Rain trickled down the cracked and dingy panes of glass as Harry gloomily gazed out through them. This tiny room in the pub called The Boar and Apple would be all right to sleep in, he decided, but it was annoying to be stuck in it when he wanted to be out in the village of Godric's Hollow, looking for the house his parents had once occupied. He could have gone out anyhow, of course, but he had forgotten to bring an umbrella and it was raining hard enough that he would be sopping wet before he had gone a hundred yards. The last thing he wanted was to catch a cold that would keep him from doing whatever he needed to do to track down Voldemort's remaining four Horcruxes. Delaying until after Bill and Fleur's wedding had chafed at him and he had no desire to have to wait any longer.
It had been a good wedding, though. Despite his bad mood, Harry grinned, remembering Ron's embarrassment when Hermione had caught the bridal bouquet. Mrs. Weasley had been beside herself the entire day and had sobbed audibly when the happy couple exchanged their vows, and again when they Disapparated together to their honeymoon in Majorca. Perhaps the most remarkable sight of the entire event had been Hagrid dancing with Madam Maxime; no one else had dared venture out when that couple took the floor. Harry had, somewhat reluctantly, stayed on at the Burrow for several days to help the Weasleys clear up, but as soon as possible he had come directly here. Somehow it had seemed right to begin his search where Voldemort had been thwarted by Lily Potter's sacrifice. Now he was trapped without even Hedwig to talk to; he could not keep her with him when he was pretending to be an ordinary Muggle. He decided to go down and have an orange juice to pass the time. Luckily Bill had been able to exchange some Galleons for him at Gringotts, so he had sufficient Muggle money to pay for his room and meals for several weeks at least.
He had had his drink, ordered and eaten a meal, and was poking at the last few chips on the plate when as sudden gust of air suggested that another patron had entered the building, but no one came into the room where Harry was sitting. He shrugged and counted out money to pay his bill, dropping it on the table and setting the vinegar cruet on top to make sure it would not fly away in another draft. It must have been some other poor sod trapped by the weather and taking a room.
When he walked out into the entryway, though, his gaze fell on the sleek fair head of perhaps the last person in the world he would have expected to find here, and rage rose to choke him as he recognized Draco Malfoy, waiting at the desk. Harry moved to stand behind him and said quietly, "I don't know what you think you're doing here, but I'd advise you to leave. Now." He turned on his heel and walked up the stairs, shaking with the effort not to pull out his wand and finish Malfoy right then.
Fumbling with the key to open his room, he heard footsteps, and with little surprise saw Malfoy coming towards him. "Harry."
"You... don't... call... me... Harry," Harry hissed at him. "There had better be some reason for this." He had his wand out and ready, and used it to gesture Malfoy into the room.
"Potter, then." Malfoy's voice trembled, just slightly, but Harry heard it as he snapped on the dingy light and shut the door. He took the lone chair. Malfoy, after looking around, sat tentatively on the bed, then took out his wand and deliberately stretched to lay it down on the far edge, where he could not reach it again without giving Harry enough time to stop him.
It was obvious that he wanted to assure Harry of his peaceful intentions, but Harry was not going to trust him so quickly; he kept a firm grasp on his own wand.
"How'd you find me, anyhow?" asked Harry.
"Went to Weasley and asked. He said you would be here," Malfoy said dully. "I think he was too astonished to see me to realize what he was saying, though, so don't get angry with him about it. I would've asked Granger, she was easier to spot in that crowd of redheads, but she would never have told me." He fell silent, picking at a loose thread on the duvet.
Harry waited for a while for Malfoy to continue, but as the silence grew longer, he said, more gently than he intended, "But why?"
Malfoy looked up and straight into Harry's eyes. "You were there, weren't you. I saw the second broomstick. You were there, under that Invisibility Cloak."
"Yeah, I was there," said Harry roughly, any sympathy he might have begun to feel erased by the reminder of Dumbledore's death. "What's it to you? Your mission's complete, even if it took Snape to manage it. You should be happy."
The sight of tears rolling down Malfoy's cheeks shocked Harry into silence. Malfoy, crying? His first reaction was a hard resentment that Malfoy would try to manipulate him into sympathy, but reason asserted itself. It had to be real. The Draco Malfoy he had known for the past six years would never humble his pride enough to playact this way.
"I didn't do it, Potter, I didn't want to, you saw that yourself, I had to try or he'd kill me and my family too, but I didn't and he's going to kill me anyway for failing him. Dumbledore said he could protect me, and now you're my only chance, no one else would believe that I didn't want to kill him, they'd think I was just too weak to manage it. But Professor Snape taught you Legilimency, didn't he? You can tell I'm telling the truth." Malfoy spoke in an urgent rush.
Harry shook his head. "He only taught me Occlumency, Malfoy. I can't read your thoughts. And I wasn't even very good at Occlumency," he admitted, disconcerting himself by that confession.
Malfoy's shoulders slumped and his mouth twisted in despair. "I've done this for nothing, then."
"Why did you come to me, though?" asked Harry. "I mean, you could have gone to the Minister of Magic, or if you didn't trust Scrimgeour – I know I wouldn't – to one of the Hogwarts professors, Professor Flitwick for instance. They all know it was Snape who killed Dumbledore. They wouldn't have thrown you in Azkaban or anything like that, not without giving you a chance to defend yourself before the Wizengamot."
"He'd have found out where I am, if I went to any of them. They'd keep me somewhere until a trial, and that would be the end of me, he'd find me before any trial. The only reason I'm still alive is because I keep moving." Malfoy pressed his hands to his eyes, and when he lowered them Harry could see the dark circles of exhaustion. He now noticed, too, that Malfoy's Muggle clothes were rumpled and grimy. "I haven't slept more than one night anywhere since... since I left Hogwarts. I can't go to anyone in my family, or to any of my friends, he'll be expecting that, and some of them might turn me in to him. There isn't anyone I can trust."
Harry nodded, thinking hard. Malfoy was probably right in his estimation of Voldemort's ability to find him if he tried to take refuge with any of his old associates. But Harry thought he was wrong in assuming that going to – say – Professor McGonagall would be as dangerous as he believed. Dumbledore had promised that he could protect Malfoy and his family too; the Headmaster must have had some plan, even if Harry had no idea what it could have been. Someone else among the Order might know. Lupin, for one, had plenty of experience in keeping apart from other wizards. Why would Dumbledore have helped Malfoy, though, after Malfoy's attempts to kill him? Dumbledore had always trusted too easily that Voldemort's followers could change, and look where his trust of Snape had led. But he had offered that promise, and Malfoy had not in fact harmed Dumbledore even with four Death Eaters urging him on. Harry swallowed hard and looked over again at his old enemy.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you," Malfoy said with an attempt to retrieve his dignity. "I'll leave now." He began to reach for his wand, but Harry interrupted.
Somewhat to his surprise, Malfoy stopped.
"I believe you didn't really want to kill Dumbledore," said Harry slowly. "But you made it possible for Snape to do it."
"Yes," said Malfoy, his voice almost inaudible.
"And you know I've always been Dumbledore's man," Harry continued. Each time he said his old mentor's name, it became easier. "So I have to ask you again, why come to me? Why did you think I'd help you?"
Again, a long silence in which Malfoy looked down at the tatty bit of the duvet he had been unraveling, but this time Harry was determined to let Malfoy be the one to break it. Five minutes, ten, fifteen went by. Malfoy gave a great sigh.
"You've never understood, have you? You're The Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, you can do no wrong. Your friends love you. I'd have given anything to be friends with you, but my family... I couldn't go against them, you know, or no, you don't because you don't have one. You're lucky," he said caustically. "But I've watched you, I know I've treated you badly, and Weasley and Granger as well just because they were your friends and I wished I could be and I couldn't, I've wanted to..." his mouth snapped shut before finishing the sentence and he looked aghast.
"Wanted to what?" asked Harry, bemused by this renewed torrent of words.
Malfoy shook his head frantically. "Nothing. Nothing. I have to leave. I've been here too long already."
Before Malfoy could move, though, Harry pointed his wand and said, "Accio." Malfoy's wand landed neatly in his hand.
"No, you have to finish telling me if you want me to help you," Harry said. He realized in a distant part of his mind that he had decided to help Malfoy, that he believed this was what Dumbledore would have wanted him to do, although he was unsure just how he could manage it. But he found himself extremely curious about what Malfoy had been going to say, and determined to find that out before he did anything else.
"I can't," Malfoy clenched his fists until Harry could see the skin whiten over his knuckles. "It won't make any difference, you'll just hate..." he broke off.
"I'll what? I'll hate you?" Harry snorted. "If I can even think about helping you now, after Dumbledore died because of you, what can you possibly say that would make me hate you more? Don't be a coward, Malfoy. Say it, whatever it is."
Malfoy's face changed for a split second to anger, which quickly gave way to, of all things, a kind of bitter amusement, and he sat up a little straighter. Harry could almost see him pulling his pride around himself like a cloak. "All right, Potter. You asked what I've wanted; I've wanted to kiss you." He looked at Harry and then deliberately added, "And more."
Harry's breath rushed out of him and he leaned back in the chair, but retained a firm grip on the two wands. He did not want Malfoy leaving before he had figured this out. "You wanted to kiss me?" he repeated.
"Yes, I-wanted-to-kiss-you," said Malfoy, in what Harry recognized as an attempt to imitate his own voice, and then bit his lip. Harry could see the white teeth against tender pink flesh.
Hermione had told him earlier that year that he had grown quite fanciable, and Ginny had certainly thought so, but it had never occurred to Harry that Draco Malfoy would see him in that light. His brain seemed to have gone into a loop, repeating the words, "I've wanted to kiss you. And more," over and over. Malfoy kiss him? He and Ron had fooled about a few times at the Burrow, and it had been fun, but nothing serious. Nothing like with Ginny. Malfoy had watched him so closely and so long that he thought he could trust Harry to help him, despite all their enmity, could trust Harry so much that he would confess to wanting to kiss him? Harry felt completely bewildered. An hour ago he would have listed Malfoy third among those he most loathed in the world, and yet here was Malfoy saying that he had wanted to be friends with Harry for years, even fancied him?
It did not occur to Harry to doubt the sincerity of Malfoy's words. The other boy was obviously too distraught to be lying, he was almost babbling.
Malfoy had continued talking. "I'm ten kinds of a fool, I know that, you've seen the worst of it now and if you'll give me back my wand, please, I'll just leave. I know you despise me and there's probably nothing you can do to help anyway even if you wanted to, I was an idiot to think you would or could, just forget I ever came here, all right? I won't bother you again, just let me..."
Harry had reached a conclusion. It might not be the right thing to do, especially not now, but if he was going to try to help Malfoy it seemed like the only way to calm him down and keep him from doing something idiotic like rushing out of there without even his wand. Ginny, he thought, understood necessity. And Dumbledore had always said that love was Harry's best defense against Voldemort. He broke into Malfoy's apologetic outburst. "Draco."
"What?" Malfoy looked astonished to be addressed by his first name. "What is it, Pot... Harry?"
"Shut up and kiss me."