When Harry and Draco met the next day the only thing they had left to do was make sure the two cabinets were corresponding- that once you stepped inside of one you would end up inside of the other. Problem was, that was the most difficult part- to get the two pieces of furniture to 'communicate', as it were.
"Well? Is it finished?"
The boys stood side by side and looked up to the Vanishing Cabinet. Uneasiness crept into Harry's body as he asked the question; the cabinet didn't look much different from when they had begun two days ago.
"Almost," Draco made his way over to the table and flipped a few pages of the book they had so heavily relied on during this project, "I need to cast the final charm which will connect the cabinets… hopefully." He said the last part under his breath, but Harry still heard, "Then we have to test it, we need to make sure it works."
"And we're going to test it how?" Harry hadn't really considered the possibility of the cabinets not working, "Shouldn't it just, I don't know, work?"
"Well, according to the book the most useful way would be to put an object in one and see if it appeared in the other, but seeing as we're both here that doesn't do us much good."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh for Merlin's sake Potter are you that thick? How are we going to know if the object actually ends up in the other cabinet if no one is there to see it? Hm?"
Harry took a deep breath through his nose, oh how he so often wanted to throttle Malfoy, "How about you just shut up and finish."
Draco eyed the other boy before standing quickly to his feet and walked over to the large cabinet. He pointed his wand and took a deep breath. Malfoy had been right, he had a lot more riding on the success of this than Harry.
"Alright… let's see if it works," the blonde boy opened his mouth to speak the incantation just as the door of the room burst open.
Both boys started as the door hit against the wall and turned to see Lucius Malfoy strutting into the room.
"Good morning, Draco," He spared a quick glance in Harry's direction.
"What are you doing here?" Draco asked.
"I've come to collect the both of you and escort you to the meeting."
Harry had completely forgotten that they were supposed to gather today, but snottily he said, "I hope you don't expect me to go anywhere with you."
The elder Malfoy's eyes narrowed as he was forced to acknowledge the dark haired boy, "Our Lord insists."
"I can get there on my own thank you very much," he knew the attitude was unnecessary, but Harry's day was always made a bit brighter if he could aggravate either of the Malfoys.
"Apparently Our Lord believes you unfit to escort yourself, so I am here to assure his precious little protégé doesn't get damaged," Lucius said as if speaking to a child, "Although I can certainly inform The Dark Lord that you were unwilling to accompany me," He looked to his son, "Come, Draco."
Harry watched as the two made their exit and left him alone in the large room. He considered waiting a few minutes before making his way to the meeting, solely to emphasize his independence, only to realize he had no idea how to actually get to the large gathering room. Voldemort will murder me if I don't show up… I really need to learn my way around this bloody place.
It was either not go to the meeting at all- which would surely end badly, show up late- which again would end with Harry in trouble, or simply catch up to and follow the annoyingly confident purebloods.
He checked to make sure he had his wand and grumpily made his way to the door and out into the hall. He tried unsuccessfully to stay far enough behind the Malfoys so that they wouldn't notice him following.
Lucius looked over his shoulder briefly when he heard the pattering of feet behind him, "Ah, nice to have you accompany us, Mr. Potter."
Harry gritted his teeth and silently followed the two males through the halls.
When they arrived, Harry spotted Voldemort across the room speaking with one of the Death Eaters and quickly made his way towards the man. Voldemort didn't acknowledge him as he approached, but instead took Harry by the shoulder and pulled the boy to his side. They weren't touching aside from Voldemort's hand on the boy's thin shoulder, but the simple act was unquestionably possessive.
The two men continued their short exchange while Harry effectively ignored them. He wasn't interested in whatever they had to say anyway, his mind was still on the unfinished Vanishing Cabinet. The Death Eater, a male whose name Harry didn't know, glanced nervously at Voldemort's hand on Harry's shoulder, almost as if he felt awkward by The Dark Lord's act of 'affection'. There was no comfort in the gesture, and Harry was almost annoyed at the quiet act of authority. Almost.
As they finished, the unfamiliar Death Eater bowed reverently to Voldemort before uneasily doing the same for Harry.
"Did he…" Harry began to question. Did he just bow to me?
Voldemort paid him no attention as he pulled Harry along towards the large elegant table. Taking note of The Dark Lord's actions, every person in the room quickly took their usual seats.
"I have already spoken with some of you on the progress of your assigned tasks," Voldemort began. Harry's attention was stolen by a sudden sharp pain deep within his chest. He took a short breath as his nerves were set alight and gripped the underside of the table for support. Surprisingly, the pain wasn't quite as severe as it had been the past few days, but Harry remembered the potion Snape had provided and wondered briefly if it was working to block some of the pain. Harry saw Voldemort's eyes flash to him as the man spoke and Harry gave a slight nod to indicate that he was okay. The pain was already easing a bit, but once again his mind traveled to the weakening snake who lay upstairs.
He took a few silent deep breaths and refocused his attention just in time to hear, "Draco, can I presume you have completed your task?"
"Um, My Lord… I…" the blonde boy's voice faltered until it was silent.
"Draco?" Voldemort asked again, the slight patience that was there a moment before was gone. Harry slid down in his seat, so desperately wishing he could lean back and disappear into the wood.
"I-" Draco fumbled.
And then it happened, Voldemort turned to Harry.
He avoided the man's eyes.
He had no choice but to speak. Oh sweet Merlin he's going to kill me, Harry thought, almost wishing for Voldemort to hear and take pity on him.
"Um, it's not done yet."
The red eyes of The Dark Lord brightened. For some unknown reason the man's eyes had never really unsettled Harry, except he was angry…
The bone wand twitched in the pale hand, "Why don't you explain to me how you have not managed to complete the one thing I asked of you?"
"Well… um," he couldn't lie, Voldemort would see right through him, "It just took longer than we thought?" He replied in the form of a question, almost asking Voldemort if it was the right answer.
"You've had three days."
"Yeah, but it was-"
"He refused to assist me, My Lord."
Every head turned toward the young Malfoy.
"What?" Harry immediately said.
"He uh, he refused to listen to me even though I already repaired the first cabinet. Pott- Harry insisted we do things his way, and I was forced to spend the majority of my time fixing what he had ruined."
Harry stared at the other boy in shock, "Are you kidding me? Seriously?" he demanded.
Draco ignored him and continued, never taking his pleading eyes off Voldemort, "It's true, My Lord. He was completely uncooperative and wasted much of our time. You know I already completed half of the task without any issue, so that shows that he is where the problem lies. He also-"
Harry had tuned out by now. Was this kid serious? What happened to the Draco who lost his voice every time he stood before The Dark Lord? Harry gripped the table once more, this time not out of pain but out of fury.
Draco's words from the previous day rang in his head. He could still hear the boy talking in the background of his thoughts.
You have nothing, Potter.
Voldemort's voice echoed through his head, Harry, calm down…
No one to care about.
Harry's hands clenched.
He was out of his seat before he even knew what had happened. The chair he had been sitting in fell backwards and hit the floor with a reverberating crash as he climbed onto the table.
He heard the sound of an arm hitting the table behind him, as if Voldemort had reached out and tried to grab him.
He reached Draco before anyone else had time to move.
Harry flung himself onto the other boy and they and the chair Draco had been sitting in toppled backward and onto the floor. Harry had a hold of Draco's shirt and crawled over top of him, effectively pinning the other boy down. Yells and the sounds of chairs squeaking against the floor erupted behind him, but Harry heard none of it as he pounded his fist into Draco's face. He repeated the action quickly and blood began pouring from the blonde's noise. He had no conscious idea of what he was shouting into Malfoy's face, and he could feel someone pulling at the back of his shirt.
He tried to get a few more swings in but there were hands gripping his arms, pulling him off of the bleeding boy beneath him. As Harry was raised into the air Draco regained his surroundings for a split second, enough time to reach upward and attempt to grab Harry. He missed and slashed his hand across the boy's face, leaving four deep scratches that quickly began to bleed.
Harry used all his strength to try to pull away from whoever had a hold of him, screaming nonsense in the direction of Draco. He was alight with rage.
That is until a tall dark form stood in front of him and gripped the front of his shirt. He was forcefully snatched out of the arms which held him and pulled quickly from the room, stumbling over his own feet in the process.
The adrenaline rushing through his body refused to let his brain grasp who was rapidly dragging him through the corridors. He weakly tugged against the grip on his shirt as he tried to force air back into his lungs.
Before long he was thrown harshly into a familiar room and he failed to catch his balance before falling to his knees. In a heartbeat there was a cold grip around his throat and he was tugged back to his feet.
The grip around his throat was tight but he could still breathe as the adrenaline and excitement paused for just long enough to allow his mind to catch up. His brain almost stopped again once he realized what he had done. He had actually jumped across the table and throttled Draco Malfoy. Blood, he remembered blood. Yelling, fighting, being pulled away. He looked into the face of The Dark Lord and for the second time that day he thought Voldemort was going to kill him, only this time he was certain of it. The Dark Lord spoke with a swift intensity.
"I will assure you one thing, Harry James Potter. If you do not get your act together I promise you I will rip that horcrux from your chest and send you back to those worthless Muggles where you'll be locked in a room and treated like squib filth for the rest of your existence."
The grip on his throat released and Harry fell to his knees once more. He heard the door forcefully slam behind him and a painting fell off the wall with the intensity.
Harry stayed on his hands and knees and stared at the floor in shock as his mind tried to make coherent thoughts.
Pain was radiating through his head as he raised a hand to his face and his palm came away bloody. He shifted and sat more comfortably on his rear. As his eyes quickly glanced around he realized he was back in the room with the still-unfinished cabinet.
He took inventory of himself. His clothes were intact aside from the sleeve that had ripped and was now hanging loosely off of his shoulder, blood was splattered across his hand, and his already-bruising knuckles and face burned with pain.
He stayed on the floor until his breath and heartbeat returned to normal. Fucking Malfoy… he thought as anger bubbled up inside him at the thought of the hotheaded Slytherin. Cunning, manipulative… Draco sure did live up to his house name. Harry and Draco had never seen eye to eye at Hogwarts to say the least, and it was no different here. Malfoy either had a lot of nerve or a lot of stupidity to lie to The Dark Lord and expect to get away with it, Harry leaned more towards the stupidity option. What did he expect to happen? That Voldemort would have taken his word and punish Harry right then and there? No questions asked? Sweet Circe he was an imbecile.
Voldemort. Fear ripped through his veins at the thought of having to return back to the man's chambers at any point in the near future. He wanted to avoid The Dark Lord at all costs. It was then that the man's words repeated themselves in Harry's head. Voldemort had threatened to send him back to the Dursleys, back to the very people from whom he had rescued the boy, to the people he had promised to protect him from. Harry knew Voldemort was furious, but would he really do it? Was it even possible to remove a horcrux from a body? Harry was terrified the man would make good on his threat. Going back to the Dursleys not only meant returning to the abuse, but also to The Boy Who Lived, which deep down was what scared Harry the most. Part of him said Voldemort had meant every word, the other half said he was just angry.
Harry forced the thoughts from his mind and stood shakily to his feet. He could only assume that Voldemort had thrown him back into this room so that he could finish the cabinet once and for all. It was time to get to work and finish this bloody thing. Luckily Draco was nowhere to be seen, and Harry thought for the briefest of moments of what might be happening to the boy back in the meeting room…
Whatever it is he deserves it.
Relieved that he might have a few moments without interference, Harry felt for his wand. Somehow through the chaos he had retained it.
He looked at the cabinet and thought back to what Draco had said.
"I need to cast the final charm which will connect the cabinets… hopefully."
"Then we have to test it, we need to make sure it works."
What on earth was 'the final charm'? He flipped through the mighty tome until he came across a few short paragraphs on the completion of the cabinets. Feeling the need to hurry in case Voldemort came back, he skimmed the words quickly, rereading the needed spell and arm movements repeatedly until it was firmly planted in his mind.
He lifted his wand towards the cabinet and slowly said the incantation, "Harmonia nectere passus".
He waited… and waited, for something should have happened.
He repeated the spell and still nothing happened. Oh Merlin no…
Harry tried unsuccessfully once more and panic ripped through him. "Why isn't it working?!" He sat down and reread the pages once more, this time taking more care to comprehend the words. Maybe I do need Malfoy… Harry started at his own thoughts; he didn't need Draco for anything. Malfoy was a distraction, just an obstacle blocking his way from completing this one thing Voldemort had trusted him to do. If he couldn't finish this… Harry stopped the thought. He would finish. He would finish and earn Voldemort's trust, he knew he deserved it but this was a sorely pitiful first attempt of proving that to Voldemort.
Harry stood from his seat and took a deep breath. It would work this time, he would make it work… he so desperately needed it to. Voldemort would lock him back in his chambers again in a heartbeat if he couldn't do this. Nagini would continue to suffer…
Harry swallowed thickly and steeled himself, "Harmonia nectere passus". He forced himself not to panic when the room stayed still. He shifted the wand in his hand and Voldemort's voice echoed in his mind, "If I have to show you this one more time... I simply don't understand why you insist on gripping your wand so tightly. This is basic."
Harry loosened his wrist and said with finality, "Harmonia nectere passus".
The surface of the large wooden cabinet began to lightly glow, giving it an almost life-like appearance. A choked and relieved laugh broke through Harry's throat as he watched. The glow lasted only a few seconds before disappearing, but even if it was a bit anti-climatic Harry didn't care.
It had worked.
He forced himself not to get too excited, he still had to test it and make sure it worked. How on earth was he supposed to do that? Just put something in the cabinet and see if it disappeared? It seemed to be his best option. He glanced around the room and considered for a brief moment of putting the large reference book into the cabinet as he was more than happy to see that disappear from his life forever. The thought quickly vanished as he realized that if something went wrong he would have no way to try and fix it.
He ended up taking off his boot as it seemed to be a small sacrifice should it disappear forever. He figured his shoe was certainly less important than the various expensive looking items around the room.
He placed the boot inside the cabinet and closed the door. What was he supposed to do now? Was something supposed to happen?
Harry stepped forward and peeked inside the cabinet. The boot was gone.
His face lit up once again and this time he allowed himself a small moment of celebration. He silently cursed Draco to the deepest pits of hell in his mind, not caring at all if Voldemort heard him or not.
He closed the door once more before quickly opening it, but the shoe was nowhere to be seen.
Harry closed the cabinet door, waited, and opened it. The cabinet was still empty. Was the shoe in Hogwarts now? Could he even get it back?
A thought occurred to Harry.
"Oh Merlin, this is stupid…" he murmured to himself and he stepped inside the Vanishing Cabinet. Was there really any other way to find out if it truly worked? Voldemort certainly wasn't going to give him the option of it 'maybe' working, and he couldn't know if the boot had made it to Hogwarts unless he went there himself.
He closed the door behind him and waited a few moments. He didn't feel anything, no movement, no noise, no nothing. Just silence.
He put his ear against the wood and listened hard, trying to hear if anyone was on the other side before he opened the door. What a surprise that would be, The Boy Who Lived walking out of a cabinet after having disappeared almost a year ago. He heard nothing so he pushed the wood and peeked through the crack. He saw no one and stepped forward. His foot collided with something at the bottom of the cabinet and he almost tumbled face first onto the floor. He kicked whatever had almost caused him to fall to his death and watched as his sacrificial shoe flew from the cabinet.
He huffed, and slowly Harry stepped out onto the floor.
He was surrounded by more random objects and junk than he had ever seen in his lifetime. Furniture, books, toys, clothing, cracked potion vials, animal cages, the list went on. The room was packed as far as Harry could see and piled far over his head with everything you could imagine. Harry had never been inside this room before, but the Room of Requirement that Voldemort had mentioned was not nearly as astounding as he had imagined.
He turned and looked at the cabinet from which he had stepped from. Instantly Harry could see that it was not the same rickety cabinet that he and Draco had been working on the past few days. The twin that stood proudly before him was in much better condition, it lacked the cracks and dullness of the wood that Harry was used to seeing. It looked as if it had been kept in much better conditions than its brother.
Harry took another step back to get a better look and felt his foot land and twist on something. He ungracefully fell backwards, landing again on some unknown object that had been scattered across the floor. He groaned as a small but sharp pain shot up his back. His return to Hogwarts was much less glamorous than he had anticipated. Hogwarts. He was back inside Hogwarts. The thought hadn't really occurred to Harry, as these tremendous heaps of junk were certainly not a part of the grand school he was accustomed to, but nevertheless he had returned to the one place he had called home. Maybe it was the strangeness of the junk-filled room, but the place felt… foreign. Something was off, he didn't feel the usual sense of warmth and protection the castle had provided him in the past.
Oh well, at least the cabinet works… wait, THE CABINET WORKS!
He was inside Hogwarts! His spell had worked! Harry caught himself just in time before letting loose an excited scream, he didn't know who would be around to hear him. He quickly found his long-lost boot amidst the piles of rubble and slipped it on before he jumped back into the cabinet and slammed the door.
He had to tell Voldemort. He had to find the man and tell him this instant!
Harry burst from the cabinet and was once again back inside Voldemort's manor, racing towards the door. He ran through the halls and only managed to take one wrong turn in his haste before arriving back at the meeting room.
How long had it been? Was the meeting still going on? It felt like hours had passed since Voldemort had threatened- no, Harry didn't want to think about that. The cabinet was working and he could stay, Voldemort wouldn't send him back to the Dursleys. He wouldn't.
Harry tried to calm himself before bursting through the door but it was no use, he was so relieved. Voldemort had trusted him with one task and he had screwed it up royally until this moment. He couldn't wait to redeem himself.
He yanked open the doors and froze.
At first he couldn't tell what was going on, but the overwhelming feel of dark magic told him instantly that it wasn't good. Something deep down told him to turn around and leave, but of course, being Harry Potter, there was no listening to that voice. His horcrux rejoiced at the magic thrumming through the air, and part of Harry wanted to get closer to the source.
Only a few eyes had tenuously turned to him when he entered and stepped forward silently. There were only a few Death Eaters that still remained in the room, all of which were sitting tensely in their seats. Voldemort stood facing away from Harry, looking downward to the floor. Only two of his followers were standing, and although they were not looking towards Harry, he could see by the blonde hair that they were the eldest Malfoys.
That's when Harry heard a noise. He couldn't see what was happening through the table and bodies, but he wasn't entirely sure that was a bad thing. He heard it again and this time he recognized it as a small cry of pain, almost pleading. Once again, something deep within Harry told him to leave, to turn around and go back to the safety and solitude of the room he had occupied for the majority of the past few days. He was almost about to consider it when Voldemort's voice broke his thoughts.
"You're lucky he's not dead," A tension filled silence filled the room, "Get out of my sight."
Death Eaters disapparated faster than Harry had ever seen and he watched as Lucius Malfoy bent down. Narcissa turned just the slightest and Harry could see her face contorted in something far beyond physical pain. Lucius hauled a limp form into his arms and vanished.
It had been Draco.
Harry stood for a moment as his mind registered what he had seen. Draco had been the one in pain… his parents were watching… "You're lucky he's not dead."
It didn't take long for Harry to know what had happened; Draco had even warned him about it.
"Don't you think I know what it means if we don't get this finished in time?!"
"He willkillme if we can't do this! He will kill my parents!"
Draco had been tortured because they had not finished the cabinet… because Harry had attacked him at the meeting…
"What do you think he's going to do to you if we don't fix this bloody thing? Huh? Yell at you? Punish you? That's NOTHING!"
Harry came back to the present and realized he was alone in the room with Voldemort. The feeling, quite possibly known as common sense, once again screamed at him to leave and he finally listened and began slowly and silently backing away towards the door. He had been so happy, so excited to relay the news that the cabinets worked…
He stopped, he had just been turning to find the doorknob. So close. He didn't say anything, didn't even move for fear of Voldemort lashing out.
"Harry, come here."
Quickly deciding that obeying was his best option, Harry turned and slowly made his way towards where The Dark Lord was now sitting. Harry stopped short of the table, making sure there was plenty of distance between the two of them.
Voldemort didn't look at him, but instead stared down at the bone wand which was lying on the table before him. Harry could feel the dark magic still radiating off the man, but Voldemort was oddly quiet and still.
The man spoke in a soft tone, "Why do you insist on disobeying me?"
Harry's mouth dropped and he spoke before he could stop himself, "What?"
Voldemort looked to the boy and for the briefest of moments the man's eyes seemed different, tired even. But surely Harry had imagined it for the softness was gone when Voldemort spoke again.
"Why are you here and not completing the one, simple task I asked of you? Did I not make myself clear?" he asked, obviously referring to his earlier threat.
"I did…" Harry said quietly, the energy and excitement from a few short moments ago long gone.
"You did what?"
"I did listen to you. I- I finished the cabinet." Why did he almost sound ashamed?
The room was silent for a few moments as Harry waited to hear what the man would say.
"You finished the cabinet," Voldemort restated, almost unsure if he had heard correctly.
"Yes… I went to Hogwarts. It work-"
"I-" Oh no, wrong thing to say, "I had to test it! I had to see if it worked!"
"Sweet Salazar, Harry, you are going to be the death of me."
"I just- I had to! Don't be mad, please! I'm sorry! I couldn't come to you until I was certain it worked!"
Voldemort stood from his seat and Harry quickly took a few steps backwards, fully prepared to make a run for it. What on earth was he thinking? Why did he think Voldemort would be okay with him showing up in Hogwarts of all places!
"I'm really sorry, please don't hurt me."
Voldemort's eyes narrowed for a moment, "I'm not going to hurt you, Harry."
The two stayed unmoving for a few moments before Voldemort sighed, "I did not wish for you to see what happened with Draco."
Harry stayed silent.
"I am not angry," Voldemort pressed.
"You were angry earlier…"
"Correct, I was extremely angry earlier. What in Salazar's name possessed you to jump across my table?"
"If any of my other followers fought in my presence they would be dead in an instant. I do not tolerate such behavior."
"I allow you to get away with entirely too much, Harry Potter."
Harry repeated, "I know…"
"I was going to punish you, but prove to me the cabinets are in working order and I will reconsider."
Harry raised his head, "Really?"
"Yes. Let's go," Voldemort said as he spun Harry around and marched him out of the room. Harry could feel the tension in his shoulders where The Dark Lord's hands lay. He still wasn't entirely convinced Voldemort wouldn't change his mind and decide to punish him for his behavior.
Harry was afraid to speak, and they walked in silence and finally stood before their entrance into Hogwarts. Harry took his shoe off once more and placed it in the cabinet, showing how it disappeared.
"Hm. Yes, I see."
Harry stepped forward and was about to place one foot inside the cabinet when he was yanked backwards by his shirt.
"Where on earth do you think you're going?"
"Ow, you're choking me!" Harry said, but Voldemort still held onto the shirt, "I- I was going to show you how it works!"
"I've seen it."
"Okay but I have to get my shoe!"
"I'll send one of my followers to retrieve it. You will not be going back to Hogwarts any time soon."
"But I was already there! Nothing happened."
"Good to hear, but I do not care. You will not be going back."
"You're standing right here, what could happen?" Harry received a silencing look and realized arguing was not only useless, but also stupid. He was already terrified Voldemort would Crucio him into oblivion, and continuing to be disobedient was not going to help his situation. "Fine. Let go of my shirt," Voldemort gave him a look and hastily he amended, "Please."
Voldemort released him and said, "I will send one of my followers to retrieve your shoe and to confirm that the cabinets work, then-"
"You don't trust me?" Harry just couldn't help himself.
"I trust you as much as I trust any 13 year old boy, I want it confirmed. Don't give me that look."
Voldemort summoned one of his followers and he and Harry waited as the man disappeared into the cabinet, only to return to confirm that yes, the Vanishing Cabinets gained them access into Hogwarts undetected. Things were falling into place just as they had one day left before the attack. If all went according to plan, within the next few days Dumbledore would be dead, The Order of the Phoenix would be on the run, Voldemort would have control of both Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic.