As soon as hugs had been had all round and Dumbledore had assured Harry that everything else was a formality and he would see to it that Sirius' wand was returned, etcetera, Draco made sure Harry got back to Hogwarts by the fastest method possible.
"Everything went well, Gentlemen?" Madam Pomfrey asked as soon as they entered the hospital wing.
"Perfectly, thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Draco replied, "but I'd just like to make sure the Veritaserum had no lasting effects on this idiot here."
He had not been happy with how long Fudge had dragged things out, not at all.
"Your idiot," Harry muttered, but he was about dead on his feet.
"Of course, if you'd just like to sit Mr Potter down here," the school nurse invited and indicated a chair.
The way Harry went without a fight spoke volumes. The way he tensed as soon as Madam Pomfrey started to use her diagnostic charms screamed even more loudly that he was not in top shape. Draco was all too aware of the signs.
"Energy levels low, but no other signs of distress," Madam Pomfrey said in short order. "I prescribe food and then sleep."
Only then did Draco sigh in relief.
"Thank you very much, Madam Pomfrey," he said, "I believe I can handle that. Come on, Harry, before you fall asleep where you're sitting."
"Thank you," Harry said, or at least tried to, it was rather mumbled, but Draco was pretty sure Madam Pomfrey got the message.
"Have a good Christmas holiday," Draco said as he guided Harry out of the room.
He knew many of the staff had stayed on an extra few days just in case they were needed after Sirius' trial. It was a stark indication of exactly how much faith most of Hogwarts had in the Ministry.
"And you, Gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey replied. "Do try to relax, Healer's orders."
"Oh, I intend to make sure we do," Draco replied and threw a smile over his shoulder at the woman.
Harry was not going to do more than open presents and eat over Christmas if Draco had any say in the matter.
He accosted a house elf who was going about her business on the way back to their room and asked her if she could request that the kitchen elves bring some food up for them. She was more than happy to help. Then he just had to steer Harry in the right direction.
"We missed the end of term," Harry said suddenly, as if he'd only just realised it.
"Yes we did," he replied, "but don't worry, we were busy and nobody minded."
"Weren't we supposed to be on the train to escort it back to London?"
"No, not this time."
"Everyone else did."
Of course Harry would have realised that now.
"Like I said, we were busy," Draco insisted. "If you recall you were up at six that morning to practice with Sirius in preparation for today, so stop worrying about it."
"Harry, I know you're half asleep, but don't be an idiot."
Harry half closed green eyes opened a bit wider at that and glared at him.
"I'm not being an idiot, we were asleep for weeks, everyone was covering for us for so long ..."
Draco kissed him to stop him talking. Luckily Harry wasn't expecting the move so did not simply move to their mental connection.
"It's called priorities, Love," Draco assured him. "We can do every Hogsmeade weekend next term to make up for it, if it makes you happy, but, I promise, you have nothing to worry about."
Harry looked at him a while longer, but then his eyelids began to droop again.
"Okay," Harry said.
* * *
Harry had slept the entire afternoon and had at least been feeling awake when Ron had knocked on their door to say Sirius et al were finally back. Dumbledore had also arranged a party to celebrate. That had been two hours ago.
Harry had really tried to appear cheerful and pleased to anyone he spoke to, but the trial had been hard on him and it was difficult to maintain the façade. Draco had spent the entire party so far glued to his side, diverting awkward questions and generally being a complete star when it came to looking after him. Now that the celebrations had started to wind down Harry was frazzled around the edges and his smile felt like it would break at any moment.
He found his eyes wandering to his godfather where Sirius was playing at being the life and soul of the party. The man was obviously happy, but when his gaze flicked over to Harry, he could not help but see the shadows lurking in Sirius' eyes. It was then that he noticed Remus lurking only a few feet from his godfather and he realised that Remus was glancing at Sirius in the same way Draco had been continually looking at him all evening.
They both had their guardian angels and they were both as mentally fried by the day as each other. Harry decided that enough was enough.
[It's time to get us, Sirius and Remus out of here,] he told Draco silently and Draco squeezed his hand in response, although Draco continued the polite conversation he was having with Professor Sprout.
While he waited, Harry allowed his barriers to drop, just slightly. Sometimes it helped for him to refocus, as if lowering and raising his mental protections a little re-energised them or something. This time, however, it was a mistake.
He hadn't been paying quite enough attention and the room bloomed with colour. Sometimes he forgot quite what a powerful group of individuals Hogwarts staff really were. He put his hand to his head and closed his eyes, pushing his barriers back up as firmly as possible.
"Harry?" Draco asked, arm snaking around his back instantly.
"Sorry," he apologised, "miscalculated."
He opened his eyes to see Professor Sprout looking at him in a very worried manner.
"My apologies, Professor Sprout," Draco said, "I think it may be time for us to head back to our room."
"Of course, Boys," the kindly head of Hufflepuff said with a smile, "it must have been a very trying day."
"A bit," Harry replied.
[Understatement of the century,] Draco commented silently.
"Good night," Harry added and let Draco lead the way over to Sirius. "We're packing it in," he said when his godfather acknowledged him.
"That sounds like a splendid idea," Remus said before Sirius could comment, "I think I might do the same. What about you Sirius? You must be knackered what with this afternoon piled on top of everything this morning."
Harry had heard the tale of the red tape when he'd found Sirius at the beginning of the party. Apparently even being declared innocent meant you had to jump through hoops at the Ministry.
"I am a bit," Sirius agreed. "Would you mind if we cut and run, Sybill?"
"Of course not," Professor Trelawney said, "I'm just so very glad this is all cleared up. Of course I had no doubt it would be, I saw it in the tea leaves only yesterday."
Harry shared a smile with the woman. They both knew she was nowhere near as eccentric as she pretended, but in public she always played the part.
It took them a little while to get out of the room, what with everyone left wanting to say goodbye to all of them, but they eventually made it.
"I need a drink," Sirius said pointedly the moment the door closed, "a real one. Anyone care to join me."
"I'm assuming you have a stash," Remus said in a tone that matched his friend almost perfectly, "feel free to lead the way."
The two men looked at Harry and Draco, at which point Harry was surprised to find that it was a serious question. Drinking was not something he had ever been invited to do before and it caught him rather by surprise.
"We'd love to," Draco said, which caused Harry to look at him open-mouthed.
He probably would have spent several minutes just staring if it hadn't been for the fact that Sirius took the affirmative answer and began to walk. Remus followed Sirius, and Draco slipped his hand through Harry's arm and began to do the same, taking him in the same direction.
[You don't have to drink much,] Draco said silently, [but there is no way you and Sirius are going to sleep before you have had a chance to deal with what you both experienced today. If that means a little bit of male bonding over alcohol then so be it.]
As always Draco's logic was impeccable, but what bothered Harry was the fact that he hadn't had anything stronger than half a glass of champagne since his powers surfaced, and he was positive Sirius was not intending to serve anything so tame. It was the way Sirius had stressed the words 'a real one' that rather gave it away. Wondering what he had let himself in for, he followed Sirius towards the guest quarters.
* * *
Harry looked at the drink in his hand and then over at Draco who was also peering dubiously at the glass he was holding. Sirius had already downed one glass and was on to his second, but he had experience at this type of thing and neither Harry nor Draco did. Even Draco, who unlike Harry, was used to more than him, courtesy of his ingrained socialising skills, did not appear to believe that the tumbler of firewhisky he had been handed was in the realms of anything he had had before.
[When he said he needed a drink, he wasn't joking was he,] Draco said and took an initial sip.
Harry experience with firewhisky had been the briefest of experimental drinking and a very small glass Ron's mum had once poured down his throat for medicinal purposes. With this in mind he sipped the beverage cautiously and let the liquid slide down his throat.
To his surprise it was quite pleasant; it burned, but in no way was the spirit as harsh as the half bottle he and Ron had managed to consume one weekend in their sixth year, after which they had sworn never to drink again. They had been, to put it mildly, a little ill. Ron never had told him where he had acquired the firewhisky and, in fact, avoided the subject if it was ever mentioned.
"I think today may be why they invented Obliviate," Sirius said.
"And the Crucio," Harry added, "because Fudge better hope we never meet in a dark alley."
Sirius saluted him with his glass, so he saluted back.
"He built a large part of his career on your arrest," Draco entered the conversation, "so he was always going to fight. The way he managed to suppress the testimony of certain Aurors after the fight at the Ministry is, frankly, criminal. You should have been cleared then, even if it would have been posthumously at the time."
"It really is time he was unemployed," Remus agreed.
"We keep saying that," Sirius said, "when is someone going to do something about it."
"When we have time," Harry replied with a laugh.
Sirius made a face for a moment, then shrugged.
"Point," he agreed.
"Speaking of time," Remus said, "remember that time we all got so hammered James got magical hiccups."
Sirius grinned almost instantly and then snorted a laugh.
"Those were the days," he said and took another large swig from his firewhisky.
"Magical hiccups?" Harry asked.
"Same as normal hiccups only it's not your diaphragm that goes into spasm, it's your magic," Draco told him. "Has the same effect on the human body."
"And accidental magic happens," Sirius said, his grin broadening. "Just harmless stuff."
"Mostly your dad showered the place with glitter every twenty seconds or so," Remus revealed, also smiling, "although he did grow antlers at one point."
"We spent an hour trying to scare him enough for the hiccups to go away," Sirius said, "only we were all smashed so we weren't very good at it."
Remus snorted a laugh.
"Had to sneak him to Madam Pomfrey in the end," he said. "Wow did we get the disapproving glare of doom."
"I know that one," Harry agreed.
He did his very best not to disappoint Madam Pomfrey, but it had happened. It was a glare to end all glares.
"I know that one too," Draco said with a nod. "I'm not sure I got anything else for six years."
"Well you were a brat," Harry said.
Draco looked at his drink and sighed.
"I was," he agreed, which set Sirius off laughing like a loon. "So come on," Draco went on, "we've heard so many rumours about Marauders, so tell us all the meaty details so we can add whispers to the legend."
Remus and Sirius looked at each other and Remus gave a little shrug.
"Where to start," is how Sirius began and Harry settled in for some tall tales.