"I can't," Harry panted, trying to ignore the thin trickle of blood coming from Draco's temple, from the cut that Harry had caused when he'd shoved Draco against the rough wall. "I still hate you."
"Of course you do, Potter," Draco sneered. "Feeling's mutual."
Harry let go of him. Draco straightened his shoulders and started to walk away, toward the mouth of the cave. Harry stared after him. "After all these years, you can't just turn around and - "
"But I did," Draco said quietly, so quietly that Harry almost missed it. "I can. You don't know what it's like, being there. Having his hold on you _so strong_ that it's like the imperius curse, forcing you to do things against your will."
"He's used imperius on me," Harry replied. "So don't try and tell me that I don't know, Malfoy, don't _ever_ tell me that I don't know something when it comes to Voldemort."
Draco turned, and his steely eyes met Harry's. "There's plenty you don't know about the Dark Lord," he hissed. He pushed his sleeve up, fumbling almost, and thrust his arm at Harry. The Dark Mark was an ugly red reminder on his pale forearm. "And there's things you'll never know." He let the sleeve drop. "Why don't you just mind your own bloody business and let me do my fucking job."
It wasn't a question. Dropping from Draco's thin lips it was almost an order, and the full weight of what they were doing there in that damp cave finally struck Harry. Draco was supposedly turning spy, at great personal risk. And he, Harry, had been assigned by the Ministry to move the information Draco had, as if it was something tangible, ship it from Draco's lips to the Minister herself.
"Your fucking job _is_ my business now," Harry replied. "As much as I hate that fact, as much as I think you're just toying with us, as much as I can't stand to be within six feet of you. It's my job, too. I don't want to be around you any longer than you want to be around me, so let's just get this over with."
Draco smirked and kicked at a pile of stones, causing them to scatter. "Thirty second truce, eh Potter?"
"Shut up, you bastard, or I'll slam you into the wall again, and I won't be so nice about it this time."
"I'm _so_ scared."
Harry bit back a scathing reply. It wouldn't do the Ministry any good for them to revert back to their Hogwarts ways, although for the most part they already had. "Just say what you need to say, and get the hell out of my face."
"I suppose that's a fair enough deal." Draco wiped at the blood on his face, which had started to dry, and it smeared on his sleeve. "Oh, that's fantastic," he muttered.
Harry started to say something, and stopped himself, marveled for a second at his self control. Turning down the opportunity to insult Malfoy twice was rare. "Tell me what this important information is, and you can go back to being a Death Eater."
Draco sneered. "After today I'll never be a true Death Eater again."
"And that's a choice _you_ made."
Their eyes met and held, and Harry's fingers itched for his wand. He looked away first, wanting Draco to think he had the upper hand, at least for now. Draco took a breath. "I suppose I should start at the beginning - "
"A very good place to start."
" - seventh year, when Dumbledore got called away by Fudge to investigate those Muggle deaths - "
"Wait, what about our seventh year?"
"Pay attention, Potter. As I was saying, my father came to me at the end of our seventh year, when Dumbledore got that urgent call from Fudge to help investigate the four or so Muggle deaths that the Ministry was so sure the Dark Lord or one of his followers had committed."
Draco stepped over a few large stones, leaned against the wall of the cave and folded his arms across his chest. Harry noted that his trousers were perfectly creased, but there was a rip along Draco's left shin, presumably from their earlier tussle. "And?"
"My father came to Hogwarts, took me from my dormitory without any sort of permission from McGonagall or even letting anyone know I was gone, took me to the Dark Lord, who gave me his Mark."
Harry could remember that night and the subsequent day, firmly planted in his mind as 'the day Malfoy was missing'. He could remember the look of terror in McGonagall's eyes when they realized he was missing, and her refusal to speak to any of the students about where Draco was. Instead she'd let him brush it off as "a family emergency, Professor, my presence was necessary" the following day when he'd returned. He realized now that she must have know what had happened, but due to Ministry silence regarding Voldemort, was most likely forbidden to voice her suspicions - to anyone.
He found his voice. "You didn't try to fight him?"
A harsh laugh escaped Draco. "Fight my father? Fight _Voldemort_? Destroy the Malfoy family honor? Don't be stupid."
"You're destroying family honor right now," Harry hissed.
"You don't need to remind me," Draco replied coldly. "I'm doing this because I have to, for my own peace of mind, for my own sanity." He paused. "And I still owe you, Potter."
Harry could remember that, too, the summer that Lucius Malfoy had been taken to Azkaban and Draco hadn't been allowed to go home.
two (past, Hogwarts 6th year, summer)
Harry stared at the letter he'd just untied from Hedwig's leg. It was from Uncle Vernon, informing him that because he, Vernon Dursley, had given himself a substantial raise at the drill factory (not to mention a promotion), the entire family plus Piers Polkiss was taking a vacation to Majorca.
Uncle Vernon was really not sorry, but he said he was, because the entire family didn't include Harry. He was to stay at Hogwarts for the summer unless Ron or Hermione could take him in until school started back up.
Ron and Hermione were both going on vacations as well. Hermione was planning on visiting Krum in Bulgaria, and Ron was going to spend the summer in Romania with Charlie and the dragons. Harry was definitely not going to invite himself along, because it just wouldn't be fair to Ron or Hermione.
So he took the letter to McGonagall, who read it and nodded, and she in turn took it to Dumbledore, who'd called Harry to his office.
"Peach gummy," Harry said to the statue, and it slid aside for him to walk though. Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, his fingers steepled, and looking more tired than Harry had ever seen him before.
"Ah, Harry, sit down," Dumbledore gestured to the chair, then clapped his hands hands together. A pitcher of pumpkin juice and two glasses appeared. "Professor McGonagall has informed me of your situation with the Dursleys."
"I'm sorry, Professor, Uncle Vernon - "
Dumbledore raised a hand. "I know. And as long as you feel comfortable spending the summer here, you may stay. But there is something you should know."
Harry nodded and waited.
"Draco Malfoy will be spending the summer here as well," Dumbledore said calmly. "And before you jump to the conclusions you are so apt to jump to, let me tell you something in strict confidence."
Harry nodded again.
"Draco's father has been taken by the Dementors to Azkaban."
Harry felt his jaw drop. He blinked, and tried to compose himself. "What for?"
"I'm not sure on that myself, Harry, the Ministry is keeping very quiet on this one." The look in Dumbledore's eyes made Harry think that he indeed knew, but wasn't going to say. "I'd like to ask that you not mention to Mr. Malfoy that you know, and try not to make it any harder for him than it is."
It was the closest Dumbledore had ever been to flat out reproaching him. "Yes, sir," Harry murmured. "I'll be sure not to mention it to Draco."
"Thank you." The twinkle was back in Dumbledore's eye. "Juice?"
three (past, Hogwarts 6th year, summer)
Students who were staying for the summer were all moved in to Ravenclaw dormitories, and Harry found himself sharing a room with Draco, the Creevy brothers, and a second-year Ravenclaw named Jack Fenniger. The Creevy brothers had thankfully grown out of their hero-worship, and Harry was almost glad they were around. Dennis was spectacularly good at chess, almost as good as Ron, and Harry passed a lot of the time staring at the black-and-white board trying to figure out a way to win against him.
Draco spent most of his time ignoring Harry, and Harry was glad to return the favor. The Slytherin boy was withdrawn and quiet, and Harry almost felt sorry for him, for a second. Draco spent most of his time reading or playing wizard's chess with Millicent Bulstrode, the only other Slytherin there. Crabbe and Goyle were notably absent.
With the exception of Draco, there were no other Quidditch players at Hogwarts, and while Harry practiced by himself on his Nimbus 2050, it just wasn't the same.
So he shoved his dislike aside, and went to ask Draco if he wanted to join him on the Quidditch field.
Draco stared at him for a moment. "This your idea of a sick joke, Potter?"
"You wish, Malfoy," Harry said, testily. He wanted to play Quidditch more than he hated Draco. "And besides, if you're the only person _I_ have to play Quidditch with, I'm the only person _you_ have to play Quidditch with."
It wasn't the best logic in the world, but Draco nodded. "All right. Let's go."
Harry was careful not to walk too close to Draco as they went to get their brooms, stored in the dormitory for the summer. He didn't want it to look like they were getting along, because they weren't. And he was sure that Draco didn't want it to look like that, either.
"You ready?" he asked Draco, out on the field, as Draco hovered slightly on his new top-of-the-line Cleansweep.
"Just get to it," Draco snapped.
four (past, Hogwarts 6th year, summer)
Off the field, Harry barely spoke to Draco except to trade sneering insults. But on the field, they didn't speak at all. They just showed up, at one o'clock each day, and battled it out with their broomsticks, a bludger, two bats, and the Golden Snitch.
The afternoon it happened started like every other afternoon had, with Harry releasing the snitch first and the bludger second, after tossing Draco his bat. Draco immediately hit the bludger toward him, and Harry ducked out of the way. As the bludger zoomed back around, he knocked it in Draco's direction and sped off across the field.
The snitch was hiding, so they hit the bludger back and forth for a few minutes, trying different flying patterns to both avoid and approach the charmed iron balls. Then Harry saw a glint of gold, ten feet to Draco's right, and sped toward it.
Draco saw it a second later and took off. In a flash they were side-by-side and shoving each other in the knees as they chased after the snitch. Suddenly it dropped, and they followed, plummeting towards the green at a furious speed. It hovered right above the green, winking at them in the sun, and they both stretched out their arms -
Harry pulled out of the dive at the last possible second, the snitch clutched firmly in his hand.
"You bastard," Draco panted from twenty feet above him, and Harry started to grin, but right then a bludger smacked Draco in the stomach, sending him backwards completely off his broom and hurtling back down towards the ground.
Before he could even form a thought, Harry was following him towards the grass, faster than Draco was falling, fast enough to fly underneath Draco and catch him awkwardly two feet above the green.
"You _do_ know things we don't know, right?" Harry asked, interrupting Draco's narrative.
Draco frowned and drew himself up to his full height, taller than Harry, looking at him through narrowed eyes. Harry could see then why the Death Eaters who'd worked under him had been so reluctant to speak of the Malfoys when interrogated. Draco at his most serious was utterly chilling. "Yes, Potter , I do."
"I haven't got all day."
"You have as long as it takes me to tell you," Draco said evenly.
Harry glared at him. "Malfoy - "
"Tell me, Harry, how would you feel if you were seventeen, and you had no choice but to submit yourself to a man who found his greatest pleasure in killing people?"
"You could have gone to Dumbledore before it happened, asked him to protect you."
Draco shook his head. "I didn't know how bad it was, so I couldn't have asked for protection. Especially not from Albus Dumbledore; you of all people should remember that I never cared for the headmaster."
"I don't understand how you could not have a choice ," Harry said firmly.
"You didn't have a choice in having the Dark Lord put Avada Kevadra on you, did you? No. I was a child, seventeen. What would I have done after I'd disobeyed my father? Hidden out at Hogwarts for the rest of my life, afraid he would come after me? No."
"You _wanted_ to be a Death Eater," Harry snapped. He was losing patience in the summer heat, made worse by the close walls.
"Yes," Draco replied, just as coldly. "I did, then At the time I had no idea what being a Death Eater _meant_. And then it was simply too late. This Mark will never leave me, Potter. No magic known to man can remove it."
"What about other magics?"
"I don't know. I haven't tried."
Harry nodded, thinking he'd have to look in to that later. Once he got out of this damned cave. "Let's get back on the subject here, and you tell me what it is you came to tell."
"I can see you're not too pleased with this news," Percy Weasley was saying, "but this is your new assignment, Harry."
Harry was too busy wanting to do something drastic to the Minister's head assistant to pay much attention to the words that had followed "Draco Malfoy has now totally deserted the Death Eaters, and it's your job to protect him."
"Percy," Harry hissed, "You know that Malfoy and I don't get along, at all, ever."
"The Minister is aware of that fact, however - "
"I'm sorry, but you're the best we've got when it comes to You-Know-Who."
"For Merlin's sake, call him Voldemort, will you? Saying his name won't make him appear and crucio you," Harry snapped, and Percy flinched.
"This decision came from the Minister herself," Percy said slowly. "You can take it up with her. And don't try and go to Hermione, either, she doesn't know."
Harry stared at him, shocked. "Hermione doesn't know? But she - "
Percy cut him off. "No one knows except for the Minister, me, and you. And Mr. Malfoy, of course."
There were times when Harry hated his job, which was working in the War Office, a fairly new department at the Ministry. Mostly he hated the fact that it got a little too personal sometimes, and even downright annoying when he was referred to as 'Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived', but since everyone else who'd had as much experience fighting Voldemort was either dead or Dumbledore, there was really no place else he'd rather work. Ron's stories about the Ministry Treasury got extremely boring at times.
Harry focused his attention back on Percy. "Where is he now?"
"There's no place safer, besides Hogwarts, and even that isn't too safe these days."
"So where _exactly_ is he?"
"In your office."
Harry groaned. "Percy, don't take it personally, but I fucking hate you. "
"That's quite understandable. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to assist the Minister at an important Magical Cooperation meeting; it's quite interesting, as Ali Bashir has managed to sign..." He trailed off, because Harry was already walking away.
Draco was indeed in Harry's office, leaning back in Harry's chair, his feet on Harry's desk. Harry growled at him. "Get your bloody feet off my desk, and. Sit. Over. There!" He gestured to the chair placed opposite the desk.
Draco smirked at him, and did as Harry requested. "Happy to see you too, Potter."
"Seeing as I can't order you to leave, will you please explain why you're here?" Harry tried not to look at Draco, instead straightening the papers his feet had scattered.
"I'm no longer a Death Eater."
"As long as you have the Mark on your arm, you are," Harry countered. "And I don't trust you not to run back to Voldemort the next time it burns."
"I've made my decision, and it's a final one. My absence from the ranks has no doubt already been noted by those under me, and by my father and the Dark Lord himself. A Death Eater does not go missing unless they have turned themselves in, so it will be obvious what I have done. The moment I surrendered myself to the Minister, I left the Death Eaters, and I can never return."
Harry took a moment to think about what Draco was saying. He couldn't return without being killed, and he would now be hunted, so he'd come to the Ministry in hopes of escaping death at Voldemort's hands. His earlier passing of information, in the cave, regarding the possible attack on Hogwarts had saved him from death at the hands of the dementors. "I hope you didn't ask for me personally," he muttered.
Draco said nothing, and Harry had the sinking feeling he'd done just that. "I have other responsibilities, you know," he continued.
"I know. But I also know the Minister has made me your top priority. I'm sure Granger can cover for you."
It was said in a mocking voice, but Harry could tell Draco was at least a little afraid. Draco knew the reasons why Harry was the best person for the job. "You'll have to cooperate fully, with anything the Ministry wants to know."
"Anything I know, you will know."
Harry nodded. "And for your information, Hermione might be my boss, but they haven't told her about you deserting."
"The less people who know the better, I suppose," Draco replied. "I'd assume she'll find out eventually, what with you spending all your time making sure I don't get killed."
"Don't," Harry ground out. "Don't put that responsibility on me."
"But is on you, Potter. Percy Weasley just told you it was."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "You say one negative word about Percy and I'll - "
"You'll what? Kill me yourself?" Draco let out a laugh and leaned back in his chair. "That would defeat the whole purpose of this, now wouldn't it?"
Harry swore under his breath and wondered briefly why he wasn't turning this insufferable son-of-a-bitch over to Voldemort himself. "I suppose you think you'll be staying with me," he muttered.
"Where else would I stay? It's a 'round the clock assignment, you do realize."
"Fuck off," Harry grumbled, standing up. "And get your cloak, we're leaving."
Harry took the bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky and two glasses from his cupboard. "You have to tell me everything," he said to Draco, who was sitting on the couch. "You have to tell me everything or I can't protect you." He poured the firewhisky, tapped his glass with his wand and said, "Intepescere! Do you want yours cold?"
"Firewhisky? No." Draco took his drink from Harry's hand. "You ask me questions, I'll answer. Since you know practically the whole of it from the last time we saw each other."
"Fair enough. Tell me why you're a deserter."
"You make it sound like I'm a horrible person," Draco said dryly, then drank half the contents of his glass in one gulp. "But I suppose in many ways I am," he continued, quieter. "You're right, Potter, I am a deserter. Because I couldn't do the things Voldemort wanted me to do any longer. I know when we were in school together you thought there wasn't a single kind bone in my body, and at the time, you would have had to dig pretty far to find some goodness in me."
"So what happened?"
Draco raised his eyes to Harry's. "There's only so much killing a person can stand," he whispered, and drained the rest of his drink.
Harry was shocked, not that Draco had killed, but that he'd admitted he wasn't infallible. "How many?" he asked, his voice low.
Draco shook his head. "If you care anything about my state of mind, you won't ask me that. Not yet." There was more than a touch of desperation in his voice. "I thought killing was power at first," he murmured. "And power over others was what I wanted."
"What is it you want now?" Harry asked, and lifted his glass to his lips, not looking at Draco.
"Some more of this firewhisky." Draco stood. "You?"
Harry held out his glass, wordless. Draco obviously didn't want to answer that question yet, either.
"Unless we put an end to this soon, the Dark Lord will be stronger than he ever was before," Draco said from the kitchen, his voice carrying clearly across Harry's flat. "If we don't stop him before he tries to destroy Hogwarts, I don't know if we'll be able to stop him, ever. And then the killing won't stop until every witch or wizard that has a drop of Muggle blood in them is dead."
Then there was the sound of glass shattering, and Harry heard Draco's gasp. "Are you all right?" he asked quickly, sharper than he intended.
"I'm fine," Draco murmured, his back still to Harry. Harry crossed the flat quickly. Draco had crushed the glass in his hand and left liquor, blood, and bits of glass dripping down onto the floor. There were slivers of glass embedded in his palm and fingers. It was his wand hand, and he was fumbling for his wand with the other.
Harry wrapped his fingers around Draco's wrist, stopping him from raising the wand. "Let me do it, Malfoy."
Draco's lips twisted. Harry lifted his own wand. "Mederi! "
The shards flew from Draco's hand and into the refuse can, along with the rest of the glass. Harry released his hold on Draco's arm. "There."
"Thanks," Draco muttered, flexing his fingers and rinsing his hand in the sink. "I won't squeeze it so tight next time."
"There won't be a next time," Harry said firmly. "Go sit down, Draco, and let me handle it, all right? Isn't this what I'm supposed to be doing?"
"Getting me drunk?" Draco laughed, but it was a harsh sound. "Please tell me I have my own room, so I can go sit in there. Alone."
Harry was almost glad there was no glass in _his_ hand, or they'd be facing the same situation again with the roles reversed. "Through there," he snapped, pointing at the short hallway. "The first room on your right."
"Thanks." Draco said it with a defiant tilt of his head, and Harry was sure he wasn't thankful at all.
He walked away, and Harry looked at the liquid mess on his floor, Draco's blood and the firewhisky mixing and congealing into a thick, sticky fluid. He took a cloth from the drawer beside the sink and wet it, almost glad for some real physical work, glad to get his mind off the total mystery that he'd been ordered to unravel.
Harry was awakened the next morning by a insistent tapping on the glass, a full hour before he technically had to drag himself out of bed. "Whatisit," he mumbled, fumbling for his glasses and shoving them on. There was an owl outside the window, the Minister's own private messenger, and Harry felt his heart sink. "Now what!"
He went over and opened the window. Gemini hooted softly at him and held out her leg. He untied the note, patted her gently. She flew off, back to the Ministry, he supposed. He unrolled the small piece of paper. See me immediately, it read. Harry groaned.
Note in hand, he went out into the kitchen. Draco was sitting at the table, a mug of coffee in his hand. "Morning," he said sourly.
Harry dropped the paper next to him. "It's from the Minister."
"I suppose I'm to accompany you."
"Mmm." Harry poured himself a cup of the coffee, sniffed it. "You're not trying to poison me, are you?"
Draco gave him such an ugly look that Harry almost laughed. "Guess not." He poured sugar into the steaming liquid. "Get your robes on, we'll Apparate there."
Draco grunted and swallowed what was left in his mug, then got up. Harry stirred the sugar in and watched Draco's door close.
They Apparated to the Minister's outer office ten minutes later. Percy was already at his desk, looking expectant. "You can go right in, Harry." He did not address Draco, who looked down at him disdainfully as they walked past.
"Good morning, Harry," Bau said pleasantly as they entered her office. "Take a chair. You too, Mr. Malfoy."
Harry slipped into one of the chairs opposite the Minister's desk. It wasn't a big office, she hadn't wanted to use the large ornate room that Fudge had occupied. "What can I do for you, Mathilde?"
"Our sources have confirmed the information Mr. Malfoy passed to us last month," she said crisply, wasting no time. "The attack on Hogwarts is supposedly scheduled to take place in three weeks' time. I'm afraid that leaves us with very little room for preparation."
Harry felt the blood drain from his face. "Three _weeks_?"
Bau nodded. "I'd like the two of you to leave immediately. Albus is aware that you're on your way."
"What are we to do at Hogwarts until the attack?" Draco asked.
"Whatever the Headmaster asks of you," she replied. "Good luck, the both of you. Dismissed."
Neither of them looked at Percy as they left the outer office, ignoring whatever it was he was saying to them.
"I just don't see why the Minister would want us there," Harry growled. He was seething with anger as they hurried down the main Ministry corridor after having stopped quickly at his office. "It's quite possibly the most dangerous place for you to be right now, and that's where she sends us. I don't understand it."
"She sent us," Draco replied curtly, following Harry down the hall, "because I can _help_, Potter. I know you don't believe me, but I can."
Harry stopped and turned, looking Draco in the eye. "It'll just be more killing."
"I understand that."
"I thought that's what you wanted to get away from."
Draco grabbed his arm, the first time he'd touched Harry since Harry'd slammed him against the cave wall a month ago. His grip was firm and sure. "We have to stop it," he breathed.
Harry stared at him, trying to stare _into_ him, as if it would help him understand Draco better. Draco did not blink, nor did he look away. Finally Harry shook his head as if to clear it and said, "Then let's go. We'll have to Apparate in the invisibility cloak to Hogsmede and take the tunnel underneath Honeyduke's in so that we're not seen at all. Doubtless we'll scare a few students when the statue of the one-eyed witch appears to move by itself, but Dumbledore knows we're coming."
Draco nodded. "All right."
"All right. My flat, first." Harry disapparated.