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Chapter 40 - The Dead Walking

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It was after supper, the Saturday before Halloween and Harry waited silently under his invisibility cloak near Hagrid's hut. Hagrid was currently tending the Thestrals so there was little chance of him being seen, but he was being careful. Tonight was very important.

Hermione and Ron thought he was planning out a lesson for the DA in the Room of Requirement while Draco was overseeing a detention for some wayward third years who had blown up one too many cauldrons in Snape's classes. The part about Draco was true, but the detention had ended fifteen minutes ago and his soulmate was on his way to him now.

He didn't need to see the black shadow moving towards him to know Draco was close and Draco made a beeline to him even though he was invisible. Wrapped in a cloak that almost seemed to absorb light it was of such dark fabric, Draco was all but invisible himself. However, as soon as Draco was close enough, Harry threw his cloak around his soulmate as well.

[Well, if you're ashamed to be seen with me,] Draco said in an affronted tone.

Harry almost laughed. Draco always knew how to drag him out of his darker thoughts.

[Don't leave me standing around in dark corners if you don't want me brooding,] he replied.

[Sorry,] Draco apologised, [Snape wanted to talk about the first year lessons for next week, I couldn't exactly tell him I was in a hurry because we're taking a jaunt into the Forbidden Forest.]

The quick peck on the cheek was somewhat unexpected and more than a little awkward under the cloak, but it did make Harry smile.

[Come on,] he said and they set off.

It wasn't until they stepped through the first line of trees that they removed the cloak or spoke again.

The Forbidden Forest had always been foreboding, but it was even more so since Harry's awakening to his new senses. The whole place was alive and, if he let himself, he could feel it. This was not just a forest where magical creatures lived, it was a magical place itself. That was why the first thing Harry did after he took the cloak off was reach out to one of the trees, place his palm flat against it and close his eyes.

Whenever he had been in the Forbidden Forest he had always felt as if he was being watched, now he knew it was true. It wasn't just the residents who watched from the darkness, it was the forest itself.

Being very, very careful, Harry sent a small trickle of magic into the tree and waited. It was the closest he could get to a 'here I am'. After a few moments he felt the prickle of magic coming back to his palm. It was over in seconds, but when he stood back and opened his eyes again, he smiled.

"For the first time in my life," he said, turning to Draco, "I actually feel that I'm allowed to be here."

"You might," Draco said.

Harry couldn't help being reminded of the first detention all those years ago and the frightened little Slytherin trying to hide behind bravado.

"Come here," Harry said, taking Draco's hand and placing it against the same tree, covering it with his own. "May I?" he asked.

Draco nodded.

Harry had an entirely different relationship with magic than any other wizard and he very gently pulled on his soulmate's, urging the tiniest trickle into the tree again, but this time Draco's. It wasn't something a wizard would have found easy to do. Harry knew the moment the forest acknowledged Draco as well, because Draco's features filled with something like wonder for just a second.

"That..," said Draco, but seemed to run out of words.

"Exactly," Harry agreed.

They really didn't need to talk about it; it was something of a singular experience.

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