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Keeping Time

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The lamps of the Alley glow amber at night.

It's nearing eight thirty, and the air is quiet, silent, and as withdrawn as the residents and shoppers gone for Floo or drinks in pubs with the shop doors locked and the normal bustle vanished from sight.

Harry walks from his flat above one of the Alley shops through a side street to venture for The Leaky Cauldron and its Floo. Under one arm is a bottle of wine, and in his jacket pocket his wand rests. His watch ticks, and it is the loudest sound in the side street, echoing in his ears and amplifying somehow to the beat of his heart and the puff of his breath into the cold evening air.

In five minutes he'll be acceptably late for dinner with Ron and Hermione.

That's fine. They've grown used to him taking a little more time to get anywhere in the two years since the War, as if he needs the physical walk and step of grounding rather than the convenience of Apparating wherever during off duty hours. Considering there are still a tiny handful of Death Eaters at large and on the run across countries, it's understandable to Granger and Weasley both that Harry find his own peace with the state of slow progress in the world just as they have together.

What they've not really understood, though, is the fear guiding those needed steps and the challenge it throws in his face and thus just why he takes them so intently. Flashes of green flicker through his dreams and thoughts and hasten his walk, the shock of Sirius's face crosses his mind at work or home, and he has woken more times than he's ever tallied to the remembered panicked breaths of Draco Malfoy.

He hears them now as he steps, the soft begging cries lining up with his watch and his heart and his own breath; the small whimpers of sound, the truth they gave if only he'd just listened more at the time.... He hears them and his pace quickens, his heart races a little faster, and Harry Potter could swear his watch has sped up just the same.

With barely a few meters to go before turning onto the main street and thoroughfare, the space suddenly feels as if it is extending out for miles, branching out forever until all he hears is the panic and the controlled cries, the breaths synching between them across time itself, and that tick, tick of his watch to his heart.

Something catches hold of his senses in the middle of it all.

Something sharpens in the air. Magic announces itself.

His Auror training barely has time to react, to jerk him from the paranoia induced by his mind, and as such he only just hears the steps behind him as the person Apparates into existence.

He doesn't have enough time to turn. His hand barely has reached for his wand.

And Harry is hit in the back with the spell between his next breath and the next thump of his heart, falling unconsciously to the cobblestone with only the cold air, the fog, and the amber light witness to his attack.

 

 

----

 

 

The next he wakes is with pain. His head is throbbing. His sinuses feel stuffy. It's hard to breathe. His arms are pulled tightly behind him and restricted, his wrists bound like his ankles below. He still wears his jacket, but even with barely any consciousness, Harry knows his wand has been taken from the pocket.

His eyes open behind his thankfully not broken glasses, and he sees the oddly curved ceiling of rock, hears the tiniest hints of natural water running somewhere near, and takes in the damp smell of earth. Light comes from a torch nearby, and then he hears the sounds of his dreams and thoughts and regrets again. Only now they seem so real. So close.

Harry's heart pounds his brain awake.

He looks to his right where he hears them so near.

There, scant space away from his face, is the back of a head of very signature pale hair.

Harry stops breathing. His eyes roam the almost white hair with shocked remembrance, with hope, with worry, with so many emotions, and it's only in his surprise that he just happens to glance downward to see hands bound the way his are over silky thin clothing.

Malfoy whimpers again, breathes in that exact way, and shivers uncontrollably.

His long body is bent up uncomfortably with the same rope around his wrists and also about his ankles. His shoulders seem bowed backward painfully and very bony, as if indicative of struggles with weight loss. There's a slight wheeze to the breaths from exposure of cold and wetness. Illness starting in the lungs, perhaps.

Harry's brain jerks itself from the shock and awe and into awareness of the situation: Both he and Malfoy have been captured, abducted by someone or a group, and they're obviously quite far from any help. The first thing he must do is try to rouse Malfoy, and the second must be escape or preparation for confrontation.

With that slight bit of rational plan in mind, Harry scoots closer on his side, wincing from his right arm stuck beneath him with pressure of movement. He slips slightly on the wet, sandy ground, and rolls into Draco Malfoy. The Slytherin doesn't budge or wake, simply makes those muted soft noises breaking Harry's mind and heart, and Harry vows to get his once rival the fuck out of this place as fast as possible.

“Malfoy,” he whispers hurriedly.

Nothing.

“Malfoy,” he tries again, staying quiet.

The slightest stir, but it's not enough.

He inches a bit closer until those bound elegant long fingers are resting against Harry's lower belly, and Harry's nose brushes the soft pale hair, inhaling something centering in the scent it stirs.

Harry takes a deep breath, then tries one last time. “Malfoy, wake up.”

Draco comes to with a gasp of air in front of him, his head jerking backwards and nearly cracking Harry's nose apart with force.

“Shh! Shh!” Harry attempts to calm Malfoy down quickly in case someone dangerous is not far. “Malfoy, listen to me.”

“P-Potter?” Malfoy questions in front of him, voice high yet controlled and quietly hissed.

“Yes,” Harry confirms, grateful there's clearly awareness in Draco's head right now. “Can you roll over?”

“Where the fuck am I? Where are we? Why am I tied? My fucking arms are killing me,” Malfoy moans, and Harry is entirely understanding of the feeling.

“We've been taken. Brought somewhere. Not sure where precisely. Maybe a cave. Are you injured?”

“Chaffed from the ropes. My clothes are fucking ruined. I'm freezing.”

“Where were you? What's the last thing you remember?” Harry demands, eyes hot on the pale head trembling. “I need details to figure this out.”

“H-Home. I'd gone to the Alley, gotten my usual monthly dosage of Dreamless Sleep, and went home. Was preparing to ingest some and get into bed.”

“Monthly dosage?” Harry asks, concerned.

“Fuck off. Don't you judge me.”

“I'm not. Just...damn.”

“You asked for details, Potter.”

“Did you hear anything? A voice? See anyone?”

“Just a spell quickly incanted. A Stupefy.”

Harry thunks the side of his hair into the ground, glasses mashing against his ear and nose a bit. “Shit. Me, too. Happened so fast.”

“Yeah.”

It's quiet for a moment or two.

He sighs, worried he might make Malfoy panic worse. “Malfoy...I think it could be...well, it has to be a Death Eater. There's two and their newer accomplices unaccounted for still.”

Obviously.”

“I get why they'd want me,” Harry admits. “But why you?”

“Well come on, Potter. All I read about constantly is how one of the youngest Aurors in history is so damn skilled with investigation,” Malfoy perfectly growls at him without even seeing his face. “Figure this fucking thing out why don't you. It's not that hard.”

Harry swallows, understanding already.

Draco scoffs, arms flexing his wrists slightly with the rope. Harry feels the fingers brush his shirt accidentally with their closeness. “They've always had the goal of eliminating you since your fucking birth, Potter, but I am their traitor. I helped you. I was part of their Dark Lord's demise.”

“I know,” he groans. “I'm sorry. I'll get us out of here, I swear it. Just have to figure out which one we're dealing with now.”

Harry focuses to see Malfoy go perfectly still somehow despite his awkward forced bodily position.

“Malfoy?” he inquires, unnerved by that deathly stillness.

“It's him,” Draco says without moving, almost like a voice from a corpse. “I...remember smelling him now.”

Harry shudders at that thought. “Him who? Which him?”

“Lestrange. Rodolphus Lestrange, my uncle—the one Father turned over when he was arrested so he could protect Mother and I. The one we've been...nagging your Auror lot to find.”

The name registers with Harry instantly after months of research and tracking.

It invokes fear. For a damn good reason.

And just like that, Harry knows why Draco had gone so still. It wasn't just the idea of being captured by Death Eaters. It was knowing the ruthlessness of Lestrange.

“If he took Mother on her way to visit Goyle's mum, I'll kill him. I'm going to kill him anyway, but I'll torture him first.”

“I don't think anyone else is in here with us.”

“Better not be.”

“Are you sure it's him?” Harry wonders, his gut nauseous but stable. “Malfoy....”

“Yes, I'm fucking sure. He would know the Manor's layout even if he got past our new wards. Which clearly he did.”

“Maybe...he'll let you go. Being your uncle and all.”

“Don't be stupid, Potter. He hates me. He was married to Bellatrix. He despised my family.” Malfoy shivers hard again, and Harry's chest clenches seeing it. “Face it, Potter. Unless you've got a miracle to pull out your arse, we're done. My wand's gone. Yours likely is. And I know charms. These ropes have constriction charms. The tighter I pull, the tighter they get and don't relax.”

Harry shakes his head as best he can, lifting it from the dirt. “We're gonna get out of here, Malfoy. I need you to believe in me.”

Malfoy doesn't reply at first. Doesn't make a sound outside his heavier, struggled breathing. And then slowly he rolls over, and Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy are almost nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye for the first time since the after War trials.

Harry sucks in a breath as those pale grey eyes study him with emotion he's never quite put a name to before. They've always been haunting though, visible even in his dreams, like pools of moonlight glowing with melancholic life. They rest framing a handsome, pointed nose below an almost beautiful brow and above a set of fuller lips on a bloke with his sloping jaw. And even with seeing that hint of weight loss Harry had considered earlier visible in the expressionless face of his former enemy, Harry is unable to stop his reaction there in the torchlight after all this time: Harry's chest tightens and his belly twists strangely. His pulse races. His mind whirls, as if knowing answers somewhere to questions that he can't quite recall.

Draco shivers again.

His childhood bully-turned-life-saver stares him dead in the eye and finally speaks. And the words from the Slytherin's lips freeze Harry's very blood in his veins.

“Don't let him torture me, Potter,” Draco Malfoy begs, unblinking. “You make him kill me if you must, but don't let him torture me.”

Harry's heart clenches. His mouth falls open.

And Malfoy closes those beautiful grey eyes and cries, his brow falling to Harry's chin.

 

 

----

 

 

The last two years have been full of suppression. Of avoidance. Of loss and confusion as he watches his father abdicate the family home for a protected cell in Azkaban and hears of Lucius giving intel to the Aurors to keep Draco and Narcissa safe in exchange. He spends months only with his Mother, months stuck in the Manor or quickly moving through Diagon Alley by Floo for supplies when it is least crowded or busy, months living with wards around his home built by Aurors.

The last two years have been full of fear. Of wonder and regret. Of what difference there is for those remembered on the right side of things despite his own heroic actions seemingly forgotten by all but those present at the Hogwarts battle.

Thus, Draco has lived from month to month with little motivation. With little to look forward to in life. Papers have become a lifeline of sorts with news about the one person he'd never been able to shake from his thoughts for years even before the fucking War.

He's read about Potter's commendations. His Auror bestowment. His quiet break up with Ginny Weasley wherein reporters refused to let the pair still eat friendly amicable lunches without posting rumors of their being together again. He's read it all, aching inside. Lonely. Angry and self-loathing.

And now lying here, tied up and terrified with only Potter for company or aid, Draco can't help but hope he's dreaming. That not only have his mistakes and hopes and regrets all been tied to one fucking person, but now that his very death may be, too.

He takes in the fear in those green eyes of courage and bravery, and he knows that Potter gets it.

They'll be lucky to survive this, whatever the situation is. They'll be lucky to come out physically intact, if even sane, and Longbottom's parents are testament to this fact in the minds of both Potter and Draco. They'll be lucky to walk out of this cave at all. For Draco has seen in his nightmares and worst moments of memory for years the preferences and darkness of the pleasured tortures used by Voldemort and others in his own bloody home on his own fucking dining table, and he knows what might be coming.

Rodolphus Lestrange is not a forgiving or loving man. He is sadistic.

And he hates Draco, Narcissa, and Lucius Malfoy only less than Potter, himself.

“Don't let him torture me, Potter,” he begs, his eyes burning so intensely he can't blink. “You make him kill me if you must, but don't let him torture me.”

As expected, Potter's jaw opens in horror and silent, unspoken grief.

And Draco breaks, face falling down, taking the slightest bit of comfort from Potter's chin to his brow as he cries and shivers, wet and cold and chilled to the bone.

Potter angles closer, likely feeling the shaking, and then Draco blinks as Potter attempts to snuggle over him with both their arms tied behind their backs. The instant comfort is almost too much.

Draco's heart pumps blood faster, hotter, through his system at the very idea of them touching, at his most suppressed longing being entreated to surface perhaps once before he dies. But his ego is fragile, his body sick, his mind on the verge of anxious break; he's unsure, and he starts to shuffle backwards away.

“You've got to get warm,” the heroic Gryffindor asserts, frustrated with him. “Come on, Malfoy. Come closer. I don't care if you do still hate me or something.”

Draco closes his eyes to avoid the kindness in the green, the forgiveness and acceptance there. The let me help ever present inside Harry Potter.

With little time left, Draco chooses to be bold in a way he's not been in years.

“I don't,” he confesses, eyes still shut. “I d-don't hate you.”

Potter chokes loudly on air.

And then, of course Potter is stubborn.

And then, of course Potter is determined.

And then, of course Potter shoves his body forward with clumsy momentum, and there is suddenly a cheek against his face with that firm, handsome chin now over Draco's shoulder.

One of Potter's knees manages to bend slightly enough with the ankle ties and inserts the smallest amount between Draco's legs. The instant warmth feeding into the air and through the wet material of his clothes and then his skin is so enriching that Draco forgets his worries and his ego and cuddles closer instinctively, forcing his right knee open more to grip Potter's leg while tucking his face into Potter's throat. Potter tries to shift a shoulder somewhat over his, but the following grunt alerts Draco to the pain just before Harry's shoulder falls away again.

“I'm here,” Harry says softly. “I'm here, Draco. I won't let him hurt you. Ron has to know I'm late to his place now, and he's got to be out looking for me with tracers. They'll find us somehow.”

He simply shudders against the Gryffindor, unable to speak.

“I wish I could just slip my jacket off,” Potter grumbles against him. “You need it more than I do.”

Draco snorts in agreement.

A silent moment passes, and Potter lifts his head above Draco to look around more. “Hey, there's a spot across from us. A wide hole. Natural tunnel entrance.”

“W-What are you s-suggesting, P-Potter? That we c-crawl our w-way out?” he demands, his shivering impeding his speech.

“Get warm a minute more, and I'll try to wriggle over there and see what's what.”

“Potter.”

“I'll be careful.”

“Potter, he wouldn't make it that easy.”

“I know,” Harry says, and for the first time since waking, Draco actually hears Potter's confidence wavering. “But we have to try.”

Draco turns his head, nose poking Potter's stubbly jaw. “It's a trap. You know it must be.”

“Even so, Draco. We need to know what we're up against.”

Draco gives up, goes quiet again, just tries to stay as warm as possible against Harry's front. Tries not to think of this level of closeness between them, of how he can feel Potter's chest through their shirts and Harry's parted jacket, of how he can feel the firmness of Potter's thigh barely against his own. Tries not to inhale the deep scent of cologne and shampoo teasing his nose over the smells of their surroundings. Tries not to let his fucking heart explode with bittersweet fulfillment in this fucked up moment of surreality.

Potter snuggles him a little while, how long Draco isn't sure, and then he starts to wiggle free.

Draco jerks from his almost fall back into sickly sleepiness, and he sighs. He shocks Potter by using his head to shove the bound bloke onto his back, and then Draco belly crawls away using his bent knees and upper chest to push himself to the entrance of the small cavern. His shoulders scream at him, his exhausted, stretched arms burn, and his wrists chafe worse with the rubbing just as his ankles do.

“Malfoy!” Potter almost yells at him. “Don't! I was going to—”

“If one of us needs to survive this fucking nonsense, it's you. So shut up,” Draco snarls over his shoulder and keeps moving forward until he bends enough under his stomach to push to sit sideways. Weaving upright, he looks over the hole and the path leading out, and he senses the magic pulsing over the opening. Some sort of sealing spell.

His head hangs.

“What is it? Can you see anything?”

Draco tilts from side to side negatively.

There's muffled movement behind him, and Draco looks back to see Potter sitting as upright as possible against a back wall staring right at him. Draco points with a sharp toss of his head. “Magically sealed. The trap is in being stuck.”

Potter turns away. Looks to the ground at his knees.

There aren't words to say. There aren't reassurances to be made.

And though he wishes there were, Draco doesn't get the chance to even wonder what he would speak before a glint of light catches his eye in the darkness of the tunnel. It disappears, then shows again, growing brighter and bigger.

“It's moving,” he whispers under his breath. Eyes wide, he curses. “Potter! Potter, he's coming!”

“Quick! Get over here!” Harry calls loudly, as afraid as he is protective. “Hurry, Draco!”

Draco struggles to almost hop on his knees, but his wet clothes and the sandy soft ground make him slip and crash upon his chin. Teeth almost bite through his tongue, and Draco groans, squirming as fast as possible on his stomach again halfway to Potter across the cavern.

“Come on! Hurry! Hur—”

Magic warps, settles, and then steps crush the ground rapidly.

“Ah, ah. Where are you going, nephew?” he hears suddenly behind him. Draco's eyes clench shut as dirty fingertips grab a handful of his hair and rip upward, pulling him upon his knees. He cries out in pain from the hold, from essentially hanging by his own fucking hair, and Lestrange bends a little, smirking at him with nastiness Draco remembers all too well, black greasy fringe falling into his eyes. “Now, now. Enough of that. We've not even started.”

“Don't you fucking touch him! Let him go!” Potter shouts, thrashing his arms before shouting in pain as the ropes constrict tighter around his wrists. “Lestrange!”

Draco refuses to look at his uncle. He keeps his grey eyes closed as he quivers in fear and anger, as he shakes with adrenaline he cannot use.

It's the first mercifully brief few second touch of Cruciatus through his body that causes him to almost black out and scream. As if his uncle wants to tease him.

And all he can hear is Potter roaring with fury like the lion of his House the second the game begins.

 

 

----

 

 

Fire flows through his body, fire from hate and anger, from distaste, from the burning need to protect Draco Malfoy that cannot break the bindings on his limbs and so bursts from his throat in hoarse shouts with each scream from Draco's writhing body, still held in the air by Lestrange's fingers in Draco's pale hair.

Fury fuels the fire, the rage, the righteousness.

“Leave him alone! Let him go!” Harry cries out until his throat is raw.

Draco is barely aware at this point, whimpering, his body jerking on its own from effects of the curses fading out as quickly as they're caused in Lestrange's toying way. Lestrange himself sneers down at his nephew-in-law, face bending closer as Draco gasps for breath.

“That's a taste, Draco. A taste of what you'll get for what you've done, you coward.”

“Leave him be!”

“And you,” Lestrange snaps, face turning Harry's way with seething hatred. “You will pay, Potter. You'll pay for the death of the Dark Lord, the death of my wife to that Weasley bitch that's claimed you as her own, and for each death that day, every loss we had.”

Harry bares his teeth, furious. “I have no fucking regrets.”

Lestrange snarls at him, the sound rough and guttural, and he jerks Draco's head back harshly. Harry's heart pounds away in his chest. Draco can't stop trembling, no matter how hateful his own beautiful eyes are upon his uncle.

Suddenly the Death Eater smirks. And Harry's stomach drops.

“Then let's make you regret, Potter.”

Harry glares.

Lestrange's smirk grows. “Do you really care about my nephew's safety? Or just superficially, for that adage of 'goodness sake' possibly?”

“He means far more to me than he does to you. More than he knows.”

Draco blinks, exhausted, but his grey eyes are wide over Harry.

“As I suspected,” Lestrange almost grins like a predator. He tugs on Draco's head. “Hear that, boy? You do matter to him. All right, Potter. Let's teach you comprehension by making you lose this brat the same way I lost them.”

“I will kill you,” Harry threatens, body alive with adrenaline, pulse shooting through him.

Lestrange anchors Draco by pushing down on his head until Malfoy is heavily leaning on his knees. Harry watches the Death Eater's hand gripping over the hair tug for each attempt Draco gives to push forward to Harry, to pull back away.

“But first,” Lestrange mutters, “some enjoyment out of you, nephew.”

“Fuck off,” Draco shouts. “You pathetic follower, just fuck off. As if any of you actually mattered to You-Know-Who. He used us all!”

Harry winces as Lestrange jerks Draco by the hair to and fro, then cracks him physically with the side of his fist holding his wand. Draco groans from the hit, and Harry's nerves scream alive with the need to free Malfoy now.

“You know nothing, Draco. Your family were always liars and thieves, stealing from our power and our image, feeding off of us like rats, and your father's pathetic attempts to house us to please the Dark Lord were clear for what they were,” Lestrange shouts in turn. “And when I finish with the pair of you, I'll drop your body back at that Manor just so your poor mother can see it. So she'll finally break before she dies.”

Draco screams with rage and thrashes wildly, arms tugging, ropes tightening, head yanked left and right in his uncle's unrelenting grip of pain.

“Let him go! Lestrange!”

“Silence, Potter.”

“Get your hand off of him!”

Lestrange points his wand at Draco's temple. “Speak again, and I kill him.”

Harry shuts his mouth immediately, his eyes full of green anger.

“Good,” Lestrange sneers and tugs Draco's hair back, baring his throat and making him look at Harry awkwardly from an extended angle. “You are lucky, boy. He really does like you. Imagine that.”

Tears flow down Draco's face.

Harry doesn't understand. “What are you—”

“I said silence!” Lestrange orders and pulls at Draco's scalp so badly he screams Harry's name, begging him to be quiet.

Harry flinches with sorrow and apology, with consuming vengeance. Eyes glowering, his heart demands each soft broken whimper from Malfoy to be the last.

 

 

----

 

 

Pain radiates through his skull constantly, looping from hair follicle to follicle, through skin and muscle. It surges through his arms, hovers through his bleeding wrists with their raw skin, and tightens like piano wire down his legs and bound ankles.

And yet the greatest pain isn't physical but emotional, the one in Draco's heart.

His uncle grins down at him darkly. “Got any confessions, nephew, to make before I kill you?”

Draco pinches his lips shut. Harry stares, torn between outright fury and helplessness.

Lestrange rolls his eyes, bends farther and grabs Draco by the chin with his free hand, the wand grinding against his jaw. “Oh, come now, boy. You were all talk in that journal of yours I found today while I waited for you, and you know something? It all made sense, your little traitorous decision.”

Draco cries silently, wracked with repressed sobs.

Potter doesn't speak again, thankfully, finally aware that Draco's uncle means what he fucking says regardless of Harry's bravery. But Potter is fuming and confused, worried as fuck across from Draco.

His uncle uses his fingers to purse Draco's mouth. “Tell him. I want to see his fucking face.”

Draco's eyes clench. The fingers squeeze harder.

“Tell him,” Lestrange commands, “or I put him in a Cruciatus until I'm through with you that will make what I did to the Longbottoms mere child's play.”

Harry inhales, and Draco exhales, but nods, tears running down his cheeks.

“There we go.”

Draco shudders as the fingers free his mouth and steady his chin again.

Lestrange tuts his tongue. “Disgusting boy. Tell him. Confess. You didn't help him for why he thinks. You hurt him for years for a reason.”

“He helped me end Voldemort because he is a good person and was fucking brave,” Potter insists suddenly, furious and affronted. “And I've moved past what he's said and done at Hogwarts. You don't get to manipulate that.”

Surprisingly, his uncle lets Harry speak instead of attacking Draco in retaliation.

Lestrange almost laughs. Almost. “Then you're a fool. And my nephew didn't care about helping everyone that day, you idiot Gryffindor. He cared about only one thing.”

“And if that was killing your bloody monster of a master, I'm fucking okay with it.”

The glint comes back into his uncle's eyes, and Draco flinches when his head is expectedly yanked. “Quiet, Potter. You must listen to his little confession. I want to see the shock and the pain in your eyes tainted so well for him to die seeing it, too.”

Harry restrains himself from speaking again, but his eyes are sorry and worried.

The hand at his chin moves, and the wand that has harmed him already rests its tip again to his temple. “Speak. I think even Potter is owed a little truth.”

Draco forces himself to breathe through pain and fear. He takes in Harry's confusion and courage still so visible, and he stutters out, barely able to believe he is speaking at all, “I-I....”

“Try again,” his uncle insists, wand digging into his head painfully.

“I f-fancied you!” Draco chokes, eyes closing. “There, I said it! Get that fucking wand away from me!”

Potter gasps loudly.

Lestrange shakes his head, the dark hair framing his pale, haunted face. “Keep going. His shock is delicious. Look at it, Draco.”

Draco grudgingly opens his eyes. Potter's jaw has dropped, his eyes are bulging. A dozen questions are right in his green gaze. Draco swallows harshly, thinking that maybe...maybe if he does say it all, Lestrange might grow bored of him. Kill him quicker. Maybe Harry can use anything he can do last second as distraction and get the wand.

Draco sighs, hair still in his uncle's grasp. “It's true, Potter. I was an arrogant idiot, entitled and rejected in friendship, and as I got older, I...I found I...got more dismissive to avoid the truth. I hurt you because you hurt me, because I hated you being so bloody perfect and great all the time no matter your faults. I hurt you so you'd never know the things you made me feel beyond that hate. I hurt you for making me feel anything at all, for being so fucking loved that even I felt something for you. And I hurt you, telling myself I didn't feel that way.”

Harry's jaw stays open. He is stunned.

He blinks wet eyes. “I'm sorry.”

Harry stares, memories likely going fast through his mind's eye, that famous Potter focus searching for all the little signs and confirming his words.

“The pathetic boy actually is sorry,” Lestrange nods. “I read it in his disturbing little journal. He aided you and betrayed us for this. And now he knows how low you are, boy. How low you went to protect yourself.”

Draco gives his uncle his best sneer. “Fuck you, you filth.”

Lestrange fakes using his wand to startle Draco, and then he glares over at Harry, the young Auror still sitting there speechless. “There we go, Potter. Comprehension. Think of all the pain he's caused you selfishly. Is he still worth protecting now? Will it still hurt your sensibilities if he's killed? It's there, right there in your fucking eyes. Say you'll feel pain if he dies. Say it. Say. It.

Draco keeps his lids shut.

And then Harry Potter takes control of everything with a soft, determined, “Yes.”

 

 

----

 

 

He doesn't know the word to describe how he feels.

He's hurting, he's understanding, he's awed by the truth as much as he is slightly afraid of it.

But he knows one thing.

He doesn't care about the past anymore. And if anything, knowing Draco Malfoy has fancied him for years, cared so much to save his life and enable him in the final fight...well, it's made him even more intent on sparing Draco and holding onto that forgiveness he'd grown at the end of the War. He knows Malfoy is still good somewhere inside, knows he's still brave and his efforts are still valid helping people even if they were mostly for Harry's own sake.

Harry's answer doesn't surprise Lestrange. But it does Draco.

He can see it in the wide pupils, the moonlit eyes so terrified of him right now and not the monster holding Malfoy hostage. He can see the bewilderment, the thought that Harry's only trying to do the right thing right now.

His heart flutters strangely, his thoughts racing and wishful that he had more time to think on them at all with what Draco's confessed, but there is no time. No more time to look at the beautiful bared eyes, and no more time to hope Ron's tracked him fast enough.

Lestrange's amusement has died out, replaced by annoyance. “Aren't you simply disgusted?”

Draco bites his lower lip, watching Harry warily.

Harry keeps his eyes only on Draco's grey ones. “No.”

Instant relief. They're astounded. Curious. Wondrous of him.

And Lestrange grunts, “Then it'll make his death harder for you, won't it. And instead of dying knowing you were disgusted by his affections, now Draco will die knowing you weren't.”

Draco looks to him, almost begging him to make it over with already.

Harry sees the curse prepping over the Death Eater's lips, and his shouts, “Wait!”

Lestrange pauses.

And Harry takes a breath and says, “You're angry with him, yes, but you really want me. We both know that. If you just wanted him for your own revenge, you'd have killed him in the Manor. You brought him here to torture us both, but you really want to hurt me more, kill me more. So let him go and keep me. Just let him go.”

“Harry, no!” Draco all but screams in his uncle's grasp.

Lestrange smiles at Draco's heavy fear. Gauges his nephew's violent resistance and Harry's calm acceptance of likely death. And, to all their astonishment, Lestrange lets go of Draco's hair. Draco relaxes slightly, relieved, and his uncle waves his wand over the ropes, removing the charms upon them. He hauls Draco to his feet and drags him to the entrance with Malfoy fighting every step of the way, the grey eyes clawing their impression onto Harry's fucking soul to always remember.

“Potter! Potter, don't do this! Potter!”

“It's okay, Draco,” Harry says, crying. “Just run. Run as fast as you can.”

Harry!

Harry kneels on the ground, wondering if this is how his mother felt sparing him, wondering if this pain and freedom in his chest in protecting Draco is what she'd felt standing between he and Voldemort, refusing the bastard to touch Harry as a child.

Lestrange, tired of his nephew's screams, waves his wand over the entrance, throws Draco through it, and waves it back with the spell again, sealing Draco alone and still semi-bound outside. Then with a look that Harry stares down just as fiercely, Lestrange turns and advances upon him.

 

 

----

 

 

“No!” Draco shouts, trying to sit up and right himself on the other side of the magical barrier.

He fights, wrestles enough, and the ropes loosen finally around his wrists. Draco rapidly frees himself of the restraints, ignores the bleeding, red skin at his wrists and yanks the knot free at his ankles. He stands wobbly at first from being tied up, his arms in pain as he pulls them forward for the first time in who knows how long.

And he beats against the magical barrier with his fists, screaming as he hears Harry start shouting through it with that wand aimed and Lestrange's back blocking the view of Potter himself.

“No, no, no, no,” Draco repeats like a mantra, feeling hopeless and useless and more worthless than he ever has in his life. “Harry! Leave him alone, Lestrange! Stop!”

If only he had his wand, he thinks.

And then Draco stops hitting the barrier, blinking.

His wand. His wand was on him when he was taken, and if it wasn't dropped at the Manor, then Potter's wand might be nearby. He doubts his uncle would have kept it on his person in case one of them managed to endure the restraints and engage him physically to get it.

Draco prays Harry understands why he's suddenly running away down the small tunnel out of sight. He hopes that if his uncle turns and sees him gone that he doesn't mock Harry or belittle his name as a coward. He pleads inside for Harry to have hope and not just relief that Draco has run for safety as he wanted.

And when he stumbles toward a lit area, he finds a few wooden planks built in a makeshift room into the side of the cave tunnel covered by a locked door. Draco slams into it once, twice, three times with his aching left shoulder until it breaks open and reveals some wooden tables and supplies. Draco starts searching fast, hands shoving boxes around and tossing tins of food. He sees both wands stacked tightly on a shelf with some other seemingly trophy possessions likely belonging to other witches and wizards, and Draco almost shouts with relief, grabbing for the pair of them and running back, barefoot and sore, through the tunnel. Potter's wand gets shoved into the waistband of his clothing to keep it secure, and Draco stands at the barrier, still hearing Potter shrieking through it, then stopping as Lestrange laughs kneeled next to Potter's side and Harry barely gets a breath.

Draco dispels the ward over the entrance way quietly and immediately calls out a loud, proud, “Expelliarmus!” the way Severus had taught him years ago to do.

The wand flies from his uncle's hand, and Draco catches it, holding it hostage now the way he was before.

Lestrange's control collapses. His dark eyes are bulging, and spit spatters everywhere from his lips as he growls a loud, “No!

His uncle rushes him, aiming to knock him down and take the wands by force, and Draco slings a Killing Curse at his uncle, making Lestrange dart to the side along the cavern. Draco corners him slightly near the entrance, using the green curse to maneuver Lestrange away from Harry's slumped, exhausted form on the ground.

And suddenly his uncle's dark expression shifts into triumph, and Draco has only the time to blink before a dagger flies from Lestrange's hand and pocket and into Harry's body.

Harry cries out in pain, and Draco tries to keep an eye on both his uncle and Harry himself. He sees the knife stuck in Harry's chest, sees the blood blooming under the shirt, and panic nearly overwhelms Draco.

“Now you have a choice, boy,” Rodolphus Lestrange states sadistically. “Get your revenge, or let him die. He's gonna bleed out quick.”

Draco's wand arm shakes with righteous anger.

Lestrange nods, so arrogant. “As I thought, Draco. Good luck trying not to kill him when you attempt to save his life.”

The devoted Death Eater turns to run out of the tunnel, and Draco's fury bubbles out of him, emerging from his mouth as a screamed, “Petrificus Totalus!

The spell hits his uncle squarely in the back, and Lestrange goes down like a fucking rock.

Draco focuses on Harry the next second, bent to his knees again but this time in his own control. He checks the knife's position not far from Harry's heart, and Draco sees the blood, sees Harry growing unnaturally pale in the face.

“It's okay,” Harry says, arms still bound behind him. “I already f-forgave y-you...f-for everything.”

“Shut up,” Draco orders. Plan in mind he carefully takes hold of the dagger's handle. “Brace yourself.”

“It's too—”

“SHUT UP, you fucking idiot, and let me save you!”

Draco takes a breath and yanks the dagger out, ignoring Potter's deep cry. His wand instantly waves, his mouth calling the very spell that Severus had once used on him to seal the gashes Potter's own spell had cut him open with, like a dozen daggers all over his chest in that fucking bathroom in Hogwarts.

Vulnera Sanentur stops the bleeding and begins to work, and Harry Potter's heavy head valiantly lifts its weight to look at him as he checks the wound through the ripped shirt.

“I don't know what to do next,” Draco tells him, nervous under those green eyes. “We have to get to St. Mungo's.”

Harry nods understandingly. “D-Draco...the ropes.”

“Shit,” Draco whispers, a soft apology following. He shifts to Harry's side and dispels the charms, uses the dagger to slice the ropes, and pulls them away from Harry's body.

Potter rests against the curved stone wall, legs out flat, arms naturally hanging down. “Wow. Fuck that feels better.”

“I pulled a dagger from your chest, and those ropes are what you're thankful for.” Draco huffs, wiping tears from his eyes with his wand in hand. “You arsehole.”

Harry somehow finds the energy to chuckle softly. “I'm proud of you. I can't believe you found the wands.”

“I'm sorry I couldn't faster. I'm sorry he tortured you first.”

“Not your fault. I wanted you to run away entirely, you know.”

“I know, stupid. But I'm not a fucking coward. Not...anymore. Certainly not for your need to be the hero.”

Harry smiles at him, almost sleepily so.

Draco smiles back, warmed just for a moment. His eyes travel over to his uncle's stiff form stuck to the ground, and he shoves to his feet. His wand comes up, and Harry's voice stops him from being able to perform the Killing Curse again without failure this time.

“Damn it, Potter, what?” Draco demands. “We can't let the spell wear off. He needs to die.”

“Give me my wand. Hurry.”

Draco sighs, but obeys, pulling it from his waistband and noticing Harry's cheeks blush slightly. He offers it silently, his own cheeks just as flushed.

Potter summons his Patronus, and the stag takes off. “There. They'll come. Let them take him. Let him be executed right. For everyone he's hurt.”

“Potter.”

“I know. I want to kill him right now, but think about it.”

Draco scowls and kicks at the gritty texture of the ground. “Fuck. Come on. Let's try to Apparate out. Think you can if I get you on your feet, Potter?”

“Not sure. Probably.”

“You'd better be fucking sure,” Draco says, breathing heavily as he puts his extremely aching arms under Harry's and pulls the Gryffindor upright. “If you're not, you'll splinch yourself.”

Potter doesn't speak. Just looks at him nervously.

Draco begins to panic again knowing they have to try.

And then footsteps echo loudly through the tunnel as a small white Patronus of a little dog races up to them and darts around their legs.

 

 

---- 

 

 

“Ron,” Harry breathes out, more relieved than he's ever been in his life with his best mate to know he's so close.

Draco keeps him steady on his feet despite the Slytherin's own verge of collapse as the steps pound closer, and then three Aurors come rushing into view, nearly running over Lestrange's still stiff body. They pause, all very aware of just whois stuck in the body bind at their feet, and Ron pushes through, ordering them to haul the bastard away.

The little dog disappears.

Harry manages a smile as his best mate runs forward. Ron ignores Malfoy and loops his arm around Harry's neck, holding on for dear life.

“You're never that late,” Ron hisses in his ear. “I fucking panicked after fifteen minutes. I know you. Traced your path near the flat when I checked it and found it empty. Felt magic all over the place. I could tell you'd been taken somehow because your wine bottle was smashed and left behind. Lost your trail, got others searching with me, and then your fucking stag showed. Thank Merlin.”

“Thank you for looking,” Harry says, choking on relief and holding Ron with one hurting arm. “Ron...I need help.”

“I see that mate,” Ron replies, leaning away. “What the fuck happened? Never mind. Just tell me what to do for now.”

Harry angles his head above his wobbly legs. “We need St. Mungo's. We've been exposed to dark magic, restraints, and he's possibly got hypothermia starting. I was stabbed. Draco sealed the wound.”

Ron almost loses it right then and there, blue eyes taking in the violent area hidden on the shirt with the open jacket front parting more for it to be seen. “Right, let's go. Now. Malark! Escort Malfoy safely to St. Mungo's for care. I've got Harry. The rest of you get that Death Eater bound up. He's not to escape on our watch!”

A chorus of yessir echoes in the cavern, and Harry's weight shifts as Ron takes hold of him and another slightly older Auror with dark hair steps forward to Draco's side and offers his hand. Harry nods Draco's way, trying to reassure him, and Draco's eyes jump from Ron to Harry and then to the wall, as if pretending they aren't there. The deep emotion he'd witnessed earlier in Malfoy's eyes confessing feelings to Harry is gone, safely hidden away. Harry's throbbing chest hurts worse seeing it vanish.

The pair of wizards Disapparate next to them, and Ron checks Harry over one last time to do the same. “Gonna need to know everything, Harry. Blimey, it'll be one big statement, mate.”

“Ron?”

“Yeah?” Ron asks, searching his face.

Harry rests his brow to his friend's shoulder. “I'll give you everything that's important. That's it.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning Lestrange tortured Draco into saying some personal things that don't need to be in court records at all.”

“You're...sure,” Ron wonders, gauging him.

Harry nods and starts to slump. “Let's get out of here.”

 

 

----

 

 

Draco is received by Healers at the hospital and immediately taken into a private room, one guarded by the watchful Hufflepuff Auror who'd brought him there to warn any press away and keep him continually safe for certain. He's treated with bandages, potions, warm blankets, and lots of water to drink alongside some food he tries to swallow.

He passes out, waking only when he smells her perfume, feels her hand take his, and registers her nose pressing to his brow. Groggily he asks, “Mother?”

“I'm here,” she whispers near his closed eyes. “I wasn't home. I wasn't there to protect you. I failed my son again.”

“No, you didn't, Mother,” he assures her, finally cracking one eye open. “I'm glad you weren't there. He'd have taken you, too.”

Narcissa Malfoy is tired, and though her heart is shaken in her gaze, the rest of her isn't; she's steeled and strong, and Draco can sense the silent need to hurt Lestrange for this. Her blend of light and dark hair waves down her shoulders contrasting with her black dress and dark red robes. Her lined eyes are wet above him.

“They've got him, Mother. The Aurors have him now.”

“And if he escapes?”

“Potter had better kill him in his cell.”

His mother's dark eyes swell with conflicted emotion.

Draco sighs and tries to get comfortable again. “I...saved him, Mother. I saved Potter. But Uncle...Lestrange, he...made me...tell Harry...you know what.”

“Rest, darling. Rest now.”

Hardly conscious, he senses her free fingers touch through his hair, a touch so different from Lestrange's, something soft and gentle over his very sore scalp. She kisses his brow. And Draco passes out again, this time with Narcissa watching over him, her dark gaze preparing to deal with protecting her son's heart from Harry Potter himself.

 

 

----

 

 

Quietly he escapes his own room when he's supposed to be comfortable and resting up, but he's more tired of being poked and prodded by Healers and Hermione alike for hours on end.

Harry sneaks down a few halls to where Malark is guarding Draco's room. The Auror raises a dark brow at him, but nods in understanding and moves out of the way, letting Harry slip through into the room.

He rounds the privacy curtain in soft easy steps with his achy body, and he freezes as he takes her in, sees her standing next to her son's bed with her hand over his and her dark eyes aimed upon Harry with the same fire he'd felt in the cavern watching Lestrange take hold of Draco's hair.

Like stepping around a dragon, Harry carefully puts one foot then the other down until he's standing at the edge of the hospital bed. It tests Narcissa Malfoy's boundary already as her eyes flare and she considers his boldness.

“How is he?” Harry dares to ask.

“Alive,” Narcissa replies stoically, her expression so guarded. “Safe from that beast. If you have any intelligence, you'll kill Lestrange before he escapes now or years from now.”

Harry considers her words, considers her motherly anger. “Will Draco be okay?”

She nods, her long hair flowing with the motion. “Yes. He aches and is slightly sick, but I will tend to him when we leave. Your presence, Mr. Potter, will not be needed further.”

Harry's jaw sets defiantly.

Narcissa stares him down, mother dragon over her egg ready to eat him.

“You can't keep me from him,” Harry retorts, braving her wrath and crossing his sore arms around his even more tender chest. “He and I need to talk.”

“I know the matter you refer to, Mr. Potter, and you do not need to investigate anything. You know enough, and that is more than you should already.”

“I'm not going to—”

“No, you will not be doing anything.” Narcissa's glare grows hotter. “You've done enough to him. I know about that spell of yours in the school. I received the most painful information from Severus about it.”

Harry shuts his mouth. Closes his eyes. Shakes.

And then, shockingly, she adds, “And I know you also saved his life from fiendfyre. I'm not without reason, Mr. Potter. I know my son's attraction and feelings for you grew deeply toward the end of the War. I know why he aided you as he chose to do with his wand. But I am his mother, and I must look after his well being, and I know that for the last two years he has been unwell in heart and mind...unable to let those feelings for you go. He must now. For his own health.”

Monthly doses of Dreamless Sleep, he recalls. Harry looks over Draco's peaceful, sleeping face.

“Thus, you will not be needed any further, as I've said. You may leave, Mr. Potter. And you make take your influence with you,” Narcissa murmurs, “just as you may take my gratitude for keeping him alive again.”

Harry straightens as much as possible. Bows his head respectfully. And then says one word. “No.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“I said no.”

“You have no say in this.”

“He has feelings for me, so yes, I do. And he has the most say about it, regardless.”

“He is unwell. He cannot judge fairly. He's wanted to let it go.”

Harry takes the slapping tone of her voice as bravely as he did the curses under Lestrange's wand, his spirit just as unbreakable and strong. “Then he can tell me so. After I speak with him about my feelings on the matter.”

Your feelings?” she questions, like the dragon's head has reconsidered its prey. “Pray tell, Mr. Potter, what are they?”

“I'm not entirely sure, to be honest,” Harry admits, arms loosening and hands spreading calmly. “But I know there's...something. What he did yesterday—what he said to me, what he did to save us—I can't begin to explain the gravity of it. He was so brave. And I...I've...thought more about him in two years than anyone else.”

Narcissa doesn't blink. Doesn't speak.

“So I'd like to speak with him, yes. I'd like to thank him. I'd like to...figure this out.”

She stands, silent and vigilant before him at the bed's side for several breaths.

Harry holds fast, stays steady under her scrutiny.

“If he wishes,” she says, tense, yet more pliant than he's heard Narcissa Malfoy sound since she'd examined him in the Forbidden Forest itself.

“Thank you,” Harry replies, gently pats Draco's blanket covered feet, and walks out of the room.

 

 

-----

 

 

Two days into his hospital stay, Draco's told he can be released the next evening to continue his recovery at home. He's both welcoming and dreading that moment, needing to be home and yet fearful of going back to the place of his abduction.

Weasley enters as a Healer brings him dinner, and Draco asks Narcissa to give them privacy.

She does, but not without a sharp glaring assessment of Weasley that the Auror endures just fine. Draco smiles to himself as Ron shrugs at her when she passes through the door and shuts it behind her.

“So, Malfoy, need your statement,” Weasley explains. He props up in a chair next to the bed, and a self-writing quill hovers nearby. Ron leans sympathetically for a moment. “I know it's, ah...gonna suck to go through this. So...sorry. But we need the information and all, you know?”

Draco swallows down some potatoes he's chewed, nodding.

Weasley relaxes again. “Okay. Beginning then. Where were you when you were taken?”

“Home. About to ingest some Dreamless Sleep. I'd prepared for bed.”

“Explains the clothes we found you in, yeah. Anything else?”

“He used a Stupefy to knock me out from behind.”

The quill scribbles away the conversation. Ron watches him eat.

Draco recounts the moments of being woken by Potter in the cave, of Potter trying to keep him warm with body heat, and of him investigating the tunnel entrance to the small cavern.

He becomes silent when he starts recalling Lestrange hauling him up by the hair.

And, weirdly enough, Weasley grabs the quill and holds it, preventing it from continuing. Draco waits out the blue stare of Potter's best mate, and then Weasley sniffs. “I've been directed to let you know that anything you were...coerced into confessing during this part...isn't for record.”

Draco's brows rise, and he grumbles, “How would you know if I confessed anything, Weasel?”

“Because Harry said you spoke of something, but that it was personal, and he didn't want it recorded on our records.”

Draco glances away...with a little bit of gladness and a little bit of shame in his curiousness as to Potter's motives about that decision.

“And, at any rate, for all you both endured...well,” Weasley grunts, eyeing him still, but the blue eyes are much softer suddenly. “I want to thank you for saving Harry, Malfoy. You didn't have to do that. Could've run for help...or just run.”

“I wouldn't have just run,” Draco mumbles with a slight glare.

Ron smirks, hands held peacefully. “Right, Ferret Face. I believe you. After...everything Harry said happened in there to you both, I honestly do. Only a monster like Lestrange would have just run.”

“Yes, well, I didn't let him. He tried using the dagger on Potter to make me choose. I was quicker than he anticipated. Idiot should have remembered my cleverness in all that anger he held.”

“True,” Ron agrees.

“Weasley?” Draco softly questions, fork resting in some bits of meat.

“Yeah, Malfoy?”

Draco pokes at his food. “Did...he...tell you my words he wants off record?”

Ron slowly shakes his head.

Draco sighs.

And after a more civil conversation than they've ever had before, Ron gives him an encouraging nod, then lets the quill go to resume its work.

 

 

----

 

 

His punishment for his prior escape is Hermione deciding to block him from attempting so again for two days with a chair and her body. She's brought her work with her, in stacks upon the floor and another chair in the room, and she writes as Harry sleeps or retrieves his meals through the crack of the door, letting Healers come and go as she lets only Ron otherwise. 

The mild panic he has from being so cornered is expressed through rounds of grumbles. She understands, she says. She gets why he needs out of the room, but she's also afraid he'll hurt himself given his track record in Hogwarts. So Hermione meets him halfway by angling her chair, leaving the door opened most of the time even as she still vows to keep an eye tightly on him for his own good.

“I know you,” she informs him the first night of her watch. “I grew up with you, Harry. If I leave, you'll be out of here and Merlin knows where within five minutes. I'll trust you to be careful when I fall asleep, but I ask you to rest. To trust me to keep you safe, Harry.”

Harry's pouting, yet thankful and understanding grunt has no effect. It does nothing to his close friend's protective smiles, and so he puts up with being kept in love and comfort, waking at times in the night to Hermione slumped in her chair angled by the door, and Ron asleep in the other next to his bed, feet by Harry's own on the mattress.

The entire Weasley family (well, those close by enough) show. Molly brings him food, of course, and Arthur keeps him some paternal company for a bit. Percy visits, saying how relieved people are at the Ministry for Lestrange's capture and how worried they are for Harry's health. George appears once, bearing gifts to prank the Healers with if they get too annoying, and Harry uses two on Hermione the second night, enjoying her gasp at water being suddenly squirted at her hair and a small sparkler going off above his bed that makes her roll her eyes and mutter about reprimanding George. 

Ginny also shows.

Ginny kicks Hermione out on Harry's behalf, making Granger take some much needed time to stretch and be alone.

And Ginny is the only person Harry tells about everything.

She holds his hand, listening through it all with tears she doesn't let fall. She hears every part, from beginning to end, and she closes her eyes through his recollection of Draco's confession to him.

Ginny squeezes his fingers when he whispers that he feels something in his chest react to it all. That protecting Malfoy meant so much that he almost died for it. That there's this aching thing there he's not sure is his wound still bothering him.

Harry's ex and good friend kisses his cheek, tells him a Healer had been overheard stating that Malfoy would be granted release that night, and she rises to her feet.

“Good luck, Harry,” she wishes him at the door. “Do what you feel is right.”

Utterly grateful for many reasons, Harry hobbles to her, thanking her as he hugs her warmly, and then grins when Ginny purposefully distracts the coming Healer for him to sneak from the room again. He makes it down the halls to Draco's room and stops in his tracks when he sees Narcissa standing outside of it.

They stare each other down again, and to his astonishment, she steps aside, her dark eyes sharp.

“He's changing. Readying to go home,” she answers his unspoken questions.

Harry nods and quietly enters the room, shutting the door behind him. Draco stands near the hospital bed, dressed in sleek black clothes. He rests his hospital robes upon the blankets. And then he turns on his heel and sees Harry.

Green hope roams the beautiful grey eyes so suddenly wary of him.

“Getting out, huh,” Harry offers, the words settling Draco slightly.

Malfoy just nods.

Harry glances about, the lighting reflecting off his lenses. “Gave...your statement and everything then, I take it.”

“Yes.” Draco taps his foot, crosses his arms, then uncrosses them in confused impatience. “Weasley didn't make me...state everything for record. At your behest.”

Harry stays still as Malfoy pushes bravely closer to him, almost circling him like a shark.

Draco pauses in front of him again with one question. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why didn't you tell him? Why did you make him spare me doing so?”

“Because,” Harry shrugs, that ache in his chest easing into something else, something warm and comfortable and thump, thump the longer he views the handsome aristocratic face before him.

Draco looks away nervously. He sighs. “Thanks, I suppose. Farewell, Potter.”

“Hold it,” Harry says, grabbing Draco's wrist.

Draco flinches, and Harry pulls the sleeve up, seeing the slight bit of redness still healing there. With an apology in his eyes, he slips his fingers down into Draco's palm, then slides them over the long, pale ones below that. Draco's lips part. Harry's heart thumps harder, and he slowly, purposefully, intertwines their hands together.

Harry coughs. “So.... I wanted to thank you. For saving me.”

Malfoy stares at their hands, flabbergasted.

Harry coughs again. “And.... Look, I don't...know what's all...going on inside my head right now...but there's something. Something about you, Draco. And my heart's racing, and it's hard to breathe a little, but that's okay. This feels...good.”

Draco's eyes close. He trembles in Harry's hold.

“So we can...talk, you know. About things. And, um....”

Draco doesn't respond. Just comes aware again, staring.

Harry swallows, nerves on fire, and goes for it, eyes closing.

His lips press to Malfoy's full, pink mouth.

Time stops, like a dancer en pointe.

Draco doesn't move at first, stands absolutely still like a statue until Harry pushes a little more, parts his lips, and kisses him again. And then, like he's melting, Draco slowly engages him—intertwined fingers squeezing his, free hand cupping his jaw and sliding into his dark hair, and soft lips parting in turn until a tongue dares to lick at his.

They kiss quietly, softly, their hearts beating in sync without knowing it.

And when they gently part, slowly pulling away after one last peck, those beautiful grey eyes are full and bright and deep with emotion that makes Harry's chest really start thumping.

 

 

----

 

 

The lamps of the Alley still glow amber at night.

It's again nearing eight thirty, and the air is once more quiet and silent.

Harry walks from his flat for The Leaky Cauldron and its Floo. Under one arm is another bottle of wine, and in his trouser pocket his wand rests within reach. His watch keeps ticking, and it is the loudest sound in the side street, echoing in his ears and amplifying somehow to the beat of his heart and the puff of his breath into the cold evening air.

In five minutes he'll be acceptably late for dinner with Ron and Hermione.

That's fine. Ron's limit is now six minutes before he sends an entire patrol out searching for Harry. And he knows his best mate is watching his own clock at home right now, counting each second until Harry appears.

What his friends have come to understand since, though, is the new fear still guiding those needed steps and the challenge that going anywhere lately has thrown in his face since his abduction and thus just why he takes them so intently. Flashes of Lestrange's sneer stream through his dreams and thoughts sometimes and hasten his walk, the feeling of the dagger hitting his chest repeats occasionally at work or home, and he has woken more times since than he's ever tallied to the breaths of Draco Malfoy.

He hears them now as he steps, hears them at his side as Draco walks with him, hand in his free one hanging between them comfortably. They are new breaths he's grown familiar with over the past weeks in private moments of reflection of their fears, in considerations of their feelings, and in deepest intimacy between kisses and moans and naked skin to skin in Harry's bed. He knows the small rushes of emotional sound to them now, the truth they give him every time.

He hears them and his chest warms, his heart thumps a little faster, and Harry Potter could swear the gorgeous smile on his boyfriend next to him has sped up time; it's the very reason they're going to be perfectly late when it distracted him not ten minutes prior in the bedroom as they finished readying.

With barely a few meters to go before turning onto the main street and thoroughfare, the space suddenly feels as if it is extending out for miles, branching out forever until all he hears is their quiet steps, their breaths synching between them, and that tick, tick of his watch to his thumping, beloved heart.

 

 

 

 

And I will wait for you tonight
You’re here forever, and you’re by my side
I’ve been waiting all my life
To feel your heart as it’s keeping time
We’ll do whatever just to stay alive

“Stay Alive”
José González