And I know the spark inside your eyes
was just the match I used to set myself on fire.
Enough detail about the dark deeds that shadow his father’s past have come to light for Draco to say with absolute certainty that he didn’t inherit his weak stomach from any branch of the Malfoy family tree. Most likely it came down through the Blacks. As much as they’ve always gone on about ‘toujours pur,’ the burned-off spots of their family tapestry don’t lie. They’ve produced Muggle-lovers, blood traitors, squibs, Gryffindors, and one of them even went so far as to marry a Weasley, of all things. And really, what’s a weak stomach compared to all of that?
So Draco fully blames the Blacks for the fact that he feels as though he’s about to vomit as he makes his way deep into the stacks of the Hogwarts library, scattering Repelling and Notice-Me-Not charms behind himself as he goes, hoping to discourage any other students from catching him, should they happen to wander back this far. He’s picked the quietest corner of the library, but sometimes couples wander back here in search of a secluded place to snog. When he arrives, he’s not surprised to find that Granger is already waiting for him, though Draco himself is ten minutes early, but frankly he’s just relieved she’s shown up at all. He hadn’t been sure that she would.
“Malfoy,” she says warily. She’s got one hand tucked into the pocket of her robes and Draco would bet every last knut in the Malfoy vaults that she’s holding her wand, ready to draw it on him at the scantest provocation.
He removes his wand slowly from his sleeve, then casts a Muffliato around them before he says, “I know Potter’s told you about us.”
She nods, a curt jerk of her head that sends a curl of hair tumbling over her face. She pushes it back impatiently. “What Harry does, and with whom he does it, is none of my business,” she says tartly, and he can read between the lines. She doesn’t approve of him, she doesn’t approve of them, but Draco thinks maybe that will make this easier.
Draco has spent most of today rehearsing this conversation in his head, but now that he’s actually here, actually having it, all the words seem to have abandoned him. He opens his mouth, but instead of speaking he draws in a long, slow breath. When he speaks, it will make everything real. And Draco finds that he desperately wants to pretend it’s not. He wants to go find Potter and lose himself in the low murmur of his voice and the warmth of his skin and the giddy intoxication of having the Chosen One’s lips on his. He’s barely accepted the brilliant insanity that is his relationship with Potter, that he and Potter have a relationship at all; he’s not ready to give it up so soon.
“Malfoy?” Granger prods when long seconds pass by in silence. A faint trace of curiosity gentles the mistrust in her voice.
“I need your help,” he says quietly. “Snape’s a spy for the Order.”
He can tell she’s surprised. Her posture goes the slightest bit stiffer, but she recovers herself well. “How do you know that?”
“Because he’s close to getting caught,” Draco tells her. “I’ve overheard some of the other Death Eaters talking. They’ll be watching him very closely from now on. It’s only a matter of time.”
“And you need me to warn the Order?”
Draco shakes his head. “No. I’m sure they already know. Snape’s aware of his situation.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “When he gets caught, and it’s likely that he will, the Order will be without an informant.”
It only takes her a matter of seconds to catch on to what he means, and he knows he’s made the right choice to approach her for this. She’s brilliant, and he needs that on his side. “You,” she says. “You want to take his place. Harry will never agree. You know he won’t.”
“Exactly,” Draco says. “And because he’d never agree to it if he knew, I need your help to make sure that what I do is no concern of his.”
Granger’s mouth tugs down into a small frown of disapproval even as her brows draw together in thought. “You want me to help you end things with him.”
Draco shakes his head again, impatiently this time. “No. I need you to help me make him end things with me. If I leave him, a part of him will still be thinking of me. I need to make him leave and not look back.”
“And how do you think you’ll do that?” she asks.
Draco’s stomach turns over at what he’s got in mind. He can imagine the hurt, the crushing heartbreak writ plain across Harry’s face. His expression has always been like an open book, every emotion shining through as clear as a ray of sunshine puncturing the clouds. “Never mind that. When I tell you, all I need you to do is make sure he’s at a certain place at a certain time. I’ll manage the rest.”
She nods slowly. “I don’t like this, Malfoy.”
“I don’t either,” he says. “But it’s got to be done.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small wooden box with a rosebud painted on the lid. He offers it to her and she takes it from him after only the smallest hesitation. “This is how I’m going to communicate with you. I’ve got one just like it, and when I put a note in mine, it transfers to yours. The rose will bloom to let you know when you’ve got a message.”
“Clever,” Granger says, turning it over in her hands. She taps her wand to it and examines the sparkle of charms woven together inside it with a critical eye.
Truthfully, he can’t take credit for the idea. Just before the beginning of the school year, Draco had been assigned to repair a set of Vanishing Cabinets. The charms that made them work were complicated but not difficult, and he’d had it in fully working order by the beginning of November. But at the thought of Death Eaters invading Hogwarts, the only place he truly felt safe anymore, Draco had panicked and destroyed it. When he realized what he’d done, and that the Dark Lord would kill his parents for Draco’s treachery, he’d panicked further. That’s what had driven him to Potter in the first place. He’d gone to Potter, and Potter had gone to the Order, and the very next night there had been a fire at Bourgin and Burke’s. The whole place had burned to the ground, taking the other Vanishing Cabinet with it, and just like that Draco was off the hook and his parents were as safe as they could be with a monster living in their home.
Draco had been very lucky. Far luckier than Crabbe, anyway. That poor sod was told to kill Dumbledore, a task he’s got no hope of completing, but then it’s something of an open secret among the Death Eaters that he’d only been assigned to kill the Headmaster as punishment for his father’s failings. Draco told that to Potter too, and Potter assured him that it was being handled. They’d continued to talk, and then talking had turned into something more. And for the four months that followed, Draco was the happiest he could ever remember being. The looming war felt so far away, hazy and insubstantial, while Draco was lost in Potter’s arms.
“But I have to ask,” Granger continues. “Why are you giving this to me? Why not someone else in the Order?”
“I’m not going to the Order,” Draco says. “Just you.”
That was Snape’s problem. Too many people knew about him, and they all had a task for him. He’d ended up pulled in too many different directions, his cover stretched so thin that he’d grown transparent. Draco isn’t about to make the same mistake. He knows where his priorities are. All he cares about is keeping Potter safe. Everyone else is on their own. Potter is the only one who matters.
“But…” Granger begins.
“No,” Draco cuts her off. “I’ve thought about this, and I can’t go to the Order. The only way I can do this is if no one knows about it.”
“Except me,” Granger says softly, and her fingers tighten around the small wooden box.
“Right. I’ll need you to keep a record of this, and keep it somewhere safe. After this is over, I’m going to need you to clear my name. And if I die, well. I’d like people to know what I did. What I really did.”
She nods. “You have my word.”
Draco sighs and looks up at the ceiling. “I’ll let you know when it’s time,” he says.
It’s selfish of him, he knows, but he can’t bear to let Potter go before he has to. It would be far better off to end things now, better for Potter and for himself. But in the face of what he’s about to do and the sacrifices he’s going to have to make, he thinks he deserves this fleeting happiness.
Potter kisses like he flies, with the same stubborn intensity that makes him such a brilliant Seeker. He gives every inch of himself over to it, holds nothing back, and when Draco’s at the center of that attention, he feels swept away and utterly lost. His world narrows to the heat of Potter’s lips against his own, the small slick noises their mouths make as they move together, Potter’s harsh breaths and soft moans, and the hard length of Potter’s erection as he rocks it against Draco’s own.
“Draco,” he whispers, pulling back just enough to speak, and Draco can feel the words ghosting across his lips. Even all these months later, Potter’s use of his given name still makes him shiver.
He still won’t let himself think of Potter as Harry. “Mm?” Draco asks as he gives into the temptation to lean in and nip at the hard angle of Potter’s jawline.
“Draco,” Potter whispers again. “Can we…” He trails off and swallows. His eyes are so bright, his gaze narrowed down and zeroed in like when he’s caught sight of the Snitch. “I want to shag.”
Draco goes tense in Potter’s arms. They hadn’t done more than loads of snogging and a lot of frotting and a few fumbling handjobs. Draco always makes sure of that; he’s careful to never encourage anything more.
“It’s the last day before summer,” Potter goes on when Draco says nothing. “And we won’t see each other again until September. And I thought…”
“No,” he says, finally finding his voice.
Potter starts to draw away and Draco can see the hurt in his eyes. “I just thought…” he begins.
“I’m sorry,” Draco cuts him off. This feels like a horrible preview of what he’s going to have to do, and he can’t stand the look on Potter’s face. He rushes on, eager to comfort him. “I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. I… I’m just not ready yet.”
Potter’s expression softens instantly. “Of course,” he says, leaning back in and nuzzling at Draco’s neck. “We’ll wait as long as you need.”
It’s never going to happen. Potter’s not a virgin, but Draco is. Call him selfish, but he doesn’t want his first time to be with someone who’s going to end up hating him. And so what if sometimes at night, when the darkness feels like it’s pressing in from all around and the bare skin of his left forearm itches, he imagines that the war is over. That Potter is safe, that they’ll be together and happy and Potter will forgive Draco and then Draco will finally let him inside his body the way he’s already inside Draco’s heart.
It’s a fantasy, a ridiculously childish fantasy, Draco knows that. Happily-ever-afters only exist in storybooks, but sometimes Draco feels like that fantasy is all he’s got left. The rest of the time he knows that Potter will never be able to forgive the things that Draco will have to do at the Dark Lord’s command. He’ll have to do all sorts of terrible things to keep his cover, but a little blood on his hands is a small price to pay for Potter’s safety. It’ll all be worth it, in the end. It has to be.
Potter slowly mouths his way up Draco’s neck with nibbling little kisses, heading for that spot just behind his ear that makes Draco’s bones feel like they’re melting. He tips his head to give Potter better access to it, and lets the rest of the world drop away.
Later, after forty minutes in Potter’s arms and one very satisfying orgasm, Draco makes his goodbyes. He finds himself trying to memorize everything, from the warmth in Potter’s eyes to the precise tilt of his smile. He tries not to think that this might’ve been the last time. September is months away and so much could happen between now and then. He leans in for one more kiss.
“I’ll write you,” he says when they finally part again.
Potter screws up his face and scrubs a hand through his hair. “I’m with my aunt and uncle for most of the summer. I can’t get mail.”
Draco just shrugs and reaches out to comb his fingers through Potter’s hair, smoothing it back down over that famous scar. “I’ll write you anyhow.”
True to his word, Draco writes Potter every day. Most days it’s just a paragraph or two. I miss you, I’m thinking of you, I can’t wait to see you again. That sort of thing. But on a few rare occasions, when Draco can’t sleep and the darkness feels too close and the itching of his left arm is beginning to drive him half-mad, he writes pages, feverish declarations of love, pledges and promises of always and forever and everything. Draco knows this is a risk he shouldn’t be taking, but he’s careful to never write anything that may give him away, and a small part of him hopes that Potter will keep these letters, will remember them in the months to come and somehow know that Draco means every word.
On the first day of class, he binds up the whole stack of letters with a red silk ribbon and a mild Sticking Charm and sets off to deliver them. It’d be smarter to send them anonymously by owl, but Draco doesn’t want to have to peer stealthily across the Great Hall to see the look on Potter’s face.
He catches up to him in the corridor after Potions and knocks against him roughly. He’s had enough practice over the years to hit his elbow just right to make Potter’s books go flying, and Draco drops his own armload to the floor.
“Watch it, Potter,” he says with a scowl.
Potter rolls his eyes as he kneels down to gather up his things. “Go fuck yourself, Malfoy.” He sounds more exasperated than angry, and then Potter turns his attention away from Draco entirely as he collects his books and papers into a rough stack. He jams them into the crook of his arm as he stands.
Draco picks up the packet of letters. “Love letters, Potter? Really?” he drawls. “Which one of your adoring fans wrote you these?”
It’s immensely satisfying, the way Potter freezes mid-step and slowly turns back to look at Draco, his eyes wide and so very green. “What are you…”
Smirking, Draco pulls the top letter free from the ribbon and shakes it open. “‘My dear heart,’” he reads aloud, and snorts. “Dear heart? How trite. You’re not dating a Hufflepuff, are you?” Draco pauses for dramatic effect as the students who have stopped to watch another infamous Potter-Malfoy fight titter appreciatively, and with an audience Draco finds that he’s genuinely enjoying himself. He clears his throat loudly before he reads on, eager to read out as much of it as he can before Potter works out what’s going on. “‘It is only the first day of summer and already I miss you so much that it feels as though I—’”
Potter stalks back up to him and snatches the letters from his hand. “You’re such an arsehole,” he says, but his eyes are bright and he’s blushing a little.
Draco glances at the students loitering around them before he gives Potter a smug smile. “Tell me, do you kiss your girlfriend with that mouth?”
Draco can tell that Potter’s biting back a smile as he rolls his eyes again and stomps off, cramming the stack of letters between the pages of his History of Magic textbook. Still smiling, Draco kneels down to gather up his own books.
It’s the beginning of October when it happens. Draco walks into the Potions classroom and stops short at the unfamiliar man standing behind Snape’s desk. He introduces himself as Professor Slughorn, but Draco’s mind has gone numb and he can’t understand anything beyond that.
For the first time in his life, Draco’s cauldron explodes.
He writes his mother to be sure, and even though he expects the answer he gets, it’s still a shock. He barely sleeps that night and stumbles through his classes the next day. It’s a Wednesday, and that means he and Potter have a standing date in the shallow alcove behind the tapestry of frolicking moon calves on the third floor.
Potter’s already there when he arrives, waiting for him with an eager smile, and Draco pauses for a moment before he steps fully behind the tapestry. Potter’s no one’s idea of handsome; he’s far too skinny for that, with his knobbly knees and his thin wrists and his sharply jutting collarbones framed by the stretched-out collar of his too-large shirt. There’s that awful hair and those stupid, clunky glasses. His brows are too heavy and dark, he’s got a light dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose, and his mouth is just a little too wide for his face. But even with all of that, sometimes Draco catches sight of him and Potter’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
He wraps Draco up in his arms and kisses him without preamble, and Draco lets him. He tries to lose himself in kissing Potter, but it’s hard when he’s so caught up trying to commit every last detail of it to memory.
This is it, he thinks to himself. This is it, this is the last time.
After, Potter grins at him, his expression open and untroubled. “See you tomorrow,” he says.
On Thursdays, they meet for half an hour on the fourth floor, in a small alcove beneath the stairs that lead up to one of the smaller towers. It’s a tight squeeze for both of them to fit in the narrow space, but neither of them has ever had cause for complaint. Draco thinks longingly of that alcove. He’ll never visit it again.
Potter reaches for the edge of the tapestry and Draco panics. This is it, this is it, his mind chants. He snags Potter by the sleeve and hauls him back for just one more kiss, fierce and determined, and he loves the way Potter seems to melt. He always does, when Draco takes control like this, every inch of him going wonderfully loose and pliant, his hands clutching helplessly at the Draco’s clothing, like his knees might give out at any moment, and how the hell is Draco supposed to give this up?
For Potter. It’s all for Potter.
Draco eases out of the kiss, until his lips are just brushing Potter’s. A moment later, Potter draws back, his eyes fluttering open, and his mouth curves up into a blissful smile. Draco smiles back, and reaches out to brush a lock of hair from Potter’s forehead, his thumb rubbing gently over the lightning bolt scar. For luck, he thinks, that somehow they’ll all get through this.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says, and Potter nods back, lifts the edge of the tapestry, and is gone.
Later, with the curtains drawn tight around his bed and the snores of his roommates echoing through their dorm, he writes a note to Granger and places it in his box. He watches the rosebud on the lid bloom and tries not to think about the fact that tonight was the last time Potter would ever look at him like that.
It’s an unseasonably cool day for October, and grey clouds gather overhead even though the weather report in this morning’s Daily Prophet said it wouldn’t rain. Draco’s grateful for that. It was hard enough to force himself to set this up once. He’s not sure if he could make himself do it a second time if rain forced him to reschedule.
Sitting in the Great Hall at breakfast earlier that morning, he’d picked at a slice of toast and tried to catch Granger’s eye without letting Potter see him watching. When he finally did and she gave him a slight nod, he felt like he might throw up. He’s been jittery and nauseated all day.
Now he’s in a small courtyard tucked away in the depths of the castle. It’s only just big enough for the gnarled old oak tree that squats there. Draco discovered this little courtyard back in his second year, and he’s never seen anyone else here in all the years since then. This is where he requested to meet Potter when he wanted to change sides. In the months after that, he and Potter continued to meet and they’ve spent hours sitting on the weather-worn stone bench below that oak tree, talking about everything. This is where Potter kissed him for the very first time.
He’s been out here for a while, long enough that his arse is starting to go numb on the chilly stone of the bench, long enough that his jaw is starting to ache from snogging Pansy. He tries to muster up some enthusiasm for what he’s doing, but he can’t quite manage it when all he can think of is how wrong the soft curves of Pansy’s body feel pressed against him. His ears perk up at every small sound.
Luckily, Pansy doesn’t seem to notice his distraction. It was ridiculously easy to get her to come here with him, but he’s been setting this up for a long time, gently luring her affections with subtle flirting and small gifts. She’s probably already picturing herself as the next Mrs Malfoy.
Draco’s so caught up in listening for the door to open that when it finally does, it takes his brain a moment to catch up. He turns away from Pansy to see Potter standing in the doorway, Granger peeking out from behind him, and he doesn’t even have to fake his guilty look. Potter’s still just standing there, frozen and staring, his head shaking slowly back and forth like he wants to deny that this is really happening. He looks shattered, and Draco can feel something deep inside himself breaking right along with him. Then Granger slides her hands into the crook of Potter’s arm and tugs him away. The door falls shut behind them, and Draco takes what comfort he can from the fact that Granger is with Potter; she’ll take care of him.
On the bench beside him, Pansy scoots away and tugs her skirt over her knees. “What was that all about?”
Draco shrugs. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Pansy stares at him for a long moment, and Draco looks away. “I think you know damned well what I mean.” She stands up and fists her hands on her hips. “It looked like Potter was jealous.” Draco’s insides turn to ice at her words, but it floods his veins in a cold rush of relief when she continues, her voice rising, “It looked like perhaps he had feelings for me and was devastated to find me here with your tongue stuck halfway down my throat.”
Draco shrugs again, and Pansy makes a small sound of outrage.
“Tell me you didn’t set this up, Draco. Tell me that you didn’t just fucking use me as another pawn in this ridiculous feud you’ve got going with Potter.”
Another shrug. Draco feels like he ought to be trying to calm her down, reassure her or something, but right now he’s only barely holding himself together and he wants her to leave so he can fall apart in peace, just for a little while. “Might’ve done,” he says.
Pansy slaps him. Hard. “You’re a cold bastard, Malfoy,” she snaps at him and then turns on her heel and stalks away. The door slams behind her.
He lets himself slouch back against the oak tree, and he remembers one of the last times he and Potter kissed here. How it started as an innocent press of lips, and escalated quickly once Draco kissed him back. How he ended up with his back scraped pink from Potter pushing him up against the rough bark, and how the warm sunshine filtering through the bright new leaves of spring couldn’t compare to the brilliant green of Potter’s eyes. Potter’s warm breath against his neck, Potter’s hands on his skin. Draco shivers. Pansy’s words echo in his mind, and Draco can’t find it in himself to argue with them.
As the crisp autumn days sharpen and grow steadily greyer, Potter still won’t even look at him. Draco had expected fury. He’d assumed that Potter would rage at him and they’d go back to the way things were, glaring at each other across the Great Hall and picking fights in corridors. Draco had prepared himself for that. He hadn’t counted on Potter pretending he no longer exists.
It hurts more than he cares to admit.
Pansy certainly hasn’t helped. In the weeks following the incident in the courtyard, she’d taken to flirting outrageously with Potter in a misguided attempt to win back the affection she’d never had. But each coy look was salt in Potter’s wounds, each coquettish remark a twist of the knife. Two years ago, Draco would have found the whole situation hilarious. Now he can hardly bear to watch. He’s sure that Potter thinks that Draco put her up to it.
It took her a few weeks, but Pansy seems to have finally given up, redoubling her anger toward Draco instead. Not that she really cares about Potter, but she blames Draco wholeheartedly for her missed chance at whatever advantages she thinks she could have gained as the girlfriend of the Boy Who Lived.
In any case, it’s cost Draco his study partner. Crabbe and Goyle are idiots, Nott spends most of his study time inventing new excuses to keep from studying, and Zabini’s a giant twat. So without Pansy, he’s stuck studying alone. He sighs heavily and shifts in his uncomfortable seat, and ignores the glare Pince sends his way. He’s been writing his Charms essay for the last half hour, but he’s only managed to add half an inch to it because Potter’s sitting at a table across the room with Granger and Weasley. His back is to Draco, and Draco can’t stop staring at the small pale slice of neck that’s visible between his hair and the collar of his robes.
Draco has fond memories of kissing that little patch of skin, and of the soft noises Potter made when he did. He remembers the taste of it, warm and a little salty, and how smooth it felt. Sometimes he hadn’t even kissed it properly, just rubbed his lips over it to relish how lovely Potter’s skin felt against them.
He’s standing before he even realizes what he’s doing, but once he’s up that’s as good as committed. He wanders over to the card catalogue and sorts through the drawers until he finds a book in the proper section. He pulls it out, jots “20 minutes” along the bottom, and takes a roundabout path to the stacks. As he passes by Potter’s table, he catches Grangers eye. He very deliberately holds up the card and lets it drop, and then he’s walking just behind Potter’s chair and the back of his neck is so tempting that Draco has to curl his hand into a fist to keep from reaching out and brushing his fingertips against it.
Granger’s a pretty good actress, Draco thinks from where he watches from just behind a shelf. She waits a full two minutes before she shuffles through her papers, then sighs softly as she shuffles through them again. She frowns.
“What is it, Hermione?” Weasley asks.
“I could have sworn I had…” she trails off, then stands and walks around the table. “Aha,” she says, picking up Draco’s card. “Must’ve dropped it.”
She takes her seat again and resumes her notes. Draco shifts a little to get a better view of Potter. He’s reading something boring, Draco can tell from the way he chews idly at his bottom lip as his eyes skim over the page. His hair is getting long again; it falls over his eyes and he keeps shoving it out of his face. He looks tired, that bone-deep sort of exhausted like he hasn’t slept well in days. Draco hopes he hasn’t been having nightmares again.
After a few minutes, Draco turns away and heads deeper into the stacks. He takes the time to set up a few mild repelling charms and a Muffliato, and Granger arrives fifteen minutes later.
She stops a few feet from him and folds her arms over her chest. “What,” she says brusquely.
Now that she’s here, Draco feels sort of ridiculous. He regrets this already, but she’s here now so he might as well. He jams his hands into his pockets and shrugs. “How is he?”
Her eyebrows go winging up nearly to her hairline. “That’s what you’ve called me over here to talk about?” She huffs a sigh. “You’re wasting my time.”
“No, wait,” he says when she starts to turn away. “Look, this isn’t easy for me. I just want to know how he is.”
She sighs and turns around. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Malfoy. I’m sure you’ve seen how he is.”
“He won’t even look at me.” Draco has no idea why he even says it. In that moment, he fucking hates how pathetic he is.
Granger sighs again, but it’s a gentler sound. “Of course he won’t. He’s devastated. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
Draco has no idea what she sees on his face that makes her look at him with such terrible pity; he’s too busy trying to not fall apart in the middle of the fucking library to care.
Granger sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry,” she says stiffly. “I love him like a brother, and it’s difficult for me to see him like this.” She exhales slowly. “Especially since I helped you do it.”
Draco nods. He understands all about guilt. “But we had to,” he says. “He’d never have let me take the Mark, otherwise.”
“No,” Granger says quietly. “He wouldn’t have.”
And Draco hadn’t known how much he needed to hear her say it until the cold rush of relief hits him like a handful of snow tipped down the back of his collar. He’s got no choice about this. This is how it has to be.
Granger closes her eyes and takes a slow breath. “I know this is all for the best. Even if it doesn’t really seem like it right now.” Her eyes open again and she regards him evenly. “Don’t do this again, Malfoy.”
Draco nods again. He won’t. Any of it.
Draco’s called to take his Mark in December, just two days before the new year. There’s a small ceremony in the Manor’s largest ballroom where he kneels down and offers his left arm to be branded. Draco’s mother refuses to watch, and her repugnance is far easier for Draco to bear than the fierce pride he sees shining in his father’s eyes.
The blackened flesh of his forearm is still tender later that night when he huddles in bed under the heavy duvet and, like a sore tooth, he can’t stop poking at it. It’s starkly black against his white skin, and Draco hates it. The only thing that gives him a small measure of comfort is that Potter will never have to see it.
It’s three in the morning when he finally gives up on sleep. He gets up and fishes out the little wooden box from where he’d hidden it in a drawer in his desk, beneath stacks of old school papers. Marked, he writes on a scrap of parchment. It’s beginning.
He folds it up as small as he can and stuffs it into the box. The rose on the lid blooms, and Draco takes it with him and tucks it under his pillow as he climbs back into bed. He falls into a fitful sleep and dreams of flying over a dark forest, and below him he sees nothing but death among the trees.
That box is the first thing he checks when he wakes in the morning. His eyes are still gritty and won’t quite focus in the watery half-light of dawn. He blinks and squints at it, and finds that the rose has shriveled back into a bud. Granger got his message.
The remainder of Draco’s last year at Hogwarts passes by in a blur of heartache and frenzied studying for his NEWTs. He’s never thrown himself into his studies quite like this, but it’s become a welcome escape. While he’s drowning himself in complex Arithmancy equations or analyzing the interactions of rare Potions ingredients, he doesn’t have the space in his head to think about anything else. Not the Mark burned black into his arm, or how his father’s letters hint at great things to come after he finishes school, or how that probably means he’s going to have to kill someone in the coming months.
Or the way that Potter still won’t even bloody look at him.
All in all, he’s wound up tighter than an eight day clock, so he really shouldn’t be this surprised when he finally snaps.
Potions today had gone poorly, to say the least. As always happens when there’s not enough else going on to fully occupy his mind, Draco’s thoughts and eyes had drifted across the room to where Potter was stirring his cauldron slowly, his forehead creased in concentration, and Draco was swept away by memories of Potter kissing him with that same focused determination. And even though Draco’s attention had only lapsed for a second, that was all it took to reduce his Empathy Draught to something roughly the consistency of concrete. He’ll have to chisel it out of his cauldron later, taking up the time he’d planned to use for writing his Transfiguration essay.
He’s halfway down the corridor when he realizes that in his haste to leave the classroom, he’s managed to leave his bloody textbook back at his workstation. For a moment he considers just leaving the bloody thing there, but with a small sigh he turns back, only to find the Golden Trio walking toward him. Draco pastes a scowl on his face and tamps down his irritation at the way Potter keeps his eyes nailed to the floor.
But as they draw near, Potter falls back two steps and shifts so that he’s walking on Granger’s other side, so he won’t have to pass directly by Draco. Granger sends him a fleeting look that’s laden with pity, and Draco’s temper bursts into something feverish that burns through the last fraying threads of his self-control. His wand leaps into his hand almost unbidden and he hits Weasley with a Petrificus Totalus before he closes the three steps between himself and Potter and shoves the stupid fucking git into the nearest wall.
Draco feels a momentary flash of triumph when Potter looks up and meets Draco’s eyes for the first time in months. And then Potter’s fist jabs out and connects hard with his ribs. With a low growl, Draco throws himself against Potter, and Potter twists against him, and the two of them tumble to the ground, punching and flailing as Granger screams and jumps back. Draco breaks Potter’s glasses. Potter breaks Draco’s nose. Draco splits Potter’s lip open. The fight lasts less than a minute, and then Draco finds himself forcibly separated from Potter by a furious Granger. Draco strains against the spell that holds him even though he knows it won’t do any good.
She holds him immobile for a few moments longer while she releases Weasley and mends Potter’s bleeding lip and broken glasses, then drops the spell as she storms up to him and hits him with an Episkey that makes his eyes water. The crunch of his nose realigning is nearly as painful as when it broke.
“What the hell is wrong with you? I can’t believe you’d do something this stupid!” she hisses at him in a furious whisper while Potter and Weasley gawp at her. She jabs Draco in the sternum and he winces. Potter had landed a particularly vicious punch there and it bloody well hurts. “Tell me, what the hell were you thinking?”
Draco sniffs once. “He won’t even look at me,” he mumbles, unable to meet her infuriated glare. “I just wanted him to look at me. I wanted him to touch me.”
Her harsh bark of laughter surprises him. “Well you certainly got that.” She jabs him again and he can’t hide a grunt of pain, and she raises her voice as she says, “Don’t touch him again, Malfoy, or you’ll have me to deal with.”
She turns and stamps away, hooking her arm through Weasley’s and dragging him off down the hallway as he continues to gape down at her like the big ginger oaf he is. Potter gives Draco a baleful look over his shoulder before following along after them, and Draco slumps against the wall.
Later that night he stuffs another scrap of parchment into the little box. I’m sorry, it reads.
But he’s not sorry, not really. Especially not when he’s getting undressed before bed and he finds a small russet smudge on the cuff of his shirt. Potter’s blood, he thinks, and folds the shirt up as small as he can and tucks it into the bottom of his trunk where the house-elves won’t fetch it for laundering.
Draco is a terrible Death Eater.
He’s sent on his first raid the first week of July. They’ve split up into smaller groups in a quiet Muggle town in Staffordshire. Their mission is to spread fear amongst the Muggles, which Draco had hoped would just involve some vandalism, maybe a Morsmordre or two. He isn’t so lucky.
Draco is taken along with his father and the Lestrange brothers. Aunt Bellatrix was with them at first, cackling on about ‘family outings’ in a way that made his spine tingle unpleasantly. But she fucked off somewhere shortly after they arrived, and Draco can’t say he misses her. This is hard enough to handle without her rabid enthusiasm.
“Wonderful,” Rodolphus says as they round up the family occupying the home they’ve broken into. There’s a mum and a dad and two little girls. “Four of them, four of us.” He hits the dad with a Crucio while the mum clutches her daughters close and cries, great gasping sobs that wrack her whole body, and Draco tries his best to avoid thinking of his own mother.
Instead, he slides his fingers along the cuff of the shirt he’d put on beneath his robes tonight. Even without looking, he can feel where the small russet stain is. The fabric there is just slightly stiffer, and Draco rubs it gently between thumb and forefinger, a tangible reminder of why he’s here.
Rabastan hits her with a Stunner and hauls the crying girls away. He keeps littler one for himself and shoves the other at Draco. But Draco can’t make himself hold onto her, and she wrenches herself away and backs into the corner to get as far from him as she can. She can’t be more than six or seven, with long blonde hair and big blue eyes. She’s probably a very pretty child when her face isn’t red from crying and she doesn’t have snot streaming from her nose and her eyes aren’t so wide with terror that he can see the whites all around the irises. Draco trains his wand on her and tries to keep himself from sicking up at what he’s got to do.
The mum’s coming to. “Leave them,” she slurs, crawling forward. “Leave my girls…”
Lucius aims a vicious kick to her ribs and she folds around herself with a soft moan. He turns to Draco. “Go on,” he says, his voice as gentle and encouraging as it was the first time he coaxed Draco onto a broomstick.
Draco swallows back a mouthful of bile. “Crucio,” he says.
His wand sparks, and the little girl flinches back, trembling and pressing herself into the corner. “Please,” she says. “Please.”
Draco can’t breathe. He’s gulping in lungful after lungful of air but none of it seems to have any oxygen. He’s dizzy and trembling almost as much as the girl is. Across the room, her sister shrieks under Rodolphus’s ministrations, and the little girl clamps her hands over her eyes and cowers in her corner. Draco can’t bring himself to look at what’s going on behind him.
“Crucio!” he tries again. “Crucio, Crucio!”
The little girl peeks at him from between her small fingers. Her eyes are very very blue.
Rodolphus laughs and claps a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Let me show you how it’s done, nephew.” He flicks his wand at the girl and says, “Crucio!”
She screams and Draco knows he’s going to hear that sound in his nightmares for years to come. Her body goes rigid and she topples over, her back bowing impossibly as her small limbs spasm. And Rodolphus just laughs. He releases the spell and she goes limp, her breath coming in shallow sobs. Her little chest heaves, and Draco wants to leave. He wants to turn around and run away and never come back, and he wants to take this Muggle child with him. But all he can do is stand there and stare at her like a great useless lump. He can’t save her. He can’t even save himself.
Potter, he thinks. He can save Potter. That’s the only thing that matters. This is all for Potter.
Draco finally tears his eyes away from her and looks behind him. The dad is lying still, sprawled across the bloody carpet, probably dead. And the mum is… Draco looks away. He can’t watch what his own father’s doing.
The door bangs open and Draco flinches as Bellatrix appears. “You’re still here? In your first house?” She tuts disapprovingly as she saunters into the room. “Finish up, we’ve a whole town to visit tonight.”
“Like St Nicholas,” Rabastan snickers, and Draco doesn’t catch the spell he casts at the youngest girl, but she screams once and goes still.
Rodolphus takes a step back from the corner and gestures gallantly to the little girl crouched there. “I saved one for you, love,” he says.
Bellatrix breaks into a wide smile and trails her fingers lovingly along her husband’s cheek as she passes him. “Darling,” she says, and breaks into a wide smile as she slashes her wand at the girl.
And then there’s blood, so much blood as her organs slide from her as shiny and slippery as fish. How can such a little body hold so much blood? Saliva floods Draco’s mouth and he stumbles away, barely making it to a potted plant before his stomach heaves and his dinner comes burning back up his throat. He coughs and retches while the Lestranges laugh uproariously at him, as if watching him spew his guts out at a little girl’s murder was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. At the thought of guts, another round of retching catches him and he bends over the plant again.
Lucius sighs heavily and claps a hand to Draco’s shoulder, his fingers squeezing in a way that Draco thinks is meant to be reassuring. “It’s all right,” he says. “Not all of us are cut out for field work.” He sounds disappointed.
Draco gags and coughs. He’s never been so glad in his life to be a failure.
Failure has its benefits, Draco soon comes to realize. After his pitiful performance in Staffordshire, they assign him to fill Snape’s old position of restocking their stores of potions, and Draco wonders why they didn’t just assign him to do that straight off. They’d had Amycus doing it previously, and honestly that man couldn’t brew himself out of a paper bag even if he’d been dunked in Felix Felicis. Draco’s much happier in his potions lab in the Dungeons, even if sometimes he does have to cast a Silencio to keep out the screams of prisoners. He tries to keep from thinking too hard about that.
Potter. This is all for Potter.
The largest benefit his failure had, besides absolving him of any obligation to torture Muggle children, is that he’s become almost invisible to the rest of the Death Eaters. He’s of as little consequence to them as a portrait on the wall or a potted plant in the corner. That’s more than fine by him, and Draco quickly falls into a routine. He gets his brewing out of the way first thing in the morning, then spends the stretch of hours until noon rattling around the quiet Manor. Sometimes he thinks it should feel lonely, wandering through the vacant library or pacing the length of the disused ballroom, but it’s the most peaceful part of Draco’s day. Most of the other Death Eaters sleep late, worn out from whatever mayhem they’d been out causing the night before. Once they’re up, Draco loiters around, and keeps his mouth shut and his ears open. Because everyone thinks he’s so useless, they don’t bother to guard their words or their plans around him, and Draco just lets himself fade into the background as they talk.
It’s rather useful.
It’s October again and he knows that he’s saved Potter’s life three times so far for sure, and another four that he can guess at. That makes it all worthwhile. He hasn’t heard anything from Granger, but he hadn’t really expected to, and Draco doesn’t particularly care.
As long as she makes sure Potter stays safe.
They’re just sitting down to dinner when Greyback kicks the door open and throws Potter into the room.
His hands are bound behind him so he can’t even break his fall, and he lands on the Persian rug with a pained grunt. His eyes are bright and defiant, blazingly green without the shield of his glasses, and Draco comes halfway out of his seat before he realizes that he can’t do anything to help him.
Dinner’s off, of course, as they all gather round and take turns casting hexes and curses at Potter while they summon the Dark Lord. None of the spells are particularly nasty because they’re all smart enough to make sure they don’t bloody him up before the Dark Lord has had his turn. Draco takes shallow breaths through his mouth and doesn’t join in, and no one asks him to. His eyes meet Potter’s only once, and Draco’s heart skips a beat by how much venom Potter can pack into a seconds-long stare. After that, Draco focuses his gaze on the sleet pattering against the windowpanes.
It only gets worse when the Dark Lord arrives. They use darker spells, now. Nothing life-threatening – it wouldn’t do to have Potter die on them before he’s given them all the information he has to give – but they’re merciless about inflicting the most pain they can while still avoiding any long-term damage. Crucio and Flagrante and a Diffindo to the tender skin across Potter’s ribs, it goes on and on. Potter screams and screams until he goes hoarse, and still he won’t break. Draco wants him to, desperately wants for Potter to not be this strong for once in his life, because if he’d just beg for mercy and spill all of the Order’s secrets, they’d toss him in the Dungeons for a while and then maybe Draco could get him out. He has the loose beginnings of a plan, but it’s terribly risky and he needs to come up with something better, and he can’t bloody well concentrate with Potter screaming like that.
Finally, mercifully, Potter passes out. After instructing the Carrows to haul him away and lock him up, the Dark Lord turns and his eyes settle upon Draco.
“Malfoy,” he says, and Draco feels his blood run cold. It’s no secret how fond the Dark Lord is of Legilimency. Oh Merlin, if he was listening to Draco’s thoughts, Potter’s fucked.
“My Lord,” he says, bowing his head. He clasps his hands behind his back to keep the Dark Lord from seeing how they tremble.
“It is my understanding that you and Potter are acquainted from school,” he says, his voice easy and conversational, as if he were an acquaintance of his parents making polite small talk whilst waiting for tea. As if he didn’t just torture Draco’s ex-boyfriend on the floor of Draco’s dining room. Merlin, how did this become Draco’s life?
“Yes, my Lord,” he says, and somehow he’s able to keep his voice calm and steady.
“It is also my understanding that there is no love lost between the two of you.”
Draco has to bite back a giddy laugh at the Dark Lord’s phrasing. He takes a quick breath, filling his lungs, before he answers, “He hates me, my Lord.”
The Dark Lord breaks into a pleased smile that Draco doesn’t like the look of. Not at all. That’s the smile he gets before he turns Bellatrix loose on a Muggle, the same smile before Nagini eats another meal, the same smile he had just minutes ago when he held Potter under a Crucio as Potter screamed and thrashed and his eyes rolled so far back in his head that the green disappeared entirely.
“Wonderful,” he says. “I have a very special assignment for you. We have known for some time of your… preferences. And since it appears that Potter cannot be broken by traditional means…”
It takes Draco several long seconds to twig onto what he’s being asked to do, and when the request sinks in, his stomach turns over. He can’t look as his parents, can’t bear to see the revulsion he knows must be on his mother’s face. And if Lucius looks proud of him right now… Draco’s stomach rolls again and he swallows hard against the rising wave of nausea. “My Lord?” he can’t help but ask, praying he’s somehow mistaken.
“I want you to break him for me, Malfoy,” the Dark Lord says. “I want you to take him against his will and break his spirit.”
Draco nods and swallows back a sour mouthful of acid even as his heart pounds. Unfettered, unimpeded, encouraged access to Potter. This is exactly what Draco wants, even if it’s not the way he wanted to get it. “Yes, my Lord.” And because his mother raised him well, he adds, “Thank you, my Lord.”
He turns and flees the room, hoping the others will mistake his panic for eagerness as he bolts down the stairs to the Dungeons. He stops by his potions lab and gathers up an armload of bottles before continuing down the hall to the small rooms where they hold prisoners. Rabastan has joined the Carrows and they’re loitering outside one of the doors.
“Is he in there?” Draco asks.
“Yeah,” Alecto says, eyeing his armload. Her mouth twists down in suspicion. “You’re healing him?”
Draco sniffs. “I don’t like my playthings broken before I’ve even had a chance to use them,” he spits at her. He points his wand at the door and unlocks it, then sweeps inside. He yanks the door shut after him with a resounding bang.
The room is occupied only by a narrow iron cot. Potter’s on it, facedown and tied to the bedframe at his wrists and ankles. He’s been stripped naked, exposing livid marks and gashes from the curses he’d taken upstairs. Draco’s breath shudders as he exhales, then he lines up his bottles on the floor beside Potter’s bed and gets started. It looks far worse than it is, Draco is relieved to discover. The cuts are all superficial, painful but not life-threatening, and Draco’s potions will be able to heal everything. There won’t even be any scars.
He’s glad Potter’s unconscious for this. Draco releases one wrist and one ankle from their bindings so he can roll Potter onto his back and heal the wounds down his front. He studiously avoids looking at his cock and balls as he works the various potions into the scrapes and cuts on Potter’s skin. Draco’s got him tied down again and is halfway down his back when Potter comes to.
“What?” he groans, blinking bleary eyes, and Draco hates how vulnerable Potter looks without his glasses.
“Hold still,” Draco mutters, rubbing Essence of Dittany into a long gash down Potter’s ribs.
Potter’s eyes snap to him and he comes fully awake in an instant. “Malfoy,” he says, and his voice rumbles with barely-restrained fury. “What are you doing?”
“Healing you,” Draco bites out. “Shall I stop?”
Potter growls at him. “How about you—” He breaks off in a sudden scream when Draco mashes his knuckles into an open wound on Potter’s thigh.
As expected, he hears muffled snickering from out in the hall. He strides to the door, yanks it open, and glares at the Carrows and Rabastan. “I’d appreciate a bit of privacy, thanks ever so,” he snaps before slamming the door shut in their amused faces.
Aiming his wand at the door, he locks it, wards it, and then casts the strongest Muffliato he can around the room. Potter watches him suspiciously.
“Sorry for that. I knew they were there, I just had to have an excuse to put up the spells. Alecto always laughs when someone screams.” He picks up the healing salve again and begins rubbing it into a wide abrasion along Potter’s spine.
“Malfoy, what the fuck is going on?” There’s a hint of confusion tempering the anger in Potter’s voice.
Draco draws in a deep breath. On the one hand, he’s desperate for Potter to know the truth, that Draco’s a spy and his feelings for Potter never faltered, not even for an instant. They’re on the same side and Draco’s doing everything he can to keep Potter safe and Potter can stop glaring at him like that because Draco’s going to get him out of here if it’s the last thing he does. On the other hand Potter is absolute shit at Occlumency and even if Draco is sure that he can trust Potter, he’s not sure he can trust Potter to keep his secret safe if the Dark Lord suddenly gets the urge to go rooting around through Potter’s mind. Which honestly, Draco’s not sure why he hasn’t done so already. Breaking Potter like this might be more fun for him, but Legilimency would be so much more efficient.
With a small sigh, Draco abandons the idea of confessing everything to Potter. It likely wouldn’t do any good, in any case. Although Draco trusts Potter unreservedly, Potter certainly has no reason to trust Draco. Even if Draco were to announce that he’s spying for the Order, Potter would only think it’s some sort of trick, and Draco thinks he can handle Potter’s anger better than he would be able to take Potter’s disbelief when he’s telling the truth. He finishes with the salve and reaches for the Essence of Dittany.
“Why are you healing me?” Potter presses on.
“Would you prefer that I didn’t?” Draco shoots back as he starts in on a wide abrasion down the back of Potter’s calf.
Potter doesn’t say anything to that. He lets Draco finish healing him in silence, and Draco is grateful for the time to think. There’s no way he can just walk out of here with Potter. Even if he could somehow smuggle him out of the Manor without anyone noticing, he’d still not be able to get Potter off the grounds. The wards are set specifically to not allow anyone but Death Eaters off the property. Sometimes Greyback likes to set some of the Muggle prisoners loose, and see how far they can run before he catches them again.
But they’re on Malfoy property, and Draco is a Malfoy. It’ll take some time, and some work, and he’ll have to be very careful to not trip any alarms, but he thinks there’s a good chance he can adjust the wards to let Potter out. Since his father is the one that set them, they should respond just as readily to Draco. He’ll only be able to work on it at night, when everyone’s gone, or in the early mornings, while everyone’s still asleep. But yes, Draco thinks he can do it in just a couple of days. Now all he has to do is keep Potter alive and under his own protection until then.
And keeping Potter under his protection means… Draco’s gaze drifts over Potter’s naked body and for a moment he can’t breathe.
It’s risky to tell Potter that he’s the person who’s been sneaking information to the Order, but Merlin, Draco can’t do this alone. He’s been alone for so long, and he’s so tired of pretending all the time. Before he can blurt out all his secrets to Potter, he opens his mouth and instead tells him, “The Dark Lord gave you to me. He expects me to break you. By… forcing myself on you.”
Potter’s eyes get very wide. “What? Why? That doesn’t even… Why?”
“I have the somewhat dubious honor of being the only gay Death Eater,” Draco says and forces himself to give a careless shrug. “It’s my impression that he thinks I’ll enjoy it.”
Potter squirms on the bed, yanking at his bindings. “You can’t. You’re not really going to.”
“What, enjoy it?” Draco demands. “You know me better than that, Potter. I don’t want this any more than you do.”
“You can’t, Malfoy. You can’t,” Potter says, still straining at his bonds.
“Believe what you will of me, Potter, but I did care for you. What we had was… important to me.” The half-truth makes his throat feel tight. All he wants to do is take Potter into his arms the way he used to, and kiss him and kiss him, and then take him far away where no one will ever hurt him again. Including Draco. “I don’t want to hurt you. And… if you tell me no, I won’t force you. But…” He sucks in a breath. “But if I don’t, it’s going to make it harder for me to justify keeping you to myself. They might take you away from me, give you to someone more willing to hurt you. I can spare you some of the pain of it, at least. And I can keep you safe, for now.” He shouldn’t be saying this to Potter. If the Dark Lord finds out that he’s offering Potter even this small mercy, they’ll take Potter from him, and Draco will be punished. But he can’t bring himself to be cruel, not here where it’s only the two of them. He puts his hand on Potter’s arm, and pretends he doesn’t notice how Potter flinches from his touch. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“No,” Potter says. His voice is quiet. “How long do I have to decide?”
“Soon,” Draco says, and he lets his hand fall away. “As soon as you can.”
“Can’t you just say you did?” Potter asks desperately. “Or, fake it somehow?”
Potter’s suggestion is tempting, and Draco wishes it were that simple. “I’m afraid not. I’m not exactly held in the highest regard as a Death Eater. I’m sure someone will be in to… check my work. And that’s assuming the Dark Lord won’t want to go through my mind to see the event for himself.” He often did that, when he didn’t get to witness some choice bit of torture firsthand.
“Oh god,” Potter moans into the mattress. “So you have to… God, and I have to let you do it.” He rolls his head to the side and glares at Draco. “This is so fucked up. You’re making me ask for it. Is that what this is, just some Death Eater game to fuck with my head?”
Draco sighs. “Potter…”
“No,” Potter says, jerking at his bindings again. “Let me up. If you ever cared for me, let me up and get me out of here.”
“I can’t,” Draco says helplessly. As much as he might want to untie Potter, he knows him well enough that some foolish attempt to overpower Draco and escape on his own isn’t entirely out of the question. It’s for his own good that he needs to stay restrained.
“Draco, please. Please, you’ve got to let me out,” Potter says, and Draco can’t handle this. The great Harry Potter, Savior to them all, reduced to begging. Draco rips down the spells around the door and jerks it open. He steps out into the hall, and Potter’s shouts echo after him. “Malfoy. Malfoy, you bastard!”
Alecto giggles like a schoolgirl and Amycus snorts. Draco ignores them and goes up to his room where he pens a quick missive to Granger, telling her that Potter is in his care and he’ll have him out in a couple of days. He tells her to under no circumstances allow the Order to mount any sort of rescue effort. The last thing Draco needs is a whole bunch of well-meaning witches and wizards barging in and bungling up his plan. Two days and he’ll have Potter out with no fuss and very little risk. The rosebud blooms, and Draco tucks the box back into the bottom drawer of his desk, beneath old stacks of schoolwork.
On his way back down to Potter’s room, he stops by his potions lab. He sorts through his stores of finished potions for a minute or so before he finds the jar he’s looking for. He carefully measures out two doses, plucks a hair from his head and tucks it into one of the vials, then affixes a blank label to its front before he stoppers them both and slides them into a small space on the topmost shelf between a jar of powdered dragon claw and a flask of black beetle eyes.
The Carrows are still loitering in the hall outside Potter’s cell when Draco returns.
“You can go now,” he says, flapping one hand dismissively at them just as he’s seen his father do a thousand times before. “I can handle this.”
Alecto snickers. “He’s so cute, isn’t he?” she says to Amycus. “Thinking he can order us about.”
“A little bit of power and it’s gone right to this head,” Amycus tuts. “Sorry, little Malfoy, but we won’t be going anywhere. The Dark Lord doesn’t want to take any chances with Potter here, so he’ll be guarded round the clock.” He nudges Alecto and smiles slyly. “I do hope you’re not shy.”
Alecto laughs. “Performance anxiety is such an awful thing.”
Draco hates them both, but there’s nothing he can do other than sneer at them and then cast all the silencing and locking spells he knows as soon as he’s safely inside Potter’s cell. Once he’s finished, he turns to find Potter watching him warily.
“Have you thought about it?” Draco asks.
“Like I could really think of anything else,” Potter says. “Voldemort is one sick fuck, he really is. And I…”
Draco doesn’t answer. He folds his arms over his chest and taps his fingers against his elbows.
Potter heaves an explosive sigh, then sucks in a deep breath. “I want it to be you. If I have to, if someone’s going to… I’d rather have you. You may be the only gay Death Eater, but there’s others… I just keep imagining Bellatrix. Or Greyback, he seems dedicated enough to…” He shudders and doesn’t finish the thought aloud. “And I can’t… I’d rather have you. At least I cared about you, once.”
A strange mix of relief and dread floods through Draco at Potter’s words. He nods, and then nods again. “Right.”
Potter watches him carefully. “At first I thought this was some trick. That you were fucking with my head by pretending to be nice. Healing me. Giving me a choice. But god, Malfoy, the look on your face. You don’t want this any more than I do.”
“I could be pretending.”
The corner of Potter’s mouth twitches up in a faint smile. “Please. You’re not that great an actor.”
Draco’s heart pounds. If Potter can see through him, then what else has he inadvertently given away? Do the Death Eaters suspect anything? Has the Dark Lord only given Potter to him as a trap, to give him the opportunity to give himself away? Will his rescue attempt of Potter only unspool enough rope to hang himself with? They’ll kill him. They’ll kill him, and they won’t make it slow, and then there won’t be anyone left to get Potter out.
“I just know you,” Potter says quietly. “That’s all I meant.”
It should reassure Draco, but it doesn’t. Somehow Potter was able to read him enough to say exactly what Draco needed to hear. Draco’s safety depends on being utterly unreadable. What else can people tell about him with just a glance?
It doesn’t matter. He’ll just have to be more careful in the next two days than he’s ever been before. Everything he’s done can’t have been for nothing. He has to trust that everything will come together, in the end.
“I suppose we should get it over with,” Potter says.
Draco stares at him. “Now?”
“No sense in dragging it out,” he says. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather just get it out of the way. That way it’s over and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
And Draco can’t argue with that.
Slowly, he unfastens his robes and tugs his clothing aside. Potter politely averts his eyes, and Draco bites back on a giddy laugh and how surreal this whole thing feels. He clambers up onto the mattress behind Potter. He’s not sure that he’ll be able to work up an erection for this, so he uses a spell to help him along.
“I’m going to have to hurt you,” Draco says. “I’m sorry, but they’ll check. And I need to make it look real.” Like it isn’t real. Draco’s stomach turns over.
“Draco,” Potter says, and the fierce determination in his voice brings Draco up short. “It’s okay. I’m giving you my permission. This isn’t… I’m not a victim.” He says the last bit defiantly, and Draco’s not sure which of them he’s trying to convince.
“No,” Draco says. “You’re not. But I’m still sorry.”
Draco keeps his eyes closed through most of it, as if that makes any sort of difference. He pushes forward, and then there’s just heat and pressure and friction and Potter’s pained grunts echoing through the cell. It takes two spells to keep himself hard and another one to get himself to finish. He makes sure to pull out so his release spatters the backs of Potter’s thighs, leaving absolutely no doubt as to what he’s done. He makes the mistake of looking up at Potter. His eyes are squeezed shut and his face is screwed up… in pain? Against tears? Draco used to be able to read every one of Potter’s thoughts writ plain across his face but now he can’t, and Draco has no idea which of them has changed.
He flings himself off the bed as his stomach twists and roils. He crouches down in the far corner before he coughs and heaves and coughs and then he sicks up. He retches for a while, and when his stomach quiets enough that he thinks he might be done, he sits back on his heels. He feels flushed and hot, and when he reaches up with one trembling hand to push at his sweaty hair, his fingertips feel sticky against his forehead. He lowers his hand and finds it smudged with blood and he nearly sicks up again. He closes his eyes and takes deep, even breaths until the nausea subsides.
“Draco,” Potter says from the bed. “Draco, look at me.”
Draco doesn’t want to look at Potter. He doesn’t want to see Potter’s face or the evidence of what he’s done smeared across the backs of Potter’s thighs, not the blood or the… He shakes his head, stubbornly, like he had as a child when he refused to go to bed.
“Draco,” Potter says again, and now there’s a frantic sort of exasperation edging into his voice. “Please talk to me.”
And Draco can’t help but cough out a surprised bark of laughter at that, and it sounds far too unhinged to settle his nerves. It reminds him of Bellatrix, and Draco has to take more slow, deep, even breaths as his stomach turns over again. He waves his wand and Vanishes the puddle of sick from the floor. Potter tugs at his bonds, twisting his wrist as though he might be able to slip free of the thick ropes holding him to the bed. He’ll hurt himself if he keeps it up, and Draco makes a mental note to bring some healing salve with him the next time he visits Potter, to soothe the abrasions on his wrists and ankles. He wants to stand up but he doesn’t think his legs will support him just yet. He feels dizzy and sick and he can’t stop shaking.
“Draco,” Potter says again, sharper this time, and Draco wishes he’d stop saying his name.
“Please,” he says. His voice rasps, and he coughs once. “I just, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He was supposed to keep Potter safe and all he’s done so far is hurt him.
“It’s okay,” Potter tells him. “This… it had to happen. It’s okay.”
“No,” Draco says, because it’s so entirely fucked up that Potter is trying to comfort him. “It’s not, it’s not okay.” And then, because he’s the biggest fucking idiot in the world, he says the most stupid, selfish, self-centered, ridiculous fucking thing he could possibly say. “It’s not how I thought my first time would be.”
He wishes he could take it back the instant he says it. This isn’t about him, this shouldn’t be about him. He curls in on himself and closes his eyes.
“Let me up,” Potter says. His voice is low and even and adamant. “Let me up now.”
Draco just shakes his head again, like the selfish spoiled child he is.
“Draco, let me up.”
“No,” Draco says, finally finding his voice. He stands and fumbles with his robes, setting them to rights so he can leave. He just needs to leave. He needs to leave now.
“I mean it,” Potter says, and now he just sounds angry. And that’s easier to deal with. Potter should be angry. He should hate Draco now more than ever. “Let me up.”
“No,” Draco says again.
He unravels the spells surrounding the room as Potter continues to shout at him, and pulls the door open just as Potter bellows, “Malfoy, you stupid fucking bastard. Malfoy!”
The Carrows are still out in the hall, and they exchange a knowing smirk as Draco yanks the door shut behind himself. He knows if he lingers at all they’ll poke fun at him about it, and Draco can’t handle that. He hurries off down the hall and doesn’t stop until he reaches his bedroom. He locks himself inside, strips off his clothing, and Vanishes it. In his en suite, he fills the bathtub with water as hot as he can stand and scrubs at himself until his skin is tender and pink and smells sharply of his citrus-scented soap. He tries not to think of Potter, still down in that cell, naked and afraid and in pain and—
Draco lets himself slide down until the water closes in over his head. He hears the water gurgling into his ears, and then for as long as he can stand, there’s nothing but warmth and the steady thud of his own heartbeat and a steadily-growing ache in his lungs that has nothing to do with the need for air.
Later that night, as he’d feared, the Dark Lord checks on his progress. They’re eating dinner and Draco’s managed to choke down a few small bites of his poached salmon.
“And how is our newest guest,” the Dark Lord asks, and before Draco can answer, “Legilimens.”
Draco readily opens his mind, pulling up the memory of Potter and pushing it to the forefront so that the Dark Lord doesn’t need to go sorting through the rest of his thoughts. He watches the scene play out like it’s happening to someone else, hearing his own gasps and the pain in Potter’s voice, the bed scrapes across the floor with each motion and there’s the sharp copper smell of blood. Draco’s fingers cinch tight around his napkin until his nails dig into his palm. He takes slow, deep breaths as the memory plays again, and then again. And then, at last, the foreign presence in his mind withdraws, and Draco’s hands tremble as he places his silverware very carefully across his plate. He stands up.
“Not much of an appetite this evening?” the Dark Lord calls, leaning back in his chair. Draco can hear laughter in his voice, like he just witnessed something funny. Draco needs to leave now or he’s going to sick up right there in the dining room in front of everyone.
He manages to wrestle his nausea back down enough to reply, “No, my Lord, not when I have other appetites to which I must attend. If you’ll excuse me, please.”
The Dark Lord waves one hand, dismissing him, while the assembled Death Eaters laugh. Draco leaves with his back straight and his chin up, and he goes back down to the Dungeon and what little solace he can find in Potter’s cell.
He finds that Greyback has been sent to guard it, and of course he’s not content to passively stand outside. The door is open, and Draco freezes for a moment when he sees Greyback crouched at Potter’s bedside, with Potter cringing as far away from him as his bonds allow.
“Get out,” Draco says, fear giving his voice a strength and chill he doesn’t think he could have managed otherwise. “The Dark Lord gave him to me. Get out.”
For a moment, Draco is terrified that Greyback won’t listen to him. He stands, his teeth bared, his cold dark eyes boring into Draco’s own, and then he leaves without a word.
“Thank god you came back,” Potter says as soon as Draco puts a Muffliato around the room. “Oh fuck, thank god you came back. He was going to, he told me he wanted to—”
“I don’t want to hear it. Please,” Draco interrupts. He can’t stand to hear any of it, not the terrible things Greyback whispered in Potter’s ear, nor the trembling desperate relief in Potter’s voice, like Draco’s some sort of fucking savior. He casts every security spell he can think of around their room before turning his wand on Potter. He cleans him up and heals him as best he can. “Any pain?” he asks.
Potter squirms a little on the bed. “A bit sore, but it’s not bad,” he says quietly.
Draco’s still holding his napkin crumpled in one fist. With a wave of his wand he Transfigures it into a bedsheet and tucks it around Potter. For a moment he wavers. He’s tempted to undo Potter’s bonds and crawl into bed with him. He wants to be held the way Potter used to hold him. He wants to feel like everything might turn out all right.
Instead, Draco casts a Cushioning Charm on the floor near the door and settles down with his back against the wall.
“Draco,” Potter says.
“Don’t,” Draco cuts him off. “Please. Don’t. I can’t…”
Mercifully, Potter doesn’t say anything else. Draco draws up his legs, clasps his arms around his shins, and presses his face to his knees. He’ll stay here just for a while, just until the rest of the Death Eaters go out for the evening. Just an hour or two, and then he’ll start working on the wards so he can get Potter the hell out of here.
Two days later, Draco’s nearly got the wards taken care of. They were set by his father, and so they respond readily to Draco’s own magic, just as he’d thought they would. Just a little more work tonight, and he’ll be able to Apparate Potter right through them. He’s not sure what he’s going to do beyond that. Granger will vouch for him, he knows, but what good will he be to the Order? His only usefulness is in keeping Potter safe, and he can’t do that from there.
He sighs and shifts slightly where he sits on the uncomfortably hard floor of Potter’s cell. He’s been spending all the rest of his time here, because as long as Draco’s in here with him, no one else will dare hurt Potter. Draco never ever leaves him alone if Greyback is in the Manor.
He thinks he might’ve dozed off for a bit, because he jerks back to reality to someone banging on the door. He staggers to his feet, stumbling a little as pins and needles flood his legs. He yanks the door open to find his father.
“The Order is attacking with everything they have,” he says quickly. “The wards won’t stand against all of them. We’re going to leave the Manor.”
Fuck, this is exactly what he told Granger he didn’t want. If only they’d waited a few more hours to attack… “Potter?” Draco manages.
Lucius shakes his head. “The Dark Lord wants to leave his remains as a gift for the Order. I believe we have close to an hour before the wards fall. It is the Dark Lord’s wish that we spend that time preparing him to be found.” A nasty smile spreads across Lucius’s face. “I’m going to go strengthen the wards as much as I can. You’re to untie him and bring him up to the ballroom. Everyone else is waiting to prepare him.”
“Well,” he says as the door falls shut again.
“Draco,” Potter says desperately, and he tugs at his bindings again. “You can’t give me to them. If you cared for me, if you ever cared for me, you won’t do this. They’ll kill me.”
Draco nods. He feels queasy again. “Yes, they certainly will.”
He ignores Potter shouting after him and he runs into the hall where he casts a hasty Accio. Seconds later, two vials come hurtling toward him, one with a blank label stuck on it, the other unmarked. He catches them easily and darts back into Potter’s room. He kneels on the floor beside Potter’s bed and pops the cork off one of the vials, the one with the label, and holds it to Potter’s lips.
“Drink,” he commands.
Potter drinks, shuddering at the disgusting taste and gulping it down anyhow. When the vial is empty, Draco Vanishes it and begins to take off his clothes as Potter shivers on the bed. His skin crawls and lightens, and his hair slowly turns from unruly black to sleek blond. A Dark Mark sketches itself onto his left arm.
When the transformation is complete and Draco is staring down at a mirror image of himself, he points his wand at Potter and says, “Imperio. Sorry, Potter, but I know you won’t go along with this any other way. I know you can shake off an Imperio, but the powdered bicorn horn in the polyjuice makes you especially susceptible to mind spells. I don’t think you’ll be able to break through it, this time.” Potter just blinks at him, and Draco quickly unties him from the bed. “Stand up and get dressed in my clothes,” Draco tells him, and as he obeys, Draco plucks a hair from Potter’s head and drops it into the other vial before downing the lumpy concoction.
Potter’s finished dressing by the time Draco finishes his own transformation. He stretches out face-down on the bed. “Tie me down like you were,” Draco says, and Potter does it. “Take my wand. Listen to me very carefully. You are going to get out of here as fast as you can without raising any suspicion. Leave the Manor and get to the edges of the property. You’ll want to be as close as possible when the wards fall. Go through the gardens, you can hide there more easily. When the wards fall, find the Order and tell them you’re safe. Talk to Granger. Ask her to tell you all about me and what I’ve been doing.”
Potter nods and turns away, and it hits Draco that this is it. He’d thought it was hard to let Potter go in the Room of Requirement, or behind the tapestry. But this is really the end. This is goodbye, and it’s unbearable.
“Potter,” he calls out, suddenly desperate. “Tell me you love me.”
He’s staring hard at Potter, hoping for a flicker of something in his face, searching for some sign that Potter’s not just saying it because Draco told him to. But Potter’s eyesight is shit without his glasses and Draco can barely make him out at all.
“I love you,” Potter says, his voice warm and dull, and Draco tries to be content with that.
“Good,” he says, forcing himself to speak past the lump in his throat. “Now go.”
Potter goes, and Draco listens to his footsteps as they disappear down the hall.
Draco closes his eyes and waits for the Death Eaters to come and fetch him.
It takes them longer to come for him than he’d assumed they would. It’s no secret that the rest of the Death Eaters think Draco’s inept, and he thought they’d send someone down after it took longer than two minutes for him to appear with Potter. It’s the Carrows, and they both draw up short when they find him alone in the room. Draco is just thankful that the Dark Lord didn’t send Greyback for him. Never let it be said that Draco is not capable of finding the silver lining in every dark cloud.
“Huh,” says Alecto. “I was sure we’d find Draco taking you for one last tumble.”
“Draco,” he scoffs, pitching his voice lower and mimicking Potter’s accent. He jerks impatiently at where his wrist is tied to the bedframe. “That bastard ran out of here the second he could, like the fucking coward he is.”
Amycus punches him in the ribs. “You don’t talk about Malfoy like that,” he snarls as Draco gasps in pain.
Alecto just shrugs. “Why not? It’s true. He couldn’t even handle a little blood, according to Bellatrix.”
Amycus levels a glare at her. “He’s still one of us.”
Alecto shrugs again. “Whatever. Just get him up. Everyone’s waiting.”
“If you’re going to kill me, I’d like to die with some trousers, please,” Draco says as they untie him.
Alecto snorts as she hauls him to his feet. “Well, since you ask so politely…” She yanks the bedsheet off the thin mattress and tosses it to him, smirking as he fumbles with it.
They give him a moment to knot it around his waist. He looks ridiculous and has to concentrate on not stepping on the bottom of it, but it’s infinitely better than walking to his death with his prick flopping about for all to see, including his parents. Merlin, his mother. In his head this plan of his was terrifying, but still noble as he’d march off to his fate in Potter’s body. But when he thinks of his mother, he doesn’t think he can do this anymore.
For a moment, he considers begging the Carrows to end it here. One quick Avada Kedavra and it’ll all be over. But he knows them, and knows they’ll never agree to it. He’s lucky they allowed him the bedsheet.
Draco walks into the ballroom with as much dignity as he can muster, given the circumstances and his attire. The Death Eaters are all gathered in a loose ring that breaks to allow him entrance. The Dark Lord is standing at the center, and he smiles as Draco approaches.
“Ah, here we are,” he says, spreading his hands in a parody of welcome. “The Boy Who Lived, come to die.”
Draco puts his chin up and does his best to channel Potter’s stubborn intensity and determination. He hopes his green eyes are blazing.
Draco curls onto his side and coughs blood onto the white marble floor. He has no idea how Potter did it. When they went at Potter, he bore curse after curse, hex after hex, endless rounds of Crucio, and the defiant gleam in his eye hadn’t wavered until he’d finally fallen into unconsciousness.
Draco wishes he could pass out.
There’s a clock on the wall, but with Potter’s myopic eyes he can’t make out the time. One hour, he’d thought to himself as he stared down the Dark Lord. Sixty minutes. Three thousand and six hundred seconds, and each second wasn’t that long. There went one now, and another, and another. Three down already. He could do this, just bear it one second at a time. And then the Dark Lord had lashed out with his wand and struck him with a spell that made his intestines feel like they tied themselves up in knots, and Draco fell to the ground screaming and pressing his hands helplessly to his stomach, and from there on out it’s all a bit of a blur.
They’re not holding back with him. They held back with Potter earlier, when they meant to keep him alive. What Potter got was painful but not damaging. But the curses they’re leveling at Draco now are much worse. At first Draco had tried to catalogue each new injury, to make a mental list of the counter-spells and potions he’d need after to heal himself, but somewhere between the third and fourth round of Crucio he’d lost track. It’s not as if it matters, anyhow. They’re not going to leave him alive.
As he lies gasping for breath after something that made his lungs feel like they’re boiling, he considers telling them everything. The polyjuice, the escape, everything. But the only thing that would do is get Potter caught, and they’d still torture Draco for his betrayal. So he bites his tongue, and when the next curse hits him, all he does is scream.
This is for Potter. This is all for Potter.
It goes on and on and on until, finally, it doesn’t. Draco lies stretched out on the cold marble floor. His skin is clammy with sweat and sticky from dozens of bleeding wounds, but somehow, miraculously, his sheet is still tucked modestly around his waist. His throat is raw from screaming and he’s so exhausted, all he wants to do is sleep now. He’s awash in pain, and wants nothing more than to slip under the surface and let himself drown.
Rabastan had been hitting the bones of his toes with precise Blasting Curses, but he’s not doing it anymore. Draco tries to put his head up to see whether Rabastan had lost interest or if Draco had run out of toes. All he can see is a blur of red, and Draco thinks maybe he should be thankful that Potter’s terrible eyesight prevents him from seeing the full extent of his injuries.
It takes him a moment to notice the voice, deep and familiar, and for a moment Draco’s five years old again and just woken up from a nightmare and it’s okay because he’s here and safe, and everything will be all right again.
“Father,” he slurs, and it’s hard to talk with so much blood in his mouth. He thinks that maybe he’s bitten through his tongue at some point, but it’s vaguely worrying that he can’t quite tell for sure. It hurts, but everything hurts.
“They’re almost through, my Lord,” Lucius is saying. “We need to leave now.”
“Well now, Harry Potter,” the Dark Lord says. “It seems that it’s time to say goodbye.”
Draco tries to laugh at that, because he’s already said goodbye to Harry Potter. But it comes out as a strange wheeze, and he blinks up at the speaker. The dark shape above him slowly focuses, and it takes Draco’s brain a moment to work through that. His eyesight is coming back. Lovely. His hour’s up, then. He struggles to sit up, because damned if he’s going to die on his back. On his feet would be nice, but Draco’s always believed in setting reasonable goals.
“His hair, what’s wrong with his hair?” someone gasps. Draco thinks it’s Bellatrix. He squints in the direction of the voice but he can’t see that far yet.
Then his skin shudders and ripples unpleasantly and he closes his eyes. He can tell when the transformation is complete because the silence is so complete that all he can hear is the echo of his own ragged breathing.
“Draco!” Narcissa cries. She runs forward and drops to her knees beside him.
“Sorry, Mum,” he manages and quits struggling to sit up. The floor is so much nicer, anyhow, so lovely and cool against his bare skin. His mother’s hands are gentle as she brushes his hair from his forehead, soft and dry like they were when he was little and she checked for fever.
Then Narcissa is yanked away from him and everyone is shouting, and the Dark Lord leans down and puts his face very close to Draco’s and demands, “Where is Potter? Where is he?”
“Gone,” Draco rasps, and he laughs. It hurts his ribs and deep in his lungs, but he can’t stop. “He’s gone, he’s gone.”
The Dark Lord’s face is a thing of terror and he stands slowly and levels his wand at Draco. But it doesn’t matter. Everything hurts and Avada Kedavra will be over quickly. The wards are down and Potter is safe, and Draco’s part is finally at an end. It was worth it, he thinks. This was all worth it.
He closes his eyes.
Draco opens his eyes to an unfamiliar white ceiling. He stares up at it for a long moment, then everything comes back to him in a rush. The pain and relief that he was finally done. Then the sharp cracks of Apparition echoing through the ballroom like cannon blasts, the sizzle and flare of spells bursting as wandfights erupted all over the room between the Death Eaters and the Aurors, and Potter.
Potter. Everything after that is a blur that fades quickly into darkness, but Draco remembers that Potter came back, the fucking idiot, if he came back and got himself killed after everything Draco did… He pushes himself up, his arms weak and trembling alarmingly, but he manages to sit up enough to look around his hospital room. There’s another bed beside his, and the person in it is burrowed so far beneath the blankets that only a tousled mop of black hair is visible, stark against the crisp white cotton bedsheets. Potter.
Draco doesn’t realize he’s spoken aloud until the blankets shift as the person rolls over, green eyes blinking open. Potter stretches one arm free of his cocoon of blankets, takes his glasses from the bedside table, and pushes them onto his face. He blinks again.
“Draco,” he says, breaking into a relieved smile. “You’re awake.”
“You’re safe,” Draco says. His arms tremble, his elbows about to give out, and he lets them. He flops back against his pillows. “You’re alive.”
“Thanks to you,” Potter says. “I talked to Hermione. She told me everything.”
Draco closes his eyes for a moment. “Potter, I’m sorry.”
“Later,” he says gently. “A lot’s happened, but I just can’t deal with it all right now. Right now we’re both alive, and that’s enough.” Potter scoots to the edge of his mattress and reaches out his arm again, this time across the narrow gap between their beds.
Draco stares at it for a long moment, the upturned palm and splayed fingers. Then he slowly reaches back, and meets him halfway.
Potter’s fingers close around his own.
And he’s right, Draco thinks.
For now, this is enough.