mess from the floor around him, and said `another hour and you will be able to seal the wound.  He won't be in the land of the living for several days I can promise you.  The poison maybe gone but his body will need plenty of time to recover.  When the yellow is completely gone, call me and I will heal the wound and we can put him in the living room with Ron'.

In short the past few days had been hell.  Harry and Hermione had shared the duty of keeping watch over the two invalids but in truth neither had really left the living room and if they had it hadn't been for long.  Harry had welcomed the short snatches of solitude as he had held Draco's hand and pressed kisses to his forehead.  Several times he had thought the blond was waking but they had only been false alarms.  When Hermione was in the room he worked as feverishly as she to try and find some snippet of information that would help Ron.

"You should really try and get some sleep Harry" Hermione said again as he sat on one of the sofas and pulled a book towards him that he had been looking through previously. 

"I'm fine Hermione, really, you go" it was a vain effort, he knew it, she rarely left the room but he was keen for a few minutes with Draco. 

"I wouldn't sleep"

"There you go then, me either"

The two worked in silence, every now and again the crisp sound of paper being moved from one side of the book to another.  Several hours later Harry looked up from the book's pages to look over at Hermione wanting to share a piece of information he had just read.  He had been reading about a really interesting piece of experimental magic based on the properties of moondust and oak sap for curing dark curses.  Her head was lolling to the right and her eyes half closed.  He got up and removed the book from her hands before rubbing her arm gently.

"You are absolutely knackered.  You are no use like this.  Go and get some sleep" He was not expecting her to agree without a fight but to his surprise she got gently to her feet and patted his shoulder.

"I will be an hour or two maximum.  If I am not back by then come and wake me please."

"Sure, ok."

Harry waited for the gentle click of the bedroom door before pushing himself up onto his feet and moving around to Draco's temporary bed.  He ran his thumb down the ivory cheek and pressed a tender kiss to the forehead before sitting down and getting comfortable.  He pulled the slender hand into his own before pulling it too to his lips.  He ran his thumb over the front of the white hand and it was at that moment he realised just how tired he was.  A few minutes of shuteye wouldn't hurt. 

The first thing that Harry really remembered registering was a soft rustling noise.  It had a familiar sound almost like Dudley when he was scoffing an entire packet of sweets without offering Harry a single one.  This was not quite the same however, more like the turning of paper rather than the scratch of sweet wrappers.  Harry's eyes sprung open and sure enough the familiar mane of curly brown hair could be found thumbing slightly disinterestedly through a thick aging volume.  Harry tried shutting his eyes again hoping for time.  How was he going to explain his head resting on the blond's chest and the slender hand that remained encased in his own? 

"You needn't pretend to be asleep you know.   I saw you open your eyes."

"I didn't hear you come in" he offered, playing the stupidity card

"Clearly" she said in a tone that conjured images of the hook nosed greasy haired teach he despised the most. 

"He was having a fit, I had to hold him down" he lied wildly.

"Oh come on Harry.  Please don't insult my intelligence its offensive."

"What?  It's..." but he was cut off.

"Of course it's not true!" she snapped before continuing "It patently clear that it is exactly as it looks.  Your relationship with Malfoy has been different for weeks, months really.  I must admit I did wonder but I didn't believe it.  However, for the past three days I have almost physically had to drag you to your bed only for you to return thirty minutes later.  Now I come back to find you sleeping for the first time in almost three days, which incidentally is nothing to be ashamed of, with your head on his chest and his hand in yours.  Now please don't think you can come up with some stupid little excuse that is going to even come close to believable"

He didn't know what to say and frankly his mind was betraying him it felt sluggish and lethargic trying to plumb the depths of his brain for some plausible excuse.  Meanwhile however, his body had taken over as he felt the heat rise up through his body and into his cheeks.  But before he could say anything Hermione was talking again.

"So what is it then?  A pha..." she eyed him imperiously over the top of her book.

"Don't finish that sentence Hermione.  Of course it isn't a phase.  Do you think I would just wake up one morning and think `oh I know what I will start finding myself attracted to Draco Malfoy?' Of course not!  What a stupid thing to say."

"Well I don't know do I Harry.  You have never spoken to me about it.  This is all new news to me" the quiet, steely voice reminded him of revision timetables.

"There is nothing to say Hermione.  I have spent a lot of time with Draco over the past months.  At first it was a chore, a frustration, an irritation and to be fair it pissed me right off that we all recognised that we needed him yet I was the one lumped with him.  But because of that I got to know him.  He isn't the snarky shit from school that he likes to pretend to be.  He is clever, he is caring, he is interesting, he doesn't show it very often but he knows how to laugh and how to have fun.  Yes, on occasion he can be an arrogant arse but for the most part he makes me smile and he makes me happy.  We actually got to know each other Hermione.  I think even Ron would admit, as much as it would pain him, that he isn't the same as the Malfoy we knew at school.  So no Hermione, it's not a phase, it's just something that happened.  End of story."

"But, Harry, I didn't even know you were gay!"

"Not gay Hermione, just someone who happens to like another guy."

"Semantics" she muttered, and before Harry could interject she continued "how long?"

"I don't know exactly.  As I just said it's happened over a long period of time.  I guess I have known that there was `something' for a while but even now but I guess we didn't classify it until recently."

"Do you do absolutely anything ordinary?"

"Well in case you hadn't noticed it's a little hard to go out on a date around here you know?"

"You know full well what I meant Harry.  I mean you are the boy that lived and the boy that stopped Voldemort in your first, second and forth years at school.  Not to mention fighting him in your fifth and sixth years.  Not only that but now you're going to be the boy who likes boys!"

"Perhaps you have an untapped vocation."

"What?" she said looking perplexed.

"Well I dare say you have just created the Daily Prophets front page headline, assuming I live long enough to see it."

"Don't say that Harry."

"Why?  It's sort of true."

"I agree with Granger" came the faint voice from Harry's right and he flicked his head around with a start.

"Draco!"  Harry exclaimed, "How are you feeling?"

"Like shit.  What happened?"

"You have been out of it for the past three days or so.  Your Aunt stabbed you with a poisoned knife."

"Always the caring one of the family old Aunt Bella" Draco said with a grimace as he pushed himself up onto his elbows.

"Hey!  Rest!  You have been through a lot" Harry said gently pushing him back down into the bed before reaching for a glass of water and lifting it to Draco's lips.  He sucked the water down with gusto before ending up in a coughing fit as it went down the wrong way.

"Don't drink so quickly" Hermione advised, before turning her eyes away from the pair and back to her book.

"You ok?" Harry muttered so that only Draco could hear him.

"Been better but what else has been going on?"

"Don't worry about that, there is plenty of time."

"Potter" there was hint of danger behind the tone "I am not an invalid.  Tell me what's going on."

It took several minutes but Harry filled in the high level details of the past few days whilst leaving out the more unpleasant details.  

"Shit!  So how is Ron?"  Draco asked immediately after Harry had stopped speaking.

"Kreacher says that the curse is not spreading further than it already had but we haven't found anything yet that seems to improve him.  We have tried a few things."

"Well I have to help" Draco said, moving to push himself up again onto his elbows.

"Yes, you will but not for a few more days Dray" Hermione raised an eyebrow and Harry ignored her. "If you get ill again you will just make it all more complicated.  We need you better" he lowered his voice "I need you better."

"Fine" he was pouting, Harry could tell "where are we anyway?" he looked left and right to take in his surroundings.

"The living room, it's been easier to keep an eye on the two of you here" but as Harry looked back down at the blond he realised that he was talking to himself as he had fallen back to sleep.

"He will be very fatigued for at least the next few days" Hermione said, closing the book she had been reviewing and resting it on the table. 

Harry stood and moved towards Hermione in order to avoid disturbing the now sleeping Draco "So are you going to stay with him? She asked as he approached.

"Stay with him?  Of course I am going to stay with him.  Do you think I just woke up one day and thought `you know what...my life isn't complicated enough how about I fall for another guy oh and a Malfoy'.  As hard as you will find this to believe I care about him.  Perhaps more than he realises."

"Look Harry let me just say this.  I love you as a friend and for me this changes nothing.  I have actually spent some time with Malfoy and I agree he isn't as repugnant as he was at school.  I will always support you but have you thought about what Ron is going to say?  Or Ginny?"

"I would like to say `I don't care', but I do.  I have never wanted to hurt Ginny but I cant help how I feel and Ron – please don't mention this to Ron when he wakes up.  He is going to freak and right now we don't have time for that.  We still have to destroy the Horcrux from the Manor, and not to mention finding the other and killing the snake!" 

"Ok but I am not keeping your secrets for you Harry Potter.  You have to tell him but I agree when he wakes up we have other priorities to deal with but don't expect me to cover for you indefinitely" she raised her eyebrow in warning.

"Anything interesting?" he nodded in the direction of the book she had just placed on the nearby table in a less than subtle attempt at changing the subject.

"Not really; just that dark curses are often...fffff..." but she faltered and Harry saw her eyes well up and he moved quickly forwards to comfort her.

"Shhhh" he coxed as he pulled her head into the crook of his arm "It will be ok.  I promise.  We will find out how to solve this and he will be back on his feet in no time.  I promise."

`No time' turned into `some time' and finally `too much time' before Hermione finally snapped.  It was half way through January and almost three weeks since Ron had entered his magically induced stasis.  After a week had passed Harry and Hermione had begun exploring the possibility of enlisting outside support by `kidnapping' one of the Order.  This was quickly dismissed however, when it became clear that it would require a significant investment to actually find a member of the inner circle that they both considered trust worthy.  Whilst they could not say with any certainness Hermione was convinced that the Order members had `gone to ground'.  Harry would not easily forget the eerie feeling of apparating to The Burrow, finding it deserted and clearly ransacked.  They had agreed that following that discovery it would be too dangerous to check the Order headquarters at Grimmauld Place.  This was particularly so as Harry or Hermione could only travel alone, leaving the other to watch the recovering Draco and ensure no decline in Ron.

Draco recovered slowly over the three-week period though he was insistent that he join the research campaign a day after he had initially woken.  His contribution had been patchy at best in the first week, as he would often fall asleep himself.  After the second week Hermione had permitted him to relocate to the bedroom he shared with Harry.  Harry was grateful for this as he had not slept properly in Draco's absence.  The combination of Draco's physical presence and his frequent use of the pain-reducing spell were sorely missed especially as Harry's forays into Voldemort's mind seemed to be on the increase. 

Draco's improvement was noticeable by the end of the second week and whilst Harry and Hermione agreed that he could work more closely with them on the research front he was not given `permission' to begin re-brewing the potion that they had used to destroy the last Horcrux.  A breakthrough was however, not on the horizon even with the additional research capability of Draco who was now up to full speed half way through the third week.  It was at the end of that third week that Harry entered the living room and found a sight that knocked him sideways.  

"Hermione!!!  Shit Hermione what the hell??!!"

"Oh hello Harry" came the dreamy voice.

"What the fuck is going on?"

"What do you mean?  Don't shout at me" the loose smile on her face began to fall.

"Hermione, you are in the middle of the lounge and you look absolutely out of it, what the hell?" she made an involuntary movement that drew his eye to the table that sat next to the chair she often frequented.

"Oh brilliant Hermione.  Just fucking brilliant.  Firewhisky" that was enough.  She collapsed onto the floor and began sobbing unashamedly.

"I...I...I...I just cannttt handle thissss anyyyymoree Harryyy.  Its been threeee weeekks and weee are still no closerrr to finding out what's wrong with him.  I just can't deal with this."

"So drinking yourself into this state will help fix the problem?  I promised you that we would find out what is going on and fix this, didn't I?"

"Yesss" she sniffled into his jumper.

"And we will.  You know better than me just how vast the magical spectrum is.  It may take time to find out what's wrong with him but we will and at the moment he is safe and not getting worse" thankfully the girls wracking breaths were slowing to a controlled pace.

"I know Harry but it's just so hard, so so hard, I miss him."

"I miss him too Hermione and it will get fixed, honestly."

"Ok" she whispered, as he leaned forward and gave her a hard squeeze.

"Go to bed Hermione.  You are no use like this.  Draco and I will keep an eye on him but please believe me I think something will show up any day now.  Who knows maybe even tomorrow!  Now go get some sleep."

It was around 2 AM that Draco arrived in the living room to take over the watch of Ron.  Harry hugged him firmly and pressed his lips to his neck which elicited a shudder.

"Harry, please don't do that, you are going to make the night impossible for me else."

"Sorry" Harry said, and blushed before continuing "Hopefully Hermione will be up to take over the watch and you can come back to bed for an hour.  I always have a lousy nights sleep without you."

"Sleep well sexy" Draco said, and ushered Harry to the door who slipped through it and made his way back to the bedroom before getting into bed. 

A short while later, Harry reached for his wand and cast a tempus charm; 3.30 AM and he hadn't slept a wink despite being tired.  Jabbing his wand in the direction of the lamp on the bedside table a flame sprang to light and danced off the walls.  He was contemplating going to sit in the lounge with Draco but he knew that all that would achieve was a rebuke and dismissal back to the bedroom.  It was after all what he would do if their positions were reversed. 

He glanced around the room, it was a total mess and it was almost certainly for that reason that he could not sleep.  What with the situation with Ron and earlier with Draco the cleanliness of the bedroom really had not been a priority.  Kreacher, for his part could not be blamed either, having also been banned from the room at the same time as Hermione several months earlier.  It wouldn't do.  Harry pushed the bed sheets down and climbed from the bed. 

It took forty-five minutes before he approached the pile of clothing in the corner.  None of the party of four had an endless supply of clothing and Harry was certain that like him Draco and Hermione were well versed in recycling dirty clothes with the use of a cleaning jinx.  But even with magic there came a point when clothes needed to be washed and this pile in the corner represented that.  Summoning a basket he began to transfer the clothes from the heap into the basket.  It was around half way through the exercise that with a clang Harry looked down to see the golden key.  He picked it up and placed it onto the bedside table.  Harry didn't give it much thought.  That the key was warm was neither here nor there.  Several other objects found themselves on the bedside table a Knut and a several scraps of parchment the most interesting of the finds.

Harry pushed the basket of laundry out of the bedroom door before returning to the bed and pulling the duvet up and extinguishing the light.  The blackness enveloped him and his eyes became heavy.  He was finally going to get some sleep.  That golden place of sedate satisfaction, sleep, golden, sleep was golden and so was the key.  The key.  The key meant something but what did it mean?  Harry could feel his brain trip with excitement, but why?  He was on the edge of something...

"Holy shit! DRACO!"

He moved too quickly and the bed sheets did not part gracefully from his side, rather that he ended up getting his leg caught between the mattress and the bed sheet and fell to the floor.  He scrabbled around and the light flicked on.   

"Harry?  What's wrong?  Are you ok?"

"Draco!  Draco, it's the key.  It's all about the key.  Thank fuck you picked it up.  It's the key!!"  Harry pulled himself up off the floor grabbed the small golden key and rushed passed the blond and into the sitting room.

"Harry will you slow down for a second and tell me what the hell is going on?"

"Don't you see Draco?  The key is the key!  Look let me find it" he moved quickly around the room knocking piles of books down searching for something.  "Here!!  Here it is!" he wrenched the book open and flicked clumsily through the pages before stopping and jabbing his finger at the beginning of a chapter and thrusting it into Draco's astonished arms "Look!"

Draco took the book and sat carefully down in the nearby arm chair and began to read...

"So all we have to do is destroy the key?" Draco asked slightly dumb founded.

"Yes I think so!  The key was built from Ron's magical strength.  With the key destroyed the magic will pass back into Ron."

"So all we have to do is destroy the key..." Draco said as if confirming it to himself "...in the same potion we will need to make to destroy the Horcrux."

"Yes!!" Harry exclaimed, and continued "It takes around a day, right?"

"Yeah not long but we should be brewing outside again.  I really wouldn't like to risk it in here."

The enthusiastic rush drew to a halt as Harry walked to Draco "Are you feeling up to it?  I mean Ron is fine here, we can wait a while longer till you are fully recovered."

"Harry you are perfect, you know?" Draco said.  There was a slightly derisory snort as Hermione entered the room and collapsed on the sofa.

"And why exactly is Harry perfect?" Hermione asked in a slightly condescending tone.

"Because Hermione he has worked out how to bring your boyfriend back to us" Draco said with a smug look as Hermione instantly burst into tears.