Disclaimer: I don't own HP

For a moment Harry couldn't move. Malfoy was dead, he knew it.

He glanced sideways at Ron, who sat several seats down from him. Ron had not woken him when he had started screaming last night. Ron always did, but because they weren't speaking, he hadn't asked what Harry had seen, and truthfully Harry didn't want to tell him. He was just thankful Ron hadn't lit the candles, because his scar was still pretty obvious down the side of his face. He was just glad it was fading slowly.

He stared at his breakfast and felt sick. He had the images of his vision playing behind his eyes, and whenever he saw something red, he wanted to flinch. He couldn't stop thinking of the bloody handprint on the blond hair…

He got up and left the Gryffindor table, to search for Malfoy, just in case. He saw Draco in his mind, writhing and screaming and rolling in the blood, and he had to run to the toilet and be sick…

Harry was running towards Professor Snape's office - he had to tell someone, someone who could help Malfoy, when Hedwig swooped after him to land on his shoulder.

He took the letter tied to her leg with shaking hands and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the handwriting.

Later, Harry sat alone at a table in a hidden corner of the library. It felt odd, being here without Hermione.

He looked at his watch, noting that he was still early, and sighed.

He was beginning to miss having friends. He wished he hadn't been so-

"Harry."

Harry jumped rather stupidly and twisted around in his seat to see Albus Dumbledore peering over a short bookshelf at him.

"Sir-" he stammered, then stopped. He had purposefully been ignoring owls from the headmaster. There was really nothing he could say to make this easier. Nevertheless, he tried.

"About your owls sir -"

"Yes Harry, I must admit I'm rather disappointed that you don't seem to want to have your extra classes with me as we discussed last year." The old man rounded the bookshelf and took a seat opposite Harry, his eyes twinkling.

"Extra … classes?" Harry said faintly. Dumbledore's first owl hadn't been about Snape, it had been asking him to go to the headmasters office because he hadn't turned up to his appointment. He had been ignoring the owls for nothing! Snape hadn't even gone to Dumbledore…

"That's right." The professor said jovially "I believe I owled you with a proposed appointment time a while ago. I take it you still want to attend then?"

"Um - yes - sir, I'm sorry, I completely forgot-" Harry could feel his face turning red with embarrassment. Then he remembered how angry he had been with the headmaster recently, and opened his mouth. However the headmaster interrupted before he could even think of what to say.

"Jolly good then!" The professor got to his feet "Shall we say this Wednesday instead then?"

"Yes, that's fine - Sir, -?" Harry began, but Dumbledore held up a hand

"Not at all, not at all. Memory slips happen to the best of us." Harry stared

"Oh Harry-" Dumbledore turned

"Sir?"

"I need to speak with you about your Uncle on Wednesday too."

"My Uncle ?"

"It's a serious matter. I need to know what happened, Harry. I know you may be worried about my reaction, but you must know that you can tell me anything Harry," the headmaster looked at him, concern etched into the lines of his face "anything at all."

"Yes sir." Harry said, wincing at the way his voice trembled. He had no intention of saying a word about what had happened that night.

"I also meant to remind you - I have limited your detentions with Professor Snape to no more than an hour a day and only during this month, but if you don't begin attending them and return to your defence classes I will be forced to agree that they need to be extended." his eyes twinkled maddeningly and it was all Harry could do to avert his gaze downwards, nod, and try not to glare at the headmaster. How dare he act like everything was back to normal with them.

Maybe, Harry thought, it would be better if I thought through what I want to say to him. He'll take me more seriously if I don't throw a temper tantrum and break all his stuff again.

"Harry?"

He looked up and the old professor's eyes were stern "I must ask that you learn to control your temper. It's unacceptable that it has gotten to this point - where you are skipping the one class that is more important for you than any other."

"Yes sir." Harry forced out through gritted teeth, "I'm sorry." He stared down at his desk in silence for several moments, waiting for the headmaster to speak again.

"My god Potter, do you have any backbone at all?"

Harry looked up in shock to see Malfoy settling into the seat in front of him.

"Malfoy!" he hissed, searching Draco's face for signs of that awful cut on his lip, but his skin was smooth.

"Don't wet yourself, he's gone!" the other boy drew his lips into his usual smirk "Honestly though Potter, you're all talk and no action - did you even think to mention what Professor Snape said about your father?"

"Shut it Malfoy." Harry snapped, more angry because he knew he was right. Maybe the vision had only been only a dream?

"Whatever." Malfoy shrugged his shoulders elegantly "So here we are - are you ready to listen to me?"

"Yes." he waited expectantly. What Draco said next would either confirm or deny Harry's vision.

For a moment Draco stared at him, and Harry noticed he was wringing his hands almost imperceptivity as he held them in his lap.

"I need you to help someone I care about."

Harry froze. He'd been expecting something unlikely to come out of Malfoy's mouth, the sort of thing Malfoy thought that would make Harry want to protect him. Even something that proved, once and for all, that the vision he had had last night was real. But what was this about?

"Who? I thought you wanted me to protect you?"

Malfoy cast a furtive glance to either side, before biting his lip and leaning forward.

"I never said that. I said I didn't want to be a Death Eater Potter. But... I do need your protection. What I'm involved in…this person needs me, I can't get hurt. I need out, but until you can help me with that, if you can, I need help with - with him."

After a moment of trying to think of how to reply, Harry stared harder at Malfoy. This was nothing like what Malfoy had told Voldemort in the vision. What did this mean? Perhaps it was just a dream…no. And on the off chance that it had been, could he afford to just forget about it? Could it have been real? He could see no sign of the tiredness or illness he had seen in Draco a few days ago. Nor could he see any signs of torture. If Voldemort really had tore his skin with his fingernails, he must have healed it afterwards.

"Why," Harry said slowly "why are you telling me this? Why not Dumbledore?"

"Dumbledore!" Malfoy curled his lip "Potter, I don't mean to sour our deal before I even propose it, but that old moron uses people, and I won't be used. I can't afford to be. This … person needs me."

"Are you going to tell me who this person is?" Harry asked, very warily. He had no idea what involved 'protecting' someone…what if it was another runaway Death Eater? He imagined Lucius Malfoy hiding under Harry's bed in Gryffindor, where Harry would pass him scraps from dinner for him to survive on.

Draco hesitated. "It's…it's probably better that I show him to you. Then you'll understand."

"How do I know this isn't a trap?" Harry said immediately, tensing up. This sounded exactly like the kind of trick that got Sirius killed.

"Harry!"

Hand jerking to his pocket out of reflex, Harry's eyes flew over Malfoy's shoulder to where Hermione stood, staring confusedly at his 'study partner' as he stepped away from Draco. Behind her, Ron looked mutinous.

"Hermione." Harry replied carefully. At least she didn't look angry with him, he supposed.

"We were wondering if we could talk." she said timidly, her eyes studiously focussed on Harry alone, while Ron glared unrelentingly at Malfoy.

Harry considered, eyes shifting between his friends, whom he very badly wanted to make up with, and Malfoy, who had a tantalising secret.

"Malfoy, could you give us a minute?" he said after a second.

Draco Malfoy stared at Harry for a moment, as if measuring his worth, then cast his eyes down.

"Room of Requirement, same time tomorrow." he muttered, quiet enough so that only Harry could hear, then he got to his feet and, scowling at Ron and Hermione, stalked off in the direction of the exit.

"So…" Harry said uncertainly as Hermione and Ron stood awkwardly before him, Ron's scowl not entirely erased as his eyes flickered from Malfoy's retreating back to Harry.

"Can we sit down?" Hermione asked, trying to mask her confusion at the Slytherin's presence, and Harry nodded. There was an awkward silence as everyone settled down and exchanged awkward glances.

"Harry we wanted to apologise." Hermione started, then stopped as Ron made an odd noise in his throat. "That is," she corrected, going red and staring at her hands in her lap "we don't think you've treated us fairly, and some of the things you said to us weren't right. I even think you might have interpreted some things wrongly on purpose because you've been angry at us for a while."

Harry flinched as he realised the truth in her words.

"But our apology still stands." she continued "We've been insensitive and while we don't really understand what you're going through, we'd like to still be there for you and for you to help us understand so that we can be friends again."

She looked over at Ron and coughed pointedly and he shuffled forward in his seat and reluctantly met Harry's eyes.

"I don't understand why you're being like this." he said bluntly "I don't like it and I don't understand it and I'm still angry at what you said to us. But I know if I wait until I'm not angry to talk to you it might be too late. So I'm not sorry yet, but soon I might be, and I don't want to lose our friendship."

"Guys…" Harry stared at his two best friends, feeling horribly guilty and unhappy as he realised how confused and worried his friends were for him. He felt as if he wanted to apologise, but he was still angry at them and didn't know if he wanted to be near them anyway. But how was he supposed to tell them he was sorry, and then tell them to keep away?

"I'm sorry too." he said finally. "I don't know how to explain why I've been acting like this, not just because I don't think that you would understand, but also because I don't know myself really. It just feels like … a lot of people expect me to be 'The Boy Who Lived' and all that rubbish. I'm sick of it, you two haven't had you life ruled by other people the way I do."

"What do you mean?" Ron asked "I mean it sucks that you have to go to the muggles in the summer, but it's the safest-"

"That's what I mean Ron!" he smacked his hand on the table "I grew up being treated like how the Malfoy treated Dobby, sleeping in a cupboard and all! How could Dumbledore think that was what was best for me? Yes I'm alive at the end of each summer, but to live like that…" he sighed "sometimes it doesn't feel worth it."

"Oh Harry!" Hermione's eyes were glistening with unshed tears and sliding into the seat beside him. Unconsciously, Harry let out a long, low breath he had been holding. If Hermione had fallen for it, the worst was over. He'd thought, for a moment, that she would see through him immediately, and demand to know what had really happened during the summer.

"This year is the first time I've made the effort to buy my own things so I don't have to wear Dudley's old rags." Harry said "I wanted to look good for once. I've changed, yeah but that's just part of life, and it's like you guys don't want to be there for me because I've changed. Still, I'm sorry about how I've been acting. It's just hard, figuring everything out."

"Harry, we'll be there for you if you'd just give us the chance." Hermione said earnestly and Ron nodded reluctantly.

"I'm sick of being told how to live my life, and its worse because I've just come back after dealing with my aunt and uncle. I just …" he paused, voicing thoughts which he hadn't allowed himself to ponder, but which had been churning in the back of his mind anyway "My parents wouldn't have wanted me to go to live with Aunt Petunia, I mean she obviously hated my mum. I've been wondering if it wasn't all Dumbledore's idea."

"Well if it was, he only meant for you to be safer." Hermione frowned

"No, I mean…" Harry thought for a moment "Petunia really hates magic. My mum must have known that, I just can't see her letting Dumbledore send me to live with her and if he's not related to me, and he's not my guardian, then what right did he have to send me to the Dursleys?" he finished quietly.

"Well it would have been in your parent's will, right? Dumbledore was your parent's secret keeper and he sent Hagrid to take you to the Dursleys because he knew where you were and got to you the fastest. If he didn't I'm sure someone from the ministry would have come." Ron said, a puzzled expression on his freckled face.

"Or Death Eaters. It was lucky he got there first!" Hermione added

"But I've already said, why would my mum send me to be with her sister who hates magic? Why not someone who she trusted to take care of me? I mean Sirius was in Azkaban, but the second choice would have been Lupin, right? Or some friend of mum's I suppose…"

Hermione shook her head dismissively "The ministry would never send Harry Potter to live with a werewolf! I know you don't like to be treated differently, but the ministry would have bent laws so that you could be with anyone other than him. They would have ruled that you be sent to the next person on the list -"

"If my mum cared about me at all then the Dursleys wouldn't even be on that list. I would have gone to the next person-"

"Dumbledore wouldn't have gone against your parent's will Harry. People don't normally have long list of substitute guardians, they wouldn't expect them all to be unsuitable. The next one would probably have been Wormtail in any case and to be honest you were probably better off with your relatives than him. In a case where there's no suitable designated guardians, it's law that you should be sent to your closest relative"

Harry stared back at Hermione glumly. In the face of cool logic, his argument had dissipated.

"Mate, if it really bothers you, why don't you just ask Dumbledore to see the will?" Ron said

"Why should Dumbledore have it!" Harry said frustrated "He's my headmaster, nothing else! It's not like he has everyone else's dead relatives' wills!"

"Ron's not saying he does Harry, calm down." Hermione placed a cool hand on his arm

"Sorry, it's just he does act like a sort of guardian to you, whether he's supposed to or not." Ron shrugged "You expect him to have all the answers when it comes to your past, don't you? But anyway, I suppose you could just go to Gringotts, they usually have copies of public records so that they know what to do with inheritances."

"Maybe I will." Harry said thoughtfully. It would most likely be a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but he had barely anything left of his parents and it couldn't hurt to look it over.

"Are you okay Harry?" Hermione asked, taking his hand and squeezing it "I'm glad you've told us what's been bothering you."

"Yeah I'm fine." Harry gave her a smile that probably looked more like a grimace "It's just it worries me how little I know about things, but Dumbledore knows it all and has been managing it all behind my back."

"What?" Hermione looked sceptical.

"Well…not exactly I suppose." he admitted "It just that the fact that until this summer I didn't even know how much money was in my vault. It just worries me that Dumbledore did even though he has no legal claim over me, but he never sat down with me to talk about managing my own finances. It makes me wonder if he ever was going to at all, and why he had access to my vaults in the first place."

"How do you know Dumbledore had access to your vaults?" Hermione asked doubtfully.

"Well he gave Hagrid my key to buy my school supplies in first year, and he's had it ever since. He gives it to Ron's mum every year so that I can get my school stuff while I'm staying at the Burrow - apart from third year though, he had Fudge pass it on to me. I gave it back to Mrs Weasley after that though. I never really questioned why." Harry admitted, feeling stupid.

"Well, I'm sure he had a good reason for keeping it." Hermione said uncertainly "You could always ask him, if reading your parents' will doesn't clear it up."

"Mate the other option was probably that he gave it to the muggles, you wouldn't have wanted that, would you?"

"No way." Harry shuddered "He was probably keeping it unofficially then, but if giving it to the Dursleys was the only other option then I don't blame him. Well I'll owl Gringotts and see what they say. Anyway, it's getting late. Do you want to go back to the common room?" he said hopefully.

"Come on then!" Hermione rolled her eyes with a knowing smile.