Ch. 1: A Visit from the Ministry
Note: This is the sequel to "Pride of Ice". If you haven't read that, this fic prob'ly won't always make much sense due to flashbacks and shit. Like "Pride of Ice", this is a Draco/Harry SLASH story. If you don't like "gay" fanfiction, don't bother to read this. For those of you who enjoyed PoI, I hope this fic doesn't disappoint you; I have big plans for this fic. ^_^
"War?" Hermione wrinkled her nose, perplexed. "What did she mean by that?"
Harry shook his head helplessly, rolling an apple between his hands as he sat at the base of a dogwood tree. He and his friends had sneaked outside after dinner to have their discussion before curfew. Harry shivered a little, drawing his robes closer. It was chilly, but out here by the walls was the best place to have a private conversation without getting caught by Mrs. Norris. "I have no idea," he admitted after a moment. "She just said bad news was coming, and then she said war was on the air." He gave another shudder, this time for reasons other than the cold. "It creeped me out."
"She must've just been pulling your leg, Harry," Ron scoffed, face a little flushed with embarrassment as Hermione unconsciously ran her fingers through his hair from where she was seated beside him. "Everyone knows she's a weirdo. Those eyes and that weird white hair of hers aren't normal, I tell ya."
"That's mean, Ron," Hermione reprimanded with a frown, lowering her hand. "She could just be an albino; she can't help the way she looks."
They all looked up at Draco's voice. He was lounging in the branches of the dogwood, twisting strands of grass in his fingers idly. "Albinos have red eyes."
"I was beginning to think you'd fallen asleep," Harry said, cracking a small grin. He held the apple over his head. "Want this? I'm not even hungry."
Draco shook his head, still winding the grass in between his fingers. Harry shrugged and tossed the appled to Ron. "You get any beef on her, Draco?" Harry asked bluntly. "Don't try to look innocent, either," he said when Draco offered him a blank look. "I know the Slytherins like to gossip and spy. Heard anything about Iris?"
Draco gave a little grunt and finally sat up, pushing himself off the branch and landing graceful as a cat beside his lover. He sat down beside him and handed him the grass he'd been fiddling with, giving a litte unconcerned shrug. "Not much," he admitted gruffly. "A lot of the guys in Slytherin think she's hot, so that makes the majority of the girls hate her guts. If anyone's got anything on her, it's the girls, but half the crap that comes out of their mouths is probably just that-- crap. There's no way of knowing what's speculation and what's truth."
Harry smiled as he looked down at the tiny ring Draco had made with the twisted grass, probably not even realizing what he'd been making until he'd finished it. Draco was forever fiddling with things, twisting and poking things without paying attention to them until the strange 'project' was complete. It was a nervous habit that had developed halfway through the summer, and Harry was tactful enough not to say much about it. He knew it calmed his lover's nerves and gave him something to do with his hands besides get into mischief.
He slid the soft ring onto his left hand and looked up as Hermione shifted and offered her opinion. "I know one thing that I hear pretty much from any girl," she said with a thoughtful look. "Common knowledge is that she transferred here from another school, but some of the girls from other Houses are whispering that she just showed up out of nowhere and none of the professors know where she came from. No parents, no previous school record, nothing."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "That's odd," he mused. "Then why would she be accepted to this school? She could be anyone."
"Even a spy for You Know Who," Ron agreed.
Draco brushed his bangs from his face and gave a sigh of long suffering, as he usually did whenever Ron chose to speak. "There's only one way she could get into this school without presenting any kind of identification to the other professors," he said patiently. "There's one person in this school that can vouch for her and allow her to attend."
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry exclaimed.
"Of course," Hermione said, sitting up straight, eyes a little wide. "If anyone knows anything about Iris, it's Professor Dumbledore."
"But he wouldn't tell us anything," Ron said with a frown. "It must be some kind of secret she only told to him."
"So Weasleys do have intelligence after all," Draco said drolly. Ron glared daggers at him.
"That's enough, Draco," Harry said firmly, then leaned back against the tree again, chewing on his lip in thought. He knew from experience that the action would catch Draco's attention, and smiled inwardly as Draco's eyes strayed to his mouth. "She can't be anyone dangerous," he concluded, "otherwise Professor Dumbledore wouldn't let her stay here. For all we know, she's just an eccentric girl who likes to startle people by saying strange stuff. She rarely talks anyway. That's the first time she's ever spoken to me." He decided not to mention that he'd caught her staring at him on more than one occasion.
"Look," Hermione hissed suddenly, pointing upwards. "Someone's coming."
They all craned their necks upwards and spotted three figures on brooms approaching the school silently.
"Get under the tree," Draco snapped, edging closer to Harry and frowning at the three people who were starting to land near the front doors. "Get out of sight."
Hermione and Ron scuttled under the tree and they all peered around the tree as the three men landed on the path before the doors and dismounted.
"Isn't that your father, Ron?" Harry whispered.
Ron blinked in surprise. "Yeah," he murmured back. "And that's Ludo Bagman with him."
"What the hell is the Ministry of Magic doing here?" Draco growled, shifting to see better. "They never visit the school."
"They do when there's trouble," Hermione said with a frown. "I wonder what's going on."
They watched as the three men strode into the school, then Draco pushed himself away from the tree. "Whatever it is, we'll find out tomorrow," he grunted. "They'll probably make some announcement tomorrow."
Ron sighed and rose, stretching. "Yeah, probably. I guess we'd better get back; it's almost curfew. You coming, Harry?" he asked as Harry hesitated.
Draco had snagged the back of his lover's robes, and Harry offered Hermione and Ron a meek grin. "Er, I'll be there in a minute. You two go on ahead."
Ron frowned in disapproval, but Hermione giggled and took her boyfriend's hand, dragging him towards the front doors.
Harry looked over his shoulder at Draco. "What's wrong?"
Draco was frowning, still looking at the front doors. "Intuition, I guess," he muttered. "It just seems a little weird that right after that white haired wench says something to you about bad news, the Ministry of Magic shows up at Hogwarts, don't you think?"
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Yeah, it does," he said. Then he grinned. "Wanna check it out?"
Draco looked down at him and quirked a brow in question.
Harry reached into his robes and drew out his folded Invisibility Cloak. He always carried it with him now in case he and Draco needed to sneak off to have some time to themselves. "We could follow them and eavesdrop," he offered.
Draco's mouth turned upwards in the faintest suggestion of a smile. "Why not."
Harry unfolded the cloak and draped it over both of them. He paused as Draco leaned in, the cloth of the cloak whispering with the movement. Harry tilted his head back and allowed his taller lover to pillage his mouth, wriggling a hand past the Slytherin's robes and encircling his lover's slender waist.
Finally they pulled away a little breathlessly and Draco nodded towards the door with a little smirk. "Lead the way."
Still a little flustered, Harry made sure the cloak was still covering them completely and then the two boys made their way inside.
They spotted the three men ahead of them stepping onto staircase that would lead them up to Dumbledore's office and hurried to catch up, slipping in beside Ron's father and holding their breaths, pressing themselves to the wall to prevent bumping into any of them as the stairway rose.
When their ride came to a stop, the three men strode quickly into the headmaster's office. "Down," Harry mumured, and the two boys retreated a few steps. He had never been able to tell if Fawkes could sense them through the cloak, and it was better to take some precautions. They huddled against the stairs and strained their ears to listen.
"Hello, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" Dumbledore's voice was calm. "I received an owl that said you needed to meet with me to discuss an urgent matter. What seems to be the problem?"
"Professor Dumbledore," Lugo Bagman greeted with respect, puffing a little. "Sorry we had to intrude like this."
"Quite all right. Take a seat, all of you."
Harry heard them sit down, then an unfamiliar voice-- the third man who had come --spoke up. "I'm afraid we bring some rather dreadful news," he said in a tired voice. "Someone has stolen the Dark Ring from the Giants."
Harry and Draco looked at each other blankly.
"What's this?" Dumbledore's voice was a little sharp. "When did this happen?"
"Last night," Ron's father said, his voice tight with anger and fear. "We just found out this morning."
"Apparently some of the Giants got together and stole it," Lugo said tiredly. "They killed the guards and disappeared with the Ring. I guess I don't have to tell you where we all think they went with it."
There was a solemn silence, and Harry shifted uncomfortably. His legs were beginning to go to sleep from his crouched position.
"I see." Dumbledore's voice was very quiet. There was a rustle of wings and Fawkes gave shrill cry of warning. "What is it, Fawkes?"
"Damn," Harry muttered, and tugged at Draco's sleeve. "We need to go," he hissed.
Draco didn't question him, and the two boys hurried back down the stairs and back into the hall as silently as they could.
"What the hell was that all about?" Draco demanded as they strode down the halls, still concealed beneath the robe. "I didn't know the Giants were guarding something."
"Me either," Harry admitted. "I've never heard of the Dark Ring."
Draco was frowning. He came to a stop and pointed. "We might be able to find it in the Restricted Section," he said. "Let's look. By tomorrow Dumbledore might have Filch watching it. Especially if he thinks we were eavesdropping just now."
"All right." They hurried towards the library, keeping their eyes peeled for Mrs. Norris.
Draco picked at the lock on the gate that separated the Restricted section from the rest of the library while Harry found a lamp and lit it.
The gate creaked a little as they entered, and Harry winced relexively. No one came, though, so they discarded the Cloak so they could separate and began searching through the books.
"I have no idea what I'm looking for," Harry admitted in a whisper.
"Look for something on rare objects," Draco murmured back. "Dangerous ones."
Harry nodded and held the lantern closer to the shelves, peering at the titles as he moved slowly down the aisle. Draco did likewise two rows down, glowing wand upheld.
"I don't see anything," Draco said in tones of disgust after twenty minutes of fruitless searching. "Maybe--"
Mrs. Norris's piercing yowl broke the relative silence of the library, and both boys jumped.
"Shit," Draco hissed angrily, waving his wand and muttering to quit its light. Harry hastily blew out the lantern and snatched up the Invisibility Cloak, hurrying over to throw it over himself and Draco.
"Never mind," he whispered. "We'll look later. Come on, let's get out of here before Filch comes."
They locked the gate behind them and edged around a growling Mrs. Norris before running down the hall.
"Who's there?" Filch cried sharply from behind them. Harry glanced over his shoulder and watched as the old man shuffled into the library, holding up a lantern. "Who's out of bed?"
"Come on," Harry breathed, and they hurried towards the Slytherin dungeons.
Harry removed the Cloak when they reached the entrance to Draco's House, and they both breathed sighs of relief. "I have a feeling sneaking around with you is going to get us killed one day," Draco said drolly.
"Looks like Iris was right," Harry said, ignoring the comment. "Whatever this Dark Ring is, it looks like Dumbledore's not too happy about it. It must be dangerous."
Draco snorted. "Which means Dumbledore isn't likely to make any kind of announcement about it tomorrow morning."
"I guess so. Good night, Draco. I'd better tell Ron about this."
Draco scowled. "Why? We don't know anything about it."
Harry shook his head stubbornly. "Hermione and Ron have always been able to help before. If anyone can find out anything about this mess, it's Hermione."
"We'll see," Draco said, looking unconvinced.
Harry kissed the other boy quickly, then covered himself in the Cloak and hurried back to his own House.
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